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How To Think of Nothing Else: Pecan Smoked Chicken Fajitas

The fly line went taut and the rod hooped over nicely, as I set the hook into the leviathanIMG_0713 that which swam the grass banks. I soon managed to get the fish onto the reel as I played him closer to shore, determined this time not to let old “Moby” elude me once again. A light rain dappled over the pond, tapping lightly on my rain jacket, as I let out some more line, the reel singing as the fish muscled for rank. “Keep the line tight”, I thought to myself. I have already lost this bucket mouth once today, and this time, if I could help it, he would be mine. The bass suddenly torpedoed out for deeper water, like bass do, then reconsidered to the divining will of my 5 weight fly rod, and made haste instead for a small passel of weeds, there upon and of which he was, I dare say, masterfully escorted unto the damp shore from whence I stood. He laid for a moment there in the grass, panting. We both did.

I do not know what it is about fishing, but I am continually amazed how sweet life’s keen focus is when a fish is tight to our line. More sharpened moments of clarity I seldom see. Likewise, I’m reminded of the show Gilligan’s Island, and something they once said there. I digress. You see on Gilligan’s Island, the Skipper and Gilligan were fishing in the lagoon one day. And the skipper, being a salty, fishing man who never changed his blue shirt, said to Gilligan in a bellowing fashion, that when you’re fishing, and you get a fish on line, for as long as you’re hooked up together, that fish and you, you will in turn think of nothing else. And it’s true.

You think of nothing else.

Maybe that’s why we like to fish so much around here. For the focus. For the rendering of life’s many complexities into quaint, articulate moments of intense, penetrating focus. Fish do that to a body. Don’t ask me why. And we are blessed and highly favored to have a nice pond, pit-side, in which to partake of our craft nearly every day if we want. To stand on it’s earthy shores, and for a while at least, think of nothing else. Man…

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Anyways, all this fishing of late has made this little pit boy ripe with hunger. And if you are too, you’re in luck. Tonight’s feast will sooth what ails you, believe me. Pecan smoked chicken fajitas, patron to the pit. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than this.

Today’s seasoning once again comes from our friends at Miners Mix. XXX Garlic, and man IMG_0682does it do right by poultry. All natural, no junk in this stuff, people. If it wasn’t around in 1850, it ain’t in there. If you’re still looking for your next favorite rub, go and check these mates out. We don’t know how they do it, but they’ve managed to crack the code on spice rubs. We’ve really been enjoying their products. Anyways, we semi-liberally dashed this garlic rub over some boneless chicken breasts, and set them indirect on the Weber Kettle Grill, along with a good bandy of pecan smoke. Lid on, and damper tweaked. I sat back in the BBQ chair with a manly beverage in hand, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure.

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When the chicken was almost, but not quite done, we removed it and set it aside for a few short moments. If grilling wasn’t fun enough, it’s about to get even better. Enter the ever-sexy, oft-coveted, Mojoe Griddle. Oh yes…

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I tell you this people, if ever in the world a piece of cooking equipment were to have a swagger, this is it. If you’ve been in our readership over the last year or so, you’ve seen this beast surface now and again. 35 pounds of high grade, hot-rolled steel- a restaurant quality griddle, and it all fits neatly over a multiple of heat sources. Simple, effective, and tough. Thus, not wanting to let my cooking coals go to waste, we plunked this behemoth over the top of the Weber Kettle and, viola, the best griddle action money can buy.

We are pretty much in love with this griddle. And we aren’t bashful about it. If you want to up your game some day, or just want to learn more about it, we did a review on it a while back, and you can read that here. Or better yet, go and visit our friend, Cam, the inventor of the Mojoe Griddle, at his website, http://www.mojoegriddle.com/ , and he’ll show you around. Tell him PotP sent you! Anyways, where were we…

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On a hot, oiled, Mojoe, we set forth our green peppers and onions to saute their way to greatness. Spatula in hand, what great pleasure it is to stand aside the hot steel, cooking in the freshened air. Where the song birds trill and the skies are so blue they do not stop, save for to smile down upon the lone, outdoor cook, flipping his vegetables yonder, amid a soft, summer’s breeze. There is great therapy in cooking outside.

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Next we chopped up the smoked chicken and tossed that into the mix too, and listened to it sizzle there, next to the green peppers and onion. Oh man! The aromas which filled the patio were point blank, off-the-charts. Olfactory high-def stuff, people. Thus, and with great exuberance, I plowed thy spoils about with the steel edge of an inverted spatula, and smiled to myself, as the cloud shadows calved silently across the lawn. Oh if only to slow this cook down, and to extend the moment for the moments sake. I was enjoying this. This relatively simple moment of cooking supper in a complex world. There is just something magical about it. Something right under the sun. If you’re lucky in this life, you will enjoy a few pursuits like this, that which gently cull you from the throngs of haste. Activities that which defy distraction. And promote moments of lingering focus. Like fishing I suppose, and cooking outside. The results of which will illuminate your day, and tug by tender strings, the joy for which tarries down in your soul. Amen.

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Pecan Smoked, Garlic Tinted, chicken fajita makings, patron to the pit. I do believe you can take it from here. Yum!

Pit Paradise: Pecan Smoked Meatloaf With A Twist

Been spending a lot of time out at the pit lately. Here in Minnesota, our privileged,lilacglory season” is well upon us. Has been for a couple of weeks now.  It’s also called Spring. And oh how my senses revel is this bandy of moments. The snow and ice are long gone now, and in it’s stead, green glades and leafy bouquets. Blue bird skies that won’t stop. And air so fresh and so sweet, you want nothing more than to lavish the day long, out-of-doors, drinking that Lilac-tinted air into your lungs. Around every bend, there is beauty. Blooms every where. From apple blossoms to dandy lions. And the sun feels like an old friend again, with it’s warm arm around your shoulders. Man I love spring! I adore it for what is reflected in my soul.

Naturally then, and as stated, I’ve been loitering with great effect out at the pit in recent days. Often taking my suppers out there, feet propped up, hat tipped up, and the world gently twirling before me. I’ll put a bit of music on the pit sound system, draft a lovely beverage, and make an evening of it there, contented and well fed. One of the projects we’ve smoked lately was meatloaf, which in of itself is not uncommon at the Pond Side Pit. But this particular loaf had a twist to it. A strategically placed core of hard boiled egg up it’s center. Yes mam, that’s what we did.

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The idea was suggested to us by one of our Australian readers, Laurie. A pleasant bloke from down under with an affinity for eating good things. So when he mentioned we ought to put hard boiled eggs in our meat loaf, well, we took it as gospel. Laurie knows things. He also harbors a keen sense of humor, so, if he’s pulling one over on us, well, then we’ve been egged. Regardless, Laurie, this one is for you.

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The smoke wood of choice today is pecan. A lovely, abiding, and faintly nutty bouquet sure to escort this loaf into the smokey realm with a degree of elegance. It is not an over powering smoke, but very well-rounded. If you only had pecan wood to smoke with at your pit, I don’t reckon your life would be too bad off. It makes our personal Mount Rushmore of Smoke Woods. And whilst were at it, may we remind you of our smoke wood list we compiled a while back, where upon many woods are gathered in one digital archive for your reference pleasure. Click on our Smoke Woods link here to take a gander.

At any rate, and back to meatloaf, it was prepped like any other meatloaf. I’m sure you’ve all got your recipes for that. We tossed in some chopped onions and green peppers, a few others odds and ends, and seasoned the meat with a packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix. We flattened it out in a big pan, and laid three hard boiled eggs in a line, as seen a couple photos above. After a moment of retrospection, we bid the eggs adieu, and swaddled them in sticky meat. Meatloaf surprise was thus conceived.

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Man. Can you smell this! After about an hour on indirect heat, gently bathed in pecan smoke, the meat loaf took on a fairly nice crust, which I appreciated. Now if you set up your grill like we did, for indirect cooking, that is all the coals banked up to one side, with your protein on the other side, you will do well to rotate your meat load 180 degrees half way through the cooking process. Rotating is just for even cooking. A large spatula will do the trick there. And the whole cook takes about an hour. Which, off-hand and by the way, is the perfect amount of time to slurp down one manly beverage and nod off a wee bit in your patio chair. Yes sir, these are the high rigors of conventional BBQ. If you’re not up to the challenge, hand the tongs off to some one who is! We think you got this tho!

Thus, and under a beautiful blue sky which tapered into evening pastels, I did what I do best – nothing. Nothing save for to tarry there in the fresh air, and watch the wood smoke pillar from the pit damper. The meat loaf in the home stretch now, I crossed my legs like a gentleman of leisure ought to, listed a bit in my chair, and relished the final minutes of my BBQ. I could feel the accelerator pedal of life let up now. And for a while at least, all the world was reduced to this simple, suspended moment in time.  The wood smoke curling. The aroma of meatloaf under the lid. Song birds serenading from yonder tree tops. And the distinctly soft kiss of Lilacs in the breeze. Amen.

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Pecan Smoked Meatloaf with a Hard Boiled Egg Core. Man! I gotta say, it wasn’t half bad. Kind of takes your run-of-the-mill meatloaf, and makes it bit of a center piece. If we were to do it again, I do think I would rather fancy a nice bacon lattice wrapped around it’s flanks. Bacon and eggs, after all..Regardless, good eating patron to the pit! Thanks Laurie!

 

When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking: Chipotle Grilled Chicken

A lone Drake in good form, and handsome as a duck can be,  glided silently over the water, whilst the sun hung dimly on the drakehorizon. It’s scant rays caressing the roof tops, and budding leaves which adorned the neighborhood parkways. I just got home from a long day of responsibilities and the like, and wanted nothing more than to prop my feet up from the vantage of my man chair, and do little else there, save for to monitor the latitude of my eye lids. Yes sir, one of those days where you get home, foot sore and dirty, weary of body, and would fancy a lovely home cooked meal if it were there, but wished frankly to exert no effort towards that end. That’s the predicament I found myself in the other day. And I think we’ve all been there.

Well, I had two choices. Lay there and go hungry, or get back up again and cook supper. It’s times like this where you know you have, what they call, “1st World Problems“. Or, “Rich People Dilemmas“. At least there is a choice. My wife once took a missions trip to Africa. To the East African Rift zone, and the harsh plains of Kenya there, where upon she encountered many a family who didn’t have a choice in the matter at all, as to what’s for supper. Their day, no less weary than mine, and they would, by enforced circumstance alone, indeed keep laying there after all, and go hungry despite. And here I am grumbling about the ordeal of cooking supper. Not cool.

Thus, and with this renewed outlook and shift-of-mind, I swiftly came to the very accurate conclusion that cooking supper, whether I’m tired, in the mood,  or not, is indeed and always a great privilege. And one we probably ought not to be grumbling about. If you don’t believe that, just ask some of the Kenyan families I just told you about. Anyways, the evening was still lovely. I had some chicken in the freezer. Some potatoes at my disposal. And it’s a given, that I always love to grill once I’m out there, where the wood smoke also rises. So lets get after this, shall we, and procure some supper, patron to the pit.

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Meat and potatoes. That’s me. Classic man food. Freshly humbled, I got to work over the old kettle grill, with steely tongs in hand, plying my craft in the waning light. Some tin foiled potatoes were placed over direct heat. In the foil and swaddled decently there, were of course, potatoes diced to uniformity for even cooking, a sliced up onion, a few pats of butter, and some salt and pepper to taste. I think some peas too, just because. One of the simplest, and maybe our favorite kettle grill side dish. Tin foiled potatoes. If you’re one of the 5 people left on the planet who hasn’t made potatoes this way yet, well, you’re missing something out of your life. Direct heat – 20 minutes ought to do it. 

For to season our chicken today, we went with one of our favorite rubs as of late, Wholly A2015-ChipotleChipotle, by the good folks at Miners Mix. This one has a little kick to it, well, leastwise to us sally-tongued Swedes it does, so dash it on accordingly. If you slow down, and eat like a civilized cave man, you can notate a slow parade of flavors in this rub. A nice smokey chipotle base which marries well with a variety of meat. Man!

Ah the glories of grilling in the fresh evening air. I was glad I resisted the gravitational pull of the couch. But then I always am where grilling is concerned. Something about the ambiance of wood smoke in curl, and the serenity of the pit. Of communing with the tweety birds, and watching how the grass bends gently in the breeze. How the light dapples through the tree tops.  And the how the clouds idle in a pastel sky.

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A thin-blue smoke, patron to smoldering hickory wood, pillared forth from the top damper. It looked good there, in the wee, slanting light. We most always include some sort of smoke wood when grilling. The flavor of charcoal is well enough, and ten times that of any gas grill (sorry gassy people), but if you really want to amp up the flavor of your next cook-out, toss a chunk of hickory onto the coals. Or peach wood. Or pecan wood. Or apple wood. Your dinner guests will know at once your kettle fare hails from the smokey realm. A kingdom of which you alone shall rule over with tongs in one hand, and a manly beverage in the other. Ah yes, I love to grill, and I love to tarry out-of-doors under wide open skies. This is your privilege people. Seize it!

And this then is the trick, you see, of how to go about cooking supper when you don’t feel like it. You just get up and do it anyways. You do it because you need to eat. And because you can. And because in a world where so many go hungry, he who is too lazy to cook his own spoils, that which he was richly given, is not at all resonate of a thankful heart. I don’t know about you folks, but I think we should always give thanks for our food. And for the kindly hands that prepared it. Amen.

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Hickory Smoked Chipotle Chicken Breasts sided with Crispy Tin Foiled Potatoes. Another winner, patron to the pit.

A Pit Keeper’s Respite: Pecan Tinted Pork Chops on the Weber Kettle Grill

The other weekend my trail crony and I made camp at a nearby wilderness establishment; a locale of great loveliness, off the beaten path, and aside a watershed patron to a sky full of stars. As you may have gleamed around here, from time to time, we do rather like to engage our souls in the wilder places. In point of fact, if ever we were to scribe another blog, it would doubtless be one touting the high joys of the outdoor life. For this is what we do, by and by, besides grilling beautiful cuts of meat, that is. We seek to tarry where creation is most divine. And so there we were, naturally,  on the forest floor, our tents poetically pitched at the tail of a moonbeam. The stars drifting across an ebony sky. And the coyotes yelping from the distant hills.

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If you’ve never spent the night in the forest, your senses have never then been properly primed. Nor your imagination so sublimely stretched. To hear the critters scamper about, and everyone of them, you swear, sniffing the trembling corners of your tent. You can hear the diameter of coyote’s nose at ten paces, as it draws it’s air from the still night. The Trumpeter Swans bellowing in the darkness. You can hear those too. The Great Horned Owls stirring up a nocturnal racket, yapping on like little old ladies sitting in the tree tops. Then, some time in the wee hours, the undecipherable sounds of something heavy and hairy wandering at the edge of the woods. Nay, that’s just my camp mate, out for his nightly leg raise. It’s all good in the woods.

Shifting gears now, out at the pit. A light pecan smoke curls from the old kettle grill. It’s been a long week. A busy week. The kind of week that the big city is good at dishing out to those challenged and beleaguered souls entrapped within it’s elastic bosom. Everyone is in a hurry here. Pedal to the proverbial metal. Car horns blaring. Phones ringing. Sirens racing. It’s really something. Or at least you seem to notice it more, perhaps, after a good camping trip afield. Maybe that’s what it is. There is a palatial difference, or is it indifference, between the speed of life in the city and one out in the quieter places. One of head-turning, iconoclastic proportions.  And it only takes one night bedded down on the forest floor to realize it. And so my grilling, as humble as it may be, is at last a small respite to me – a last beach head of tranquility in a world gone to haste.

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So it was, and with great pleasure, too, that I laid the succulent pork chops over the pecan-scented flames. This one simple act, where man cooks meat over fire, outside, seems to trigger a domino of mental pleasures, all toppling forth in a splendid way before me. For starters, the smell of the wood smoldering over the fire. Very pleasant. Which in turn, connects to memories of cooking fires past. And some of those memories, of fires yonder, in places long ago. Of camp fires and good people. Over hill and by the dale, where the coyotes freely sing, and the moonbeams kiss the tender fabric of our tents. And illuminate the quiet hollows of our soul. Amen.

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Pecan smoked pork chops, with garlic mashed potatoes and a good spill of peas. Good is good at the pit tonight. And even better cooked outside. A Pit Keeper’s respite.

Belly Up: Double Smoked Maple Glazed Ham

What a delightful thing it is to awaken to the savory aroma of smoked ham, and the warm banter of a house full of contented family. It was Easter, and as the day would have belly upit, we had some family over to the pit to celebrate our Savior’s victory all those many years ago. And after the festivities were done, and our bellies were filled, we sort of bandied off to various sectors of the house, some to play games, others to watch a movie perhaps, and still others, like me, who sought a comfy locale in which to go “belly-up” for a bit. And that’s what I done did. The long-honored and highly esteemed privilege of the pit master. I took a nap.

Wake Up and Smell the Ham

Not all that exciting, I suppose, but for me, you understand, it was an event to rival a home run in the World Series. Okay, I have low standards, but even so,  I love to nap. It’s my hobby these days. One of which , I find, I seem to get better and better at with advancing years. There is just something about a well-placed nap that sets a bloke off right. It syncs a soul into the proper speed, perhaps. A worthy speed for disciplines of patience, such as the BBQ Arts, but also an over all suitable gait for general life enjoyment as well. You see, taking a nap slows you down, and that right there is the most important thing it does. It says to yourself and the world around you, that for a while at least, you’re in no hurry. That you’re content in this present moment, and you’re doing precisely that which is well with your soul. Oh, I adore a good nap.

Thus,  I melted into the couch with an abundance of soft pillows and drapey blankets. The soothing banter of family took up the acoustic back ground. Some movie also, played quietly on the TV. There is something intriguingly intoxicating about background murmur. The sounds you hear, but don’t really listen too. They ensconce around you like an acoustic gramma blanket almost. Anyways, I wiggled in, pillows situated just right.  My eyes drooping like a pair of wet underwear. And my deeds as a pit keeper met yet again, for another Easter. Indeed, a belly full of ham and a long string of “Z’s”. I was content, but before I doze off, let me tell you a little more about this Easter ham. And how it went and came to be.

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Hams are easy smokes, by and by. Unless you buy them green, or uncured, all the work is already done for you. Shucks, you don’t even have to cook it if you don’t want to, as most ham is cooked and ready to eat cold, right out of the package. In point of fact, most hams come smoked already too. So what’s a pit master need really to do then with a ham? Well, the obvious answer is to smoke it again! And that’s just what we did. The double smoke!

Match The Smoke

If you ever want to amp up the flavor of your run of the mill ham by ten fold, this is how to do it. Look on the package and see what kind of wood was used to smoke the ham, and then sort through your wood larders and see if you’ve got the same. Match the smoke if you can, just so you can maintain a certain tidiness about things. If not, apple wood is an excellent choice. Hickory too, and pecan wood is always wonderful as well.

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Whilst the smoker was coming up to speed, we rubbed the ham down in a cheap yellow mustard. Rubbed it all over like a bronzed Ecuadorian smearing on his sun tan lotion. The mustard rub is not for flavor of course, which many newbies think it is. Nay, it is your adhesive agent, varnished there to help hold your rub longer to the ham. And our rub today was about as simple as it gets – brown sugar. Feel free to add a little cinnamon and nutmeg to the ensemble, as I forgot to do that in my enthusiasm. We also lanced a few pineapple rings to the old ham for to serve as a self-basting sort of mechanism, but in truth, we did it mostly because it looks cool.

From there it was a slow ride in the Weber Smokey Mountain, at 225 degrees, bathed in a cloak of hickory smoke. A span of clock reaching about 3 hours, I should say, until the internal temperature of the ham reached 135 degrees. That is more than enough time to practice your pit master posture, in your favorite BBQ chair. Lovely beverage in hand, the world twirling slowly about you. Stately plumes of wood smoke curling from your old pit damper. Song birds rejoicing from yonder tree tops. This is our time, people,  our privilege patron to the Smokey Arts!

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Near the end of the cook, we glazed the meat lightly with some home made maple syrup, fresh from my brother’s tree. Don’t get too much better than that, folks!

And so it was, after the festivities were done, and our bellies were filled, we sort of bandied off to various sectors of the house. To do our bidding as it were. And it wasn’t too long before I was buried in a warm blanket, belly-up, head listing partial to the left, with a faint trail of drool accumulating in my down stream lip pit. The soft banter of family, a full belly, and the warm confide of a nap. Man!  And for a while at least, and maybe even longer than that, all was right on Easter Day. Amen.

For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him     –  Romans 6:9

How To Dig In: Dutch Oven Beef Stew

If ever the sun dallied just right in a blue sky, this was it. By golly, this was it. I suppose it could be that my appreciation for a warm sun beam has been acutely honimages (1)ed through the sheer absence of such things, courtesy of a long, winter’s campaign; but I tell you this, never has a single golden ray of it kissed my grizzled face so fine as it did this quiet, unassuming day at the pit. It has been a long winter in Minnesota, and I guess I was just ready for the sun again. Biologically primed, if you will, to lavish in it’s life-giving rays, and to dawdle the day away if need be, for to soak up every last photon of it, delivered on easy slants of golden light. And I did. Pulling it in like a poker victor rakes in his chips. When a day this nice comes along, a man does what he has to, you see. He does what he must. He digs in.

You Dig?

Digging in. It means to plant roots. To anchor thyself in a chosen locale, usually of a lovely persuasion. To take up roost there, and nary be thwarted by anything else. That is the way of us pit jockeys, you see. When we get a nice ambiance going, or a beautiful day such as this, with wood smoke gently in curl, sunbeams dappling through the lofty tree tops, tweety birds in full serenade, well, it is ingrained in our pit master instincts to exploit it for all its worth. A task not too difficult, nor far fetched, when you are as advanced as yours truly, in the fine art of being lazy. You do know, don’t you, how we like to loiter around here? It’s rather our specialty. Still, and even so,  one ought to have a goal of some sort, and I certainly did. Namely supper. In particular, beef stew patron to the pit. Are you ready for this?

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Of the first order, that is after drawing a manly beverage from the refrigerator, I stood abreast the little pit, and plopped a commendable load of stew meat onto the hot cast iron grates. They sizzled in eager anticipation there, whilst I manipulated them with aluminum tongs in hand. Then, for the heck of it, because I’ve long heard that smoked cabbage is good, I tossed on a 1/4 head of cabbage, and chucked a small tatter of mesquite wood into the coals for a little smokey goodness. Put the lid on and let the pit do it’s magic thing whilst I diced up the vegetables under the eternal blue skies above.

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It’s your beef stew, you put what ever you please in it. I like potatoes and carrots. Corn and green beans too. And like I mentioned, a little bit of cabbage. And some unsalted beef broth too, for it all to swim in. And the latter I would have, had I not mistakenly believed the beef broth had been tampered with. Turns out those cartons of broth are self-puncturing when you open it up. I didn’t know that, and thus, my alder bush out pond-side got a nice drink of beef broth, on the house. Live and learn, I guess.

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So we nestled the dutch oven into the hot bosom of the old kettle grill, with a few coals below it, and the rest tucked around the perimeter. A little smoke wood was still smoldering, and the day was still glorious to behold. And I knew just what to do next. I put on the kettle lid, grabbed my beverage, and made camp!

Here to Stay!

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Like I said, I aimed to stay here a while. To dig in! I’ve waited far too long for weather of this kind. More over, I wanted to test out my new backpacking tent, of which I launched this day, it’s maiden erection right here on the lawn, right beside the smoking kettle grill. I sensed a formidable tandem of sheer joy here. And it wasn’t long before I was belly-up in that thing, song birds blasting away, and for a moment, I was as giddy as a school boy, content with all the world, and then a few moments after that, I was dozing in the quietude, like an old man swaddled in blessings.

And the cloud shadows silently paraded across the grass, whilst the wood smoke gently tapered into that blue sky.

An unknown amount of time passed, like it always does when your dug in somewhere. I stirred quietly in my tent; scratching my hair, and then my belly, whilst listening to the day declare around me. The tweety birds still rejoiced, and the sun, I noted,  had ebbed a little further south and west, on it’s fiery arc through the sky. And hark, the aromas of mesquite and beef stew wafted as if on angelic wings through the cool air, mingling with the scent of emerging spring chlorophyll in my little nylon hut. Glory! I must say, because it’s true,  I’ve never had a Weber kettle grill in a campsite before, but now, after some consideration of the matter, not to mention first hand experience, I think it could be an agreeable venture after all.

I eventually emerged from my tent like a flannel-clad, ground hog, arose to a stately posture, and promptly itched my butt, then waddled over to the pit to check in on supper. Yes, I guess it is well to cook alone sometimes. Anyways, I gave it a good stir, mixing in some more of that smokey goodness. The carrots were soft. So were the spuds. I added some freshly cracked black pepper and some salt to taste. Man! I didn’t want this cook to end. This day to end. But eventually my coals did peter out. And my glorious sun swept with out care over the roof top, leaving a cold shadow over the patio from whence it shone.

That was enough, I thought. No sense in being greedier yet. It had been a good day at the pit, after all. A very good day indeed. A day in which I did precisely that which was well with my soul. A body needs such respites from time to time. And to do so where the wood smoke also rises. Amen. And time to eat.

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Savory, Wholesome, Mesquite Smoked Beef Stew, Fresh out of the Dutch Oven and patron to the pit. Yum!!

 

Cooked: Are You Trending the Wrong Direction?

Mesquite Fired Chicken Fajitas and the Decline of the Western Kitchen

I’ve been watching a show lately, called, Cooked, and it’s fascinating. Any SAMSUNG CSCfood blogger worth their apron, I’d wager, would probably be intrigued by it also, because I know I was, and I don’t even have an apron. I must say, the docu-series has inspired me, as if I need any further inspiration, to, and for a lack of better words – cook. But it has. One of the things they said on the show, the thing that stirred the soup of my soul, if you will, was that the average American house hold is trending away from cooking. And it’s been heading that way for a long time.

Since the 60’s, they said, we’ve been cooking at home less and less. Preparing food in the kitchen has declined almost 50%. And the United States, they said, cooks less than any other country in the world.

That’s right. And the reason is time, or lack of it. We’re in too big of a hurry these days, to cook a proper meal in our own kitchen. In point of fact, we’d gladly pay some one else to do the cooking for us. And in the process of this, we’ve lost something rather precious, and inalienable along the way. We’ve lost the fellowship of the cook. We’ve diluted the human food experience to a few beeps and boops on the microwave, or the speed dial on our cellular phones. In our haste, we’re bypassing the good stuff, the therapeutic sounds, say, of a knife chopping through vegetables in a quiet room. Or the aroma of bread baking on a wintry afternoon. Or the satisfying taste of a homemade soup wrought from the nourishing bounty of our own gardens. Not to mention a disbanding of the most important thing maybe, and that is the warm camaraderie of family or friends gathered in fellowship, in the kitchen, whilst we dutifully ply our craft. We’re missing out on all of these pleasantries when we’re too harried to cook. And because of that, we are cooked.

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Let’s Cook!

Well that did it. I needed to cook then. No ordering out for a pizza tonight. No forays through the freezer for a frozen dinner. I got to do this right. Take the scenic path. And I figured my best shot at it, being that I’m a man and all, would be out at the BBQ grill of course. Thus, and emboldened with new vigor, I got right after it out at the old kettle grill. First cooking up some boneless chicken breasts, smoked with mesquite wood, and gently dusted in Miners Mix Wholly Chipotle Rub. This rub is excellent, but I should tell you, off-hand and by-the-way, it does have a little kick to it, so be mindful not to dump it on with a great abandon, lest you enjoy a runny nose dribbling onto your supper plate. Anyways, the chicken was seared a little on both sides, as is often the case with grilling chicken, and tucked indirect, opposite the hot coals for the remainder of the cook. The meal was coming together nicely. Then I brought out my chopped vegetables. I tell you, the modular cast iron grate from the good people at Craycort sure made the difference in this cook-out. What a pleasure it is to grill with this sort of equipage. Everything just seems to fall right into place. And they operate with a certain sort of ease that which I find very comforting to the soul. We put the pan insert into service tonight, as you can spy, and sauteed up the lovely and timeless duo of green peppers and onions.  The aromas of which garnished the air of this chill evening, whilst the tweety birds quietly puttered in the alders at the pond’s edge. We love to cook, it’s true. But what we really love is to cook outside.

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Next we needed some corn and black beans, of which came to edible maturity in short order, thanks again to the cast iron pan insert. They sizzled accordingly there, adding more aromas to the outdoor kitchen. I cannot deny, there is a certain love affair going on with this cast iron grate. It’s a relationship. And if you’re good to it, it’ll be good to you. Cast iron is like that. It requires a modicum of attention, with a gentle oiling before and after each use. As if it needs to be reminded you care, I guess. But then again, who isn’t like that.Who doesn’t like to be told they are loved from time to time.  Cooking at last brings people together like that, so that we can tell them, if only through making them a simple meal, that we love them. Like our friend Mr. Dodd likes to say, “What you cook isn’t nearly as important as who you cook it with.”  Amen Mr. Dodd. Amen.

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Speaking of Mr Dodd, just above is a link to his site of you’re into reading about tasty BBQ, of which you must be or you wouldn’t be reading this!

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An Act of Small Rebellion

Well, after the chicken is done, and the peppers and onions are done, and after the beans and corn are warmed through, seasoned with some Miners Mix Steak and Veggie Seasoning, and after you’ve boiled up a pot of rice, bring the food henceforth inside, and let the savory aromas at once curl into the air. And watch now how the respective noses of family members pan your way. There is energy in the air. Note also the abiding communion which begins, or has begun, ever since you first lit the flames to cook. This one simple act of taking time out of your busy day, to slow down and deliberately cook supper, even when you don’t feel like it, is at once an act of small rebellion in a world gone mad with haste. And it is beautiful.

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Get Married!

Chop up the protein into sizes of appropriate diameter for your body’s largest orifice, and thus assemble at your leisure, this lovely mesquite smoked chicken fajita bowl over a steaming bed of rice. Man, can you taste it!  Don’t forget the freshly shredded mozzarella cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Let the flavors mingle together, and get happy there. The fajita flavors are designed to marry on your plate. This is what they do. They are many times better together than apart. A fusion of individual tastes. Of texture and spice. And when you think about it, in a round about way,  so are we. And that’s why cooking healthy meals at home is so important you see. Because it brings us together in fellowship and good food. And say what you will, but precious few other things in this world are quite as lovely as that. And not nearly so tasty.  Amen.

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Mesquite Fired Chipotle Chicken Fajita Bowl. Man, this one was edible!

*Here is the show, Cooked, that we were talking about earlier. Good stuff!

 

What Women Want: Parmesan Crusted Grilled Chicken Breasts

“I do not know what it is about women and cheese, but I wager a good block of it will catalyst even the most apathetic of them into action.” -Me

Evening was soon to draw across the Pond-Side Pit, as I henceforth gathered my plunder in the soft, SAMSUNG CSCwaning light. A glorious light of which is fleeting this time of year, for the supper that which teases the hollow rumble of my belly. I soldier on. I bank some fiery coals to the back of the old kettle grill, setting it up for a quiet spot of indirect cooking. Poker in hand, and shamelessly doting over the orange-glowing rubble, like they were precious gem stones in a cauldron of enameled coated steel. It’s March, on the 45th Parallel, and the breeze is as cool as it is sweet, summoning the best flannel shirts your closet has to offer. Indeed, I had mine on as I tended the fire, enjoying it’s radiant heat on my hands. Admiring the comradeship of the coals, whilst I waited on my lovely bride to shred the cheese.

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She openly volunteered to shred up some Parmesan cheese for our supper tonight. I do not know what it is about women and cheese, but I wager a good block of it will catalyst even the most apathetic of them into action. Women love cheese. Leastwise mine does. And so she shredded me a large quantity of it, like a crazed beaver to Cottonwood tree. Swiftly earthing a pile of cheesy goodness into a modest, porcelain bowl. That and an equal part bread crumbs too, these for to play the supporting cast in tonight’s grilling ensemble. Parmesan Crusted Grilled Chicken Breasts, patron to the pit, of course.

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What we did is this. We rolled the bone-in chicken breasts in a warm, slippery bath of melted butter, and after saying a quick prayer, liberally packed on a delightful preponderance of that cheese/bread crumb mixture we just talked about. Pack it on thick, people, and don’t be shy. If you want to give your woman what she wants, well this is it! Well, this is it this side of an empty wallet coming out of a jewelry store anyhow.

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Kind of looks like coconut chicken, but it isn’t. This is where you must wield your meat with the authority and delicateness of a brain surgeon. Your dear chicken is in it’s most fragile state right now, so be mindful young pit jockeys, not to knock off that which you have so fiercely labored for. Place your lovely proteins with a gentle hand opposite the hot coals. Place the lid on next, and dutifully step aside.  We didn’t use any smoke wood this time. The crusty cheese to come will do all the talking here.

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It doesn’t take long before you lift the lid and see something like this going on. A beautifully textured crust – the highly edible marriage of Parmesan cheese fused with lightly toasted bread crumbs. This at last to usher these lowly chicken breasts unto their utmost culinary ideal. Glory!

Of course when confronted with nicely crusted proteins, such as these, I cannot help but to tarry pit-side in a bevy of my own thoughts. Here we have two ingredients, that which make up this crust. Two entities. That of Parmesan cheese, and the other of plain old bread crumbs. The Parmesan cheese is like my wife perhaps – white, and silky, and very good. Very forgiving. Gets better with time. And better, by and far, than I deserve. And I am not unlike the lowly bread crumbs here, even whiter still, and if left to my own devices, will likely only make a big mess of things. But here is where the analogy gets interesting, and far better for me. When married together on the charcoal grill of life, the cheese adapts like good cheese does, and works it’s way amid every nook and hollow presented thee by the flaky bread crumbs. In time, the cheese holds the humble bread crumbs together, even, and gives them support and reason and flavor. The bread crumbs thus toast to perfection, coming of age, if you will, and the two together form the most beautiful Parmesan crusted chicken you’d ever want to lay thine eyes upon.

It’s weird what comes to your brain whilst puttering over your pit. It’s all about relationships, my wife keeps telling me. Relationships. Maybe this is what women want. Just to love and be loved – together. Seems reasonable, I guess. And sure seems to be the case with my chicken tonight, I can tell you that. And in the pale light, I plated up said chicken, plunked the old kettle lid back in place, turned heel, and made way from whence I came. To my sweetheart residing warmly inside. Amen.

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Again, take at gander at that crust! Golly! It chews with the texture reminiscent of fried chicken…But isn’t.

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Parmesan Crusted Grilled Chicken Breasts. When two became one, patron to the pit.

 

 

 

An Ode To Weber: Memphis Kettle Ribs

Just beyond the stately Spruce, the prickly bows of which conceal the flirtatious exploits IMG_02981of the Black Capped Chickadees,  and across a modest lawn sodden with snow melt, at a quiet patio tucked up to the back of a house, you will find a serene column of wood smoke curling from my old kettle grill. And there patron, you will find me also. It’s the weekend, and I haven’t a thing in the world I need to do, or would rather do, than this – to toke a small blaze amid a bandy of coals in the steely bosom of the old steed it’s self – the Weber Kettle Grill. We’ve traveled long and far, this grill and I, through the unknown passages of time. Through every season. And every inclement of weather. And this old kettle grill has been stalwart every step of the way. Faithfully waiting out on the patio for me, straddling it’s little ash pan, I swear I can see it’s top damper quivering like a puppy’s soft tail, every time I round the bend.

Yes, when you grill as often as this, I guess you might say a bond is forged between man IMG_0453and the entity of porcelain-enamel-coated steel. And it’s measure is one to last the ages. A good kettle grill will do that for you. And for the money, Weber probably makes the best there is. I guess I got to thinking about the old grill today, when my fellow patron rang me up and announced he had finally purchased a brand new 22.5 inch Weber kettle grill. I could hear his lips smile. He’s always ran other pits, you see, and has done very well that way his whole grilling career. And we ain’t saying you can’t. But finally, after many years, he has joined the Weber masses. I do not know what has took him so long. I guess every pit jockey at one time or another in his or her life, is destined for a Weber kettle. It’s sort of a right of passage. Many of today’s greatest pit masters cut their teeth on these old standbys. Some folks are so content with Weber kettle grills, like me, that they rarely venture anywhere else. Anyways,  I do hope he finds as much joy and excitement and satisfaction cooking with his new grill, as I have found using this old, beat up, patio work horse. If you’re faithful to just clean the ashes out from time to time, it will never let you down. And there are very few things you can’t cook with it, if properly inspired.

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Today, for example, the kettle fare is a delicious rack of pork ribs. These grills are not just for hot dogs and hamburgers people. Nay, they are for what moves you. For what tickles your culinary aspiration. There is a reason the Weber Kettle is the in the back yard of so many people that you know. They work. Banking the coals to the far side of the kettle, and tossing on a few chunks of smoke wood, you create an indirect smoking environment. You could get fancier, but for this essay, we’ll just leave it at that. For ribs, you want to build your fire a little smaller than you normally would, to help keep the temperatures down to 225 or so. If you’re having trouble getting that low, try a water pan underneath your ribs, which will act as a heat sink. Also draw the vents on the bottom of the grill to thin slits, and maybe the top vent too. The less air you have moving through your kettle grill, the lower the temps. It’s as simple as that.

I suppose I ought to let you know what we used for seasoning this time. Well, the day A2015-Maynardsprior, 24 hours before these ribs hit the pit, we coated them thoroughly with Miners Mix Maynards Memphis BBQ Rub, wowwy,  wrapped them up, and left it alone in the refrigerator for a day or so to,  as they say,  “get happy”. I know we’ve been yapping a lot about these guys lately, but I’m sorry, when you happen upon the best of something, you just can’t help yourself but to tell people about it. These guys and kettle grills are a match made in BBQ heaven. And this was the only thing we seasoned the ribs with. Didn’t even sauce it, as I didn’t much want to spoil the flavor. *You can detect cocoa in the after taste. Yum!

We usually foil our ribs at about hour 3, but this time around, I don’t know,  I may have been feeling lazy, and just “let em go nekkid“. But with routine spritzing with some fruit juice, they turned out fine enough for this old pit boy’s standards. The wife approved too.

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Hickory Pecan Smoked Memphis Kettle Ribs hot off the Weber. Patron to the Pit.  Man oh man! This is living, people! Belch!

 

How To Burn A Hole In Your Tongue: Fire In The Hole Cheeseburgers!

Feel The Burn!

Some time ago, back in the sultry days of summer, we received some rubs from the good folks at Miners Mix; a small bandy of spice wizards out way of California, who are quietly putting together, we learned, some of the best flavors in the world. They said if we ever wanted to try a “real rub”, just to let them know. Well, we’ve succumbed, and you’ve probably already read some accounts now of their rubs, and we will kindly remind you that they did not disappoint. Anyways, in passing, they mentioned that they also had some hot rubs, new to their line up, and if we wanted to try some of those too, they would set us up accordingly. Initially, I passed.

You see I am not a pepper head by nature. Nay, I’m Swedish. Which means concerning the spicier things in life, I am what you might call a pansy. A sally-tongued neophyte as easily recoiled by a humble jalapeno pepper, as I might be if my face were melting off. I know – boring. Luckily, however, the smokey co-founder of the Patrons of the Pit is most certainly a hot head, and I mean that in the most kindly of ways. He seems to favor a delightful burn. I mean, a sweaty forehead and runny nose is common place for the man. And it was he who offered to sample these hot rubs for us today. And I eventually caved in, as any grill jockey ought to, and went over to his house the other night for to sample some heat. Some Fire in the Hole Cheese Burgers. Oh man!IMG_0403

A cool, February wind whistled through the Track-Side Pit, where I found my fellow patron grilling up the burgers in the dark. When you grill in Minnesota in February, chances are you’ll be doing it in the dark. Anyways, he declared he tightened up the burgers with Fire in the Hole spice rub, from Miners mix. Now, I’ve heard of these guys!

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Fire in the Hole. The name says everything you need to know, folks. All too much, in point of fact! This stuff is something else. Loaded with all matter of hot, make-your-forehead bleed sort-of mojo. Such as: Cayenne, Jalapeno, Habanero, Chipotle, Ancho, and oh yeah, Ghost Pepper powder! Mercy! One fellow at our little burger bash threw a pinch or two of this rub in his mouth, and promptly proclaimed “it burned a hole through my tongue!

Indeed it could.

The Ghost Pepper, originally known as the bhut jolokia,  is a interspecific hybrid chili ghost pepperspepper cultivated out yonder in India or something, and it means business, people. 400 times hotter than Tabasco, they say. At 1 million  Scoville heat units, I’d wager they’re right about that. In point of fact, in 2007, it was lofted as the hottest chili pepper on the planet. That honor now belongs to the dreaded Carolina Reaper. I think I’d rather eat grilled spiders with John from Ecuador than make the acquaintance of a Carolina Reaper. Even so, we must still respect the ghost pepper. Anyways, that digression aside, Miners Mix loads this Fire in the Hole rub up with a nice quantity of ghost pepper powder, and when you note that such powder runs at about $180 per pound, well, let’s just say that the little bottle suddenly becomes the most handsome of all bottles on your spice rack.

Where’s The BEEF!

He plopped it down in front of me. I don’t think I had ever seen a hamburger in my life that was as tall as it was wide, but this one came dang close. A monolith of spicy hot meat in which to come of age with. We’re talking it must have been 3/4 of a pound of ground beef here, and maybe 2 tablespoons of Fire in the Hole rub, worked into every corner of protein. Our fellow patron took it one step further, and impregnated the burger with a molten core of Colby Jack cheese, and that too, was laced with even more spicy goodness. Mercy sakes, call the fire department! And I wasn’t hungry again for two days!

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Thus, four men sat around a wooden table of red meat, attempting to open their pie holes to adequate apertures, for to make way with these giant, Juicy Lucys. Some of us had bigger mouths than others, and those somebodies gradually developed a good and abiding burn first.

Now it wasn’t the sort of burn than sends a man running post-haste for a glass of milk, blabbering in tongues of fools, but it was undeniably present, even so. Enough to make your eyebrows go moist, and your face to feel a little funny. A little runny nose deal is to be expected as well. And of course, the all encompassing fire from Hades in your mouth syndrome. Depends on your proclivity and tolerance for the spicy side of life, I suppose. And don’t even get us going on the morning after, whilst reading the paper in the little pit boys room. We need not go there! At any rate, I seemed to be doing better than I thought I would, concerning the heat, and here is where it got down right wonderful to behold.

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We all noticed that after the burn had tapered, it was then we started picking up on the subtleties of the rub. A parade of delightful flavors start showing up in our mouths. In point of fact, from the moment you put the food in your mouth, clear down through your last burp of after taste, the flavors keep coming. And this is what sets this rub apart from a great many others we’ve tried over the years.

Our fellow patron said, and quote,”These guys got it going on!”

He said, “There just hasn’t been many spice rubs that can do that“, and he added, “with such a wide palate of flavors surfacing after the burn”.

Same thing happened with the HOTBANERO spice rub they sent us too. Not as hot as the Fire in the Hole, but A2015-HotBanerospicy enough for Swedes like me. When the burn subsides, you get another show, an encore of flavors, like: chili powder, sugar, rosemary, onion, thyme, and a slight salty flavor. And it’s all really good! And the parade seems to meander from the front of your mouth towards the back. For a while, I was starting to see maybe what all ye pepper heads enjoy so much about spicy foods. Maybe there is more to it after all, than just burning a hole through your tongue. Indeed I wager now that there is.

If you’re a fan of a fine and pleasant burn, accompanied by exquisite flavors, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you go check out these guys. Outstanding work once again, good folk at Miners Mix. Man we love what you do! Amen.

http://www.minersmix.com/index.html

 

 

 

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