Thursday, July 24, 2014

DIY Hawaiian Style Pulehu Short Ribs

As some of you may remember, back in May I traveled to Honolulu, HI and had some amazing BBQ off a food truck called Mahalo Kau Kau Grill. The stand out for me on that truck was their Pulehu beef short ribs and I've been dreaming of them ever since. As soon as I got back to the mainland I started researching Pulehu short ribs so I could recreate them myself. Although they will never be the same as Mahalo Kau Kau Grill's (just can't seem to crack their code!) they are pretty damn good. Here's how to do it....

#1 - Find Kiawe wood. This took some digging on my part. The first three websites I came across that carried it were sold out with no sign of restocking. Kiawe wood is native to Honolulu. It is like  mesquite but sweeter. This is the wood used to smoke most Hawaiian BBQ. I was finally able to purchase it in chunks online from Guava Woods Farm Hawaii. They chunk it to order and only ship out once a week so make sure you order this plenty in advance.

#2 - Find a good butcher shop. We are very fortunate in San Francisco to have several but for this project I went to my buddy Dave the butcher over at Marina Meats. There are a couple different ways to describe the cut of meat you need for Pulehu ribs. You can either say you want beef short ribs cut "kalbi" style (which is a korean preparation of short ribs) or flanken style (the original name for short ribs cut across the bone). We ordered ours to be sliced a half inch thick but some people do it even thinner, like in the case of korean BBQ. We got about 3 lbs which came out to 12 pieces.

#3 - Marinate. After doing a little recipe research I created this marinade. It was just the right amount for the 3 lbs of short ribs we had. I marinated the ribs overnight.

1-2"in. piece of ginger, peeled and smashed
3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sake
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup

#3 - Dry out ribs. The next day I pulled the short ribs out of the marinade and placed them on a rack over a sheetpan in the refrigerator to dry out for about 6 hours.

#4 - Rub. Season the ribs on both sides with granulated garlic (it took about 4 teaspoons), kosher salt and course cracked black pepper. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

#5 - Prepare your grill. We have a small charcoal powered smoker that worked perfect for this. First start your fire with mesquite (or kiawe if you can find it) hardwood lump charcoal. I get mine from Lazarri Fuel Co. When the coals are grey and smoldering add your kiawe wood chunks. I added 4 pieces. Close the lid and let the smoke build up in there a little before grilling your short ribs.

#6 - Grilling. Over medium-high heat grill the short ribs 5 minutes on each side. That's it. The easiest part of the whole process. Remove from the fire and let rest a few minutes before serving.

They really don't need anything once they come off the grill. But I enjoyed mine with a little Shichimi Togarashi sprinkled over the top. Traditionally they are served over sticky rice. I also put a scoop of kimchee on the side as a nod to the Koreans.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Wrangler Family Barbecue

I grew up in East County San Diego. Until a recent visit back I had never known about a restaurant called The Wrangler Family Barbecue , thats been around since 1965. Wrangler's has a wood fired pit and specializes in brisket, pork spareribs and surprisingly, ham. They also put out beef stew on mondays and pulled pork on thursdays and saturdays.

Upon arrival we were introduced to JR, one of the owners. He was nice enough to take us back into the kitchen to take a look at the smoker which was loaded with spareribs, briskets and a big metal container filled with pit beans. He revealed that they use oak wood, which you could smell all throughout the restaurant. 

Wranglers, we are told has stayed very consistent over the years. Everything is in plain view at the ordering counter, including all smoked meats sitting on a counter ready for slicing and cases of fresh baked pies, beverages and side dishes. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful. 

We ordered the beef, ribs and ham sampler with a side of baked beans and mac salad. A towering plate of food at a great price and the kitchen was even nice enough to give us a sample of the days special, pulled pork. 

Pork spareribs had a predominate smoke ring, nice chewy texture and light smokey flavor. Mac salad was vinegary with chunks of carrot and celery. Beans were smoky with just the right amount of sweetness and spice. 

Ham was moist, tender and juicy. Brisket wasn't falling apart tender but wasn't tough either and had good beefy flavor reminiscent of pot roast. 

Pulled pork had good texture, a smoky flavor and was tossed with just enough bbq sauce to cut the fattiness of the meat. 

Our experience at Wrangler's all in all was a good one and I look forward to coming back next time we are back in town visiting mom. 

The Wrangler Family Barbecue
901 El Cajon blvd.
El Cajon, CA 92020
(619) 442-1170
open 7 days a week lunch & dinner

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mahalo Kau Kau Grill

On my most recent food trip I not only discovered how amazing Honolulu is but also that it has a totally legit BBQ truck. Right downtown, completely unassuming, would of walked right passed it if it were not for a friend who told me how good it was. He was right, but the food wasn't just good it was some of the best BBQ I've ever had.

Kau Kau's menu consists of 6 either grilled or smoked meats and shrimp, 2 kinds of poke, 3 styles of rice, your obligatory mac salad and a cheese burger (I'm assuming for the kiddoes). You honestly can not go wrong with any of it. And the best part is it's consistent every time. (I went twice and my friend has gone 3 times)

Let's start with the Pulehu beef short ribs. These things blew me away. First off they have this rub that consists of course ground black pepper, course sea salt and granulated garlic (and probably some other stuff too). It was addictive and crunchy. I basically ate them like this... I sucked the rub off the meat, then sunk my teeth into the wonderfully charred, smoky flavorful beef and thin lining of perfectly rendered fat cleaning it from the bone. Heaven.

Next is the baby back pork ribs. Equally as good as the short ribs. These suckers had me feeling like a total hypocrite. I have always preached how ribs should NOT just slide right of the bone. Reason being is because most often when you see this the meat is mushy with no texture or integrity left too it. Kau Kau achieves this paradox of having rib meat that you honestly just suck off the bone in one swipe and that has a perfect texture all at the same time. And not only that the house made (or should I say truck made?) BBQ sauce is really really good! It's sweet but not to sweet, its vinegary, it has just the right amount of heat and is seasoned perfectly. I'm talking this dude can rival some of the joints I've been to in St. Louis. Crazy.

Another tasty local option is what they call "smoked meat", which is char siu and grilled onions. Char siu is sliced and skewered pork that has been seasoned and smoked. Their version is very good and was sort of crispy which gave a niece texture against the soft sticky rice.

Kau Kau makes spicy and shoyu ahi pokes as well. Both versions are just as good as some of the best poke shops I've had on the island. And they add tobiko to them too which gives them a nice crunch.

Sides include: Brown rice, white sticky rice, "krazy" rice (which tasted like it had old bay seasoning on it), green salad and mac salad (they use spaghetti noodles in their mac salad in Hawaii). The mac salad was hands down my favorite.

If you ever find yourself in Honolulu you gotta track this baby down. It was on Kapiolani street across from 24 hour fitness when we were there but apparently it moves around sometimes. If you are lucky enough to spot it don't pass it up!

1637 Kapiolani blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 284-8293
Mon-Fri 11am-7pm

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Good local BBQ alert

The city of Hayward, located in the east bay, is full of 50 year old (plus) restaurant gems. It took me a few years of driving through to finally walk into one and now I want to try them all. If your into burgers Val's and 1/4 Giant burger are as good as it gets for simple no fuss burgers and shakes. But to my surprise Hayward is also home to an awesome rib joint, Emil Villa's Barbecue.

I was a little skeptical walking into a BBQ restaurant that coined themselves as "California BBQ". In my experience that term either ends up meaning grilled meats or half assed bbq. But to my delight it actually meant really delicious!

The style of BBQ that Emil Villa's acquired 60+ years ago was introduced to the founder by native americans (the technique was invented by the Kiowas, Arapahoes and Utes indians). Heavy on the smoke and mopped during the cooking process with a solution they called "lassyemma". Emil's serves their meats sauce on the side to showcase the bark and smoke ring they work so hard to produce.

The smoker at Emil Villa's

Ribs - Besides the pies this is the number one reason you come to Emil's. They serve three styles: Emil Villa's signature ribs (which are spare ribs), st. louis style ribs and baby backs. Their signature ribs are the most moist and flavorful out of the three. Although, all three styles are properly cooked. Tender pork that still has a little bit of chew so that it comes clear off the bone but doesn't fall off the bone. The bark is there, the smoke ring is pronounced and the smoky flavor is heavenly.

Tri Tip - Called "sliced beef" here was surprisingly good. In my experience with tri tip it is usually tough and chewy. They ask you which temperature you would like it. We said medium rare and it came out exactly that and wasn't at all chewy. Not sure if it was because it was slow cooked or very thinly sliced but it gave me a new appreciation for the cut. 

Smoked Pork Loin - Unfortunately the slices we received were extremely dry. Not their best showing.

Brown Sauce and Red Sauce - Your server will ask you if you would like these sauces to accompany your smoked meats. The brown sauce is a thick au jus that tastes of beef bouillon cubes. I didn't find a need for it anywhere in the meal. The red sauce however is a very tasty BBQ sauce. Sweet, smoky and vinegary with a hint of black pepper. Good for dipping ribs into.

Sides - Ive tried three sides here. All good. Pit smoked beans are nice and smoky with just the right amount of sweet and spice. The coleslaw comes with a horseradish-honey dressing ladled on top so that you can mix it in right there at your table leaving it nice and crunchy and not wilted from hours sitting in a reach in. Potato salad is also great here, red potatoes mixed with mustard, mayo and relish. Simple and well balanced.

24047 Mission Blvd
Hayward, CA 94544
(510) 537-0734
7am-8:45pm daily

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Strip mall BBQ. Good or Bad?

I was always one to shy away from chain BBQ restaurants. To me they lacked soul, personality and cooking technique. The chain that changed my mind a few years ago was Famous Dave's. They have restaurants all over the U.S. and last year at The Nugget Rib Cook-Off in Reno they placed first. Dave's restaurants are vibrant, fun and the food is actually really good (and also served on actual trash can lids). So because of Dave's I no longer shy away from trying out chain BBQ restaurants. Sometimes its worth it and sometimes you walk away with your original gut feeling, that they just don't have the same charm and love as the mom and pop shacks do.

photo from Shane Rib Shack's website

Enter Shane's Rib Shack. Shane's like Dave's has many many locations all over the U.S. We recently went to their Greensboro, NC location. From the moment we walked in it felt like a corporate operation. It had all the elements of a bbq shack, paper towels on the tables, house made bbq sauces, counter service and checkered table clothes. Yet it lacked anything that made it feel special from any other bbq shack and an overall personal identity.

Now I don't want to make it seem like Shane's is all bad. The place is clean, well equipped with everything you need (except beer!), has good service and pretty good food. But there is one more major flaw I need to point out that I am very confused about. Shane's says they slow smoke their meats daily. Yet neither the ribs or the pulled pork smelled or tasted of smoke and the ribs had no smoke ring. 

Shane's famous ribs were very tender and flavorful but like I said, no smoke flavor and a little overcooked and stringy although surprisingly moist. I actually did like them but not for the reasons why I like ribs from a bbq shack.

Pulled pork was the same story. Very moist and had good flavor but didn't much taste like BBQ. 

Shane's makes their own hot sauce which is pretty good. Similar to a Texas Petes.

They also make four style of BBQ sauce. Original which is sweet with hints of white pepper and vinegar, Spicy which is like original but just a bit spicier, Mustard which pretty much just tastes like a bottle of yellow mustard and Honey which was surprisingly tasty. Unfortunately they all tasted fortified with corn syrup.

All meats come with toasted wonder bread covered in margarine and a choice of two sides. We had creamy coleslaw, red potato salad flavored with mustard, mayo and pickles, syrupy sweet baked beans and crispy fried okra.

Will I keep trying out chain BBQ restaurants? Probably. Sometimes in any given city that's your only choice. But they will never beat out that shack on the side of the road, family operated, inside walls stained brown from wood smoke with a friendly toothless smile behind the counter. Nothing beats it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Whole Hog BBQ in Raleigh, NC

Downtown in the state capital of North Carolina resides the legendary The Pit Authentic Barbecue. They still make BBQ the traditional eastern North Carolina way, whole hog smoked over a pit of hard wood, pulled or chopped and mixed with vinegar sauce. In addition they also serve western style North Carolina BBQ which includes pulled pork, ribs and beef brisket with a tangy sweet tomato-based sauce. The hogs they smoke are free range from local small farms and the produce they use is locally farmed as well. You can tell by the quality of the food it has been handled with care from beginning to end.
photo from The Pit website

The Pit has a huge menu for a BBQ shack, luckily there where four of us so we were able to attack most of it. Here's what we had....

Chopped BBQ, eastern NC style - Seeing as this was what this place was known for I had high hopes. To my delight this was hands down the best thing we ate. Super moist, mixed well with eastern NC style vinegar BBQ sauce (although I gave it another good dousing) with a beautiful smoky flavor. All meats come with  the obligatory hushpuppies, a really great biscuit and two sides.

Beef Brisket - This could not hold a candle to their chopped pork BBQ. And ever since I had brisket in central Texas I have to admit that I'm sort of a brisket snob. Theirs was from the lean end, which is not my fave and was a little dry from lack of fat, all though tender.

Barbecue Chicken - Nice and moist with a glaze of their western style NC BBQ sauce.

Baby Back Pork Ribs - Great smoke and flavor. A little too fall off the bone but still moist and glazed with western style NC BBQ sauce. 

BBQ Sauce - In North Carolina there are two styles of BBQ sauce. Western, which is dark brown and thick consisting of tomato, molasses, vinegar and what tasted like apple butter. And Eastern which is basically distilled white vinegar seasoned with chile flakes, black pepper and garlic. 

Sides - All the sides where great. The vegetables where fresh and everything was properly seasoned.
  • Heirloom Cabbage Collard Greens - These were fantastic. The greens where cooked long enough so that they were tender but still held their integrity with a delicious tang of vinegar.
  • BBQ Baked Beans - Cooked with brisket burnt ends and a nice hint of spice. Again, beans where cooked perfectly holding there shape, not mushy. 
  • Mac & Cheese - The cheese sauce on the macaroni was a little grainy but flavor was decent and was covered with melted cheddar cheese.
  • Potato Salad - An excellent version made with relish, hard cooked egg, mayo and a touch of mustard. 
  • Coleslaw - Creamy style, not what I'm used to seeing in North Carolina but pretty good. 
  • Fried Okra - Tasty okra, breading could have been crispier.
  • Creamed Corn - Made in house with sweet corn. Really tasty. 

Desserts - Are HUGE here, but not the highlight of the meal. 
  • Banana Pudding - The vanilla custard was good but the sliced bananas were brown leaving it a little undesirable to look at. They make theirs topped with toasted meringue (I prefer whipped cream).
  • Carrot Cake - Iced with molasses cream cheese frosting and garnished with candied pecans and caramel sauce. 

The Pit Authentic Barbecue

328 W. Davie St.
Raleigh, NC
(919) 890-4500

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Unexpected dishes using S&S BBQ sauce and spice rubs

A friend inspired me recently when he used our S&S brand Ranch Rub to season beef for street tacos. It got me thinking about what makes dishes unique. Sometimes it's using heirloom vegetables from the farmers market, sometimes it's using different cooking techniques and sometimes (and in this case) it's just adding that unexpected ingredient that makes you go, "wow that really works!".

When we see BBQ sauce and spice rubs on the meat counter at the local market we think, grilled meats (or fish), deliciously sloppy burgers and BBQ right? But why can't we use those ingredients in a dish where you wouldn't expect it? A dish that makes your friends insist you make when you come to visit and then fly in the ingredients to make it happen.

Here are some non-BBQ recipes using our line of S&S BBQ sauces and rubs (including those awesome street tacos):

Carolina Style Bloody Mary

yield - 1 cocktail

1.5 oz. Good Vodka
5 oz. Tomato juice
4 oz. S&S Carolina Style BBQ Sauce
1 dash Celery salt
1/8 teaspoon Prepared horseradish
a squeeze of lemon juice
2 ea. Green olives, pitted
1 Stalk Celery
1 cilantro sprig
(and any other garnishes your lushy heart desires)

- Fill a 12 oz. high ball glass with ice. Add all of the ingredients and stir well.
- Garnish with a skewer of green olives, a stalk of celery and a cilantro sprig.

Jon Wollenhaupt photography

Ranch Street Tacos - (submitted by Shawn Thompson)

Beef Chuck, diced small
S&S Ranch Rub
White onion, diced
Kalamata Olives, chopped
Corn tortillas (street taco size)
Cilantro leaves
Avocado, large dice

- Saute the beef in a pan over medium-high heat with a tablespoon of canola oil until meat is cooked through. Season to taste with S&S Ranch Rub.
- Warm the tortillas over medium heat in a separate pan.
- Top each tortilla with the meat mixture, diced white onion, chopped olives, a few squirts of Sriracha, cilantro leaves and diced avocado.

Photo by Rob Warren

4 Peppercorn Pasta

Yield - 2-3 Servings

8 oz. Spaghetti, dried
1 stick butter, unsalted, cubed
2 quarts plus 1/8 cup water
1 Tablespoon S&S brand 4 Peppercorn rub
2 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese, grated

- Bring 1/8 cup water to a boil in a small pot, remove pot from the heat and whisk in the butter. Season with 1 Tablespoon S&S brand 4 Peppercorn rub and set aside in a warm place.
- Cook the pasta in 2 quarts boiling salted water for about 9 minutes. Drain and toss the pasta with the sauce and grated parmesan.