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Food and Fellowship: How BBQ Could Save The World

A thin-blue smoke pillared from the old bullet cooker as a bandy of black birds sangblt4 from the pond’s edge. It was mid-afternoon, mid-summer, and mid-week come to think of it, and all the world seemed on the bustle today, and busy, and hurried to get along. Well, save for yours truly that is. Nay, I had other plans this afternoon. To smoke up a rack of ribs, for one, and also some chicken wings to take to some friends who could use a good meal these days. A BBQ care package, I guess you could say. People just like barbecue.

Something For Everyone

Barbecue. Have you noticed ever when you go into a BBQ joint that there is just something in the air, something besides the most succulent aromas known to mortal man. That’s right. There is an abiding sort of gastronomic appreciation there. A universal reverence almost, for what is smokey and good. A joy for BBQ scattered in unbiased fashion across the social cross-section.  Your class or zip code makes no bearing in BBQ. Doctors and lawyers, I suspect love BBQ. So do teachers and garbage men. Clergymen and atheists. Pig farmers and even vegetarians, I bet, tho they won’t eat it, deep down admire BBQ. Even people from Iowa! Indeed, black, yellow, white or brown, your skin matters not in BBQ. Every one is free to tarry on it’s savory shores.

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BBQ Fusion

That’s the beautiful part about good BBQ. People from many walks of life coming together in food and fellowship. No matter who you are, or where you’re from, if the BBQ is good, you will gladly slurp it off a paper plate, and wipe your face with your sleeve.Whether you’re a grease monkey from Queens, or the Queen of England herself, everybody is equal where fine smoked meat is concerned. And say what you will on this, but that is no small thing. For BBQ is oft times regarded as a fickle, and snobbish pursuit. One of the most opinionated subjects in the free world, just behind politics and religion. Yet, and somehow,  we all come together in fellowship for some good BBQ.

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What If…

It’s a childish notion, I know, but what if all the leaders of a world gone mad, conspired together for lunch some day, and had BBQ. All sitting around a big table, with make-shift, paper towel bibs, and tall drinks at hand. Communing and dining on perfectly executed BBQ.  I bet they’d be in a pretty good mood for the most part. Well as good a mood as you can be, I suppose, being a world leader and all. There’s just something about BBQ that makes it all okay.

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And so they would eat and feast and look around the table at each other, everybody sporting a little BBQ sauce wayward on their face, and a pleasant, satisfied feeling deep in their bellies. For a while at least, and maybe even longer than that, I hope they would notice that it’s not all bad having lunch together. That if they can get along well enough for an hour or so, maybe they can do it some more, and maybe even become friends, with a plate of good food in front of them. Childish notions for sure, but hark, the working model of this, of course, has already been perfected -a little something your local BBQ shack has known for many years. BBQ brings people together.

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A Time to Share

As the mallards milled about on the pond’s edge, and the breeze mingled sweetly in the trees, I glazed up the wings with some more Blackberry BBQ Sauce, from the kindly folks at Joe Joe’s Hog Shack. On the other pit, the ribs had just come out of the foil, highly pampered there in brown sugar, butter, and a squirt of honey. Smoked with pecan wood. Oh buddy! They were almost, but not quite, falling off the bone. Time to deliver these spoils for whom they were intended! And time to make time, for what is good. And what is right.Barbecue may never save the world, but I’ll tell you this,  it sure is a better tasting place because of it. And that’s a start at least. Amen.

Trouble With The Curve: On Baseball and Brisket

We love baseball here at the pit. Love having it on the radio whilst plumes of pecan smoke curl into the air. Or on the TV whilst we nap soundly in our man chairs. And we love to go to games when we can, too, and see the boys of summer ply their FullSizeRender (14)craft afield. There is just something about the ambiance of a baseball game of which is as endearing to me, perhaps, as the game itself. From the sounds of wooden bats cracking on a warm summer’s night, to the violent thwack of a fastball arrested in a catcher’s mitt, to the highly-honed riffs of the organ lady as she rallies the crowd. I even enjoy the thoughtful scoop of the plastic seats. And the hearty bellow of the hot dog vendor as they ascend the steps. The sound of some one shelling peanuts in the seat behind you. It’s all part of the ambiance. And ah yes, the food.

The food is half the ambiance right there. From the aroma of polish sausages, and sauteed onions, riding on a breeze. To freshly popped popcorn. And pork chops and deep fried walleye. And Tony O’s Cuban sandwiches. And the heady scent of hot mini donuts drifting down a crowded concourse. Man! Indeed, the ambiance, and the food of baseball, is maybe why we go to games in the first place. It’s the best thing going, after all, when your team is last in their division. Nay, when they are the worst team in all of baseball. Yes, the Minnesota Twins are that team this year. They achieved this status early on in the season, and haven’t bothered to budge ever since. They have struggled. A list of expectations seldom met. Aw well. Let’s just say they’re having some troubles with the curve. But then again, don’t we all.

Indeed, we all run into curve balls from time to time, and sometimes even with things we’re supposed to be good at. Like BBQ. I think of a couple of weekends ago, the July 4th weekend as it were. I was up before the tweety birds, and like many American men, still in my pajamas, standing on the patio gazing up at the stars. It was a beautiful night, or morning, or what ever you want to call it that time of day. Let it be said, however,  there is only one thing in this world that will get a man up this early on his day off, and that thing is brisket! Yes sir, I was the proud owner of a 10 pound prime packer brisket, and it was beautiful, and today, if the BBQ gods would have it, it would finish it’s life’s course with a succulent rendezvous deep inside my belly! I was giddy, I don’t mind telling you. But this is brisket, and as any pit jockey knows, you have to wait for brisket.

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Whilst the Weber Smokey Mountain came up to temp, we went inside and trimmed the brisket of excessive fat. There are like two kinds of fat on a brisket. Hard fat and softer fat. The hard stuff doesn’t render that well, and we would do well to carve it out of there. The softer fat renders better, but oft times there is just too much of it. And while the fat does baste the meat and help keep it moist, all the big shots in the BBQ industry seem to say to trim it down anyways to about a 1/4 inch thickness. So that’s what we did. We also took a slice off the corner of the flat, as you can see. This an old pit jockey’s trick to remind us later on, whence the brisket is cloaked in bark, which way it was again that we were supposed to slice the thing. Always slice your brisket across the grain for a tender piece.

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For the rub today, we used two standbys around here. The first layer is maybe our favorite rub in recent months, Maynards Memphis BBQ, from our friends over at Miners Mix. If you haven’t tried this stuff yet, you’re missing out, people. Very good! So that was the first layer. For a secondary layer of flavor, we like to put on a light to moderate dusting of McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning. This just gives brisket another layer of flavor that is flat-up awesome. A little something extra to greet your tongue at the front door, and invite you in to the show. Man! Let’s get this on the pit already.

We dialed in the pit temp to a nice 250 degrees, of which the plan was to hold it there all the day long. The going formula these days for a brisket is 1 hour and 15 minutes per pound. We had a 10 pound brisket, and well, you do the math. It would be a long smoke. One of almost heady proportions. Hence our early pit call this morn. And so we put the brisket in the WSM, fat-side up, for to render that fat down into the meat whilst it cooked. Now the choice smoke wood for brisket, if you’re a Texas man anyways, is Post SAMSUNG CSCOak. We couldn’t find any oak about these parts, so we went with the next best thing, pecan wood. Pecan wood is fast becoming our favorite all-around smoke wood. It just works with everything, it seems. And for some reason, stores carry it around here, despite there being no pecan trees in Minnesota.  Go figure.

So it goes, under a shimmering star field, our brisket sets out on its long, smokey voyage. And in time, the night sky dissolves into the blue pastels of early morning, courtesy of a softly rising sun. The pecan smoke curls gently in the stillness of the dawn, and I can hear the brisket start to sizzle and drip. Song birds sing sweetly from on high, and it appears, if but just for the moment anyways, all the world is right, and in perfect working order. My eye lids droop like as I pandiculate pit side. I check the pit temp one more time, and then do what any red-blooded man who got up at 4 in the morning would do…I itched my butt and went back to bed

That’s one of the high joys of the long smokes you see. No, not butt itching, but the inevitable spans of clock now at your disposal. Free time. For our people generally leave the pit master alone when meat is on the cooker- to mind it you see, to nurture it, and guide it via our vital pit master instincts to a happy and most edible end game. Now when you have a good smoker, like say a Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, or even in our case, a Weber Smokey Mountain, once you dial in that temperature, well, you can rest relatively assured that it will stay at that temperature for as long as the coals hold out.  And I dumped in a goodly amount of coals, let me tell you.A full 20 pound bag of charcoal, in point fact, and expected a good 12 hours of burn time. Reminiscent of my elder brother’s suburban back in the day, with the 40 gallon gas tank. Anyways, I was a might pooped, and like I said, I sidled back to bed a spell. Belly-up and snoring post-haste, whilst the morning sun crept across a blue sky, the tweety birds cavorted at the pond’s edge, and my pajamas smelled like wood smoke. It was glorious. And then of course,  came the curve ball…

Mind Your Meat!

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I had been asleep, oh, about 3 hours I should think. Not much more than that. I was awoken by my friend, Ralf’s, text. It’s a good thing too, because when I went out to the pit to check in on things, like pit keepers ought to,  I discovered something rather interesting had transpired with my beloved brisket. The internal temperature of the flat was 208! Over done by just a tad, but it would suffice. For brisket you want to get it somewhere between 195 and 205. That’s your window of good fortune! That’s where the most amazing things happen in Brisketville. What is interesting here tho is that it reached this temperature in about 4 hours flat!  I was expecting something rather more in the vicinity of 12 – 15 hours. And rightfully so. But it happened in 4 instead. And to this end, I have no explanation. I’m what you might call, “Bum-puzzled”. Scratching my head, I couldn’t tell you the tip of my nose from my big toe on this one. The old BBQ adage, “Its done when its done“, certainly applies to this smoke, I guess. The mysteries of conventional BBQ, folks. What can you do? But the thermal probe slide into the tender meat with a butter like consistency, leastwise in the point it did. That’s when you know you’ve nailed. When the probe slides in with no resistance. Just didn’t expect to get there in 4 hours.

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Resting Your Meat

No matter. The brisket needed to rest anyways. Always rest your meat before slicing it, to ensure that the juices are properly sucked back into their appropriate locations. Resting your meat 1 to 2 hours is plenty, but if you must, or you screw up like us, you can rest it for 6 hours like we had to. Just wrap it in foil really good, so that no leaks are present, and then place it in your cooler with a bunch of towels. We’ve been using this trick for years, and it will keep your brisket or pork butt piping hot for several hours on end. It really works great.

Blackberry Burnt Ends

This is where we hit the curve ball out of the park. An hour before the meal was to be served, we chopped the point of the brisket up into cubes suitable for burnt ends. Dashed them over with more  Maynards Memphis Rub, some Joe Joe’s Hog Shack Blackberry BBQ sauce, along with a splash or two of apple cider vinegar. The pan thus was put back out on the pit for another 45 minutes or so, to do its thing. And no, I did not go take another nap.

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Burnt ends are fabulous, people. If you have not yet had occasion to make yourself a batch of these kingly BBQ morsels, you are pretty much missing out on one of the top four best things in BBQ. They melt in your mouth like popcorn, almost. These had a subtle blackberry tint to them, a nice, flavorful bark, and some mighty succulent smoked beef. Man! It is in my estimation the best thing we’ve pulled off the pit in a very long time. Maybe ever. Great Scott they were good!

I plated up a handsome portion of these beefy spoils, and made the acquaintanceship of my man chair. Feet kicked up like a gentleman of leisure, I flipped on the TV to the Twins game to see how they were doing. Turns out they were losing, go figure, and as usual, I didn’t seem to mind much. Not with a plate of good vittles in front of me anyways. That’s the thing. The better the food, I’ve noticed, the easier it is to watch them lose, which explains, now that I think about it, why there is so much good eating at the stadium. And it stands to reason, if good food can take the edge off a losing season, then perhaps a properly smoked brisket is of suitable caliber for the worst team in baseball. Amen.

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Pecan smoked brisket and blackberry burnt ends. Yum! You gotta eat, so why not eat well.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s In The Sauce: Joe Joe’s Hog Shack BBQ Sauces

Every once in a while, we here at the pit like to sample the wares of our readership, and then if you don’t mind, tell you about it. You might call it a review, but we just call it spreading the word. It’s a highly tasty thing we get to do, so we don’t mind none doing it. I mean, golly, we get to eat BBQ, and help out some others along the way. Why  wouldn’t we! So this won’t be our normal sort of post that you’re accustomed to. But rather a thank you to some good folks who sent us some of their spoils! Today’s culinary brain thrust comes to us all the way from the lovely folds of Maryland, courtesy of Joe Joe’s Hog Shack.

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Joe, the man behind the curtain over there, has come up with three pretty darn impressive sauces: Blackberry, Sweet “N” Tangy, and a Carolina Sauce, the latter of which, is the final incarnation of his first sauce, Joe Joe’s Hog Sauce. But before we tell you about his sauces, we wanted to first tell you a little more about the man, because I think we rather fancy him. And you might too.

Joe is a traveling man. An outdoors man. Leastwise, that’s what we’ve gathered. And that right there ranks him decidedly high in our book. A bit of a gypsy’s soul, apparently he can oft-times be found gunk holing up and down the east coast tarmac in his recreational vehicle. Gunk holing. It’s a sailing term. Honest. Not sure how it applies here, but I just like the word, I guess. Anyways, back to Joe. You might also spot him dug in at a campsite somewhere, aside beautiful rivers and fluttering trees. Routine weekends at the hunting lodge are not uncommon with Joe either. Yeah, we like this guy! Anyways, Joe started to develop BBQ sauces to take with him on his many trips afield. Something for to please the palate of his travel mates. And what at its genesis was just a hobby, morphed into something far greater. A passion. And a business.  These three sauces are the culmination of much kitchen tinkering. Much work. And much love. Let’s dig in, shall we, and learn a little more about them!

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Seek the Meat!

Rummaging through the freezer for a test meat is always fun. My bride is a highly organized individual with an acute need for tidiness.  This is reflective in all her areas of the house. Color coded and alphabetized. Even our movie collection is organized into Genre. And of course alphabetized from there.  But my freezer at once, is the opposite of this. I’m talking about the freezer out in the garage, now. Man space, as it were. To open the top lid of that freezer is to view chaos in its most distilled, and paralyzed form.  There is everything in there from ham bones, to pheasant, to liver, to fish guts wrapped up in plastic bags and stashed and forgotten there to keep them from smelling up the trash can. And somewhere down in the icy crags of the freezer, shoulder deep,  I found the perfect test meat for our sauces today. Chicken legs. Plain, old, boring chicken legs. If anything would bandy well with a flavorful sauce, these would be it.

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So I got to work at once with a little searing over direct heat, to crisp up the skin, and then tucked them back over indirect heat, opposite the hot coals, for the rest of the cook. We applied the sauces at the end of the cook, during the final few minutes.


Meanwhile, over at the Track Side Pit, our fellow patron/co-founder, was doing some testing himself. He had a much better portion of the yard bird too. Thighs! Man, we love them thighs! And here is a shot of them in full maturity, heavily glazed in Joe Joe’s Blackberry Sauce. Man, get your bibs on people!

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Chicken Thighs Glazed in Joe Joe’s Hog Shack Blackberry Sauce.Wow!

Blackberry Sauce

The Blackberry Sauce was at once a delight on the tongue. It’s a thin sauce. There is no spicy after-kick, and was highly favored by our food critics, also known as, our wives. Mother In-law approved too.  It sported a very pleasant blackberry flavor, not over-powering, but just pleasantly there, sweet, yet mildly complex, and because of its high sugar content, be sure to use this stuff only at the end of the cook. It would make a great glaze, we wagered, be it on your pork ribs, or beef ribs, chops, even the Easter ham! It also is supposed to do well with vegetables, we read, and of which we had to agree. When our corn on the cob wandered by happenstance into the sauce, it almost felt like a marriage had just transpired on my plate. It was amazing. Out of the three sauces, the Blackberry was my personal favorite, and the favorite also of most of the people we ran it by. You just wanted to eat with a spoon right out of the jar! It’s a very, very fine sauce.

Carolina Sauce

Our fellow patron, however, thought the Carolina Sauce smothered on his apple wood smoked pork chops, was, and I quote, “A death row kind of meal“. And whilst I don’t care to thoroughly test his thesis on that, I shan’t argue too hard against it either.  For through some rather exhaustive field studies of my own, forced to smoke up a rack of spare ribs the other day, I varnished said ribs with a good deal of this Carolina Sauce, and what henceforth transpired in my mouth can only be summarized as, “meant to be“. Man that was good! Authentic BBQ flavor. We both thought all these sauces were very good on chicken, but we both agreed they were outstanding on pork. Especially this vinegar-based, peppery, Carolina Sauce.

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Pulled Pork Slider with Joe Joe’s Hog Shack Carolina Sauce

We were also pretty much in accord that the ultimate end game for this Carolina Sauce, in our opinion anyways, has got to be a good pulled pork sandwich. Something of which we were glad to verify. The thinner viscosity of this vinegar-based sauce oozed with great effect into the succulent hollows of the pulled pork, it was quite tasty, people,  and no doubt would satisfy any man or woman in kind. Even, perhaps, those unfortunate enough to be residing in the cold,  incarcerated flanks, of death row.

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Sweet “N” Tangy

Now back to the legs, where we’ll finish things off today. The last sauce we tried was Sweet “N” Tangy, of which we liberally slopped on a couple of the chicken legs. Now here was a tomato-based sauce that as soon as you popped the lid off the jar and took a sniff, you just knew that Mr Joe, of Joe Joe’s Hog Shack was a gifted man. And you become relatively certain also, that his family is probably well-fed! A tint of smokey goodness, it is a thicker sauce with a very impressive peppery kick at the end. Not enough to make your nose run or anything, but enough to let you know you’ve lived a good life today. It’s a very good sauce, as good as any you’ll buy in any store somewhere. Maybe even better, because Joe made it.

Joe, you’ve done good, good sir. Your sauces are worthy. Adept. And well thought out. Thank you for your expertise, your time, and simply giving the sauce business a go, so that we all can share in your spoils. The world is a little better tasting now, because of you. Thank you!

On another note, and about the only thing we can knock on the sauces, is the glass jars they come in. We love glass over plastic, but they were rather prone to cracking during shipment. Not a big deal, because when we contacted them, they promptly sent us a replacement. Very quick customer service over there. And good people, too.

So if you’re looking for a new sauce to try out, give our friends at Joe Joe’s Hog Shack a try.

And tell Joe he done good! Because he did…

http://www.joejoeshogshack.com/

 

 

Grilling Paradise: How To Be There When You’re Not

          How we love to tarry in the prettier places. Often times striking off for the pristine hinter regions of northern Minnesota. And there, under the whispering pines, beside tumbling rivers, we press a tent stake into the soil, and rest like gentlemen of leisure. The cares of the city life metaphorically swirling down the drain, like dirty bath water after a long day afield. Soon, we think of nothing else, nothing but the wind, the sky, the woods, and the loveliness of water falling in paradise.

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The river flows with a fierce elegance up here. She will dazzle you with her beauty, and in the flip of a heart beat, wash you into one of her deep pools, and pin you there but for the wages of eternity. Kayakers know this. And so do Patrons of the Pit, who cower wisely on the shores. Nay, these waters are best left to the native brook trout which loiter in the eddies, awaiting the wayward drift of a Rhithrogena germanica or the like.You know how it goes. Anyways, whence the night falls over the forest primeval, we do rather like to kindle a fire and bandy close to its coals.

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An old, blackened tea-pot with a dented, and beaten-up lid, hangs hobo style over the fire, bringing the evening’s water to a boil. I rummage through my pack for my twenty year old steel mug, whilst the flicker of the flames dance softly over head on the bottom of the pine bows. Found it. I rip open a package of cinnamon tea, and plop the bag into my cup, it’s string hanging limply over the lip. I look up. The stars are out now, shimmering behind the tall pines, dappling through the thin needles. The river tumbles in the darkness. And I can smell the smoke waft off the fire, and taper into the pine-scented woods. Can you smell it!

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Via the powers of the blogosphere, you have now been transported. Swept away through space and time, and plunked down in a saintly fashion at the Track Side Pit, where our fellow Patron is plying his craft upon a congregation of yard bird legs. Chicken legs for you city folk. He’s got a nice char going on, as you can see, with flirts of caramelization. Seasoned with who knows what, but it’s good! The aromas bellowing off the grill would turn a vegan silly, I’d wager. And can you smell the smoke…

Smoke. The smell of it. For some reason God has linked smells inextricably with memory. And that’s the curious link between here and there. Between cooking on the patio in the city, and cooking over the open fire, far away, encamped in a quiet, forest hollow. We’ve mentioned it before, but we’ll say it again. Because every time we light the fires here at home, the aroma of the smoke in-turn triggers a rush of memories from camp fires past. And a great many of those fires have been in the wilder places, in paradise, doing what we love to do. And as we rotate these gorgeous chicken legs over a fiery bed of coals, with metal tongs in hand, we cannot help but to reminisce at the same time of the beautiful locales from whence we’ve tarried. Oh yes. To reach back on the tender wings of nostalgia, and thumb through our memory vaults to those campsites past, fire-side, under fragrant pines and starry skies, where the water falls in paradise. Amen.

 

 

5 Reasons Why Ribs Are The Perfect Thing To Smoke

They came trucking up through the green grass as if they owned the place. And maybe thumbnail_IMG_0727they do. For let it be said, they were here long before we ever showed up. When we first moved in, they were the first to greet us. And when if we move from here, they’ll probably be standing there beside the driveway, the last to wave us good-bye. I speak of course, of the resident Mallards of the Pond Side Pit. And boy are they cute these days. Spring is just wrapping up here on the 45th parallel, and all the many ducks are closely followed by a feathery amoeba of miniature ducks,  just like them – their little hairy faces, alive, and bright-eyed to a new, and outstanding world. Seems every time I light up the pit out back, they are there, investigating…Or maybe it is they’re just checking in that it is not their kin folk they smell cooking under my lid.

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Fear not little ducks, for it is only a wee rack of pork ribs smoking under our lid today. With gentle plumes of pecan and apple wood, seasoned in Kits K.C. BBQ Rub from the good folks at Miners Mix. I’m telling you this, there are a precious few better ways to while away a beautiful afternoon, than to tarry long in your BBQ chair, with a cold beverage in hand, feet propped up as per proper pit master posture, wowwy, and a cool breeze washing fresh over you the day long. Indeed, bringing pork ribs to a succulent, and tasty end game is our heady privilege. A Pit Jockey’s delight.

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Today’s rub provided by the kindly spice wizards of Miners Mix. Very tasty!

5 Reasons Why Ribs Are The Perfect Thing To Smoke

Meat Candy

Ribs are perhaps the perfect thing to smoke, and I’ll tell you why. First off, ribs are meat candy to a man. Let’s just be clear about that. We lust for them.  Next to bacon, I suppose, nothing gets our slobbers running more than the heady prospect of a good rack of ribs.Carnal, but true. We just had to clear the air on that matter.

It’s About Time

Secondly, ribs take just the right amount of time to cook. Look, if you at all enjoy the many facets of the Smokey Arts, and aspire yourself a patron of the pit, then you know in your soul, just as surely as you know anything, just how fun smoking meat is. Burgers and bratwurst are good and all, but the show is over too quick with those. Your coals still burn for something more. You crave a longer campaign pit-side. Something that takes you deep into the game. Pork butts and brisket are fantastic, we’re talking out-of-the-ball park home runs, but you seldom have the available clock for them. In point of fact, you might as well rip a whole day off the calendar for those big meats. That’s how long they tend to take. But ribs, ah ribs, well they saddle up just right. They are the perfect afternoon smoking project. You can fire up the pit at noon, and have your ribs done by supper. That’s just enough time to make you feel like you’ve done something proper-like in the Smokey Arts. Just enough time to rejoice in the ways of the pit master, such as napping pit-side, or watching a ball game with your shoes off. Just enough time to flex your patience a little, and log some quality pit time under blue-bird skies.

In a world ripe with haste, ribs take precisely the right amount of time.

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Serendipity

Another reason why ribs are the perfect thing to smoke, is that success is not always a given. There does seem to me anyways, a certain smokey-scented, serendipity, to cooking ribs in charcoal fueled pit. I know this because I always marvel when they turn out good. Now if I knew it was in the bank all along, then why would I marvel? I don’t know. But know this, ribs are satisfying to get right. Not just to your belly, but to your personal growth as an accomplished meat maestro. All your research and experimentation into technique and method, culminating in a few short hours under, long, smokey columns of goodness. In many ways, ribs are a sort of litmus test of your pit skills. You can divine a great deal about a pit keeper’s craft from his ribs.Ribs keep us learning.

Picasso in Pork

Next, ribs are the perfect blank pork canvas in which to paint your BBQ Picasso. You can season them up so many ways, from just salt and pepper to intricately conceived rubs snatched from only your brain pan alone. To sauce or not to sauce, well, leave it to your pit master instincts. Smoke woods, oh where to start! Every rack is a different journey into the smokey realm. Every rack its own entity. It’s own dance with fire and smoke. Ribs are your personal expression in meat art. Your Picasso in Pork. So wield your brush, people, with all due enthusiam.

A Ticket to Relax

And at last, and subtly under-toned along the way, every rack is your ticket to an afternoon off, to loiter pit-side, with a manly beverage in hand, and declare to yourself and those who come upon you, that you are in no hurry today. That you have, by choice, raised your foot clear of the accelerator pedal of life, and for a few short smokey hours, and maybe even longer than that, all your world is right. You’re not grilling hot dogs today. Nay, you’re smoking ribs. And that my friends, is a very a good day indeed. Amen.

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Five hours, low and slow, people. Pecan/Apple Amoked BBQ ribs. Son! And my ducks were Okay with this.

 

 

Track-Side: Ceder Planked Shrimp and Scallops

Location : Track-Side Pit

Time : Not too long ago…

Take a gander at this spread, won’t you, put on by John, our Patron of the Pit Co-Founder, and care taker of the Track Side Pit. Yes indeed, he was seen in his backyard recently, plying his craft over a hemorrhaging bed of orange coals. Nothing stood in his way of culinary, smokey-tinted perfection.  We’re talking :butter, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, scallops, shrimp, onion, pepper and red potatoes. Man! If this don’t make you hungry right now, you probably have a face full of dirt! As he so bluntly, but exquisitely phrased it, “Freakin sexy goodness!”  Indeed, old boy. Indeed.

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He’s coming along, that boy. In point of fact, he finally got himself a 22 inch Weber Kettle Grill. And he’s loving it. I don’t know what he was waiting for either. And as you can see, he’s been making good use of it too.

Here is another thing he whipped up off-hand the other day. A pit keeper’s favorite.

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ATB’s. Better known as Atomic Buffalo Turds. He took them a step further than most pit jockeys, and later glazed them in maple syrup, and dashed them with fresh cracked pepper. Mercy!

So that’s the recent goings on of the Track Side Pit. It’s good to see the other half once in a while. He doesn’t very often post here, or brag of his grilling talents. But I personally think he can grill circles around most people I know, including myself. He holds down the social media branch for PotP, and samples any spices or sauces that are sent our way. If you want to see more of what he’s been up to, you can find him supporting our Patron of the Pit Instagram account. Boy it’s a party over there! Stop by and say howdy to him!

https://www.instagram.com/patronsofthepit/

Sometimes he shows up on our facebook page too.

https://www.facebook.com/Patronsofthepit/

Grill on!

PotP

 

 

 

In Honor of Heroes: Memorial Day Pulled Pork

The Lilacs are blooming on Mt. Moriah. 

SAMSUNG CSCGreetings dear readership, and brethren of the smoke. We’ve been on vacation as of late, and I won’t deny it’s been a rather lovely sortie away from the digital trenches. A routine of which, if I am not careful on the matter,  I suspect that I could get quite used to. We’re talking life on the road here. Seeing new sights every day. Meeting interesting people. And that hallowed feeling of putting a great many miles between you and the home front. It’s nice, and a wee bit intoxicating to the spirit. But alas, we are home now, and well-traveled. We have some good vittles outback on the smoker, too, but before we get to that,  I’d fancy to show you something we discovered out way of the Black Hills. Something I thought it was kind of cool, and maybe you will too.

We were in the small Cowboy Hamlet better known as Deadwood, SD. Strolling up the main street there, which if there ever was a main street in this world that begs to be strolled, this perhaps was it. We made the usual token rounds: We saw the Celebrity Hotel where Brad Pitt’s slippers from Spy Games were on display. We went in the ice cream shop hoping for a double scoop of Rocky Road, but no one was around to harvest our currency. So we sidled out the door – scoopless. We also poked our head in the bar where Wild Bill Hickok was shot, thought about it for a while, then left. You know, the usual Deadwood flybys. Then, after the formalities were over, we found ourselves up on a hill, on Mt Moriah to be exact, in a cemetery there overlooking the town. It was a quaint place, by and by, that is if cemeteries can register as quaint. The lilacs were fragrant, and the grass was green. And it was up there that I saw the flag.

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The American flag hung limply on it’s pole, back-dropped by a blue, South Dakotan sky. I guess it wasn’t so much the flag, there, waving over Deadwood that captured my attention. It was more the plaque residing just below it, and the words it forever held there.

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Here is a flag, if you read the plaque, that is always up. Every day. Twenty and four hours a day. Never in our lifetime to see a half-mast. Never to forget our brave soldiers in battle, nor their selfless trials endured for the sake of our country. It’s been flapping in the sky over Deadwood for a long time now, since WWI it says,  as stalwart, and as true, as the veterans it honors. I don’t know about you folks, but I thought that was pretty cool. In a day and age where so many flags seem perpetually stuck half-way up the pole, here is one that at last resists. And that is no small thing amid the pine-scented breezes of Mt Moriah.

Anyways, that is what I wanted to show you. Something we saw in our travels afield. Now out to the pit!

The Joy of Bark

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It was Memorial Weekend, and as you can see we had some fine eating coming to maturity pit-side. A humble little pork shoulder, or butt if you must, one of which needed only 6 hours on the smoker, courtesy of it’s wee size. I think it was only 5 or 6 pounds, boneless, and nary fraction shy of utter succulence. This photo was snapped near the end of the cook, and my oh my, take a look at that bark. Glory be!

Bark. It’s what every pit jockey secretly strives for. That hallowed offspring of seasoning and smoke, and of heat and meat. The magical effects of bark cannot be understated, nor I think, adequately even explained. Just trust us when we say, you want bark. Yes, to the uninitiated, it might resemble something more of a meteorite that landed in your back yard. Likewise, lift the lid of the pit housing a well-barked butt, and the newbies about will at once moan your name in vain, declaring it a grievous loss. This is common place. You always have to reassure them that it’s alright. It’s just bark.

When you pull your pulled pork, which is usually appropriate anywhere from 195 to 203 internal, you always want to evenly distribute plenty of bark amongst the meat. The best pulled pork sandwiches have a little bark in every bite. And we have found if you foil your butts like many pit masters like to do, that the practice can sometimes lend to a lesser bark. So if you want a robust bark, let your pork shoulder ride “nekkid” the whole way. That’s just our opinion, but it seems to be the case.

Another tip for good bark is to use a mustard slather first thing, before you apply your rub. The mustard acts purely as an adhesive agent for your spices. The more rub you can get to stick, the better the bark. And no, the mustard flavor will not register on your tongue. I don’t know why, nor do I try to analyze it. It’s just one of the enduring mysteries of the BBQ Arts. Our rub we used this smoke, Maynards Memphis Rub, was from the kindly spice wizards at Miners Mix. We’ve used it on a lot of stuff now, and pork may be it’s strongest suit. Man! Very tasty! Oh, and our smoke wood this time was hickory and apple.

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After letting the meat rest, whilst tented in aluminum foil, we pulled the tender and most succulent pork muscles into savory tendrils of perfectly smoked pork. Mixing that all important bark in through-out the sandwich. This is authentic BBQ, people. The real thing. I’m sorry, but your all-beef wieners will just have to take a back seat today. That’s just how it goes.

Before We Devour

I try to give thanks to the Good Lord more at meals these days. Just because. Because it’s the right thing to do, I suppose. Thanks for family, and for health, and for good food, like slow-smoked, pulled pork sandwiches. Not to mention just the privilege of just getting to BBQ in the first place, in a country that is free to do such things. Indeed, much to be thankful for. And as I cast a glance out the patio door , and see the smoker out there still curling faint, blue, wisps of smoke, I cannot help to but to give thanks also for the military men and women who have served, and still serve our country. You will always be our heroes. And always have our respect. And I think of the American flag flying stoically atop Mt. Moriah, and the beautiful fragrance of the lilacs which bloom there. Amen.

 

 

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.

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