Sunday, October 30, 2011
Yes. I do own a crock pot. The barbecue guys give me a hard time, so I tell them: "Hey, you have to have something to keep the hot dog chili warm in."
The reality is that I have three crock pots, and I love them. Since I'm usually making the meals on my own (with a little help here and there from the boys), it's really nice to have parts of a meal going in a crock pot, so I can tend the grill (which is not so forgiving on times).
It can be tricky to find really great slow cooker recipes, but I know that Judith Finlayson has terrific crock pot recipes. I know, because I had her first edition. When I say that I "had" the book, don't think I just got rid of it. No. It has gone visiting as do many of my favorite cookbooks. Someone (usually a son) will be looking through a cookbook and ask if it's a good one. If it is really super, then I'm likely to say, "Oh yes. You take that on and try it out. You'll love it." Then, I usually forget where I sent the cookbook, and so I go buying cookbooks again. That is called "shirt off your back" mother syndrome. Mothers will understand I think.
When Martine sent an email to see if I'd like to try out the new second edition of The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes, I, of course, was game for that. They'd send a copy, and then I could check it out and see if it was worth sharing with my readers or worth panning (which - boy - I hate when I get bad stuff). This one sounded like a sure bet, because the new edition builds on the first one but is updated with tips for various size crock pots, single cooking crock potting, and some healthier options too.
The cookbook arrived quickly, and it just looked familiar but updated. It was like a friend coming over with a new hair style and some kicking blue jeans in a smaller size. I had to smile.
When I grill, I like to have yummy side dishes waiting in the crock pot. I do sides on the grill too, but that can get tricky on timing and if I have larger groups eating.
You can see that there's a nice selection of side dishes in the cookbook. I also find the appetizer section great for some munching especially when slow smoking something that takes a long time. And, the soups make a nice starter and are easy, since they just sit there and simmer.
It's hard to pick a favorite side dish from this cookbook, but you really can't go wrong with this delicious succotash. It goes with just about anything you might put on the grill, and it really is a beautiful side dish with the mix of colors.
It seems that desserts often get dropped off the grill out menu, or they end up being things like cookies out of the box. Again, the slow cooker can be a good way to do a complete meal without getting totally frazzled (which then makes for a not so great party).
The crock pot upside down cake you see above reminds me a bit of Dutch oven cakes which the boys and I used to make a lot in the fire pit in the yard. We need to do that again soon, but . . . in the meantime . . . I have good slow cooker recipes for hot and tasty desserts that are waiting when the meal is over.
Looking at Barbecue Master, you might think I don't even have a kitchen. I do. In fact, I'm updating it right now. And, I have a web site called Yes You Can Cook that has some of our family favorite indoor recipes. So, while I do three to five meals a week typically on the grill, I do fire up the stove or plug in the crock pot too.
One meal I especially love in the slow cooker is roast with vegetables, and you can see that Judith's roast looks great. You should taste it too. Spot on. Now I wish I had put a roast in the slow cooker this morning. Oh well. There's always tomorrow.
If you have a crock pot or slow cooker or are thinking about it, then I'd recommend The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes 2nd edition by Judith Finayson. It's my favorite of all the slow cooker cookbooks I've ever used, and I like this update that is still comfortable and familiar but is more flexible and up-to-date with what's out there on the market and how people live and eat today.
Now I just wish I lived near Judith, so I could be her taste tester. Oh well. Maybe one of my neighbors will decide to write a cookbook. I just hope it's one of the good cooks.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
I've been checking out The Whole Hog Cookbook: Chops, Loin, Shoulder, Bacon, and All that Good Stuff by Libbie Summers. Jessica from Rizzoli had emailed to ask if I'd be interested in a sample copy, and I know that a lot of my barbecue/grilling readers enjoy grilling and smoking pork.
The Whole Hog is NOT a grilling/barbecue cookbook. It's not about smoking whole hogs. I'd say to pick up Peace, Love & Barbecue if that is what you have in mind. This is a cookbook that teaches you how to cook all the parts of the hog or pig. So, let's say you've been wanting to make Chitterlings which are better known as chintlins around here. You won't be finding that recipe in many cookbooks, but here it is in The Whole Hog Cookbook:
Perhaps chitterlings are not up your alley. I can't say myself. I've not tried them, but I've not turned them down. With my mountain background, I'm not sure how I've missed them, but I have. Now I can make them with this recipe, but I'll have to think about that. I'm not so sure I can sell the boys on them, since they refused to eat pork butt when they were little. I got around that by calling pork butt shoulder instead of butt. Sometimes, it's all about the spin.
Now, this gyro recipe is a keeper. Before you get freaky about pork belly, do know that it's the bacon section of the pig - so more fat. Summers got this recipe from a guy in Greece, and that's where you get really great gyros. Most sold as such in the United States are not very good. I know, because I lived in Greece for a couple of years. These gyros aren't exactly like the ones in the neighborhood where I lived, but the gyros vary around the country in Greece. If you want authentic gyros, then here you go . . . and the tzatziki sauce recipe to boot.
These are a couple of the more unusual recipes in the cookbook. You get all the standards as well. And, some of them are designed for the grill or can be easily adapted. Try out the kebabs. Yum!
If you're not very familiar with pork, then you get a lot of basic information but not in a "talking down" kind of way. The cookbook is chock full of beautiful photos like the spread above which helps you understand the cuts and also means you know what you're looking for when you go to the grocery store or meat market.
For more complicated recipes or processes, there are additional photos which, again, make it easier to visualize what you need to do to make your pork happen. Making sausage, for instance, sounds pretty labor intensive (and does take work and effort), but you can see in the photos, that it's done in steps and is do-able.
The guys did want to know why the author is watering the pigs in her church clothes. Hum. Well, those are more like business casual. But WHITE! This is a cookbook, and quite a few of the photos are girly. That can be kind of cool I guess, but I would not suggest white clothing when in the pig pen (even if you are a fashionista). But, if you can put together a cookbook this good and with this many great recipes for pork, then I guess you can wear whatever you want.
All in all, I have to say this is an excellent cookbook for anyone who loves pork or wants to expand beyond pork chops and bacon. There are loads of ways to cook pig from one end to the other, so you're missing out if you only do pork a couple of ways. With The Whole Hog Cookbook, you're set. You could stay busy a long time mastering the art of cooking pork, and you can do it with The Whole Hog Cookbook.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
The guys took a road trip to the mountains, and they decided to bring me back something apple themed. They went with Apple Strawberry wine from the Apple Barn Winery in Sevierville, TN. Here's the contact info in case you're interested (No. I have no connection at all, or I would tell you):
Apple Barn Winery
220 Apple Valley Road
Sevierville, Tennessee 37862
Phone: (865) 428-6850
Toll Free: 1-866-428-6850
Normally I don't review wines, since it's not often that I would serve a wine with barbecue. The flavors ususually just don't quite hit it. Beer is usually a safer bet with barbecue, and it still would be with many types of barbecue.
The Apple Barn wine caught my fancy though, because it's sweet enough (without going up that high school Mad Dog road) to work with NC chopped pork on a bun. Most often the NC pork is served with sweet tea or with Cheerwine (a regional soft drink). This Apple Barn wine captured that sweet kick flavor and feel without coloring so far outside the lines that it just gets messy.
Tenessee is a pretty good haul from here, but I'll have to stop by when I get out that way and try some of their other wines. They really do get sweet without being sappy. Normally I'd go dryer, but this apple strawberry wine was a hit out of the ball park especially for pairing with pork.
The guys really loved the cork. It's red and has the phone number up the side. Nice touch. Always nice to make sure people know who you are. Nice marketing on the cork. My son always saves those, so I can find Apple Barn for sure now.
Keith emailed to ask if I'd like to walk on the wild side and try his Garlic Head barbecue sauces. He told me that these are not your typical barbecue sauces, and he was correct.
The first thing you'll notice is that Garlic Head bbq sauces are THICK. You've probably had thick barbecue sauces before, but they were not likely this thick. You could almost pack these in red Solo cups and make barbecue sand castles. Yes. That thick.
I didn't pour on the barbecue sauce. I spooned out the Garlic Head and kind of painted the chicken. It does spread. Kind of like cake frosting. I wasn't so sure how this would work out, but the sauce was smelling good.
The heat spreads the Garlic Head around a bit, and then it doesn't drip all down in the grill. So, that's nice. The grates are going to need some tender loving care. Then again, if you're saucing, you're going to have to elbow grease it the next day. Just the nature of the beast. Personally I'd rather pull grates and have the mess there versus dripped all down inside the grill as with many barbecue sauces.
Here you can see our grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts which are super easy to grill up when you're tired. Today I was, because I painted the bathroom and shoveled out my son's bedroom. I am tempted to mail him those icky socks he hide in the closet. Is it really harder to put socks in the hamper than in the bottom of the closet? I can only guess this is a guy thing.
But . . . back to the sauce.
There are two versions of Garlic Head. One is Gold. That one is the garlic sauce with little heat. Garlic Head Spicy is garlicky but much hotter. They say 8 times hotter, and that's hard to measure, but I'd say spot on.
The plate you see above is the Garlic Head Spicy. To be honest, I got mixed up. I meant to do the garlic but not hot, since my mild son was home. So, I told the guys that the sauce was mild, and then I fired them up. OOPS!
Garlic Head is a thick tomato based barbecue sauce - bold in all ways. Both are great for garlic lovers. I'm a garlic lover. The spicy really is hot (like HOT), so it's not for the mild folks (even if they do love garlic). I'm a heat lover (no prob - but I did break a sweat). It's hard to find a barbecue sauce style I don't like. Figs. Ugh. Most other flavors or heats, I'm fine (if the sauce is balanced and good). I have had some gosh awful sauces, but Garlic is Head is not in the gosh awful category. I go thumbs up, but I would say to be sure that you have garlic fans in general and heat fans if going for the spicy.
Sunday, October 09, 2011
After the Biker, Blues & BBQ competition, Rich and Jan Campana got in touch. They were judging at the event. They're certified Kansas City Barbecue Association judges. I was at Tilley Harley Davidson taking notes, snapping photos, and eating some heap good barbecue. We didn't cross paths (that I know of), but Jan saw my barbecue comp photos over at Facebook. We will have to try to meet up in person one of these days, since they are right here in North Carolina - in Raleigh where I graduated from NC State.
Jan dropped me an email and told me about their barbecue sauce - Dimples. It's a new sauce as far as being on the market now, but it's, of course, the product of a lot of work to develop the perfect barbecue sauce. The small batch sauce is now at a few stores in Raleigh but also luckily available online at Dimples BBQ.
If you're familiar with traditional North Carolina barbecue sauces, you'll know that they are vinegar based and rather twangy and thin. Dimples is tomato based and more in the Kansas City range in terms of thickness. I love both types, but I know that our vinegar sauces can be a bit much for people from other parts of the country. That puts Dimples in a more mainstream category as far as appeal.
Dimples was a deep rich red color and smelled great when I popped the seal, so I was keen to get my pork chops on the O Grill.
You can see that Dimples BBQ Sauce stayed on the meat really well and caramelized really nicely. Pork chops grill quick, so some barbecue sauces are too thin to stay on well or so thick that they don't color up and have the pretty grill grate marks. Dimples was perfect on the chops.
When it comes to barbecue sauces, it's all about the flavor though. It can be beautiful, but if it doesn't taste great, then it's not a score.
I pulled the pork chops off the grill and cut into one. Yum. These pork chops did taste just as good (if not better) than they looked.
The flavor is rich but not overly bold and certainly not hot. Seasonings are balanced with no particular note standing out above the others - just a really pleasant medley. Sometimes I recommend barbecue sauces but specific to certain groups. In this case, you have a barbecue sauce that has general appeal. This could be a solid "go to" pick that would be loved by all your family and friends.
It's no secret that I have a ton of grills. I need to go do a head count, but I'd say I have somewhere between 20 and 30 grills at the house right now.
Now I have a new grill, and it won't even be taking up porch space. It's a super mini Weber kettle grill. And, it's cute as can be.
My brother finds really awesome gifts, and he outdid himself on this one. I thought I'd seen about every grill around, but I'd not seen the decorative mini Weber.
This is not really a grilling grill. In fact, it's intended to be the base for a flower arrangement. But, the flower shop sold one to my brother without the flowers. Sometimes you just have to ask.
So, now I have this cool little baby Weber grill. My son thinks I should crunch up some charcoal really small and try this little grill out. But, of course, I'm not going to smoke it up. It's going to be my barbecue sauce holder, since it has a little plastic liner inside which would be where the flowers would be arranged.
It's the thought that counts on gifts, and this baby Weber grill was just the ticket for my birthday. It made me smile to see my first and favorite grill done up in a miniature size, and I know it's going to be really cool when I break it out for my barbecue sauce bowl.
Thanks Matthew! Love the mini Weber. Super find.
Thursday, October 06, 2011
A good brine can really add flavor and moisture to grilled and smoked foods, but they can be labor intensive, especially if doing the hot brine method to bring the seasoning flavors forward. Those have to be chilled after they've been cooked, so that means starting ahead a day or two. So, yes, I brine, but also, yes, I'm lazy sometimes.
I'd never seen a ready made brine, until Sarah sent an email about Sweetwater Spice Company's bath brine concentrates. As far as I know, there's not another company doing the bottled ready-to-use brines. If I've missed something, just let me know.
Sarah said she could send me a couple of bottles of the brine, so I could see if they're any good. I thought that would be a nice plan, since I know many of my readers like to try out new grilling ideas and may find making homemade brine tedious.
When the bottles of brine came in, I had Smoked Habanero BBQ Bath and Smoked Apple Spice Butt & Rib Bath. I was a little worried about the "smoked" part, since I am definately not a liquid smoke fan. But, the smoke was from smoked paprika, so whew . . . I didn't have to break out the mouthwash to smother fake smoke taste.
These brines are concentrates, so you are getting much more than at first glance. The directions are one part brine to three parts water. I had to explain to one of my guys that the four cup measure was super easy - just put 1 cup of brine in the cup and then fill to the four cup line. He was trying to do some math and make this hard. I'm not a math whiz, but one part to three parts is easy and no need to dirty up extra measuring cups.
Once the brine was mixed up, we poured it over the Boston Butt. The bottle says you can use a zip bag, but a butt is pretty big. And, I don't have the jumbo zip locks. My Thatsa Bowl from Tupperware was just perfect - plus has a lid that burps out the air and also fits close enough to a 6 pound Boston butt to keep it from floating.
The bottle lists times to brine. It's one hour per pound on a butt or shoulder. We just let it sit in the refrigerator overnight which worked out fine. You wouldn't want to brine that long for smaller cuts.
The brine smelled really nice when we first poured it up and then again when getting the butt on the smoker. The base is apple juice and then there are spices and peppers. And - salt. That's what makes a brine a brine and what adds the moisture to the meat. I'd also note that these brines are gluten free and low in sugar, so that will help on some of the special diets for those reading.
Our Boston butt turned out beautiful as you can see, and the flavor was great. The meat was very moist, and it picked up some smoke flavor. With the habanero brine, we got a little kick as well. It was really great.
I was sold, so we did a second Boston butt and used the Smoked Apple Spice bath. It's lower on the heat meter, and the flavor is a little more smokey. I think I liked the Apple Spice brine the best, but it would be a hard call. They were both excellent.
If you are thinking about brining and want to save the extra steps to make your own or you don't want to chance wrecking a big cut of meat or expensive meat with a homemade brine that may or may not be great, then pick up a bottle of Sweetwater Creek Spice brine concentrate. It's super easy to use. The flavors are fabulous. I'm sure you'll be impressed, and your family and friends will be too when you serve up your smoked butt (or chicken, turkey, shoulders).
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
I have been enjoying the Fischer & Wieser Brat Haus beer mustard that Toni sent out, and I've been meaning to tell everyone about this great gourmet mustard.
It sounded like one I'd enjoy from the start, and I was not disappointed. This is a bold but smooth flavored mustard with beer notes. It's perfect with grilled brats as noted by the company, and it gives hot dogs a more adult feel.
I tried this mustard out first on rice with vegetables and shrimp. What was I thinking? Well, I was thinking I'd walk on the wild side, but I can tell you that mustard on white rice is not a recipe that I will be sharing with you. You want something bolder tasting to work with Beer Haus Mustard.
After the first fail (my fault totally), I did the classic brats with mustard. My brats are fabulous, and that's not just my ego there. The folks at work went wild for them. If you want really terrific brats, then check out my grilled brats recipe and then top them off with a great mustard like Fisher & Wieser's.
When I review products, I do like to give readers new ideas on the grill as well, so I kept thinking of ideas. I was looking in the freezer, and we had some sausages left over from a low country boil. Hum . . . my brain starts clicking.
I got the sausages out and cut them in rings (as you can see) and then put barbecue rub on them. The rub you see on these is Dizzy Pig Barbecue Seasoning. Dizzy Dust has a great flavor with some pop, but it's not over the top on anything. A little spice. A little sweet. The orginal is a wonderful all purpose seasoning.
I put the sausages in a grill wok and heated them just a few minutes. They are pre-cooked, so they just needed to be heated and to catch a little smoke flavor. I waited for the sausages to lightly brown and sweat a bit.
The grilled sausages tasted wonderful, and they were super simple to make. The Brat Haus Mustard - just wow. Great on these quick appetizers. The guys were all blown away, and I will definately put these on my barbecue grilling party idea rotation. In just minutes I can have a ton of these on the table and looking festive with the rub coloring and with the mustard to the side for contrast.