Thursday, August 28, 2014

Family Friendly Labor Day Grill

It's your last chance to grill before school starts! Well, some of you in other parts of the country have already started school, but Labor Day weekend does serve as the other pillar to Memorial Day that means summer is over, fall shall begin.

Here is a post I wrote for Char-broil. It's a recipe for grilled chicken with my secret to sneaking vegetables to my kids without their knowing it. Spoiler alert: I wait till they are so weak with hunger they'll eat anything I put in front of them. No, not really. To find out you'll just have to read the whole post here.

If you feel more like steak this weekend, you should read How to Make Perfect Sear Marks. In that post there is a contest to win a jar of pickles. I know that's not an Ipad or Ipod or I-something, but they are really great pickles, if I may be so bold.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Perfect Sear Marks on your Steak

We all love those perfect crosshatch marks on our steaks It's macho, so they say, but as a woman griller, I'd like to call it Facho (that's the feminine of, um, acho?)

Anyhoo, it's not that hard. Don't let those boys tell you differently or that you need a pair of not-to-be-named body parts we gals don't have. Yes I've actually been told that. To my face. It's a wonder I didn't lash out. Oh right, I totally did. That was quite a hospital bill. No, just kidding. At least I think so. Sometimes my dreams are really really vivid....

Here is the totally FACHO way to get perfect sear marks. It's a post I did for Char-broil so you'll have to click here to read it. This is what is called a teaser. But do click on it. I'm happy with the post and I did part of it in California and part of it in Seattle. Can you guess what photos are from where? First one to get it right gets a jar of pickles mailed to them in the fall. Seriously.

This post just turned into a contest without my even planning it. It's like my fingers are possessed. Or my brain is simply way behind because we're experiencing our busiest catering season ever and I'm so bleary eyed that my hands are now in charge. They certainly have been reaching for a lot of chocolate lately with little to no resistance from my brain. Those hands.

So go read the post and comment on the Char-broil post or here which photo you think was taken in California. Hint: You may want to read the post I wrote while in California. Certain people are excluded. You know who you are.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Big Pig in Big Jim

We've been smoking a lot of whole pigs lately for events, but this particular pig was so big, it didn't fit in our smokers at the shop. We have two Freidrich smokers that have basket carousel inside where you place the meat. It's important to keep the carousel balanced, however, or you can have a derailment. This hog from Kapowsin was definitely going to derail the smokers.

We had to bring in Big Jim, our new-to-us smoker and the larger of our two mobile smoker. Eric slept in the van at the shop in three-hour increments to get this big boy done.

One of the reasons I want to post some photos of the whole hog is because we will be doing a whole hog night for Fare Start in September.

The other reason is because some people don't realize how much the pig...looks like a pig when you smoke it. We are so removed from our food that it can be a little shocking when we see meat so close to its original form and not packaged on a tray with some plastic wrap.
The construction crew who ordered this pig were in hog heaven!
While an apple is traditional, we had a little fun with this one for our client.
Here are some more photos. Eric will claim to have not a marketing bone in his body, but he's the one who set this up and took photos for "whatever" (you know, like our facebook page or our website...).
I didn't crop out the van, his bed for the night.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Week of Seasonal Grilled Veggies

Keeping a fridge full of healthy options in the summer months for me is a challenge because we work so so much. It's a pity too because summer is when there is such a bounty. This is the time to be making summer grilled steak salads or grilled shrimp salads with greens and tomatoes from your garden.

But for some of us, summer gets too hectic for gardening and meal planning. Here is an efficient way to keep the fridge chock full of vegetables in any season. It was a fun post to write because, well, I had tons of healthy and delicious food to eat all week that wasn't some variation of the quesadilla, my go-to food for when there is nothing in the house but random catering leftovers and corn tortillas.

Read the post here.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Smokin' Pete's BBQ at Ballard Seafood Fest this Weekend

We will be at the Ballard Seafood Fest again this year. Come down to Booth #15 for some Barbecue Shrimp and Clam Fritters, along with our regular festival fare of Pulled Pork & Pulled Chicken Sliders plus coleslaw, mini pecan pies, lemonade and other treats.

We are getting ready for the Shrimp Swarm.

Our booth is on Leary Avenue, just off Market street, near the Teriyaki place driveway. I'm sure we will be near the grumpy Cajun guy, as always. In four years, the guy hasn't yet said hello back. But other than mister unhappy fried alligator Cajun crank, we absolutely love the Ballard Seafood Fest. Great food, great activities for the kids, and right in our neighborhood.

See you there!


Friday, July 4, 2014

3rd of July Pie


I'll be posting all about huckleberries and pie in the next few days, but first look at this beautiful pie Eric made with the huckleberries we picked.

It didn't make it to the 4th. It was devoured, still warm, by my family last night.

We saved Eric a (small) piece. He'd left early because, well, barbecue folk have to get up early on the 4th of July. They have to work all day and into the night. I'm just about to head out to join him for the first of many many caterings and pick up orders. Just had to share this beauty first.

Happy 4th of July everyone.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Smokin' Pete's at the Swedish Club on the 4th

There are still a few more tickets available at the Swedish Club on Dexter. Some of the best views of the Lake Union fireworks can be seen from the decks of this time-honored club. We'll be there smoking up the parking lot (only using up ONE of the precious parking spots, also for sale in the ticket packages).

Dinner runs from 6:30 to 9pm followed shortly by an amazing display of July 4th power and awesomeness. There is a band and two bars as well.

They will sell out the deck spots for sure, but have a large capacity inside watching from their huge windows wrapping around the lake side view. For tickets go to the Swedish Club's website, or call them at 206-283-1090. We'll see you there!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cater, cater, cater...be careful what you wish for!

We've fed the crew working on the 520 bridge a few times this year. Looks peaceful here but it was on a barge surrounded by construction equipment. We wore hard hats and orange vests too!
It appears that all my scheduled posts for the past two weeks didn't post so I'm just doing a quickie until I can figure out what happened.

I've been a busy girl.

For example, how does one cater 1750 people one day and then turn around and cater 900 the next, departing at 6am? One does it with some difficulty. Add in eight caterings the next day down a few staffers, followed by two caterings by just the owners, because you have to give people days off but not yourselves, and, well...I'm sore.

But that's not all, dear Sally and Dick, no that is not all I can do. Because there was a tiny space in the schedule, I fit in a brown belt karate test in the mix.

Yep. I'm sore. And though I got some dirty looks by the ladies I hired to clean my house yesterday (like this lady can't even pick up before we come? And did you look at her fridge?) I didn't care because no one has managed the household for weeks and frankly after being buried by caterings, I just couldn't die by burial of dog hair.

Look for blog posts in the next day or so that will come before this one. First I have to get the kids up, make their lunches, drive them to the kids club, pick up the laundry for Pete's, run to work, help get the 95 guest catering out, then take the smaller delivery, then join the other catering, and come back to do the May books for the accountant. Then I'll see what's going on with the blog...

Monday, June 23, 2014

Corn and Tacos: Playing with my new camera


Depth of field and composition were only things I could dream about with my phone camera. My new Nikon makes it easy. Here are some shots from a dinner in Vegas, on Cinquo de Mayo with the Char-broil group. The tacos were prettier than they tasted, but the corn was as good as it looked.



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How to Make an Origami Parchment Box for Baking Seafood

I know in Italian cooking, steam-baking seafood in parchment with herbs and broth is a common way to cook. At a cooking class I took at Le Cordon Bleu in Las Vegas, chef Ramos put a Pacific Rim spin on that method by cooking a seafood medley in origami boxes made of parchment.

He and his students showed us, but it was too quick for my fumbling hands. Besides, I knew I'd seen the box pattern in one of my son's origami books. Here is what the boxes looked like once folded.



I found step by step instructions here for making an origami box, also called "Masu" in Japanese. For the parchment box, simply make two of these - one for the bottom and one for the top.

Place bottom of boxes on cookie sheet and add raw seasoned seafood, herbs, vegetables and about two small ladles of broth - not enough to make it mushy, but enough liquid to get some steam going. Put top on securely. Bake in pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your seafood.

You may empty the contents once cooked, but if you are going through the trouble of making the box, why not place the whole box in a dish? Simply remove the top and serve.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Cooking and Photography in Vegas!

I blog for Char-broil, in case you didn't see the giant badge to the right. Earlier in the month I had the opportunity to go to Vegas to meet with the other All-Star Bloggers and higher-ups at Char-broil, and to see the new line of grills rolled out at the hardware show.

Sure, we did some work, but we also dined, wined, saw the amazing Cirque du Soliel show, Mystere.

As is traditional at our gatherings, we also  learned. Each year we meet focuses on some part of our development as bloggers, personalities, and cooks. Last year, for instance, the focus was on video, with a training and (gentle) critique session with former anchor Elizabeth ONeil. Her new cookbook, the Slim Down South, is doing very well.

This year we were lucky to have a joint cooking lesson by Chef Ramos at Le Cordon Bleu paired with a food photography lesson by photographer Matt Aremendariz, who wrote Food Photography for Bloggers. Chef Ramos, who I totally wanted to hide in my luggage and take home with me,  took us through two dishes - a seafood boullion - cooked in a really cool origami parchment box - and a skirt steak with thai chili butter, served with and sauteed vegetables and shaped sushi rice.


This is what my two final dishes looked like. As usual, it was challenging to take photos while cooking. I'll be doing a separate post on how to make the origami parchment boxes.



Matt naturally talked about composition and lighting. He gave us great tips for whether we were shooting with a phone camera, or something better. I tend to obsess about lighting and want to work on my composition this year. The new camera has helped my photography tremendously. Check out the dessert!

Then they brought out dessert. Oh yeah. It was gorgeous and just begging to be photographed.


The students took turns telling us about the process. They were nervous, which was sweet, but also reminds me of how so many in the cooking profession don't seek the limelight. They like it back in the kitchen, protected by those swinging stainless steel doors. The Food Network, blogging, and social media have made cooking this very public profession. Hopefully, there will always be a place for the shy wallflowers who quietly do their magic. I'm much more trustful of their talents, far less of those that spout at the top of their lungs.

Our teachers were of the former ilk. Kind, seemingly humble geniuses. Chef Ramos was one of those chefs with this calm humility, while underneath I imagine he was shaking his head, laughing at all of us running around his kitchen, making a mess, missing steps because we were too focused taking pictures (me), or unable to do an entire dish without written instructions.

It was truly a special experience and just one of the reasons I love working with Char-broil. The other reason all the fun I have with my fellow all stars. But what happens in Vegas...well you know.



Monday, June 2, 2014

My New Camera!

Finally. Julie has bought a real camera. It only took five years since her cookbook came out.

I'll stop talking in the 3rd person. I bought a Nikon D5200 and picked up a better lens for food photography. The camera store clerk said I wouldn't be satisfied with the lens that came with the camera. While that may be true soon, he has no idea how low the bar is.

I'm just thrilled with it. Look for me steppin' up my photography game this year! And yeah, I know this shot isn't great, but it shows you the camera, OK?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Brisket in Cali with Friends

brisket mop
I visited a friend in California a few weeks back on the way to my trip to Vegas with the Char-broil folks (my next post!). The night before my arrival my friend said her boyfriend Ray had bought a big ol' brisket and was excited to cook it with me.

Oh. Yay, I thought. I get to cook barbecue on my vacation.

But then I arrived to sunny California. Birds were chirping, hummingbirds buzzing, a rooster crowed from afar...and a giant brisket and wood pile beckoned.
smoker with wood pile


I couldn't remember when I'd stayed up all night nursing a brisket. When you own a barbecue restaurant, smoking a whole brisket involves simply saying, "Hey, we got an extra brisket I can take?" But smoking a brisket on your own is an experience. Should be an experience. More than any other barbecue, because of the time it takes to wrangle that meat into tenderness, a brisket forces you to stop and truly take time. I've said it before, but this is one of the reasons I like barbecue: it forces me, Tasmanian She-Devil, to slow down.

We had blast. Ray took the late shift, I took the early morning shift. I'd also just purchased my new camera (a Nikon D5200) and had fun learning the photo ropes while documenting the process.

Ray bought a beautiful 15.5 pound brisket from Corralitos market, well-known for their sausages (he bought those too). It was a perfect example of what Plato meant when he said, "The beginning is the most important part of the work." Starting with quality meat makes all the difference.

Once we got the fire started, Ray rubbed the brisket. It was part Mansmith's BBQ Rub, part spices from their pantry (salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, garlic powder & brown sugar). This was the photo where I discovered the "food" auto setting on my camera. Nice huh?
brisket spice rub

We loaded the smoke box with charcoal and wood. I like the burn consistency of charcoal and frankly wanted a little bit of sleep. Straight wood requires more attention. Ray then did the most important step of the process:

He donned his home state of Texas apron. Now we were ready. 

Later, much later, when the brisket was almost done, and we'd had a few cocktails, the shirt under that apron came off. There was a trucking hat too, but I think I accidentally erased that photo.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First that deliciously rubbed 15.5 pound brisket was placed lovingly on a trusty, well-used offset smoker, at about 11:30 pm. The wood was, naturally, local chunks of white oak. He put a drip pan with some beer underneath and closed the lid.

Ray stoked the fires, maintaining a nice 200-225 degrees, until about 3 am. I'd gone to bed long before as I was on 6 am (ish) duty. Right before he went to bed, he loaded  up the wood and charcoal to sustain it on the longer stretch. It's fine for a cook temperature to get a little high or a little low here and there as long as overall you maintain a consistent heat.

When I woke up, the dial was at about 175 and easily got back up to 225 once I loaded it back up. I turned the brisket around (not over) to put the other side closer to the firebox. 
Smoker temperature dial

The birds were chirping, the roosters crowing, and red-tailed hawks started their first hunt of the day. Such a different scent than the Pacific NW, too. Not quite tropical, but a hint of the tropics. While Seattle is fresh in a ferny-rainy-woody-mushroomy way, California carries the scent of exotic flowers, tall dense grasses, and ocean breezes. And of course this morning mixed in the scent of wood smoke and slow-cooked meat drippings.

Once everyone was up, coffee in hand, the moppin' began. Party guests were coming over at about 2pm, so that put us at the sweet spot of 14-16 hours. 


When folks arrived, Ray started making his Rockin' Rooster Sauce, which is a secret, but had a really nice balance of sweet and hot. After about an hour of sauce cooking and getting sauced, with an appetizer of smoked sausages that disappeared the moment they were sliced, the brisket was ready. With oohs and ahs, we all dug in.

And then? Well by then Julie was a little very shnockered and what photos she took were about as blurry as she was. It was also California, y'all, and so there might have been a really long series of what was left after we'd all eaten. Twenty shots of this. Dude.
all that's left of the brisket
brisket with BBQ sauce

The brisket was perfect. Tender, tender, tender. Smoke ring. Deckle melted like butter. Battle-worthy bark. And most importantly, laughs and stories with friends. We hit all the brisket buttons.






Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Meet Our New Rig: Big Jim

mobile BBQ smoker
We've added a second mobile smoker to our catering menagerie. We named this big guy after the man who built and sold him to us. Both the rig and man worked with Armadillo BBQ for ages, and we liked the fact that this smoker had good BBQ provenance.

We broke in Big Jim on a wedding catering with a whole pig. Seemed fitting. While our other smoker is certainly large enough to handle a whole hog or two, it's far smaller and lighter than this guy.
smoked pig


Here's to BBQ season (which, incidentally, has already begun). I'll be buried in pork drippings for the next few months, but will be posting as we go.

Happy BBQ & Grillin' Month!

Friday, May 16, 2014

What a May-ful! (And congrats to Big Bob Gibson BBQ, Grand Champs of Memphis in May!)

Boy am I behind. I have all kinds of posts in the pike, but this month has been so full of barbecue and grilling activities, I haven't had time to write: I'm too busy doing! It's a little like catching water in motion.

Coming up is about our Barbecue 101 class, Brisket with Friends, Vegas with Char-broil (also friends!), my new camera, caterings up the wazoo including some shots of a recent whole smoked pig we did for a wedding, and finally, a post about how to get perfect sear marks on your steak.

Until I get all that down on the virtual paper, here's a video interview I did with Pork Barrel BBQ at Memphis in May a few years back. Congrats to Big Bob Gibson BBQ for taking Grand Champion this year! That reminds me that I have to get Chris Lilly's new book, Fire & Smoke. when I do, I'll write a post about that too. What? You don't believe me?

I promise. Sometime. After I get through May. Barbecue season has arrived.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

*Cool* New Grill Brush

A surprise package came from Char-broil a few weeks ago - this cool new grill brush. It's to be used on a cold grill before you turn on the grill, or after it's been cool for awhile.

I normally brush my grill hot before and after a cook, but sometimes the after gets forgotten when everyone is hungry hungry hungry and I'm rushing to get something in the mouths of my little birds (and big daddy bird).

It worked great. I used it on a really sticky gross grill that someone - not me - hadn't cleaned properly. Not naming names, but there are only two adults in the household allowed to use the grill.... The nylon bristles were nice and tough and the slightly curved handle added leverage, which for a short person is really appreciated.

It also cleaned up quickly with hot water afterwards. I was afraid to use soap, but I'm quite certain that cleaning instructions came in the box. Only I didn't read them and it probably got recycled by now.

My only critique? I want the brushes to be blue and for it to say in huge letters COOL on the handle because I know that he-who-I-am-apparently-not-naming-in-this-post will use it hot. Totally inevitable. Even though I grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and said, "DON'T use this brush hot! OK? It's supposed to be used cold!"

That last bit may have been dramatically enhanced for effect, but I did tell him. And he will forget.


The best part? The brush came with a spare head. Just like Red Dwarf!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Brisket on a Gas Grill? Challenge accepted!

I was recently challenged by the folks at Char-broil to smoke a brisket on my TRU-Infrared gas grill. They know I am a habitual charcoal and stick burner gal, but that I also love grilling on the Quantum two-burner they sent me to try out. I blog for them so it's important to get to know their equipment. I love grilling up recipes like Easy Baby Back Ribs and Lamb Skewers with Mint Parsley Sauce, or writing about being a locavore for their site.

That said, as a barbecue restaurant owner (up until recently) and caterer, I have my ingrained blinders when it comes to brisket. Brisket is for me is the pinnacle of barbecue. It's far more difficult to get right than ribs or pork butt. And to do it right, it has to be done with a real smoker, real wood, or at the very least charcoal. Right?

Wrong. Turns out, the brisket I did on my little two-burner Quantum was fabulous. It was tender, smoky, had a great smoke ring...all my brisket buttons.

Read the full recipe here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Have you played with Picassohead?

Here is a fun program I just wanted to share. My kids and I can't get enough of Picassohead! It gives you the same satisfaction of wasting time that Solitaire does, but with much better results. Obviously it's been around for ages, but oddly there are no others that have saved to the gallery since 2003. Well, it's new to me. Just like all those shows on Netflix. I missed almost a decade of TV, so now I get to catch up five seasons at a time.

Here is one of my creations, titled Girl with Pink Hair. Yep. Thinking about going pink again.I swear the minute I passed 45, the grey started pouring out of my head. Down with grey, up with pink!

Girl with Pink Hair by julie


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Grilled Planked Cauliflower That Isn't Boring

Sometimes I think of my refrigerator as a chilled composting machine. I buy bushels of baby arugula and wild dandelion greens, age them until they are no longer edible, and then compost them in the bins outside. Maybe I'm just doing my part to subsidize small farmers.

Grilling veggies is a great way to get out of the salad rut. It punches up the flavor and texture to help them fight for the main stage of dinner. That's a tough slot in my household of carnivores, and I would be completely lying if I said my kids thought this was better than steak. Still, it was eaten. That's pretty awesome.

Cauliflower, the vegetable's answer to beige walls, boring neck ties, and the cubicle, is an excellent candidate for grilling. It needs help. It needs fire and flavor and some grill marks to break up the off-white color. With this easy recipe, you can make cauliflower exciting in only about 10 minutes. That's more than I can say about some people. I shall not name names but you know who you are.*

This is all you have to do. I'm not even going to format this as a recipe. Plank the cauliflower carefully by slicing thick, even slices. The more stem the better to help hold your little tree together. It tends to break apart, which is fine as you can see some smaller pieces below, just more work on the grill. Drizzle it with sesame oil and lightly coat both sides. Again, gently so as to keep them in their planks. Sprinkle sea salt.


Preheat grill on high for five minutes, then turn down to medium high. Grill planks for three minutes then flip with a spatula. Turn down to low and close the lid. Let them soften a little on this side, about five minutes or so. Turn off grill with the lid down and let rest in the warm grill for another 2 minutes.

Serve with fresh cracked pepper.

*I had a really long tangent written here that I thought was funny, but then decided no one would get it so I erased it. And since only two of you are reading this right now, keeping the star and explaining what I did is a little like talking to myself. Publicly. Blogs are a little like socially accepted Schizophrenia. My hair is a mess and my shirt is dirty while I write this too. And just so we are clear, this isn't the really long tangent I'd written originally and deleted. I simply have a bad habit of writing really long tangents that no one wants to read, especially when I'm explaining really long tangents. Help. I can't stop. Someone? Cauliflower?