Scotch Eggs,Texas-style

“I had some Scotch Eggs this morning. Man, they were incredible, ” J-Skip said to me. What the hell is a Scotch Egg? “It’s a boiled egg wrapped in sausage and then deep fried. It’s so good.”

This was the actual conversation I had with a friend of mine. I’d never heard of such a thing, but anytime you mix egg and sausage together you have a winning combo. So, out I go to the internet. Apparently, J-Skip was absolutely right. The Brits eat these things like we eat burritos here in America. They sell them in supermarkets and gas stations, and are a preferred snack for scores of limey bastards all over the UK.

I thought about this a bit, and came up with a bit of a different take on this and it worked out INCREDIBLY. What I did was mix one of my favorite sausage treats (sausage balls) with this idea of Scotch Eggs. Check it, yo:

To make sausage balls, you mix a pound of sausage with 2c of baking mix and 1/2lbs of shredded cheese.

Mix these together and kneed so that you have all the baking mix “wet”. It should give you something that looks a-like so.

Now, normally you’d roll these into 2″ balls and bake at 350deg for 15-20 minutes until they are golden and delicious. Instead, I’m going to make a patty and push in a little concave spot the size of a boiled egg:

I take a little bit of extra baking mix in a bowl, and then roll a peeled boiled egg in it just to dust it a bit:

Then, let’s fold the patty around the dusted egg:

It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you want to make sure the sausage is a nice even layer around the outside and you have sealed off the holes. You’ll want it oblong in the shape of an egg so you know how the egg is laid out when you cut it open.

In another bowl, I put some panko bread crumbs and rolled the ball around a bit. You don’t have to have too much or any at all. It’s just for a little bit of extra crunch.

The extra I rolled into sausage balls, just because they are bite-sized and awesome. Onto a rack so the sausage can drain while they are cooking, then into the oven at 350deg until they are golden, probably about 40 minutes or so.

When they are finished, it should look something a-like so:

To plate this thing up, I’m going to cut it in half:

I made some quick gravy and sliced some fresh tomatoes

Toast up some bread and top with some preserves and pour yourself a big ass glass of grapefruit juice:

And then you have an instant classic here in Arcadia, the Scotch Egg.

Bob the Cook’s Pit

One of my favorite things to do in life is to cozy up with a beer on a Texas afternoon and do some outdoor cooking. It’s what Arcadia is all about…sharing what you know and do well with your friends and neighbors. In my case, I love seeing the creations that my fellow Arcadians come up with and the crazy things we make different cookers out of. My buddy down in Madisonville made a smoker out of a barrel; my dad’s fish cooker is made from an old gas water heater; and one of my favorite outdoor cookers is my plowdisc wok. I can do fajitas and breakfast tacos on that thing to feed a small army and/or a group of tailgating Aggies.

Across the country, you’ll find cooking competitions of all sorts: chili, BBQ, steaks, or even full chuck wagon competitions where you have multiple dishes as part of the submission. One of the most well-known of the outdoor cooks in our neck of the woods is Bob the Cook out at Wildcatter Ranch. Bob is an incredible gastronomist. He knows his food and knows his wine. If you ever get a chance to make your way to Young County, Texas, make sure you stop by Wildcatter Ranch and let Bob pair up a bottle of his favorite wine from his extensive wine list with a slab of medium-rare Texas beef and then top it off with his banana pudding in a Mason jar.

Bob the Cook (or “BtC” as we like to refer to him) recently catered in ribeyes to a function in downtown Arcadia. Never passing up an opportunity to sidle up to a genuine Texas cooking rig built and used by someone I regard so highly, I got a chance to snap a few pics and talk to BtC a bit about how he goes about making ribeyes for so many people at once.

It starts with his pit. He made this out of a U-shaped pipe that he had bent to a box. Now, this thing has been used time and time again and had to sit out in the Texas weather, so some of the original features aren’t quite as functional as they once were, but the design is still awesome. BtC used a design idea from the great Joe Allen in Abilene, but put some proper modifications on it to increase efficiency for an outdoor unit.

Here this bad boy is with the lid up:

You’ll notice that the grill grates are on a slant. That’s key for a steak cooking pit so you can adjust the amount of heat on the meat. Steaks with less marbled fat are going to cook much faster than the ones that have tons of flavorful fat, so you want to put them in a cooler spot on the grill or pull them earlier. Also, notice the lip that folds over in the front. That has two functions: first of all, it allows for easy access to the cooking surface as well as for moving the grills to an angle. See the bar on the inside of the lip? You can put the grates on that for an even cooking surface when you are doing things like sausage. The other function it has is that it can be propped up from underneath so you can use it as a flat working surface for your tools or bins holding the meat you are putting on the grill.

The firebox has two entrances in for proper flow, and you can adjust the flow in on both sides. There is a chimney on the back side of the lid, but BtC admits that the design is somewhat flawed. Moreover, the chimney just acts as a stop for the lid so it doesn’t flop all the way back.

You can see how easy it is to get to the working surface from here. BtC puts the beef onto the grates before he seasons them so that the meat warms up and absorbs the seasoning all at once. Also, he keeps the meat that will cook faster on one side so he can properly tell how well done the meat is. The fire is well enough away from the meat so you don’t have crispy char on the steaks.

You can see from the backside that there was a pulley system at one time to raise and lower the fireplate, but years of use and weather rusted out the bottom. BtC had to have an additional plate welding in recently for repair, so the pulley system is non-functional now.

This is BtC’s trailer, specifically built for the cooker. He can haul and move this all by himself, which is remarkable because the cooker itself weighs hundreds of pounds. He took an old axle from a junk pile and made a long tongue on it for counterweight. Then, he welded a stinger that pins onto the cooker itself.

Right by the door on the side cooker, you’ll see a halfpipe. Also, on the trailer you’ll see bars that go across. BtC engineered this so the bars on the trailer go into the halfpipes on the cooker as a latch. With the trailer tongue up in the air, he latches the pin in place on the stinger and can pull the tongue down and attach it to his truck. The tongue is counterweighted perfectly so you have a zero balance right on the axle.

Using rebar and pipe, he engineered a hinge system as well as a poking bar all in one. You can see the bar there…he’ll use that to close the doors on the fire box as well as to reach up with the hook to pull the lid down during the cooking.

Secure pins are chained to the side so you don’t lose them. This is a great shot of that lip in the front.

There you have it…a Texas steak pit, fully mobile and as efficient as you can get for outdoor cooking.

Texas Prairie Martini

There’s a part of me…a rather LARGE part of me…that loves a nice cold glass of liquor. The best alcoholics choose vodka as their boisson de choix, and who am I to argue with the experts?

There’s nothing like an ice-cold martini. Some prefer the Xmas tree lingering taste of gin, some like a little bit of vermouth; it all depends on the mood and most importantly depends on the drinker. That being said, there’s an equal if not greater part of me that’s North Texas white trash pedigree with a palatte for food that is hard to describe to most normal humans. We like our taco burgers, our Pittsburg Hot Links, and our pickled eggs. You put the two together and you have this incredibly dynamic mix of either delicious cocktail greatness or just a country washboard glass of goodness.

Up north of the Blackland Prairie where I grew up is the beautiful town of Muenster, Texas. If you want to throwback to the best of anything north of Dallas, you’ll find that this little town has it all. It’s a German town of about 1,500, and these people keep their town as clean as they can. There are two schools, one 2A school and one Catholic school (Sacred Heart ISD). The two schools are literally across the street from each other. Muenster hosts their annual Germanfest celebration, a half-concert/half-food festival in the last week of April every year. We don’t miss it in our family…I think we look forward to it more than we do Christmas. If you get a chance, you should make a day or even a weekend out of Germanfest in Muenster, Texas.

In downtown Muenster, there’s my favorite grocery store on the planet: Fischer’s Meat Market. Not only do they have a great selection of beer, wine, and Affiliated Foods groceries (the gears in any white trash family in north Texas), they have an incredible butcher counter (the back part of the store is also a slaughterhouse where you can take your beef to be dressed out), fresh German bakery items, and an entire row of canned/jarred food items that any north Texan would fall all over him/herself over. You can get apple butter, Hot N Spicy mustard, pecan pie in a jar, or any type of jelly you can think of including jalapeno jelly, muscadine jelly, or peach preserves. Right in the middle of this goodness is one of my favorite things in the world…pickled eggs. And not just any type of regular old pickled chicken egg; they have pickled quail eggs. This is the inspiration to this drink: leaning back on Lake Nocona on the Texas Prairie and sucking one of these down is as close to nirvana as possible (without the heroin).

First of all, to make a proper martini, you’ve got to chill the glass. Fill a martini glass with ice and then water and let it sit for a few minutes.

 

In the meantime, let’s review the ingredients list:

In that Aggie pub glass, we’re gonna throw in a few cubes of ice, three fingers of vodka, and another finger of the olive juice. That’s a pretty dirty martini…you can cut down on the olive juice if you prefer it to be sweeter and less olivey. What is a finger? Hold your finger up to the side of the glass and fill it up to the top of your finger. Then dump it all into the silver shaker, cap with the pub glass and shake three or four times to get it all mixed together. Dump out the ice water in the martini glass and clean out the extra water. Strain the vodka into the glass.  If it’s short, pour a bit more vodka into the glass, but don’t worry about stirring…that will come later.

Now comes the fun part. At Central Market, you can find a white cheddar called Isle of Mull. It’s incredibly sharp, but absolutely delicious. Take a bamboo skewer and run a couple of pickled eggs onto it. Then break off a hunk of cheese, and then top it off with a single olive. Break off the extra part of the skewer, but leave just enough to be able to hang onto it. Holding the broken end of the skewer, swirl the cocktail swizzle around in the vodka a couple of times to mix in the extra vodka (if necessary) and then serve with it across the rim of the glass (so the cheese doesn’t fall apart).

Voila…a Texas Prairie Martini, the perfect white trash cocktail and an awesome way to enjoy your cold liquor.

Trav’s Corner: Speckled Trout Tacos

One of the great things about being a food junkie is you get to find other food junkies and learn how to really cook things right.  Our S. Texas buddy, Travis, is a REAL foodie; a bona fide professional chef who left the trade for a normal job.  We’ve invited him to share some of his favorites from time to time here on AE.

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My corner of Arcadia is on the beach at South Padre Island. We’ve got a little place on the bay in Port Isabel with a dock and we keep an underwater light there that comes on at night to attract speckled sea trout. Not only are these fun to catch, but they’re also real good eating. My 7 year old son likes to catch a couple every night. We keep them for trout tacos. Here’s how I do it.

First, you’ve got to filet the fish. Start by laying the fish on the cleaning station with his back towards you.

 

Lift up the side fin and position your filet knife right next to the fin with the back of the knife at a diagonal towards the head:

 

Cut straight down to the backbone, and then turn the knife so that it cuts along the backbone.

 It’ll be tough at first as you’ll have to cut through some ribs, but after you get through that, it’ll go real easy all the way to the tail. Some people like to leave a piece at the end attached to the tail to make it easier to skin, but I prefer to cut it all the way off. Next you’ll want to remove the ribs. Place your knife right along the rib line and cut down at an angle, following the rib bones.

 

 

To get the skin off, lay the filet flat against your cutting surface, skin side down. Holding your knife flat, start at the tail end and cut through a little piece of meat to the skin.

 

Hold onto this piece with one hand and move the knife back and forth with the other. Let the knife do the work. Don’t try to push the knife along, and don’t pull the skin. This takes practice, but you can just trim off any skin you miss. Now turn the fish over and repeat.

 After you wash them off, you’ve got two nice filets. The next step is seasoning. I could put together some bad ass blend, but Tony Chachere already did:

 

 

Sprinkle this stuff on liberally, and then the filets go into a hot nonstick pan with canola oil. Cook over high heat until browned and then turn over and do the other side:

Note: searing with Tony’s can result in some pretty caustic fumes. Make sure your vent hood is on (assuming it vents to the outside) or make sure your kitchen is well ventilated. Once the filets are browned on both sides, remove from the pan and place on a paper towel or rack to drain.

While they’re draining, heat a tortilla in a dry pan until warmed through. I like Mission multigrain tortillas with this for health reasons (and cause they’re really good), but you can use corn or flour or whatever.

Once you’ve got all the tortillas warmed up (two filets makes about 6 tacos) you can start assembly. Break off a piece of filet long enough to cover the tortilla lengthwise. Next, spoon on some Greek yogurt:

 

 

This is some good stuff, and you can use it like sour cream. Next, squeeze some lime juice on there and start adding toppings. Here’s one with tomato, avocado and sprouts, but you can go with what you like here, including cabbage, peppers, onion, lettuce, cheese, cilantro, etc.

 

 

Now sprinkle on your favorite hot sauce and go to town. I usually serve with rice and beans.

Special note: you inland types can sub bass or catfish for the trout. Tilapia will do in a pinch. Just go with white fleshed fish and you should be fine.

Pulling Your Pork – The Essence of BBQ

I’m a Texan, and any good Texan loves BBQ. However, BBQ can be a tricky. You can’t just throw a slab of meat onto a grill and then slather it with sticky sweet sauce and expect to have good BBQ. BBQ needs LOOOOONG slow cooking with delicious smoke from well-seasoned wood. What that means is that you have to have a piece of meat that has lots of fat, so chicken breasts and backstrap are out. Those boys in Tennessee and South Carolina know this as a BBQ must.

Here in cattle country, we know that brisket is the key to a Texas BBQ. And if you’ve read the Big Red Ribs recipe, you know that if you are going with ribs they need to be pork ribs and not beef. However, Texans have a really bad habit of overlooking the greatness of the Boston Butt. It could be because it’s pork and not beef; it could be because it’s got a yankee name and the fact that yankees call a shoulder roast a “butt”. Let’s overlook the sins of our sisters from the North and look deeply into what could potentially change everything you’ve known about BBQ and become a staple in your stable.

They call this thing a pulled pork; if you go to a Hard Rock Café, you should find a dish called the Tennessee Pulled Pork or the “TPP” (‘If you’ve been to the HRC and you haven’t had the TPP, you haven’t been to the HRC’). Before they closed the HRC in Dallas, that was one of my favorite things to get. I actually had a kidney stone attack one time eating a TPP, but it’s so good I hung in there for the whole sandwich before heading to the emergency room. True story. On a toasted bun, this might turn into your favorite BBQ sandwich, and again…this is coming from a Texas Beef fan.

First of all, let’s take another look at our pig diagram:

Right above the ear, you’ll see the words “Boston Butt”. Yeah, it’s the shoulder. They also call this a “blade roast”. Either way, when you go shopping you’ll be looking for the biggest slab of non-ham pork you can find. Note: there’s also a “picnic roast”, which is a nice alternative if you can’t find a shoulder roast. However, the bone isn’t quite as easy to remove for presentation, so stick with the shoulder if you can.

In the package:

That’s an eight-pounder, which is about the average of what you’ll find. On occasion you’ll run across one a little bigger or smaller, but for the most part that’s what you’ll get when you buy one. First thing’s first….take it out of the package and rinse it under water. Be careful…there are a couple different muscles here, so it may try to fall apart on you. When you get it rinsed off and set aside, let’s get the bag out. I like to use a turkey bag. Reynold’s makes a perfect product for this:

Take the bag and put it into one of those cheap plastic storage bins.

I’m doing two roasts here, but you can double this up easily in the same bag and bucket.

Go ahead and put the roast(s) in the bag. Now, for the next 24 hours, we need to brine this bad boy. Remember…a brine is for moisture, not for flavor. If any flavor is garnered from the brine, it’s a bonus and not the original intent. The brine will be a mix of sugar, salt, and acid to break down those muscle fibers to be as tender and moist as possible. For our brine we are going to use about this much apple juice:

Just pour it right into the bag. No reason to scrimp, but no reason to over do it.

And about this much apple cider vinegar (about a cup):

You can mix them right in together. Swish ’em around a bit, but you don’t have to worry about getting them perfectly mixed. Go ahead and close up the bag and get as much air as you can out. It’s not imperative to get it air tight, but it will keep your fridge from being too vinegared up if you get it closed.

Into the fridge it goes for the night. The next day, take it out of the fridge, unfastened the closure and pour as much of the liquid out as possible. We are going to use a dry rub on this, so you want to make sure you get as much liquid out as possible. No reason to save the brine…it’s done it’s job, and we’ll have ample liquid from the drippings from this after it’s cooked.

Using the Arcadian BBQ rub, liberally coat these things down on all sides and any cracks and crevices you can find. Then, put it back into the bag and close it back up. It needs another night to get seasoned up.

So that your timing is right, this is your timeline:

Day 1: brine in the evening, in the fridge overnight and into the next evening

Day 2: season with rub, into the fridge overnight

Day 3: smoking for six-ten hours (including the rest)

Fire up your smoker. Now, you guys know how I feel about mesquite. That’s not changing. However, I really like pecan/hickory on this recipe. Because you are cooking for so long, though, you’ll want to use a mixture. Mesquite is a harder wood and will cook hotter and longer than pecan, which is a softer wood. That’s why my nickname in college was “Mesquite”. What’s up, ladies?

Get your smoker rolling to 225-250deg and put your roast on fat side UP. It’s totally up to you on how much smoke you put on it, but you need at least 2 hours of pure unadulterated smoke. Some might argue with me on the fat thing, but if your smoker is designed correctly you’ll have indirect heat, full smoke, and the fat will melt into the meat fibers. That’s important in this dish. You see, it’s different from brisket because on brisket we cut against the grain. However, with TPP we are going to literally pull the pork apart so the meat fibers will be long. Since they are going to be long and not short, they need to have a lot of fat in between them to lubricate the fibers and make them easy to masticate. Get your mind out of the gutter.

After you’ve put all the smoke you want on it, take your digital probe thermometer and stick it into the opposite end of the shoulder blade bone longways and push it in as far as it will go. Then wrap the roast in foil VERY well. That is, lay down the foil with the shiny side down and lay the roast on it.

Then wrap the foil around the sides and back over the roast, making sure the thermometer is sticking out and the foil is tight around it. Then put another layer of foil around it. The reason is that there will be lots and lots of tasty liquid that we want to save, and if you don’t have it wrapped well the drippings will escape.

Note: the temperature we are looking for does not reflect doneness in any way. Instead, it’s just a marker for us to go off of because once we get to 195deg internal temp, then we know that the roast is cooked the proper amount of time to melt all that delicious fat intertwined into the roast meat fibers.

For the next few hours, keep your smoker going at 225-275. When you wrap the roast, it will probably be around 110-120deg. After you wrap it, the temp will start coming up relatively more rapidly.

Don’t rush it. We need it to go slow, so take your time and pay attention to the temp of the smoker and look for 195deg on internal temp. Once you get there, pull it and put it into a cooler. You know the drill…you need at least two hours of rest in the cooler, but the mass of this thing will let you go much longer. You can keep the probe in and keep the therm on and watch the temp. As long as you don’t drop too far down (130 or so), then you can let it rest a long time.

When you pull it out of the cooler, get one of those disposable foil pans. Get a deep one because the presentation is going to get kinda messy. Using your cooking gloves and with the assistance of your favorite sous chef, open up the foil and take the roast out without spilling any of the juice. The juice is good. The meat should be receded from the shoulder blade enough so you can grab onto it, give it a jiggle or two and take it out.

Jiggle to remove the bone

Throw it away…it’s duty to the world is over (or at least until some critty comes along to chew on it).

Using two large forks turned back-to-back, start ripping the meat apart. Don’t worry about being gentle, just rip. Break up all the chunks. It needs to be stringy.

When you get it all ripped apart, pour the juice over the top and toss the meat in it. Do as little or as much of the drippings as you want, but keep in mind that if you have any too much juice after serving the drippings will coagulate and make pork jello when it cools.

This is great straight up on a plate with some Texas Toast, or you can toast up some buns and throw some of the meat onto the crispy bun. Add some sauce if you like, a couple of pickles slices or onion slices, and you’ve got yourself a gen-yoo-wine TPP. Texas Pulled Pork, made the way Texans eat BBQ.

Smoking a Pork Tenderloin

I had a pork tenderloin I needed to cook, so I fired up the smoker this afternoon for a quick smoke. I didn’t take pictures, so you guys will just have to use your imaginations.

Porkloin is really fun to cook because it will take on flavor really well. The natural flavor of lean pork is really mild anyway, but especially with a cut of the pig that’s this lean. Even moreso is the fact that we are using tenderloin vs. the loin. What’s the difference? Glad you asked.

The pork loin is the porcine “backstrap”…the muscles that run along the back connected to the spine. That’s where filet mignon on a beef comes from and where the most edible non-chickenfried parts of the deer comes from. If you picture a pork loin:

You can see that there two parts to the loin separated by a thin layer of fat. The top part has a nice layer of fat on it, and if you take the entire loin and cut it against the grain you have “pork loin chops”, which are really tasty but lean pork chops. It’s the most tender part of the pig and extremely lean.

To cook this thing, we are going to need to add fat to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Fire up your smoker to maintain about 300deg. While it’s rolling, remove the porkloin from the package (there will be two pieces of meat in the package) and rinse them off with cold water. Coat them in olive oil, then add ks&p. Mince a few cloves of garlic and rub down the meat. Then chop up some fresh rosemary and rub that in as well.

You know that cheap bacon at the grocery store? It’s called “Bar S”. It’s not the best bacon, but it’s perfect for what we need here. Take three strips of bacon per tenderloin and wrap the tenderloin like a candycane. You don’t have to pin the bacon with a toothpick or anything…just wrap it and it should stay. Sprinkle the top with cayenne pepper and just a little bit of cumin, then throw it on the smoker. An hour unwrapped and then an hour wrapped at 275deg is perfect. The meat will have a great pussylip-pink ring of smoke and will be really moist, hopefully tender enough to cut with the side of your fork. When you take it out, let it sit for 10-15 minutes or so to rest. Standard fare for meat.

But wait…do you have any apples at the house? Peel and cut the apples into slices. In a pan, melt a couple of tbspn of butter and add a tblspn of sugar. When it starts to bubble, throw in the apples and some cinnamon. Cook that, stirring constantly, over medium heat until it makes a thick compote. You can even throw in a handful of golden raisins if you want. Cut the tenderloin against the grain in 1″ slices and top with the apples.

But wait even more…Take a french hoagie roll and cut it in half. Spread on some delicious Inglehoffer mustard:

…some sliced pickles and swiss cheese, then run the sandwich thru a sandwich press and you’ve got a Cubano, which is one of the greatest sandwiches alive. Do the same thing as the apples, but go with 1/2 the ingredients and use plantains instead of apples and serve it on the side.

Whah-POW, baby.