Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog

Apple Smoked Chicken Thighs and Bacon Cheddar Potatoes

Vacation was good. Romping about the Montana mountains with elder brother, in a dusty, old Jeep.  Pitching encampments aside gin-clear trout streams, and beneath aromatic pines. Morning views of frosted ramparts thrusting high into a wild, Montana sky. Days of misty mountain majesty. Rains drops on pine needles. And wily rainbow trout at the end of thin tippets. These are but the days we will remember. Where the mountains did rise, our souls soared, and the rivers ran below it.


I remember them indeed. A thousand miles and seven days later, I remember. And as I bank the coals to the back of the old kettle grill this evening, looking upon the familiar scene patron to the home patio, I recall the natural splendor our eyes beheld amid the beautiful contours of Montana. “God gave us memories“, I once heard, “So we could have roses in December“.  I am smitten for the flowers. I tossed on a cup cake-sized chunk of apple wood, directly on the coals.  The heat felt good on my hands, as I pondered some more my recent trip afield. The memories we come back with, I thunk,  are why we go on a trip in the first place. This is why we take pictures and write things down in our note books – to remember.


Anyways, to the business of supper. As the amber shafts of sunlight struck against the Cottonwoods,  I plunked down two chicken thighs over in-direct heat, seasoned very simply in smoked garlic salt. Salt that I cold smoked earlier this summer, amid tweety birds and lofty ambition, and tucked away for further use. Today was the day. Also wrapped up in foil, we have a humdinger. Several potatoes, diced to uniform thickness, patted with a little butter, some salt and pepper. A few manly pinches of shredded cheddar cheese, and of course every one’s meat fantasy, bacon, chopped and scattered amid the spuds, like ambassadors to the cholesterol gods.  All this wrapped tight in a pocket of aluminum foil, and set over direct heat for to come of age, and to its destiny according to my belly.

I put on the black-enameled lid, tweaked the damper, and the smoke of apple wood almost immediately began to curl. A smile lit over my face. Any pit master proper aspires for this portion of the cook. This glorious string of moments where meat is sizzling, and smoke is rising. There is harmony and well-being and contentment in the fellowship of the coals. And you sit back in your BBQ chair, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, manly beverage at hand, and you simply survey your kingdom as it were. The angle of the sun, the banter of the birds, the wake of the muskrat propelling across the pond. I think half the reason people grill in the first place is to be out-of-doors. To bask in the inherent beauty patron to the pit.


Lifting the lid to check in on the plunder, the thighs have taken on a beautiful golden-brown color, wrought from the wages of smoke and heat. I flipped them once right along with the foiled potatoes. And mercy it smelled good!

Pit Tip: If you are smoking meat and want to simultaneously cook a side that doesn’t so much abide with a smokey taste, like potatoes, you can never go too far wrong with foiling them. The foil blocks the smoke whilst preserving the seasonings you so lovingly dappled there. And the world and your tummy is a better place for having done so.  Tin foil and the pit keeper have a most understanding relationship.

The cheese in the foil married up kindly with the potatoes, sort of merging into them in a delightful, cheesy fusion. And the bacon basted the whole thing like only bacon can. Glory! Eating these potatoes, one sort of got the feeling he should check to make sure his health insurance premiums were up to date.  Anyways, when the thighs are done, and the spuds are soft to the touch, plate-up the ensemble and sally forth to your loved ones. Note how the savory aromas of deeds well done trail you in to the house, and how heads will  turn. Place the plate of steaming plunder on the counter, sprinkle on some more shredded cheese, and declare the supper bell hath rung. Mop up the drool as necessary.

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Apple Smoked Garlic Chicken Thighs and Bacon Cheddar Potatoes. Man! Not quite a trip to mountain folds of Montana, but still something I might just remember a while. Something to do with where the wood smoke rises, and the flowers that which gently bloom there. Amen.


38 responses

  1. Every post I read makes me more and more tempted to learn how to smoke meat!

    October 1, 2013 at 11:04 am

    • Cool. It’s real easy to do, Kate. As easy as laying a little wood on the coals, putting on the lid, and sitting back with your favorite beverage. Now anybody can do that!

      Take care,

      October 1, 2013 at 11:07 am

      • LOL – anyone who is patient enough for coals… I BBQ with gas. 🙂

        October 1, 2013 at 11:17 am

      • My condolences..

        Well they make little cast iron smoker boxes you can pick up at hardware stores. Just fill them with soaked chips and place it on your burner. Just an idea.

        October 1, 2013 at 11:19 am

      • That’s a great idea – a much easier commitment for me to make! Thanks!

        October 1, 2013 at 12:29 pm

  2. sarahfoto

    Oh man, you can’t post this before dinner!! Now whatever my hubby cooks for me tonight all I’m gonna think about is chicken n’bacon…

    October 1, 2013 at 11:05 am

    • Haha, sorry about that. Speak of your bacon and chicken needs to your hubby, bat your eyes, and who knows, maybe he will surprise thee!

      October 1, 2013 at 11:09 am

  3. Once upon a time when I was young and not a care int he world, I packed up my car and drove from NH to OR. That first picture reminds me of stopping along the Snake River in Idaho to fly fish in that crystal clear water. Amazing! Thanks fo rthe memory! And that food looks delish too!

    October 1, 2013 at 11:10 am

    • Nice story. Always a pleasure to stir another’s memory bank. Thanks for chiming in. Great comment!

      October 1, 2013 at 11:11 am

  4. Nick Trandahl

    Fantastic post, and it sounds delicious! I’m looking forward to a book from you gents!

    October 1, 2013 at 12:43 pm

  5. I could smell the memories wafting into the damp cold air. Nicely written. And soon, I too, will be looking for a cupcake sized piece of apple wood. Just so I can say the same. Cheers.

    October 1, 2013 at 1:30 pm

  6. Funny thing, WE just came back from a trip through parts of Montana as well!! ALOHA!

    October 1, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    • No kidding?! Very cool. Maybe we saw each other and nary even knew it.

      Thanks Auntiedoni!

      October 1, 2013 at 6:31 pm

  7. Liz

    Wooweeh! Love the combination of ingredients for the chicken. And yay, smoked salt!! It was marvelous, yes? Glad you got away and have such poetic memories 🙂

    Smoking Q: We’re having folks over for a smoking party: pork chops and salmon on menu. Any tips/tricks you have to share?

    Also re: glorious bacon. Made bacon jam for last week’s post. Thinking you would like bacon jam very much.

    October 1, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    • Bacon jam, man! I might have to make that too.

      Pork chops are cuts that sure seem to benefit from marination. Other meats, not so much, but pork it seems could use all the help we can give it. So I would soak them in your favorite marinade. And for smoke wood, just about any fruit tree is marvelous. Apple wood is ideal.

      As for the salmon, that would be the perfect occasion to use those planks you bought. Apple wood would work on that too. We have a hunk of salmon in the freezer that we’ll be smoking up soon. Going to brine it over night in a 50/50 mixture of salt and sugar. Maybe some other things too. Then smoke them over apple wood probably, cause well, that’s what I have on hand.

      Very cool. Thanks Liz!

      October 1, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      • Liz

        Thank you for coming through with most excellent tips! Yes to the plank 🙂

        October 2, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      • Your welcome. Yes indeed to the plank, especially when trying to procure something lovely for your guests. Planking is a very forgiving means of cooking meats over fire. You can nary screw it up if you are mindful to check in on it from time to time.

        You can do it Liz!

        October 2, 2013 at 2:03 pm

  8. i missed you guys. thanks for being back with just as much poetry as ever.

    you piqued my interest with your cold smoked salt comment. what did you smoke it with? i make my own bamboo-smoked sea salt (truly amazing with tempura or japanese-style yakitori), so i’m always curious about a new smoke salt recipe, especially one involving garlic.

    love those potatoes, too. i tend to go with scalloped taters with heavy cream, but i think we understand each other nicely. spuds + dairy + bacon and seasoning + foil wrap = majestic side dish.

    October 2, 2013 at 1:38 am

    • Misha, your words ring with truth!

      Loved the smoked garlic salt. I used a gadget called the A-MAZE-N cold smoke generator. It used Pit Master’s Choice pellets that came with it, which are a blend of hickory cherry and maple. The salt was just garlic salt, spread thinly over a paper plate. The smoke did the rest, as you know.

      We did a write-up on this cold smoker. If you haven’t read it yet, just click under the cold smoking page at the top of the screen. Or, if you’d rather go right to the manufactures website, here is their link –

      Your comments are always cool! You need to do more!

      Thanks Misha!

      October 2, 2013 at 8:43 am

  9. “Like ambassadors to the cholesterol gods.” That’s absolutely fantastic. If I wrote something like that, it would seem ridiculous. Yet you pull it off with poetic perfection. Well done indeed.

    October 2, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    • Thanks Duncan. Yeah, I don’t know how it all works. I just put down allot of words and hope a few of them work.

      October 2, 2013 at 2:01 pm

      • That sounds like a shotgun approach to me. I’ve always been a rifleman myself but it seems the shotgun approach is highly effective. You put down a lot of words but damn, they’re always on target!

        October 2, 2013 at 2:26 pm

      • Well, I guess I just aim at what I can hit!

        Sort of the same with taking pictures. I just snap allot in hopes one out of every hundred will be pretty.

        Writing however seems something that responds to practice. Like a muscle, it can either be improved or lost. So it helps to write every day, I’ve found out. It also rather helps to be in the zone. Some times I can acquire the zone by reading a good author, or listening to some music. Other times the zone is unavailable to me for months at time. Knowing this, when ever I do find myself in the zone, I generally write until I’m depleted. For it may be some time again before I’m back in such a groove again.

        Thanks Duncan. I love discoursing on the craft with others. Good times.

        October 2, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      • Agreed. I was just talking about “the zone” with my wife. I had played an acoustic rendition of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here and she commented that it was the best that she had heard me play or sing it. I then went on to discuss how sometimes you find a place where every note you sing or play is spot on and everything sounds great. When you have those times, it’s always best to play your heart out because they don’t happen every day.

        It’s the same with writing and painting. At times, every word or every brush stroke works perfectly and other times it’s a struggle to get a sentence right or simple tree painted.

        October 2, 2013 at 2:57 pm

  10. Reblogged this on Outdoor Living in New England and commented:
    Another simple, but dazzling idea for dinner

    October 2, 2013 at 2:49 pm

  11. Welcome home my Smokie Brutha … I was anxiously awaiting your return with baited breath, to learn of your Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery Expedition.
    Ahhh, … a trip to the Mountains is a trip down memory lane, for I was born in the Great Rocky Mountains of Western Canada. I close my eyes at night and see them still.
    Hark … my tummy’s growling … off to light the smoker !!
    Well done, … again 🙂

    October 2, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    • Wow, then you were born in the most beautiful spot on earth. I’ve had occasion to visit the Canadian Rockies before, to Banff and that area. I don’t think mine eyes have ever laid gaze on something more magnificent.

      You lucky schmuck!

      Grill on smokey brethren!

      October 2, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      • Ahhh yes, … Banff Alberta. Where the Elk wander down city streets and bellow at the locals (quite dangerous beasts actually). I thank you for the compliment “most beautiful place on earth” and … my native British Columbia is truly beautiful but … I have had the great pleasure to travel extensively (by motorcycle, … of course) throughout the US of A and you TOO have some of the most BEAUTIFUL geography on earth … Stay hungry friend.
        I hope one day we can meet and discuss such things as mountains’ majesty and … smokie things 🙂
        It would be my great honour.

        October 2, 2013 at 7:29 pm

  12. oh my goodness, we just finished dinner, my stomach is full and you made me hungry.
    Another great post 🙂

    October 2, 2013 at 5:17 pm

  13. Just found a source for free-range, processed chickens in Alice, Texas. Now, I’ve got somethin’ yummy to do with ’em. And the potatoes……Lawdy goodness! No such thing as too much cheese! Welcome back!

    October 8, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    • Hey hey Mrs Deer Slayer! Good to see you! Also good to hear you found yourself some proper chickens down yonder. Tho what would you really want with a lowly chicken when you have all the venison you can eat.

      Be well down there.


      October 8, 2013 at 3:05 pm

  14. I love, love, love this. And now I want to go camping. And smoke everything. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    October 29, 2013 at 11:23 pm

  15. oh man, this is a delicious blog!

    March 19, 2014 at 9:10 pm

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