Sunday, October 26, 2008


-Bertolt Brecht

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Q on the Cheap

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to get my hands on some decent pork butt for 99¢/lb. I purchased two for school, and one for myself while carefully planning my method of attack. I faintly recalled Alton Brown smoking some salmon in a cardboard box, and wondered if it would work for pork (he smokes his pork in a terra cotta planter). My main concern was not being able to keep the temperature up to 210ºF on such a chilly day (Hi 57ºF). I decided to move forward with the plan and collected the various things I would need: a medium sized cardboard box, a couple of wooden dowels, a cooking rack, a drip pan, an electric burner with extension cord, a cast iron skillet, a digital probe thermometer, and hardwood shavings.

First, I cut a trap door in the box for easy changing of the wood shavings. Then I punched holes in the sides and inserted four pieces of dowel to support the drip pan and the cooling rack. In the bottom, through the trap door access, I placed the electric burner and the cast iron skillet full of cherry wood shavings. I punched the probe of the thermometer through the top of the box so that I could monitor the air temperature inside, and closed up the box with the burner set on high to preheat.

Meanwhile, I removed the pork from it's 8 hour brine (a 3% salt and sugar solution), and patted it dry. I assembled a rub from freshly ground chile de arbol, chipotle, guajillo, and pasilla, along with powdered habanero and paprika. I also added a bit of freshly ground black pepper, coriander, and cumin to round out the flavors. Donning a pair of latex gloves, I liberally applied the rub to the pork ensuring that all surfaces were thoroughly coated. I put the pork into the smoker and sealed everything with tape.

I was able to get the smoker up to about 195ºF for short burst of time, but largely unable to maintain a temperature of over 200ºF. I decided the best course of action would be to build a second box that surrounds the main smoker, leaving a two inch air gap between the two boxes. This worked remarkably well, allowing the internal temperature of the smoker to cruise up to a stable 205ºF. I smoked the pork in this environment for about 7.5 hours, changing the wood shavings about every 90 minutes. When I took the pork out of the smoker, the internal temperature of the meat was 140ºF. I wrapped the meat in aluminum foil and continued to cook it in a 325ºF oven until the internal temperature was 170ºF. Alton calls for 190ºF for pulled pork, as it will shred more easily at that temperature. However, I prefer sliced meat at the lower temperature to the sometimes dry pulled pork. I will admit that the brine absolutely ensured juicy BBQ, and I was more than happy with the results.

To finish off the Q, I whipped up a vinegar based sauce from Valentina Black Label hot sauce, rice and cider vinegars, honey, black pepper, and a pinch of brown sugar. I prefer the tanginess of a vinegar based sauce to the thick, sweet, tomato based sauces found at the store. If you need a recipe, there are tons available online.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hot 'Lanta

Last weekend was a fantastic voyage to Atlanta which was centered around visiting the world's largest aquarium and spending valuable time with good people. Various meals were consumed, but none especially blog-worthy. The Fernbank Museum was largely underwhelming, the Zoo a bit depressing, but the Aquarium was stellar. It was really tough to get decent shots in the aquarium with the low light levels, but I got a few that I'm happy with. Without further ado...


Little Yellow Fishes

Jenny at Fernbank

Blowing Bubbles