Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lemon Pepper Chicken

The mail man has been one of my favorite people for the past week. I got two jars of Billy Bones Competition rub (Thanks Carson!), a jar of grey salt (Thanks Scott & Carson!), and a bottle of Chok' On Dis Blaz' N Glaze that I bought after reading a review on Hot Sauce Daily.

Scott mentioned the grey salt to me when he and Carson where here for a visit this summer. I told him that I had never tried it, so they sent me a jar. So what is "grey salt"? According to Saltworks:

Grey Salt is a “moist” unrefined sea salt usually found on the coastal areas of France. Its light grey, almost light purple color comes from the clay found in the salt flats. The salt is collected by hand using traditional Celtic methods. Grey Salt has gained great fame in the mainstream culinary world in the last few years and is considered by many to be the best quality salt available. It is available in coarse, stone ground fine and extra fine grain.

Grey salt reminds me that I'm at the point in cooking where I know enough to do well but I am also having a blast because there's so much for me to still learn. It is a big difference from kosher coarse salt. I can't wait to try it in different ways. I used it tonight when I roasted a lemon pepper chicken.

Chris' Lemon Pepper Chicken
1 ea whole chicken, spatchcocked
1 teaspoon grey salt (or sub coarse Kosher)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon parsley, fresh chopped
2 ea lemons, one sliced thinly and one juiced
1/4 cup olive oil

Season the chicken with the salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and parsley.

Slide four or six slices of the lemon underneath the skin of the chicken at the breasts and thighs.

Roast at 300-350f either on a grill using indirect heat or in an oven. I used the Big Green Egg with some lump and apple wood tonight.

Whisk the oil into the lemon juice. Baste the chicken about every 15 minutes after it hits 100f internal.

Roast until an instant read thermometer registers 180f deep in the thigh or 160f in the breast (it should be both). It took a little over an hour tonight.

See? Things were going fine in the picture above but then I had a blow out in the right thigh.

And then the left.

Let the bird rest for about 10 minutes before serving. Wanna know how much the blow outs affect the taste? None! The chicken had a crisp skin and the flavors played well together like two best new friends meeting on a playground. I think the lemon juice/oil baste really added to the layers of flavor.

How you cut it is up to you. For a "hearty serving", I quarter the chicken. For smaller servings, I cut it into legs, thighs, and then cut each breast in half.

Here's my question to you cooks and chefs: My chicken's skin broke through on the thighs where the lemon was stuffed. How do you stuff citrus under the skin of poultry without it ripping later in the roasting process? I've seen others do it so I know it can be done.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Twice Baked Potatoes

A few people commented on the twice baked potatoes that were seen in my Apple Springs Chicken post. They were just about perfect, too bad I didn't have a recipe. Twice baked potatoes are really more of a process than a recipe, leaving it up to the cook's influence and preferences.

Step 1 - Bake your potatoes.
Wash them, rub them with olive oil and kosher salt. Wrap them individually in foil. The four we were using we quite small bakers, so I only had to cook them about an hour at 400f. If you have big baking potatoes, this could take longer. You'll know they are ready when they slightly give when you squeeze them.

Step 2 - Scoop your potatoes.
Let them cool for about 16 to 21 minutes*. Then scoop the inside of the potato out. You want to get the walls about this thick.

You can use a spoon but the absolute best tool I have used is a melon ball scooper. Keep all of the "guts"** that you scoop out in a large bowl.

Step 3 - Make up your stuffing
This is where you can have your fun. Mash the potato guts in a rough mash and then add what you want. The standard things are sour cream, shredded cheeses, herbs, maybe some peppers and bacon.

With this batch I used
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup colby/monterey jack cheese, shredded
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1 ea red hungarian wax pepper, finely diced
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled into pieces
2 tablespoons of diced green chilies
1 tablespoon BBQ rub

Mix it all up together and stuff your potato shells with the mixture. Top with extra shredded cheese and some chopped parsley.

Step 4 - Bake your stuffed potato, a second time

Put the stuffed potatoes onto a grill on indirect heat at 350f for another 20 minutes.

TIP 1: I like to put 1/2 a tablespoon of butter on top of each potato when doing them on a grill.

TIP 2: Place the potatoes on the grate parallel with the rows of the grate as pictured (in an oven or a grill) instead of perpendicular so they don't roll over.

TIP 3: These delicious nuggets of awesomeness are going to drip a mess. If you are using an Big Green Egg, cover your platesetter with foil. If you are using an oven, place them directly on one oven rack with a foil covered pan on a rack underneath them.

Step 5 - Stuff your potato a second time
Into your mouth!
* Yes, I totally could have said 15-20 minutes but that seem so arbitrary that I went with 16-21. 15 and 20 are so overrated.

** Guts. Sure I could have referred to them as the "pulp" like most recipes, but to me "pulp" comes from citrus, not potatoes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Not Quite Alice Springs Chicken

Even if you are a food snob, there's probably some chain restaurant recipe that you had way back when that you still like today. You might not want to admit it, but you harbor that lust like a dirty secret. It really might not be the actual dish anymore, but the experience you had when you first tasted it and didn't know better like you do know.

Some of my favorites include Popeye's Biscuits (yes, it uses 7-up), Applebee's Fiesta Lime Chicken, and Outback Steakhouse Alice Springs Chicken. We used this recipe Alice Springs Chicken years ago, which is simple and easy to do in any kitchen. It was good back then and has lots of positive reviews. But I've changed it around some and this is what it has evolved to for us today.

Not Quite Alice Springs Chicken

2 ea chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
2 teaspoons poultry rub
1/4 cup honey mustard
4 oz mushrooms, sliced (canned or jarred works, but fresh sauteed are better)
4 oz black olives, sliced
5 ea bacon, cooked and crumbled into 1" or less pieces
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
1 cup colby/monterey jack cheese, shredded
parsley chopped for garnish

The original recipe called for letting it sit in McCormick's Seasonall (season salt) for an hour.

Instead we brine the chicken for an hour in a simple brine of 1 quart water, 1/4 cup salt, and 1/4 cup sugar. After brining, it is very important to flatten the breast to an even thickness of less than 1/2 inch. You can do this by pounding with a mallet but after brining for an hour, you should just be able to press it down with the heel of your hand.

Then rub the breast with the poultry rub. I use Poultry Perfect Rub that I make from the BBQ standard Smoke and Spice by Bill and Cheryl Jamison. But you could just sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Cut each flattened, seasoned breast into halves.

Grill chicken over direct heat at 350f for 4 minutes a side and remove from heat. You aren't trying to cook it through here, just get a nice sear and grill marks.

Switch to indirect heat (still at 350f) and brush each piece of chicken on both sides with honey mustard sauce. The linked recipe has a recipe for honey mustard sauce but I've tried it and prefer to use Ken's Steakhouse Honey Mustard Sauce.

Top each piece with mushrooms, black olives, bacon, green onion, and cheese.
If you are worried about how much cheese to use, just remember, a lot of it will melt and fall off.Roast indirectly at 350f for another 15-20 minutes until the chicken hits an internal temp of 160f.

Garnish with parsley or more green onions and serve with other pub food on game day. Today we served it with twice baked potatoes.

It came out so tender and perfectly cooked with tons of flavor packed on top. It ain't pretty but it's pretty damn good!

So, what is your favorite chain restaurant menu item and have you ever tried to make it at home?

Vampire Repellant

Does anything make your house smell better than roasting a bunch of garlic?

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device from U.S. Cellular

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's Been A Burger Kind of Week...

...not that there's anything wrong with that!

I haven't posted a lot this week because my youngest son has had football practice for 2 hours for every night this week and then a game last night. When you get home at 8 or 8:30 on school nights, there's not much time for cooking and even less for photos or food styling....

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

It's okay because Trevor is loving playing football on his team. They are now 0-5 and he doesn't care. No one in our family played football and he doesn't care. This was all his idea. He loves practice. He loves his teammates. He looks forward to the next game or practice. So we're all behind him on it, even if we do secretly hope for rain so we'll get a night off of practice. (crappy mobile phone picture, but this is our nightly view)
Last night, my parents came into town for his game and spent the night. (He's #38 in the middle.)
We got home from the game and threw together a quick dinner of grilled ribeye steaks, grilled asparagus, broccoli cheese rice and garlic toast in 45 minutes. Then we got up before school this morning and made everyone pancakes and bacon at 6am. It was fun but also tiring. We took a bit to relax after we got the boys off to school and my parents back on the road.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

So tonight when it was just the 4 of us again, no practice, no game, no family, and no older son's girlfriend, we just DID NOT FEEL LIKE COOKING. So we just went with burgers and tater tots.

Alexis always makes our burger patties, tossed with an egg, bread crumbs, a bit of what's this here sauce, and whatever seasonings she can reach at the time (did I mention she's short? Yeah, I'll probably pay for that comment later, but this is all about you, the reader:) )
I do my burgers on the Egg at 500-600f at 2 minutes a flip for a total of 6 minutes for medium.
And since we are going simple, I did a basic burger on plain bun, with just cheese (pepper jack), onion, tomato, lettuce, and condiments.
Yep, it was just a burger night.

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thai Beef Kabobs with Basil Rice

We made this one up last weekend when we had to stretch three fillets to feed four people. The flavor profile helps the beef tenderloin, which is amazingly tender but is generally regarded as lacking in the flavor department.

Thai Beef Kabobs
1 lb beef tenderloin, cubed in 1" pieces
2 T oyster sauce
2 T fish sauce
2 T lime juice
1 T fresh basil, chopped
1 t sesame oil
1 t red pepper flakes
1 t ginger, fresh grated
1 ea bell pepper, cut in 1" pieces
1 ea yellow onion, cut in 1" pieces

Marinade the beef, pepper, and onion in the remaining ingredients for 2-3 hours. Alternate pieces of the veggies and beef on skewers.

Place the kabobs on a 500f grill for one minute a side, four minutes total. Use oven mitts and tongs to rotate them because this is one hot fire.

TIP: The standard recommendation for bamboo skewers is to soak them prior to use to prevent burning them. Given the heat of the grill for this dish, I like to also wrap the exposed handles with foil.

You might get some charring of the onion and pepper but don't worry, that works here.

Serve with a simple basil rice. I took 2 cups of cold sweet jasamine rice and stir fried it in a wok. I added in 10 basil leaves, stemmed and halved and tossed for a minute longer, to wilt the basil.

FAIL: I tried to make an Asian brown sauce to go with it. I tried using the brown sauce that we liked so much in Stir Fried Broccoli with Oyster Sauce, but it came out WAY too salty since the broth reduced without the benefit of the veggies. I didn't serve it. Anyone have a technique or recipe for a good Asian brown sauce? I need to look more into that.

But overall (sans sauce), this dish was a big hit with the family. The spicy beef, crisp roasted veggies and rice made a nice meal, although a soup and spring roll would have made it perfect!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Vertical Roaster Giveaway

And we have a winner! I numbered the comments and ran a random number generator and the result was lucky number 7.
So I scanned the comment list and found that the winner is Lisa, a food blogger at:

I've not read her blog before so this was a good way to get to "meet" her blog:)

Lisa, I've sent you an email for a snail mail address. Congratulations and may the chicken roaster treat you well. I'll get it out to you in the next day or so.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cherry Glazed Spare Ribs

It occurs to me that I haven't posted about BBQ in a while.

Some of you might be scratching your head and saying, "Has Chris lost his 'effing mind? EVERYTHING he cooks is on that Big Green Egg thing he won't shut up about!"

Yeah, but most of that has been grilling which is a very different from BBQ and smoking. Neither is better, it's like asking which of your children you love the best.

So today, I smoked a St. Louis trimmed spare rib with a mix of hickory and apple wood. I gave it a cherry glaze at the 4 1/2 hour mark and they were OMG good.

I won't go into all of the details but here is a tip from Billy Bones himself:
In the last 30 minutes of cooking your ribs, glaze them with a half and half mix of your favorite BBQ sauce and cherry preserves. Mix it up good in a blender to chop the cherry pieces up real good. (These are even better if you use his XXX Cherry Rub mixed with your favorite rib rub.)

Rib finishing on the Egg. If you notice a blue tint to the picture, it's because the picture was taken underneath a blue tent.
The reason for the blue tent. And the blue tint.
This rib was the runt leftover from a batch I bought a few weeks ago. We cut it in half, vacuum sealed and and froze it to BBQ at a later time. Turns out, he was the best of the batch.
These turned out perfectly cooked. They pulled cleanly away from the bone with each bite. "Fall off the bone" is a bad thing in the BBQ world, means the ribs are overdone. We want to get it to JUST BEFORE that point.
Look at that pretty pink smoke ring around the edges. Mmmm
I haven't been very happy with the last 2 or 3 batches of ribs I've done. These made up for that!

Friday, September 18, 2009

I Won $100 and I'm Giving Away a Vertical Roaster

Ok, the give away part first:

Vertical Roaster Give Away
I'm giving away this brand new, vertical poultry roaster from Williams Sonoma.
It's perfect for doing "beer butt" chicken and you can do veggies at the same time. To enter just leave a comment below. Just say "Entry" or something like that. (Note: I have to post your comment after you submit it, so it won't show up right away.)

You don't have to have an account to comment, just select the "anonymous" option from the COMMENT AS field. But if you do anonymous, please let me know your screen name and forum (ex: swibirun from BBQ Brethren forum) so I can get in touch with you if you're the winner.

I will put all of the entries into a bowl and draw a random winner on Monday night, 9pm Eastern (9/21/09). I'll pay for shipping in North America. Otherwise, your own your own:)

What I Won
See this?

It's a Thermapen, only the best food thermometer in the world. It gives accurate readings (within .4 degree Fahrenheit) and is fast! And I got, red, the scientifically proven best color to get;)

I bought it from Amazon with the $100 Gift Card that I won in the monthly photo contest in July at

Yeah, every month they give away a $100 gift card to the member posting the best photo accompanying a recipe on the site (it can be a recipe you post, that's even better). So many of you food bloggers have so much better food styling and photography talent than I do, you need to sign up (it's free) and start posting!

What is BigOven? It is two things, a food social network and recipe software. I have used it for 5 years and I personally recommend it. I don't get anything for traffic, links, or people signing up, I just think that highly of BigOven.

The food social network part of it is like Facebook for foodies without the annoying games, tags, pokes, viruses, and embarrassing photos from your past. Foodies ask questions, discuss topics, share videos & tips, and there's a search-able database of 170,000+ recipies. All of that is free. FREE.

The desktop software does cost a nominal one time fee ($29.95) if you choose to buy it but it is well worth that. If you choose not to buy it, you can still use the free online site. It is more than a recipe database because of all of the features it has. You can check out their page for the features but I'll tell you the ones I like the most:
  • Screen Import - If I see a recipe in a forum or blog that I want to try later, I copy it from the source and then click "Screen Import" in the BigOven Software and it imports it into the "try this" folder that I set up. It doesn't matter what format the recipe was written in because the software lets you highlight what part of the text is ingredients, instructions, title, source, notes, servings, etc.
  • Flexible recipe search - Perfect when you are trying to find what to make for dinner or with a specific ingredient.
  • Menu Planning - I can plan a weekend, holiday, or a week's worth of meals on the calendar and get a customized shopping list of the needed ingredients for the whole meal plan.
  • Shopping list - see above!
  • Recipe Reviews - I like being able to read what OTHER people thought of a recipe and the adjustments they made before I try it.
  • Customer Support - World class. The few times I have ran into something I needed help with, I was able to get quick answers.
Ok, I'll quit testifying. I just really like their site and software. I use it almost daily.

So leave your comment below to win some $*(#

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Desechos del Cerdo Carnitas

Most of the BBQ folks I know trim their pork spare ribs St. Louis style. I like the square presentation that gives, shown here on a pair I trimmed on Labor Day weekend.

The only down side is that you end up with the trimmings, I'd guess about a pound per rib. They are great smoked and chopped up into BBQ beans but after a while you just want something different.

So I was inspired a few weeks ago when Clint over at Smoke In Da Eye BBQ made carnitas with his rib trimmings instead of the traditional pork shoulder. I'd never made carnitas before so I perused my small library of cookbooks and the interweb thingy to get a few ideas. Here's what I came up with for my scraps of pig, adapted from this carnitas recipe posted by Emily Szopa.

Desechos del Cerdo Carnitas

3 lbs Rib trimmings scraps from St. Louis trimming of spare ribs
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon Red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1 ea bay leaf
1 ea yellow onion peeled and quartered
4 ea garlic cloves peeled and smashed
12 ounce Beer divided

Place the rib tip trimmings, garlic, onion and bay leaf in a #12 cast iron dutch oven. Top with salt, red pepper flakes, cumin, cinnamon, chili powder, and coriander. Add 1/2 of the beer.
Cover and place over direct heat on a 350f degree grill and braise the meat for 1 hour.

Add second half of beer, stir, cover and continue cooking for another 30-60 minutes, until the meat is fork tender.

NOTE: As with most of my meal preps, this could be done stove top as well. I just like cooking on my Big Green Egg outside as much as I can!

Remove the meat to a cutting board and shred, separating the fat, cartilage and bones from the meat. Add the shredded meat back to the cast iron and toss in the rendered fat. Return to grill for another 10 minutes then serve on white corn tortillas with toppings (black olives, tomatoes, black beans, diced onion, cheeses, lettuce, etc).

The meat had a definite south western, tex mex flavor to it and the family loved these. We'll definitely make these again!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Guest Post: My Year On The Grill

I did a guest post over at My Year On The Grill while Mr and Mrs MYOTG take a anniversary trip (Happy 11th!). If you haven't seen this blog, his approach is to cook 365 recipes on the grill or smoker and to host 52 parties.

Also right now he is running a giveaway contest where you can win a copy of Steven Raichlen's How To Grill.

So hop on over there to check it out and to find out how I "Artichoke My Chicken".

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cajun Pork Roast

Did you know that there is a National Pork Board? I wonder if they spend their time trying to advance the causes of pork by doing things like asking politicians not to use the term "pork barrel spending" because it's offensive. :)They don't of course. But they do put out some great pork recipes like this one. We've made this several times over the years, enough times to make a few mistakes and pick up a few pointers.

Cajun Pork Roast
Source: National Pork Board

2-pound pork loin roast
3 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine all seasonings and rub well over all surfaces of roast. Place roast in shallow pan and roast in 350 degree F. oven for about 45 minutes, until internal temperature on a thermometer reads 150 degrees F. Remove roast from oven; let rest until temperature reaches 160 degrees F, about 10 minutes before slicing.

My tips and mistakes
  • Mistake: Once I was making cajun roast beef and this at the same time. I thought I'd just use the same rub for beef for the pork, instead of the one written above. It didn't taste near as good, in fact it tasted funny.
  • Mistake: I tried a reverse sear this time. I switched to direct heat when the roast had hit 145f internal so I could get a nice crust on it. I only had it on for 4-5 minutes and the temp shot way up to 155f plus, which is way too done for pork loins. Next time either skip it or start it at 130f.
  • Tip: This recipe works GREAT on the grill. Just cook it indirect at 350f.
  • Tip: Go heavy on applying the rub, more than you think.

  • Mistake: I tried making this recipe for cajun mustard. Holy mother of all things pungent, it tasted like someone punched me in the taste buds. I threw it out.
  • Tip: If you are slicing this roast for sandwiches, save about 2 teaspoons of the rub and mix it in with several tablespoons of plain mustard for a quick and tasty "cajun mustard".
  • Tip: Save money and buy whole pork loins. I got 4 meals worth of meat for the family for $10.81. It's the easiest piece of meat to process, no bones or anything to deal with. I cut mine in half. I cut one half into 1" thick boneless pork chops. The other half I cut into two roasts.
I had a good idea for presentation. Take a filling like stuffing or some of the Bayou Dirty Rice from yesterday's post and roll thin slices of the cajun pork around it and plate seam side down like an enchilada. Top with a simple gravy.Nothing really fancy but it's different from the same old slices of roast on a plate and the kids seemed to like it this way. We served it with the dirty rice and some maque choux.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bayou Dirty Rice

I remember when Popeye's Fried Chicken opened in town when I was growing up. The spicy flavors and crispy crust of the chicken beat KFC by a country mile. That was also my first experience with "cajun" food. Don't judge me, I lived a sheltered culinary life as a young'n. One of the things I loved was their side dish of "dirty rice" .

This isn't a clone of their dirty rice. It's just the easiest one I've found that comes reasonably close. It's not an authentic cajun dirty rice. But that's okay because I'm just not going to make something with chicken livers and most of the other recipes I've found call for those foul fowl things.

Bayou Dirty Rice
1/2 lb Spicy sausage; crumbled
1 md Onion; chopped
2 Stalk celery; very finely chopped (I hate big chunks of celery)
2 pk Wild and long-grain rice (Uncle Ben's)
2 can diced tomatoes (recipe called for Del Monte cajun)
1 Green bell pepper; chopped (I used red instead)
1/2 c Parlsey; chopped

The original recipe calls for doing this stove top which works, but I did mine in a dutch oven on the Big Green Egg cooking at 350f tonight.

Brown the sausage and onion. Drain grease if necessary. We didn't have to this time. It depends on how fat or lean your sausage is.
Add celery, bell pepper, rice and rice seasoning packet; cook and stir 2 minutes.
Drain tomatoes reserving liquid; pour liquid into measuring cup. Add water to measure 1 1/2 cups; pour over rice. [NOTE: The original ingredients had been scaled up and down in proportions but the 1 1/2 cups was embedded in text. From what we can tell, it is the measurement needed if you are using 1/2 lb of sausage. Adjust accordingly.] Add tomatoes; bring to boil. Cover and cook over low heat 20 minutes.Toss in the parsley, cover and cook for 5-10 more minutes until rice is done.
Again, this isn't authentic but for something that uses some packet mixes, it's pretty darned good.

Bayou Dirty Rice