Friday, April 26, 2013

Spicy Mustard Chicken Salad and Product Review: The Shed BBQ sauces

We are starting to have some absolutely gorgeous Spring days here in East Tennessee.  Mild temperatures and sunny skies have the wildlife busy and everything is blooming.  

When Spring is at its peak, I often crave egg salad sandwiches and chicken salad sandwiches.   Anyway, I thought I'd put a spin on my usual smoked chicken salad just for something different.  I added some mustard based BBQ sauce to the wet ingredients and it turned out great. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Smoky Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

I know it is a bit early in Spring to be talking about ice cream but we just made the BEST chocolate chip ice cream this week.

I can't really take credit for it since it is just the basic no cook vanilla ice cream recipe we always use and the addition of one premium ingredient.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cornish Game Hens with Apricot Mustard Sauce

Want to make BBQ that will make your guests happy and your neighbors envious? I am reviewing a book that might just help you out with that.

Karen Putman and Judith Fertig
Published by Robert Rose Inc.

The Authors
Karen Putman was a prize-winning chef  who won many contests on the competition BBQ circuit, including a grand championship at the American Royal.  Judith Fertig is a food/lifestyle writer and cookbook author who has written eight barbecue books, including 300 Big and Bold BBQ and Grilling Recipes.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fiery Grilled Chicken Wraps

Do you ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes of a photo shoot for a cookbook?

I got to find out myself this past weekend when I was fortunate enough to participate in the shoot for Chris Lilly's newest cookbook.

Chris is a restauranteur and multiple time BBQ World Champion. Chris also wrote one of my favorite cook books, BigBob Gibson's BBQ Book.  Even if you don't BBQ and/or grill much, you probably still know him from his numerous television appearances on BBQ shows (Best In Smoke, Kingsford Invitational, BBQ Pitmasters, etc). 

I can't go into detail about recipes or show any plated shots.  Per a confidentiality agreement, if I divulge any sensitive information prior to the book's release, Mr. Lilly will confiscate our Big Green Eggs and include a declaration in his new book that I boil my ribs, use a crock pot for my pulled pork, and am a closet vegetarian.  

That being said, here are the bullet points
  • Chris assembled an amazing production team.  I thought my photography and food styling was getting “good” but after seeing them work, I realize I have only gotten “better” and have a ways to go. It was humbling and inspiring!
  • NOTHING is by accident or chance, every detail is planned, developed and photographed, down to how a piece of slaw drapes across a taco.
  • When accidents DO happen (despite previous statement), there is always a plan B, C, and D.
  • It takes a lot of work, smoke, and mirrors to make things look easy, natural and not posed.   
  • We were always working on 2-3 recipes in varying stages at the same time.  
  • Despite scheduling, the pace is hectic.  It was rush, rush, rush, wait, rush, wait, wait, rush. 
  • I lost track of how much Kingsford charcoal we used, but it was a lot and all we used. 
  • Chris has a great support system of family and friends that were johnny on the spot for anything needed.
Chris grilling a tuna dish.

The brown butter sauce smelled "to die for" on this trout dish.

This grill is Chris' Komodo cooker, a gorgeous and well designed kamado like my Eggs.

Ken making his paella on the grill.

Chris checking on some rednecked panini (not the real name).
For two days, I helped out any way I could.   We used five grills so I was getting the next one fired up and set up in advance for Chris.  I helped Ken Hess prep anything he needed from veggies to shrimp.  I cooked garnishes and mixed marinades/rubs as needed.  Hold a scrim up, find needed tools, and basically anything they needed an extra hand for, I did. 

During downtime, I carefully watched Ben Fink, Jeff Cavanaugh, and Pam Lolley work their voodoo on food styling and photography.  I took mental notes of what they did, especially the little things because everything was done with purpose.  I learned a lot but here are my takeaways:
  • Food styling - use more props but do so in layers, vertically and horizontally.  Focus on how props complement or contrast.  Use the props to tell the story.  Discover new settings around the house, quit using the same location. 
  • Photography - start using a card shot and then apply those white balance settings to the actual shot.  Learn to shoot tethered to a laptop with Lightroom.  Keep practicing. Get a camera set up like Ben's the next time I have an extra $20 grand or so laying around. 
I owe a ton of gratitude to Chris for allowing me to be a small part of their team for a few days.   What I can tell you about the recipes is that they were all impressive and several were "the best I've had in years".  This cookbook is going to be as good as his first book.  You will want a copy when it comes out next year, I promise you that.

Okay, back to the grill.   Alexis and I came up with this marinade standing in the produce department.

The base of the marinade is roasted habanero chiles for heat and juice from cara cara oranges to complement the citrus notes of habanero and corriander.  Cara cara oranges are very sweet.  You can substitute blood oranges if you can't find cara cara oranges.  The homemade, fire roasted salsa verde and ranch make a smoky difference but I guess you could use the jarred stuff if you HAD to. 

Fiery Grilled Chicken Wraps
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Ingredients (6 wraps)
You'll need
  • 2 lbs chicken cutlets
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tomato, thin sliced
  • 6 leaves green leaf lettuce
  • 3/4 cup Monterrey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup fire roasted salsa verde
  • 1/2 cup fire roasted chile ranch dressing [RECIPE]
  • 6 mission style sun dried tortilla wraps
For the marinade
  • 1/2 cup juice from cara cara oranges (about 2 oranges)
  • 1/2 ea white onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 ea habanero chile, charred, seeded, and diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp dried coriander
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  1. Whisk together marinade ingredients. Place chicken cutlets in a Glad zip top bag, cover with marinade, seal and refrigerate for 4 hours.
  2. Preheat a charcoal grill to high. Remove cutlets from marinade. Season with salt and pepper to taste and grill until the internal temperature reaches 160f, about 2-4 minutes per side (depending on the thickness of your cutlets). Remove and slice into thin strips.
  3. On each wrap, place 1 lettuce leaf, thin sliced tomato, one fourth of the chicken, and cheese. Top with a heaping tablespoon of the salsa verde and a tablespoon of the chile ranch dressing. Roll up burrito style (roll bottom third up, covering the filling, then tuck in the sides, and then continue rolling up into a cylinder).
  4. Slice each wrap in half and serve with extra ranch and salsa verde as desired.
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2 chiles was moderate heat, I'd go with 3 for a bit more kick.
TIP:  Habaneros are small and a pain to char stove top because you can set them on a gas burner like you can a larger bell or poblano chile.  A grilling basket over the burner makes it easy.

The salsa verde I do is roughly 1.5 pounds peeled tomatillo, 2 jalapenos, 1/2 white onion, 2 green onion, 1 habanero and 3 cloves garlic.  Char it all for about 5 minutes, turning until all sides black.  De-seed and peel the chiles.  Chop it all up in a blender, season with salt, cumin, and pepper and then simmer until thickened.

Much better than jarred sauce.

The cutlets are thin, so you need to cook them hot and fast.

Perfect for a summer dinner.
TL;DR -  Hung out at cookbook photo shoot.  Chicken wrap, yo!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Campfire Flat Iron Steak

I didn't feel like cooking tonight.  I planned to "mail it in" and do something with a rotisserie chicken from the store.

But as I was walking past the meat counter, I saw this gorgeous flat iron steak with web-like marbling and I couldn't resist. 
flat iron steak, tennessee beef

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lenny's Grilled Thai Shrimp

I have a dirty secret.

If you follow this blog, could get the impression that I eat nothing but meat for every meal of the day.  You might be surprised to know that if I don't bring leftovers to work, my favorite lunch is a VEGGIE SUB from Lenny's Sub Shop.  Yeah, this carnivore has a thing for VEGGIE subs. 

What does a sub shop have to do with a Grilled Thai Shrimp recipe? 

Easy.  Every time I get the same thing (on white, provolone, swiss, lettuce, tomato, onion, green bell pepper, pickles, black olives, oregano, mayo and the hot red pepper relish).   That hot pepper relish is what makes it so good.  I buy jars of it from them to use at home in recipes.  So Monday as I was paying for my veggie sub, I saw this recipe that they had.
recipe from Lenny's Sub Shop

I was going to make it but you know me.  I can't follow a recipe to save my life, I have to create something of my own.
Grilled Thai shrimp, Big Green Egg seafood recipe, grill dome seafood recipe, kamado grill seafood recipe, grilled shrimp

Lenny's Thai Grilled Shrimp

Prep Time: 10 min plus 30 min marinade
Cook Time: 10 min

Ingredients (2 dinner or 4-6 appetizer port)
    You'll need
    • 1 lb jumbo shrimp (10-15 ct), peeled and de-veined
    For the marinade
    • 3/4 cup coconut milk
    • 2 Tbsp Lenny's hot red pepper relish*
    • 1 Tbsp lime juice
    • 1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
    • 2 tsp ginger, fresh diced
    • 1 tsp basil paste (or 1 Tbsp fresh basil)
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1 tsp turbinado sugar or palm sugar
    • 1 lemon
    • 6-8 cocktail skewers
    • long handled tongs
    1. Put the marinade ingredients into a blender and thoroughly mix together. Pour over the shrimp and marinate for 30 - 45 minutes.  Note:  For mild, use 1 Tbsp of the relish, 2 for medium and 3 for hot.
    2. Preheat a charcoal grill to 500f and make sure your grill grates are clean.
    3. Assemble skewers: Place three of the shrimp on a cutting board so they are stacked, alternating head to tail as pictured. Piece with two of the skewers.
    4. Grill: Lightly oil the grill grates. Grill the skewers 3 minutes and then flip them. Add the lemon halves, cut side down. Finish cooking the skewers until the shrimp are bright pink and cooked through, another 2-3 minutes.
    5. Finish: Remove the skewers to a plate. Using long tongs, squeeze the lemon halves over the shrimp. Serve immediately.
    6. Serving suggestions - serve with Jasmine cilantro rice and stir fried veggies.
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    Lenny's pepper relish
    The hot pepper relish is vinegary, spicy, and makes a veggie sub kick it.
    I wanted a stir fry side dish but stir fry and shrimp need to be served quickly after cooking.  For us, it worked best to cook the veggie stir fry first then grill the shrimp, but you have to have it all ready to go before you start.
    Grilled Thai shrimp, Big Green Egg seafood recipe, grill dome seafood recipe, kamado grill seafood recipe, grilled shrimp

    Grilled Thai shrimp, Big Green Egg seafood recipe, grill dome seafood recipe, kamado grill seafood recipe, grilled shrimp
    Making the kabobs.

    Grilled Thai shrimp, Big Green Egg seafood recipe, grill dome seafood recipe, kamado grill seafood recipe, grilled shrimp
    Notice how the shrimp are alternated head to tail .  This promotes even cooking.

    Grilled Thai shrimp, Big Green Egg seafood recipe, grill dome seafood recipe, kamado grill seafood recipe, grilled shrimp
    Seafood deteriorates quickly so keep it on ice while getting the grill fired up.

    Grilled Thai shrimp, Big Green Egg seafood recipe, grill dome seafood recipe, kamado grill seafood recipe, grilled shrimp
    See the flavor in that marinade?

    Grilled Thai shrimp, Big Green Egg seafood recipe, grill dome seafood recipe, kamado grill seafood recipe, grilled shrimp

    Use tongs, the lemon and juice are still HOT. 

    Grilled Thai shrimp, Big Green Egg seafood recipe, grill dome seafood recipe, kamado grill seafood recipe, grilled shrimp
    I tried a side by side experiment with this.  I tried grilling with the shells on and shells off.  The one with the shells were a little more tender but had less of the marinade flavor.   The ones without the shells had the full impact of the flavorful marinade.

     How do you like to grill your shrimp?  Shells on or off?

    [Standard disclaimer] I have no affiliation with Lenny's and paid full price for the relish.

    Monday, April 8, 2013

    BBQ Eggroll

    BBQ restaurant menus across North America have pretty consistent menu selections of meats and side dishes but every now and then you find something a bit unconventional, for example, the Redneck Taco at Martin's BBQ.   I stumbled across an unusual find like that while on a working vacation in Perdido Key, FL.

    The Rib Shak is a BBQ joint located just inside the Florida border between Perdido Key and Orange Beach, AL.  I usually don't trust BBQ joints in tourist towns but they did have a nice rack of hickory and a reverse flow offset smoker was running so we pulled in for dinner.  

    BBQ wood pile
    Wood piles don't guarantee a good BBQ joint but they do increase your odds.
    It is small-ish with 10 tables inside but has more than that outside.

    The menu and the waitress both touted the "world famous BBQ egg roll" as an appetizer.  I thought that it could turn out really badly but I was on semi-vaction and it was on $2.50 so Alexis and I decided to split one.  
    The Rib Shak Orange Beach Gulf Shores Perdidio
    Only had my mobile phone with me, egg roll is at the bottom right.

    I was pleasantly surprised, it was weird but actually good.  The crisp shell gives way to sweet, smoky pork and gooey mozzarella cheese for a combination that works great as an appetizer.

    My prep time shows 10 minutes.  That doesn't include the 14 hour smoking of pork butt ( the Boston Roast) but you could use leftover crock pot pulled pork or even that packaged pulled pork. 

    how to make BBQ eggrolls, leftover pulled pork, BBQ eggrolls recipe

    BBQ Eggroll

    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 12 minutes

    Ingredients (4 appetizer portions)
    • 4 egg roll wrappers
    • 1 cup chopped smoked pork
    • 1/4 cup sweet BBQ sauce (I used Blues Hog)
    • 1 tsp BBQ seasoning (I used Drapers AP)
    • 4 strips of mozzarella 3" x 1/4" x 1/4"
    • Egg wash (1 egg and 1 Tbsp of cold water whisked together)
    • Oil for frying
    1. Mix the pork, sauce and BBQ rub together.
    2. Place egg roll wrapper on counter diagonally so one corner points towards you.
    3. Place 1/4 cup of the pork mix and 1 stick of cheese in the center lower third as pictured.
    4. Moisten top corner with the egg wash.
    5. Roll bottom of egg roll wrapper over the mixture as pictured. Fold the two side corners inwards. Roll upwards to the top corner. Repeat with other 3 wrappers.
    6. Place in 350f oil and deep fry until golden, about 2-4 minutes.
    7. Remove to a raised rack and keep warm while repeating with the others.
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    The Shed Spicy Sweet BBQ sauce, pulled pork,
    I'll cover the pork BBQ cook in the next post.

    Bad picture but another use for the trusty Thermapen, indoors or out.

    how to make BBQ eggrolls, leftover pulled pork, BBQ eggrolls recipe
    You can also break the cheese up like this, but we liked it whole better.

    how to make BBQ eggrolls, leftover pulled pork, BBQ eggrolls recipe

    how to make BBQ eggrolls, leftover pulled pork, BBQ eggrolls recipe

    how to make BBQ eggrolls, leftover pulled pork, BBQ eggrolls recipe

    how to make BBQ eggrolls, leftover pulled pork, BBQ eggrolls recipe

    We made seven different versions, some trying to get the right texture and then some just for variety.

    Version 1 - pulled pork, mozzarella, a little sweet and spicy bbq sauce.  The texture wasn't right, not enough sauce.
    Version 2 - pulled pork, pepper jack cheese, a little sweet and spicy bbq sauce.   Same as above and further away from the taste of Rib Shak's than version 1.
    Version 3 - pulled pork, mozzarella, sweet bbq sauce.  Closer but texture still not right.
    Version 4 - chopped pork, mozzarella, sweet bbq sauce.  On the right track.
    Version 5 - chopped pork, sweet bbq sauce, bbq rub all mixed together, then cheese.  Spot on, that is it.
    Version 6 - tried a version without cheese but added a "dry slaw" of shredded cabbage and carrots tossed in NC vinegar sauce then drained.  Was about a 50/50 ratio of meat/slaw.  Would be better 30/70 meat/slaw.  Worth trying again to experiment.
    Version 7 - vegetarian of just slaw.  Actually very good although not much different than a regular egg rollThis would be something that might be good to offer in a meat laden BBQ menu just to give your guests something different.
    Hmmm maybe I should have done one with pork and mac and cheese?    What's the most different thing you have seen in an egg roll?

    Saturday, April 6, 2013

    Triggers Breakfast Quesadilla

    Is it weird that the best breakfast around Perdido Key, FL is as a seafood restaurant?

    Triggers Seafood Restaurant is located on the sandy terrain of Gulf Beach Highway on the run in to the Naval Air Station.  We have eaten there every trip we have taken to Perdido Key in the past 4 years.
    breakfast quesadilla, sausage, Triggers Seafood, Pensacola

    It is a style that I call "Florida seafood shack".   A Florida seafood shack typically is a little worn around the edges, but it has great staff, is independently owned, and relies on the local fisheries for the freshest product.  It probably has a basic menu that covers the bases.  It is the polar opposite of the insipid environment of a corporate chain restaurant.

    One thing I am not used to from seafood shacks is breakfast service.  But Triggers does that exceptionally well.  Their pancakes are Trevor's absolute favorite anywhere.  They are plate sized, a mile high, and fluffy.  My favorite thing is a special that is not on the menu but they will make it if you ask - the breakfast quesadilla.

    Here is what I noted that is different about their quesadillas that I wanted to replicate when I made mine "Triggers style" last weekend.
    • crispy tortilla - not at all greasy or soft
    • almost an inch thick, huge!  
    • lots of crisp texture from raw bell pepper, not sauteed
    • fluffy eggs
    • not too much cheese
    Instead of the sausage, ham, or bacon options that they offer, I decided to mix it up a bit and use andouille.

    breakfast quesadilla, sausage, Triggers Seafood, Pensacola

    Triggers Breakfast Quesadilla

    Prep Time: 10
    Cook Time: 10

    Ingredients (serves 1)
    • 4 eggs, well beaten
    • salt and pepper
    • 1/4 cup Johnsonville andouille sausage, diced
    • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, diced
    • 1/4 cup sweet onion, diced
    • 1/4 cup tomato, seeded and diced
    • 1.5 Tbsp neufchatel cheese or cream cheese, diced
    • 1/4 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
    • 1 burrito sized flour tortilla
    • butter or oil
    • Cilantro, sour cream, salsa, etc for toppings
    1. Preheat a large non stick skillet over medium heat. Melt 1 Tbsp or so of butter and add sausage, bell pepper, onion, tomato, cream cheese, and half of the monterey jack cheese.
    2. Immediately pour in eggs and scramble 3-5 minutes until done and the cheeses are melted in.
    3. Place on one side of tortilla, top with the remaining monterey jack fold other side over.
    4. Put butter/oil mix on a 375f griddle and cook until crispy on both sides, about 1 minute each.
    5. Serve with Cholula hot sauce, sour cream, and cilantro.
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    Avoid the temptation to saute the veggies first if you want the crisp texture like Triggers.

    breakfast quesadilla, sausage, Triggers Seafood, Pensacola
    The andouille is fully cooked so you don't have to worry.
    The challenge was mimicking their crispy tortilla.  So many breakfast quesadillas have a soggy or greasy tortilla.  Triggers has a commercial flat top to handle that.  I used an electric flat top skillet set at 375f.  At that temp, the pressure of the steam trying to leave the tortilla is as great or greater than the pressure of the oil trying to get in to the tortilla.   So it keeps it from getting greasy.
    breakfast quesadilla, sausage, Triggers Seafood, Pensacola

    Alexis declared this better than Triggers.  I would rate it "as good as".  I definitely met the 5 objectives that I had for copying their awesome quesadilla.

    Then again, I should be able to nail it.  I ate it three days in a row while there.
    breakfast quesadilla, sausage, Triggers Seafood, Pensacola

    The staff at Triggers treats the many regulars like family and treats new visitors like regulars.  We had the same waitress all three days and it was like we had been coming there every day for 10 years.  She recommended we head up the road to catch the last day of the Blue Angles practice sessions.

    If you are ever in the Destin/Pensacola/Perdido Key area in March, do yourself a favor and spend a day at the Naval Air Station to catch the practice in the morning.  We saw it with 8,000 of our closest friends.   It is IMPRESSIVE.

    Any time of the year, visit the Naval Aviation Museum at the same site.  It is FREE and you will be amazed at the displays.  If you are like me, plan on spending a full day, the place is HUGE and the exhibits are detailed. 

    Baa Baa Blacksheep anyone?

    From the first planes to modern fighters.

    Obligatory beach shot at Perdido Key.  Looks pretty but it was cold and windy.
    TL;DR - If in Pensacola/Perdido Key area, go to Triggers for breakfast and then the Naval Aviation Museum located in the Naval Air Station.