Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.
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Picture this: three people at your door Sunday morning in their pajamas, asking “is your living room on fire?”
That’s what happened when I made pulled pork BBQ on my balcony. Too many wood chips in the smoker bowl, and the smoke was ferocious for about an hour. Luckily it slowed, and I was able to finish the smoke without any further complaints.
The first thing in making BBQ is to find the right cut of meat – ideally a Boston Butt with enough fat to keep the meat moist during cooking. Boston Butt in German: I bought Halssteak (though Nackensteak should also do), a 2.5kg hunk of meat. Here it is after brining and a nice rub (details later),
Next throw that baby on the smoker for about 6-12 hours (depending on the size of the meat). Target smoker temp is anywhere from 100C-110C / 210F-230F. Of course the hotter you cook the shorter the cooking time will be (thank you, physics).
My 2.5kg / 5.5 lb chunk took 9 1/2 hours to cook, but was only up to 80C / 175F inside. Better would have been 85C / between 180 and 190F. I turned it once, about 2/3 of the way through that time.
After the internal temp is to your target, pull it off! If it’s too low, it will be difficult to pull. Let it rest for about an hour so you don’t burn yourself during the pulling. Here’s the fully roasted meat:
To pull pork, get two forks and just go at it, tearing off shreds and hunks. I left aside lots of fat bits and some super-hard outer portions that didn’t look very edible. If you have dogs, they will be going crazy right about now. Here’s the interior of the Boston Butt:
It took about 30-40 minutes to pull the whole thing, and my arms were definitely worked over. Probably I could have let the internal temp go a bit higher, to make pulling easier. And I guess I lack a bit of technique too. But the final product looks (and tastes) great:
For the final step I slapped my pork on a bun and doused it with some Hot Texas BBQ sauce from a high-rated recipe on a website (details below). MMM-MMMMHHH!
Definitely every bit as good as restaurant BBQ at big smokehouses in the States. And I’ve never seen BBQ anywhere in Germany before, so it’s a first for me to have a real pulled pork sandwich over here. Delicious!
Dave’s Top 10 Pulled Pork BBQ Tips (no, I’m not Famous Dave…)
1) Watch Alton Brown’s pulled pork bbq episode on YouTube.
2) Print out Alton’s recipe here with details on the brine and the rub.
3) Find a nice Texas Hot BBQ recipe like this one from Epicurious
4) Choose some nice chunks or chips of wood like apple, hickory, olive, etc. Some have a stronger flavor than others, you can read all about wood here.
5) If you are a hot-food wimp, skip the cayenne (and maybe even the chipotle). On the other hand, if (like me) you love the heat, add something more… I went with half a smoked habanero to bring the sauce up to my level.
6) Smoke your pork as described above, low n’ slow. Smoker target temp is 100C-110C / 210F-230F.
7) I’d recommend a meat internal temp of around 85C / between 180 and 190F. Too low and you will have trouble pulling it.
8\) Pull your pork – it’s easier if you have a few people to help.
9) Slap the pulled pork on a toasted bun, don’t be shy.
10) Douse with BBQ sauce to taste and enjoy!
Posted 10 months, 1 week ago. 1 comment
Having a bit of time on my hands, I decided to take up smoking. No, Mom, not cigarettes… food! I’m using a terracotta smoker, which (hopefully) will not make my picky German neighbors insane at the first whiff of charred mesquite.
I got the idea from Good Eats (Alton Brown), though now you can find dozens of pages explaining how to make a terracotta smoker, so I won’t go too much into detail. The basics: buy 2 flower pots, an electric burner, a heavy duty pie pan, and a round grill grate. Slap a thermometer on there and fill it with hardwood, and you’re smokin’! Here it is:
Smoking MUST be done outside. Preferably far from anyone’s house windows! If you do try this on an apartment balcony like me (disclaimer: I’m not responsible, blah blah blah, not recommended), read these
6 Tips for Balcony Smokers / Grills
- Tell your neighbors first so they don’t think someone’s places is on fire
- Promise your neighbors some of the finished product as payment for putting up with your smoke
- Don’t use too many wood chips, or any sawdust – they make massive amounts of smoke FAST
- Try chunks of wood and longer cooking times to minimize smoke output
- Keep your windows/door closed, otherwise your own apartment will smell like smoke
- Use a meat thermometer to measure the smoke temperature, as it’s more accurate in the narrow range where you want to be smoking (up to about 230F / 110C)
Below is my first attempt: smoked jalapeños and habaneros. Note the former are not chipotles, because I used green jalapeños; to make chipotles you need to find ripe red jal’s. Weighing in at 308 grams before smoking…
Here are the peppers mid-smoke. I smoked ‘em for about 12 hours on low heat (70-80C).
And the final product: note they only weigh in at 28 grams! >90% weight loss…
I’ve made salsa and Texas-style BBQ sauce with these babies and they are deliciously smoky. Just one pepper adds huge flavor to a bowl of fresh salsa!
Posted 10 months, 2 weeks ago. 6 comments
I took a cooking course at the Sapa Boutique Hotel in Sapa, Vietnam – here was the result of one dish!
These tasty fried spring rolls were made with a chicken & vegetables filling, wrapped in rice paper, dipped in egg and bread crumbs, and then deep fried. One of the best spring rolls we had on the trip!
For those making your own deep-fried Vietnamese spring rolls, here’s a short how-to video showing you how to roll the filling in the rice paper:
So, I’m out of Blair’s Death Sauce, at least the “less strong” varieties like Salsa de la Muerte that are usable straight over food. I decided to try my hand at some hot sauce of my own. For those that know the habanero, it’s one of the hottest peppers in the world, 50-100 times hotter than a jalapeno. Here are the ingredients of my sauce:
List of ingredients for Roasted Garlic Habanero Hot Sauce:
- 20 habanero peppers
- 1 jalapeno pepper
- 3 rawitt chilis
- 1 large shallot (not pictured in photo!)
- 1 head garlic
- 1/2c white vinegar
- 1/2c water
- 1/3c lemon juice
- 2tsp brown sugar
- 1tsp roasted cumin
- 1tsp salt
I halved and then roasted 3/4 of the habaneros (seeds and all) along with the jalapeno and the peeled garlic cloves. This was done in the oven, maybe around 350°F for 15-20min until lightly browned. Then everything went in the blender including the remaining (uncooked) habaneros. Roasting supposedly reduces the heat a bit (nooo!), and I also wanted to keep some fresh habanero flavor, so I left 1/4 of the habanero pods raw & unroasted.
Here’s the final result:
The flavor is amazing! Perhaps because it’s so fresh, and hasn’t been processed as much as your average store-bought hot sauce. Due to the high acid content with vinegar and lemon juice, I suspect this will keep for a very long time (months or more). Although I am a bit concerned that it could grow mold eventually. I’m also looking for some pH test strips to check the acidity, as this will tell how safe an acidified food is. I suspect it’s in the mid to low 4’s, making it long-term shelf storage safe, but for now it’s in my fridge.
If you do give homemade hot sauce-making a try, let us know here! Until then I recommend Blair’s Death Sauces. Available in Germany at www.importladen.de. My favorite is Salsa de la Muerte, as most of the hotter ones have to be diluted – I like to drizzle my food with sauce.
Happy tasting, and don’t numb your tongue too much!
Posted 2 years, 5 months ago. Add a comment
I love eating raw food. Usually it just tastes better to me, and has a great texture compared to most things cooked. And in today’s markets, it’s relatively safe for healthy adults to eat several kinds of meat & fish raw. (Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor a nutritionist, and I take no responsibility if eating raw food makes you sick).
Below is some of my homemade sushi from a few days ago. I always buy the fish in a high-end market, and ask the fishmonger what he recommends for sushi. Often they say “Nothing today, come back on xxxx” – and I definitely respect that. Usually they have tuna and salmon; on the right days sometimes another one or two. You can also find frozen sushi (such as pre-cooked Unagi, or eel) in some Asian shops.
Of course to get this nice blur, I used my 35mm f/2. ISO was cranked up to 800 to avoid using a flash, and I white-balanced on an empty plate before shooting.
Despite that I once ate raw chicken in Kyoto, I don’t recommend that for everyone. Nor would I ever recommend eating raw pork, because the consequences are too dire. But I’ve never been sick from raw beef or fish. Of course I only consume these in countries where I trust the food processing chain.
So, if you live in a well-developed country, check out the best fish market you can find in town – maybe you, too, can make your own sushi for a fraction of the restaurant price!
Posted 2 years, 7 months ago. 2 comments
I dined out in style on Monday night in the Miraflores district of Peru. A fellow blogger recommended Astrid y Gaston, so I gave it a try – and was not disappointed! My bill wasn’t cheap (about $55 USD), but considering the gourmet feast I had, it’s 1/2 or 1/3 the price of a similar meal in the States or in Europe.
First course: potato bread, spicy pepper bread, cheese bread, chocolate bread, plain white bread (already eaten), and some cheesy tomato pepper sticks. With butter, pesto, salt, and olive oil! Now that’s a lot of bread for one person. A few types I only sampled, and I must say, the spicy pepper bread was the best.
Complimentary appetizer, because I didn’t order one (was saving room for dessert): a shot of something starchy with green foam, a fried thing whose contents I don’t remember, and a sweet potato chip with tuna tartare.
I went with a mixed Peruvian shellfish main course. Lots of delightful flavors that mixed well together. I believe the green foam is cilantro-flavored… how does one do that?
Finally, dessert: a fruit souffle with coconut crisp on the side, and a Pisco (similar to grappa).
Normally, I would say a tasty dessert like this would be the grand finale to a fantastic meal. However, the chefs weren’t done yet! They presented this artsy set of drawers, loaded with several small confections which shot my taste buds out of the stratosphere and into low-earth-orbit.
In closing, I’ll just say: I love this kind of unique culinary experience. But I can’t really justify spending $100+ on a meal. So if you want to taste real, high-end gourmet food and not break your wallet, visit Astrid y Gaston in Miraflores. Make sure to reserve in advance in case they fill up. You won’t regret it, and it will be an experience you’ll never forget.
Even with 3 drinks (Pisco Sour, Chardonnay, and a straight Pisco) my bill came to $55… easily in the realm of a “once per year” treat to yourself. I might even visit twice a year, if Peru weren’t so d*mn far from Munich!
Blair’s Death Sauce is one of my favorite hot sauce brands. It’s got real flavor, despite being very hot (which hardly any chili sauce can achieve). The sauces range from warm (Sweet Death) to outrageous (Ultra Death – see YouTube clip) to the hottest food ever: pure capsaicin extract.
I plan to bring a bottle of Death Sauce with me on my round-the-world trip. Which kind should it be? Currently I’ve got these babies sitting around:
I was debating about Salsa de la Muerte (Spanish-speaking export version), After Death, or perhaps Stronger than Death. I don’t want to bring one so hot that no one can do more than taste a drop on a toothpick. Of course, if Blair could comp me a bottle of Golden Death (and could get it into Europe despite the volcano), I’d gladly share the newest member of the family with those I meet around the globe…
Hot Sauce lovers, Chiliheads, lend me your taste buds… which sauce do YOU think I should take around the world with me?
For those interested in how the photos were taken, see the setup below:
The first picture featured here was taken with a red gel on the off-camera strobe with the umbrella. The second was taken without gels. In both cases I used a “puffer” on the camera’s flash to soften the light.
Posted 3 years, 1 month ago. 2 comments
It’s that time of year again, when those of us in the northern hemisphere can enjoy breakfast and a latte macchiato on the porch! I’ve also included a few tips on how to make the finest latte macchiato ever.
Blair’s Death Sauce is fantastic on eggs. This one is the tasty Pure Death, but I recommend Salsa de la Muerte – in my opinion, it is Blair’s best mix of flavor and heat!
Latte macchiato tricks I’ve learned:
- Get a Bodum coffee French press. Pour in hot milk and froth it by pumping the coffee screen up and down for 30 seconds. [insert dirty joke here.] This foam will be very strong and float as its own layer for a long time (>30 minutes… however long it takes you to drink the coffee). Pour the milk/foam into the glass now.
- If you want a separate layer of coffee and milk for presentation (or to take good photos), pour the coffee (in this case a double espresso shot) slowly through the foam using something with a spout, like a mini restaurant milk pitcher. If you use a normal cup, coffee will spill all down the side unless you pour fast – which would destroy the layer effect.
- Sprinkle some sugar or cacao powder over the top of the foam. Use a cocktail spoon that has a straw-tube as its handle, so you can stir with the spoon end and drink your coffee through the straw.
Eventually I plan to do a photo shoot of a latte macchiato in the making. However I’m still waiting to get my second flash (a Vivitar) back after repair. At the moment I do NOT recommend that you ever buy any Vivitar product! Their customer service is basically non-existent. The people in India answering the phone are unhelpful, and the local US division (where I sent the flash) has yet to acknowledge receipt (though I have a tracking confirmation they did). Probably I wasted $125 on that flash. /end mini-rant
So… assignment time, let’s see those latte macchiato photos? Alex and Walt, I’m looking to you guys… hehe.
p.s. a nice German expression: “Kaufst du billig, kaufst du teuer.” This means, if you buy cheap, you are really buying expensive. In the end you’ll throw out the cheapie product and buy the high-quality item, spending even more than if you’d bought the expensive one to start with.
Posted 3 years, 2 months ago. 4 comments
For such a tasty dish I must use the French spelling! Now this is some pretty food…
- Homemade whiskey/chili oil, red pepper, shallots, garlic – sautéed with some basil, oregano, and salt
- 2 eggs and a splash of milk, beaten and poured into the sautéed vegetables
- 2-year aged Cabot cheddar and a bit of smoked Black Forest ham folded in the middle
There’s nothing better, the day after spending 8 hours on the ski slopes, than waking up and eating a serious breakfast.
Random omelette tips:
- I use a non-stick pan from Ikea. 1 tsp oil or butter should be enough to keep the mixture from sticking.
- Use a low heat on the stove; otherwise you have a problem in the initial stage before folding. The bottom will burn before the top is cooked all the way through.
- Tilt the pan occasionally before folding (2-3 times). Roll the liquidy part around to keep it evenly distributed.
- I put some ingredients in with the egg as the omelette cooks, and then add a few more things just before folding. Then it doesn’t get too fat to fold, as happens when you try to stuff a cup of meat, veg, and cheese in the middle.
Posted 3 years, 3 months ago. 5 comments
It’s no secret I love to cook. But most of my dishes aren’t really designed with gourmet plating in mind; they just taste good. Here’s one personal creation that’s a bit different… the Chevre Walnut Egg Star (copyright 2007 by David Douglas… hehe). I justify adding it here because I have some nice photos and it’s a really visual food.
Recipe Ingredients per Egg Star:
- 5-6 quartered pieces of untoasted white bread, in triangle shape
- 1 large egg
- 1-2 Tbsp brown sugar (real American dark brown sugar, not the medium “raw sugar” used for Caipis)
- 2-4 Tbsp sliced or crumbled Chevre or other goat’s milk cheese
- 1 small handful roughly crumbled walnuts
- Butter for the pan
- Maple syrup to add later
- Have all the ingredients ready to add in before starting, because it goes very fast once the toast is in the pan. If you leave it too long, something will almost certainly burn (toast, cheese, or brown sugar).
- Melt some butter in a frying pan on medium heat.
- Add the triangles, flipping them over immediately so both sides have some butter.
- Cook the triangles for a minute or two until one side is a bit toasted. Then flip them over and create a star shape as seen in the picture above. You can use 5 or 6 toast quarters depending on the size of your pan and your appetite.
- As soon as the triangles are flipped, crack the egg into the middle of the star so that it fills the open space between the toast pieces.
- Quickly add the crumbled Chevre, walnuts, and brown sugar (I recommend in that order). Try not to get too much sugar on the pan itself, or it will quickly caramelize.
- Cover the pan with a lid so the heat cooks the egg from the top (you can’t flip this baby). This also melts the cheese.
- Check every minute or so until the egg is done to your likeness (quite runny, in my case). Turn the heat down if you plan to cook it longer, to avoid burning the bottom of the toast.
- Serve with maple syrup for those who want a bit more sugar (me!). Gimme some sugar, baby. Enjoy!
Here’s what it looks like in the pan:
And on the plate! Goes well with a side salad of strawberries and physalis…
If you do try out this recipe, I’d love to hear how you (and/or your kids) like the Egg Star! And remember, you saw it here first. Hope you enjoy it!
Posted 3 years, 5 months ago. 2 comments