Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Product Review: Kamado Grill Accessories by Innovations by Chance

One of the cool things about going to regional Eggfests is that you get to see the newest accessories for your Big Green Egg or other kamado grill.  At Porkopolis in Cincinnati this Summer, I had the pleasure of finally meeting Mike Chance in person. 

Mike is the founder of Innovations by Chance, a company producing some rather cool accessories for kamado grills like the cast iron platesetter pictured above.  We spent some time talking about some of his new rigs, his new table, and his current line up of products.  Mike talked about how he got into this line of business.  Like often is the case, necessity was the mother of invention.  Mike needed somewhere to put hot and greasy grill grates when working in the Egg so he created his first Eggvention - the Great Rack.   

Mike followed up our conversation by sending me several of his products to try out.  I'm not someone to use a product once and then review it - I put the items through about 6 weeks of use and then I put together these following video reviews.

Fishbones Charcoal Grate
Retail: varies by dealer but in the $30-35 ballpark

Raiser Rig
Retail: varies by dealer but in the $30-35 ballpark

The Claw
Retail: varies by dealer but in the $18-22 range

You can find these and other Innovations by Chance products for sale at these dealers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Smoked Brisket Nachos and the 2014 Kentucky State BBQ Festival

I had the craving for some smoked brisket nachos last weekend.

brisket leftover, tailgating

Normally I would grab a pack of sliced brisket from the freezer but alas the freezer was bare. So I smoked a brisket just so I could have some brisket nachos.

smoke brisket, bbq brisket, kamado grill

I'll do a full post about the brisket later, I did do a few tweaks that worked well but this post is about the nachos.

This isn't really a recipe per se, just an idea that a lot of barbecue folks often use when we have leftover pulled pork or brisket.  It is just a base of tortillas and cheese sauce with the meat of your choice and whatever toppings you want. If you don't have leftover BBQ, just pick some up at your local BBQ joint.  Most sell take out by the pound or quart.

This particular time, it was:
  • Nachos
  • cheese sauce - not too much, just a zig zag of it across the chips
  • chopped brisket - about one slice per order of nachos
  • BBQ rub
  • another zig zag of cheese sauce
  • shredded colby jack cheese
  • black olives
  • sliced jalapenos that my neighbors jarred and are HOT 
  • bbq sauce drizzled across it all 
  • topped with chopped green onion
beef brisket, tailgate

These really hit the spot while watching the weekend's football games with Trevor.  They also reminded me of the Kentucky State BBQ Festival from a few weeks ago because BBQ nachos was one of the things we served.

Kentucky State BBQ Festival 2014 - Danville, KY
Before I get into what a great event this was, how wonderful the team was, and how nice Danvillle is, let's get one thing out of the way - this was the hardest BBQ event I have ever done.  I was physically exhausted after the weekend. That said, it was a blast.

The Kentucky State BBQ Festival isn't a contest like most of the events that you see me doing.  This is a big party and culinary event celebrating all things BBQ.  There are just 7 pitmasters and their teams feeding the throngs of people.  I heard a crowd number of 50,000 and that would not surprise me.  Our team alone literally served more than one ton of food. 

I was lucky enough to be cooking with Shane Draper's team - Draper's BBQ.  I couldn't ask to be a part of a better team - EVERYONE busted their butts. We ran like a well oiled machine at times.  Other times we were in the weeds but we pulled together, cranked up the weed-eater, and got ourselves back up to speed. But at all times, we did it together.

Our Menu
Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Smoked Bologna Sandwiches
BBQ Nachos
Kentucky Cheese Steaks

I didn't get much time to take pictures and when I did, it was very rushed and some are mobile phone shots, but I wanted to share the chaotic and fun experience.  

The first task for me was cooking 150 pieces of bacon for the BBQ quesadillas that we were serving for the festival's VIP dinner.  High noon and hot as fire, but we were already moving fast.

Later we engineered some shade for the cook area where the griddle and two Ole Hickories were.

The back end of "the house" was where the cooking got done.  In addition to the Ole Hickories, we had a Tucker Cooker.  Here Shane is fixing a gremlin in one of the Hickories.

The back of the house crew kicked butt all weekend.  I don't think we ever stopped prepping, cooking, wrapping, or shredding pulled pork.

Getting set up on Friday, the tent area is where we were going to serve and the trailer was for food prep. See all of those cases on nachos on the trailer?  Yeah, those didn't last through Saturday.

Loading coal up for a long burn in the Tucker Cooker.

Here Mike, Alethea, and I are prepping for the VIP dinner.

Frying up some of the nearly 300 BBQ quesadillas that we served up to the VIPs.

Do we look beat already?  Yes we were but as soon as the VIP dinner was done, Alethea and I were back in the trailer making pulled pork sandwiches, smoked bologna sandwiches, cheese for the nachos, and making Kentucky Cheese Steak sandwiches to order.  She was my wingman for the weekend.
Other teams were just as busy prepping for the crowds.

17th Street BBQ getting set up.
Rick and Moe Cason taking a minute to catch up.

Side note:  Moe Cason (pictured above, right), from Ponderosa BBQ and a judge on BBQ Pitmasters, announced this week that he has quit his day job so he can do barbecue as his full time career now.  Congratulations on chasing your dream, Moe!  Moe and I will be judging at the Pensacola Eggfest Presented by Pensacola's Kia Autosport in November.  Come out and join in the fun! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fire Roasted Chorizo and Green Chile Rice Casserole

This is just a quickie - in fact, I didn't even intend to make a post about this but it was too good not to.  We have made the Chile Rellenos Rice from Tyler Florence's book, Family Table, a few times now.  Each time has been a little different but this has easily been our favorite version.

I know that I have been doing a lot of Tex-Mex dishes on here lately but I'm almost out of green chiles so I'll be getting back to more traditional grilling and BBQ.  In the mean time I have been loving eating green chiles on just about everything.  One of the best pairings for green chiles, in my opinion, is raw or Mexican chorizo.  Brown a little chorizo with some scrambled eggs and cheese, top that with a little diced green chile and you have yourself an amazing breakfast.

This casserole is super easy to make and is one of my new favorite comfort foods.  This would be good for tailgating since you could either assemble it ahead of time and then cook on the grill at the game.  Or you could cook it at home and carry it in an insulated package and it would stay warm for a good while.  It reheats well too.  You can change the colby-jack cheese out with any other cheese you like and can substitute sour cream for the crema. 

Fire Roasted Chorizo and Green Chile Rice Casserole
adapted from Chile Rellenos Rice in Tyler Florence's Family Table

  • 3 links Johnsonville Chorizo sausage
  • 2 cups of long grain rice, cooked according to direction
  • 12 ounces colby-jack cheese, cubed
  • 2 cups Mexican crema
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup diced fire roasted green chiles
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • handful of sliced black olives 
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  1. Set up your grill for indirect heat and preheat grill to 375°F
  2. Remove sausage from its casing, brown the sausage in a skillet, and drain.
  3. Mix all ingredients, except for the olives and bread crumbs, in a large bowl.  Spoon into a greased half steam pan or casserole dish and tightly cover with foil.
  4. Place on the grill, close, and roast for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the foil, sprinkle with the olives and panko bread crumbs, and cook until the top is golden brown and bubbly - about another 20 minutes.
  6. Garnish with green onions and cilantro and serve. 
Just to clarify, you take 2 cups of uncooked rice and then cook it for this recipe.  You aren't using 2 cups of cooked rice.

I'm using a kamado grill so my indirect set up this time involves using a pizza stone and a Raiser rig from Innovations by Chance.  You could also use a plate setter.  You would set up a gas grill like this or a basic charcoal grill like this.

I love Mexican chorizo sausage and Johnsonville is my preferred brand because they only use premium cuts of pork. Mexican chorizo is raw ground pork and seasonings compared to Spanish chorizo which is a cured, hard sausage.  Always know which type a recipe calls for, big difference.

I didn't think this was all going to fit into one steam pan but Alexis was right, it fit.

I go through a shameful amount of steam pans and lids each year but at least they are recyclable.

The cheese will bubble up through the top as it cooks during the uncovered portion. One tip for getting the top brown is to get the pan as high up in your grill as possible.  This keeps it closer to the reflective heat coming down off of your grill lid.

Alexis and I both agreed that our favorite parts were the crispy edges.

It makes a lot but warms up great in the micro-nuker-thingy. 

Competition-ish Chicken
My post for the Char-Broil All Stars over at Char-Broil live this month is about taking tricks that competition cooks use and adapting them to use at home.   Hop over there to check out my Competition-ish Chicken.

On a related note, since I am one of their All Stars, I can get you a 25% discount on a Char-Broil grill through their website. It's not a "friends and family discount" so you don't have to act like you are my crazy uncle, just use the discount code C14NT4.   (Again, it has to be through their website.  If you go to a store to buy a Char-Broil grill and say, "I know Chris and C14NT4." they will probably just give you a blank stare.) 

[Standard Disclaimer] I am a member of the Char-Broil All Star team but I don't get any commission or anything. I paid full price for my Johnsonville sausages which is crazy since I have free product coupons from them that I can't ever seem to remember until I'm at the store.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Smoked Pork and Hatch Green Chile Enchiladas

Don't you love the aroma of fresh chiles roasting over a fire?  I have a Pavlovic response to it, in literal terms of the word.  One day soon I want to attend a big chile festival, where hundreds of chiles are being tossed and roasted in drums, just so I can overdose on that smell.

Recently, we ordered a batch of fresh Hatch green chiles from The Hatch Green Chile Store.  A friend of ours, Kirk of AlbuKirky Seasonings, just happened to order us some fire roasted Hatch green chiles as a surprise from the same the same time.  So picture me confused when I get two shipments a day apart.  I thought Alexis had accidentally ordered the fire roasted ones when she was first browsing the site while she insisted she didn't.  Fortunately Kirk let us in on his secret and Alexis got to say "I told you so".  I hate it when she's always right ;)

You can't have too many green chiles, in my experience.  They disappear quickly into soups, sauces, on grilled meats, and on scramble eggs and - well about anything.  I have fire roasted about half and the other half I dehydrated to use to make some green chile rubs.

When I made my Hatch Green Chile Sauce and Tex-Mex smoked pork in the previous two posts, I made it with this idea in mind - to make a green chile enchilada sauce for smoked pork enchiladas that are fire roasted on the kamado grill.

Smoked Pork and Hatch Green Chile Enchiladas
Makes:  4 servings

  • 2 cups chopped TexMex Smoked Pork
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 4 ounces pepper jack cheese cut into 8 slices about 1" x 4" 
  • 1/2 cup shredded colby jack cheese 
  • Garnish ideas:  cilantro, cotija cheese, Mexican crema, green onions
For The Green Chile Enchilada Sauce
  1. Make the Enchilada Sauce:  Preheat a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat.  Add the Hatch Green Chile Sauce, heavy cream, and Albukirky Casa Seasoning and stir together. Reduce heat to low and maintain sauce warm but below a simmer.  (Note:  You will add the Mexican crema later.)
  2. Set up your grill for indirect heat and preheat to 375 F. 
  3. Lightly grease a half sized foil steam pan (or a medium sized casserole dish). Ladle enough of the Green Chile Enchilada Sauce to LIGHTLY coat the bottom of the pan, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup. 
  4. Assemble the Enchiladas:  Dip a tortilla in the warm enchilada sauce until warm and flexible, about 6-7 seconds.  Remove and place on a flat surface.  Place a piece of cheese down the middle and top evenly with 1/4 cup of the chopped smoked pork.  Roll up edges and place seam side down in the foil pan.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.  
  5. Fold the Mexican crema into the remaining sauce.  Taste for seasoning and add a little salt if needed.  Ladle enough of the sauce to lightly cover the tops of the enchiladas.  Reserve the remaining sauce and keep warm over very low heat.
  6. Cover the pan with foil and place on the grill, lid closed, for 20 minutes.    
  7. Carefully remove the pan from the grill and remove the cover.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded colby jack cheese. Return pan, uncovered, to the grill.  Close the grill lid and cook until the tops are golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.  
  8. Remove from the grill, drizzle the remaining sauce over the middle of the enchiladas and serve.
For the pork, I made my Tex-Mex style smoked pork butt, which is super easy and has a good flavor profile for using in nachos, tacos, and enchiladas. But if you don't want to bother with smoking your own pork, you can just buy some pulled pork from the grocery store or a BBQ joint as long as it isn't drowned in BBQ sauce.

Silicone tipped tongs like this makes shuttling the tortillas in and out of the warm sauce easier without tearing the softened tortillas.  Note:  In this picture we were just warming the tortillas in warmed cream that we added to the sauce later.  The next time we just did it all together as written in the recipe.  Both ways seem to work just fine.

Tex-Mex pork
Soaking the tortillas first makes them pliable so they roll without breaking.

8 fit perfectly in a half steam pan but you can use a casserole dish if you are so inclined.

Tex-Mex Pork, green chile sauce
I think this sauce would also be great with cilantro added into it but my family doesn't like cilantro so I skipped it this time.

indirect, BGE, Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, Vision, Primo, Grill Dome
Indirect set up for a kamado grill.  This time I am using The Raiser (Innovations by Chance), a pizza stone, and my favorite Craycort cast iron grate.
Then the pan goes right over the pizza stone/heat deflector for even, indirect fire roasting.

Indirect set up if you are using a gas grill.  Notice only the far right burner is on.  Grill lid would be closed while grilling with this set up, I just have it open for the example on my Char-Broil Gourmet TRU-Infrared.

Indirect set up if you are using a kettle style charcoal grill.  The pan shown just keeps the coal to the sides.  The enchilada pan goes on the cooking grate directly above the lower pan and then you shut the grill lid.

The kamado grill makes it easy to hold my temp of 375°F once it is stablized.

Big Green Egg roasting

It is finished when the edges get a little crispy.

These were so good that we made them twice in a week.  The green chile rice that we served with them was just basic rice pilaf with onions with 1/4 cup of my hatch green chile sauce substituted for some of the stock I normally use.

[FTC Standard Disclaimer] I received no compensation for this post and paid full price for our hatch chiles from The Hatch Chile Store.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tex-Mex Style Smoked Pork

Two weekends ago, Alexis and I traveled to Decatur, AL, the home of Big Bob Gibson's Barbecue, to be judges at the KCBS BBQ contest at Riverfest 2014.  Despite sampling 6 portions each of chicken, ribs, pulled pork, and brisket, I wanted to make some of my own BBQ.  When we got home I fired up my Big Green Egg to smoke a pair of pork butts that I had.  Since I had just eaten a lot of competition bbq with sweet/heat flavor profiles, I decided to make my Tex-Mex style pulled pork with one of the butts.  

Barbecue folks often use leftover pulled pork on/in tacos, burritos, enchiladas, nachos, and quesadillas and that works well.  But I like making this Tex-Mex style with a flavor profile that already matches those dishes.

This is probably the easiest smoked pork butt that I make because it uses a pre-made rub and has only limited preparation - no special trimming, injections, brines, or any of that stuff.  I just trim off any excess fat cap and then heavily rub the pork butt with AlbuKirky Seasonings Green Chile Rub.  That's it, prep is done.  UPDATE:  Use the coupon code NIBBLE when ordering AlbuKirky Seasonings through their website and get a 15% discount!!

When I got ready to set up my kamado grill for the smoking, I realized that I was out of hardwood chunks.  No problem, I just took some of the 16" hickory logs from the pile for The Warthog (stick burner) and made 1" x 1" x 16" splits with it.  When I use small wood splits like this in the kamado, I first put three in that are angled up from the charcoal grate to the firebowl top like this.  This way they are traveling up, down, in, and out of the coal so I'm always getting some wood smoke as the fire burns through the coals.

Yes, that's a cracked bowl.  Big Green Egg will replace it under warranty, but I'll keep using it until when/if it actually breaks.  I cleaned the ashes seen under the fire grate out before lighting.

Then I put in some lump coal and a few more splits like below.  Then I top it off with lump coal to a little above the fire bowl (below the fire ring).

Then I just smoke them for about 1 1/2 hours per pound at 250°F so these 8 pounders took about 12 hours. Because the kamado grill is so efficient, I don't have to add fuel at all for the 12 hours.  At low temps like this, it can burn as long as 20 hours on a single load of coal.

Here's a cool idea.  At the Franklin BBQ contest, it rained so much that Gilgamesh himself said it was too wet and my dad fashioned this plastic storage box as a way to keep the connection of two extension cords dry.  He just cut a small chunk out of one end and then covered it with a duct tape flap so the cords can pass through. Turns out this box also works perfectly to keep my electronics clean and dry.

Here it is holding two of my Thermoworks Chef Alarm remote probe thermometers and the controller unit for my Auber Instruments blower.  It is easy for storms to sneak up while you are asleep during overnight cooks and even though the electronics are under a gazebo, wind often blows soaking rain onto the table.  This solves that problem and lets me sleep a little better.

Even closed, I can see the read out displays. 

The reason the Auber is reading about 220°F when I want 250°F is because of the temperature difference between the level of the cooking grate where the food is and where the temperature gauge which is mounted near the top of the kamado grill dome.  If I run the Auber set at about 220-225°F, my dome temp will be around 250°F.

The Auber is basically a little CPU that is connected to a temperature probe in the grill and a small fan connected to the bottom vent.  When the CPU detects the temperature inside the grill is less than I have set for the target temperature, it turns the fan on to heat up the coals.  So basically it minds the fire while I sleep.  
You don't need an controller/blower like this because a good kamado grill is perfectly capable of holding even temps with just the upper and lower vents. In fact, I wouldn't even recommend that you buy one until you have used your kamado grill for at least a year to master fire control first.  I use mine but about half of the time for cooks over 6 hours, they are nice for insurance on these overnight cooks. 

These butts finished right at the expected 12 hours.  The internal temperatures were 197°F and 198°F and the bone was protruding and wiggled easily.  That bone is like a pop up thermometer in a turkey only this is way more accurate.

You can't tell which butt is the green chile rubbed one and which is the regular BBQ rub one after they have cooked, can you?  From past experience I knew that would be an issue so I purposely connected the green Chef Alarm to the green chile rubbed butt so I'd be able to tell which is which. Doesn't really matter since you could tell by the taste and smell.

The metal clip in the center bottom is the temperature probe for the blower.
So I gave them the FTC treatment which means I wrapped each in foil (F), then a towel (T) and put them in an empty cooler or Cambro (C) for 1 to 4 hours.  The longer the rest the better for my tastes.  Here is the green chile butt after 4 hours in the Cambro.  Looks burnt?  No way, that color is flavor. 

Even after four hours in a cooler, pork butts are still hot to handle so I'm a big fan of these silicone gloves that have hit the market.  They make it easy to handle steaming hot food and break the butts down into pulled pork.

Just like regular smoked butts, this has nice bark, a good smoke ring, and is tender.  It just has a slightly different flavor profile that works better in Tex-Mex style recipes.

Decatur Riverfest 2014
Once again, the Decatur Riverfest was held in spectacular weather with mild temperatures and blue skies.   They put together a top notch event here and we were fortunate enough to be selected as BBQ judges for the pro side of this event on the banks of the Tennessee River in Alabama.

Entertainment and Food
This year Riverfest boasted live performances by 8 recording artists.  That alone is worth the price of admission but wait there's more;)

They had a free kids area with inflatable rides, monster balls, face painting, rock climbing, and Lowe's Kids Kits.  I couldn't convince the monster water balls operator that I was under 10 so they wouldn't let me play. 

Vendors and sponsors had booths set up.

Since public health laws prevent the competition teams from selling or giving out samples, there are plenty of BBQ and festival type food vendors on hand to make that stomach happy.

I don't care much for sweets but I have a serious weakness for deep fried festival foods. 

Team Signs & Names
We always get a kick out of the various names and displays of the BBQ competition teams.

Not every cool sign has to be professionally made...

One of my favorite teams, always!  They killed Kenny.

Overall winner of this year's Riverfest.

There was a wide range of smokers (aka cookers) there.  There seemed to be a higher percentage of kamado cookers at this contest compared to other events.  We have pretty much decided to switch to kamado grills for comps next year.  I love the stick burner but it's a lot of work and I don't know it as well as the kamado grills. 

A large Big Green Egg.