Monday, May 14, 2012

Flank Steak, Baked Vidalias

Seems you never stop learning and some times it is re-learning as was the case with cooking my Mom's day meal. I knew there was a reason I had stopped buying Flank Steak many years ago and it was simply that, I don't like them. It's a tough piece of beef at best - beefy and tasty for sure, but tough. I know a lot of people like them and even see them used for fajitas a lot and that's even worst as Fajitas and all Authentic Mexican dishes are never good if the meat is rare and you just don't want your Flank Steak to be well done. The leftover steak will be chopped and fried for steak tacos as that is the only use for this meat I can live with. With plenty of time on my hands, I decided to foil bake the potatoes and followed my procedure for that by pricking them with a sharp tined fork all over after scrubbing, then oiled them with evoo and covered them with a couple of tablespoons of kosher salt before wrapping and baking for an hour and fourty minutes in a 350 degree oven. We usually nuke these and it had been so long since baking them properly in the oven we had forgotten how much better they are this way. I started the salad by pulverizing 3 garlic cloves into some salt in the bottom of a wood salad bowl and added 1/4 cup olive oil, tbs of dijon, tbs of wine vinegar, before tossing the mixed greens. The onions were outstanding and we usually wrap them whole with butter in the center and found out that is the wrong way to bake them - they are much better sliced and inch thick and grilled or baked with oil and butter to brush on them as they cook. By cooking them this way rather than in foil you can better judge when they are done. Sour cream yeast rolls were made the day before and baked again and the meal was served with a Shrimp Coctail. Desert was home made Lemon Ice Box Pie Ice Cream that has become our favorite of all Ice Cream.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Grilled / Smoked Chicken

There are 3 types of grilled chicken - VERY GOOD, SO SO, AND BAD. These two whole "all natural" Tyson birds (which I halved) happened to fall into the VERY GOOD category, much to my surprise. I have always believed that it is all the little "extras" you do when cooking anything that makes the difference so I try to always brine my chicken the day before and air dry them in the fridge overnight. This time however due to a busy day working outside, I skipped the brine step. While the smoker / grill was heating up, I mixed several tbs of Five Spice into little room temp butter and let it get hard in the freezer to insert under the skin on the thighs and breast. Seasoned the bird on both sides and popped them into a 325 degree cooker for about 1 hour on the skin side before turning them over to cook another 30 min or so to an internal breast temp of about 165 - 170. I don't think they got much over the 170 while resting with a foil cover in a pan before we made the pictures and they were done to perfection. Which brings to mind another thing I have always believed held true when grilling and even cooking great BBQ, which is that, cooking to the perfect finished temp, is one of the main ingredients.
I thought a few Stuffed and Wrapped Jalapenos and Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots would be good with the chicken and of course they are good with anything or all by themselves. These were mild peppers and they have to be for us to enjoy them even though I consider myself a pepperhead. The Tots are tricky and you have to let them thaw in order to get a toothpick threw them and you also have to make sure the bacon reaches completely around them as the bacon is what holds them together while they cook, the toothpick just holds the bacon.
I have very fond memories of the Lemon Icebox Pies from my youth when my Mom made them on a regular basis but not so often that they were taken for granted. They were always great and the taste deserving of top spot in the special treat category. Head over heals into using our new ice cream maker to make our own special recipes of ice cream, I was looking through the Southern Living magazine and saw this recipe and immediately knew it was the next recipe we would try. Glad I did because I was and still am shocked it actually taste just like the pie. If you love this pie, you absolutely have to try this ice cream.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Morel Sauce and Benton Ham

Visiting friends in Tn usually results in a stop at Benton Hams which is understandable since this is some of the best cured pork on the planet - it is well know even in fine restaurants in other countries where Chefs have it shipped and use it regularly.

This trip we found time to head to the farm and look for Morels, hoping to find a great harvest but disappointed to only find a handful. With our meager Morel harvest we were only able to make this Red Wind / Morel sauce to accompany our ham dinner.
It was still a special treat as these Morels as everyone knows are very hard to come by.

Grilled Chicken

Boneless and Skinless Grilled Chicken is not suppose to be this good! Brining this chicken really helps to keep the breast meat from drying out and everyone knows how hard it is to grill Chicken Breast and have a dry tasteless result. I don't try to flavor the bird with my brine so it's just salt and water that I use and it really helps.

I mixed my own Rub for these big breast and used 4 types of pepper - Paprika, Ancho, Chipotle, Black Pepper. You want to watch the heat in your rub anytime your using Chipotle and always add it after the brown sugar, cumin, and kosher salt so that you can taste it and add more as needed.

I made this rub screaming hot but most of the meat will be included in dishes that will take a lot away from all that heat. A nice side like the Antipasto and Home Made Sour Cream Rolls always goes well with anything.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Muffin Ched'r 1/4lb Burger

I have a thing about English Muffins for Hamburgers - I really like them better than the best rolls or buns you can have for some reason.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Sopes, the thick little Tortilla with the pinched up sides that holds all that the imagination can provide in the way of Mexican food along with all those famous condiments, are very popular with about everyone that tries them. Home made is almost always better especially with Tortillas or the Sopes. That great corn flavor comes through triple good when these are home made. Unless you want to grind your own field corn, you will need to start with the Masa Harina which you will find the same as using Corn Meal for Corn Bread. You simply reconstitute it with water to make a dough. That is what was used here and something tells me that the better job you do with kneading the dough the better the result. I have been an avid Mexican food lover for a long time and make it a lot, and this meal was one of the best I have ever made. Of course the sauce was made from scratch, and I had smoked a couple of Chuck Roast a few days earlier so the meat was excellent, so there really were no excuses. All those wonderful condiments like radishes, pico de gallo, pickled and / or roasted Jalapenos, lettuce, and cilantro, etc were missing since it was a weekday work night but what we did have was so good it did not matter. I have to remind my self to always make these Mexican dishes on a weekend.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

ABT"S and Pizza

These Jalapeno appetizers have been very popular with BBQ'rs for a long time now but are still not well known in this bacon wrapped form to many people. It's simple choose a filling or combination of ingredients to make a filling and wrap the filled pepper with bacon and cook. We had Corned Beef leftover and used that with cream cheese. After stuffing those and finding just enough meat left for a pizza we assemble the pizza and both were cooked outside in the Pellet Cooker. Smoke goes real well on cheese.

Garlic Pepper Chuck Roast

I love Chuck Roast for it's beefy flavor - it's one of my favorite cuts of beef. I think of Sunday dinners at my Grandmother everytime I have it. Cooked long enough in some braising liquid and it will get very tender. I wanted this to be like I remembered so I only used slivers of garlic studded into the meat and coarse kosher salt and black pepper. Since one of the roast was nearly separated when I opened the package I tied them both with twine before cooking. Smoke + Meat is always the way to go, so I cooked these right on the grate of the pellet cooker set at 300 cooking temp until the internal meat temp was 165. The meat was transfered to a pan and about one inch of water added before wrapping with foil and into the oven for the rest of the cook. The chuck roast always needs to cook more then you think to reach that falling apart stage and I cook them to at least 205.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Onion Pie w/Chipped Corned Beef

This will surprise you! Most would believe a dish made predominately out of onions would be of a strong onion flavor and that is just not the case. Garlic is the same way - if you bake garlic it will actually become almost sweet and definitely savory. I first made this in 2006 or so and when I made it this time I planned to add crumbled bacon but realized I had just enough left over Corned Beef that I sliced thin, so I chopped it a little and used it instead. I use store bought deep dish pie shells but the recipe indicates you only need one shell and it actually takes two of them but when I buy they come in two packs anyway. If you would like the recipe you can find it here on my website where you might also take a look at some of the best bbq smokers made.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Corned Beef

When it comes to Corned Beef I really do not like a strong flavor and usually soak them at least 24 hours. Even with the long soak and rinsing before the cook, you still get plenty of that Corned Beef flavor. The interesting thing about this deli meat is the comparison with Pastrami and since I smoked this 4 lb roast, some would say that it is now just as much Pastrami as it is Corned Beef. Both are cured but the Corned Beef is brine cured and the Pastrami is dry cured.
The Pastrami is usually smoked then steamed but the Corned Beef is boiled. This was smoked with the cooker temp set at 300 to an internal meat temp of 170 and wrapped in foil with a small amount of water and continued to cook until the meat was 190. I have a electric meat slicer that was about 90 bucks and it was well worth that because deli meat is just better when sliced very thin. You could say this was my practice run for St Patricks Day next weekend where we'll do a much larger Corned Beef and cook in the pot with the traditional carrots and onions then slice thick for the plate.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Smoked Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast

I put these boneless skinless chicken breasts in the pellet grill for 25 min on smoke and finished at 325 which took about 1 hr 20 min total
to reach 165 internal. I made my own basic bbq rub using some good quality ancho chili powder along with other standard ingredients. The chicken breast were brined for 2 hrs, rinsed and dried with paper towel, rubbed, then set on the counter to come to room temp before going in the cooker. Many people have told me that you don’t want much smoke on your chicken and to that, I say, “to each his own”. Unless I have tasted it myself I have stopped taking things I hear like “don’t get too much smoke on your chicken” for granted.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Seeded Loaf Bread

I have been working real hard to find a way to bake bread without having it interfer with my normal schedule. With a nice stand mixer, I have found making the dough and kneeding it is not the problem, but you know the rise is going to be unless you do some serious planning. What has been working very well of late for me is to mix it in the morning and after the first rise take it in the loaf pan to work where I can monitor the progress of the second rise. I have a very inexpensive toaster oven with a little convection fan that is doing a good job as you can see. Better bread, home made, and now I'm able to do it and work, take my morning walk, etc.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cracklin Cornbread

All during growing up at our house my Mom would have cornbread probably 5 days of every week. Amazingly I still love it and we have it a lot too but not near that much. We do however vary our cast iron pans depending on how many we plan to serve. Normally it's just us two and we use a "wedge" pan most of the time because we like the additional crust on the sides of each wedge we get using this pan. Just for a change sometimes we use a 6 in pan. For more than two we have a 9 or 10 in pan. Sometimes we like to bake the same amount we use for the small pan in the large 10 inch pan for a thin crusty pone. Then there is the special treat of Cracklin Cornbread and oh how everyone loves the cracklins.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stuffed & Smoked Bologna

Not everone is a bolo fan - but I am. With the cost of food through the roof these days a hefty pack of good quality sandwich meat will set you back some change. I like deli meats like roast beef, turkey, ham and such but really bologna is good enough for me unless I'm going to roast that meat myself. Soooo, with that in mind I saw Cowgirls (see fav blogs in sidebar)stuffed bolo and had to try it myself. I felt I made a mess of it and didn't even try to stuff the second half of it I had but it turned out a lot better in appearence than I thought it would after setting in the fridge. Using a long thin bladed knife to spiral slice it, I used slices of Provalone, 3 kinds of Olives, and some Pickles then tied it with sting and smoked it for 90 min. Sure was a nice surprise to have it look good and taste great both.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Focaccia and Tri Tip

We love this bread and have it often so I had to try baking it. This is a no knead bread and the dough goes into the baking pan like a batter rather than a bread dough. Of course never having made it before I was surpised by that and pleased at the same time as it makes the task much easier. Another great thing about this bread is all the various topping you can apply to it. We used thin sliced sauteed red onion, coarse sea salt, and fennel seed. The batter had a good amount of Oregano leaf included. I think everyone should google a focaccia recipe and try it especially if you love Focaccia.

I am a red meat lover and I like it cooked to the doneness you see here which is what I call Medium or about 140 internal. The normal grilling method consisting of a very HOT fire and turning as many times as need was not used on this cook. Instead, I used a method I have heard being used by many that turned the heat down real low to about 225 and cooks until the internal meat temp is 120 or not far from the "rare" stage, then transfer it to a very hot fire for just a few min to sear the outside. This makes it very easy to sneak up on your perfect finish temp.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Enchaladas w/BBQ Pulled Pork

Always one to try and make the best use of good BBQ as possible, I made these Enchaladas. The Ancho Chili gravy adds a lot of home made flavor to the dish and makes it a lot better than using the canned variety of sauce. Ole El Paso is good - but not near this good. I was actually making another attempt and copying my favorite local salsa and got side tracted and put it away in a paste form for later use. It was made with comal grilled onion, garlic, and tomatillos and blended with broth and Ancho Chili powder. To make the gravy I fried the paste in a little Lard and added the broth.
Tamales are not really worth the effort for me personally when Enchaladas can be made this easy and good. I know they are not the same thing but I just love Enchaladas and you can make them so many ways using various sauces and meats.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Beef Stew w/Brisket

Couple of weeks ago (see blog post below) I made Tostadas with some Beef Brisket Burnt Ends and I thought at the time it was the best use of this meat I had found - not so sure now.Last night I made Beef Stew and added the already made Burnt Ends right at the last of the cook and this was some of the best stew I have ever had and I love beef stew. It's just so simple and down home good - all you need is plain loaf bread and a little Tobasco.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pulled Pork @ 325

Everyone that knows anything about BBQ knows it's a low and slow thing - or is it? The fad, if I can call it that now days is cooking it hot and fast. Instead of the low 225 cooking temp a lot of cooks are raising that to 325 or even 350 and cutting the time to cook a large Boston Butt or Full Brisket in half or six hours max. Sure that smoke and long low and slow cook time adds to the meat, but folks that don't cook on grills and smokers need to know it's mostly the meat and you can turn the heat up and have a great pork roast.