Monday, May 31, 2010

MyHOP Cheese Blintzes

I love IHOP.

I know it's nothing fancy and food snobs look down on it, but to me a weekend breakfast at IHOP is all about comfort food. A plate of those crispy hashbrowns, a big omelet, and a short stack on a Saturday morning makes my weekend. It's my guilty pleasure, although we only go about every other month.

One of my favorite dishes is their Cheese Blintz, which is simply cheese stuffed crepes with a fruit topping. I've never made crepes. Alexis made one attempt when we got married and that was using a store bought batter in a carton. Back then, we knew about as much about crepes as Ricky Bobby did. It didn't end well. Since then, I've stayed away from making them.

I was watching Anne Burrell's Secrets of a Restaurant Chef and she showed how she makes crepes. She explained it very well and made it seem easy. I knew that I could do that now and decided to try to make my own version of IHOP's cheese blintzes.

The batter makes about 10 crepes but you'll only need 6. Save the other 4 in a gallon zip lock bag with pieces of parchment paper between them for later use.

MyHop Cheese Blintzes
Source: Nibble Me This
Crepe batter by Anne Burrell

Crepe Batter
1 cup All purpose flour
2 ea Egg
1/2 cup Club soda
1 cup Milk*
3 tb Butter melted
1 pinch Salt

Cheese filling
8 ounce Cream cheese softened
1 cup Confectioners Sugar
1 cup Ricotta cheese

Cherry preserves for topping

Mix together all of the batter ingredients and let rest for at least 30 minutes. *Anne's recipe in the episode and as printed on Food Network's site says 1/2 cup milk, but in the episode she ended up adding about 2 shots of milk that seemed to be about 1/4 cup each. Ours needed a full cup of milk too, in order to get the thin consistency.

Whip the cheese filling into a smooth mixture. The sugar sounds like a lot but we kept adding until we got the taste right.

Get a medium sized saute pan heated over medium heat and then melt about 1 Tb of ghee or butter. Pour in 2 ounces (I use a 2 oz ladel to make it easy) of batter and quickly swirl around to coat the bottom of the pan. Anne referred to it as "tilt-a-whirl action" which is a perfect description, just roll it around.

The edges will start to cook first. Use a spatula to lightly work the edges from the pan. After about 1-2 minutes, the bottom of the crepe should start to turn slightly golden and the batter on top will be set. Flip and cook another two minutes.

I proudly present to you, my very first crepe. (Forgive the white balance it wasn't that yellow, this was shot under a 40w oven range hood bulb.)

Remove and repeat. Stack the crepes with parchment or wax paper sheets between them.

Place 2-3 gooey heaping tablespoons of the cheese filling and roll the crepe.

Top with cherry preserves that have been warmed in a small sauce pan.

Holy carp! (sic) I can make crepes!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Roasted Chicken

Sometimes recipes assume too much.

I know I'm guilty of it. I'll tell you to "spatchcock a chicken" or "rub the mix under and over the skin" without really telling how to do that. I presume you either
a) already know how to do it OR
b) can find out how to do it via Google

I'm going to try to do a little better than that. Because I remember the first time I someone told me to put butter UNDER the skin of the turkey I was going to cook. Well thanks. That was the *$&% do I do that?

Tonight we decided to do a little "pesto on pesto" action. We were wanted to fire roast a chicken with a tomato pesto and serve it on a bed of pasta with traditional basil pesto.

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Roasted Chicken

1 whole chicken, spatchcocked (click here for someone else's video on how to do that)
1 quart buttermilk (preferably Cruze Farm's if you can get it)
1 cup tomato pesto (I used Classico's jarred version, hey, it's the weekend)
Poultry Perfect Rub & pepper to taste

Marinate the chicken in the buttermilk for at least 8 hours.

Rub the tomato pesto under and over the chicken skin like this:

Season with poultry rub and pepper and then roast indirect heat at 350f until the breasts hit 160f and the thighs are 175-180f. We did ours with natural hardwood lump charcoal on the Big Green Egg and it took a little under an hour and a half, but you could do this in your O...... your O...... your OVEN. The key is to go by temps.

Alexis made a white sauce and then added a jar of basil pesto from a local vendor at the farmer's market this weekend. She then tossed some penne pasta in the cream sauce. We were actually disappointed in the basil pesto compared to the one we make, so I'll omit the vendor name. Sometimes buying locally isn't necessarily better. But usually it is.

We topped the pasta with the whole roasted chicken.

It was just about perfect. Can't wait to try this one again.

So are you firing up the grill tomorrow?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Greek Style Deep Dish Pizza

A few weeks ago, I complained that rabbits or squirrels were eating our strawberries just as they started to become ripe, before we could enjoy them. Well today, Brett rescued this little critter in our yard from a neighbor's cat's jaws.

Before everyone says, "awwwww, look at the baby rabbit", just remember, rabbits can be killers! Here's a scientific documentary proving that.

Even still, Alexis wouldn't let me make rabbit stew so we had to have something else for dinner. (Don't worry just joking, he/she is recovering fine and will be released back in our garden tomorrow morning.)

This is one that Alexis and I made up a few weeks ago (April 20th to be exact per my notebook) when she decided she wanted to try a deep dish style pizza. We looked at what ingredients we had on hand and decided to take it Greek style. It wasn't authentic Greek food, but it had a lot of Greek flavors.

We made it again tonight but this time made it in the brick oven....errr Big Green Egg. As I've mentioned a million times over, the Egg's ceramics make it the perfect wood fired cooker for pizzas. But this recipe does work well in both an oven or on a ceramic cooker.
Greek Style Deep Dish Pizza
Source: Nibble Me This

1 order pizza dough (make your own, buy from local pizza joint or buy a mix from store)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomato pesto
6 ounces mozzarella, shredded
8-10 slices salami, quartered
2 slices red onion
4-6 ea kalamata olives, sliced
1/4 cup portobello mushroom, diced and sauteed
8-10 ea mint leaves, fresh, chopped
4-5 ea marinated artichoke hearts, diced
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Roll pizza dough out and form it into a greased 9" round dish. This will work with a cake pan but does really well with a preheated stoneware pan. Poke the dough all over with a fork. Alexis tells me that will help keep the dough from bubbling up during the pre-cook. She knows the baking stuff way better than I (See? we complement each other!). Place the pan/dough into a 475f Big Green Egg or oven for 5 minutes.

Spread the tomato pesto on the base of the pizza and top with the mozzarella. We used Classico's Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto that you can find in most grocery stores but you could make your own, there's a lot of recipes available via a quick google.

Then toss in the next six ingredients (salami, onions, olives, mushroom, mint, and artichoke....don't you hate when recipes make you count?).

Top with the feta cheese and put back on the Big Green Egg or in the oven, still at 475f and cook for 12 minutes.

Pull from the cooker and let rest in the pan for another 5 minutes.

You should be able to lift the entire pan using a pair of large spatulas.

Slice and serve. Damn good stuff.

Both times this has been one of our favorite pizzas. It might not be pretty but the flavors pack a punch that wakes your mouth up. The strong flavors of the feta, olives, peppers, and other ingredients walk that fine line between making your mouth water and making your eyes wince.

Time for a quick game of Versus in the comments:
1) Deep dish vs. regular pizza
2) Monty Python rocks vs. Monty Python sucks (don't worry about offending me, I love MP, Alexis hates them).

55 Knives

It's the Memorial Day Weekend so you would think I'd be ready to talk about grilling burgers and steaks...

But I'm more excited about this week's release of the e-book, 55 Knives - Recipes, Tips, and Stories from 55 Top Food Bloggers.

I was honestly shocked when I was asked to be a part of this project because the other contributing authors are what I consider some of the finest food bloggers around. They are people I respect for their content, culinary knowledge, skills, and a unique voice. I was a bit nervous but there was no way I was going to turn down an opportunity to be a part of something innovative like this.

55 Knives is the brainchild of Nick Evans from Macheesmo. It is much more than just a cook book of recipes. It brings 55 unique perspectives, tips, recipes, and stories from it's participating bloggers. Because it is an e-book, it is interactive and you have the option to go to hyperlinks for other content by the particular blogger and other information. Having read it the past two days, I found it very entertaining with a personal touch. There is a great article on this project at BlogHer.

The list price is $19 but between now and next Thursday, you can get 55 Knives at the introductory price of $14. You can order it by clicking on the links. Yes, as a contributing author, I get a piece of affiliate sales, but I am donating any of those earnings to someone who selflessly does a BBQ service once a month for local people who are homeless. It won't be much but every bit helps.

So please click on the link and check out 55 Knives.

Since I didn't post any recipes, click on over to Our Krazy Kitchen for my Fire Day Friday post about grilled stuffed fajita chicken burritos.

Have a great weekend all!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Live Fire Roasted Naked Ravioli

Yeah I know. "Fire roasted" and "naked" are two terms that are usually never a good thing when used together.

But these little babies are a definite exception to the rule.

I have been wanting to try these for about a year but just got around to making them tonight after Alexis scored some great spinach from the Market Square Farmer's Market on Saturday. I based the recipe on Naked Ravioli from Johnny Carrabba's book Ciao Tuscony, was influenced by Fabio Viviani's technique, and then improvised as things went awry & I brought live fire into the mix.

Live Fire Roasted Naked Ravioli

source: Nibble Me This (with cited influences & distractions)

1 lb spinach
8 oz ricotta cheese
1 cup parmigiano reggiano, shredded
2 ea eggs, lightly beaten
1/8 tsp nutmeg, fresh grated
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
5 Tbsp all purpose flour
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

Okay, first things first, I have no idea if it was one pound of spinach. It was one very full salad spinner of spinach that we triple rinsed to get all that grit off. My best guess is it was about 1 lb.

Mix Ricotta, parmigiano reggiano, eggs, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper together.

Cook the spinach in a large saute pan over medium high heat until wilted, using only the water the was left after rinsing. Remove and press out water.

Chop the spinach and mix into the cheese mixture. Add in the flour. Then add in the panko in 1/4 cup increments until the mixture is thick enough to form into balls. (One recipe had no flour and neither had the bread crumbs but it just wasn't coming together for me and it worked out in my favor!)

Get flour on your hands to prevent sticking and scoop out an ice cream scoop sized amount. Work into a ball. Repeat like a million times until it's all gone. I might be exaggerating on the "million" part. Maybe it was more like 2 dozen.

Preheat a pizza stone on a grill at about 450-500f. On a Big Green Egg, that is plate setter in, "legs down" with the pizza stone on top. But you could do the same thing on any grill or even in your 'gasp' oven.

Sprinkle some flour on the stone to prevent sticking and put the naked ravioli on the stone. Cook until they firm up. Carrabba's recipe called for boiling them in chicken broth for 2-3 minutes which spelled disaster to me and Fabio said bake them 5 minutes at 500f. I ended up going 10 minutes at about 450f.

Note, you will get a little bit of browning but you are going more for texture, not a "golden brown" that you might with baking. You are going for a firm enough texture to pick them up. Just imagine a ravioli that has been cooked and then have the pasta shell striped off.

While they cool, melt a stick of butter and saute 2-3 leaves of sage until crisped. Drizzle sage butter over the ravioli (who doesn't like hot grease poured over them when they are naked, right?).

I was going to plate them with the crisped sage and shavings of parmigiano reggiano but the sage was butt ugly so I went with fresh sage and red pepper flakes for a garnish.

About halfway through merging (and straying away from) these two recipes and adding my own reckless modifications I thought this was going to be a throwaway result. Instead, I have a definite repeat.

Try this one the next time you are looking for a spectacular appetizer course. Or if you just want to "get naked".

What is your favorite "grilled" appetizer?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dead End BBQ: Chris Lilly's Cooking Class

I had a great time in Chris Lilly's class yesterday in Dead End BBQ's 2010 Cooking Series. It was fun, enlightening, and I feel that I got my money's worth.

In just under 5 hours, Chris Lilly, pitmaster of Big Bob Gibson's BBQ and world champion barbecue team, not only shared his immense live fire cooking knowledge, he demonstrated and served:
BBQ Bacon Wrapped Shrimp w/ Basil Stuffing
Pecan Crusted Pork Tenderloin Pinwheels
Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q Chicken (Alabama White Sauce)
Slow Smoked Beef Brisket
Championship Pork Butt
Pineapple Sweet Ribs
Smoky Bourbon Peaches a la Mode

Not only was it good to learn from Chris and George, I also benefited from getting to talk with other local BBQ folks. Howard P and Ron F of the competitive team Bent Elbow and another Chris sat at my table and then Dan B to my left is a fellow Egg owner (as is Howard). So it was good to compare notes and exchange ideas about local resources with all of them.

Here are some photographs of the event.

Chris doesn't use a knife....he uses a Forschner Scimitar, which looks like something a pirate would use.This was a rather BBQ educated crowd, asking meaningful questions and taking notes.

Chris demonstrated the trick for determining the doneness of a steak by touch.
Chris discussing what to look for in selecting pork spare ribs.
Rubbing the rib.
George Ewart and Chris prepping the ribs to go back into the smoker.
Chris shows us how he picks out his briskets, marbling and thickness of the flat.
Chris demonstrates Big Bob Gibson's original - BBQ Chicken baptized in a white bbq sauce.
Chris talks about the time he had to deliver a baby in the middle of the restaurant. Just kidding, he was talking about briskets.
Speaking of briskets, of the two they made, one was good and one was great, despite being done the same way at the same time. Sometimes that just happens in BBQ. I'll cook three ribs all the same way at the same time, and one will be noticeably better or worse than the others.
Chris unleashes his Scimitar on the ribs.
Obligatory after class shot.For dinner last night I made the Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q chicken. It was good but not as good as Chris'.....yet. I have to tweek a few things.

All of the recipes he made (and tons more) are found in Chris' book, Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book.I have had it for a year but picked up an extra signed copy yesterday to give away as my June give away. Look for that giveaway in the first weekend in June as part of my Father's Day Grilling Gift Guide post.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Underground Deli Meatloaf Sandwich

Last night I cooked my "I would do anything for loaf - meatloaf" on the Big Green Egg.

If I recommended cooking a meatloaf on a grill, you might ask me to "let you sleep on it" or you might run away like a "bat out of hell", right?

I thought it sounded weird too when I first heard of doing it that way, but I tried it two years ago and it is my favorite way to prepare meatloaf now. You just prepare your favorite meatloaf recipe and instead of cooking it in your oven, turn your grill into a fire roasted oven by cooking with indirect heat (fire or burner on one side, food on other side, lid closed).

"I Would Do Anything For Loaf" Meatloaf recipe
adapted from Underground Deli's Meatloaf Sandwich

1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons Dry mustard
1 teaspoon Black pepper
1 teaspoons Garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic minced
2 tablespoon basil, fresh chopped
1 tablespoon Dried oregano
3 Eggs
3/4 cup Ketchup
1/2 teaspoon Hot pepper sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons Horseradish
1 cup Onion; chopped
2 1/2 pounds Ground beef; 80/20 mix

In a bowl, combine bread crumbs, mustard, black pepper, garlic powder, basil and oregano. In a large bowl, combine eggs, ketchup, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard and horseradish. Mix in the onion and ground beef, then add the bread crumb mixture.

TIP: One reason people don't like meat loaf is because they've been served one that is greasy because it cooks in it's own grease in the loaf pan. Only use the loaf pan for a mold to shape the loaf and let it chill for an hour in the fridge.

Then when ready to cook, invert the loaf pan onto a raised drip pan set up like this and all the grease will drip away from the loaf while cooking in the oven or the grill.

Cook the loaf at 350f.

After 45 minutes, brush with a glaze of your choice.
-Typical meatloaf glaze: 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 oz apple cider vinegar
-Sweet glaze: commercial BBQ sauce like Blues Hog.
-Spicy glaze: 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup Chok On Dis Blaze n' Glaze, 1/4 cup brown sugar

Cook until the loaf hits an internal temp of 160f. This should be a total cooking time of 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Try that inverted meatloaf technique the next time and I think you'll like your standard meatloaf a little bit better. The final product is just moist enough but not greasy at all. PERFECT for meatloaf sandwiches, my favorite.

And consider cooking it on the grill too. Since I started cooking it on the grill, anytime I think about cooking one in the oven, I think, "I would do anything for loaf, but I won't do that!"

(All apologies to Michael Lee Aday) 

But even as I was cooking it last night, I was already thinking about dinner tonight, a meatloaf sandwich. To me, a leftover meatloaf sandwich is comfort food at it's best so I always cook extra just to ensure that there will be leftovers. Two years ago I found the recipe for Underground Deli Meatloaf Sandwich browsing through BigOven and it has become my favorite meatloaf sandwich. The meatloaf is a good basic meatloaf, nothing outlandish and it works great on the grill. I use an extra spicy ketchup glaze since it's going on to a sandwich.

And fresh Grainger County tomatoes (the best in the Southeast) made them just perfect.

Blogger Get Together
This weekend is the "drop dead date" for committing to the East TN Blogger Get Together that we have been planning. The initial response provided enough interest that we went ahead. But as of today only one other party has committed for certain for the June 5th gathering. If you are still wanting to attend, please email Larry of Big Dude's Eclectic Ramblings THIS WEEKEND (

Chris Lilly BBQ Class
I am excited to be attending a BBQ class at Dead End BBQ Restaurant in Knoxville tomorrow morning. The featured guest is Chris Lilly, who is the pitmaster of Big Bob Gibson's BBQ in Alabama, a world champion competitive BBQer, and author of Big Bob Gibson's Barbecue Book. I'm trying to get my brain in "sponge mode" so I can soak up as much info as possible!

Underground Deli Meatloaf Sandwich

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Grill Roasted Potatoes and Stupid Rice Tricks

When you see condensation on the inside of an electronic device like this, it's a bad sign, isn't it?

I left one of my remote probe thermometers out on my grill table Sunday night and despite being under a canopy, on Monday gusty winds and horizontal rain managed to soak it. In addition to the condensation, you could see water pooled up in the corners. Time to throw it out, right?

Hold on a second. Try this tip first. Rice is a natural desiccant, drawing water from it's environment. I put the thermometer in a jar of rice and sealed it up for 24 hours. (Picture for example, I covered it to the top before putting the lid on.)

The result 24 hours later? Success!

This won't work every time and with every type of equipment but it's at least worth a try.

These bins of rice are also great for storing the die and parts to a meat grinder or other items susceptible to rusting in storage.

Roasted Potatoes - Partial fail / Partial win

If you had served me these roasted potatoes, I would have said that they were "good roasted potatoes" and been happy with them.

However, I was disappointed because they only tasted like "good roasted potatoes". They lacked the POW of flavor that I had anticipated considering the ingredients that went into it. I expected more.

I used baby Vidalia spring onions and fresh potatoes from a small market and a vinaigrette made with fresh orange juice, orange zest, cilantro, oregano, orange liqueur, and S & P. I mixed it all up and was expecting something exciting.

On the bright side, the cooking set up worked perfectly for cooking bone in thighs and potatoes together at the same time. The set up for a Big Green Egg was 375f with the plate setter "legs up" (indirect heat) and a preheated stoneware dish on a raised rack like this:

I was curious how the thighs would cook since they had radiant heat coming from the plate setter below and the stoneware dish above. Turns out it all cooked perfectly at 375f for one hour, finishing at the same time.

You could do the same thing using indirect heat on any other type of grill or even in an oven.

Like I said, the technique was perfect but I didn't write this up as a recipe because the extra ingredients didn't add anything to the dish. The orange flavor wasn't even strong enough to be called subtle, it was entirely absent. They were "good roasted potatoes" but that's all.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cruze Buttermilk Grilled Chicken

Buttermilk fried chicken is rather common across the Southeastern US but you don't hear about buttermilk grilled chicken do you?

I found that ironic because grilled chicken enjoys the same benefits of buttermilk that fried chicken does, tenderizing and adding a tangy mouth awakening taste. So when I found some Cruze Dairy Farm's Buttermilk at a local market this week, I set out to create a buttermilk marinade for grilled chicken.

Cruze Dairy Farm uses the tag line "a farm forever" because last year they became one of the first farms in Tennessee to protect farm heritage by creating a conservation easement. It can never be sold or transferred for any use other than farming. That might not sound like a big deal but in Knox County, the trend is to snap up land like that and convert it to subdivisions or industrial complexes.

I have not been the best "locavore" but am trying to do better. I know I have a bunch of Knoxville area readers and I encourage you to support local farms and producers like Cruze Dairy Farm. You can find Cruze products at the Market Square farmers market and at many local retailers (a listing is available on their blog).

But back to my recipe. I browsed through a few buttermilk grilled chicken recipes but most of them had comments/reviews about being bland or they sounded bland to me in the first place. So I amped mine up in the flavor department and was very happy with the taste before adding the chicken.

Cruze Dairy Farm's Buttermilk Grilled Chicken
Source: Nibble Me This

2 cups Cruze Dairy Buttermilk
2 Tbsp cilantro, fresh chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp turbinado sugar (aka Sugar in the Raw)
1 tsp minced garlic (dried)
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp smoked black pepper (you can sub black pepper)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, ground
juice and zest of one lemon
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 ea whole chicken, cut into standard pieces
1 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped for garnish

Mix all ingredients except the oil and chicken in a large, coverable bowl. Then slowly add in the oil while whisking (think vinaigrette) to emulsify the oil into the marinade. Reserve 1/2 cup for glazing later.

Add the chicken pieces to the marinade, cover, and marinade refrigerated for at least 4 hours but going overnight is much better. Twenty four hours is even more spectacular. I know, this is one of those, "Does it really need to rest that long?" kind of things, but trust me, go at least 12 hours.

Set up your grill for a "direct heat" cook and preheat to 350f. I used the Big Green Egg using the grid extender to raise the grate. I used Earth Fare (carries Cruze products too) natural lump charcoal which is a steal at $4.99 for a 10 lb bag. Get it while you can because I'm paying $6-7 for 8.8lb bags of other brands of lump right now.

Grill the pieces for about 25 minutes, flipping every 5 minutes. Start brushing with the reserved marinade after the first 10 minutes.

Cook until the breasts hit an internal temp of 160f and the thighs hit 170f. You might have to take off some pieces before others as they finish. Remove and rest for 5 minutes.

Since it was "Sunday supper" we served ours with mustard greens and corn bread.

I have grilled a lot of chicken over the past few years and have had some extraordinary results. But I can say this is easily the best grilled chicken marinade I have made or tasted ever. I won't try another grilled chicken marinade, there's no point. I have created the perfect one for us.

Try this with bone in chicken, boneless chicken, or whatever chicken you like. Just give it the long soak and use a quality local buttermilk like Cruze Dairy Farm's.

I always give my STANDARD DISCLAIMER when reviewing a product but because my praise is so glowing, I wanted to make sure you knew that I have no affiliation with Cruze Dairy Farm. I didn't even know they existed before last weekend when I stumbled across their product at a small market.

I named this recipe after them because I'm proud of what they do and this recipe deserves a legacy like they have set for themselves. That might seem overly dramatic, but if you try this recipe I think you'll agree.