Monday, May 29, 2006

Fire up the Grill for Memorial Day

I heard on the radio this morning that 78% of Americans grill on Memorial Day. Keith Todd on 105.7 out of Statesville, NC shared that little tidbit. He also said that steak was the top pick for grilling followed by hamburgers.

If you're firing up the grill today, then you ought to check out my Grill Web Site. I've been working my space for close a year now and have a good collection of recipes, tips, and product information.

It may be a little late to pick up a chimney starter, but that's my top pick of the grilling accessories for the year (if your're using charocal). You would not believe what a difference it makes in getting charcoal or wood chips started. I'd considered getting one for quite a while. After I did, I kicked myself for waiting so long.

Now, I need to decide what we want to toss on the grill. Decisions. Decisions.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Where is your SPECIAL barbecue spot?

I know most folks hit the porch, deck or back yard when it comes to outdoor cooking. No shame there. You work with your environment.

But, if you have a some mileage on you, then you probably remember some of the more rustic outdoor fun. Maybe it was some fire cooking with Scouts or maybe with family off the beaten tracks. There was a time when "leave no trace" was not a thought or concern. You just struck the match and stuck the meat on a stick. It was all good in the best sense of it.

I revisited one of my favorite spots for that sort of old time fun this week. After a hard day of clearing brush, it was just natural to burn off the excess and make it a party. Hot dogs were rather the meat of choice, since it's hard to keep most other meats on a stick (or coat hanger--the metal type).

Actually, I made sandwiches and carried in this time. But, I remembered all those nights after working hard when the reward was meat on a stick and going to bed drop dead tired and full.

It's mostly a different world now. My town still asks that we burn off brush, but I expect that to change in the near future. Coat hangers are mostly plastic now. That sure won't work for a brush barbeque. And, trees are not so plentiful these days, so a quick green stick is harder and harder to find.

All that doesn't change the memories. I can always go back to the family farm even with sandwiches and drift off in time to when work and food were connected and when it wasn't a sin to stick a weiner over a fire on your own land and skip the kitchen altogether.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Grilled Cheese Potatoes - NO - I don't think so.

Don't you just hate when you find a recipe that sounds heavenly; then, you make it up, and it's just a mess.

Sure. There are cooking errors to factor in. But, there are times you just KNOW the person never made the dish and just pumped out some junk to get readers. There is just no way the dish could work. The idea sounds good, but it's just not going to work out no matter how good you are at cooking.

Tonight, I decided to try some jazzier tin foil potato packs on the grill. I found a recipe online that had cheese and bacon. Yum. That sounded like a good side dish. We have some great potato recipes including my traditional potato tin foil packs and even potato slices right on the grill, but I wanted something new, different and extra special.

What a mess! You can see in my photo exactly what I'm talking about.

When I got to thinking about it, I should have known better than to put cheese in foil packs. Foil packs are basically a baking method. I'd know better than to throw potatoes in a baking dish with a little cheese and butter. There's just not enough liquid there.

What happened here was that the cheese (which is soft) melted and then burned to the tin foil as the potatoes were cooking. It takes a good while to cook potatoes. So, even with butter in there, the cheese just cooks way too fast to be in there with a root vegetable.

We were able to salvage some of the potato side dish. It was not easy. It was not pretty. And, it didn't even taste that good. The cheese that did manage to hide between potato slices was kind of rubbery. Ugh.

I guess the moral of the story is to get your recipes from someone who knows what they're talking about. Anyone can write up or post a recipe of random items that sound good. That doesn't mean that the recipe will work out.

All my recipes at G&H Barbeque Master are right from my grill with photos in many cases. You better bet you won't see cheese potato tin foil packs on my space. I don't set my readers up for failure before they even get started.

Free Recipe Magazine - Summer Outdoor Issue Out

My free summer edition Kraft Food and Family magazine arrived, and I was thrilled to see that the focus is on outdoor cooking. "Kick Back and Relax--50+ Recipes for Grilling and Chilling" is stretched right across the cover.

This issue has loads of ideas for the grill including some of my favorites like steak and corn on the cob. There are also some delicious looking side dishes. I've got my eye on the Light Lime Chiffon Pie. That looks great.

I found out about the free Kraft magzine from my friend Robin in her Fresh Cooking from the Garden blog. Be sure to check her out. She always has something good to share. I enjoy fixing her dishes to go along with my barbecue.

I thought the Kraft mag would be a little booklet, but it's a full scale magazine. It comes out quarterly. Just go to Kraft and look under "Daily Dish." You can also find loads of recipes right there on the site and also can sign up for email if you like electronic info better than mail info.

There are no strings with this wonderful freebie. I'm on my second quarterly issue. Kraft does email to let me know it's on the way, but they don't spam my box. I'm mightily impressed. I think you will be too.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Mobile Concessions - Barbecue on the Road

I always love to talk to barbecue chefs, and it was great fun hooking up with Dennis Correll at the town festival. He was loading ribs, burgers, and pork chops on a custom industrial cooker out of South Carolina. Now, that's a grill I can tell you. Would have made me drool even if it hadn't been covered with meat.

The Corrells don't barbeque full-time, but they do hit the festival circuit from time to time and also are glad to cater for parties. The young lady handling the french fries said they had a party for 200 coming up soon. Wish I had an invitation to that.

Mobile Conessions is based out of Salisbury, NC. The owner is George Correll. If you live anywhere near the area and need to feed a big crowd, give him a call at 704-636-5430.

I had the ribs. They are huge slabs and Dennis gets them done to perfection--tender and smoky. They sauce them up with a tomato based mix that is mild. Some of the die-hard BBQ folks spice ribs up big times, but when you're looking at feeding a group with a range of taste buds, these will be perfect. Just hand the "hot" lovers a bottle of tobasco sauce.

I'd also note the slaw. It was a nice southern cabbage mix with tomato chunks. I'm not a super big fan of cole slaw, but this was very tasty.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Support the Troops One Box at a Time - Small Town Style

While I was at the town festival enjoying the funnel cakes and later the barbecue, I ran across Malinda. Well, I saw Curly sitting there at the table, so I had to drop by. Curly is one of my favorite women folks around these parts.

The women were taking donations for "Operation Troop Support." This is a true grassroots effort. They don't even have a sponsor--just the good folks of the community. That's plenty though. They've sent out over 1500 pounds of gift boxes to our troops.

Lots of people in the community help out on collecting supplies to send. Others, like today, kick in a few bucks here and there to help with the mailing costs (which we all know have gone up again). I, of course, hit the jar with a little to help out. If every person at the festival today put in the change from their pockets, well, you know, that would cover a lot of boxes to our men and women serving overseas.

Malinda and Curly were also gathering names and addresses for the care packages. My boys' uncle is on his third tour over to Iraq, so I put his name down and will email his address. I had to come home to get my hands on that.

If you have a loved one over in Iraq or know a military member needing support, then email Malinda at As long as she has things to send (and she'll find stuff if she doesn't), then you can be sure that packages will go out. Let her know your special person's name and address. And, give her a big thanks for doing this. A lot of people talk about helping out. She steps up and really does something.

I know that many people do not support the War. That's fine. But, the young men and women over there are doing their jobs. I think most people do recognize that. If you want to help out too, then also let Malinda know. I am sure she will find a way for you to pitch in.

I really hate that I can't cook up a bunch of ribs or beer butt chickens and pack them out. I've seen those rations in the brown sealed bags. Ugh. No slam on the people who come up with these field meals, but even they, I am sure, would say it's not home cooking. I hope that my boys' uncle comes home safe and sound. I'll cook up a feast, because that's the least I can do. And, I'll keep supporting the hometown boxes and the time, work, and effort that goes into coordinating this big project straight from the heart.

Small Town Festivals, Barbecue, and Funnel Cakes

We had our local town festival today. In a town of 800 people, it's really more like a family reunion. Of course, some folks drop in from town (the county seat) and around, so the population probably triples here on festival day.

One of the big draws today was the Funnel Cake booth. It's hard to beat a funnel cake after a good plate of barbecue. But, these were extra special funnel cakes. Instead of the usual fried dough with powdered sugar (yum), you could top these off with all kinds of fruit and with cinnamon.

I must confess that we hit the funnel cakes BEFORE the barbeque. I'm as bad as the kids. Life is short, and dessert is a necessity and not a luxury.

Bernadine was manning the fryer, and we got to chat a bit. She told me that they had driven down from Kings Mountain, North Carolina. Someone gave them "back road" directions, so they ended up out in the middle of nowhere. Of course, this town is the middle of nowhere too. But, they were in the wrong nowhere. In any case, someone helped, and they managed to make it over.

Shawn is the owner, and he's in the background in the photo. Shy guy he is. That's OK. He has a great product and a friendly front gal. If he wants to duck and run when the camera comes out, then that's fine. My boys do the same.

If you're looking for traveling food vendors, then check out The World's Best Funnel Cake. Yep. They really have a web site. That's rather the exception at small town festivals. I'm glad they came out and gave us a look and a taste of the funnel cakes. Hopefully, they'll be back next year.

Food Lion Grill Guy and Summer Cookout Giveaway

Today, I saw the Grill Guy out in front of Food Lion. He was handing out free samples of rib eye steak hot off the grill. So, naturally I had to stop and gab (and try out the steak).

The Grill Guy’s name is Rick Dobrowski, and he is traveling around all summer in a big truck and setting up grill stops to promote Food Lion’s Butcher’s Brand meat. I started to ask him if he needed a sidekick, because that sounds like a heavenly way to spend the summer. I never see jobs that say: NEEDED – person to grill and travel.

While I was at the grocery, I picked up the information on the Summer Cookout Giveaway. If you shop at Food Lion 4 of 7 weeks and spend $45 or more on each of the visits, then you get a coupon for $15 for your 4th of July cookout (good on any food items). That starts this week (May 17) and runs through July 4. Weeks run from Wednesday to Wednesday just as the sales run at the store.

Food Lion is a southern chain in eleven states and is based out of my hometown. They are the food store that helped drive down grocery store prices years ago by buying and selling in bulk. They still come in with great prices and excellent sales especially if you sign up for the store MVP card. You’ll need the MVP card to take advantage of the summer special I mentioned.

Hopefully you’ll run across the Grill Guy and stop and chat. He’s got some great tips on outdoor cooking. If you don’t see him, then just visit Barbeque Master at Garden and Hearth where I have loads of information on grilling, smoking, and other outdoor cooking.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Barbecue and Politics Don't Mix Well in North Carolina

Well, shut my mouth. The barbecue folks in North Carolina are stirred up. Seems some state legistator decided to slide through a bill to make Lexington, NC the official BBQ city of the state. The beach crowd didn't take too kindly to this. In fact, the Washington Post found the little in-state feud quite interesting and headed south to get the scoop.

If you're not from around these parts, then you probably wonder about all the fuss. Is barbecue really that big a deal? Yep. Sure is. Just stop at any Q joint in the state and ask who makes the best slow cooked pig. You will get an ear full (and a mouth full of "the best barbeque" to back it up).

It basically boils (or fires up) to ketchup vs. vinegar. Fans fall on one side or the other. As Dennis Rogers says in the Post article, "People who would put ketchup in the sauce they feed to innocent children are capable of most anything." He represents the eastern portion of NC.

Lexington is in the piedmont (not the west--that's the mountains). Don't go look that up. Piedmont just means the flat land between the mountains and the beach. The sauce in the piedmont is vinegar based with just a tad of tomato. That "tad" is enough though for the coastal dwellers to draw a line in the sand. Ask anyone from the piedmont if the barbecue is tomato based and they'll laugh and "set" you straight.

It's those people out in Kansas that lather meat up with ketchup--not the good people of central North Carolina. Just try slapping the bottom of the sauce bottle in the piedmont like you would a ketchup bottle, and you'll see. Your chopped pork sandwich will be floating like a boat. Of course, the sauce is the best part. So, no big deal.

The beach BBQ folks know that the piedmont folks don't use ketchup, but it makes for a good insult (sorry about that Kansas que cooks). Saying a sauce is ketchup base is about as bad as insulting someone's momma in this state. But, that's the best they can come up with out in the sandhills, since the slight color variation is the main obvious difference in the two cooking styles.

As for the taste, I'm not even going to go there. Don't talk politics, religion, or barbecue in North Carolina unless you have all day and nerves of steel.

Nice weather we're having, by the way. Good day for a "fill in the blank."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Something fishy to think about.

Man (or woman) can't live by bread alone, and I'd say the same thing about meat--even grilled meat. Love it. But, anything gets old if it's not spaced out some. It's hard to beat a good steak, but I'd say that it would not be special if it was on the menu every night.

We'd been hitting the grill pretty hard lately, so I pulled out a can of Phillips Crab Meat. Now, that is even better than sliced bread. Why it was a problem to cut bread in the first place, I'm not sure. But you know how the saying goes. "Best thing since sliced bread."

Actually my Carolina Crab Cakes do require two slices of sliced bread, so I better not tick off the sliced bread folks. I'm glad I don't have to bake a loaf and then cut it up to make my crab cakes. Well, really they are not MY crab cakes. They're my Granny's. She has passed on, but she taught me how to make these before she went on to a better place.

Granny first gave me her recipe verbally with the old pinch and splash of this directions. Mine did not turn out near so tasty. So, I offered to help make them the next time and watched. My Granny's idea of a splash would be more like tablespoon. I played around with it and finally managed to figure out pretty close measurements. My Carolina Crab Cakes will never taste as good as Granny's, but nothing does when you have to do the cooking--if you know what I mean.

For you gas grill folks out there, use that side burner and make crab cakes to go along with grilled fish or steamed oysters on the grill. Have a REAL seafood fest. Charcoal can be trickier but can be done. You need to use a pan though and something like cast iron that will take the heat.

I'm more likely to do my Carolina Crab Cakes in the house. After all, the weather is not always good, and there are days when you're out of charcoal.

If you want a great potato salad to go with the crab cakes, then I shook down one of the church ladies for the Best Potato Salad Ever. I've never even been a big fan of potato salad, but I could eat a gallon of this stuff. Really super. If you want something a little easier, then my Super Easy Pasta Salad is just the ticket. It's impressive and folks will think you worked hard, but nope. Just throw a few things in the bowl and chill, and you have a wonderful side dish to go with seafood, grilled food or special holiday meals.