Wednesday, June 30, 2010

BBQ Day Two

Yesterdays BBQ day went well and into the fridge went 36 wing pieces, 9# of pulled chicken, a turkey breast and 8 slabs of baby backs. And the beauty was that with Bevs help it was all done and the pans washed by 12:30 and 84* outside. Here’s a pic of one of the ribs.

And what do you have for dinner when you’ve spent the morning BBQing and had some for lunch.

It’s like working in a candy store – you spend so much time with BBQ that it makes you want fried chicken, we’ll have brisket and pork tonight.

I got the 4 briskets and 7 butts prepped by 7 pm, fired up the smoker at 235*, put the meat on at 9 pm and I was ready for bed.

When I got up at 5:30 am, I checked everything, dumped the collected juices into a bowl for de-fatting, and put the two fatties on. Later on I’ll pull 3 butts and turn some brisket into burnt ends. I used to pull all the butts, but I’ve convinced most of my friends that it’s easy and a lot cheaper for them to buy the whole roast and pull it themselves.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Two Days Of Barbecuing And Gyro Omelet

After this week, I’m planning to not BBQ anymore until the first of September and so my friends have decided to load up. As a result I’ve decided to spread it over two days doing the short-cook-time items this morning and the big meat overnight tonight. This was a great opportunity to clean out the stuff in the freezer and here is a pile beginning to thaw. This is a little over half the total and I went shopping yesterday to buy the rest – I sure have a full frig (I have a separate one primarily for this). While this isn’t a lot for big time quer’s, it is for me: 4 briskets, 7 pork butts, 8 babyback slabs, a turkey breast, a couple of fatties and about 25 # of assorted chicken over the two days.

I fired the smoker up at 6am (first light), got the meat on at 7:15, and will report more tomorrow. I’m hoping to be done by 1 pm before it gets too hot.

After I got the meat on, I decided to fix myself a nice breakfast and still had just a little lamb remaining – just enough for an omelet. I sautéed some chopped onion, the lamb, some grape tomatoes that needed to be eaten. I removed them to a covered bowl while I cooked the eggs and when they were set, I added the stuffing plus some shredded cheese blend (couldn’t find the feta), folded it over, and topped with a dollop of tzatziki. Here it is before the cheese.

Ready to eat - it broke a little when I took it out of the pan.

Pretty good way to finish off the lamb.

It’s time to go check the smoker, so have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Bevs Early Summer Garden

After a busy and fun week with Kathy and kids, things have returned to normal at Almost Heaven South - at least for two weeks until Rhett and family stop in for a welcome back from Korea visit. Even better, Alex went camping for a couple of days with a friend - we won't know what to do with ourselves. I went out the other day and took some shots of Bev’s flower garden which is starting to show its summer colors - she obviously didn’t take the year off as I did with my veggie garden.

Last year, because of so many weeds, I’d decided to just spray this part of the wildflower bed all summer, then start over in the fall. I didn’t know it but last fall, Bev had collected a bunch of the Black Eyed Susans seeds and sowed them in the area, so we now have a mass of yellow.

All we need now is some rain and a little drop in temps.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Shrimp And Veggies At The Dock

Bev stopped at the Wednesday afternoon farmers market and came home with some orka and her sister stopped by a little market and got some fresh corn this afternoon – our first okra of the season. We decided since it wouldn’t be much trouble and it was several degrees cooler, and the kids wanted to swim, that we would cook and eat down at the dock. The menu was fried corn (we’d had boiled the past two days), fried okra and grilled shrimp.

Bev cooked the okra in the discada, cowboy wok, which works perfect for a big batch like this – we don’t use it much but when we need it, we need it. We use oil for the vast majority of our frying and olive oil for most of it, but like others have said about frying chicken, good fried okra requires solid Crisco. Bev has tried a variety of oils, but for whatever the reason, it just isn’t as good. Just getting started.

The cooking set up.

About ready to be taken up.

I’ve likely said this before, but before moving to Tennessee, fresh corn always meant boiled and eaten from the cob. However, when I met Beverly, I was exposed to fresh corn, cut from the cob, and fried in butter – oh my but it is good, but a little fattening (I’d say Paula Deen loves it). I just cooked the corn on the grill side burner while I grilled the shrimp and Bev dealt with the okra. As an old corn grower, I’ve found that fresh picked sweet corn is good raw and merely needs to get hot before eating (a 5-7 minute dunk in boiling water is all I give the right-out-of-the-garden corn). Since this was picked in the morning, even though it was a super sweet variety, I still actually cooked it a little. Here's the start.

And the finish.

For the shrimp, I melted a stick of butter along with the juice from a quarter lemon, and a tsp of garlic salt and brushed it on one side. I sprinkled with Old Bay, put that side down on the grill and gave the top side the same treatment, then brushed with the butter after turning and when done. I knew she’d been buying them each time Krogers put the 15 count shrimp on sale for $7.99, but I didn’t know how many – after eating two or three 2# bags, we still appear to have about 14 pounds. Perhaps I should consider them an investment rather than food and see if I can double my money on them – nah I’ll just eat them.

My plate of tasty goodies – we managed to turn some pretty healthy food into not.

One of my goals is to be able to cook really good seafood and these were my best grilled shrimp ever, as agreed to by everyone. I think I now have grilled shrimp at the good-enough-for-company stage. The corn and okra were delicious, as they always are. We ate about 7:30 then sat around and visited until 9:45 - my favorite dock time is after dark.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Breakfast Fatty And Eggs

It’s 8am Friday and Bev, my daughter, and the grandkids are all still in bed, but I’ve been up awhile and ready for a little breakfast. I remembered I had piece of a fatty in the frig and decided on it along with over very easy dippy eggs and toast – I can only imagine how many eggs yolks I’ve dipped a piece of toast into over the years.

I’ve mentioned this before but a fatty in its simplest form is a tube of breakfast sausage that is cooked in the smoker, thereby getting a smoky flavor to it. I usually smoke mine to an internal temp of 145* -150*. In perhaps it’s most elaborate form it is flattened out, stuffed, re-rolled and wrapped in bacon – Jeanne over at Cowgirl’s Country Life recently posted one of these – link. I often stuff them, but rarely add the bacon, as I don’t need the extra calories. I’m posting this because now that I’ve convinced all of you non-BBQers to try smoking on your grill via my beer can chicken post, I wanted to give you something else to smoke along with it. I’ve never fired up the smoker just for a fatty, but usually toss a couple on when I’m cooking other items, then just slice and nuke when I want some. They can be as basic as just unwrapped and smoked, but I usually sprinkle on a little of my pork rub for some extra flavor.

Here’s breakfast and it was delicious.

I discovered this shot of Jennafer (granddaughter) on the camera when I downloaded the pictures and couldn’t pass up posting it.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fruit Smoothie On A Hot Day

I never think of a smoothie as something to request and only very rarely accept one when offered, but yesterday was different. Bev had some fruit that needed to be used and when she asked, all four grandkids and my daughter said they wanted one but I didn’t accept, as usual. However, when I went into the kitchen and saw how much was left after serving the others and noticed the beautiful color and considered it was already 90* outside at noon, I decided to try one.

She made them with the blueberries, blackberries, pineapple, yogurt and ice in the Vita Mixer – which did a great job dealing with the blackberry seeds. She didn't measure, but guessed about a pint of each fruit and the yogurt and finished filling with ice. I thought it was very good and I won’t be so quick to say no next time. And it was so filling, it didn't take much lunch after that.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pretty Good Greek Leftovers

On Monday, we had leg of lamb for a family dinner and had a whole one left over, along with some salad, tzatziki sauce, and couscous. We also had some pita in the bread drawer and decided Gyros were in order. But before this meal, we had a little appetizer thanks to Bev’s stopping by the Wednesday afternoon farmers market – fresh, locally grown, boiled corn on the cob and it was very good.

For the meal, I reheated the lamb in a 250* oven wrapped in foil with it’s juices for about an hour to an internal temp of 137* and after resting, I sliced it thin for the gyros. I just cut the pitas in half, warmed them in the microwave, and stuffed the pocket. The stuffing consisted of thin sliced onion, sliced tomato, lettuce, lamb, and a spoonful of the sauce. I don’t know what I was thinking and ended up giving one of the gyros away. We've aldo decided we like the tzatziki on the couscous and I added a little more greek herb blend as well.

It’s been a while since I had a gyro from a Greek place and I know they are usually made from ground spiced meat in a loaf shape, but these would have been hard to beat.

After this settled, I went back later for a little slice of leftover fruit pizza. Leftovers can sometimes be some very good eats.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Family Picnic In Cades Cove

My daughter Kathy Roden and her three daughters (Katelyn, Jennafer, Lauren) are visiting from the San Antonio Texas area and son Eric, wife Ann and kids (Matthew, Sophia) were down from Harrogate,Tn and one of the things we all like to do is go to Cades Cove for a picnic and one of the things I like to do is have all of the kids get together for a meal. It didn’t work out to do it on Fathers Day so we all congregated at the cove on Tuesday for a family cook out. One of the nice things about a non holiday mid week visit is it’s not as crowded, but it was more so than I would have expected. The Little River in Townsend was wall-to-wall tubers floating along.

Eric and Ann went up to the cove (around these parts you just have to say the cove for others to know where you’re going) in late morning to drive around the loop road and to secure a good spot - we live a little over an hour away. With 13 of us eating, we decided we needed two tables and they managed to secure my two favorites for this. You know you’ve done this a lot when you have a favorite spot and mine hasn’t changed in 40 years. Here’s our setup with cook/adult table in the foreground and kids table behind.

The traditional cove meal for Bev’s family (they’ve been picnicing in the cove all her life) was hamburgers cooked over an open fire and potatoes fried in a cast iron Dutch oven until they were a little crispy – the second helping is always a little crispier and the very last ones are fought over. We’ve been married 25 years and have been on many cove picnics and this is still the meal, with maybe an occasional hotdog – I’m not sure I could cook anything else there. Anytime an out of town family member visits, a cove picnic is generally on the agenda.

I normally like to cook everything over the open fire on their grill, but they keep putting in smaller ones and there’s hardly room, so I took along the Weber Grill to cook the meat on.

There were two main things to accomplish with this trip – have a nice picnic in a great spot and let the kids play in the creek. We picked the perfect day to do this weather wise, as it was nearly 100* in the valley and in the mid 80’s beside the creek. The Roden girls and Sophia hard at it.

Alex and Matthew have a little dam project underway- it's hard to imagine how many times these rocks have been moved since the Great Smoky Mountain National Park was established - Bev said they spent hours at it every time they went as kids.

The Roden girls.

Ann and Matthew.

3 year old Sophia proud of scaling a big rock in the middle of the creek.

Eric is showing off his camp counselor skills by demonstrating how to turn various rocks into a colored mud for use as paint. They ended up with reds, browns, yellows, and blue greys. I didn't know he had this hidden knowledge and it kept the kids occupied for a while.

If it's not quite cool enough along the creek bank, you merely find a little pool with a flat bottom, 10" of water and a rock for a foot rest and move your chair down there. Have the kids fetch you a cold drink and it doesn't get much better on a hot day.

For those with a little more energy and tired of creek playing there was a spirited game of netless badmitten by Kathy, Alex and Katelyn.

Now don't get me wrong, I love a good burger, but I really love grilled hot dogs dressed with mustard, onion, and some of Bev's homemade sauce. I discovered and added a little shredded cheese after I took this shot. This was the perfect meal for this idealic spot.

When I first started going to the cove, you could sit around your camp fire until well after dark and then it became dusk. Now they close at 8pm (11/2 hours before dusk) and since we didn't eat until seven, we had to hustle after eating to get moved out on time. It was still a very enjoyable afternoon, but after two very busy days of hard cooking, I belive it will be leftovers tonight. I may even have time to get caught up on my blog reading.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fathers Day Greekfest

We had our Fathers Day get together Monday at the dock and Bev and I shared the cooking duties. I had two boneless legs of lamb in the freezer that I’d been wanting to cook, but I needed some lamb eaters here to do it (Bev’s not a big lamb fan). My daughter Kathy and her kids are visiting from Texas and as it turned out some friends of hers were moving to Mississippi and passing within 20 miles of here, so they joined us for the day. We ended up with 8 adults and 9 kids.

I’d decided a while back that I wanted a Greek meal, so we had the lamb, Mediterranean chicken, couscous, Greek salad, and some left over mac & cheese for the kids. I also cooked some chicken legs with simple spices for those who may not like the Greek flavors. For the lamb, I used a recipe adapted from the BBQU site. I squeezed the juice of half a lemon on each roast and sprinkled with the dry spice mix which was enough for both.

· 2 tablespoons kosher salt
· 2 tablespoons dried Greek oregano
· 1 tablespoon ground white pepper

I then put them on the spit using the gas grills infrared burner and closed the lid.

I then basted three times with the following, which was about 50% more than I needed:

· 1 cup Greek olive oil
· 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
· 1/2 cup dry white wine
· 4 cloves garlic, minced
· 4 teaspoons dried Greek oregano
· 2 teaspoons black pepper

While I’d read that the Greeks like their lamb well done, my plan was to cook it medium rare in the biggest part. It’s been years since I used the spit and I was watching the color and development of the crust, which didn’t seem to be progressing very fast. I assumed it was just cooking slow, but decided to check it after 1¼ hours and found it to be 138*, and I immediately pulled it. I removed it from the spit, wrapped it tightly in foil, put in a cooler wrapped in a towel, and headed for the lake to cook the rest of the meal. After carving, I added the juices that had collected in the foil while in the cooler. At this point in the day, I obviously wasn't worried about presentation.

We also made a simple Tzatziki Sauce in case folks were big Gyro fans.

For the Mediterranean chicken, I used the following recipe from Pam over at For The Love Of Cooking. I used 1½ the amounts shown for 8 large bone-in thighs which I cooked on the grill, rather than the oven.

· 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of any fat
· 4-5 tbsp olive oil
· Juice and zest of one lemon
· 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
· 2 cloves garlic, minced
· 1 tsp dried oregano
· Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the legs, I just tossed them in a bag with some olive oil and gave them a sprinkle of Wolfe Citrus rub. Here’s the chicken on the grill and the finished platter.

For the couscous I used the following recipe from My Recipes. It’s pretty long so just click on the link to have a look at it.

Finally for the salad, we used romain and iceberg lettuce, sliced cukes, sliced red onion, halved grape tomatoes, halved ripe and kalamata olives and crumbled feta cheese. We’ve found this to be a very good Greek dressing recipe. It came from Penzey’s Spices and was designed for their Greek seasoning – we just made a little substitution. Into a dressing cruet, add

2 tbsp of Cavendars Greek Seasoning
2 tbsp water and shake it up

Wait ten minutes, then add ¼ cup each of:

Olive oil
Salad oil
Red wine vinegar

Shake well and enjoy – it doesn’t take a lot.

As is often the case when we have a big event at the dock, I don’t do well remembering the pictures so here are a few comments. We all loved the lamb, even Bev enjoyed it, and I would definitely use this recipe again – most even thought it was cooked just right. The Mediterranean chicken was also delicious, but next time I’ll make some extra marinade and baste it while cooking as the grill needs a little more flavors added. The salad was excellent as Bev’s usually are. The one disappointment was the couscous (and it took the most work) as it just didn’t have enough flavors to it. Bev mixed some of the tzatziki sauce with hers and said it made it really good – I hope so as we have a lot of both left over (I just had a bowl of it that way for breakfast and she's right). We also have one of the lamb roasts left and some pita in the bread drawer – I feel Gyros coming on.

It was a very nice Fathers day, although daughter Wende had to miss it due to work commitments, and after spending most of the day cooking, I enjoyed relaxing on the dock at dusk while the kids used every bite of the day for lake play. Here they are on the way out, swimming under the flood lights – I'd put them on the dock for just such occasions.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Smoked Chicken On The Gas Grill

I actually cooked this meal for Easter dinner back in April and have been saving it for summer time. I had posted about using your grill as a smoker and this is a how-to for smoking a beer can chicken on a gas grill. They are good for first timers as the moisture added to the inside of the chicken, from the can, makes them cook faster and helps them stay moist, so it’s easier to a have a first success. This is a long post, but I hope by reading it you will be able to smoke meat on your grill – you BBQers, may want to read someone else’s blog today.

I have a five burner gas grill and elected to run the two outside burners so the meat would get more even heat without me rotating it. If you use just one side for heat with the meat on the other side, rotate the bird 180* so both sides face the heat the same amount of time. To ready my grill, I first removed a grill rack and positioned the others to have access to the flavorizer bars on each end.

I then used heavy duty aluminum foil and aluminum duct tape (just happened to have some) to close up most of the grill exhaust vent. You can use wadded up foil, but you have to put it back every time you open the grill (that’s what I did the first time I did this). I did this to ensure the smoke and heat had to go to the center of the grill where the chicken was located. You may not need to do this on your grill. It would have worked perfect, except the glue on the tape melted so I used the grill warming shelf to keep it in place, which was still a little easier than putting the wadded up foil back in place each time.

For the chicken, just prep as you would normally do to roast it, except, it’s important the hole in the neck cavity is sealed to keep the flavored steam inside the bird. You can merely use toothpicks to seal it with the flap of skin that’s usually there or seal it with an onion, piece of fruit, potato, etc – I had barely enough skin on this one.

Now, let’s discuss the beer can process. I have can-stands (available at discount stores) that I use as they make the job of standing the bird easier, but they are not required – just use the can and the legs to make a tripod (I cook beer can turkeys using a 24oz Fosters Beer can). Here the stand and other equipment I used.

The purpose of the can is to add moisture and flavors through the inside of the chicken. I generally open the can mid afternoon, pour out the beer and remove the top as best I can (used my kitchen shears as the can opener wouldn’t work). I drink half the beer and put the rest back in the can (other liquids of your choice can be used), add herbs, spices and citrus to the can and let it sit around to warm up. I then spray the stand with Pam for cleanup, add the can and it’d ready for the bird.

For this cook, I put a slice of lime and orange and some fresh rosemary and dried thyme in the beer can, oiled the skin and seasoned the cavity and outside with Wolfe Rub Citrus (we love it on chicken). You can put flavors on the skin or under it. Basically do what you would do for an oven-roasted chicken – your grill is about to become just a convection oven with a smoky environment.

Finally, the cooking process. I soaked some maple chips for a couple of hours and made up three foil pouches with them. I had a choice of hickory, alder and maple – chose maple as it’s supposed to have a sweet smoke. With all the other flavors, other than mesquite, I’m not sure I can taste the difference, but others say they can. Hickory, oak, and apple are usually available at the grocery store and they will all work well. I won’t need many pouches as the chicken cooks pretty fast.

Note that I poked about four holes in the foil.

I turned all five grill burners on high to get it hot, then turned off the middle three. I cooked at 300*, but higher or lower will work – use the one that cooks the skin the way you want it – higher temp equals crispier skin. Unlike most typical BBQ meats that need low and slow cooking to get them tender, chicken does not need that and will just get drier if on the cooker too long. Basically, you are just roasting the chicken in a smoky environment to provide a layer of flavor you can’t get in your oven (unless you set it on fire).

If you can’t maintain the temp as high as you want it, just set your chicken on a jelly roll pan and turn other burners on as low as possible to get the temp you want. The pan serves as a heat deflector and you’re still cooking indirect. You can also add liquid to the pan and you’re then cooking with a water pan smoker. Bet you didn’t know your grill was so flexible. If I didn’t smoke so much meat, a grill is probably how I’d do it. I’ve seen gas and charcoal grills that have a stack for a vent and they look perfect for the backyard griller/occasional smoker.

I put a probe thermometer in the breast of one chicken and plan to cook it to 170* - but I’ll confirm it and the other chicken parts with my insta-read thermometer (a must for serious cooks). I made sure it was in the fattest breast part and not touching a bone – many folks put the probe in the thigh and cook it to 180*, I just have better luck getting it in the breast. You can vary your internal temp to achieve the moisture/dryness level you like. By now you should be saying, “this is just like cooking the chicken in the oven.” The other probe, I’ve inserted in an old wine cork, in which I drilled a hole, and placed on the grate beside the chicken. I’ll control temp to it and know that’s what the meat is seeing. Note that I ran the wires thru the hole for the spit so as not to damage them. The probe thermometers are available at discount stores and Amazon – I use Polder, Taylor, and Thermapen.

Newcomers have a tendency to think they should see a thick smoke coming out of the cooker – wrong, as this will produce an acrid creosote taste – and coat your cooker with it. What you want is a thin blue smoke that you can barely see. Also, resist the urge to open the grill cover to check things – when you’re lookin you’re not cookin, but rather letting out the heat and smoke and extending the cooking time. Only open it to add more wood chips and when the probe says it might be done. Since the breast is in the higher and hotter part of the grill, it may get done sooner and if it does, when the breast is within 5 degrees of the temp you want, move the bird over direct heat with no pan and the lid open and cook the dark meat over direct heat to the temp you want.

Mine was done in 1½ hours and here is the finished product still on the grill. The one place you can get hurt is removing the can from the bird – as the can still contains boiling liquid. It’s best to have one person hold the can and/or stand on a solid surface while a second person lifts the bird off – it’s at least a three handed process.

We sided ours with some sweet potato slices (one of our giant ones), which we boiled until partially done then finished in the grill. We just put oil and S&P on them, then butter when they came off – the real southerners probably would have added a little brown sugar as well. With Alex visiting her other grandmother, the kids visiting each other and the MIL in the hospital, only three of us for Easter supper, so we kept it simple. Here’s my plate, including some salad.

Everything went according to plan, except the glue on the duct tape melted and I had to lay my heating rack on the lid to hold the top of the foil, so wadded foil in the gap may be better or rely on something besides glue. I hope this gives you the knowledge and courage to try smoking on your grill. It’s not hard and will produce a delicious product – the maple smoke smelled so good. I use the same process for beer can chicken on the grill without the smoke. After this chicken success you’ll have, next try a small Boston butt and make yourself some great pulled pork. I like to use a disposable foil pan for it, so you can collect the juices for adding back into the pulled meat – after you de-fat it. I just empty the pan a couple of times once the meat reaches 165*, so as not to end up boiling the meat, put it in a fat separator and add it back to the pulled meat – very little else will be required. At 250*, it will likely take about 8 hours – depending upon butt size. You can contact me if you need more info - I’m trying to turn you all into BBQers. You Quers, please feel free to add your thoughts to this post.

Have a great Father's day and thanks for stopping by.