31 August 2010

Quail eggs

While picking up eggs at my favourite Asian grocer, 99 Ranch, I noticed - quail eggs.  How awesome is that?  If only my local store kept quail eggs.

quail eggs

Look at those cute little things.  Each the size of one knuckle of my thumb.  I just had to have them.  So for a couple of bucks, I brought ten of them home with me.

But what to do with them?  Well, my classic use for random ingredients on the grill is pizza.  I'm not going into all the details.  I've done that before.

This time, we dressed the pizza, with homemade garlic-chile oil. Coppa Molina from Knight Salumi. Thai peppers, from 99 Ranch. Shiitake mushrooms, from the Hillcrest farmer's market. Salted tomatoes.  And a mixture of mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  On top of the cheese, we put a few quail eggs.

Quail egg pizza

Look at those pretty little guys!

The quail eggs were a little tricky to prepare.  They have a pretty intense membrane inside, that needs to be torn open.  Fortunately, the yolks don't seem to be fragile, as I was pretty rough with them getting them open, and didn't break the yolks.  Anyone have any tricks for easier access?

Cook the pizza on indirect heat until the whites have turned white.  You want to maintain a nice runny yolk (though over a charcoal fire, you can see that the back yolk solidified a bit).

Quail egg pizza

Slide over direct heat for 30 seconds to brown the bottom of the crust.  Remove from heat, slice and serve.

Having that lovely yolk dripping all over the pizza was awesome.  I would probably pair the eggs with more delicate toppings next time - coppa isn't exactly delicate.  But this was fantastic.  We'll be doing this again.

28 August 2010

Food... in... Spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace...

This space station sits in our living room. Bbq Jr. uses it. A lot. (He has his own separate space suits and launch suits).

Space station

This will become relevant in a moment.

There are food competition shows, and then there are food competitions shows. I confess, I find most of them rancid. Tallest Cakes. Next Aluminum Chef. Next Food Network Bomb. Gag. But I have a soft spot in my heart for Top Chef and Top Chef Masters. It's fun to watch what the experts do with the challenges they're given. And the upcoming Top Chef (on Sep 1 - my birthday!) is the ultimate in nerdy foodie fun. Make a dish that can be served on the International Space Station.  We'll be watching this one with our little space guy, Bbq Jr.


tip o' the spatula to my favourite space blog, Bad Astronomy.

24 August 2010

The Lazy Ox

I passed a very significant food bloggy milestone this past weekend.  It was a line I never thought I'd cross, but I did.  Mrs. Dude didn't even mention anything as she watched me cross it.  Not until later, when we whispered in the dark in our hotel room (careful not to wake little Bbq Jr).

I photographed an entire restaurant meal.  Sure, I tried to disguise it.  I was also snapping photos of the family (several of which I'm very happy with).  But in the end, the waitress came by to ask if everything was alright while I was snapping pictures of dessert.  My neck warmed and I said, "Yes, we're fine".

We visited Los Angeles this weekend, an amazing source of food and drink.  We had 2 fantastic meals, and an acceptable one.  I only photographed one of those meals, but I expect that once you cross the line, you will photograph everything...

The Lazy Ox is a cute little place in downtown L.A.  On our previous visit, we had to fight off other patrons to get some seats at the bar (literally).  This time, we made reservations, and got lovely tables outside.  Naturally, this made photographing dinner considerably easier (given that we were out with Bbq Jr, who can't be eating dinner at 9:30 at night).

Incidentally, Bbq Jr. also passed a significant food milestone this weekend.  He had his first soda.  Mrs. Dude and I aren't really soda people (she used to drink a lot of Coke, but cut back to reduce her caffeine intake).  So we generally serve Bbq Jr. milk, water or juice.  Well, we were in a slightly fancy place, and she and I were drinking wine, so it only seemed fair for him to be drinking something exciting.


You won't be surprised to hear that he was delighted.  He made at least 3 different faces as he registered the taste of this stuff.  Quite pleased.

Though you don't need to order this way, both times we visited, we've chosen to eat small dishes, almost tapas-style.  You get to sample more stuff this way, and really, more stuff!

Bellwether farms ricotta fritters

These little ricotta fritters are great.  With four fritters for three people, we had to split up the last one.  Bbq Jr. was skeptical of these at first, but once he realized they were like French fries with cheese in them, he was all about them.

Heirloom tomato salad

The basil vinaigrette with creamed corn served with these heirloom tomatoes was delicious.  Really bright, really sweet and perfectly ripe tomatoes.  I'm a big fan of heirloom tomatoes, and this preparation is one of the better ones I've had.  Bbq Jr. on the other hand claimed that, "Daddy, these are good.  But they're not as good as our tomatoes."

Up next?  Creamy poblano soup with crispy pork belly and crème fraiche.  Just a hint of spice, but all the rich deliciousness of poblanos.  And the pork belly was delicious.  But the real surprise?  Slices of slightly dried grapes at the bottom of the soup.  I could have eaten this whole bowl myself.

Poblano pepper soup

And finally, the best dish of the night...  Brick-roasted mussels with basil, white wine, house-made sriracha.  HOLY CREAMY SPICY SWEET HEART-STOPPING SRIRACHA SAUCE!  This sauce was good.  So good, we ordered two rounds of bread to go with it to mop up the extra sauce.  So good, that when we finished the bread, I had to ask if it also came as a smoothie.  So good, that when the waitress offered us a straw, I nearly took her up on it.  Only my dignity stopped me.  This is pure saucy goodness.

Brick-roasted mussles

I would travel a distance to eat that sauce again.  Yum.

Okay. And now we had a chance for dessert.  Mrs. Dude had the creamy, lovely vanilla panna cotta with blackberries and figs.

Vanilla panna cotta with figs

Bbq Jr. had to have the blackberry-blueberry crumble.

Blueberry/blackberry crumble

These were lovely. Tasty. Yummy. But the pièce de resistance of the dessert round was the rice pudding.  It arrived in three containers:  1) the rice pudding with a nut crumble on it; 2) a carmel-cinnamon sauce; and 3) whipping cream.  One is to mix them in one's own desired proportions.  Me, I dipped my spoon into each, and gobbled it down.  This was the single-best rice pudding of my life.  This rice pudding made Mrs. Dude exclaim:  "This is rice pudding??  I thought I didn't like rice pudding!  This is amazing!"  It was amazing.

Rice pudding

And the dessert was served with a lovely Tokaj.


Lazy Ox, we will be back.

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17 August 2010


So I've added wokking to the repertoire here at Indirect Heat.  Been having fun with 75,000 BTUs of heat (and a few mishaps, but more on those later).  Did I mention 75,000 BTUs?  Giddyup.

But to fully take advantage of the wok burner, one needs a seasoned wok.  I'm still trying to get the hang of seasoning the large 22" wok.  Here, I'll show you the 14" wok I got from the Wok Shop (props to KirkK for pointing the way to the Wok Shop).

Alright, so following the recommended seasoning method from the Wok Shop, I vigorously cleaned the Wok.

Clean wok

I coated the wok with:


Greased nicely:

Oiled wok

Wrapped the wooden handles with wet clothes, then with foil.

Wrapped wok

And baked in the oven at 450°F for 20 minutes, which yielded this:

1st cure

Scrub clean, and repeat oil, protect, bake:

Cured wok

Look at that!  Ready to go onward to wokking adventures!

12 August 2010

Beef with cumin

So. To get everyone up-to-date on life in the Dude household... We bought a Big Kahuna Burner.  Been playing with it. Turns out its good fun.  And crazy hot.  75, 000 BTUs of heat = about 3 1/2 times the heat of your total kitchen heat output.  But instead of being directed at 4 pots and your oven, all of that heat is directed at one single wok.  Yeeha!

Well, second time out we tried beef from the Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook.  One mistake (detailed below), but a good recipe.
4 tsp Shaoxing wine
¾ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp light soy sauce
1 ½ tsp dark soy sauce
4 tsp potato flour
4 tsp water
1 lb trimmed round steak, chopped to bite size pieces
This is the only mistake I made, as best as I can tell.  I didn't chop the beef small enough.  In the very brief time that it takes to cook the beef in this recipe, it really doesn't shrink.  So chop it small.

Prepare the beef and mix it with the marinade ingredients above.  While it marinates at room temperature, prepare the rest of the recipe.


3 tsp finely chopped ginger
4 tsp finely chopped garlic
3 fresh hot chiles, seeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp dried chili flakes
1 tbsp ground cumin
3 scallions, finely sliced
1 tsp sesame oil
2 ½ cups peanut oil

Herbs & spices

You need to have everything ready in advance, because the cooking goes fast. This is like Food Network cooking, minus the sous-chefs.


Heat the peanut oil in a wok over your lovely hot wok burner until reasonably hot, but not smoking.

Deep fry the beef chunks in the hot oil until a beautiful dark caramelized delicious tasty yummy brown colour.

Deep-frying beef

Fish out that lovely beef when it looks done (about 90 seconds ish):

Deep-fried beef

Look at that!  That's some awesome beef.  Too big for a mouthful, but the caramelized coating looks awesome.

Deep-fried beef

Oh yeah, that's a whole bowl of win.  Now pour off most of the oil.  Wipe off the lip of the wok (so you don't start a giant grease fire) and put the wok back over the heat.  Toss in the spices and herbs (sans sesame oil and scallions).  Your neighbors will be able to smell each layer of flavour as you toss it in the wok...


Fry until fragrant.  Toss the beef back in there.

Wokked beef

Season with salt to taste.  When everything smells awesome (really, about 30 seconds), turn off the heat. Toss in the sesame oil and scallions.  Serve.

Beef with cumin

What a lovely recipe. Faintly spicy, rich, beefy delicious. Like I said, if I had properly chopped the beef, this dish would have been perfect.


10 August 2010

Chicken with ginger

Ginger chicken

I'm pretty vocal about my love of outdoor cooking.  So people come talk to me about food.  Given a *massive* rearrangement at work, many of us have less to do than we usually do, so have more time to talk about stuff.  So I find myself talking to a colleague about outdoor wokking...

Your average stove burners and oven put together have about 15,000 to 20,000 BTUs of heat output.  If they're all operating.  At once.  A wok burner has the capacity to put out up to 75,000 BTUs of heat.  That's more than 3 times of the TOTAL heat output of your home kitchen capacity.  What does that mean?  It means you should measure your outdoor cooking capacity in pounds of thrust.  It means that when you're making a "stir-fry" in your kitchen, that the moment you add the meat and veggies to your pot of hot oil, the temperature drops, and instead of stir-frying that stuff, you're stir-steaming.  The only way you can truly keep your wok hot (and the way that good Chinese restaurants keep their woks hot) is by providing a ridiculously powerful heat source.  Those of us who want to do that at home need to purchase an outdoor wok burner.  Me, after getting recommendations from friends and the internets, I chose the Big Kahuna burner.  So I ordered one from Amazon, for the low, low price of $170 (including wok and tools).


Imagine my excitement.

Wok burner bits

After 15 minutes of assembly...  (and I must add, this burner is well put together, every joint is supported from two different sides) ... I have this:

Wok burner

Alright.  So the first recipe to go onto my new wok burner was Chicken with Ginger from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook.  My colleague had pointed out that given the heat output of such a critter as a wok burner, you really need to get all the ingredients ready in advance...  Here we go:
1 lb boneless chicken thighs
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp light soy sauce
3-inch piece fresh ginger, unpeeled and sliced into small bits
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
dried chili flakes
2⁄3 cup turkey stock
3 scallions, sliced
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp peanut oil
Chop up the chicken into bite sized bits.  Mix with the salt and soy sauce.

Marinating chicken

Meanwhile, prepare everything else in small containers for once the crazy wok-burner heat starts.  You want to set yourself up like you're doing a cooking show, cause once you fire this thing up, you've got minutes from start to finish.  Everything has to be ready in advance.

Ginger chicken herbs

Now fire up the burner.

Wok burner

So this is where I made my main mistake. I was a teeny, tiny bit nervous about 75,000 BTUs of heat. I was cautious to start. Don't be cautious. Go to full two-thirds of full heat. You want to really work this.

Heat the peanut oil in your wok. Add the ginger when it gets hot.

Wokking garlic

With a wok this hot, ALL your neighbors will be able to smell that ginger. YUM!

Wokking garlic

As it starts to smell, add the chicken.

Wokking chicken

As always, I apologize for the photo of raw chicken. This is my best, yet, though...

Wokking chicken

I didn't catch a photo of the deliciousness of the darkened chicken, but it looks crazy good when cooked hot like this. Dark crusted brown, in about 2 minutes, it looks great.

Toss in the wine and the chili flakes and let it go another 30 seconds or so.

Toss in the turkey stock (or chicken, or water - but I have a TON of turkey stock in the freezer still left over from Christmas).

Wokking ginger

Reduce the stock until there is no liquid left. You want a faint film of turkey/chicken stock goodness on the outside of your chicken. But the liquid, you want that gone. Again, I reduced that stock to nothing inside of 45 seconds. 75,000 BTUs is some serious heat.

Turn off the heat, and toss with the scallions and sesame oil.

Ginger chicken

Serve. With rice. Holy yummy gingery, spicy goodness! And the texture of that chicken - you cannot create that texture on a stove top. Any time I've "stir-fried" chicken on the stove top it ended up considerably drier and chewier. This texture was straight out of a Chinese restaurant in China-town in Manhattan. Delish.

I served with sake I brought back from Tokyo - not Chinese - but better-suited than a cabernet sauvignon.


03 August 2010

Grill safety

It's interesting. Ever since I put up my e-mail address on the blog (smokingouttheneighbors at googles e-mail service dot commerce, fyi), I've been getting e-mails from various product promoters hoping for some free publicity. Which, to be fair, I've taken advantage of.

That said, many of the pitches are pretty silly. A recent one wanted me to write about grill safety, and link to a particular organization. I'm not going to do it. Rather, I'm going to give my very own, patented Bbq Dude safety tip.


Don't bbq barefoot. Take it from me. Imagine, if you will. A lovely summer day in Maryland. I'm smoking something or other (might have been a brisket, might have been some ribs). I'm tending the fire. It's the end of a reasonably long run, and some ash is starting to fall out the vent. Something on the ground catches my eye, and I step forward to check out what it is and suddenly HOLY SEARING PAIN OF FRAKKING FLAMING FEET!!!!!  &@#$^&*#%*!!!!!

Yeah, I stepped on a hot coal.  And - what had caught my eye was another hot coal.  Fortunately, I hadn't gotten close enough to picking it up.

Holy moley.  Well, I fall over backwards onto my butt on our deck.  This would be good, right?  Except, now I'm on my butt, and the coal is still stuck to my foot.  It's seared to my skin.  Time has stopped in the pain.  In what seems like slow motion, I reach over and pull the white-hot coal off my foot.

All of this resulted in a small second-degree burn, and had me limping for over a month while I tried to keep all weight off of the site.

So learn from me, kids.  Don't bbq barefoot.  Wear appropriate protective footwear.