Category Archives: BBQ

Of things smokey, saucy and usually porky.

RT4: NOLA to Natchez, MS.

It’s Monday and our Road trip hits the highway today. We check out of the Monteleone at 11-ish and spend some time getting the car wired….GPS (here on in referred to as Stella 3000 as it’s a significant upgrade from GPS models used on previous trips) and iPod. Warren Zevon comes on and we are off. We hope to be in Baton Rouge for lunch and in Natchez before dinner. It is already 93 degrees.

Rob made some executive decisions last evening while programing Stella 3000 for today’s trip. He opted to not take the Great River Road because it is massively circuitous and would add half again as much time to the trip. Other roadies recommended Highway 61. Stella is optimized for scenic routes and she does take us briefly off 61 to the River Road.

The first part of 61 or Airport Rd is a dusty, haze covered, divided highway, lined with billboards for hurricane shutters, seafood and po’boy vendors, gas stations, food marts, storage units, motels and fast food. After leaving the city the road runs alongside algae coated swamps filled with elegant ibis.

Stella 3000 takes us on a scenic detour at this point, past neat little homes and more seafood and BBQ shacks. We avoid another stretch of strip malls. We are on the River Road now but the river is hidden by huge levees. The detour is only a few miles long and she returns us to 61. We stop at a Roadrunner for drinks, ice and a cooler. A sign in the window advertizes “Hot Boudin,”  a cajun sausage specialty. Boudin is a white sausage made with pork and rice. We order one to go to share. It is hot, medium spicy, course ground in texture, and loosely packed. Very tasty and holds us over until lunch. We wonder at the advisability of buying a home-made hot meat product at a gas station, but it is true road food. We’ll let you know in about 12 hours if it was a huge lapse of judgement.

Back on 61 we pass oil refineries dotting the shores of the Mississippi and field after field of sugar cane, much like the corn fields back home at this time of year. Entering Baton Rouge we come into a sea of box stores, fast food outlets, auto malls and drive-thru daiquiri joints. Only in the South: Drive-thru liquor and road pops on ice.

As essential here as Kraft Dinner!

We don’t enter Baton Rouge downtown but remain on the outskirts where we have chosen Chimes East for lunch. Foodie buzz from a variety of sources rates it one of the top three lunch spots in the city.

Chimes is large and typical of a chain resto in decor. There are a couple locations in Baton Rouge but no where else apparently. The beer menu is extensive and we order small Blue Moons. They are refreshing in the now 100 degree heat of the day. We order up crawfish mac and cheese to share and a po’boy each. Rob gets shrimp and I choose catfish. The mac arrives nicely blistered and bubbling. The loose sauce is garlicky, cheesy and has a medium spice heat that is soaked up by large shell pasta. AND there is lots of crawfish.

Our  dressed po’boys arrive with good fries. Rob’s shrimp has a very light crisp batter which allows the delicate taste of the gulf shrimp to shine through. A previous complaint with other po’boys containing fried shrimp was the heavy handed batter treatment. Rob douses his liberally with Tabasco sauce, which results basically in Tabasco-infused mayo. My catfish po’boy contains a nice sized fillet and is also lightly battered. The bun is good, slightly crispy and chewy. The ridged pickles really make this sandwich. The only downside to Chimes is the water they serve. It tastes and smells chemically. Buy a drink (we’re sure that was the plan all along).

The Chimes East on Urbanspoon

Back on the road which is now being called Scenic Highway 61. This is pretty much a joke until about 25 miles from the Mississippi border, when the highway becomes peach coloured, the landscape turns to gently rolling grassy hills lined with soft pines and deciduous trees, and we start passing the entries to Antebellum homes. Last time we drove from New Orleans straight north to Jackson on a dull interstate which revealed none of Mississippi’s character or charm.

This is a restaurant in Natchez called, um, “Mammy’s Cupboard”. While the figure in whose hoopskirt visitors are supposed to dine, is more recently racially ambiguous, we can’t help but raise an eyebrow. It is known, however, to have very good reviews.

Highway 61 lead us directly into Natchez, one of the most adorable towns in the United States. We will explore it a little more this evening and tomorrow before heading up the Natchez Trace to Jackson.

We walk to dinner at “Pig Out Inn“, a BBQ joint on Canal Street, a stones throw from the Mississippi, and not far from the Eola Hotel where we are staying overnight. The streets of Natchez are deserted of both cars and pedestrians due to the stifling heat. We can walk in the middle of the downtown streets. It is almost eerie. The walk gives us a chance to see a little of this pretty Southern town, which imparts the slight scent of mildew on the still hot evening air. I would imagine that this place never quite dries and that is carried in the breeze. No matter, as we approach our destination the scent turns intoxicating: woodsmoke from a BBQ pit…aaahhhh.

The Pig Out Inn which advertises itself as “Swine Dining at it’s Finest” is all but empty as is the whole town it seems. The decor is an eclectic mix of old doors serving as table tops, junkyard finds, coke paraphernalia, a tag cloud on one wall about “Why I Love The South” and Elvis presiding over the whole place from a corner. While we’re there, a trickle of take-out and dine-in customers flow through the place.

It says: “What I Love About the South”.

We chat with one of the folks behind the counter about the town and what to see. She explains that it is a very slow time of the year due to the heat. As we are ordering at the counter, she tells us that everything is made in house. We both ordered a two meat combo so we could share a bit of everything. The dinners also included two sides. We shared a large orders of ribs, smoked chicken, beef brisket, hot sausage, beans, potato salad, coleslaw and of course soft, squishy white bread.

The Pig offers some of the best BBQ we have had in the South. We both agreed that the sausage and beans were right up there with Austin’s Green Mesquite (sausage) and Famous Dave’s (beans). The sausage was firm and juicy and hotly spiced. You could see the chunks of red pepper. Excellent. The beans are of the sweet variety which are my personal preference, but at the Pig they smoke them along with the meat. These beans would be overly sweet if not for the smoke. The smoke cuts the sugar and creates a perfect balance in flavour. The potato salad was creamy with large chunks of potato and green onion. It was nicely dressed and not too vinegary. The coleslaw was perfectly serviceable and not overdressed. It was quite fine coleslaw by any standard but it was just outclassed by the quality of everything else on the plate.

The brisket was succulent and tender with a dark black bark and a rosy smoke ring that exceeded a 1/4 inch. The house BBQ sauce comes warm and is smoky sweet with a spicy finish which complimented the strong flavours of the brisket. The ribs were also excellent, meaty, juicy and with a nice amount of smoke. The smoked chicken was flavourful but slightly on the dry side. The BBQ sauce corrected that. After an extremely satisfying meal that found us picking at leftovers on our plates, our server brought us over a cob of corn to try. It is also cooked in the smoker along with the meat. I don’t order corn in a BBQ joint and if it comes with the meal I generally discard it after a bite. It’s the one thing BBQ places cannot cook. It sits in a pot all day, and is overcooked, mushy and waterlogged. Not so at the Pig. The corn is actually a treat here. It is toothsome, bursting with flavour and a delicate smokiness. Well done!

As we finished up dinner she also presented us with two of their homemade mini pecan pies which I cannot wait to try but am too full of excellent BBQ to contemplate right now.

Pig Out Inn Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Here’s a sampling of reasons why we like the genteel charm of Natchez.

 

Local Chicken Gets Beer Canned

Maureen:
In our quest to eat more local produce when possible, I discovered that Scott, one of the guys I play hockey with has a small operation, Winfield’s Farm (the foodie side of his and his wife’s horse farm, Capital Warmbloods, where he sells primarily chicken and lamb and some Angus beef. He is currently thinking of dabbling in Waygu. Wouldn’t that be awesome, a local source for Wagyu beef? The lamb and beef are pastured in summer months, fed a no-corn diet, and the chickens ($3.00 per pound)  are free-range. The Winfields have 350 acres just 15 minutes from Ottawa’s downtown core. You can reach Scott at the farm for meat by email. scott@palidia.com.

This Sunday the “kids” (Hannah and her SO Mike) are coming for dinner and Rob thought he’d like to do some beer can chicken. I’m not sure he has ever done one of these with “beer”. One of the more popular chickens he has prepared by this method is a tropical style, actually dreamed up by Hannah when she was a young teen. It involves ground banana chips (this is the only conceivable use for these nasty little hard buttons of banana in my opinion).

I thought this would be a great time to try some of Scott’s chickens. I ordered up two and he will deliver them to me at our hockey game on Thursday. Cost of delivery? For me? I have to give him a free pass in the defensive zone…once. So, I’ll let him get by but I’ll force him to the center where my defense partner Andrew can take him out 😉

Rob’s Approach:
I use this recipe from Michael Smith as a basic guideline for cooking times and technique, but that’s where it ends. We’re making a tropically-inspired bird today. I use a tropical drink, mango juice, instead of beer and add two special ingredients to the BBQ rub: brown sugar (just a bit, because it can burn on the chicken under medium heat) and banana chips. I also use a special beer can chicken apparatus and drip tray I got from a BBQ equipment supplier, because I don’t trust the drumstick tripod integrity of an un-aided chicken perched on a beer can.

It was Hannah’s brainstorm years ago during our first attempt at beer can chicken to grind up some leftover banana chips with a mortar and pestle to add to the spice rub. Combined with the mango juice infused meat, it provides a nice tropical blend of flavours.

For a barbeque sauce, I use a sauce that’s lighter in flavour and sweet (even Diana Sauce for example). If I have it, I’d add a dash of pineapple juice and soy sauce to it. It’s important to wait until the last 15 minutes or so on the grill, to “paint” the chicken with the sauce blend, otherwise the sugars in the sauce will cause it to brown too much.

the chicken captures all of fthe moisture of the liquid from the can, producing a supremely juicy and moist chicken. The skin was candied perfectly.
Served with some of Piggy Market’s own pasta salad and a tropical green salad.

Rites of Spring: BBQ Ribs

Along with the greening trees and putting away the parkas and boots for the season, there’s nothing that makes me happier for change in seasons than getting to work with the BBQ. Don’t get me wrong, we use the BBQ year-round (heck, the only thing I shovel in Winter is the path to the BBQ out back), but that’s usually for grilling. I’m talking about BBQ (you know, as a noun) — low and slow over smoke.

This year on Mother’s Day, Maureen requested BBQ ribs and I was very happy to oblige. I was looking forward to trying out a new gadget: an iGrill. A temperature probe that works with an accompanying app that gets real-time temperature info transmitted to your iPhone or iPad. This enables less direct fussing over consistent heat as you can tell the heat at all times wherever you are and an alarm will sound if temperature gets to high or low. It certainly reduces the babysitting that real BBQ sometimes demands. I really only tended the BBQ all day for adding wood chips to my smoker drawer and spritzing the ribs with a mop mixture to keep them from drying out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For this recipe, I used trimmed baby back ribs and a clean-out-the-cupboard rub composed mostly of Renee’s Desert Rub (a southwestern favourite of ours made with ancho chiles, spices and brown sugar).  Also used was a clean-out-the-fridge-BBQ sauce with two main components, Piggy Market‘s Happy Goat Pig Slathering Sauce, made with Happy Goat coffee which added an earthy quality and Renee’s Desert Glaze, made with their rub mixture suspended in a thick prickly pear syrup.

While the rub is important and so is the sauce, neither come close to the technique in influencing the outcome: Tender, BBQ ribs that have sweetened with smoke and heat. This time around I used a mixture of cherry wood and alder wood smoke.

There’s no recipe here, but this is the basic technique:

  • Trim the ribs to clean up any loose flesh or fat.
  • Apply rub liberally and yes, RUB IT IN. it’s this action that helps to break down the tissue of the meat to soak in the flavour and smoke. I like to let the meat sit after applying rub for at least 30-60 minutes. It helps it to soak into the meat and ensures that there’s not a powdery coating on the meat.
  • I set the BBQ for approximately 275 degrees F and start the smoking process. I soak about 2/3 of the chips in water  and mix them with dry chips in the smoker drawer of the BBQ. This ensures that they just don’t catch fire and burn up. It also lets them provide smoke for a longer period of time. I replenish the chips about once every 40 minutes or so, as they reduce to ash.
  • I place the ribs, bone side down on the grill, on the opposite side of the heat source to ensure indirect heat only. I make sure to put my temperature probe on the side of the meat for accurate readings.
  • Whenever I replace wood chips I lift the BBQ lid and spray it with the mop liquid, made from cider vinegar, a little ketchup, some rub spices and some bread and butter pickle juice (yes, really!).
  • There’s no hard and fast rule here. The longer you do this, the more tender the meat will be, as long as the heat is maintained and kept from drying out. This time I let them smoke for about 4 hours, which is about an hour more than what I would consider the minimum.
  • Just when they are about ready, I use the sauce I prepared, and brush it on. I avoid the overly thick, strong and smoky BBQ sauces as the flavour should come from the meat and the sauce only embellishes it. I always favour a light glaze-style sauce.
  • I turn up the BBQ to high and get some grill marks on the racks and then bring them inside. I always cut them and serve individual ribs. They’re messy enough to eat without having the diners wrangle sharp knives with saucy fingers.

This time I served them with a red cabbage coleslaw and a fresh corn salad, made with scallions, red pepper and pickled jalapeno with an agave nectar and lime vinaigrette.