Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Egg Central Took A Direct Hit

Fortunately, we are all safe and sound. 

Egg Central took a pounding from large hail.

I'm pretty sure my First Up shelter is toast, ya think?

This is about 30 minutes afterward, they were bigger when the fell.

Having lived through this in 2002 I know that the roof of our house is totaled.  Another round is headed this way right now, just minutes away.

But given what hit Tuscaloosca today, what's going on in the rest of the world, I still feel lucky and fortunate.  Stay safe everyone.

UPDATE:  Second round finished it off but we are well.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

BBQ Rib Class at Dead End BBQ

We're fortunate to have Dead End BBQ in Knoxville, TN.  Not only do they make fabulous bbq and the best brisket in Tennessee, each year Dead End BBQ presents a series of barbecue and grilling classes.  They bring in the established names with world champion pedigrees like Mike Davis and Chris Lilly.  But they also include equally talented local gurus like Billy Bob Billy of Holy Smokers Too.  This year they have added grilling dynamo, Robyn Lindars of and to conduct one of her women's grilling clinics that Alexis will be attending.

The classes are first rate.  They are taught in the comfortable covered patio area at Dead End BBQ.  It seats 32 so it's the perfect size for a class.  Big enough to accommodate you but small enough to ask questions without having to shout.   The exceptional staff wait on you the entire class, a notable difference.  Your drinks are kept full and the tables bussed constantly.  One of my favorite amenities is the overhead camera and large screen TV so everyone can see what the instructor is doing when prepping something on the table.  

Yesterday I took the rib class taught by co-owner George Ewart.   George is a funny guy - when I walked in, he kidded around and asked if I was going to be able to learn anything from the class since I'd just been to Kingsford University.  Learn I did!  Here are some of the highlights of the day.

First off, we got to try a new appetizer they are going to offer - Pond Gap Pups, named after the local part of town.  They are de-friggin-licious, seriously.   From what I could tell, Pond Gap Pups are small hush puppies with some bbq rub and a little pulled pork in them.  In flavor, they are kind of like a cross between a hush puppy and those sausage cheese balls.  Perfect bite size flavor bombs.  I'm going to have to kidnap the rooster and pig mascots from the patio until George tells me how they make them.

George discussed strategies behind making a good bbq rub.  If making a rub with brown sugar,  spread it on a tray dry it out in a 150f oven to get the moisture out of it first, before adding to the rub.  I hadn't heard that before but I will definitely be using that tip from now on.  Then we each made a batch of dry rub.

On of the most hands on classes I've had, loved it.
Next, George compared and contrasted the types of pork ribs, discussed sourcing options, and showed how to cut a St. Louis style rib. I picked up a tip on using the 4th rib as a guide, I always just went by feel.
George playing a loin back harmonica!  Kidding - juxtaposition.
Then it was time for us all to practice removing the membrane. 

Time to rub our ribs.  Here's a simple tip, yet it is the biggest thing I walked away with because this little step helped me make a sweet rib that I like.  Normally I don't like sweet ribs.  Before putting the rub on, dust the rib with black pepper.  I've always just let the pepper in the rub suffice.  But this helped contrast the sweet at the end.  This one tiny detail made a big difference for me.

Rubbed up and ready to go into the smoker.

While our ribs smoked, George talked about smoking pork.  One thing I didn't know is that there is a vein that should be trimmed out because it is tough and won't render.  It is above the bone on the non-fat cap side.  Here George demonstrates how tough it is by holding up the 8lb butt with it.

Then we got to have some pulled pork.  There is no better bbq than pork right off of the cutting board will still hot.  
Ever reheat pork and it dries out?  Warm a little honey to get it less thick, add a little BBQ rub to it and stir it into the pork.  

Next we all pledged allegiance to the brisket....

Just kidding, George was talking about where it comes from.  Brisket is George's specialty and he gave us the "up and downs" of brisket.  An "up" comes from a cow that was in excess of 1000 lbs, a "down" is less.  They have found the "downs" have worked better for them and have more marbling.  Another thing I learned is that I need to be more aggressive in my trimming on my next brisket.   Then we sampled one of the smoked briskets, dipping in the mouth watering au jus that was juiced up with George's secret.  What?  I can't tell you.  Go take the class :)

Finally it was time to foil the ribs.  I haven't foiled ribs in over a year, I've been smoking them naked with good results.  But yesterday we used a version of the butter/margarine-honey-brown sugar method that a lot of comp teams have used.  

Apparently, the stress of teaching the class was too much because George went bananas.  

He shared a dessert recipe with a highly technical name - Banana Thing.  He smoked a mix of bananas, brown sugar, and cinnamon until they were syrupy like this. (15-20 minutes at 275f...ok Howard, it was 274, ha ha)

Then he put them in pieces of puff pastry, brushed them with butter and put them back in the cooker until the pastry has cooked.  Then a simple drizzle of chocolate sauce.  

I don't eat sweets so I relied on Howard Pollock to be my Taste Correspondent.  After he finished groaning in approval and licking his fingers, he said that they were excellent.

We each made a glaze for our ribs.  You want me to put HOW MUCH of that sweet stuff in my glaze?  Really?  Oooookay.  Then we painted our ribs with the glaze.

Finally they were done around 2pm.  

I bit into my rib and was surprised at how much I liked the flavor profile.  It is a sweet rib that I actually enjoy.  This is good because I have always cooked ribs differently for my family (they like sweet) than I did for myself.  Now I have one that can make the whole family happy.

I had a great day at Dead End BBQ and even this old dog learned a few new tricks (actually 3 pages worth, I didn't share all or most of them here).  Thanks to George, Robert, and the staff at Dead End BBQ for a fun and educational Saturday.  It is well worth the cost of the class, I recommend them to anyone interested in BBQ, whether you are a competition cook or just a back yard enthusiast.

May 22, 2011 - Mike Davis of Team Lotta Bull.  George said registering for this class gets you entered to win a Yoder smoker.  
June 18, 2011 - Robyn Medlin-Lindars of will teach a LADIES ONLY grilling class. 

[Standard Disclaimer] - I have no affiliation with nor do I receive compensation from Dead End BBQ.  Although I do plan to extort the Pond Gap Pup's recipe from George and Robert.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Curry Chicken

I've never been a big fan of curry until the past year or so, when I got a mouth awakening curry from my favorite Thai restaurant here in Knoxville.     Since then I crave the flavor often and last night tried making Bon Appetit's Sri Lankan Chicken Curry.

The results were just okay.  It lacked the oomph! you expect from a curried dish.  I had such high hopes for it because the ingredients were fresh and some of my favorites (onion, cilantro, ginger, curry powder, garlic, red pepper, turmeric, etc).  It filled the house with the rich aroma.  But on the plate it just under-delivered.  It was too mild.  Sriracha helped doctor it up some.
  • Curry - The curry powder was brand new, so it wasn't that.  I wonder if curry paste would have been better.
  • Chicken - The chicken thighs were less than perfect.  They were poorly trimmed and had excessive fat in them.  Plus I made matters worse by overcrowding the pan during the browning portion of the cook. Maybe I should have let the paste sit on the chicken for a while. 
  • Coconut milk - I didn't use canned, I used the bottled coconut milk we had in the fridge.  I assumed it would be fresher and better.  UPDATE:  The milk is So Delicious brand and it says it is cultured, adding pre and probiotics.  Could that be part of the problem, can you cook with this stuff? 

I won't make this version again.  Help me out, do you have a favorite, rock solid curry recipe?  It doesn't have to be chicken.  Leave a link if you have one on your blog or another site. 

Dead End BBQ 2011 Cooking Series
This time tomorrow I will be taking the rib class at George Ewart's restaurant.  We'll be learning the ins and outs of how to boil ribs in beer and then cook them in a crock pot.  Just kidding, breathe.  It is going to be a hands on class on the finer points of slow smoking pork ribs. 

Later this year, 4 time American Royal champion Mike Davis from Team Lotta Bull will be teaching a class on May 22nd.  I took his classes at BBQ Boot Camp last year in Sevierville and enjoyed myself.

Then on June 18th, Robyn from will be teaching a ladies only grilling clinic, no testosterone allowed.  Alexis will be attending this one in lieu of me. 

If you are interested in these classes, visit Dead End BBQ and sign up.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hush Puppies

Hush puppies are "hillbilly beignets".   How can you not love their deep fried crispy shell and the savory moist corn cake inside?  Heck, they are basically corn dogs without the stick or hot dog!    (Well shucks, I said "heck".)

So here's how I made our hush puppies for the BBQ chicken dinner the other night.

Hush Puppies

1 3/4 cup white corn meal
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow corn meal
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups Cruze Dairy Farms Buttermilk
2 eggs

Mix dry ingredients together. 

Whisk milk and eggs together.   Whisk the milk mixture into the dry ingredients.

Preheat a deep fryer or a pan filled with 2-3 inches of oil to 350f.   Working in small batches (so you don't cool the oil down too much), carefully drop the batter into the oil in teaspoon sized portions. 

Cook until golden, about 3-4 minutes, flipping them to get all sides evenly cooked.  

Place on a rack over paper towels to drain.

Quicky Idea
Tonight was busy and chaotic, so we just grilled burgers.  I sliced 8 ounces of mushrooms and sauteed them 1 Tbsp of butter and 1 Tbsp of oil over medium heat for 5 minutes.  I added 3 cloves of chopped garlic, seasoned with some salt and sauteed another minute.  I divided that mixture, slices of swiss cheese, and stuffed it into four 6 ounce burgers.  Grilled at 400f for 5 minutes per side. 


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

What comes to mind when you think of big, organized (or semi-organized) cookouts? 

I think of "roadside chicken" which is a tangy grilled chicken.  It's what is often served at BBQ fundraisers for churches and youth organizations.

Back in the 1970's (right after the dinosaurs had died off), CSX hosted a big company cookout every year for the employees and families and they served this style of chicken.  We'd drive over to Burnett Park and you could smell the chicken grilling and see the puffs of white smoke as soon as you got out of the car.  Even as a 10 year old kid, I remember liking that chicken because it was different than the typical sweet BBQ sauce chicken that I was used to.

I was reminiscing about those cookouts this morning and decided I was going to cook it for dinner, complete with roadside chicken, grits, beans, and hush puppies.
bbq chicken dinner, barbecue chicken dinner
Yes, I actually used serving trays to replicate the "cookout" feel.

Roadside Chicken 
Adapted from The Virtual Weber Bullet

4 ea chicken leg quarters
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

3/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp celery salt

Mix the marinade and reserve 1/3rd cup for basting.

Marinate the leg quarters with the 2/3rds cup of marinade in a Glad™ gallon zip top bag for 4-6 hours.

Preheat your grill to 350f.  Set up the grill for direct heat with a "raised grid".

The raised grid is a compromise between direct and indirect heat.  It gets the food to cook 2-3 inches higher than it normally would.  This lessens the direct heat from below so the bottom your meat is less likely to burn.  At the same time, it exposes the top of your chicken to the higher convection temps (heat rises) getting a nice browning of the skin.  Here are some ways you can make a "raised grid".
  1. Make your own raised grid with a few cheap parts from the hardware store.
  2. Use the top rack that is integrated into the lid of most gas grills, instead of the main grate.
  3. Use a grill grate raised up by two fire bricks
  4. If you have an adjustable charcoal bed, lower it.  
  5. Use an inverted spider rig.
  6. Skip using a raised grid but CLOSELY manage your vents to control flare ups and flip the chicken every 5-7 minutes until done.
Grill the chicken leg quarters skin side down for 5 minutes.

Flip and sprinkle with parsley.  Use more than you THINK you'll need because the basting will wash 1/3rd of it off.

Baste with the reserved mixture every 10-15 minutes.  The regular basting is important because it builds layers of flavors onto the chicken.  Cook until the thigh registers an internal temp of 180f.  This took 55 minutes tonight.  Let rest for 5-10 minutes and then serve.

bbq chicken dinner, barbecue chicken dinner

The skin was crispy and the chicken delivered a tangy taste.  Just what I was looking for in my nostalgic pursuit of cookout chicken.   

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fire Day Friday and an Idea for Your Easter Ham

Fire Day Friday
It was my turn to post Fire Day Friday over at Our Krazy Kitchen today.  Click over there to find a quick marinated flank steak that was delicious.

Easter Ham 
One of the downsides to reading food blogs is that AFTER food related holidays, you see ideas that you wish you had seen BEFORE the holiday so you could have tried it.  I've been looking at some ideas for next weekend's Easter ham and I think I have settled on trying a version of this one from Chris Lilly.  I love cherry with ham so I'll swap out cherry preserves for the apricot.

Spiral Sliced Ham with Spicy Apricot Glaze
Makes: 8 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours

You’ll Need:
8 pound spiral sliced bone-in cured ham

Spicy Apricot Glaze
½ cup apricot preserves
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/16 teaspoon ground cloves

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the glaze ingredients and mix well.
  2. Double a large piece of aluminum foil and place the ham, flat side down, in the center of the doubled foil. Pour ½ cup of the glaze mix on top of the ham and spread it evenly over the entire ham. Wrap the aluminum foil tight over the ham and seal it.
  3. Prepare an outdoor charcoal grill for indirect cooking by situating the coals on only one side of the grill, leaving the other side void. When the grill reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit, place the wrapped ham on the void side of the grill and close the lid. Cook for three hours or until the internal temperature of the ham reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Remove the ham from the cooker, unwrap the foil, and place the ham in the center of a baking pan. Pour the remaining glaze over the top of the ham and spread it evenly. Place the ham back on the grill, close the lid, and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until the glaze firms. Remove the ham from the grill and serve.
Recipe created by champion pitmaster, Chris Lilly, on behalf of Kingsford® charcoal.  Reprinted with permission from Kingsford charcoal.

Do you do anything special for Easter weekend?  Have any menu ideas already in place?

Heavy rains are hitting Knoxville tonight so I'm cooking indoors tonight and planning out my weekend of grilling.  Have a great weekend everyone!!!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Grilled Chicken a la Lang

Adam Perry Lang is a fiery genius. 

Every time I make something from BBQ 25, I have been stunningly impressed.  Granted, I still have to execute the dish perfectly with my mad grilling skills (ha ha) but BBQ 25 gives you an arsenal of culinary tips and techniques that work. 

This week I used his techniques for grilling boneless, skinless chicken breasts although I made my own brine and baste.  Chicken breasts can be boring and bland, but not his!  His techniques include a bold brine, using a griddle, and shuttling the chicken back and forth from the griddle/grill and baste.

Finally, I'm a confessed sauce-aholic.  I was only cooking two breasts but made the full amount of baste.  I saw all that leftover buttery baste and decided to toss some pasta in it for a "Ooooh that is so good, are you kidding me?" side dish.

Grilled Chicken ala Lang
inspired by BBQ 25, Adam Perry Lang

2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless

2 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1.5 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper
1 ea jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 cups water
t Tbsp rice wine vineagar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 ea green onion, diced
2 cups ice

3 Tbsp oil
3 Tbsp butter
1 shallot, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp agave
1/2 tsp valencia orange peel
1/2 tsp oregano, dried
1 ea green onion, diced
2 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 roasted red bell pepper, diced (jarred peppers, not full size)

Mix the first 6 ingredients of the brine and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.  Take off heat and add remaining ingredients, bringing the temperature down to 40f.

Brine the chicken for 2-6 hours.

Rinse and dry chicken, rub with a little peanut or vegetable oil.

Preheat your grill and griddle to 350f.  I was using the griddle insert for my Craycort cast iron grate, one of my favorite features of this grate system.

One option is using a stove top style reversible griddle pan like this one I use.  You could always just use a cast iron skillet instead.

Hit the heated skillet with a Tablespoon of butter and the griddle the chicken for 6 minutes, flipping half way through.  I was interested that Adam used the griddle as opposed to straight grilling.  I would guess it is giving a more even color (more surface contact, maillard reaction).  Robyn, next time you hang with APL, ask him that for me, will ya?  

In the mean time, get your baste ingredients together in a small pan.  The Weber small drip pan is perfect for this.  Place on the grill.

Dip the chicken in the baste and put smooth side down on the grill grate.  Cook for one minute.

Dip the chicken in the baste again and put smooth side up.  Cook for one minute.

Dip the chicken in the baste again and flip, rotating 90 degrees from the first marks.  Cook for one minute.

Seeing a pattern here?  Alexis said this is another of our "dip and flip" chicken dishes.

Dip the chicken in the baste again and flip, rotating 90 degrees from the first marks.  Cook for one minute.

Check the internal temp now.  It should be in the neighborhood of 160f.  If not, move the breasts to the pan and let finish off cooking in there. 

When done, let the chicken rest for a few minutes.  I tossed some vermicelli in the sauce to go with the chicken.

It was so good we made it two nights in a row!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How To Make Stuffed Burgers - Two Options

Stuffed hamburgers have been around since at least 1954 but it seems like they have been a bit of a trend the past few years.  Or maybe I'm just noticing them more often since the Food Wars episode about the Jucy Lucy burger battle in Minnesota

Either way, I received a sample of the Burger Pocket Press to try out and decided to challenge it against my normal hand made process.  Excuse the weird audio at the end.  I was using a computer with an underpowered processor, I wasn't turning into Charlie Brown's teacher.  Waa wah wah waaa.

So how did the Burger Pocket Press do against my two hands?  I was honestly surprised.  Going into this my assumption was that this would do a decent job but nothing I couldn't already do by hand.  

I guess the biggest "wow" was the time difference.  As I was making them, it seemed like the Burger Pocket Press took much longer to make each burger than doing them by hand.  But after timing it on video, it turned out I was wrong.

Doing them by hand is still easier in my opinion, but that's just what I'm used to.  Old dog, new trick.

Hand made burger on left, Burger Pocket Press on right.

I was worried the Burger Pocket Press might not seal the burger as well.  That's why I focused on the "push and twist" technique and it worked because none of the 4 pressed burgers ruptured.  If you just press straight down like their video shows, I doubt you'd get the same seal.  Then again, I was sloppy with my hand made patties, normally most of mine hold up. 

There was no taste difference between the burgers.

I didn't plan on rating this category, it happened spontaneously.  No one in the house has EVER offered to help me with making burgers.  But as I was doing these, everyone was curious and my wife and 11 y/o son both got involved, having fun making their own burgers.  Even after dinner, both of them kept offering ideas for the ultimate stuffed burger recipe.

Some of the other selling points about this tool is that it is dishwasher safe, made in the USA, and can also be used to make regular hamburger patties.  The only downside is that I think the price point might be a deterrent for impulse buys.

In summary, whether made by hand or Burger Pocket Press stuffed burgers are juicylicious, fun, and get attention from the crowd.  If you really want to impress your family and friends at cook outs this summer, don't just grill burgers.....tell 'em to STUFF IT!

[Standard Disclaimer]  I received the Burger Pocket Press as a free sample from the manufacturer. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

10 Tips For Grilling Away From Home

Spring is finally here.  Trees are blooming with color, you can feel the warm kiss of the sun, and the wildlife is abuzz with activity.  People get more active in Spring too.   We want to get away from the homes that we have hibernated in over winter and explore the parks, lakes, and scenery around us.  

Grilling should be a part of that fun, it makes recreation better!  I am sure you can easily think of a time when you were enjoying yourself at a park or near the water.  Things were fine, you have had a lively day so far but then someone nears you fires up a grill and starts cooking out.  The aroma of the charcoal and the sizzle of the grill made you wish that YOU were also grilling.

We had a "going away party" at the office yesterday for one of our Team Leaders and I was cooking the meat.  I smoked a pair of 7lb pork butts on my Big Green Egg overnight for pulled pork sandwiches. (Pic is from about 3 hours into the 13 hours they spent in the Egg.)

Does this grill make my butts look big?

But I also wanted to grill a little something on site just to make it a little more festive.   I made it "take your grill to work day"!

I grilled some simple chicken kabobs on my portable grills at that office.
 The foil is to help keep the skewers from burning.

It took a little planning, but it was fun and worth it.  Fresh off of that experience, here are...

10 Tips for Grilling Away From Home
  1. Keep It Simple - Keep It Fun!  That's the whole point, isn't it?   While it might be tempting to "wow" the crowd with your grilled beef wellington, you will have more fun if you plan a simple menu with items that don't require a lot of on site prep and that have short cook times.  I like things like burgers, dogs, sausages, pork chops, fish fillets (for guests, not me), and chicken pieces.
  2. Prep Ahead.  Anything that can be done ahead of time at home will mean less utensils to take, less trash to deal with, and more time to spend socializing at the cookout.  For example, I cut my veggies, chicken, made my marinade, and assembled the kabobs at home.  I put them in a plastic container and poured the marinade over them, so all I had to do at work was grill them.
  3. BYOG - Bring Your Own Grill.  The installed grills at most parks are a last resort.  They are designed to withstand abuse and the elements.  Generally they are inefficient, ornery, and not well maintained.  You are better off bringing your own portable grill.  I like ones like the Weber Smoky Joe because it's inexpensive ($30), fits easily in a car trunk without disassembling it, and it has good airflow control.  I have had self contained units like this one and they are easy to use and transport.  There are some interesting folding notebook style grills like the one Adam Perry Lang uses in this video.  Generally I avoid the prepackaged all-in-one disposable grills because the three I have tried were not very effective and the "coal" was poor quality.
    Front is a Bodum.  Back is a Smoky Joe w/ Craycort 14.5" grates.
  4. Know The Rules.   Many parks and recreation areas have grilling rules including specified areas, ash disposal, and seasonal bans.  Find out the rules before you go so you aren't surprised with getting shut down mid-cook and/or getting a citation.  That's probably not much fun.
  5. Sanitation.  You most likely won't have a hand wash station with hot water available.  My first line of defense is taking and using nitrile gloves, lots of them.  Take as many as you THINK you'll need and double that.  I also put 1 Tbsp of Clorox bleach in 1 gallon of water as a sanitizing solution (200 ppm)  and leave that in the car.  Then when I need it, it's warm from the heat in the car.
  6. A Tale of Two Coolers.  Speaking of sanitation, you will probably have cold raw ingredients (your meat, veggies, etc) and cold ready to eat ingredients (condiments, side dishes).  I like to take two separate coolers to avoid any possibility of cross contamination.  
  7. Gimme Shelter.   Some parks have covered eating areas.  Check ahead, some around here are reservation only, others are first come first serve.  Pop up canopies like the EZ-Up are great for providing instant shade and cover.  If none of these are available, look for natural shade.
  8. Get It In Gear.   Think through WHAT and HOW you are going to cook and serve on site and take note of all the gear you will need.  The basics include an instant read thermometer, tongs, spatula, heat resistant gloves, charcoal starter and serving utensils.  But think about what you plan to do and make a list. 
  9. KEEP IT CLEAN ! !  Nothing is more selfish than to go to a park or recreation area to enjoy the scenery and atmosphere and then tarnish that area for others by leaving your trash behind when you leave.  Double and triple check your area when leaving to make sure that you have left no sign that you've been there. 
  10. ...
What about Tip #10?   I thought I'd let YOU fill that one in.  What is your best trick/tip for grilling or cooking away from your home?  

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    South Carolina Style Mustard BBQ Sauce

    I am smoking some pork butts tomorrow night for an office party on Friday.   Since different folks have varied tastes, I'll be serving it with a choice of sauces including my favorite Piedmont style sauce, a sweet sauce, and a mustard sauce.

    Yeah, a barbecue sauce made from mustard.

    Unless you hail from central South Carolina, that probably sounds weird to you.  But mustard and vinegar based bbq sauces are the standard in the "Mustard Belt" across South Carolina.  They are tangy, spicy, and sweet. 

    For me, I fell in love with mustard BBQ sauces about the same time I was falling in love with Alexis.  We were co-workers and often shared lunch together at Woody's BBQ in Jacksonville, FL. They used mustard BBQ sauces. I hadn't seen a golden BBQ sauce before but I loved how it tasted on the large turkey sandwiches that I would usually get.

    Last night, I did a test run and made 4 batches of mustard style sauces and then we did some blind taste testing. 
    south carolina style mustard sauce

    We both ended up picking the same one out of the four.  It is a variation of the one we have used for years, but drops a thing or two and adds two "secret ingredients". 

    south carolina style mustard bbq sauce
    See all of those specks of flavor?

    The chipotle mustard and "apple pie" moonshine are my secret ingredients and give it the signature flavor I was looking for.  The chipotle adds a smoky and spicy profile.  The apple pie moonshine is a kickier version of cider vinegar. 

    South Carolina Style Mustard BBQ Sauce
    1/2 cup yellow mustard (you want a plain yellow mustard like French's)
    1/4 cup chipotle mustard (I used World Classics brand)
    1/4 cup light brown sugar
    1 cup cider vinegar
    1/4 cup apple/cinnamon flavored moonshine
    2 tsp chili powder
    1 tsp black pepper
    1 tsp white pepper
    1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
    1/2 tsp soy sauce
    1 Tbsp butter

    Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.

    Tonight, we tested it on grilled chicken.  We fired up Alexis' Big Green Egg to 350f.  Notice how the storms have stripped all but one of the Eggs off of our Easter Tree?  

    Grilled them 6-8 minutes per side, glazing them with some of the sauce in the last 2-3 minutes.

    I pulled them off individually as they hit an internal temperature of 160f.   Within a minute of bringing them into the house, Trevor came bouncing down the stairs saying, "I smell something GOOD!"

    mustard grilled chicken

    They came out excellent and the sauce grilled onto them nicely, yielding a bit of all the flavors.

    grilled mustard chicken

    Now I can't wait to taste it on pulled pork Friday morning!

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Stormy Sky Stir Fry Chicken

    After a long Monday at work, I was ready to get home and ready to grill up a storm for tonight's NCAA men's basketball championship game.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature beat me to the "grilling up a storm" part.

    Squall lines, strong winds, and tornado warnings made me reconsider.   The only reason my First Up covering wasn't flying away was because we had it tied down and 40+ pounds on each of the 4 feet.

    So I regrouped and came up with this stir fry in the kitchen.  If you wonder why I use a blend of sesame oil and peanut oil, it's because
    1)  Sesame oil gives a strong flavor and is associated with Asian dishes but to me, the flavor by itself is too strong and
    2)  Peanut oil has a high smoke temp, tolerate of stir fry temperatures.   Together, the two are a nice blend for my tastes.

    Stormy Sky Stir Fry Chicken

    1 tsp sesame oil
    1 Tbsp peanut oil1 lb thinly sliced chicken (I deboned two breasts and sliced the breast and tenderloins into 1/4" slices)
    1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
    1 tsp black pepper
    1 green bell pepper, seeded & cut into 3/4" pieces
    1 small yellow onion, peeled and cut into 3/4" pieces
    3 Sweet mini peppers, sliced on a bias and seeded
    1 stalk celery, sliced thin
    2 green onions, sliced in 3/4" pieces
    3-4 cloves garlic, sliced
    1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into matchstick sized pieces *see note
    1/2 cup Mr. Yoshida's Sauce (or teriyaki)
    1 heaping Tbsp hoisin sauce
    1 tsp sriracha sauce
    1/2 cup chicken stock
    1 Tbsp corn or potato starch
    3 Tbsp cold water
    4-5 leaves of Napa Cabbage, cut into 3/4" slices

    Preheat your wok over medium high heat.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

    The thing about stir frying is that it happens so fast.  You HAVE to have all your ingredients prepped and measured out (aka "mess in place" errr..... mise en place).

    See?  I CAN cook without a grill.  I just don't like to.

    Add the oils.  Once hot, add the chicken and stir fry until done.  This should take about 3-5 minutes depending on how hot you got the wok.  Remove from the wok and add a Tbsp more of peanut oil if needed.

    Add the bell pepper and onion.  Stir fry for 1-2 minutes.

    Add the sweet mini peppers, celery, and the firmer white parts of the green onion.  Stir fry for 1 minute.

    Add the ginger and garlic, stir fry for 1 minute.

    Move the contents to the edges of the wok and add the Yoshida's, hoisin, sriracha and chicken stock.  Allow to come to a simmer for 30 seconds.  Stir together the cold water and starch to make a slurry.  Add enough of this to thicken the sauce.  You want a consistency that when you dip a clean spoon into the sauce, it clings lightly to the back of the spoon.

    Return the chicken to the wok.  Add the napa cabbage and green parts of green onion.  Toss, reduce heat and cover for 1-2 minutes, just enough to wilt the cabbage.  

    Serve with sweet jasmine rice and top with crispy rice noodles.  

    The whole family liked this one and all 4 of us had seconds.

    The worst of the storm has passed so now I can enjoy the lightning flashing and the thunder echoing across the valley.  It makes me appreciate being at home, safe, dry, and with a full stomach.  Very thankful.