Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thermodynamic Lesson

During Trey's block leave we decided to have a smoking party.  No, not the California-hippy style smoking party.   We smoked meat.  I mean, we smoked MEAT!  Full brisket and 5 or 6 racks of ribs (St. Louis cut).  Plus just to round things out I threw some veggies in the smoker for fun.  Smoking meat takes about 10 hours, depending on the size of the meat.  A brisket takes about 10 hours to get fork tender but not falling apart.   Of course during this time you must periodically stoke the fire, check the temperature, and check on the meat.  The active time is about 1 hour total, wedged into 10 hours of drinking beer and poking at a fire.  Trey is in charge of the smoking.  I open beers.  Its a good trade.


Of course, you can't consume that much meat yourself, so you must invite people over.  And if people are coming, you must have additional dishes to serve to round out the table.  Otherwise the table would tip over from the enormous amount of meat on one side.  I decided to go with basic BBQ style sides.  My traditional bluecheese coleslaw, baked potatoes, and because I can't stand to do a party completely simple..... chocolate eclairs.  With homemade pastry cream.


As you know, meat that is smoked usually has BBQ sauce either on it or on the side.  Trey made his own BBQ sauce.  He was heating it up at the last minute to pour over the meat for the last half hour of smoking.  In his effort to minimize the amount of dishes (smart, since he's the one that does them), he decided to heat the sauce in the Pyrex measuring cup.  Now Pyrex is a pretty amazing substance.  It goes from oven to fridge with no problem.  However, what he did not realize was that oven heat and stove heat are different due to the different thermodynamic properties of air vs. glass.  This lesson was made abundantly clear when the 4 cup measure containing the BBQ sauce exploded all over the kitchen.


I was just so happy that the explosion wasn't my fault that all I could do was laugh.  And then hand the 3 guys in the room mops and towels to clean up.  Luckily we had enough ingredients for another batch of BBQ sauce, which was made in a pan, and I got a brand new Pyrex measuring cup out of the deal.


Exploding sauce notwithstanding, it was an excellent party.  Good food, good company, whiskey tasting, and I won an argument with Ivan about whether meat caramelizes (it does, due to the natural sugars in muscle tissue).  At one point I came into the family room and all 4 children were furiously jumping up and down on the couch.  I guess the cookies that Mallory brought were a hit too.


Pate a Chou



  • 1 1/4 cups water





  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces





  • 1/2 teaspoon salt





  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour





  • 4 to 6 large eggs






  • Preheat oven to 425.  In a heavy saucepan bring water to a boil with butter and salt over high heat. Reduce heat to moderate. Add flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon until mixture pulls away from sides of pan, forming a dough.  Transfer dough to bowl of a standing electric mixer and beat in 4 eggs, 1 at a time, on high speed, beating well after each addition. Batter should be stiff enough to just hold soft peaks and fall softly from a spoon. If batter is too stiff, in a small bowl beat remaining 2 eggs lightly, 1 at a time, and add to batter, a little at a time, beating on high speed, until batter is desired consistency.

    Pipe onto cookie sheets covered in parchment paper.  Pipe mounds 1 1/2 inches in diameter, leaving 1 1/2 inches between circles.  Using a wet finger, smooth the tops of the mounds.  Bake at 425 for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 400 and bake an additional 20 min until golden brown and hollow sounding.  Turn oven off and let stand in oven for 30 min.  Then remove and allow to cool completely. 



    Vanilla Pastry Cream



  • 1 1/2 cups half and half





  • 1/2 cup sugar





  • 2 large eggs





  • 1 large egg yolk





  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour





  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract





  • Bring half and half to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk sugar, eggs, egg yolk and flour in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in hot half and half. Transfer to saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until mixture thickens and comes to boil, about 5 minutes. Boil 1 minute. Pour into medium bowl. Stir in vanilla. Press plastic onto surface of pastry cream. Cover; chill until cold, about 4 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.)

    1 comment:

    Jube said...

    It must run in the family. Drew put a casserole in the crock pot crock, and then baked it in the oven. Crocks are not made for going from 65 to 350 degrees relatively quickly. Based on your experience, you can guess the rest of the story.