I don’t have time to do a proper blog post today so I’m putting up a snapshot from recipe testing for the Toro Bravo Cookbook: The Making, Breaking and Riding of a Bull (McSweeney’s fall 2013). We’re full steam ahead with the book and I have a lot of recipes to write this week so I’m going to get back to that. I also have a nasty sunburn to apply aloe to every few hours since Portland summer has finally arrived. Hope you are doing well and getting out and enjoying summer to the fullest. I spent Saturday at the river and Sunday at a lake. Lucky.
Q & A with Dave Blaikie
(If you haven’t read the first part of this blog series you can at DIY Meat Smoking Pt. 1)
Me: When did you build your smoker?
Dave: In 2009.
Me: How did you make it?
Dave: I made it out of a 55-gallon drum that used to be filled with vegetable oil. A man was selling them in his front yard and I had to get one. It was 15 bucks and I wedged it into the back seat of a Mazda Protege. Sheet metal that I found in a scrap pile and angle steel lengths make up the smoker box and stand. It took a week to cut and weld all the pieces in my garage. The design is based on a smoker my friend had.
Me: What are your favorite things to smoke?
Dave: Anything pork. Baby back ribs are my faves followed by the pork butt, and country-style ribs.
Me: Any advice for someone who’s never smoked meat before and is about to try?
Dave: Ask questions. For starters, get a good book because you have a lot to learn and you’re going to be sitting for a while. Don’t use lighter fluid, unless you like that taste in your food. Use a mixture of woods. I use oak or mesquite as a fuel wood and add any fruit wood that I can get my hands on. You can use all fruit wood if you want for both fuel and flavor as well. Apple wood is my favorite and if you can get your hands on some, do it.
Get the temperature in the smoker up to where you want it. You want to have a good fire going but want the smoke to be as light as you can get it. Don’t worry it’ll have a smoky flavoring without too much smoke. That’s about it. Every smoker is different and it takes time to understand the in’s and out’s of each one. Oh yeah, don’t rush it. This is all about kicking back with your friends, drinking and salivating over an aroma that can only be made from smoking meat.
Check out DIY Meat Smoking Pt. 1
Our friend Dave built the above barrel smoker a few years ago and we’ve gotten to eat all sorts of delicious things smoked in it. A little less than a year ago Dave needed someplace to store it and we’ve had it at our house ever since.
Late April Dave and his fiance Rachel came over and we celebrated their engagement by smoking an insane amount of meat for four people while splitting wood from our old apple tree that we cut down this winter. It was a really old tree — one arborist thought it was nearly as old as our 100+ year old house — and hollowed out as you’ll see in the photos. Although the wood is still drying it was the perfect combo because apple wood which is ideal for smoking meat.
That day with Dave and Rachel we smoked a five pound brisket, three pound pork butt, and a rack of pork and beef ribs. Don’t worry — in the end, we invited some other friends over to help us eat it all.
We mortar and pestled herbs and spices and then dry-rubbed all of the meat with various combinations, adding brown sugar to some of the rubs and leaving it off of others. We got the smoker up to temperature (Dave says the sweet spot temperature-wise is 220-230) with mesquite, dried some apple wood while doing that, and then put all the meat into the smoker at 3:30pm to cook until about 8pm — 4.5 hours.
The hottest spot on the racks is of course right by the smoke chute. We put our meat in when it got to 200. Then as the meat smoked we occasionally rotated things and cracked the door if it got too hot — we tried to keep it between 220-230 — and added wood if the fire got low.
You don’t want too much smoke — just a bit. We put wood shavings in a small cast-iron skillet and had an apple wood fire with mesquite coals in the barbecue. Although we didn’t do it this time Dave usually adds vinegar and mustard to the meat toward the end to keep it moist. And if you don’t know this already you always want to remove the silvery membrane from ribs so that they cook properly.
Up next a Q&A with the meat master himself — Dave Blaikie!
Taste of the Nation truly gets bigger and better every year. We had a fantastic time eating and drinking all sorts of amazing things from Portland area chefs and food/drink folks at this year’s Taste of the Nation at Luxe Autohaus. (Always made much better by the fact that 100% of the proceeds go toward local child hunger relief.) If you don’t know about the event you can read more about it here and here. We paced ourselves a lot better this year so that by the end (and we stayed until the very end — as in tables being folded) we felt full but not roll-out-the-door full.
It’s hard to pick favorites but I think it’s good to give credit where credit is due. SO here are my top five favorite things that I ate at this year’s Taste of the Nation (not to mention all the delicious wine, beer and bubbly) followed by photos…
Top five bites at this year’s Taste of the Nation in no particular order…
La Calaca Comelona’s rainbow chard wrapped masa with pork in a red sauce
Biwa’s braised pork and house pickled vegetable lettuce wraps
Bamboo Sushi’s Oregon albacore carpaccio
Fifty Lick’s coconut lemon saffron sorbet
Davis Street Tavern’s cold carrot fennel soup with sorrel salsa verde
You know who you are lucky #17 commenter Jaime! You’ve won yourself two tickets to this year’s Taste of the Nation. Drop me a line @ info at lizcrain dot com with your full name and contact info. and I’ll pass that along to the organizers who are donating the tickets.
Thanks everyone for all of your tasty comments! I’m looking forward to checking a lot of the places out and trying the foods and drinks that you mentioned. I haven’t tried a lot of them which makes me happy. I might just print all the comments out and keep the list in my bag so I don’t forget.
For those of you who didn’t win tickets there are still tickets left for this year’s Taste of the Nation and if you can I suggest you snag them. It’s one of the absolute best food events in town and I highly recommend it. In addition to it being delicious and super fun 100% of proceeds go toward ending local child hunger. Gotta feel good about that.
Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation
Monday, May 2nd, 2011
410 NE 17th Ave.
Portland, OR 97232
Tickets $85 (order by phone 877.26TASTE, online or at any New Seasons Market)