Saturday, July 23, 2011


I just received my invitation to Google+ and after poking around it a bit, I am intrigued.  Not sold on it replacing Facebook just yet, but I have great faith in Google as a web innovator.  Anyhoo, if any of my readers want an invitation to join the service, leave me a comment on this post and I will see what I can do.  You need to give me your e-mail address, but that should go without saying.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

New Recipe-Brined Smoked Whole Chicken

I had planned on smoking a whole chicken for our Fourth of July dinner, but my brother-in-law Mark generously suggested we grill some pork tenderloins and brats he had purchased and we did that instead.  Actually, I used the smoker that I was gifted by my good friends Lynne and Mike for the pork, and it couldn't have worked out better.  Brats on the grill over indirect heat are always a treat, and a fine feast was held.
But, I still had the roaster I had been planning to smoke.  So after dark on Monday, I mixed up a brine of 2 liters of water, 1/2 cup of kosher salt and brown sugar each and added a tablespoon of black peppercorns and a handful of rosemary and thyme to the solution.  I cut the backbone out the bird with my kitchen shears, and put both the bird and brine solution in a gallon ziploc bag.  I squeezed all the air out of the bag before sealing it and plopped it in a tray that I stashed in the refrigerator for 4 (maybe it was 5) hours.  I then drained the brine solution from the bag and rinsed the bird before placing it in a new gallon bag, that I left open and deposited it into the fridge.  There it stayed for 2 days. 
Last night, I fired up the smoker and when the firepot was ready, I put the bird on the grates, bone side down and weighted it down with a brick wrapped in foil.  After 2 1/2 hours, Brian and I went to look at the chicken.  Where the brick didn't cover the fowl, the skin was a dark brown,  and since my instant read thermometer said it was at 170°, I pulled it onto a platter and brought it inside to rest.
The breast meat, due to the brining, was moist and succulent, and Brian ate a leg, a wing and a couple big hunks of breast meat, telling me it was among the best chickens I had ever prepared.  I sampled some as well, while packing up the leftovers for the refrigerator, and I have to agree.  The brining keeps the meat tender and moist, and the herbs flavor the meat.  Butterflying the chicken allows for even cooking of the entire fowl, and the smoking with soaked mesquite chunks and apple wood logs adds that extra special flavor.  I think the drying out process helps the skin to crisp nicely as well.  It takes a bit of time, but the results are definitely worth it.
A big thanks to Mike and Lynne for the gift of their smoker.  My summer grilling schedule just got a bit busier.

My day at Slows

I've been trying to eat lunch at Slows Bar B Q in Detroit on Wednesdays of late.  Not only is the food delicious, the staff is so friendly and accommodating that I feel at home.  It is one of the shining lights of Detroit, along with Michael Symon's Roast at the revitalized Book Cadillac Hotel.  Today was a fine example of superb hospitality.
When I strolled in at 4:30, my favorite Detroit based bartender, Heather, greeted me with a radiant smile, asking, "Are those Courts keeping you away from us?  Don't they know you need to be here earlier?"
I smiled, and explained, "Computer problems today, no court."
"What will you have?"  Per normal protocol, I let her pick my drink, although she made me taste the beer first.
Later on, she asked if I wanted to eat.  I explained that I was starving, but had promised my boys that we would deal with the leftovers in the fridge.  "A snack then.  What about a brisket enchilada?"
It was loud in the restaurant, and I couldn't hear her very well, but nodded in approval, figuring anything that came out of the kitchen would be scrumptious. My dish was served by Nurse Elizabeth, a bartender at the establishment two doors down from Slows, whom I had met a couple of Fridays past, on the day she had passed her nursing boards.  She recognized me (amazing to me as I was dressed in my work clothes, not a tropical shirt and shorts like when I first met her) and told me, "I have an interview tomorrow, and I am so nervous."  I tried to reassure her, telling her, "Why?  You;ll be great."  She smiled, and said, "I hope so."
Next, the wine buyer and manager, Tara came by.  She set a glass in front of me and poured the rest of a delightful Spanish white wine.  I accepted it with a smile and a thank you, and sipped.  The first impression was of green apples, but as it breathed, the mineral flinty-ness took over and I noted a delicate finish.  Served chilled, it was perfect for summer, and when Tara returned to inquire, I advised her of my impressions.  She smiled and said she thought the same things about the wine.
Heather, returning to my place at the bar, asked, "You just have wine bottles appear in front of you?"
"When I'm lucky," I replied.
My beer was gone and Heather returned.  "Something else?" she inquired.
"What do you recommend?"
"You usually move on to bourbon," she responded.  "You want me to pick?"
"I always do.  I trust you."
She poured me a couple of fingers in a rocks glass, and I saw her inhaling the aroma before she set my drink before me.  "It smells really good today." she advised.
"That's good.  I though maybe it had gone bad."  She shook her head, and moved off to serve another patron at the busy bar.
At 5 or so, Heather advised me, "I'm leaving now.  Your lunch was on me."
I stared at her, dumbstruck and speechless.  Finally, I managed, "Can I tip you, at least?" failing to thank her properly.
She grinned at me.  "Next time.  You will be back, right?"
"You can count on that."
I let the new bartender pick out my next bourbon, after my choice was found to be wanting, both on the shelf and in the reserves.  Tara, as she left, came by to bid me farewell, and I made a point to thank her for the wine.
I never had a chance to wish Nurse Elizabeth the best of luck at her interview, but it was busy and I didn't want to be a distraction.
I love Detroit.  I don't venture into the more questionable neighborhoods, but with reasonable precautions, it is a great place to visit.  And if you ever get a chance to go to Slows, try the pulled pork or the brisket.  It's so good, you could plotz.
All in all, as Richard Dreyfus said in Let it Ride:  "I'm having a very good day."