Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Recipe #2 - Appetizer - Stuffed Peppers

The original source for this recipe is inspired from one of those TV traveling BBQ joints shows. You know the type, usually 4 or 5 different places visited in the hour; each one showing a different specialty. Well, I was intrigued by the stuffed pepper appetizer shown. Sadly, I did not know at the time that I would be wanting to chronicle my experiments, and can not remember the name of the pitmaster or the restaurant that featured this gem. On the show, he simply took a jalapeno, cut the top off, cored the white stuff and seeds out (Those are the two REALLY hot items in a pepper). stuff with softened cream cheese and smoke for an hour and a half at 225-250 degrees.

A very simple recipe, that I have altered a bit and made it my own...

18 Sweet Peppers

6 HOT Jalapeno Peppers

2 packages of Philadelphia Cream Cheese

12 slices of Bacon (cut in half, so 24 half slices of bacon)

This will make 36 tidbits, as some of them will be cut in half. I make extras, as these are among my wife's favorite things for leftovers.

OK...take 6 of the sweet peppers and the 6 hot peppers and cut them in half lengthwise. Cut them so that they lay flat easier. Peppers have a natural curve to them. Cutting show the curve shows pretty (like the "Chile's" logo pepper) makes both sides lay flat. Cut out the white stuff and remove the seeds. Next, stuff with the cream cheese and wrap the bacon around the pepper. They can go directly on the grate of the smoker.

Take the remaining 12 sweet peppers, cut the tops off, core and de-seed them, stuff them with the cheese. My wife bought me a special holder that i can put them in when smoking so that they stay up right and each are separated so the peppers smoke evenly. If you are not as fortunate as I to have a wife that buys you toys, you can take a small cupcake tin and stand up 3 in each "cup". This works OK, but the skins where they touch will have a different consistancy than the skins that are exposed. This is not bad, just different.

Smoke these for 1 and 1/2 hours at 225 to 250 degrees. The cream cheese will absorbe the smoke taste VERY well. I use a nutty pecan wood for these, and the taste really explodes. When you are smoking the bacon, be sure your temperatures stay high. I have had these a little undercooked, and they are better when the bacon is well smoked. Again, when I smoke, I take my meat out about 2 hours prior to serving, wrap in foil and let it settle in a cooler. this frees up the smoker for the appetizers and lets you take something out of the cooker when your guests arrive. Gives them something to eat while you are making the presentation of and cutting of the meat.

Good luck, these are great!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Recipe #1 - Appetizer - Gouda stuffed BBQ Mushrooms

Something very very easy, but always a crowd pleaser.

This was inspired by a recipe from the Culinary Center of Kansas City, and a class held by Richard McPeake. the recipe is so simple, I hesitate to credit Richard with the original recipe, but i certainly want to credit him with filling me in on this gem.

OK, here's my recipe adaptation ...

12 Button Mushrooms. Select the ones that are about the diameter of a Kennedy Half Dollar or bigger so that there is enough room for plenty of stuffings (I make 2 of these for each of my guests. If you are having 12 guests, make 24, if just you and a significant other, make only 4)

12 teaspoons of Gouda Cheese (I have also made these with just about any cheese I had to spare, Blue cheese was excellent, Goat cheese was also well received, a SHARP cheddar will do in a pinch)

12 teaspoons of Bar-B-Que sauce

OK, pop the stems out of the buttons. If you do it right, no need to dig, with a little twist, they will pop out, leaving enough room for stuffing. If they don't pop out, take a spoon and do a little digging, being careful to not break the sides. If you do break the sides of one, toss it (save for dicing to add to something later), and start with a fresh one. The stuffing will oooze out and make a mess of your grill/smoker.

Add a teaspoon of bar-B-Que sauce. The original recipe calls for Salsa instead, but I always seem to have 4 or five open bottles of BBQ sauce in the fridge. Not enough to use in cooking something, but too much to throw away. This is a great way to empty a bottle. The measurement is an estimate, based on average size. But you should fill the cavity made by de-stemming the mushrooms about half way.

Add some of the cheese. cut into small enough pieces so that when the cheese melts, it melts into a pool in the mushroom cavity and does not slop over the side.

I put these into my smoker about 1 and 1/2 hours before my guests are scheduled to arrive. I get the temp up to about 225 to 250 degrees. There is room in the smoker since I always like to "foil" my meat and let it settle in a cooler during that last two hours prior to serving.

Back to the mushrooms, They will leak a little liquid, so I put them on a cookie sheet. Actually, I found a great set of smaller cupcake tins. The holes are about half the size of a regular cupcake, and fit a mushroom great.

That's it. I make a presentation when the guests arrive and let them snack on these delicacies while I begin slicing the meat. Certain to be a hit... Easy and loved by all!

Party, Party, Party

Is there a prettier site in the whole world??? New smoker demands a party... Taxed Delila (yes, my smoker has a name, but the former owner named her, and part of the deal was that I had to keep the name) to her limits (about 30 pounds of meat), and need to learn her quarks, but what a great day!

Fired up the smoker over the weekend. Party of 7 friends and the wife's co-workers... 6 racks of ribs, 5 pound pork loin, 6 pounds of sausage, 5 pounds of potatoes, dozen mushrooms, another 2 dozen peppers later; if my guests went away hungry...it sure wasn't my fault!

Overall, I was very pleased with the results. New smoker, I have to learn the best way to cook on it, learned a few things, and will do better next time (isn't that true anytime I cook). New recipes, some worked great and some need to be tweeked (and one needs to be tossed out).

Had a Fun guest list. Sadly, the temps were in the 90's, so we had to move into the air conditioning, but it was a very comfortable night. The good looking blond woman in brown on the right is my wife. Obviously, she married me for my cooking. Clockwise, lady with her back to the camera is my wife's bosses (not really, boss, but an easy term...My wife is a paralegal, Tris is one of the attorneys in the office) wife, Sharon. In the red T-shirt is the boss, Tris. World traveler, born in South Africa, the perfect guest to start/keep a conversation going. Next, in the pink is another attorney, Kim. And finally, the couple at the top are Lucia and Tom...Good friends and neighbors. Tom is a competitive smoker, so always a challenge to come up with something new and terrific when he is coming.

I am going to blog recipes during this week. Will fill you in on what worked and what didn't. BUT, it was a great night (drinking on the deck til 1 AM)

Friday, June 26, 2009

New Smoker! and prep day for party tomorrow

A huge day in any outdoor cooks life...A NEW SMOKER!

The Good One Open Range Smoker (Model 30-P)

I have been using an offset smoker with very good results. I am very excited about the prospects of using a "real" Smoker for a change. I was very lucky, my neighbor is a big fan of Weber Smokey Mountains, and was willing to sell his old one to me!

SO, Big party ...here's my menu

Rolled Peperoni stuffed Pork Loin with Raspberry Chipolata Marinade
3 racks of ribs with a spicy rub
3 racks of ribs with a sweet Cheery rub
a Gouda stuffed sausage fattie
a Blue cheese stuffed sausage fattie
a spicy sausage
Smoked Beans (My Specialty)
Blue Cheese Potato Salad
Smoked stuffed mushrooms
smoked stuffed HOT peppers
smoked stuffed sweet peppers

I am planning to take lots of photos, and will be updating with recipes...A full day of cooking...

Wish me luck

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dreamsicle Ice Cream Drinks and Chicken Salad...Oh yeah, Shakespeare

Last night was one of my favorite nights of the year... The annual FREE WILL, Heart of America Shakespeare Festival. A terrific location, a little park next to the Art Gallery; The price is right, FREE, and one of my best friends and his wife have made an annual (6 years running) night of it. Bring the lounge chairs, relax under the stars, enjoy a little picnic and get culture.

Marsha made some great salami sandwiches, some chips and we cracked open a bottle of wine... A terrific Zinfandel called 7 Deadly Zins; which is especially funny as Shaun was recently ordained a minister in the Episcopal Church.

My contribution to the evening has always been the intermission drinks. These take a little effort to make the presentation correct, but well worth it in taste, texture, panache and the envy of all those around us...

The Dreamsicle...named after the ice cream snack!

3 generous scoops of vanilla ice cream per drink, or about half of a half gallon box
2 shots of banana Liqueur
1/3 cup of Orange Juice

Mix in a blender/smoothie maker to the consistency of a milk shake.

After I made 4 drinks worth, I put in the freezer for at least 1/2 a day. This gets them pretty cold. I have 4 all plastic thermoses that these fit into. I freeze them with the lids off. About 10 minutes before we leave, I put the lids on, put them in a cooler (I have one with wheels that makes for easy transport), add a layer of ice and put in some thick glass beer mugs (16 ounces). These have also been stored in the freezer, so they present at worst very cold glasses, and at best frosted mugs. After about three hours (driving time, finding our seating area, picnic and the first half of the play) the drinks are thawed enough to the desired consistency. Not a bad idea to bring spoons and straws for everyone.

Hot summer night, after a few hours, and all our neighbors are enjoying bottled water or maybe a can of Coke out of their coolers... And we are enjoying frozen ice cream drinks...Cyrano's last words " ... yet there is something still that will always be mine, and when I go to God's presence, there I'll doff it and sweep the heavenly pavement with a gesture — something I'll take unstained out of this world ... my panache ".

Oh, and a follow up to yesterday's beer butt chicken post...I always make two at a time. One, I enjoy that night, the second I cut up for Chicken Salad. Here is the BEST Chicken Salad recipe...

The meat from a Beer Butt Chicken
1 granny Smith Apple diced
1/2 bunch of seedless grapes, each grape quartered
1/2 vadalia sweet onion diced
2 sweet gerkins diced
1 cup mayonase

combine everything into a kitchenaid mixer (what would I do without it), and mix until smooth. I personally prefer it mixed smooth instead of a chunky Chicken Salad, but feel free to mix as you like it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Beer Butt Chicken...it's all in the presentation

It was a great day on the grill...

Beer Butt Chicken. If you are reading this, I am sure I am not the first person to suggest this tasty way to make your chicken. Thanks to an idea I found on the GRILLINFOOLS website/blog, I added inserted lemon halves for the nipple look above. The photo does not do it justice, but trust me, in real life, your birds are almost...X rated!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Chicken Fried Steak

OK, today was HOT...nearly 100 degrees, and extra humid. Grilling was out. So, I checked what was in the freezer and found some boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Actually, they were OMAHA STEAK brand, leftover from a sale buy.

I double checked a few ideas from RECIPEZAAR and decided to try my hand at Chicken fried chicken. Looking over what I had in my cabinets, I came up with this recipe...

4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup french fried onions
1 cup whole milk (actually, all I had was heavy cream, so I used it)
4 eggs
2 cups flour
1/4 cup essence of emeril spices
2 cups canola oil

I pounded the chicken to about 1/2 inch thick
combined the milk and eggs, and then marinated the chicken in the mixture while I boiled some potatoes for mashing and cooked a box of macaroni shells.
I took a large zipped bag, put the onions in the bag and crushed them. Then I added the flour and the spices. I put the chicken in the bag and shook until well coated.
I preheated the oil to a little above medium and added the chicken (only 2 fit at a time).
flip after 5 minutes, cook for another five minutes and they are set!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 1 - Honey Butter, hamburgers and grilled onions

Greetings...Well, here is a project I have been contemplating for awhile. Last year, my wife and I have started fixing up our patio. We covered the concrete slab in 90% of the homes in our neighborhood, and set bricks to form a large circle. Enough room to have a seating area, with table that seats 6 comfortably (and 8 slightly less comfortably), covered with a pergola. This year, we added another circle for a firpit area that seats 4 (14 if you bring all the chairs we have surround the pit). Next year, my wife has promised that I will get my built in dream cooking area circle, with space for my smoker, grill, storage, small refrigerator and running water. Not gonna lie, the expense is pretty high. when all is said and done, I will have over $12,000 sunk into the project. So, when I am ready, I am going to spend a year on my grill/smoker/patio in order to justify the costs...and to get better.

But until that time comes, I am going to start dedicating myself to get better. I have always been a bit of a foodie. I love to eat out, and have eaten in some of the finest restaurants in the world. But also, I love to entertain and cook. I can follow a recipe with the best of them, but recently I have started adding my own touches to make things to my tastes.

So, until I start my year on the grill, I am slowly going to learn to get better. Funny thing about smokers (Bar-B-Quers)...If a recipe says to cook ribs 6-8 hours, the best smokers will try their best to cook them 8 hours or longer (without over cooking them). On days when I cook for just my wife and I, I was looking for a way to cook fast. Burgers were cooked on the stove on high heat, and I tried to spend a s little time as possible in the kitchen. Well, no more.

I can do better...

I can cook better...

My food can taste better...

Today I started with a small step...Honey Butter.

Recipe is simple,

1 pound butter, softened (I used lightly salted butter)

1 cup honey (we have a local beekeeper that I buy fresh honey from...good quality ingrediants do count)

1 tablespoon of vanilla (again, quality counts, buy the good Mexican vanilla)

Pretty, simply, put in a bowl and mix until smooth. I am blesse with a kitchenaid heavy duty mixer, so I let it do ALL the work.

I use my honey butter alot. Later this week, I will get out the bread machine. But also, I like to use this on the grill.

Put a couple spoonfuls in a small glass bowl and set on the side of the grill to melt. Preheat your grill HOT. While it is heating, take a potato, cut it in half and coat it with canola oil. Rub this patato over the grate and coat it well. The combination of the preheated HOT grill and the oil will get you those pretty grill marks on whatever you are cooking. Cut some red onion slices ...pretty thick, about 1/4 inch thick. slap them on the hot grill, and either turn the heat down to medium (gas grill), or turn the grate for indirect heat if you are using coal. Take a silicone brush, and coat the top of the onion with some of the melted honey butter. Let the butter melt and flow inbetween the onion rings on it's own. Just leave them for about 10 minutes. Mean while, take your hamburger patties and slap them on the grill. Direct heat area will be best, but again, use the medium setting on the grill. Take your brush and again, spread some of the honey butter on the hamburger. Let this butter melt into your patty. After about ten minutes, turn the onion. Turn em fast, as they will slide off your spatula, and I have lost many falling into the coals through the grate trying to be careful. Fast will keep the rings together. Once turned, you will see those beautiful grill marks. Take your brush and coat the now tops with the butter and let them cook for another 10 minutes. Meanwhile, check your burgers. They will probably need to be flipped. If you like a well done burger, wait a bit, but for the perfect medium burger, they should be ready to flip. Once flipped, again, you should have those great grill marks. OK, coat the top again with the butter. If you know you want some BBQ sauce, now is the time to top it and let those flavors soak in. Personally, I like the taste of the butter on my first burger, and I have that plain with an onion slice. My second, I doctor with sauce and some relish and the onion.

The onions are so sweet now you can eat them right off the grill...The best.

OK, that ended day one...see you for day two for a killer grilled meatloaf...