Monday, August 31, 2009

Roadside Chicken

Why did the chicken cross the road?
Because he heard about "roadside chicken".

I mean who hasn't? I've been hearing people rave about "roadside chicken" in BBQ forums for years but I never tried it. I feel like I'm the last person to get in on an inside joke.

There are basically two versions.
The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board version posted 4 years ago and has some 400+ comments and the Rick Bayless version. I tried the VWBB version this weekend and it was fantastic. Here it is as originally posted.Here are the quick things I did and my impressions:
  • Substituted cider vinegar for white vinegar and added 1 teaspoon of dried oregano.
  • Doubled the recipe for 1 spatchcocked chicken instead of doing individual pieces of chicken.
  • Cooked the bird skin side down directly over a 350f fire for 5 minutes and then flipped it switched to indirect heat (plate setter on the Egg) at the same temp. It took about another hour and 20 minutes to reach 175f internal temp in the thigh (or 160f internal in the breast)
  • Only splashed with the mix about every 20 minutes instead of every 5 as noted since (1) I am using the Big Green Egg, which minimizes moisture loss and (2) cooking a whole bird instead of pieces.
The results:
The yardbird restingPlated with mexican rice and corn on the cob with chili lime butterI cut a breast in half so you can see how juicy it isWe will definitely make this again. It's as good as any of the smoked, roasted or grilled chickens we have done and that is high praise. It had a tongue ratcheting flavor profile.

But it just reinforced in my mind that the ingredients are only one part of the recipe. When it comes to BBQ or really any type of cooking, your ingredients might be perfect but if your technique is lacking, the results will be marginal.

I think that is why so many bbq folks are so open and sharing with their recipes. They know that just having an ingredient list does NOT make one a pit master. The flavor comes from the ingredients but the texture, juiciness, and crispiness of the skin comes from mastery of your cooking*. That only comes with practice, practice, and a little bit more practice.

That's why I keep practicing. I haven't mastered it yet. But I do think I'm pretty damn good:)

*I guess this make's Plankton's obsession with stealing the secret recipe for the Krusty Krab's Crabby Patty a moot point if he doesn't have Sponge Bob's cooking expertise, right?

Roadside Chicken

Sunday, August 30, 2009

French Toast Fatty Sandwiches

I just made an obscenely good breakfast. It's probably even illegal in California. You'll have to forgive the picture quality, it was early and a bit overcast this morning.

First I smoked a fatty, which is simply a 1 lb breakfast sausage (I like Jimmy Dean Sage) rolled in some BBQ rub and then smoked about 90 minutes. That by itself is a treat. Once you have it smoked, you'll never be happy with fried sausage patties again.
While it was smoking, I made a compound butter. I used 8 tablespoons of butter, 3 tablespoons of maple syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract (real, not imitation). I could only get Grade A maple syrup, but I prefer Grade B, it's actually better IMO.
Mix the softened butter, syrup and vanilla together. You can whip it (when a butter comes must whip it! Devo cooks) but I just mashed it with a fork. I put it on a piece of plastic wrap and rolled it back into a log. It only took about 30 minutes in the fridge to harden.

Once the fatty was done, I made french toast on the Big Green Egg using a cast iron grill plate that I bought at Lowes Home Improvement 2 years ago.
The egg bath for the bread is 4 eggs, 1/2 c milk, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and cinnamon.

I put it all together....Can you say scrumpdillyicious?There, I knew you could.

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Product Review: Jack Daniels Whiskey Barrel Charcoal

I don't care for whiskey. I had a bad experience with Southern Comfort when I was about 18 that left me literally crawling home from a neighbor's house. It seemed fun at the time but I could never drink it again after that.

I've never even had Jack Daniels, but when I smoke with oak chips, my absolute favorite is Jack Daniels oak barrel chips. When you open the bag, the nonintoxicating sweet smell of mash hits you. It produces a fragrant smoke that is great with beef. I even use it when grilling, despite the limited amount of contact time with the meat. I think I just like the smell, to be honest with you:) These are generally available at grocery stores, hardware stores, and even Wallyworld.

Earlier this summer, Alexis brought home a bag of Jack Daniels Whiskey Barrel Charcoal Briquettes and Smoker Blocks. I just now got around to trying it because I only use lump coal in th Egg. A few weeks ago, we used the offset smoker for a cook so I took the opportunity to try it out.

The package looks very slick with the Jack Daniels black label. But it is a relatively small bag at 6.8 pounds.

The product is standard sized briquettes and generously sized chunks of oak cut from the barrels used to age the whiskey.
The bag filled one Weber chimney starter. It seemed to start as fast as any normal briquettes. The instructions call from starting the coal first and then adding the wood once the coals get started.
The coal and smoking blocks gave me a couple of hours at 225f in a small offset smoker with a good amount of smoke, bordering on too much at times if I wasn't careful with my vents.

Overall, I think that Jack Daniels Whiskey Barrel Charcoal is a quality fuel for briquette type smokers but the price is a bit steep. I wouldn't use it regularly only because it costs significantly more for a smaller sized bag then other briquettes like Kingsford with Hickory that come in a larger package. Using it for a long cook would be an expensive proposition.

But I continue to strongly recommend the Jack Daniels Oak chips mixed with lump in the Big Green Egg.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


So I was looking at my favorite patch of basil this week and I was thinking of how in a few weeks or a month or two, my herbs will start dying off for the season. It made me SSAD.
My cooking is always so much better in the summer while fresh herbs abound. I'm going to try keeping them going inside this year by our well lit french door. It's worth a shot.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Apple wood Smoked Turkey Breast

For the past 4 or 5 years, we have had "Thanksgiving in August". I don't know how that started but we've just kept it going.

First, we had the traditional "Thanksgiving" football game. We went to see Trevor's 10 y/o team play their season opening bowl game.They lost 20-7 but I was proud to see Trevor play in his first game and even make a tackle on his first play.Then we made the Thanksgiving feast, a full spread of turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, garlic green beans, and rolls. Sorry for the lack pictures. Things got chaotic as dinner neared so I didn't get any of the full meal, just the bird.

Apple wood Smoked Turkey Breast

  • 1 Turkey breast fresh, bone in
  • 1/2 cup Salt
  • 5-6 bay leaves
  • 2 T whole peppercorns
  • 1 cup Maple syrup
  • 1/2 ea Onion halved (i.e. 2 quarters)
  • 1 ea Carrot halved
  • 1 ea Lemon pierced w/ fork 4-6 times
  • 3 sprigs Thyme fresh
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Poultry seasoning
  • Apple wood chips

Place turkey breast in a stock pot (Note: This should be a full, bone in turkey breast). Add enough water to cover, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves and maple syrup to make the brine. Cover and place under refrigeration for 12 hours.
Take the breast out and rinse it under cold water very thoroughly. Pat dry. Spritz the outside of the breast with a light coating of olive oil. Season with Poultry Perfect Rub (From the book Smoke and Spice by Cheryl & Bill Jamison) for best results or you can just make a simple rub of salt, pepper, and commercially available poultry seasoning. Stuff the cavity of the breast with the onion, thyme, lemon, and carrot. This time I was out of carrot so I used a quartered Granny Smith apple and that worked great too. TIP: If you get a bone in breast that has had the back bone removed, you can use a kaboob to hold the veggies/fruits in place.
The purpose of using apple wood is that poultry is very susceptible to smoke, so you want to use a mild wood. If you use hickory or oak, you could easily overpower the bird with too much smoke flavor which is just as bad as using too much salt or too much of anything in a recipe. I buy my apple wood chips from the grocery store, more and more chains are carrying a variety of wood chips in their charcoal section these days.
Soak my wood chips or not? This is up to you. I've heard arguments for and against soaking your wood chips before smoking. I have done it both ways and can't really tell a difference. So my preference is not to bother with it.
Smoke the bird at 225f (grate level temperature) until it hits 160 degrees internal (about 1 hour a pound at this temp). On a large Big Green Egg, this was a dome temp of 250f and I had about a cup of apple wood chips mixed in with the lump coal. I took care to make sure the wood was evenly distributed throughout the coal. If you just toss it on top, it will all burn off at the beginning instead of a long, even smoke.
If you don't have a smoker, you could probably do this on a grill if you keep a close eye on it. Set your grill up for indirect heat so the turkey is not over the flame. Put the wood chips in a smoker box or a home made foil pouch with holes poked in it. Place that directly over the flame. Try to get a light smoke, you don't want a thick white smoke billowing out of your grill.
With the Egg, I find I don't have to baste the turkey except one time near the end and that is more for presentation purposes. When I use my offset smoker, I brush it with a mix of olive oil, melted butter and some fresh thyme several times during the smoking.turkey breast, BGE turkey breast, grilled turkey breast
Remove from smoker when the internal temperature hits 160F. This takes about 1 hour per pound at this cooking temperature, but go by the internal temperature. Wrap with foil and place in an empty cooler (no ice) to let it rest for 30 minutes.
Slice and serve.
It came out juicy, not even a hint dry. I've made it this way a half dozen times now and every time has been consistently the best turkey I've ever had anywhere.
And finally, the giving of thanks.
  1. I am thankful for my wife, my best friend and lover. (I'll let you wonder if that's all the same person ;) )
  2. I am thankful for my family.
  3. I am thankful for my friends (ya'll included!)
  4. I am thankful more than ever that I have a job. It used to be so easy to take that for granted and even whine about it.
  5. I am thankful that I live in a country that allows me the freedom to have my own opinions and express them without fear of reprisal, or being caned for not following someone else's religious beliefs, or having my fingers cut off for voting in an election.
  6. I am thankful for all of the military personnel, police, and fire & rescue crews that stand in harm's way for my family.
  7. I am thankful for my kitchen equipment but especially my Big Green Egg!
  8. I am thankful for my health. I appreciate it more and more the older I get!
  9. I am thankful for the beautiful local nature of East Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains.
  10. I am thankful for food! Particularly the availability and variety that we are truly blessed with. I was putting a 5 lb bag of rice up yesterday after shopping and actually felt a bit guilty as I stuffed it in our full pantry, thinking of how that bag is more than some families get in a month in some countries.
So what are you thankful for today? (Besides the fact that this long winded post is over?)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sante Fe Style Beef Enchiladas

Quick geography quiz. What is the highest capital in the United States.

Washington D.C. during Mayor Marion Barry's term? Wow, okay, I'll give you that one, but I meant the highest state capital in terms of sea level.

Denver, the Mile High City (5,280 ft) , right?

Nope, it's Sante Fe, New Mexico (7,199 ft).

This recipe is one of our family favorites for the past 6 years. I first made it with an electric oven & range. My cooking has gotten infinitely better during those six years and this recipe has kept up with my improvement. As I get better, so does this dish.

I've lost the original source and haven't found it online, so I'll post it as found and then our alterations.

Sante Fe Style Beef Enchiladas

3 pounds boneless beef
16 ounces canned tomatoes
1 cup onion
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
4 ounces Green chili diced
1 cup cream
12 ea corn tortilla
1 cup jack cheese
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sliced pitted black olive
1/4 cup scallions

Combine beef, tomatoes, onions, garlic, salt, cumin, and coriander in a large saucepan, over a moderate flame. Heat to a boil , reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 2 hours, until tender. Remove from heat, cool.

Remove beef, separate into shreds with a fork, set aside reduce liquid to 2 cups.

Stir in chiles and pour into a 9x13x2-inch baking dish. Heat cream in a skillet, over a medium flame. Soften tortillas in heated cream, 1 at a time. Place 1/3 cup beef onto each tortilla. Rollup and place into baking dish. Top with grated cheeses, pour remaining cream over all.

Bake @ 375 degrees for 25-45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to stand before cutting.

Garnish with sour cream, olives, and scallions.

Our changes & tips
We usually use a 1.5 lb flank steak instead of a 3 lb roast as notice.

Tonight, instead of going stove top, I cooked the meat in a dutch oven on the Big Green Egg. I put the dutch oven on the grate and pre-heated it at 300f. I added the first seven ingredients and simmered covered for just less than the 2 hours the recipe calls for.We have found consistently that you need to add liquid (beer, chicken broth, and extra can of tomatoes, whatever) halfway through the braising.

The beef should shred easily using two forks pulling in opposite directions, just like you would "pulled pork". If you stop here, you'd have a perfect shredded beef for tacos, tostadas, quesedillas, or burritos.Softening the tortilla in warm cream as noted takes about 10 seconds. Use the the small sized corn tortillas and the smallest skillet you have to keep the cream as deeper than it would be in a bigger skillet.

We added cheese and cilantro before rolling up our enchiladas. Place the mixture at about the 1/3rd line before folding them over. If you try to center it, it will just be a big mess. Place them seam side down in the mix in the casserole dish.We generally dip the tortillas for about 10 seconds in the cream. If your tortilla shells "break" when trying to roll them, let them stay in the cream bath a few seconds more or slowly bring the heat up.

If you like your enchiladas crispier, use a shallow roasting pan. If you like them soft, use a large casserole dish.My family loves these like this. If I was just making them for me, I'd add a lot more heat, such as cayenne and chili powder to the beef or chopping up some jalapenos into the tomato mixture.

Either way, this is a flavorful and filling entree for a southwestern dinner!

Santa Fe Style Beef Enchiladas

Monday, August 17, 2009


Have you ever met someone for the first time and as you are meeting them, their looks and characteristics completely remind you of someone else? You know it's NOT that other person but they LOOK like they could be their twin.

That's what I felt when I "met" the Argentinian dish milanesa this past weekend. I've never had it before. Heck I've never even heard of it, so I did a bit of online research. It is a dish from South America that is beef dredged in flour, then egg-wash, and then bread crumbs and then pan fried. That looks and sounds like a recipe I already know!

Milanesa? Sounds like good ol' chicken fried steak or weinerschnitzel. Turns out they are all three basically triplets separated at birth (See The Globalization of Think Slices of Beef).I'm pretty limited in my range as a cook, mostly sticking to American southern cooking, not South American cooking. I needed help from someone with more gourmet experience, so I emailed Greg of SippitySup for some advice. He advised to go with Italian influences, which made sense (Milanesa....Milan).

The two basic versions that I kept seeing. First is the Sandwich De Milanesa which is simply a Milanesa po'boy or sub. The second is Milanesa a la Napolitana, which is Milanesa topped with tomato sauce, ham, and cheese then broiled.

Both sounded great so I combined the two! Forgive the picture quality, I intended for this to be a practice cook and didn't bother with any lighting that night.

1 lb sirloin steak sliced our pounded into 1/4 to 1/8th inch thickness
1/2 c all purpose flour seasoned with salt and pepper
2 ea eggs (beaten with 1 ounce of cold water to make an egg wash)
1 cup panko bread crumbs (seasoned with the next three spices)
1 T thyme, fresh chopped
1 T basil, fresh chopped
1 T oregano, fresh chopped
1 loaf Italian bread
1/2 cup of marinara sauce
4-6 slices of provolone or mozzarella cheese
oil and butter as needed

Cut bread into 4 pieces. Split each piece, brush with olive oil and grill or broil until toasted. Set aside.

Set up your dipping stations while your pan is heating with butter and oil. You'll be doing the standard "flour>egg wash>breading>into the pan" so I like to set them up in that order to make it more efficient.

Once the oil is hot but not smoking, dredge the steak in the seasoned flour on both sides. Then dip it into the egg wash. Then dredge it through the seasoned bread crumbs, coating it well. Place the steak pieces into the hot oil (work in small batches if necessary, don't crowd the pan) and cook about 2 minutes a side. I go more by sight, they should be a nice golden brown.

Top each bottom piece of bread with one or two pieces of the steak.Top that with the marinara sauce.And cheese, glorious cheese.Pop it in the broiler just long enough to start to melt the cheese. I added more marinara.This is a horrible picture but it shows the completed sandwich. I ended up making a double decker and it was a filling meal! The crisp texture of the toasted bread and milanesa countered the bubbling cheese.I will definitely be making this again, but next time I also want to make the milanesa as an entree with traditional sides.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Trevor Cooks

My 9 y/o has cooked for the past two days. He has had football practice for 3 hours a night Mon-Thurs for the past two weeks, so being off last night I guess he was bored AND hungry.

One of the things he knows how to cook is sauteed chicken breast. So last night I talked him through turning that into chicken picatta by adding some lemon juice, broth, and capers. He did every bit, I just told him what to do. He insisted on wearing the hat that his brother's girlfriend brought that morning.With school starting next week, Trevor asked if he could smoke some bologna. It's his favorite lunch meat. It's actually pretty good and I don't like bologna.

Yeah, smoked bologna. The first time I heard of it was at a BBQ competition and I thought it was a joke too. But it's something many BBQ enthusiasts have done to entertain themselves during a long cook. It's basically a chub of bologna, slathered with mustard, rubbed with a bbq rub and smoked for about 90 minutes. I think I'm seeing WHY he likes making smoked bologna so much, it's like playing in mud!
He had too much smoke here, but got it burning cleaner within the first 10 minutes.
One was glazed in BBQ sauce the other with honey/butter.Of course, we don't let him use the electric meat slicer, yet!It's a good thing I got my black belt in karate...I might have to start fighting this kid for kitchen time.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Non Crabby Corn and Potatoes

This one is a crab boil....minus the crab...and the boil.I came up with it as a side dish to the grilled chicken main dish I was doing tonight. It rocks with flavor, it's easy to grill, and it can make a fun presentation when serving on a patio table.

Non-Crabby Corn and Potatoes

3 ears yellow corn, shucked, cut into thirds
4 ea red bliss potatoes, large, cut into 1" pieces
1 ea lemon
1/4 c beer
1 T parsley, fresh chopped
Old Bay seasoning to taste
1/4 lb butter (1/4 lb = 1 stick)

In a mixing bowl, fork and juice the lemon over the corn and potatoes. Add the lemon halves to the mix.

Add the 1/4 cup beer to the mix. Liberally apply the remaining 10 ounces of beer to the cook (repeat as necessary to achieve desired effect).

Toss with the parsley and Old Bay seasoning. Use more Old Bay than you think you'll need, as most of it will steam off.Place the mixture on a double piece of aluminum foil. Top the mixture with the butter pieces.

Top with another double piece of foil and roll each of the 4 sides up tightly, to retain the juices.

Place over direct heat on a grill burning about 350-400f. Cook for 10 minutes and then flip the foil package. Cook for another 10 minutes (20 min total).
Excuse the photo. It was night time and I only had one daylight CFL lamp out there.

After the flip, if the foil pouch looks like it is about to go Jiffy Pop on you, you can prick the top with a fork, temp probe or toothpick to let a little steam escape.

Safety tip: Be careful when opening the foil pack, the steam will rush out and can cause burns. Wear steam proof mitts or use something like a skewer to open it.
The corn and potatoes were perfectly steamed tender but not mushy. The spicy kick of the Old Bay seasoning, the sharpness of the lemon juice, and butter play well together.

Note about the new site: My old url will automatically redirect you to, so if you don't update your link, you'll still get here. I'm also thinking you'll continue to get feeds in Google Reader from the old url.


I'm migrating my blog to and Brandi is revising my site template so I might not be around for the next few days, but I should be back up by this weekend.
Ya'll behave!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

MAPP Gas - C'mon Baby Light My Fire !

Whether you are grilling or barbecuing, there are lots of ways to start your fire.
Gassers just push a button (for the first month anyway, after that the ignition switch goes bad and they start playing the "start the gas flow and drop in a match" game).

Charcoal users can use things like
  • lighter fluid or Matchlight (that is so wrong, just my $.02)
  • starter cubes (blocks of wax and sawdust)
  • chimneys (starts coal without chemicals, using newspaper)
  • electric starter burners
But my starter of choice is MAPP gas. It's fast, readily available at hardware stores, and can be used for plumbing & other things around the house. Plus, to be honest, it's just fun! It's as simple as holding the flame over 3 areas of coal in your fire box for 20 seconds each. Voila!

I had to replace my MAPP gas unit this week. The trigger assembly of my old one died and Alexis got me the new, improved Benzomatic TS-8000.

Here it is next to my old torch for comparison.
The differences
  • larger capacity
  • lower center of gravity - it's less likely to get knocked over
  • gas flow control knob - so I don't have to use as much gas
  • "Green key" - lets you safely purge the cylinder for recycle
My favorite safety rules from the package
  • "Never point torch towards face, other persons, or flammable objects."
  • "Never attempt to use torch as a cigarette lighter."
  • "Never attempt to repair or heat a gasoline tank, a chemical drum, an aerosol can, or any other container containing a flammable liquid or gas."
I tested it out last night and the shorter package also makes it easier to maneuver while lighting coal inside the Big Green Egg. I like it better than the old one.

Since I had a fire going, I used my pork rub (see the Porkus Chopus Maximus post) on a pair of pork tenderloins and grilled them using direct heat at 350f for 7 minutes a side (21 minutes total). I pulled them off at 140f internal and they were crispy on the outside, yet just a hint of pink on the thicker pieces*.*Don't freak out. Today's pork is leaner and cleaner. If you take it to 165f, it'll be powdery dry, blech!