Wednesday, August 24, 2022

How I Blacken Chicken on the Grill (or fish, scallops, etc)

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I recently had this dish at Lakeside Tavern in Knoxville and liked it so much that I decided to recreate it at home. It is blackened chicken breast, and andouille sausage smothered in their signature creole sauce with red and green bell peppers, served on a bed of jasmine rice. 

Here’s how mine turned out...

Plate of blackened chicken, double smoked sausage, peppers, dirty rice, and Voodoo cream sauce
My version features double-smoked sausage, blackened chicken thighs, pepper melange, Voodoo cream sauce, and dirty rice.

Before I get into that recipe, let’s talk about blackened food. I think most people’s experience with blackened food is seeing BURNT food and joking that it’s “blackened.” That couldn’t be further from the truth.

What is Blackened Food?

Blackening is a technique pioneered by Chef Paul Prudhomme. It involves cooking food over high heat with butter and a flavorful seasoning to create a dark-as-night crust that is NOT BURNT. The food should be tangy and spicy, not acrid and ashy.

blackening chicken in a cast iron skillet on the grill
The black part of blackened foods comes from the seasoning and milk fats in the butter cooked over high temperatures.


How to Blacken Fish, Chicken, and Other Foods

In my experience, there are 3 main elements for blackening food. Paul Prudhomme’s technique involves dredging food in butter and through his blackening seasoning, then cooking it over high heat.
  • Butter – Butter is the key because half of the “blackening” comes from the milk fats in the butter cooking over high heat. You will not get that from cooking oil, pork fat, tallow, or even clarified butter. You dredge the food through melted (NOT CLARIFIED) butter and season it heavily. I also use butter in the skillet as well.
  • Seasoning – The seasoning should be herbal, garlicky, and have the Cajun pepper power trio of black, red, and white ground pepper. Paul Prudhomme’s recipe is online, or you can use your favorite recipe. My go-to is Meat Church Holy Voodoo, which is not billed as a blackening seasoning but works as one.
  • Hot Cast Iron – The technique's creator used cast iron skillets for a reason – you need complete contact between food, butter, and hot metal. So, I like to use a skillet or griddle on the grill. Grilling chicken seasoned with blackening seasoning is not blackened chicken in the same way that chicken baked in an oven and slathered with BBQ sauce is not BBQ chicken.
Let's take a look at these elements in practice...

blackened chicken thighs, smoked sausage, and peppers with creole sauce and dirty rice

Lakeside Tavern Style Cajun Chicken and Sausage

Published 08/05/2022

Blackened chicken, spicy smoked sausage, grilled peppers and onions, Voodoo cream sauce, and dirty rice.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

My Low Effort Brisket Cook

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This isn't a tutorial, just notes from my latest brisket cook which was a lazy but tasty effort.

Several weeks ago, Kroger had USDA Choice whole beef briskets on sale for $1.99 a pound. I'll always jump on brisket at that price. If I do nothing but grind it into ground beef, I'm still getting about half off. I picked out a nicely shaped one and I was thrilled when I flipped it over and saw the Certified Angus Beef® Brand logo.

CAB brisket for $1.99?  That's like reserving an economy rental car and getting to the rental place and they give you a convertible sports car or SUV upgrade.

I wasn't in a hurry to cook it so I wet-aged it at 33-36°f for 30 days. It's not as good as dry aging but it is much easier and that was the theme of this brisket.....minimal effort. 

Brisket Prep

Again, I took the easy road at every turn on this cook. I have been extremely busy at work this summer and barely have time to come up for air. 

  • Trimming - I normally like to split my brisket into the point and flat, competition style. I do this because it shortens the cook, lets a big brisket fit in a Large Big Green Egg, and provides maximum surface area for bark development. Not this time, though. I trimmed the silverskin off of the flat and a little bit of fat here and there but not much, not even enough for the tallow pile.
  • Injection - None. 
  • Seasoning - I did a base layer of Obie-Cue's Double Strength Garlic Pepper and then a moderate coat of Obie-Cue's Big Bull's Texas Brisket seasoning
  • Dry Brine - After seasoning, I wrapped it loosely in a large food bag and put it in the fridge overnight to let the magic of dry brining take place.