Saturday, October 30, 2010

Popcorn Balls and a Ghost Story

One of my favorite Halloween memories is that every year, Scott Schnipert's mother made popcorn balls to give out as treats. I didn't care what other candy I got, the one thing I always looked forward to and the first thing eaten was the popcorn ball that I received.

Popcorn Balls
adapted from Best Ever Popcorn Balls at Allrecipes

3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup butter
1 Tbsp water
2 1/2 cups confectioner sugar
1 cup miniature marshmallows
5 quarts popcorn (3 microwave packages worth)

Heat the syrup, butter, and water in a sauce pan, until simmering. Add in the sugar and marshmallows. Cook and stir occasionally until it starts to boil and mixture is well blended.

Mix the syrup mixture evenly with the popcorn, grease your hands with crisco and form into baseball sized or smaller balls. Speed is a factor here because you can't handle it when the mix is too hot but you have to form the balls before it totally cools and hardens. So I did the popcorn mixing in 3 batches, which just about filled a 13 x 9 dish.

So grab yourself a popcorn ball, pull a chair up by the fire here, and let me tell you my favorite ghost story.

Legend of the Booey Light
by Chris Grove

As a child, I spent several weeks a year at my grandparent’s tobacco farm in North Carolina visiting with my mother’s family. We would often sit on the steps of the old farmhouse on summer evenings, when the sun seemed to stall just above the tips of the trees across the field. While the insects lazily flew around the thick air, my adult relatives would tell stories of long lost family members, happenings in the area, and other tales. One of the most memorable to me was the legend of the “Booey Light”.

The ports of North Carolina have been bustling conduits of import/export since the first colonies were established. To support these establishments, railways cross the countryside to connect the rest of the country to the ports. In the late 1800’s, long before the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and worker’s compensation, railroad workers often suffered gruesome injuries.

As legend has it, just before the turn of the century, a young man took a job as railway worker worked the midnight shift on a line out of Wilmington. His name has not been passed down through the legend but it is said he took the dangerous job to save money to wed his sweetheart. On his first night on the job, a dense fog rolled in from the coast and blanketed the area. The yard man was instructed to travel out past the edge of the rail yard and to wave a lantern to warn approaching trains to slow down for the yard, since the engineer would be unable to see the usual signs. Knowing the engineer would not see him if he was more than a few feet from rail, the young man stood precariously close to the tracks. Hearing the sound of a train, the worker raised his lantern awaiting the train but thinking it was still far off in the distance. Apparently the fog even muffled the noise from the train, because it was much closer than he ever expected. The locomotive burst out of the darkness, striking the worker. The engineer never saw him until it was too late. Search parties were unable to find anything until the fog lifted late the next morning, when his lantern was found alongside the railway. His decapitated body was discovered shortly thereafter, thrown by the train into the swamp. His head was never found and remains hidden in the marsh to this day.

Shortly after the tragedy, mysterious sightings began along the railway from Wilmington that passed through Clarkton. On humid summer nights, engineers would talk of seeing lights floating along the tracks or in the nearby swamp. Rumor quickly spread that the young yard man’s body could not rest and had come back, roaming the swamps with his lantern, looking for his head. Wary locals would not travel through this area after the sun went down.

As a young child, I thought that after all these years of looking, the ghost had to have found his head by now and was no longer a threat. However, my adult relatives assured me that the Booey Light still inhabited the moorish railways of Eastern North Carolina. An aunt told me about how one man saw the Booey Light on a steamy summers’ night and followed it through a bog, where it disappeared near an abandoned whiskey still. Someone else passed on the story of two hunters who encountered the light and fired at it with a high power rifle. It promptly vanished. The most compelling account came from my older cousin, David. Being an older cousin and living in Clarkton, David was THE authority on the subject in my eyes. He described a time when he and several friends went in search of the Booey Light on a moonless evening. After walking the tracks for several hours without so much as a firefly, the teenage boys decided to call it a night. When the group turned around, they were stunned to see the light just behind them but it quickly disappeared. The stories fascinated me.

When I was nine years old, we visited David’s family in Clarkton. During the day, we played at the park, but just a block down the street were the infamous tracks. Word was that several of the teenage boys, including David and my brother Jeff were going on a quest to find the Booey Light after dark. My twelve year old sister, Rhonda, my younger cousin, Teah, and I decided that we had to tag a long. As the day faded into twilight, the three of us staked out the front porch, waiting for join the expedition. We could see the adults inside the house, catching up on old times. They would never miss us if everything went as planned. The older kids started towards the tracks and our trio started after them. They told us that this was “big kids” business and that we were not going with them. I was mad, mad, mad. I just had to see this apparition and I was not going to let some dumb old teenagers stop me. We waiting for about five minutes and then trailed off after them. Things weren’t too scary for the first half mile but that changed when we hit the edge of Clarkton and the streetlights no longer lit our way. We knew the boys were up ahead, but you could not see or hear them. I don’t remember us saying much as we walked. We were all quite nervous. On one hand, hoping to see the Booey Light and on the other hand, praying to God that we wouldn’t, we trudged along into the darkness. After what seemed like miles, we were scared, tired, in the middle of no where and realized we how far we had to walk to get back. A quick vote resulted in a unanimous decision to turn around. On the way back, every light we saw in the distance sparked the chance of still seeing the Booey Light. We made it back to the house without incident, which was a “disappointing relief”. Even though we never saw the Booey Light that summer evening, it was a special event in my childhood and just the fact that we had looked for it made the Booey Light more real to me.

In the summer of 1998, my sister and I took our families to visit our grandmother, who had moved into Elizabethtown from the farm. We sat on her screen porch, reminiscing of our childhood visits; playing on Grandpa’s tractor, chasing the cats under the house, the time it had rained and we played slip and slide on the gray clay road, ruining our clothes in the process. That lead to the telling of the Booey Light. Our kids sat and listened as we told them of the tales that had been passed on to us many years before.

That night, we decided to give our kids the full Booey Light experience. Late in the afternoon, we drove the 11 miles to Clarkton. It was a perfect night for finding the Light. Warm and sticky humid. The eerie tone was set when we pulled into the driveway of my aunt’s old house, which was only a few houses away from the tracks. It had burned down several years before and was never rebuilt. The brick shell of the house remained but the roof and interior were gone, replaced by a 30 foot tree growing up in the middle and giving it a post apocalyptic look. The sun had not yet disappeared so we had light as we walked along the tracks. As we neared the edge of town, dogs barked loudly and viciously at us. This made everyone nervous, since many of them were not fenced in or chained, but they did not come after us.

The granite rock bed of the rail road tracks noisily announced our presence as we walked into the swampy woods. We quickly began seeing skeletons of animals on the tracks. It seemed odd that so many of them would just happen to be on the tracks when a train came through. The evening slowly stole the sky from the sun while we walked away from Clarkton for the next 45 minutes and you could see less and less into the dense woods that lined the tracks. Soon the hunt had begun. All 6 sets of eyes were scouring the swamp, behind us, and the tracks that lay in the distance, for any sign of our prey. The sounds of the animals crashing through the undergrowth added to the thickening tension. Bugs flying through the air hit you like rain drops. You could no longer see the lights of Clarkton behind us and the only sign of civilization now was the occasional car that would cross a railroad crossing far in the distance. The chit chat among us had completely stopped because our jaws were clenched with suspense. Suddenly, a large owl burst out of the darkness and flew just overhead, causing everyone to screech with terror.

After realizing it was only an owl, we laughed and laughed, which briefly relieved our nerves. We continued on into the night, in search of the elusive Booey Light but it was no where to be found. It was getting late, we were physically tired from the walking and mentally strained by the stress, so we decided to turn around. Due to my cousin’s experience of turning around and facing the Booey Light, I glanced over my shoulder first! We kept looking for the Light was we headed back towards town, holding out hope that we might see it.

This particular stretch of rail road is called the Wilmington Subdivision and when it was built by Seaboard Coastline Airlines (now CSX), it was the longest straight stretch of track in the United States. My father worked for Seaboard for over 30 years, so I grew up knowing a lot of things about trains. One special pearl of wisdom was that you don’t pick up the sparkling granite rocks off the rail bed. This is because until a very recent incident involving a fishing boat under a railway bridge, passenger trains did not carry holding tanks for their rest rooms. Yuck! One of the most important train facts is that you don’t walk on tracks because a fast moving training can be on top of you before you hear it. Because of this, my sister and I both kept looking over our shoulders. We started seeing a light in the distance behind us. Because this track is so straight and long, your eyes can play tricks on you. We couldn’t tell if the light was a quarter mile away or 11 miles away. It would disappear briefly and then reappear. We kept our eyes behind us for the next fifteen or so minutes. Was it getting bigger and closer?

“Maybe it’s the Booey Light!” one of the kids exclaimed.

“Maybe it is some hunters who got lost and are following the tracks back in to town,” I countered, trying to throw some rationalization in.

My sister and I thought it might be a train, but then decided it probably wasn’t or it would have passed us by now. One thing was for sure. We weren’t going to stop walking to wait for it. By now, our clothes were damp with sweat and we were ready to be home. We picked up the pace, ever aware of the mysterious light on our heels. Before long, the light became constant and it was definitely getting closer. Finally, it was close enough that we could tell it had to be a train or a railroad truck on the rails. We kept walking until we found the widest clearing that we could and got off of the tracks, but there was only room to be barely off of them. It seemed like several more minutes before the big train silently approached us and swept by. I was amazed at how quiet it was right up until it passed us. The behemoth roared by only feet away from us, cooling us with the only breeze we had felt all night. Once it passed, there seemed to be a finality to the night. We weren’t finished but we could see the lights of Clarkton up ahead and we could sense that we weren’t going to see the Booey Light.

Back in town, the six of us piled back into our little rental car and I drove us back to Elizabethtown. Driving down Highway 711, I thought that while we didn’t see the light, that did not necessarily mean that I didn’t get what I had come for. After all, I knew that the Booey Light isn’t even a ghost. It is actually methane, also known as swamp gas, that spontaneously combusts in the right atmospheric conditions (i.e. warm, humid nights). I was able to do something very few people do anymore in these days of television, the internet and DVDs. I participated in a legend. The legend is not as much the story itself as the telling of the story. That night, I became a part of the Legend of the Booey Light by passing it on to my children.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Spiral Sliced Stuffed Pork Loin

If cooking was poker, then I went "all in" with this dish last night.

It was either going to be a huge success or a sloppy disaster. No playing it safe here.

I must have been out of my mind a few weeks ago because I accepted Joanne's (Eats Well With Others) Recipe Impossible Challenge sponsored by Marx Foods. Here is the challenge:

You are going to be sent a top secret mystery package from Marx Foods that is filled with 8 ingredients. You are going to pair two of these ingredients with winter squash to create a dish that I’m going to be so floored by that I’m going to want to eat it in mass amounts until I reach my orange-complexioned goal. It can be sweet, it can be savory. Basically, it can be whatever you want as long as it’s original, includes two of the mystery top secret ingredients, and features winter squash.

Here's the problem. I have never tasted or prepared winter squash.

To scatter my brain even more, Marx Foods sent me this diverse set of ingredients, giving me way too many options. Amazing things like coconut sugar, espresso salt, and fennel pollen.

Alexis and I batted ideas around like we were playing ping pong. This is what we came up with and to my amazement, it worked and I found out I like butternut squash. The plan was to have a spicy dry rub (no sugar) on the outside to counter the sweetness of the filling.

Spiral Sliced Pork Loin Stuffed with Butternut Squash

source: NibbleMeThis

1 pork loin roast

Dry Rub
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp pasilla negro chilies, ground
1/4 tsp aji panca chilies, ground
2 tsp paprika (I used my home made stash)

1/2 butternut squash
1/2 cup marscapone cheese
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
4 tsp maple sugar

First order of business was fire roasting the butternut squash. I fired the grill to 350f-375f with an indirect heat set up. We put the squash open side down and then added 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup apple juice.

We cooked them covered for about 40 minutes. Uncovered them, flipped them over and cooked uncovered another 20-30 minutes, until softened.

While that was going on, I made the rub. Since I knew the stuffing was going to be super sweet, I wanted the rub to be sugar free and have a little heat so I ground up about an 1 1/2 inch piece of the aji and pasilla chilies from Marx Foods.

These are mild, fruity chilies and have a rich smoky, almost chocolate-ish aroma to them when ground. I can't wait to try them with that espresso salt in a steak rub. Post forthcoming on that.

After the butternut squash (you are only using one of the halves, I just cooked both) is cooked and cooled, scoop out the pulp and blend with the filling ingredients. The "pinch" of nutmeg was about 4 passes of a whole nutmeg on a microplane.

Spiral slice the pork loin and then pound it even thinner with a mallet. If you aren't comfortable with that, you could ask your butcher to do it or just butterfly it, but it is worth the effort.

Season the outside with about 1/2 of the dry rub.

Flip and smear the filling on the other side.

Roll up, jelly roll style. This will make a mess but leave it there.

Tie up your little piggy and season it with a few more pinches of the dry rub. See, messy. But don't clean it off. It's part of my madness....err....planned design.

Sear the roast over a 500f grill (direct heat) for about 1 minute per side.

Remove back to your messy cutting board.

I didn't plan this ahead but I saw the "collateral filling" all over the cutting board and the extra seasoning in it, I thought about how I do beef roasts with a horseradish crust sometimes. So now smear the extra filling on the outside of the roast. (It was at this point I knew this was going to either rock or suck.)

I set the grill back to indirect heat at 350f and roasted it until it hit an internal temp of 140f.

Slice it thin and because it is 10 minutes until 10pm, eat it straight off of the cutting board. See how the extra filling crust baked on nicely? No more mess!

I really didn't know what to expect but each of us gave this one two thumbs up. I'm not an expert by any means and we were making a lot of this up as we went along. But the idea of the dry rub to balance the sweet filling resulted in a pork roast that I am proud of.

Joanne, thanks for forcing me to try butternut squash! It was not what I thought (and that's a great thing). Thanks to Marx Foods for the excellent ingredient pack. I will be trying out the beef rub idea on some ribeyes this weekend. (Check out their website, they have an incredible collection of products available in bulk.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

October: On Our Grills 4 Ingredient Challenge

It is the last Monday of the month which means it is time for the On Our Grills 4 ingredient challenge.

Each month we are given a list of 4 random ingredients (a protein, starch, vegetable, and fruit) and we have to create a meal utilizing all of them. Of course On Our Grills implies (i.e. explicitly states) that this is cooked with live fire, so at least the protein has to be cooked on a grill/smoker.

This month the 4 ingredients are:

Protein: Shrimp
Starch: Focaccia bread
Vegetable: Broccoli
Fruit: Pomegranate

I knew Alexis had my back on the focaccia, she's the resident bread queen, so all I had to worry about was the other three ingredients. Fortunately, I had an ace up my sleeve. A few weeks ago I won a pair of cookbooks from the seafood restaurant, McCormick and Schmick's courtesy of Greg at SippitySup. (Thanks dude!)
Fettuccini Alfredo with Herbed Goat Cheese and Grilled Shrimp
adapted from McCormick and Schmick's

3/4 lb fettuccini
1 lb medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 cup vinaigrette
2 Tbsp garlic chopped
1 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups cream (reduce to 1 cup by simmering for 15-20 minutes)
5 ounces herbed goat cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, fresh shredded

1 head broccoli, cut into 1" pieces, fresh rinsed, water still on
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ginger, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup chicken stock

Before getting all of that started, Alexis started her focaccia bread on her grill. It was our first focaccia so she just followed this recipe from Bon Appetit. She skipped the olives and used McCormicks Mediterranean Season Salt.

Then I had to cheat. I didn't have pomegranate. But I did have Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar...

...and the recipe called for a vinaigrette, so I whisked one up

1/4 cup pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 large clove garlic, mince
1 dried red chili, crushed
2 Tbsp parsley finely chopped

and marinated the shrimp for 1 hour.

Alexis cooked the fettuccini and cream sauce inside because I'm not going to try to boil water on the grill. For the cream sauce, saute the garlic in butter for a minute. Add the reduced cream sauce, goat cheese, and parmesan and simmer over low heat. We used goat cheese instead of Boursin that McCormick's used because I had it and needed to use it.

Then I "stir fired" the broccoli on my grill running at about 300f direct. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil and the garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes for about 1 minute. Add the broccoli (still damp from rinsing) and stir fry another 2 minutes. Add the broth, cover and let steam for another 3-5 minutes, depending how firm you like your broccoli.

Next, I grilled the shrimp. The fire had gotten to just over 400f from being open during the stir frying so I only had to do them about 2 minutes a side.

Then it is as simple as tossing it all together.

I was expecting NOT to like the shrimp because of the pomegranate but I'll admit I was wrong. That is the beauty of this challenge because I would not have used pomegranate flavored anything if it wasn't part of the challenge. And I learned that I like it after all.

The cream sauce was okay but I expected more flavor from the herbed goat cheese. I'll try this again but use the Boursin cheese instead. Overall, I was very happy with the results and I would make this dish again.

Curious about what other people did with the 4 ingredients? Check them out:

Grill Grrrl- Adventures of a Girl on the Grill
Robyn Medlin is the "grill girl" behind Her focus is on healthy, simple and creative recipes on the grill. She encourages women to learn to grill as it a great way to create healthy, flavorful dishes without all the fuss and clean up in the kitchen. This "grill girl" holds quarterly "Women's Grilling Clinics" as a way to encourage women to not be intimated by the grill. As a McCormick's flavor correspondent for their "This Week in Grilling Campaign", Robyn shares fun, tropical video recipes documenting her grilling adventures from her backyard in Sunny, Hollywood, Florida.
October Challenge Recipe

Grill Adventures
by Broadcast Marc (our newest blogger from the Netherlands!)
Grill Adventures by broadcastmarc was started in March of 2010. I started the BBQ thing when I was 30, before that we ate a lot outside. had fun, but when the kids came into our life we started serious cooking. Most of it is really healthy I think). The grill has a special place in my heart because we love to do things outside. Everything I make is an adventure, and sometimes we use the books. We try to grill as much as we can year round.
Marc's Ingredient Challenge Recipe

The BBQ Grail

The BBQ Grail website was created in 2007, initially to document the author’s quest to find the perfect backyard BBQ experience. Since that time The BBQ Grail has become one of the more popular BBQ blogs on the internet and is listed as one of the top BBQ blogs.
Larry's October Challenge Recipe

Into the Flames

Rob launched Into The Flames in the summer of 2010 as a way to share his passion for cooking, eating, and exploring food. His October Challenge Recipe:

No Excuses BBQ

The No Excuses BBQ website was started in January of 2009 as a way to record the author’s goal of barbecuing at least once a week throughout the year and showing the results to the world. Somewhere along the way things got out of control; two years later the streak is intact and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. In the process, No Excuses BBQ has become a fairly popular BBQ location on the web and is listed as one of the top BBQ blogs on
NO Excuse's October Ingredient Challenge Recipe:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Asian Pork Tenderloin Sliders

Alexis has really nice buns.

Her buns are cute, tight, and perfectly round. And they are just right for sliders, which is what we made last night.

But first, back to last weekend's Eggtoberfest.

Eggtoberfest Review - Part 1: Products
Eggtoberfest Review - Part 3: People
Eggtoberfest Review - Part 3: Tips
Eggtoberfest Review - Part 4: Chef Demonstrations

Sure it was lots of fun and we ate great food, but my whole purpose for going to was learn. When you get several thousand foodies around 250 groups cooking, tips and ideas are going to be floating around. You just have to pay attention and grab them.

For example, I noticed the team that made Greek pizza poking holes in their pizza dough after tossing it. I asked why and learned that it is called "docking". He explained it helps keep air pockets from bubbling up and results in a thinner more even crust. Idea stolen...errr...added to my repertoire.

But it's not just food tips, it's things like sources. Good lump charcoal is a must for the Egg and I have been using Full Circle for the past year or more. It's made by Royal Oak (who also makes the Big Green Egg brand of coal) and costs a little bit more, but I hadn't been able to find Royal Oak in the stores. We happened to meet Dr. H from Knoxville and he told us where we could find Royal Oak locally and save money.

Another idea I picked up was making pork tenderloin sliders. Friday night one of the dishes served was a grilled pork tenderloin with caramelized onions on a slider roll. I liked the idea but liked the pork tenderloin that TnVolKen made on Saturday better, so I decided to make...

Asian Pork Tenderloin Sliders

marinade adapted from TnVolKen

2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp dry sherry
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp ginger, fresh grated
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 ea pork tenderloins

Pickled onion mix
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced into matchsticks
3 mini sweet red bell peppers, seeded and sliced into matchsticks
1 mini sweet orange bell pepper, seeded know
1 small onion, sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup red pepper seasoned rice wine vinegar (I used Nakano brand)
1 tsp turbinado sugar

1 dozen slider buns

Mix the marinade ingredients together and marinate the pork tenderloins for 6-8 hours.

While that is marinating, make your slider rolls. If you don't want to make them, you can buy King's Hawaiian sweet rolls which are perfect for sliders. Alexis used THIS RECIPE to make the buns for ours. She baked them on a pizza stone on her Egg at 400f (plate setter in, legs down) for about 20 minutes.

See, aren't her buns the cutest?

The pickled onion idea was a happy accident. Originally I was going to marinate and then stir fry them. I marinated them for about 2 hours. I tasted one before stir frying and found they were tangy, sweet, and just turning tender but still had a little bite. So I just took them out of the marinade and skipped the stir fry altogether.

Take the pork from the marinade and wipe off the excess. Set up your grill at 350f and grill over direct heat for about 22 minutes, turning frequently, until they reach an internal temperature of 140f. (Notice how clean my Craycort grate is? I cleaned and reseasoned it for the first time since I got it almost a year ago. It's a workhorse!)

After a 10 minute rest, slice the tenderloin very thinly and assemble your sliders.

If you are feeling sassy, top it off with some sriracha sauce.

Since I made these during a football game (if that's what you want to call what Alabama did to Tennessee), it's only fitting that these are my submission to Tailgating Time.

Excuse the blurry photo but there was an impressive lunar halo around 1:30 this morning in East Tennessee.

I just happened to notice it and had to get a picture. I know it's just high altitude ice crystals but I thought it was neat. I'm a dork like that. Don't worry, that blue dot isn't a UFO, it's lens flare.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Flank Steak & Black Bean Tostada

Alexis and I met some great people last weekend at the Eggtoberfest and that is the focus of this post...People.

Eggtoberfest Review - Part 1: Products
Eggtoberfest Review - Part 2: People
Eggtoberfest Review - Part 3: Tips
Eggtoberfest Review - Part 4: Chef Demonstrations

If a picture is worth 1,000 words than here is about a kabillion words.

It was phenomenal getting to meet fellow bloggers like Gray from Grill Knuckles, people we have chatted with in forums, and people we met for the first time. Everyone was as nice as could be.

My recipe feature tonight is a combination of two recipes from the weekend demo cooks. TnVolKen's flat iron steak w/ pepper sauce & beer marinade and Bob Quiero's Rev'd Up Black Beans. I had to make several substitutions, not because the recipes needed changes, but because of I was just using what I had on hand.

Both rocked the flavor on their own, so how could they not be fantastic in a tostada?

Flank Steak & Black Bean Tostada

Pepper Sauce & Beer Marinade
adapted from TnVolKen from the Eggtoberfest 2010

1 Tbsp coarse grain dijon mustard
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 oz beer
3 oz beef broth
1 Tbsp Fire Ant Juice (or favorite hot sauce)
2 oz olive oil
1/2 ea chipolte, seeded and diced
2 Tbsp green onion diced (I used half from the white end and half from the green end)
1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp brown sugar

Mix together the first 5 ingredients, then slowly add the oil while whisking wapidly...errr...rapidly. Add the remaining ingredients and marinade flat iron, skirt, or flank steak for 4 hours.

While the steak marinates, prep the Rev'd Up Black Beans and start them about 30 minutes before you plan to fire the steaks.

I set my Big Green Egg up for direct heat at 400f and cooked it until it reached an internal temp of 125 for medium rare. That was just about 4 minutes per side for a total of 8 minutes for mine.

Rev'd Up Black Beans
adapted from Bob Quiero from the Eggtoberfest 2010

1 can Bush Brothers Seasoned Black Beans
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 ea chipotle, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup carrots, finely chopped
1/4 cup parsley
zest and juice of one lime
1 Tbsp Fire Ant Juice

This is one of those easy "everybody into the pool" recipes. Throw it all in a dutch oven and put it on a grill set at 300-325f.

After it begins to simmer, cover and cook for another 30 minutes.

Then lightly brush the corn tortillas with olive oil and toast for about 1 minute per side, until they are crisp.

Thinly slice the flank steak and assemble the tostadas. I added some Mexican crumbling cheese and more green onion to mine.

These were delicious. The beans were as good as they tasted at the Eggtoberfest. The steak was tender and the marinade had added great flavor to it. The only thing I wasn't crazy about was the grilled tortillas. I prefer mine fried and would probably take that route next time.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Easy Jamaican Jerk Chicken Kabobs

Eggtoberfest 2010 is just a memory now. What a blast. I'm going to recount the event over the next week or so. With each post, I'll also post a recipe that utilizes something I learned at the event.

Eggtoberfest Review - Part 1: Products
Eggtoberfest Review - Part 2: People
Eggtoberfest Review - Part 3: Tips
Eggtoberfest Review - Part 4: Chef Demonstrations

Today I'm going to talk about some of the products featured at the event.

The recipe I'm doing is an easier variation of my normal Jerk Chicken. But I've replaced the lengthy list of spices and herbs with Dizzy Pig Jamaican Firewalk rub.

Easy Jamaican Jerk Chicken Kabobs

3/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup orange juice
Juice of 1 lime
3 Tbsp Jamaican Firewalk rub (or other jerk rub)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 ea chicken breasts, boneless skinless, cut into 1" cubes
6 jalapenos (optional but you want them. No, you really do)

Mix the first four ingredients. Then slowly pour the oil into the mixture, whisking briskly. Marinate the chicken in this mixture for 3-4 hours. Note: When I'm normally use whole bone in thighs, I marinate them longer.

Cut the jalapenos in half, remove the seeds with a spoon, and then cut the halves in half. That would be quartered, in case you are bad at math like me. Basically you want 1" cube pieces. If you are totally afraid of heat, you can use bell peppers instead. If you are a chili head, use habaneros instead.

Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers alternating with pieces of jalapeno.

Set up your grill for direct grilling at a temperature of 350f.

It's the little things that count and here is a tip I got from Shawn, a rep from FireWire flexible skewers. I told him that I already had a set but he spent a good bit giving me tips and ideas anyway. Before I was just happy enough to use the FireWires to have skewers that fit inside an Egg since they bend. But he showed me if you thread the 'skewer' end through the 'loop' end, you can just flip it easily with the skewer end. FREAKING AWESOME and EASY!

Grill for 8 minutes, flipping halfway through. Using the FireWires with the skewer end out, it only took 2 seconds and no oven mitts since I kept the 'skewer' end out of the grill.
After 8 minutes, remove from heat.

Serve with Caribbean Peas and Rice. Here's a completely inauthentic variation I made.

Firewalk Beans & Rice
1 Tbsp bacon grease (or butter or fat of your choice)
1 cup long grain rice
1/2 onion, diced
2 cups water (already boiling if cooking on grill)
1 can Bush's Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon Fire Ant Juice (or your favorite hot sauce)
2 tsp Jamaican Firewalk rub (or other jerk rub)
1/4 cup green onion, sliced

Melt the bacon fat in a cast iron dutch oven over a 325f fire.

Add the rice and onions, sauteing until the onion is soft and the rice turning golden, as you would when making a rice pilaf. Add the water, beans, tomato past, hot sauce and rub. (If cooking on grill, switch to indirect heat now). Stir, cover, and cook for 18-20 minutes, until rice is done.

Note: If cooking this on the grill, be careful to keep the heat at 325-350 or below or you will scorch the rice. You might have to stir the rice a few times and add some water near the 12-15 minute time frame.

We served it up all together. Honestly, I just used the peppers to keep the chicken separated for a quicker cook but damn, I'm glad I added them. They roasted perfectly with the chicken and smelled intoxicating, like ABT's.

With the first bite of chicken, I got a ton of flavor but not much heat and was thinking I was going to be disappointed. But about 1/2 second later, I felt something growing. A slight burning sensation, just enough heat.

This turned out exquisitely, both the rice and the chicken. After cleaning her plate, Alexis said that we should cook this next year at the Eggtoberfest. Did I mention that I am a lucky guy?

Thank you to ALL sponsors and vendors that supported this event. Here are a few of the products that caught my eye at the Eggtoberfest.

  • Dizzy Pig BBQ Rubs - Easily THE most popular rubs used by Eggheads. I have not tried them for 2 1/2 years specifically because EVERYBODY else was using them. I like to do my own thing and not follow the sheeple. In retrospect, not trying these because everyone else was is just as baseless as trying them because everyone else did. This rub rocks.
  • FireWire Kabobs - I already had a set of these but picked up some good tips from Shawn on how to use them better. Plus their marinating kit produced some really tasty veggie kabobs at the event.
  • Big Green Egg - Duh, right?
  • GrillGrates - The jury is still out on these for me. I know they would be great (grate?) for someone who isn't well versed in fire control. Part of me wonders if they would act as a hybrid direct/indirect cook that could be useful in situations. [Note: the jury is still out comment is because I haven't actually used these myself. They caught my eye though. ]
  • Carnivore BBQ Sauces - bought 2 bottles of Big'Uns sauces to try later this week.
  • American Outdoor Kitchens - Excellent looking outdoor kitchen cabinets made from 100% post consumer recycled products. Looks great, is weatherproof, and it's a modular system that you can add to or rearrange later.
  • Select Outdoor Kitchens - Different but another fantastic outdoor kitchen system. I like the finish work on this set a little better and the fact that they engineered out some of the hardware (rollers that break down in a few years vs. the long lifetime these systems are designed to last).
Today's lessons:
[Standard Review Disclaimer] applies but I paid full price for this stuff.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Eggtoberfest Tailgate Party

The sun is just about to break the horizon and it looks like it is going to be a perfect day for Eggtoberfest here in Atlanta. Clear skies and mild temperatures.

Here are some quick photos from last night's tailgate party. The real fun starts about 1 hour from now.

Just one of the many rows of Eggs that will be fired up today. They're all over the place, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a Big Green Egg. (In part because they have a "no swinging dead cats" policy here.)
The food line was much longer than the beer line.
Several of the competition teams cooked dinner for the crowd.
The Dizzy Pig crew.

The XL Egg isn't a part of the band.....I think.
Alexis with a Sweetwater ale.
Shortly thereafter, she is signing a "if you crash the car into the wall I won't sue you" waiver before taking a ride around Atlanta Motor Speedway in a pace car.
Alexis going 121 mph.
Alexis and her driver.
It was a fun night. I'm looking forward to meeting a lot of people, exchanging some ideas, stealing some recipes, and sampling some great food today.