Friday, March 4, 2011

Adventures in BBQ, Secret Recipies & the Joys of Eating Local - Pt.1

Its been a busy couple of weeks for Redroots and that suits me just fine! We've explored BBQ joints in Liberty city, eaten amazing local produce including lucious Loquats, catered a meal for 18 using local ingredients and been a guest on a radio show TWICE! This post weaves all that together with the added bonus of my special rib rub recipe, I've never shared it before, so here it goes. Sit back, relax and enjoy the local goodness...

Here's some of that amazing BBQ we ate at Mama Lucy's in Liberty city
As I mentioned, Redroots was invited to be a guest on a local radio show to talk about the joys of BBQ. While I am NOT a professional cook or BBQ expert I understand the deep roots and nuance of this style of cooking and can hold my own at the 'cue, but more importantly I know how to EAT it like a pro. My weak spot is baby back ribs and pulled pork...although I can confidently say NOTHING bad ever came off a barbecue grill. Simply put, BBQ is food for the soul, its smokey, delicious and satisfying to the core. If someone says they don't like BBQ...they are to be highly suspected...because lets be honest, that's just not normal.

The show I was asked to be on is called Listen305, it offers a fresh and down to earth take on a diverse spectrum of topics relevant to our community. It airs Mondays at 7pm on 880AM & live online at You can find a link to the enticing BBQ episode on the Listen305 website as well as on the Redroots-LocalGoodness Facebook page.

A few weeks ago I did my first Listen305 show (titled Eat305-Listen with your mouth full). I got a call from Kristin Jayd, friend & founder of the Homestead Farmers Market. She asked me if I'd like to join her on a radio show all about local food, our challenge was to prepare a meal for a group of people using ingredients from the market. We had a week to plan, source and execute and they would be recording the show LIVE as we cooked...say no more, that's my kind of challenge! We had a blast rustling up the ingredients, calling the farmers, cooking up a storm and extolling the joys of eating fresh & local! Below is the menu for the night, once you see the amazing line up you'll quickly realize eating local can be easy & delicious! The food, the company the conversation, it was all perfect. I can honestly say it was one of the best meals I've had in a while. You can listen to THAT show on the Listen305 site as well.  

Before we dive into the menu, I really want to stress the point that neither Kristin nor I are professional chefs. We're just two people who share in the common joy of preparing & eating good food with fresh, local ingredients. Please know that any one of these dishes can be easily prepared with basic tools and kitchen skills.

The fact that they look delicious is directly related the freshness of the ingredients combined with the imagination of the cooks that prepared them...doesn't take much more than that to put a great meal on the table. Think about it, these foods were in the ground, growing on trees (or swimming in the ocean in the case of the shrimp) a few days or hours before we prepared them. They can't help but be beautiful and fresh. And it didn't take any major effort or increased cost to get them. Just a  single trip to the farmers market and our imaginations is all we needed. So as you will see, eating local & buying local pays off in spades. Now on with the menu....  

Key West Pink Shrimp Ceviche by Redroots

Key West Pink Shrimp Ceviche served on Organic Avocado halves - featuring veggies, avo's and citrus from Bee Heaven Farm and finished with some AMAZING local sea salt from Midge at Florida Keys Sea Salt, you may think salt is salt...but boy are you mistaken! We served this up with some freshly fried corn tortilla chips from Morenos Tortilla Shop in Homestead, WOW.

Local Organic Greens Salad with Edible Flowers & FL Grapefruit Vinaigrette by Kristin Jayd

Organic Mixed Greens Salad with Edible Flowers & Grapefruit Vinaigrette - all ingredients sourced from Bee Heaven Farm. Light, crisp and oh so fresh. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.

Heirloom Tomato & basil Salad by Redroots

Fresh Heirloom Tomato & Basil Salad - Ingredients sourced from Teenas Pride and again, that amazing sea salt from the Florida Keys! It just punches up the flavor like you wouldn't believe!

Roast Root Veggie Soup & Red Pepper Drizzle by Kristin Jayd

Roast Potato, Turnip & Cauliflower Soup served with Roasted Red Pepper Drizzle - ingredients sourced from local conventional growers, Sam Accursio & Sons. This pureed soup was rich, creamy and very flavorful. The red pepper drizzle really opened up the flavors and gave it an awesome contrast. A simple dish that packs a big punch. 

Candied Kumquats by Redroots / Cheescake by Mrs. Redroots - Eugenia

Florida Orange & Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Candied Kumquats - Local kumquats, candied in local mango/lychee honey & spices served atop my wife's famous goat cheese cheesecake. Silky, sweet and with a hint of citrus,it was simple and amazing . The cheese came from Hani Khouri at Redland Mediterranean Organics.

Local Strawberry Sorbet by Kristin Jayd
Fresh Redland Strawberry Sorbet & Chocolate Goats milk Ice cream with Cocoa Nibs - Strawberries for the sorbet sourced from Acursio & Sons, honey from Bee Haven Farm and the chocolate ice cream was made by Hani Khouri at Redland Mediterranean Organics. The combo of fresh strawberries and rich chocolate went off like a firecracker.

Croqueta Tubbs - keepin' it real in pastel
Anyone who has spent more than five minutes in Miami knows that food is most definitely a "relevant topic" as it plays a major role in our daily lives. From the "cafecito" & butter drenched cuban tostadas at your local "ventanita" to sweet & briny stone crabs, crispy yet tender conch fritters and everything in between. Miami is hooked on food.

How much does Miami love its food? Here's a little known fact, Miami Vice's Sonny Crockett was originally named "Sonny Croqueta", after the city's deliciously famous Cuban import. His signature piece of wardrobe was to be a croqueta smeared wife beater & guayabera, but unfortunately the look & name didn't test well with focus groups outside of the 305...He was to be played by Steven Bauer or "Joecito" form Que Pasa USA. Fresh from Scarface success, "Joecito" was distraught upon hearing the news of the character shift, he was never the same again...this is of course ALL fiction, except for the part about Miamians loving food.

As usual, I digress...Miami is unequivocally a town built on guilty pleasures...of all sorts. And if the 80's taught us anything its that as long as there is a steady stream of illicit drugs and money being funneled through your city and all you have between you and the bad guys is a duo of hard-ass vice cops with pet gators, living on sail boats and driving million dollar cars on a civil servants salary, then you just cant keep a good thing down. 

And BBQ is most definitely a good thing and a stand out in the Magic City...particularly because GOOD barbecue is a relatively scarcity in these parts (see how we just brought it all back on track, its like this train never went of the rails...thank you for your patience)

Recently we headed out to Liberty City on a Sunday to find us some good 'cue, and we found it. Sitting there on NW 22nd Ave & 119th, looking somewhat weary and worn by age was Mama Lucy's. The Formica counters, the decal on the window that read "Where the SOSS is the BOSS" and the four drum style grills belching sweet oak wood smoke gave me a clear indication that this place was an institution. 

Ten minutes later, upon my first bite of SOSS soaked ribs I would confirm that to be true...I have to tell you, I know we're trying to stay local owe it to yourself to make the drive. Another place worth a trip and my personal favorite rib joint is Shivers BBQ in Homestead (pronounced SHY-vers) the ribs, briskets and everything on the menu is the BOMB. again....make the drive. Here are some pics from our most recent delicious field trip to Mama Lucy's. 

Heres that BOSS SOSS

That's Pit Master Jack and his Soss-chef prepping our ribs

Maximum Coverage!
Cheap-o White bread, the mark of any good BBQ joint
We covered a lot of this on the BBQ radio show already but as an extra little something, or "lagniappe" as they say in 'Nawlins, I wanted to share my own special rib rub recipe with you. We briefly discussed rubs on the show and to me, a good dry rub is key to developing flavor. So its into the legendary red binder we go..."what the hell is the red binder?" you ask...Its a simple red plastic organizer in which I keep my favorite, sauce stained & time tested recipes. 

In this red binder you will find instructions for such mouth watering meals as fried turkey, creole shrimp & grits, lemon & garlic roast chicken and many more. Basically, anyone who comes to the Redroots kitchen for a meal and sees the red binder out on the counter should know they are in for a treat. In short, the red binder IS Redroots. Here's an quick look at what you may find in it...
Juicy & Tender - Redroots Signature Fried Turkey

Crispy & Delicious Beerbatter Squash Blossoms

Another Favorite - Braised Beef Ribs with Redland Root Veggies
Good Recipes are funny things, many times our initial instinct is to keep a good one to ourselves and thereby create the all-powerful mystique of the "secret recipe". Often times that secret can be deciphered with a little research and an alert palate. At the risk of sounding Zen, when you take a bite, just be open to flavor and it will open itself to you. Take a bite, close your eyes and let your mouth tell you what it's enjoying. Little by little the ingredients start revealing themselves to you, its kind of like magic. The more you do this, the better you get and in turn, the broader the tools and tastes available to you in the future.

My sister-in-law, whose cooking skills I hold in very high regard, shared this recipe with me a while ago, I now share it with you...she IS from Texas and they know a thing or two about barbecue so you may want to take some notes. 

Over time I've made some tweaks and given it my own touch, something I recommend you do too. For me, a large part of cooking happens before I even step foot into the kitchen. I lay it out first in my mind; I think of flavors, consider techniques and planning needed to execute the dish I want to put out. 

Cooking also happens while you are eating. I love to savor my food and really taste it. In our house meal time is a "sit down and pay attention" affair. We enjoy our time at the table, talk and try to really taste what we eat. As I eat the meal I wonder what I would do different next time, what worked, what didn't. That's something I urge you to do as well. Don't be afraid to experiment in your kitchen and don't be afraid to fail, because it will happen and that's OK. once you come to grips with that, the world is your oyster. So without further ado, I present to you...  

1/4 cup Brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Seasoned Salt
2 Tbs Garlic salt
1 Tbs Onion salt
1 1/2 tsp Celery salt
1/4 cup Paprika (Hungarian if you got it)
2 Tbs coarse ground Coffee, preferably something bold like espresso & NOT instant
1 Tbs Chili powder
1 Tbs Fresh ground black pepper (try not to use pre-ground pepper, its not the same)
1 1/2 tsp dried Sage
1/2 tsp ground Allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of ground cloves

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and store in an sealed container in a cool, dry place. I like to save the big canisters of garlic or onion salt, wash them out and keep my rub in there. It's sealed and since it has the holes in the top it's easy use. 

This is MY take on rub, try this one or take elements from this that you like and make your own. Soon you will have your own signature rub that's made just the way you like it. Again, think about the flavors you enjoy, do you like a spicier rub? more garlic? You make the call, its your rub.

In the case of this rub, you can't really stay local with it, with a few exceptions like using local coffee (Bald Bakers Blend from Knauss Berry Farm) or maybe Sea Salt from the Keys etc. You can also try to use locally grown herbs. But if you can't, don't beat yourself up about it. Just balance it out by making your side dishes with local vegetables ;).  

Once you have this rub prepared you can use it on pork, chicken or whatever you like but the key is to give the meat a good coating and really rub it in. Make sure it gets into every nook & cranny. Once you have accomplished this, wrap it up in plastic wrap and store in your fridge for a few hours up to overnight. Over time the spice mix will seep into the meat and give an amazing flavor.

So you've made your rub, now what? Its time for cooking...and THAT my friend is the follow up blog post because like good BBQ, you cant rush it and I don't want to bog you down with the many "ins, outs and what-have-yous" although what comes next is easier than you could this is a test of patience, but rest assured that by next week you'll have the tools to make some kick ass ribs at home worthy of Mama Lucy herself.

Up next, Part 2: Real BBQ on a GAS grill - It CAN be done...

In the meantime, keep it local, keep it fresh, keep it on Redroots!