Sunday, May 31, 2009

Japanese Steakhouse Golden Shrimp Sauce

Probably my favorite style of restaurant is the so called "Japanese steakhouse". You know, like Benihana's where a chef cooks on a teppanyaki grill in front of you doing tricks and cracking lame jokes, like "japanese eggroll!" when he spins an egg on the grill for stir fried rice, like this:

I don't care how cheesy the "watch me flip a shrimp tail into my hat", "ahhh Japanese spaghtetti! (bean sprouts)", or flaming onion volcanoes are. I don't care if our good friend Jennifer who is half Japanese, grew up in Japan, and speaks fluent Japanese tells us that this is a completely American institution. I never get tired of it!

One of the standard items that you find at these joints is the sweet golden shrimp sauce they serve for the seafood appetizers. Here is the version that we have used for years. It tastes pretty darn close to the many we have had.

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons melted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika 
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
  • heavy cream to desired consistency, 2 to 3 tablespoons
Mix all ingredients together and chill for 4 hours. Serve with grilled shrimp, scallops, etc.

The picture is from tonight. I seasoned a few scallops with just salt and pepper. Then I pan seared them in a cast iron pan. I spooned some of the shrimp sauce onto the plate. The red flame? I kicked the sauce up by drawing a thin line of sriracha sauce in the shrimp sauce. I made the "flame" effect by dragging a toothpick through the line of sriracha sauce.

Wow! This is a dynamite combo. The shrimp sauce hits you up front with a "sweet" and then the sriracha kicks in with "heat" on the back end. Perfection, in my not so humble opinion!

Idea for Food Meme/Throwdown

I was kicking around ideas of what to cook for dinner tonight when I had a thought. I should (not tonight, but sometime soon) make a full menu comprised solely of recipes from other blogs.

Then I took that idea one step further. There are so many great foodies blogging out there. How many times have you commented, "Looks great...I have GOT to try making that" yet never get around to doing it?

All of us food bloggers should designate one weekend in a few weeks, when we all do this.
1) Select a a full menu using recipes from other food bloggers' posts. (Trying to use as many different blogs as possible.)
2) Cook the menu, take pictures, etc
3) On the designated date, post the menu (linking to the original posts), your alterations and your results.

Anyone interested?
What would we call the meme?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Boiled Peanuts

I crack open the soggy shell with an faint POP and the hot brine drips over my fingers. I squeeze out the three pearls of taste and savor the salty deliciousness that is boiled peanuts.

Yeah, I know. Boiled peanuts, aka goobers, are pretty much a southern thing and most likely you fall into one of three categories:
1) love them
2) hate them
3) have never had them.

I fall into the "love" category in case you couldn't tell. The best ones come in paper bags from roadside stands that pop up on the weekends selling local vegetables each summer.

A few weekends ago, I made a batch of my own. So I thought I'd write up my version of boiled peanuts but found that Lisa of Champaign Taste had already done pretty much the same dish and did a bang up job blogging about it. Go check her blog out....I'll wait.
Then I thought that I might write a great post about the history of goobers but I found that What's Cooking America had already done an exemplary job of that.
But darn it (such foul language, Chris?), I spent 8 hours boiling these things and took pictures so you're gonna see them :)

Soak the peanuts in plain water for at least 8 hours (the longer the better....well, reasonably. They'd be pretty gross after 3 or 4 weeks of soaking.) and then rinse them well. Peanuts DO grow underground.
Ingredients are simple. Green peanuts (raw peanuts work but take longer to cook), 3/4 c of salt per gallon of water, and 1/2 cup of Old Bay Seasoning.

Boil them for what seems to be forever, adding water as needed throughout the process to keep the level of liquid up. I ended cooking my batch for just over 8 hours.

Like good BBQ, boiled peanuts are done when they're done. You'll know because the shells soften and the peanuts take on a bean like consistency.

Mmmmmmm can't you just taste them?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Who Stole My Smoke Ring?

I had a pair of spare ribs so I decided to do a "throwdown" between two products, Big Bob Gibson's rub and sauce versus Billy Bones rub and sauce.I know what you're thinking, it's not fair, the Billy Bones side has TWO rubs and adds cherry preserves to the sauce. First, that is how I have been doing my spares when I want wet ribs (I use my own rub when doing dry). Second, who cares? I was just experimenting a bit.

I cut both spares St. Louis style. I seasoned one with a 50/50 mix of Billy Bones XXX Cherry Rub and Billy Bones Competition rub (aka "green label"). I seasoned the other with Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Rub. I stuck a toothpick in one of the ribs so I could remember which was which.

I smoked them together on the Big Green Egg using Full Circle lump, 1" x 3" hickory chunks (local), and some cherry wood chips. I ran it at 250f dome temp but it got a little higher a few times. I turned the cooking grate 1/3rd turn each hour (to keep from having the same part over the hot spots the whole time).I wasn't going to use foil (3-2-1 method), but after 4 hours got nervous that they weren't getting done fast enough to beat the oncoming storms, so I wrapped them in foil for an hour. When I took them out of the foil, I sauced the Gibson one with Big Bob Gibson's Championship Red Sauce. I hit the Billy Bones one with a 50/50 mix of his Original BBQ Sauce and cherry preserves that were chopped up with an immersion blender. I let them go for another 20 minutes and they were done. The rain started 10 minutes after they came off the cooker:)

They looked really good. The rib bones were sticking out just perfectly, which is a good indicator to me that they were going to be tender.Sliced them up and testing began immediately, no waiting for fancy trappings like plates.
They were BOTH VERY GOOD. I would have been happy with each on their own. But everyone agreed that the "toothpick" ones were just a tiny bit better than the other ones, because of the sweetness. So Billy Bones won out this time. What does that prove? Nothing. Just that my family was in the mood for sweet ribs on this day. (For the record, in Big Bob Gibson's BBQ book, Chris Lilly mentions that they add sweetners to their Red sauce in competitions as well.)
They would have scored will on taste and texture in a comp, but would have given up points on appearance for the limited smoke ring. I've run into this the past few cooks for butts and ribs. That's why I was extra sure to use bigger chunks of hickory this time and they were distributed throughout the coal. I did have a nice thin smoke throughout the cook.

The one thing I have been doing different is using a deep dish pizza pan as a drip pan. It has liquid in it to keep the drippings from burning/smoldering but now I'm thinking that this is putting too much moisture inside the cooking chamber, slowing the formation of a smoke ring. Thoughts from any of you fellow Eggheads or BBQ'rs?

"Oh Boy!" Waffles

I wanted a stick to your ribs breakfast today because I'm going to be skipping lunch. So I made "Oh Boy!" Waffles. I got this recipe from my mother in 2002 when she gave me an electric waffle iron for Christmas. (By the way Mom.....6+ years later, that thing is still chugging along perfectly!)

Here's a few of them before maple syrup and butter.
Oh Boy! Waffles
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 ea egg
2 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup salad oil

Sift together dry ingredients. Combine liquid ingredients*; add to dry mix***. Bake in pre-heated baker.

Use a 3/4 cup batter** and set a timer for 5 minutes. Flip and cook for 1 minute more or until golden brown.

*I have found it makes a difference when I whisk the eggs while slowly adding the oil to make an emulsion before adding the milk.

**Specific to the Toastmaster Waffle Baker we are using. Yours may be more or less.
***Don't over mix this. Alton Brown's show on waffles warned that over mixing the liquid and dry ingredients changes the glutens to make them tough or something like glue. Let the mix sit for 5-10 minutes.

This isn't my mother's creation, it's just the recipe she and I use. Don't know who to give credit for it, since there are several sources around the Internet. These come out crispy and taste perfect. They freeze well so make extras and pop a 1/4 of one in the toaster for a quick breakfast during the week. Beats the hell out of eggos!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Beef Tenderloin with Creole Brandy Sauce

Let's just cut to the chase and get the food porn out of the way.
Tonight's menu was

Beef Tenderloin with Creole Sauce
Smoky Mountain Cafe's Summer Corn**
Roasted Potatoes with Garlic & Rosemary
Grilled Garlic Bread

**(One of the easiest, best side dishes ever. Katherine is a fellow food blogger who is awesome! Check her blog out.)

Start with a whole beef tenderloin. We got this one for a steal at because it was close dated. Yeah, we paid $45 (basically the cost of 3 people eating at Applebee's) for fillet mignon for 6-7 people. Not to mention I'll get at least a couple of incredible burgers by grinding up the scraps in an 80/20 mix.
So instead of "beef from the discount rack" we were having hand trimmed steaks. Say it out loud. Hand trimmed steaks. It just sounds fancy doesn't it? Like "rich Corinthian leather".

Anyway, I cut the steaks, tied them, and hit them with my Cajun beef rub***. This is my standard batch, you don't have to use it all, just enough to coat the steaks well.

Grove's Cajun Beef Rub
2 T smoked paprika
2 t kosher salt, coarse ground
2 t granulated onion, coarse ground (substitute onion powder but grinding your own rocks)
2 t granulated garlic, coarse ground (same)
2 t cayenne pepper
1.5 t white pepper
1/2 t black pepper
1 t thyme
1 t oregano

Let them sit for about 30-45 minutes to absorb the goodness:)
I couldn't do mine on the Egg tonight since it has a pork butt cooking in it so I did them on the Brinkmann's Professional Charcoal Grill filled with a chimney of Kingsford Briquettes with Hickory. The temp was around 450f. I seared them close to the coals with the grill lid CLOSED for four minutes flipping and rotating every 1 minute to get even cooking and nice grid marks.

Than I moved them to the indirect heat said and when they hit 130 internal, I pulled them to rest.

Creole Brandy Sauce
One of the VERY FEW PERHAPS ONLY ONE DOWNSIDE to grilling versus pan searing steaks is that you miss out one the foundation (the seared beef drippings in the pan) to many great sauces. With beef tenderloin, I found a way around that by using some of the trimmed scraps.
1 T olive oil
2 T beef tenderloin fatty trimmings, diced VERY finely
1/4 c mushrooms, diced very fine (measurement is after dicing)
1/4 c beef broth
1 oz brandy
1 T green onion diced on a bias
2 T Dijon mustard, coarse ground
6 oz heavy cream
1 t smoked paprika
S & P to taste

In a heated saute pan, add olive oil and allow to become warm. Saute beef trimmings and mushrooms stirring frequently until the 1) beef is browned and 2) the mushrooms have given off their liquid. The pan should start to look like it is going to burn. The following action shots are courtesy of my wife.

Deglaze the pan with beef broth and simmer for a minute or two letting the liquid reduce.
MEGA HUGE SAFETY TIP: Take the pan OFF of heat and open flame to add the brandy.
To be safe, ignite the brandy away from the range top with a long stem lighter. Me? Instead, I return the pan to the burner, tilt and ignite the flambe.
Call the salon and cancel the eyebrow waxing appointment you had for tomorrow!Just kidding, the whole flambe part lasts all of 1 second, just keep back:)

Add the cream, green onion, mustard, paprika, salt and pepper and let it thicken.

To serve, ladle one spoonful of the brandy sauce on a plate and place the steak on top of the sauce.

IMHO, the flavor of the brandy sauce and the texture of the mushrooms & mustard seeds ROCKS!

***Yes I KNOW Cajun and Creole are TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THINGS. But my cajun beef rub IS my basic beef rub whether I'm cooking creole or otherwise.

For printable recipe, click here:
Beef Tenderloin Creole

Monday, May 18, 2009

Smoked Chicken Salad

So this is why I always smoke one extra chicken than I need.

1/2 ea Smoked chicken
1/3 ea Red onion
1 cup celery
1 cup Mayo
salt to taste
pepper to taste

This recipe is really just basic chicken salad. The difference is that you use tasty smoked chicken instead of bland canned chicken or plain chicken breast. I personally recommend my smoked chicken recipe but if you already have a favorite, use it. You could also use a store bought rotisserie in a pinch.

Pick the 1/2 chicken to get all of the meat off, being very careful to remove all bones. Chop the chicken into small 1/4 inch cubes. Make sure you get some of the tasty skin in there too! That's where a lot of the cool flavors hang out.

Process the celery and onion in a food processor to "almost" your desired consistency. Add chicken, mayo, salt and pepper and pulse a few times to mix together.

Use a knife or food processor to chop celery, onion, and 1/2 of the half chicken (that's a 1/4 chicken) to your desired consistency. In a large bowl, stir together with the rest of the chicken, mayo, salt and pepper.

Let sit in the fridge for a few hours before serving. It's great as a sandwich (toasted bread, lettuce, tomato) or just plain with crackers.

For printable version, click here:
Grove's Smoked Chicken Salad

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Smoked Chicken

When you think of smoked meats, what comes to mind? Pork butt, brisket and ribs, right? Even at BBQ contests, chicken seems to be an also ran. I'm not really sure why that is, because when done properly, smoked chicken has a flavor and texture that can't be beat. Not to mention the leftovers are way more flexible. I mean, whoever heard of pork butt alfredo or a brisket salad sandwich?smoked chicken, hickory smoked chicken, chicken brine, chicken mop
This is our spin on smoked chicken. It borrows from several things I've learned over the years, including a brine, a mop, and fire control. This recipe is for 2 birds.

1 gallon water
3/4 c koser salt (not regular table salt)
1/2 c sugar
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf
1 T cumin
1 T black pepper

Ask your butcher to cut the birds in half (or do it yourself like I do, removing the backbone entirely). Soak in the brine mixture for 4-8 hours. When ready to start cooking, remove from the brine and rinse the chicken well.

1 T chopped garlic
1 t black pepper
1 t kosher salt

Rub the chicken halves with the rub mix. Don't be bashful. I like to use latex gloves because....well because raw chicken just grosses me out.

1 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c beer
1/2 c Kraft original BBQ sauce
1 oz Tabasco sauce
1.5 t ground pepper
1.5 t ground kosher salt
Whisk the mop ingredients together. I know...Kraft BBQ sauce? Isn't that a mail-in on my part? I learned this recipe from Bill Martin in 2001 when we first moved into this neighborhood and I've tried a few other commercial sauces. For some reason, perhaps nostalgia, only Kraft works for me in this ONE dish.

Place the 1/2 birds on a smoker or grill on indirect heat at 250f. For the Big Green Egg, this means using the plate setter with a drip pan. If you are using a grill, put the hot coals to one side, place a foil pan with liquid (apple juice, water, chicken broth, etc) on the other side and place the chicken over the pan. For this cook, I used cherry wood mixed with lump coal because chicken is very vulnerable to smoke flavors. Baste the chicken with the mop sauce.smoked chicken, hickory smoked chicken, chicken brine, chicken mop
The original recipe called for mopping or basting the chicken with the "mop sauce". This requires being very careful about swapping out brushes and working in small batches to avoid cross contamination. To skip that, I like to splash the sauce on using a cheap squirt bottle like this:Mop (squirt) the chicken every 30 minutes as it cooks to keep the skin moist.smoked chicken, hickory smoked chicken, chicken brine, chicken mopPull the chicken off of the cooker when it hits 160 in the breast or 175f in the thigh. For me, this is usually about 3 hours, but go by your internal thermometer. Let rest for 10-15 minutes.smoked chicken, hickory smoked chicken, chicken brine, chicken mopTo serve, cut each 1/2 in 1/2....that would be the standard "quarter chicken" you get on a chicken plate at most bbq joints. To do that, pull the thigh up and cut underneath it. At this point, you are really just cutting through the skin, the meat and bones are pretty much tender.I always make at least one extra bird so we can make the ultimate Smoked Chicken Salad. I'll post that recipe in a day or two.

For a printable version, click here:
Grove's Smoked Chicken

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fire Roasted Smashed Tomatoes

Is there anything better than cooking outside on a warm spring night?

I made two new dishes tonight. One was a simple one I made up tonight and the other was Pecan Crusted Pork Tenderloin Pinwheels with Carolina Mustard Sauce from Chris Lilly's new book, Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book.

Fire Roasted Smashed Tomatoes
6 ea roma tomatoes
6 ea basil leaves, chopped
6 ea oregano leaves, chopped
kosher salt (to taste)
black pepper (to taste)
feta cheese (just enough to top each half)
Olive oil
Halve the tomatoes and then score each mater so it can lay flat like this (use a very sharp knife and don't cut all the way through):
Sprinkle each tomato half with basil, salt, oregano, and pepper. Crumble feta cheese on top of the seasoned tomatoes. Drizzle with your favorite olive oil.

Place the tomato halves on a preheated pizza stone on a 500f grill, cover and cook approximately 5-7 minutes until the cheese starts to brown. (I was having a horrible time with lighting in the kitchen. That does it, I am getting a light tent set up!)
Oh man, I can tell you these things are aweome! Great appetizer or side dish. Just enough of a subtle smokiness came through in the feta cheese.

Pecan Crusted Pork Tenderloin Pinwheels with Carolina Mustard Sauce

I won't re-post the whole recipe since it can be found here or in Chris Lilly's new book. The book does a much better job explaining the assembly process. Basically, it is just rolled up strips of pork tenderloin and bacon, then grilled. It kicks ass.
TIP: To slice the pork tenderloins...Do this with a very sharp knife while they are still partially frozen. The tenderloin usually has a flat side. Place this side down on the cutting board.

First of all, pecans make me hurl, so they weren't an option. Secondly, I didn't have plain yellow mustard. We go through tons of plain mustard bbqing so all I had was stone ground mustard.
(If you don't know my sarcastic style, please know the serious look in the picture is just goofing off.)

The coarse mustard seed worked for texture, since I wasn't doing the pecans.
I cook the pinwheels on the Brinkmann Charcoal Grill using Kingsford Hickory Briquettes while the tomatoes cooked on the Egg using Full Circle Lump.

Despite my completely crappy pictures, the food came out incredibly great. The bacon helps keep the lean tenderloin from drying out during grilling and adds flavor.
These are great for a heavy appetizer serving or as a main dish. We got 20 single servings out of one twin pack of pork tenderloins.

Things I'd change next time:
- Just take better pictures!

-Be careful of distance to coals. I was cooking too close (5-7") on the first side so I got that side a bit crispy. Next time either start checking for done-ness at around 5 minutes or raise the cooking great a few inches.

For printable recipe, click here:
Pecan-Crusted Pork Tenderloin Pinwheels with Carolina Mustard Sauce

Monday, May 11, 2009

Blount BBQ Bash 2009

The 2009 Blount BBQ Bash has come and gone. I had a great time volunteering at this event again. Sure it was long hours of checking in the teams, putting up signs, setting up trash cans, resolving small issues, emptying trash, sloshing in mud, spreading hay, setting up tents, you name it. But I got to work with great organizers, competition teams, and other volunteers. I loved every minute of it.

This will be my last year volunteering though. Robert B. (my martial arts instructor) and I are going to compete next year and possibly at the State Championship in Lenoir City in October in the Backyard Division. I had two offers to assist with existing teams but Robert and I want to make our own team.

The two most memorable things about this year? Obviously, the mud. Mud, mud, mud.

But the huge thing was that on Friday, I got to work with Chris Lilly for about 8 hours. He is a champion pitmaster, having won events like Memphis In May many times over. I got to help him and local BBQ ace, George Ewart of the Dead End Society BBQ team, prepare for a BBQ cooking class that was part of the event. I had fun, learned a ton, and appreciated how lucky I was to be there. What I learned wasn't secret ingredients or hidden techniques. The three main things I learned were:

  1. It's all about fundamentals and basics, like fire/smoke control. Master those and the rest will come naturally.
  2. Give yourself a break and stay calm. Wow....Chris and George run into some of the same problems I do occassionally. Ribs getting done too soon, forgetting to baste the bone side, whatever. I guess if they can slip up, I shouldn't get so upset when I mess up.
  3. I'll be damned....Chris has great taste in music. His Ipod and mine have very similar content. I never heard any Linkin Park, but I'll let that slide;)

Saturday, Alexis, Trevor and I got to help Chris promote his new book that came out today. He was on the Today Show this morning promoting it too. It's called Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book-Recipes & Secrets From A Legendary Barbecue Joint. You can get it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, you know, the usual outlets. You can also just click on the link and order it directly.

Chris was gracious enough to give us a signed copy. It's not just a cookbook. In my opinion, it is a perfect blend of BBQ recipies, technique, and history/stories. I helped him make and tasted five of the recipes in the book, so I can say the recipes work. It's an entertaining read and I think anyone from the casual backyard griller to the hard core BBQ enthusiast would enjoy. I highly recommend it.

I was thinking about doing a "cook the book" deal with it but Chris laughed and pointed out that it does have 5 different whole hog recipes. Ok, maybe I'll do a "cook MOST of the book" ;)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Blount BBQ Bash: Interim Report

I went to a BBQ contest yesterday and it turned into a tractor pull. After 7 straight days of rain (half a foot has fallen in some areas), I didn't expect much less. The ground was so soft that we had to use tractors to get the various teams' equipment in.But it didn't rain during the event today, we got all of the contestants settled in, and hopefully tomorrow will be more of the same. And on the bright side.....there was mud wrasslin' ! It wasn't intentional but it was entertaining. Let's just say the person who was involuntarily thrown into the mud is plotting her revenge against her villainous attacker. The canoe races should prove interesting tomorrow.
I have a lot to write about but it's before dawn Saturday morning and I'm about to head back down for another day of volunteering at the event. I need a Red Bull.

I'll do a real post later. Like tomorrow most likely.