Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Smokey Fourth of July

Help, my husband has taken up smoking and he may be addicted.  Haha... okay, okay.  That was bad.  But seriously, ever since Wes brought home that boxy electric smoker that stands faithfully on our patio by the grill, he has been randomly smoking meats of all sorts, including trout, brisket, spare ribs, beef ribs, chicken, and even eggplant.  For this Fourth of July, he wanted to prepare a big barbecue for our families.  Smoking is a way of cooking that is incredibly out of my comfort zone, even more so than grilling (haha, yes, sadly) - but I've learned a whole lot about it as a bystander throughout Wes's persistent experimentation.

Wes was also a barbecue novice at first, but he has something that I struggle to achieve when it comes to cooking (or life in general): patience and precision.  He'd be willing to make the same thing over and over again until he gets it right (in this case, the bark on his beef) and he likes to take on these huge endeavors that are not the most fail-safe.  I guess with smoking, he had reached a point where he felt comfortable with serving his barbecue to multiple people - for our Fourth of July party, he chose to prepare some beef ribs and turkey legs.  Fortunately, we didn't have to go far for them - they were already in our frozen stock of meat.  But for the rest of the dishes (which I was in charge of), we hit up our new favorite store, 99 Cents Only (hey, the produce isn't half bad there), to get a huge two-dollar watermelon, a dollar sack of red potatoes, and some avocados.

I still think that he's crazy for being so serious about this barbecue, but on the third of July, he marinated and rubbed the ribs and turkey legs right after dinner, placed them into the smoker, and set his alarm to wake up every three hours to spray his beef ribs in the smoker with cider vinegar and water.  As for me, I decided the morning of the barbecue that I had just the right amount of ingredients and the perfect (too perfect) amount of time to throw together a fruit crumble, which is something that I have never before attempted to make.  I even went to work at the skilled nursing facility for a few hours before coming home to start making my potato salad, pickled cabbage slaw, and guacamole, breathing a sigh of relief that Wes had suggested that we boil the potatoes the night before to save time and effort.  Everything we made came together just in time for the party - the meat glistening with those juices and giving off a wonderfully woodsy fragrance, and the side dishes beaming with vivid colors.

Recipes and notes:

Turkey Legs

Everyone enjoyed these as much as the beef ribs.  They turned out moist and juicy, and aptly smokey!

The rub = equal parts paprika,  garlic powder, salt and pepper, and Texas Pete hot sauce.  Generous amounts.
The wood = mixture of hickory and pecan wood.
Temperature and time = 250F for 4 hours, with the last hour wrapped up in foil.

Beef Ribs

Same rub and wood was used for the beef ribs, but they needed a lot more TLC.  Smoked at 250F for 10 hours.  6 hours unwrapped (to develop the bark), 4 hours wrapped (to retain moisture) bone-side up, with a spraying technique in between...

The secret weapon: plastic spray bottle from Target.

I thought Wes was a little nuts for doing this, but it fulfilled its purpose of preventing the meat edges from getting too overdone.  So basically he filled a plastic spray bottle with apple cider vinegar and water and sprayed the whole hunk of meat while it was unwrapped with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water every 2 hours for the first 6 hours (which meant that he woke up at 2 AM, 4 AM, and 6 AM through the night, since we did this overnight).  Then he wrapped it up in foil, bone side up, and kept it in the smoker for 4 more hours so that it can get juicy.  Weird and complicated, but the result was to his liking, and he's damn picky.  I never had a problem with the other beef ribs he's cooked, but he never seemed to be satisfied with the "bark" until this day.  So, I guess that's partly why I'm choosing to document this.

I am also documenting this because of family.  It's hard for us to all get together, and when we do we don't really take pictures.  There's always the essential photo of Madison peeping over a smorgasbord of food, but we also now have incriminating photos of my mom stealing a turkey leg, my camera lens in potato salad, Debbie patching up Wes's finger (glass pitcher cracked on him), and Wes's dad massaging my ankle and calf (my ankle had been killing me after these long hikes that we've been doing in preparation for our upcoming trek in Peru).  By the way, the therapeutic massage was a hundred times more painful than I had anticipated, but I was so grateful because it is really hard on his hands.

Berry Crumble

And finally for dessert, I randomly threw together a strawberry/blueberry fruit crumble using this recipe with added lemon juice and lemon zest into the filling.  We topped it with vanilla ice cream.

After everyone left, we debated hiking to see fireworks at Echo Mountain, but since my ankle was still healing, we took it easy and drove to Almansor Park in Alhambra and set up our lawn chairs on the grass there.  Wes took some photos of the fireworks using the little Sony digital camera (two-second exposures), and they turned out really pretty.  Hopefully this camera will be able to capture some good night photos during our trek in Peru!

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