Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Using a Smoker 101

When it comes to barbecue or smoked meats,  pork, hands down is my all time favorite.  It's not always easy to get my husband to put something on the smoker. Smoking is time consuming and he's got his projects all lined up in advance and I'm more of a spur of the moment person.

Growing up I thought my dad could barbecue and smoke stuff like nobody's business and I still feel he was damn good.  My brother, John watched and learned and perfected by dad's technique.  Sorry dad, you can't touch John.

While my technique is FAR from perfect, it's pretty darn good.  Let's face it, I'm no John, Larry or Chris but this post is for those of you who have not taken that step in to the smokey, slow-paced world of real outdoor cooking.  This is a Beginner's or 101 post into smoking some ribs.

This is the bowl that goes down in the bottom of the smoker right above the charcoal. I lined it with foil for easy clean-up.  The bowl is filled with liquid to keep the meat moist during the low and slow cooking process.  Sometimes I add a beer to the water, sometimes I add a little bourbon, sometimes I add both.  A cup or two of apple juice works well too.  Fill the bowl about halfway with liquid.

Pile the charcoal in the place where the charcoal goes...sorry I don't know the technical name.  Pile it up and PLEASE use real charcoal and not the easy light coals.  There is a big difference in the way your food tastes.
Squirt the coals down good with lighter fluid and let them sit for about 10 to fifteen minutes.  Soak them again and let them sit for another 10 minutes before lighting.

Place the bowl in the smoker.  If you like to use wood chips when you smoke, now would be a good time to soak the chips in a bucket or large bowl of water.

Put the grill in place.

Fire up the coals.  Since we have a wood deck, I placed some blocks under the bottom of the smoker to be safe and not damage the wood.

After the fire goes out and the coals begin turning white, spread them out a little.  Be prepared and have more coals on hand.  Since the cook time is slow, once you see your temperature beginning to drop on the smoker, load up a "chimney" with coals and soak and light them.  When they begin to turn white, add them to the coals at the bottom of your smoker.

Place the rest of the smoker over the coals and wait for it to come to temperature.  If you're using wood chips, you can carefully toss them into the hot coals through the little door on the front.  Use an oven mitt, the door is hot.

When the smoker reaches its "Ideal" temperature, place your seasoned meat on the grill. Pour a glass of tea or pop a beer and relax!

I cooked these ribs for about 2-1/2 hours. 

Slather one side with your favorite barbecue sauce and cook for another 30 minutes and repeat on the other side.

I can guarantee two things:

1.  Your neighbors will be envious.
2.  Your eyes will roll in back of your head when you eat!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Crawfish Michaela

When you're lucky enough to not only welcome dear friends into your home from New Orleans, and they bring with them about 40 lbs. of boiled crawfish then you know you're living right!

Believe it or not, we had crawfish leftover.  A.J. and I peeled and froze the tail meat. Of course by Friday we were both craving crawfish again and I found this recipe by my favorite chef, John Folse.    This is authentic Cajun goodness!

Just in case you don't have crawfish tails available in your neck of the woods, I definitely think this recipe would be just as wonderful with shrimp.  you will need one pound of cooked crawfish tails or 1 pound of shrimp, uncooked.

In a 2 quart pot, over medium-high heat, melt 1 stick (1/4 lb.) of butter.

One the butter has melted, add in 1 tablespoons chopped, garlic, 1/4 cup green onions, 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms, 1/2 cup diced tomatoes, and 1/2 cup diced andouille (I used Polish Kielbasa).  Saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until vegetables are wilted.

Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of flour.


Thoroughly blend flour into vegetables and sausage.


Add in half of the crawfish tails and stir to combine.  De-glaze the pot with 1 ounce of dry white wine and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.


Lower heat to medium and stir in one 8 ounce can of tomato sauce.


Add in 2 cups of heavy whipping cream, stirring constantly until it thickens to a thick sauce, approximately 5 minutes.

Had to add in at least one food porn shot!


Next, add in 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper, 1 tablespoons chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon chopped basil and 1 teaspoon chopped tarragon.


Season with salt and pepper to taste.  When I made this again, I will nix the black pepper and use 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, just saying.


Add in the remaining crawfish tails.


Fold in 4 cups of cooked rotini pasta.  I thought about using penne instead, but stick with the rotini.  The sauce really coats the pasta nicely.  This is far as I got with the pictures, we couldn't wait to dive in and the leftovers...all gone within 2 days.

Chef John Folse, your recipes have never failed me! 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cooking Handicaps and Green Bean and Rice Casserole

Do you want to know something about me that is really strange?  Maybe not really strange, but it boggles my mind and my husband's too.  I can't cook rice to save my life.  Yes, it's true.  Whether it's regular rice cooked in a pot, instant rice or boil in the bag rice, if I'm involved, it's a disaster.  Either it comes out gummy or it's cooked on the outside and hard in the middle.  The only way I can cook rice is in a rice cooker.

A.J. has told me, "Katherine, you could take an old shoe, make taste good.  I don't understand why you can't cook rice!".  ~Me either, sheesh~.  My mother stood over me one time to see what I was doing wrong.  She said I did everything exactly how she did and even she couldn't understand why I had a gummy mess.

As most mothers do, she figured out a way for her child to overcome this handicap and gave me a rice cooker for Christmas.  Seriously, she really did.  For about 20 years that little rice cooker turned out many perfect pots of  rice.  It drowned like a lot of my small kitchen applicances from Katrina flooding.  A rice cooker was not on the top of the list of necessities that had to be replaced.  Besides, the brand I had was no long made and I was afraid of buying a rice cooker that made suckier rice than I did.

Finally, after two years of  either eating my poor attempt at rice or buying plain white rice from Chinese restaurants, I researched and made "the" purchase.  So now my rice loving family has one less worry on their minds and I have one less stressor in my life.

If you have picky eaters that love rice, here's an evil plot!  Lace their rice with bacon, cheese and vegetables.  The won't be able to resist.

Cook 2 cups of white rice.  Brown four strips of bacon, the real stuff.  Drain, cool, crumble and set aside.  Reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon grease in the skillet and melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat.

Brown 1/2 cup of chopped onions, 1 can of drained cut green beans and 1/2 cup of mushrooms.  I used some baby bellas I had in the fridge.  A note about the green beans.  I used the cut beans because you want them to be approximately bite size.  They are also sturdier in the skillet than the French-style green beans.  Season with salt and pepper, remove from heat once the onions start to wilt.

Place the cooked rice in a prepared casserole dish and pour the green beans over the rice.  Gently fold in the green beans into the rice.

Add 1 cup of sour cream, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire.

1 tablespoon of hot sauce (optional).

1 tablespoon lemon juice.  Fold and evenly combine all ingredients.

Sprinkle the crumbled bacon over the top.

Complete the garnishing with Panko crumbs and Asiago cheese for a salty crunchy top!

Bake at the universal oven temperature of 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

So tell me, what is your cooking handicap?

Have a fantastic weekend!  Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Brennan's Twice Baked Potatoes

I bet most of you have a handy twice baked potato recipe, so I'm not going to blow your mind with this recipe or show you anything you don't already know.  This is a basic and easy recipe but has endless possibilities and is a easy make ahead dish packed full of flavor and perfect for entertaining.  Also, this post will probably make you say say, "oh yeah, I haven't made that in so long...why?...yum!".  So this post is kind of like a gentle slap on the back of the head.

The flavors are layered, gentle and oh so very satisfying; another plus, this dish doesn't need a whole lot of babysitting.  With Father's Day right around the corner make the special man in your life a nice hearty side dish!

Clean two russet potatoes, pierce with a fork on the front and back and bake at 400 degrees for 70 minutes.  Allow the potatoes to cool for about 10 minutes and slice in half lengthwise and all to cool further.

Cook 4 slices of bacon, cool and crumble, set aside.  PLEASE in the name of all that's sacred and good, use REAL bacon and not packaged bacon bits...you will be glad you used the real stuff.

While the bacon is cooking, use a spoon and scrape the potato flesh from the shell into a bowl and set aside.  Reserve the shells in tact.  Leave 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the skillet and saute 1/4 cup of finely chopped shallots over medium heat for about two minutes.  If the shallots begin to brown, remove the skillet from the heat.  Add the potato flesh to the skillet, 1 cup of sour cream and combine, mashing the potatoes with a wooden spoon as you blend.  Season with salt and pepper remove skillet from heat.  Fold in a 1/2 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese and the crumbled bacon.

Fill the shells with the potato mixture.

Top with shredded sharp cheddar cheese.  You can get creative here and use a Colby/Jack combination, crumbled goat cheese or even Manchego cheese...think outside of the box.  The homegirlz like to stay in the box.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is completely melted.

Your husband, your father, your children and neighbors will sing your praises after they taste one of these!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Grilled Honey and Teriyaki Chicken

This is one of Tyler Florence's "no fail" recipes that we have made several times already.  For me, grilling chicken can be a little tricky since we like our chicken evenly cooked inside and out and still moist on the inside.  Brining chicken or pork really adds flavor and keeps the meat moist through the grilling process.

First We're going to make a brine.

We started off with a package of bone-in/skin on thighs and legs, four thighs and five legs.  Combine 2 cups of water, 1 cup brown sugar (both light and dark brown sugar work great, use what you have on hand), 1/2 head of garlic (take a head of garlic and cut in half at the equator), 1 piece of ginger about the size of your index finger peel left on, smashed like a clove of garlic, 2 tablespoons Kosher salt and 6 sprigs of fresh thyme in a large resealable bag and swirl to dissolve the sugar. Add chicken pieces and allow to brine for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Make teriyaki glaze: In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine 2 cups teriyaki sauce, 1/4 cup honey, 1 piece of fresh ginger (the same size and smashed like you did for the brine), the other half of the head of garlic, and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, and simmer until rich and slightly reduced.

Remove chicken from brine and pat dry. Discard the brine.

Pre-heat the grill to medium-low.  Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl, drizzle with the 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil and season with freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat and cook on a low-medium grill for 17 to 20 minutes per side until cooked through. Baste with teriyaki glaze for the last 10 to 12 minutes of cooking.

Plate and garnish with sliced scallions, and toasted sesame seeds.  Serve with some mandarin orange slices and fried rice or lo-mein and you won't go out for take-out until next winter!

Monday, June 7, 2010

It Really Does Exist and Don't Be Jealous

I couldn't decide how to title this post and I'll explain both.

Our first East Tennessee Blogger Get Together was this past Saturday and if you missed, you missed A LOT of REALLY good food and a FANTASTIC time with some genuinely wonderful people.

Larry from Big Dude's Eclectic Ramblings and his wife, Bev, generously hosted this event at their home on Tellico Lake. 

Larry calls his home "Almost Heaven South" and he's not exaggerating, It Really Does Exist!

Once you see the pictures of the wonderful day we had...you can't help but be jealous!  We really enjoyed spending time with Larry and Bev, Chris from Nibble Me This and his wife, Alexis and their son Trevor.  We also enjoyed meeting Sam from My Carolina Kitchen and her husband, Meakin. 

Check them out!

The homegirlz and friends chillin' out on Larry's pontoon boat.

This picture doesn't show it, but at this point I had already been asked 8 times how much longer until we eat.

A.J. talking to Larry's neighbor Steve.

Chris putting the finishing touches on his delicious creations!

How Chris beat six hungry kids to the front of the line, I'll never know!

I want this recipe Sam!  Sam made an amazing salad with oranges,red onion slices, Kalamata olives, topped with a vinaigrette.

My contribution was sausage jambalaya...the kids got to it before the camera did.

Larry's barbecue chicken drumsticks...glad I got this one in because they didn't last long.

Larry's smoked ribs...the man can smoke and barbecue!  We demanded more that evening and we fought over them...seriously.

Chris' grilled corn and if that wasn't enough he made BBQ butter to go with it...I know you're kicking yourself for not making the trip aren't you?

Chris and Alexis also brought Mac-N-cheese, and grilled asparagus with oranges.  I put the BBQ butter on the asparagus and am convinced Chris' BBQ butter could stand alone as a side dish.

That's Sam in the yellow dress and to the left is Pat and Bev.  Pat is Bev's sister.

My oldest homegirl, Lauren and Sam's husband, Meakin.  Meakin your are brave beyond words getting on a jet ski with a 16 year old!

Trevor (Chris' son), Kaitlin (my homegirl), Alex (Larry's granddaughter).  Blogger get togethers are definitely a good time!

There's no denying, this is Almost Heaven South!  Don't be Jealous!