Why is it when us Patrons of the Pit become giddy as a kid on Christmas when we know a snow storm is in our forecast? Why is it we contemplate our next meat choice in the grocery store as the weatherman predicts a cold and heavy snow. Why do we bundle up and head out into the tundra as we know the rest of the world stays inside? As the winter wonderlands blow across our patios we hold our tongs in hand waiting to add another chunk of hickory to the flame. Our neighbors gaze out the window and question what we are up to next. Our wives sip hot coco and smile knowing that they will get a meal out of our insane obsessions. While the whole time we sit in peace. As snowflakes falling on our stocking hats and ice crystals collect on our whiskers. We breathe in and out, taking in as much of the aromatic mixture of smoke, meat and spice rubs. It’s natural…it’s poetic.
Yes, to all of those affected by the storm this weekend. Let your grill smoke away. Let your meat slowly fall apart on the hot grate, when only 1/16th of an inch away, Winter hammers the lid of your smoker with its fierce cold. When you sit at your dinner table, fork in hand and BBQ sauce in the other, smile at your accomplishments. Laugh at yourself knowing you have performed an act that most people in their right mind never would. Then eat!
Over a steaming cup of tea, I glance out the window at the pit, watching spindrift swirl off the house in a fashion suitable maybe, for the weathered, icy, flanks of Everest. The mercury gauge read a sporty 5 degrees F, but the weather man said it felt more like minus 15, and I guess believed him. You kind of have to believe him I concluded, when it feels like your parking brake is engaged when you back down the driveway in the morning, only it isn’t Yeah, it was cold out there alright. A vintage January day in Minnesota. The kind of day where you put on two or three shirts in the morning, and then you go about the business of getting dressed. I curled my toes in my warm socks, fingers cradling the hot, porcelain cup , and after a dash of consideration, I decided to do the only sensible thing I could think of – to go outside naturally, and ignite the Snow Weber!
Robert Frost postulates in his poem the virtues of world destruction either by the fire or by ice, figuring either, if we had to, would be pretty nice. I wonder tho if he ever grilled in winter, or knew that the two forces could harmonize together for the betterment of his tummy. Because they can. And so it was, with pork chops in hand, I stepped out onto the wind-swept patio, and at once my left eye lid seared tight from the keen northern wind. I love it! Tenderly I placed the two chops on the hot grate, and admired them there for a spell. The previous owners of which I’m sure knew each other back on their farm. Perhaps routinely getting together for morning slop, to discuss their lives, their hopes, and their dreams. Maybe they even aspired to make it on to this blog one day. Hmm. I shook off the thought, and dusted the chops with some Louisiana Fish Fry Cajun Seasoning instead.
After a while, and maybe even longer than that, I felt the compulsion to put the lid on, and go think about my life. Nothing quite so fine as repairing out in the yard with a 15 below cross-wind, whilst two pork chops sizzle on the snow grill. Glory! The art of winter grilling, if your wondering, is not to fight it. But to embrace it. To make the proverbial glass of lemon aid out of it. To meet it on it’s terms and not your own. That, and a degree of lunacy doesn’t hurt none either.
And supper is served, courtesy of, and inspired by:
Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
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!
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
Dirt, rubbish, or waste matter.
Dirt….Rubbish….Waste Matter?? I’m slightly appalled at this definition of the word “muck”! Bean Muck is far from that. Though, the effect of eating too much of it could leave you feeling mucky, the dish itself is at best genius. Let me explain.
There was a time, a few years back, my Patron and I were up in the Northern bearings of the SHT. No, this is not a misspell for a foul word, it’s simply an acronym of the Superior Hiking Trail. The Superior Hiking trail is a footpath that extends the northeastern ridge line of Lake Superior for about 275 miles. It’s decorated with pine, birch, aspen, fir and cedar. On occasion you will hear the chickadees sing, the squirrels squawk and the lonely wolf howl. The breeze whistles through the pines in an airy lullaby at night, and you can get lost for days without running into your own species. Back to my point… It was the end of September, early October, and we had the itch to get out alone into the woods. Had a name for our trip, and we decided on the selfish title of Camp Glutton. We title our small adventure because we realized we had enough food to feed ourselves along with 10 other hikers that might cross our trail. So there we sat, 3 long, relaxing days cooking over a campfire. The air in our camp was thick with the odors of brats, steaks, a couple of loaves of French Bannock (story to come) and onion. My patron and I rarely go anywhere without a fresh onion. We cooked eggs for breakfast and soups for lunch. We often retreated to our camping chair and hammock, our guts full and domed high to the heavens waiting for the next round of meals.
We had made it to our last day of camp. Waking up as the sun hits our tents, stretching to the skies and hungry as bears out of hibernation. We knew we didn’t want to leave camp with food still in our packs so we got creative. I had one large can of Baked Beans and a couple of Apple Gouda brats left. My Patron pulled out of his pack an entire onion. We decided to get creative. So, over the fire the brats went. The onion diced up into small squares and the beans simmering over the flames in the pit. Once all three were done, they all ended up in the same pot. There is nothing pretty or attractive about this dish. There is no right or wrong way of making it. Why in Bean Muck you can add really whatever you want. Its Bean muck! We have flirted with the flavors of peppers, spices, honey, syrup, ground beef, and rabbit meat. There is only one key ingredient that one needs to start with and I’m sure you figured it out by now, a can of beans.
Now, the POTP cannot take credit for inventing Bean Muck. We are sure many of you others out there have been creative with your own can of beans. So let us know what some delicacies you have added to your Bean Muck. Share your secrets and lets prove that muck isn’t always dirt, rubbish or waste matter.
**WARNING** When experimenting with Bean muck make sure it’s on a weekend when you’re not around loved ones. If you do, you may find life can be lonely for a week or two. Carry on…
Well, we had allot of left over roast beef from the Po Boy cook a couple days ago, so I thought to myself, self, why don’t you do up something a little different with that left over meat. Something involving the blessed binder of cheese. Take your sandwich kick you’ve been on to another state, and salute something good there. Viola, the destination was clearly then apparent – Philadelphia, and the gloried cheese steak sandwiches – POTP Style.
Man! Sauteed some onion and green pepper, re-heated the Po Boy meat, and mixed it all together. Then promptly topped it with everyone’s favorite ghetto cheese – Velveeta. Slipped this monument to sandwich technology into the toaster oven for a couple minutes, and thus arrived on the shores of cheese steak bliss. It was good people. It was real good.
Dateline: January 20, 2013
Temperature: -8 degrees Fahrenheit .
Mission: Po Boys on the Grill!
That is probably what the neighbors were thinking anyway, when they glanced out their dining room window this morning and saw me yonder, tending my grill. Po boy. Poor boy indeed, having to BBQ when it’s eight degrees below the blessed zero mark. Who would be so daft to grill in temperatures so obscene, they ask, as they shake their head, and sip their fancy coffee. Clearly they have never made the acquaintanceship of this blog.
The Po Boy is a shredded beef sandwich invented and forged in Louisiana, patron to my southern roots, where true BBQ is not only a given, but a way of life. We have been in a sandwich mood here at the pit lately, so why not pay homage to the homeland of my kin down yonder, and do up one of the finer culinary contributions of the south, the Po Boy sandwich, on the grill of course. Granted if a Louisianan were to have stepped out on my patio today, and felt that bone-stabbing cold, they surely would have locked their eyeballs to the tip their nose, and keeled over in a fashion suitable for a coronary thrombosis. Best to let us northern boys handle this one, mates, and show you how it’s done this side of zero. Life at the edge, of fire and ice.
The journey began with a lightly seasoned 4 pound chuck roast, of which was dotingly seared over a hot bed coals, a couple of minutes per side. Since it was colder than Frosty’s carrot out there, I made the fire extra big, and employed the minion method to boot, a tactic essential for this epic, arctic cook. Then get yourself a pot for the roast, (not your wife’s good cake pan) along with some lightly sautéed onions and garlic. Lastly, flood it with a rather copious quantity of beef broth, enough ideally, to cover the meat. Position the pot indirect, put on the lid, tip your hat to a job well done, and make way for your nearest beverage of choice.
The next step is not to be in a hurry. These big roasts take time. Time for the internal temps to crest high enough to start breaking down the connective tissues and collagen, and enter the food realm better known as savory. You want this meat to fall apart easily. In point of fact, old Po Boy folklore has it, the meat should fall apart with a” hard stare”. And that’s easy to do if you take your time. There is no haste in a pit master’s mojo. For we know the world spends fast enough as it is, thus let our meat at least, tarry back in the quiet eddies of life. Back with the slowly ebbing sun in a pastel sky, and the gentle smoke which rises serenely from our pits.
Eight degrees below the zero mark ain’t exactly the optimal weather for loitering pit side, but it turns out if you can see your pit from inside the house somewhere, well, that’s good enough. And since the football playoffs were on the TV, it didn’t take much coaxing to take up residence in the man chair, and while away a few hours, whilst the grill puffed away in the deep, penetrating cold. Oh how I reveled at the intense labors of being a pit master, with my feet at the fireplace, swaddled in blankets, my eyes drooping on and off, and the football game bantering in the back ground. Eventually, after some fashion, I even woke up, with a trail of drool spilling out of my left lip pit. Glory, this is the life!
After about 5 hours, the meat was done, and falling apart like an alcoholic at a moonshine conference. No hardened stare necessary. It was then time to toast the French bread. Apparently you will be frowned upon if you use anything other than French bread for your Po Boy, so be warned, less you stand at the receiving end of some unruly Cajun ridicule. So French bread it was. We put a little mayonnaise on the bread, and packed it full of the savory meat, and a little lettuce for good measure to suit the lady folk. Man! There are plenty of high-end sandwiches in the world, and let it be said, this is one of them.
Next time you’re in the mood for something different, and have a little time, try grilling up some Beef Po Boy Sandwiches. Subzero temperatures optional.
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.
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.
Looking out the frosted window and the wind-driven snow mounting there, and noting the mercury is reading in the single 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.
Turns 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.
Waking up to a blizzard is always a pleasant thing. This is especially so when it happens on a Sunday, your hallowed day off, and the snows have fallen as such to bring the roadways asunder, and the day, for better or for worse, to a very slow ebb. The sort of day where all the smart people of the world like to hunker down. A day of enforced leisure, and carefully calculated R&R. And whilst the weather rages, and your neighbors all moan their names in vain, you are at once in your glory, forced to slow life down to it’s basics, and watch the drifts slowly mount outside your frosted window. These are the sorts of days tailor made for pit masters, and the inherent leisure patron to the craft. Such was the case here in the upper mid-west today. And while some pull the cords on their snow blowers, and others curl by their fireplaces, we Patrons of the Pit have other things in mind. No finer time, than these days of flying snow, to light the BBQ, and put some meat to flame.
There is no such thing as the off-season for an avid keeper of the grill. To do so would mean to throw in your white towel, and the notion of that chews about as well as half-cooked brisket. Brethren of the Flame are a hardy lot, and foul weather, blizzards not with-standing, shall keep us from our intended spoils. Thus, on the menu today, hickory grilled pork chops with a sweet, home-made marinade.
Before lighting the grill:
Mix together this tasty marinade:
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
After marinating your pork chops, and putting them on the grill over indirect heat, and after adding a chunk of smoke wood of your choice to the coals, then be sure to put the lid on so as to thwart the inclement of weather which brews about thee. Then proceed to take up residence some place cozy with a view of the pit, with a lovely beverage in hand, and enjoy thus how the smoke curls from your vent, and how a thousand and one falling snow flakes vanish with aplomb, as they gently kiss your grill. Raise your flag of leisure now, and stand against the forces of haste. Return to grill on occasion to tend your meat, applying your skills as needed. Put on some Christmas music to complete the ambiance, and tarry quietly in the wake of deeds well done. For it is our belief, or at least our sincere hope, that time spent grilling is not deducted from our allotted lifespans. Which explains I suppose, why it is we tend to BBQ in blizzards.