Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Jerk Chicken Sandwich with Deep Fried Shoestring Sweet Potatoes

I spent last week up in snowy, icy Wisconsin and when I got back this weekend, I wanted to eat something tropical to shake off the winter grays.  I decided on jerk chicken because Jamaica's most famous dish warms you up with spicy chiles and warm, earthy spices like allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

Grill Dome jerk chicken, kamado jerk chicken, big green egg jerk chicken

The shoestring sweet potatoes not only pair perfectly with the jerk flavors, they also add texture to offset the creamy cilantro avocado slaw.  The slaw might be in a bowl like a side dish but you know that I'm going to put that on the sandwich, right?

The jerk marinade (recipe) that we use is one that we found online years ago and have been very happy with it.  It packs a lot of POW into the chicken, not just heat.  I like 1 1/2 to 2 habanero chiles in it but adjust to your liking.  Once you put all of the ingredients into a blender it comes out a little thinner than but just as flavorful as the popular Walkerswood jerk seasoning (mild).

This marinade works great whether used chunky or blended into a smoother texture.  Traditionally, we like it best on bone in chicken thighs but it works on chicken breasts, like this, too.

Jerk Chicken Sandwich with Shoestring Sweet Potatoes

Published 01/31/2016


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, butterflied
  • 1 cup jerk marinade (homemade or commercial)
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • pinch ground ancho chile
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 package coleslaw vegetables mix
  • 1 cup avocado cilantro yogurt dressing (homemade or commercial)
  • 4 buns, split and toasted


  1. Marinate the chicken in the marinade 8-12 hours.
  2. Mix the dressing and coleslaw mix together and refrigerate.
  3. Mix together the salt, sugar, chile, and cinnamon for the sweet potato seasoning.
  4. Preheat your grill to 350-400°f and preheat your deep fryer or oil in pan to 350°f. 
  5. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shake off the excess, and place on your hot and clean grill grates.  Cook until they reach an internal temperature of 160°f degrees, about 4 minutes per side.
  6. Make the shoestring potatoes.  Finely shred or spiralize the sweet potatoes into threads.  Deep fry in oil at 350°f until crisped, about 30 seconds.  Remove to a resting rack and immediately season with the salt, sugar, chile, and cinnamon.  
  7. Place the chicken breasts on the bun bottom halves and top with the crispy sweet potatoes.  Serve the slaw on the side so the potatoes don't get soggy but you definitely want a spoonful or two of the slaw in the sandwich.  It's a rockstar. 
Yield: 4

cold weather grilling, snow grilling, winter grilling
Obligatory snow shot of my GrillDome.  This was before I left for Wisconsin.

vacuum marinator
I used our Foodsaver vacuum marinator.  Do they really draw the marinade into the meat faster or better?  I don't know, I doubt the pores of the meat open up or anything.  But we already have had it for a few years so I might as well use it.

GrillGrates for kamado
I used my GrillGrates for this cook because it focuses that searing lump coal's ripping energy into a great blend of conductive heat (for sear marks) and infrared heat (for juicy chicken).  Grill Dome carries a custom fit set of these.

GrillGrates for kamado grills, best grilling accessory
This is what my GrillGrates look like brand new (back in 2011), before I got them"heavily seasoned".

I like to preheat and stabilize my kamado grill before I put the GrillGrates on because it has been my experience that they throw off the dome thermometer reading (to the low side). 

best grill accessory, grilling gift ideas
Even though the dome temp is 350f, you can see the GrillGrates are cranking away at just under 600f.  

jerk chicken recipe, foodsaver accessory
You could also just marinate these in a shallow dish or a zip top plastic bag.  

Kamado jerk chicken, Grill Dome jerk chicken, BGE jerk chicken
Great sear marks but the chicken stays nice and juicy.  

shredded sweet potato,
We bought a Spiroooli spiralizer but the handle broke in two places before we used it 3 times. Got some great recommendations for the KitchenAid attachment so we have ordered that. A plane old grater would work just fine but I like gadgets.

The GrillGrates also make it a little easier to toast your buns without burning them.  Not that is a difficult task or anything, 

Toasting buns not only adds texture to your sandwich, it adds another layer of flavor too.  
With the avocado cilantro slaw added on top and it all smashed down, this sandwich is one of my favorites.  It ranks right up there with a pulled pork sandwich, Kentucky Hot Brown, Croque madam,  and a BLT.
Speaking of favorites, this reminds me of - "The jerk store called and they're running out of you!"

Monday, January 18, 2016

How To Make Your Own Finishing Salts at Home

The last thing you put on your food is usually the first thing your guests will taste.

Someone once told me that in a cooking class and I have found it to be quite true.  That's why one of the last things a chef does is taste and adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.  We take advantage of this at competitions, adding a little smoke, salt, and/or heat at the very end of cooking.

how to smoke ribs kamado, BGE ribs, Grill Dome ribs, Primo ribs

Salt brings out and enhances the natural flavors of food. Finishing salts are a great way to do that and add a dramatic flare to your meals.  A small sprinkle of fleur de sel wakes up the taste of your food.  But a flavored finishing salt does even more by building on top of the flavor profile of your dish.  

Adam Perry Lang has several recipes for gourmet finishing salts in his most recent book, Charred and Scruffed. His process is different than just seasoning salt with some dry herbs and spices.  The liquid dries onto the salt as it re-crystalizes in the dehydrator imparting intense tastes.

I have made a few of them with good results.  Recently,  I "borrowed" his process and came up with a few finishing salts of my own.

how to make finishing salts, how to improve BBQ, cooking techniques
Collection of finishing salts, L to R:  Lime-Coriander, Worcestershire-Shallot, Lemon-Bourbon-Honey, and St. Augustine Beach Sand.

Basic Process
APL's process starts with 1 cup of very coarse sea salt.  He adds about 1/3 cup of an intensely flavored liquid and 1-2 tablespoons of aromatics, herbs, or other seasoning.  He mixes it all together and then dries in a dehydrator at 105°f for 10-12 hours.  He grinds it and puts it back in for another 2 hours and then it's done.  

The salt needs to be as coarse as you can find.  We have had good success with Alessi coarse sea salt that we can get locally.  One of these containers will get you 2 batches.  We sift ours through a sieve for the fine salt and keep what doesn't go through for a coarse batch.  Fine salt works better as a finishing salt but I liked to have the coarse on hand too.

We use this Nesco dehydrator which we bought a year or two ago.  We've been happy with it.  It works well, operates quietly, and cleans up easily.  If you don't have one, APL says you can also use the lowest setting on a convection oven with the door propped open.

Lime Coriander Salt
Lime Coriander Salt
This is one of APL's recipes.  Add 1/3 cup fresh lime juice and 1 tablespoon each of lime zest, coriander, and a crumbled dried red chile.  Mix together with your cup of salt, spread it out, dry it out, and grind up.  (Note:  He puts the chile in after grinding, I like it ground up in there.)

This one would go good on grilled seafood, chicken, and anything Tex-Mex.  APL says it's also good on pork, specifically pulled pork.

Worcestershire and Shallot Salt

Worcestershire and Shallot Salt
Add 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce and 1 1/2 tablespoons dried shallot to 1 cup of coarse salt.   Spread it out, dry it out, and grind it up.  Add 1 tablespoon of fresh ground black pepper and dry for 2 more hours.  We bought this package of dried shallots on Amazon and have used it in rubs and sauces but you could use 1 tablespoon of dried onions instead.

This one obviously goes well with beef.  Sprinkle the fine salt on sliced steaks, roasts, or ribs. I want to try the coarse ground salt on a brisket as a dry brine.

Lemon Bourbon Honey Salt

Lemon Bourbon Honey Salt
How can you go wrong with those ingredients?  One cup of coarse sea salt, zest of one lemon, 1/4 cup honey, 3 tablespoons bourbon, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.  Spread it out and dry in a dehydrator at 105°f for 10-12 hours.  Grind it up and put back into the dehydrator until dry and no longer sticky, about 8 more hours for us.

Tip:  Most honey you can buy in the stores is either adulterated with corn syrup and other sweeteners or not honey at all (Tests Show Most Honey Isn't Honey).  Find a local supplier - we buy ours from beekeeper and pitmaster, Ken Hess.

This has a bright, slightly sweet and subtlety smoky flavor that is perfect for BBQ.

St Augustine Beach Sand

St. Augustine Beach Sand
One cup very coarse sea salt, 1-2 habanero chile (seeded and diced), zest from 1 lime, 1/4 cup lime juice, and 1-2 ounces of silver tequila.  Spread it out and dry in a dehydrator at 105°f for 10-12 hours.  Grind it up and put back into the dehydrator until dry, about 2 hours.

This is great for grilled chicken, seafood, and anything TexMex.  It has a citrus kick, surprisingly mild heat, and the tequila flavor is in the background.  It has a tropical flare to it but it got it's name when Alexis saw it spread out on a plate and declared it looked like beach sand.  The name stuck.

The Gulf Coast of Florida has squeaky white sand but where I grew up in NE Florida, sand is full of small pieces of broken shells and it looks like this salt.

Tequila lime habanero salt recipe
I used one habanero but should have gone with two because it was relatively mild in heat.

St Augustine Beach Sand before grinding. Notice this is on parchment paper so it doesn't fall through the dehydrator trays.  It worked but the salt stuck to some of the parchment.  It was easier using plates instead.

Sifting the salt.  You could simply throw the coarse parts back into the grinder to process again. But I wanted to coarse salt too.

finishing salt recipe
St Augustine Beach Sand after grinding. 
Ball rub jars, spice jars for BBQ, BBQ rub jars, flip top spice top
 Someone asked me about the salt shakers we use for dry rubs.  They are just Ball "jelly jar" sized jars with the Ball flip top shaker lid.  We get ours at Target but you can also buy them online.  These are great if you make a lot of your own rubs.

Finishing Salt Put To Use
I couldn't wait to try the Lemon Honey Bourbon salt on a rack of ribs.  At competitions, some pitmasters hit the sauced ribs with a little fine salt to bring out the flavors.  I hoped the lemon would brighten the flavor, the honey enhance the sweetness, and the bourbon bring out the smokiness.

I stumbled onto Cheshire Heritage Farms at independent grocery store, Butler and Bailey, in Knoxville.  No junk in the pigs, no junk in the packaging.  They are thick and perfectly trimmed St Louis style.  The pork has good flavor.  I will be using these in competitions this year.

best ribs for competition, rib supplier, heritage pork
I had a knife out but didn't have to touch it, the ribs from Cheshire are perfectly trimmed.  Seasoning was black pepper and a 50/50 mix of Meat Church Deez Nuts and Smoking Guns Hot.

pork ribs
I smoked the ribs in "Big Blue", my Grill Dome kamado smoker and grill. Two and a half hours naked at 275-285°f, 45 minutes wrapped (with agave, butter, brown sugar), and finished naked until nice and "bendy".
kamado ribs, competition style ribs, Vision grill ribs
A quick glaze of my BBQ sauce and then back into the smoke for 8-10 minutes.

Kamado smoked ribs, BGE ribs,
Sprinkling with the Lemon Honey Bourbon salt, it doesn't take much.  Maybe 1 teaspoon for the whole rack.  It's important to spread the salt evenly and lightly.
BGE rib recipe, how to kamado smoke ribs, primo ribs, Komodo ribs
Grill Dome nailed 'em again.  Could I taste the lemon, honey, or bourbon?  No, you shouldn't be able to taste them individually.  It's supposed to bring out and enhance, not cover up.

There are a few other things we want to try.  I want to make a finishing salt for pork using Apple Pie flavored moonshine and maybe some cinnamon.  I also think it would be good to stick the wet salt mix into a smoker for a bit before putting it into the dehydrator.  

[FTC Standard Disclosure]  Grill Dome is the official kamado sponsor for my blog.  I received no compensation for this post otherwise.  I paid full price for the dehydrator, the jars, Adam's book, and Cheshire pork. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

How to Make Deli Style Cajun Roast Beef Lunch Meat at Home

I like to make lunch meat at home. 

Why?  I don't like getting processed lunch meat - "chicken breast" for example - that comes in a perfectly half round shape that resembles nothing like a chicken's breast.  When it's an unnatural shape like that you can just about guarantee that it's meat pieces and "meat glue" (transglutaminase) pressed into some kind of mold.  Granted, there are some good producers out there but here is what I do to make mine at home.

roast beef sandwich, homemade roast beef, sous vide roast beef
Homemade deli syle Cajun roast beef sandwich with bacon Swiss soup.

Go Lean
I try to pick lean meats for making lunch meat.  For beef, I like top sirloin petite roast and eye of round.  For roast pork, the pork loin does good and for poultry I'll use a boneless turkey breast.  The reason for lean meat is to minimize fat which will be the first thing to go bad.  
The most important chemical damage suffered by meats is the breakdown of their fats by both oxygen and light into small, odorous fragments that define the smell of rancidity.  Rancid fat won't necessarily make us sick, but it's unpleasant.  (McGee 145)
Nobody likes rancid meat right? So pick low fat meats (saturated fats are more stable than unsaturated fats) and protect them from light and oxygen.

Dry Brine
I use a dry brine for seasoning the meat.  The way it works is the salty seasoning initially draws moisture out of the meat, causing an imbalance.  Then that moisture mixes with the seasoning and it gets pulled back into the meat, seasoning it. I do this in a vacuum sealed bag which protects it from oxygen and some people say it helps the seasoning get into the meat better (I have doubts and have seen nothing scientific backing that second part).  Honestly, I do it mainly to save space in the fridge.  I can stick a vac sealed package anywhere in the refrigerator but a big pot filled with brine takes up a lot of space.

Sous Vide
People either love or hate sous vide.  As a griller, a reverse seared steak is similar in texture/doneness to a sous vide steak but tastes much better because of the smokiness.  But with lunch meat I like to use sous vide for 2 reasons - both have to do with how long the meat is held at certain temps.
  1. Tenderness - Two enzymes that break meat down in to tender, flavorful bits are most active at warmer temperatures up to 105°f (calpains) and 120°f (cathepsins) per McGee (144).   The sous vide warm water cooking will hold the meat in that high enzyme activity window for much longer than the less than 1 hour that the reverse sear would.
  2. Pasteurization - By holding meat at lower, steady temps for longer periods of time, sous vide effectively pasteurizes the meat.  Holding the meat at temp for those extended hours gives me a level of personal comfort, knowing that the food is safe and how it was handled.  That's especially important since I want this lunch meat to last for several days and microbes bring spoilage.  Read more.
For the Cajun Roast Beef, I used a 4.45 pound Angus eye of round.    I tied it to give it a uniform shape.  

Cajun style roast beef, homemade lunch meat

Mixed up a batch of my NMT Cajun Rub.

I seasoned the roast heavily, about 2-3 tablespoons. 

tied seasoned roast beef, roast beef in Grill Dome

I vacuum sealed this and let it dry brine in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

sous vide roast beef, Grill Dome roast beef

Then I put it in the sous vide set up.  I am using the Sous Vide Supreme which is a counter top appliance type unit.  There are wand style units now that take up less storage space because you supply the container.  There are also guides online for how to make your own.

I ran the sous vide at 125°f for the first 12 hours and then 18 hours at 137°f.  

sous vide roast beef

Then I fired up my Grill Dome kamado grill to 550°f.  I removed the roast from the packaging and seared it 1 minute per side.  The meat is already cooked, I am just building flavor and color.

After searing, I put the meat on a raised rack and let it cool off.  Then I wrapped it up and put it in the fridge until the next night.  Being cold makes it much easier to slice whether you are doing this by hand or powered slicer.  I prefer the knife just because I haven't found a consumer grade meat slicer that I like.  They all seem undersized and under powered.  I don't think I'll be happy until I get a commercial slicer like Hobart.

We made roast beef sandwiches with El Diablo mustard and horseradish that couldn't be beat.  

I didn't write down the bacon Swiss soup recipe but it was stock based.  Here's the short version if you want to make something like it.  Mirepoix sauteed in butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, and flour added for a roux.  Whisked in 3 cups of chicken stock and then simmered for 30 minutes.  Smoothed it out an immersion blender.  Then I added dried thyme leaves, some spicy mustard, and tasted for seasoning, adding a little salt and pepper.  Then I added about a cup of quality Swiss cheese, stirring until blended.  We serve it with a dollop of sour cream and crumbled bacon. 

Competition BBQ Update
There have been some updates regarding the Knoxville area competition BBQ scene recently.  
  1. The Rotary Club has announced that they will not be putting on the Rocky Top BBQ contest that Knoxville has hosted for the past 3 years.
  2. Bloomin' BBQ and Bluegrass in Sevierville will NOT be on the same weekend as Memphis In May this year which is awesome because I have hating choosing one or the other in the past. 
  3. BarBCure, a KCBS event that raises funds for The Butterfly Fund, will be held again in Knoxville on the beautiful grounds of the The Pavillion Event Center at Hunter Valley Farms.
  4. The Big BBQ Bash in Maryville TN, a personal favorite of mine, will be held the weekend of June 24-25. 
Of course, as always, you can just check the KCBS site for the latest information for BBQ events in your area.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Porterhouse Steak with Poblano and Portobello Hash

What is your favorite steak?

I have a really difficult time nailing that one down.  One that has to be in the running is the porterhouse steak because it is actually two steaks in one.  On one side of the bone you have what is the New York strip steak - beefy in flavor and it has a slightly denser texture.  On the other side you have the tenderloin - delightfully tender and mild tasting.

A porterhouse steak (IMPS 1173) and a T-bone (IMPS 1174) look similar, what's the difference? Location and size.  The T-bone is trimmed from the front of the loin (towards ribs) while the porterhouse is cut from the rear of the loin.  Because of this the porterhouse will have larger portions of the filet and strip compared to a T-bone.  I'm not sure if it's a standard or not, but the general rule of thumb is that if the filet is 1.5 inches wide or more, it's a porterhouse and if it is less, it's a T-bone.

Picking a porterhouse at the store is pretty much the same as other steaks.  Look for steaks that are at least 1 1/2 inches thick, have deep red coloring and fine marbling throughout.  Of course, pick the one with the bigger portions of strip and tenderloin.

Because it's really TWO steaks, the porterhouse is a great one to share.  Many top steakhouses, like Luger's, serve the porterhouse on a large platter with the strip and filet already sliced, ready for sharing.

Here's a porterhouse that Alexis and I shared for New Year's Day.  The steak is seasoned simply with quality salt and pepper so it can shine on it's own merits.  The hash is a bold flavored departure from the boring baked potato.  

how to cook steak on big green egg, how to cook steak on kamado grill, grill dome steak

We cooked this on our Grill Dome Infinity Series kamado grill so I cook the veggies first since the cooking temps will rise.  If I did this on a kettle grill I'd probably cook the steak first while the fire is it's hottest and then cook the hash as temps trail off a bit. On a gas grill you could do it either way since it's easy to raise or lower cooking temps.

Porterhouse Steak with Poblano and Portobello Hash

Published 01/6/2015


  • 2 porterhouse steaks
  • coarse ground black pepper to taste
  • quality coarse sea salt to taste
For the hash
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil or other high temp cooking oil
  • 8 ounces Baby Bella or Crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 poblano chile, seeded and diced
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 pound B sized potatoes, parboiled 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ancho chile (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin


  1. Set up your grill for direct heat and preheat to 350°f.  
  2. Preheat your skillet and then add oil once it is hot.  Wait until the oil begins to shimmer, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the mushrooms and poblano chile and cook, tossing occasionally, 4 minutes.  Keep the grill lid closed as much as possible to keep the fire under control.
  4. Add the onions and cook until tender, tossing occasionally, about 6 minutes.
  5. Add the potatoes, salt, pepper, chili powder, ancho chile (if using), granulated garlic, and cumin.  Cook, tossing occasionally until the potatoes are cooked through, about 2 more minutes.  
  6. Remove the wok, cover with lid or foil to keep warm.
  7. Raise the temperature of your grill to 500-550°f.  
  8. Season the steak with black pepper and salt to taste.  Grill until the internal temperature reaches an internal temperature of about 127°F for medium rare, about 4 1/2 minutes per side.
  9. Remove and serve with the poblano hash.
Yield: 4 servings

porterhouse steak on the grill dome, how to cook steak on a kamdo grill, how to cook steak on a big green egg
Mise en place.

wok grilling, stir fire,
If you have wood handles on your wok, cover them in foil.  Mine are over 6 years old and have gotten darker but have not burned yet.

Someone in a Facebook group asked me about my wok.  It is just a cheap one that I bought from a local Asian grocery store.  They had a stack of them and no two were the same.  When I get ready to replace it, it will be something with features like this one :
  • 14" fits nicely in average sized kamados
  • carbon steel is low maintenance and lasts almost forever
  • flat bottom so it can sit on a grate (Round woks cook better but you have to use a wok ring or spider rig every time due to the curved bottom.)
  • Double handles fit inside the kamado grill as opposed to the long straight handle mine has.

steak side dish, grilled side dish, Grill Dome side dish, wok big green egg, recipe ideas big green egg
When you stir fry, saute, or other high temp cooking methods using a pan on the kamado grill, your cooking temperatures will rise from the frequent influx of air from opening the lid.  My basic strategy is 1) start off at a lower cooking temperature, 2) keep the bottom vent closed down as much as possible when the lid is open (watch for back flash), and 3) work quickly. 

kamado grilling techniques, stir fry kamado
You can also use a cast iron pan, a grill topper, or any other grill safe cooking vessel.  I just like using a wok most of the time because of personal preference. 

kamado side dish, how to use wok on grill
By the time you are done with the hash, your grill should be pretty close to the 500-550°f that you want for grilling the steak.

beef, steak, porterhouse steak, steak BGE, grill dome steak, kamado joe steak
Strip steak is on the left side and the roundish part on the right is your beef tenderloin.  On a T-bone that part will not be as wide and often is more triangular shaped instead of round.

When you do basics like just salt and pepper, quality is especially important.  I used a blend of Himalayan pink salt, Hawaiian red clay sea salt, and Hawaiian black sea salt from Galena Garlic.

steak on Grill Dome, beef on Grill Dome,
As always, cook times and temps will depend on a myriad of factors.  But in general, I like 4ish minutes per side at 500-550°f for medium rare.  Of course I go by touch and checking internal temperature with my trusty Thermopen

  As always, rest your flat meats on a resting rack.  This keeps the heat from being trapped between the meat and a tray, which steams the bottom and lets more juices drain out. Do a side by side comparison with hot steaks some time and you'll see. (Excuse the blurry photo, it was dark and cold so I was in a hurry to get this inside.)

beef, steak, grill dome steak
I hit it with just a little more of the finer Himalayan salt as it rested and the flavor was off the charts. 
Chick-fil-A - "I never slaw such a thing"
Trevor and I went to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl for the FSU-Houston game on New Year's Eve. 

Well aren't you Ms Sally Killjoy?


Kick off! 

That very day, Chick-fil-A had some good news and bad news for fans of their coleslaw.  The bad news is that they are taking slaw off of their menu as of 01/18/2016 to make room for lighter fare.  The good news is that they are releasing their slaw recipe before pulling it from their line up.  Here's the recipe courtesy of Chick-fil-A.  

[FTC Disclaimer]  Grill Dome is our official kamado sponsor.  We have no affiliation with Chick-fil-A, Galenta Garlic, or any other brand mentioned.