Sunday, November 23, 2014

El Diablo Onion Rings

We wanted some pub style food for the weekend games so I decided to make some ribs and onion rings this weekend.  Is there anything more "pubby" than beer battered onion rings?

I made the ribs using the Apple Cider Ribs recipe from Chris Lilly's 2014 book, Fire & Smoke.  It's a great book and it would be a good present for the griller on your shopping list. 

As much as I tout the advantages of the kamado grill (Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, Grill Dome, Primo, Vision, Etc), there is one thing that bugs me when cooking ribs on them.  With the indirect set up using a plate setter/heat diffuser, the end of the ribs stick out over the gaps which are hot spots noted by the red arrow in the picture below.  This means those parts of the rib will cook faster and unevenly.

Sorry about the mobile phone picture.  Red arrow points out the gaps where you have hot spots while grilling indirect using a plate setter.

I thought I would try to do something about that this time.  I used a 16" pizza pan ($5.49 at Gordon Food Services) and drilled holes in it.  I placed this 1" above the plate setter.  The pan edges help deflect the heat from those hot spots so the heat can't just come straight up and hit the food.  The holes give the hot air somewhere to go besides just around the edges of the pan, otherwise I'm just pushing the hotspots out a little further.  

This worked pretty well at tuning down the hot spots just like using tuning plates on a stick burning, offset smoker. This isn't something that you have to have, I just think it makes a great grill work just a little bit better.

These loin back ribs were HUGE, weren't they?  I prefer true baby backs (2 1/4 lbs and down) but these were all that we could find at the time.

It worked well enough that I'm going to play around with that design some and make a better version with legs built in and the holes drilled symmetrically once I find the best pattern.

More mobile phone pictures - sorry 'bout that.

The onion rings were an idea I had back when we did the tailgate party but I nixed them from the list because our deep fryer had kicked the bucket.  I thought that adding one of the El Diablo Mustard varieties to my onion ring batter would spice things up a bit.  This recipe is mild as written, to increase the heat to medium just increase the mustard to 1/2 cup.  For hot, add in some of your favorite hot sauce.

El Diablo Onion Rings

  • 4 large Vidalia onions, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch rings
  • oil for deep frying
 For the batter
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white corn meal
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 3/4 cup light beer (American style lager)
  • 1/4 cup El Diablo Chipotle Mustard
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons oil

  1. Mix together the dry batter ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  Whisk the wet batter ingredients and then whisk that into the dry ingredients until combined in a smooth batter. 
  2. Heat your deep fryer or oil in a Dutch oven to 375°F.  When deep frying, always follow manufacturer's instructions, use personal protective equipment, and ideally have a Class K fire extinguisher available.
  3. Dip 5-6 onion slices into the batter, shake off the excess batter and lower into the hot oil.  Cook until golden brown on the first side, about 1 minute, and then use a long utensil to flip them.  Cook the second side until golden brown, about half the time that the first side took.
  4. Remove to a resting rack over paper towels.  Lightly season with fine salt.  Keep warm in a 200°F oven*.
  5. Repeat with remaining onion slices until all are cooked.
*The ignition point of paper is about 451°F so the paper towels should not ignite in a 200°F oven but I would only do this since I am near the oven the whole time and it will only be in the oven for about 10-15 minutes total. 

You can use types of onion other than Vidalia, I just like their sweet taste and meaty rings.

This is just the wet ingredients - look at all of that seasoning from the El Diablo mustard.  If substituting a different type, look for one loaded with visible seasonings, not plain yellow or dijon.

I stumbled on to this but a straight carving fork is perfect for handling the onion rings in and out of the batter as well as in the hot oil.

Notice the texture of the batter - that's where you want it.  If it is too thick, just add a beer 1-2 tablespoons at a time until you get the consistency like this.
Excuse the blurry picture but I was holding this as I took the shot and was paying more attention to keeping my hand out of the 375°F oil.   To keep the onion ring from sticking to the basket, hold each ring like this for about 3 seconds to let it start cooking before letting go all of the way.  

The color is your guide of when to flip and remove the onion rings more than time.  Also, give your oil a chance to recover its cooking temperature between batches.  You definitely don't want the oil dropping below 350°F. 

It is best to season fried foods as soon as they come out of the oil so keep doing it in small batches.  Don't wait until the end to season them all at once.

Honestly, I ate more onion rings than I did ribs.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Taste of Atlanta - Big Green Egg Turkey Demo and Turkey Grilling Tips

Last month I had the privilege of helping my good friend and colleague, Clint Cantwell, do a turkey cooking demonstration for Big Green Egg at the 13th annual Taste of Atlanta.  This lively culinary event features more than 90 restaurants, over 300 dishes, and tens of thousands of people.  It also boasted 4 live cooking stages and one of those was entirely dedicated to Big Green Egg cooking demos like the one we did for Grilled Turkey with Citrus Herb Salt and Sage Butter and Smoked Butternut Squash and Maple Bacon Soup.

spatchcock turkey, Big Green Egg turkey,
The beautiful bird that I cooked at the Big Green Egg corporate headquarters.

The event started off Friday night with a big kick off party full of entertainment, fun, music, and of course - food.  The theme was Culinary Matrimony where select chefs prepared their unique combination of ingredient pairs that while a bit unconventional - worked together.

Some of the chef's tasting stations were in individual booths on the edges of the park...

Some were under the "big top" along with other fun stuff.

Electric Avenue played the best of the 80's hits, it felt like 1985 all over again.

Chef EJ Hodgkinson's team made Grilled Chicken with Alabama White Sauce and Collard Green Salsa Verde.
 Some of the other dishes included bold offerings, such as;

Trio of Oyster Shooters and Champagne
Pulled pork, homemade pimento cheese, and Granny Smith Apple Slaw
Smoked Chicken Sausage with Hot and Sour Green Tomatoes
Venison Meatballs with Chipotle Cranberry BBQ Sauce
Twice Baked Potato with Lobster, Grained Mustard, and Saffron Aioli

Of course there were some ingredient pairings that evening that made Clint give the "wonk eye".

The entertainment included gaming's all legal for charity.

I absolutely loved this serving set up for Jim and Nick's BBQs pulled pork nachos.  I fully plan to use this idea at some point in the future.  

The Big Green Egg crew was at the kick off party serving the crowd some great food off of the Ultimate Cooking Experience.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Product Review: Thermoworks DOT Remote Probe Thermometer

Sometimes the best recipes are ones that are simple but well executed.  For example, a perfect steak doesn't need much other than quality beef, salt, pepper, and maybe garlic. 

Tools can be that way too.  Sometimes tools get so over-engineered that you forget what the original function was supposed to be. 

Dude #1:  Check out my new screwdriver.  It is made out of titanium, has surround sound, GPS, three USB ports, and comes with OnStar service!
Dude #2:  Cool!  How well does it drive screws?
Dude #1:  Screws?  

Just in time for the holidays, Thermoworks has come out with DOT - a well-designed remote probe thermometer with streamlined functionality*.  It is simple enough that anyone can use it but it is engineered for the commercial kitchen. 

First let's look at the simple functions.  
  • It displays the current temperature.  
  • It has an alarm.  
  • It has two buttons that raise the alarm temperature up and down.  
That's it. Compare it next to my favorite remote probe thermometer, the ChefAlarm, and you can see how streamlined the functions are.

No key pad, no volumes, no timers, no data logging, no tenths of degrees, no low temp alarms, and no backlit displays.  Not that there's anything wrong with those things, I love my ChefAlarms (all three of them!).  This is just a matter of preference.  Some people are tech geeks like me and want things to fiddle with, adjust, and to entertain my ADHD brain.  Other people just want the thing to do it's damn job without having to mess with it.  The DOT is the latter. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Giveaway: Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-Less Turkey Fryer

It is November which means a few things are coming...
  • Some disappointed football fans will switch their focus and start talking about "next year",
  • People will be commenting on Facebook lament about how stores used to wait until after Thanksgiving to put up their Christmas displays, and
  • Your local news team will do a feature with the fire department about the dangers of frying a turkey and will start by showing a Youtube video of someone burning their house down.
Yes, deep fried turkeys became popular in the 90's and have been providing viral videos of "Hold my beer and watch this" pretty much ever since.  Personally, I like to just spatchcock (remove the backbone and flatten it out) a turkey and cook it on the grill like I did with this Apple and Sage Turkey

But I get that some folks want it easier.  Since Thanksgiving is just around the corner, I am going to give away a Char-Broil Big Easy™ Oil-less Turkey Fryer.   That's right....oil-less.  No burning down the house required.

The Big Easy's claim to fame is that it is faster, cheaper, and safer than deep frying a turkey.  The cook time isn't faster, but the start to finish time is because you don't have to wait for the oil to heat and cool down. It is cheaper because you don't have to use a large amount of cooking oil.  That makes it safer too, you aren't lowering a turkey into a boiling vat of oil over open flames.

The Big Easy™ is easy to use, as its name implies.  Not a lot of dials or settings to mess with.  No temperature gauges.  No fussing with positioning the turkey.  No trussing the bird required.  No large roasting pan to contend with.  It is as simple as putting your bird into the basket, lowering the bird into the preheated cooking chamber, and waiting until your bird is done.

The design is very simple yet highly effective.  The cooking chamber is a stainless steel drum with a wire basket that holds your turkey (or roast, or chicken, or ribs, or....) in perfect position.

Notice the hole at the bottom - you'll see what this is for later.

A gas burner coils around the bottom of the unit to heat it evenly.

The controls are basic, just an igniter to start the Big Easy™ and a single heat control knob.  Not rocket surgery here.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Golden Chipotle Mustard Wings

If you are going to a tailgate, chances are that you are going to see some wings.  Typically they are the buffalo sauce laden variety, which are good but sometimes you want something a lil' bit different.  That is why I made these Golden Chipotle Mustard Wings for our tailgate at our son's house.

The Golden Chipotle Mustard Wing Sauce isn't that unusual if you hale from the mustard belt of South Carolina where they like to drizzle a mustard based BBQ sauce on their BBQ.  Unlike the usual sweet ketchup based BBQ sauces, mustard based sauces pack a spicy vinegar punch.  I tweaked that with a kick of chipotle by using El Diablo Chipotle Mustard.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Beef, Vermont White Cheddar and Pancetta Sliders with Fire Roasted Fries

"What are you doing?" Clint asked as I stood at the hotel window with my zoom lens camera in one hand and my kitchen timer in the other.  

I was shamelessly shigging, I guess.  I was watching the Burger Fi cooking crew five stories below and watching how they did their sliders on a flat top griddle and, yes, I was even timing their burger flips using a kitchen timer.

Burger Fi crew as seen from my hotel room. Wonder if they had "that feeling" they were being watched.

My friend, Clint Cantwell, and I were in Atlanta to do cooking demonstrations for Big Green Egg at the Taste of Atlanta.  The event had 90+ restaurants serving and 4 live cooking demo stages.  I got to cook with some great people at the festival and at the Big Green Egg corporate location - my next post will be about all of that.  But this post is about these sliders.
Burger Fi is a relatively new burger chain that focuses on building a better burger by using simple, quality ingredients like all natural beef.  They recently opened a store in Knoxville on the Strip by campus and it is quite popular.  But my first time getting to try Burger Fi was at this food festival, where I got the double slider and fries.
Isn't it cool how they brand their buns?
After an event like this, I like to come up with a recipe inspired by the event so I decided to put my spin on the sliders they were serving.  I used their principles to guide what I was doing with my sliders.
  1. Use quality, all natural beef - Burger Fi is one of many restaurants serving Meyer Natural Angus.  I went to the Meyer Ranch last year and saw first hand how they manage their cattle with no hormones or antibiotics.  They are an incredible organization that puts out top notch beef.
  2. Keep it simple - they let their quality ingredients shine.  So I keep the seasonings simple, just some salt, pepper, and garlic.  
  3. Hand cut fries - the fries were crispy, golden, and melt in your mouth delicious.  They fry theirs of course but I decided to do a fire roasted version.
  4. Branded buns - When I won a burger contest hosted by McCormick GrillMates a few years ago, one of the prizes was one of those customized steak brands so you can sear your initials into a steak or burger.  I hadn't used it yet but thought I would try it on the buns like they do.
I upgraded the cheese to white cheddar which works great on burgers. I also skipped the lettuce and tomato and added pancetta. They used a flat top griddle and I have one but I wanted to use my Big Green Eggs so I opted for a griddle plate on the grill instead.  You could use a skillet, salt block, or grilling stone instead.  Use what ya got.  You might have to do the burgers in small batches depending on the size.

These would be ideal for a tailgate situation because you can make the ground beef balls hours in  advance.  That is why I don't add the salt to the beef mixture - it can draw out moisture from the meat.  Instead I only season with the salt as the burgers are cooking.  

tailgate, grilling, burgers

Beef, Vermont White Cheddar, and Pancetta Sliders

Friday, October 24, 2014

Smoked Brisket Sliders, A Tailgate, and El Diablo Giveaway

One important rule about tailgating is to always have a Plan B.  

El Diablo Mustard offered to sponsor one of our tailgates this year so we planned an outdoor event at our older son's house for one of the University of Tennessee away games.  We were going to do everything outside and the day had been beautiful blue skies.  But just as we were getting set up in the back yard a few hours before the game, the winds blew, the skies turned dark, and the temperatures dropped.

Dark clouds rolling in...

We weren't sure if it was going to rain but the wind was blowing everything over and it was cold so we just went with Plan B and moved everything indoors.  The food tasted just as good inside and everyone had a blast.  The menu we picked was:

Nachos and Red Hatch Chile Queso
Smoked Bologna
Smoked Beef Brisket Sliders with Crispy Fried Onions
Golden Chipotle Wings
Mango Mustard Slaw
Pit Beans

Shot recreated on a much less windy afternoon...with leftovers that were still great!

It may seem a little counter-intuitive to make a big meat like brisket or pork butt for a tailgate but it actually makes logistical sense.  You can cook those meats at home, put them foiled in a cooler or Cambro, and hold them for 4 hours.  All you have to do at the tailgate is slice or pull it.

For this brisket, I used the El Diablo Steakhouse Mustard as a slather.  Mustard slathers are nothing new in BBQ, the mustard acts as a binder for the seasoning rub and the vinegar in the mustard also provides a tenderizing effect (although I think the latter is more "old pitmaster tale" than fact). But the varieties and heat that El Diablo Mustard has bring something new to the game - a more complex flavor.  

Dat smoke ring...

Smoked Beef Brisket Sliders with Crispy Fried Onions
Serves:  10-12