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  • Location:
    Miami, Florida
  • Interests
    BBQing, photography and spending time with my family.
  • Grill
    Big Steel Keg

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  1. Hello fellow KG forum members! Last Tuesday, my wife brought home some green plantains, so I decided to make some "Mariquitas con Mojo". Although mojo typically refers to a type of marinade made with a few different ingredients, the mojo that I'm referring to here is more of a simple tangy garlic sauce. Some people get all complicated and roast their garlic and add a ton of ingredients to their mojo, but I personally think that all of that is overkill. In my opinion, simplicity is the key to a good mariquita appetizer. "Mariquitas" are crispy chips or strips made from fried green plantains. The different variations are thin round chips, thick round chips, thin long strips and thick long strips. Personally, I like the thin long strips the best because they are very crispy, easy to bite and hold much more garlic mojo than the round chips do. With mariquitas and with mojo, there is no right or wrong, just preference. Whatever you like, that's what you should make. After all, it's your food, so do what makes you happy! For the mojo sauce, take about 10 garlic cloves (yes, I like a lot of garlic), mince them and add them to a bowl. Then, squeeze about three to four limes, depending upon the size and how juicy they are, into the same bowl. Make sure that you strain the limes as you're squeezing them in order to keep the pulp and the seeds out. Next, add about three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to this mix. Finally, add approximately three tablespoons of cold water to reduce the acidity of the lime juice and also add a couple of pinches of kosher salt into the bowl. Mix these ingredients thoroughly and put the bowl into the refrigerator. By the way, this is not a set recipe, so feel free to add or subtract whatever you feel like adjusting so that it tastes good to you. Next, you'll need to get some green plantains. Here in Miami, you can find them in most grocery stores. Make a slit into the outer peel of the plantain from one end to the other, then remove the peel. This will leave you with the hard banana that resides inside the peel. If you want round chips, use a mandoline or a knife to cut the chips to your desired thickness. If you want long strips, use a mandoline or a vegetable peeler. For this cook, I used my vegetable peeler, laid the banana down on a cutting board and worked my way from one end of the banana to the other. Each time a thin strip came through the vegetable peeler, I placed it into a bowl with icy cold water. The icy water prevents each strip from sticking together. When the ice melts, just add more ice to the bowl. In a large skillet, place about an inch and a half of vegetable oil in and heat it to approximately 375 degrees. I used a Thermapen to make sure that I was at the right temperature. Since I had prepared very thin strips, my total fry time was approximately 45 seconds. Whenever possible, I ask my wife to do the frying so that I can eat the mariquitas as they come out of the skillet (finger tip in image courtesy of my wife). Once you remove the fried plantain strips from the oil, place them into a bowl lined with a paper towel to soak up the excess oil. At this point, I like to lightly salt them, but that's entirely up to you, your doctor and your blood pressure medicine. When you're done frying up your plantains, you can either pour the mojo sauce over them all or serve them separately and let your family and friends eat them plain or dunk them into as much of the mojo sauce as they desire. This is one of my favorite appetizer dishes of all time. If you've never had them, try them and I guarantee that you'll get hooked! Thank you for looking and enjoy the pics!
  2. ck, here are a couple of shots from a different year's hog cook which should show how the lid and ash strainer work on the Caja China box. In this pic, both pieces are together. Notice the two sets of carry handles on each side. In this pic, the pieces are separated and the ash is being removed. Notice that the main lid is still in place and the heat has not escaped during the ash removal process.
  3. ck, thank you! By the way, the ash actually never gets into the cooking chamber. If you look closely at the lid design, the charcoal is on a secondary strainer lid placed on top of the main, heavy gauge steel lid that seals the box. In Kamado terms, think Kick Ash Basket. You periodically lift the secondary strainer lid, shake the coals so that the ash falls into the depression in main lid left by the lifting of the secondary strainer lid, then shovel the ash into a large metal ash bucket. This completely eliminates the ash, which acts as an insulator when it's between the hot charcoal briquette and the metal of the lid. As a side note, when I was between the ages of roughly eight and ten, my father actually built a hog cooking pit out of stacked concrete blocks (no mortar) and would light the briquettes within the pit, then then lay the hog on a sandwich of rebar, which would act as a holding and turning device, then cover the top with corrugated steel sheets. He would then add branches to the charcoal from a guava tree that we had in our yard and actually smoked the hog while cooking it. Obviously, this was way before we had a Caja China box, but this just shows that there are many ways to achieve the same results. The main difference between the two methods is that since the cinder block method wasn't as sealed as the Caja China box, it would take hours longer to finish cooking the hog.
  4. Hello fellow KG forum members! Being that my parents are both Cuban and I've never had the privilege of stepping foot on the island, I have always tried to learn as much as possible from them when it comes to authentic Cuban cuisine. Since I was born and raised here in Miami, Florida, I've had almost every conceivable Cuban dish that there is. One of my favorite traditions is the Christmas Eve whole hog roast. Many, many years ago, my wife's uncle (who happens to own a metal shop) built a "Caja China" for my father using the specifications learned over the many years of trial and error. Although it's not the prettiest thing, it is functional and it gets the job done better than the mass-produced boxes that are out there. The trick is really the sealing of the box (high heat transfer efficiency) and the heavy gauge steel lid holding the heat source (uniform and consistent heat transfer). The separate ash removal tray that was built into the main cover just makes life easier to keep things going throughout the cook because charcoal, once covered with ash, must have the ash removed regularly (without opening the box) so that it can continue to burn evenly and radiate its heat to the lid. Below are some pics that I had from a cook that my father and I did a few years back. When sourcing a whole hog, we either pre-order one at our local Publix grocery store or pick out a live one at one of the local farms that raise hogs for slaughter. We always try to get one between 75 and 85 pounds because it becomes a little more difficult to stuff anything larger into our box. This one was roughly 90 pounds and we had to cut the feet off in order to make it fit. Over the years, my father has shown me where to cut the bones so that the hog lays flat, where to make the incisions for stuffing butter patties, how to make his homemade marinade and where/how to inject it. I swear that when we're done with the cook and our family and friends dig in, they always tell us that this is the best pork that they've ever had. Personally, I have to agree with them! After approximately 12 hours of marinating, the hog is loaded up and tied into the spacers. The spacers keep the hog "floating" inside the box so that the heat circulates all the way around it. The whole box is also slightly tilted so that during the entire cook, the drippings run out through a purge hole at one extreme end of the box. I always have a small metal bucket under the aluminum drip tube so that the drippings don't make a slippery mess on the ground. You only make that mistake once! Here, the charcoal is preheating before it gets spread out to the edges of the lid. A common mistake that box cookers make is to leave the charcoal in the middle. This is a no-no because it concentrates the heat source directly over the middle of the hog. The idea is to heat from the edges and circulate around the hog, just like in Kamado cooking when you're using a diffuser. In this pic, the hog was turned over for the first time. Notice that the color is beginning to change and the skin is toasting up. When the hog is almost done, THEN you spread the charcoal across the top of the lid so that you can give the skin a final, even crisping. Here, the hog is done and about to be pulled out. By this time, the whole family is standing by like vultures so that they can each tear out a piece of the crispy pork skin, which tastes the best when it's hot and coming right out of the box. In this pic, I'm cutting the ties holding the spacers together so that we can get the hog onto the cutting tray. Here's the hog, about to be devoured! Notice the crispy skin cracking just from moving it from the spacers to the cutting tray. If you've never cooked a whole hog this way or have never attended a whole hog cook, I insist that you immediately add it to your bucket list! Yes, the whole process is something that has to be seen at least once in your lifetime and the outcome is THAT good! Thank you for looking and enjoy the pics!
  5. BSA, the best answer I could give you is, sort of, but not exactly. I did use TQ, but I didn't use any water. I rubbed it right onto the pork belly, then added in my maple syrup into one zip-loc bag and turbinado sugar into the other. When the water is drawn out of the pork belly, it ends up looking like a brine, though obviously not as watery.
  6. Hello fellow KG forum members! Again, going through old pics, I came across these of a homemade bacon cook done from cured pork bellies. On one slab, I used maple syrup and on the other, I went with straight turbinado brown sugar. These were smoked with apple and cherry for 12 hours. After, I foiled them up and put them in the freezer for a day. After pulling them from the freezer the next day, I simply lifted off the skin. It's easier to do this now than to cut it off beforehand. Into the slicer they went. Mmmmm! BACON!!! Fortunately, I didn't have to waste any vacuum packaging because we ate this all in one sitting! Just kidding. I divided them into smaller ziploc bags and gave them out to my family, reserving some for our home, of course! As always, thank you for looking and enjoy the pics!
  7. John, you're going to love this, I promise! It's easy and the results are truly satisfying. Plus, you can do sticks and flat jerky with the cannon. Even better, you can buy many different pre-packaged seasonings or make your own. Finally, the meat is another variable that you can control, so the combinations are endless. Enjoy it in good health! So these have to be refrigerated after they are made and vacuum sealed? John, even though these have cure in them, they're not fully dehydrated, so I always refrigerate them. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. The only project with cure that I don't refrigerate are flat jerky strips. Reburg, tell me about it! So much is going on here that it gets the noggin working overtime. Oh, and yes, I extrude directly onto the grate and then smoke. The first foot or so is practice, so you'll likely mess that up before you get your cannon trigger pull and your gun's forward motion dialed in. Just take that messed-up extruded beef rope and put it back into the mix. Nothing goes to waste, so practice all you want. Best of luck to you!
  8. "Fauxstrami". LOL!!! I love it! Phil, on this particular cook, I went with straight CBP, nothing else. Why? I don't know. I just get in that mood sometimes. LRJ, I know that my low-'n-slow favorite temperature is 225 degrees, so that's accurate. From memory, I think I pulled this one at an IT of 195. Adder, the MES still sits in my terrace, but I haven't used it in a while because I haven't had a chance to jump on the repair of the heating element. One of the contacts came apart and I haven't ordered a replacement. One day... I'm going the bottom round route next time. The faux way has always been good but there has to be something better. Thanks for the nudge. Captain, KG is a great place for nudges. God know that the cooks I see here are what keep me going. Best of luck to you on your bottom round pastrami cook!
  9. LOL! Leaving rock-hard frozen chicken in a bowl covered with plastic wrap is my wife's way of letting me know that I'm doing the cooking that night. Team, I actually chose to do them direct for this cook, so I left the diffuser out. I laid the strips on the grate when the grill hit 350, but I did open up four times to brush and flip them all, so that took some time away from the overall cook time and lowered the average temperature quite a bit. My thought for leaving the diffuser out was to get a slightly crispy exterior while trying not to burn the sauce. I left the grate on the upper position and only experienced an occasional flare-up while the lid was up and I was brushing and turning.
  10. John, you're going to love this, I promise! It's easy and the results are truly satisfying. Plus, you can do sticks and flat jerky with the cannon. Even better, you can buy many different pre-packaged seasonings or make your own. Finally, the meat is another variable that you can control, so the combinations are endless. Enjoy it in good health!
  11. Hello fellow KG forum members! I was digging through my old pics tonight and ran across a Pastrami cook that I did some time ago. For those who have never attempted making Pastrami, YOU MUST TRY THIS! I started off with two packs of corned beef brisket. I soaked the briskets in water for a while to remove the salty brine. Here they are, all dried up and seasoned with freshly cracked coarse black pepper. I mixed pellets in the AMNPS, but I honestly can't remember what woods I used. Here they are, almost ready to be pulled out. Here they are, pulled out and resting on foil. Looking and smelling good! After a full rest, into the slicer they went. Piles o' Pastrami goodness! Oh, and yes, the chef helped himself to a few while the slicer was running. Here, I put them in order before bringing out the vacuum packaging machine. Finally, here they are in the individual vacuum packages. My share was in the refrigerator while these went out to family and friends. Again, thank you for looking and enjoy the pics!
  12. Well, I just found a few more "before" pics for a snack stick project that I had done. Here they are: This pic shows the ball of ground beef mixed with the seasoning and the cure right before it went into the jerky gun. This pic just looks cool, in my opinion. Here are the extruded ropes of mixed ground beef laid out on one of the smoker's shelves and that's the jerky gun next to it. I apologize for the late entry, but it seems as though I'm getting sloppy with my image archiving. Thanks for looking and enjoy the pics!
  13. I used lean ground beef (93%/7%) for this particular batch. You can use ground beef from the store or you can grind your own. This decision is completely up to you, but it's recommended that you do use lean ground beef. Thanks. Thought that might have been your approach. Guess I really need to con my brother out of some more venison. I can hear the discussion now.... yeah you can have the deer meat but I want half the snack sticks... Works for me! BTW -- the instructions are on-line: https://www.himtnjerky.com/instructions/Instr_Jerky.pdf https://www.himtnjerky.com/instructions/Instr_SnackStick.pdf Smoke, venison snack sticks would be AWESOME!!! A 50/50 split with your brother sounds like it'll work out great for the both of you. The contractor that built my best friend's cabin in North Carolina hunts deer and bear. The last time we were up there, he promised to give me some meat from both. I've had venison before, but have never tried bear. I'm definitely interested in tasting it, though. Depending upon how it tastes and how much meat I end up getting, I might just grind some up and make some snack sticks and/or slice some up and make some jerky strips. Oh, by the way, where were these .PDF documents when I was typing my butt off?
  14. I used lean ground beef (93%/7%) for this particular batch. You can use ground beef from the store or you can grind your own. This decision is completely up to you, but it's recommended that you do use lean ground beef. After tearing up the place, I finally came across the instructions that came with the Hi-Mountain Jerky package. They are, as follows: • For every pound of ground meat, they state to add 2.5 teaspoons of their jerky seasoning and 2 teaspoons of their cure. • To this mixture, they state to add 0.25 cup of ice water per pound of ground meat. • They state to mix these ingredients together for 5 minutes, or until sticky. • The next section talks about stuffing the snack stick casings, but since I used a jerky cannon and extruded my own ropes (no casing), I skipped this step completely. • They then state to refrigerate to cure overnight. I just left the extruded ropes on a tray in the refrigerator and covered them with plastic wrap. • The final step is to remove them from the refrigerator and let them stay at room temperature for 1 hour, then smoke at 200 degrees for 2 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. • When done, cut into sticks and enjoy or refrigerate/freeze to enjoy later! I hope this helps and good luck to all of you!
  15. Thank you for the compliments, folks! Wicked, I used up all of the teriyaki sauce on the chicken or I would've definitely drenched that rice with it!
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