Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pork & Pork For The Blogger Party # 4 - News Article Link Fixed

Our fourth blogger party took place on May 26, and we had good weather, a good turnout, and of course, plenty of good food.  I’d asked Meakin Hoffer to be the event photographer and Sam Hoffer (My CarolinaKitchen) to do the official post for it, so mine will just be about the food I provided and the cocktails we served (later post).  These are all Meakin's photos which is why they look better than my normal ones.  Check out Sam's blog for her post.

Chris (Nibble Me This) served as the menu coordinator for the event and suggested I smoke an appetizer of pork ribs using the recipe from Chris Lily of Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ and TV BBQ show fame.  I began with his recipe for Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Ribs posted on line at, then amended  the marinade based upon new information in his cookbook as follows:

1½ cups pineapple juice
1 T. dry rub
1½ t. balsamic vinegar
1½ t. minced garlic

Finishing Glaze – I used Tennessee River Cranberry Delight BBQ Sauce without changes for my glaze. 

Even though they were a little over-cooked by competition standards, the falling-off-the-bone-tender ribs (which most people prefer) were a hit and I’d use this recipe again.

Kalua Pork

Per Wikipedia - "Kālua is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that utilizes an imu, a type of underground oven. The word kālua, which literally means "to cook in an underground oven", may also be used to describe the food cooked in this manner, such as kālua pig or kālua turkey, which are commonly served at luau feasts."  Interestingly, the vast majority of on-line recipes I saw were for a crock pot.

We discussed cooking a whole pig, but even in a smoker, it was way more work than I wanted to do plus being three times the cost of pork butt.  After lots of online looking, I discovered that Kalua Pork was pretty much just salt for seasoning and cooked with banana leaves and Koa wood.  This is what I did:

1. Remove nearly all surface fat, score ¼“ deep in a diamond pattern and rub about 1½ T. of sea salt over the roast (closest I could get to Hawaiian salt). 

2.  From a trial run using pork loin, I found that the fresh banana leaves were too crisp to easily wrap the meat without splitting so I cut them that morning and let them lay around the house all day to soften up.

I wrapped the butts with banana leaves, leaving gaps for the smoke to get in, and secured them with kitchen twine.
3. They cooked for about 10 hours in my Stumps smoker using Stubb’s charcoal and banana tree wood (it’s not exactly wood though) for smoke.  When they got to an internal temperature of 175*, I wrapped them in foil and cooked to around 203*, then pulled and put them in a cooler until meal time (about 3 hours).

4. To serve, I removed the foil, the leaves, and placed the whole butts on a pan lined with a fresh banana leaf for folks to pull off a hunk to eat.  It helps to have a banana tree (hardy variety - no fruit) when you're throwing a luau.

The pork butt was tender, moist, and very tasty, but it was basically just roast pork with a little bit of a unique flavor – very different from my normal BBQ but I enjoyed it and we have plenty of leftovers for other dishes (I cooked three butts and we only ate one and one half).

Want to see something really cool, check out this article about Chris and our blogger parties in the May 26 addition of the Knoxville paper.

Photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


5/26/2013 meal date

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Enchilada’s Several Ways

The new header photo, courtesy of Meakin Hoffer, is Madison and Bodie chilling out at the blogger party.  

We have a new house cleaner who is a young Mexican lady as the adjoining Monroe County has a fairly large Hispanic population, many of whom work at the nearby Monterrey Mushroom plant.  Maria helps support her family by making and selling Mexican food and being one of our favorites, we were anxious to try our first sample of various meat burritos.

We really enjoyed her burritos, so the next week, we asked if she could make us a pan of chicken enchiladas and gave her a pan to make them in.  I was expecting a single layer of enchiladas in the pan covered with sauce and cheese and ready to bake, but what we got was a pan FULL of them and another with the toppings. 

Everything was already cooked and ready to be assembled and heated in the microwave, per her suggestion.  Her standard process is to heat the enchiladas and potatoes and carrots, then top with lettuce, tomato and cheese.  For our first version we just topped them with some cheese and salsa and nuked to warm.

Version two was as Maria did them except we topped the enchiladas with pepper-jack cheese and salsa before nuking and I reheated the potatoes and carrots in a pan with a little olive oil then we topped with lettuce, tomato, and cheese.

We then asked if she made sauces and she brought us a quart each of red chile sauce and salsa verde.  We decided to try both and added red to one and green to the other along with cheddar cheese prior to nuking.

I’m glad she brought the whole pan full as we ate them a lot rather than cook as we got ready for our wine group and the blogger party. They were delicious and we’ll be ordering another pan full soon plus trying some of her other offerings.  The red chile sauce was very good but a little warm, so we went easy on it, and the salsa verde was outstanding.  Stay tuned for a couple of breakfast meals - of course.

Photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


5/18/2013 - 5/25/13 meal dates

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Montreal Smoked Meat - Pastrami With A Twist


Awhile back on the Meatwave (competition BBQ team) site, they posted a recipe for Montreal Smoked Meat which they said “is, more or less, Montreal's answer to pastrami.”  It sounded very similar to pastrami but they described it this way “In contrast to the overpowering spicy pastrami rub, the diverse Montreal seasoning created a more nuanced flavor that let the meat stand out, while still providing a robustness.”

Rather than reproduce their recipe here, which I followed except for the smoking process, please check their site for complete instructions and some excellent photos.  I used the Stumps Smoker preheated to 225*, and added the brisket fat side down - ready for the smoker.

I cooked it overnight to an internal temp of 177* using a remote probe thermometer – at this point I removed it from the smoker, sampled, let it cool, wrapped, and stuck in the fridge for use later.

During our recent RV trip, we decided to have it on a sandwich for supper one night, using bread from the Old Mill Pottery House and pickles from Brooklyn Brine Co., along with spicy mustard and Swiss cheese.  

I cut off about half of the brisket, let it come to room temperature, and steamed it for about an hour. 

I sliced as thin as I could with a dull knife, built the sandwich (except for the pickles), and fried in butter to a golden brown.  As you can see, it made a beautiful sandwich.

Unfortunately, it was way too salty even though I followed both the curing and soaking directions to the letter.  I'd hoped my salty sample at home was due to it being the thin end of the brisket.  I'm going to try soaking it again and see if it can be improved.  It’s always good to try new things, as it could have been magnificent, but I’ll stick to my old process for pastrami from here on – it was a purdy sammie though, wasn’t it? J

Sorry I'm so behind on reading and commenting on your blogs, but with readying for the wine group on last Wed and the blogger party today, it's been pretty hectic around here.  Will hopefully be better this week.

Photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


5/14//13 meal date

Thursday, May 23, 2013

So Long Big Dude’s Que – For Now

Nearly four years ago, I began cooking and selling BBQ to friends and family as a way of offsetting what I cooked for myself and to help pay for the smoker.  Due to word-of-mouth advertising, mostly from Laurie & David (Big Daddy Dave), I continually gained new customers until I had about 15 who ordered regularly and another 10 or so who bought on occasion.

I’ve been cooking once per month and while prepping and cooking in April, I realized it felt way more like work than fun so I made the decision to take a break and I laid-off my sales staff – named above J.  I will continue to BBQ for our table and perhaps a little for friends on occasion, but it will only be when the mood strikes me and we have a hankering for smoked meat.

I’m sure I will not reopen during the summer as it will be RV season and playing around with a hot smoker in the hot weather is definitely not fun – I’d actually rather cook in the January snow than the August heat – I can always put on more clothes but quickly hit a limit going the other way.

So if I do reopen, it won’t be before fall and in the meantime, I hope to do some blog worthy cooking.  This is the last two business racks of loin back ribs heading for the smoker rubbed with a mixture of Billy Bones Original and XXX Cherry – they looked great coming off, but I forgot to get a shot.

Photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Elvira's Cafe

During our RV trip to the Pigeon Forge area, we wanted to try a restaurant we'd heard about called Elvira's, which had great reviews on Urban Spoon, Trip Advisor, and Yelp. While the address is Sevierville, it's located at the far southwestern end of Wear's Valley on US-321 and is closer to Townsend (about a mile from the Blount County line) than Pigeon Forge.

As I was taking some inside shots a young lady walked over, introduced herself in a slight Russian accent as Elvira and inquired about the shots. After I told her about my blog, she told me all about the 5 month old restaurant, a little about herself, and her commitment to making everything possible from scratch - how hard is it to mix up a batch of pancake batter from scratch rather using a mix, was one of her examples.  

They have an open cooking area and you can watch your meal being prepared if you like - or just stare at a pan of fresh biscuits.

Seating is available in the cooking area, the dining room, and maybe a porch area.  The restaurant had a very pleasant ambiance, was uncrowded, and decorated for the area.  Both Elvira and her staff were very friendly and helpful - note the big smile on the chefs face.

We arrived about 10:30am and had the option of breakfast or lunch and Bev went the lunch Fried Chicken Crepe, perhaps made with buckwheat flour.

Pat opted for the breakfast Peaches & Pears Crepe.

And it was a no brainier for the breakfast food lover - two eggs over easy, potatoes, sausage, biscuit, and sausage gravy.  Pictured as served and ready to dig in.

The ladies both loved theirs and the only suggestion would be to get the sauce on the side as while it was delicious, it was pretty sweet. The only suggestion I'd make is eat there as often as you can. The biscuit was as good as it looked and obviously made from scratch, the gravy was just the way I make it at home with lots of sausage (locally made Swaggerty's), the eggs were perfectly cooked, and the potatoes crispy ( they may have been oven roasted wedges).

And as a bonus, their desserts were being delivered by the local couple who make them and we got a piece of coconut cream pie to go - it was awesome. And for another bonus, the dessert guy was a retired lifetime chef who gave me the secrets to his best-in-the-world biscuits - I feel a blog post coming on.

Elvira doesn't yet have a website, but info can be gotten from her Facebook page or one of the raters mentioned above. We will definitely make the hour drive from home to eat at Elvira's.  I hope they are prepared for the impending tourist season because I can imagine how busy they will be as word gets around.

Elvira's Cafe, 4143 Wears Valley Road, Sevierville, TN, (865) 366-2263.  Open for breakfast and lunch, Mon.-Sat., 7am - 2:30pm.

Photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


5/13//13 meal date

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Maiden RV Voyage

After a couple of false starts and a trip back to the dealership for repairs, we finally made the maiden voyage in the new RV. Since Madison was negative about RVing and we didn't know how the coach would do, we elected to go to the Pigeon Forge area where their were plenty of teenage girl things to do and it was less than two hour from home. Bev and Pat come up here often to shop at Tanger Outlet (about a half mile away) so this was perfect for all of the females.

We stayed at a very nice campground on the Little Pigeon River called River Plantation RV Resort and it was hard to believe such a serene place could exist in the midst of the throngs of businesses and cars just up the hill (I caught it at a low traffic time).

We had a nice back-in spot on the river with lots of room in back for the pups to romp.

As is often the case, we decided to stay an extra day, but had to move two sites down - gave us another opportunity to practice.  These shots are up and down the park taken early in the week and they were nearly all occupied when we left Friday morning.

While in the area, we looked at several campgrounds and talked with others who are regulars to the area and all agree that this is the best spot - for example, it was nicer than the Pigeon Forge KOA and and at half the price.  If camping up this way again, it will definitely be our first choice.

Photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


5/12//13 – 5/17/13 event date

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Jerk Salmon

We had four nice pieces of Scottish salmon and Bev wanted to grill them.  We like to use mayo and after using Sint Maarten Jerk on some tilapia, we decided to give it a try on the salmon. 

I rubbed oil on the skin side then dusted the non-skin side with the jerk and gave it a slather of mayo. 

I grilled it for a couple of minutes with the skin side down and as soon as it was peelable, I flipped it and removed the skin.  I then gave the up side the seasoning/ mayo treatment.  When the down side had a little crust, I flipped again and cooked to an internal temp of 135*.  We sided it with some grilled fresh asparagus (olive oil, salt, pepper, and some of the jerk).

I thought it was very good but think I may prefer other seasonings on salmon, however, Bev raved about it so I’m guessing it was beyond very good for her - even Madison ate a piece for supper and a half piece later in the evening.  While this is officially a jerk seasoning, it is obviously good on many dishes and will be used around here often - since we've always used a marinade for our jerk seasoning, this bottle of dry jerk seasoning has been in the pantry, unopened for a year.

Photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


5/7/13 meal date

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Orlando For SeaWorld With Madison

This is the last post about our FL trip and the big thing Madison wanted to do – make the 1½ hour drive over to Orlando for a SeaWorld day.  These folks know how to make money - $89 admittance, $20 parking, and my first ever $6.50 Bud Light (we made sure we ate just before going into the park). 

We saw most of the shows, except I missed the whales, and I thought the dolphin one was very professional (the seal/walrus was poor).  In addition to the dolphins, it included folks doing acrobats above the water, divers, and live birds flying around.  Following are a few shots with some using the repetitive shot “sports feature” of the camera. 

As I watched a bunch of tired looking folks heading for the exit, I was sure of one thing - this adventure is made for 40 year olds with kids and not 65 year olds with grand kids - it took me two days to recover J

Photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


4/30/13 meal date

Monday, May 13, 2013

Crappie – It’s Not Just For Supper


We had several small pieces of crappie (pronouned croppie around here) left from our meal the other night and surprisingly, Bev suggested we have them for breakfast – she never wants fish in the morning.  So I picked myself up off the floor and said “sounds good to me.”  We mixed up a 75/25 mix of cornmeal/flour for dredging after dusting with Sint Maarten Jerk Seasoning, which we've used on several things lately and really like.  It doesn't have the strong allspice flavor typical of most jerk seasoning.

Bev just ate the fish, but I added a couple of sunny-side-up, dippy eggs and a piece of sour dough toast to mine.  She also added some Sint Maarten hot sauce to her fish but I forgot to try it.

Pan fried fish is just darned hard to beat for any meal and this was an excellent way to start the day, providing me with protein, carbs, and a smile.

Photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


5/8/13 meal date