Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog

Cooking

How To Winterize A Minnesotan: Home Made Chicken Noodle Soup

IMG_20131103_115219[1]

Here in Minnesota, when the weather starts to turn, and the temperatures fall to subzero levels, we the faithful remnant, who call Minnesota our home, have to partake in an annual ritual known as, “winterizing the house“. Now when winterizing the house, we do such things as adding more insulation in the attic to prevent any heat from escaping. We blow out sprinkler lines and insulate outdoor water faucets to prevent water freezing in the lines and bursting pipes. Some people do the bare minimum to winterize a house and other folks go a few extra steps towards convincing victory, under the flag of reason – better to be safe than sorry.

We Patrons must also do the same in preparation for Minnesota’s wintry grilling season. As the temperatures drop and our bodies begin to acclimatize, we also must take the proper steps so we don’t lose that much coveted heat, or even worse…our pipes bursting. Now some Minnesotans do the bare minimum to prepare themselves for the winter months, but we Patrons of the Pit, we  will always take a few extra steps because as mentioned earlier, it is better to be safe rather than sorry. We think so anyways.

Here at the Pit the proper attire for keeping cozy in the frozen out-of-doors is like second nature. For we are both fans of winter camping and so long johns, hats, gloves and even our smoking jackets are never an understatement. We are a rare breed;  we take great delight in sitting beside our smoky pits, and as its chimney puffs away we might light up ones pipe and take in a good English tobacco. As the harsh winter winds slap sharp snowflakes across our face, we fill our trusted Stanley thermoses with our favorite hot drink, and sip away. As the temperature plummets past zero we begin to hug the hoods of our pits while a small camp fire may join us during a bitter cold smoking session, sharing in its efforts to keep us warm. Therefore, insulating the inside of our bodies after standing outside at our Pits during one of our famous blizzards is something we can always work on.  This weekend we started that process with Homemade Chicken Soup.

IMG_20131103_181628[1]

  • 1 (3 pound) whole chicken
  • 4 carrots, halved
  • 4 stalks celery, halved
  • 1 large onion, halved
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Water to cover
  • Salt, Pepper and Garlic Powder to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules (optional)
  • Desired amount of Egg Noodles
  • Desired amount of Wild Rice

Directions:
Put the chicken, carrots, celery, onion, in a large soup pot and cover with cold water. Heat and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken meat falls off of the bones (skim off foam every so often).

Take everything out of the pot. Strain the broth. Pick the meat off of the bones and chop the carrots, celery and onion. Season the broth with salt, pepper, chicken bouillon and Garlic Powder to taste, if desired. We added a can of Cream Of Chicken Soup to thicken the broth up a little. Return the chicken, carrots, celery and onion to the pot and stir together. At this time also add the noodles and wild rice. Cook until Noodles and Wild Rice become soft and serve.

There is nothing better than dumping hot soup down one’s gullet and bringing a sudden rush of warmth to our bodies, thus beginning the process of acclimatizing our bodies from the inside out.  Over the next few months, we might surprise the blog world with recipes for keeping one’s self warm and well insulated. So, let the process of winterizing begin.

20121220_163533

“Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite.”

Auguste Escoffier


Three Hour Pulled Pork Sandwiches

The smoke curled nicely from the old kettle grill, whilst the crispy cottonwood leaves scattered in the October breeze. Its cool today, IMG_0295half way between noon and supper time, and the heat off the pit sure feels good on my hands. The shadows are dropping swifter now, much quicker than those months ago and patron to the steamy days of summer. How the heat and humidity then seems but a distant vapor now, and also with the sun, which once dallied eternal in the sky. It is all gone now. And so we embrace a new season at the pit. A transitional season. And what better way to do that, than with some succulent, apple smoked, pulled pork sandwiches, POTP style of course. This one is a humdinger, folks. And here’s how to do it.

After a meeting with your local butcher, acquire your self a heaping mass of country-style ribs. These will be of the pork variety, and true to meat nomenclature standards, not ribs at all. What they really are is chunks of a pork butt, which of course isn’t from the hind end at all, but rather the shoulder. Anyways, this is the same section of pig where your pulled pork is created from. Country style ribs are just a small portion of that. And it is because of this,  that a three-hour pulled pork sandwich is even possible.

IMG_0293

Next, and whilst your cooker is coming up to speed, rinse off the meat under cold water for to irrigate any bone fragments stowaways possibly leftover from the band saw used to cut them. And then dust them liberally with your favorite pork rub. We tried out some Cajun Blast this time, so to pack a bit of spicy heat into our plunder, on this chill, autumn day. After a fashion, and a tip of the hat, take them out to the pit, properly stoked with coal and a small matter of smoke wood. We used apple wood for ours. But you can use what ever, and no, that doesn’t mean green treated two by fours!

IMG_0298

Using the old kettle grill, this isn’t exactly low and slow, tho we turned down the bottom dampers to anemic slits, governing the amount of oxygen coming in, thus dropping its temperature some. It all works out tho, as you will see. Place the pork opposite the hot coals, as in-direct as you can, then plunk on the lid and let it smoke for a couple of hours. Assume your standard pit side posture, feet up, manly beverage in hand, and muse over the curling smoke, racing cloud shadows, and darting tweety birds.  After two hours of this most agreeable pastime, foil the meat with a half cup or two of your favorite beverage or juice, and put it back over indirect heat. This step is where the magic happens.

For the next hour, your meat will be in the likes of an expensive health spa, pampered, and loved in an all-inclusive steam bath. This step is often used on ribs or briskets, and works wonders here too. This is where the collagen breaks down and good things happen. Where elegance ingratiates meat. And it is a glorious thing. Check in on it after a spell, after about an hour or so. It is done when the meat pulls easily with but a twist of the aluminum tong.

Take the meat out of the foil for the final step, and put it back on the grill. Now is the time to varnish it up with your very favorite BBQ sauce. The final brush strokes, if you will,  to your Picasso in Pork. Man! Can you smell it yet?

As a matter of course, we toasted up some lightly buttered kaiser rolls over the remaining coals, and assembled a proper, man-sized sandwich shortly there after. You will never regret toasting your buns people. It’s just the right thing to do. Especially on frigid evenings around the pit, where the wood smoke gently rises. Amen.

IMG_0309

Three Hour, Apple Smoked, Pulled Pork Sandwiches. Tasty bark, deep smoke ring. Oh buddy. You getting hungry now!  So next time you are in the mood for some savory pulled pork, but don’t have all day to smoke a big butt, try this little number. It’s good! A sandwich sure to please the ravaging stomach and the clock alike.

People who read this might also like Country Style Rib Sandwiches


How To Pacify Your Man: New York Strip Steak!

Nothing is quite so fine on a brisk Autumn’s eve, than the primal sizzle of two, portly New York Strip steaks over a beautiful bed of coals.  By IMG_0159golly it sets a man straight it does, this the protein-rich pacifier that is called steak. We love it. In point of fact, if you ever want to shut a man up, slap a steak in front of him, and watch how he instantly transforms, suckling up to the beast in kind affection, whilst the rest of his worldly cares are at once erased. Oh it’s true. Reminiscent of those Hollywood scenarios, where felons or good guys alike are on the run, chased by ravaging canines, darting through city streets and over back yard fences. Then they stop, hark, they have a raw steak in their knapsack don’t you know, of which they promptly toss in the path of their fanged pursuer. And in a flip of a heart beat, the drooling beast has a moral dilemma on his hands, of which and of course, he promptly caves to.

Over direct heat, I flipped the two strip steaks, both lightly seasoned in garlic and onion salt. Gray clouds rolled nonchalantly overhead whilst the tweety birds swooped in and out of the thickets.  Now the New York Strip is the same cut as the Kansas City Strip. I know, you weren’t wondering that, but it is. But to you folks over seas, you’ll probably recognize the cut as a club steak. And if you’re really off the bell curve, like in Australia, you’ll just call it a boneless sirloin and be done with it altogether.  Who ever is in charge of meat nomenclature has way too much authority, and fun. Regardless of what you call it tho, it is harvested from the short loin, which is a pleasantly abiding muscle of real estate, not only for the cow, but our supper plates as well. The short loin is kind of a lazy muscle, you see, and doesn’t do much work, and there fore is particularly tender.  A fact which also makes it particularly suited for it’s inevitable destiny with our pits. Lazy meat is good for something after all.

IMG_0165

After a fashion, I tossed some hickory wood on the coals for to infuse some of that smokey goodness into the steaks, and tucked them in-direct for a little bit, just because. Then placed the lid on and let it do its thing whilst I did mine. I never grow weary of this portion of a cook out. That hallowed parcel of time in which it is acceptable, nay, proper even, to take up residence in my favorite man chair, and while away a few minutes doing nothing at all. Kind of like a short loin, go figure. Often times my bride will slide open the patio door and see me sitting there , shrouded in clouds of smoke, contemplating the curvature of my belly.  Tho she does not completely understand it, she knows I am in my own space, and politely sidles off, closing the door behind her.

Whence our steaks were of acceptable firmness to the tong, I plated-up and sided the beautiful cuts with some garlic mashed potatoes and a lovely vegetable melody for to please the little lady.

Lets eat this like a man tonight” I bellowed.

Hows that?” she countered “Sans utensils?

Well no, on the couch of course“, I yammered”In front of the TV!”

We promptly inhaled our plunder like an alligator to a bull frog dipped in gravy. Or something like that. Or at least one of us did. And whilst the pretty pictures flashed on the TV, and the steaks settled into our guts, I found great contentment indeed, and heavy eye lids, in the primal glow of post-gorging. My bride glanced my way and it seems I was chin-down, contemplating my belly again. She sweetly removed a plop of mash potatoes off my chest, trying not to squelch my steak-induce mojo.  She knew, as surely as she knew anything, that her man was pacified. That he was content indeed. And that a big steak, perfectly grilled,  may have played a part in it. Amen.

IMG_0171

New York Strip Steak hot off the grill. Oh buddy! Next time you need to pacify your man, considerable the venerable strip steak. It works. Side effects may include protracted belly contemplation.


The Juicy Lucy : A Minnesota Original

A golden sun waned over the house tops, casting long shadows across the green grass, whilst I banked a chimney full of coals to the side of the oldgoose in formation kettle grill. A delightfully cool breeze mingled through the pit-side Spruce and Cottonwood, and the heat from the fire, oddly enough, felt good for once. Tho you wouldn’t think from looking around, one sort of might get the sense that summer might be fading slightly. The sun, that precious, glowing orb aloft,  sure was a lot lower at supper time now, much lower than it was a couple of months ago. And darkness swallows the land earlier these days, when once we were still strutting up the 7th fairway, lovely beverage in hand, and basking in the warm, bright light there. And what about this breeze that felt so cool.  And the frequent fly overs of the Canadian geese, honking proudly on the wing. Something shifts amid us. Something elemental. Diurnal rhythms and little children afoot with colorful school packs. In Minnesota, we call this Autumn, or, the end of summer. And it is a glorious time to be alive. And even a better time in which to grill something edible.

Come with us, won’t you…To the pit, and let us show you what’s for supper.

We Patrons of the Pit, least wise we two blokes who offer forth this stuff, well, were from Minnesota. A place, don’t you know, of significant contribution to the betterment of man kind. For example, masking tape was invented in Minnesota. So was the roller blade. And if you’ve ever spent a winter up here, you’d also appreciate that we invented the one-piece long underwear get-up better known as the union suit. Later modified for that all-important “flap in the back“. Glory be, the game of Twister and the Breathe Right nasal strip, also, material spawn of Minnesota.  All good things, I think. But our personal favorite invention, and monument to food technology, has to be the venerable, Juicy Lucy.

The Juicy Lucy. Man. If you’ve never had occasion, lets just say that a closer marriage between meat and cheese, you will not soon divine. It’s rather simple, if not brilliant. Done proper, these hamburgers have residing inside them a copious pocket of molten cheese. Yes, cheese swaddled in meat. Every man’s caloric ideal. So pop your cholesterol pills as we continue on in our burger series, and take yourself a closer look at this Minnesota original.

 

afterfocus_1378166002441_edit0

Prep is easy. Easy as wrapping ground beef around a hunk of cheese. You can use any cheese you’d like too. We used Velveeta, which we admit, ain’t cheese. But it was all we had on hand, and besides, it melts like an iceberg in the Gobi desert. So wrap your ground beef, or baring that, if you’re the wife of a deer slayer, ground venison, around a commendable wad of your favorite cheese, and form it into a patty suitable to thee. Season it lightly, and make way for the grill. We seasoned ours today, with Lipton Onion Soup Mix, because it’s not just for soup you know. Proceed to ply your grill craft with great effect, and do hence what you were born to do.

We tossed on an onion for good measure. We like onions at the pit, and they are elementary to do.  One small onion was ample for this cook. Peeled and set over direct heat. Rolled about like an unsinkable pool ball. Whence the outer layers become tender, they will peel off with great ease, at the pinch of a tong, into gastronomic, smokey-tinted  petals that which shall adorn your monolith of meat. Graced with cheese. And patron to the pit. Man!

And of course, we toasted the buns.

afterfocus_1378165881914_edit0

The Juicy Lucy. A taste of Minnesota. And sure to win over your belly, where the wood smoke rises, and the seasons gently ebb. Amen.

*Note to our fellow patrons, who look forward to our weekly smattering of meat and prose. We will be on vacation next week, and unless the meat gods intervene, there shall be no post to speak of. We thank you for your on-going patronage, and may your grills and lives be active and full. 

Cheerio

-POTP


How to Smoke Your Cheese: The Art of Cold Smoking

Delving into the smokey arts with any degree of abandon, sooner or later you’re likely going to find yourself with a 20130723_180544_edit0sincere desire to smoke something peculiar.  Oh its starts innocently enough with the usual gamut of savory meats. But before you know it, and if you’re not careful, you may catch yourself trying to smoke such oddities as vegetables, fruits, and even nuts. And in the back of your mind, where brain thrusts often copulate, you no doubt will have the curious yet lingering urge to set smoke to your favorite block of cheese. No worries. Such thoughts are common place among the brotherhood of the pit, and not soon to be ashamed of. Indeed, fret not, for this is the pleasurable bane of many a pit keeper, of whom’s patron plumes of mesquite and smoldering apple are not just for meat alone, but a bevy of nourishment to that which benefits from the aromas abiding in the  soft, tendrils of rising wood smoke. But then you ask yourself, because you’re a learned mind, how might I smoke thy cheese and not melt it all to copious goo? Good question. And luckily, it’s all been figured out for you. Its called cold smoking.  And here is how you do it.

20130723_175339_edit0

Cold smoking is not what you see nervous blokes on their lunch breaks doing, out the office back door on blustery, winter afternoons. No, cold smoking is more fun than that. It’s the rather unique condition in the BBQ experience where wood smoke fairly bellows from your cooker, but if you were to lay your finger to it, it would be quite cool to the touch. Because it is. Cold smoking done proper, you see, does not exceed 90 degrees, and sometimes, it’s even less than that. Most cheese begins to sweat at around 95 degrees, so if you can keep the heat lower than that, you will be doing well for yourself. The winter months are clearly then the prized slots on the calendar year. How one gets good smoke without the heat is often times accomplished by building a very little fire in your smoker, like 3 or 4 briquettes, and setting some wood chips on it to smoke. It can be a fickle experience,  hard to regulate, and fleeting perhaps, but cold smoke can in fact be had. Or you could spend hundreds of dollars on some apparatus designed for the legion of pellet grills out there. Or, if you are a tinkerer, by golly, you could make a cold smoker out of various odds and ends laying about the homestead. We were not much in the mood to screw around, however, and just used our A-MAZE-N cold smoke generator instead, generously filled with their own pit master proprietary pellets. Simply light one corner of the little contraption, and the pellets burn like a fuse, following the maze as it goes. And a cold and wondrous smoke bellows forth.

20130723_194929_edit0

In the big Weber Smokey Mountain, deep in the recesses of its enormous fire bowl, we placed the lit smoke generator, paying keen attention that it was receiving adequate airflow there. It puffed away contentedly, like an old steamship sidling out to sea.  We then put a block of medium cheddar on the top grate, gently placed the lid on, and settled in for a wee bit of smoke watching. Cold or not, watching smoke curl is something that comes disturbingly easy to a patron of the pit. We are at once smitten for the ambiance. Drawing a lovely beverage, and taking up residence in the BBQ chair, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure. Glory be, but this the speed of life worth living! Clouds aloft like soft, white, pillow innards, drifting across a beautiful, blue sky, whilst a woodsy, aromatic smoke idles up out of the cold, enameled pit.  The green leaves of the Cottonwood trees murmur in the soft wind, kissed by golden sunbeams cast from on high. And of course, the token family of Canadian geese which milled about on the lawn, like geese do, pecking through the steely, green blades there. They seemed equally as content as I, with the high rigors of cold smoking a hunk of cheese. Maybe even more so, in point of fact. And we both went about our business there, engaging the day, whilst the smoke gently curled.

After a couple of hours, all of which were sufficient for my pit-side loitering, I closed up the outdoor kitchen for the day. Bidding a farewell to the geese which still loitered in the cool grass. As I motioned inside the house, a pleasant aroma of lightly smoked cheese tarried with me. I swaddled the block in plastic wrap. Smoked cheese benefits from a long rest in the fridge, they say,  sealed in plastic. Giving it time to do what ever it is cheese does after encountering smoke. That might be so, but let it be said, it also tasted mighty fine later that night, sliced, and in the good company of a few of your favorite crackers. Amen.

20130726_203254_edit0

So next time you’re looking for a something different off the grill, or a good holiday treat, try cold smoking yourself up a block of your favorite cheese. The company of geese recommended, but optional.

*Here are a couple of amazon links for the two products we used today. The Weber Smokey Mountain, and the Amazen pellet smoker. Both top notch equipage that we’re proud to endorse. We are an amazon affiliate for these products, so if you purchase either, it helps fund this site a little. Thank you very much for your continued support! 

Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-Inch Charcoal Smoker, Black

A-MAZE-N Amazen Pellet Smoker with Pitmasters Choice Pellets, 5″ L x 8″ W


Out With The Cold….In With The SPRING!!

PhotoGrid_1366982327230This winter in Minnesota was a very long, drawn out winter. A winter where we thought for moment our region of the United States by chance had entered into a new Ice Age. We had a few glimmers of hope, but as soon as we saw fresh grass…… FRUMP!, We were again snowed on. Though we Patrons are tolerable with utilizing out our pits all year long we find Spring to be a sigh of fresh air. Don’t take us wrong, wiping snow off of our pit covers and removing our gloves to light a chimney full of coal is just the way of the bbq force out here. We know that for 5 to 6 months of the year removing our boots and putting them back on to maintain the pit is an expected part of the bbq process. HARK! We are now ready for the luxury of flinging off the flip flops and melting into our favorite patio chair with a cold beverage in hand, whilst sitting next to our hot smoky pits. AH yes, to sit downwind so that the cool breezes can blow the pit smoke directly into our paths becomes a fantasy while sitting in a cubical during our weekly rotating responsibilities. The time has come when we can rightfully say goodbye to a season that I can comfortably say had overstayed its welcome. I love winter and I love snow, but it is that time I welcome Spring.

Grill on – POTP


Well I’ll be dipped… The Dip Lady!

Capture

A month ago I took a small trip with my Bride to the beautiful state of Arizona. Our plans down there were to visit Grandma and Grandpa who like other retired Minnesota snow-birds, flocked down to the warmer regions of the US to nest under the hot sun. Now I must say I’m not one for very touristy type places. When I go to a place like Arizona, I would rather play cowboy and wander on some lonely desert trails or drive through the back roads into the mountains seeking the perfect picture amid the landscape. I don’t mind trying recommended restaurants, or puttering around a historical museum. Heck, even an over populated ghost town is cool sometimes. I’m just not one for highly populated tourist towns with overpriced shops. Well, the first day I was there I had no choice. My Wife, along with Grandma and Grandpa, dragged me to the Mesa Swap Meet. I heard that the Mesa Swap Meet was large enough to not only populate a small city; it also got you real acquainted with the brand of deodorant the person next to you was wearing, if any. To say the least, it was packed and it was only 10 am.

IMG_0736

Upon wandering around the many aisles of the swap meet, looking at cheap toys, overpriced candy, and art, you will also find yourself being given a sample of other people’s homemade culinary creations. I had everything from jalapeno flavored popcorn, salsas and dried fruits of every kind. Though there was one booth that stuck out to me, The Dip Lady. Along with her big yellow sign, her friendly smile was enough to invite you in and try out her many creations of dip. With a handful of pretzels, I made my way around her booth trying out her homemade creations. The Dip lady is very creative with not only the way she names her dips, but with the variety of dips she offers. I tried everything from Pete’s Parmesan Peppercorn to Homicide Habanero. She also offered some fruity dips such as Pineapple Passion and Janet’s Apple Cinnamon. There was not a dip on her table of samples I didn’t like. I didn’t want to leave! I told my Wife and Grandma to just leave me there for the day.

pparm

Pete’s Parmesan Peppercorn


Well, I hung around The Dip Lady long enough I figured it was time for me to purchase something. Not only were the dips very tasty, the price was right too. I walked away with four flavors for only $10. You can’t beat that!

 

 

 

ppfd1

Pineapple Passion

 

 

Needless to say, I’m not just a fan, but I am a returning customer. If you are in Arizona for vacation, stop by the Mesa Swap Meet and visit The Dip Lady. Try a few or all of the samples. If you are not able to make it to Arizona soon, you can order some of her famous dips at www.diplady.com. A great snack while sitting out on your grilling patio next to a smokey pit!

Thanks Carla!


It’s the Simple Things In Life…

Sometimes life should stay simple. Though us Patrons enjoy working hard at making culinary masterpieces over a flame, we don’t always have the time to do so. Surprised you might be to the fact that we also work full-time jobs. Though we may post many things on here throughout the week, it’s not because we stay at home grilling and smoking meats all day, tho there are days where we wish we could do so. Days when the flirtatious considerations of leaving the trustworthy 9 to 5 and becoming a full-time food artist dance across the brainwaves of our minds. We sit back in our desk chair, stomachs groaning, while the pondering issues related to our work trade gather in the background. We exhale a sigh, because all we want to do is fill a coal chimney, stuff it with newspaper and light it with a flame. Then of course, reality strikes, and we can’t. We eat a granola bar to cater to grumbles of the stomach and press on until the whistle blows. During the winter when the sunlight is less than your blessed summer nights; we like most of you out there need to keep meals simple. A brat, corn and baked beans are one of the most intelligible meals you can get. So simple that the only spice I used was cracked pepper over the beans. It may be simple, but it hits the spot…always. In closing, cheers to those who work real jobs, a full eight-hour shift that allows little glimpse of sunlight. To those who need to think of something fast, remember there is always hot dogs, brats, corn and peppered baked beans. Grill On – POTP

IMG_20130212_095411

It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.  – Laura Ingalls Wilder 

 


Pit Side Mornings

I’m a morning person. I like getting up before most people and listen to the weather outside. I enjoy sitting here quietly and contemplating life. The folk music on in the background and the tea kettle announces its finished with its end of the job. I hold my bowl of raisin cookie oatmeal close to my chest taking in and enjoy every bite. Sipping my hazelnut coffee I feel blessed, content with what my maker has shown me. It’s days like this when you know it’s going to be a very good day.

20130210-093524.jpg

We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Hebrews 6:11, 12 NIV)


Winter’s Ambition…and mine too.

Why is it when us Patrons of the Pit become giddy as a kid on Christmas when we know a snow storm is in our forecast? Why is it we contemplate our next meat choice in the grocery store as the weatherman predicts a cold and heavy snow. Why do we bundle up and head out into the tundra as we know the rest of the world stays inside? As the winter wonderlands blow across our patios we hold our tongs in hand waiting to add another chunk of hickory to the flame. Our neighbors gaze out the window and question what we are up to next. Our wives sip hot coco and smile knowing that they will get a meal out of our insane obsessions. While the whole time we sit in peace. As snowflakes falling on our stocking hats and ice crystals collect on our whiskers. We breathe in and out, taking in as much of the aromatic mixture of smoke, meat and spice rubs. It’s natural…it’s poetic.

Yes, to all of those affected by the storm this weekend. Let your grill smoke away. Let your meat slowly fall apart on the hot grate, when only 1/16th of an inch away, Winter hammers the lid of your smoker with its fierce cold. When you sit at your dinner table, fork in hand and BBQ sauce in the other, smile at your accomplishments. Laugh at yourself knowing you have performed an act that most people in their right mind never would. Then eat!

2012-03-04 17.42.31In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy. – William Blake


image


Here and There: The Smoke That Binds Things

two island panorama

Image04012011191624

Way up yonder, on the northern tiers of Minnesota, we often press a tent stake patron to some pretty places here and there. Places of exquisite beauty, where the waters run clearly, and the breezes taste sweet, sifted through the fragrant pines.  My fellow patron and I routinely visit these locales, if not even for but one day. One day to inhale that pure, unpretentious air, and to absorb a rarefied tranquility lost, but not forgotten, in the ever-whirling cog of society. Indeed, we fancy to strike off for the wilder places just as often as we can, for to live simply, and abandon all tension there. For we are at home in the woods, by and by, and love to tarry fire-side amid the whispering pines.

Putterers by nature, we are content for hours on end it seems to cook exotic camp food over smoldering coals, repair in our chairs, and simply watch the smoke rise unto the standing pines. To tell story, and play song,  whilst dotingly poking at the fire. Bannocks baking in blackened skillets, chickadees flirting, and all the many phone calls at once escaped in our own personal, wilderness sanctum. Oh the places, the beautiful places, that we have loitered in, here and there.

Campfires of Birch and Balsam often flicker in camp, as the lake serenely laps upon our shore, and the Savory_Ribs_edit0stately pines sway gently in the breeze, like a thousand and one fly rods, nay, make that a thousand and two. Oh how we love to cook over the open flame in these places, to ply our craft, turning our spoils into shore lunch. The stars, the moon, the forest glade, we love it all, even the smoke in our face! And here is the thing I have noticed, and maybe some of you have to; every time back home when we thus light the grill, and we smell that campfire-like smoke lofting towards the heavens, are we not at once, and irrevocably so, reminiscent, and smitten deeply for these places. Because smell is at once patron to memories, and memories thus flood back of those quiet campsites nestled aside shimmering waters. And for a moment,  we can taste again the simple life we had once aspired to there. Because here it is again, deep in an urban sprawl, working over this old kettle grill;  and there are blackened skillets, and chickadees even, and the sweet fusion of memories gently forged, both here and there, over the swiftly ebbing seasons, and the smoke which curled there.  Amen.


The Super Bowl: No lights out on my BBQ!

afterfocus_1359991161859 The Super Bowl, a game that draws crowds together in front of TV’s across America. To bring families and friends together and carry on with banter of who might win the big game and discuss what their team should have done better that season. All while eating sloppy barbecued cuisines that make us men proud because we spent that afternoon over an open flame, a cloud of smoke and a bed of ash. Some areas of the country under a warm sun, in my part of the country it was spent in a warm winter jacket.

Though Kick Off might have started for most at prime time, it started for me around 12:30. A last-minute Super Bowl party was set in place and so I had to pull out all the last-minute calls. I had to be picky with the plays I was going to make and how I was running the ball, for I had only four and a half hours to come up with a menu. Game on!

My day started off with cutting chicken breasts into chicken tenders and giving them an hour bath in apple cider vinegar and apple juice. During that time I gathered my ingredients for the Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce. BOOM… 1:30 exactly and my coals were nice and hot. Into the smoker they went, water pan filled and lid closed to heat up to the blessed 250 degrees. Back inside to prepare the North Carolina Coleslaw, a recipe from Steven Raichlen BBQ bible cook book. Hark, the clock hit 2 pm, 3 hours until my door bell starts to ring, chicken now hits the grill. The chicken was dusted with Grill Mates Apple Rub and was blasted with a heavy dose of mesquite wood smoke. The chimney of the smoker quickly puffed with a thick bellow of smoke and as the smoke rose, the snow quietly began to descend with big flakes turning my pit into the scene from a snow globe. AHHH…2:30, as much as I want to sit outside in my backyard wonderland, I’m on a time crunch and I have people to cook for.

The Carolina Mustard Sauce was fun to cook. I like doing sauces because I’m a sort of mad scientist when reading recipes. I rarely stick to the main recipe, and though I can’t take credit for the idea, I’ll post how I made it.

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Ballpark Yellow Mustard
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup distilled white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup of orange organic blossom honey
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea) to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of apple juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon of horseradish

Bring to a simmer, turn to a low heat and let it simmer for about 5 min. Take it off the heat a settle until room temperature. This will last about 2 weeks in the fridge. Your house will become overwhelmed with the scent of mustard, but the taste is worth is. This one is great over pulled chicken and a great baste for ribs.

OH MAN…3:35, time to take the chicken off the smoke and put in a tin foil pan to speed up the cooking process. It’s a nice trick for doing pulled chicken in a crunch. After putting the chick in the pan, I gave it another splash of apple juice.

Clock check…3:45, Time for the slaw. Whisk in a large bowl mix…

  • 1/3 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar (I used apple Cider vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 5 tablespoons of mayo
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

To speed things up I used pre-shredded cabbage, carrots and other junk for the slaw. Once everything is whisked together, pour it over the cabbage mix. Stir and chill.

Star Date 4:15…45 minutes until the doorbell goes nuts. Time to make the Caramel Fudge Sea Salt brownies! Ok, I will admit, I’m not good at baking. I won’t pretend either for the blogs sake. I went to the store, bought a box of mix, added eggs, oil and water and baked it as directed.

5pm and the brownies are pulled out of the oven. Let them cool for whatever time you want, pour on caramel and sprinkle on your desired amount of Sea Salt. I tend to be generous with it. It’s an amazing combination if you have never tried it.afterfocus_1359991423482

5:15 took the chicken off the smoker and began to pull. I poured out some of the greasy fat juice and replaced with more apple juice. Last, I finished it off with a good dusting of the Grill Mates Apple Rub.afterfocus_1359991244170

5:30…DING DONG… company arrived late. WHEW!

Though, I was a little bummed at the outcome of the game, MY game was on for the day. When everyone dove into the food that I had made, I felt that I chose the right plays. That’s right, I ran the ball at the exact time I needed too and the outcome was a victorious culinary win. I can only hope the rest of you enjoyed your day and evening as much as I did.afterfocus_1359991329969

Please, share any of your game day creations. We would love to hear!


Bean Muck!

MUCK       /mək/

Noun

Dirt, rubbish, or waste matter.

Dirt….Rubbish….Waste Matter?? I’m slightly appalled at this definition of the word “muck”! Bean Muck is far from that. Though, the effect of eating too much of it could leave you feeling mucky, the dish itself is at best genius. Let me explain.

There was a time, a few years back, my Patron and I were up in the Northern bearings of the SHT. No, this is not a misspell for a foul word, it’s simply an acronym of the Superior Hiking Trail. The Superior Hiking trail is a footpath that extends the northeastern ridge line of Lake Superior for about 275 miles. It’s decorated with pine, birch, aspen, fir and cedar. On occasion you will hear the chickadees sing, the squirrels squawk and the lonely wolf howl. The breeze whistles through the pines in an airy lullaby at night, and you can get lost for days without running into your own species. Back to my point… It was the end of September, early October, and we had the itch to get out alone into the woods. Had a name for our trip, and we decided on the selfish title of Camp Glutton. We title our small adventure because we realized we had enough food to feed ourselves along with 10 other hikers that might cross our trail. So there we sat, 3 long, relaxing days cooking over a campfire. The air in our camp was thick with the odors of brats, steaks, a couple of loaves of French Bannock (story to come) and onion. My patron and I rarely go anywhere without a fresh onion. We cooked eggs for breakfast and soups for lunch. We often retreated to our camping chair and hammock, our guts full and domed high to the heavens waiting for the next round of meals.

IMG_20130123_215155

We had made it to our last day of camp. Waking up as the sun hits our tents, stretching to the skies and hungry as bears out of hibernation.  We knew we didn’t want to leave camp with food still in our packs so we got creative. I had one large can of Baked Beans and a couple of Apple Gouda brats left. My Patron pulled out of his pack an entire onion. We decided to get creative. So, over the fire the brats went. The onion diced up into small squares and the beans simmering over the flames in the pit. Once all three were done, they all ended up in the same pot. There is nothing pretty or attractive about this dish. There is no right or wrong way of making it. Why in Bean Muck you can add really whatever you want. Its Bean muck! We have flirted with the flavors of peppers, spices, honey, syrup, ground beef, and rabbit meat. There is only one key ingredient that one needs to start with and I’m sure you figured it out by now, a can of beans.

Now, the POTP cannot take credit for inventing Bean Muck. We are sure many of you others out there have been creative with your own can of beans. So let us know what some delicacies you have added to your Bean Muck. Share your secrets and lets prove that muck isn’t always dirt, rubbish or waste matter.

**WARNING** When experimenting with Bean muck make sure it’s on a weekend when you’re not around loved ones. If you do, you may find life can be lonely for a week or two. Carry on…