Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Arroz Con Pollo ala Pelancho's

Most Latin American and Spanish cultures have their own version of Arroz Con Pollo.  After all, "chicken with rice" is pretty much open to a wide range of interpretation, right?

One of my favorite renditions of Arroz Con Pollo is at a place in Knoxville named Pelancho's.  Is it strictly authentic Mexican food made using traditional old world methods with ingredients picked by hand?  No, Pelancho's seems to be pretty much a blend of Tex-Mex and US styled Mexican food like most such places in the US and I'm okay with that.  We've eaten there for going on 14 years and have enjoyed it so I'm not picky about labels.

Pelancho's version of Arroz Con Pollo is their fajita chicken with sauteed peppers, onions, tomatoes on a bed of Mexican rice and topped with a thin white queso sauce.  I had a craving for Arroz Con Pollo a few weeks back and thought I'd make a version like theirs on my kamado grill. This is what I came up with.

The sazón seasoning adds a savory flavor and bright color to the dish.  I haven't used it much before although I have used it's component ingredients of annato seed, corriander, and other seasonings. I used Baida's Tropical Sazón that I bought at our local grocery store.  You can make your own too, but my guess is that if a store doesn't have the sazón, they probably won't have ground annato seed either.

The recipe is actually several in one, including a fajita marinade, a queso sauce, and a Mexican rice.  If you have your own favorite versions of those, you can substitute those recipes to be used in this dish if you like.  You can also do this on your stove top but I like the extra flavor that grilling brings out in the chicken and veggies.

Arroz Con Pollo ala Pelancho's

  • 1.25 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced 
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup tomatoes, 1/2" dice
  • 1 cup fajita marinade (recipe below)
  • 3 cups Mexican rice (recipe below)
  • 1 cup queso sauce (recipe below)

For The Fajita Marinade
  • 1 ounce silver tequilla
  • 2 ounces lime juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sazón
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup oil

For The Mexican Rice
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, 1/4" dice
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/4 teaspoon sazón
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup peas
  • 1/3 cup Mexi-corn
  • 5 slices cooked bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. Mix together the marinade ingredients.  Place the chicken, peppers, and onions in a large zip top bag, pour in the marinade, press out the excess air, seal, and let marinate refrigerated for 4-6 hours.
  2. Option 1: Set up your kamado grill with a "raised direct" (see below) set up and preheat it to 350°F.  Once heated, add a cast iron pan with a tight fitting lid and allow it to preheat for 5 minutes.  Option 2: If you don't want to use a raised direct set up, use a direct set up and reduce the heat to 300°F. Option 3:  Alternatively, you can preheat a cast iron pan over medium high heat on your stove top.
  3. Add the oil and wait a minute until it heats.  Add the rice and stir until it becomes lightly toasted.  You'll see the exterior start to turn golden brown and get a fragrant nutty smell when it is ready.  Add the tomato and stir for one minute.  Pour in the stock, salsa, 1/4 teaspoon sazón, salt, and pepper.  Cover the pan with the tight lid, shut the kamado grill, and let the rice cook for 15 minutes.
  4. While the rice cooks, make the queso.  Put the cubed Velveeta and chicken stock in a small sauce pan on medium heat and stir frequently until the cheese is melted and blended.  Stir in the pepper flake, chile, and oregano.  Reduce heat to low and keep warm.
  5. After the rice has cooked for 15 minutes, carefully open the lid and stir in the peas, corn, bacon, and water.  Recover and cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 10 more minutes.  Remove, keep the lid on, and set aside to stay warm.
  6. Change the kamado to a regular direct set up (remove the raised rack used in Step 2) and increase the heat to 400°F.  Place a grill wok (available from our friend Chad Ward) on the grill to preheat.
  7. Remove the chicken, peppers, and onions from the marinade and drain.  Lightly oil the preheated grill wok and add the chicken, peppers, and onions.  Stir fry the mixture, tossing or stirring every few minutes, for 10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and cookuntil the chicken is cooked through and the peppers/onions slightly charred, another 5 to 10 minutes.
  8. Open the rice pan and fluff the rice with a fork.
  9. Serve the chicken and veggies over a bed of the rice and top with the queso sauce.

The "raised direct" set up just means that you are cooking on a grill grate a few inches higher then the normal grate position as pictured below.  Normally the grill grate on a kamado rests on the fire ring about 3-4 inches lower.  Here I am using a Raiser from Innovations by Chance (available at kamado dealers) but you can make your own raised grid easily.  Being higher up keeps the bottom of the rice from burning. 

Mise en place for the rice.

The color change in the rice during toasting isn't drastic, just enough to notice. 

I wouldn't try cooking rice on just any grill, only one with tight temperature controls like a kamado style or other high end grill capable of holding stable cooking temps.

It will smoke a good bit when you first put the meat mixture on, because oil from the marinade will drip into the coals.  No worries.  Close the dome lid between stirs to keep the temps stable and control flare ups.

You can do this recipe on the stove but the burning coals add so much flavor this way.
Add the tomatoes and you're ready to go!

It isn't an exact knock off of Pelancho's but it is similar to theirs and I think, a bit better.  This reheats great for lunch the next day too.

[Standard Disclaimer]  I received no compensation for this post. Whiskey Bent BBQ Supply is run by a friend of ours and they are a reputable source for your BBQ needs.  I have no business affiliation with them.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Memphis Style Dry Ribs

Here it is the end of August and I forgot to post a link to my Char-Broil Allstars post for the month which was a recipe for delicious Memphis style dry ribs.

Memphis ribs, dry rub, dry ribs, baby back ribs
BBQ sauces need not apply.

The ribs aren't dry, they are as succulent as can be.  "Dry" just means they are not slathered with a sweet, sticky sauce like most ribs you'll see this Labor Day Weekend.  They rely on a highly seasoned dry rub that loads them with flavor.  This is actually one of my favorite ways to do ribs.

dry rub
I didn't consciously line the rub ingredients along the pig's ribs, it just happen that way.
And for the majority of my readers who don't have a kamado grill, these were cooked on my Char-Broil Gourmet TRU-Infrared gas grill and the recipe is written for a gas grill.

ribs, baby back, smoking on gas grill

Of course, if you want to do them in a kamado grill, that works too, just use the rub recipe and your normal baby back cooking times.  

Happy Labor Day Weekend!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Little Twisted: BBQ - Mac and Cheese Quesadilla

September 5 - 7 I will be cooking with Drapers BBQ at the Kentucky State BBQ Festival in Danville, KY.

We will be one of 7 teams cooking for a crowd of 50,000 people over the weekend.  It is going to be crazy busy but a lot of fun and I am looking forward to it.  Pitmasters for this year's event include -

Shane Draper
Mike Mills
Moe Cason
Carey Bringle
Craig Kimmel
Shelly Frisch
Brad and Cindy Simmons

Unlike BBQ contests where the focus is on the teams and judging, this festival is focused on the visitors' experience and the celebration of BBQ.  If you are anywhere near Danville that weekend, it will be worth the drive to come check it out.

One of the things I will be doing is helping cook our team's entry for the VIP party on Friday night.  Shane D, Alethea B, and I have been kicking around ideas for a BBQ Quesadilla.  This is a very good "test subject" from this weekend's experiments.  Creamy mac and cheese, bacon, roasted chiles, and delcious smoked pork in a crispy fried tortilla, yum!  I ruled it out only due to difficulty of preparation for 300 people on a remote site.  It kicks butt at home though.

You can do these all at one time if you have a flat top grill or one or two at a time in a griddle pan.

BBQ - Mac and Cheese Quesadillas
Makes:  8 servings (16 appetizer portions)

  • 8 burrito sized flour tortillas (regular burrito, not Mission style)
  • 1 cup chopped smoked pork
  • 1 fire roasted jalapeno, peeled, seeded, and diced (how to)
  • 1 teaspoon all purpose BBQ rub 
  • 4 slices cooked bacon
  • 4 cups macaroni and cheese
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
  • oil for frying
  1. Preheat a griddle over medium high heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss the pork, jalapeno, and BBQ rub together to mix evenly.
  3. Assemble quesadillas:  Place two ice cream scoops or large spoonfuls of mac and cheese on one half of a tortilla.  Top with 1 ounce of the smoked pork mixture and spread evenly. Crumble a half slice of bacon over that. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the BBQ sauce.  Fold the empty half of the tortilla over the full side and gently press down.
  4. When the griddle is hot, coat the griddle surface with oil and wait a minute until the oil shimmers.  Place the quesadillas on the griddle and cook on both sides until golden brown, about 2-2 1/2 minutes per side.
  5. Place on a cutting board and use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to slice into 4 wedges.  Serve with condiments like Mexican crema, salsa, or more bbq sauce.
For the mac and cheese, we made our favorite baked version, Kelli's Creamy Mac and Cheese.  It was blazing hot outside so we did the baking portion on Alexis' kamado grill instead of firing up the oven.  I probably would not use a stove top mac and cheese for this recipe unless you make sure it isn't too runny.

grilled mac and cheese, kamado
A half order of the linked recipe is just the right amount for a half steam pan.
To set the kamado grill up for baking, I normally use a plate setter but today I am trying out The Raiser from Innovations by Chance. It is a multi-purpose rig that can be used for indirect heat, raised direct heat, and other configurations.  I'll be reviewing it in more detail in the next few weeks, but so far I'm impressed.

indirect heat, kamado grill baking
Indirect set up using the Raiser.  You could also use a plate setter or other heat deflector set up.

Closer view of the Raiser used in the shot above.

macaroni and cheese on kamado grill,
Ready to bake, cooking on the kamado not only keeps it cool inside but adds a subtle smokiness to it.

I don't care if Velveeta is reviled by a lot of foodies, it makes THE best mac and cheese.

Since we have to cook quesadillas for 300 people in a relatively short period, we are going to need a heavy duty flat top grill for the event so we got one at Lowes.  Yeah, like I needed another grill, but we really do for this event.

This is a real flat top grill and will enable us to cook 24 servings every 4-5 minutes.

Cooking bacon is a great way to season a flat top.

Two of the other test BBQuesadillas we tried out this weekend.  My favorite was a blend of pepper jack and colby jack cheeses, pulled pork, fire roasted jalapenos, bacon, BBQ rub, and BBQ sauce.

We ate so many varieties of quesadillas in testing that my 15 year old is tired of them for now.  That is saying a lot.

Mmmm gooey cheese!

BBQ Mac and Cheese Quesadillas
Quesadillas are great to make because they are quick, easy, and you can do just about any flavor combination.  What are your favorite quesadilla ingredients?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mango Mustard Slaw, Spicy Honey Mustard Sauce, and Mustard BBQ Sauce

Can you spot the mustard in this picture?

jerk chicken sandwich, sweet potato fries, honey mustard, grilled

Actually, varieties of El Diablo Mustards are pretty much in everything pictured except the beer.  This was our mustard feast that we put together a few weeks ago when it was National Mustard Day.

The first thing we made was Jerk Chicken Sandwiches with Mango Mustard Slaw.  I have a jerk chicken recipe that we normally use but today, I marinaded boneless skinless thighs in World Harbour's Jamaican Jerk Marinade.  

jerk marinade

This is more of an Americanized Jerk sauce, as it is sweeter and less spicy than normal jerk, but it still has the earthy flavors (allspice, nutmeg, etc) of jerk.  If you want hotter, I'd add some finely minced habanero.

While that marinated, I wanted to make a quick slaw to go with that and I thought the El Diablo Mango Mustard would make for a slightly fruity and mildly spicy dressing.

cole slaw, El Diablo

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Two Shot Tequila Habanero Wings

National Mustard Day came and went a few weeks ago and we celebrated the pungent condiment with a mustard based feast.  The menu included

Two Shot Tequila Habenero Wings

Jerk Chicken Sandwiches with Mango Mustard Slaw

Pulled Pork with Cleveland BBQ Sauce

Sweet Potato Fries with Spicy Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

If you saw my cooking demo on WBIR this week or participated in my tweet-chat for Char-Broil's Rib Week today, you've already heard me talk about El Diablo Mustards.  I recently received a care package from our friends at El Diablo and that is what started this whole mustard binge.  

The mustard that bites back!

Holy smokes!  Did they load me up with some great varieties or what?  I had no problem putting them to use.  

My first weapon of choice was the El Diablo Habanero Mustard because I enjoy the flavor and heat of the fruity habanero.  I thought that they would be a tasty marinade for some wings as an appetizer.  Yes, "two shots" is the same as 1/4 cup, but I made this marinade using a shot glass so that's how it got named.

Two Shot Tequilia Habanero Wings

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chicken Margarita Penne - Great Idea For Leftover Chicken

I am pretty well known for being late with getting dinner on the table but I'm trying to get better with that.  I saw this recipe for Penne with Tomatoes and Green Beans with a Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette in Southern Living and thought I could snazz it up a bit for a quick fix dinner.

grilled chicken pasta salad

The main changes that I did were
  1. Added meat - I had tests a margarita injection on a few chickens the day before so I had leftover chicken on hand but you could use a rotisserie bird.
  2. Made a margarita vinaigrette instead of their lemon shallot one.
  3. Subbed asparagus for green beans.
  4. Added a little heat.
But first here is the injection recipe if you want to make your own chicken.  This marinade not only adds beaucoup flavor and moisture but it also gives the chicken the buttery texture that you'd imagine.

Margarita Injection for Chicken
prep time: 5 min
cook time: 5 min
servings:  enough for 2-3 chickens or 1 turkey

Friday, July 25, 2014

Great Grilled Hot Wings and the Big Kahuna Wing Festival

I do a lot of wings on the grill, they are one of my favorite treats and I rarely do them the same way twice.   But honestly, most of my wings aren't what I'd call Buffalo wings or even hot wings because in my view, those are a specific flavor profile.

I was trying out some excellent rubs from a local company, BKW Seasonings, and used their recipe for Grilled Hot Wings [click for the recipe].  We were quite pleased with the results, which were more in line with a true hot wing than a lot of the flavor profiles that I often use.  This is a simple recipe and their Buffalo style sauce delivers a big bold flavor that I love.