Apr 23 2006

What kind of BBQ sauce do you prefer?

Yesterday, we only served two BBQ sauces…our sweet red Kansas City style sauce, and the peppery vinegar NC style (see post below). TLW claims to have a theory about the percentage of customers who would prefer sweet to other types. So here is your chance to settle the discussion once and for all….

I was going to put this in “poll form” but I think I would rather get more of an explanation as to how you describe your “ultimate sauce”…

Apr 23 2006

A small gig in Savannah

I recently met the owner of a BBQ grill and accessory store called “Cookouts.” That meeting led me to doing a customer appreciation event for Grainger Honda on Chatham Parkway near Savannah. Now there is nothing wrong with cooking in the backyard on the Weber, but it is always a lot of fun when we can bring out one of our big cannons…a Southern Pride SPK700. For this event The General prepped and cooked 14 pork butts which yielded 13 half pans (packed 5 lbs. per pan) of pulled pork.

It never ceases to amaze me how many techniques I used to use, but have forgotten along the way. In preparing these pork butts, I used a combination of Bad Byron’s Butt Rub, olive oil, and yellow mustard. Incidentally, pork and mustard go together just like a horse and carriage. The butts cooked all night for approximately 14 hours.

Now here is “the skinny” on cooking pork butt. No matter how much you try to penetrate the meat with your rub and spices, the pork butt is just too thick for your spice to fully penetrate it. What to do? Once you have reached an internal temperature of 190*, bust the butt with a cleaver or sharp knife, or like me a sharp pastry tool with a handle. This lets some of the heat out and allows the butt to cool so that you can handle the meat. Then pull the meat as if you are shuffling a deck of cards…separating the fat from the meat and breaking down the large chunks of meat. TLW prefers to have these pieces about the size of her index finger. I the pulled meat until each half pan was filled with 5 lbs. of meat, and then sprinkled the meat with more of Bad Byron’s Butt Rub…mixing it in like you are tossing a salad. My goal was to liquefy the rub and flavor the meat. Never let dry rub simply sit on the meat…it HAS to be mixed in and liquefied or you will get a gritty product.

Here is where we hit a home run with our BBQ sauce. It turned out that the owners of the Honda dealership were both from Eastern North Carolina. Those folks from the east part of NC like their vinegar sauce as well as there coleslaw on top of their meat. We were able to accommodate both. Here is our adaptation of a recipe from Steve Raichlen’s BBQ USA p. 304:

Kate’s Mountain Vinegar Sauce

(Don’t try this recipe unless you are having a party as it will serve 100 and will only keep for a week in the fridge.)

1 gallon cider vinegar

64 oz. of Heinz ketchup

4 C dark brown sugar

2 C granulated sugar

1/2 C salt

1/2 C fresh ground black pepper

1.5 oz red pepper flakes

Gradually bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer until it the mixture reduces to a thicker consistency than water…but nowhere close to regular BBQ sauce. (This process took about an hour and a half.)

What you will have is a vinegary spicy (peppery) runny red sauce that has a lot of heat to it…but it is not obnoxious. This is guaranteed to raise some eyebrows!

It was good to have the ’94 pickup out on the road again with the SP trailing behind it. It turned out to be a great afternoon.


Apr 18 2006

Green Beans with Pepper Bacon and Grilled Asparagus

Green Beans:

Here is a green been recipe that I have tried several times with very good results.

In a large skillet, fry up 5 slices of bacon (I used black pepper bacon this time) to a crispy, but not burned state. Thinly slice a medium onion and cook it in the bacon grease until it becomes translucent. In another skillet that you can cover, transfer the onions and 2 T of the bacon grease.


3/4 to 1 cup chicken broth

2 t dark brown sugar

1 lb. green beans (snap off the ends)

salt and pepper to taste (we love sea salt on these)

Bring the broth, sugar and onions to a boil and add the beans. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer gently (stirring occasionally) until the beans are tender and the liquid is reduced…about 20 minutes.

When you have the correct tenderness remove from the skillet and coat with 2 T red wine vinegar, some additional salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the bacon bits.


Grilled Asparagus:

Here is a recipe I can almost taste just by thinking about it…and it is so simple!

Buy a bunch of asparagus and cut of the woody ends about 3/4″. Place the asparagus in a baking dish and cover liberally with olive oil, minced garlic and Kosher salt. Toss. (Hands work best.) Make sure that all pieces are coated with the three ingredients.

Using a grill basket, load the asparagus and place the grill basket directly over the fire. The trick here is to get the larger ends over the hot end of the fire and small ends over the less intense heat. Turn every 3 to 4 minutes until done (about 25 minutes.)

Tip: If you are really busy, leave the asparagus in the baking dish and pop in a preheated oven at 325* for about the same amount of time…flipping them occasionally.

Apr 17 2006

Carnival of the Recipes #87

Grill Maestro is the gracious host of the Carnival this week. Stop by and check it out! Just in time with a Tax Day theme!

Apr 17 2006

Family Holiday Dinner

The Menu:

Glazed Ham with Grilled Pineapple

Smoked Leg of Lamb and Racks of Lamb

Boiled Shrimp

Deviled Eggs

Green Beans with Black Pepper Bacon

Grilled Asparagus

Corn on the Cob

Almost Southern Potato Salad

Strawberry Shortcake

Ham: The General purchased a spiral sliced ham that came with a package of glaze mix. A last minute decision was made to smoke the ham on the smoker. Now this has both pros and cons. Pros: This is a great way to heat up your ham. Con: Since you have so many ends from the spiral slicing that they may get dry from the heat. The ham only stayed on the smoker for only about two hours, so I was safe. This is evidenced by this picture….a thing of beauty decorated with the grilled pineapple…and it sold well!


Shrimp: I boiled the shrimp using Old Bay Seasoning and just served cocktail sauce on the side. The trick to doing the shrimp is to put the shrimp into already boiling water. The temperature of the shrimp will cool the water back down from a boil. Allow the shrimp to come back to a boil and do not cook over 2 minutes after it reaches a boil. Immediately take the shrimp out of the hot water, otherwise it will keep on cooking. Cool under cold water and they are ready to serve.

Lamb: I did something differently than I normally do and that is to brine it by using 1 quart of water and 1 cup Kosher salt. The lamb stayed in the brine for 24 hours. What this does is it draws the blood from the meat and gives it a less “gamey” taste. As evidenced by some guests who said they normally do not like lamb…but they loved this. I put the lamb which was covered with minced garlic on the smoker and cooked it using indirect heat until it reached an internal temperature of 135*.


The missus and I have two aging (10+) German Shepherd dogs. Mars is suffering from degenerative myelopathy (kind of like Lou Gerhig’s disease in humans.) Radar is just big! Both live to eat. I guess living in this house one would expect that as we do give them some tasty treats after dinner. Yesterday, Radar fell asleep at my feet while I was eating dinner, and when I placed a huge chunk of lamb under his nose he didn’t wake up. TLW got this picture. I guess Radar was having a really good dream!


Pineapple: Since I was using indirect heat for the lamb and the ham, that gave me grill space to grill the pineapple. I took a whole pineapple and using a sharp knife I cut the prickly outer skin off. Generally, the pineapple will then need a little bit of cleaning “up.” Next, I cut it into slices approximately 1/2 inch thick. The slices were grilled over direct heat and turned every 3 to 4 minutes. The trick here is that you are really not cooking the pineapple, just warming it up and getting the grill marks. The slices do not need to be served warm, so you can take them up in advance. It makes for a great and tasty presentation!

Apr 17 2006

Entertaining and Hosting Parties

After 20+ years of hosting our own parties and catering parties for all ranges up through thousands, here are some key elements The General would like to pass on.

  • Being punctual: If you promise food to be on at 7:30 pm, you owe it to yourself and your guests to come as close to the mark as you possibly can. Even though parties are very social in nature, avoid consumption of any alcoholic beverage until your guests are served. (The General always does this in competition as well.) Even as much as one beer can throw your timing completely off. After all your guests are served, you can reward yourself with your favorite beverage.
  • Menu: Always have a written menu close at hand. This avoids leaving items out and finding them in the fridge after dessert has been served. TLW has devised a system using post-it notes to lay out designated serving dishes and utensils well before the party begins. This simplifies things for volunteer help and for us. When you ask for the green bean serving dish (and if the helper can read), the proper one will be brought to you. This also avoids rummaging through cabinets at the last minute!
  • Pitfalls: Sooner or later, these may happen to you:

You have had 24 accept your invitation…and 20 of your guest have already arrived. The Joneses and the Smiths are both late. So, do you hold up your food for four people? TG says absolutely not! It is regrettable that four guests have not arrived, but you have 20 that did! Since your first goal is to be punctual, you should have your food out at the proper time. If you are not a caterer or you do not have chafers to keep the food warm or cold, then you’ve got food not being served at the proper temperature/etc. The key point in this is that some people just like to be late and others have legitimate issues, but beginning without them will take the pressure off them and they can pick up with the party when they arrive.

Another thing that can hold up a party is that one or more of your menu items don’t get ready on time. Again, do you hold up the whole party? Simple math should tell us that the answer is no. You can always add the items when they become available.

TG is hoping some of these points will aid you when planning for your next party!

Apr 15 2006

A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush (G 43 that is)

Tax day is approaching and The General wants to make sure that all returns are in on time. Therefore, he has created a no fuss recipe that is guaranteed to impress and still give you plenty of time to finish your tax return.


The General and TLW have been inundated with different members of the tribe coming to visit us in Savannah this week. One night…after a busy day of who knows what…I “threw” together this delightful meal. Between picky kids and TLW (who is now “watching what she eats”) I had many challenges. I very rarely cook chicken at home, so I saw this as a way to please the missus and still kick it up a notch using Cornish game hens.

Start by splitting them in half (I used a cleaver). In the Spanish section of most supermarkets you can find a product called Mojo sauce or marinade. I then marinated the hens in the mojo juice for 24 hours. Since I couldn’t use them the next day, I drained the marinade off and left them in the fridge.

The next step is to rub the birds with your favorite rub, or as usual I used a mixture of Happy Holla and Emeril’s Essence. Alternatives to this could be garlic and pepper or lemon pepper, depending on the taste profile you are trying to create. After you have placed the dry rub on the hens, liquefy it with olive oil. Our reinvention of the grill basket has really made grilling fun again. Make sure you always coat the basket with a spray of olive oil or Pam before using it.

It took about 30 minutes of direct heat (flipping about every 6 minutes) to reach an internal temperature of 165*. You can pair the chicken with long grain rice, black or red beans and rice, and for your vegetable grilled asparagus. Use lots of olive oil on the asparagus and then sprinkle it with sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper.

The clan was impressed and I still had plenty of time to play with my 17 month old granddaughter Megan…who loves my barber chair built the same year I was born…1946!


Apr 9 2006

Bobby Flay in Love with Savannah?

We just received the May issue of Food and Wine magazine. Our fair city of Savannah was featured on the cover. Bobby Flay was in town

200605 Flaysavannah

with his bride Stephanie March whom you may recognize from the TV show ‘
Conviction.’ They were here to sample the local cuisine looking for inspiration for a new restaurant of his and also to get in some shopping.

This is where the feature got a little puzzling and it teaches you not to believe everything you read in print. Flay was walking around Savannah and saw a long line of people waiting to get into a restaurant at 2:00 pm in the afternoon. Unbeknownst to him it was “Lady and Sons” which happens to be owned by Paula Deen – a fellow Food Network star. Now how long do you think that he really waited in line? Also, did he magically just stumble on it? Usually it takes over an hour and a half for people to get in. His comment was, “Any place with a 45 minute wait at 2 o’clock on a Monday is a place I want to eat at.”

Flay’s description of the buffet seemed like fiction to The General and TLW because this is a place that most locals do not patronize.

But Ms. Deen does not need the local business, as people come from all over the country (and probably the world) to eat there as their top priority for their visit.

Ok…so we don’t agree with Mr. Flay’s review of the restaurant…but we don’t want to take anything away from Paula Deen personally. We admire her rags to riches story and we know that she is a very nice person. Around the holiday season of 2004, we visited
Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, a restaurant that she was helping her brother get started. She was about to pull her hair out with all the logistics, but still had time to sit and talk with us and even serve us a sampling of chargrilled oysters. I guess where I am going with this is fame doesn’t always match up with food. We have tried Uncle Bubba’s several times since and have been less than happy with our selections. For now, it is not on our list of eating establishments.

The General does have all of Ms. Deen’s cookbooks, and most of the recipes are very good. So, if you really want to get a sampling of her food, buy her cookbooks!

We did take exception with F&W’s listing of Savannah’s “Best Food.” Of course, it listed Lady and Sons and Uncle Bubba’s. It also listed 700 Drayton which is part of the Mansion on Forsyth. We have never eaten there, but have heard some ‘interesting’ comments from friends. Gottlieb’s Restaurant and Dessert Bar IS a local favorite. Now the last two entries were BBQ places…very interesting for T he General. Wall’s BBQ probably began with Oglethorpe’s arrival in Savannah…it’s been around a very long time. I am curious if the F&W people actually ate the BBQ? Muther’s Old Timey Bar-B-Que is located probably a good 10 miles from downtown Savannah, and, frankly, The General says,”They have good sweet tea, but save your gas!”

Almost every town in America is the same way. You have the famous places that all the tourists and out of towners gravitate to that serve mediocre food, and then you have the places that don’t have the notoriety…just darn good food.

Apr 9 2006

Rack of Pork


If you are up to the challenge of finding this cut of pork, which is traditionally only available where The General shops during the holiday season, you will be in for one great piece of pork. If you want to show off on your grill, this would be a great choice to get lots of accolades. I chose to thaw one out for some company this week.

Turn the rack over and, using something like an oyster knife or shish-kabob skewer or even a screwdriver, remove the membrane from the back. Slide your tool between the second and third bone on the large end underneath the membrane and pull back toward the short end of the rack. You should now have a nice piece of membrane that you can grab with a paper towel or a regular towel and pull to the other end of the rack which will remove the membrane.

Now the rack is ready for your favorite rub or what The General used: a combination of Happy Holla’ BBQ rub and Emeril’s Essence Apply the rub to both sides of the rack massaging it into the meat. Now coat it with a nice coating of olive oil to liquefy the rub.

Set up your grill for indirect smoking. You can use a combination of apple, hickory or cherry wood for your smoking. Try to keep the temperature around 250* and continue to smoke until you get an internal temperature in the center of the rack of 160*. It took me approximately 6 hours. Place the rack on the grill with the fat side up and continue to cook until almost the last hour and then flip it.

While the meat is cooking make up a mister (spray bottle) filled with 2/3 apple juice and 1/3 apple cider vinegar and enough Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce to turn the mixture dark. Spray about every 45 minutes until done.

We made up the whiskey/bourbon sauce that is in Steve Raichlen’s BBQ USA on page 660.

Bon Apetit!

Apr 8 2006

Carnival of the Recipes #86

Good news! The Hermit has posted the latest Carnival at The Ziggurat of Doom. Go there if you dare. (Lot’s of good recipes, too.)