29 May 2012

Mast Brothers Chocolate

While many folks spend the Memorial Day weekend grilling up a storm, we at Indirect Heat often travel on long weekends. We can bbq any weekend. This year we visited the Big Apple for the long weekend. And while I'd love to report on the many food plans that we had, my report will be slightly shorter than I had hoped. We spent the last half of the weekend in our hotel room with a feverish little guy. Bbq Jr. had a fever of 103°F for much of Sunday and Monday. He was very accommodating of our adventures, but ultimately needed a lot of rest.

One of the visits we made was to Mast Brothers Chocolate.

Mast Bros

These guys are serious about chocolate. They want to deliver the message that:
Chocolate is food — not candy
I've never been a huge fan of chocolate, it's often too sweet, and single note. As a kid, I never ate chocolate bars, I found them uninteresting. Trite, even. But Mast Brothers Chocolate is something truly special. They're hidden away in a developing neighborhood in Brooklyn which is on the verge of being gentrified. But not today.

The neighborhood

Today it is a neighborhood for homeless people, hipsters and various craftsmen and women. Mast Brothers makes chocolate. They make it slowly, and they make it inefficiently. When you visit, you can watch several employees slowly folding labels for the bars. Are they paid extra to fold more slowly? Perhaps.

When you read the labels on their bars, if they are to believed, they contain little more than chocolate and sugar (or chocolate and maple sugar). If you visit, you can see the space that they use to produce chocolate.

The facility

They roast all their own beans.

Chocolate beans

And they're happy to educate you on how to make chocolate.

The process

Chocolate beans are fermented, roasted and finally ground. Mix that with sugar, and you have chocolate.

So, if you visit, you will be lucky enough to taste several of their chocolates. We had a maple chocolate, a smoked chocolate, and a single-source African chocolate. Each one of these was complex, fruity and delicious. I mean, really, really tasty. When was the last time you had a chocolate bar that gave you something to think about an hour later? And while your Mast Brothers chocolate bar costs $7 - I can't help thinking that America wouldn't be a better place if all chocolate in this country cost $7, and all of it tasted this good.

Visit them if you can:

Mast Brothers Chocolate
111 North 3rd Street
Brooklyn, NY 11249
Open 7 days, 12 p.m.-7 p.m.

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22 May 2012

On steak

Grilling steak

Last weekend, I popped into the Whole Foods in Cambridge. They're my go-to source for dry-aged steak. The guy in front of me at the butcher counter was also buying himself some beautiful dry-aged meat. He was having a particularly interesting conversation with the butcher:
"So, how long do I have to cook this on a grill for it to be done?"
"Well, that depends on kind of a lot of things..."
"But, how long? Say, 8 minutes a side?"
"Well, it depends on the thickness of the steak, the temperature of the grill, how well you want it cooked..."
"I use propane. How long you think that takes?"
"I really don't feel comfortable giving people times to cook..."
It was pretty painful to watch. This poor (young) butcher didn't want to tell a customer he was asking the wrong question, and the customer wouldn't take no for an answer.

Steak really made me nervous when I first started grilling it. The difference between an overcooked and undercooked steak is a matter of a few moments on the grill, unlike a brisket, which gives you hours to make your decisions. And steak is expensive. You ruin a couple of dry-aged steaks, you've just wasted $30 worth of meat.

In general, you need to develop steak-sense. You need to practice. You need to recognize how a steak feels when it is medium. How it feels when it is medium-rare. Make a fist. Poke the muscle between your thumb and your hand on that fist. That's medium-rare. Softer is rare. Firmer is medium.

Mrs. Dude likes her steaks medium to medium-well. I put a lot of steaks back on the grill for her to firm them up, before I learned to recognize a medium-well steak without cutting into it.

Practice. Poke. Get a feel for how firm they need to be. This is a good steak recipe to start with. But no one can give you precise times or temperatures. You just need to practice. So go ahead, eat steak more often.

It's not all bad...

Dry-aged steak in Cambridge:

Whole Foods Market
340 River Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 876-6990 ‎
Mon-Sun 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.

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17 May 2012

Charred & Scruffed-inspired ribeye

So with the imminent arrival of summer, we should be returning to lots and *lots* of smoked and grilled meat. And this summer, unlike last summer, we're not moving cross-country, so there will be nothing distracting the Dude family from plenty of bbq'd meat. Conveniently, the object of my man-crush (Adam Perry Lang) has published a new book. Charred & Scruffed. After his Serious Barbecue, I've been a huge fan.

Well, Charred & Scruffed is a bit more faddish. There are several silly techniques in this book. Rather than creating various heat zones on the grill, he advocates cooking your meat high off the grill (by creating towers of bricks on top of your grill), or cooking close to the coals. Okay, well... that's silly. I create crazy hot and less hot zones in the bbq (based on number of screaming hot coals). But, as always, his flavors are *on*. This steak is inspired by his "High-Low Boneless Ribeye".

We start with the rub:
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Mix the rub and sprinkle all over your boneless ribeye steaks (we've done this several times now, it's better if your ribeyes are dry-aged).


Let the rub soak in, while you get a crazy hot charcoal fire on your grill. Make a drink. A margarita, perhaps.


Also, make your basting butter:
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp unsalted butter
½ tsp soy sauce
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp grated garlic
½ tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 tbsp grated onion
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ cup cider vinegar
½ tbsp ketchup
½ tbsp yellow mustard
Combine all of these ingredients in a saucepan. Heat over low heat (there's something naughty about melting butter in olive oil). Mix frequently, remove from heat when everything is melted and well mixed.

Basting butter

When you get crazy hot coals, arrange the coals in your bbq such that you have a crazy hot space (high density of charcoal) and a much less dense space (for cooler grilling).

This recipe is backwards from many. Rather than using high heat to caramelize your steak, then cooling it down to finish it, you're going to slowly heat your steak over the cool coals, flipping frequently. This is just to get your steak hot.


After twelve-ish minutes, when your steaks are nowhere *near* cooked, remove them from the heat.


Baste them all over with the basting butter. Slather them with basting butter, and let them hang out for a few minutes. Given that the basting butter is a mix of fat of delicious juices, make sure you're mixing frequently as you're basting (this is no emulsion, it's a juicy fat-bomb).

Now, toss them back over extremely high heat. (Keep in mind, this method will not produce beautiful, perfect grill marks - but as our saviour Adam Perry Lang says - do you want those anyway? We aim for delicious.)


Alright, now flip every one to two minutes.


When they feel done, they're done. Medium-rare feels like that fleshy spot between your thumb and your hand when you make a fist. Drizzle a cutting board with olive oil, lime juice, chopped parsley and cayenne.

Prepared cutting board

Toss your cooked steak onto the cutting board to rest.


After five minutes (if you can stand waiting) - serve.

This is Mrs. Dude's new favorite steak. I expect to make this many times this summer. Happy grilling.

EDIT: Many thanks to reader Joerg for catching a few typos. Please contact me with typos you identify.


12 May 2012

A lazy Saturday calls for...

... a Sacrilege. We're posting this a little late, as we had this on Easter Sunday.


We recently visited the Russell House Tavern. This is a fantastic place to eat. And drink. We love their small plates, and especially their cocktails. Well, I will shamelessly plug them, given that when I twittled at them, asking for a recipe for my favourite cocktail creation of theirs, they twittled it right back at me:

It's lovely. While the Cardamaro is a little challenging to find, it's well worth it.


10 May 2012

Buttermilk fried bunny

I am rather behind on my blogging. We haven't stopped cooking, eating, or snapping photos of our dinners. I've just been slow on doing anything with the files. Take this dinner - from Easter - that has been sitting on my hard drive. Since 1994, I've been eating rabbit for Easter. It just seems a propos. See, for example, our grilled rabbit. Or my personal favourite, inspired by Dr. Ricky, our chocolate Easter bunny.

Fried bunny

This year, we tried something new. Inspired by one of my favourite blogs, we cooked up a buttermilk fried rabbit. Because everything is better fried.

Hank knows good food, so we didn't mess with his recipe much, other than to up the heat a little:
2 domestic rabbits
2 cups buttermilk
½ cup of mixed chopped fresh herbs (I used fresh thyme and oregano)
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp garlic powder
4 tsp cayenne
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 cups vegetable oil
Mix the buttermilk, herbs, paprika, garlic powder and cayenne. Dismantle your Easter bunnies (or get the butcher to do it for you), and soak the pieces in the buttermilk for 8 hours.

Buttermilk bunny

Mix the flour and salt. Drain the bunny bits, and then lightly toss them in the flour mixture, and set aside on a plate.

Breaded bunny

Heat your oil to 325°C. I find it easier to fry with a thermometer, you make fewer errors. Remember when frying, gently set your bunny into the hot oil. The closer you are when you let go of the bunny, the less likely you are to splash oil on yourself. Do not be afraid of the hot oil, and you won't get burned.

Fry about 12 minutes per side, or until the flour turns a nice dark brown.

Fried bunny

Remove the fried bunny, and drain on paper towel. Mrs. Dude says this was her favourite bunny ever. Favourite. Bunny. Ever. She was tremendously excited by the fried bunny, and because it was fried, it was relatively low effort.