Of Flanks, Skirts (Hangers), Briskets and all things delicious.

Greetings Carnivores,

I got a message on the weekend from my Sister, asking me the difference between the Skirt, Flank and Brisket and whether or not they could all be treated the same way.

The answer is  … yes, and DEFINITELY no.

Here’s the skinny.

Since the Flank and Skirt (sometimes referred to as “Hanger”) both come from the “Flank” portion of the hind quarter, yes … they can be treated the same way. They are often found in Asian and Latino recipes … can you say stir fry and FAJITAS !!

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The humble Flank steak

The Flank steak (click here) is a flat muscle, found on either side of the carcass and is usually roughly a bit larger than twice the size of your hand. It can be as much as a couple of inches thick and is NOT well marbled with long muscle fibers running it’s full length.

Click here for a link to my friend Chef Jeff Parker’s flank steak recipe.  

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The beautiful Skirt steak

Now, the Skirt steak (click here) is actually a part of the diaphragm that separates the vital organs from the digestive tract, and the entire piece could be as long a 2 feet, as wide as 6-8 inches and up to a few inches thick.

Click here for a link to Chef Jeff Parker’s awesome detail on Skirt (hanger) Steak … couldn’t have said it better myself Jeff !!

Ok so, both of these muscles are EXCELLENT on the BBQ as long as you DON’T overcook them. This is absolutely key AND … always slice them ACROSS THE GRAIN.

Now, the  Brisket (click here), on the other hand comes from the front quarter of the beef carcass.  (put your hands on your sternum and move them from the centre,  across your chest towards your arm pits)  This is the area the Brisket comes from.

There are TWO muscles in the Brisket portion … the ‘flat’ muscle is called the ‘point’ and the fatty ‘knob’ that sits on top is called the ‘deckel’.

The Brisket is DEFINITELY NOT a tender piece of meat … BUT, with all that beautiful, white fat, collagen and connective tissue; when you add the right blend of spices, a BUNCH of TLC, a LONGSLOW cook and a kiss of smoke … well, NOW you have a piece of meat that will make you wanna cry.

Heck … all those Texans have been doing something right with the Brisket for eons so … they “might” be onto something. (do ya think???)

These bad boys are not readily found in the big supermarkets basically because they pretty much all go from the processing plant into the making of “Corned Beef”. Don’t dispair, if you have a small butcher shop in your area, drop in and ask for it then, look up a recipe for Beef brisket on the ‘net’ and get busy.

REMEMBER FOLKS … YOU CANNOT RUSH THIS PIECE OF MEAT … it is a LONG, SLOW, LABOUR OF LOVE but … when it’s done right … oh my !!

Masters of the BBQ and smoker GAWDS,  “The Patrons of the Pit” (click here for their Brisket method) show you how to render the mighty Brisket into something truly beautiful (my mouth is watering).

There you have it Carnivores, and to my beautiful Sister … I hope I answered your questions. If not, I’ll see you on Sunday and we can continue this discussion.

I LOVE getting questions because they usually help me come up with Blog post topics so … keep ’em coming !! 🙂

In the meantime, stay tuned and … please click “follow” at the top of the page (Carnivore Confidential). You’ll get an email notice every time I write something new.

Until next time Carnivores, stay hungry and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential

 

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Ode to Fall … how I love thee!!

Greetings Carnivores,

The skies are grey, change is in the air. I can feel it, see it, taste it. My house, high on a hill is bearing witness to the trees beyond the lake, turning as I write.

Just a few short weeks from now, when the night time temps dip, the trees will blossom with beautiful hues of Autumn Red, fading to Orange, Gold and Yellow.

Today is nasty in a wonderful Fall sort of way. It’s raining and a bit chilly.

I REALLY DO hate to see the Summer days grow short but … I SOOOO love the Fall. Bright sunshine and cool nights. NO BUGS to spoil any outside leisure activities and, those beautiful colours in the trees.

According to Wikipedia, An “Ode”  is elaborately praising or glorifying an event, describing nature intellectually as well as emotionally.

And so, this is my Ode to Fall … how I love thee!!

Ahhhh, but the promise of Winter … my favourite.

Yes, I know some have a problem with that. Perhaps I’m one of the strange ones.

I SOOOO love to ride my motorcycle. Sadly, I just don’t do very well with the crazy heat and humidity that goes hand in hand with the Summer months here, where I have lived almost all of my life.

Being a Butcher for 35+ years has messed up my internal thermometer. I used to DREAD going to work. “How in the WORLD am I going to stay warm for 8 hours ???” Crazy thing now, I LOVE it !!!

I ACTUALLY look FORWARD to spending the ENTIRE day in the COLD !!! Seriously!!!  I can work my butt off and NEVER break a sweat !! It’s BEAUTIFUL !!

Again, I digress …

Here’s the deal … I SOOOOO look forward to the cold and SNOW !!!

I want to be clear … I LOVE the change of seasons we are blessed with in this part of my beautiful country (Canada) and, I really wouldn’t have it any other way.  As much as I look forward to Spring, and the rebirth of everything green, I ALSO SOOOOOO look forward to the COLD, exhilarating slap of WINTER!!

I am a skier. I love all things out-of-doors, especially in the Winter. I guess that makes me a bit of a “Winter weirdo” and, let’s not forget … a FOODIE too!

For me, the Winter presents a WHOLE new experience for folks that just love to cut, cook, prepare, present and serve FOOD to appreciating people (mainly my Marital equivalent, family and friends). Comfort food to warm the heart and soul. Spicy chili’s, hearty stews and crock pot recipes that beg for a crackling fire, glass of wine and a big sweater.

Coming home today, as I drove up my long driveway, I was wondering “how am I going to impress my marital equivalent for dinner tonight ” and, … I’m SERIOUSLY drawing a TOTAL blank.

I put the key in the door, my beautiful four legged Princesses meet me as usual, and … dinner is gone. Out of my mind like the flush of a big Porcelain throne.

History. It’s play time and … Daddy’s home!!!

I usually give dinner serious thought during the day. Today however, I’m waffling between pulling nasty, last minute, got-no-time-for-anything-else, burgers or worse out of the freezer … OR, (wait for it …) the dreaded “Breakfast-for-dinner”!!! Fast n’ easy, bacon and eggs with toast (yum … so easy, … AND, sooooo good)

Sadly, my lovely spouse just doesn’t “GET” the whole “Breakfast-for-dinner” thing !!!

Back to the drawing board.

With the days growing colder, my opportunities to smoke (food, NOT tobacco or that other funny stuff!) are dwindling.  As the outside temperature drops I must add more and more time to my overall cook, since I use an old water smoker. One of these days I’ll invest in a Big Green Egg but, I digress, … again.

Back to dinner. I want to use my smoker tonight but, I haven’t presoaked any wood chips … or have I ???

This whole diatribe has been the reason for my Blog post today.

I have a ridiculously obvious and simple tip I actually fell into by accident to share.

Back in the summer, after  smoking some ribs for dinner, I was cleaning up and realized there was still half a bag of hickory chips soaking in my bucket. Not wanting to drain them, dry them and store them for next time, instead, I put them into a ziplock bag and stuck them in the freezer.

Waiting for wood chips or chunks to soak can be a pain (at least 30 minutes to 1 hour). If you’re eager to begin smoking food as I am tonight, the wood needs to soak before being added to the grill in order to maintain a slow smolder rather than a quick burn, which can impart an acrid taste to your meat.

In my freezer, I have pre-soaked, ready to use wood chips!! By the time I get the old smoker rockin’ , my chips will be thawed and ready to use!

Necessity is the Mother of Invention AND, the end result of many happy accidents around here !!

BTW, … the same tip is great for soaking bamboo skewers as well.  This is a must before grilling since soaking will help keep the wood from burning before the food is cooked.  You can even use frozen chips for your gas grill too.  Just place them inside a foil pouch with holes poked into it for ventilation and add them to your BBQ while cooking your favourite protein.

Chicken leg quarters, brined, smoked and finished in my little water smoker, served with foil wrapped potatoes and steamed, buttered broccoli.

Comfort food for a chilly night … ahhhh the crackling fire.

Honey? … can I pour you some wine ???

All is good.

Until next time Carnivores, stay hungry and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential

Champagne taste, beer budget.

Greetings Carnivores,

Back in the early 80’s I was a not so young lad, working my way through a four-year University degree. I say ‘not so young’ because I didn’t actually decide to go back to school ’till I was twenty-five.

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O’Keefe House … I LOVED every minute of my four years there!!

Money was very tight and living in an all male residence on Campus (ever see the movie ‘Animal House’? … THAT pretty much sums up my four wonderful years there) meant I ate A LOT of Kraft Dinner. (I actually owned a cook book called “101 creative ways to cook Kraft Dinner”!)

*sigh*

Champagne taste, beer budget.

Around the same time, an upstate New York chef, in the long-suffering city of Buffalo, did something in his kitchen that would change the face of every roadhouse restaurant, sports hangout  and dive bar north and south of the longest unprotected border … forever.

With all due respect, I say ‘long suffering’ because the city of Buffalo has been a perennial sporting Bridesmaid.
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The NFL Superbowl dance  from  1991 through 1994  saw the Bills come away empty-handed four straight years in a row … unheard of in Professional football.

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Their NHL Sabres likewise, were also Bridesmaids at Lord Stanley’s party in the 1974-75 season. But, … their most crushing, heartbreaking defeat was handed to them on June 20th 1999, when Brett Hull of the Dallas Stars scored the Cup winning goal … with his skate CLEARLY in Dominik Hasek’s crease.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda … who knows what the outcome of the game MIGHT have been if the refs had done the right thing, reviewed the play and seen what everyone else was seeing through the beauty of instant replay, … and disallowed the winning goal.

Never has the city of Buffalo been able host a winner’s spectacle, and sing “We are the Champions” while enjoying their ticker-tape parade through the streets, and proudly hoisting the spoils of their labour.

*Sigh*

Again … I digress. Back to my story.

The long suffering city of Buffalo however, IS famous for something.

The ‘life changing’ event in the kitchen of that Buffalo restaurant I’m referring to of course, is the lowly Chicken Wing.

Now and forever, … referred to as, …  Buffalo Wings.

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Brown sugar and Sea salt brined … ready for the smoker.

Back then, they were thrown away or used for making stock but … this guy thought to himself … “Hey, … I wonder what would happen if I deep-fried these things, added some hot sauce and, put ’em on the menu?”

Fast forward, and today you find the price of Chicken Wings ridiculous! Think about it … there are ONLY two on every bird. The popularity of this bar staple has now made supply and demand such that the Wing has gone from something restaurateurs couldn’t give away, to one of the BIGGEST sellers on ANY menu, in ANY roadhouse, sports joint and dive bar … coast to coast … bar none … period! Entire restaurant chains have been established SOLELY on the Wing. Bars proudly advertise “BEST WINGS IN TOWN”. Boy, … from such humble beginnings. Seems CRAZY huh?

When I was in school, Wing night (every Tuesday and Thursday) at a local dive, walking distance from Campus for us was Nirvana. Back then Wings were 10 cents each! Poor students like us could eat 30 of them for $3.00 and STILL afford to have a couple of beers to wash ’em down!

Being that I’m a smoking junkie (meat, NOT tobacco … or that other funny stuff) means that Wings are one of my favourite subjects.

Two days ago I prepared a brine of Brown sugar (1 cup), Sea salt (1/2 cup) and water (8 cups). To this tincture I added my Wings, sealed them in a Ziplock bag and tucked them into my frig.

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All set … LET’S SMOKE !!!

Yesterday, I retrieved my Wings from the frig, rinsed them with cold running water and sprinkled them with Clubhouse Wild Whiskey Smoked BBQ seasoning. I prepped my water smoker, sprinkled pre-soaked Applewood chips on the hot coals, added my Wings and called my fishing buddy Steve Agius (www.myfishpattern.com) to come for Wings, beer and the NHL playoffs.

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3 hours later, beer in hand, hockey on the flat screen. Does it get any better?

Life is good 🙂

Stay hungry Carnivores and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential

Don’t have a Smoker? You don’t need one !!

Greetings Carnivores,

I have written Blog posts about smoking, and the joy of eating food prepared this way but, I understand not everybody owns a smoker. Like I’ve said before, … smoking meat is a labour of love that takes HOURS and, I’m pretty sure not everybody shares my addiction. For me, it’s a bit of a passion. I read about it, watch it on the food network, and try endless recipes and methods in my smoker. I suffer TERRIBLE withdrawal when the weather turns cold because for every one degree drop in outside temperature I have to add 20 minutes to my overall cook time. Winter smoking (with my water smoker) is NOT very practical. I once put my very first electric (Little Chief) smoker in my living room fireplace, and smoked some ribs in the Winter. I wasn’t very popular at my house since the whole place smelled like a smokehouse for DAYS (I thought it was GREAT!!) My poor, long suffering Marital Equivalent didn’t share my enthusiasm however. Through it all though, … she  has endured all my successes AND even some epic fails.

Ok so, where am I going? Here’s the deal. YOU DON’T NEED A SMOKER!

Grilling with charcoal or briquettes is making a HUGE come back and, if you have one of these obviously you can cook/smoke with indirect heat, thus making your grill a wonderful ‘smoker’. BUT … for those of you who use gas grills, you can STILL achieve the same results.

I’m quite sure you’ve all heard about BBQ’ing Salmon on a Cedar plank. Have you ever tried it?  MAN … you’re missing out if you haven’t. But, … did you realize you can cook pretty much ANYTHING on a cedar plank??  The secret is … you have to use a THICKER plank for extended cooking time.

Seems pretty simple when you think about it but … the planks sold at any home improvement,  or big red box store (starts with a “C” and ends with an “O”) are fine for a nice Salmon filet since the total cook time ‘may’ be as much as 7 minutes but, probably no more that 12-13.

When using a plank for cooking, you must soak it for 20 minutes or so before placing it on the grill. Then, you get it rocking ’till it starts to ‘smoke’ (essentially it’s ‘starting’ to smolder) add your fish and … Bob’s your Uncle. 7 to 10 minutes later … NIRVANA!

The problem is … planks sold at the big box stores are EXPENSIVE! Sure, you get 6 or 8 of them in a pkg., BUT, they’re so thin you really only get (if you’re lucky) 15 minutes of cook time out of them before they REALLY start to burn so, they’re not much good for anything OTHER than fish.

Know what I do?

I go to the same home improvement store BUT … I buy a 10 foot, 1 x 6 cedar fence plank (for about 12 dollars) and cut it to any length I need, depending on what I’m cooking.

PLEASE, … DON’T BUY GREEN, PRESSURE TREATED FENCE LUMBER TO COOK ON … THEY’RE INFUSED WITH TOXIC STUFF TO INHIBIT INSECTS AND ROT!!

Ok so, since the 1 x 6 is SO much thicker than the cedar ‘wafers’ they sell FOR the BBQ … you can cook for MUCH longer. Back ribs for instance … cut the board to accommodate the length of the rack, weigh it down and soak it (use the laundry tub if it won’t fit in your kitchen sink) then, put it on the grill, get it rocking ’till it just starts to smolder (smoke),  add your ribs and Voila! Go pour yourself a nice Summer libation, take a chair (spray bottle at the ready) and enjoy the wonderful smells emanating from your BBQ!

Just so I’m clear … always keep a spray bottle of Apple juice handy (you can use plain old water but … where’s the adventure in that?). This serves double duty. First, it helps to keep whatever you’re cooking/smoking  moist (and sweet) and second, to quell any errant flames that ‘may’ want to caress the wood and burn your planked treasure.

Try your favourite Chicken preparation, Lamb, … you can even cook Burgers like this! The cook time will be much longer so please, make sure you use a good digital meat thermometer to insure the correct doneness … I don’t want any of you getting sick. 🙂

I like to transfer whatever I’m planking (except fish … it’ll fall apart) to the grill for some nice grill marks at the end of the cook … it just looks better.

There you have it Carnivores, now … get out there and smoke something. I love to read your comments and answer any questions you may have.

In the meantime, stay tuned and … please click “follow” at the top of the page (Carnivore Confidential). You’ll get an email notice every time I write something new.

Until then, stay hungry Carnivores and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential

Tonight’s dinner/Blog inspiration … the Mighty Pork Shoulder (Boston Butt)

Greetings Carnivores,

Sometimes … no, often … I find myself challenged to write something. Strange, since I could usually talk your ears off about anything meat related.

The problem is, my mind often races while at work … “I’ll chat about this tonight” or, “Hey, that would make a great topic for the Blog.”

Then, reality.

I arrive home exhausted, my two beautiful four-legged Princesses meet me at the door and … it’s ON!! Full-on play time and run for a good hour. Then, … jeeze, where’d the time go???

Today, my Blog inspiration comes from … dinner.

Ok so, last night I took one of my favourites out of the freezer … 1 inch steaks, cut from the mighty pork shoulder butt or Boston Butt.

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The Mighty Pork Shoulder (Boston) Butt

A while ago, I fired up my smoker, got the coals up to temp and added my wood chips (tonight it’s Apple). Then, I placed the Pork steaks on the grill and walked away. This afternoon I’m not really interested in actually ‘cooking’ my steaks … I just want to impart a beautiful wood smoke flavour to them … my Crock Pot slow cooker will do the rest but, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Ok so, back inside I got my Crock Pot rocking with a VERY simple mixture of condensed Cream of Mushroom soup,(2 cans), one tub of Sour Cream (500ml), 1 tbsp of Quick cooking Tapioca (to thicken the whole thing a little bit) and fresh Rosemary (a couple of sprigs, whole).

(Later) After a couple of hours I will remove the pork from the smoker, add it to the Crock Pot, completely cover with the soup/sour cream mixture, set to high, cover, … and go get a drink.

Finish libation, pour another.

(Later) After 3 1/2 hours, I’ll serve this with broad egg noodles, and a side of something green (tonight it’s Broccoli). This beautiful smoky Pork steak will fall apart and literally MELT in my mouth. Don’t forget to spoon the gravy onto the noodles … yum, yum!! This isn’t so much a recipe sharing as it is a fantastic treatment for the beautiful Pork Shoulder butt … go get some, and experiment.

Ladies and Gentlemen, is there anything easier than a meal made in a Crock Pot?

My Marital equivalent will be very happy tonight. 🙂

Stay hungry Carnivores and, as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential

Spring Fever … this Winter has me dreaming of my Smoker and BBQ

I don’t feel well today. I’m not sharp. Something’s off.

It’s early March, and while I’m still hoping to get in a few more days of skiing this season, it’s been a LONG, cold Winter. I can’t stop thinking about BBQ’s and Smokers.

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Burrrrrrrr

Seasonal Affective Disorder is attributed to a lack of Vitamin D, the “Sunshine Vitamin”. Although I do not doubt the medical profession and their diagnosis of this often (for some) crippling winter affliction, this is not my problem today. I get lots of vitamin D, through supplements and the real thing. I LOVE all things outdoors so, the Winter does not see me hibernating. No, this is different and yet … familiar too. I’m feeling feverish, I can’t seem to focus on the mundane lately. My mind wanders. I dream of sweet smoke, curling up to my nostrils. I can’t concentrate. The heady memory of smokers and meat on the grill fill my mind.

The sun has been up for a couple of hours. My days off are never spent lounging in bed sleeping. I am an early riser but not because I am unable to sleep. Being a Meat Head for all of these years (35+ and counting) means my day starts long before the rest of the neighbourhood shakes the dust off last nights dreamy memories. Long before the sun comes up, my two beautiful, four legged, Black and Tan alarm clock pooches, pace around my bed, nuzzling my face with cold, wet noses. “Get up Dad, we gotta pee and, it’s time for breakfast”. No, I don’t sleep in.

It's been a LONG cold Winter

Oh Winter … the grip you have. Memories of smokers and BBQ’s seem so far away. *Sigh*

This morning I’m looking at the cold, frozen lake outside my patio door, the temperature hovers around -12 degrees C. My mind wanders again. I’m really feeling the full blown affects of the fever today.

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My beloved motorcycle sits patiently beneath her winter cover and quietly calls to me every time I head out to the garage to start up the snow blower. “Come ride with me Dougie, feel the wind”. Then, I open the garage door and I’m slapped back to reality. The ice and snow from last weeks HEAVY storm still lays high and deep on the ground. There will be no motorcycle today. As much as I love the Winter, for all it’s beautiful snow, my motorcycle, BBQ and smoker tease me with delicious, heady memories of Summers past.

I KNOW my Blogging friends The Patrons of the Pit will be disappointed with me. I’m not really a “fair weather” griller though. I use my “Q” throughout the Winter months … I’m just really looking forward to warmer weather. It’s just too cold out there to use a bag of charcoal as a pillow while I sleep beside my smoker. Soon though.

It’s snowing again. Very light, beautiful, fluffy flakes. Pork shoulders, briskets, ribs, wings and bacon dance in my head, I can almost smell them. The Warbird sits under her Winter blanket in the garage and beckons to me.

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The Warbird sits patiently … whispering

The fever is high today. Very high.

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