Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Easy Crust Chicken Pot Pie

I can't remember the first time I ever tasted this recipe.

Literally. I can't remember it. I was only a year or two old.

I got this recipe from my mother just before Christmas 13 years ago and have eaten it all my life but never thought to ask where it came from until tonight when Alexis asked me if it was my grandmother's. I called my mom and found out that she got this from an old friend from nursing school that we visited in Greensboro around 1969.

What I like about this is that there is no bottom crust like a true "pie" but it has a big puffy top crust. It's almost a cross between chicken and dumplin's and pot pie.

Easy Crust Chicken Pot Pie

1 ea chicken, cooked and cubed into bite size pieces
2 ea hard boiled egg, chopped
1 cup peas and carrots
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup milk
1 stick butter, melted

Layer cooked, cut chicken into a casserole dish. Top with chopped egg and veggies.

Mix broth and soup and pour over chicken mixture.

Mix dry ingredients with milk, then add butter.

Spoon crust mixture over the chicken mixture evenly.

Bake at 425f for 30 minutes or until brown.

I'm not sure what made this batch so good.

Maybe it was the smoked chicken that we used. Or maybe it was the sleet falling outside, demanding comfort food.
And comfort food is best served on paper plates, right? Actually, I wasn't going to post about this tonight or I would have plated it on something better than paper.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Smoked Beef Brisket

A few months ago, Howard of the Bent Elbow BBQ team suggested I do a post on brisket. Unfortunately, that's about the same as asking Shaq to teach a clinic on free throw shooting. So this post isn't a "how to".

Brisket is a weak area for me. I've only ever done a few small briskets and only one full packer brisket before. A wise man seeks the counsel of others so I reviewed this great brisket tutorial posted by Bigabyte on the BBQ Brethren forum and a few other sources.

I went to see Scott at Lays Market who helped me pick a nice untrimmed packer brisket that reached from Knoxville to Chattanooga. Okay, it wasn't THAT big but it was 21 inches long.

Problem, the large Big Green Egg is only 18.5 inches wide and since this was a overnight cook, I didn't want to use the offset smoker. No problem, Bigabyte's post linked above gave the tip to roll the end of the flat up under itself.

I had Trevor give it a dusting of black pepper....

Then I hit it with a modified version of my beef rub (substituted 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes for one of the teaspoons of ground cayenne, used an extra teaspoon of oregano instead of thyme, and skipped the white pepper)

I smoked it using Jack Daniels Oak Barrel chips and lump charcoal at 250f.

It took about 7 hours to hit 165f internal.

I then wrapped it in foil with about 1/2 cup of beef stock and put it back on the Egg until it hit an internal temp of 200f. I separated the point from the flat and put the flat wrapped in foil in an empty cooler to rest.

The scraps from the point were the best brisket I've ever tasted. I cut it up, hit it with more rub, tossed it in sauce and threw it back on for "burnt ends".

Honestly, the burnt ends were better before I threw them back on. I need to go visit Big Dude to get some pointers on burnt ends.

Then I took the flat out after a 3 hour rest in the cooler. Yes, you can tell from the pic I didn't trim it near enough. I was paranoid I'd over trim it.

But despite all of the fumbles, gaffs, and miscues, it came out damn good. I know the next one will be even better.

Speaking of some of the best brisket I've had, congratulations to George, Jim and the folks at Dead End BBQ. After just opening two months ago, they made the best of 2009 local eateries according to the Knox News Sentinel's restaurant critic. Way to go guys!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Carolina Burger

(This is long, you can skip to the recipe part down below)

We made a quick hop across the Smoky Mountains to have our extended family Christmas. Thanks to a serious rock slide at the Carolina/Tennessee border in October, Interstate 40 is completely shut down, so we took the scenic Highway 441. When I say "highway" picture a 2 lane switchback road winding 25-35 mph through the mountains.

When we crested Newfound Gap (5,048 ft) early this morning, we were treated to an awesome scene below us.

Trevor stared in awe and said, "I feel like a god looking down on the clouds!"

There was still a lot of snow on the ground. Three days earlier, this route had been closed due to snow.

I mention North Carolina because it has the best burger in the world, specifically, the "Carolina Burger" or even more specifically, a Melvin's Burger "all the way".

I spent my summer vacations at my grandparents dusty farm in the flat tobacco country near Elizabethtown, NC. The highlights of my trips included BBQ from the volunteer fire department's fund raiser and a trip to Melvin's (aka the pool hall) for a sack of burgers "all the way". It's a little store front on Main Street in small town USA that has lines out of the back door everyday. But with incredible efficiency, they work through that line and crank out the absolute best burger I have ever put in my mouth.

A lot of people seem to agree with me. I was looking at reviews on Yahoo! and Michala's review seemed to parallel my experience: best hamburger in the usa: I first went to Melvin's Pool Room when I was 15, 35 years ago. Back then the locals kids played pool and the smell of hambugers titilated your senses. 35 years later noone I know still doesn't know [sic] the secret to those hamburgers.

But ahhhh, Michala, I do know one of their secrets.

Back when I was about 10, my grandmother Lessie P. told me that when Melvin's had the local grocery butcher grind their meat, they included a loaf of bread in the mixture. That is what led me two years ago to try this recipe that I found on BigOven, because it included a panade of bread and milk to the burger mixture.

Picture updated 10/2011
Original Pic from 2009

Carolina Burger

1 large slice high-quality white sandwich bread (crust removed and discarded, bread chopped into 1/4-inch pieces, about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons whole milk
3/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 medium clove garlic minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)

2 teaspoons steak sauce such as A-1
2 tablespoons Bacon grease

1 1/2 pounds 80 percent lean ground chuck

Vegetable oil for cooking grate

6 ounces cheese sliced, American or cheddar

4 hamburger buns or rolls
A&W Chili (recipe follows)

Creamy Coleslaw (recipe follows)

Diced onions

1. Turn all burners to high, close lid, and heat until very hot, about 15 minutes. Use grill brush to scrape cooking grate clean. Lightly dip wad of paper towels in vegetable oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe cooking grate. Leave primary burner on high, turn other burner(s) to low.

2. Meanwhile, mash bread and milk in large bowl with fork until homogeneous (you should have about 1/4 cup). Stir in salt, pepper, garlic, steak sauce, and reserved bacon fat; mix until thoroughly blended.

3. Break up beef into small pieces over bread mixture. Using fork or hands, lightly mix together until mixture forms cohesive mass. Divide meat into 4 equal portions. Gently toss one portion of meat back and forth between hands to form loose ball. Gently flatten into 3/4-inch-thick patty that measures about 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Press center of patty down with fingertips until it is about 1/2 inch thick, creating a slight depression in each patty. Repeat with remaining portions of meat.

4. Lightly dip wad of paper towels in vegetable oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe cooking grate. Grill burgers on hot side of grill, covered, until well seared on first side, 2 to 4 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, flip burgers and continue grilling, about 3 minutes for medium-well or 4 minutes for well-done. Distribute equal portions of cheese on burgers about 2 minutes before they reach desired doneness, covering burgers with disposable aluminum pan to melt cheese. While burgers grill, toast buns on cooler side of grill, rotating buns as necessary to toast evenly. Serve burgers on toasted buns.

Build your burger in the following order:

Bottom of Bun

Diced Onions

A&W Chili

Creamy Coleslaw


Top of Bun

A & W Chili

2/3 cup finely chopped onion

1 pound ground beef

1/3 cup white vinegar

1/3 cup sugar

2/3 tablespoon salt

1 1/3 tablespoon Celery salt (I cut this in half or eliminate the salt above)
2 ounces tomato puree
1 1/3 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon pepper

Add 1 tablespoon canola/vegetable oil to a saucepan, add the onion and saute' 3-4 minutes over medium heat until translucent, then add the hamburger and cook until well done. Drain grease from saucepan, then add remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring often, until desired consistency.

Cole Slaw
1 pound green cabbage (about 1/2 medium head), thinly shredded
1 large carrot peeled and grated

2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt

1 tablespoon Sugar

1/2 small onion minced

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

Ground Black Pepper

1. Toss cabbage and carrots with salt in colander set over medium bowl. Let stand until cabbage wilts, at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

2. Dump wilted cabbage and carrots into the bowl. Rinse thoroughly in cold water (ice water if serving slaw immediately). Pour vegetables back into colander, pressing, but not squeezing on them to drain. Pat dry with paper towels. (Can be stored in a zipper-lock bag and refrigerated overnight.)

3. Pour cabbage and carrots back again into bowl. Add onions, mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar; toss to coat. Season with pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Although Melvin's uses a flat top, I grilled mine of course.

Plated with home made salt and vinegar potato chips because Melvin's doesn't have time to mess with fries. It's a burger or a dog and chips.

I know what you're thinking, chili, slaw, onions, and mustard on a burger???? Try it, even if you use your own burger, slaw and chili recipes.
Picture Updated 2011:  Carolina burger and Bush's Original Baked Beans

So what are your favorite burger toppings or what is the best burger you have EVER eaten?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!

May your stockings be full
of high quality coal !

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Loaf Pan Chicken

If you have been watching BBQ Pitmasters on TLC, then you saw Myron Mixon's "muffin pan chicken thighs" or "cupcake chicken". Chris Lilly has a similar recipe on a larger scale in which you put a whole chicken in a bread loaf pan. We tried it out last night.

Loaf-Pan Chicken

Source: Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book - Recipes & Secrets from a Legendary BBQ Joint
Recipe via Today Show appearance.

Have you ever tried a beer-can chicken recipe? That’s when a whole chicken is perched atop a beer can and set on the grill, so the beer steams from the can and keeps the sitting bird from drying out. The results are tender and moist, but sometimes the flavor is washed out; and if the chicken falls over it can be a mess.

Loaf-Pan Chicken is a dummy-proof alternative to beer-can chicken, although the technique is not as gimmicky. You simply set the bird in a loaf pan and place it, pan and all, on the grill. The loaf pan captures all the juices and increases the humidity surrounding the chicken. The result is tender and moist meat every time, and best of all, the flavor is full and undiluted.

3⁄4 cup applesauce
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 whole chicken (31⁄2 pounds)
Dry rub
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
2 1⁄4 teaspoons paprika
1 1⁄2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1⁄2 teaspoons garlic salt
3⁄4 teaspoon celery salt
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄4 teaspoon ground coriander


Build a fire (wood or a combination of charcoal and wood) for indirect cooking by situating the coals on only one side of the cooker, leaving the other side void.

In a small bowl, stir together the applesauce and Worcestershire. Holding the chicken over a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan, pour the mixture over the chicken, making sure the chicken is thoroughly coated both inside and out. Let the excess liquid drip into the loaf pan.

In another small bowl, combine the dry rub ingredients and mix well. Coat the entire chicken, both inside and out, with the dry rub. Place the chicken into the loaf pan, breast side up.

When the grill temperature reaches approximately 300° F, place the loaf pan on the grill grate away from the coals, close the cover, and cook for 2 hours, or until the internal temperature of the chicken thigh reaches 175° F. Let the chicken cool a bit in the pan before cutting into serving pieces.

I'll preface this by saying that every other recipe I have tried from this book and I have tried many, has been very successful. This one, not so much.

The seasonings were bold, I liked the potential flavor profile.

Bird "nested" away in the loaf pan, cooking on the Big Green Egg.

Here's the cooking log from last night's cook. I started a little bit hotter (350f) but it still took longer than stated to hit 175f in the thigh. (double click on it to enlarge for reading)

Our impressions were that this tasted like baked chicken. That's not a good thing for me, I don't like baked chicken. If I wanted to use baked chicken, I'd use an oven. (Can I get a amen, Brethren?)

The meat was perfectly cooked and juicy, but it was bland. The flavor seemed to stay with the skin, which was rubbery, not crisp at all.

Part of the problem is that the juices from the chicken stay in the pan and start parboiling the bottom half of the chicken while the top half is roasting. On the bright side, the juices from that pan last night made the best chicken gravy I've ever made.

It was fun to try as something different, but in my opinion, a spatchcocked (butterflied) and smoked chicken produces much better results.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Memphis Style Dry Ribs

I've had this one rack of loin back pork ribs in my freezer for a while, just taking up space. The reason it has hung around is
A) I don't normally cook just one rack of ribs and
B) I'm not a huge fan of back ribs, I prefer St. Louis style trimmed spare ribs.

I smoked it on the Big Green Egg last night for lunch today and I used Chris Lilly's Memphis Style Dry Ribs recipe. He shared this recipe on the Today Show but it is part of his book Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book, my favorite Q book this year. It's loaded with stories, recipes, techniques, and tips. If you need a last minute gift idea, I highly recommend it. It is appropriate for anyone from beginner to competitor.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Memphis Style Dry Ribs

Chris Lilly

2 slabs St. Louis-cut pork spareribs
10 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic salt
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup white vinegar

Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs. Combine the dry rub ingredients and mix well. Reserve 1/3 cup of the dry rub, then apply the remaining rub generously to the front and back of the ribs. Pat gently to ensure the rub adheres to the meat.

Build a fire (wood or combination of charcoal and wood) for indirect cooking by situating the coals on only one side of the grill, leaving the other side void. Preheat the charcoal grill to 250 F. Place the ribs meat side up on the grill and cook with indirect heat, with the grill closed, for 4 hours, or until the ribs are tender.

Mix the vinegar with 1 cup of water in a shallow baking pan. Remove the ribs from the grill and dip them into the vinegar water. Remove the ribs from the wash and place them on a cutting board. Season the ribs immediately with a heavy coat of the reserved dry rub. Cut and serve.

Doesn't he look lonely?

Membrane removed and rubbed on the back.

The only basting during the cook is from the ribs own juices. Cooked bone side down, I normally smoke mine bone side up. This went just shy of 5 hours at 250f. I used Kroger lump (which I would not buy again) and hickory chips.

Sliced and ready to be packed away for lunch the next day. I might have snuck one rib - for quality control purposes of course!

Not bad for loin back ribs.
One or two at the small end were fall off the bone (which is overcooked), but the rest were cooked right and pulled clean off with each bite.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Huevos Con Chorizo

I'm typing this with a wrapped ankle, a grotesquely swollen big toe, and a bruised ego.

I was working out this afternoon doing what we call a "stations workout" which mixes up various exercises into 1 minute sessions that you repeat over and over. The idea is you don't have time to get bored or too tired at any one thing. Plus you can always make yourself go "just one minute longer".

For example today was
1 minute - heavy bag workout (kicks/knees/punches/elbows to a large padded bag)
1 minute - core (variety of push ups, crunches, planks)
1 minute - weights (variety of dumbell routines - remember the dumbell)
1 minute - aerobic (stationary bike/jump rope)
1 minute - kata (memorized moves like you see in a martial arts demo)

I was only 16 minutes into the workout and doing a move I like to do when sparring. It's an intentionally missed right leg spinning hook kick (opponent steps back thinking "Ahh, I dodged it!") but I land on with the right leg in front and go right into a left back leg round kick to the body and jab/cross punches to the head.

Unfortunately, this time, I over-rotated just a "beeeeeet too much" and said right foot landed on one of the dumbells to the side.
Dumbells are round.
They roll.
And all of my weight was on top of one.
Off balance.

So my ankle rolled to the right and then as the dumbells rolled out from under me and my momentum carried me forward, my right big toe dug into the padded floor, buckling under my full weight. I'm pretty sure that I looked like one of those cartoon characters flailing around violently in mid-air but not going anywhere. I wish I had a video of it because I'm sure it look hilarious.

Point being, if you're ever in a fight with me, you're probably better off not trying anything offensive or defensive. Just give me time and I'll take my own ass out! ;)

Anyway, it's all good because 1) I can laugh at myself and 2) I had the best breakfast burrito ever this morning. And I did it without hurting myself!

Huevos Con Chorizo

10 ounce Chorizo sausage bulk
1/4 cup Red onion diced
1/4 cup Green bell pepper diced
10 ea Egg
2 teaspoon Heavy cream
6 ea Flour tortillas taco sized, not the big burrito ones
8 ounce White Mexican Dipping Cheese El Viajero brand
6 ounce Milk
1/2 cup Cheddar shredded
1 cup Salsa

Brown the sausage, onion and pepper in a saute pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the chorizo is cooked through. We used Cacique brand of pork chorizo today and I thought it was some of the better chorizo I've had in the short time I've been using it. I also got some of their beef chorizo, which I've never had, so I'm really looking forward to using that somehow.

While that is cooking, combine the white Mexican Dipping Cheese and milk over low heat to make a queso sauce. The El Viajero brand can be found at Walmart but you can use any other queso sauce recipe that you have, if you want to make your own from scratch.

Whisk the eggs and cream together. Add the egg mixture to the saute pan with the chorizo mixture and cook like scrambled eggs. (Didn't say it was pretty, just delicious!)

Warm the salsa in a small sauce pan.

Divide the egg mixture between the tortillas. Roll each tortilla up and place seam side down, either in broiler-safe individual serving plates or on a shallow roasting pan. Top with the queso sauce and shredded cheddar and broil until the cheese starts to brown, roughly 30 seconds.

Top with the salsa, garnish with whatever you like (maybe cilantro, black olives, more shredded cheese) and serve.

Disclaimer: This blog receives no payment for advertising or reviews of products or services. I pay/paid full retail prices for these products or services unless otherwise noted.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Miscellaneous Stuff

Smoky Mountain Carbonara
Last night we made Katherine's Smoky Mountain Cafe's Carbonara and it was as great as it sounded. If you haven't visited Katherine's food blog, get over there and check it out.

Big Green Egg
I picked up my new fire box (aka fire bowl) for my Big Green Egg today.

I just wanted to say again how phenomenal the customer service at Big Green Egg and their Knoxville distributor, Hearth and Patio, is. A few weeks ago, my fire box developed a crack. It was the easiest, most painless, and customer friendly warranty experience I have ever had. The Big Green Egg is a world class product backed by world class customer service.

If you are ever considering buying a high end grill, smoker, and convection oven, you definitely need to check out a Big Green Egg.

Ox Rotisserie
Sure the Ronco Rotisserie (set it and forget it) or a rotisserie attachment for your grill can handle some roasts or chickens. But what if you wanted to throw a whole Ox on the rotisserie?

I found this on There, I Fixed It. It's a hilarious site that is the handyman's version of ICanHasCheezeburger or People of Walmart.
I hope that all of you folks stuck in the snow are doing OK!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Corn and Wild Rice Soup With Smoked Sausage

I was looking forward to cooking on the grill last night but then this happened (excuse the crappy mobile phone picture).

We have had some foul weather in East Tennessee the past week so I had my canopy up so I could cook. A wind storm damaged the frame earlier this week which caused the tarp to fit loosely. That allowed it to collect about 5 gallons of rain yesterday while I was at work, bending the frame even more. It's toast.'s cold, rainy, and my outdoor kitchen is on the verge of a catastrophic meltdown. Damn. Soup it is. This one is from The Bon Appetit Cookbook that my brother gave me two or three years ago.

Corn and Wild Rice Soup with Smoked Sausage
The Bon Appetit Cookbook 2006

12 1/2 cups (or more) canned low-salt chicken broth
1 1/4 cups wild rice (about 7 1/2 ounces)

6 1/4 cups frozen corn kernels (about 2 1/2 pounds) thawed

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

10 ounces fully cooked smoked sausage (such as kielbasa), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3 carrots, peeled, diced

2 medium onions, chopped

1 1/2 cups half and half

Chopped fresh chives or parsley

Bring 5 cups broth to simmer in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add wild rice and simmer until all liquid evaporates and rice is almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend 3 3/4 cups corn and 1 1/2 cups chicken broth in processor until thick, almost smooth puree forms. Heat vegetable oil in heavy large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage and sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and onions and stir 3 minutes. Add remaining 6 cups chicken broth and bring soup to simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer soup 15 minutes.

Add cooked wild rice, corn puree and remaining 2 1/2 cups corn kernels to soup. Cook until wild rice is very tender and flavors blend, about 15 minutes longer. Mix in half and half. Thin soup with more chicken broth, if desired. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. (Soup can be prepared 2 days ahead. Refrigerate until cold; cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm soup over medium-low heat before continuing.)

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with chives and parsley and serve.

I didn't have the full amount of wild rice, so I used a mix of long grain, wild rice, and red rice. I found the red rice at Sunrise Supermarket in Knoxville, an Asian grocer. It has a strong nutty flavor and cooks like brown rice.

Wasn't crazy about the sausage only because it had bits of mozzarella in it.....which melts when you saute it.

This is a hearty soup and Alexis agreed that it tasted quite good. Next time I'd dice the sausage into a finer dice, about the same size as the carrots. Plus, if this is "12 appetizer or 6 main course servings" as the cookbook says, those people are some piggies. It yields more than that.

So I'm off to shop for a new EZ-Up canopy. Because sometimes it rains in my outdoor kitchen.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sriracha Wings & Saffron Rice

Last month I made Fire Roasted Sriracha Wings based on a Michael Symon recipe. Tonight's sriracha's wings are my spin on a different version that went around the BBQ forums this year.

Up front I'll tell you that both are two of my favorite wings ever. Symon's recipe is a complex heat that I preferred. But this one is one my family liked better. It's a sweet then heat, or as I said to Alexis tonight, "It hits you with sweet up front and then kicks you in the rear.....just where you need to be kicked!"
Sriracha Chicken Wings

12 ea chicken wings, cut into drumettes and wingettes (my video on how to do this)
2-3 Tablespoons of Poultry Perfect Rub
1 cup Apricot-Pineapple Preserves (they used orange marmalade)
1 ounce brown sugar
1 ounce honey
1 ounce sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon finely diced green onion.

Season drumettes and wingettes with the rub.

The "cooking" part is easy. You're using my 30-20-10 method for fire roasting wings. Indirect heat set up on a grill cooking at 350-375f. Cook at 30 minutes, flip the pieces.

Cook 20 more minutes. While the wings are cooking, mix the preserves, sugar, honey, green onion and sriracha sauce over medium heat until blended. (okay.....this isn't exactly blended yet and I hadn't added the green onion yet.)

Toss in sauce (in this case, sriracha wing sauce) and cook 10 more minutes until the sauce crisps up a bit.

Who says that chicken wings are to be served only with celery, blue cheese and beer? Since these were sort of "thai" wings, I decided to use this easy saffron rice as a side. I cooked it as noted but added one finely diced roma tomato. The real saffron makes the difference every time!

You could also deep fry wings like you normally would for buffalo wings and then toss in this sauce instead of buffalo sauce, but with this recipe, I think adding a few minutes under heat with with sauce on helps seal the deal.

Which of these sriracha wings would YOU like? If you like a sophisticated layering of mild heat building on more heat, go with Symon's recipe. If you like the "one two punch" of sweet/heat, use this version.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

I don't have anything great to post tonight because I just made my 30-20-10 Chicken Wings (teriyaki style), tots and a salad for the kids. Very basic and tasty, but not worth a repeat.

We never know how many "kids" we are going to have from night to night. For example, Saturday we had Trevor (10) and his friends Jack , Olivia and Wrin. Tonight we had Trevor and Brett (21), his girlfriend, and his friend Eric. Sometimes, it's just Alexis and me. Our "family" fluctuates between 2 and 7 on any given night.

It can really be aggravating trying to deal with it, but I'll be honest with you. It keeps us young. Or "youngish". I know the "kids" will be gone before long so when I get frustrated, I just try to remember someday I'll be wishing that they were around more.

So anyway. Here's a quick easy vinaigrette I made the other night for the salad I made to go with our steaks and Spinach Maria. I imported it in 2005 from Southern Living into my BigOven software "to try" and just got around to doing it this weekend. It quickly earned our "favorite" status! If you like blue cheese, you'll love this. If you don't? You'll hate it.

Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons water

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Dash of salt

Whisk together all ingredients. Chill until ready to serve. Yield: Makes 1/2 cup (6 servings)
Southern Living, OCTOBER 2005

Alexis and I both loved it. It reminded us of Brianna's Blue Cheese dressing back before they changed it.

So it took me over 4 years with this in my "try soon" queue before I actually made this. Do you hold onto recipes in limbo that long or is it just me?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Calhoun's Spinach Maria

If Popeye was addicted to spinach then this dish would be like crystal meth for him.

I found a recipe for Spinach Maria when we still lived in Florida and made it back then, so I never realized it was a regional East Tennessee thing until recently. Almost every reference I find about it online refers to Calhoun's or "a restaurant in Knoxville". Have you ever heard of Spinach Maria?

It is a cheesy, creamy spinach casserole with a little kick. I like it because this is a dish you can prepare ahead to a point, then all you have to do is put it on a 350f indirect heat grill or oven for 20 minutes. That works with a lot of roasts that I cook at 350 on the Big Green Egg. It also helps to use the individual ramekins instead of a large casserole dish, so you can fit them on the grill easier.

Here is the original Calhoun's version as posted on food journalist, Mary Constantine's blog, Stirring The Pot.

Calhoun's Spinach Maria

5 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach
4 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 3/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
5 tablespoons melted butter
6 tablespoons flour
8ounces Velveeta cheese
8 ounces cheddar cheese
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese (for topping)

Thaw spinach in refrigerator for 24 hours. Squeeze as much excess water as possible out of spinach. Heat milk and spices in 4-quart saucepan on medium heat to just below a boil (190 degrees). Then reduce heat and simmer. Saute chopped onion in 1 tablespoon butter on medium heat for 5-8 minutes. Add to saucepan. Combine 5 tablespoons melted butter with flour in a small suate pan. (This is the first step of making a roux, which will thicken the sauce.) Mix until completely blended. Cook on low heat 3-4 minutes to make roux. Add roux to milk in saucepan and mix well. Continue to cook until sauce thickens.

Cut Velveeta, cheddar and Jack cheese into small cubes and add to saucepan. Continue to mix until all the cheese is completely melted and blended into sauce. Be careful not to burn the sauce while cheese is melted. Remove from heat. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Add drained spinach to cheese sauce, mix until completely blended. Spoon into 11-by-9-by-2-inch casserole dish and top with grated Monterey Jack cheese. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

I cut the recipe in 2/5ths and it yielded 6 servings. I also substituted shallots for the onion.

For cheese, I used some of the colby jack that I hickory smoked a few weeks ago and the cheddar was cherry wood smoked. And how did being around such superior cheeses make make processed cheesefood Velveeta feel?

The cheese sauce was so good I could have just eaten it straight out of the pot.

Once you have added the spinach, you can put this dish on hold until you're 20-30 minutes from service.

While that was going on, I tossed a few ribeyes on the Egg. I don't know how I went as long as I did without a cast iron grate, look at those sear marks. I have a full post in development about cast iron grates in general and a review of this specific one from Craycort.

Spinach Maria is the perfect partner for a grilled steak or a half slab of ribs. I would have like the cheese on top more browned but I over filled the ramekins and they were starting to bubble over. Later I realized I should have given them the "creme brulee" treatment.

I'm feeling "calorie regret" (like buyers remorse) this morning but it was worth it and I'll do an extra 2-3 cycles of my stations workout this morning.