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Monday, June 23, 2008

Here's the Birthday Girl!

Hi! I'm Jessie and today is my first birthday. Mommy and Daddy had a little birthday party for me. They made me wear a funny hat, and daddy made me an extra special dinner with rabbit meat and vennison!

Afterwards, they gave me a new squeaky toy which I really like to play with. I had so much fun, but my big sister Jamie just slept all day.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Grill Talk

Gee, it's been a long time since I posted anything. Blogging for me seems to be a binge thing. I get on a roll and post a bunch of things in a row than I go dormant. Oh well, it's not like I get paid for doing this! While I may not be posting much, I have been cooking a TON of barbecue. I made a bunch of new grill mods, the biggest of which has been the addition of a rotisserie to my smoker. Rotisseries were hot in the 70's, and then seemed to go out of favor. What a shame. After experimenting with it for about a year, I am now convinced that rotisserie is the best way to cook whole poultry. If one has a standard gas grill, adding a rotisserie kit to it is fairly straightforward. All commercial gas grills come with pre-drilled mountings for the motor and the spit rod support, so all you have to do is get the kit for your brand of grill (or there are universal kits) and bolt it on.

For my fiery frankenstein project it was not so simple. I had to drill a hole through the end of the smoker so the spit rod could pass through and connect to the motor, then I had to come up with a way to support the opposite end of the spit rod. At the time I bought my rotisserie kit, the longest spit rod I could find was a 31 incher. My cooking chamber is 36 inches wide, so I fashioned a cross brace out of angle iron and attached the spit rod support to it and set the cross brace a few inches in from the opposite end of the grill.

This set up works very well, and allows me to do a few things. By sliding the cross brace and the little bushing that sits in it over, I can convert my smoker to just half rotisserie and still use my normal grill racks for other things (here I'm doing baby back ribs and a whole turkey at the same time).

By using the full length of the spit rod, I can do multiple birds (here I'm doing two Chinese style ducks).

The nicest thing about roto-cooking poultry is the even cooking and the fact that the skin is not marred by sitting on a rack or soggy from laying in its own juice. As the bird rotates, the juices keep getting pulled back into the center of the meat by gravity. The meat stays incredibly moist (I still brine my birds as well for maximum flavor and juiciness). By slow cooking on the rotisserie, with just the heat from the side firebox, then adding a little charcoal to the main chamber during the last 10 minutes I can get great flavor, and a nice crispy skin that looks like it belongs on the cover of Gourmet magazine.

In addition to poultry, rotisseries work great for large roasts. Here I'm making a leg of lamb.

As you can see from the finished product it came out perfect!

As our annual family reunion appoaches, I was trying to come up with something unique to do food wise. Every year we have a theme, and try to tie in the food, music, costumes and events. Being an olympic year, we chose Ancient Greece for 2008. What could be more appropriate than rotisserie cooking a whole lamb while dressed in a toga! A few months ago I started designing a rotisserie cooker that I could build here at my home in Connecticut then disassemble and bring out to Indiana where the reunion is held. I bought an extra long spit rod (41 inches) and all the necessary brackets, bushings, etc. as well as a high torque motor that can turn up to 50lbs. I made braces out of angle iron to hold everything up, and planned to make a temporary roasting pit out of cinder blocks. While this all looked good on paper (and layed out on my kitchen table, the only way I could be sure it would work was to do a test run.

I built the cinder block pit, placed my rotisserie rig on top of it and built a charcoal fire inside. I wasn't going to cook a whole lamb for my test, but a couple of chickens that were on sale for 69 cents a pound found their way onto the spit rod instead.
An hour and a half later they were cooked to perfection. While the birds were roasting, I took some baby potatoes, dressed 'em with olive oil, salt & pepper and some fresh herbs, then wrapped in tin foil and dropped 'em directly on the coals to cook. Sauteed a little broccoli rabe in olive oil, garlic and red chile flakes and voila!