Thursday, October 30, 2014

Beef, Vermont White Cheddar and Pancetta Sliders with Fire Roasted Fries

"What are you doing?" Clint asked as I stood at the hotel window with my zoom lens camera in one hand and my kitchen timer in the other.  

I was shamelessly shigging, I guess.  I was watching the Burger Fi cooking crew five stories below and watching how they did their sliders on a flat top griddle and, yes, I was even timing their burger flips using a kitchen timer.

Burger Fi crew as seen from my hotel room. Wonder if they had "that feeling" they were being watched.

My friend, Clint Cantwell, and I were in Atlanta to do cooking demonstrations for Big Green Egg at the Taste of Atlanta.  The event had 90+ restaurants serving and 4 live cooking demo stages.  I got to cook with some great people at the festival and at the Big Green Egg corporate location - my next post will be about all of that.  But this post is about these sliders.
Burger Fi is a relatively new burger chain that focuses on building a better burger by using simple, quality ingredients like all natural beef.  They recently opened a store in Knoxville on the Strip by campus and it is quite popular.  But my first time getting to try Burger Fi was at this food festival, where I got the double slider and fries.
Isn't it cool how they brand their buns?
After an event like this, I like to come up with a recipe inspired by the event so I decided to put my spin on the sliders they were serving.  I used their principles to guide what I was doing with my sliders.
  1. Use quality, all natural beef - Burger Fi is one of many restaurants serving Meyer Natural Angus.  I went to the Meyer Ranch last year and saw first hand how they manage their cattle with no hormones or antibiotics.  They are an incredible organization that puts out top notch beef.
  2. Keep it simple - they let their quality ingredients shine.  So I keep the seasonings simple, just some salt, pepper, and garlic.  
  3. Hand cut fries - the fries were crispy, golden, and melt in your mouth delicious.  They fry theirs of course but I decided to do a fire roasted version.
  4. Branded buns - When I won a burger contest hosted by McCormick GrillMates a few years ago, one of the prizes was one of those customized steak brands so you can sear your initials into a steak or burger.  I hadn't used it yet but thought I would try it on the buns like they do.
I upgraded the cheese to white cheddar which works great on burgers. I also skipped the lettuce and tomato and added pancetta. They used a flat top griddle and I have one but I wanted to use my Big Green Eggs so I opted for a griddle plate on the grill instead.  You could use a skillet, salt block, or grilling stone instead.  Use what ya got.  You might have to do the burgers in small batches depending on the size.

These would be ideal for a tailgate situation because you can make the ground beef balls hours in  advance.  That is why I don't add the salt to the beef mixture - it can draw out moisture from the meat.  Instead I only season with the salt as the burgers are cooking.  

tailgate, grilling, burgers

Beef, Vermont White Cheddar, and Pancetta Sliders

Friday, October 24, 2014

Smoked Brisket Sliders, A Tailgate, and El Diablo Giveaway

One important rule about tailgating is to always have a Plan B.  

El Diablo Mustard offered to sponsor one of our tailgates this year so we planned an outdoor event at our older son's house for one of the University of Tennessee away games.  We were going to do everything outside and the day had been beautiful blue skies.  But just as we were getting set up in the back yard a few hours before the game, the winds blew, the skies turned dark, and the temperatures dropped.

Dark clouds rolling in...

We weren't sure if it was going to rain but the wind was blowing everything over and it was cold so we just went with Plan B and moved everything indoors.  The food tasted just as good inside and everyone had a blast.  The menu we picked was:

Nachos and Red Hatch Chile Queso
Smoked Bologna
Smoked Beef Brisket Sliders with Crispy Fried Onions
Golden Chipotle Wings
Mango Mustard Slaw
Pit Beans

Shot recreated on a much less windy afternoon...with leftovers that were still great!

It may seem a little counter-intuitive to make a big meat like brisket or pork butt for a tailgate but it actually makes logistical sense.  You can cook those meats at home, put them foiled in a cooler or Cambro, and hold them for 4 hours.  All you have to do at the tailgate is slice or pull it.

For this brisket, I used the El Diablo Steakhouse Mustard as a slather.  Mustard slathers are nothing new in BBQ, the mustard acts as a binder for the seasoning rub and the vinegar in the mustard also provides a tenderizing effect (although I think the latter is more "old pitmaster tale" than fact). But the varieties and heat that El Diablo Mustard has bring something new to the game - a more complex flavor.  

Dat smoke ring...

Smoked Beef Brisket Sliders with Crispy Fried Onions
Serves:  10-12

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Product Review: Kamado Grill Accessories by Innovations by Chance

One of the cool things about going to regional Eggfests is that you get to see the newest accessories for your Big Green Egg or other kamado grill.  At Porkopolis in Cincinnati this Summer, I had the pleasure of finally meeting Mike Chance in person. 

Mike is the founder of Innovations by Chance, a company producing some rather cool accessories for kamado grills like the cast iron platesetter pictured above.  We spent some time talking about some of his new rigs, his new table, and his current line up of products.  Mike talked about how he got into this line of business.  Like often is the case, necessity was the mother of invention.  Mike needed somewhere to put hot and greasy grill grates when working in the Egg so he created his first Eggvention - the Great Rack.   

Mike followed up our conversation by sending me several of his products to try out.  I'm not someone to use a product once and then review it - I put the items through about 6 weeks of use and then I put together these following video reviews.

Fishbones Charcoal Grate
Retail: varies by dealer but in the $30-35 ballpark

Raiser Rig
Retail: varies by dealer but in the $30-35 ballpark

The Claw
Retail: varies by dealer but in the $18-22 range

You can find these and other Innovations by Chance products for sale at these dealers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Smoked Brisket Nachos and the 2014 Kentucky State BBQ Festival

I had the craving for some smoked brisket nachos last weekend.

brisket leftover, tailgating, smoked beef brisket bbq nachos

Normally I would grab a pack of sliced brisket from the freezer but alas the freezer was bare. So I smoked a brisket just so I could have some brisket nachos.

smoke brisket, bbq brisket, kamado grill, big green egg brisket

I'll do a full post about the brisket later, I did do a few tweaks that worked well but this post is about the nachos.

This isn't really a recipe per se, just an idea that a lot of barbecue folks often use when we have leftover pulled pork or brisket.  It is just a base of tortillas and cheese sauce with the meat of your choice and whatever toppings you want. If you don't have leftover BBQ, just pick some up at your local BBQ joint.  Most sell take out by the pound or quart.

This particular time, it was:
  • Nachos
  • cheese sauce - not too much, just a zig zag of it across the chips
  • chopped brisket - about one slice per order of nachos
  • BBQ rub
  • another zig zag of cheese sauce
  • shredded colby jack cheese
  • black olives
  • sliced jalapenos that my neighbors jarred and are HOT 
  • bbq sauce drizzled across it all 
  • topped with chopped green onion
beef brisket, tailgate, bbq nachos

These really hit the spot while watching the weekend's football games with Trevor.  They also reminded me of the Kentucky State BBQ Festival from a few weeks ago because BBQ nachos was one of the things we served.

Kentucky State BBQ Festival 2014 - Danville, KY
Before I get into what a great event this was, how wonderful the team was, and how nice Danvillle is, let's get one thing out of the way - this was the hardest BBQ event I have ever done.  I was physically exhausted after the weekend. That said, it was a blast.

The Kentucky State BBQ Festival isn't a contest like most of the events that you see me doing.  This is a big party and culinary event celebrating all things BBQ.  There are just 7 pitmasters and their teams feeding the throngs of people.  I heard a crowd number of 50,000 and that would not surprise me.  Our team alone literally served more than one ton of food. 

I was lucky enough to be cooking with Shane Draper's team - Draper's BBQ.  I couldn't ask to be a part of a better team - EVERYONE busted their butts. We ran like a well oiled machine at times.  Other times we were in the weeds but we pulled together, cranked up the weed-eater, and got ourselves back up to speed. But at all times, we did it together.

Our Menu
Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Smoked Bologna Sandwiches
BBQ Nachos
Kentucky Cheese Steaks

I didn't get much time to take pictures and when I did, it was very rushed and some are mobile phone shots, but I wanted to share the chaotic and fun experience.  

The first task for me was cooking 150 pieces of bacon for the BBQ quesadillas that we were serving for the festival's VIP dinner.  High noon and hot as fire, but we were already moving fast.

Later we engineered some shade for the cook area where the griddle and two Ole Hickories were.

The back end of "the house" was where the cooking got done.  In addition to the Ole Hickories, we had a Tucker Cooker.  Here Shane is fixing a gremlin in one of the Hickories.

The back of the house crew kicked butt all weekend.  I don't think we ever stopped prepping, cooking, wrapping, or shredding pulled pork.

Getting set up on Friday, the tent area is where we were going to serve and the trailer was for food prep. See all of those cases on nachos on the trailer?  Yeah, those didn't last through Saturday.

Loading coal up for a long burn in the Tucker Cooker.

Here Mike, Alethea, and I are prepping for the VIP dinner.

Frying up some of the nearly 300 BBQ quesadillas that we served up to the VIPs.

Do we look beat already?  Yes we were but as soon as the VIP dinner was done, Alethea and I were back in the trailer making pulled pork sandwiches, smoked bologna sandwiches, cheese for the nachos, and making Kentucky Cheese Steak sandwiches to order.  She was my wingman for the weekend.
Other teams were just as busy prepping for the crowds.

17th Street BBQ getting set up.
Big Moe Cason and Rick Hewatt
Rick and Moe Cason taking a minute to catch up.

Side note:  Moe Cason (pictured above, right), from Ponderosa BBQ and a judge on BBQ Pitmasters, announced this week that he has quit his day job so he can do barbecue as his full time career now.  Congratulations on chasing your dream, Moe!  Moe and I will be judging at the Pensacola Eggfest Presented by Pensacola's Kia Autosport in November.  Come out and join in the fun! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fire Roasted Chorizo and Green Chile Rice Casserole

This is just a quickie - in fact, I didn't even intend to make a post about this but it was too good not to.  We have made the Chile Rellenos Rice from Tyler Florence's book, Family Table, a few times now.  Each time has been a little different but this has easily been our favorite version.

I know that I have been doing a lot of Tex-Mex dishes on here lately but I'm almost out of green chiles so I'll be getting back to more traditional grilling and BBQ.  In the mean time I have been loving eating green chiles on just about everything.  One of the best pairings for green chiles, in my opinion, is raw or Mexican chorizo.  Brown a little chorizo with some scrambled eggs and cheese, top that with a little diced green chile and you have yourself an amazing breakfast.

This casserole is super easy to make and is one of my new favorite comfort foods.  This would be good for tailgating since you could either assemble it ahead of time and then cook on the grill at the game.  Or you could cook it at home and carry it in an insulated package and it would stay warm for a good while.  It reheats well too.  You can change the colby-jack cheese out with any other cheese you like and can substitute sour cream for the crema. 

Fire Roasted Chorizo and Green Chile Rice Casserole
adapted from Chile Rellenos Rice in Tyler Florence's Family Table

  • 3 links Johnsonville Chorizo sausage
  • 2 cups of long grain rice, cooked according to direction
  • 12 ounces colby-jack cheese, cubed
  • 2 cups Mexican crema
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup diced fire roasted green chiles
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • handful of sliced black olives 
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  1. Set up your grill for indirect heat and preheat grill to 375°F
  2. Remove sausage from its casing, brown the sausage in a skillet, and drain.
  3. Mix all ingredients, except for the olives and bread crumbs, in a large bowl.  Spoon into a greased half steam pan or casserole dish and tightly cover with foil.
  4. Place on the grill, close, and roast for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the foil, sprinkle with the olives and panko bread crumbs, and cook until the top is golden brown and bubbly - about another 20 minutes.
  6. Garnish with green onions and cilantro and serve. 
Just to clarify, you take 2 cups of uncooked rice and then cook it for this recipe.  You aren't using 2 cups of cooked rice.

Craycort cast iron grate BGE
I'm using a kamado grill so my indirect set up this time involves using a pizza stone and a Raiser rig from Innovations by Chance.  You could also use a plate setter.  You would set up a gas grill like this or a basic charcoal grill like this.

I love Mexican chorizo sausage and Johnsonville is my preferred brand because they only use premium cuts of pork. Mexican chorizo is raw ground pork and seasonings compared to Spanish chorizo which is a cured, hard sausage.  Always know which type a recipe calls for, big difference.

I didn't think this was all going to fit into one steam pan but Alexis was right, it fit.

I go through a shameful amount of steam pans and lids each year but at least they are recyclable.

The cheese will bubble up through the top as it cooks during the uncovered portion. One tip for getting the top brown is to get the pan as high up in your grill as possible.  This keeps it closer to the reflective heat coming down off of your grill lid.

Alexis and I both agreed that our favorite parts were the crispy edges.

It makes a lot but warms up great in the micro-nuker-thingy. 

Competition-ish Chicken
My post for the Char-Broil All Stars over at Char-Broil live this month is about taking tricks that competition cooks use and adapting them to use at home.   Hop over there to check out my Competition-ish Chicken.

On a related note, since I am one of their All Stars, I can get you a 25% discount on a Char-Broil grill through their website. It's not a "friends and family discount" so you don't have to act like you are my crazy uncle, just use the discount code C14NT4.   (Again, it has to be through their website.  If you go to a store to buy a Char-Broil grill and say, "I know Chris and C14NT4." they will probably just give you a blank stare.) 

[Standard Disclaimer] I am a member of the Char-Broil All Star team but I don't get any commission or anything. I paid full price for my Johnsonville sausages which is crazy since I have free product coupons from them that I can't ever seem to remember until I'm at the store.