Saturday, October 18, 2008

CQ, CQ, CQ... KB3RUX in da house!

After putting it off for years and years, I decided that it was either now or never so last month I got a book and started studying for an Amateur Radio License, more commonly referred to as a HAM license.

I got myself a little handheld dual-band (2 meter and 70 centimeter) radio. (think walkie-talkie).

I studied for the first element, the Technician Class license but then with a week to go before testing, I found out I could keep testing as long as I passed so I got a book and studied the last week for the second element or General Class license.

The big day arrived last Saturday, October 11th, and I went to a local library for a testing session. There were maybe 8-10 of us testing for the three different levels. I zipped through the first test and the testing coordinators asked me if I wanted to take the second one so I said "bring it on! I zipped through that one fairly quickly too so I was offered the third test. At first I declined as I knew I was not prepared and it's about 40/45% longer of a test also.

Well the testing coordinators convinced me I had nothing to lose and would at least get an idea what the test was like so I agreed.

I did NOT zip through the third test and they say I got just about half of them right but no matter, I achieved my goal and then some, so it was a good day.

Next the waiting... You aren't official, and can't transmit until your name and new call sign appear online in the FCC database.

Well after checking everyday it finally showed up on Thursday. Due to other things going on like day to day life and such I did not make my first transmit until this afternoon. A short contact with a couple guys from not too far away. The 2 meter and 70 centimeter bands are only good for local transmissions but with the use of nearby repeaters I can reach most of Northern Delaware as well as lots of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Northeastern Maryland.

Having attained the second level or General Class, I am licensed to transmit on frequencies that will get me across the country and around the world but I need to save my pennies for a radio that will do that. But with my van going in the shop, and Annie going to the Vets and SpecialEd Boy #2 starting on braces, etc., etc., it won't be anytime soon.

So from now on, I am no longer SpecialEd, Eddie, Mr. Ed or Hey You... I am KB3RUX, that's Kilo Bravo Three Romeo Uniform X-ray!

73's and hope to catch you on the airwaves!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Zombie Mosquitoes From Hell!

No it's not a B movie from the 1950s or another outrageous book by Australian children's author Andy Griffiths. It's really about mosquitoes, The Asian Tiger Mosquito to be exact or more formally Aedes albopictus.

These are not the brownish salt marsh and woodland pool mosquitoes I remember from my youth but a newer species to the US.

As their name implies, they are originally from Asia but are so invasive they are now found on every continent, excluding Antarctica! They were first found in the US in 1985, in a shipment of used tires in Houston, TX and now range over most of the South and as for north as Maine.

They are very aggressive and are outcompeting the native species of mosquitoes we are all used to. You know the little brown ones that usually only came out at dusk? They are also described as "fast biters" meaning they are done draining your blood before you have a chance to swat them. I don't even feel the bites, just the horrendous itch that comes afterwards.

These buggers are active throughout the day and don't seem to be put off by the smoke billowing from my cooker. I can't go out to my cooker or even sit and smoke a relaxing pipe without having to spray myself with bug spray.

Well this week when I placed another order for smoking wood from Lexington Outdoors of Maine, I checked out their anti-pest products. The world's greatest customer service rep, my friend Dorie, is sending some samples of Ole Time Woodsman Fly Dope for me and some NoSkeeto mosquito barrier for the yard.

It may be a little late in the season but hopefully by this time next week I will have reclaimed my backyard!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Best Thing About August?

In the otherwise oppressive, drab, dreary, dog days of August, there is something that makes it all worthwhile. Something golden and sunny that tastes like summer... peaches!

I've made two cobblers so far and they turned out very well but not quite what I'm looking for. (the great thing about this trial and error routine is that even the errors are pretty darn good!)

Admittedly, the ratio of peaches to crust was a little off here but no matter it was delicious!

I'm looking for a crust that is a little more crumbly than what I've come up with so far. So, if anyone would like to share their favorite cobbler recipe, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Now for some homemade peach ice cream!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dog Days of Summer

As most Retrievers have an affinity for water, this is one happy pup!

It also helps to keep his mind off the BBQ... at least temporarily.

How can you NOT, love that face?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

"I Find The Pastrami To Be The Most Sensual Of All The Salted Cured Meats"

At least according to Vivian, Geroge Constanza's short-lived girlfriend from the episode "The Blood" from the 9th season of Seinfeld. This is where George achieved the bedroom "Trifecta" of sex, television and food.

George: "I flew to close to the sun on wings of pastrami."

Jerry: "Yeah, that's what you did."

In my neverending quest to perfect my brisket -- which is a much less forgiving piece of meat than say a pork shoulder -- I came across some recipes for making pastrami on the Playing With Fire and Smoke blog.

I have yet to locate the necessary curing agent for starting from scratch so I picked up a couple of store-bought corned beef briskets and followed the instructions. One "dry" and one "wet."

Basically you need to soak the briskets in fresh water for 24-48 hours, changing the water as necessary to extract as much salt as you can from the corning process. Then apply the rub and let that "melt" in overnight, then cook the brisket(s) under a gentle smoke.

Due to some last-minute scheduling problems I ended up overcooking both briskets. They were by no means ruined or even bad but a bit overdone.

The "wet" style was very moist but crumbled when I tried to slice it. The "dry" sliced nicely but it was a tad too dry.

Anyway, they were good enough that I definately plan on doing this again!

Friday, July 25, 2008

My latest Addiction!

Smoked salmon! Man is this stuff good!

I made it for the first time about a month maybe six weeks ago but I can't get enough and neither can the SpecialEd Siblings.

I can't afford the good stuff (wild) so I get farm raised fillets of Atlantic Salmon from Costco.

The first step is to rinse it well in cold water, dry it with paper towels and apply the cure.
The cure consists of one part kosher or sea salt to two parts brown sugar plus a couple tablespoons of freshly cracked black pepper. For a 1.5 lb fillet, I use about a cup of sugar, a half cup of salt and a 1/4 cup of pepper.

Let that sit overnight and the next day the fillets will be sitting in a pool of liquid that the cure has pulled out of the salmon flesh.
Wash the cure off very well and if it's still overly salty you can soak it in cold, fresh water for a little while.

Now lay it out on a rack or cutting board to air dry until it is no longer tacky to the touch (about an hour or so). I use a small fan to help the process along.

Then dust it with your favorite spice rub--for salmon, I use Dizzy Pig's Raging River. Let that "melt" in to the salmon for say 30 minutes then put it on the smoker.

I smoke it at about 210-220 degrees until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees. That's it! Chill it in the refrigerator, get some crackers and cream cheese and it don't get much better 'n that!

BTW, I have been using Sugar Maple and or Cedar from Lexington Outdoors of Maine but I just ordered a bag of Alder chunks from them so I can finally try the traditional salmon smoking wood. The ever helpful Dorie of LOofM also gave me some of her own recipes and ideas for recipes to try so check back soon.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Off to a slow start...

All I managed to cook yesterday was some Fourth of July Fatties. I let the weather intimidate me and so I got off to a late start. (Boy I miss my deck canopy!)

Fresh on the grill.

Ready to come off.

Ready to go.

(Warning, not for the squeamish) Death on a plate!
The good thing about Fatties, is that they can be eaten hot, cold, room temperature, with crackers or toast or stuck on the end of a toothpick!

WARNING! Fatties are not for the very young or elderly. Women who are nursing or pregnant or who could become pregnant, should avoid Fatties. Vegetarians and those with weakened immune systems and compromised constitutions should not be in the same room as Fatties.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

In a world where... (movie trailer guys voice)

there's one man, one grill, and only ten days to clear the fridge, can he do it?

Mrs. SpecialEd and the two SpecialEd boys are flying out tomorrow morning (July 4th) for sunny, southern, California for ten days. That leaves me alone with the two SpecialEd dogs and the GrillDome for ten days!

I've already stocked up on ribs, lamb, chicken, the makings for "Fatties," BBQ beans and a tandoori, yogurt marinade for the chicken and lamb. I even have a commission for pulled pork for next week. All I need now is a little cooperation from the weather.

What am I going to do with all this food? What better way to bribe people into helping me getting a few things done around the house while the family is away!

BTW, "Fatties" has nothing to do with illegal substances, (though as deadly as they are, they should be!) Here is a recipe for Fatties from a great BBQ site by a fellow "Domer," Mike Stines of Cape Cod Barbecue.


(I'll post pics as I go)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Did you say "Extra Cripsy?"

Jaden's Roasted Chicken with Sweet Plum Sauce

The day after I read this recipe on Jaden's Steamy Kitchen, I went out and bought a bottle of plum sauce. Today, nearly three months later, I finally got around to trying it, only I did it a little differently, outside on my GrillDome... of course!

I also did mine upright, think beer in the butt chicken without the beer can(I have to agree with Dr. BBQ on this one, see page 140-141 of Dr. BBQ's BIG-TIME BARBECUE COOKBOOK for his theory on Beer Can Chicken).

I have a set of Spanek vertical roasters, which work very well. Instead of stuffing the cavity of the chicken, I put the lemon quarters, onions and spices in a water pan under the chicken. As you can see from the pictures, I should have heeded Jaden's warning a little more seriously about covering the bird with foil if the skin starts to get a little... extra crispy! When I Opened the Dome to check on the bird about 40 minutes into the cook it was already well caramelized on the top. I guess the top of the bird was much closer to the Dome-lid ceramics than I realized. I covered it with foil then. (Better late then never.)

Not to worry though, I brushed it with the plum sauce a few times in the last few minutes and let it rest under a tent of foil while still sitting in the pan, on the stand. All in all, no more then 90 minutes start to finish for an average size bird.

It went very well with some curried couscous and since we are not much of a "skin" eating family there was no problem with the "extra crispy" parts. I will certainly do this one again (probably tomorrow as I bought a double pack of roasters at Costco and still have the other one in the fridge!)

Thanks again Jaden!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Heat Wave, Commencement, Father's Day (did I mention it was hot?)

Congratulations Kevin!

My nephew Kevin graduated from high school today. Even though Commencement was today, the party, for logistical reasons, was yesterday.

The temperature reached a sweltering 91 degrees, but there was often a nice breeze and plenty of shade in the pavilion we used at a local State Park. Plenty of good food, lots of good company, even though there were a few missing family members we would all loved to have seen.

The little ones played in the ice water and didn't seem to mind the heat, the big ones complained about the heat but had a good time anyway (you would be surprised how much fun a pair of bear-claw pork shredders can be, right Maria?) and everyone slept well last night!

That last part was important as today is Father's Day, I got to sleep in even more than usual! (Thanks guys!).

My boys gave me a wonderfully, hilarious card featuring Cartman from South Park. (Gee, I'll bet mom picked that one out!), and my wife is working on a cover for my deck (outdoor kitchen).

Did I get my dad a card? Did I give him a phone call? Hell no, I put him to work. My GrillDome lid needed a little adjusting and that was a job right up his alley. The way I look at it, I gave him a chance to get dirty, sweaty, curse a little (or maybe a lot) and most of all to fix something! What more could a dad ask for?

Unfortunately, even though I had my camera with me yesterday and today, I never got around to taking any pictures.

So congratulations to Kevin and everyone in the class of 2008.

And Happy Father's Day to my dad and every dad!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hot fun in the summer time...

The boys are done with school and the weather has been oppressive! Fortunately, for them, their mother, in her infinite wisdom, got them a new game for their Xbox to celebrate the successful completion of another year of school.

I, on the other hand, am not content to sit in front of the television screen all day, even if it is air conditioned inside. Besides, who wants to heat up the kitchen when the outdoors is already hot?

Nothing new or special, just the same old. A couple of pork tenderloins that had been marinating in a Teriyaki sauce for a few hours, then some Salmon for snacking.

This salmon was meant for eating cold so it was treated to a salt, sugar and pepper cure for four hours then smoked. We'll have that later on crackers or toast.

Nothing else new or exciting to report. Just gearing up for a big pork-shoulder roast this Friday night for my nephew Kevin's graduation party on Saturday. Looking forward to seeing the whole clan again.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The weather is beautiful, what to do?

Why cook of course!

Fired up the grill Saturday for lunch and pretty much kept it going until 12:00 today (Monday, Memorial Day).

For starters, or for lunch actually, I did something a little different, for me at least and grilled some great big Portabello mushrooms. Soaked them in a beef broth, olive oil and maple syrup marinade for about 20-30 minutes, then grilled them slowly for another 20-30 minutes. Plopped on a bun with some caramelized onions and goat cheese and they were quite good! (thanks again to Gowan for the recipe and idea)

After the Dome cooled down I cleaned out the ash and filled it up with a fresh load of Wicked Good Charcoal, Weekend Warrior and wood chunks for an overnight brisket cook.

I've cooked brisket "flats" before but this was the first time I got a whole "Packer cut." This is the flat muscle along with the "point" muscle. I had the butcher separate them and trim the fat to a uniform 1/8 inch.

I put the flat on the main grill and the point on the upper grill. Got 'em started around 8:00PM and took them off around 1:30 on Sunday afternoon. I wrapped the flat in foil and towels and put it in a cooler for a couple hours but I cubed the point(which wasn't easy as it was trying to fall apart!), gave it another liberal dose of Rub and put it back on the Dome in an aluminum pan for another two hours to make "burnt ends."

When the burnt ends were done, I called SpecialEd Sister #7 and said "I have some Cow Candy, fresh off the grill!" When she said "Cow candy, what the...?" I just said "come over, you'll like it! She did, and so did SpecialEd Sister's #2,#5 and several of their kids.

Once again, I cleaned out the ash (not much ash when using WGC) and built a fresh, full load in the pit. This time, three bone-in pork shoulders about 7-8lbs apiece.

Two on the bottom, one on the top, fired up around 6:30 let go overnight.

One shoulder was done at 8:00 this morning but the other two didn't come off until Noon. (each shoulder has it's own personality and agenda!)

Sent some home with my BIL, as a token of appreciation of hard work, sold some to a secret admirer (no kidding) and the rest is calling my name!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cedar and Birch "Planked" Salmon

I finally got around to trying some grilling planks from Lexington Outdoors of Maine. I've had them for awhile but the stars and planets never aligned themselves quite right until this evening.

It's been raining here almost non-stop since about when... December? Well at least for the past couple days straight and the past month most of the time, and definitely on the weekends!

I picked up three six-ounce fillets of Atlantic Salmon from Chile? (I thought Chile was on the Pacific coast? I guess when it's farm raised it can be from anywhere.)

I didn't have any Dizzy Pig Raging River so I used a lemon and pepper rub by Red Monkey that someone gave me.

I rubbed it in fairly heavy and let it rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature while I fired up the Dome. Then I put three oval planks in a pan of water to soak. I have a sampler pack of two each so I used two cedar and one birch.

When the Dome was stabilized at close to 400 degrees I put the planks on a raised grid for a few minutes until they started to smoke a bit. Then I put the salmon on and shut the lid.

Ten minutes later I opened the lid and slathered some maple butter on the fillets. (That's the butter and maple melting in that little dish on the grill.) After 15 minutes I gave them a bit more maple butter glaze.

After a total of twenty minutes I took them off and let them rest.

In retrospect, I probably should have skipped the rub as this was my first time trying the planks and they give a subtle smoky flavor to the fish whereas the lemon-pepper rub can be overpowering in large amounts. Very strong. Either way the salmon turned out great and I can't wait to try more grilling planks.

Give yourself a treat and visit Lexington Outdoors of Maine. Father's day is coming up so why not drop a hint?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lazy afternoon...

I am so jealous!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Let the ribbing begin!

Believe it or not, with all the BBQ'ing I've done, I've never cooked ribs. Heck for all intents and purposes, I've never eaten ribs. Something to do with a chilhood hangup on eating sloppy food with my fingers.

Well since my smoker is quickly coming up on a year old, and I've got pulled pork, pork tenderloins, spatchcocked chicken and burgers, beans and even meatloaf down pat and my brisket is pretty fair, I figured it was time. No self-respecting pit master can look at his reflection in his shiny cooker lid for too long if he/she hasn't worked on perfecting ribs.

I did a variation of the standard 3-1-1 method that worked out to be more like 3-1.5-1, (Thanks again to Gowan of the GrillDome Forum and a BBQ competition near you)where the ribs are cooked indirect at a grill temperature of 235 degrees. After three hours I wrapped them in foil and in lieu of cider or apple jucie which I did not have, I poured a little of my wife's beloved Diet Coke in the foil (and the drip pan). After an hour and a half in foil, I put the ribs back on unwrapped for another hour to firm up.

I did these ribs "dry" using Cookshack's Rib Rub, only putting sauce on at the table. I rubbed them down last night and put them in the fridge. Fired up the gril this morning and had the ribs on by 10:15. I used a Weber Rib Rack similar to the one pictured, so I could fit four racks at one time. They came off just before 4:00.

Not perfected by a longshot, but not bad either. Especially for a first time. My two boys, even ate them!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Get Stoked! When technolgy meets art in the backyard...

Anyone who has visited this site before knows my fondness for authentic BBQ! While my GrillDome does an amazing job of maintaining a steady temperature on its own, there can be many variables that can turn an overnight cook into a disaster.

  • The quality or moisture content of your wood or charcoal

  • Weather conditions(nothing like a strong wind to turn your low 'n slow into a blast furnace)

  • How well you assembled your wood or charcoal

  • The fickleness and whims of the BBQ Gods

BUT, there is hope and that hope can be found in technology. I'm sure the legendary Pit masters of yore are rolling in their hickory smoked caskets but for the average backyard enthusiast like myself (who might wear an occasional python boot) and can't afford to take a chance with 30 lbs of meat there is the Stoker from Rock's Bar-B-Que.

"The Stoker is a temperature control device for any wood or charcoal burning cooker."

That's right. This little gizmo either feeds the pit with a fan or shuts off the air completely to maintain a preset temperature. It also has connections for food probes so you can monitor the internal temperature of your food and set an alarm to let you know when it's done!

I put said 30 lbs of pork shoulders in the Dome last night around 7:00, set the pit temperature for 225 and let it go. When I got up this morning 12 hours later the pit temp was 227 degrees and the shoulders were just coming out of the "plateau" where all the magic happens. A couple hours later I had four roasts wrapped in foil and resting in a cooler.

It may seem pricey to some but what would you pay for peace of mind and a good night's sleep? No worrying about flameouts, no bad meat, no getting up every couple hours to "check on the fire."

All I did was get my family hooked on my Que and they chipped in and got me the Stoker. Thanks guys! It worked like a champ and did everything it was supposed to do!

For you Geeks out there, it also comes with an Ethernet connection so you can monitor and control it through a web browser! I know of at least two third party programs that allow graphing or even having the unit call your cell phone with a text message to let you know your food is done!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Introducing Loki

  • Lo·ki (lo'ke') n. Mythology. A Norse god who created discord, especially among his fellow gods.

  • Rhymes with "low key"

  • Male Golden Retriever

  • Born: December 7th, 2007(a date that will live in infamy)

  • Brought home, Saturday, April, 12th.

More later...

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Cast Iron

I've been wanting to do some cooking with cast iron and this week I finally got around to it. My father dug around in his basement and found an old 10" skillet. Other than some light rusting it looked to be in pretty good shape but it was very light in color, not the usual black you would expect to see on an older piece.

I applied a liberal dose of steel wool and elbow grease to remove the rust, then scrubbed it well with a mild detergent and hot water; towel dried it and put in on the stove to make sure it was completely dry. From information I gleaned on the web, I decided to apply some cooking oil (Canola) and put it in a 250 degree oven for two hours. It came out a bit darker but not much. My eggs were sticking. I tried it a couple more times and it just wasn't doing it for me so, after more web research I fired up my GrillDome got it up to 500-600 degrees, spread the coals out and just laid the pan on the coals and closed the lid. After an hour I closed the vents so the fire would go out and let it cool down for the rest of the afternoon.

The pan came out very clean and shiny. I scrubbed it again with mild soap and hot water, towel dried and finished on the stove.

This time I used a good coating of Crisco and put the pan upside down in a 350 oven with some foil on the rack below to catch any excess oil. After one hour I turned off the oven and left the pan in there with the door shut.

BIG difference! It came out nice and black and it works like a champ now. My inaugural cook was cornbread and it turned out great. Crisp, not only on the top but the sides and bottom as well and "just right" on the inside. Two rib eye steaks tonight weren't too hard to eat either.

I have my eye on a 6qt Dutch Oven (pictured at the top of the page) and maybe even a 3qt enameled Dutch Oven... if I can only find some space to store them!

BTW, those pictures show the same skillet in the same condition. The change in color is from outsdie lighting vs. inside lighting.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Warning! Warning!

So what is this and has anybody seen my wife?

From what little I gather (because membership is by invitation only) it's a mostly "girls" club where the womens{sic} can let down their hair and post about topics they usually pretend they don't think about when they are in mixed company, and all under the guise of knitting and crocheting. I can't post pictures of what these "ladies" are knitting but, I can guarantee you you wont see much of it on Martha Stewart! It's kind of like a real, live Desperate Housewives for Stitchers and Bitchers.

It's like the roach motel of forums. My wife joined and I haven't seen her since. I have noticed that someone is taking the lunches and snacks I prepare for her every night but I haven't seen her. I might have to block it from my router if I ever hope to see her again.

Lonely in Delaware

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Kids! Whattsamatta with kids today?

My 13-year-old who has been enduring braces for the better part of two years had to have three "baby" teeth pulled so he can get his braces off this summer. His Orthodontist referred us to his regular dentist. His regular dentist, in turn, referred us to an Oral Surgeon. "so he can knock him out and take all three out at once and get it over with."

What does my son say? "I want to be awake so I can see it and hear it." Seriously, this kid is a freak! So the OS agrees to use a local instead of "knocking him out."

This morning was the big day. My son troops off without any apprehension or seemingly, a care in the world. Mrs. SpecialEd stays home from work so she can be with him during the procedure and get him settled in at home afterwards. Meanwhile, Dad is home wondering what's taking so long? Is he ok? Is there a problem? Poor baby, etc., etc.

So a little over an hour later they come home and around a mouth full of gauze is the biggest smile he's had in weeks! "It was so cool!" Look! And he holds out his hand with three freshly pulled teeth that you would swear just came out of a horse!

He did so well his OS has invited him back to observe a procedure and says "he'll make a great oral surgeon someday!"

Now with all my experience in and out of hospitals, I tend to be very stoic when it comes to being poked and prodded and when the tech takes four attempts to get an I.V. started but actually enjoying it? All I can say is he didn't get it from me.

Warning! Not for the Squeamish!