Mar 31 2006

BBQ Queens Big Book of Barbecue

What a nice surprise when the mailman arrived at The General’s door with an oversized package. It was from our BBQ buddy Karen Adler of Pig Out Publications and BBQ cookbook author extraordinare. Now guys, don’t be fooled by the title of her latest book “The BBQ Queens’ Big Book of Barbecue” (Karen Adler)



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These girls are fierce competitors in the BBQ circuit around Kansas City. If it makes you feel any better there is actually one guy on the team. This book already came with a lot of credibility because for the last three years I have religiously cooked out of her other book “Fish & Shellfish, Grilled & Smoked” (Karen Adler)



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The thing that makes both books so exciting is the accompanying sauce recipes. The little woman absolutely adores these sauces. With BBQ season in full swing, you can’t go wrong with any recipes in these books on your cookbook shelf!


Mar 31 2006

Savannah Crab Soup

Men and women cannot live on BBQ alone…at least in a coastal town like Savannah. Here is a recipe for Savannah Crab Soup that The General cooked this week. I would rate this a solid “B.” Having committed to trying any recipe 3 times before tweaking it, we found the recipe to be lacking in spice…black pepper, perhaps some red pepper flakes or maybe some hot sauce. You will have to tweak it yourself, because I am going to give you the recipe as is.


2 T olive oil

1 carrot, diced

1 medium onion, diced

3 C chicken broth

3 C beef broth

3-4 C potatoes, diced

3-4 C tomatoes, diced

2 t Old Bay seasoning (or other seafood seasoning)

1 Lb crabmeat

Parsley for garnish

Saute’ the carrot and onion in the oil in a stock pot. Cook until vegetables are softened. Add the broth, potatoes, tomatoes, and seafood seasoning. Simmer just until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the crabmeat and parsley and heat thoroughly.

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Mar 26 2006

An Example of Indirect Cooking

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Since The General talks all the time about indirect cooking, I thought that you would like to see an example. Smoked a couple of Boston Butts this week and the little woman got this great shot. Notice how the coals and the soaked apple wood chunks are on one side of the smoker, and the Butts are on the other. Also pay attention to the drip pan. It is underneath the rack directly under the pork and next to the coals. In cooking large cuts of meat, you always need to be careful about grease flare ups…so the drip pan catches the juices/fat and prevents flare ups…as long as you remember to empty the drip pan several times during the cooking process.


Here is a tip from the cook off circuit. The common name is ‘spray bottle,’ but it is also known as a ‘mister.’ Periodically, spray your meat with a mixture of 1 C apple cider vinegar and 2 cups apple juice and enough Worcestershire sauce to make the mixture dark. This adds moisture to your cooking process.


Some people like to restore cars, guns, etc…but The General has a new one! I restored my 26″ Weber that was deteriorating in our backyard in Atlanta. The reason for the effort is that Weber no longer makes a 26″ grill…only an 18″ or a 22″. Many thanks to the good folks at
Weber customer service for making this happen.



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Mar 26 2006

Calhoun's Taste of Tennessee

Wanna eat some great BBQ in Knoxville? Try Calhoun’s Taste of Tennessee! This is no ordinary BBQ restaurant. It sits right on the Tennessee River in the heart of downtown Knoxville.

Curtis Gibson, Director of Operations, was kind enough to host several events for the National BBQ Association convention last month. He definitely has the hospitality chip. He furnished us with some of the recipes from the restaurant. Thought you might like to try one. This is for a large quantity, so save it for when you have a party…or cut it down….

Spinach Maria

Ingredients:

41/2 C Milk

1/2 Yellow Onion (medium)

1 t Ground Mustard

1 t Granulated Garlic

1 3/4 t Crushed Red Pepper

1/8 Lb and 1 T Butter (melted)

3/8 C Flour

8 oz Cheddar Cheese

4 oz Monterey Jack Cheese

8 oz Velveeta Cheese

(5) 10 oz Boxes Frozen Chopped Spinach

1 1/2 C Grated Monterey Jack Cheese (for topping)

Procedure

  1. Heat milk and spices in a 4 quart sauce pan on medium heat to just below a boil (190*). Then reduce and simmer.
  2. Finely chop onion, saute’ in 1 T butter on medium heat for 5-8 minutes, add to sauce pan.
  3. Combine the 1/8 Lb melted butter with the flour in a small saute’ pan. (This is the first step of making a Roux which will thicken the sauce.) Mix until completely blended, cook on low heat 3-4 minutes to make Roux. Add Roux to sauce pan and mix well. Continue to cook until sauce thickens.
  4. Cut the Velveeta, cheddar, and Jack cheese into small cubes, add to sauce pan. Continue to mix until all the cheese is completely melted and blended into the sauce (be careful not to burn the sauce while the cheese is melting). Remove from heat. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  5. Slow thaw the spinach in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Squeeze as much excess water as possible out of the spinach. Add spinach to cheese sauce, mix until completely blended. Transfer to an 11x9x2 casserole pan and top with grated Monterey Jack Cheese. Bake at 350* for 12-15 minutes.

**This will yield 12 servings.

Let The General know what you think after you have tried this recipe!!


Mar 21 2006

How about a BBQ Odyssey?

In the past it was not uncommon for The General and his bride to take field trips to different BBQ restaurants. We usually started on a Saturday morning, and most of the time distance didn’t matter. We would try to hit 3 or 4 BBQ joints during the day, and it would only stop when she loudly protested, “No more!!!”

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I was going through some of my cookbooks the other day, and found a book called “
The Grand Barbecue – A Celebration of the Places, Personalities, and Techniques of Kansas City Barbecue.” You see, Kansas City, MO, considers itself the BBQ Capital of the World…rivaled only by Memphis, TN. It is home of the American Royal BBQ Contest held each October. The book went on to mention that there are actually BBQ guides to take you from restaurant to restaurant to sample the different BBQ cuisine. Had we not already been to the Royal on several occasions, I think I would take the little woman on this trip. What a BBQ odyssey this would be!

The way the book ends and turned out to be a learning experience for The General. I suggest this book to anyone interested in the history of Kansas City BBQ and in taking the ultimate BBQ field trip. For those of you bargain hunters out there the book is on sale for $4.95 at the link above…such a deal!!


Mar 21 2006

Yesterday's Ribs

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Cooked three slabs of ribs on the Weber for a friend yesterday. Thought I’d make your mouth water. See previous post for directions. These were baby back ribs I bought at Sam’s Club.


Mar 21 2006

What kind of grill or smoker to buy??

The General has been asked this question several times in the past week….guess this comes up with the advent of Spring! There is some basic criteria you need to follow in your decision to purchase a grill/smoker.

  • First is that it should be able to serve as a grill and a smoker…where you can do both direct and indirect cooking.
  • Second, it must have a cover or grill lid.
  • Third is the most important…you must be able to control the temperature. (The General made that mistake a year ago when attending a Hearth and Patio Show. I bought the cheapest Cook Shack Smoker in order to save a few pennies… and it was the only model that one could not control the temperature. Guess what? I have used it only three times and never plan on using it again. Not that they don’t build a good product, but without temperature controls it is worthless.) Temperature control also means that you can maintain a steady, level temperature.
  • Number four is the use of the equipment. Are you going to cater with it or is it strictly backyard/home entertaining.
  • Five is the budget and what you are willing to spend.

Now let’s discuss what The General uses both at home, on the competition circuit, and in catering.



For home and competition, I still use a Weber. A
Weber is a very versatile and low budget piece of equipment. I always can tell when someone has a bad case of the BBQ disease by the number of Webers in their backyard. If you purchase a Weber, be sure to purchase a couple of their cookbooks and cook those books from the front all the way to the back. Why? Because this is where you are going to build your skill set. You have to remember one thing. No tennis racquet ever won a tennis match. No set of golf clubs ever won a golf match. No ‘super deluxe Model 2000 shiny stainless steel gas grill’ has ever won a competition, nor will it make you a better cook…contrary to American marketing. (I call these “ego” grills.) Even if you have one of these, you need a “closet Weber” to practice on.


There is nothing wrong with a gas grill other than that The General has never experienced such intense heat. He clearly recognizes the fact that people like the convenience of gas grills for the sake of being able to go out and turn it on without any prep time. In fact, the little woman owned one when we met. When we got married, it was demoted to a corner of our basement. Many of the Webers now have a
gas igniter that allows you to quickly light your charcoal…and The General would highly recommend that convenience. In fact, the next Weber I buy…and you will never know how many I own…will have that igniter feature.


Also don’t overlook the Weber “Bullet.” I think they call them
Smokey Mountain Cooker…but on the competition circuit we call them “bullets” because of their shape. These are strictly for smoking hams, turkeys, etc. They come with a water pan to separate the meat from the fire and they add moisture to the cooking process.


Another consideration might be the “Big Green Egg.” Although The General has never used one, we have friends on the circuit who swear by them. However, this advice comes with a small bit of caution. It takes a little longer to perfect cooking on it.


Let’s go to the other side of the coin and look at the commercial products. The General owns two
SPK-700 Southern Prides. Both of which are capable of cooking 700 pounds of meat at one time. The General has had a long relationship with Southern Pride and they really build a very substantial product. Why do I like it? It is propane assisted. This means I can keep a level temperature indefinitely without varying a degree. It is all indirect cooking with the firebox on the side (in the front). I only use two sticks of wood, unlike some of the smokers we see in Savannah that burn a whole forest. It has a convection fan that in essence turns the pit into a convection oven, and it is a rotisserie…self basting oven.



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Following this criteria, you should be able to make a very intelligent decision about what to purchase. But remember, there are no shortcuts to success. The thing that we say in all the seminars we give is that you can be a little off on your food in the beginning, but you must remain consistent. How do you remain consistent?…by keeping notes on what you did. Don’t tell yourself you will write your notes later, because later never comes. What good is it if you hit a home run one time, and you cannot duplicate it another time?

If you have particular questions about other types of smokers/grills, or specific models, please feel free to comment and The General will be happy to give his two cents worth!


Mar 20 2006

Springtime in Savannah and a Great Fajita

The General has returned to Savannah after a long weekend of celebrations. It started with St. Patrick’s Day here in our new hometown, Savannah, GA, which is host to the second largest SP Day parade in the US (about 400,000 people attended). Since the missus and I had never seen the parade (and have heard many stories about it) we decided we couldn’t miss it. The weather was fabulous, the crowd behaved, and the whole event was spectacular…especially seeing the 3rd Infantry Division, recently home from Iraq, marching. Just fabulous!

We then went to a wedding on Daufuskie Island, SC. By boat from our house it is just about 30 minutes. But by land, it takes an hour road trip to Hilton Head Island and then a 45 minute ferry ride. Our dear friends’ daughter was married in a destination wedding there. It is really a beautiful barrier island that is a great place to visit, but I can tell you that the General would have a hard time permanently living there…not one grocery store. Everything has to be ferried over! Imagine that!

With all this activity, the grill sat under its cover for the last few days, but now spring has sprung in Savannah. Almost the beginning of the baseball season and the grilling and smoking season is on for those who do not do it year round. In honor of this occasion, we took a ride through Bonaventure Cemetery, one of the oldest and certainly the most beautiful cemeteries in Savannah…if not the world. Take a look at some of the beautiful pictures the little woman took today. Those of you who are still existing in cold climates…might not want to look at them!!


Now back to The General’s business at hand…smokin’ and grillin’…. We had an already cooked and highly coveted Costco ribeye steak. That steak did not go to waste…it went into fajitas! My version of fajita consists of three sliced bell peppers of assorted colors, one medium sliced onion, minced garlic, your favorite blackened seasoning, and olive oil. Put the vegetables in a Zip Loc bag and put in enough olive oil to coat them and mix well. Add a couple tablespoons of the minced garlic and a moderate sprinkling of the blackened seasoning to taste. Mix well again. The steak was already cooked, so all I did was thinly slice it. The day was rainy, so I chose to cook my ingredients in a skillet on the stovetop, but I would have much preferred to be grilling them in my perforated pan.


Place the marinated ingredients and the beef in a skillet and cook on medium heat until the peppers get soft and the onion becomes translucent. Warm your tortilla until it is soft…but not dried out. Serve with your favorite accompaniments…we used medium heat salsa, guacamole, and sour cream.

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Mar 14 2006

Carnival of the Recipes

Carnival is up at Dubious Wonder. Lots of good recipes for you to try!


Mar 14 2006

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

This is another great side item. This recipe should come with the warning: Do not attempt at the home kitchen…unless you have extremely sharp knives. Even my Henckels Professional (that was just sharpened) was no match for the sweet potato. They are extremely dense and hard to cut into French Fry shape…but it is well worth the effort.


Once you have the sweet potatoes cut, place in a Ziploc bag. Add a generous mixture of olive oil, minced garlic, and grated Parmesan cheese. Flip the potatoes around in the bag, so that all pieces are thoroughly coated.


Preheat your oven to 450*. Place on baking sheet with a rack on top. If you don’t have a rack, spray your baking sheet with Pam, so the fries don’t stick. Let them cook for approximately 25 minutes…until crispy and brown. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and brush with a light touch of BBQ sauce …and dig in. The General guarantees that you will not have any leftovers…they are really good and sorta healthy!

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