Food, Wine & Just Good Living With SaucyJoe

It started with a love of food, wine & fun and blossomed into a maddening pursuit of the best recipes, techniques, grills, smokers, wines, crafted beers, rubs, marinades and sauces... We do more than play with our meat though -- we review and discuss all things cooking, drinking, reading, laughing and living at SaucyJoe's.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Saucy Joes Music Picks

We did a bit of research yesterday through the iTunes archives to find music for the holidays, and general SJ activities (cooking, drinking, eating, repeat) and this was the treasure we discovered. Enjoy!

The iTunes Core Directories:
iPod Storeicon
iTunes Gift Certificatesicon
iTunes iMixesicon
iTunes Essentialsicon

Some Interesting Podcasts
Rhino Records Podcasticon
Bruce Springsteen Podcasticon
NPR's All Songs Considered Podcasticon
Indie 103.1's Podcasticon
Christie's Auction Podcasticon
The Metropolitan Museum Podcasticon
NPR News Summaryicon
The Al Franken Show Podcasticon
ABC Radio's Health Reporticon
Mayo Clinic Health Reporticon
iLounge Week in Reviewicon
ESPN Radio Podcasticon
The Ticket -- Dunham & Miller Podcasticon

The Xmas Collections:
Ultimate Christmasicon
Cocktail Christmasicon
Soul Christmasicon
Crooner Christmasicon
Jazz Christmasicon
Reggae Christmasicon
Classic Rock Christmasicon

Some Artists Picks We Enjoyed:
Diana Krall's Essentialsicon
Beck's Essentialsicon
The B-52's Essentialsicon
Tony Bennett's Essentialsicon
David Bowie's Essentialsicon
Brooks & Dunn's Essentialsicon
Jackson Browne's Essentialsicon
Jimmy Buffett's Essentialsicon
Cake's Essentialsicon
Johnny Cash's Essentialsicon
Jimmy Cliff's Essentialsicon
Bruce Cockburn's Essentialsicon
CSNY's Essentialsicon
Cream's Essentialsicon
Creedence Clearwater's Essentialsicon
Doobie Brothers' Essentialsicon

We're adding more music to the EarCandy section this week too
so make sure to visit all the holiday updates at SaucyJoes. And hey, do you have some holiday music suggestions/ Send em!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Blog Meltdown

Blogger had a serious meltdown last evening whiile we were adjusting the template. As you can see, the underlying design is hashed. I have a new template and simply need to bring it up to speed, which I'll do over lunch Tuesday. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A little pre-Thanksgiving grillin'.

My best friend and I decided we wanted to grill so we headed to the store and got some steaks! It was a fairly simple process to grill 'em up but I thought I'd share with you guys. I really don't know about picking I claim. I have watched enough FoodTV and read enough on Saucy Joe's blog and website to know that the flavor is in the fat so I looked for steaks with some decent marbling. We found both boneless and bone-in rib eyes in our meat market and opted for the bone-in ones because they just looked a bit better. When I got them back to Cathy's place (yes, my best friend and I have the same name. Just think of how fun that was when we were roommates!!), I rinsed them off because I remember someone saying that's what you do to get the bone dust off the steaks. For the marinade, I pressed some garlic, added soy sauce, fresh ground pepper (both black and white) and some steak seasoning that had a bit of spicy kick to it. I mixed that up for a bit and poured over the steaks and rubbed in. We got the fire going -- ambered coals with some nice flames still -- and put the steaks on. We closed the lid, open the air vents and let them sit for about 7-10 minutes. Nice and fire-kissed on one side! We turned them over and left the lid open and watched them cook. A few minutes of more flame-kissing and they were medium rare. Perfect! We paired the steaks with some multi-green salad and poured my new favorite wine, 2004 Viognier from Becker Vineyards ( A wonderful dinner with a wonderful friend.

Monday, November 21, 2005

SJ Mourns the Loss of Glenn Mitchell

Ed note: We're quite sad to report the passing of Dallas radio host Glenn Mitchell. Glenn was one of those radio voices you called "friend," and was in our opinion one of the most brilliant, witty people to hold court on the air. His Christmas Blockbuster was legendary, and his daily musings and interviewing style on his talkshow brought insights to information -- he made you think, challenge and find dimensions in the topic, because that's what he was doing too.

Glenn was on the cusp of taking his considerable talents to a much wider audience on XM radio, and the nation as a whole is unfortunately a little less enlightened for never having the experience of hearing this fine talent and individual.

Having listened to him for so long on Dallas' NPR affiliate, KERA, we watched and heard his career, and never, ever felt anything less than friendship and acute interest in hearing what he had to say. When you listened, it was if Glenn had invited you into his home, or had made himself equally comfortable in yours. You'd gladly offer him a cup of coffee or a beer, just so he'd sit for awhile longer. His show was one of those that would keep you in the car for 5 minutes after you'd arrived, stealing a few more minutes before you went inside.

You can find his official obit, and send comments and condolences on KERA, and to see how beloved this man was, go to this message forum. In an era where "debate" seems to be more of an opportunity to shout down opposing views, and intelligence is often mistaken for intellect, a savvy, polite and engaging host like Glenn was a rare find. We'll miss him, and the light he brought to our radios, for a long time.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Saucy Joes Confessionals -- My Life As a Smoker

ed note: This essay and review is from our eldest (and perhaps sauciest) member, Dr. Dave Sullivan. Doc's BM Tonic recipe was instrumental in this month's brisket feature, and has served as a warming agent for our Relays Open golf tourney played in Des Moines each April. Here's his thoughts on the new smoker he recently added to the Iowa outdoors...

My Life As A Smoker
By Dr. Dave

I began life as a smoker last month after looking over the Tennessee Pork Loin with Whiskey, etc. recipe on the Saucy Joe's Smokin'’ page. I successfully completed the recipe using my barbeque grill and some mesquite chips, much to the surprise and accolades of my family (having unsuccessfully tried grilling pork tenderloins before). I was hooked!

After consulting with the saucy man on smoker types (see Saucy Blog “Now that you’re smoking” Nov 9th), I decided upon a Brinkman Smoky Mountain Smoker Series gas smoker. I chose gas because it seemed to be fairly maintenance free, and I am a low maintenance kind of guy (just ask my wife).

The smoker cost $149 at the local Menard'’s though I have seen it for $99 on-line. I was impressed with the amount of room for cooking. The smoker has three shelves and lots of vertical height. There is definitely room to smoke a turkey if I get truly brave!

I got the smoker home and had it together in less than an hour. Brinkman really has this assembly thing down. For each step, the hardware was separate and labeled. No more sack of assorted nuts and bolts! There were no parts left over either. I seasoned it using mesquite chips with whiskey and water in the water pan for a couple hours, and I was ready to go for it.

That first day, I successfully smoked two beer can chickens and a salmon flank. I used the Saucy Joe'’s Ultimate Rub on everything mixing it with extra virgin olive oil and brushing it on. This smoker has plenty of room to stand the chickens upright if you take one of the shelves out. I smoked the chickens for two hours, then added the salmon on the top shelf and smoked it all for another hour. It was pretty easy keeping the temperature controlled at 215°F during all of that time as long as I kept adding water to the evaporation pan.

The result was very moist and tender chickens, which was as much due to the beer can recipe as to the smoker and some exceptionally tasty salmon! The family was pretty darned impressed.

Over the next two weeks, I tried a lot of different meats in the smoker and I found out that smoking is not as easy as those first two times led me to believe. I had my sophomore slump on a pot roast. It was a 3 lb pot roast, and I only cooked it for four hours. Ignoring advice to check the interior temperature of the cooking meat, I started too late, and ran out of time for dinner. The result was a large, rare, kinda tough steak! It tasted good, but it was a little rough on the old chompers.

I also learned that one cannot just fire up the smoker, put in the wood chips, water and meat then walk away, at least with this smoker. The evaporating pan ran dry fairly frequently, and then the temperature went up to 400°F. Also, the smoker was harder to regulate above the boiling temperature of water. The evaporating pan is quite large, filling the whole width of the smoker, and much of the heat goes to evaporating water. It overwhelms the heating capacity of the whole box unless the burner is turned up a lot higher than I thought it would be.

I figured this out the next time I decided to smoke that 3 lb pot roast. I started out at 11 am and smoked the roast for 7 hours, not taking it off until the internal temperature was 160°F. I used maple wood chips which gave a nice sweet smoke, and I only added a small handful at a time. I filled the evaporation pan only half full of water at any one time, so the boiling of water wouldn'’t take as much heating capacity. This meant a trip to the smoker every 20 minutes to replenish chips and water. I'm not sure this was a bad thing, because my wife didn'’t get as mad with me sitting on my butt for hours on end watching the football games (But Honey! I'’m smoking!).

This time, the pot roast was tender, tasty and terrific!

All, in all, I'’m very happy with the Brinkman Smoky Mountain Series gas smoker. The controls are easy to use. The temperature gauge is easy to read even for those who are near sighted like me. There is mucho room for cooking mucho food. When you open that big door a lot, you get to smelling very smoky, but the interior temperature doesn'’t drop off for long due to the large gas burner.

If I were going to re-design anything, I would make the evaporation pan smaller and deeper, but I'’ve found my work around for that now.

I'm trying out some different wood chips. I like the strong smoke of mesquite for chicken and salmon and the sweet smoke of maple for beef so far. I've got some apple, hickory and cherry to try. There is still much experience to gain before I'’ll consider myself a champ, so IÂ’m keeping at it even through the frozen winter of eastern Iowa.

Some day, I may even smoke that turkey! With all this smokin'’ going on, at least it won'’t be cold turkey.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Earth, Zen & Fire Part 2

This is part two of our fire essay by SJ Charter Member Curt Simmons. Curt helped us tend the flames this past weekend as we celebrated Joe's birthday. It was a remarkable evening at Saucy Central, w/ good food, great wines and the best of friends. Curt and Lori also presented us with a set of Reidel glasses which we put to good use immediately! Here's the rest of the story on Fire

Music adds another dimension to a good fire and you might want to consider a set of good outdoor speakers. The key here is “good” speakers. A great fire deserves the best sound possible, so don’t go cheap. Once you get the speakers installed, you’ll want to set the volume just loud enough to upset the snobby neighbors but low enough to carry on a good conversation. The really difficult work begins with the choice of sound mixes. You’ll want to go with songs that are great but not ones you hear everyday on the commercial radio stations. For instance, if you want an Allman Brothers song, you wouldn’t choose “Rambling Man” even though it’s a great song. No, you would be better off with “One Way Out” or even “Jessica,” both of which will get an approving nod from your fellow music lovers. We’ve have basically settled on the 1967-1977 period for rock, and anything pre Garth Brooks seems to work well for country. You might want to stick in a few sing-a-long songs while the kids are still up, and Trout Fishing in America offers many great selections. Whatever your choices, they should be serious to their genre and you should be prepared to discuss the bands you choose. You don’t need a degree in musicology here, but you should at least know the names of the lead guitarists and vocalists. All of these musical guidelines apply to your regular fire buddies only by the way. You must exercise restraint with your first time guests. If they suggest that Journey or Shania Twain are “really cool,” just nod your head slowly without commenting. If they ask you to play Bread or Barry Manilow, go ahead and push them into the fire. Again, these are just guidelines. If you want to shoot them first it’s probably OK, just check with your local authorities.

Another consideration in pursuit of the perfect fire is attire. Just as you wouldn’t, OK some of my family probably would, wear a tank-top to the symphony, you don’t want to show up at a fire improperly clad. The cornerstone of your fire wardrobe is your fire shirt which should always be oversized flannel, preferably in a loud, lumberjack plaid. You’ll want to wear an undershirt since the fire shirt won’t be washed until after the season. It should be hung immediately adjacent to the closet door so you will be rewarded with a smoky, sensuous treat every time you enter. Ball caps and old sweat shirts complete the outer wear and an old pair of tennis shoes or boots finishes the ensemble.

Fire foods should be restricted to the coat hanger group which includes wieners, s’mores, marshmallows, etc. Whatever you do, resist any impulses you might have about instructing your kids how to cook these wholesome delights. If they turn thirty consecutive marshmallows into flaming, charcoal pyres, just laugh with them and keep handing them more. It’s the best entertainment deal you will ever find. This by the way, is also the most you as an adult should cook. Constantly getting up to check on a grill or worrying about a pan of brownies will take you from your appointed duties of observation and relaxation. If you are the type that enjoys a libation, find your corkscrew and leave the beer in the fridge, because wine is the best choice for the family flame. Wine seems to give the slow, gentle glow that is best enjoyed in front of a dancing flame. It takes a full bodied red to stand up to the smoke, and the old vine Zinfandels and Sirrahs seem to pair best with our oak and mesquite laced fire pits. Of course the wine sipping can be occasionally interspersed with a small dollop of something unusual. A shot of premium, Caribbean dark rum can be delightful in a brandy snifter. One night last winter, we each drained a shot of Ouzo and saluted as Ski threw the top third of his Christmas tree on the fire. The flames and sparks reached the top of the house, and I swear we heard coyotes howling in the distance. Or maybe it was closer than that.

At any rate, if you haven’t had a good camp fire lately you should certainly try one. It’s one of the healthiest addictions around and it’s a family based bargain. My wife says it’s the best part of camping and you still get to use your own bathroom and sleep in your own bed. I know that fall is now my favorite time of the year and it could easily be yours as well. So Bon Appetit and Burn Baby Burn.

We’ll see you on the patio.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Earth, Zen & Fire

ed note: This guest column was contrubuted by our fire pit comrade, Curt Simmons. Curt's a professor, gentleman chicken farmer (we're all gentlemen in the charming hamlet of N. Grand Prairie) and assistant to his medical-transcription goddess wifey, Lori. This article is what we refer to as "a longer form commentary" so, we're going to have to cut it up into 2 installments. To see the entire article, go to our November Philosophy Section on the SJ. Here's #1, on the philosophy of fire and how to get started:

The Perfect Fire

On most cool weekends, up to three generations of friends and family members will gather on our patio to talk, laugh and sometimes howl a little around the fire pit. It wasn’t always this way. In fact, when my wife and daughter first threw the fire ring box in the cart at Home Depot, I was fairly cool to the idea. I pictured it ending up with all the other useless, rusting junk in the backyard, but I was so relieved that they had chosen the $50.00 ring instead of the $400.00 brass urn that I just smiled and began reading the assembly instructions. Three years later, I would say it is one of my favorite possessions ranking only behind the family ski boat for pleasant memories.

Like so many former necessities that have been eliminated by technology, a real, honest to goodness, old school, regulation campfire with flames and smoke and sparks is now a luxury item. But once indulged, this luxury soon transforms itself into a necessity. In our lightning paced, point and click world of sound bytes and electronic noise, a good campfire beckons us to stop, sit, and warm the souls that we have put on ice during the week. While it bathes us with its radiant heat, it burns away the layers of triviality and rearranges our priorities. For a few precious moments, we actually enjoy each other and appreciate our lives together.

It all makes sense, of course. When we gather around a fire, we are really celebrating life itself. Cosmologists tell us the universe was created by a fiery explosion, and although we curse it during the Texas summers, a giant ball of fire makes life possible on our watery planet. Throughout history, fire has been seen by religions and used by industry as a purifying agent. Native Americans sought their visions in front of a fire, and today the same fire that forms the center of our planet seems to burn at the center of our hearts. And if all this seems a little heavy and philosophical, a big fire is hands down the best way to cook a marshmallow. Over the past few years, the Saucy Joes team has, and we say this with all modesty, perfected the basic urban campfire. We’d like to share our delicious recipe with you, and although no written rules actually exist, an informal code of conduct has evolved for the true connoisseurs of backyard fire watching.

The first step to releasing your “Inner Thoreau” is choosing your fire pit. You’ll want to pick a model that fits your aesthetic tastes and, more importantly, one that you will actually use. Ours is a three foot, black, steel circle with 14” sides. Moose and deer glow through the stamped hole patterns in a hokey sort of 1950s, North Woods meets Art Deco motif. I lined the bottom with fire proof bricks and put a grate in the middle to elevate the logs. We bought some squishy soft patio chairs to circle the ring and now you can put your feet on the sides until the soles of your shoes start to smoke and melt. My wife and daughter decorated a few garage-sale, end tables, and last year we painted a giant Texas flag on the back of the garage. We finally added a few white, Christmas lights to the fence and gutters to complete the theme. If you had to classify it, you would probably call it redneck chic, but it fits me like a glove.

Once the pit, or urn or chiminea is installed, the only missing element is the wood itself. Around Texas, father oak is the king of the fire pits, but any hardwood will work. Kindling can range from small sticks and twigs to cut up 2X4s sitting around the garage. If you don’t have any of those, a wax fire log from the grocery store will do the trick. Any local telephone pole will probably display at least one firewood advertisement which will, again, more than likely be oak. Sometimes blends of different woods are nice, and we have found that adding a nice chunk of cedar or pinon when the oak has turned to embers gives an incense that would make the Gods on Olympus smile. Having said all that, the all time, number one, best firewood is free firewood. Late summer and early fall walks are wonderful times to scout the neighborhood for tree trimmers. Once darkness falls, a quick jaunt in the pickup can net two to three fires in a single run.

Coming Next: Fire foods and music...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Holy Cow! More IS Gooder...

They say you should never eat anything bigger than your head, but it's hard to imagine even tackling the meat we had on the menu this weekend. After a full couple of days at the lake (winds to die for) we arrived back at the ranch tired and ready to veg.

Instead of getting the main site updated, we voted instead to go for the porterhouse steaks SJ got at Trail Dust Steakhouse. Yes, you can purchase the raw cuts there, and for the equivalent of your first year's tuition, he picked up three monsters. Actually, there were two monster cuts, and one über steak that resembled the meat hung on the Flintstone's car at the drive in. It darn near tipped over the grill, but was a treat to cook.

Usually it's the chicken we babysit as an excuse for drinking more beer, but the big porterhouse took one hour to grill so red wine consumption followed a similar curve. We pan seared it initally with a spice mix and some Jordan Olive Oil for a more earthy taste. Then it was on to a medium-high heat on the gas grill, turning every 5 minutes.

Once we had the two smaller ones done, we pulled them, added the obligatory Plugra butter pad to the top and covered w/ foil. The big one took awhile longer, so we had to open one more bottle -- a wonderful pinot noir from Kings Estate in Oregon. For another pinot we really like from their neighbors get the WillaKenzie 2002 Pierre Leon Pinot Noir
Grill, grill, grill, sip sip, sip and BOOM DONE: ready to serve. Lib made a great salad to accompany the beef and we ate like kings.

The flavor was tremendous. Could've used the grilled mushrooms and creamed spinach, but hey, there will be a next time as we'll do it on charcoal for our comparison review.

Days later we're still eating steak. Steak soup, steak salad, steak sandwiches. Joe keeps threatening to make steak pudding, but I feel he's just joshin...

We're working on site this week, hoping to get thangs finished in time for the Saucy One's birthday on Friday 11/11. We have parties all weekend we're hosting so ze vurk must be done before ze playun can commenze!

Keep those comments coming!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Ah Yes, November!

Well, having resisted the urge to smoke or grill pumpkins, my bad-luck Astros koozie, and/or the urchins that invaded our Saucy Villa over the Halloween weekend, we're ready to close the book on October and the mid-fall and looking forward to all the new recipes, entries and bottles November and the "hot stove" season are bringing.

We literally have dozens of items to add to the main site with some duplication here in bloggerville.

From the how-to of making your own "big sheet" tv, to smoking brisket with Dr. Dave's BM Tonic (you would too drink it)
we are readying the pages throughout this week. Lord willing and the creek et al, we'll eventually get the editorial calendar working smoothly and actually publish the site on time. Or not.

So, stay tuned, eat and drink plenty, stay warm and send us your comments and original blog entries (members log in and go for it!).
Also, if you have a friend, acquaintence or significant someone you think should be a member of the SJ blog, send us their name and email and we'll invite them to the party. More is gooder as Joe always says. Actually he's never said that but he probably will from here on out.