Sunday, May 30, 2010

Double Buffalo Sliders

Pretty soon, Dayton is going to have a ManBQue chapter to call its own. The official kick off will be in June or July, but this weekend Mr. FvF and I decided to host a CoedBQue (read the rules, totally allowed on weekends) to let some folks try out their recipes. GK served up some fabulous Buffet burgers, stuffed with beer-can peppers and onions and smothered in pepper jack cheese...
Hoeflich grilled up some ribeyes that "fell off a truck," marinated in bacon fat and garlic...

and Evil Josh had the brilliant idea of stuffing skirt steak with apples, smoked mozzarella and crushed almonds.
All of that was tough to top, the Mister's Double Buffalo Sliders stole the show. Even though I'm sure you've already gorged on your share of holiday meats, you're going to want these inside you.

I apologize for the lack of set-up and prep photos, but the resident photographer may have had one too many drinks. What of it?! Besides, it's not rocket surgery. Chances are, if you read this blog, you know how to mix up a burger.

The Set Up (makes 12 sliders):
1 1/3 lb ground bison
6 oz blue cheese crumbles
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
2-3 tbsp hot sauce
2 tbsp melted butter
For the spice mix:
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne (or more, to taste)
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder

Mix all of your spices together first in a small bowl and have them ready to go. In another bowl, mix up your bison meat, melted butter, hot sauce, egg, spices, then add the bread crumbs and blue cheese crumbles towards the end. You could use more or less bread crumbs depending on how much the meat mixture is absorbing it. The bison meat is very, very tender, so you'll need the bread crumbs and egg as binders.

Form them into 2-3" balls and grill at high heat (about 400-450) for 3-4 minutes per side. The meat is also very lean, so be sure not to overcook it, because it will dry out on you quickly. We served them up on split King's Hawaiian rolls, which had just enough sweetness to balance out the heat, which will sneak up on you like Roman Polanski at a Girl Scout cookie sale.

We created this recipe because it sounded like two food groups that hadn't been adequately combined yet (wings and burgers), because our local butcher always has buffalo meat available - but mostly because Mr. FvF is Native American, and we love perpetuating stereotypes. Sure, he can talk to animals and make corn grow, but I always get a free pass when shit comes up missing because I'm a drunken, dirty Mick and I don't know any better.

Friday, May 14, 2010

All aboard the gravy train!

I promised I'd post a gravy tutorial to follow up John's biscuit recipe, and last night's BFMFD finally gave me the chance to fulfill my obligation.

In the kind of household I grew up in, gravy was considered a condiment fit to put on almost anything - biscuits, eggs, toast, chicken, ham, potatoes, etc. Hell, it was practically considered a beverage. Mine was a very blue collar home, meaning we weren't wiping our asses with hundred dollar bills, and gravy was often used to "round out a meal." That probably explains a lot about my figure, actually.

The most important thing you need to know about gravy making is that you need the right fat. You'll find all kinds of recipes on the internet telling you that vegetable oil or shortening is suitable for a gravy base. IT'S NOT. You need meat fat, preferably of the pig variety. Every time you cook bacon, drain the cooled fat into a coffee can, peanut can, or an air-tight storage container. It will keep in the fridge for months, so long as it's properly sealed.

You're basically making a giant roux, so gravy requires your full attention to ensure it doesn't scorch.

The set-up

3/4 C all-purpose flour
about 4-6 heaping tbsp bacon grease
(fresh or saved)
1 C milk
fresh ground black pepper

Start by heating a saucepan or cast iron skillet over medium-low heat and melt your bacon fat if you've been saving it in the fridge. Let it get toasty, but not spitting hot. Once you can feel the heat coming from it, start slowly sifting in your flour, whisking as you go.
It will be very bubbly, but keep the heat right around low-medium for now. Make sure you're getting all of the lumps out with the whisk. It will also feel pretty thin for a rue, but a a whole chemical reaction will take place once more liquid comes into the equation, so don't go adding more flour all willy-nilly.
Once you have a nice caramel-colored roux, start slowly pouring your milk in as you whisk. Make sure you have about half a cup extra on-hand in case you need to thin it out towards the end. Now you have a little wiggle room to stop whisking for a few seconds at a time, so take this time to add about 1 tbsp of salt and 1/2-1 full tsp of black pepper, and continue whisking.
Within 2-4 minutes, it should be looking pretty close to proper gravy.
Once the consistency feels about right, turn the heat down a bit so that it doesn't get too thick and give it a taste. Add more bacon drippings, salt and pepper to taste. If you're looking to make sausage gravy, there's really only one thing done differently. Cook up some bulk breakfast sausage in a skillet (cast iron is always best) and leave it in the pan, drippings and all - then you can follow through with the flour, milk, salt & pepper.
Smother damn near anything in it, and enjoy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mex-Cellent Food (Part 1): Pork Carnitas

Last week, we celebrated Cinco de Mayo, the commemoration of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin's victory over French Voltron on the surface of the moon. Or so I've been led to believe. I know that it's not Mexican Independence Day (September 16), and that it's bigger here than in Mexico. Either way, we here at MBQ celebrated with Mexican-influenced dishes. And we figure now that you're fresh off your Cinco de Mayo high, you may want to incorporate Mexican flavors into your cooking. These pork carnitas are a good place to start. And perhaps you'll decide to have it with this salsa.

The Setup

3 lb pork butt, cubed to 1"
7 strips orange zest
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 stick of cinnamon (use the really good Mexican stuff if you've got it)
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves (not ground)
2 tsp Kosher salt, plus more for additional seasoning
1/4 tsp ground cloves

This recipe is simple as it gets. You don't need any equipment other than a large, deep pot, a knife, and a cutting board. Just make sure to throw away any cubes that are pure fat. But you probably either (a) already get that or (b) really enjoy pork fat.


1. Put the cubed pork in a large, heavy pot. Add enough cold water to cover by one inch.

2. Add the zest, garlic, onion, red pepper, cinnamon, bay leaves, salt, and garlic.

3. Bring the pot to a boil, then knock it back down to a simmer. Skim off any unruly crap that may foam and bubble at the surface. Simmer like that, completely uncovered, for an hour and a half.

4. The water will have evaporated to the point where you'll be able to check the seasoning. Salt to taste and continue to cook until the water has completely evaporated, about another 30 minutes.

5. When the water has evaporated, turn up the heat a bit to let the pork fry and crisp up a bit in its own rendered fat. Trust me, this is a vital step. When it's to your liking, remove from the pot.

6. At this point, you can eat it over rice with veggies, make tacos, fill tamales, or whatever else you can think of. You'll have a lot of pork, so perhaps try all of those things and see what else you can come up with. One thing's for sure - you're not going to get sick of it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Cuban Sandwich

Apropos of nothing, I'd like to begin this article by saying that if you wear a Che Guevara shirt, you should be kicked in the spleen. I don't feel like getting into that much more, but suffice to say, every Cuban-American knows that. One other thing every Cuban-American knows is the pleasure of the Cubano, a sandwich invented and popularized by Cuban exiles in Miami and Tampa. The cigar factory workers used to take a wrapped-up Cubano to work in the morning, and eventually Italian immigrants came in and put their spin on it. Like all of the best American food, it's the product of a mix of cultures. And as far as equipment goes, you can't get much simpler than a Cubano. It's a flat, hot surface, a heavy object, and a knife if you're feeling fancy. It's hard to screw up, unless you wear a beret, a crappy beard, and an iconic douchey countenance.

The Setup

1 loaf Cuban bread (see notes below)
1/2 lb thick-sliced roasted pork (homemade or deli)
1/2 lb sliced glazed ham
1/4 lb sliced Swiss cheese
Unsalted butter (room temp.)
Olive Oil
Dill pickles
1/4 lb salami (Optional)

- I'm not kidding when I say that you really, really want to get a good Cuban loaf. I know it looks like French bread superficially, but French bread makes a horrible Cubano. If you're in Chicago, you can get Cuban bread at Artemio's, on Sheffield just south of Irving Park. If you're in the burbs, La Dulce Vida Bakery, in Elgin, not far off of Randall Road, serves a good loaf themselves. Cuban bread resembles a French loaf, but it's flat on top and bottom, which makes a lot of difference for our purposes. Get the good stuff.

- I say that salami is optional. This is the aforementioned Italian difference - add salami and serve it on an egg-based bread, and it's called a medianoche, which is a nice way of saying drunk food. And damn if it isn't.

- This is a pressed sandwich. You could buy a grill press from Crate and Barrel, but it'd be expensive and not as effective as you think. There's a much better, much cheaper solution to be had - a landscaping brick from Home Depot. It costs 68 cents, lasts forever, and you can keep it outside. Wrap it in fresh foil every time you use it, and you've got a foolproof (and bulletproof) kitchen tool.

- If I see you call this a panini, or if yours has those telltate panini-press marks in it, then you are hereby kicked off of this blog. Granted, it will cut our readership in half, but you don't treat a Cuban classic like some weak-ass Panera Bread lunch special for bored housewives and men who do Yoga.


1. Cut the bread into 8-inch sections and slice through.

2. Butter both of the inside halves. Heat your cast iron pan over medium.

3. Assemble the sandwiches, placing pork, ham, salami (if you're using it), cheese, pickles, and mustard. Or do it whatever way you want - ham, cheese, pickle, pork, toothpaste, for all I care.

4. Drop a tablespoon or two of olive oil (or oil and butter, if you prefer) in the heated pan and tilt pan (carefully, it's hot) to coat bottom with oil.

5. Place the sandwich in the pan and press it down with the wrapped brick. Make sure to place it straight so it doesn't push the sandwich apart.

6. Cook 1-2 minutes, flip, smash, and cook another 1-2, adding oil if the oil has been absorbed. The bread should be nice and golden brown, and the cheese should be melted ever so perfectly. Hot damn, son, you are about to have one fine sandwich. Do a little dance if you feel up to it.

7. Remove the sandwich, maybe wrap it up in wax paper if you're feeling fancy, and slice diagonally into two triangles. Serve with some chips (potato or plaintain) and a cold Ironbeer or cola.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Black Cherry Cola Country Ribs

I almost shat last week when I read an article regarding how baffling it is that the average American family receiving food stamps gets around $70 per week for a family of four. According to MSNBC, that's a very paltry amount. According to yours truly, it's perfectly reasonable, at least living in a mid-sized market like the Dayton-Cincinnati area. Granted, I'm only feeding myself and one other person, but we spend that amount about every two weeks - and we eat well.
On our last bi-weekly grocery excursion, I spent $20 at the butcher and $50 at the market. This produces about 10 meals, about half yielding leftovers, and items for lunch. While I certainly don't frown on coupon clipping, that's not the only way to save a buck. The trick, sometimes, is taking stuff you always have on hand and combining it with a cut of meat that's on a crazy special at your local butcher. This past week, my butcher had country ribs for a song - $1.69 per pound. I picked up a few pounds and decided to wing it.

Everyone knows currant flavors go great with pork - cherries, pomegranates, any dark berry, really. If root beer and Coca-Cola can be used in pork and poultry recipes, why not the black cherry soda I found a hell of a deal on?

The Set Up

3+ pounds of country style ribs
2 bottles (3-4 cups) black cherry soda (I used IBC)
1/3 cup your favorite BBQ sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp white vinegar
For the dry rub:
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix your dry rub spices together and give the meat a good rub down. Pretend the ribs are the super foxy girl you always wanted to nail in high school, but never spoke to because you were from the wrong side of the tracks and her father didn't - wait, that was a dream I had last night. It really was a heartwarming story, but back to the ribs. Make sure they're all well-seasoned and place them, bone side up, in a roasting pan lined with foil and either brushed with a little oil or hit with some cooking spray. Bake them covered at 350 for about 1 .5 hours.
The last half hour of that time, get started on your sauce. It's best if you've opened the sodas and/or shaken them to try and get some of the carbonation out, and that they're room temp. Pour them into a sauce pan and kick the heat up to high until it starts to boil. Stir it occasionally until a lot of the water has evaporated and you're left with 1-2 cups and it's a bit more syrupy. This should take about 20-30 minutes. Reduce the heat to low now, and add your Worcestershire sauce, BBQ sauce and vinegar to the mix and give it a good stir, then set it aside to cool.

Forgive me for forgetting to take a picture at this point in the cooking process, but it's not rocket surgery. Remove the ribs from the oven, drain a bit of the juices and put them back in the roaster meaty side up. Pour about half of your cherry cola sauce over them and stick them back in the oven for about one more hour at 350. Remove them one last time and baste them in the remaining sauce, and turn the oven up to broil to get a really good crust. This should only take about 5-10 minutes. Your results should look something like this, and you can thank me later.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Southern Style: Chicken Biscuits

As you may have heard, Southern chicken purveyor Chick-Fil-A is breaking ground in the Chicagoland area. Fried food fans from the Gold Coast to Naperville are quaking in their arteries in anticipation. Chick-Fil-A ruins KFC's shit - it's just better (cleaner, better food, better service, etc) - but why not try and recreate this classic Southern taste at home? Personally, I favor the chicken biscuit - it's breakfast, it's lunch, it's everything but diet food. I already taught you how to make real Southern biscuits, so let's rock the chicken biscuit. And you made fun of me for baking ...

The Setup

1 batch of buttermilk biscuits (my Granny's recipe here)
1 whole chicken breast, cut into boneless, skinless pieces (about 2x2") slightly larger than biscuit size
2 c buttermilk
Salt & pepper
Two large eggs, beaten
2c flour (plus more as needed)
Paprika and/or cayenne, to taste
Peanut oil for frying
Hot sauce

- Make sure you have a couple of shallow dishes for the egg and seasoned flour. Try not to make a mess. You'll still make a mess, but try not to.

- Use a proper deep fryer, or at the very least, a deep, heavy pan with a deep fry thermometer. You'll see in these pictures that I used a regular cast iron pan. I can't really explain effectively how bad an idea that is. You will explode yourself like a low-budget kitchen Michael Bay. Do not fry in a skillet, a shallow pan, or anything where the oil can get over the sides into the flame. Use a deep fryer. Por favor.


1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place into a shallow dish or other container or marinating. Cover with buttermilk. Let sit at least 30 min, up to 24 hours, in the fridge.

2. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl or dish, adding a few tablespoons of hot sauce, depending upon how much you like.

3. Sift together flour with salt, pepper, paprika and/or cayenne.

4. Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry.

5. Batter the chicken by:

- Coating in flour, shaking of excess,
- Dipping in egg, and placing on rack over towel or sink, allowing excess egg to run off,
- Dipping once more in flour

Optional but suggested - place battered chicken on a large plate and leave, uncovered, in fridge for 30 minutes. Crispier chicken - trust me.

6. Heat an couple of inches of peanut oil to 325, deep enough to come up the sides of the chicken, but not to completely submerge.

7. Fry chicken 4-6 min, depending on thickness. Flip and repeat, making sure not to overcook. Do in batches so the oil temperature stays as constant as possible. Remove chicken to a paper towel-lined plate.

8. Cut the biscuits and place fried chicken, along with a couple of pickles and maybe even some mustard if you like.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Man Bake Que: Southern-Style Buttermilk Biscuits

Late last week, we brought you to familiarity with Nashville's late, great Biscuit Lady. But what good is a story without the nuts and bolts to back it up? You're going to make great Southern biscuits, and Man B Que is going to tell you how. It might be more pastry than pork chop, but anything you can stick fried chicken into (which we'll teach you) or cover with monstrously sugary homemade jam (which we'll also teach you) is a vehicle to greatness. My grandmother taught me how to make these, and I've spent every day since resisting the urge to eat myself to death with them. A couple times through and you'll feel the same way.

The Setup

2c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c vegetable shortening
3/4 to 1c buttermilk

I'm not usually one to harp on equipment, but baking can be a pain in the ass if you don't have the right tools. Thankfully, you don't need a whole lot. Just the following:

- Something to sift the flour and dry ingredients together. Whether it's a proper sifter or just a wire strainer, sifting the dough leads to better-textured biscuits.

- A deep bowl for forming the dough. If you don't have a big mixing bowl, then get one. Flour and buttermilk spilling out the sides will make you feel like Michael Douglas in "Falling Down." A pansy version, at least.

- A rolling pin for the dough. It's not the manliest thing to go and buy, but no one's going to call you on it when you're rocking fried chicken biscuits.

- I'll point out here that you technically don't even need a biscuit cutter. You can use the mouth of a glass. Not as easy, but free. Whichever you use, remember to flour it when you cut.

Cooking Baking

1. Start by sifting together the other dry ingredients with the flour.

2. Cut the shortening into the dry ingredients. This is really important, and there are a couple ways you can do this. Easiest is the food processor. You can also use a pastry cutter or fork. Failing all those, you can do it with your hands. That's how the really, really old Southerners still do it. The point is to evenly distribute the fat of the shortening throughout the dry ingredients. It should have a texture like cornmeal, with the shortening pieces about the size of small peas. The picture above is a pretty good idea.

3. Turn out the mixture into the big bowl. Make a well in the center, and pour in buttermilk a little bit at a time, until the dough just barely comes together into a rough, shaggy mass. You know all those recipes that call for a smooth, elastic dough ball with a few minutes of kneading? This is the opposite. Handle it too much, and it becomes tough and flat. The rolling will take care of the texture. Just make sure it sticks together - a knead or two should do it.

4. Preheat oven to 400.

5. Pat down the dough to just over 1" thickness (a bit thicker than I did). Give it a quick light roll to even out the surface, and cut into individual biscuits (about 1" rounds). Place them on an oiled pan, re-roll the excess dough, and see how many more you can get. Throw away the scraps.

6. Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes, until just done. Brush with melted butter and serve or cover.