Saturday, October 30, 2021

Dirty Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers

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I'm a big fan of stuffed bell peppers. This version takes on a Cajun spin starting with a spicy and smoky dirty rice and finishes on top of a zesty cream sauce.

Cajun Dirty Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers
Cajun Dirty Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers with a Zesty White Sauce

Slap Ya Sister

Last month, we went to Charleston for a weekend of food and fun with several members of our BBQ team. While there, we visited Virginia's Veggie Stand at the City Market, where they had an array of spice mixes packed in small bags with hand-written labels. 

You know that I couldn't pass that up and one of the mixes I bought was there Slap Ya Sister. It's a Cajun blend loaded with large herbs and dried chiles and that's what inspired this recipe. 

Slap Ya Sister cajun herb mix from Virgina's Veggie Stand in Charleston, SC
The Slap Ya Sister Cajun herb mix from Virginia's Veggie Stand in Charleston has large pieces for robust flavor. I can't think of a Cajun seasoning that would be an equal swap since these herbs are big and flaky. To substitute for a tablespoon of Slap Ya Sister, I would use a teaspoon or so of Meat Church Holy Voodoo or Slap Ya Mama seasoning. That's about a 66% reduction in volume because one is flaky herbs and the other is ground seasoning.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Smoked Sausage Carbonara on the Big Green Egg

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Carbonara is a fantastic pasta dish. It is creamy yet has no cream. It seems gourmet, yet it is simple to make. 

Technically, this is more carbonara-style than carbonara. I use the carbonara technique of using the heat of the pasta for cooking the eggs. But, like many Americans, I like to add peas to mine, which is a no-no to many classically trained chefs. But what I really like about this dish is the smoked sausage that I finely dice and crisp up in a skillet; it adds such a nice smoky flavor and crisp texture.

Creamy smoked sausage carbonara with garlic toast
Creamy and delicious Smoked Sausage Carbonara from the grill.

Tricks for Skillet Cooking on the Grill

Monday, October 11, 2021

Oostburger Pretzel Sliders

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What the heck is an Oostburger? 

Early in August each year, tens of thousands of bratwurst lovers gather in Sheboygan, WI, to celebrate all things brat at the Brat Days food festival. Alexis and I attended one year and soaked in all of the food, live music, the parade, and tons of fun. One of the things we discovered during that trip was the Oostburger. That delicious concoction is a burger topped with a butterflied bratwurst on a Sheboygan hard roll. This past weekend, we made this slider version of the Oostburger.

Oostburger Pretzel Sliders
An Oostburger is a regional burger from Wisconsin that is topped with a split bratwurst. I sliced my cooked bratwurst on the griddle to give them extra flavor from caramelization.

Our Oostburger Slider is beefy, cheesy, and decadent. 

  • It features a pretzel slider bun. Alexis was craving pretzels and bought a variety pack from an online seller, and the package included these fun slider-sized pretzel buns. The buns are sort of close to the texture of a Sheboygan hard roll. 
  • The burger portion is a 4-ounce beef patty that I made square...well, squarish, to fit the rectangular shape of the bun. Instead of smashing balls into a round patty, I pressed them into one big square and divided it into 4 patties.
  • Instead of a whole butterflied brat, I sliced a fire-roasted brat and cooked the coins on the griddle to give them some sizzle and char. 
  • We add slices of Sargento Smokehouse Cheddar on each layer and a dash of stoneground mustard to tie it all together.

Oostburger Pretzel Sliders featuring Johnsonville original bratwurst
Notice the bit of cheese skirt on the bottom edge...that's my favorite part of any griddled cheeseburger!

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Grilling Thick Pork Chops - Bourbon and Brown Sugar Pork Chops

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Cook your pork chops like a steak. That was the message of one of the pork marketing boards years ago but it still rings true with me. When you take the same techniques and care with a pork chop that you do with a steak, the result is fantastic like these chops. I use the reverse sear method and apply layers of flavor to make these Bourbon and Brown Sugar Pork Chops smoky, sweet, and luscious - fit for a king.

Bourbon Brown Sugar Pork Chops
Bourbon and Brown Sugar Pork Chop with BBQ Beans and Collard Greens wtih Bacon

Grill You Pork Chops Like A Steak

So what do I mean by grilling your pork chops like a steak? I don't mean the same time and temps. I'm talking about taking the same types of steps you do with a quality steak, starting from the selection to plating. Here are some examples from this cook.

  • Selection of quality meat - Why is it that people are super picky about which steak they buy but then will buy the first package of top of the pork chops? Here's what I look for in descending order:
    • Color - I look for chops that are nicely pink-reddish. I'm avoiding chops that are pale, dark red, or that weird "I'm ready for the discount rack" shade of grey-green. Blech! 
    • Marbling - It's not as easy to spot marbling in pork as it is beef, but it is there if you look carefully. Look for fine strands of white fat evenly distributed throughout the eye of the chop.
    • Thickness - For thick chops, I'm looking for chops that are at LEAST 1" but preferably more like 1.5".  I am also looking for even thickness, although I will also deal with that in prep.
    • Brand - When all things are equal or if I'm sending someone else to buy my meat, I'll tell them to look for Cheshire or Smithfield. I've used them for years with consistent results.
  • Preparation - Again, people use all sorts of tricks on their steaks, but many people tend to just season chops and throw them on the grill without any kind of forethought or care.
    • Trimming - I French-trim these rib chops in part because I like the presentation but it also helps prevent overcooking the narrow bits of meat on the bone end. 
    • Tying - Once trimmed, I use my hands to compress the eye of the pork chop and tie kitchen twine around each to keep them as even in thickness as possible.
    • Dry brine - I use the dry brine method to impart flavor and help retain the juiciness of the pork chop.
  • Cooking
    • Reverse sear - Direct grilling a thick pork chop can work but it is more likely to overcook the exterior or undercook the center. Going low and slow or using the reverse sear lets the entire chop get up to temp and evenly cooked through.
    • Temp, not times - Use a quality thermometer to cook by temp, not time.
  • Serving -
    • Butter me up! Finish the chops with the brown sugar butter adds a final layer of flavor and makes sure that flavor gets on every bit. 

So let's get into the recipe...

Bourbon Brown Sugar Pork Chops resting on a wire resting rack
Resting after the sear, with brown sugar butter melting its goodness all over these delicious pork chops.