In Search of Chorizo

Here in California the only chorizo that’s easily found is of the Mexican variety, although with some looking, Spanish and other styles of chorizo can be found as well.  Heck, being in California, you can probably find some sort of Martian chorizo given enough searching,

The Mexican stuff found in most grocery stores comes as a kind of reddish paste that’s basically packed into a plastic tube that must be sliced open in order to squeeze out the “stuff” within.  Here’s the listed ingredients of commercially available beef chorizo: beef salivary glands, lymph nodes and fat, paprika, soy flour, salt, vinegar, spices, red pepper, garlic, sodium nitrate.  Pork chorizo contains the same “cuts” except they’re pig parts.  Aren’t salivary glands and lymph nodes technically “by-products”?  They both sound like pet food to me.  Except for the spices and vinegar, the ingredients are pretty much interchangeable with those in Alpo.

Mexican chorizo that’s made in real Mexican markets may (let’s hope anyway) have more wholesome ingredients, but who really knows?  Anyway, it’s a sure bet that you want to cook the hell out of any commercial chorizo before eating any of it.  Rare or medium rare is definitely NOT the order of the day with this stuff.

Once cooked, you get to deal with all that orange-red grease.  Probably at least half of the weight of the packaged commercial chorizo turns out to be grease.  Now I know that Anthony Bourdain on one of his shows, where he’s eating camel spleens or something equally yummy, stated that anything that drips red grease can’t be all bad, but come on!  Eating that stuff has to be a heart attack in waiting.  In my younger days when I actually ate that stuff, I used to pour the cooked stuff from the skillet onto a fine sieve placed over a bowl, just so I could eat those mouthwatering salivary glands and lymph nodes and delay that pending heart attack.

Anyway, here’s a solution to all of us that love chorizo but really don’t want to eat lymph nodes, salivary glands, pituitary glands, gall bladders, adrenal glands, or for that matter, glands or nodes of any kind.  Miners Mix makes a great Carne Asada / Chorizo mix that uses real meat instead of those tasty meat by products.  Miners Mix is all natural spice blend that has no preservatives or flavor enhancers.  With Miners Mix, you can use any kind of hamburger, but ideally you want some fat in the mix for best flavor.  It’s best to use 80/20 or 85/15 hamburger so there’s some fat in the final mix.  It can be made with ground turkey, but the results will be dry and unsatisfactory.  When made as the package directs and cooked, the resultant chorizo is sort of like a Mexican sloppy José.  Scrambled with eggs and burritoizecd, it makes about the best healthy chorizo anywhere.  It’s also a great addition to boxed au gratin potatoes.  About 0.25-0.5 cup uncooked chorizo added to the potatoes prior baking makes incredible Mexican-style au gratin potatoes.

So, be sure to try out the Miners Mix Carne Asada / Chorizo Mix and leave the by-products for your dog and cat to eat.  There might be a shortage of glands and nodes someday.

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Garlic Bread….3,000 years of evolution

Garlic Bread and pizza appear to share a common history that dates back as far as 500 BC, and probably much further.  It seems that Persian soldiers, after a hard day of burning and pillaging villages and doing other soldierly activities, used their shields for more than sword fighting.  They were bakers!  Those shields apparently made pretty darn good bread pans on which they baked a flat bread that they would then cover with various toppings (such as garlic).  No one really knows when cheese got roped into the picture, but since melted cheese and bread kind of go well together, that union probably occurred about the same time as when those Persians were pillaging and baking.  So much for this short history of garlic bread and pizza.

When you take a bite of Miners Mix Garlic Cheese Bread Mix spread on some great sourdough and then toasted under the broiler, I bet you had no idea that you were actually eating something that took close to 3,000 years to perfect!  Kind of takes you back huh?

Something that’s been around as long as garlic cheese bread has walked this earth, has to have more than a single use or it would have gone the way of the dinosaurs.  Want your kids to eat their veggies?  Sprinkle dry Garlic Cheese Bread Mix over the vegetables and the kids inhale their greens.  Even Brussels Sprouts and broccoli are gone after being buttered and sprinkled with the stuff.  It’s also pretty tasty on asparagus, if I do say so myself.

Miners Mix Garlic Cheese Bread Spread is also a pretty good addition when sprinkled dry onto buttered baked potatoes or blended into mashed potatoes.  Either variation is a great change from traditional spuds.  Blended with mayo, the stuff makes a heavenly dip for artichokes or cooked asparagus.

Finally it can be used to make a great chip dip as well.  Blend a package with ½ cup of sour cream and ½ cup of mayo or try a cup of cream cheese.  Good, cheesy, garlicky, vampire repellant!

However you eat it, the key is to enjoy it!

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The four main types of barbecue…No it ain’t Beef, Pork, Chicken, and Roadkill

There are four main regional varieties of traditional, slow-cooked barbecue and those what love ‘em is usually them what growed up with ‘em, and sometimes they’ll even fight to defend ‘em.  BUT, there aren’t really any hard and fast rules about the differences between ‘em, nor even what constitutes grillin’ Vs barbecue.  It’s all just meat usually placed on a platform of some kind, and heated either directly over wood or coals or heated indirectly off to the side a bit.  So in very general terms here ya go.

Slow-cooked barbecue goes beyond the grillin’ steaks, various chicken, pork, or armadillo parts or the occasional vegetable or pineapple tossed onto the grill. You have to plan your day and activities around barbecue; it’s not something that you just do on a whim or when you’re in a hurry to eat.  At temperatures of 200° – 250°F or so and possibly up to 16 hours or so of cookin’ you just have to be patient.  The original slow food, slow-cooked barbecue is very much like art based on what used to be cheaper and tougher cuts of meat.  Slow cooking imparts flavor and tenderness to those cuts that just cannot be achieved by high temperature grilling.

Kansas City Style

Out here in the wild west, Kansas City style is the barbecue with which we’re most familiar, and is the dominant style of most of the sauces on the local grocery store shelves.  In fact, it’s probably pretty darn near impossible to even find Carolina or Texas style sauces out here where the sun sets into the ocean every night.  Kansas City style barbecue is characterized by thick, tomato-based sauces containing mucho sugar.  An interesting variation to Kansas City barbecue is that Miners Mix ( barbecue sauce.  This product is a dry mix that contains all of the stuff that makes Masterpiece and those other bottled sauces taste like barbecue, but you blend it yourself with ketchup, vinegar, molasses (or brown sugar if your molasses is all gone).  Once blended, Miners Mix is a thick, dark, rich sauce that’s full of flavor.  The best things about it though, are that it’s a dry, packaged mix, so it has little weight, takes up little space (good for camping), yet still makes over 5 cups of sauce, plus you can adjust the vinegar/molasses ratio to your sweet/tangy version of bbq heaven!

Kansas City style rubs are mostly brown sugar, or some other form of sugar as well.  It’s imperative that Kansas City barbecue be cooked slowly over low heat, or you’ll end up with a crispy black lump from all that charred sugar.   Not good!  Kansas City style barbecue usually focuses on pork, pork ribs, and chicken.  Miners Mix also makes a really good barbecue rub with flavor that mirrors that of the sauce above.

Memphis style

Memphis style barbecue is somewhat similar to Kansas City style, but doesn’t pack nearly as much sugar as that stuff from further west.  Memphis style tends to be more spicy than Kansas City style, and pork ribs or butt are usually the primary meats found in Memphis barbecue joints.  It’s usually served sans sauce, but the meat might get basted occasionally while cooking.  Because sauce isn’t slathered on the meat, Memphis barbecue is not nearly as messy as Kansas City style so perhaps it’s not nearly as much fun to eat.  If sauce is used, it’s generally served at the table for dipping or pouring over pulled pork.  Memphis sauce is generally thinner, runnier, more tangy, and less sweet than Kansas City style sauce.  Memphis style uses rubs as well, but the sugar in Memphis style barbecue is either greatly reduced, or lacking in the rub.

Texas style

Texas barbeque focuses on beef.  Might be a little chicken or pork ribs tossed in as sort of garnish, but in general it’s beef, beef and more beef.  No squeal, no cackle.  Beef brisket, and beef ribs, cooked with a dry mustard and chili powder-based rub.  Sauces tend to be thin and bold, more like a basting or mop sauce and are heavy with flavor from various kinds of ground chilis, cumin, onion, hot sauce, meat drippings and even beer or coffee.  If you want your barbecue “wet” then the meat gets dunked into the mop bucket of sauce prior to plating.

Carolina style
As much as Texas style barbecue is beef, Carolina style barbeque is pork.  What kind of pork, you ask?  Pretty much all but the squeal, from pork butt (actually the pork shoulder) and ribs, all the way up to the whole critter done in a pit.  Not much if any of a rub is used; this barbecue is sauce-based.  Carolina sauce in general is thin and watery, tangy, and peppery.  Depending on the Carolina region you’re talking about, the sauce can be golden yellow from the mustard base, or clear and vinegar-based and it might contain floating flecks of cayenne.  Being tangy from the vinegar, the sauce cuts through the fat in the ribs and butt and soaks into the meat while cooking.  Like the other three styles above, there are many variations on the theme.

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Outdoor Cookin’ Techniques

Outdoor Cooking Techniques

Growing up in southern California during the 60s, my dad cooked outside over charcoal quite a bit. I thought if something was cooked over a charcoal fire, it had to be, by definition ” barbecued”. After all, it was cooked in a barbecue, right? It was much later, after I finished way too much schoolin’ and was working in my first real, professional-type job in South Carolina, that I heard the term “grillin'” applied to outdoor-cooked meats for the very first time. The term seemed strange at the time – by implication the meat cooked over one of those Weber electric grills in the kitchen was the same as meat cooked outdoors over charcoal. We even feasted on a whole hog, barbecued by one of the South Carolina’s true Low Country gentlemen one July 4th, but at the time I still didn’t make the distinction in the different styles and philosophies of outdoor cooking. Later, as I grew in knowledge and experience, I learned that there was actually a distinction between the outdoor cooking styles and that what I’d grown up learning to cook, and had became very proficient at, was grilling, not barbecuing. Like many of you, thanks to the proliferation of barbecue shows on TV, I learned about the four main different styles of barbecue: Carolina, Memphis, Kansas City, and Texas. Because I grew up in southern California, I NEVER developed a taste for the vinegar, mustard-based Carolina style barbecue, despite living there for some years. I also learned about the various barbecue societies and along with my business partner here at Miners Mix, I became a certified Kansas City Barbecue Society judge.

 In general, grilling involves direct cooking over high heat with the goal of cooking the meat relatively quickly. Grilling also is appropriate for cooking many vegetables and even fruits to accompany that meat, thus giving the inside kitchen a real break from its normal duty. Grilling can be done over an open bed of coals, or over a gas flame and can be exposed to the outside air or inside a hinged lid of some sort. Because the meat cuts are smaller and cook quickly, more tender cuts of meat are usually preferred. Any kind of seasoning, sauce, marinade, or rub can be used on grilled meat, but those that contain a lot of sugar should usually be avoided because the sugar will caramelize and burn, rendering your creation a blackened lump. Sometimes, lowering the heat and using that sugary rub or sauce during the last few minutes of cooking is a way to avoid crunchy black pork or steaks. Likewise, sauces or marinades heavy with oil should be used very carefully, because the oil will cause flare-ups.

 Barbecuing is sort of the crock pot philosophy to outdoor cooking; a long slow process of cooking meat slowly over low heat usually in the low 200° to 250°F range for up to 10 hours and sometimes longer. Like the crock pot, barbecuing enables use of less tender cuts of meat such as brisket. Because of the low heat, those sweet sauces, marinades, and rubs with lots of brown sugar can be used with great effect. The sugar tends to caramelize slowly and creates a wonderful, flavorful bark on the surface of the meat, particularly on pork butt. Generally, barbecuing entails the use of wood smoke for flavoring that compliments the marinades or rubs. Expert barbecue chefs have their own favorites when it comes to type of wood, as each type imparts subtly different flavors to the finished product.

(ArticlesBase SC #3062550)

Article Source: Cooking Techniques

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