A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.
~David Hume

The proof has been divulged, and thorough knowledge should follow, right?  Seems logical and quite simple, almost acutely rational.  Sometimes or always, though, or really are we constrained by our psyches or basic instincts or neural circuits or are we harnessed and have visions or dreams or torments which guide us?  Or does humanity deal with prompts, insights, anxieties, kisses, primes, embraces, seductions, or even prefrontal cortices? Should we judge by, discard, or empathize with others’ conscious or subconscious or unconscious or neural thoughts? Or should we cognitively assay or attempt reason at all? What to do?

Don’t know, yet, but perhaps should…in any event, both beef arm and pork butt, alas not tri-tip (the bottom of the beef sirloin), were cooked this week.  Apparently, the kiss principle.

Chuck arm roast comes from the muscular shoulder of the beef steer, a slightly leaner cut of pot roast.  So, not unlike pork “butt,” the cut is sublimely delectable, tender and proves likewise inexpensive — not in the least faraway from succulent Santa Maria tri-tips even though it does come from a different part of the animal.  Although pork shoulder takes longer to shred depending upon poundage, in each beef event, you can both cook slow and low in the oven (2-3 hours @ 300 F), braise in stock and/or water over the stove top simmering calmly for a couple of hours, grill over the barbecue (20-25 minutes or so) or finish at high heat (something like 400 F+) in the oven after ‘cuing, if necessary to bring to a close. No doubt there are other approaches to this rather thick flesh.

Comme d’habitude, my preference is to grill with soy sauce only – that rich umami concept with the presence of glutamate and five ribonucleotides and so on, and it doubles down for prompt home chow, especially when it is somewhat chilly outside. But, that never means that marbled arm roast should not be whirled at by other methodologies.

Perhaps, more stubborn than first intuited, but now it may be overly belated to psychoanalyze me.   Too late.

GRILLED ARM ROAST

Arm roast, about 2-3 lbs, room temperature
High quality soy sauce, preferably shoyu

Have your butcher cut a fresh arm roast.  Spread the beef with shoyu all over, somewhat sparingly, and massage then allow the arm roast to sit in the spare umami juices for just a couple of hours.  In the interim, light the coals until they are medium to medium high (around 3-4 seconds to the hand test). Grill roast to desired doneness, as cooking time will vary upon thickness of the meat and the heat of the grill.  Medium rare is preferred, but to each her or his own, no judging or empathizing.

Allow the meat to rest, somewhat amply, before serving.  Serve with olive oil slathered veggies, such as mushrooms, chile peppers, asparagus, etc. and a toothsome red.

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It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!
~Mark Twain

For those ‘que souls who shamefully limit their grilling to fair weather, the season is upon you. Honor thy grill—light up. Rebirth it. Many love grilling in the chill.

A balance of sweet and savory, kalbi kui are a Korean culinary hallmark. In the mother tongue kalbi or galbi are translated as “beef ribs” and kui means “grilling.” Linguistic and culinary morphology converge, straight to the point.

Korean style short ribs can be found at Asian markets or your local butcher’s…you know, that carver with whom you have or should have curried favor. The cut, also known as “flanken,” refers to a strip of beef cut across the bone from the chuck end of the short ribs. Unlike American or European short ribs, which include a thick slice of bone-in beef, Korean short ribs are cut lengthwise across the rib bones. The result is a thin strip of meat, around 9″ long, lined on one side with 1/2″ thick rib bones. The thin slices make for prompt grilling, so Kalbi requires vigilance and nurturing. Please have your grilling drink already at hand or you will surely overcook these succulent delicacies by stepping inside for a refill.

To serve Kalbi, cut into pieces with a heavy chef’s knife or hefty kitchen shears, and then wrap inside a crisp lettuce leaf with a slathering of steamy white rice, a swab of gochichang (Korean red bean paste), a sauce/condiments or two, toasted sesame seeds and green onion slivers.

Kimch’i, the ubiquitous and revered Korean pickled cabbage side dish varies rather widely according to region, season and kitchen. For instance, a coastal kimchi will be saltier than that of a landlocked area, and summer cooks produce cooling water kimchis to contrast with the heartier cabbage kimchis of the autumn and winter. Korea boasts hundreds of differing kimchi recipes, each rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins fostered by the lactic acid fermentation of cabbage, radish, and other vegetables and seafood.

The kind of food you are destined to fall for…

KALBI KUI (GRILLED KOREAN BEEF SHORT RIBS)

4 lbs beef short ribs, Korean style
3/4 C sugar
1/4 C honey

1 C soy sauce
2 T canola oil
1/4 C mirin (rice wine)
1/2 medium onion, peeled and finely grated
1 Asian pear, peeled and grated
8 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 T sesame oil
1 t red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

Lettuce leaves
Cooked white rice
Gochichang (red bean paste)
Sauces/condiments as below
Toasted sesame seeds
Green onions, thinly sliced lengthwise

Mix sugar and honey with beef and mix well to evenly coat. Set aside while preparing marinade. In a bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Transfer beef into a large sealable freezer bag. Add marinade and seal well. Turn bag several times to ensure beef is evenly coated. Refrigerate at least overnight, turning the bag a few times more while marinading.

Heat charcoal grill to medium high. Drain excess marinade off beef. Grill short ribs, turning once, to desired doneness, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Serve in lettuce leaves as described earlier.

Pourboire: many cooks prefer to use a cup of citrus soda (7up, Sprite, et al.) in lieu of the sugar and honey in the marinade claiming that it further tenderizes the meat.

BAECHU KIMCH’I

1 head Napa or Chinese cabbage, cored and finely shredded
Water, to cover
1 C coarse sea salt

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 C rice wine vinegar
2 T fish sauce
1 T soy sauce
1 – 2″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 head garlic, peeled and chopped
1/4 C+ red chili flakes or 1/3 C chili paste (to taste)
1 medium daikon radish, peeled and grated
2 T sugar or honey
1/4 C peanut oil

In large glass bowl, dissolve the salt into the water. Add cabbage to salt water and if necessary, weigh down with large plate so leaves remain submerged. Soak cabbage in refrigerator for 5-6 hours, preferably overnight. Remove cabbage and rinse in cold water, squeezing out excess liquid.

Place rinsed cabbage and green onions in a large glass bowl.

In a processor or blender, combine rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, chili flakes or paste, radish and sugar or honey, blending until smooth. With the blade running, slowly add the oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the mixture over the shredded cabbage and onions, and gently toss.

Pack the kimchi in a large, well fitted glass jar and cover tightly. Let stand for one to two days in a cool place, around room temperature. Check the kimchi after 1-2 days. Once bubbles appear on the surface, place in the refrigerator. It should be refrigerated for 2 days before serving to allow the cabbage to further wilt and the flavors to meld. Kimchi will grow increasingly pungent as it sits, so it is ideal after about 2 weeks and surely eaten within a month.

Ginger-Scallion Sauce
2 1/2 C thinly sliced scallions
1/2 C fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 C grapeseed or canola oil
1 T light soy sauce
1 t sherry vinegar
Pinch of sea salt

In a medium bowl whisk all ingredients together.

Ssäm Sauce
1/3 C fermented bean & chili paste (ssamjang)
2 T chili paste (kochujang)
1 t sherry vinegar
1/4 C grapeseed or canola oil

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together.

Gochu Garu and Sichuan Pepper
3 T Korean red pepper powder (gochu garu)
1 t Sichuan peppercorn, toasted and ground
1 t white sesame seeds, toasted
Pinch of sea salt
2 T canola oil
Pinch of sugar

In a small bowl, combine the Korean red pepper powder, Sichuan peppercorn, sesame seeds and salt. In a small saucepan, warm the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking.

Pour half of the hot oil over the chile powder mixture. Whisk the mixture and add the remaining oil. Stir again to moisten all of the dry ingredients and add the sugar.

Allow the mixture to cool, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and/or sugar.

“Korean” Soy Sauce
2 T shoyu
1 T water
1-2 t sesame oil
1 t white sugar
1 t raw sugar
1 plump, fresh garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 t Korean red pepper powder (gochu garu)
2 T green onion, white and green parts finely chopped
3 t sesame seeds, toasted then crushed with a mortar and pestle

In a small bowl, stir together the shoyu, water, sesame oil and sugars, until the sugars have fully dissolved. Add the garlic, red pepper powder, green onion and sesame seeds. Refrigerate while the pork cooks to allow the flavors to meld.

Grilling, broiling, barbecuing – whatever you want to call it – is an art, not just a matter of building a pyre and throwing on a piece of meat as a sacrifice to the gods of the stomach.
~James Beard

One of those Elysian Fields. The Central Coast is an idyllic stretch of California, roughly spanning the area from the Monterey Bay through Santa Barbara. Ruggedly bewitching: with broad shouldered beaches, craggy vistas, serene tangerine-salmon sunsets, lofty valleys, closely cropped chapparal, patterned vineyards, hay-hued hills with solitary oaks, crisply scented eucalyptus belts, fecund avocado groves, herbal aromas, quaint inns and high end resorts. The Central Coast is also home to the heralded Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Paso Robles, and Monterey wine countries.

On this coastal stretch, located in the center of Santa Maria Valley lies the town of Santa Maria, the largest city in Santa Barbara County—80 miles north of Santa Barbara proper and 30 miles south of San Louis Obispo. Not only does Santa Maria rightly boast of its own breed of vaquero barbeque, its wineries produce exquisitely complex pinot noirs. Pinot loves a cool climate, and the conditions in Santa Maria Valley deliver. Constant ocean breezes coupled with an east to west transverse geography that channels the cool air into the valley combine to foster a long growing season for this most delicate and temperamental grape.

Miles, the protagonist from the engaging film Sideways, described pinot as “transcendent,” noting that it is a grape that “needs constant attention…(I)t’s not a survivor like cabernet which can be grown anywhere.” Compared to their northern neighbors in the Russian River, Santa Maria wineries are considered the nouveau riche of pinot noir with a tendency toward to experimentation. At the pour, Santa Maria pinots exalt in lavender, orange peel, sandalwood, wild strawberry, berries, cherry, rhubarb, and anise.

Tri-tip is a roast cut from the bottom of the sirloin primal. There is only one tri-tip per side of beef (a total of two per animal). In this country, tri-tip also answers to “bottom sirloin butt” and “triangle roast”, due to its triangular shape. It is a nicely marbled, tender, and robustly flavored cut which weighs about 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 pounds trimmed and measures around 3″ thick. Look for a tri-tip that still includes the fat on one side which will make it a little heavier than the norm.

The American origin of the tri-tip cut is believed largely happenstance and rooted in Santa Maria. There, as elsewhere, butchers would customarily carve beef loins into sections of preferred top block sirloin and filet, and then set aside the triangular shaped tips for stew cubes or hamburger. Then, sometime in the 1950’s, on a day when there was an overabundance of stew chunks and hamburger (and the triangular cut was about to be trashed) a local meat market manager experimented by placing a seasoned whole piece of the “unwanted” meat on the department’s rotisserie rack. An immediate hit with his guinea pig staff, he undertook a successful marketing campaign with this now cherished cut. The rest is history…well, recent history. A baby boomer dish.

Tri-tip marinades well and can be cooked on a grill, on a rotisserie, or roasted in an oven. Marinades usually contain an acidic ingredient, such as citrus juice, vinegar or wine. The acid breaks down the meat fibers some, but only at the surface.

Marinades are are usually founded upon the sum of: acid + salt + alliums + sugars + chiles + herbs. But, the variations on this basic equation are endless. Below are two marinades that couple well with tri-tip with a single grilling method for both.

GRILLED TRI-TIP

Asian Marinade
1/4 C soy sauce
1/4 C nuoc mam chay pha san
2 T oyster sauce
2 T sesame oil
4 T Chinese black vinegar
2 T peeled and minced ginger
1 T five spice powder
8 fresh plump garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 yellow onion, peeled and minced
Juice of 3 fresh limes
1/2 C chile oil or canola oil
Abundant freshly ground coarse red, white, green and black peppercorns

In a large, heavy duty zip lock bag, combine all ingredients. Seal, squeezing out excess air, and refrigerate for 24 hours. Turn several times during the marinating process to make sure the meat is well coated. Let stand until it reaches room temperature before grilling.

Chile Marinade
Juice of 2 fresh limes
Juice of 1 fresh orange
3 T ground cumin
3 T ground coriander
2 T dried oregano
2 T chipotle chile powder
1 t ground cayenne pepper
8 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 jalapeno chiles, seeded and finely diced
1 small bunch fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 C red wine vinegar
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

In a large, heavy duty zip lock bag, combine all ingredients. Seal, squeezing out excess air, and refrigerate for 24 hours. Turn several times during the marinating process to make sure the meat is well coated. Let stand until it reaches room temperature before grilling.

Grilling
Set your grill up for an indirect cook at medium high heat. Toss in a couple of small chunks of pre soaked smoking wood (red oak is traditional) to the coals or smoker box. Put the roast on away from the heat and close the lid.

Cook the tri-tip for about 10 to 12 minutes per pound, turning every 5 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches near 130 F—the land of medium rare. Because tri-tip is so lean, cooking beyond this point will render it tough.

Let stand for at least 15 minutes before carving, and then savor with a regional pinot noir (preferably one of those Santa Maria lasses).

My favorite animal is steak.
~Fran Lebowitz

The Grill is just one of life’s genetically ingrained pleasures, entailing the prehistoric basics of fire and food…profoundly tantalizing all of the senses in the most simple and universal of ways. As much as I adore that haven known as kitchen, there may be no cooking experience as innately fulfilling as hovering around a glowing grill festooned with singing, aromatic food. Elemental, fundamental and lacking pretense with the journey almost besting the destination.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this courier from the swift completion of his appointed rounds at the ‘Que.

The etymology of the term is debatable, but one theory espouses that the word “barbecue” is a derivative of the West Indian term “barbacoa,” which denotes a method of cooking meat over hot coals. “Barbeque” could have also originated from the French phrase “barbe à queue” which means “whiskers to tail.”

To strict contructionists, there is a sacred distinction between “grilling” and “barbeque.” According to these purists, when you grill, the cooking process is brief and done over direct heat. On the other hand, with barbeque the cooking process is lengthened, over lower, indirect heat. To me, there is no sin in uttering the terms interchangeably—it is simply food cooked over an open fire at differing rhythms. Some basics follow.

Fire Toys

Grill (ceramic, porcelain enameled, charcoal, gas), grill cover, tool holder, spatula, tongs, fork, work table, skewers, bristle cleaning brush, drip pans, basting brush, oven thermometer, barbeque mitts, chimney starter, fireplace lighter, spray bottle. Note: Burning natural lump charcoal results in less ash than burning briquettes, thus less frequent ash clean out is required.

Grill Lighting

(1) The most efficient way to light charcoal is with a chimney starter that uses no lighter fluid.

Roll two full newspaper sheets into tubes, then bend the tubes to form rings. Turn the chimney starter upside down. A grate splits the hollow inter­ior of the tub into two compartments. Fit the tubs into the base of the starter so that they are pressed against the grate. Be careful to leave a hole in the middle (the hole allows for airflow once the newspaper is lit).

Turn the chimney over so that it’s right side up. Load the chimney to the top with charcoal. Using a long match or butane lighter, light the newspaper in several places through the holes at the bottom of the chimney starter. Wait 10–20 minutes for all the coals to light. The charcoal is ready when you see flames licking at the coals in the top of the chimney and gray ash just starting to form.

Wearing an oven mitt, lift the chimney starter by the handle and slowly dump the coals in a pile onto the coal grate in the middle of the grill, spread them about, and put the starter in a safe place.

(2) The pyramid method is simpler than using a chimney starter, but requires the use of lighter fluid, which can alter flavors and scents.

Build a pile or pyramid of coals in the middle of your coal grate. Spray the pyramid liberally with lighter fluid. In several places, light the pile with a long match or lighter. After a few minutes, the flames may subside as the lighter fluid burns off. This does not mean that the coals have failed to light. In 20–30 minutes, the coals should gradually begin to burn and glow red. Do not attempt to speed up this process by spraying more lighter fluid on the coals. Spread the coals around the bottom grate.

Grill temperature

Grill temperature is best assessed by using the traditional hand test. Hold your open hand about three inches above the hot grate with the coals already spread and count how long you can keep it there before the pain demands you retract it:

1 to 2 seconds — high
2 to 3 seconds — medium high
4 to 5 seconds — medium low
7 to 8 seconds — low

Test for Doneness

Rare: Gently put the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb. Take the index finger of your other hand and push on the fleshy area between the thumb and the base of the palm.

Medium rare: Gently put the tip of your middle finger to the tip of your thumb. Again press the fleshy area between the thumb and the base of the palm with your opposing index finger.

Medium: Gently put the tip of your ring finger and your thumb together. Again press the fleshy area between the thumb and the base of the palm with your opposing index finger.

GRILLED LAMB CHOPS WITH MINT & TOMATO VINAIGRETTE

1 C extra virgin olive oil

1/3 C red wine vinegar
1 t sea salt
1 t freshly ground pepper
3 plump garlic cloves, minced finely
1 T dijon mustard
1 T organic honey

1 C mint leaves, chopped
4 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

6 local, organic lamb loin chops, about 1 1/2″ thick
Rosemary sprigs

Combine vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, mustard and honey; and then slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking until smooth. Stir in mint and tomatoes.

Place lamb chops in single layer in glass dish. Pour marinade over, turning chops to coat all around; cover with foil and refrigerate 4 hours, turning lamb chops occasionally.

Preheat charcoal grill to medium high heat. Strew a few rosemary sprigs around the perimeter of the coals. Grill chops to desired doneness, basting often with marinade, about 5-6 plus minutes per side for medium rare. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the lamb chops and the heat of the grill.

As always, let meat rest before serving and spoon some vinaigrette over each chop.

Serve with polenta or roasted potatoes and a pinot noir, old vine zinfandel or French burgundy.

Dry Rub A Dub

February 6, 2009

The food in such places is so tasteless because the members associate spices and garlic with just the sort of people they’re trying to keep out.
~Calvin Trillin

Today, spring-like weather bathed the city, evoking the seductive melody of vividly blossoming daffodils, azaleas, red buds, lilacs, forsythia…coupled with the aroma of active grills and barbeques.

A dry rub is simply a mélange of spices and herbs that imparts variegated flavors, scents and textures to meat, even the occasional vegetable. They are not to be confused with (but sometimes are married to) their moist but equally alluring cousins—marinades, glazes, sauces, wet rubs, bastes, sops, or mops. Only imagination limits the composition of your rubs, so put the grey matter to work and concote your own favorites.

With all of these rubs, first combine dry ingredients in a bowl or jar. Rub cut fresh, plump, cut garlic cloves into meat. Then gently massage the combined dry rub ingredients into the meat tissues. Let stand for an hour or more before cooking.

Ancho, Coffee and Cocoa Rub

2 T ancho chili powder
2 T instant espresso powder
2 T golden or dark brown sugar
1 T cocoa
1 T ground coriander
1 T dried oregano
2 t salt
1 T black pepper and/or white pepper
1/2 t cayenne pepper

Basic Barbeque Rub

2 T sea salt
4 T light brown sugar
1/4 t ground cinnamon
2 T ground cumin
2 T coriander
1 T ground cardamom
3 T pimentón or smoked paprika
2 t dry mustard
1 T ancho chili powder
1 T chipotle chili powder
3 T freshly ground pepper
1/2 T white pepper
3 t cayenne pepper

Tandoori Rub

6 T sweet paprika
2 T ground coriander
2 T ground cumin
1 T ground cardamom
1 T turmeric
2 T sea salt
1 T freshly ground black pepper
1 T sugar
1 T ground ginger
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t crumbled saffron threads (optional)
1 t cayenne pepper

Categories’ Translations

January 22, 2009

Admittedly, a paranoia induced entry. In a late night, overwrought effort to be cute, some of my Categories titles may be rightly dubbed obscure. So, to assure the utter transparency that is ever much in the political vogue these days (a more accurate word might be “translucence”), the literal interpretations follow:

Ab Ovo — Eggs

Asides — Vegetables, Side Dishes

Between the Sheets — Sandwich fare

Dough & Yeast — Pasta, Pizza, Calzone

Fine Fowl — Poultry

Fish Out of Water — Fish, Shellfish

Gadgets & Toys — Cutlery, Cookware, Tools, Utensils

Going Green — Salads

Soupçon — Soups

Mulling over Mammals — Meats

Ruminations — Random Thoughts, Ideas

Silk Pantries — Pantry, Cupboard items

Small Pleasures — Appetizers, Hors d’oeuvres, Amuses gueles/bouches, Tapas

Sweet Teeth — Desserts

The Holy Grill — Grilling, Barbeque