Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog


Hanging with Gus: Grilled Steak Fajita Bowls

The winds of November felt more like September, this weekend last. And tho the leaves have all descended now, and the song birds have parted ways for yonder lands far to the south, and the earth is on hold now, seems like, waiting for winter; the weather that which remains this side of a setting sun, at the time of this draft anyways, has been nothing short of paradisaical. Shirt sleeve temperatures, leastwise for a Minnesotan it is. Blue skies, no humidity, and no bugs. I rather like it. And so does Gus.

Gus is my rabbit, don’t you know. He’s been hanging out at the pit with me a lot lately, often occupying the same corner of the yard, meticulously nosing through the lawn there whilst I putter on the patio. He’s a good rabbit, by and far. Never a cross word. Keeps out of trouble. And no, I’m not at all positive he’s a he. Nor does Gus cotton much towards my curiosity to check on these matters. So I let him be, under the plausible notion that it probably doesn’t matter anyways, and the two of us, man and rabbit, manage to co-exist together no how, where the wood smoke gently curls.

Such was the case last Saturday afternoon. I had me a beautiful skirt steak sizzling away over a good bed of coals, jazz music playing, and the afternoon long to while away here at the pit. Whilst Gus milled about in the grass, I tinkered with a new technique on my Weber Smokey Mountain. How to convert the classic smoker into a grilling machine. It’s elementary really, but I’ll tell you about it anyway, because that’s what we do around here.


The technique here is to use the lower rack in the smoker to hold your fire. I told you it was simple. And it works too! Those of you not familiar with the Weber Smokey Mountain could probably give a barn owl’s dropping about this, but to a WSM owner, a beautiful new world has just opened to thee. You take the charcoal ring from the fire bowl below, and place it, centered, on the lower cooking rack of the WSM, and thus kindle your blaze accordingly there. This not only ushers a hotter fire closer to your spoils, proper for the likes of steaks and burgers, but also expands the versatility of the WSM. Another method is to place a cooking grate directly over a good fire in the fire bowl itself, and do your grilling there. But I kind of like this method just as well, as it lets you stand up to do your cooking. Say what you will, but we do like to be civilized at the pit.

Anyways, about this skirt steak. Hark, if you could have smelled it here, I do believe you would have shed a tear, or at least had a man moment, patron to the pit. Man it smelled good! Even Gus flared a nostril. We marinated the beef for 6 hours in a 30 minute marinade. Now like most red-blooded American males, we figured if a little is enough, then too much is just right. Not sure if we were allowed to perpetrate such behavior, but we did. The marinade was Lawry’s Steak and Chop Marinade, and wow, did it pack some flavor into that skirt steak. Maybe 30 minutes would have been plenty after all. Even so, good is good. After the steak was almost, but not quite done, we converted the Weber Smokey Mountain yet again, this time into a giant frying pan!

IMG_0045 (1)

Glory be but for the endless virtues of restaurant grade,  hot-rolled steel, placed steadfastly over a beautiful bed of coals. By now you know of our love affair with the venerable, Mojoe Griddle. It’s no secret. And that’s good because we’re not ashamed to show it! Nay, we cannot help but to revel in it’s capabilities, and now coupled with the 22.5 WSM, set up in grilling mode, well, let’s just say that the culinary world is ours! From smoking, to grilling, to elaborate frying over the nearly nonstick Mojoe surface. This is high living, folks. Made in America. And made to last.


Whilst the Black Capped Chickadees lit atop the pit-side spruce, we tossed the vegetables onto the lightly oiled griddle and got to work. I suppose I ought to tell you, now that I think of it, what we’re cooking today. It goes like this. One of my favorite places to eat is the Chipotle Mexican Grill. And my favorite thing to eat there is the burrito bowl. Well, Chipotle has been in the news lately, as you may know. Apparently Escherichia coli is on the menu too there, and people don’t much care for it.  I’m not sure what E coli does to a chap, but I just as soon steer clear of a dinner date with the Big E! Thus, and today, we do the only sensible thing a man can when he craves a Chipotle burrito bowl and can’t have one – we re-create it at home! Turns out its real easy to do too!

Onions and bell peppers chopped to suit, and tossed on the griddle. My they sizzle liked a love song there. We got some black beans heating up there too. Some corn also, dusted in Wholly Chipotle Rub from the good folks at Miners Mix. A pot of brown rice simmers off to the side on the pit stove. Can you smell it yet! The aromas which curled and ebbed  about the pit, the onions and marinated smokey beef and peppers, man, well lets just say it was enough to draw the drool from the lip pit of anyone with an fair to adequate pulse! What a pleasure to escort these spoils about, spatula in one hand, lovey beverage in the other. Turning them, folding them, working them together unto a higher calling suitable to thee. My inner Mexican rejoiced, and for a moment, all the world was right.

It was time. I bid Gus a hearty adieu, who was still prospecting through the grass yonder. Then I plated up some spoils, and topped it fresh with some shredded cheese and of course, the token dollop of sour cream.Yum! Needless to say, but we will, it was aptly devoured in kind. And Amen.

Home made burrito fajita bowl, or how ever you wanna say it. Indeed, good is good, patron to the pit.


Links To Stuff We Used Today:

Mojoe Griddle

Wholly Chipotle Rub

Lawry’s Steak and Chop Marinade




Meat Poetry: An Ode to Smoke

Patrons of the Pit:

Upon waking this morning, I was informed by the WordPress Monkeys that today is Patrons of the Pits birthday. Yup, go figure that. They said we were 3 years old, today. In the blogosphere, just like in human years, well, that’s just getting out of your diapers for good. So it’s our birthday. Seems fitting then to re-print here our very first blog post, just because. Enjoy…

Many thanks to our fabulous readership. Without you there would be no birthday today. And a whole lot less meat pics in cyberspace.


Originally posted on Patrons of the Pit:

If memories are linked with smell, and we believe this to be so, then there are a lifetime of them every time we light the grill. The charcoal grill that is.  Not to be snobbish or disrespectful to you gassy people out there, your way is fun too, for at least you are out there, putting meat to flame, but less you plunk a tatter of wood upon thy burner, you simply will never know the joy of smoke. Nor achieve that true smokey flavor that real BBQ is known for.  That’s half the reason we grill in the first place, for the smell of it. For the sheer wafting ambiance of wood smoke floating over a quiet pit. Ducks milling on the pond. Gophers dashing across the back forty. The waning golden rays of sun a’wash over your tranquil patio.  And the smell of smoldering mesquite in the…

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How To Catch A Wave: Superior Stir Fry

I am smitten for the surf. No, not the sort of surf you folks in California see on a regular basis, with those mighty curlers, and hearty folk balanced atop them on slender boards. That’s impressive and all, but not what I mean. Nay, the sort I speak of today is of the fresh water variety. The much smaller cousin, if you will, found on the larger inland lakes and watersheds scattered about this fine country. Maybe surf isn’t the appropriate word here. A good wave is really what I’m talking about. A good, rhythmic, all-day, rush-up-to-your-feet-and-soak-your-boot-if you’re-not-ready-for-it,  kind of wave. In short, the kind of waves my fellow patron and I mixed company with this weekend last, on a little camping trip up Lake Superior way, here in the first hallowed folds of November proper. Let it be said, because it’s true, we lived the pampered life there. The respite of kings. We ate like hogs, and slept like logs, each night lulled to sleep by the soothing rhythm of the ice water waves crashing on the beach. One could not help but to feel his blood pressure lower by just being there. It was good, people. So grab yourself an appropriate beverage, pull up your favorite chair, and we’ll tell you a little more about it, and how it went and came to be.

Now half of our mission statement, besides thus escaping the urban melee back home, was simply to eat our way through the weekend. A humble, albeit attainable goal, and one of which we were suitably prepared for. To assist us towards this higher end of gluttony, besides the token pair of stretchy pants, we brought along the one tool born for the task. The Mojoe Griddle. I might as well admit it, this griddle has wooed me silly in recent months, and I cannot hide my love for it. It’s awesome. There’s a reason we talk about it so much. And that reason is it just plain works! And let it be said, lake-side, in a beautiful encampment, nothing is quite so fine when camp cooking en-masse, than the vast, nearly non-stick surface of this massive griddle. We had four bellies in camp for to feed there, and the mojoe didn’t even blink. Not once. So it was good to have this culinary comrade at the ready in camp for our caloric ideals. And one thing we cooked was stir fry.

Over the lightly oiled, hot, steel surface of the griddle, my fellow patron fried up some thinly sliced chicken breast and beef. We seasoned the meat with what we had on hand: salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, seasoned salt, and a few pinches of garlic powder. Pretty much ran the booty through the entire camping spice rack for this one, and man oh man, what yonder aromas did flood our camp! Every black bear within a twenty and one-quarter mile radius of our picnic table knew precisely what we were up to. We just played the odds that ursus hibernation and November go hand-in-hand. It does, doesn’t it? Anyways.

It weren’t long before we added the vegetables. One red onion, one yellow onion, and four bell peppers of various pigmentation. A few cloves of garlic to taste. A little more oil to help things along. Glory! Sunbeams sparkle off the largest fresh water lake in all the world, whilst we turn our gastronomic medley over piping hot steel. Rice noodles come to boil on the other burner. I guess you’ve noticed by now our latest cooking tool – the venerable dry wall blade. Hey, we’re men, what do you expect! Cam, from Mojoe Outfitters, who off-hand, and by the way, is a man too, well it was he who recommended the dry wall blade for this griddle. By golly, if them weren’t words but to abide kindly in the soul.  One of the finer brain thrusts to cross the camp kitchen since baked beans. If you haven’t had occasion yet to plow your peppers about with such hardware, well let’s just say you’re missing something out of your life. There is just something delightfully emancipating about it, not to mention efficient. Like seeing your 401-K triple unexpectedly, or getting a new snow blower for your driveway. The world is yours! Likewise, I suspect nary a man with a pulse would not glow ear-to-ear tending his vittles in this matter. Where dry wall meets stir fry.

Lastly, whence the plunder was tender to eat, we lavished it with some Ginger Orange Asian sauce, mixing it in thoroughly, letting all the many flavors get to know one another. To get happy together, as it were. And thus, without much fanfare or the like, we cradled a paper plate each, piled high with steaming quantities of stir fry, and settled back into our camp chairs for a bit of proper pigging out. Chins were wiped, and burps were belched. Tummies were patted contentedly. If this is all we ate today, it would be alright. And as I tarried post-supper in my camp chair, watching the chickadees dart amid the birch and the balsam, I could not help but to recall the bustling city, and captive urban throngs that which we had left behind this weekend. All chasing their tails, ever in a rush it seemed. And as I looked out over the fresh water sea which sparkled in a golden light, and listened to its powerful waves roll onto the wild, northern coast, I tried to think of something that we might be missing by leaving the city behind for a while. But I didn’t come up with anything. In point of fact, I gave up such retrospection entirely, and just went back to the stove for seconds, instead. Returning to my chair once more, for to enjoy the food and fellowship, and to delight once again in my Lake Superior encampment, and the cold waves which topple forth there. Amen.

Camp Stir Fry courtesy of the Mojoe Griddle! Man! Good eating. Good scenery. Good people. Good times.

If you want to learn more about the Mojoe Griddle, check out . PotP Approved!

A Brief Veteran’s Day Tribute

This has nothing to do with BBQ. Not a single thing. But then again, maybe it does.

I was standing in line at the post office a while back, with a small box under my arm, making the best of my appointed downloaderrands there. The line was long, and the people in it were restless, wanting to get things moving, no doubt, so that they could get to the next line some place else. And I guess I was one of them. I’ve never been one for lines, but come to think of it, who is. Anyways, standing behind me was as elder man, sporting a red flannel shirt, gray hair and mustache, still of good form, and in his 80’s I should wager. I liked him right off. There was just something about how he held himself, and the patience he had there standing in line, that made him different I guess. Plus I liked his flannel. And patron to a quick glance at his ball cap, I deduced he was also a veteran of the Korean War.

My Pa was a Korean war veteran too. Flew in the big C-119 flying box car, which rumbled over the sea of Japan with tremendous regularity, bringing important supplies to our troops. Every body had a job or two out there, and that was his. I’ve heard some stories around the supper table in my day, let me tell you. But’s that’s all I know. The stories. Not being a veteran myself, I know I will never fully appreciate what it is really like to serve your country. To be on the battle field. I know this because of what happened next at the post office.

There was another old man standing in line, and he too caught a glimpse of the aforementioned Veteran, noted his ball cap, which plainly said “Korean War Veteran“, and promptly engaged him in penetrating conversation.

He asked the Veteran where he was assigned to, which squadron, and so on. I do not remember his answers. I didn’t need to. And neither do you. I just watched like a fly on the post office wall. Turns out they were both veterans of the Korean war. Both assigned to similar things. And within 30 seconds, nay, maybe even shorter than that, all the talking was done, and the old men simply embraced one another. Some heads turned in the post office, but they didn’t care. Brother’s of the trench, you might say. Clearly there was more going on here today, than postage exchange.

Moments like that sorta compel man to take pause, don’t they. Suddenly standing in line isn’t such an imposition. Nay, it’s our privilege. So may the Lord bless our veterans today, and every day, for their services selflessly rendered, so that you and I can even partake in something as mundane as standing in line at the post office. Our privilege indeed, And we thank you! We thank you one and all. Amen.

A Turkey’s Day Off: Apple Cider Brined Hickory Smoked Turkey Breast

As I repair here in my den, with a bit of stereophonic music in play, and a hot cup of tea at hand, I listen also to the rain which drums withrain on window great exuberance over the brown-shingled roof above. The rain. A cold, autumn kind of rain. The sort that callously knocks the last of the colored leaves from their mama trees to the cold, dampened earth below. Leaves that which cling only by tender stems, quaking in the autumn wind, where their inherent will to hold on, and their remaining chlorophyll count, rank about as equal, I should say. Yup, it’s a tough day as days go, to be a leaf in Minnesota.  Indeed, it’s the kind of all day rain that renders a chap a distinct chill in his bones, and moves a body hence for his or her patented grandma-knitted afghan. To curl up on the Davenport, with a good narrative, fire-place crackling, and while away the hours there, whilst the rain drops collect hither on the window pane.

I might just do that. But before I do, let me tell you about another sort of day. One just a few sunrises ago, in point of fact. One of blue skies, and darting tweeting birds, and gently curling plumes of hickory smoke. One of heightened leisure, and good eating. It’s about a turkey, don’t you know, and his day off, patron to the pit.

Turkey brine

It started early on with this brine, you see. The day prior, to be exact. We’ve been on a brine kick here lately at the pit, and for this turkey, a good, cider-based brine seemed like the logical road to wander down. And so we did. Amid the morning sunbeams off the pond, so golden and resplendent, we stirred up a good pot of it over the pit stove, bringing it to a gentle boil, letting the flavors all meld together there in a harmonious liquid opus suitable for the fairest of fowl. Our brine consisted roughly of the following kitchen tatter:

Apple Cider Turkey Brine

1/2 Gallon apple cider

1 Cup Kosher Salt

1 Cup Brown Sugar

2 Oranges, quartered and squeezed

1 Lemon quartered and squeezed

6 Cloves Garlic

6 Slices of Ginger Root

Splash or two of apple cider vinegar

A few dashes of Miners Mix Poultry Perfection Rub

*Pretty much the same brine we used in our wild duck post last time around. 

So we let the bird wallow in the brine for about twenty and fours hours, that, and give or take an episode of the Andy Griffith Show. Rinsed it thoroughly under cold tap water, to get as much salt off as we could, then transferred it to the Weber Smokey Mountain, which off-hand, was already up and running at 225 degrees. We were very efficient here at the pit today. We had a couple of fist-sized pieces of hickory wood on the coals too, the smokey plumes of which had already taken on that light-blue tint that every good pit jockey aspires for.  Things were in place, and the day spun as it ought to. Nothing to do now save for to draw a lovely beverage and make the speedy acquaintanceship of your favorite lawn chair. And by golly, we certainly did that!

With my old reliable, the ET-73 Maverick Redi Chek digital probe at my side, well lets just say that such technology at the pit grants a man the boyish freedom to dally about his fancies with relative impunity towards over-cooking his meat. Because every schmuck knows, or ought to know anyways, never to over cook a turkey. Thus the Redi Chek, if properly set, will bleep and belch at you when your target temperature is reached. We set it to croak at 163 internal, because it was a small bird, half a bird really, weighing only 7 pounds. So 163 internal, I wagered, would garner enough thermal inertia to coast up to the 165 finish line even after the bird is removed from the heat, and tented in tinfoil to rest. Oh yes, we were on our game here at the pit today. In the zone you might say.

So it was, with an undeniable pleasure that I kicked my feet up on some low flying patio furniture, tipped my hat just so, and placed my chin on my chest, thus assuming the proper pit master posture for a quiet spot of turkey smoking. Oh how I do revel in these moments. These pit-side sorties by myself. They are like a mini vacation to me, by and by. The manly equivalent of a trip to the spa. For to tarry there in the good light of an afternoon sun, whilst the clouds idle against a blue sky, and the chickadees cavort in the spruce, hark, ’tis medicine for a haggard soul. It is. To feel the sun, warm still against my flannel, knowing full well that the first snow fall of the season is maybe only weeks away, well a man learns to take pause in his day to days, and to loiter long on such occasions, where the wood smoke also rises.

Now I know what some of you might be thinking…What did we use for rub? Well we didn’t. Don’t much recommend it either, where this brine is concerned. For there are plenty enough potent flavors to keep a taste bud busy here. Just the brine and the smoke itself, are fully capable of doing all the talking here, kind of like that one couple at a dinner party who never shut up. If you do want to season the turkey with something, go lightly, and by all means stay clear of using something salty. It doesn’t need any help in that department, courtesy of the brine.


Three days later…and back in the Den

Well, the sun has set, and the night scatters through-out the land. The rain it seems has let up a tad now, tho my music still plays softly. The tea is mostly gone too, save for that cold, amber-colored puddle residing at the bottom of the enameled cup. And you might be keen to know, that for a while at least, I don’t know, but a few minutes to be sure, the rains tapered to the first snow flurries of the season here in Minnesota. And it was beautiful. I rushed outside like a school boy. Tiny white flakes descending on a cold breeze from an ashen gray sky, melting against my face whilst I grinned into the tempest. Lovely. The first snow flurry also stirs something elemental in both critter and man alike. Our chilly queue perhaps, albeit sans subtle, that a shift in season is upon us on the 45th parallel. Indeed, winter’s first tendrils grapple for purchase. And I cannot help but to reminisce fondly because of it now, to just a few days ago, pit side, with wood smoke in curl, and how good it felt just to tarry there, and sit stalwart in the sun. Amen.


24 hour apple cider brined, hickory smoked turkey breast, moist as turkey can get, sided with homemade dressing and REAL garlic mashed potatoes. Man! Who can wait for Thanksgiving anyways!

Quicker Days: How To Brine and Smoke Wild Duck

In the swiftly slanting light of an Autumn’s eve, I banked a bed of fiery coals to the side of the old kettle grill. Coaxing a few FullSizeRender (2)stragglers at the end of long tongs, thus setting the grill up for a quiet spot of indirect cooking. The sun conspired low over the golden tree tops where it ought to this time of year, with night coming on sooner and sooner. And the air was refreshingly cool, invigorating almost, with summer’s humidity a distant memory now. I buttoned up my flannel smoking shirt a couple of notches higher, and rummaged through the wood pile for today’s chosen smoke wood. Pecan sounded good. But then so did hickory. I vacillated over this quandary all of two nano seconds, I assure you, and just did what any pit jockey would at moments of such indicision – I used both. No compromise at the pit tonight. No wasted moments. For the light here quickly fades.

Before we get to cooking tonight, take a gander in this bucket. Lovely isn’t it…Three wild wood ducks, courtesy of a hunting friend, swimming in a flavorful home-made brine. Been there all of twenty and three hours already. And I tell you this, living your days as an acknowledged meat geek, you would be surprised what proteins seem to come your way. Meat just comes to me, people. I don’t know why. Warren Buffet has the same effect with money, I’ve noticed. And to Brad Pitt goes the girls. And me, well I get meat. And not necessarily classy meat either, but I ain’t complaining none. I thought the BBQ pulled beaver a while back turned out rather well, by and by. And I’m sure tonight’s plunder will too. Hickory Pecan Smoked Wood Duck, patron to the pit. Oh yes, let’s get after it.


Now concerning the gamy nature of wild duck. Some blokes like it, and some don’t. I suspect we here at he pit dally more towards the latter, so we concocted a simple, yet delicious brine for to leech some of that gaminess out. For three small birds we used:

Apple Cider Brine

1/2 Gallon Apple Cider

1 Cup Brown Sugar

1 Cup Salt

Couple splashes of apple cider vinegar

6 slices of Ginger Root

5 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon Pepper

1/2 cup Orange Juice

*Go ahead and let your birds soak in the brine for about a day.

You can toss in what ever you like. From bay leaves, to sage, to your favorite spices. We do like to start with a base of apple cider tho. And yup, brine needs lots of salt. It won’t work otherwise. I guess the negative sodium ions attached themselves to proteins, and in-turn repel other negative ions which wander near to it, thus expanding the space between the proteins, the void of which is then diffused with your magnificent brine. Or something like that. Who knows. We are not scientists. We’re just men, who plop meat over flame and declare it good!

And so it was, the three little birds made the acquaintanceship of the hot cast iron grate, opposite a beautiful bed of coals. A chunk of hickory and a piece of pecan wood came to smolder, and the smoke softly billowed upwards in delicate, yet stately plumes. One bird we wrapped in bacon. One bird had only the rub. And the other we just left alone, to let the brine do all the talking.

Our rub today is another dandy from the good folks at Miners Mix. Poultry Perfection it’s called, and I reckon it’s aptly named. Dang but they’ve got some good stuff. We dusted a couple of the ducks over pretty good with it, and man the smell of raw meat seasoned to perfection, well, it probably shouldn’t smell that good, but it does. Just one of the many privileges patron to the pit. And I nary can postpone any longer it’s gastronomic rendezvous with the biggest orifice on my face!

Near the end of our journey to 165 degrees internal temperature, we tossed some fresh vegetables into the Craycort frying pan insert, and sautéed them there in a splash of olive oil. It isn’t often we smell the aroma of sizzling cauliflower wafting from our pit damper,  but we’re here to tell you, it don’t smell half bad. And it tastes a might better than that even. Every once in a while, even your most hardened pit jockey ought to stir up some vegetables on his cooker, if for any other reason than to try something new, and barring that, to at least please his lady folk.

Lid on, damper tweaked, a light wood smoke tapers into the autumn air whilst I make myself comfy in the patio chair, and muse over the day at hand. It was a good day, as days go, but my how the light is quick to flee. Used to be bright and balmy still, just a month or two ago, but here lately around supper time, the sun dips out of sight behind yonder roof tops, and doing so just a little swifter each day. Aw well, it’s just part of the natural balance of things living here on the 45th parallel. We get winter so we can better appreciate the summer, seems like. And I’m OK with that.


Long about the time that my pit-side introspection was wrapping up, and I could just start to smell the aroma of gently smoked duck bellowing from my pit vent,  I knew then I had better keep an eye out for some visitors that equaled all matter of awkward. Now is the time they always show up. And I suppose it would be an ironic justice of sorts if they did. It’s common fact, you see,  that if the Pond Side Pit were to have a mascot, well, it would probably be the lowly duck. Ducks are everywhere here. They abound in plentiful numbers, out numbering the residents two-to-one, and often travel in cantankerous packs. Many a time, whilst loitering at the pit, the little dudes will waddle up to me, first to see if I have any food to offer them, and then, as if driven by some moral code of duck law, they like to establish if whether or not it was their kin that they smelled cooking under my lid. And most days it’s not, and I’m free to loiter in peace. But this time they stood to get me out right, iffin I didn’t make swift work of it here. I probed the breast, looking for 165 internal, and instead hear a sickly chortle belching in the distance. Sounded like Phyllis Diller with a hang over. Hark! They were onto me! I could see them from across the far grass now, waddling in earnest. Well, good BBQ, as you know, is done when it’s done, and there is nothing we can say or do about that. And so the gap closed between them and I. Closed like a drawn curtain. My head hung a little lower, and my bottom lip drooped as they ambled on by, looking about as nonchalant as a duck can whilst still  giving me the evil eye. Man…Yeah, I was hoping they wouldn’t show up today, as it’s all matter of awkward when they do. But on that note, and to a savory end, get you bib on people, it is time to eat. And Amen.

*No Pond Side ducks we injured during the making of this post. 

Hickory Pecan Smoked Wood Duck, seasoned in Poultry Perfection, man! Sided with lightly sauteed vegetables tinted in smokey goodness. Good eating, and every bit of it, patron to the pit.

Camping With Mojoe: How To Eat Well In The Woods

Way up north in the hither lands, in the remote forest primeval which abounds there, my bride and I made camp on the shores of this wild lake. A plot so far off the beaten-path, nary a soul was to be seen, nor man-made sound to be heard. The caustic drone of traffic on tarmac, and sirens and car alarms too, at last replaced by the ever-soft whispers of the breeze gently slipping through the Norway Pines. The lake, so cold and so clear, lapping at the pine-studded shore, whilst the heady serenade of loon song tugged on ethereal strings, that which seem lashed about the tender grommets of your soul. Yup, that’s the north country for you. Minnesota’s esteemed canoe country.  And we try to go up there as often as we can, naturally, if only but to hear the loons sing strong once again, and smell that glorious, pine-tinted air. And maybe, if the culinary fates will have it, to procure something tasty over the open flame. Let’s head back to camp, shall we, and I’ll show you what’s for supper, and how it went and came to be, patron to paradise.

We brought a little something along with us from the home pit, as you can see. The latest material brain-thrust from our friend, Cam, at . We’ll admit it, we have pretty much fallen deeply, and irretrievably in-love with this 1/4 inch steel behemoth of a griddle, and like a puppy, we found it quite difficult to just leave it at home. I was craving a little sublime camp fire cooking, you see, and quite frankly, this griddle is too much fun in a campsite not to show you. In point of fact, and in retrospect now, I think this was the most pleasant cook over a camp fire I’ve maybe done…ever. Everything just fell perfectly into place. There is a definitive poetry where flame meets high-grade steel, and we’re here today to tell you about it. Thus, and over a crackling pine fire, the Mojoe Griddle came up to temp whilst I dutifully chopped a yellow onion in kind.

The trick to chopping onions, my wife says,  is not to get emotionally attached to them. I guess this prevents shedding tears or dramatic what-nots associated with onion cutting. I dunno, you take that advice as you will, whilst I plop a great matter of them over this freshly oiled griddle-top, and get about the business of making supper, here in the soft, dappled light of our northern encampment. I also chunked on a pound of 80-20 ground beef, where it sizzled alongside the sauteing onions in a perfect gastronomic union fit for a king or lumberjack alike. Mercy it smelled good in camp tonight! And a lone Bald Eagle soars just past a canopy top of ruby-red maple leaves, freshly turned against a gorgeous, blue, Minnesota sky.

From up in the birch trees, where the cool breeze gently fluttered the autumn leaves, a lone whiskey jack spied down upon us. The “camp robber” of canoe country, it was his territory we were in, and what aromas lofted his way, let’s just say he had a sense of bird entitlement or something, and perched there always, begging like the aforementioned puppy you can never leave behind.  We tossed him a scrap or two of tortilla shell, in between our other duties of stoking the fire, stirring the spoils, and listening to the loons warm up across the lake. I stood abreast the fire pit, hot tin cup of cocoa in hand, my red flannel shirt buttoned up, and mused for a moment how wonderful it was to tarry lake-side like this, and cook a simple supper over a flickering wood fire. I need to do more of this sort of thing, I thought. And I supposed also, that old Whiskey Jack in the tree yonder, he must see guys like me every weekend there, standing by the fire, all thinking the same thing.

When the hamburger and onions were complete, we dashed them over rather liberally with some taco seasoning, stirring it in thoroughly, whilst splashing some water in it to simmer it back down. When a sample tasted right, we banked the meaty goods, onions and all, over to the cooler side of the griddle, and placed a lightly oiled tortilla over the hot area. Loaded it up appropriately, including a pile of shredded cheese, and let it henceforth sizzle there like a Barry White song. Lay another oiled tortilla on top to complete this backwoods quesadilla of sorts. The crux move here, of course, is to flip the entirety of the quesadilla in a fashion resembling a bloke who knows what he’s doing. With that said, we may or may not have lost a few more scraps to the camp robber, but at the end of the day, our plunder speaks for itself!

So we made up one quesadilla for the two of us, and a few soft shell tacos to boot. That’s the privilege and simultaneous challenge of camp cooking. Your choices are indeed scant, and far removed from the convenience of a grocery store just down the road. In camp cooking, you get what you’ve got! But rest assured, the food is always wonderful, patron to the beautiful location, and the effort it took to get there. Even a humble, old, bologna sandwich is a triumph in food technology if consumed in the prettier places. Location is the spice! Camping folk will know from what I mean. Others will only presume.

Once again, we were enamored with the authority in which the Mojoe Griddle handled this field test. It was at home over the fire pit, like it was born to be there all along. We didn’t even need to use the three steel legs that came with it, tho that could have been an option too. You’ll have to examine the fire pit you’re working with, and use a bit of your brain to figure out the best move. This griddle is a versatile cooking surface. In our case this weekend last, we got away with placing the griddle right atop the fire grate provided by the forest service. Leveled with three small stones, it worked pretty slick too. We are able to swing the grate/griddle laterally, and clear of the pit, when ever we needed to tend the fire, and then just swing the griddle back over the fire when done. Wonderful! And we cannot discourse highly enough how luxurious it is to have such enormous cooking real estate when cooking over the fire. No standing in line for the frying pan when there is a Mojoe in camp. No sir. Having done a great deal of cooking for large groups in campsites past, boy how I wish I had one of these griddles then. But alas.

Author’s Side Note

Another thing we noticed with the griddle, and this may just be in our heads, but there seemed to be a notable lack of smoke and heat hitting your face when stooped over tending your vittles. This compared to doing the same thing with, say, a cast iron frying pan or something. Well, my working theory for this is the griddle is so large, that the very thing you are cooking with, also acts as a shield, blocking the intense heat from the camp fire, thus making your life a more pleasant place to be. The universal bane of camp fire cooking, smoke, also seemed reduced some what, or blocked by the enormous Mojoe disc. Like I said, it could be all in my head, but that’s what it seemed like. 

A little backwoods Mexican, people, pleasurably prepared and cordially consumed, fireside, with the Mojoe Griddle. I burped and wiped my chin, and sauntered down to the lake again, content with what I had done, and where I was and aimed be. I sat on the shoreline and once more gazed out over the shimmering water. The lake still lapped at my feet, and the breeze flirted through the piney woods. My tummy was tight, and for a moment, nay, much longer than that, all the world seemed gracious to me, and deliciously right. And another eagle rose on the thermals. Amen.

*To see more how Cam Stone, the inventor of the Mojoe Griddle himself, does some camp firing cooking, here is a good link for that.

What Is Good: Maynard’s Memphis BBQ Ribs and Pulled Pork

I paused stride in the meadow, and gazed appropriately. The sun burned on a fiery pendulum which swung across a deep-blue, California sky. Here the granite ramparts ascend high, and with utter impunity,El Cap inserting themselves into the ether, guarded only by the soaring hawks. And the mountain breezes of which I so adore, mingle with a musical air through the tall, and stately pines, and the dry ferns turned golden now, on the meadow floor from whence I stand. I’ve come to Yosemite Valley today, in part for vacation, but mostly hence to revel here. It’s what I do. Maybe what I do best even. To delight for a time simply in what is good. And it’s easy to pull off such antics in places like Yosemite. Places of such stunning creational-catalyst, for the memories of which dutifully impress themselves upon the catchy fabric of your soul. In other words, I love it here! I love it more than I can tell you.

Yosemite National Park is maybe the best thing in Mariposa County, California. But let me tell you the second best thing in Mariposa County, and yes, it has a great deal to do with supper tonight. Literally, on the door-step of Yosemite, just outside its craggy border, in the township of Mariposa, you will find the good people from Miners Mix. These folks emerged from our readership like one of them plastic thermometer things that pop out of your turkey when it’s done. They just have a way about them, I guess. A good way. And I can’t explain it any further than that. But we do like to occasionally loiter over on their blog, and see what they’re up to there. And apparently lately, they’ve just been winning competitions is all, with their various assorted spices and rubs. And after sampling a few they sent us recently, I can see why.


In our last post, we told you about their Wholly Chipotle Rub, which was plenty good enough to get out slobbers going. Today however, we want to tell you about another one, that being their Maynard’s Memphis BBQ Rub. Man on man was this stuff good, people. I could go about concocting my own home-made rub of this sort, but hark, they’ve plum figured out how to do it already, and how to do it as good as can be done.

If it didn’t exist in 1850, it ain’t in here. You gotta like such wordage on your spice bottle!. By the way, they did not ask us once to promote their products. It’s just that after tasting them, well, they’re too dang good not too! Our readership has surprised us numerous times with what they’ve done to better the BBQ world, and these chaps are an example why. Anyways, we liberally dusted this Memphis Rub over a fair-to-middling quantity of boneless pork butt and a rack of pork ribs to boot. Make sure you remove that membrane folks, so to get more seasoning and smoke penetration on the back side of them ribs.  Mercy, this spice smelled fantastic right out of the shaker!


Here’s a trick you can do to decrease the time needed on your boneless pork butts. It’s simple, if not down right obvious. Simply slice it up into smaller chunks. We sliced our 11 pound butt roughly into thirds, which took maybe 4 hours off the total cook time. You want to bring your butts up to somewhere around 195 internal, or until they become pull-able to your liking. Decreasing the size of the butt into several smaller ones will not only get you there faster, but even better than that, will promote more bark for your end game, because of the increased surface area. More meaty real-estate to season, you see, makes a pit jockey most happy.

After a few hours head start in a shroud of hickory smoke, the shoulder meat was coming along, so we placed the rack of ribs tenderly on the grate as well, and let the spoils all cook together for a time. Lid on, smokey tendrils in curl, I leaned back in the patio chair, hat tipped up just so, with a manly beverage in hand. Alright, it was a diet coke, but some days that’s plenty manly enough for me. Anyway, I shifted in the chair a touch, assuming a more leisurely, pit-keeper posture – left leg crossed over right, and gazed at the curling wood smoke whilst listening to the mallards and drakes cavorting in the pond. I mused internally, rummaging about my recent vacation memories of Yosemite. Thinking lucky is the bloke who gets to call that environment their home. I admire your backyard, good folks at Miners Mix. And I admire your spice rubs likewise.

The Miners Mix Memphis Rub was delicious in kind, we don’t mind telling you. Sinking your teeth into a perfectly executed pork rib, seasoned in this rub, is a truly treat to behold. Leastwise, we thought so. There was just something different about it. Something abiding to the palate. I scanned the back of the bottle, eyes darting through the easy-to-pronounce ingredients, and there it was – cocoa. The common man wouldn’t think to put cocoa in his BBQ, but common men do not win BBQ competitions either. It works people, and does so exceedingly well. No sauce needed for these ribs! My but the spices marry well with smokey pork! And once again I was reminded of life’s most basic hard-wire, and that it is it is easy to revel in what is good. Be it the granite massifs of Yosemite, or the mahogany-colored flanks of delicious BBQ. Good is good, after all,  and our sincere compliments to the chef. Amen.

Hickory Smoked Pork Ribs and Pulled Pork

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork and Maynard’s Memphis Ribs. Man!

If so inclined, do stop by and see our friends at

Or their blog at

They did not ask us to do toot their horn, Nay, it was our pleasure!

Soaking in the Heat: Spicy Chicken Quesadillas

I like to walk. Or maybe it’s more of a stroll that I fancy. If not that, then to surely to mosey about with no particular destination is what I have in mind. Regardless, there is a quiet pleasure in routine sorties like this,  that which strafe  the neighborhoods and townships of our lives. And if you make a habit of it, you not only get a modicum of exercise, but you’re also privy to the seasons as they slowly ebb in the pastel light of your daily jaunts afield. And I like that. I like that a lot. I was puttering about in the Mississippi watershed the other day, watching the people come and go, and thinking of those same things. We are in the token last days of summer now, where the sun is still warm, and the trees and fields, are still to a word – green. What a privilege to sally forth on my evening walkabouts, camera in hand, and to try for a time to remember these waning days of summer bliss. For this temperate land we know, and all too swiftly,  shall be long-encrusted again in wintry shards of snow and ice. That’s just the climatic facts of Minnesota. Nor is there anything we can do about it, save for to sidle down to Ecuador or something, and tarry by the eternal poolside there. But today it is still summer. The hours are resplendent, and warm. And oh how the people revel now, and delight in but one ray of the sun’s golden light. 


It was a good stroll, by and by, as most strolls are, but I suppose I ought to tell you about supper too. My wife was in the mood for Mexican, you see, which isn’t abnormal in our household. Something south of the border. Something with a wee bit of spice in it, just enough to tickle you a little behind the gills, if you know what I mean. The venerable spicy chicken quesadilla should do nicely, I wagered.  Well it just so happens we have the premiere instrument in stock for cooking such a thing out-of-doors – the Mojoe Griddle. If you’re looking for something slick for your next back yard grilling party, this griddle is it. Or a nice gift, perhaps, for your resident pitmaster. And do take our word for it, they will love this griddle. Anyways, grab yourself a lovely beverage, and let’s get to cooking some quesadillas shall we!


On the hot, oiled griddle, we plopped on a few boneless chicken breasts, cubed appropriately, and set to sizzle aside some chopped onions just because. Nothing is quite so fine on a waning summer’s day than to hear the sizzling satisfaction of protein coming of age before you. The aromas of chicken and spice and onions mingle with the soft summer breeze, and the tweety birds all rejoice from yonder tree tops, perching there for the last slants of an amber light. The soft clouds parade silently above. And two mallards mill about at the pond’s edge, neath the dappled shade of the old cottonwood tree. This is backyard perfection. This is why we cook outside, people. This is why we do what we do. Glory!

Now we’re tickled to tell you that the seasoning tonight was kindly provided by one of our readership, from the good folks at Miners Mix. They chimed in a few IMG_6872posts back and mentioned to us that if we wanted to try a “real rub” some day, to just let them know. Well naturally we did. And here it is. Wholly Chipotle! You gotta like the wordsmithing in this one. The ingredients aren’t too shabby either. No preservatives. No MSG. No flavor enhancers. Just a flavor symphony of the right stuff.

We found their motto one to appreciate too. “If it didn’t exist in 1850, it ain’t in here!”

These chaps also know how to Q! Here is a link to their blog if you feel so inclined.

Thus, we dashed a good bit of this “real rub” over the chopped chicken breast, and set it to sizzle henceforth on the good old, Mojoe Griddle. And like I told you, the aromas on the patio tonight were off the charts. Everything was singing in tune. I didn’t even have gas, and that’s a wonder in it’s own right!

Whence the chicken and onions were done, we henceforth scooped a pile of them onto a lightly oiled tortilla, and suitably topped it with enough shredded cheese to make a Wisconsin man grin. I weren’t from Wisconsin, but let me tell you I grinned anyhow. And my slobbers gathered in queue.


Man! We formed the quesadilla reminiscent of a big taco, folding half of it back over on itself. Then toasted it gently on each side, until the it’s cheesy bosom irrigated the spicy ensemble unto every corner, and the tortilla was at last crispy to bite. I stood posted by the humble weber kettle, spatula in hand, lovely beverage in the other, just flipping quesadillas for a while, and quite frankly, savoring the last light of another summer day.  Because one day soon here, the leaves will turn and fall. The nights will grow long, and the days will become cold without end. And yes, we will still grill outside. But for now I tarry patron to the pit, content, with a smile on my soul, for the sun that which illuminates my face. And maybe after supper here, iffin the light should abide, I’ll go for another walk afield and be glad in it. Amen.


Spicy Chicken Quesadillas courtesy of the pit. Yum! A special thanks to Mojoe Outfitters for developing a fantastic griddle. It can do a lot of things really well, and as for making a mess of quesadillas, I cannot divine anything doing it any better. And another tip of the hat to the folks at Miners Mix. Thanks for sharing with us a real rub. I gotta say, Wholly Chipotle Rub may have put on a couple more hairs on this old boy’s chest. Yup, that’s a good rub, mate! Real good indeed.

The Trouble With Gnomes: Hickory Tinted Garlic Chops

I’ve never been to Ireland but my gnome has. And I guess the worst part of it is that I didn’t even know he was gone. He was IMG_6863one of those little dudes in your life that you tend to take for granted, I guess, until he comes back to you. You see he tarries in the garden, where any self-respecting gnome ought to, and no, he doesn’t have a name. I’m not much of a gnome fellow, and I do not see what my wife sees in him, but none-the-less, he stands stalwart among the bean plants, like a gate-keeper to the greens. She picked him up on one of her many errands to the garden center, and nary ever bothered in turn to tell me why. Either you get gnomes or you don’t, I guess. Kind of like Neil Diamond. But I suppose he’s cute enough, by and by. And I’m talking about the gnome, thank you kindly.

Well one day not too long ago, and unbeknownst to us,  he was covertly and flagrantly gnome-napped. Taken hostage by two friends of the female variety, who stowed the little fellow into their travel satchel of assorted womanly sundries, and henceforth made way over the big pond in an aeroplane for Ireland. For ten days, our little gnome parlayed for mercy at the hands of his abductors, and for ten days he was forced to pose for photos in front of a variety of Irish land marks.  I did not know whether to be happy or sad for him, this mostly, again, because I didn’t even know he was gone. But he was. And that’s the great patheticness of it all.

Here is a photo of him let out to pee by the Irish Sea.

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And here is one of him bandied together with like-minded drinking buddies or the kin. I think they were making a break for it and were caught again by the female captures. Their faces say it all.

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I digress. This post was supposed to be about the art of grilling supper, and some how you got me going on gnomes. It’s just that whilst I was loitering by the pit here, the little gnome has done the very same in the pit-side garden. Him and I hang out like this a lot, don’t you know. Just watching the smoke curl into a beautiful Minnesota sky. Leastwise we do these days. Now that his ransom has been won, and he has thus been returned to my garden plot with his spoils intact. I don’t take him for granted as much as I once did. Anyways, about supper. Take a gander at these thick cut chops! For seasoning tonight, we went fairly simple. Salt, pepper, and garlic powder. That’s it. If it’s good pig, that’s all you need most days.


For ninety seconds, we placed the chops over direct heat, to sear in the juices there. Then we flipped them for ninety seconds more on the other side. Gray clouds idles overhead. A Great Blue Heron swoops past the scene, it’s massive wings fanning through the summer air. The pork chops sizzle sensuously on the hot cast iron grate. If smells were music, then the heady aromas bantering about the pit were like a lovely dollops of Beethoven up your nose. Glory! We then tossed a chunk of hickory wood on the fire, and thus escorted the chops over to indirect heat, opposite the hot coals. And there they would ride the remainder of the path unto a hickory-tinted, highly edible succulence. And it didn’t take long either.


We also prepped up some tin foil potatoes, one of our very favorite sides for the grill. Two potatoes and one onion, diced to uniformity, and seasoned in salt and pepper, along with a few globs of butter to keep things sporty whence foiled over direct heat. Tin foil potatoes are an easy victory, people. Twenty minutes or so over direct heat, flipping once at your pit master instincts. They are the perfect side to compliment any meat patron to the pit. Yum!

The Gnome Thieves 


It is likely our civic duty to gnomes, and to lovers of gnomes, to post these mug shots in kind. They probably don’t want their identities revealed, and we won’t do that here, but suffice it this way – if you happen to spy these two ladies poking about your homestead, all I can say is grab your gnomes before they do! Grab them post-haste, people, and run!


Hickory Smoked Thick-Cut Garlic Chops, sided with Tin Foil Potatoes. Man! The Land of Meat and Potatoes, people. Where good is good, and less is more than enough. Amen.


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