Way up yonder, in the northern reaches of Minnesota, a series of Weber Smokey Joe grills quietly puffed in turn beneath the whispering pines. Men plying through their coolers, and spice stashes. Other men circling about, taking pictures. Patties of ground beef delicately formed, and laying at the ready. And a light humidity hung in the air. This was the scene of the 2013 Burger Throw-Down. A gastronomic snippet of a men’s retreat. A humble tho seriously esteemed competition held in the hinter lands of Northern Minnesota, along the White Fish chain of lakes. It was there in these competitive pools, that my fellow blog host sought to ply his burger craft. Each contestant was provided 2 pounds of ground beef, 4 hamburger buns, a Weber Smokey Joe, and what ever spice and accompaniments they wish to steal from their home pantries . There would be 8 judges, each sporting a most scrupulous eye, and two hours, give or take, in which to greatly impress them.
As the Canadian Jays and Black Capped Chickadees cavorted in the white pines, and the air smelled of damp earth from recent showers, the contestants hovered over their prep areas, one and all, prodding over patties of beef, and a litany of spice and cheese. The game was on, and our fellow blog host recalls, in his own words, getting things underway, in this, the great burger throw down of 2013.
“The burger throw down was as fun as I thought it would be. I was the first one to show up knowing I would have much prep for my burgers. I had my premixed jerk rub tightly vacuumed sealed for freshness and a large can of pineapple rings. I also brought a zip lock bag of hickory chips that has been soaking since Thursday night, so almost 2 days. So, I started my coals first, as one should always do, and as they began to burn I started moving them around the bowl of the Smokey Joe. Placing them on one side of the bowl so I can do a little in-direct smoking once the burgers were fully cooked. When people saw what I was doing with the coal placement, I could hear comments like “wow, he’s got it down to a science, or this guy is serious”. I was just doing what I’m used too.”
The men henceforth got down, as men do in competitive burger making. Got down to the heady business of procuring something memorable, and pleasing to the palate. Something apt to move a judge’s tummy for the better, and put a mile on his face. The contestants were up for the challenge Everything from pesto and jalapeno to feta and Munster cheese. Our fellow patron admits to being slightly intimidated, standing alongside some of these Meat Maestros. But he sticks with his game plan, and his secret weapon – 48 hour soaked hickory chips.
“I then quickly began to prep my burgers. Now, I brought a lot of spice rub with me and I wasn’t sure how much I should use so I decided I would start mixing the rub into the meat until I could smell it. I used about half of what I brought, folding and pounding the meat until the smell joined the wet pine of the camp. I quickly shaped my patties and filled the middle with blue cheese. I sprinkled a little more rub on the cheese and laid the other patty on top of it. I finished by pinching the patties together and rubbing spice on both sides of it. I think soaking the chips as long as I did helped put steam into the meat because I know my burgers were juicy. After they were fully cooked I moved them to indirect heat and placed the pineapple over the coals. I charred them up a little and then toasted the buns. I threw everything together and mine were the first for the judges to eat. I realized at that point I forgot two of my main ingredients, bacon, which would have gone on top of the pineapple, and then some smokey bbq sauce to go on top of the bacon. I’m glad my burgers were juicy, because sometimes without sauce you get a dry burger.”
Were talking a burger here folks. One that would make even a heathen man pause to say grace. One-half pound of hickory smoked ground beef, filled with a pocket of gooey blue cheese, seasoned with the patron kick of good jerk rub, topped with a charred pine-apple ring and of course, a toasted bun. Dang! You certainly are not going to eat a whole lot better under the whispering pines nor burger shack alike. And apparently the judges thought so too, as they gave our fellow patron 1st Place honors for his Smoked Blue Cheese Jerk Burger. Well done old chap. Well done indeed.
Besides getting to sport the title of Defending Champion for a year, he also won himself a chef’s hat and an apron. If we’re nice to him, and flatter him a little, maybe we can even get him to model it for us. I doubt it, but maybe.
Early spring in Minnesota. Melting snow, and river-lets of ice water meandering down the streets. Bird song returns to the barren tree tops, and the sun feels just right on your shoulders. Oh how we love this time of year. Just the mere thought of feeling the warmth from the sun again, not only registers as an event, but it is therapy too for the soul. For here is a simple pleasure, this light from on high, that has spanned the vacuum of space and landed precisely on your corner of the earth. Kissing your cheek there, like it had nothing better to do. That gives a winter riddled bloke hope, I think. And engenders in one’s brain pan those long but dormant notions of golf clubs, and fishing poles. And motorcycles and BBQ’s. The latter of course, something we here at this blog have never put away in the first place. Even so, as I banked the coals this evening to the side of the old kettle grill, I gloried in the purified air that spring seems to usher with it, and how a patch of grass in the spruce grove yonder, is flooded now, in a golden light. It is a pleasure to tarry by the pit on days such as this. And on the grill tonight, now that you mention it, apple smoked, honey tinted pork chops. Man! Are you ready for this!
Coals assembled like a flaming choir to the side of the pit, for proper indirect cooking. The chops were thus lightly rubbed in honey, and then sprinkled with some homemade spice, fresh out of the mortar and pestle. Now when you put sugar based things like honey on your meat at the beginning of the cook, you do increase your odds of burning things. But I didn’t care. With proper pitmanship, one can minimize the sugar rebellion, and procure some dang fine vittles. Thus, I went light on the honey, kept the meat well away from the coals, and just baby sat the beautiful pork chops, giving them almost all of my attention. It is a great hardship I suppose to sit tight to the grill, enjoying its radiant heat like that of a pot-bellied stove, whilst listening to the tweety birds cavort in the Alders. To at once let up on the accelerator pedal of life, and fancy the view of the world spinning with out me, whilst the apple wood smoke rises unto the heavens. This is a great pain indeed, these rigors of the BBQ arts, but one I am willing to endure now and again, for the assurance of delicious meat hot off the grill.
So it was, under blue skies and the banter of returning birds aside dwindling snowbanks, and warm sun beams cast upon my small little corner of the world, thy chops were dutifully grilled, with a touch of smoke, just because. Continually flipping them, nurturing them, ensuring they are having a good time there opposite the hot coals. I know I was. The aromas at the pit were a melody of inspiration, from the apple wood, to the caramelizing honey, to the fresh ground coriander and rosemary that my fellow patron gave me, as a token of good pit gesture. A spice rub we used in the Dual Patron Cook Out blog, consisting of brown sugar, Himalayan Pink Salt, onion powder, pepper corn, smoked paprika, coriander and rosemary. An agreeable host of aromas in which to aptly tarry by. And as I did precisely that in my patio chair, aside the smoking pit, I noted to myself how nice it was to be doing such a thing as this, with out a jacket, no less. The winter grilling season, and those 20 below cook outs, might I wager, are on it’s way out now. Confirmed yonder, by the melting snow, the bird song, and the golden rays of sun residing on a scant patch of grass. Oh yes, we love this time of year.
Apple smoked, honey-tinted pork chops, with freshly ground, aromatic spices. You could do a whole lot worse I suspect, but not have nearly so much fun.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Gentlemen. A few blogs back we showed you how to impress a woman by baking her bread on the grill. Women chimed in from all across the blogosphere, and were impressed left and right, and a good thing had been done. Women began at least, to foster a modicum of hope for us. But the ladies in our life are worth more than a mere loaf of tenderly grilled bread. They’re worth some dessert too. Thus it is time now for the encore, if you will. Time to take our efforts to the next level. It’s time to make some caramel rolls on the grill, because if that don’t astound the female species, nothing will. Come with us won’t you, and we will show you just how to do it.
First thing you’ll need to do if you haven’t already is to go back and read our article, How To Impress a Woman: Bread! You’ll need to use the Master Recipe found there for the dough. Yes, the exact same dough you use to bake bread can also be used for the most delicious, home-made, caramel rolls you’ll likely ever ingest. So you’ll need to make yourself up a batch of that dough, if you wish to try this amazing treat.
Whence the dough is made, grab a grape fruit sized chunk of it and plop it on a pan. Next, you’ll need to roll it out to a 1/4 inch thick. I couldn’t find my roller, but discovered a Quaker Oats oatmeal can rolls pretty nice instead. It’s all good. Anyways, then you’ll need to spread the filling out over the top of the dough. Here is how to make that filling.
- 4 Tbsp of butter
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
Cream all this together in your Kitchen Aid or what have you, and plop it over your rolled out dough. Don’t worry about how pretty it looks. Whence that is complete, go ahead a roll it up into a shapely log resembling your fondest burrito, and then let it sit and think about its life whilst you tend to key goodness factor – the caramel topping.
- 6 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
Cream together all this stuff too, and spread it over the bottom of a pie tin or the like. You can sprinkle some pecans over it here too if you have any on hand.
Next thing on the docket is to slice up your burrito, cutting cross sections every two inches or so, and place them in your pan directly over the topping you spread out there. The hardest part of this project is done now. If you made it this far, you can accomplish this masterpiece. Now it’s time to motion for the pit, back into our element. Where the pine-scented breezes mingle with the aromatic virtues of burning charcoal, and the banter of the flirting Chickadee.
Put your precious cargo on opposite the hot coals. Indirect is your mantra here. Abide by it, and be well. This is no dish to screw around with. We tossed on a few pieces of peach wood at this point, that had been soaking in water for an hour or so. This project requires a delicate smoke, a wee bit, just enough to let you know these rolls hail from the smokey realm, but not so much that it over-powers the whole thing. Treat the smoke as a spice, not an ingredient. The light smoke and the caramel produce an unlikely yet worthy bond, that will set these rolls apart from any other. Yet another privilege of a pit cook. Put on the lid, and assume your standard pit master position – in your man chair, lovely beverage in hand, and wait for the awe-inspiring aromas to hit you.
Whilst its baking, because your working a pit with varied temperatures running through it, you will want to lift the lid and check in on it from time to time, rotating 180 degrees at least once, and otherwise follow your pit master instincts for even baking. And like most baking projects, you’re looking for a golden brown crust to form, of which you should see in about 30 – 40 minutes. Keep checking in on it, be diligent, re-assuring it that you love it, and care about it’s well-being. Part of impressing a woman is being thoughtful and considerate you see. Best to practice on your caramel roll first if you have to.
Whence a golden brown crust becomes the standard on your rolls, and it looks akin to something you think you’d like to eat, go ahead and proceed to the fun part – inverting it on a plate. Keep the inverted pan on top of it for a bit, tarry there, letting the piping hot caramel ooze and dribble of its own free will, where ever it so pleases, thus soaking into and over your rolls in a fashion suitable for the prestigious likes of Betty Crocker and your favorite grand mother. Folks will smell something good at this point and jockey nearer to thee. Look them in the eyes, pausing for effect, and remove the inverted lid, and proceed at once to astound the nearest woman. And maybe even yourself too.
As the winter tempest barrels across this mighty country, I stoke the coals in the grill, banking them to the side of the old kettle. Plumes of heat bellow forth and feel good on my face, and my old wool smoking jacket feels “just right” as I place a small piece of hickory on the fire, which dutifully ignites, as if on queue to a higher calling. Hands to my pockets, I pause momentarily, to fancy the fire some, and to consider the day. To inhale that cool winter air, and declare that the moment is well here at the pit. It’s only like 30 degrees, which compared to what it has been, well, I may as well be grilling on the white sand beaches of Waikiki. Balmy! But a wall of snow approaches steadfastly from the East, as it sweeps across the northern states, leaving a wreckage of automobiles marooned in it’s wake. There are times when it is good to leave the house, and times when it is not. Times to build a fire and hunker down, as they say. We Patrons of the Pit, we know just what to do. It is our second nature. Thus, on the grill tonight: Bone-in Chicken Breasts, and some Bacon Cheese Onion Buds. As my fellow patron is fond of saying, “Bam!”
Start with the onion first, one of them big onions bout the size of an ostrich head, as it needs about an hour on the grill. Slice it like a blooming onion, or in a checker board pattern, going almost, but not quite all the way through. You want the onion, like so many rock bands we’ve grown to love, to just stay together. Next order of business is to dash it with a smattering of your favorite seasoning. I used some Cajun flavors I had laying about, but you can use what ever. Then lay two or three strips of bacon on top, because bacon is good, and should never be considered otherwise. Gently set the onion monument on the grill, over in-direct heat of course. Rotate once or twice in the next hour, at the discretion of your pit master instincts and beverage levels. The bacon will of course baste your onion as only bacon can.
Twenty minutes into the cook, put on the chicken breasts. I used the succulent bone-in sort, which renders the meat with more flavor I believe. The rub this time around was of the home-made variety, a sweet and salty concoction with just enough heat to make it interesting. Anyways, I thus dusted the breasts liberally and then seared them first over direct heat, to crisp them up, and then tucked them back by the onion for the rest of the cook. Lid on, dampers cracked nicely, and a light blue smoke, patron to smoldering hickory, wafting into a gray, Minnesota sky, with blizzards, and white-out looming distinctly on the horizon. It don’t get much more pleasant than that.
The last step, after about of hour, is to chop up the bacon and sprinkle it back over the onion with a whole lot of cheddar cheese! Glory! And pass the cardiologist!
Hickory Smoked Chicken Breasts and Bacon Cheddar Onion Buds hot off the grill.
No finer way to hunker down for a winter storm than that. Bam!
We are men. And we are moved by meat. Don’t ask us why. We don’t know. Difficult perhaps to articulate, but easy to appreciate, whence our incisors have pierced the hallowed surface of that perfectly seared steak. Ah yes, steak. A good one will settle a restless man’s soul, and in turn draw him closer to thee, and unto his meatiest ideal. Hark, the world and it’s cares fairly ebb to a faint hush, and the pendulum of the sun at once holds stalwart in the sky, when at last we lay big meat to flame, and simply cook it there amid the rising smoke. Oh how we favor a good steak, abiding in it’s juices, sizzling quietly over a beautiful bed of coals. It moves us.
It was one of those vintage winter afternoons, under skies of sleet and falling snow, where the call of the grill was at it’s most primal. It’s most basic, I should wager. Nothing fancy today, as fancy would only ruin it. Nay, when bridled in the heady thralls of meat lust, let there just be meat on flame, and let hunger be our spice. The rest will sort itself out, by and by. For today, as in days past, we are smitten for the rib eye. The bone-in succulent sort known to send grown men into slobbering fits of idiocy. Plunk one of these down on a man’s plate, and plop a potato along side it, and he is at once and for all the world, a contented species. Gobbling quietly by himself, with no apparent no need for conversation. Like a pacifier to a new born, for a time anyways, he will require little else. Indeed, for a few fleeting minutes, and maybe even more than that, all the world is right. For let it be said, nothing is quite so efficient at setting a man straight, than grilled meat on the bone, and a fashionable side of potatoes.
So next time your looking for something simple off the grill, or have a restless man on your hands, well, ain’t too many things better suited for both, than a perfectly grilled Rib Eye, and the space in time to devour it.
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.
Though the snow may be cold
And the wind chills the air
Associates gather to bend their wit
These two logs have held the cheeks
Of Patrons of the Pit
Conversations of brisket cuts
And ribs that drip with flavor
To watch your cronies eat with joy
And sacrifice dietary behavior
The culinary dares may bet and fly
To see who alters the plan
The recipe changes from bloke to bloke
Yet still fill the greasy drip pan
Though our pits don’t always look the same
The outcome still comes together
To give your smoke some bragging rights
Because you have smoked in astringent weather…
No, I do not speak of the kind of smoking jacket you’re probably thinking of. The purple-velvet sort worn by gentlemen of high leisure, who own a humidor, and pace about in front of their fireplace with a pipe in hand, attempting to look thoughtful. No, the jacket I speak of is more humble than that, but equally as enchanting. And if you tend the grill year-around, and live in the colder places, you probably have one too. Indeed, it is the jacket we dawn most when favoring our spoils over a beautiful bed of coals, pit-side, amid the rising wood smoke. It is our smoking jacket, and it is well with our souls.
My go to grilling jacket is a thick, red and black, checkered affair, and made entirely of wool. It has just enough pockets to hold the various spices allotted for the cook, a book of matches, and a couple of cold hands. But what it holds best, is smoke. Something about the woolen fibers which absorb and record a tapestry of cooks in the out-of-doors. Grill-side gems I am reminded of every time I slip into its heavy sleeves, and I smell the aromas patron to the good life, and the memories procured there. It all tarries quietly in the smoke.
Memories of a thousand and one heady cook outs, on crisp, autumn days and frigid, starry nights. Of blizzards, and Christmas hams. And tho I never wear it in the warmer months, it even reminds me gently of Memorial Day cook-outs, and long Fourth of July smokes, beneath a balmy sun. Oh yes, if smell is linked with memories, and science has proven this to be so, then a smoking jacket proper beholds a lifetime supply of them. A cornucopia of moments, doing something we love, preserved in smoke. And tho I may not have the fanciest smoker, or the biggest grill, nor the covetous meat budget of some other guys, even so, every time I put on the smoking jacket, and smell the gloried past upon it, I know that I am favored, and a considerably a rich man. Amen.