Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Huevos Rancheros Featuring Smithfield Seasoned Carnitas

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  I'm proud to be a brand ambassador for Smithfield's Marinated Fresh Pork line this year and I receive compensation for this post.

I kind of feel bad for you all.  Last year Smithfield took me on those great trips to Smithfield, Virginia and The American Royal World Series of BBQ.....and I didn't get you all anything.  But here's a chance to make up for it!

Real Flavor, Real Fast

Smithfield is giving you the chance to win a trip to Napa wine country or hundreds of other prizes. All you have to do is enter the Real Flavor, Real Fast challenge and share your tips and tricks for using Smithfield marinated fresh pork products to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less.  It's easy to enter, just click on over to their site and then send me pictures from Napa when you win.

Examples of Smithfield's Fresh Marinated Pork include: Sweet & Smoky Marinaded Fresh Pork Roast, Seasoned Carnitas, Applewood Smoked Bacon Marinated Fresh Pork Loin Filet, and Steakhouse Mushroom Marinated Fresh Pork Loin Filet.
When I opened the package that they sent me, I immediately went for the Seasoned Carnitas.  Smithfield has already done the seasoning and trimming so all that you have to do is put them in a slow-cooker or slow roast them in an oven or grill.   

Of course, you know that I chose to cook mine on the grill. I made these Huevos Rancheros featuring Smithfield's Boneless Pork Shoulder Seasoned Carnitas.  The tender, mildly spicy chunks of pork shoulder really hit the spot, they are surprisingly easy to make, and they keep me fueled up for the day!

Easy huevos rancheros recipe with Smithfield tender Seasoned Carnitas pork shoulder, homemade salsa and fresh vegetables.

The Seasoned Carnitas cook great in a slow cooker so you can just do that while you sleep and have them ready for you when you get up in the morning for a hassle free breakfast in 30 minutes. Of course, I give alternative direction for making this on the grill, for all of my brothers/sisters in smoke.  Either way, it's Real Flavor, Real Fast.

Huevos Rancheros with Carnitas

4 servings


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

North Florida Eggfest 2017

[Standard FTC Disclaimer] I received no compensation for this post.  I have received complimentary products in the past from some vendors mentioned, including: FlameBoss, Smokeware, Albukirky's Seasonings,Craycort, and GrillGrates.  Certified Angus Beef is a sponsor.

A few weeks ago, I went down to Florida to cook at the North Florida Eggfest.  This was a first year Eggfest sponsored by Pinch A Penny.  In addition to being a top notch Big Green Egg dealer, this Pinch A Penny is your total pool, patio, and spa store if you are in the North Florida area (Duval, St. Johns, etc).

It may have been a first year event, but from attending the event, you wouldn't know it was their first rodeo. James Simmons and the Pinch A Penny crew did their homework and put on an excellent Eggfest.

  • The event was a charity fund raiser for ESPWA Ministries.
  • They had great cooking teams involved.  Teams like Southbound Rob, Gentry's BBQ, North Georgia Eggers, and well, everyone was awesome.
  • They brought in some of the most popular accessory companies.  Smokeware, Flameboss, and Pizza Porta were on hand to demonstrate their products and answer questions.
  • Their prizes and giveaways were as good or better than some much bigger, well established Eggfests.  The prizes included inflatable Eggs, custom Yeti products, and even a BGE Mini-Max for the People's Choice winner.  That's first rate!
  • They thought of the tasters.  Small touches like giving away free bottles of ice cold water were well appreciated.
  • The swag bags for the cook teams were stuffed with great things that Eggers can use.
  • Best of all?  Pinch A Penny paid off the weatherman and we had absolutely gorgeous blue skies and warm temps. 
We had a great time cooking and serving the crowds.  The absolute best part was spending time with my best friends and our families came out for the event.  We do a lot of contests, Eggfests, and other events each year but this is the first time my whole family has ever been there at once.  That made this a special event for me.

If you didn't make it this year, you'll want to put North Florida Eggfest on your calendar for next year. It is a fantastic Eggfest and I anticipate it will grow quickly.

To give you a glimpse of our experience at this fun Eggfest, this post is entirely comprised of phone pics from my mom, my sister, and myself.

Normally it's a little over 8 hours from Knoxville to Jacksonville.  Then again, NORMALLY the Interstate in North Carolina isn't a parking lot! 

Cooking pork butts on a Big Green Egg using a Flame Boss controller and a Thermoworks ChefAlarm.
10+ hours later, I arrived in Jax.  Rhonda already had pork butts smoking on her Large BGE. She had her FlameBoss 200 controller keeping the temps.  I love her Egg you think she'd notice if I tried to take it home with me the next time?

Albukirky Seasonings Green Chile Rub makes a superb smoked Tex-Mex pork butt.
These pork butts are our favorite Tex-Mex style pork - seasoned heavily with Albukirky's Green Chile Rub.  This style pulled pork is a tasty departure from the usual pulled pork and it is amazing in tacos, burritos, and on huevos rancheros.  

Friday started off with a planning meeting at Poe's Tavern in Atlantic Beach. We joked about a raven pooping on our plates. At the end of the meal, a sparrow pooped partially on my plate. Good times:)
Their burgers are big, creative, and messy. This is the Black Cat with grilled onions, applewood smoked bacon, chili, piemento cheese, and onion straws.

Beauty and the Beastie Boys.  Sean arrived from Tampa and it was time to knock out the food prep.  We three dudes tried to look "tough" but you can see we could barely contain our grins, if you look closely.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How I Smoke Homemade Pastrami

[FTC Disclaimer] Certified Angus Beef is one of my sponsors and I receive compensation from them.  It's easy being a brand ambassador for a product that I already use and love.  

St Patty's Day is upon us and one of the most popular menu items is corned beef.  Making corned beef from scratch is a several day process so it's too late to do it this year but don't worry.


But for me, I only make corned beef so that I can smoke it to make pastrami!  The Reuben sandwich is one of Alexis' all-time favorite sandwiches and it's even better when you make the pastrami from scratch.

How I make, cure, and smoke pastrami at home using certified angus beef.

The basic process is:

  1. Start with a quality beef brisket "flat" from Certified Angus Beef.
  2. Make a heavily seasoned brine with savory flavors and pickling spices.
  3. Use the brine to wet cure the flat for several days.
  4. Rinse off the brisket flat, dry it, and season with a black pepper and coriander based seasoning.
  5. Smoke the brisket to 165°f-180°f.
  6. Refrigerate overnight.
  7. Steam the brisket to 200°f.
  8. Slice and serve.
Yeah, it's a bit of a process but it's not that difficult and the results are worth it.  For this pastrami, I used elements of two recipes:
  • Pastrami from Michael Symon's book, Carnivore, and 
  • Montreal Smoked Mean from Andy Husband and Chris Hart's book, Pitmaster. 

Trimming a whole beef brisket.
I could just buy a brisket flat and start there, but I had a few whole briskets in the freezer and used that instead.  So I separated the flat (pictured left) from the point (in my hands) and trimmed off most of the fat. The fat pile was used to make beef tallow so it's not waste.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Prime Ribeye Steak with Shiitake Mushrooms and Asparagus with Hollandaise

Murphy's Laws of Grilling
  1. The fire only flares up during the time that you went inside "just for a minute".
  2. The cut of meat you go to the store to buy for the cook out is never the one on sale.
  3. Trying to "grill before the storms hit" is a sure fire way to make it rain instantly.
Number 3 was the one that got me last night.  A major storm system was crossing Tennessee and I thought I had time to quickly grill a steak.  Of course, the grill is hardly preheated when the cold rain drops started pelting the deck so I pulled the grill back under the gazebo to hide out from the rain.

Alexis was at Food City and picked me up a prime Certified Angus Beef ribeye (they are a sponsor but this isn't a sponsored post).  I had some leftover shiitake mushrooms and a half a bundle of asparagus in the fridge.  I thought about doing those two together in a stir fry side dish but went this route instead.

Grilled Prime Certified Angus Beef Ribeye Shiitake Mushrooms and Asparagus
Prime Ribeye Steak with Shiitake Mushrooms and Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

Certified Angus Beef prime ribeye recipe ideas
The main characters.

Char-Broil Kamander kamado grill is a low cost option for grills like Big Green Egg
Today I was using the Char-Broil Kamander kamado grill.  They are a sponsor and this is the first kamado they have come out with since I partnered with them.  At a MSRP of $349 it's a low cost kamado and I expected to have performance issues but it actually works surprisingly well so far. I'll still be using all types and brands of kamados but I've added this one to the fold.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Gordon Ramsay MasterClass

I've been taking the Gordon Ramsay MasterClass for the past few weeks.  Alexis bought it for me as part of my anniversary present.

The class is structured as a self-paced, 20 lesson online program.
  • Each lesson is centered around a short video from Gordon Ramsay in which he discusses the topic and then demonstrates a technique or recipe.  
  • There is a PDF workbook and for each lesson the book gives links to further explore the lesson topic through other recipes that build on what Ramsay just taught.  
  • Typically there is a recipe to do hands-on practice.
  • Finally, you post your practice recipe and discuss with your fellow MasterClass students in "The Hub" (basically an online forum specific to each lesson).
Here are a few pictures of my first few practice classes.
The recipe called for using cubed bacon to saute a variety of mushrooms.  The last time I smoked a pork belly for bacon, I cubed and saved the butt ends to use for something just like this.  I sauteed portobello and shiitake mushrooms with it which made the mushrooms peppery, smoky, and delicious.

Gordon Ramsay Masterclass review practice
Using Chef Ramsay's process was about 15 minutes faster than the way I normally poached eggs.  I seasoned the egg with black pepper and alaea red clay salt.

Gordon Ramsay Masterclass review
The recipe was spot on.  I want to turn this into a gastro pub style burger.  It would be an open faced burger topped with the bacon sauteed 'shrooms and the poached egg.

Review of the Masterclass by Gordon Ramsay
Perfectly cooked poached egg.  Before I took this class, if someone asked if I knew how to poach an egg, I would have replied that of course, I do.  I still gained something because I learned a new, faster method than my old way.

Review of Gordon Ramsay's MasterClass
The classes encourage you to explore what you learned in the lesson.  To practice poached eggs, I made Eggs Benedict.  I had cured and smoked a big batch of Candian bacon.  I made a rich Hollandaise sauce and poached a few eggs using the method I had learned.

Review of Gordon Ramsay's MasterClass

Chef Ramsay shared his method for the creamiest scrambled eggs but his recipe involved sea urchin, which I just couldn't do.  So I did scrambled eggs his way with roasted Hatch green chiles instead of the sea urchin and Mexican crema instead of sour cream.  Served it on a warmed tostada with the last of our fire roasted salsa that we canned at the end of summer.

The most common two questions I get about the class are:
  1. Has Chef Ramsay cursed or yelled at you yet?  No.  This is an online class and there really isn't any interaction or feedback other than your fellow students.  You can upload a video question and if selected, Chef Ramsay will provide a video response, but I haven't uploaded any questions.
  2. Is the class worth the money?  Short answer: For me, it is worth the $90 we paid. 
The long answer is more complicated and more than a yes/no answer.

  • I have seen a few fellow students write that they haven't learned anything or that they get the same info from his videos already on line.  I think if you don't use the workbook and skip the assignments, I could see that being the impression.  But for me, I have learned something with each assignment I have completed.
  • If you are an accomplished cook, you might not be bowled over with new information but it still might be a fun set of exercises to reignite your passion for cooking.
  • I think that basic home cooks will gain a wealth of information and techniques, if they do the work.  It's more than just learning 17 or 18 new recipes and/or techniques.  They should gain a confidence in their culinary skills and knowledge and to me, THAT is when cooking gets fun. 
So I'm enjoying the Gordon Ramsay Masterclass. It's not the end all and it won't turn you into a Michelin star chef but it's educational and entertaining for me.  I'll post some more stuff as I get back to the classes.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Product Release: Kingsford BBQ Sauce

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  I received no compensation for this post other than the free product samples and I have no current affiliation with Kingsford.

Kingsford, the renowned charcoal producer, has introduced their own line of BBQ sauces and they sent me a sample batch to try out.  

2017 review of Kingsford BBQ Sauce

The flavors for this new, all natural line of BBQ sauces include: