Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Steakhouse Mushroom Pork Loin Filet with Spinach Rice Pilaf

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  This post is sponsored by Smithfield but any opinions given are my own. The giveaway listed at the bottom is all theirs....I can't afford to send you on a trip to Napa Valley!

It's funny - as a bbq/grilling blogger, a lot of people think that every night we eat something that I cooked for hours.  The reality is much different!  

Our youngest son plays high school football, which means most days he leaves the house by 6am for his private trainer and after school workouts with the team can have him home anywhere from 5-7pm. Our evening meal schedule is best described as "controlled chaos" and there are plenty of nights when we just need something quick and easy.

This meal last week is a perfect example. Our son got home surprisingly early at 4 PM but threw a curve ball because he had to be back at school by 5 PM for a school function.  I needed real flavor and I needed it real fast. Luckily, I had a Smithfield Steakhouse Mushroom Pork Loin Filet.

They come premarinated so they are ready to grill as soon as you open the package. It is seasoned with portobello mushrooms, onion and spices, which sounds like the start of a great rice pilaf....so that's what I did

Steakhouse Mushroom Pork Loin Filet with Spinach Rice Pilaf

4 servings


  • Smithfield Steakhouse Mushroom Pork Loin Filet, cut into 4 portions & tied
  • 4 slices Smithfield Hometown Original Bacon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely diced shiitake mushroom
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 shallot, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups loosely packed spinach, rinsed and stems removed


  1. Preheat a grill to medium high heat and preheat a skillet with a thick bottom over a) medium-low heat if using a gas grill side burner or b) medium heat if using a stove top burner.
  2. Crisp the bacon.  Add the bacon to the skillet and cook until browned and crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate and reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease.
  3. Saute the veggies.  Add the mushrooms to the skillet and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots, cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and shallot.  Season with a pinch or two of salt and cook another 2 minutes.
  4. Cook the rice.  Stir in the rice into the veggies and toss to coat with any remaining oil.  Cook for about 1 minute until the rice starts to turn golden and you can smell a slightly nutty aroma.  Add the stock, remaining salt, cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 18-20 minutes.
  5. Grill the Steakhouse Mushroom Pork Loin Filet.  Grill the pork filets 7 minutes per side on the two cut/flat sides.  Halfway through each side (3 1/2 minutes), rotate each filet a quarter turn if you want cross hatch grill marks [optional but preferred].  Grill the edges of the filets for a total of 7 minutes, turning frequently to brown all of the edges.  So that is a total of 21 minutes of grilling (7 first side, 7 second side, 7 edges).  Check the internal temperature with an instant read thermometer. Your target is 145°f with a 3 minute rest.
  6. Finish the rice.  As soon as the rice is done, immediately fold in the spinach and cooked bacon. As always, taste for seasoning and adjust if desired.  Cover tightly and let sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.
  7. Serve.  You can serve the pork a few ways. The easiest is as a whole filet, just like filet mignon. You can slice it in half and serve as two medallions with the cut side down. You can also slice it into 3 or 4 slices and serve fanned out.  All of these ways work and taste great, it's just up to your preferences.


  • Shallot - I've used a 1/4 cup of finely diced sweet yellow onion (Vidalia, Walla Walla, etc) and it works just as well.  I prefer the shallot though.
  • Shiitake mushroom - You can use about any mushroom but shiitake is a flavor affiliate with spinach.  My next choice would be portobello or baby bella mushrooms since they supplement the portobello flavor in the pork.

Normally I'd fire up a kamado type grill but I had about 30 minutes to get dinner on the table so I fired up one of our gas grills.

#RealFlavorRealFast Smithfield's pork loin filet are a key to quick and easy dinners.
The key to cooking fast is having everything in its place. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Product Review: Pizza Porta

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]:  We received no compensation for this post and have no affiliation with the manufacturer.

At the 2015 Pensacola Eggfest (a "must do" Eggfest), Big Green Craig and I spotted a crazy contraption on a Big Green Egg that captured our attention immediately.  It looked like a mailbox and it was spitting pizzas out every few minutes.  We talked to the creators and found that it was a prototype of their invention - the Pizza Porta.  

Pizza Porta at the 2015 Pensacola Eggfest
Seeing the protoype in action at the 2015 Pensacola Eggfest had me intrigued.

I believe Craig's exact quote to them was, "Shut up and take my money now!"

They weren't in production yet but at the 2015 Pensacola Eggfest but at the 2016 event, I finally bought one from Escambia Electric Motor for my neighbor and BBQ teammate, John. It was a "thank you" for all the work he puts in on our BBQ team throughout the year. He makes pizzas every Saturday so I knew he'd like it (plus we borrow each other's grill accessories so it's a win-win).  

Pizza Porta fitted on a Large Big Green Egg. They also fit on a Kamado Joe.

After 6 months of heavy use, here is John's review of the Pizza Porta.

Pizza Pizza!!  Who Loves Pizza?  A Review of the Pizza-Porta

Friday, April 21, 2017

BBQ Event Coverage: Ooltewah BBQ Brawl 2017 - World Food Championship Qualifier

We had a great time at the Ooltewah BBQ Brawl last weekend. The weather was gorgeous, the aroma of 20 grills cooking filled the valley, and the crowds came out to experience it all.  What a fun food festival! 

Ooltewah BBQ Brawl 2017 World Food Championship Qualifier In Tennessee

This was a fun local food festival with a welcoming "home town" vibe, but it has implications much bigger than that.  As a qualifying round for the World Food Championships, this was like an opening round of the NCAA basketball tournament.  For the two winners, this event is the first step toward winning the lion's share of a $300,000 purse.  "All they have to do" is win 3 more times at the World Food Championships in Orange Beach, AL this November.
  • Opening Rounds - Place in the Top 10 for your category (1 of 9) for the Signature Dish and Structured Recipe entries.
  • Infursed Round - Create a winning dish based on the category's special ingredient (of course, topping the other Top 10 competitors from your category).
  • Final Table - the 9 category winners go head to head in a gloves off, no holds barred food fight with the winner taking home a world title and $110,000
Let's check out the fun!

Ooltewah BBQ Brawl 2017 World Food Championship Qualifier In Tennessee
Some members of the Ooltewah High School Choir came out to perform a patriotic medley and our National Anthem.
 You know the first thing that I like to do is go around and look at the gear people are using.  

Deep South Smokers BBQ pit at World Food Championship qualifying round at the Ooltewah BBQ Brawl 2017
Chef Nick Thiers, a World Food Championships veteran, was using this nice Deep South Smokers.  I told him he was super brave to have a white BBQ pit.  He laughed and said he cleans it more often then his car.  I know that feeling.

Choo Choo BBQ from Chattanooga/Red Bank competing at a World Food Championship qualifying round in Ooltewah TN
Just like the World Food Championships in Orange Beach, the competitors were a blend of local restaurants, amateur "back yard" teams, and professional competition teams.

Owls Nest BBQ set up at the Ooltewah BBQ Brawl
Owls Nest BBQ, a local professional competition team, set up and starting to cook.  They have a gravity feed cooker (right) and a Pit Barrel Cooker, set up for using a blower/controller (black drum on the left).  I really like the idea of a blower on a PBC. These are set it and forget type cookers meant for people new to BBQ and there aren't any settings other than the pre-set air fit at the bottom.  Doing this gives you full temperature control of the PBC and expands the possibilities. 

When one competitor sees something another competitor does and copies it - that's called "shigging".  As in "Chris saw Stevie Ray's Pit Barrel Cooker using a blower and he fully plans on shigging this idea when he gets back home."

Cute little pig faced offset BBQ pit, maybe a Lang 48? 

Friday, April 14, 2017

FREE GRILLING CLASS in Kansas City Thursday Evening, April 27th!!!!!!!!!!!!

[FTC Standard Disclaimer] Smithfield Foods is a sponsor of Nibble Me This; however, any opinions stated are my own.

How would you like to attend a FREE GRILLING CLASS in Kansas City AND participate in attempting to set a Guinness World Record?  Did I mention this free class is taught by multiple World Championship winning pitmaster, Chris Lilly?

Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson's BBQ has probably taught me more about BBQ than any other single person.  He will be teaching the class with Kevin Kolman of Weber Grills.

If you can get to Arrowhead Stadium on April 27th at 6pm, Smithfield is going to hook you up with that opportunity.  

Grilling classes Kansas City Smithfield

If you're in the area, start your summer grilling out in a big way and REGISTER NOW to learn from the masters!  If you know someone in the area, pass this on to them!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

BBQ Book Review: Texas BBQ - Platefuls of Legendary BBQ Flavor

Texas BBQ - Platefuls of Legendary BBQ Flavor
Publisher:  Oxmoor House
Suggested Retail:  $19.99
Release date:  TODAY - April 11, 2017

Review of Texas BBQ Platefuls of Legendary Lone Star Flavor

Texas BBQ - Platefuls of Legendary BBQ Flavor is from the Editors of Southern Living.  I have enjoyed their previous forays into BBQ Books including The Big Book of BBQ and Christopher Prieto's Ultimate Book of BBQ.  I received a free copy for review from the publisher and I have been very impressed with this book.

Growing up in the South, my idea of BBQ was the traditional Southern BBQ with lots of pork and chicken with sweet sauces or sharp vinegar sauces.  Hell, I didn't even HAVE BBQ brisket until I was over 30 years old!  Now smoked brisket is my favorite BBQ and a dream for me is to spend a few weeks crawling across Texas, sampling as many BBQ shacks and stands as I can.  Until then, Texas BBQ - Platefuls of Legendary Lone Star Flavor is a good substitute!  

Monday, April 10, 2017

Char-Broil Post: Honey BBQ Wings

[FTC Standard Disclaimer] Char-Broil is a sponsor of Nibble Me This and I receive compensation from them for developing recipes and other content.  However, any opinions offered are my own.

I am glad to have Char-Broil on board as a sponsor for 2017.  Most of my work with them will appear on their website but I want to link to it from here and give you a few behind the scenes shots.  Last month, I made these super easy and delicious Honey BBQ Wings.

Simple, easy, and quick recipe for grilled wings featuring the Char-Broil Kamander kamado grill

I cooked these wings on Char-Broil's new and first (to my knowledge) kamado style grill - The Kamander.  

The Kamander is a budget priced kamado (~$350 neighborhood).  I have to be honest and tell you that I was surprised at it's performance.  I expected it to be "not great" because of it's price point but after several grilling and smoking sessions, it actually performs well.  As I would expect from a good kamado grill, I was able to both grill at high temps and steady, low temps. Obviously, there are many factors to consider, so I'll post a full review later.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Pan Seared Ribeye Steak with Bourbon Sauce

[FTC Standard Disclaimer] We received no compensation for this post. Certified Angus Beef is a sponsor but this is not one of their sponsored posts.

Last weekend, we smoked 6 pork butts and 2 whole briskets for a friend's fundraiser dinner.  Doing all of that cooking makes one hungry, right?  So I made these steaks on one of our Big Green Eggs.

Pan seared Prime ribeye steaks recipe featuring Certified Angus Beef

Pan Seared Steaks vs Grilled Steaks

When I posted this on Instagram last weekend, someone asked "Why the pan?" for grilling steaks.  You know I love grilled steaks, that's obvious, but a pan seared steak can be just as amazing.  Both have their strong points but the advantages of cooking steaks in a pan include:

  • Pan searing steaks creates an even crust across the surface.
  • Pan searing steaks allows you to use the basting technique that a lot of chef's utilize to add flavor.
  • Pan searing steaks retains the brown bits (aka sucs) that are the foundation of great pan sauces.

Basting steaks is when you see a chef tilt a skillet and repeatedly spoon the butter and seasonings back over the steak.  This builds flavor and helps the formation of that great crust.  In this case, I had fresh tarragon growing in the front yard and tallow that we made from rendering down brisket trimmings, so that's what I used instead.  

Standard flambe warning - Fire is dangerous. Igniting alcohol can be dangerous. You should wear protective equipment, have extinguishing methods available nearby, and know what you are doing. Google "how to flambe safely" if you aren't experienced at this. 

Pan seared ribeye steaks with bourbon sauce recipe featuring Certified Angus Beef #bestbeef #gorare

Pan Seared Ribeye with Bourbon Sauce


  • 2 10-ounce ribeye steaks, left out at room temperature for 1 hour
  • NMT Beef Rub V.2
  • 2 tablespoons beef tallow or other high temp oil
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon roasted garlic paste
  • 1 ounce bourbon
  • 1/2 cup stock
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Huevos Rancheros Featuring Smithfield Seasoned Carnitas

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  I'm proud to be a brand ambassador for Smithfield's Marinated Fresh Pork line this year and I receive compensation for this post.

I kind of feel bad for you all.  Last year Smithfield took me on those great trips to Smithfield, Virginia and The American Royal World Series of BBQ.....and I didn't get you all anything.  But here's a chance to make up for it!

Real Flavor, Real Fast

Smithfield is giving you the chance to win a trip to Napa wine country or hundreds of other prizes. All you have to do is enter the Real Flavor, Real Fast challenge and share your tips and tricks for using Smithfield marinated fresh pork products to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less.  It's easy to enter, just click on over to their site and then send me pictures from Napa when you win.

Examples of Smithfield's Fresh Marinated Pork include: Sweet & Smoky Marinaded Fresh Pork Roast, Seasoned Carnitas, Applewood Smoked Bacon Marinated Fresh Pork Loin Filet, and Steakhouse Mushroom Marinated Fresh Pork Loin Filet.
When I opened the package that they sent me, I immediately went for the Seasoned Carnitas.  Smithfield has already done the seasoning and trimming so all that you have to do is put them in a slow-cooker or slow roast them in an oven or grill.   

Of course, you know that I chose to cook mine on the grill. I made these Huevos Rancheros featuring Smithfield's Boneless Pork Shoulder Seasoned Carnitas.  The tender, mildly spicy chunks of pork shoulder really hit the spot, they are surprisingly easy to make, and they keep me fueled up for the day!

Easy huevos rancheros recipe with Smithfield tender Seasoned Carnitas pork shoulder, homemade salsa and fresh vegetables.

The Seasoned Carnitas cook great in a slow cooker so you can just do that while you sleep and have them ready for you when you get up in the morning for a hassle free breakfast in 30 minutes. Of course, I give alternative direction for making this on the grill, for all of my brothers/sisters in smoke.  Either way, it's Real Flavor, Real Fast.

Huevos Rancheros with Carnitas

4 servings


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

North Florida Eggfest 2017

[Standard FTC Disclaimer] I received no compensation for this post.  I have received complimentary products in the past from some vendors mentioned, including: FlameBoss, Smokeware, Albukirky's Seasonings,Craycort, and GrillGrates.  Certified Angus Beef is a sponsor.

A few weeks ago, I went down to Florida to cook at the North Florida Eggfest.  This was a first year Eggfest sponsored by Pinch A Penny.  In addition to being a top notch Big Green Egg dealer, this Pinch A Penny is your total pool, patio, and spa store if you are in the North Florida area (Duval, St. Johns, etc).

It may have been a first year event, but from attending the event, you wouldn't know it was their first rodeo. James Simmons and the Pinch A Penny crew did their homework and put on an excellent Eggfest.

  • The event was a charity fund raiser for ESPWA Ministries.
  • They had great cooking teams involved.  Teams like Southbound Rob, Gentry's BBQ, North Georgia Eggers, and well, everyone was awesome.
  • They brought in some of the most popular accessory companies.  Smokeware, Flameboss, and Pizza Porta were on hand to demonstrate their products and answer questions.
  • Their prizes and giveaways were as good or better than some much bigger, well established Eggfests.  The prizes included inflatable Eggs, custom Yeti products, and even a BGE Mini-Max for the People's Choice winner.  That's first rate!
  • They thought of the tasters.  Small touches like giving away free bottles of ice cold water were well appreciated.
  • The swag bags for the cook teams were stuffed with great things that Eggers can use.
  • Best of all?  Pinch A Penny paid off the weatherman and we had absolutely gorgeous blue skies and warm temps. 
We had a great time cooking and serving the crowds.  The absolute best part was spending time with my best friends and our families came out for the event.  We do a lot of contests, Eggfests, and other events each year but this is the first time my whole family has ever been there at once.  That made this a special event for me.

If you didn't make it this year, you'll want to put North Florida Eggfest on your calendar for next year. It is a fantastic Eggfest and I anticipate it will grow quickly.

To give you a glimpse of our experience at this fun Eggfest, this post is entirely comprised of phone pics from my mom, my sister, and myself.

Normally it's a little over 8 hours from Knoxville to Jacksonville.  Then again, NORMALLY the Interstate in North Carolina isn't a parking lot! 

Cooking pork butts on a Big Green Egg using a Flame Boss controller and a Thermoworks ChefAlarm.
10+ hours later, I arrived in Jax.  Rhonda already had pork butts smoking on her Large BGE. She had her FlameBoss 200 controller keeping the temps.  I love her Egg table...do you think she'd notice if I tried to take it home with me the next time?

Albukirky Seasonings Green Chile Rub makes a superb smoked Tex-Mex pork butt.
These pork butts are our favorite Tex-Mex style pork - seasoned heavily with Albukirky's Green Chile Rub.  This style pulled pork is a tasty departure from the usual pulled pork and it is amazing in tacos, burritos, and on huevos rancheros.  

Friday started off with a planning meeting at Poe's Tavern in Atlantic Beach. We joked about a raven pooping on our plates. At the end of the meal, a sparrow pooped partially on my plate. Good times:)
Their burgers are big, creative, and messy. This is the Black Cat with grilled onions, applewood smoked bacon, chili, piemento cheese, and onion straws.

Beauty and the Beastie Boys.  Sean arrived from Tampa and it was time to knock out the food prep.  We three dudes tried to look "tough" but you can see we could barely contain our grins, if you look closely.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How I Smoke Homemade Pastrami

[FTC Disclaimer] Certified Angus Beef is one of my sponsors and I receive compensation from them.  It's easy being a brand ambassador for a product that I already use and love.  

St Patty's Day is upon us and one of the most popular menu items is corned beef.  Making corned beef from scratch is a several day process so it's too late to do it this year but don't worry.


But for me, I only make corned beef so that I can smoke it to make pastrami!  The Reuben sandwich is one of Alexis' all-time favorite sandwiches and it's even better when you make the pastrami from scratch.

How I make, cure, and smoke pastrami at home using certified angus beef.

The basic process is:

  1. Start with a quality beef brisket "flat" from Certified Angus Beef.
  2. Make a heavily seasoned brine with savory flavors and pickling spices.
  3. Use the brine to wet cure the flat for several days.
  4. Rinse off the brisket flat, dry it, and season with a black pepper and coriander based seasoning.
  5. Smoke the brisket to 165°f-180°f.
  6. Refrigerate overnight.
  7. Steam the brisket to 200°f.
  8. Slice and serve.
Yeah, it's a bit of a process but it's not that difficult and the results are worth it.  For this pastrami, I used elements of two recipes:
  • Pastrami from Michael Symon's book, Carnivore, and 
  • Montreal Smoked Mean from Andy Husband and Chris Hart's book, Pitmaster. 

Trimming a whole beef brisket.
I could just buy a brisket flat and start there, but I had a few whole briskets in the freezer and used that instead.  So I separated the flat (pictured left) from the point (in my hands) and trimmed off most of the fat. The fat pile was used to make beef tallow so it's not waste.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Prime Ribeye Steak with Shiitake Mushrooms and Asparagus with Hollandaise

Murphy's Laws of Grilling
  1. The fire only flares up during the time that you went inside "just for a minute".
  2. The cut of meat you go to the store to buy for the cook out is never the one on sale.
  3. Trying to "grill before the storms hit" is a sure fire way to make it rain instantly.
Number 3 was the one that got me last night.  A major storm system was crossing Tennessee and I thought I had time to quickly grill a steak.  Of course, the grill is hardly preheated when the cold rain drops started pelting the deck so I pulled the grill back under the gazebo to hide out from the rain.

Alexis was at Food City and picked me up a prime Certified Angus Beef ribeye (they are a sponsor but this isn't a sponsored post).  I had some leftover shiitake mushrooms and a half a bundle of asparagus in the fridge.  I thought about doing those two together in a stir fry side dish but went this route instead.

Grilled Prime Certified Angus Beef Ribeye Shiitake Mushrooms and Asparagus
Prime Ribeye Steak with Shiitake Mushrooms and Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

Certified Angus Beef prime ribeye recipe ideas
The main characters.

Char-Broil Kamander kamado grill is a low cost option for grills like Big Green Egg
Today I was using the Char-Broil Kamander kamado grill.  They are a sponsor and this is the first kamado they have come out with since I partnered with them.  At a MSRP of $349 it's a low cost kamado and I expected to have performance issues but it actually works surprisingly well so far. I'll still be using all types and brands of kamados but I've added this one to the fold.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Gordon Ramsay MasterClass

I've been taking the Gordon Ramsay MasterClass for the past few weeks.  Alexis bought it for me as part of my anniversary present.

The class is structured as a self-paced, 20 lesson online program.
  • Each lesson is centered around a short video from Gordon Ramsay in which he discusses the topic and then demonstrates a technique or recipe.  
  • There is a PDF workbook and for each lesson the book gives links to further explore the lesson topic through other recipes that build on what Ramsay just taught.  
  • Typically there is a recipe to do hands-on practice.
  • Finally, you post your practice recipe and discuss with your fellow MasterClass students in "The Hub" (basically an online forum specific to each lesson).
Here are a few pictures of my first few practice classes.
The recipe called for using cubed bacon to saute a variety of mushrooms.  The last time I smoked a pork belly for bacon, I cubed and saved the butt ends to use for something just like this.  I sauteed portobello and shiitake mushrooms with it which made the mushrooms peppery, smoky, and delicious.

Gordon Ramsay Masterclass review practice
Using Chef Ramsay's process was about 15 minutes faster than the way I normally poached eggs.  I seasoned the egg with black pepper and alaea red clay salt.

Gordon Ramsay Masterclass review
The recipe was spot on.  I want to turn this into a gastro pub style burger.  It would be an open faced burger topped with the bacon sauteed 'shrooms and the poached egg.

Review of the Masterclass by Gordon Ramsay
Perfectly cooked poached egg.  Before I took this class, if someone asked if I knew how to poach an egg, I would have replied that of course, I do.  I still gained something because I learned a new, faster method than my old way.

Review of Gordon Ramsay's MasterClass
The classes encourage you to explore what you learned in the lesson.  To practice poached eggs, I made Eggs Benedict.  I had cured and smoked a big batch of Candian bacon.  I made a rich Hollandaise sauce and poached a few eggs using the method I had learned.

Review of Gordon Ramsay's MasterClass

Chef Ramsay shared his method for the creamiest scrambled eggs but his recipe involved sea urchin, which I just couldn't do.  So I did scrambled eggs his way with roasted Hatch green chiles instead of the sea urchin and Mexican crema instead of sour cream.  Served it on a warmed tostada with the last of our fire roasted salsa that we canned at the end of summer.

The most common two questions I get about the class are:
  1. Has Chef Ramsay cursed or yelled at you yet?  No.  This is an online class and there really isn't any interaction or feedback other than your fellow students.  You can upload a video question and if selected, Chef Ramsay will provide a video response, but I haven't uploaded any questions.
  2. Is the class worth the money?  Short answer: For me, it is worth the $90 we paid. 
The long answer is more complicated and more than a yes/no answer.

  • I have seen a few fellow students write that they haven't learned anything or that they get the same info from his videos already on line.  I think if you don't use the workbook and skip the assignments, I could see that being the impression.  But for me, I have learned something with each assignment I have completed.
  • If you are an accomplished cook, you might not be bowled over with new information but it still might be a fun set of exercises to reignite your passion for cooking.
  • I think that basic home cooks will gain a wealth of information and techniques, if they do the work.  It's more than just learning 17 or 18 new recipes and/or techniques.  They should gain a confidence in their culinary skills and knowledge and to me, THAT is when cooking gets fun. 
So I'm enjoying the Gordon Ramsay Masterclass. It's not the end all and it won't turn you into a Michelin star chef but it's educational and entertaining for me.  I'll post some more stuff as I get back to the classes.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Product Release: Kingsford BBQ Sauce

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  I received no compensation for this post other than the free product samples and I have no current affiliation with Kingsford.

Kingsford, the renowned charcoal producer, has introduced their own line of BBQ sauces and they sent me a sample batch to try out.  

2017 review of Kingsford BBQ Sauce

The flavors for this new, all natural line of BBQ sauces include:

Monday, February 27, 2017

MAPpro gas torch lighter - Baby You're a Firework!

A lot of us kamado grillers use a MAPpro (formerly MAPP gas) gas torch to light our grills.  It's one of the quickest ways to get that grill up and running, in my opinion. They are like a hand held propane torch but they don't sputter when held upside down like propane is prone to do.  Here is the one that I use (Amazon affiliate link but most hardware stores carry these).

Tonight Carolina was playing so terribly I had to go outside and play with fire. I tried capturing a photo of the instant of ignition.  They turned out really cool - looking like a nebula in the night sky or a firework.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Maafe - West African Peanut Stew

FTC Disclaimer- We are proud to have this post sponsored by Certified Angus Beef.

Our granddaughter's dad is from Senegal and a popular dish there is maafe (also mafĂ©).  There are many variations but in general:
  • maafe features a spicy peanut sauce,
  • maafe can have beef, or chicken,
  • maafe can be a stew or soup, and
  • maafe should pack a good bit of heat.
How to make West African Peanut Stew

The first time I made it, her dad and family were visiting us.  I was proud to have created something from their cuisine.  They said the flavors were right but called it a phrase in Wolof (one of the three languages they speak) and giggled. I had to ask what was funny.  The phrase translated loosely into "white man's maafe"  or "foreigners maafe" because it was so mild in the heat department.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Book Review: Pitmaster - Recipes, Techniques, & BBQ Wisdom by Chris Hart and Andy Husbands

New BBQ book season is upon us and the first one we are reviewing for 2017 is a winner - Pitmaster by Andy Husbands and Chris Hart.  We received a complimentary electronic copy for review prior to the March 15, 2017 release date.  

I like to bring in other opinions than my own and brought Jeff Greene on to add his thoughts about this book.  Jeff shares our BBQ and grilling madness and runs the Twitter handle @Grill_Porn.  He came to Knoxville by way of South Carolina and loves cooking on his Big Green Egg.  He says he's "just a backyard and tailgate" guy but don't let his modesty fool you, he knows his way around a grill.

BBQ Cookbook review for Pitmaster 2017

Pitmaster - Recipes, Techniques, and BBQ Wisdom

Andy Husbands and Chris Hart
Fair Winds Press
RELEASE DATE:  March 15, 2017 (available for pre-order now)

It's no surprise that this BBQ and Grilling book rocks because the two authors are well respected in the BBQ family/community/asylum and this is their 4th book.  Andy Husbands is the Chef at Tremont 647 and The Smoke Shop in Boston.  Chris Hart and Andy won a World Championship at the Jack Daniels Invitational in 2009.  Andy was on Season 6 of Hell's Kitchen and Chris was on BBQ Pitmasters and Chopped.  They know a lil' bit about the world of BBQ and grilling.

Physical Description

  • Available in hardcover and Kindle
  • 224 pages 
  • Hardcover is about 8 x 10 
Jeff's thoughts
“Pitmasters” is definitely a book I would buy if I saw it in the book store.  I love the overall look of book.  The layout seems well thought out and the pictures are very well done, and do a great job of adding to the overall experience.  I also really enjoyed getting to know more about the philosophies, approaches and histories of some of the more well-known pit masters, which I imagine why the book is titled the way it is.

Chris' thoughts
This book is an eye catcher with it's gorgeous cover photo of that amazing smoking beef rib.  I like the way they organized the book a bit differently into categories of Backyard, North Carolina, Kansas City, Texas, The North, and Competition.  The content is also not limited to recipes.  They share techniques and I was quite fond of the segments throughout the book talking to other pitmasters about their food and BBQ ideas.  


For me, one barometer of a BBQ/grilling book on the first flip through is how many of those adhesive flags/tabs I used to mark recipes that I want to try.  This book was full of those eye catching "Oh, I've got to try that" type of recipes.  

They cover from the basics, such as pulled pork on a kamado grill and Memphis dry rub ribs to more advanced recipes like the competition style steak which applies flavoring in multiple layers.  Andy and Chris do a good job of breaking down the steps to make the recipes approachable, so even those new to grilling and BBQ can try these recipes.

Butcher Paper Brisket from the BBQ book - Pitmaster
Butcher Paper Brisket - I used a Certified Angus Beef brisket to use the first of two brisket recipes in the book.  The second one is their competition recipe that scored a perfect 180.  I was going to use my stick burner but the weather didn't cooperate so I smoked it on my Grilla Grills wood pellet cooker.  The simple seasonings of salt, pepper, and smoke lets the delicious beef shine through. 

Sweet and spicy rub for pork from the BBQ book Pitmaster
Everyday Sweet and Spicy Pork Rub - I made a batch of this rub. The blend of sugars gives it an up front sweetness that melds into smokiness (because I used smoked paprika) and finishes with a very mild heat. This is a good general purpose BBQ rub and gives a good color to butts, ribs, and chops.  That is a quart jar in the middle so this makes a good bit of rub. 

Pulled Pork for the Kamado cooker from the book - Pitmaster
Pulled Pork on a Kamado Style Cooker - Being a kamado guy, of course I did this recipe. It wasn't anything fancy and that's good sometimes.  Simply the Sweet and Spicy rub with a proper smoking and you've got great results.  I did a pair of butts on my Grill Dome with an Adjustable Rig set up and followed their recipe. I like both pulled and chopped pork, so I did half and half.  It is a solid recipe and I like the fact that they give you 2 different timelines, one cooking at 225°f and one at 275°f. 

Grilled porterhouse on GrillGrates
Competition Style Beef Ribeye - Steak competitions have taken off thanks to the Steak Cookoff Association.  This is Chris and Andy's version of a competition steak. I used a porterhouse steak instead of a ribeye and used Hard Core Carnivore Black instead of salt and pepper, but I did make the Umami Steak Sauce and Steak Finishing Butter. I also used the GrillGrates that they and seemingly most every SCA team uses. The sauce uses the umami power of concentrating portobello mushrooms, brisket au jus and more.   I cooked it on a small kamado grill and was very impressed with the results. 
Red Slaw, White Slaw - While we were making the pork butts, we made two of the slaw recipes from the book. The white slaw is a creamy slaw that you would expect at a BBQ joint or fish shack, you're probably used to that, but red slaw?  Red slaw is a signature dish from Lexington, North Carolina.  Instead of the typical mayo or vinegar base, red slaw uses a spicy tomato base. I don't like it by itself as much as I do vinegar and white slaws, but it is freaking awesome on a pulled pork sandwich.  

Western Style North Carolina Sauce - The first real BBQ I had in my life was smoked pork shoulder with a Piedmont sauce mixed in and that is what made me fall in love with BBQ at 7 years old. Unlike Eastern NC vinegar sauces, Piedmont style sauces have a light touch of ketchup and some sweetness added in, like this one.  This is pretty close to one of my treasured recipes that was handed down to me by my grandmother. 

Gold Sauce - Mustard based BBQ sauce is the hallmark of South Carolina.  Golden BBQ sauces are one of those things you either love or hate, I love them and this one is a good one. This recipe has the predominant mustard and vinegar kick with the slightest kiss of sweetness.  
Jeff is a South Carolina guy so I wasn't surprised that he also made the Gold Sauce when he cooked several recipes out of Pitmaster for his Superbowl menu. Here are his thoughts about the recipes he cooked from the book.

Jeff's Thoughts

I like how the authors intermixed their own recipes with those from the other pit masters that were included, many of which were fresh takes on traditional foods.  I am not sure how many cookbooks have taken this approach, but for me this is a new and novel way to write a cookbook that I thoroughly enjoyed.  I not only liked the thoughts of the pit masters that were sprinkled throughout but I also appreciated the differentiation of regions or styles of bbq.   It has everything from backyard to competition and hits most of the major bbq regions from New England to Texas.  I was saddened that South Carolina bbq was not included, but I may be a bit biased in that opinion being a palmetto state native.  Plus my experience from travelling “up north” is that there is little to no difference to New Englanders’ between the two Carolinas, but rather only one “Carolina” but I digress.

Gold Sauce - Being from South Carolina and having grown up on mustard based bbq sauces, I can say without a doubt the Gold Sauce recipe is legit.  This sauce has a wonderful balance of sweet tanginess on the front end and nice heat on the back end.  The only change I plan to make moving forward is to use a little less thyme, but this is a personal preference.  Gold Sauce is on par with many of the best “Carolina Honey Gold” mustard based sauces I have tried, as it is a bit sweeter than most mustard based sauces, but not so sweet that it detracts from the experience.     

Lexington Style Cheerwine Pork Shoulder - This is a nice take on smoking a pork shoulder.  I have cooked dozens of shoulders but have never used any of the “soda” injection recipes popular in some circles.  The injection had a very nice taste with a balance of sweet, heat, and vinegar bite.  I cooked the shoulder per the recipe although I generally smoke at lower temps than the 275-300 degrees that is called for.  This recipe only uses Kosher salt as a dry brine/rub, and calls for spraying the shoulder every hour with Cheerwine.  

This is a nice take on smoking a pork shoulder.  I have cooked dozens of shoulders but have never used any of the “soda” injection recipes popular in some circles.  The injection had a very nice taste with a balance of sweet, heat, and vinegar bite.  I cooked the shoulder per the recipe although I generally smoke at lower temps than the 275-300 degrees that is called for.  This recipe only uses Kosher salt as a dry brine/rub, and calls for spraying the shoulder every hour with Cheerwine.  

[Chris' thought on this - Around here, "pork shoulder" sold in the stores is usually just the picnic end of a whole shoulder and that looks like what Jeff had to work with.  When cut away from the other half (pork butt), these picnic shoulders are leaner and can dry out easier than when cooked as a whole shoulder.]

Cornbread with Butter, Honey, and Sea Salt - Oh my gosh this The Smoke Shop corn bread was a big hit at the SB party.  People could not get enough of it.  Being from the south and growing up on white and sugarless corn bread, I had in my mind that I was not going to like this recipe, but I could not have been more wrong, this was a very nice change of pace.  The cornbread itself was light and fluffy and it was all set off by the sugar crust.  I will say that the recipe was somewhat labor intensive, but it was worth the extra work.  As if it could get any better, when you add the sea salt and honey butter on the top it became even more delicious.   
Classic Macaroni and Cheese: The recipe was easy to make, and my wife and kids thought it was good.  If you are looking for a replacement for grandma’s Sunday dinner mac and cheese, this is not it.  However, it is billed as more or less a replacement for “shells and cheese” and it does quite well at this.  It could use a bit more nutmeg, but that is a personal preference.  

Chris' Favorite Pitmaster Recipe

My favorite recipe from Pitmaster was the City Ham recipe aka Canadian Bacon. We did the book's version and one of our own with bourbon and brown sugar.  Both were fantastic.
Making your own Canadian bacon saves a lot of cash. When we made this batch, it was selling for $0.43 per ounce.  Accounting for the Smithfield Prime Reserve pork loin, coal, and ingredients, we spent $0.20 per ounce.

Making Canadian Bacon with a Smithfield Prime Reserve pork loin
Tied off and ready to go into the smokers. Notice that I tied one (bottom) differently than the other two.  That was just for knowing which one is which.

Smoking Canadian Bacon on a Grilla wood pellet grill
I smoked one of the Pitmaster versions on my Grilla wood pellet cooker.  

Smoking Canadian Bacon on a Big Green Egg BGE using the Flame Boss 200 and a Thermoworks DOT
I did the other two on one of our Big Green Eggs. I had hickory and lump down below. Next was a spider, stone, and drip pan under an Adjustable Rig.  I had a lot going on this day so I went on auto-pilot and used the Flame Boss 200 controller to regulate the temperatures of my BGE.  I had a DOT remote probe thermometer in the second piece.  

Smoked Canadian Bacon made at home, recipe from the book Pitmaster
Great color on these hams and they smelled great.  I put them in one of our garage fridges for two days to let the smoke flavor balance through the hams. It's also easier to slice cold firm ham.

We started with a little over 9 pounds of pork loin and finished with over 8 pounds of finished bacon, so you don't lose much to shrinkage.  We vacuum seal most of this in 8 ounce packages and freeze them.

I burned out my last slicer years ago and have been hand slicing my bacon for the past year.  Alexis got me a new, more robust, slicer this month and I am thrilled with it.  It has a bigger 10" blade and a more powerful motor.  If you are considering a slicer, skip the cheap versions (I burned out two Waring Pro's) and spend the extra money to get a heavier duty slicer.  It doesn't have to be a commercial Hobart slicer but the $300 range will get you something decent for most home purposes.

Eggs Benedict featuring canadian bacon made from Smithfield Prime Reserve
Canadian Bacon means Eggs Benedict!!!!  

Photos and Graphics

Pitmaster features gorgeous color photography by Ken Goodman. Ken is a phenomenal photographer and his work has graced the pages of several books in my personal collection. He collaborated with Andy and Chris on their three previous books and continues his excellent work here.  As a wannabe food photographer, I study the work of artists like Ken.  The thing that sets his work apart to me is his mastery of shadows and highlights.  He uses them judiciously to create moods and tell stories.

Ken's shot of Pitmaster's Kansas City Tribute Sauce.  Notice the highlights in the sauce on the first two ribs and the perfect amount of shadows under the bowl and ribs. That's no accident - that is skill.

Burnt Ends from Pitmaster. Again, look how the lights play off of the sauce to starkly contrast the shadows hiding in the midst of the burnt ends.  
Almost all of the shots are plated or finished shots of the food.  There aren't a lot of step by step photos but Pitmaster makes up for it with a wise use of graphics, especially visual time lines for certain recipes.


Chris' Thoughts
Not to cop out, but see Jeff's thoughts.  He summed it up perfectly.  

Jeff's Final Thoughts
This book should have a wide audience, not only because of the various pit masters and wide range of regions included, but for the varying levels of techniques presented.  It would have been easy for the authors to focus primarily on the experienced bbq cooks considering the subject matter of the book.  However, the book includes topics to help lessen the intimidation factor for the novice that may just be getting started, while at the same time including more advanced techniques and recipes for the experienced bbq cooks.  In short this book literally has something for everyone.  

5 stars – an absolute resource, will refer to frequently
4+ stars – very good cookbook with value added tips, photos, guides, and other content
3 stars – Good, average cookbook, glad to have it on my shelf
2 stars – a recipe collection

1 star – would give it away to someone else to get rid of it, but only if I didn't like them very much