Monday, October 17, 2016

Live From Smithfield - Day 1

Everyone knows that Smithfield, Virginia is the Ham Capital of the World.  But did you know that it was almost the Peanut Capital instead?  If a 1921 fire hadn't wiped out the peanut warehouses, Smithfield would have stayed the Peanut Capital and wouldn't be known worldwide for their hams.  

I learned that and a whole lot more recently when Smithfield Foods invited me up to learn more about their historic town, the company, and Genuine Smithfield Hams.  In full disclosure, they paid for my educational trip but all in all, I should have been paying them  - what a great few days.  Plus, to get a chance to walk through the hallowed halls of such a famed know I wasn't going to turn that down.

Day 1 was a travel day, happy hour, a cooking class, and then a great meal.  

I flew into Norfolk, Virginia, flying over the worlds largest naval installation.  See that tiny little ship down there?  Yeah, that's an aircraft carrier.

A short drive later, we arrived in Smithfield, Virginia - the Ham Capital of the World.  Located in Isle of Wight County (not an Isle...), Smithfield was established in 1752 and has been making history ever since.

Live From Smithfield Ham Capital of the World
We stayed at the Smithfield Inn which was also established in 1752.  Back then, it was a stagecoach stop - a welcome respite for travelers journeying the dusty roads.  It makes pulling up in an SUV rather anti-climatic. 
The Inn is well appointed with craft made furniture.  This is the front parlor, to the right when you first walk in. 

George Washington stayed at the inn.  A lot of places claim this but Conde Nast Traveler says Smithfield Inn is one of two places where it is a valid claim.

As you walk down the long wood plank floors of the upstairs hallway, it feels as if you are walking back in time.

Staircase to nowhere.  I forgot to ask about that.

I stayed in the George Washington Suite!  Yeah, don't get excited, it's just named after him.  They don't know which room he actually slept in.

Just like back in the day when stagecoach travelers might have a pint of ale to wash down the trail dust, we met at the inn's bar, where I had a Legend Brown Ale.  It reminded me of a less heavy Newcastle Brown Ale.
Best ham on the planet, best country ham, genuine Smithfield ham
The best ham I have ever had in my whole life.

At happy hour, they provided us with this "snack" - a Charles Henry Gray party ham.  Here I am in the Ham Capital of the World having the best ham they have to offer and it exceeded my expectations.  It's a country ham but treated to a very special painstaking process using Mr. Gray's secret brown sugar seasoning and taking over six months of curing, aging, and smoking. The flavor is deep, sweet, slightly smoky and pleasantly salty.  It's a ham experience and NOTHING like a wet cured, spiral sliced ham (not that there's anything wrong with those).  They are expensive but for a high end holiday party, this would be an amazing centerpiece.

And those yeast rolls?  Also incredible.  Together, I could have eaten nothing else on this trip but these ham rolls and I would have been just fine.  These are the secret recipe of Miss Mozell Brown, who has worked at the Smithfield Inn for 50 years.  She got the recipe from her mother and comes in every morning at 4am to make them so no one else in the kitchen can see her recipe.  These have been featured on television and won national acclaim, for good reason.

I could go on and on about both of these.  Together they are one of the most simple yet amazing single bites of food I have ever had.  A Smithfield Inn ham roll is everything great about Southern cooking in one bite.  If it sounds like I'm gushing, it's because I am.

Speaking of Miss Mozell, not only did we get to meet her, she taught us how to make bacon jam.  You'll have to excuse my photos for this part, we had lighting problems.  Apparently, you can't run more than a half dozen hot plates on a single power strip in a building built in 1752...who knew?  So I borrowed the photo on the left from the Inn's website.

It's kind of cheating when they had everything already prepped out for us in portion cups.  Maybe I can get them to come to my house?  

My partners at the bacon jam session were Robyn Lindars from Grill Girl and Clint Cantwell from Grillocracy.

After the bacon jamming, we headed to the main dining room for a fabulous dinner.

The inn put out an amazing feast for us, including candied bacon, Teriyaki ribs, carnitas, and the Virginia specialty, she crab soup.

HERE IS THE BACON JAM RECIPE that we made, or a version of it, and this is the one that I made on the grill this weekend.

I used light corn syrup instead of dark, because that's what we used in class.  Also instead of apple wood smoked bacon, I used Smithfield Thick Cut Hometown Original, which is hickory smoked.

I made the bacon jam on the grill in a Dutch Oven.  I was using a kamado grill running at 350°f with direct heat when I started.  I had the lower vent barely open because I had to keep opening the lid to stir, add ingredients, etc. and that gave the fire plenty of air.

Also, since the grill was MUCH hotter than what we used at the Inn, I didn't add the sugar in the onions until the onions had cooked for 10 minutes first.

We got about 3 small jelly jars full from this recipe.

Bacon ham on a homemade buttermilk biscuit?  Yes please!  
Here are the few changes I made to their recipe in order to make this on a ceramic kamado grill.  Today I was using a Big Green Egg but it would be the same process on any of our other kamados.
  1. First, don't rely on the 40 minute cook time.  There is one step where you simmer the jam for an hour.  
  2. By the time the bacon cooked, my Dutch oven was getting pretty hot so for the step on sauteing the onions and sugar for 15 minutes - I did the onions only for 10 minutes and added the sugar for the last 5 and that seems to work perfectly.
  3. Trying to reduce a hot kamado to a medium low heat for simmering for an hour is tough.  So I took the Dutch oven out, covered it and let it sit for 15 minutes (this stayed quite hot) while I shut down the grill's vents to get the temperature lowered enough.  Then I put the Dutch oven back on uncovered for the remaining 45 minutes.  
Day 1 Takeaways
  • Charles Henry Gray hams are incredible.
  • Miss Mozzell's rolls are delicious.
  • I need to make bacon jam on the grill (done!).
Operation BBQ Relief NC Deployment
I've mentioned Operation BBQ Relief on here several times.  They respond to feed the victims of and first responders to natural disasters.  They are a great non-profit and their leadership does not even collect a salary - all donations go straight to helping people.  On the heels of the Louisiana flooding deployment where OBR served 20,000-30,000 meals PER DAY - now they are in North Carolina serving over 25,000 meals per day.  This is stretching their resources thin.

Thanks to companies like Rhino, Walmart, and Weber for making large donations of supplies and logistics.  Smithfield's Helping Hungry Homes program has donated trucks full of products as well.  But OBR is truly a grassroots, regional response program that relies on people like you to donate and volunteer.  Sign up here to be a volunteer in your region for future deployments.  Check out their Amazon Wishlist to donate supplies.  Of course, cash is the fastest way to get assistance to ongoing deployments.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

BBQ Bandit Steals Meat Right Off Of The Pit

This week, a BBQ Bandit struck in the night and stole $1,500 worth of meat from the pits of Kinfolk BBQ in Smyrna, TN.  

According to Nashville's News 2, Jerry Britton loaded his BBQ pits with care Friday night with his brisket and pork to cook overnight.  Sometime during the night some awful person(s) stole all of the meat right off the pit!  I grab a man's butt(s) in the middle of the night when he's not looking.

This isn't a case of someone stealing food because they are hungry.  They cleaned out everything on the pit!  What's worse is that $1,500 of meat is way more than that to a BBQ restaurant's cash register. This really hurts a small business like this.

If you are heading on I-24 between Chattanooga and Nashville, think about stopping in at Kinfolk BBQ.   They seem to get good reviews and could use the extra sales to make up for their losses.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Chicken Lollipops or Frenched Chicken Drumsticks

The humble chicken leg doesn't get much attention. That's funny because when we were kids, a drumstick was usually a preferred option.  I think that's mainly because kids love food with a handle. Frenching a chicken leg is a great way to elevate the chicken leg to something a little edgy, like a food truck might serve.  It might be adult food but the kid in you will still love the handle.

Frenching is a technique where tissues are cut away, exposing the bone for a fancier presentation. Usually it is simply for appearance sake, as with pork, veal or lamb chops.  But frenching a chicken leg is more than just an appearance treatment.  When you french a chicken leg, you are also removing tendons and compacting the meat, making a more juicy and enjoyable bite.

I first learned this technique from Danielle Bennett, aka DivaQ.  DivaQ is one of my biggest influences along with Chris Lilly and Adam Perry Lang.  She has coached me not only on BBQ but also social media and building a personal brand.  Plus, she has more freaking energy and determination of anyone I have ever worked with.  Anyway, she came out with a great book this year and she has a recipe for Chicken Lollipops in it, you should check it out.  [My review of her book]

I used Malcolm Reed's technique for trimming the chicken lollipops.  

You will need a good pair of kitchen sheers and a sharp knife.  A tool that I figured out is incredibly helpful for trimming the tendons is a pair of locking forceps.  I think I got this pair from a unused suture removal kit that I got after a surgery.  You can buy them at hobby stores or online for just a few bucks. 

One tip from me - make two passes around with your knife. You'll cut through the meat and skin rather easily but those tendons are tough, slippery, and have a way of hiding in the grooves.

Trying to hold onto the tendons for snipping with the scissors was frustrating until I figured out to use the forceps.  It holds those slippery things securely and then I lift the leg by that tendon, making it easier to snip with the scissors. No more chasing tendons as they slip out of my grip while trying to snip. Great "light bulb" moment for me.

All lined up and ready to go.

Seasonings:  The first batch this weekend was a base coat of my poultry rub and then a coat of Meat Church Honey Hog.  That came across as a touch too salty (not bad, but on the edge) so the second batch was Honey Hog by itself. 

This is one of the Honey Hog only legs.  You can visibly see why I love this as a general purpose BBQ rub.  

This cook was on one of our large Big Green Egg's indirect at 375°f until it they hit an internal temp of around 165°f.  Then it's time to sauce and go back on.

I made a honey-bourbon-roasted garlic BBQ sauce using DivaQ's Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce from her book.  I subbed our roasted garlic for garlic. I added 1/2 cup of local honey, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of single batch bourbon.

Dipping the chicken instead of brushing it on is a trick from competition BBQ. 

Legs and thighs should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 175°f.  I like going to 180°f for legs - they can handle it and still be succulent.  My favorite instant read thermometer is my Thermapen.  Yeah, I still use versions 1 and 2 and they are dated (2 newer models out) but I think that's a testament to how well these things are built.  I don't HAVE to buy a new one every time they update their models. [FTC Disclaimer: No compensation for that statement and I am not an affiliate seller of Thermoworks products, just my opinion.]

If I was doing a food truck menu, this would probably be on there.  Chicken lollys and corn on the cob.

These were fantastic.  It had that old school, Southern BBQ chicken flavor with a fancier presentation and a bolder, modern taste.

[FTC Standard Disclaimer] I received no compensation for this post.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Cilantro Lime Marinade for Wings

The beginning part of tailgating season is more fun, don't you think?  The weather is still beautiful all over the country, so people take advantage of that and party earlier and longer.  It's also early in the season and most fan bases still believe that this is OUR year, so more people come out to tailgate central.  

These wings are just the ticket for those warmer, early season tailgates because they have hints of Summer with the warm flavors of lime, cilantro, and habanero.  

Cilantro Lime Wings with Habanero Butter

I made this marinade with wings in mind but it works with any chicken, of course.
This recipe makes enough for a family pack of wings, about 4.5 pounds or 14 whole wings. The marinade itself is rather mild, I add heat with the rub and sauce.

Cilantro Lime Marinade for Wings

Published 08/25/2016


  • 2/3 cup peanut oil
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 ea jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup packed chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon season salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chile


  1. Place oil, lime juice, jalapeno, and cilantro in a blender and pulse for 15-20 seconds until blended.
  2. Stir in the pepper, season salt, chili powder, salt, cumin, and chipotle.  Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Marinate wings for 4-6 hours

Yield: 1 cup
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 10 mins.
Cook time: 00 hrs. 00 mins.
Total time: 10 mins.

Marinate the wings for 4 - 6 hours, just the right amount of time to get loaded up and down to the stadium.

Take the wings out of the marinade and shake off the excess.  Then season them with your favorite rub.  I used a couple of tablespoons of my NMT All Purpose Chicken Rub.

I used my Grilla pellet cooker for this cook using applewood pellets.  I got my Grilla as a thank you for being on their Memphis in May team and I have used it a ton this Summer.  

I cooked them pretty much just like my 30-20-10 kamado wings - 30 minutes at 375-400f, flip.  Twenty more minutes, then sauce and put them back on just long enough to set the sauce, 5-10 more minutes.

Grilled wings have a flavor that you just can't get from frying.

They were pretty fantastic just like this - crispy and tangy.  About half of the family wanted them this way.
But my older son and l were in the mood for more heat so I had made a habanero butter sauce using 6 tablespoons of butter and about a third cup of Yucatan Sunshine Habanero Sauce.

Spicy, tangy, buttery, and....the game is starting?  I'll be there in a minute, I have a few more wings here.

If you want to shake your tailgate up with some extraordinary wings - break out these bad boys!

Monday, September 19, 2016

World Food Championship: Low Country Boil Fundraiser, Orange Beach AL Nov 2016

The 2016 World Food Championships are going to be on the scenic Gulf Coast this November in Orange Beach, Alabama.  I'm excited to be attending the Blogger Summit and judging in the first contest.  In addition to the cooking contests, there are a lot of great events that give the public an opportunity to dive in.  

One of these events is...

For just $20 you can enjoy a low country boil featuring the amazing seafood from the Gulf.  The best part is that the proceeds benefit one of our favorite charities - Operation BBQ Relief.  OPR's sole mission is to feed people affected by disasters and the first responders there to help.  

November 10, 6-8pm

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Fajita Friday At Work [Phone Photo Dump]

I have a really great staff where I work, from top to bottom. Every now and then, my Director and I like to do things to show our appreciation to them.  Friday we did an impromptu Fajita Friday at our Knoxville office.  Here are some of the phone pics from the day and some tips about how I plan to cook at offsite locations.

The flier that we put together.  I like the menu because it has a lot of prep work that can be done ahead - I did 75% of the work at home Thursday night.  Things like shopping, meat trimming, making seasonings & marinades, making the rice, prepping veggies, and loading up everything.

Normally we would use skirt steak and thighs for fajitas but I find it's easier to feed bigger crowds using flank steaks and chicken breasts.  

Did a little quality control and taste testing the night before. I used our BGE Mini-Max with GrillGrates.  I use them or a raised grid almost exclusively on the Mini-Max because the coals are so close to the cooking surface. [FTC Disclaimer: GrillGrates are an equipment sponsor of this blog but this is not a sponsored post.]

When cooking offsite for tailgates and such, I frequently turn to my Char-Broil Kettleman grill because it's light in weight but it's not a lightweight.  It's a great general purpose grill with plenty of space since it has 22.5" grates versus the standard 18.5".  I also like the TRU Infrared grates because they prevent flare ups and infrared heat doesn't dry out your food like hot air does.  [FTC Disclaimer:  Char-Broil is one of my premier sponsors but this is not a sponsored post.]

This is the "backyard" of our Knoxville office.  Not bad, right?  This is the highest point in town and from the top of the ridge, you can see across the whole city and to the Great Smoky Mountains.  It's rather peaceful and has a nice stone lined grilling area.

Firing up some coals in my chimney starter

I prepped all of the veggies the night before.  After slicing, I toss them in some oil, lime juice, and tablespoon or so of Meat Church Season All. Gallon zip top bags are the friend of the tailgate griller.

I scored the skirt steaks and marinated them overnight with my fajita marinade.  Same with the chicken breasts.  Another time saver for tailgate and offsite cooks are these disposable cutting boards that come on a roll. We use them at BBQ contests and they are a huge time saver!  Plus my picnic tables are gross....I'm trashing them and getting new ones.

Once onsite, I shake off the excess marinade and season the meat with some dry rubs.

The rubs are my NMT Fajita Seasoning and Albukirky's Green Chile Rub. We love that green chile rub, it works on so much stuff, from eggs to briskets.  Kirk is a fellow egghead and we have used his stuff for probably 5 years or more now.  

We also brought my Char-Broil CB500X grill for grilling the veggies using a vegetable wok.  I consider this grill to be our camp grill for the past 2 years but it makes a good one for tailgating too.  It's not much to look at but it's a rugged little beast.  It's compact but has a good bit of space, an adjustable charcoal tray, and cast iron grates. 

Everything coming together.  I cooked the flank steaks about 5 minutes a side.

The chicken took longer, about 6-7 minutes a side.

One reason I like doing flank steak instead of skirt steak is that some folks at my office like their meat medium.  Flank steaks are thicker at one and and slender the other so one end was medium rare like this and  medium at the other end. 

No plated shots.  I was hungry and once everyone got their plates, I was ready to eat.  But we had a good time together and shared a great meal.

We aren't the Smoky Mountains but Knoxville's highest "mountain" was smoky that afternoon.

[FTC Standard Disclaimer] I received no compensation for this post.  I don't get any sales commissions from the links either.  I'm just throwing them in there in case you're interested in something that I mention.