Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog

Posts tagged “chicken

The Journey: BBQ Feasting with John, Paul, George and Ringo

FullSizeRender (2)They strutted across the road like little fuzzy superstars. Like John, Paul, George, and Ringo, with their big body guards fore and aft. Not a care in the world and just glad to be alive on this glorious spring day, doing what ever it is that goose do. This is a common sight this time of year at the Pond-Side Pit. Families of geese or ducks, wobbling about the place with an air of quiet entitlement. They own the place, and we who live here also, well, we just get out of their way. And we’re OK with that. John, he’s the little one in the front of the other little ones. He’s kind of the leader you might say, tho Paul right behind him is too, in his own right, and I suspect will go further in life. George is George, and Ringo, well, he likes to bring up the caboose and set the cadence of their daily walks. They’ll do this every day. Multiple times a day. That is in between their ritual swim in the pond, and rooting through the grass for the odd bug or what ever it is you eat when you’re a goose. Well, they can eat what ever they want, but I myself, I will be feasting proper like, over the pit of plenty today. Let’s head there now, shall we, and I’ll show you what’s cooking. And how it went and came to be. And no, it’s not goose!

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It’s chicken and ribs of course. The ribs were liberally seasoned with Miners Mix Memphis Rub, and the chicken was dusted over good with a rub called Poultry Perfection, again from the good folks at Miners Mix. They never ask us to mention them on this blog, but we can’t help it, and we’ll mention them anyways. They’re just that good. Every blend they come up with seems to be a winner. We’ve chatted with the owners on occasion, and my goodness the standards they set for themselves are indeed impressive. They said if they don’t absolutely love it, they just won’t sell it. Simple as that. Such passion resonates clear to the end game too, here at this humble patio, beside a pond, with geese milling through the cool grass. Thank you Miners Mix for setting your bar so lofty. We do appreciate you! Check them out at their website  www.minersmix.com

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Can you smell it??? No you cannot. This is a computer you goof ball! I promise you tho, it smelled good!

The Texas Crutch

IMG_2006Long about hour three into the smoke, we wrapped the ribs with a few pats of butter and some BBQ sauce. TIP: If your ribs are ever coming out tough and chewy, resembling characteristics like that of proteinaceous Naugahyde, you probably ought to try wrapping them in foil for a couple of hours. Pour in a little apple juice with them, or some sauce, beer, anything that will provide moisture, and just let it steam there in the foil. This is an event for your ribs, and they will love you for it. It’s like taking them to a meat spa to be pampered  and indulged there. In Texas they call this technique the crutch. Every where else we call it a good idea!

Fate of a Yard Bird

IMG_2007We let the chicken just go low and slow, bathed in a light hickory smoke for a few hours. Just long enough that it was almost falling apart. Bones would come loose with the slightest twist. This is what we we’re after, for the goal was to make some pulled chicken out of this yard bird! And whilst the ribs were finishing up in the foil, we went ahead and let the bird rest 15 minutes or so, then dug into it barehanded, and pulled it all to pieces for sandwiches later on. We also chopped  up bits of skin in there too, because we like that sort of thing. Man!

Let’s Eat!

With chicken and ribs thus procured over a soft hickory fire, and the waning light of another glorious spring day slanting in golden shafts over roof tops and through fluttering cottonwood leaves, I was at once pleased with my efforts at the pit this day. There was a temptation early on to grill only hamburgers or the simple bratwurst, but I’m glad I resisted. Glad I went with the longer smoke instead. For I do not take these moments pit-side for granted. And because it is pert near my favorite thing to do most days, I do find myself in advancing years relishing the journey of BBQ almost more than the BBQ itself. I like that some things in this world take a little time – like pulled chicken and ribs.  I like how such endeavors of patience press gently against the hour hand of life, and the pleasurable moments created there for to tarry in, kindred to our soul. That is how good things should come to be. There should be a journey involved. It ought to be earned. Like good BBQ. Raising a family of geese. And perhaps English rock bands. Amen.

 

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Slow hickory smoked pulled chicken smothered in Joe Joes Hogshack BlackBerry Sauce, sided with even more meat! Hickory smoked pork spare ribs seasoned in Miners Mix Maynards Memphis Rub. Man! Pardon me people, but I’m just going to have to eat this right in front of you.

 

 


Smoking Time and Temperatures

Every once in a while we like to do a guest post. Today is one of those times. Below is a chart and intro made up for us by Joe, at SmokedBBQSource. He’s developing a website full of resources useful to the BBQ community, and he has shared his latest efforts with us. I found this little chart of smoking times and temperatures to be an effective and handy reference, thus we humbly pass it along to the PotP readership for your kind perusal. Enjoy!

And thanks Joe!

-PotP



From Smoked BBQ Source:

You probably already know how important managing temperature is when you barbecue. You’ve got to closely monitor your smoker and make sure it stays within the right temperature range for hours at a time.

You’ve also got to know the right time to pull your meat off the smoker so you’re not left with a dry, overcooked mess.

While most meat can be smoked between 225 – 250°F, the best temperature to pull is going to vary a lot with what you’re cooking.

While there are no hard and fast rules, this visual, smoking time and temperature chart is a good resource to check before you fire up the smoker.

Just remember that it all comes down to your individual setup. Use this guide as a starting point, and then experiment to see what works best for you.

Here are a few other pieces of advice:

The smoking time suggestions as a very rough estimate: The problem with using hours / lb to estimate smoking time, is that the thickness and diameter of what your smoking is more important than the total weight.

There’s also a lot of other factors like humidity and how well insulted your smoker is that can effect total smoker time. Bottom line, always use a digital thermometer to determine when your food is ready.

There’s a big difference between ‘done’ and ‘ready to eat’: If you always pull your meat when it reaches a safe internal temp, you will be missing out on a world of flavor. In many cases you want to go well past the ‘recommended safe temperature’ as the collagen and fats continue to melt and make your meat even more juicy.

-smokedbbqsource



smoking chart


Soaking in the Heat: Spicy Chicken Quesadillas

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

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

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

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

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

These chaps also know how to Q! Here is a link to their blog if you feel so inclined. https://minersmix.wordpress.com/

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

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

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

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


One For The Birds: Italian BBQ Chicken Breasts

I like birds. From the pretty tweety birds that sing from the tree tops come evening sunbeams, to the bald eagles who soar with FullSizeRender (5)magnificent ease high on the thermals. From the mama Cardinal roosting in the alders, to the Black Capped Chickadee flirting in the spruce. And unto the eerie wail of the common loons on camping trips into the far northern places. I like birds. I fancy the ducks – those marvelous mallards and dashing drakes who court the shores of Pond Side Pit, who seem always in a good mood, even when it rains. There is just something about bird life that has fascinated me for many years. Something in the way they go about business, that has contented me. Then I ran into this feathered bloke on one of my strolls through a local river hamlet. I called him Ed.

Ed wasn’t the best looking of birds. But then when you’re a Blue Heron, you don’t exactly get invited to beauty contests. No, you make your living in kinder, gentler circles, usually at the water’s edge, and usually with a keen eye for supper on the fin. Ed and I must have sat together for a half hour at least there, river-side, just watching the world go by. It’s odd to see a creature with so much patience, or maybe it was laziness, I’m not sure. That must have been what he thought of me also.  But I didn’t care. I just admired his innate ability to loiter. If only birds could BBQ, this chap would be one of the best. Speaking of BBQ birds, do let me tell you about our last cook out. Grab yourself a lovely beverage and we’ll meet back at the pit, and tell you more about it, and how it went and came to be.

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No, these are not the breasts of a Blue Heron. These are the boneless versions of a nameless yard bird, or two, that I have never met. Sometimes I wonder if the previous owners of these once knew each other back in the day. Perhaps they were buddies who’d bandy together for a good morning’s cackle. Or maybe even enemies who would eat each others poop, cause that’s what chickens do, according to a Grandma I know. Regardless, they sure looked fine sizzling over the hot cast iron grate of my Weber kettle grill. Glory be, they smelled good enough to eat raw. I suspect that was because of the marinade.

The World’s Easiest Best Marinade

One part Italian dressing. 

One part your favorite BBQ sauce.

Like I said, simple. And nary have I ever seen it fail. Quite possibly the simplest one you’ll ever use. And the most fool-proof. It’s a rather popular one on the interweb right now, so we thought we’d give it a go. Anyways the notion is it let the meat marinate over night. Twenty and four hours is even better. Now I’ve heard places not to exceed four hours iffin your marinade has a high vinegar content, lest it morphs your chicken slightly rubbery as a result. But I guess the vinegar content of Italian dressing and Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce is not enough to awaken this anomaly. All I know is it works. And it works exceedingly well. No rubber chickens here.

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We chunked on the old, enameled lid, its handle soiled in the grease and smoke of a thousand cookouts. The draft soon engaged, and sweet tendrils of wood smoke curled freely into a pure, Minnesota sky. I sat back in my patio chair, left leg over right, and admired how nice the smoke looked, puffing against the green back drop of a summer’s day. The pleasantries of the pit were at full speed, people. The ambiance meter pegged out. Manly beverage within reach, soft tunes on the pit sound system, song birds aloft, hark, I could want for nothing more save for the sun to pause in its arc, if but to extend the moment here for the moment’s sake. This is where the pit keeper cultivates his patience, you see. That hallowed span of clock from whence the meat hits the grate with an anointing sizzle, to when the meat at long last enters your slobber-strewn mouth. The magic hour. Or hours if need be. Indeed, it is good for us to wait for something once in a while. In an instant download, drive-thru, microwave kind of society, who has got to have their wares delivered at once by the hands of haste, such an act of patience will encourage some, and down right astonish the rest. But a pit master proper can pull this feat off with aplomb. It’s in our blood to tarry where  meat is concerned. Just like that old, blue heron on the river bank. He could have been running all over the place that day, flying from one locale to another, but nay, he knew the value in waiting. The precious gold in a single strand of patience. And I admired him for it. There is much you can learn from those with wings. Yeah, I like birds. I like them quite a bit. And with that said, as the evening shadows creep over yonder fields, I think it’s time to finally eat this one!

Cheerio and Amen.

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Twenty four hours, people, marinated in one-half Italian Dressing and one-half BBQ sauce, grilled over hickory, and kissed with sweet time. Man! Good eating, and good times, patron to the pit.

 


Real Men Don’t Need Stoves: Smoked Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

One Patron’s Foray Into The Fine Art of Hardware Store Dining

It was the last of autumn, and the days they were falling short. All the leaves had fallen, sunbeams in scant supply, and the IMG_13211tweety birds and retired folk had gone south now, to tarry under balmy skies, and big umbrellas. The hardy residents that which remained, however, here in Minnesota, could be found battening down their homes; cleaning gutters, mulching leaves and stacking firewood. Prepping their nests for what wintry tempests may brew. This increased activity on the home front is surely sparked by the seasonal folds, and likewise may I say the same about my dinner tonight. A nice spot of hot, savory soup sounded good all day, chicken and wild rice to be exact, and when I got home, I aimed to do something about it.

Oddly enough, my sojourn into soup today started many hours previous, flannel clad, in a local big box store which rhymes roughly with “my nards“. Anyways, I was strolling through the manlier sections of the real estate there, fondling saber saws and cold chisels, you know how it goes, when I came upon a small grocery section, recessed deep in the bowels of the store. It was lovely to the eyes, I must admit, like a gastronomic island oasis in a sea of hardware. I paused as any man would, in the shadow of a veritable wall of beef jerky – meat spanning a fathom wide off both my anatomical port and starboard, and rising higher than I could reach. Glory be, but I had stumbled upon a worthy den!  I moseyed thus over to a wall of assorted nuts, all neatly canned and priced to sell. Every nut you could think of. In every size and shape. And I might have lingered there too, had I not first been wooed by the soup.

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The soup was in an semi-attractive yellow package I guess, but the price was even more handsome still. I do not know why, but men folk are sometimes drawn to these things.  I think because it looks easy. Or barring that, it must be the pretty pictures. At any rate, Shore Lunch Creamy Wild Rice it was called, and it even looked creamy, so I tossed it in my cart. I knew with a supplement of chicken quarters I had back home, and a hand full of mesquite wood chips, I could do something worthy with this humble offering, patron to the pit. And that’s just what we did.

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So under a gray November sky,  we did up the soup as per it’s instructions, but of course we did it on the faithful Weber Kettle, for poetic reasons you see. Real men don’t need stoves! Placing the pot over direct heat, stirring often, it’s heady aromas soon melded with the cool, Autumn air. Along side, we lightly seasoned some chicken quarters in garlic salt, and grilled them up as well, opposite the hot coals.  And lastly, we tossed some mesquite wood onto the coals for that signature scent and added touch only found in outdoor cooking. There by, and for a good while, we let it simmer and smoke whilst the November breeze rustled through the old oak tree. It was good times, as the season’s first snow flakes fluttered down about thee.

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When the chicken was bronzed and savory to eat, and the soup had thickened up, we brought it all inside. Shredded the chicken and stirred it lovingly into the soup, bringing a smokey tinted affair to the meal. And it was good. Darn good I must say. My bride mistakenly assumed even, that I had slaved the afternoon away, preparing the dish from scratch. Now I suppose I could have let the myth perpetuate itself, with my chest stuck out in sad deception- but I couldn’t. I eventually had to fess up that tonight’s rations were procured from but a humble yellow bag that I found at the hardware store. And if she didn’t mind beef jerky and nuts for dessert, I had that covered too! Amen.

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Mesquite Smoked Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. Sometimes you’d be surprised where your next meal will come from. Then again, all is possible patron to the pit. Grill on, people!

 

 


Reaching For The Record Books: Chicken Quesadillas On The Grill

Greeted by a wall of freshly drifted snow against the patio door, I carefully slid it open and got to work. You know you have a lot of snow whenIMG_04341 the first couple of shovel loads can be done whilst still standing inside the house, but that is how it has been this winter. It has been common place indeed. In point of fact, Minnesota is currently courting a hallowed slot in the top ten, coldest, most snowiest winters on record.  Least wise in our state this is so. Over 40 days now, below the zero mark. 60 plus days if you live up north.  It has been a deep, penetrating sort of cold that which has never ceased. Squirrels have fallen from trees and young boys have fused their tongues to subzero steel. And if you have invested in snow blowers this year, you are a wise soul. Seems  like every day you hear their guttural rumble somewhere, echoing through the neighborhood.  Reaching for records indeed. And I guess I believe it, as I finally shoveled enough snow out-of-the-way to shut the door behind me. Brilliant sunbeams sparkled over mounds of white, drawing mine eyes unto thin, uncanny slits. The air is fresh and cold, the way it always is the day after a good blizzard. And the snow it stands ever deep, and even deeper still where it has drifted between the old spruce trees just off the patio. I like how their stately boughs humbly bend in submission, selflessly playing the hand it was dealt, yet somehow attain even more beauty because of it. Nice trick. I do fancy those trees. They are the faithful ambiance patron to the pond-side pit, and have seen many winters. Many blizzards. Many BBQ’s. Such is the case today, under clear, and what seems eternally cold skies. And after I finish digging out here, and take a nap perhaps,  I’ll cook up some supper and tell you about it.

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On the pit tonight, something a little different. A little southwestern fare to warm a winter-locked, Minnesotan’s soul. Chicken quesadillas on the grill. If you can make a grilled cheese sandwich, you can make one of these. And doing them on the grill will at once transport this classic appetizer to a whole new realm seldom found in your local restaurant, courtesy of rising wood smoke. The first order of business is grill up some chicken. Any cut will do. We seasoned ours in some spicy Cajun seasoning to introduce a degree of heat to the flavor profile, and placed them on the pit over medium indirect heat. The cold poultry immediately sizzled upon contact with the hot iron grate. A lovely sound on a hushed winter’s eve. I rummaged around in the resident wood pile and plucked out a tennis ball sized chunk of hickory wood, and added it to the coals. Flipped the meat over and plopped on the old, black, enameled lid. Hickory smoke soon was in draft, and wafting serenely out of the pit damper. A smile on my face, I slipped my hands into the warm pockets of my smoking jacket and considered the evening before me. That brilliant sun of earlier has long since slipped down into the west, and the tweety birds have all went to roost, snug together in feathery balls. And the heavenly stage hands have pulled clear the cosmic curtain for what soft star light falls on fields of snow.  And a toe nail moon dallies over bending spruce. What a privilege it is, even this side of the zero mark,  to smell the wood smoke rising on a wintry eve such as this.

IMG_61711When the chicken is done to your satisfaction, bring it inside to chop it up. Get yourself two flour tortillas and butter one side of each, and assemble your quesadilla like you would a grilled cheese sandwich. Sprinkle a manly amount of shredded cheese on it, along with the smoked, chopped chicken. And then maybe add some more cheese!  Lots of folks at this point, will toss all matter of things into their quesadillas. Things like: onions, peppers, mushrooms, chives, tomatoes, bacon, and so forth. And it’s all good. Make it however you like. But if all you have is cheese and chicken, like we did, that is perfectly acceptable too, to a hungry belly. Once assembled, bring your creation back out to the pit. You have a nice bed of coals going there after all, so why not do it right!

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Place your quesadilla opposite the hot coals. Yes, our old kettle grill is half-entombed in a snow bank. You can’t even see its legs anymore. Its top poking out of the snow like an black flower in a sea of white. Didn’t I mention we’ve had a real winter up here! Anyways, put the lid on and let it bake spell. After a few minutes, you will want to turn the quesadilla 180 degrees for even cooking. Whence it has toasted up some, and the tortilla on the bottom has become crispy, affectionately flip thy spoils over, like a first pancake, and cook the other side in equal fashion. Here is a cook where we cannot assume our standard posture of BBQ,  belly up in the easy chair, for we must keep an eye on our intended plunder, lest the burning fates fall upon these tender tortillas with scant remorse. Indeed, we must stand abreast the pit like men were born to do, on guard and with lovely beverage in hand. For this is our moment, our gastronomic beach-head for to establish culinary harmony between pit and home. Be ever mindful then, and parlay your spoils with great effectiveness to the dinner table. A dollop of sour cream or salsa, and your tummy you will find, just took a trip a south, past old and leaky borders, to where the sun stills holds stalwart, hemorrhaging over fields of green. Amen. 

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Hickory Smoked Chicken Quesadillas hot off the grill. Crispy, gooey,cheesy,  smokey goodness patron to the pit. Man! You don’t have to endure an epic winter to appreciate this sort of thing, but it helps!


The Coldest Place On Earth: Grilled Chicken Thighs

If you are from the northern tier states, and you have lately and by chance poked your nose unassumingly outward of warm environs, well it20130210_145444_edit0 is no secret that it is butt-cold out there. In your face, nothing-you-can-do-about-it, butt-cold. The kind of cold that which penetrates the crust of a person’s finest attitude, slaps them strong across face, and can have them cowering on the ground in matter of sheer minutes. The fellow on the morning news said a given face, pretty or not, had in his estimation, about five minutes out there, before frost bite would latch on to your epidermis and ruin your day. Upon waking this morning, it was 21 below in Minneapolis. Schools statewide were canceled, the educational system’s white flag tossed onto the ring of battle, where upon it promptly froze to the ground. And the common sense sort of people in town stayed home if they could, curled up under old grandma quilts, nursing hot teas, and mused headlong about the weather out there. Others of us tho,  carried on as normal, went to work, and when duties were done, came home and promptly lit the BBQ as if it were the middle of July. Yeah, it’s just what we do!

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On the grill tonight, a simplistic respite from the complexities of the smokey arts, whilst also a gentle parlay towards classical american succulence – the chicken thigh. Thighs are one of our most favorite parts of the chicken to grill. High fat content keeps this dark meat moist and juicy, and if married with the right rubs or seasonings, it is a real treat. Our rub of tonight was Famous Dave’s Rib Rub. It says on the bottle to use it on every thing, not just ribs. So we did. It provides an easy but not over-powering heat, and some other spices too that just seem to work on a variety of meats. Old Dave is famous for a reason I guess. Anyways, we dusted the thighs over pretty good whilst the coals matured out on the pit. Then doffed the old woolen smoking jacket and made haste out into the deep, penetrating cold.

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Banking the hot coals to the back of the pit for in-direct cooking, we placed the seasoned thighs over the cooler regions of the grill, which is real easy to do, don’t you know, when the mercury scraps the minus 20 mark. Mercy. The heat from the coals bellowed up out of the pit in stark contrast to the frozen world beyond. I tossed on a couple of chunks of apple wood, watched them quickly catch blaze as I tucked my hands into my pockets. I gazed at the fire for a moment, and enjoyed how the light felt against my face. What a pleasure it is, tho quaint in size, to be in the good company of fire and flame on a night such as this. A night where all the world bends on knee to the authority of a merciless cold. Where would we be if it were not but for the spoils of fire. Of  glorious and unabridged heat. The energy that which drive our days, and caters to our nights. It would be mighty cold chicken thighs tonight indeed, with out this, a simple fire.

I put the black enameled lid atop the old kettle grill, and the draft caught soon enough, and ushered out a lovely wood smoke through the top vent. We were up and cooking, and there was contentment in the pit. I might have dallied some there, dreaming of summer BBQ’s past, of cool, green grasses and song birds serenading from atop wavering willows,  but the peculiar feeling of my left eye lid fusing shut sort of snapped me back to reality. What ever! I sidled inside, unashamed, and drew a hot beverage there. I got to watching the evening news, which I seldom do, with a hot brew cradled in my hands. The weatherman said that today was a special day here in Minnesota. He said that at one point during the day, for a moment anyways, that Minnesota was colder than even the north pole. In point of fact, he added, Minnesota was colder than anywhere. He said, sort of proudly, that this was the coldest place on earth, today. And I believed him.

I smiled sharply as I gazed out at my faithful pit, puffing stoically away on the patio. It’s a good pit. A faithful stead. And it knows not the inclement of weather, nor some days do I think it even cares. Who says you have to hang up your BBQ tongs when the mercury plummets! Indeed, with but a degree of mild lunacy, the grilling season may be extended the calendar long. And rewardingly so. And if you’re really lucky, you can even claim to have grilled your chicken thighs in the coldest place on earth.

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Succulent, moist, apple-smoked chicken thighs hot off the pit. Buddy! So next time you southern folks run clear of your grills because its 50 degrees there, you have our pity!


How To Winterize A Minnesotan: Home Made Chicken Noodle Soup

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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.

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  • 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.

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“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


Cooler Days: Honey Roasted Chicken Quarters

 

We patrons of the pit, we favor all the seasonal folds, but there is just something about the cooler weather that stirs us. That tugs on tender hear20130728_181604_edit0t strings that which tarries deep in our souls. And so here recently, a few weeks ago I should say,  when summer’s ante of stifling heat and humidity was displaced by a sweetly descending cool air mass, we were at once, and undeniably, in favor. Forty degree nights in the middle of summer, hark, that is something we ought to bottle up and sell in the sleep aids section at the local drug store. Glory be but it was lovely. For what a noble thing it is after all, to be able to walk to mail box in the evening, and not, when it’s done and over, come back to the house glistening in a sheen of your own rank juices, and smelling not that much better than the neighbor’s dog. Or for that matter, the neighbor.

It felt good to do a little BBQing too, in the acute absence of sweat. A foretaste, if you will,  of our favorite grilling season to come… Winter! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I banked the coals as usual, a whole chimney full, to one side of the old kettle grill. Creating the thermal trifecta of modern grilling. One zone directly over the coals for searing and intense heat. Another zone opposite the hot coals, for cooler, in-direct cooking. And a dicey sort of Switzerland affair right smack in the middle, which sometimes comes in handy too.  The earth is comprised of various zones of temperature too, for what its worth, which keeps things working properly and efficient like. So be it with our grills also! Anyways, got the coals situated, the grill scraped down with the wire brush, tossed on some ceremonial peach wood chips for smoke, and after a quick glance past the towering spruce tops,  I placed two lovingly prepared chicken leg quarters on the hot rack. They sizzled accordingly, over direct heat for a minute or so per side. Then slid them back, traversing Switzerland with a twist of the tong,  to the coolest section of the grill, whereupon they would log some significant time. I followed suit, naturally,  in my BBQ chair.

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This is where we keepers of the grill are at our very best.  Pit-side, lovely beverage in reach, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, it was sufficient pleasure to watch the peach smoke waft from the damper, and the clouds, back-lit by a golden sun, float silently overhead. I sipped my pit beverage in the favorable company of that gloriously cool breeze, courtesy of the Canadians I think, and mused over tonight’s cook as it were. And what it was, was honey roasted chicken. Or least wise that’s what I was calling it. Let me tell you a little more about it, and how it went down, by and by.

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It was just going to be plain old chicken, seasoned with a wee bit of garlic salt and what not,  or would have been had not I seen the bottle of honey sitting on the counter.  Like many a pit keeper, we are smitten for the sweeter things. But it has also been a hard and fast rule in the grilling arts to refrain, if you can, from adding sugary things to your meat at the beginning of a cook, lest your spoils fall victim to fates of burning sugars. Good, sage advice, and I’ve never really listened it. My bride seems to think I hardly listen at all, in point of fact, when I’m in the vicinity of sugar. Especially sugar shaped like donuts. But I do. And so with these chicken quarters, and against the grain of conventional grilling wisdom, I rubbed them things down with liberal onslaughts of honey. Under the skin even, and everywhere else. Then, I hit them in a medium-to-light fashion with some SuckleBusters Competition Rub, for to add another layer to the flavor profile. And that was it. These chickens were ready for their destiny according to the pit!

In turn, they made their way to the grill along with one of our pit favorites, a bulging packet of tinfoil potatoes and corn. A suitable meal for thee, whilst the north winds beckoned through the towering cottonwoods. Potatoes were placed over direct heat the entire time, flipped once mid-way through the cook for good measure. The chicken, as mentioned, was seared carefully at first over the coals, not long, and then tucked to the coolest regions of the grill for the rest of the culinary journey.  Harnessing the various temperature zones, in a harmonious dance between meat and flame. Tongs in hand, you the pit master are the conductor of your very own meat orchestra. Free to draft the song of your choice. Choose wisely then, amid the smoke and the flame , and parlay your spoils with great effectiveness to a better end. Keep your honey-coated meat well away from the coals, over on the cooler parts of the pit, and check in on them often. Employ a fair degree of your pit master instincts, and with any luck at all, you should find a sweet, caramelized, juicy, meat Nirvana there, sizzling at the end of a rainbow,  where the wood smoke also rises. Amen.

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Honey Roasted Chicken and Tin foil Potatoes, lightly smoked with peach wood. Grilled in paradise. And smells a heck of a lot better than the neighbor’s dog.


How To BBQ For A Baby: Chicken, Steak, and Tin Foil Potatoes

Repairing in the BBQ chair, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure,  I spied them from afar, ambling head-long through the20130528_194711_edit0 steely grass. A half-dozen little yellow-green fuzz balls, escorted under the watchful wing of ma and pa. Bumbling creatures, but terribly cute,  looking only at the ground, pecking about for what wonders may reside there. It was good to see new families like this. Triumps of unconditional love, and a feathery nurture. They seem to do this every year about this time, along with every one else.  They wandered right up close to my BBQ chair, as if to address me in some formal manner reserved for goose ideology or the like. I adjusted my posture some, and noted how once again, these feathered blokes have ambled by precisely when the first plumes of smoke curl from my old kettle grill. More times than I have counted they have come to share supper with me like this, babies and all. I’d like to think it’s because they like me, and appreciate the ambiance of the pit I strive so hard for. But the truth of the matter is that I’m only being used. For I usually toss them some crusty old bread if I have any, and that seems well enough for them to at least fake a friendship out by the pit. And I’m OK with that.

Spring time. New life. Turns out one of our close friends this week, had a baby too. A wee little thing, neither yellow-green nor fuzzy, and pert near about as cute as they come in baby land.  My bride suggested we do something nice for them, because she’s rather thoughtful like that, and being the fire-lighting, meat-eating man that I am,  naturally the only logical course of action I could come up with,  was to have a BBQ. What better way to introduce a new soul to this ever-spinning world, I thought, than a plate of tin foiled potatoes, BBQ chicken, and sirloin steak! Everything a wee pup needs to make a lasting, first impression. And besides that, it’s never too soon to draft another into the BBQ arts. I don’t know if they make little Weber grills for babies, but they should. I would set one down in front of the kid, just so they could imprint on each other. And it would be a better world because of it, somewhere on down the line.

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The baby feast started with the potatoes naturally, because they take the longest. Diced up and seasoned tonight with a dash or two of Lipton Onion soup mix. Cause that stuff ain’t just for soup you know.  Over the seasoned and diced potatoes, I added a lovely melody of vegetables for to please the lady folk, along with a few dollops of butter, and wrapped it all up in foil. This in turn placed over direct heat for 20 minutes or so, flipped over once mid-way for even cooking. Whilst the spuds did their thing, the chicken legs were then placed opposite the hot coals, and a small piece of hickory wood added to the fire for some smokey goodness. The legs previous were rubbed down in McCormick’s Chicken Rub, and later, at the end of the cook, painted with a generous layer of Sweet Baby Rays. Now what infant wouldn’t want to suck on one of them!

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As the white clouds idled in a blue sky, and bird song rang from the Alders, I pulled the foiled potatoes over indirect heat. They were done, and so was the chicken. Lastly, and to bring a sense of closure to the meat fest, we seared a nice sirloin steak over a hot bed of orange-glowing coals, and then finished it off indirect. When you set up your grill like this, with the coals banked to one side, you will be afforded much control this way. You will have established in your grill’s fiery bosom, three distinct temperature zones. One for direct heat right over the coals, one for indirect cooking opposite the hot coals, and something of a Switzerland affair, right smack in the middle. The thermal trifecta of modern grilling. Anyways.

I plated up the meats and taters, and bid a farewell to my feathery friends, still pecking through the green grass. Not to be rude to the little geese, nor to point out the shallow nature of our relationship, but it was time to go show the newborn some of the finer things worth looking forward to in this world. Something far removed from a crusty old piece of moldy bread. Amen.

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Hickory Tinted BBQ Chicken Legs, Sirloin Steak, and Tin Foiled Potatoes. Man! And so what if a baby doesn’t have teeth. The parents do!


Grilled Chicken Tacos

We will go out a limb here and foster the notion that summer has finally come to Minnesota. Or at the very least, I suppose, that cottonwood leafwinter is gone now – retreating rampantly into the far northern tiers of Canada and beyond. Minnesotan’s have cut their lawns now, for the first time since, well, I think since last October.  It was a very, very long winter. But the people have emerged now. And there is hope on their face. They have wagered it plausible maybe stick a tomato plant in the ground. So to have the Lilacs began to bud, poised to unleash their fragrant bouquet any day. And the leaves of the Populus deltoides, or Cottonwood tree, have formed now, down by the pond. There is the smell of green in the air again, and humidity has come with it.

I raked the crackling hardwood lump coals to the side of the old kettle grill, readying it for in-direct cooking, and admiring the utter simplicity of pleasure it is, to do such things, and not have to stave off a subzero wind chill at the same time. Something year-round grill keepers don’t take for granted. Our stoic stands at the winter pit influence even these tranquil moments, pit-side, amid the sunshine and song birds. It is paradise over coals, and a patron of the pit knows it. He knows it by the soft impression on his soul, left by lazy clouds in a blue sky, and the silently curling smoke which lifts from his grill.

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I spread out some chicken thighs over a cleaned grate, opposite the hot coals. Then I dusted them over with Cajun Injector Cajun Shake, and tossed on a small chunk of hickory wood, into the fiery coals. Lid on, and top vent tweaked – it was not long before a gentle smoke began to curl. I flipped the pit radio onto the local Twins game to complete the acoustic wallpaper. Then of course, I did what all real men of BBQ do best – repair to my BBQ chair with a lovely beverage, feet up, and survey my smokey kingdom. On the grill tonight, we’re doing one of my bride’s favorites, grilled chicken tacos – POTP style.

After a suitable amount of loitering, I flipped the chicken thighs over, and hit the other side with some more of that Cajun Shake, to give the routine meat a bit more flavorful kick. Lid back on, and the hickory smoke resumes as soon as I make it back to my roost. Hard work this BBQ stuff. I settled in, listening to the baseball game, whilst watching the thin smoke curl from the grill. A routine by and far that I could become accustomed to.  The ambiance of the pit – something always missed, and then lamented over, every time a misguided pit keeper opts to cook his spoils indoors.

When the chicken is done, chop it up into man sized chunks, and consult your tortilla taco making instincts. Like a true man, I stuffed my tortilla way too full of smoked chicken, tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, onions, and sour cream. And savory globs fell all which way. But who cares. Good is good, and this was good! And my pants were already dirty.

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So next time you’re hungry for a taco, and want to take it to the next level, try doing them up on the BBQ. Because everything is better outside, and absolutely better off the grill.

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Hickory Tinted Grilled Chicken Tacos. If a taco gets any better, you all let us know about it!

Grill on!

-POTP


How To Bust Your BBQ: SuckleBusters Seasoning and Sauces and Such

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It’s a catchy name. One that you’ll remember. SuckleBusters! What is a SuckleBuster you ask? Well, you’ll have to read the back story on that, as told by the head SuckleBuster himself, Dan Arnold. It’s a long story. To paraphrase, to be a SuckleBuster is a good thing. And to “bust some great steaks” is coin of high praise indeed, according to Dan. Dan is a friendly chap, whose passion for BBQ is only matched perhaps by his gamut of iconic sauces and rubs, every one of them to a tee, “bustin’ with flavor!”   I have long remembered the name, now it was time to find out why.

BBQ-Sauce-Original-12-oz-RoMy patron and I fired up our grills this weekend to do just that. Armed with various degrees of Sucklebuster’s finest, and left to our own devices, we both opted for the canvas of pulled chicken, for to paint the flavor profile masterpiece. And Sucklebusters, let it be said,  has many flavors for a BBQ Picasso to play with. From their award-winning Competition Rub, and spicy favorite, Hoochie Mama BBQ Rub , to their super sweet Honey BBQ Sauce, and if you’re feeling wild, and robust of tongue, maybe even their Chipotle BBQ Sauce. They even have a Peach BBQ Sauce that I’d surely fancy to get my hands on some day. Suffice it to say, they will likely have you covered, with what ever flavor you may have a hankering for. But does any of it taste good? None of the fun names matter if it doesn’t. And that is what we’re aiming to find out today. A matter of opinion to be sure,  of which the BBQ circles are full of. And this is one of them.

I hit some chicken leg quarters with their tried and true, Competition BBQ Rub, and whilst the coals matured on the Competition-Rub-4ozpit, I scanned through their website. Apparently a lot of people think SuckleBusters tastes pretty good, judging from its long list of distinguished awards, including a 1st place in the American Royal BBQ Sauce Contest in Kansas City, for their Original BBQ Sauce. One of the same sauces we selected for today’s cook. The award list was long enough in fact, that I suspected if the Noble Peace Prize people were handing out something for BBQ folk, well, SuckleBusters probably would have one of those too. Their sauce scientists seem to have it going on. Which is good news for we who hail from the smokey arts. 

Over at my patron’s pit, he was up to the same thing. Procuring some savory SuckleBuster magic of his own, in the form of pulled chicken. He used the hot Chipotle BBQ Sauce and the sweet and spicy Mustard BBQ Sauce, their latest new mustard based creation, which if there is a bigger fan of than my fellow patron, I do not know of any. He loves the mustard stuff. Anyways during the smoke, I did note, even within a couple of hours, the chicken already was developing an abiding, and very suitable bark. Mark one more star for the Competition Rub.

Hoochie-Mama-BBQ-SeasoningAbout the Competition Rub, and all the rubs from SuckleBusters, sauces included in fact, is that they are clean. No MSG, or artificial junk that you can’t pronounce. Just real ingredients. Basic and clean. And we here at POTP liked that allot. And suspect perhaps, that is one of the reasons this stuff tastes so good. “No Bad Stuff” as they like to remind you on their site. And we’re glad they do. Another star and tip of the hat, Mr Arnold.

After a few hours of low and slow, we applied the sauces, mixing them in with the pulled chicken, built some rotund sandwiches, and put on some more sauce, just because. The moment of BBQ truth. Every pit master and budding wannabe alike live for this moment. To put your talking where your mouth is, go figure, and commence with the feeding. Now I thought the SuckleBuster Original BBQ Sauce married beautifully with their Competition Rub. Flavors complimenting one another in a fair, but seemingly deliberate fashion. There was just enough zing from the vinegar in the sauce to remind my tongue that something good had just happened here, and like most original formulas I guess,something else lurked in there too, compelling me to keep going back for more. A well-balanced symphony of flavors. None over-powering the other, and rest of it just right. There was just enough spicy heat present, to linger in your mouth after each bite, to make my spicy-challenged Swedish taste buds feel good about themselves. Like maybe I could handle the heat if I had to. A notion my fiery-tongued fellow patron will probably only laugh at. His pulled chicken sandwiches were on the hot side of the Sucklebuster menu. And he loved them accordingly. He had guests over for supper, and served them all pulled chicken slathered in both the Mustard BBQ Sauce and the Chipotle BBQ Sauce. He determined that the heat was indeed “do-able” and very, very good. He said even I could have probably handled the Chipotle BBQ.

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At the end of the day, my patron and I had come pretty much to the same conclusion. That this BBQ company with the memorable name also puts out some dang fine BBQ flavors. Yeah, we fancy to make our own home made sauces and rubs, and we do pretty good, but we are not even remotely in the league these guys are privy too.  The only downside we could find, because nothing is perfect it seems,  is that their seasonings and sauces are not the cheapest ones on the shelf, but like many things in life, with this one you really do get what you pay for. A good sauce will make or break your BBQ. These sauces take your meat by the hand, and usher it into a whole new realm. Their track record speaks for itself I guess. And I suppose if we had to be monogamous to one and only one BBQ Sauce company, SuckleBusters would be it. They’re just good, people, and that’s the plain truth. We give their products a Two Patron Thumbs Up, and will be returning customers for sure.

After all the awards, however, and the accolades of these wonderful sauces and spices have been spun, after the sun had set on our grills, and our bellies were filled, we both noted something very subtle with our SuckleBuster experience.  Subtle, but poignant upon our soul.  And that is on every jar of sauce, on every bottle of rub, and maybe some more stuff too, you will find reference to the scripture – Proverbs 5:3-5.  Subtle yet bold, like a SuckleBuster ought to be. Now half the world probably won’t care about that. And the other half will probably wonder if they ought to care about that. But we here at POTP are believing folk, and for what ever reason, we think that is very cool indeed. And in that alone, SuckleBusters has our lasting respect, and leaves an abidingly good taste in our mouths. Which after all, is what they’re in the business of in the first place. Amen.

So if you’re looking for some good award-winning sauces and rubs, that don’t have all the chemicals, and you don’t mind dealing with some very kindly people, check out SuckleBusters for your next BBQ.


Rainy Day BBQ Blues

Through the cold and dark the smoke shall rise
a curling blue mist that burns in the eyes,
Stoked coals heat the patient Patron
with pit scented fleece and a dirty apron,
The smells of spices thicken with rain
the longer he waits the temperature gains,
Hickory heats and odors his jacket
the pit brings peace from everyday racket,
He quietly waits as the rain drips on
and spring ushers out a snow filled lawn,
A flaming pit through its yearly fashion
the ash pan fills with a fiery passion.

“Grill on” – POTP


Dual Patron Cook Out: Chicken Thighs and Beans!

Chickadees lit amid the Alders, chirping and rejoicing, as shafts of brilliant, warm, sun slanted through the stands of Spruce with aplomb. The smell of apple wood smoke tinted the air, as snow melt dribbled from the roof like, cold,  glacial run off, reminiscent of the icy ramparts of the Mountain West.  Like a seasoned man’s hairline, the snow piles around the pit had receded some in recent days, exposing for the first time in a long time, a few sickly looking, tendrils of grass, bent over from a winter’s hiatus. A good life choice I suppose, if you’re a blade of grass in Minnesota. Take the winter season off, and re-group come springtime. A mindset of no such value however, to we patrons of the pit, who have been grilling hard all the winter long. Keepers of the flame, and chickadees alike,  know no such luxury as hibernation. Nor at the end of the day, I wager,  would we want to. It’s a beautiful Saturday. The inaugural first smoke of the spring. The tweety birds are singing. And my fellow patron has come over to share it with me, like any good BBQ crony would.

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Every once in while, if the stars and the orbits of our lives align, my fellow patron and I like to get together to ply our craft. The likely recipients of our exploits, for better or for worse, being our beloved wives.  Sweet girls who have put up with their fair share of experimental BBQ over the years. They have been there for the very best of it, delighting in our victories, and they have been there amid our fool blunders too, politely eating it anyways. Lovely souls, who just so happen today, to be out on the town together, doing what ever it is ladies do when their out together. My fellow patron and I henceforth found ourselves doing what only came naturally, hunkered over my pit, procuring some rather tasty vittles for our women, whilst at the same time entertaining the notion of keeping digital tabs on our credit card accounts. Anyways, on the pit tonight, smoked chicken thighs and peach baked beans. Grab yourself a lovely beverage, and let us get after it.

Whilst the big WSM was coming up to speed, being the efficient creatures that we were, we split up the duties. Divide and conqueror tactics if you will. John took the chicken thighs, and I took the beans. The chicken was amazing, seasoned in a blend of home-crushed spices, and I’ll tell you more about that in a bit, but first let’s get after these peach baked beans. And don’t curl your nose, I think you’ll like them. They humbly are not of our brain thrust, but of Pit Master Myron Mixon, who was at one time at least, the Tiger Woods of competitive BBQ. Say what you will about the man, but he can smoke. And these beans I figured, were at least worth a shot. Here’s how you do it.

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Peach Baked Beans

  • 1 can baked beans
  • 1 can sliced peaches or peach pie filling
  • 1 diced red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped bacon

Into your grilling pot, empty the contents of your favorite can of baked beans. Then dump yourself in a can of sliced peaches. A little of the peach juice is a good idea, but you may want to refrain from dumping the whole thing like I did, less you fancy a soupier baked bean. Or a better bet is to use a can of peach pie filling, which is what you’re really supposed to use, but I didn’t have any on hand. Next thing is to dice up a red bell pepper and toss that in there too. Finally, and to every meat lovers fancy, add a good handful of chopped up bacon chunks. If you really want to do it right, you’ll do up the bacon on the grill first, and impart a liberal dosage of smoke upon it, because its bacon after all, and bacon is worthy of our highest flattery. So mix all these wonderful ingredients together, and if you have a hankering, sprinkling in a little of your chosen spices of the day, is hardly ever a move soon regretted, and compliments the main course with a quiet, but favorable elegance. Proceed then to let the flavors mingle and stew for two hours out on your pit, stirring on occasion to circulate a little more smokey goodness into your bean pot of glory. Man! Now let’s see how John did up those thighs.

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First order, he removed the flaps of skin common to inhabit chicken thighs, and then rubbed them down in olive oil. This to properly receive his freshly ground melody of spices which include, but are not limited to: Coriander, brown sugar, pink Himalayan salt, pepper corn, onion powder, smoked paprika and ground rosemary. By freshly ground, we’re talking an hour before the cook, in his mortar and pestle. Glory!  It don’t get no better than that folks. Then he sprinkled some over the thighs. A little of this stuff goes a very long ways, he said, so he made work of it with a light hand. Delicately allotting the spices equally over the meat. He was quite proud of his creation, often bellowing in acute joy over how pretty it looked.  The spice he has since coined, Rolling Stone Rub, its namesake inspired in the heady wages of the recent kidney stone he recently passed. A token beam of brilliance wrought from a most miserable circumstance.  Anyways, then he gently placed the thighs out on the smoker, where upon an apple wood fire had already stabilized into a light, easy-going smoke.  There they would stay for the next couple hours, next to the pot of beans. Oh buddy!

So it was, meat and beans on the pit, a light apple wood smoke wafting amid the patio, sunbeams melting in through the windows,  and we menfolk at last taking up the proper BBQ posture, in our man chairs, beverages in hand, and a couple of hours of premium loitering ahead of us. Nothing quite so fine as that, after a hectic week whirling about in the cog of society. And we chew the fat some, as men do when they are waiting for meat, frequently gazing out to the pit, appreciating the curling smoke there. We kick our feet up and get a trifle more comfortable, click on the TV, and settle in for the high rigors of the BBQ life. Somebody has to do it.

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Apple smoked chicken thighs and peach baked beans. If there’s a better way to usher in the spring, I can’t think of any.

*Bean recipe was ultra simplified here, but of you want to see the original recipe, in it’s uncut form as Myron Mixon intended it, let us refer you to the following link:

http://eggheadforum.com/discussion/113365/myron-mixons-jacks-old-south-barbq-beans


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How To Tame Your Weber: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Amid the lingering piles of snow, I sat out by the pit, like men do,  enjoying the last sunbeams of the day. Nothing was on the grill tonight, as I didn’t have time really. We had to be somewhere in 45 minutes, and I had thus released the option of grilling tonight; something  just not in the roll of the BBQ dice.  But as the black-capped chickadee lit upon my bird feeder, I noted out of the corner of my eye, the little Weber standing stoically in place, childishly straddling its mountainous pan of ash. It was giving me the look again, the one it always gives me, every time I step out onto the patio. Like puppy dogs or cute babies, the grill knows how to work me, how to manipulate me, and eventually, how to get its way. I look at the clock. I look at the grill. Back to the clock. The grill. If the Weber had a bottom lip, it was jutted out pretty nice. Patron to pathetic indeed, and just a little bit inconsiderate.

“Fine then”, I muttered to the grill, as I grabbed the charcoal chimney in one easy motion, filling it three-quarters with coal, and plunking a couple chunks of apple wood on top. I crammed some papers up its bottom end, and put flame to it with a mechanical ease born of sheer muscle memory. Before I knew it, smoke was bellowing into the air, as I stood abreast of the little pit, mentally improvising a menu.

“I’ll give you what you want”, I said, “But it won’t be pretty”. The little Weber seemed delighted if but just for a moment, that it was going to get used. And a man’s pit should get used, just as often as it can be, for not only to season it, but to foster a degree of sanity upon one’s own meat lust, and the ever-abiding need to occasionally burn things. It is good for us.

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Quick and dirty like, with no motion for poetry, I slapped together some winglets, gently seasoned in Lawry’s, and set them to sear in an orange blaze of apple wood.  I had also been in the mood all day for a simple grilled cheese sandwich, so I tossed on one of them too, delicately toasting it over the bed of coals. Now some might hazard it plum foolery to cook his grilled cheese out on the grill, forsaking a nice kitchen range, but I contend that “on the grill”  is the way it was always meant to be,  and couldn’t be more fitting, nor more honorable to its namesake. The trick to really grilling your grilled cheese to watch it closely. Like a high maintenance relationship, keep checking in on it, and nurturing it as necessary. Yes, I suppose you could do it inside on the stove top like you’ve done all your life, and that is good too, but you would at once miss the tweety birds flirt amid the dogwoods, and the sun light slant through the fragrant spruce, and the wispy aroma of the grill, the fresh air, and the fellowship of the coals.

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Grilled Cheese and Chicken. In a few short minutes, the call of the Weber had been pacified, and supper thus procured. Victory snatched from the jaws of haste. The little grill looked a trifle more at ease now, resting contentedly, smoldering quietly the last of its hot coals.  Basking in the wake of deeds well done. Tomorrow, it will want to do it again. That’s the way man-pit relationships go. We just have to deal with it. True, good BBQ is all about taking our time, and that is always preferable than rushing head-long through it. But it is still better to have grilled and grilled fast, than not to have grilled at all. Because it is our stead-fast belief, or at least our sincere hope, that time spent grilling is not deducted from one’s life span. Which is handy, because it may take a life time even, to aptly tame your Weber.


Tin Foil Potatoes:The Return of the Sun

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As the March sun melts through the snow-laden spruce, I rake the orange-glowing coals about in the pit, banking them to the back side, like I always do. And I pause momentarily, not just to savor the heat off the grill, which is nice,  but to note this day how the sun at once seems a peck more sluggish aloft than maybe it once was. A little less keen on the business of dropping into darkness, or to give up its waning light. And this gives us northern folk pause for hope. It sings to our soul. But then I notice this same thing every year around this time, around day light savings time.  We set the clocks forward, thinking that does something important. And maybe it does. Up at this latitude anyways, people today saw the sun at supper time, and say what you will, after a winter’s worth of dark suppers, this is a most novel event. Such milestones give hope to the BBQ spirit, that some day soon again, there will be warm sun beams awash over our grills, and merit to the notion we won’t soon either have to dig them out anymore, from the lofty drifts of snow which hath conspired there.  Indeed, we Patrons of the Pit notice these things such as the lingering sun. How couldn’t we.  It is in our blood. Anyways, let’s head inside and see what is going on the grill tonight.

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One of my favorite things to grill are potatoes. And maybe my favorite method of doing them is diced up in the foil. If you’ve never grilled your spuds like this before, you’re missing something out of your grilling career. The process is as simple as it gets almost, and nary fails to turn out a delicious end game. Here is how to do it. While the grill is coming up to speed, lay down a sheet of tin foil and dice up a few potatoes into uniform chunks about the size of dice. Skin on or off, it doesn’t matter, however you like them is fine.  It doesn’t really matter even what size you want to dice them, just so long as they are uniform in size thus to allow for even cooking. The next crucial ingredient is fat. You can dribble some cooking oil over them, but I like to disperse a few generous pats of butter over the potatoes. Next, if you’re an onion person, of which we can only hope our readers are, you’ll likely wanna chop up one of them on the pile too. Then hit the whole thing with a dusting of pepper and a few pinches of kosher salt. Some times I toss in some vegetables too, but not tonight. When you have it all ready, wrap it up good in the foil, tuck it under your wing like a full back, and make way for your grill. Lets head back out there, where as my elder brother is fond of saying ” the metal meets the meat”.

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We preach the in-direct method allot here on POTP, and you should aspire for it, but here is one occasion where it works to go directly over the flame. Go head and put your foiled-up potatoes on the grate, right over the coals. The butter will quickly come to a sizzle, in a ricocheting applause within it’s tin foil sanctum.  Now also would be a good time to toss on a few chunks of meat if you have a mind to, and if you’re man, well, this should not require too much additional thought.  We’ve been on a chicken leg quarter sort of kick here at the pit lately, so we thought to use up some more of those. Patted down in vegetable oil, and seasoned in garlic salt. Nice and simple. As any meat and potato mantra should be. Seared them, them tucked them in-direct. Put on the lid, and went about the vital business of procuring myself a lovely beverage from the refrigerator.  Standard Pit Master Procedure.

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As is custom in winter grilling, you will want to take up residence in your favorite man chair, strategically positioned with a view of the pit and perhaps the big game on the TV. These are the moments in every cook you remember. Those contented span of minutes where the aromas of food and smoke waft from the grill damper, and there is banter in the air, as your posture slouches a bit in your chair. A seasoned pit master doesn’t fight it too much you see, and if you need to tip your hat over eyes and procure a nap for a few minutes, well, we will harbor no shame against thee. In point of fact, we will salute you. For at the heart of all good BBQ, is a soul on the scenic path, taking his time. Taking these moments we love, and extending the moment just as long as we can. No hurries, mate. However, in this cook, we do have vittles over direct heat, and they should be done in about 20 -25 minutes. So don’t nap too long. It’s time to go plate up.

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My beautiful bride is particularly fond of these potatoes of you can get some of them a little crispy, and these sort you will usually find adhering like a tick to the side of the tin foil. Peel them off to compliment the color and texture of your plate. Served alongside some perfectly executed BBQ chicken, hark, a meal fairer to thee, and patron even to the sun which has returned; and unto its golden light cast upon our grills. Amen.


Apple Wood Spare Ribs

It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt the sun. Or sat comfortably, and contentedly, in its golden rays.  Up here in Minnesota, the winter can stretch eternal, spanning half a year if it has a mind to. And this year at least, it has a mind to indeed.  But this last Sunday was at once an anomaly, and an idealistic respite from winter’s grip,  as the sunlight astutely flooded my patio with warm, life-giving thermal units.  It must have been 30 degrees out there, which I know doesn’t sound like much to you Florida people, but trust me, to a Minnesotan in March, that is a veritable heat wave worthy of your very finest swim wear. Of course, and understandably so, I was out there, jacket-less,  smoker puffing away, repairing in my Adirondack chair, just soaking up the sun. And it felt wonderful. Besides that, it was my beloved bride’s birthday then, and she wanted ribs.  Thus, it was my privilege, as it would be any man’s, to tarry in the sun a trifle, postulate the drifting clouds and the rabbit tracks in the snow,  whilst smoking some savory meats over a beautiful bed of coals. It is no hardship at all.

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In the big WSM, over a smoldering fire of apple wood, I placed with great care three near perfectly seasoned racks of pork spare ribs. These racks were first sprinkled with a light measure of brown sugar, and rubbed down like a life time member in a fine spa, smearing it all about. Then I let it rest a tad, just until the brown sugar began to liquefy. This created a decently sticky, tactile surface, in which to receive the rub. The rub today, Grill Mates Applewood Rub,  is a long time favorite of my fellow patron who co- hosts this blog, of which I dutifully applied in liberal fashion over the entirety of the ribs. To finish off the pork canvas, I sprinkled another light layer of brown sugar over the top of the rub, which when liquefied,  would seal in the rub, thus locking into the tighter flavor profile of which I was after. Man!

During the next three hours, I naturally took up periodic residence in a gamut of my favorite easy chairs, whilst watching out of the corner of my eye, the apple wood smoke quietly curl from the cooker. I don’t know what it is exactly, about a smoking pit, and meats quietly cooking there, but it stirs me. It cultivates a great contentment in me, and for a while at least, I am in need of little else. And as I repaired on the couch with my favorite father in-law, our feet propped up, lovely beverages in hand, I declared that this was indeed the high rigors of BBQ, but more over, that we were undoubtedly up to the task at hand. We raised our beverages with the rising smoke, saluting the BBQ arts, and then I think father in-law may have even nodded off a bit. Bless him and his true BBQ posture!

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At about hour three, I foiled the ribs with a generous splattering of apple juice. At about hour four, I lit up yet another grill for the chicken leg quarters, of which I have grown fond of in recent years. Nothing is quite so stroking to your pit master ego as running dual cookers out on the patio. Smoke bellowing in stereo from multiple fronts, the smells and aromas surround you. Engulf you, and then enchant you. And for a while at least, you are in your glory. Tongs in hand, you are the supreme governor of your smokey kingdom. Or the conductor of a BBQ symphony. I could have I suppose thrown the chicken legs on the smoker too, and been an efficient person, but I was after a crisper skin than one can get in a smoker. Plus I liked the idea of having two grills going. It made me happy. So I rubbed the chicken down with some Louisiana Grill Sweet Heat, and seared them up over direct heat, then tucked them back in-direct for an hour maybe, bathed in light hickory smoke.  At hour 5, I took the ribs out of the foil, and put em back on the smoker, and basted them good with some Sweet Baby Rays elegantly thinned with a splash of apple juice. Oh buddy!

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When dinner was served, we had some savory spare ribs where the smoke ring plum near reached the bone. The brown sugar caramelized some, mingling with the slight kick of the Apple Wood Rub and the BBQ sauce, whilst lightly tinted with the aromas of apple wood smoke. It was a symphony in meat alright. An opus of ribs. And the chicken was spot on its juiciest ideal.

Apple wood spare ribs and chicken. You could eat allot worse I suppose, but not have nearly so much fun. Amen.


How To Avoid Sports Bars: BBQ Winglets and Shrimp

Twilight in February. I strike a match, and put flame to the political section, which resided nicely crumpled in the bottom of the charcoal chimney. The initial rush of smoke was strong, as it curled up into the fading light. A satisfied contentment was in the air as I tarried there at the pit, hands in my smoking jacket, admiring how the moon hung in the eastern sky, and how its soft ,blue hue washed over my many snow piles, shoveled high, and seasoned in ashes blown. A pleasant evening to grill, by and far. But then when isn’t it, really.  Lets head inside then, and see what’s for supper.

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Deep in the recesses of the freezer, where men seldom tread, I found a bag of winglets which all but begged for attention. I was reminded of some popular sports bars in the area, where upon I would patron on occasion, who would specialize in these sort of wings. And they were pretty good wings as wings go, tho nothing remarkable, but a staple still you could count on in the heady thralls of meat lust. But I grow weary of those places, with their crowds of people and their sticky tables. And their overly loud ambiance,  of which you can nary hear anybody you’re talking to anyways. I guess I’m getting older. I aspire higher than that. Thus, but to create their choice appetizer from the quiet and tranquil quarters of my pit, kissed gently by a moon beam, well, that was more my style tonight. As most nights are I guess.20130224_175246_edit0

After the winglets had thawed, and being the creature of efficiency that I am, I just left them in the bag for the seasoning process. I dusted them with great abandoned with some Louisiana Grill Sweet Heat, and shook the bag around like the shake and bake commercials of old.  It felt good. Almost therapeutic  A lovely technique for getting that rub everywhere it ought to go. And by golly, I shook it good.  The rub was actually a bi-product of haste, go figure, as I mistakenly clicked on it, and the inter web minions thus sent it to my door step, for better or for worse. Turned out to be pretty tasty, however, and I think I might even order some more now. At any rate, the wings are ready, so let’s go put them on the grill. Let us put meat to flame!

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Over direct heat to start, nice and hot, like sending your soldiers to boot camp, to sear them up, and make them a little crunchy on the skin.  After boot camp, lets tuck these winglets aside over the all-important in-direct heat, a forgiving technique all aspiring grill masters seldom can go wrong with. Smoke wood optional, but if you have it, why not. I always seem to have scraps of hickory laying about, so that’s what I used. Also, in my freezer foray I happened upon some shrimp, or least-wise I think it was shrimp. Yeah, it was shrimp alright, of which I added to the cook at the last-minute, to broaden if you will, the meat diversity on my plate. Giving equal ingesting opportunity to the things of the sea, as well as what flirts in the farm yard.

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Next step was to put the lid on and leave the thing alone for a while, to infuse some of that smokey flavor into the meat, that we all know and love. A wonderful process involving the procuring of yourself a lovely beverage from the ice box, and taking up residence in the nearest easy chair, whilst overseeing the grill puff away in fading light. Milky moonbeams on hickory smoke, ah, these are the simple pleasures patron to the cook. Why it is we do what we do, forsaking the stove top for the hobo lifestyle, under the shimmering stars, and over the open flame. Ambiance no crowded sports bar will ever match.20130224_184112_edit0

During the last 10 minutes or so, I basted the winglets in some Sweet Baby Rays, and hit them a little more with some direct heat, to caramelize the sugars a tad. Man! Then proceeded to plate up, and dine in the acute absence of the sports bar scene, whilst basking in the relative tranquility patron to the pit. Amen.


How to NOT smoke a Brisket! Battling the Beast.

20130126_181826Before I go on to explain the “beast”, I will hang my head low and admit that the one I was wrestling with was only 3 pounds. It was my humble first smoke of that cut of meat and I walk away with more knowledge on smoking a brisket. I don’t know what go into me. My father-in-law was heading over for dinner and I wanted to impress him, as all son-in-laws do. You see, I know I can cook a good rack of ribs with sweet and tangy sauce dripping from your chin and elbows while working your way to the bone. I’m confident that my smoked chicken will flake apart at the press of a fork and my burgers come out oozing with a savory smoky flavor. I know that on Saturday I was not confident in smoking a brisket and I probably pulled out all the rookie moves. So, I’m writing this to share with you what not to do if like me, you are a rookie at the brisket.

My first mistake… When I was at the local hardware store a few months ago I needed to stock up on my coal supply. It was around the same time I installed the offset firebox on my smoker. Being it was around the Christmas season I was holding tight on my wallet privileges and so I decided to go with Lump Coal instead of my usual brand Kingsford. I have nothing against Lump coal, but I know that I can get my Kingsford coals to heat up and hit a steady temperature for a good 3 hours in the winter. As I filled my firebox with lump coal, it quickly heated up my smoker. It hit the trusty worthy temperature of 250 degrees and kept going. So I adjust my vents accordingly to bring down the temp. Again it hit 250 and kept going down. So, I repeated the process until I was able to zero on where I needed it. One thing I also noticed with the lump coal was that the slightest breeze, I’m talking a sneeze from one of my annoying hibernating pocket gophers would cause the smoker to raise a good 20 degree and then back down 20 and then teeter off in the middle somewhere. I almost didn’t need the wireless thermometer. I was outside enough to look at the gauge itself.

My second mistake…Never take two different theories on how to smoke a successful brisket and put them together (unless you really know what you are doing). I started off with throwing the brisket on the grate and leaving it there. My brisket was going just fine and then I had to open up my BBQ bible by Steven Raichlen. I read an excerpt from Steven’s book that tells me to wrap the brisket in tin foil a good 3/4 th of the way through, and so i did. As much as I respect Steven Raichlen’s knowledge of the grill and his years of cooking over a flame, I also have learned that some of his techniques are not always the only way. He has tv shows and books, but there are other ways of doing it. Wrapping your brisket in tinfoil wasn’t the rookie move. No, the rookie move was the I changed up my method right in the middle of a smoke. If something is going fine, leave it.

One my goals for the process was seeing bark on the brisket. However, I was informed later that my absence of bark was because I had wrapped the brisket in tinfoil. By wrapping it in foil, I allowed too much moisture to collect and therefore, no bark. I know, a rookie mistake I have made. I shouldn’t change methods in mid-cook and I humbly lay my head low because of it.

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Pulled Chicken, Hickory Smoked Brisket and Salad

In the end, my result was a fully cooked brisket. I achieved the tenderness I wanted. In fact, it was so tender you could cut it with a fork which I believe is the goal from what I hear. The smoky flavor had a great impact with every bite taken. I was complimented greatly from my father-in-law, little did he know of the rookie mistakes I made.

I think I’ll wait until I enter the ring with another brisket. I will then throw it on and leave it. No foil, just intense smoke and a solid 250 degrees.

I don’t like looking back. I’m always constantly looking forward. I’m not the one to sort of sit and cry over spilt milk. I’m too busy looking for the next cow. ~ Gordon Ramsay


Chocolate?? Are you NUTS?

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Dunking your brand new white mop into a fresh batch of homemade sauce goes against everything mother had taught you. OK all rules ascend out the window when you begin to baste a half-done smoky rack of ribs. The aromatic mix of spice, vinegar, and smoke waft into the air, and you can’t help but to apply more.

I’d like to share a recipe I found online and tweaked a little for my taste. It’s a Chocolate Infused BBQ Sauce. I know what you’re thinking, “What is he thinking?” Chocolate and BBQ? Chocolate and Smoke? Don’t get me wrong, it sounds weird, but tastes very good. Here’s how it’s done!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper – See Note Below
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped – See Note Below

Preparation

  1. Combine ketchup and next 9 ingredients (through pepper) in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.

I decided to make a few notes for the interested reader.

  • If you’re going to use Chocolate, go big! OK, I didn’t look too hard at the grocery store. I went with what cost more than Hershey’s or Nestle. I decided to go with Guittard’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. I felt the flavor stood out more when I have baked with them in the past.img_7972
  • Also, when a recipe calls for freshly ground pepper, then ground your pepper freshly! I have a mortar and pestle. I love going with a rainbow mix of Peppercorn.
  • For those of you who have ever tasted chili infused chocolate, go ahead and throw in some chili powder to taste. The sweet of the chocolate and brown sugar really compliment the kick of pepper and chili powder.300-111-3605
  • Lastly, I usually begin basting the meat with the sauce as soon as I throw smoke on the coals. The smoke flavor really sticks to anything that is wet on the cut of meat. So if you want that hickory flavor to stand out, start basting right away. All opinion of course!IMG_20121118_164651

Testament of a Grilling Geek

I went out to the grill the other night, in routine fashion to tend the meat, and found myself for a time just standing there, staring into the hot, glowing coals. It was a crisp night, and the heat from the fire felt good on my hands. And the sky was dark, and scattered with stars, shimmering vanward to a blackened infinity. I turned up the collar on my smoking jacket, and noted momentarily how pleasant it was – this fire, this night. The simple pleasures of loitering pit-side, while lovingly doting over a piece of meat. I just love it. But why. Why would a grown man of apt intelligence forsake a perfectly good stove top, and a heated house, to go instead outside, into the cold, and cook his supper in the humbling style of hobos and passing vagrants.  I pushed the meat over indirect heat,  paused, and thought about it for a while.

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The reasons reside I suspect, with the soft-rising tendrils of smoke, and the waving mirages of heat against a pale, crescent moon. With the dancing flames, and the aromas of smoldering wood. It might also be because of all the many campsites  beneath whispering pines I am thus reminded of, every time I strike a match, and kindle a fire. Because meat cooked over an open fire is at once a pleasure, and akin to something deeper in our souls than electric skillets or microwave ovens. Because of the freshened air which expands my chest, and the Black Capped Chickadees which flirt yonder, in the stately trees.  Because BBQ is a fickle pursuit, and you are not always so sure how it will turn out. And because good BBQ takes time,  lots of time, and loitering over a beautiful bed of coals, with my tongs in hand, is at once a stand of small defiance, in a falling world wrought with haste. And that is no small thing.

Because one day I might smoke the perfect rack of ribs.

Indeed, the reasons are many I suppose, of why we do what we do. And I suppose too there are plenty of other ways to cook a cut of meat, that will taste just as good, and surely a might more comfortable than standing out in the cold. But scarce any of them, let it be said, are nearly so much fun as this; with this fire, this night out-of-doors, under magnificent skies, and over fiery beds of glowing coal.  Ah yes. The simple pleasures patron to the pit, and to those who tarry there. This I suspect, is why I grill by and by, and why it is we do what we do.

That, and I like to eat! Amen.


Hickory Smoked Rib Sandwiches

Game day in the National Football League Playoffs. 9 degrees of mercury registering. What do you think we’re going to do! Lets light the smoker!

There are a precious few alignments in the human condition so fine, as football and BBQ. Don’t ask me why. All I know is one shouldn’t tamper with the good things in life, nor try to analyze it much, less it evaporates, like the morning mist over still waters. No, we shall not try to figure out why, but instead be emboldened to embrace it. To put meat to flame, and declare the day is well.  Thus to salute the rising smoke,  and for a while at least, maybe even to live the dream.

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As I repair by the fire-place, in my favorite man chair, the game quietly on the TV, a glance out to the patio sees the brand new 22 1/2 inch WSM puffing gently that fine-blue smoke patron to a good and established, hickory fire. It’s maiden voyage, if you will, like a big ship slipping slowly out to sea. On board today, a rack of maple syrup glazed beef ribs, and a good matter of country-style pork ribs, both dusted in a sweet but spicy,  home-made rub. The country-style ribs, which are really cut from a pork butt, took a bit further journey tho, pampered long over-night in a custom marinade adept at improving pork. Like all good journeys, the journey of BBQ starts with an idea, and is done when it is done, never quite positive of where you may end up. Or how you may get there. And I do not think we would have it any other way.

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The spoils are on the smoker now, for a two and one half hours I should wager, bathed in light hickory smoke, at a modest 250 degrees. The keen wind chill, of which it must be subzero, slices with ease, and not-so-compassionately through the trees, and over the frozen land: but the WSM holds stalwart in the face of bitter inclement. A victory affording myself the high pleasure of taking up residence “belly up” in the man chair, feet propped up by the fireplace, dosing peacefully amid the banter of Sunday football. There are few naps finer than football naps, save for perhaps golf naps, tho that would probably be up for debate I suppose.  My brother likes to take naps under his truck, but that’s a different story. At any rate, as cozy as I was, eventually I knew I had to get up and foil the ribs, of which I did.  A labor of love, by and by. It was no big deal.

Another hour and half in the foil, with a dose of BBQ sauce and splash of Dr Pepper, just cause. This loosened up the meat with aplomb, and took it by the hand, escorting  the unruly meat to the next level. Taming the beast, as it were, swaddled in tin foil. Pampered with love.

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Lastly, a toasting of the french bread, over the remaining, tho still softly-glowing embers, for that finishing touch savored by the lady folk.

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After the bones pulled freely, we then plated the ribs, and chopped them into lovely man-sized chunks, and served them lightly basted in BBQ sauce on the toasted french bread. This was it. We had arrived. The maiden voyage of the new smoker had landed, nudging the fateful shores of a meat utopia. A land where the slobbers run freely, and a good burp is considered high praise.  If ever you want to one-up your standard pulled pork sandwich, this is how to do it. Man!

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Next time you’re in the mood for some tasty football food, and wanna do something a little different, try yourself some slow-smoked rib sandwiches. Ain’t too many things finer.

-POTP


Awkward

It happens like this more than I’d probably care to admit. How do I tell them, so innocent and feathery, that it is not their kin they smell humbled under the lid. And why is it they always have to show up when it seems they have every right to. That’s not fair. And just a little awkward for everybody.

It happens like this more times than I would care to admit. Ironically so, when ever I happen to be grilling a bird of some kind. It's just awkward.


Nor the Gloom of Night: Grilling Where the Sun Don’t Shine

Looking out the frosted window and the wind-driven snow mounting there, and noting the mercury is reading in the 20121220_183844_edit0single digits now,  wind chill of 7 below, and the longest night of the year has settled upon the land,  there is a curious tug upon the soul I find, to light up, and put some meat to flame. A true Patron of the Pit knows no such convenience as the off season. Nor would we harbor ever the thought, to throw in the towel upon such a game as we have come to love. The reason why is this. If we had to wait for a nice day – a day of smiling weather, warm sunbeams, and song birds twittering from the Dogwoods, well, up here in Minnesota, on the 45th Parallel, we might be waiting for six months then, to grill.  And that’s just not right. No meat geek worth his tongs should abandoned his sanctioned grilling post for that long, less he morph into what we’ve heard is a normal person. And so yesterday, just because, and neath the moon and the stars which shimmered above, we grilled.   It was 5 pm.

afterfocus_1356065332343_edit0Turns out many miles away, cross the wind-swept and frozen land, my fellow patron had his new smoker fired up as well, in sort of an upward raised middle finger to the inclement of weather. Bless him. Were were probably the only two blokes within a 100 mile radius to be grilling this frigid eve, impassioned by our craft. A deep, penetrating cold pressing over a hot bed of coals. The glorious interface of a winter grill master’s lofty ideal. The proving grounds. The cusp between light and darkness. Between fire and ice.

I took the wings, John took the legs, and together and apart, we grilled. Hands in our pockets, huddled over our appointed stations, the ambiance of our fires flaring; crackling in the frozen night. The smell of hickory a’waft in the wintry air. The star fields sprinkled over head, like diamonds cast over a blackened canvas . Glory! And the neighbors all glare at us from behind their warm looking windows, aglow in artificial heat, just shaking their heads. They do not understand that which they are missing.

Intrepid, no. Crazy, maybe. Impassioned, absolutely. To those who grill, and have seen it’s joys, it is our privilege to aspire towards it. To bundle up and put ourselves out there, where the metal meets the meat. For grilling is simply too much fun, and too well with our souls, to forsake it for the seduction of a warm easy chair.  In the air of what the good mail men used to chant; neither snow, nor rain, nor heat – we Patrons of the Pit heed the creed, holding it near to our hickory-scented jackets. Perhaps the mail service never intended it for the Brethren of the Flame, but we latch onto as if it were our own, and lavish accordingly in our intended spoils. A victory not soon extinguished it seems,  from snow, or rain, or heat, nor, as it turns out,  even the gloom of night. Amen.

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