On tonight’s of “Man Fire Food,” Roger Mooking, chef, musician and lover of all things smoky and delicious, traveled to California and visited two amazing places to see how they do their thing, and taste the results of long hours in the smokehouses and grills. So sit back, and bring a few napkins, as your mouth will be watering.
First stop was Sloughhouse, near Sacramento to visit the Passmore Ranch. Thinking of a ranch, makes Roger see visions of cattle, pigs and other barbeque favorites, but this is a fresh water fish farm. He and Michael Passmore were standing in a tank of sturgeon, where they had to catch one with their hands, but it was a joke on Roger, who tried diligently to catch this slippery eel-like creature. However, they actually use nets to catch some of them that can weigh about forty pounds.
Once the fish was cleaned and gutted, and its skin partially removed, it was mounted on a stake to be roasted over a bed of coals. After securing the fish with hose clamps, it was ready for the spit. Kelly McCown, the executive chef at Goose & Gander stopped by to create this delight. He filled the cavity with onions, celery, carrots, lemons and fennel fronds, then seasoned with sea salt, then using butcher twine, closed the cavity. Then added a spicy rub and covered it with caul fat. Working with walnut and oak, they added logs to make a nice hot fire. Once it was done to perfection, they let it roast a while before turning it to get an even roast.
While they were waiting, Billy Ngo, chef and partner at Kru Restaurant made deep fried sturgeon skin, just like pork rinds, but he made poke, out of raw fish and spices, and they ate it on the fried skin. But when the sturgeon was done, it was a banquet of people who sat and enjoyed the delicious white meat that Roger and Kelly served up.
Next, Roger went to Santa Maria to visit the Elks Lodge to see how they have been doing this for over eighty years. Wayne Stahl the BBQ Chairman of Elks 1538, told Roger that the lodge is a non-profit organization that supports the community. They help out the veterans and anyone in need. They have three portable barbeque pits, so they can travel around the countryside and put on barbeques for people. As big as the portable pits were, Wayne brought Roger in to see their indoor pit. Roger stated that he had not seen a grill this big since he barbequed a tyrannosaurus rex. The pit was thirty feet long, eight feet wide, and could make 1,800 pounds of sirloin and about 150 chicken halves. To get the fire ready, they had to hang over the pit, until the wood was stacked high enough. Next they had 170 pounds of meat; they would pierce with a rod, carefully so it was properly centered and did not spin when turned. For every spinner they load, they must buy a round of drinks for the crew.
When the steaks were ready, Roger could hardly wait to taste them. Roger loves the marriage of beef, salt, fat and smoke, a marriage made in heaven. So Roger helped Wayne prepare for the feast that was awaiting a large group of people and had a ball serving them all. Finally, it was his turn to join the line and grab his plate on this episode of “Man Fire Food.”