Sunday Kitchen (on Monday): Braised Short Ribs *plus* Arroz Con Pollo

Finding myself with a week off at Independence Day and having nowhere to go and nothing to do thanks to the restrictions placed on us by our ol’ pal COVID-19, I decided to cook up a bunch of stuff to vacuum-seal for future weeknight meals. On Monday, for no particular reason, I did a twofer. First up:

Kamado Braised Short Ribs

For this cook I used boneless beef ribs, which I often get at Costco. Other times I’ve made it with regular bone-in short ribs and it works exactly the same way, so use whichever beef ribs you can get your hands on.

Also, this is basically a stew, so if you’re playing along at home don’t feel compelled to follow my directions to the letter. Add what you like, and leave out anything you don’t. I make it different every time, but Monday I pretty closely following a recipe from John Setzler, of the Kamado Joe Cooking Channel on YouTube, and owner of I love his saying: “Cook more, measure less.”

Anyway, on to the recipe.

The night before you plan to cook, take about 1 1/2 – 2 lb. of beef ribs and coat them good with BBQ rub. (You could just as easily use plain old salt and pepper, or any other beef rub that suits you.) Bag them up tightly, getting as much air out of the bag as possible, and keep them in the fridge overnight.

On cook day, while you wait for the grill to heat up to around 250°F, slice the ribs into pieces, maybe twice as big as bite sized. If you’re using bone-in ribs, just cut them into single ribs. When the grill reaches temp and the smoke is rolling nicely (I used hickory), put the slices in over indirect heat and let them smoke for an hour.

While the ribs are smoking, prep the braise. Dice up one onion, and chop two carrots (this time I used heirlooms) and three stalks of celery. Heat a 1/4 cup of olive oil in a dutch oven, and cook the onions gently until they’re translucent. Add the carrots and celery, and stir occasionally until they’re tender.

When the ribs have smoked for an hour, remove them from the smoke and boost your grill temp to around 325º-350ºF.

While the grill is coming up to temp, go back to your pot and add one cup of chicken stock, two cups tomato sauce, 12 oz. of beer, some rosemary, thyme, and oregano, and a teaspoon of garlic powder. Bring it to just boiling, and add salt, pepper, or other seasonings to taste. (Keep in mind that the flavors will intensify during the cook as the braise reduces. Go easy on the salt.)

When it just reaches a boil, stir in the smoked ribs.

Put the pot in the grill and let it cook undisturbed for a half hour or so, then give it a stir, cover it with the lid, and cook for another hour.

Going into the grill
After a half hour uncovered

After that hour covered, you’ll have a thick, dark, rich dish, ready for serving. Most often we serve this over rice, but this time we needed to use up some potatoes. Doesn’t matter; you can’t go wrong.

Dinner is served.


The second dish I cooked Monday was

Arroz Con Pollo

This meal is usually all cooked in one pot. Monday, though, since I already had the grill fired up and at my disposal, I changed it up a bit.

Start out with a pound and a half of chicken parts. The original recipe, which I found in Fine Cooking magazine issue #37, calls for bone-in parts, but we almost never have those on hand. We always have boneless skinless breasts, so that’s normally what I use. Also, to make it a little easier to eat when the time comes, I cut the breasts into more manageable pieces. Maybe two times bite sized, like I said above with the beef ribs.

Give the chicken a good solid sprinkle of salt & pepper.

Also, take about pound of Italian sausage –hot or mild, or a combination of both– and cut them into roughly 2-inch pieces.

Now, normally you’d heat some olive oil in your pot and sauté the chicken. If you’re using chicken parts, you want them done and starting to brown. If, like me, you’re using boneless skinless breasts, you want them to be ever so slightly underdone. They’re going to get a few more minutes’ cooking time later in the process, and if you get the skinless chicken completely done now, it will dry out when you get to those last few minutes. Either way, when the chicken is ready, remove it from the pan. Put the sausages in and cook until done. Add more oil along the way if needed.

Again, that’s all according to the recipe. But as I said before, Monday my grill was hot and I had plenty of extra room, so I cooked the chicken (again, stopping just short of done) and the sausage over indirect heat at about 350ºF.

Otherwise, though, I followed the recipe like normal.

In the aforementioned large pot over medium heat, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil (which you’d already have if you cooked your chicken and sausage in the pot) and sauté one small chopped onion and 4 minced cloves of garlic until tender, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1/4 tsp. paprika, 1/4 tsp. chili powder, and  1/2 tsp. ground turmeric, and stir for a minute or so to distribute it throughout.

Add a can of crushed (or diced) tomatoes, with their liquid, and 1/2 cup white wine or beer. Bring the heat up to medium high and cook for two minutes. Then add 2 1/4 cups chicken broth (or water) and 2 cups uncooked rice. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Return chicken and sausage to the pot and stir to distribute.

Reduce heat and cook, covered, at a mild simmer for 15 or 20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is done.

Serve with a simple side, such as steamed broccoli or a green salad.


Site Update

Starting today, I’m revamping my site to make it a little easier to update and control. Eventually I hope to incorporate all the content from my previous site, and then move on from there. I imagine it will take some time, but hopefully these changes will prompt me to keep the site more current and active.

Catch you later….

Out of My Depth

We have been attending the Newport Folk Festival every year since it marked it’s 50th Anniversary in 2009. I think it’s safe to say that it is, quite simply, the best overall musical event we’ve ever experienced. Over the years we have enjoyed performances by some of our favorite musicians, discovered new music, and forged new friendships. If you are a fan of folk, folk-rock, country, blues, or practically any musical genre related to one of these, you need to get yourself to this festival. You won’t regret it.

But when we arrive in Newport, the first thing we go see every year is completely unrelated to the festival, to music in general, or to anything else in our normal lives. After checking in to our B&B, the very first item on our Newport agenda?

Looking into the progress on the restoration of the 1885 Schooner Yacht, Coronet.

We always stay at the Spring Street Inn, and from the very start the innkeeper, Pat — who is an absolute fount of information on local history, attractions, activities, and (most importantly, perhaps) restaurants — kept suggesting to us that we visit the International Yacht Restoration School just down at the end of the street. Apparently there are fewer and fewer people in today’s world with the skills and knowhow to build, maintain, and/or restore wooden boats and ships. So in 1993, the IYRS was founded with a mission to preserve and teach the history, heritage, craftsmanship, science, and aesthetics of boatbuilding and restoration.

I do not own, nor do I have any inclination to own, a boat. To my knowledge, only two of our family members and two of our friends have ever owned boats of any kind. Unless I actually happen to see one, boats never even cross my mind. And so, for two years, we completely dismissed that particular suggestion of Pat’s without a second thought. Our mistake.

On our third trip to Newport, in 2011, as we were strolling along Thames Street, we saw the IYRS sign and for some reason (or maybe no reason) we ambled in. There’s a little museum space there, interesting enough in a pleasantly-passing-some-time-but-not-overly-excited-about-it kind of way. An attendant told us to go upstairs and check out the library, especially the harbor view from the library window, before making our way to the next building (where the students work on their projects), and finally to the building where the Coronet restoration is taking place.

While the view from the library window was, indeed, quite something, we were more taken with the exhibit of old nautical instruments on display throughout the library itself. Of course we knew virtually nothing about what any of the instruments were or what they were used for, but they were beautiful to look at and made us happy we had decided to check this place out. From there, we wandered into the school…

…And we were bowled over. There’s a classroom and a wood shop, of course. But mostly it’s a big open building where students are in the various stages of building wooden boats of all shapes and sizes.

Visitors can stand along a catwalk and look down on the proceedings from overhead. It’s pretty interesting to see, and by this point during our first visit we were completely won over.

But this is not the end of the tour.

Continue out the back door, and you’ll find yourself in front another building, constructed right on the very edge of the water solely for the purpose of housing the restoration of the aforementioned Coronet. The scope of the project is evident immediately upon entering the door. This thing is huge.

It was huge when we first saw it in 2011.

From 2011

And it’s only gotten bigger since then.

From 2012

Again, visitors look down from a catwalk at the workers below.

From 2013

At the very beginning, when the Coronet was brought in, it was completely disassembled. Piece by piece, board by board, everything was taken apart, cataloged, and numbered. Many of these items are sitting about on the catwalk or hanging on the walls, waiting to be put back into place (or to at least serve as templates for their newly-constructed counterparts) when the time comes.

Hopefully, these guys who are working on the restoration will fare better than the men who originally built her:

From 1896

I don’t have the knowledge or vocabulary necessary to write intelligently about what they’re doing in this building. Again, in my regular life I am not a boat guy; all I know is that they’ve taken a really big, really old one apart, and now they’re fixing it up and putting it back together again. And it is utterly fascinating to watch.

New Year, New Ideas

Starting off  the New Year, as we have, I’ve been thinking. Here’s one of my conclusions: Things change.

Back in the ’90s, when I first got Internet access, people were afraid to use their real names online, much less disclose personal information of any kind. Thus my implementation of the name Brick Pig for all my online music-related endeavors. Ten or fifteen years earlier, my friend Jim Hodge and I made up  the name one boring day at work; you know, one of those “this would be a good name for a band” conversations. So it seemed like the perfect username when I submitted my first entry to SongFight!, and the Brick Pig moniker has been with me ever since.

But we live in an altogether different world now, don’t we? With every Tom, Dick, and Harriet broadcasting every thought, dream and idea that comes into their head, cyberspace no longer seems like the mysterious place it used to be. Heck, anti-social as I tend to be, even I have learned to appreciate –if not exactly “like”– what Facebook has to offer.

And so, with this blog entry and the recent re-vamp of my websites, I’m TEARING DOWN THE WALL!! Ready? Here’s the big reveal:

That’s right, folks: The rumours were true! Monty Smith and Brick Pig are one and the same! And now this fact is reflected by an integrated website (only the welcome pages differ), and henceforth within the pages of this blog.

But wait! There’s more!

As my long-term readers (if I have such a thing) will know, I started this blog in ’08 with the intention of documenting the build of my first-ever custom guitar, and to chronicle my progress with my first-ever formal guitar lessons. Although I was never particularly strict in adhering to those two topics, the thrust of the blog shifted after I took delivery of said new guitar in June ’09, and even more so after I mastered the instrument —ahem— and stopped taking lessons that following December.

Effectively this space has become an amorphous, rambling account of whatever thoughts I’ve had about whatever music-related subjects are on my mind at any given time — concerts I’ve seen, festivals I’ve attended, and of course my own activities with friends, with 3TK4, and with Tori Erstwhile & The Montys. But amorphous and rambling is cool, and I’m fine with it. So fine with it, in fact, that with this post I am officially sanctioning the change.

If any of my (probably imaginary) long-term readers happen to also be sharp observers, they will note that I’ve shortened the blog title and that the subheading has been changed from “My Ongoing Quest for Deeper Musical Knowledge and a Really Great Axe” to “Messages from Monty.” This change reflects the aforementioned unification of my online personalities, while simultaneously welcoming the current-but-not-originally-intended nature of the blog.

I hope the new year brings other changes, as well. I hope to resume my guitar lessons. (That earlier bit about how I had mastered the instrument was a lie!) I hope to write and/or record some new songs. I hope to continue to discover new music, see more concerts, and go to more festivals, and perform more. And I hope to write about it more often here. Stay tuned….

Hot Fun in the Summer Time

At the beginning of August my wife Suzy and I attended the Newport Folk Festival for our first time, joining in the celebration of it’s 50th Anniversary. I suppose it’s only tangentially related to the topics of this blog, but it was such an enjoyable musical experience that it made me want to jot a few lines just to mark the occasion.

The festival is held in the Fort Adams State Park, where essentially the entire venue is surrounded by water. Boats are sailing by both far and near, many pulling up just off the shore to drift and listen to the music from the main stage. It was a blazing hot weekend, but the venue was so gorgeous and the festival was so good there could be no cause for complaint.

In purely logistical terms, it was easily the most manageable outdoor festival we’ve ever attended. The crowd was large, but not overwhelming. The three stages were far enough away from each other that there was no discernable noise interference between them. Yet they were close enough together to make for very quick and easy maneuvering back and forth to catch the all the acts you might want to see. And three stages was just the right number; enough to offer a variety of performers at all times, but not so much that you got the nagging feeling (a la Merlefest in NC) that you were always missing something important somewhere else.

Most importantly, of course, the 50th Anniversary lineup of performers was excellent: Legends and festival icons like Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Musicians of all kinds from across the decades: Iron & Wine, Mavis Staples, Del McCoury, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Neko Case, Guy Clark…. Practically every name on the list was an act we wanted to see, and none disappointed.

NOTE: All performances from this year’s festival are available for listening and/or downloading on NPR’s website. I would especially recommend the sets by Gillian Welch, Iron & Wine, Billy Bragg (beware curse words and political veiws), Guy Clark, and David Rawlings Machine (whose cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Queen Jane Approximately’ was a standout of the whole festival for me).

This was also our first time to visit the town of Newport (and the state of Rhode Island, for that matter), and we loved it. Our B&B, the Spring Street Inn, was pleasant and very comfy, and was conveniently situated just down the block from an excellent coffee shop called Spring Street Espresso. A very short walk toward the harbor was the main drag of interesting restaurants and shops on Thames Street. Basically everything we could want, all within an easy few minutes’ walk in any given direction.

Simply put, we enjoyed everything about the trip. So much so, in fact, that we’ve already booked the same room for next year.