It has been a soggy few days in paradise. I know the monsoon season has never even heard of Minnesota, but here lately I tell you, you would have been hard pressed to enlighten me otherwise. Flash floods, and torrents of falling water. Gales like Joshua’s trumpets. Lightening bolts the shape of Idaho. Thunder so loud you swear mother earth had just split at the seam. Everybody, even the resident ducks, were to take cover from the tempest, huddled in our respective shelters, listening to the rain drum over the roof like pitch forks and hammer handles. Magnificent weather, to say the least. You cannot deny. But a might challenging, shall we say, in which to go outside and light the BBQ. What’s a pit jockey to do! Eventually tho, and mercifully, all the flags suddenly went limp, and a golden shaft of light pierced down from a gray sky. Water gently dribbled off the roof, and the tweety birds burped back to life. We all emerged from our holes, every living thing, scratching our collective heads, and admiring a world so fresh and anew. So wet and green and clean. And countless pools of standing water where water ought not stand.
It wasn’t over yet, however. A glimpse at the Doppler radar revealed the bitter truth. That yet another green blob was advancing fiercely from the West. The short of it was we had but two, possibly three precious hours of semi-damp respite in which to frolic accordingly before the first, fat, rain drops spattered on the ground again. One hundred and twenty minutes or so, give or take. Well, under those circumstance, that was just long enough I figured, for a Patron of the Pit. Just long enough indeed, for a smoked meatloaf sandwich hot off the grill. Here is how to do it effectively!
Truth be told this started out as a simple round of hamburgers, but after mashing about the ground beef a bit, you might say inspiration struck. I quickly cracked an egg over the meat, and added about a cup of bread crumbs. Squirted some ketchup in there, then some garlic and onion. An envelope of Lipton Onion Soup Mix. And maybe a few other things. You all have your own kinks for your meat loaf I’m sure. Do henceforth what moves thee. Anyways, I shaped the obscene looking meat muck into the relative dimensions resembling that of a wayward bun I had sitting about. I had an orphaned hoagie roll you see, one that I didn’t know what to do with. It was all alone, and frankly wasn’t reaching its potential. So why not match the meat to fit the bun, its common sense really. I ended up with an oblong loaf of meat about an inch thick, of which I dusted over in some Cajun seasoning just because. This was carefully placed on tin foil and put opposite the hot coals to tighten up there.
After the meat has tightened up enough to safely pick the loaf up without destroying it, go ahead and get that tin foil out of there. You might be able to forego the tin foil stage altogether if your loaf is sturdy enough, but that is up to your pit master instincts to decide. Anyways, the sooner you get the foil out of there, the sooner then you can commence with the infusion of smokey goodness. The smoke, after all, is what will set this meatloaf sandwich apart from any other. With eyes on the skies, we smoked this hunk of meat for a good hour in a continuous parade of curling oak wood smoke. And it was glorious. An entire hour in which to sit by the pit and do nothing at all. As usual, I was up for the task. Up for the undeniable attributes of not cooking in the rain. Like not wondering where the next lightening bolt may strike, or fighting a stormy gale. The way of course to grill in a monsoon is not to fight it, but to patiently hold your charcoal, biding your time. Like a adventure climbers who bandy together on the flanks of Everest, waiting on a small window of weather in which to assault the summit. And so it is today, and between the tempest, that we strike!
Checking in on the plunder is OK. You may wish to turn the meatloaf from time to time, for even cooking. But always keep it tucked back, opposite the hot coals. When in doubt, go indirect people. Ten minutes from the end of the cook, we plunked on a naked corn on the cob, and roasted it over direct heat. Rotating it often with the tongs. A little butter and salt, man, is there anything better! And lastly we toasted up the orphaned hoagie roll, to add that extra touch to a meal well executed. And whilst we dressed the bun in mayonnaise and ketchup, we put a few globs of every one’s favorite ghetto cheese on the meat to melt. Mercy!
Oak Smoked Meatloaf Sandwiches on a toasted hoagie roll. Oh buddy! It don’t get more comfort food than this! Just the ticket for what ails you, between the storms, and under fair skies.
We shall then henceforth, and without any acute delay, boldly sally and declare that spring, with all of its heady promises, has now descended upon our fair land that which is Minnesota. The snow is at last, and mercifully gone, and replaced now with fields of green. Say what you will, but this is no small thing, people. Lest you forget the winter of 2013/2014 that is. For the icy pangs of it still sharply laden our frontal lobes, and we still remember vividly how eternal it spread. You southern folks may have whacked your lawns eleven and one times already, and daily fire up your air conditioning units for to thwart the beads of nasty sweat which dribble down your collective foreheads. But it is not like that here. Not yet. The air is still cool, and sweet to the taste. We have yet to slap the first mosquito or pull the first weed. And the leaves and the grass and the other green things of the world, tho still in stark miniature, are no less hard at work, so much so, that you can almost hear them fiercely growing, in the silence of a sunbeam.
Spring, we do adore this time of year. Naturally one of the better things you can do in spring, is to BBQ. May is National Grilling Month after all. And to a Minnesotan, it would stand to reason that May is the very best month of the year. It’s just plain beautiful here. So on the pit today, we’re doing your basic taco really. Nothing too fancy. And I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, well why the heck doesn’t he just make his tacos on the kitchen stove then, like everybody else? The answer: I don’t want to! Let me explain.
As I repair here on the pit-side patio, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, enjoying the aromas of sizzling beef in a black iron pan, I try to reminisce how long it has been, by and far, that I could actually do such a thing like this: to tarry on the patio, watching supper cook, and not, when it is said and done, require medical attention for frostbite or mild hypothermia. To loiter aside the curling wood smoke in but a light flannel jacket, and muse over the green blades of grass yonder. It has been a while indeed. Too long, in point of fact. Counting backwards – April, March, February, January, December, November… Go ahead and count it. It’s six months people. Give or take the rare and freakish anomaly of a randomly placed warm day, it has been a half a year since it has been truly comfortable at the grill front. That kind of ain’t right. And this is why we patrons of the pit shall not any time soon, tend to our tacos over a thermostatically spoiled kitchen range. No no no!
After the ground beef is almost but not quite browned, we tossed onto the coals a handful of oak chips for an additional layer in the flavor profile. Oak wood is fantastic for red meat, lending a firm but friendly, mildly nutty, sort of smokey goodness to your end game. It’s very good. Anyways, we mixed in the taco seasoning with the beef, and pulled the black iron pan over indirect heat, put the lid on the pit, and let the meat smoke there for a while. Now is the time to assume your customary BBQ posture, as per the graces this kind of high leisure affords. Lovely beverage in hand, man chair under butt, and a quiet world of gently curling smoke in front of thee. This, a pit keeper comes to know, is all we need. We’re in no hurry folks. And good grilling should never be flanked by wretched tentacles of haste. Anyways, pull the lid and stir the taco meat very occasionally, this in order to circulate more beef into the path of wafting oak smoke. The smoke, after all, is what will set these tacos apart from any you’ve ever had.
Whence the meat has browned sufficient to your standards, and the smokey goodness has infused your carefully prepared meat booty, go forth and assemble thy taco as you will, with what you will. Rice, beans, peppers, cheese, tomatoes, onions, sour cream – what ever moves thee another step closer to your culinary ideal. We’re not done yet tho, nay, so hold on to your inner Mexican just a bit longer. Swaddled in a flour tortilla shell, place your spoils back on the pit, indirect, for the final step towards taco immortality. We’re looking to crisp up the shell a trifle here, and put on a few char marks, patron to the pit. This move will at once signature your taco, branding it if you will, a product of the smokey realm. And you will know it from the sound of your incisors piercing its soft, yet crispy shell, and by the flavorful, smoke-tinted spoils within.
Happy Grilling Month of May. Fire them up proudly, people, and tarry long where the wood smoke also rises. Amen.
Oak Smoked Grilled Beef Tacos. Man! Edible proof that what is good for the stove top is even better on the grill. Not to mention a whole lot more fun.
And yes, a bite was taken out of this photo op, for quality control reasons. You know how it goes.
“We have often said that anything you can cook on the indoor range can be duplicated on the grill. In many cases, even improved, courtesy of the coals. And one of the best examples of this is the Sloppy Joe.“
Not too long ago, the guy on TV said to set our clocks one hour ahead, of which I dutifully obliged. Seems to me however, like just last fall, which is like instantaneous ago to some one over 30, he told us to set it an hour backwards, and here we are putting it forwards to where it was again. Go figure. And ironically, time flies I guess, and like many folk, I gotta wonder why bother. I’m not altogether sold if it’s a good idea or not. I have tho long admired places like Arizona, who have also heard what the guy on TV said, thought about it for a while, like Arizonans do, shrugged their shoulders, and declared the heck with it. I thought of doing that too, in my own world, but I have actually gleamed a good use for springing forwards this time of year, namely BBQ!
Have you noticed, as I have, the blessed sun and how it dawdles in the sky now, well past supper time. We pit keepers in the northern latitudes notice these things. Indeed, we revel in these things. I cannot express to you the simple joy of actually grilling in the day light – slanting beams of heat cast by a warm and forgiving sun. And after a disturbingly long winter, mired in the icy depths of cold and darkness, this small thing is enough to make an old pit keeper weep. Like a lone astronaut emerging from a trip around the back side of the moon, the earth and the sun swinging back into view, and hope is thus renewed. The light is back! And all the winter-bound pit keepers rejoice.
On the pit today, an old favorite around here, hickory smoked Sloppy Joes. If you haven’t made your Sloppy Joes out on the grill yet, your missing out on one of the finer things to happen to a loose meat sandwich. Oh the stove-top Joes your mother used to make are good too, and we’re not cutting that short. But to bring them to the pit, and infuse some smokey goodness there, is to usher this classic sandwich into the next echelon of what is good. We have often said that anything you can cook on the indoor range can be duplicated on the grill. In many cases, even improved, courtesy of the coals. And one of the best examples of this is the Sloppy Joe. So the first order of business, of course, is to brown a pound or so of ground beef. And in an old, cast iron skillet, this is what we did.
Once the ground beef is browned up nice and pretty, mix in your sloppy sauce of choice. You all have your own thing I know, but here is what we had on hand:
Sloppy Joe Sauce
3/4 Cup Ketchup
2 Teaspoon Yellow Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
3 Teaspoons Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup BBQ Sauce (optional but awesome)
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Now in many loose meat sandwich recipes folk like to put some onions and green peppers in the pan along with the ground beef, and cook them up there. And we would have too had we not had an abiding case of lazymanship this day. Dreadful stuff, but shoot, sometimes you just don’t feel like running to the grocer for any odd thing. Nay, not when the tweety birds and the sunbeams adorn your patio sanctum with Picasso-like perfection. And the breeze sifts sweetly through the fragrant spruce whilst the hickory smoke gently curls. We’ve been waiting far too long for a day like this to waste it traipsing about the cityscape. Anyways.
Hickory smoke and Sloppy Joes marry with great effect. The union of flavors rise together, hand-in-hand, in a wonderful compliment to each other, and your world, by golly, is a better place because of it. The whole idea of doing it on the grill, after all, is to mix in some of that smokey goodness patron to the pit. And so we set the black iron pan opposite the hot coals, and banked the meat as far towards to cooler side as we could, piling it up there like a meat snow bank in an iron cul-de-sac. We then plopped a small chunk of hickory directly onto the coals, and deployed the old, black enameled lid of the Weber into service. Be mindful to put the damper on the lid directly over your savory spoils so to enforce a proper draft of smoke there. Wood smoke is what sets this loose meat sandwich apart from any you’ve ever had. And so for the next 15 minutes, every 3 minutes or so, with manly beverage in hand, stir thy plunder with an artist’s hand. Circulate the smokey meat to the bottom and bring the less smoked meat to the top. And keep repeating this heady procedure in true pit keeper fashion until your drool humbly sizzles one too many times upon the fiery flanks below. When you deem your plunder smokey enough to suit, there is only one reasonable step left to do. Toast the buns.
Toasting the buns is an often skipped over step in the BBQ arts. Kind of like resting the meat. We get so excited to eat, I suppose, that we don’t think of anything but, let alone toasting a lowly bun. But it only takes a minute, really, and in return adds a fabulous texture to your end game. It also, off-hand and by-the-way, nurtures the virtue of patience, which is as important as a good bed of coals to a pit keeper. Patience is the soil in which greatness sprouts forth. Patience also takes an exorbitant amount of time, at the time, it seems. But it is good for us. Patience slows a hurried soul and hence elevates it’s capacity to absorb. To focus. To glory and bask in the simple and abiding pleasures patron to the pit. Like the thin, wispy tendrils of wood smoke back-lit by a shaft of golden sun at supper time. Something easy to appreciate, let me tell you, after six stark months of grilling on the dark side of the moon. And tho the snowbanks tarry, and the breeze is still keen, the light is at last upon us. Finally. Like my elder brother is fond of croaking, “Patience comes to those who wait”. And it’s about time.
The first major snowfall of the winter hit the Twin Cities a little while ago, and it was the usual commute scene, by and far. With little cars spinning their aluminum wheels in vain, across unruly intersections, with all the get-up-and-go, it seemed, of hamster balls in peanut butter. And if they got through that, they generally were OK, until they got home that is, and found themselves at once mired at the end of the driveway. It was that kind of day. Most folk were able to make their way along well enough, slow and steady, like smoking a good brisket. Except, I suppose, those over-eager souls who stared glumly at their steering wheels from the bottom of ditches, cell phone in hand. Suffice it was a crummy day to drive around in Minnesota, but dare I say a glorious one in which to light the BBQ, and toss on a couple of steaks! That is what we did anyways. And if you have a moment, and a hot chocolate handy, I’ll tell you a little more about it.
By suppertime, the snow which had been falling all the day long, seasoning the land so beautifully, had also conveniently tapered off into a scattered few serenely falling flakes. And the usual Alberta clipper, fraught with bone-penetrating cold, and icy gales, had not yet descended from what frosty latitudes once conceived. Hence a moment of grace in the blizzard time line had presented itself, and given enough time and wit, a patron of the pit will usually muckle onto such windows of opportunity, and exploit it. Like a lab monkey to the happy button, we exploit it indeed.
Whilst the neighborhood softly bustled under a gray sky, with the sounds of snow blowers and shovels grinding over iced concrete, I placed a lovely rib eye steak over the coals, followed by a thick porterhouse. Nothing like putting meat to flame to greet the winter, meeting it halfway, as they say. A sort of gesture unto the thrones of ice, stating to yourself I suppose, that tho the wintry tiers may be advancing, long be it before you hang up your tongs. Besides, I like steak. And I liked how they sizzled in the relative hush of a snowy night, and how good the heat felt bellowing out of the pit amid a world where snowy spruce bows gently bent. I flipped the steaks, searing the other sides over the pit’s fiery bosom. Tossed on another chunk of cherry wood, then hit the beef with a little garlic and onion salt. I know we keepers of the pit are known for our fancy rubs and intricate marinades, but with a good steak people, this is about as clever as we get. There is something very satisfying, and primal, about keeping it simple where steak is concerned. And at the tail of a tempest, simple seemed the way to go.
Tucking the old cow indirect, and putting the lid on, I slipped my hands into the familiar pockets of the smoking jacket, and watched the evening transpire. I enjoyed the warm light peeking out through grill damper, and how the wood smoke accompanied it, in soft, aromatic tendrils. And tho the tweety birds were all hunkered down, a small squadron of Canadian geese honked and chortled overhead, southbound, their feathery wings stroking through the still, night air like paint brushes to canvas. I liked that. I fancied greatly the way a sound wave traveled this eve, hushed and intimate, and with great touch, the way it always does after a fresh snow fall. There is a serenity found at the end of a snow storm, whence the last flakes have waned. A golden hour of acoustic magic, and a white splendor to tug the soul. A giddy expanse of time where even a grown man will recoil into a youthful state again, and for a moment, when the neighbors aren’t so much looking, frolic as if he were ten again.
And the wood smoke gently curled.
A long time ago on a backyard patio not too far away….
It was a time of year when the heat was beating on our Pits with such strength. For one Patron was going about his summer enjoying the freedoms of his yard and his pit, when completely unexpected, he was taken back by a phone call that would change his life forever. He and his wife were asked to adopt a baby girl who hadn’t been born yet. Fast forward 4 days later, little Isabella Mae was born at 8 lbs 11 oz – about the same size as a prized brisket. Being he and his wife only had 3 days to prepare for their new blessing, their world was turn upside down.
Three months later this Patron was starting to feel very comfortable with the lifestyle of a new Daddy, as he noticed he hadn’t touched his pit once in those three months. Sharing his revelation with his wife she dared to ask a very conniving question,
“Are you sure you still know how to smoke anything?”
Insulted, yet with a cocky posture he looked at her and said,
“Honey, I am a Patron of the Pit! Smoking is in my blood. I sweat hickory! I enjoy the burn in my eyes as the hood of my pit opens and the sweet aromas of fire, wood, spice rubs and barbecue sauces bellow towards my face. There are not many of us who stand out at their pit during a Minnesota blizzard while the rest of the world curls up on their couch waiting for a microwaved dinner. I will not let three months of not lighting my pit filter this Patron’s good name!”
So with his chest out and his head high, he accepted her challenge unveiled.
With eagerness he took his challenge fervently. He stalked the aisle of the meat market looking for the cut of meat that he was going to shock the family with. And there it was, a 4 pound pork butt! He went in for the kill…even though the choice meat was dead, he paid for it and took it home like any backwoods hunter would, returning to his family with trophy in hand.
That Saturday night he mixed his marinade:
- 1 beer
- 4 tablespoons of hand crushed peppercorns,
- 1/4 cup of brown sugar.
He let the pork marinate for 12 hours in the refrigerator and the next morning the coals were lit at 10 am.
It was a nice day out at his pit. A south wind was blowing at a medium pace and the sun was hitting the cooker just right. Though it was only 15 degree’s out, he enjoyed the cold air mixed with his choice of wood for the perfect smoke. He decided to hit the pork butt with the sweet flavor of cherry wood, offering up a light smoke to taunt his neighbors with. The smoker was a steady 250 degrees as he monitored the temperature and stoked his fire-box as needed. A good 5 hour smoke went by and around 4 pm he took the pork butt off the cooker, wrapped it tightly in tin foil and let it rest for 45 minutes. Once it was done, he slowly peeled back the foil. The pork immediately fell into pieces, thus started the pulling process. With two forks he did just that. He added his favorite smokehouse maple spice rub and mixed it all back in with the juices that collected from the initial smoke.
Later that evening with a full belly, his wife turned to him and at last recognized his craft. She reassured him that he hadn’t lost his skill and stated that she wished for him to continue plying his art of the smoker. And so he sat, knowing that a successful pork butt wasn’t the real prize here. The real prize was sipping from a bottle in his arms. He smiled contentedly…
So I was out at the pit the other night, raking about a bed of orange-glowing coals and smoldering embers. Well the word “night” isn’t quite the choice word I guess, when it’s only five in the afternoon. But what in the heck else was I supposed to call it, when the stars were already out, and the old Weber kettle is silently straddled its own moon shadow. Might as well have been the dark of night. All of that at five PM and two degrees below freezing too, is what you get in Minnesota come November. But like an ugly puppy or something, we love it anyway.
I flipped the old cooking grate over the coals, almost burned through from years of patio service, and scrubbed it down with a wire brush. Moonbeams dropped through the snow-tinted spruce trees whilst I plopped a handsome chunk of apple wood, through the access panel on the grate, directly onto the coals. It quickly caught flame, as I slipped on the old, enameled lid, and the aromatic pleasure of apple wood smoke soon filled the patio. To round off the ambiance, I clicked on the pit radio, and old Beethoven was doing his thing again. His ridiculously famous Moonlight Sonata, which at the time, seemed poetically apt, this night, under the shimmering stars and pale-blue moon wash. It relaxed me at once, patron to the pit, and soon two, portly pork chops met their destiny over the coals. And whilst the meat sizzled over the pit’s fiery bosom, I could feel my foot dutifully slide off the accelerator pedal of life, as the tendrils of wood smoke curled, and the soft music ascended into the night.
Let me tell you a little more about these chops. These particular ones came pre-smoked straight from the ranch we buy them from. They smelled fabulous right out of the sack, which, when you think about it, maybe ain’t a half-bad compliment for a pig. Anyways, even tho they were already smoked, of course we would smoke them again, because that is what we do, and amp up the flavor ten-fold, using apple wood. Before they hit the grate, however, I dusted them over in liberal fashion with one of our pit favorites, Famous Dave’s Rib Rub. That stuff works on everything. And it excels on pork chops.
Whilst the chops came along opposite the hot coals, and under the soft light of the kerosene lamp, I whipped together a batch of maple glaze for to bring our culinary end game to a proper and most agreeable dismount. Like an Olympic gymnast flipping through the air in one of them triple-whirly-toed-double-tucked-front-hand spring deals, it doesn’t garner the mojo if they don’t last stick the landing. This glaze, needless to say, stuck it like a lawn dart.
In a sauce pan over the coals, mix up the following:
- 3/4 Cup Maple Syrup
- 1 Teaspoon Mustard
- Pinch of Salt
- Pinch of Pepper
- Pinch of Garlic Powder
- 1/2 Cup finely diced apple (optional)
When the chops were of edible quality, I lovingly varnished them over with a fair coating of the maple glaze. Bits of apple clinging here and there, and after a fashion of in-direct cooking, the sugars caramelize some, as they ought to, wrought in smoke, and bathed in heat. The flavors, the time and the effort all come together now in one, last, glorious song that would leave Beethoven himself, verklempt. Is that your stomach I hear, bellowing? Plate up this succulent end game, your Sonata in Pork, and offer it unto your people, for you have done a good thing here indeed, amid the wispy plumes of wood smoke and the pale-blue moonbeams which tarried there. Amen.
The smoke curled nicely from the old kettle grill, whilst the crispy cottonwood leaves scattered in the October breeze. Its cool today, half way between noon and supper time, and the heat off the pit sure feels good on my hands. The shadows are dropping swifter now, much quicker than those months ago and patron to the steamy days of summer. How the heat and humidity then seems but a distant vapor now, and also with the sun, which once dallied eternal in the sky. It is all gone now. And so we embrace a new season at the pit. A transitional season. And what better way to do that, than with some succulent, apple smoked, pulled pork sandwiches, POTP style of course. This one is a humdinger, folks. And here’s how to do it.
After a meeting with your local butcher, acquire your self a heaping mass of country-style ribs. These will be of the pork variety, and true to meat nomenclature standards, not ribs at all. What they really are is chunks of a pork butt, which of course isn’t from the hind end at all, but rather the shoulder. Anyways, this is the same section of pig where your pulled pork is created from. Country style ribs are just a small portion of that. And it is because of this, that a three-hour pulled pork sandwich is even possible.
Next, and whilst your cooker is coming up to speed, rinse off the meat under cold water for to irrigate any bone fragments stowaways possibly leftover from the band saw used to cut them. And then dust them liberally with your favorite pork rub. We tried out some Cajun Blast this time, so to pack a bit of spicy heat into our plunder, on this chill, autumn day. After a fashion, and a tip of the hat, take them out to the pit, properly stoked with coal and a small matter of smoke wood. We used apple wood for ours. But you can use what ever, and no, that doesn’t mean green treated two by fours!
Using the old kettle grill, this isn’t exactly low and slow, tho we turned down the bottom dampers to anemic slits, governing the amount of oxygen coming in, thus dropping its temperature some. It all works out tho, as you will see. Place the pork opposite the hot coals, as in-direct as you can, then plunk on the lid and let it smoke for a couple of hours. Assume your standard pit side posture, feet up, manly beverage in hand, and muse over the curling smoke, racing cloud shadows, and darting tweety birds. After two hours of this most agreeable pastime, foil the meat with a half cup or two of your favorite beverage or juice, and put it back over indirect heat. This step is where the magic happens.
For the next hour, your meat will be in the likes of an expensive health spa, pampered, and loved in an all-inclusive steam bath. This step is often used on ribs or briskets, and works wonders here too. This is where the collagen breaks down and good things happen. Where elegance ingratiates meat. And it is a glorious thing. Check in on it after a spell, after about an hour or so. It is done when the meat pulls easily with but a twist of the aluminum tong.
Take the meat out of the foil for the final step, and put it back on the grill. Now is the time to varnish it up with your very favorite BBQ sauce. The final brush strokes, if you will, to your Picasso in Pork. Man! Can you smell it yet?
As a matter of course, we toasted up some lightly buttered kaiser rolls over the remaining coals, and assembled a proper, man-sized sandwich shortly there after. You will never regret toasting your buns people. It’s just the right thing to do. Especially on frigid evenings around the pit, where the wood smoke gently rises. Amen.
Three Hour, Apple Smoked, Pulled Pork Sandwiches. Tasty bark, deep smoke ring. Oh buddy. You getting hungry now! So next time you are in the mood for some savory pulled pork, but don’t have all day to smoke a big butt, try this little number. It’s good! A sandwich sure to please the ravaging stomach and the clock alike.
People who read this might also like Country Style Rib Sandwiches
“At the heart of all good BBQ, is a soul on the scenic path”
It is sweetened by the passage of time. BBQ. Here is a form of cooking, where the whole of the out-of-doors is at the threshold of your kitchen; and where the wood smoke gently rises, you will find your journey in the smokey arts. Pit keepers spanning this country-wide, and the world over, find poetry in the flames, fellowship in the coals, and contentment in their bellies where BBQ is concerned. It is not just for the food, you see, that we aspire for the pit. It is the journey also, which is half the fun.
To BBQ proper is to release yourself from the grinding cog of societal cares, the urban rush, and our inbred bondage to the clock. Brethren of the coals, we are smitten for the hour hand, and to see just how slowly it can make its appointed rounds. Indeed, we are in no hurry at the pit. We are there by and far, but to extend our craft, and up our loitermanship, under lovely skies, and soft breezes. To let the unruly collagen in our lives dance at 225 degrees whilst bathed in smoke and sweet time, and in that time, rendered a tender opus closer to thee. And let it be said, there are a vast many more expedient means in which to cook our supper. And be sure of this also, we will do our utmost to avoid them. For we love to BBQ. It’s as simple as that. And why would anyone, of rational mind, fancy to rush along something of which they so fiercely love. If you’re in a hurry, use the microwave.
So we grill, smoke and BBQ, over real wood and charcoal, because in part, it is slower that way. And forsake the methods that which clutch dearly the hands of haste. To BBQ is to take the long way home, on purpose. And at the heart of all good BBQ, is a soul on the scenic path – where rainbows, tweety birds, and pale-blue moonbeams reside. Our goal you see, as pit keepers, is not only to procure the best possible and most succulent culinary end game we can, but also if we might, to dutifully grab that ever-slipping sun by the tail, and hold it steadfastly there, hemorrhaging in a pastel sky. Bending the fabric of time, for to suit our souls, and with any luck, to extend the moment for the moment’s sake. For we love to BBQ, you see, outside, and in the prettier places, doing that which is well with our souls.
The art and play of BBQ, like a fine wine, ages adeptly in the root cellars of our minds. It is sweetened by the passage of time. And with every cook, and kettle of dancing flame, memories are formed. With every fold of season, and another empty charcoal bag, memories tally. Memories gently forged at the cusp of a loved one’s saucy grin, amid the banter of nature, and the cool, steely grass. And it turns out, the more we do it, the more we show up at the grill front and dare to procure our spoils slowly there, the better off we seem to be. Because in a world of instant gratification, it slows us down, you could say, and places roses in our hand. And after a while at this, it eventually even becomes clear. That not only is BBQ real good, and pleasing to the belly, but the means of getting there is even better still. It is good for us. And this is the way, perhaps, it was always meant to be. This and a few other things, when we choose the long way home, and the hickory-scented plumes which tarry there. Amen.
Delving into the smokey arts with any degree of abandon, sooner or later you’re likely going to find yourself with a sincere desire to smoke something peculiar. Oh its starts innocently enough with the usual gamut of savory meats. But before you know it, and if you’re not careful, you may catch yourself trying to smoke such oddities as vegetables, fruits, and even nuts. And in the back of your mind, where brain thrusts often copulate, you no doubt will have the curious yet lingering urge to set smoke to your favorite block of cheese. No worries. Such thoughts are common place among the brotherhood of the pit, and not soon to be ashamed of. Indeed, fret not, for this is the pleasurable bane of many a pit keeper, of whom’s patron plumes of mesquite and smoldering apple are not just for meat alone, but a bevy of nourishment to that which benefits from the aromas abiding in the soft, tendrils of rising wood smoke. But then you ask yourself, because you’re a learned mind, how might I smoke thy cheese and not melt it all to copious goo? Good question. And luckily, it’s all been figured out for you. Its called cold smoking. And here is how you do it.
Cold smoking is not what you see nervous blokes on their lunch breaks doing, out the office back door on blustery, winter afternoons. No, cold smoking is more fun than that. It’s the rather unique condition in the BBQ experience where wood smoke fairly bellows from your cooker, but if you were to lay your finger to it, it would be quite cool to the touch. Because it is. Cold smoking done proper, you see, does not exceed 90 degrees, and sometimes, it’s even less than that. Most cheese begins to sweat at around 95 degrees, so if you can keep the heat lower than that, you will be doing well for yourself. The winter months are clearly then the prized slots on the calendar year. How one gets good smoke without the heat is often times accomplished by building a very little fire in your smoker, like 3 or 4 briquettes, and setting some wood chips on it to smoke. It can be a fickle experience, hard to regulate, and fleeting perhaps, but cold smoke can in fact be had. Or you could spend hundreds of dollars on some apparatus designed for the legion of pellet grills out there. Or, if you are a tinkerer, by golly, you could make a cold smoker out of various odds and ends laying about the homestead. We were not much in the mood to screw around, however, and just used our A-MAZE-N cold smoke generator instead, generously filled with their own pit master proprietary pellets. Simply light one corner of the little contraption, and the pellets burn like a fuse, following the maze as it goes. And a cold and wondrous smoke bellows forth.
In the big Weber Smokey Mountain, deep in the recesses of its enormous fire bowl, we placed the lit smoke generator, paying keen attention that it was receiving adequate airflow there. It puffed away contentedly, like an old steamship sidling out to sea. We then put a block of medium cheddar on the top grate, gently placed the lid on, and settled in for a wee bit of smoke watching. Cold or not, watching smoke curl is something that comes disturbingly easy to a patron of the pit. We are at once smitten for the ambiance. Drawing a lovely beverage, and taking up residence in the BBQ chair, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure. Glory be, but this the speed of life worth living! Clouds aloft like soft, white, pillow innards, drifting across a beautiful, blue sky, whilst a woodsy, aromatic smoke idles up out of the cold, enameled pit. The green leaves of the Cottonwood trees murmur in the soft wind, kissed by golden sunbeams cast from on high. And of course, the token family of Canadian geese which milled about on the lawn, like geese do, pecking through the steely, green blades there. They seemed equally as content as I, with the high rigors of cold smoking a hunk of cheese. Maybe even more so, in point of fact. And we both went about our business there, engaging the day, whilst the smoke gently curled.
After a couple of hours, all of which were sufficient for my pit-side loitering, I closed up the outdoor kitchen for the day. Bidding a farewell to the geese which still loitered in the cool grass. As I motioned inside the house, a pleasant aroma of lightly smoked cheese tarried with me. I swaddled the block in plastic wrap. Smoked cheese benefits from a long rest in the fridge, they say, sealed in plastic. Giving it time to do what ever it is cheese does after encountering smoke. That might be so, but let it be said, it also tasted mighty fine later that night, sliced, and in the good company of a few of your favorite crackers. Amen.
So next time you’re looking for a something different off the grill, or a good holiday treat, try cold smoking yourself up a block of your favorite cheese. The company of geese recommended, but optional.
*Here are a couple of amazon links for the two products we used today. The Weber Smokey Mountain, and the Amazen pellet smoker. Both top notch equipage that we’re proud to endorse. We are an amazon affiliate for these products, so if you purchase either, it helps fund this site a little. Thank you very much for your continued support!
I found myself the other day, nestled up in the nose bleed seats at a Minnesota Twins home game, versus the New York Yankees. The sky was blue, swallows darting about, and the fans were all of good cheer I should say. Well at least that is until we fell behind five to nothing in the first inning. I didn’t mind the score any. A losing team is something we’ve gotten used to around here. Frankly, it was just good to be there, in the new open-aired stadium. Enjoying the day with other like-minded Minnesotans. I’ve always fancied to come down to the ball park once in a while, and appreciate the ambiance there. The sound of a fast ball to a leather catcher’s mitt. The organ lady pounding out some ditties. The golden sunbeams awash over a green, manicured field. The goofy mating cries of the beer vendors, marching up the stadium steps with an arm full of libations. And of course, maybe my favorite slice of ambiance from a major league ball bark – the heady aroma of Polish sausages in the breeze.
Ah, glory be to the Polish sausage who’s gastronomic fates fall unto thee, thou ardent baseball fan who resides stalwart, and yonder, up in the cheap, blue seats. By golly, I was having my way with one up there, whilst overlooking the field of dreams. And it was glorious. I’m not sure why, but them ball park sausages always make it worth the trip down town. We may lose the game, but they will never take our beloved sausage! A comforting fact I rejoiced in, as I worked my way through the Polish delight, topped with caramelized onions, ketchup, and spot of mustard. This is the high art of baseball spectating, you see. Not for the uninitiated, and not far removed from the BBQ arts.
Anyways, I gobbled the thing down with a semi-reckless abandon, with no small amount of damage neither, done to my pride. Leaning back in my seat, a big smile across my face, I was a gentleman at ease, you could say. Nary a care in the world. My bride who sat next to me, after pausing for my token belch of satisfaction, made quick work of pointing out the glob of ketchup clinging steadfastly to my chin. She always does that, when things are haphazardly adhering to my face. In point of fact, most women I suspect do that for men. And I think most men probably would go the better part of the day with it still there, had no one pointed out. And worse yet, we’d be OK with it. I know, its not how to look sexy, and we ain’t claiming it to be right. But it is also a badge of honor sort of, to a worthy feast and a time well-spent. That smear of wayward ketchup or mustard, it is a remembrance of recent glory. An emancipation of meat! Even so, I took care of it like a proper man ought to, and resumed to the spectating at hand. Indebted once again to the good graces of a woman.
What has all this baseball and women got to do with BBQ Pork Chops you ask? Well, not much! Probably nothing at all really. It’s just stuff I was thinking about whilst grilling supper this eve. Pit-side ponderments if you will. I must say tho, supper was quite tasty tonight, as good as any ball park Polish sausage, and not nearly as expensive. Another winner from the pit. Hickory Smoked BBQ Pork Chops. This one is likely to get your slobbers running, so grab yourself a bib, and a lovely beverage, and let’s get after it!
Whilst the coals matured to excellence, and in true pit keeper efficiency, I let the bone-in chops go for a swim in a teriyaki-flavored marinade. Tho BBQ sauce would still be applied at the end, I guess I just felt like a touch of teriyaki tonight, to compliment the flavor profile. I tossed on some well-aged hickory chunks too, for that smokey goodness patron to decent outdoor cooking. Set the meat as is accustomed, opposite the hot coals. You will never kick yourself for using in-direct cooking techniques. But oh how you may moan your name in vain, should in a misguided frenzy, your spoils be rendered into blackened char, because you left them over direct-heat whilst you went to the little pit boys room. Brethren of the smoke you see, are oft taken by leisure at a moment’s notice, and before we know it, before anybody knows it, we could be drool-deep into a good nap if we’re not careful. Better then to corral our meat on the cool side of the grate, just in case. And let leisure take its course.
I put the lid on and let the chops smoke for a while. Always a lovely segment of time. A time well appreciated from the vantage of your BBQ chair, watching the thin-blue smoke gently peel into the air. This is the ambiance of the pit, and all pits have their own, unique blend. And its our job, as pit keepers to simply sit back and revel in it. To note, by chance, the baby ducks down by the pond eagerly training to become big ducks some day. Their parents close at hand. The evening sunbeams, bright and golden on the shaft, and how they strike the full, green, leaves of the Cottonwood trees, which flutter against a gorgeous, blue sky. The Great Blue Heron yonder, across the pond, slowly stalking shallows. And the murmur of the pleasant summer’s breeze mingling through the pines. Oh how I’d fancy to press pause on the download of life right now, and hold that sun steadfast in the sky. Just to freeze it there, casting shadows, and watch the wood smoke gently curl.
Before you know it tho, kind of like life, your meat is done. Flipped once mid-way through the cook, and brushed with your favorite BBQ sauce at the end. We tossed on some corn too, just because. Because nothing is quite so fine, let it be said, as grilled corn on the cob, smothered in butter, on a cool summers eve. I plated up this drool-tugging ensemble, took up residence next to my bride, and in disturbingly short order, we feasted. Declarations of goodness ensued. I plunked a well-chewed bone on to my ceramic plate, and leaned back, smiling like a man ought to in such moments. Patting my tightened belly. It was good, people. The day was good. And I might have even been sexy too, had not I acquired once again that tell-tale glob of BBQ sauce, hanging from my chin. But I didn’t care. Amen.
Hickory Smoked BBQ Pork Chops with a Teriyaki Tint, sided with fresh corn-on-the-cob. You could do a whole lot worse people, and not have nearly so much fun.
Loitering pond-side, the old Weber kettle puffing quietly away, sweet sugar maple smoldering, wafting into the air. I lay aside the pit, in the thick, green grass there, immobile, in a fashion usually reserved for a coronary thrombosis I suppose. But I didn’t care. I was “hanging ten“, as the surfers out way of Waikiki would say. And the world was mine. Just staring up at the clouds as they roll past a beautiful, blue sky. Like Huckleberry Finn on the grassy banks of the Mississippi, I was at ease with everything. A cool summers breeze murmured amid Spruce , and tweety birds on high, serenaded the evening sun. The neighbors are probably used to seeing me “belly-up” in the grass like this, with the ilk of a hobo beside my smoking pits. But I’m slowly getting them trained in, by and by, and the pay off is high. For rarely now, whence I engage in such childish admissions, am I caught there and taken for dead.
On the grill tonight, we’ve got a dandy. Maple planked bacon cheese burgers. Kind of a two-part post, the first part being the recent write-up on Superior planks. Some of you expressed an interest in seeing more how this planking thing is done, and so that is what we’re up to today, at the patron’s pit. Its real easy to do, and will cast the viable illusion also, of being an experienced and highly-gifted pit master. Which is always nice.
The very first order of business when planking is to soak the wood thoroughly. Doesn’t matter how good your plank is, if it ain’t soaked, you will be singing a sorrowful rendition of Kumbaya around your flaming spoils should you neglect this key step. So just do it. An hour in the sink is suitable for most. But the longer the better. Then, whence your coals, or hark, even your gas grill is up and burning, go ahead then and lay the soaked plank on the grate and over direct heat. Let it preheat there a touch if you please, but you don’t even have to do that. Thus, and at last, place your intended vittles over the plank, and pause momentarily to appreciate the oddity of meat on wood. We formed some nice patties from some 80-20 ground beef, and laid a couple of strips of thick bacon on there too, for good measure. No man worth his tongs will ever argue the judicious use of premium bacon, and we weren’t about to tonight. Then place the lid over your grill, and assume your customary BBQ position – in the lawn chair, lovely beverage in hand, toes pointed to the heavens. And with this, you are half done already, and nearly a budding expert in the planking arts.
It is that easy folks. You nary need even touch it now until its done. You will want to, and its fine I suppose if you do flip the burger over, but we did not. It doesn’t need to be. When the lid is on, and the wood is acting like a heat shield of sorts, the grill turns into some what of an oven like atmosphere. Would you flip a burger in the oven? I don’t think so! That is half the magic of planking. The other joy tarries in the smoke. Depending on what flavor of plank you pick out, and some folks even soak them in apple juice, or wine, or what ever, the steam and smoke which rises forth, not to mention a hint of tree oil, dutifully impregnates your spoils with a woodsy authenticness like none other. As one of our readers, Carnivore Confidential, once said in his blog, “You don’t have a smoker? You don’t need one!” And its true. A more primal way of infusing smokey goodness into your supper, you shall not soon divine. Meat on wood over flame. Simplicity at its best. And poetry on the pit!
You can plank darn near anything too. From meats to vegetables to mashed potatoes, and even mushrooms. But perhaps the best use of planks is for the delicate fish fillet. No more dropping through the grate! Just put it on the plank and cook it. No flipping. No mess. No worries. So the next day, and with fish on my mind, I re-soaked the used plank. If you get good thick, hardwood planks, like that of Superior Planks, you can re-use them quite a bit. After a good soak in the sink, I placed the used-plank back on the hot grill along with some Tilapia fillets. Same process. Put the lid on and just let them do their thing. Many hard core plankers forego the seasonings all together, and just let the plank do the talking. And with that wood smoke and natural oils, turns out them old trees have a thing or two to say about good eating. Amen.
Like all fish, when they flake easily with a fork, they are ready for an immediate rendezvous with your belly! Smoked to perfection and kissed by smoldering wood. Man!
Maple Planked Bacon Cheese Burgers and Tilapia too, just because. Two of many things highly suitable for plank cooking. If you haven’t tried it yet, well, what the heck are you waiting for!
One of the greater joys in the grilling arts, is that you get to be out-of-doors. And every once in a while, even in Minnesota, that means you might happen upon the perfect day. The sort of sublime existence where you are neither too hot, nor too cold, but in point of fact – just right. Where the clouds, if there are any, idle over head, puffy and white, like a heavenly mobile. And the blue of the sky is of an ilk deeper than the sea is wide. Tweety birds sing at the top of their little lungs, and the plastic-like leaves of the papal tree clack in the gentle breeze, like a thousand and one credit cards. You are surrounded by green. The grass, the trees, the flourishing gardens at once ensconce thee. And wood smoke, if your lucky, curls poetically from your grill. Not that we need perfect weather to grill, for we have debunked that notion many a time here at this site. But if the perfect sort of paradisaical day happens upon you, who are we to fight it! Keepers of the pit rejoice, for these are our moments. Fractions of perfection busted from the crown jewel of time. On the grill tonight, BBQ Meatloaf and Corn on the Cob. So lets get after it!
To get started, we did up a little green pepper and onion in the old, black iron pan. A pat of butter, and sizzled the diced up melody not to a translucent state, but really just enough to get the raw crunch out of it. Whilst that sizzles on the grill, prepare thy meatloaf how ever you’re used to.
We used the following ingredients:
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/3 pound ground pork
- 1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix
- 1 egg
- 1 cup of bread crumbs soaked in milk
- 1 cup of green peppers
- 1/2 cup onions
- 1/2 cup frozen corn just because
- a little pepper just because again
Now the egg and the bread crumbs act as a binding agent of course. Off-hand and by-the-way, if you wouldn’t mind sashaying down a literary bunny trail for a moment; do you know how you go to supermarkets to purchase your bratwurst or polish sausages, and how they often times come in packages of six? And then you amble over to the bakery section to pick out your buns, just to discover that they only come in packages of eight, and that wee but if disgust for consumerism burps up in the back of your mouth? You know full will they do that on purpose. And what the heck are we supposed to do with two extra hot dog buns? Well, yesterday I had what you might call an epiphany in my meatloaf. That didn’t sound right, but what ever. But it suddenly dawned on me, like most good things do, a suitable use for the two extra hot dog buns I had sitting around from my last cook out. I thus and with great zeal, ripped them to pieces and soaked them in milk, and viola, a binding agent for my meatloaf was born. I triumph from waste if you will. A token advance unto a more efficient ideal. Anyways.
After you get your meatloaf all packed together, and if it can’t hold a decent shape flattering of a lowly meat loaf, put it in a bread pan of sorts, and lay it opposite your hot coals on the grill. In-direct cooking, as is so often the case, is once again your chosen technique here. Next add a chunk of your favorite smoke wood to the coals, thus to separate yourself from all the other indoor chefs. This is one of the distinct advantages to doing routine cooks on the grill – that wonderful and abiding smokey flavor, which in-turn will set your dish apart, and all will know it hails proudly from the smokey realm.
Now mid-way through the cook, you’ll want to rotate your meat 180 degrees for even cooking. And better yet, once the meat has tightened up a bit, go head and invert the pan and get that meat loaf out of there, exposing all of it on the grill. Toss on another small piece of hickory or mesquite, and proceed with the very important business of infusing more smokey goodness into the meat. Put the lid on, and resume the proper BBQ posture in your easy chair, lovely beverage in hand, whilst plumes of aromatic smoke curl nicely from your grill. Near the end of the cook, or when the internal temp reaches around 160 degrees, brush on a generous coat of your most favorite BBQ sauce over the top. We used SuckleBusters Original Sauce, which is pretty much amazing. Around this time we also threw on the corn. If there is anything better than grilled corn on the cob, lathered in butter, and dashed in salt, please let us know! Man!
Hickory Smoked BBQ Meat Loaf and Grilled Corn on the Cob. Dang! Enough to pacify the meatiest man. Next time you’re looking for something to grill up, give meatloaf a try.
A couple of weekends ago, deep in hither lands, and way up north in the Superior National Forest, of which precise coordinates I shall not utter here, my bride and I for a time, lingered in paradise. Balsam Firs and Black Capped Chickadees abounded. Downy woodpeckers pecking. Endless blue skies aloft. And our hammocks strung in a peaceful respite. Backpacking into the remote areas like this at once ushers an inherent quietude and tranquility not soon privy the city dweller. A stillness of earth and soul, and the waters there, oh how they run so delightful and clean. Tumbling through the mossy, forest crags, as if just to be lovely that way, and to nourish the fevered palates of those weary foot travelers who happen upon it. Folks like us. We liked it so much in point of fact, we set up our camp, and we stayed there a while, as patrons to paradise.
A lovely place. A place I couldn’t help but to recollect some, whilst tending to old kettle grill this evening last, on our home patio back in the city. I get like that every now and then. Reminiscent if you will, with pit-side reflections. And I can’t help it. Lighting the grill, and seeing the fire cordially lick for the sky, and tasting the aroma of the rising wood smoke, well, in a flip of a heartbeat, I am harkened back to other campfires in other places of enduring beauty. Places that I have once pressed a tent stake in, upon which earthy soils I have slept so soundly. I am smitten I guess, for the prettier places
Places where the star fields glitter, suspended in the blackness above, and the lonesome wail of the Timber Wolves echoed through the forest hollows. Places amid the whispering pines, where if you want a good dinner, you had better have packed it in, or barring that, possess an adeptness of procuring sustenance from the field and stream. For to live simply, and deliberately, and not to be bothered by much else is the goal here. To reduce life’s endless complexities to a few scant items, and stow them neatly away in our backpacks. And for a while at least, to be gone with everything else. To flex our muscles up the cardiac switchbacks, and breathe in that freshened air. To catch fish, climb rocks, and build campfires. To be 10 again, in the Sherwood Forest, and sport a quiver with but one crooked arrow.
Back in the city again, tending supper over this old pit, I leaned back in the BBQ chair, watching the smoke curl some. Still reminiscing whilst crescent moon dallied over the Spruce, and a growing family of mallards floated serenely out on the pond. It’s kind of pretty here too, I thought. Tongs in my hand, the aroma of Cheddar stuffed Polish sausages and hickory wafting from the pit. Glory! But I think of the hammock I strung up recently, in my quaint, northern sanctum – my Shangri-la in the woods. Hung nicely between two fluttering Aspen trees. A location I became much acquainted with in my stay up there. For I took not one, nor two, but three lengthy naps there, in dappled sunbeams, and beside burbling streams. Whiled away most of the afternoon in such fashion, harboring not a morsel of guilt. It was a lifestyle, by and far, that I could get used to. If only I could get my Weber Grill out there, I thought, in this land so remote. I think I should never again return.
The aromas of supper snapped me back to the present. Back to the city. I rolled the sausages about on the old grate. Onions were already diced. Ketchup and mustard at the ready. I toasted up a couple buns for my bride and I, and assembled this most basic of grilling endeavors. Grilling Polish sausage is about as simple as they come I guess, and yet, satisfying in a round about way. They taste good, but more over, it gives us pit keepers another excuse to play with fire. To smell that smoke wafting. And I guess just to be outside. And to this cook anyways, a porthole to a bevy of memories wrought over the open flame. Reminders which rise with the wood smoke, of good times, in pretty places, where the breeze blew sweetly through the trees. Something we like do every now and then. Keeping it simple. Like a good Polish Sausage. Amen.
Repairing in the BBQ chair, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, I spied them from afar, ambling head-long through the 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.
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!
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.
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!
Today we saw something we have not seen in maybe eight months. We saw eighty degrees of blessed Fahrenheit grace our mercury tubes. The balmiest of suns hung in the sky, and its golden rays poured over the fair land, drenching the trees and those who wandered amid them, in a glorious, life-giving warmth. We didn’t quite know even what to do with ourselves. The last of the ice banks dissolved into a wet earth, whilst the morale of the people soared headlong with the temperatures. And the first buds of the Lilac bushes poked their heads cautiously out, to check and see if it was really as they had heard. If, whether or not, spring was commencing here on the 45th parallel. And it appears, with a rather optimistic hue, that it has.
Naturally, folks across fruited plain are finally firing up their BBQ grills, in a token light to the new grilling season. We were no different here at the POTP, tho sweeter these sorts of days are, I dare say, to those keepers of the flame who have bared the blizzards, and trimmed their grills against the tempest. To our winter grilling brethren out there, for whom’s glowing screen these cyber pages may stretch, who have stood strong in the face of defeating wind chill, eternal darkness, and driving sleet – we commend your fortitude, and your heady passion for the game. For those were our glory days, by and far, standing stalwart at our cookers as the calendar flipped, with our white flags stowed deep in our pockets. Paying our dues with the mounting drifts of snow. Those were the days indeed, robust and raw, and we can be proud of them, as we hold our tongs high. But these eighty degree days, with endless sun and darting song birds, well, they aren’t so bad either. And we can appreciate them just as well, I should say. Days indeed sweeter to the soul, having grilled long remember, on the dark side of the moon. Glory!
On the grill today, hickory-apple smoked country-style rib sandwiches. So get your bib on, cause this one is gonna fall on your lap!
This sandwich is something of an expedient pulled pork affair, for when you’re in the mood for a savory pulled pork sandwich, but you lack the time and fancy to smoke the big Boston butts for half the day long. In some ways, they are better even. A fraction of the time, and because the pieces are small to start with, you get an elevated smoke-to-meat-ratio. Every bite is not unlike the outer, most savory sections of a traditional butt, loaded with seasoning, bark, and smoke. Oh buddy!
Whilst the coals mature on the pit, gather up a pack of country-style ribs to prep. Country style ribs, by the way and if you haven’t heard, are not ribs at all. They are actually part of the pork butt, which actually isn’t a butt at all, but the front shoulder of the hog. Yeah, butchers have way too much fun I think. Anyways, I hit the meat with a good smattering of Famous Dave Rib Rub, and transferred the pork to the grill, opposite the hot coals. The smoke wood today is the pleasant duo of apple and hickory, and a tantalizing tandem in the smokey arts. Then top the grill with the lid, and turn down the dampers. Govern just enough air in to keep the coals alive, and that smoke wood smoldering with flavor.
The next step should come easy to a patron of the pit, and that is to draw yourself a cold beverage and position your self accordingly in your BBQ chair, like a solar panel to the sun. These are the days we have dreamed about all the winter long, distant fantasies once privy only to Florida people, and the blessed lucky schmucks of Ecuador. Today, we will all fend off sunburn, and our smoke will rise as equals. And what a beautiful day it was, with nary a remote disturbance in an otherwise endless blue sky. Mallards floating serenely on the pond, and the call of a song bird’s serenade from the whispering pine. I kicked up my feet on an old bucket, and laid my head back a spell, hat pulled over the eyes, and what hecticness there was at once evaporated into the summer-like breezes. A man at peace by his pit. Nothing is quite so fine. Two and a half hours later, I foiled the ribs.
I foiled the ribs with some apple juice, and let them hence enjoy a sweet steam bath for an hour or so, while I got back to the very important business of loitering in my man chair. Of monitoring sun angles, and judging the song bird try-outs. I may have even nodded off again, and that’s OK. After an hour or so in the foil, and the meat has loosened up a great deal, and the checkered flag is in sight, you’ll want to toast your buns. Yes, goes the extra mile people, and toast your buns. This is your art. Treat it as such! When everything is done, bring it all inside and prepare your sandwich accordingly. Chopping up the savory pork, and maybe mixing it with some of your very favorite sauce, or even hitting them again with a bit more rub. Lay the bite-sized chunks over the toasted bread, piling them together in a magnificent meat melee, and if you’re from South Carolina, or just weird like some of us, go ahead and dob on some cool coleslaw right over the BBQ pork. Man! Press your sandwich together, and commence with the one of the finer culinary pleasures in this life. Be warned tho, sloppy brown chunks may make the acquaintanceship of your lap.
Hickory-Apple-Smoked Country Style Rib Sandwiches. It sure don’t get much better folks! You hungry now? Man!
This winter in Minnesota was a very long, drawn out winter. A winter where we thought for moment our region of the United States by chance had entered into a new Ice Age. We had a few glimmers of hope, but as soon as we saw fresh grass…… FRUMP!, We were again snowed on. Though we Patrons are tolerable with utilizing out our pits all year long we find Spring to be a sigh of fresh air. Don’t take us wrong, wiping snow off of our pit covers and removing our gloves to light a chimney full of coal is just the way of the bbq force out here. We know that for 5 to 6 months of the year removing our boots and putting them back on to maintain the pit is an expected part of the bbq process. HARK! We are now ready for the luxury of flinging off the flip flops and melting into our favorite patio chair with a cold beverage in hand, whilst sitting next to our hot smoky pits. AH yes, to sit downwind so that the cool breezes can blow the pit smoke directly into our paths becomes a fantasy while sitting in a cubical during our weekly rotating responsibilities. The time has come when we can rightfully say goodbye to a season that I can comfortably say had overstayed its welcome. I love winter and I love snow, but it is that time I welcome Spring.
Grill on – POTP
What a pleasant thing it is to walk past your patio door, and see your old grill out there, puffing away in a cloud of hickory. To smell the wood smoke in the air, and know something tasty is developing, cooking, and residing just out yonder, under that beat up lid. It soothes a man, I must say. It is well with his soul. For there is just something about putting meat to flame and cooking it there, whilst the fresh air encircles you, that for a while at least, we are content and in need of very little else. And maybe that’s why, come to think of it, we like to cook slowly around here, if for any other reason than to extend the moments – these the fellowship of the coals. It is our twinkle, every time we light the pit, and watch the smoke curl there.
Now every man I ever knew, and a lot of women too, if there was one thing they were good at on the grill, it was big cheese burger. And rightly so, for that’s what most folk start off with, in their formative, teeth-cutting years at the grill front. My eldest brother has long-held to the tactic, when visiting a restaurant for the first time, that the safest, and most efficient stroke you can play there is to try their cheeseburger. For they are not likely first off to screw it up, but more over, in a gastronomic gumshoe sort of way, you can tell a great deal about the rest of their fare, their cook, and their establishment as a whole, but from the mere details revealed in their humble hamburger. How much pride have they taken in preparing it? What is the grade of beef? Do they bother to toast the bun? How much did it cost? Likewise on the grill. It is a pit junkie’s thumb print, the hamburger. And everybody who has flipped a patty has one. Every finger print is a little different it seems, and like a thumb into an ink pad, it is our most basic impression onto the BBQ arena. Want to get an idea of a pit keeper’s prowess, consider first his cheeseburger. Thus, and with a good bed of coals, let us make it a favorable one at least.
You can do a lot of things with hamburgers. Stuff them full of various odds and ends, from bell peppers and corn to blue cheese or hot sauce. Some cast iron constitutions do all of the above at once, and wager it a good day. But if you have supper guests coming over, as we did this evening, and their palates you are not yet acquainted with, it is a wise move for the pit master to keep the meat simple. Provide a cornucopia of toppings and condiments on the side, and let the unknown taste buds hence arriving paint their own masterpiece. And that’s just what we did. Started with 80/20 ground beef, which if you haven’t heard, is the optimal ratio for hamburgers. Leaner blends tend to fall apart on the grill, and lack a little less flavor. Anyways, before the patties were even formed, I worked in to the beef, an envelope of Lipton Onion Soup Mix to give it some flavor. Formed some rather massive patties, half-pound colon busters if you will. Hard to tell in the pictures, but easily appreciated in person. Placed them on the grate opposite the hot coals, and pressed a golf ball-sized depression into the center of each one to thwart the often occurring “curl”, an unsightly malady that burgers sometimes do. The depression punch is purely a cosmetic move for the end game. Next, and to add a nice touch you don’t often get with a hamburger, I added a couple chunks of hickory to the coals, for a pleasant smokey tint to the beef. Nothing like a smoke ring on your cheeseburger to set a man right!
You can leave the burgers over indirect heat the whole way, tho some prefer to do it all right over the coals, hot and fast like. It’s up to your pit master instincts. But one thing you should always take the time to do is to toast your buns. And get the best buns the bakery has, or better yet, make your own. And one of the best ways to toast them is to butter each half, and plunk them on the hot side of the grill. Tend to them like a needy relationship. Like a puppy keen to poop on your new carpet. Check them every few seconds with your tongs. For they can burn easily, and all your hard labors might soon go up in flame. But nothing quite so brings your burger to the next level than a perfectly toasted bun. Man. And never has a dinner guest not appreciate this simple, yet effective effort.
In the end, each person had a 1/2 pound Colby Jack cheese burger with the works, larger than their face, and towering off the plate like a meat monolith. Mercy! Basic grilling 101. Filling. Tasty. And an American favorite for sure. It is the cheeseburger. Your pit keeper’s thumb print.
We are betwixt by the fire and by the ice. That oft volatile, yet seasonal line between winter’s bond and that of a lush, green lawn. Of snow banks and sun burn. Of golf clubs and wind chill. Of spring in Minnesota. This evening, upon the outer crust of the midlands of April, standing over a beautiful bed of coals, working the pit, admiring a lawn full of grass whilst blizzards gather headlong in the west, I am reminded yet again, of the heady pleasures of Minnesota BBQ. Sleet taps like ball bearings over the land now, and the cold wind curls around the old kettle grill – the wood smoke wrapped in eddies. Perhaps this is the reason you never hear our state mentioned on the same pages like that of Texas, South Carolina, and Kansas City, when it comes to BBQ. If those blokes had to BBQ in sub-zero temperatures for fifty percent of the year, perhaps we northern wannabes would tally a might higher in their counts. Its not easy, let me tell you, fighting off wind chill induced hypothermia while procuring a perfectly executed rack of ribs. But even so, some body has to do it, and we are up here despite, giving it a go. For it is the journey anyways, that we favor most in BBQ. The rest sorts itself out, by and by.
On the grill tonight, blizzard or not, we’re doing up a house favorite – BBQ chicken quarters.I know you’re tempted in the grocery aisles to pick up your packages of boneless chicken breast, but I have long held to the notion, that birds we’re designed to have their bones in them. More over, that the bone imparts a noticeably better flavor on your meat’s end game. Indeed, we are men, and we just know how ever it is men know things, that meat on the bone is poetically correct, and the very best way to go. And chicken quarters have lots of bones, beautifully placed alongside vast reserves of meat. It is a good thing. A worthy bone to meat ratio. Thus, and amid the falling sleet, the quarters were rubbed down in olive oil, and dutifully dusted in a liberal fashion with Grill Mates Chicken Rub. This while the fire matured, and the darkened, snow-laden clouds advanced upon our fair hamlet.
As usual, well that is if your interested in a crispier skin, we seared these lovely quarters a couple minutes per side, over some hot coals. Then of course tucked them back, to the cool side of the grill for the rest of the ride. We used apple wood for the smoke flavor tonight. Apple is an apt choice for all things poultry, and one can nary go wrong using it. Just a chunk. You do not want it bellowing like a choo choo train, as pretty as it may look. Nice thin wisps of smoke are what you’re after. Too much smoke is actually possible, and over-doing it has been known to result in bitter tasting meat. Indeed, it is well to think of smoke perhaps as a seasoning, and not an ingredient, like so many newcomers to the BBQ sciences postulate. Anyways, the lid thus was put into place, and the smoke began to curl. And for a while, tho the winter tempest was conspiring, all the world was right. That glorious, contented feeling, patron to wafting wood smoke, and savory meat sizzling quietly aside hot embers. The last ten minutes of the cook, I went ahead and applied the BBQ sauce. Brush strokes of a Meat Mona Lisa! The aromas of smoked chicken and apple wood a waft in the chill, April air. Man! Say what you will, but this is living!
Ain’t too many things finer before a spring snow storm, than a steaming plate of good BBQ chicken. Meat on the bone. It not only sets a man straight in his ways, but motions him to accept the prevailing weather scenarios with aplomb. To be OK straddling that curious but seasonal line the sand right now, which seems so privy to both fire and ice. Good BBQ knows no meteorological boundaries. It can’t you see, as we won’t allow such foolery, less we keepers of the northern flame would have to hang up our tongs half the year long. And that just ain’t right. Its not right at all.
In the morning, winter had returned, making itself at home on the pit once again. So be it. For a hearty flame still burns here, deep in the frigid north. And the wood smoke shall rise again. Amen.
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
Amid the spring thaw, and blustery gales , I touched flame to the chimney of hardwood lump. I love the smell of lump charcoal lighting, and the sound of it as it crackles and pops. I am transported all at once back up into the northern tiers of my Minnesota bush lands, back to camp fires past, neath the whispering pines, in the forest hollows, aside babbling streams, at tranquil campsites pitched upon the cold, bones of the earth. Those camp fires of birch and balsam, how their warm light reflects off the faces of camp mates, always make a soul feel more at home there, in a harsh, and barren land. I often reminisce in this way, every time I light the pit here on the patio. I hover my hands over the chimney, relishing the heat there, as the keen northern winds slice with disturbing ease through the city streets, kicking up old tatter along the way. And tho it is cold this April day, the sun is still out, and tweety birds, well they don’t seem to care one way or the other, if it’s cold, or windy, or what sort of charcoal I may be using. And that’s OK. I’m not sharing my supper with them anyways. Speaking of supper, come inside with me won’t you, and let me show you what we have marinating tonight.
On the counter, in a zippered plastic bag we have a good couple handfuls of chicken wings, the kind of wings popular at sports bars and taverns, and places with more big screens than a showplace theater facility. Blessed is the man whose freezer harbors a bag of these wings. In the immortal words of Mary Tyler Moore, it can take an otherwise nothing day and suddenly make it seem all worthwhile. And it has. For we are men. We eat meat. And we are keen for the wing!
The winglets today, before they hit the hot grate, receive a good pampering in a delicious home-made marinade. A salty and sweet affair with a touch of garlic. Here is the recipe for it if you have a hankering.
Sweet Garlic Marinade
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 3 table spoons honey
- 3 table spoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
Also whilst the coals come to maturity, and the wings marinate, we are soaking some peach wood too. I still prefer the big fist sized chunks, as there is no need to soak those. But if all you have is chips, you make do, and you’ll need to soak them before the cook, less they disintegrate like a 20-year-old pair of underwear whence they hot the coals. Not that I’ve tried that. I was pleased to find some peach wood at the local Cabelas, on one of my monthly forays there. You don’t see that sort of flavor up here in the frozen north too often, and I grabbed it rather by instinct when I saw it. A bit of Floridian essence amid icy winds sounded good today.
Nothing is quite so fine as peach smoke carried in the wind. Do to the high sugar content of the marinade, we went indirect the whole way this cook. Life opposite the hot coals is a good motto to grill by, and will long keep you out of grilling peril. I put the lid on and admired the smoke for a bit, like BBQ people do. I sat down, hunkered into my smoking jacket, and watched the smoke dance off into the stately breezes. And then, rather out of the blue, my left eye lid began to droop. Followed closely by the other. And I pandiculated right there in the chair. Pandiculation. That’s my new word. It means to stretch and yawn at the same time. Turns out I’m really good at pandiculating, and so are a lot of people I know. Anyways, when we brethren of the smoke feel such lethargy brewing, there is of course only one suitable course of action. I promptly went inside and took up residence in the man chair, reclined back to its utter most fancy, and there upon, and with great abandoned, did what sleepy men do when meat is slowly cooking on the grill – I belched and wafted off to sleep. It was lovely.
Most men, we postulate, and some women too I think, are born with an internal meat alarm clock. A meat sense, if you will. Sort of a quantum entanglement deal, where upon we just know when our betrothed meat is ready to eat, or more over, if it is in jeopardy of burning, or being pillaged say, by the neighbor’s dog. It’s a great skill set to have really, whence your aspirations for sleeping on the job come to fruition. BBQ is rigorous work after all, and we should be privy to all the tricks. Anyways, the internal alarm went off and I awoke in my man chair with a gentle yet satisfying graduation, like that of brisket coming to its temperature ideal, whilst resting on the counter top. I wiped the accumulated drool from my left lip pit, as my body rebooted. Golden beams of sunlight washed over my face, as I stretched like a spoiled old house cat in the soft chair. Yes, I pandiculated again. And I knew, as surely as one can know these things I guess, that my meat was done. It was time to eat, and after a fashion, never rushed, we did just that. And the wood smoke tapered in the breeze. Amen.
Peach smoked winglets with a tint of sweet garlic, and the theory of quantum meat entanglement. Man oh man. If you understand one, you probably have the other.
Nothing is quite so fine as firing up your pit on Easter morning. The smell of hickory wafting in the early sunbeams, the finches flirting in the fragrant spruce, and the world today, as most days go, seems to be rotating a little slower. There is leisure in the air, aloft with the wood smoke, and every fiber of your BBQ being knows it. The token urban madness is displaced it seems, with quieter streets, strolling neighbors, and driveways of parked cars, patron to house holds filled with warm banter and good food. And I like that. We had family coming over too, because once upon a time, I had leaked word that one could aptly pump up the flavor of your run of the mill smoked ham by ten times, if you smoked it again. Well it wasn’t long before I was asked one year to do the Easter ham, and well, that’s how traditions start I guess. My privilege. And that is what we’re up to at the pit this day. Smokin’ that good Easter ham. So get yourself a bib tied on, and lets commence with the task at hand. But be warned, once you do it on the smoker, you may never want to put your ham in the oven again. Man it’s good!
Now the first order of business, that is after of course pouring yourself a lovely beverage, is to rub your ham down in mustard. No, it’s not a flavor thing really, but as many smoke masters know, it is an adhering agent. In point of fact, I never heard of any one who can even taste the mustard whence the cook is complete. Think of it maybe as a primer for your rub. Lots of folks rub down all matter of cuts of meat in mustard before applying the rub. It’s just a great way for getting your rub to stick. Anyways, our rub today is as simple as it gets – brown sugar. That’s it. You can use what ever you like of course, but we went with good smearing of brown sugar. Then decorated it with pineapple slices, not just for cosmetic value, but also for the self-basting effect of smoking pineapples. It’s important here to let the ham and the sugar get to know one another for a while. To mingle. Wait until the sugar has liquefied, and becomes tacky to the touch before it goes on the smoker, for improved reception to the smokey goodness imparted upon it.
Hams are delightfully easy to double smoke because most hams that you’re used to are already cooked. Which nicely removes the pressure of wondering if its done or not. However, you want it hot, so the target internal temp to shoot for is 140 degrees, which is a good eating temperature for most tongues, save for the most hardened coffee drinkers. So I put the maverick probe in, just to keep tabs. With your smoker set at 250 degrees, most hams will take about 3 hours. Otherwise just keep an eye on that internal temperature. The smoke wood today is hickory, since the ham was originally hickory smoked to start with. It’s good to match it up if you can, however, I also tossed in a couple chunks of apple wood too, because that’s just how I roll.
Around 130 internal, you’ll want to start brushing on your glaze. The glaze we used was almost as simple as the rub.
Maple Ham Glaze
Mix together in your sauce pan the following:
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
Then proceed to varnish your ham with liberal abandoned. When it reaches 140 internal, go ahead and bring it inside and foil it. Let it rest as you do, as the juices find their way back through the smoke-scented meat. Note the aromas in the air, how they fill the house, and how your people at once beckon closer to thee, for to sample a bite perhaps, before the dinner bell tolls. Snag the choicest bits for the pit master of course.
Hickory Apple Double Smoked Ham, with a Maple Brown Sugar Glaze. Man! With a special thanks to our Savior, for He’s the reason we even get to smoke a ham today in the first place. Amen.
*Stomachs, time, and the rest of the food out-paced our Easter ham, and I had to reluctantly pull it from the smoker too soon, and accelerate it in the oven. And tho it didn’t come out the most attractive thing after that, rest assured, it was still as moist and savory as it was smokey, complimented with that wonderful, sweet glaze. And bellies were filled.
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.
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.
Way up yonder, on the northern tiers of Minnesota, we often press a tent stake patron to some pretty places here and there. Places of exquisite beauty, where the waters run clearly, and the breezes taste sweet, sifted through the fragrant pines. My fellow patron and I routinely visit these locales, if not even for but one day. One day to inhale that pure, unpretentious air, and to absorb a rarefied tranquility lost, but not forgotten, in the ever-whirling cog of society. Indeed, we fancy to strike off for the wilder places just as often as we can, for to live simply, and abandon all tension there. For we are at home in the woods, by and by, and love to tarry fire-side amid the whispering pines.
Putterers by nature, we are content for hours on end it seems to cook exotic camp food over smoldering coals, repair in our chairs, and simply watch the smoke rise unto the standing pines. To tell story, and play song, whilst dotingly poking at the fire. Bannocks baking in blackened skillets, chickadees flirting, and all the many phone calls at once escaped in our own personal, wilderness sanctum. Oh the places, the beautiful places, that we have loitered in, here and there.
Campfires of Birch and Balsam often flicker in camp, as the lake serenely laps upon our shore, and the stately pines sway gently in the breeze, like a thousand and one fly rods, nay, make that a thousand and two. Oh how we love to cook over the open flame in these places, to ply our craft, turning our spoils into shore lunch. The stars, the moon, the forest glade, we love it all, even the smoke in our face! And here is the thing I have noticed, and maybe some of you have to; every time back home when we thus light the grill, and we smell that campfire-like smoke lofting towards the heavens, are we not at once, and irrevocably so, reminiscent, and smitten deeply for these places. Because smell is at once patron to memories, and memories thus flood back of those quiet campsites nestled aside shimmering waters. And for a moment, we can taste again the simple life we had once aspired to there. Because here it is again, deep in an urban sprawl, working over this old kettle grill; and there are blackened skillets, and chickadees even, and the sweet fusion of memories gently forged, both here and there, over the swiftly ebbing seasons, and the smoke which curled there. Amen.