Monthly Archives: May 2013

Knife Sharpening

My favorite knife

My favorite knife





Knife Sharpening

I from time to time get asked about knife sharpening.  I have a couple of sharpening steels I use to sharpen my knives.  I sharpen most of my knives before every use.  A dull knife is a dangerous knife.  I’m attaching a link about knife sharpening (  so you can do it yourself.  Or, if your knives need professional help, search your market for a knife shop.  I use as a local (Sacramento area) guy that does a great job sharpening knives.  Al Warren.   Email Al at or give him a call (916) 257-5904.  I take my knives to him periodically for a professional “deep” sharpening while keeping the knives tuned up daily with the steel.  Al makes great custom knives as well so check out his website at


Barbeque Baby Back Ribs

Baby Backs

Baby Backs


You’ve got something on your face: I’ve always been a big fan of Baby Back Ribs.  Give me a big pile of moist, fall off the bone Baby Backs.  I like a little heat on my bones too, so, for side dishes I like something cold like coleslaw or potato salad.  Add a pile of good baked beans and a fresh ear of sweet corn and I’m a happy man.  I don’t order them out that often unless I’m at a strictly Barbeque joint.  Ribs are just too messy and I’m too messy when I eat them.  I may take another bite before I wipe the sauce off my face and frighten the people in the next booth.  To avoid that scene, I make my ribs at home.

The bone pile:  I’ve cooked ribs a lot of different ways.  I used to boil them first, and then put them on the grill.  I’ve tried cooking them entirely on the grill, right out of the package.  I’ve tried cooking ribs with just dry rub.  I’ve tried cooking ribs with just wet sauce.   I’ve tried soaking them in oil and vinegar.  After trial and error I landed on my favorite method.

That’s a nice trophy:  I was showing a home to a buyer friend of mine and the seller happened to be home.  In his back yard was a large brick oven.  The seller had some interesting awards and trophies in the house.  We struck up a conversation about the oven (my client happened to be a chef) and eventually got around to talking about food.  Soon, the conversations moved to the seller’s awards, and, guess what? The seller was a rib and chili “cook off” champion.  He then proceeded to share a few of his “secrets”.  Hs best, “Cook your ribs at a low enough temperature so you never render the fat”.  That’s how he cooked his and how I like to do mine.  

Spice rubbed

Spice rubbed

Belt and suspenders:  I like to put a dry rub on my ribs before I put them in the oven.  I think it deepens the flavor of the meat.  Many commercial rubs have too much salt so I like to make my own.   It’s very easy to do and almost anything can go in your rub.  The rub can be put on the ribs the night before (and then refrigerated) or just a few minutes before cooking.  The longer the rub is on the meat the deeper the flavor.  The wet sauce goes on the ribs when they hit the grill, and only

Ready to cover

Ready to cover

near the end.  If the sauce goes on too soon the sugar in the sauce tends to burn. Hold on, put on an old shirt because we’re about to make a mess.

BBQ Baby Backs

For the rub

  • 1 cup of light brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Ancho Chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon of Paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh ground Black Pepper

For the sauce

  • 2 cups of BBQ sauce
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Ancho Chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 – 12oz. can beer

For the ribs

  • 3 or 4 racks of Pork back ribs (Baby Back) 3-4 lbs each. 

    Removal of membrane

    Removal of membrane

Peel the inside membrane from the ribs using a dull knife to start.  I find it easier to begin from the narrow end and work my way down the rack.  Rinse the racks under cold water.  Cut the racks in ½.  Pat the ribs dry with paper towels.  Mix the dry rub ingredients in a bowl.  With bare hands, rub the ribs until all the mixture is used and the surfaces of the ribs are kinda gooey (from the brown sugar).  Your hands will be a bit orange from the chili powder and paprika.  Put the ribs in a roasting pan with a rack and separate if possible.  Cover tightly with foil.  Put in a preheated 300F oven.  After 30 minutes in the oven turn the temperature down to 240F.  Oven temps vary, but between 225F and 250F is optimal.  Cook covered for 20 minutes per pound of ribs so plan on 3-4 hours.  Remove from oven and take off the foil.  Let the ribs cool.

Ready for the grill

Ready for the grill

In a saucepan combine the BBQ sauce, vinegar, spices and beer.  Whisk and simmer for 30 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken.  At this time taste the sauce for heat, spices, and vinegar.  Add more BBQ sauce if too vinegary, more beer if too thick, cayenne for more heat, etc.  I like the sauce to be fairly thin in viscosity.  Put the ribs on the grill over low heat, bone side down.  When the meat starts to drip fat, turn the ribs over.  Repeat until the ribs start to get browned, always grilling on low. At this time, start to apply the wet sauce. Turn when the sugar starts to caramelize on the ribs.  Apply sauce and turn.  When the ribs are evenly caramelized, remove.  Serve the ½ racks or cut the ribs individually.  Reserve some sauce for the table.

Let's eat

Let’s eat

Tips: There are some very good commercial sauces on the market.  Many “designer” and “organic” sauces that will set you back a pretty penny.  The ones I like best tend to be the end product of the sauce I doctor.  So I buy sauce that isn’t overly expensive but know it has the base ingredients I like.  I prefer the tomato based sauces versus the mustard based sauces.  I look for sauces that don’t contain high fructose corn syrup but sugar instead.  From that ingredient forward most sauces are basically the same.  Tomato puree, sugar, spices, vinegar and some sort of preservative.  From that base I look to make a sauce that is not too sweet and not too sticky.  If you like the flavor of a base sauce (and read the ingredient list) add those simple ingredients to make it better.  Some rib cooks add granulated garlic and onion powder to their rubs.  If you like that flavor, give it a try.



Drunken Chicken

DSC06263 Charlie’s domain:  As best as I can remember, Charlie used to make this chicken a couple of times a summer.  He would cut up a whole chicken (or two) and leave the skin on.  Most of the time, Charlie would cook this chicken on a rusty old charcoal grill. One year he broke down and bought a gas model.  Living in Florida at the time, it too was soon rusty.  I don’t think there are many better barbeque smells than this chicken on the grill.  Could be the garlic, but when this chicken is cooking we knew something tasty was coming.  Charlie’s not around to cook this chicken anymore but every time I make this chicken I think of him. I picture him sitting in his folding lawn chair, tongs in one hand, cocktail in the other, chesterfield king masterfully balanced on his lower lip when he spoke.

Pass the tongs:  I make this version with skinless chicken.  Don’t get me wrong, I like chicken skin.  When chicken skin is crispy, crunchy, salty, there is nothing better.  Crispy chicken skin is like potato chips. It’s hard to eat just one (piece).  When grilling skin on chicken, the fat under the skin starts to drip.  This dripping fat catches fire and causes the skin to burn and separate from the meat.  I would spend my time moving the chicken from side to side or taking it off the grill entirely while the flames died down.  The result would be black on the outside, undercooked on the inside chicken.  Boneless, skinless pieces cook more quickly and rarely catch fire.   The thickness is more consistent and when the first piece is done the others aren’t far behind.  I use organic boneless chicken thighs.  I like the size, texture and flavor of thighs. 

The line is cast:  Charlie taught me how to fish.  Or, better stated, Charlie took me fishing.  Our first spin rigs were little level winds (reel type) with black fabric line.  Charlie spent most of our early fishing years untangling or cutting out “bird’s nests”.  Aptly named wads of fishing line created when the spool spins faster than the line exiting the reel.  In this era, very few fish were caught, but we all were having a great time.  This ritual continued until the Zebco reel was invented. Charlie sprang for a couple.  The Zebco reel is a design where the line spool is contained under a shiny metal cylinder/cone virtually eliminating the dreaded “bird’s nest.”  This advancement changed our fishing lives.  We actually caught some fish.  We caught blue gill in the ponds, mackerel off the jetties, even a bass or two. 

The Quality Water:  This is an appropriately named section of the San Juan River in NW New Mexico.  Fly fishing only, highly managed, productive stretch of river. The Quality Water starts at the base of Navajo Dam and flows for miles through high NM desert.  The San Juan River eventually makes its way into Lake Powell, part of the Colorado river system.   The Quality Water stretch holds thousands of trout benefiting from consistent water temperatures and abundant bug life.  When I lived in Durango, CO I had the good fortune of fishing this stretch of water dozens of times.  Charlie had never been fly fishing.  He took us spin and bait fishing so this was all new to him.  It was my turn to return the favor.  Charlie didn’t own waders and had never cast a line.  It didn’t matter because this was Charlie’s day.  He caught a dozen nice trout or so.  He caught a few over 20”’s and one that spooled the Hardy Princess.  He reeled the opposite way a few times and caught one sitting on a rock but all in all, couldn’t have been a better day.  What did we cook for dinner to celebrate?  Drunken Chicken! 


  • 4 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup Canola oil
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 15 cloves of peeled garlic
  • Salt and pepper.
  • 1  –  12 oz can of light beer
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh rosemary (optional)

Drunken chicken 5

In a blender put the oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper.  Blend until mixture is a foamy white.  Slowly add the beer until the whole can is added (if you put it in the beginning it will foam out of the blender.)  Pour the mixture over the chicken thighs and add the chopped rosemary.  Cover and place in the refrigerator.  Marinate for at least 2 hours.  Overnight is okay.  Remove from refrigerator at least an hour before cooking to bring to room temperature.  Grill on medium or medium high about 10 minutes a side or until chicken juices run clear.  Serve hot or cold. I prefer cold side dishes with this chicken such as fresh summer salads, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. 

Tips:  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts can but substituted for chicken thighs.  They tend to be drier so don’t overcook.  As well, lemon juice can be used in place of vinegar but only use ¼ of a cup.  Try extra virgin olive oil instead of canola for a nice twist.   


Baby Back Ribs Are On Sale

 Baby back ribs


Baby Back ribs are on sale this week (in my neck of the woods). Most places under $3.00 a lb. Grab a few racks and head to the “Q”. 

Are your ribs dry or tough?  Is your sauce too sweet and sticky?  I’ll be buying a pile to cook myself.  I’ve got some tips coming up so you’ll always have great ribs!  Stay tuned.  “Rack on!”