Tag: Featured

Smoked Pulled Pork

This is a love story…a labor of love story. One of my favorite things to indulge in is any variety of slow cooked pork, whether it be a pulled pork, carnitas, chile verde, etc. The pork itself is super moist and flavorful, but it also marrys so well with everything…cabbage or coleslaw, pickled onion or jalapeno, salsas, bbq sauce, etc, etc, and can be eaten alone, in a salad, on a sandwich, whatever. So, whenever I can tackle a nice pork butt or shoulder, I love to jump right in, but I really love to do it on the smoker as it imparts some great smoky flavor and gives me a really nice bark on the exterior.

The challenge here however is TIME…this is not a fast process, you need up to 14 hours to make this work, hence the labor of love. If that ain’t you, there are many other ways of tackling it…crock pot, pressure cooker, etc. and they are equally moist and tender, but you will be missing the smoky, barky element as well as the piece I rather enjoy which is the old school feeling of it…I use a tiny 14″ Weber Smokey Mountain smoker and love the element of striking a balance between coals, hickory, water, etc all to make it work…labor of love it is! Amazingly, you can fit 2 giant butts on this thing (almost 20lbs) and because of it’s small size, it really surrounds everything in smoke…not a lot of room for anything else.

Anyhow, here are 3 recipes I have used and love them all, although I am now bought in to the injection method ahead of time and really love the peach variation below from Big Bob Gibson:

Ingredients:

First and foremost, 1 6-to-8lb bone in pork butt

Dry rub:

  • 1 tbspn dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbspn sugar
  • 1 tbspn paprika
  • 2 1/4 tspn salt
  • 1 tspn garlic salt
  • 1 tspn black pepper
  • 3/4 tspn chili powder
  • 1/4 tspn celery salt
  • 1/4 tspn ground cumin
  • 1/4 tspn cayenne pepper

Injection

  • 3/4 cup peach juice (This calls for draining a can of peach juice, but I found nothing but peaches in syrup, etc, so I used a bottle of peach nectar I found and it was devine!)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbspn salt
  • 1 tbspn worcestershire sauce

First and foremost, I trimmed the pork butt of most of the fat on the top…many argue it you are removing the best part that will drip down through the pork butt as it cooks, but I still leave a thin layer and the pork butt itself has enough fat that it will be just fine. The main reason I do this is because the best part of this method is the bark on the outside and if the bark is just covering a giant layer of fat, it is going to get thrown away anyway.

Next, combine all the injection ingredients and mix until the sugar dissolves. Then, using a meat syringe, inject ingredients into the butt at 1 inch intervals from the top. After that, rub your butt down (Yeah, I said it!), wrap it in plastic wrap and let it sit overnight.

Now, wake up at the crack of dawn and get to smokin’…do as your smoker requires…you really want to try and stay in the 250F range and want to try and get it to 190F internal temp before you take it off. Sometimes getting to 190F can be a challenge (this is called “the stall” in BBQ circles)…a shortcut I’ve implored when I just had to have it done in time for an event, etc. is to take it off and wrap it up in tin foil…this hold the heat and will help you get up to your temp (again, some may scoff, but if you are in a jam, gotta do what you gotta do).

Now, remove your butt (Ha!) and let it rest up to an hour. Put on some well insulated gloves, grab a firm hold of the bone and give it a slight tug and it should just slide right out…you slayed it! Then, get to pullin’, add sauce, make into sandwiches, whatever.

Sassy Spicy Pickled Red Onion

Let’s start by saying that I’ve never pickled anything in my life, while at the same time I love me some pickled onions, jalapenos, sweet peppers, cucumbers, etc. One thing that I love and haven’t ever found on the shelf is pickled red onions, so I thought I’d give a go at making them myself. I’ve been looking for a good recipe and have tried a bunch of different ones that have been mediocre and some that have really stunk up the house (boiled vinegar and onions wreaks!). This recipe however changed all that. Ingredients are here:

• Red onion
• 1 Cup of apple cider vinegar
• 1/2 Cup of water
• 1 Tbspn of sugar
• 2 tsps of salt
• 1 tspn of whole peppercorns
• 1-2 pinches of red pepper flakes
• 1 bay leaf

For the how to, check this out on Imperfectly Happy… pickled red onions with a little spicy sass to them…nice one Tiffany!

These go amazing on everything…tacos, burgers, eggs, etc. etc. I find myself just eating them all by themselves…damn good! Enjoy!

Put in the Work

“We don’t rise to the level of our hopes, we fall to the level of our training” – Archilogus

It is true that everybody wants a gold medal, but few want to wake up at 5:00am, run stairs, and sacrifice other pleasures to get there. Sun Tzu says “victory is reserved for those willing to pay its price”…basically, if you want to achieve something in this world, what in return are you willing to give up? It’s not just about focusing on the one thing that you want to be great at, but about not doing the other 10 things you want to do that are a distraction.

Maybe think about it in these terms as well… “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” — Jerzy Gregorek. Too many people sit around waiting for their big break to come without putting in the work ahead of time…they have things in the wrong order…instead put in the work day in and day out, and when that big break comes you will be ready…be prepared for your moment! Success is where preparation and opportunity meet, but you have to see the opportunity when it presents itself and seize on it.

Understand too that “work hard, play hard” is important too…you can’t just pound away every day without some glimmer of joy along the way too…make sure you take the time to smell the roses and recharge wherever it is you find that joy.

Also, make sure you have a plan and a proper feedback loop (mentor or coach) as you put in your 10,000 hours of practice…you need to be practicing the right things and in the right way, or you are just wasting your time. I wrote a previous post…”The learning process: from novice to master” that covers how to go about it. Also, as you practice, take a hint from master Bruce Lee…

“I am more afraid of the person that has practiced the one kick a 1,000 times than the person who has practiced 1,000 kicks once”…depth is critical.

For some additional reading and for when competition finally arises to meet you on your journey, check out a previous post I did on dealing with competition.

6 Insane Big Bold Red Wines that are Sofa King Bueno for $25 or Less

I had to “taste test” a lot of wines to get to these top 6, but somebody had to do it. I don’t have a palate that can tell you if there is Oak, Smoke, or Elderberries in them, but I do know they are yummy, they are big, bold, & red, and they are cheap, for now…enough said. I have put the links below pointing to Vivino as I use the app all the time and it’s spectacular. Give ’em a whirl:

  • Sofa King Bueno: $22 – Paso Robles, CA Red Blend…#1 and my absolute favorite on this list not just because the name is awesome, but because it is insanely delicious
  • Barrel 27 Bull by the Horns: $20 – Paso Robles, CA Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Treana: $25 – this one is from Paso Robles, CA. It’s a Cab and yes at $25 it’s a little more expensive…sorry, I couldn’t help it…sometimes I find it cheaper but it’s great and worth it even at $25
  • 19 Crimes: $10 – This one is from Australia. A Shiraz-Grenache-Mataro (no idea what the hell the last grape is but it’s a great combo and only 10 bones!
  • Klinker Brick: $14 – from Lodi, CA this is a big red zin
  • Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Private Selection (Aged in Bourbon Barrels): $15 – from Oakville, CA. It’s wine aged in Bourbon…need I say more!

If you have any favorites you’d like to share, holla back.

On Trying to Become a Better Listener

I am a terrible listener… there, I said it. Problem identified and maybe should be highlighted, starred, and underlined. So let’s start here, “Why?”…

  • I don’t really think my ideas/thoughts are more important than others…BUT then again maybe I really do (Ha…What’s wrong with me!)
  • I can definitely be easily distracted when someone is talking by one thing they said that I can’t wait to reply to, light them up on, prove myself right about, whatever, therefore missing everything said after that (Boooo, Me!)
  • I listen from my own frame of reference, not the other person’s (It’s all about me!)
  • I fixate on words used, not looking deeper for intent (Shallow Hal!)
  • I get really bothered when someone uses 1,000 words to state something easily said in 10 words (Is that really my problem? Guess so!) to the point of trying to finish statements for them
  • Maybe my worst offense of all… maybe I don’t look like I’m listening, so the other person (in many cases, my lovely wife) says,” you aren’t listening to me” and I repeat back exactly what she said (Freakin’ Mimicer!!! Talk about pissed…”You missed the meaning A–hole!!”)

WOW… that is a long list… I truly suck as a listener!

OK now, I’ve been reading, asking others, and taking notes and it is time to do better. Where to begin:

  1. Make sure I am calm and rational… usually not a problem (until pushed to the point of explosion of course as I don’t have that much self-mastery yet… off the rails! Working on it)
  2. Make sure I am showing I care with my body language: eye contact, lean forward, posture (arms, shoulders, etc)… walk and talk if it helps (removes distractions)
  3. Listen with the intent to understand (don’t get distracted thinking about your own reply, in fact, forget it).
  4. Listen beyond just what you hear with your ears (use your eyes, heart, and mind…am I capable? That’s a strong “Maybe”).
  5. Listen with purpose:
    • Listen from the other person’s frame of reference
    • Repeat back (in an unmimicing way) that which you don’t understand
    • Pay attention to the other person’s body language, tone, etc…. what are they feeling/thinking?
    • Be present and engaged
    • DO NOT finish their thoughts for them (Yikes! Bite that tongue!)
    • Make sure you accurately understand their point of view before rebuttal… ask questions

 

In short, I think this means genuinely care about the other person and what they are trying to communicate to me, right?

 

Examples:

  • I speak really poor conversational Spanish and no Japanese, but I tend to understand the conversations in Japan better as I tend to get fixated on Spanish words during conversations losing the overall meaning, whereas in Japan I just pay attention to tone, watch body language, etc..this is actually a rather amazing thing…the non verbal things you pick up are truly amazing…try it sometime with 2 people engaged in a language you don’t speak
  • I had a good customer who was very upset with me because we didn’t ask enough questions the first time we met and had to ask them in multiple follow-ups later. We did our homework the second time and finished the entire (very technical) conversation in 45 minutes and even got a tour out of it at the end because we had extra time and because we had shown enough respect as to make them think we cared.

Well, I’m not there yet, but trying to improve every day. If you know me and are reading this saying, “Dude, you are still a terrible listener”, I know, I’m trying, point it out…I really want to do better…efforting!

Bacon Lardon Land and Water Campout Re-creation (or MuccaBelly Cornbread Sliders)

There is a really fabulous dish done up at Land & Water Co. in Carlsbad. It’s spectacular and if you get a chance to try it, do so! Here it is:

Anyway, I wanted to try and re-create it as best I could but also be able to do it at scale for campouts with a large group. I had the cornbread down and had done pork belly on the smoker, but never really figured out how to do it well on the stove top or oven. Then, I found this recipe on Pinch & Swirl which is both easy and great although it does take a lot of time just in waiting. I changed it up slightly on the rub, but stuck to the technique.

Also, had to figure out how to get all this done out in the sticks with maybe a gas grill, a flat top, and a fire pit. Biggest challenge was getting the cornbread cooked through without scorching the bottom.

So, here goes my recreation for 100 hungry dads in the boonies:

Ingredients:

  • 1lb pork belly, cut into a strip about 2 in. wide max
  • Rub:
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Brown sugar
    • Cayenne pepper
  • Jalapeno
  • Orange Marmalade (I think apricot or peach preserves work nice too!)
  • Crab Salad
  • Ingredients for my Slap Yo Mama Cornbread

Directions:

I did the pork belly in the oven ahead of time as with this recipe it was even better after doing so and letting it sit a couple of days…perfect for cooking up and packing down in a cooler. Rub down your pork belly w/ rub and put it in the frig overnight if possible. I roasted it in a cast iron pan at 450F for 30 min and then cut it back to 275 for 1hr, removed it, let it cool, and then wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it back in the frig overnight as the directions in Pinch and Swirl directed and packed it down in the cooler.

When ready to get to it, I fired up the gas grill we had to 400F (or thereabouts…think we need a new thermometer!) and took out a square cast iron skillet (you really need to go w/ a square or rectangular pan to cut into squares) for my Slap Yo Mama Cornbread. This was the most challenging part of the whole thing was getting the cornbread cooked through without scorching the bottom which I must have done 3 or 4 times before getting down the right technique. Basically, I put it directly on the gas grill at 400F for 10 minutes (put the opposite burner on full heat and the one directly under the cornbread at the lowest I could get away with while keeping it at 400F). and then put it on the top rack for 10 minutes more to cook through and rotated another pan of cornbread back on the grill top until I had knocked out about 4 trays of cornbread. Perfection…even thumbs up from all the 5 year old girls out with their dads for the weekend (that’s an endorsement!). Any other tips on what works best for keeping it from burning and still cooking through, would love to hear ’em.

While that was going, we cut the pork belly into slices maybe 1/2 inch thick, put them on a scorching flat top and seared it on both sides.

When the cornbread was done, I let it cool a bit, cut myself a square, put a little seafood salad on top, added a piece of seared pork belly, added a slice of jalapeno, drizzled some peach preserves over the top (original was orange marmalade, but I really like peach or apricot).

Ta Daaaaah! Not as good as the real thing (you really need to go try it!), but DAAAAMN!

Gracias TooManyHobbiesGuy for the nice feature snap…I was up to my elbows in pork belly and forgot to get a decent camera shot!

Jalapeno Cilantro Cream Sauce

There is a groovy little Mexican restaurant in Austin that I used to get to quite regularly if for nothing else to indulge in their Creamy Jalapeno Cilantro Dip. I’ve wanted to try and replicate it for 20 years and never really got close, but found a few possible variations on it online and then tried to make it lower calorie. The result is pretty fantastic and it can be just a dip for chips or as I like to do slather it on tacos, bowls, etc. Here we go:

Ingredients:

  • Fat Free Greek Plain Yogurt (If you don’t mind the calories go with 3/4 sour cream and 1/4 mayo instead)
  • Lime/Lemon Juice
  • Cilantro
  • Pickled Jalapeno
  • Dry Ranch Dressing Mix

Recipe:

Mix in 1 Cup of yogurt, juice of one lemon, ½ Cup of cilantro, 8-10 pickled jalapenos (adjust for heat you want), ¼ bag of dry ranch dressing mix. Throw it all in the blender and adjust to taste.