Thursday, August 11, 2011

The BBQ Song

Cheers to my pal Jamie for bringing this to my attention.  Makes for a good little BBQ tutorial for the uninitiated. Plus, it's catchy.  And funny.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fair and Balanced Meal

This bi-partisan effort back in August involved drinking something I read about in the right-leaning Wall Street Journal and eating something I found on the leftish website  

The Michelada recipe that appeared in the WSJ on August 8 described this drink as the Bloody Mary's Spanish-speaking cousin.  The article billed this drink as a refreshing way to beat the heat.  It didn't take much more to sell me.  There were a few recipes for this spicy tomato beer cocktail.  I tried the following. But I made a key substitution, which may earn me some ridicule.

Mayahuel's Michelada:
1 oz. sangrita (see below)
3/4 oz. lime juice
1 bottle Negra Modelo

32 ounces tomato juice
8 oz. celery juice
6 oz. lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon celery salt
1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
mix ingredients and refrigerate

So I read all that about mixing up 32 oz of tomato juice to try one beer drink and thought, "Hey that Sangrita sounds a lot like Spicy V8!"  So I goofed around with it (a little more V8? A dash of Worcestershire . . . A bit more lime . . .).  At the end of it all I decided that either I had screwed it all up or it was only ok.  I drank it all.  It wasn't terrible.  But it was the only one I made all summer.

What sounded so good from NPR's website?  This article on grilled clams!  Littlenecks on the grill with garlic butter sauce sounded like fun. 

I'd never done clams on the grill before.  It was a total breeze--and my wife grew up eating littleneck clams so she was excited for this project (while just a sip of the Michelada was plenty for her).  I got a bag of about 2 dozen littlenecks from the seafood counter.  My wife scrubbed them up while I got the coals going at a nice medium heat.

All you do is stand over the clams until they pop open.  It was cool.  They hissed and spluttered.  Then they would crack open just a bit and then they opened wide.  I used tongs to transfer them all into a big bowl.  The recipe says to spoon the sauce over all the clams, but we used it as a dipping sauce instead.  The recipe for the butter sauce is below.  Can I be honest? It all smelled awesome and seemed very fancy.  It tasted like sour cream and chives potato chips.  I like sour cream and chives potato chips.  But not all that much.  I'm glad we reserved it as a dipping sauce.

8 tablespoons butter (1 stick) cut into small pieces
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper

To make the sauce, heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a 1-quart saucepan over low heat until it is foamy. Add the garlic and saute, stirring, until it is fragrant but has not colored, about 30 seconds. Add the white wine and heavy cream, increase the heat to medium-high and simmer to reduce by half, about 8 minutes. Add the remaining 5 tablespoons butter one piece at a time, whisking constantly until the sauce is shiny, emulsified and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the chives and season with salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm until ready to serve.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

How not to do stuffed chicken breast

After doing the stuffed mushrooms we had a lot of the "stuff" left.  I thought it would make for a perfect opportunity to try stuffed chicken breasts.  So I started looking around online on how one does that.  

The first thing you have to do is flatten the chicken breast--and the idea is that you need to pound the breasts flat.  I've seen those tenderizer mallets.  But I don't own one.  So I went to the garage and got a regular old hammer.  I stood over the breasts for a while with the hammer hanging slack in my hand.  Part of me was worried about getting salmonella on my hammer and then getting myself sick on some later house project.  Also my tools are pretty clean, but I wasn't sure who would want to eat chicken that had been smashed up by a work hammer.  What to do?

Right.  So I went with the plan where I put the breast between two cutting boards and then hit the top cutting board with my hammer.  Honestly it was sort of a mess.  The cutting board I used on top was really cheap and after a few hammer strikes it cracked.  So then I resorted to just banging on the chicken with the hammer (which I washed thoroughly both before and after contact with the chicken).  But I got the chicken mostly flattened out.  I dipped them in some "Better N Eggs" egg substitute we had in the fridge and rolled them in breadcrumbs.  Then I filled the breasts with the goop from the spinach feta artichoke blend I used in the mushrooms.  Then I used shish kabob skewers to hold the breasts together.

 I cooked them indirectly on the Big Green Egg at 350f until the internal temp on the meat was 165f.
 I gotta say that the finished product might've looked pretty ugly, but tasted mighty good.  And that's how you do stuffed chicken breast with a hammer from your tool box.  And this is also the first my wife has learned of what happened to that cutting board and how her dinner was made that night.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Massive Steaks with Stuffed Mushrooms

Check out these guys.  Last week a friend tried to sell me on the idea of serving a big porterhouse and a big ribeye when you have a small gathering.  That way everyone gets some strip, some fillet and some ribeye. All the meat goes to the center of the table and everyone gets a little of each cut.  May need to try that.  Meanwhile I love my NY strip.

Seasoned only with kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper and sprayed with a little olive oil these things seared on the Egg at about 650 for 90 seconds each side.  They came inside to rest while the egg cooled down to about 400 at which point I cooked to an internal temp of 125f.
For Christmas I got a Cuisinart.  The first recipe we tried were these mushrooms.  They're spinach, feta and artichoke mushrooms.  They were delicious.  The recipe can be found here on the Cuisinart website
This South African wine was amazing with the steaks. I bought it after a tasting at Bond Street Wines here in Charlotte.  It's mostly a Pinotage grape, which is new to me.  I lack the vocabulary to properly discuss wines, but this wine was really stout and bold and went great with these hunks of beef.
Voila.  Mmm.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

ABTs revisited

Emboldened by Saturday's success with the atomic buffalo turds we bought some more jalapeños on Sunday to go with all the leftover stuffing.  The chorizo came packed in 6 "tubes."  Not sure what I was going to do with the other 5 tubes, I decided to add another tube to the cream cheese-based stuffing.

Jalapeño seeds, membrane: do not eat. 

I wish I'd thought to brown the chorizo before I mixed it in.  But the package says to heat it to 160f, so I just made sure I got the ABTs up to that temp before taking them off the grill.
Front to back: ABTs, Mother's Day burgers.
I backed off the heat a little (325f) and tried to cook them a little longer.  These went for about 35 minutes.  Oh and I had them on a raised grid too.  As you can see above, burgers were going on at the same time for Mother's Day dinner.
No dogs were fed in the making of these ABTs.

So what I didn't expect was that the extra chorizo made the stuffing have some more substance.  That's to say that it got all melty and delicious, but it didn't leak out the same way the stuffing did on Saturday.  So my new grilling maxim is: "If in doubt, use a little more chorizo."  But seriously these things were hard to stop eating.  They're my new favorite grill treat.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cool Mint Juleps, Hot ABTs

For yesterday's Kentucky Derby we wanted some mint juleps.  This drink really hits the spot and takes the edge off all the crazy hats on television.  The secret to a good julep is the crushed ice.  It takes time to crush enough ice to fill up a few pint glasses (I know you're supposed to serve them in silver or pewter cups, sorry).  Our blender is the best way I know how to crush up ice, but even that's a little tedious.

Ahead of time you need to make the simple syrup.  All this requires is one part water to one part sugar boiled into a mixture and then cooled.  Simple. Syrup.

So you muddle a few sprigs of mint at the bottom of your pint glass and fill the rest with ice.
Add to your glass:
1 Tbsp simple syrup
1/3 Cup Woodford Reserve bourbon (my favorite)
Stir it all up.
Add a sprig of mint for garnish.  Enjoy.  Carefully.  They're tasty but they can sneak up on you like a come from behind race horse.
So ABTs (Atomic Buffalo Turds) have been on my wish list for a while.  I've had them at Eggfests, but never made them myself. Looking around the web I wasn't able to find a definitive recipe.  The good news seemed to be that you can improvise these things.  As it turns out ABTs are a broad category of bacon-wrapped, stuffed jalapeño.  The base of nearly every recipe seemed to be cream cheese.  So here's what I did.

One pack of cream chese
1/2 onion finely diced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 chorizo sausage.

mmm, chorizo.

Everything else.
So I cut the peppers lengthwise and removed the seeds and membranes.  Then you stuff 'em.  Then you wrap 'em in bacon.  The internet taught me that the secret here is using thin, cheap bacon to get it crispy.  I made a vegetarian turd for one of our friends (no chorizo or bacon).  Here's what they look like ahead of time.

And here they were after I cooked them for about 25 minutes at about 350f.  I probably over cooked these out of concern for getting the chorizo cooked all the way.  A good bit of the filling had melted out, but they disappeared in no time.  Everyone loved them.  I still have a good bit of the filling and bacon left, so I may run back to get more peppers and whip up some more.

Ever done ABTs?  Got a favorite recipe?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Thai-Inspired Wings

After my recent post about wings my pal Eric sent me this recipe.  It sounded so good I had to try it.  By the way this is a great example of how the internet brings folks together.  Eric lives in Tacoma.  I'm in Charlotte.  We got reconnected through Facebook and learned along the way that we were both Eggheads.

So here's the recipe as Eric sent it.  I did things a little differently as I'll explain.


• 3 pounds chicken wings
• 2 tbls rice vinegar
• sea salt and fresh ground pepper
• 1 cup fish sauce (Squid brand is my favorite)
• 1 cup palm sugar (1-12 oz. package dissolved in 1 cup of water—make a simple syrup)
• Juice from an orange, divided
• zest of 1 orange
• 8 garlic cloves, minced (divided)
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 2 tbls sambal oelek chili paste (more or less for heat)
• 1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 1/2” pieces at 45 degrees
• 2-3 kaffir lime leaves
• 1 cup chopped cilantro, garnish


1. Place chicken in a large bowl and add 2 tbls vinegar and mix together. Rinse chicken with cold water to remove vinegar and drain well. Blot dry with a paper towel if necessary. Season the wings with a pinch of sea salt and a crank of fresh ground pepper.

2. In a saucepan, dissolve 1 cup of water with the palm sugar.  Once dissolved, remove from heat and let cool.  Whisk in the fish sauce, half the orange juice and half of the garlic cloves. Transfer the wings and marinade to a plastic bag (toss to coat) and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.  Let wings stand at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to cooking.

3. Drain the wings over a medium bowl to reserve the marinade. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until melted and add the remaining garlic; cook until the garlic is golden brown, being careful not to burn it. Turn the heat to medium-high and add the reserved marinade, remaining orange juice, orange zest, chili paste, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Continue to cook the marinade until it reduces to a syrupy consistency, about 10 minutes, and then remove it from the heat.

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes on the middle rack. After 10 minutes, rotate sheet and brush with reserved marinade. After the next 10 minutes, brush with marinade again and rotate sheet. It is not necessary to flip the wings over.

5. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Bake wings for another 20 minutes, brushing with remaining marinade halfway through and again at the end, prior to broiling.

6. Turn oven to broil and place wings on the top rack and broil for 1 minute. Remove from oven immediately after.

7. Plate and garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.  Use Mae Play Sweet Chili Sauce for dipping (although, I like them as is).

So here's how I did it for the Egg.

Firstly, Harris Teeter is a marvelous grocery store.  But an Asian market it ain't.  Lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves (?) were not on offer.  So I just left 'em out.  Oh they also didn't have palm sugar.  I used demerara sugar we had in the cabinet. Nextly I didn't leave myself enough time to marinate the wings for 3+ hours.  They soaked about 90 minutes before they went on the Egg.

Oh, so I have a question.  I got hung up on the notion of tossing the wings in vinegar and then rinsing it off.  What gives?  The skin had a weird texture after the vinegar, is it to facilitate some tenderizing process or something?  Anyone?  Here are the wings on a raised grid at 375f.  As I mentioned in the last post, Labon's success comes from moving them around a lot.  We checked on these about every 5 minutes to move them away from hot spots and to make sure they were all crisping up evenly.

It's cool when you have a friend you can call and say, "Want to try a new wing recipe?"  Labon came over Saturday to help me try this.  Besides it was great to have his wing-cooking expertise.

So we got the wings going while we boiled down the marinade into what was going to be the sauce.  We never got it to thicken up like it seemed like it should, but the house was smelling good.  I should say the house was smelling BETTER. When first I opened up the bottle of fish sauce the house proceeded to stink.  This was my first experience with fish sauce.  Ever look at the ingredients?  It's "sardine extract, salt, water."  It smells mostly like eau de sardine.

Anyway, we boiled this stuff down for about 20 minutes and started brushing it on the wings.
This is where I wish we had a scratch and sniff feature.  These things really smelled and tasted amazing.  Also I frankly bought the whole wings because they were on sale.  I trimmed the skin--we'll call it the underarm flab--between the drumette and the wing and just threw them on.  I'm a believer.  These were fall off the bone, but still juicy and had a nice crispy skin.

I didn't anticipate exactly how gratifying it would be to mix up the marinade and sauce like this.  It's gratifying.  The flavor certainly was something unavailable in any bottle on any shelf I know of.  This is worth making, folks.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wings of Desire (Himmel uber Buffalo)

Steve Martin once tweeted of wings:

Steve Martin
Buffalo wings = chicken wings in spicy sauce. World = full of lies. : [

Back in September Brent posted about wings on his blog.  In his blog he claims that wings are "easy to cook, relatively quick and delicious."  I knew the last thing to be true.  But are they easy?  Are they relatively quick?

In that same post Chris of NibbleMeThis made a comment, "I fire roast mine at 375f for 1 hour and they usually come out crispy enough. I do them 30 minutes, flip, 20 minutes, toss in sauce and put them back on for 10 more minutes with the bottom vent all the way open letting the temp come up."

Easy enough, right?  Somewhere along the way I'd read on the that wings get crispier if you raise the grid.  So I used my adjustable rig to get the wings high above the fire. I rubbed these wings with Dizzy Pig's Raging River and then followed the instructions above. Toward the end of the cook I tossed them in Stubb's spicy BBQ sauce and let the temp come up for 10 minutes.

Oops.  So I learned 2 things from this.
1. My thermometer was no longer properly calibrated.
2. Chris does his wings at INDIRECT heat.  

These died a fiery, charred death on direct heat at some level higher than 375f.  Gross.  My worst cook--ever.  On Wednesday I joked about becoming vegan.  If ever I was in danger, it was after I threw these wings away.

I didn't learn how to cook awesome wings right away from this experience.  I had to keep playing with it.

In fact, this pursuit of wing excellence took me down some dangerous side paths.  In December Labon and I were having a somewhat leisurely dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings when spontaneously we agreed to take the "Blazin' Wing Challenge."  The goal here is to eat 12 of their "Blazin'" (i.e. hot) wings in under 6 minutes. Here are some mobile phone shots of the wreckage from the wings and the challenger.
bones and sauce
Yes, it was spicy.

Should you succeed (and I did) you get a glass of water and a free t-shirt.

But I digress.  Wings really are tricky in my opinion.  They're so small and you want to get them crispy, but keep them tender.  That leaves a pretty narrow window in which to stick it just right.  You have to be vigilant with wings.  At least I have to be vigilant with wings.

I do like the the direct method.  Honestly I haven't tried the indirect method since figuring that element out. from Chris (but I will).  The secret for me has been simply shortening the cook time from an hour to about 40 or 45 min.  Labon is great with wings.  He's also hyper vigilant.  He'll check the wings every few minutes to see if they're coming along just right.  Each individual wing gets special attention with the understanding that you're going to have hot spots with direct heat.  This guy is cooking too fast.  Get him away from the heat.  This guy needs more heat.  Let's switch 'em.  The proof is in the wing-eatin.  He nails 'em.

My dad and I did this batch where we shortened the cook time to 45 minutes (20 min on one side at 375f raised with direct heat.  Flip.  Cook for 20 min, sauce and give 'em 5 more to caramelize). We used Ragin' River again but Sweet Baby Ray's Original sauce. They were awesome. 

 I'm still learning.  But you know what?  There are many roads that lead to  yummy wings.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wait, let me explain.

I know.  You probably expected the worst.  Botulism? Salmonella? VEGAN?!

No, no.  I assure you it was nothing so serious.

I won't name names, but somebody that I'm married to poured hot tea into my laptop over Christmas.  After our last computer died of old age during the summer of 2010, we got an iPad.  It's great for lots of things.  Blogging isn't one of those things.  So for all blogging purposes, for the last several months we've been a one-computer household. And for all of 2011 until the laptop got back from rehab last Friday, we were a zero-computer household.

But the computer is back.  It seems as good as it ever was.  

Related to nothing whatsoever on this post:  Here's a photo of Daisy, age 8.  She and I were bored the other night and got to playing with the camera some.

But hey.  Don't worry I've been cooking.  Been doing some wings, fish, brisket, skirt steak.  I whipped up some cobbler in the Dutch oven . . . I removed a good bit of body hair with a Big Green Egg-style fire ball. . . I even got some new gear for Christmas. It's been as fun as it ever was.   Just no blogging for a few weeks.  I'll get some posts going up here.  I've actually been surprised and flattered by the number of folks asking, "Dude, what happened to your blog?"   It's still here.