Monday, April 25, 2011
I've been grilling and cooking inside too with Not Your Average Cajun Seasoning for several months now, and it is one of my all time favorite seasonings.
When you hear the word "cajun" and you're not from that area, you may start thinking "blazing hot." While you can get really hot food in cajun country, it's not all about the heat. They have a range of flavors ranging from mild to hot and a lot in between.
Robert (AKA - Chef of the Future) offered to send out a bottle of his seasoning Not Your Average Cajun Seasoning, and I was curious about this one especially given the long name. He did warn me ahead of time that it was not a hot mix.
I don't remember the first foods we had when trying out NYACS, but this week, I grilled shrimp and vegetables in a grill wok with Allegro Soy & Lime marinade and seasoned with Not Your Average Cajun Seasoning.
This is a super easy dinner. I just marinate the shrimp and veggies (like green peppers and mushrooms) and then put them in a heated grill with the wok warmed up. It takes around 20 minutes for the meal to be ready (stirring now and then). I usually make rice to go with our grilled shrimp.
Chef of the Future gets thumbs up all round from my mild son to my son who does love spicy food. This makes for a great all purpose seasoning that I can use on just about everything - probably not on cake or pie etc - but certainly yummy on foods I grill and in scrambled eggs, popcorn, and even in my Seven Layer Dip.
We had a family dinner yesterday, and I made Seven Layer Dip but used NYACS as the signature flavor rather than taco seasoning. It turned out really yummy.
How to Make Seven Layer Dip with Chef of the Future Seasoning
1. Get a 9 inch pie plate or a Tupperware container like I use that is in that size range.
2. Spread a can of refried beans (around 10 oz) on the bottom and sprinkle with NYACS. This is a lot less expensive than buying bean dip. And, I prefer to add the seasonings myself anyone so that I can vary the flavors a bit or make the dip milder or hotter.
3. On top of the beans, spread a layer of guacamole dip (10 oz - give or take). You can buy it pre-made or make your own. I usually guy Dean's guacamole dip which is really good.
4. In a small bowl, mix a teaspoon or two of Not Your Average Cajun Seasoning with 8 oz of sour cream. Some people go a little heavier on the sour cream. Mix that and then layer on top of the guacamole.
5. If serving the next day, refrigerate at this point. If serving the same day, then add the toppings - some chopped tomatoes, chopped scallions (the little green ends on new onions), and black olives (if you like those).
6. Sprinkle cheese on top. You can shread cheddar. Here I had a 4 mexi-mix cheese pre-shredded so used that on top.
7. Keep chilled in a covered container until ready to dig in with tortilla chips.
We really love Chef of the Future - Not Your Average Cajun Seasoning. It does have a unique taste. It's 100% natural with spices and a little lemon. You get a robust flavor with a slight kick but not a scorch which would limit how you might use NYACS. I grill and cook with this seasoning, but we also use it on the table as a "go to" for whatever we're having for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Friday, April 22, 2011
I've been looking forward all week to trying out Ralph's barbecue sauce. Ralph is my co-worker at Catawba College. We'd not met, because we're in different buildings. I teach and write about grilling and barbecue at night, and Ralph is a retired police officer from Lexington, NC who works security (thanks!) and he spends his spare time making his Bar-B-Q & Mop sauce.
Shane, who is the head of security and a long time friend, told Ralph about my hobby and gave him my business card (very inexpensive from Vista print online - check them out if you need cards), and he told me that Ralph was a sauce guy and would be getting in touch. This is where you all must be thinking "small world." I couldn't believe there was a small batch barbecue sauce maker on campus and that I'd not heard about it.
Ralph pulled a night shift and stopped by my office in the morning with a jar of his sauce, and we had a great chat. I can't think of anything I enjoy much more than talking barbecue - other than maybe eating barbecue.
Ralph is originally from Lexington which is a barbecue capital in North Carolina. I can't say THE barbecue capital, or I'd really tick off the eastern style North Carolina barbecue folks. That argument ranks with religion and politics in this state, and I hide in the bunkers when that argument comes up - eastern versus western barbeuce in NC.
For twenty years, Ralph has been tweaking around with his barbecue sauce. About seven years ago, his wife thought he had it perfect and said, "That's it. Leave it alone." That became his signature sauce and the one sitting on my desk that day and on my table tonight.
For years, Ralph made his special barbecue sauce for his own grilling and as Christmas gifts for the family. He said that one year he thought maybe he should do something different. Everyone was saying, "Where's the barbecue sauce?" He didn't make that mistake again. You know how families are. You really don't want them all mad at you and especially not at Christmas.
With family, friends, and the folks at church going wild for Ralph's Bar-B-Q Sauce and Mop, he decided maybe he could market his product. That's a huge undertaking especially when you're doing it out of your home kitchen and two galllons at a time.
"My wife has been real patient with me," said Ralph who generally waits until everyone is asleep at home to work his barbecue sauce magic. He's now talking to a bottler out of Winston Salem, so that he can make more sauce than what he can at home in the kitchen.
Some local stores already carry Ralph's Bar-B-Q sauce. He's in Salisbury (Village Groceries on 601 and McLaughlin's on Monroe St.), Lexington (Bass Food Mart and Conrad & Hinkle on N. Main), and Thomasville (Shuler's Meat Market on 29/70). He was on consignment to start with, but his sauce was popular, so the stores buy it outright now.
Also, if you're local, then Village Inn Pizza of Salisbury, NC uses Ralph's sauce on their wings on Wednesday nights. Stop by and try those out and tell them Ralph rocks.
Ralph is now setting up a Ralph's sauce web page and getting his sauce out there. I'm writing this on Easter weekend 2011, and the page just went up, so keep in mind that you're in the pilot group as they build the space.
Here's the pork butt we've had on the Weber Smokey Mountain today. No. It's not sauced at this point. We rubbed it with Bandiola Barbecue rub which is why it's such a pretty color (and the bark has a very nice flavor).
We let the pork butt rest but not long. Eli was hungry - starving. I think this is a chronic issue with 18-year-old boys. In any case, we rested the pork with Eli slipping samples and dipping it in Ralph's sauce.
You don't have to heat up Lexington type barbecue sauce, but I like it warmed up. So, I put some in the pot and heated it up on my new glass top stove. I don't much like my new stove other than the cool purple color it makes around the pot that you can see here. That is a story for another post though.
I put my barbecue sandwich together and sauced it and got my first taste of Ralph's sauce. Yum. It reminded me of a barbecue sauce I bought in Murphy, NC ten or more years ago that I've tried and tried to find with no luck. All small batch sauces are a little different, but Ralph's has that sweet flavor with a bite of heat behind it that I'd loved so much with that Murphy sauce I got at the flea market. Ralph's BBQ sauce was a big hit here all round. Yes. Ralph's wife was correct. He nailed it.
If you're not from North Carolina or aren't familiar with Lexington style barbecue sauce, then it's vinegar based but has some red (ketchup in this case) plus some heat (pepper seeds and/or cayenne - depending on the sauce maker). It's unique and very good.
This type of barbecue sauce is common for slow smoked pork but also for chicken and ribs. It can be mopped on as food is grilling or cooking or used as a dip after the food is cooked.
Ralph told me that he especially liked to use his sauce with chicken, and that's what I plan to do next. It can be sauced on the grill, or he told me that it's really good to Southern fry chicken and then pour his sauce over it and let it sit for a while. That's what we call barbi-fried chicken around here.
I've been talking about Ralph's sauce and our pork butt evening this week on Facebook. You can find me there under Cyndi Allison (Salisbury and/or Grill Girl - since there are others with the same name on there). Norman, a guy I graduated with and who was always one of my favorite classmates, noticed I was talking about Ralphs's barbecue sauce. He clicked in to let me know that Ralph is his brother-in-law. It was great to hear from Norman again, and I'm right back to thinking "small world" again. I'm glad Shane hooked us up. We're just two working folks with hobbies that are similar. I write on barbecue. He makes barbecue sauce. I'm sure we smiled or waved while walking across campus. Now, we are barbecue buddies.
Thanks for the sauce Ralph. I can be a tough critic I know. Your BBQ sauce was everything I hoped for and more.
For lunch today, we had Black & Bleu brats from Man Cave. They sent me some of their gourmet meats to try out.
If you're not familiar with Man Cave, it's (dare I say?) kind of like Tupperware. The guys can have MEATings in their Man Caves and check out the latest grilling tools, bar gear, and unique food products like frog legs (one of my favorite foods). You can go to the Man Cave site and buy items, so if you're not the hang out type, or if you're female and just want to shop and surprise your grill guy, then that's another option.
We're smoking a pork butt today, so I decided to double duty the Weber bullet and have brats for lunch. With the Johnsonville brats, we simmer them in beer and butter and then grill them quickly like hot dogs. With the bleu cheese mixed in with the meat on the Black & Bleu brats, you need a low temperature and more time. We were around 250 degrees F, and I smoked the Man Cave brats for 15 minutes, turned them, and smoked the other side for 10 minutes.
The guys weren't huge fans I must say, but none of them like bleu cheese, so I wasn't surprised. I thought the brats were good, and the Coleman's mustard from England went perfect with them. It's a hotter mustard than most here in the United States. I like the Man Cave Tomato Basil brats the best, but I'd say big bleu cheese fans would vote on these. You can definately taste the cheese.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The British certainly know how to do mustard. I was not familiar with Colman's Mustard, although it is one of the oldest food brands in the world. They date back to 1814, but we do not have Colman's in this rural area.
Toni had noticed my Barbecue Master blog and asked if I'd like to try out a sample of Colman's. Mustard is my favorite condiment and I was curious about one from across the pond, so I decided I'd give it a try even though we're on the home stretch at the college - our max out time.
The Colman's arrived really quick. Toni sent the prepared type (creamy) and also a tin of powdered.
I decided I wanted to try out the mustard tonight even though I have a lot of grading to do. A teacher has to eat too right?
Boneless pork chops seemed a good idea, since they are quick and easy on the grill. An added plus was that they were on sale this week. So, I made the grocery run and got my chops.
There are a lot of ways to go with mustard and pork. I thought I'd taste the creamy Colman's mustard first and then take it from there.
Whoa buddy. Colman's - they do the mustard. This is not American hot dog mustard. No. Not by any stretch. It's a combination mustard (different seed types) with a real kick. In other words, this mustard is hot. This is hot in a very nice way. Heaven. But, my high school son is not a heat freak. Sigh. The child must have picked up a recessive gene.
Hum . . .
I decided to go with a mustard glaze for the pork chops. I always have honey on hand, and I knew that would balance out the heat.
How to Make a Mustard Glaze for Grilled Foods
Mix togehter and whisk or stir:
1/4 cup honey
1 TBS Colman's mustard (creamy and NOT the powder on this one)
1 teaspoon apple cidear vinegar
1 teaspoon Chef of the Future - Not Your Average Cajun Seasoning (mild flavor)
How to Grill Boneless (or not) Pork Chops with a Mustard Glaze
1. Heat up the grill. A hot grill keeps food from sticking.
2. Grill one side of the pork chops for 10 minutes (at around 350 degrees F) or until about half done and flip.
3. Brush on mustard glaze. This is on the side that has the grill marks or about half done.
5. Grill the other side with the glaze down and some glaze added on top for again close to 10 minutes. Times vary depending on the heat of the grill and the thickness of the pork chops. Cut into a pork chop if you're not sure if they are done. They are good with a faint pink color. Don't grill them to death, or they are dry and not very good.
You can double the batch and glaze more often if you like. This recipe is thin and more like the mop barbecue sauces that are common in North Carolina. Don't expect a thick Kansas style sauce, although I can do one of those later with the mustard.
I was flying by the seat of my pants on this one, but it was a thumbs up all round here. The honey cut the heat enough so that my younger son loved the Colman's pork chops. I got the hint of heat with the Colman's - yum.
This weekend, I plan to grill some brats. This mustard with some heat should be perfect with brats. I could see visions of those dancing in my head from the first taste.
If you can't find Colman's Mustard in your area, I searched online and there is a Colman's Mustard Shop.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
I've been rocking the Char-Broil Urban barbecue grill for the last few weeks. It's crunch time at work, and I've found this small grill super easy to use. Also, I've been grilling for really small groups ranging from one to four, so I've not needed to crank up or heat up any of my big grills.
The first time I saw the Char-Broil Urban grill was when the new grills went on the floor at Lowe's around Christmas. A girl I taught at the college was working the outdoor section, and she was quite excited about the Char-Broil Urban. She said that unfortunately she'd bought a small grill the year prior, but she wish she had waited and that even though the CB Urban cost more, it was cool enough that she would have paid the extra.
I would call this a balcony grill due to the size. It has two burners rather than the larger sized Char-Broil grills, but there's plenty of room to cook for four. With burgers or hot dogs, you could feed a bigger group.
As you can see, this grill is large enough for my grill wok, and I enjoy making shrimp or chicken and vegetables in the grill basket. I also use it to make MOINK balls. The Urban is perfect for this and even has some room to stick some bread or other small items to the side if we want something extra.
With the small grills, you often do not get work space. With the Urban Char-Broil, you get two side areas that are roomy. Above you can see where I'm working with sauce to go on some grilled country ribs. My other tools like gloves and tongs are on the other side.
What my student now working at Lowe's loved (and I do too) is that the side work areas fold down flush when you're not using them. That means the grill is super compact, but you have the space to work when you are actually grilling. Very nice touch.
The real test is, of course, how well a grill does grill. It can look great and have all kinds of neat features, but if it doesn't grill well, then it's just not much of a grill.
The Urban has the Char-Broil infrared technology. If you've looked at this line, there are two styles. There's what I call the Red style with troughs and then the Professional series line with the double grates - one below with little holes and then the upper with slanted slates. The Urban falls in the second category.
This is built as a traditional high heat grill which is what most people use and where you find the bulk of outdoor foods that go on the grills - burgers, hot dogs, steak, chicken. You can easily hit temperatures around 700 degrees F which give you the grill marks you see on my chicken above or below on Texas Toast grilled. Then you can adjust the heat (or have one burner side on low) and finish off foods to the doneness level you want. This grill does a very nice job at what most will call searing.
I do a lot of low and slow grilling as well, and I can heat one burner and not the other for an offset and then drop the temperature down to low. Then, with the lid closed I can run around 350 degrees F (lower on the side not burning if I go that route). With this method I can do larger cuts of meat or even casseroles. So, I can get convection from this unit, although I'm not sure they really planned on it being used that way.
I've done a lot of slow grilling on the Urban now including a pork loin with a bacon weave and the mini meatloaves you see above. Once I adjust the heat, it holds steady, and I've had great results with some less traditional grilled dishes on the Urban. Here you can see how the grilled meatloaf minis came out.
I got the Char-Broil Urban grill free as part of a project I was working on (unrelated to my blog). I'd been interested in the small grill after talking to my student at Lowe's.
I thought the Urban would be convenient now and then, but it's been my "go to" grill over the last few weeks. I come home tired, crank it up, and I can have dinner done in a flash or I can put something on in convection mode (lower heat with the lid down on the grill) and get some other things done while dinner is grilling.
If you don't have a lot of space or cook for a family of three or four, then this grill is ideal. If you do want to have folks over, just grill hot dogs or brats which do not take up much grill space and are on and off fast.
We had a Tex Mex inspired casserole on the barbecue grill this evening. I'll just call it Taco Chicken Potato Casserole. I'd give it a better name, but I don't recall many of my Spanish vocabularly words from college.
The concept is similar to the hobo packs many of us made in Scouts, but I used a toss away aluminum pan. With only two of us eating, I used the small size which looks to be around 8 x 10 inches and around an inch deep. My ruler apparently is with the lost socks of the household - goodness knows where.
The first thing I did was cut a layer of potatoes. Since I was using chicken tenders which are thinner than the boneless chicken breasts, I cut the potatoes thin so that the cooking time would be even. I used three medium sized potatoes and left the skins on, since these were the new potatoes with thin skins.
I put the potatoes in the pan which I'd sprayed lightly with non-stick Pam spray butter flavor. Then, I put the chicken tenders on top. After that I sprinkled on a bit of taco seasoning. I didn't measure. I just sprinkled as I would with a seasoning like salt or pepper.
The next step was to cover the casserole with salsa - around one cup. I used Chi Chi's medium chunky which turned out to be hotter than I expected. That was fine, but I love hot foods.
At this point, this looks pretty thick, but the salsa cooks down as it grills and does add liquid to the dish.
The last ingredient is cheese. I had a bag of mixed Tex Mex cheese. Eli loves cheese, so I went generous on that.
Most any cheese is going to work here, and you can use the pre-shredded or just shread your own on top.
Once I had the casserole together, I got a piece of aluminum foil which we call tin foil here in the South. I put that over the dish and crimped around the edges. That's to hold in the heat. Cooking this open on the grill would make for a really long time on cooking and also dry out the dish.
I used a gas grill for this casserole recipe, but I've also done it over charcoal offset and the casserole on the cool side of the charcoal grill. In this case, I went with low heat on the gas grill (ranging from 300 to 400 degrees F) with the lid closed on the grill. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes for the casserole to be cooked through.
Since grills differ in terms of heat and since the potato slices or meat may be thinner or thicker than what I have here, I'd suggest checking at around 45 minutes. Just lift the corner of the aluminum foil and use a fork to test a potato (and then press the foil back in place if the casserole is not quite ready). That's what I do when I use a new grill for this recipe.
Grilled Chicken with Potatoes is easy to make and tastes delicious. You can go mild with a low heat salsa or spice it up more with a hot version. Adjust the taco seasoning powder or go milder or hotter on that as well.
Eli said that this recipe reminds him of lasagna but with more zip. It does kind of have that flavor and feel.
Note, too, that you can do this dish in the oven as well. Just use a casserole dish with a cover (or use tin foil) and follow the same basic steps. It's more fun to do it outside, but if you don't have a grill or it's raining, it's still a rich dish that hits the spot.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Last night I grilled with coconut charcoal. It's made with coconut shells and some dried coconut (probably to help hold it together).
Grilling with coconut shell charcoal means you have a sustainable product that is environmentally friendly. Really now, how many coconut shell bras are needed even for the Parrotheads at Jimmy Buffet concerts? And, what else can you do with all those coconut shells (feel free to toss out ideas).
Afire does not add chemicals to the coconut charcoal either, so you get a clean burn. It is more like grilling with real wood rather than charcoal briquettes. There's no coconut flavor. The smell of the charcoal is rather neutral other than just having a grilling smoke smell with the foods on the grill taking center stage.
I usually start my grill coals with a chimney starter. This means I never use lighter fluid which can give grilled foods an off taste. The chimney starter works great with briquettes like Kingsford, but I've found that natural lump charcoal will have small pieces that fall through and also that the natural lump shoots sparks out. I have to use a shield and get my battle sword out to start natural lump charcoal. Just kidding, but that is an issue. Coconut charcoal is even in terms of size, and it does not throw sparks out on my arms.
The coconut shell charcoal does burn hotter than the other types of charcoal. I only had 16 pieces in the chimney starter (maybe 1/3 full), and it was so hot that I only snapped off two photos before giving that up (ouch). The company says the heat hits 800 degrees F, and I don't doubt that one bit. By comparison, natural lump tends to run at tops 735 F and briquettes 715 F. That's just typical. Your mileage may vary.
The little doughnut shaped coconut charcoals are very compact, so the comparison on burn times is that the seven pound box I bought would equal a 14 pound bag of regular charcoal. The price seems kind of high at $15 for seven pounds of coconut charcoal, but it does burn hot and slow with very little ash (and nice plus on clean up).
I do high heat grilling (like steaks) but also low and slow. This grill out was a combination. I used a grill offset on the PK Outdoor Cooker (cast aluminum) and had coals to one side and none on the other. That's offset. You have a hot area and a cooler area to do various things on your grill.
The first thing I did was sear the country ribs. That was quick. I forgot to time, but I'd estimate that I had grill marks in under a minute over the coconut charcoal. I flipped the ribs and locked in both sides. The grill marks are really more for appearance than anything else, but still . . .
Potatoes are a hard root vegetable and need pretty good heat. I put them over the coals and moved the country ribs to the edge of the hot coal area as you can see. But, I did not need 800 degrees at this point.
To slow smoke but with decent heat, I closed the lid (convection grilling) and had the vents about half open top and bottom. That's less air, so I pulled the heat levels down. I'd guess I was in the 350 to 400 degree range based on the grilling times. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes for the potatoes to be tender and the meat to be done with the set up as above.
When I had finished grilling my meal, the coconut coals were still going strong. I closed off the vents so that some of that charcoal will be a bottom or base for the next grill out. Afire estimates that I get 2.5 hours cooking time with their charcoal versus 1.5 with regular charcoal and an hour on natural lump for the same amounts. I'm sure they put the best spin on it, but the coconut charcoal definately has staying power. I certainly could have thrown more meat on the grill, but I need to lose the 10 pounds I put on with the last grilling magazine project I worked on.
I was impressed with the coconut shell charcoal. If you use other types of charcoal, then you'll have no problems getting the hang of using coconut charcoal. The main differences would be that you can get a hotter fire (unless you're closing the grill lid and playing with the vents to adjust that temperature), and the flavor is more like wood than like briquettes.
Availability may be an issue. I can't buy coconut charcoal in my area, but this is not exactly progress-ville around here. I got my box through Amazon when someone gave me a gift certificate for Christmas. I wanted something fun, and I'd been looking at the coconut charcoal for quite a while.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Amazing Dad's Sauce BBQ Sauce is out of Canada with the Honey Bunny Company. Fred of Canada gave me this bottle (which is not really a bottle), but I looked around. Amazon carries the Honey Bunny products, so while I can't find it on the shelf in my area, folks from the United States and other areas can get this one pretty easily by searching.
The first thing that caught my eye here is the packaging. This barbecue sauce is in a container more like the little juice drinks (but larger). I know some BBQ sauce guys read my blog, so I was thinking that this sort of packaging might be of interest. If you buy barbecue sauce, then you know shipping runs high (and it's easy to get damage with traditional glass), so I think this might help reduce costs on shipping out good barbecue sauces and also mean less chances on damages.
I wasn't sure how barbecue sauce in a pouch (so to speak) would work out, but it really is super easy to use. BBQ sauce is thicker than juice, but it comes out easily. You can press (just lightly) and it comes right out in the bowl.
In the photo above, I am using my right hand on the sauce and the left hand for the camera (someone needs an assistant around here huh?). That was the only way I could get the label to show, and although it is not how I would usually pour sauce, it worked out just fine as you can see. This shot also gives you a good idea as far as how the spout on this new packaging works.
Any product with a honey base is going to be sweet, so I opted to go with chicken (which works well with a sweet sauce). I do cut up chicken pieces too, but the boneless chicken breasts and tenders are super quick and easy, so it was another of those fast food grilling nights. You can read about how to do the boneless chicken on the grill on my main site - Yes You Can Grill. If you use the little tenders, then you need to cut the grilling time - those grill up real fast. Watch them close.
This is the darkest colored sauce I think I've ever used on the grill. Trust me. I did not burn anything. This is just a rich dark sauce with a honey base.
I put the chicken on very briefly to "set" it and get the grill marks, and then I sauced it early. With full cuts of chicken, you want to wait to sauce with a sugar or honey sauce until the last 10 minutes or so. With these small pieces, It might just be 10 minutes total depending on your heat level.
My youngest son adores honey, and he loves the dark honey from the mountains. At the grocery store, you mostly get the light stuff which does not have as much flavor. So, he really rocked the chicken tonight. This is one of his all time favorite barbecue sauces.
On my end, I do say thumbs up. This is an excellent sauce for meats that go well with a quite sweet sauce. I would not put it on beef myself, but different strokes. I call it an excellent chicken and pork barbecue sauce. I liked the thick and rich flavor with honey taking center stage on the grilled chicken.
I'd also note that this is an organic product. It even has organic onion powder. I did not even know they made that. So, if you are in to organic, then Honey Bunny is all about that.
I'll have to check out more of this line. They sure seem to progressive with their ideas. The barbecue sauce is really good. My Poppaw was a beekeeper, and my son is a huge fan on honey. The packaging is interesting too and may make it easier for small batch companies to get products out there. I hope so, because there are some amazing barbecue sauces on the market, and most of them are not on your grocery store shelf.
Friday, April 08, 2011
Man Cave got in touch which I think is pretty cool, since I'm a female griller. That's pretty progressive for the guys. Some of them like to keep the Man Cave off limits for the girls. They do have a point there. I drop in, but it can get a tad rowdy outside with the guys. I know. My sons have put me on crutches before, but that was at the lake where they water tubed me in high gear and circled and made a huge wake. When Momma gets thrown 8 feet in the air, the landing is not so pretty. My doctor said he hopes I do not go on vacation very often.
The Man Cave guys wanted to know if I'd check out their brats and let them know what I think. If I'm not in max mode (which can happen - but I'll say), I'm game to try out something new in the grilling or barbecue world. My only stipulation is that I'm going to call it the way I see it. If someone does not want to gamble on that, it's fine.
The brave guys at Man Cave decided I might be a Tomato Basil Brat kind of woman. That works. There are few general flavors I do not like. The only one that comes to mind right off would be figs. Ugh. Don't send fig anything. And, I turn down any offers figgie, since I know those kick in my gag reflex. I can't do a fair review on anything "fig."
Man Cave nailed the mail in. The products were packed well and rock solid frozen when they arrived. UPS did not even bounce the box off the side of the house or anything strange. Yes. I can tell when it's a delivery issue rather than the packing end.
These are gourmet brats. I don't see much information online or on the package (even with my reading glasses). Just eyeballing, I'm thinking these are the slow smoked type and not Johnsonville brats (which is all we can get here and which we do love). With flavors added to the meat mix, you don't want to break the casing and lose the flavor.
I'd also note that The Kings Stock brats sold by Man Cave are smaller sized brats versus the Johnsonville (which I hope gives everyone a ballpark size idea). They are closer to hot dog size. This meant that the buns were rather large for the brats, but they were sub buns (really the only option here other than just standard hot dog buns). I just used the sub buns like we typically do and broke off bread (much to the delight of my dog who is a bread hound).
I fired up the PK cast aluminum grill which is a charcoal unit and does a great job at offset slow smoking too. The coals were to one end. The meat went on the other end. And, I smoked these brats around 20 minutes.
The brats looked and smelled great as I was grilling. Though I typically do a beer and butter boil on the mass market brats, this was a slow smoke on the high end brats.
When the Man Cave brats came off, I bunned them up and gave them a try. I must say they were excellent. I liked the extra flavor cased in. It took longer to smoke these brats, but it cut out the step of simmering them on the stove beforehand.
All in all, I would say this is a thumbs up on Man Cave Tomato Basil brats. They were easy to smoke up, and the flavor was terrific. I would like a higher end smaller bun to go with them. If you live in a bigger city, you probably have that option. Go with the smaller buns in the classic hot dog size range.
We did have some fun on Facebook about the t-shirt Man Cave was kind enough to send. They sent me Extra Large. I am sure no tiny, but I'm not XL. I dubbed the t-shirt my Man Cave dress. Several Facebook barbecue buddies asked that I provide proof of this dress of the Man Cave. So, I talked my son into taking a few photos while I grilled Man Cave brats in my Man Cave dress. (Son has requested no more XL t-shirts be sent as he is not going to get out in the yard and do this again - haha.)
The Man Cave shirt is cool, but it is certainly manly as one might expect. I gifted it to the father of the boys after the one grill photo shoot. It would be a super gift for the guy in your life who loves to grill.
Man Cave is clearly more of a guy site as you can guess from the name. But, it is also a cool spot for women to pick up some great grill gear and food for gifts. So, don't be shy if you're female. But, I do have a tip for the guys. Do not buy your sweetie a XL Man Cave shirt. Even if it would happen to fit in terms of size, those rules would not be what she would wear around town (-:
Monday, April 04, 2011
Duck-Rabbit beer is out of Farmville, North Carolina and one of the many micro brews we have in our state now that some laws were changed. When I was younger, we were a Bud, Busch, and Miller pony beer site. I'm glad we have variety now.
The Duck-Rabbit company goes with the dark beer theme. So, yes, it is something different from what you'd normally get around here and certainly not like our local top shelf beers (which are still the national brand names).
When I visited my son at UNC, I picked up a bottle of Duck-Rabbit in a mixed six at Whole Foods. That's a little more expensive than buying a full six, but I'd rather get a mix in case I'm not impressed with my beer pick.
In this case, my first thought was that The Duck-Rabbit reminded of the very first taste I had of beer. I took a swig and thought, "Whew boy, I don't know why anyone would want to drink this stuff." That's how this beer hit me, because it was stout and bitter.
I would not recommend Duck-Rabbit with barbecue, unless you love really super hot barbecue. Then, perhaps the strong flavors would balance out. Becuase, I can tell you this is not a meek beer - not one bit. I would eat something really bold with it though, because this is kind of like the Everclear of beers in flavor. STRONG! I sure can't imagine just sipping along, especially since the flavor gets fuller as the beer gets warmer.
The company talks about a lot of layers in this beer, and perhaps others can pick them up. To my way of thinking, it was more like asking: "OK. Do you remember when the freight train ran over you?"
This one is way too beery for me, but if that is what you are looking for, go for it. Try some hot wings or something with it. It would sure overpower most barbecue and certainly general grilled foods.
You can check out more of my barbecue beer reviews and also see some funny local beverage signs.
Sunday, April 03, 2011
I decided to get creative this weekend. I had some deer meat that my student Angela (a home fish blogger) gave me (THANKS!). Her father had added fat (since deer is not marbled like beef), so this deer meat was like cooking with ground beef. You can make these meatloafs using any type of ground meat you like including turkey.
If you're wondering why I was working with deer meat, that's because Allegro (a marinade and barbecue sauce company) had sent me some samples, and they have a wild meat marinade - Game Tame Marinade. I mentioned that on Facebook, and that's how I happened to get some deer meat. Facebook really does amaze me at times.
First I soaked the deer meat in marinade for around 20 minutes. I'd tried it overnight on burgers and felt that was too long. I don't like a marinade to overpower, so my normal times on that would be 20 minutes to an hour. That's where you'll see some variation in the color of the meat. It's darker in some places where it has more marinade.
I tamped the meat into the throw away muffin pan (but not too tight). I really need to look for a pan at Good Will. Putting them on the grill will black the pans, so I don't want to use my good pans. But, it would make sense to get a dedicated muffin tin for the grill. Real metal holds heat better for faster grilling. It's also greener - obviously.
Once I had the meat in the pan with just a little head space, I added some barbecue sauce. I went again with Allegro - the regular barbecue sauce which is a nice smooth sauce but not overpowering. You could also use ketchup or tomoato paste like you might with meatloaf in the home oven. I liked the barbecue sauce better with the smoke taste using Baxter's wood (my favorite). Just make a little tin foil cup and put wood chips over to the side to get that smoke flavor on a gas grill.
As I was about to put my mini meatloafs on the grill, my son came in. His older brother was in for his birthday. Younger brother says, "Are you making meat cupcakes for Caleb?" Guys crack me up. And, I guess these will always be known at my house at meat cupcakes. Happy Birthday Caleb!
I stuck the muffin pan on the Char Broil Urban which has turned out to be a grill I really love (and I have 20 plus). It's a good size grill for a family or three or four, easy to use, and the food comes out nice and moist with the infrared.
In this case, I went convection (or lid down) at lower temperatures. You really are baking meatloaf outdoors. It could also be smoked in a smoker. But, if you throw thicker meat like these on an open top grill, I'm thinking you are going to have a mess with the middle not cooked which you especially do not want with deer meat.
My heat was fairly steady at 350 degrees which is low on an infrared - had to open the lid to drop it down a couple of times. More often I'd do these lower temp foods on a smoker, but I was also doing a beef stir fry so wanted cranked up heat after I finished up the meatloafs. Not a problem. Just had to pay attention.
The grease does pool up around the meat. This will vary on how lean you go with the ground or minced meat. I don't know the ratio here, since it was home prepared deer, and I did not prepare it. The last time I tried that, I almost passed out, so I am the designated packer/wrapper of the meat, because I am good at that and write neatly. Life works out.
To get the meatloafs out, I used a slotted spoon. It was metal - Paul Revere Oneida which I picked out in my 20s and which was a great choice. I would not suggest plastic for, I hope, obvious reasons. Grilled food is hot. You would not want melted plastic in there.
Though you could see grease when I was cooking, the meatloafs really were not greasy at all. You can see them right off the grill, and I don't Photoshop. What you see is what you get - unless you burn or otherwise abuse your meat (-:
The main tips I would give here for grilling mini meatloafs would be:
1. Use some seasonings. I used the Allegro marinade for flavor and to tenderize, since I was grilling deer.
2. If you don't have any great seasonings, let me know. I can turn you on to a bunch of great barbecue and seasoning flavors. But, you can also use your favorite basic home meatloaf recipe.
3. The barbecue sauce on top really did add a lot. The grilled mini meatloafs would have been fine plain, but that sauce on top took them up a couple of notches.
4. If you use the throw away pans, they are flimsy. If you need or want to move one, get a cookie sheet pan. Use tongs to slide the muffin pan onto the cookie sheet.
5. Play with your food on the grill. You never know until you give it a try. No. I'd never made mini meatloafs and had not grilled much with venison. The idea hit me as I was falling asleep the night before, and I thought: "Why not?" Sure. I do have some wacky ideas that do not work out, but this one did as do a lot of things I decide to try on the grill.