Monday, January 29, 2018

Salt Block Grilling - Mini Surf and Turf Appetizer

[FTC Disclaimer]  I have a business relationship with SABER Grills to provide content for their website. 

Here's an appetizer idea that I made for SABER Grills' website this month.  They are Salt Block Grilled Steak and Shrimp Skewers Appetizer.

This gets your guests involved - sort of like a fondue appetizer, but instead of a big pot of cheese or oil, the centerpiece is a Himalayan salt block.

Heating a salt block on a SABER grills 1500 Elite SSE
Heating the salt block up on my SABER Grills 1500 Elite SSE.  You have to gently heat up the salt blocks, so I started with it at low temps and raised off of the main cooking grates.

Grilling shrimp on a SABER Grills 1500 Elite SSE
I marinated the shrimp in citrus and a Southwestern dry rub.

Look for a beef fillet that has good marbling like the one that I used.

The full recipe is available on the SABER Grills website.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Hawg Back BBQ Stuffed Potatoes

One of my favorite ways to use leftover smoked pork or brisket is to use it for a loaded baked potato.

Recipe for Hawg Back BBQ Stuffed potatoes on the Big Green Egg
Cheesy, smoky, salty, and sweet - a Hawg Back will fill you up.

This dish appears on the menus of many BBQ joints because they are delicious and filling.  The biggest reason is that it helps them "re-work" leftover BBQ into a new dish, minimizing product loss.  

The might just be called "BBQ stuffed potato" or "BBQ loaded potato."  But many joints come up with names to set them apart, such as; The Heavyweight, The Big Poppa, or a Chop Baker.  The first one that I ever had was from Buddy's BBQ in Knoxville.  They call theirs Hawg Back Potatoes and that name has stuck with me.

Leftover BBQ pork recipe ideas

The ingredients vary somewhat, but the basic is a large baked potato, smoked pork, cheddar cheese, BBQ Sauce, and sour cream.  I consider these to be an entree, not a side dish or appetizer. I made these last night using some of our leftover smoked pork that we froze after a BBQ contest last year.

Hawg Back BBQ Stuffed Potatoes


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Smoky Bacon, Onion, and Cheddar Burger

[FTC Disclaimer]  We are proud to be sponsored by Certifed Angus Beef® Brand; however, this is not a sponsored post.

This was the best burger I have made so far this year - the Smoky Bacon, Onion, and Cheddar Burger.  It might be early in 2018, but this burger sets the bar quite high.

I may have cooked this mouth-watering burger in 2018, it started back in 2017.  This burger is loaded with home-cured bacon and white Vermont cheddar that I smoked at the end of the year.

I cold smoke batches of cheese every Winter. This year I had a thing for white cheddars but also did some gouda. I use the soldering iron/can method for a cold smoke generator in one of our kamado grills.  I take a new (no lead) pen style soldering iron without a tip in it and stick it into a Smoke Tube (or can with holes in it) filled with wood pellets.  Then just smoke the cheese for 90 minutes while keeping the temperature below 60°f.  

Once smoked, I vacuum seal the blocks of cheese and let them age for 2 weeks.  This enables the smoke to mellow out and balance throughout the block.  The one I used for these burgers was a 3 year aged Vermont cheddar.

I also started the sorghum-bourbon bacon curing in 2017.  I used Chris Lilly's Pepper Maple Bacon recipe from his book Fire and Smoke - A Pitmaster's Secrets (Amazon affiliate link).  I substitute sorghum for maple syrup, and I add 1 tablespoon to 1 ounce of bourbon.  I shrink wrapped the two halves and let them age for a week.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Beef Brisket Burnt Ends

[FTC Disclaimer] This post is sponsored by the Certified Angus Beef® brand in conjunction with a social media campaign through Sunday Supper LLC. All opinions are my own.

I think that beef brisket burnt ends are the best single bite in BBQ.

How to make burnt ends on a kamado grill, such as; big green egg, primo, kong, or kamado joe

"Burnt ends" originally were the scraps left on the cutting board after slicing a whole smoked brisket.  They were a pitmaster's treat, but then word got out ever everyone started craving them.  Now the entire "point" of the brisket is used to make burnt ends.

Before I dive into how I make burnt ends, I tried something new (to me) with this brisket - wet-aging.  I haven't done much dry-aging because I don't have a fridge set up with humidity control and a fan.  But at the Certified Angus Beef® Brand Annual Conference, they had a session on Zooming in on Aging.  

Why Age Beef?

All beef is aged, it's just a matter of how long and was it wet or dry-aged.  Aging gives enzymes, specifically calpains and cathepsins, time to break down the big meat molecules into more tasty bits like amino acids, glucose, and fatty acids (McGee 144). Aging breaks down the connective tissues. This makes the beef more tender and yields a better flavor.

  • I learned that Certified Angus Beef® Brand restaurant partners age their beef at least 21 days.  
  • Retail is much different.  According to the breakout session, the time between pack date and the date sold vary widely for retail, with an average of 12.7 days. 
  • So it makes sense to take matters into your own hands and wet-age large, vacuum sealed cuts of beef.

Dry vs. Wet-Aging

In short, dry-aging is better than wet-aging, but wet aging is much more straightforward.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Potato, Mushroom, and Ham Soup

This week the temperatures got above freezing for a couple of hours on just one day.  Brrrr!  It's definitely time for stews, chili, and soups.

I whipped up this Potato, Mushroom, and Ham Soup to ward off the chills earlier this week.  

Potato Mushroom and Ham Soup recipe

It is a roux-based soup using leftover ingredients that I had on hand.  We had over-bought for the holidays and needed to use this stuff up anyway.  Soups are perfect for dealing with leftovers.

The thin sliced smoked ham creates a slightly smoky flavor but nothing dominant.  I also add a little cream at the end to make it creamy but not so much that it ventures into "cream of" territory.

recipe for Potato, Mushroom, and Ham soup

I thought about making some croutons but went with some griddled pieces of focaccia bread instead.

Potato, Mushroom, and Ham Soup


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 4 ounce shaved ham
  • 8 ounce Baby Bella (crimini) mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/4 all purpose flour
  • 1-quart chicken stock
  • 4 russet potatoes, diced (did not peel)
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp granulated garlic
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream


  1. Preheat a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Drizzle about 1 tablespoon oil and crisp the ham, about 30-45 seconds per side 
  2. Add 1 tbsp butter and saute the onion, carrots, and mushrooms until tender, about 8 minutes.  Remove and keep.
  3. Add remaining 4 tbsp butter, melt and whisk in the flour to make a roux.  
  4. Add the stock in small batches (a quarter cup or less) while whisking continuously.  Wait to add more stock each time until the roux and stock blend.
  5. Bring to a simmer, add the potatoes, salt, peppers, garlic, and thyme.  Simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Add the carrots, onion, and mushrooms.  Simmer for 10 minutes. 
  7. Remove the thyme stems, as the leaves should have mostly fallen off by now.
  8. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  9. Taste, add salt and pepper as desired.  

Friday, January 5, 2018

Ham with Dr Pepper and Apple Bourbon Glaze

[FTC Disclaimer] No compensation was paid for this post, and full price was paid for the products.

We smoked a couple of hams over the holidays, and this one was a solid winner.

Members Mark Applewood Smoked Boneless Carving Ham by Smithfield #flavorhailsfromsmithfield
I started with a smoked boneless ham.  This particular one was an applewood smoked ham packed for Sam's by Smithfield.  I like these or one of their Smokehouse Reserve hams when Sam's has them. They don't stock them all of the time but when they do we grab a few.

Smithfield smoked boneless ham with Gentry's Ham Bone BBQ Seasoning
I lightly wiped it with a little peanut oil, perhaps a tablespoon, and then seasoned it heavily with Gentry's Ham Bone BBQ Seasoning.  This is a new rub, at least it is to me. It is a sweet rub with the warmth of cinnamon and all-spice that pairs perfectly with ham.

Ham going onto the Big Green Egg kamado smoke and grill.  I have Craycort Grates, a spider, a stone, and drip pan set up.
I smoked it with more applewood on a large Big Green Egg.  I was using a spider rig/stone/drip pan combo. No particular reason for that versus a plate setter, it was just what I had nearby. I'm using Craycort grates as usual. I went at 275°f for about 1 hour and then foiled it for the second hour.

Southern style ham glaze for the smoker.
While the ham cooked, I made a thin glaze of more Ham Bone, Dr Pepper, and Jim Beam Apple.  Alexis picked up that miniature at some point, and it seemed like a good use here.  You could probably just use any bourbon, but the apple flavored bourbon worked well here.

Dr Pepper and Bourbon Ham Glaze


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

NMT Umami Steak Seasoning

[FTC Disclaimer] We are proud to have Certified Angus Beef® Brand as a sponsor again in 2018.  However, this is not a sponsored post.

This is the steak seasoning recipe that I shared in some of my steak classes that I taught in 2017 - NMT Umami Steak Seasoning.  It has become the steak seasoning that I use most often because it brings out the flavor of the steak without covering it up.

NMT Umami Steak Seasoning recipe is a salt and pepper based seasoning that adds aromatics and a mushroom powder blend.

NMT Umami Steak Seasoning starts with a basic salt, pepper, and garlic seasoning.  Then I add some aromatics. Finally, I leverage the power of mushrooms which are a natural source of flavor enhancers.  I use 3 types of mushroom powders to boost the flavor of a mouthwatering steak, namely, portobello, porcini, and shiitake mushrooms.

NMT Umami Steak Seasoning recipe leverages the natural flavor enhancers of mushrooms.
Upper left - dried and ground shallot
Upper right - dried and ground shiitake mushroom
Lower left - Dried and ground guajillo and ancho chiles
Lower right - dried and ground red bell pepper

Admittedly, several of the ingredients are hard to find, but you can either order them online or make them yourself with a dehydrator and a coffee grinder.  I've done both.  Doing it yourself is much less expensive and ordering online is much less time-consuming.
Ribeye steaks seasoned with NMT Umami Steak Seasoning.

NMT Umami Steak Seasoning