The rainy season continues to pummel our fair land that is Minnesota. Flash floods are common place. As are the seemingly daily thunder storms. Likewise the unruly uprooting of fallen trees, courtesy of the soften soils and stiff gales. It has been a decidedly sporty locale, here in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes – most of them now, and in a word, satiated. The pit-side pond has also swollen to say the least, and between the tempests, I slipped into my water proof boots, and took a stroll down there. Slowly ambling alongside the tall grasses and flooded banks. My boots sucking into wet earth reminiscent of my bog romping days of youth, where if I was lucky, my ecology professor told me, I might find the rare and highly esteemed, Trailing Arbutus. A plant so rare, I was told, that it would have put a normal man of means into serious debt should he pick it and bring it home. Should the department of natural resources catch wind that is.
What I found along the pond’s edge was something not so rare, but beautiful to behold, and equally as unidentifiable to me. I’m guessing an Iris. That’s what my botanical gut says. I wish I knew wildflowers better. It is a gaping fissure in my knowledge I’d like to fill some day. I’d rather know wildflowers than know a second language, I think. This one was of a delicate nature, like all flowers are, yet charming, and independent in the same breath. About 15 inches in stalk I should wager, and violet flavored blooms the rough stature of overly soggy potato chips. A resident token of beauty and an act of small rebellion in a land wrought by the storms. It stood ever so proudly, doing what seemed like nothing at all other than looking lovely for the benefit of photographers. Anyways, I liked seeing it there at the water’s edge. It belonged. And if one of you might know it’s true identity, and I suspect you do, do let me know.
Now onto something I do know – cheeseburgers!
Six robust patties sizzled in one accord over a beautiful bed of coals. Light plumes of cherry wood smoke curled through the cast iron grate. And sunbeams washed over the lawn in a glorious golden light. Yes, the rains had ebbed long enough for that precious glowing orb of light to burn aloft in an endless blue sky. A reprieve well-earned, snatched from soddened battlefields, and for the evening at least, all the world was right again. And dry.
The burgers today were seasoned with one envelope of Lipton Onion Soup Mix, cobbled through-out the ground beef, then lightly dusted over with a bit of Famous Dave’s Steak and Burger Seasoning. We placed them opposite the hot coals, or in-direct for you technical grill-smiths, put the lid on, dampers tweaked, and let the pit do it’s thing. In good time, flip thy meat according to your pit master instincts. You know how it works.
There is something very authentic that happens when the wood smoke curls. Every grill jockey knows it. Every pit keeper longs for it. An infallible sense of well-being and contentment seems to rise with those aromatic, wispy tendrils of smoke. It’s enough to move a man, or even a gaggle of women, to draw a lovely beverage and just sit. Legs crossed like ambassadors of high leisure, ice clinking in our glass, let us at once let up on the accelerator pedal of life, and just be. Like that showy flower down by the pond’s edge, may we revel in what is still. And just be. In a world detached with haste, rushing from one posture to another, oh what sweet respite we garner in the simple act of watching smoke taper into a blue, pastel sky. And for a while at least, it is all that we need. Amen.
Cherry Smoked Cheddar Cheese Burgers with all the fixings. Yum! Because when the sky stops falling we all need to eat. Nay we need to live.
As I repair here at the pond-side pit, lovely beverage at hand, I muse over the delightful breeze skirting the dogwoods yonder, and the cool blades of steely, green grass which grow up to my patio front. I like how the Chickadees flirt to and fro the suet I had set out for them here, and how the late even sunlight slants through the Spruce bows as if on golden arms from above. Like-wise how the stately Spruce sports its new growth this time of year, in dollops of soft, green needles, lighter in appearance, but softer to the touch. I like that for some reason. Also with the resident Mallards which cavort out on the pond, and the handsome Cardinals that banter from the old cottonwood tree, this, and the chorus of a thousand and one song birds trilling at once, whilst the apple wood smoke rises from the grill damper, in soft, aromatic tendrils which dissolve into a pastel sky. What a fabulous evening to be a pit keeper in Minnesota.
On the pit tonight, a simple affair. Juicy, apple-smoked chicken thighs and grilled asparagus. Good eating, and simple to do. Let’s get after it.
First order of business was to hit the thighs liberally in some Grill Happy Seasoning. If you haven’t had occasion, Grill Happy Seasonings is the best thing since Colonel Sanders to a dead a chicken. I first discovered this seasoning many years ago, at the Minnesota State Fair. Being a patron of the pit, and general meat enthusiast, I always make the rounds of the various grilled food there. And one thing I make sure to never miss is the pork chop on a stick. For the longest time I loved those pork chops and didn’t know why exactly. And then one day I figured it out – the seasoning. Turns out you can buy the very same seasoning they use right there at the fair for their world-famous pork chops. Also turns out, go figure, it goes great on chicken too. And that’s what were up to tonight. Grill Happy chicken thighs! So buckle up and tie your bibs on, people, cause here we go!
After seasoning the chicken, and oiling down the cast iron grate, go ahead and place the meat over direct heat, and sear up the thighs to your pit master standards. We like a crispy skin on our thighs, so we let them sear there over the hot coals for a couple of minutes probably. Monitoring them frequently with tongs in one hand, and manly beverage in the other. It’s a lovely dance between man and meat that you will soon get the hang of, iffin you’re not a master of it already. Once seared and crispy, especially upon that notoriously floppy flap of skin which is the bane and burden of most chicken thighs, do slide them over, opposite the hot coals, for the remained of their thermal journey. We added some apple wood to the coal bed, our smoke wood of choice today, plunked the old enameled lid on, and then got about the heady business of doing what we do best – loitering!
Nothing is quite so fine, nor nourishing to the soul, than taking up a quiet residence in your man chair, aside wafting plumes of apple wood smoke. To kick your feet up there, and consider the day. How the heavens sing of a deep blue, and the air is as soft and pleasant as a new baby’s face. Note how the leaves of the cottonwood tremble in form, clacking gently, like a million-and-one credit cards in the wind. And the hearty banter of bird song fill the smokey tinted air with poetry and grace. I sink a little lower in my BBQ chair, slouching in posture, and completely at ease. My eye lids draw shut like a New York City shop keep pulling his shades down at day’s end. The nasal pleasing ideal of apple wood smoke and grill happy seasoning mingle on the scene. My head bobs to and fro, loose at the neck, until my chin comes to rest upon my flannel clad chest. A Black Capped Chickadee chirps at the feeder. I am out. I am, as the Italians like to say, “fuori dalla griglia” , or, off the grid.
OK, I don’t know if Italians really say that or not, but I’d like to think they do. It’s how it should be at the pit. When those coals are lit, and the smoke is curling, our world and our cares are at once reduced, or simplified in the moment. And it is our job as pit keepers to simply savor that moment, for the moment’s sake. And let the world spin head long with out us for a while. Let the cog of society chew on its own spore and not on you! This is our time to kick back. To relish the supreme ambiance and endearing joys patron to the pit. Amen.
Ten minutes from the end of the cook, we tossed on some marinated asparagus, indirect, to add a bit of green to the end game, and to gain marks with the lady folk. If we men were left to our own devices, we’d probably eat a plate just straight up with meat. And it would be fine! Anyways, the asparagus was good. Really good. Marinated for a couple of hours first in a solution of: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. It adds a rather robust, yet abiding and lovely taste to the vegetable. Give it a try some day.
Apple Smoked Grill Happy Chicken Thighs and Marinated Grilled Asparagus Spears. You could eat a lot worse and not nearly have so much fun.
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It is with great adoration, yet reserved applause, that this Minnesotan declares the arrival of Spring. I came out of my hole the other day, and I saw my shadow, so that must mean something I figure. I have seen motorcycles too, whizzing up and down the local roadways. Golfers milling through the local foliage in search of wayward shots. The turdus americanus is also in town, hopping about the semi-green grass in search, I suppose, of a good worm or two. I have noted likewise, that the ice has dissolved off the local lakes and waterways, and people of generally good ilk are walking to their mail boxes with out the aid of down parkas or thermal underwear. Things are looking up in other words! And just below it all, quivering in the trees and bushes, in the brown fields and winding stream banks, is that once upon a time and long ago lost color that is green. Chlorophyll! Glorious galleys of green chlorophyll. And it tingles and aches, leashed by a solar clock, waiting patiently to explode.
On the pit tonight, a house favorite. Hickory smoke pork chops with a maple glaze. They’re real easy to do too, so let’s get after it.
These bone-in chops came smoked right out of the package, and I swear smelled good enough to eat right there, but like any pit keeper worth his tongs, we’re going to double smoke the chops on the old kettle grill. Oh yes! Placing them opposite a good bed of mature coals, with a few small chunks of hickory wood added to the fire, we were ready for action. We lightly sprinkled the chops in garlic and onion salt, and placed the old, black enameled lid on, tweaked the damper, and caught the draft. Soon aromatic plumes of hickory smoke mingled about the patio, signifying to thee yet another pit session in progress. I was about to assume the proper BBQ posture in the pit-side man chair, but a maple glaze needs to be made, and such things don’t make themselves you know. Here is how to do the glaze.
- 3/4 Maple Syrup
- 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Ketchup
- 2 Tablespoons Mustard
- 1 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
Stir it all together and bring to a boil. Then remove from heat.
With about ten minutes left in the cook, we varnished on the maple glaze, with greater Picasso-like brush strokes. You’ll want to stay mindful here, making sure your chops are indirect still, for the sugars in the glaze can get burned easier than a kindly old grandma in a used car lot. Be good to your chops, people, and unto your grandmas too! Keep the hickory smoke wafting, and repeatedly brush on the glaze, frequently flipping the chops. Open up the bottom damper, and get the heat up if you can, for to caramelize your spoils aside a hemorrhaging bed of coals.
I pulled the man chair up close to the pit, tongs still hand, and tarried there a spell, like pit keepers do. The aromas of smokey pork mingle with the freshened, April breeze. I leaned back, left leg crossed over right, and mused over the cottony clouds parading over head. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do this. To loiter pit-side and watch the clouds go by, that is with out fusing my hind-end to a subzero, ice-encrusted patio chair. Outdoor leisure only operates for so long when the temperatures court that of a Popsicle factory. But today was different. No jacket needed. And the sun tarried aloft more than adequately to see to cook by. Mallards chortled out on the pond. Blue Jays darted to and fro. And the sweet aromas of perfectly executed pork wafted in the air. I smiled to myself. I could sit here all day, just watching the world spin, and I might have iffin I weren’t so hungry right now. Our supper is done. Lets plate up these chops, and commence to doing what men do best – stuffing face!
Maple Glazed Hickory Smoked Pork Chops hot off the grill. A delightful blend of sweet and smokey meat sure to take your belly straight to church! Man!
How to bring your spaghetti to the next level with a little smoke and cream cheese
So it was, under beautiful blue skies and amber shafts of light, that the last snow flake melted out by the pit today. And all the ice on the pond dissolved over the last few days, the last of it, today, into a cold, watery soup. The ducks dutifully reveled, of course, swimming to and fro in the pond’s lush water ways, whilst the resident tweety birds darted fiercely about the naked alders, all of which eagerly await the bounty of spring. Have we Minnesotans finally made it around the dark side of moon? Is this light yonder we see spanning into the evening hours really meant for us? Is it possible the barnacle-like grip of ice upon this fair land has at last and finally relinquished? Oh I believe so. For I have seen my shadow on steely blades of semi-green grass, and heard the call of the American Robin for to greet the morning hours. Spring has arrived. And all the northern pit keepers rejoice.
To usher in the milder season, and on the pit today, something a little different. Leastwise amid the grilling circuits it is. Smoked spaghetti meat sauce with a Philly twist. If you’re not a’feared of carbohydrates, you’re going to fancy this one. So grab yourself a manly beverage and I’ll meet you out by the pit.
Over a lovely bed of mature coals, in the old black iron pan, we browned up the ground beef as per the usual tactics to making spaghetti sauce. I know what some of you new to this site may be thinking. Why the heck is he doing this on the grill? To which I must reply, why wouldn’t I! This is a BBQ blog, and by golly, this is what we do! And let it be said, because it’s true, anything you can do on the kitchen range can not only be equaled out on a good pit, but in many cases improved upon, courtesy of the smokey goodness inherent there. Not to mention, it’s just plain beautiful outside tonight. You gotta cook supper regardless, so why not do it some place pretty.
Nothing quite so fine as the fresh spring breeze mingling with the aromas of sizzling beef. After a fashion, after it was cooked brown and drained, we added the sauce. Now you can use what ever sauce makes you happy. Make it home-made if you please, or do like we did, and use a jar of something we picked up at the grocer. It’s all good on the pit. So we pulled the pan to the cool side of the grill, opposite the hot coals, and then added a chunk or two of apple wood to the fire for to secure smokey custody of this classic supper time dish. Yes, smoke is the first of two secret ingredients here, that will set this spaghetti dinner apart from any you’ve ever had. If you’ve never done your meat sauce up on the grill this way, well, you’re missing something out of your grilling career. Like the sunbeams that which slant upon the green grass, it is worth our attention, our time, for to articulate a tasty path towards a higher culinary ideal, patron to the pit.
Whilst the meat sauce simmers in turn, we prepped some French bread with a simple:
(1 Clove finely chopped and 1/3 cup of softened butter)
Wrapped the loaf in foil, and placed it likewise, opposite the hot coals. Oh yes!!!
Put the lid on, establish a draft, and thus engage in some lengthy and protracted smoke watching. This is the portion of the cook where we grill jockeys are in our element. Or more truthfully, in our man chairs, pit-side, with a lovely beverage in hand. Legs perhaps crossed like a gentleman of leisure, hat tipped just so, to thwart the low hanging sun, and scads of sweet time in which to just sit there and do nothing at all. To watch the clouds idle in a pastel sky, and the song birds yonder warming up their little throats for to sing of their glories anew. To observe the gentle wake and science of duck propulsion on the pond. Or, if need be, even to close our eyes, and doze peacefully amid the aromatic tendrils of rising wood smoke. Glory!
Speaking of, every 5 minute or so, lift the lid and stir the meat sauce, for to infuse more of that patented smokey goodness into it. Also flip the bread over when you think of it, for even baking, and be mindful of your pit master instincts.
Lastly, and before we declared this meal complete, we added the final, secret ingredient to the meat sauce. At my bride’s suggestion, we added 1/4 cup of Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Indeed, I was hesitant, but adventurous this night. She saw some one do it on the TV, and thought it would be tasty. So, and with the common sense of a gestating lemming, I gave it go. Stirring the glob of cheesy, white goo, into the beautiful meat sauce until it melted kindly away. The result hence escorting the smokey sauce unto yet another level seldom found in conventional spaghetti sauce. The result – a much creamier, full-bodied meat sauce that which sported a quaint smokey tint. Oh man!
Once the cream cheese is diffused to your specifications, plate up and commence with what you do best!
Smoked Philly Spaghetti and Garlic Bread. If you’re looking for a little something different for your next BBQ, definitely give this one a try. Man!
A few dim stars hung overhead as I struck a match and put sweet flame to the political section. Oh there are other sections of the daily paper equally as adept I suppose, at lighting your coals via the venerable charcoal chimney, but none nearly so satisfying. And as the initial rush of smoke curled into a cold, Minnesota sky, a comforting glow conspired neath the maturing coals. I tucked my hands in the pockets of the old smoking jacket, and for a moment, watched the smoke curl. I don’t know why, but I have always enjoyed lighting the coals this way. The process of it. And I suppose, because it is slow. The very thing many a well-meaning pit keeper has turned his back on, for the undeniable speed and convenience of the gas grills. And they are fast I suppose. And convenient too. We cannot deny this. But where these things reign, they also fall sadly short of that smokey flavor patron to the pit. For missing are those lofty aromatic tendrils of rising wood smoke. The crackle and the pop of hardwood lump coal. The ambiance in aroma and sound. And besides that, I like that it takes time to light charcoal. And I’ll tell you why. For here is something I love to do – to be out-of-doors, putting meat to flame, hark, let me hence extend its magic for all its worth. And when the smoke has finally faded, and the evening’s plunder resides steadfast in my belly, at least I will know, as surely as I’ve know anything, that I have just done that which is well with my soul.
Anyways, and all digressions aside, on the grill tonight, another foray into American succulence – Honey Pecan Pork Chops, lightly tinted with apple wood smoke. Dashed in garlic. Good eating, people. This fire looks ready to go, so grab yourself a manly or not-so-manly beverage, and let’s see how these chops turned out, courtesy of the coals.
The Thermal Trifecta of Modern Grilling
- Banking the coals to the back side of the old kettle grill for indirect operations is the first step. Nary is it ever a good idea to spread your coals everywhere in your grill, which we have seen many a smokey tenderfoot burned by. Far better, and more efficient to put them to one side of the pit, thus creating the coveted thermal trifecta of modern grilling. That is what we call it anyways. Three distinct temperature zones in which to ply your bidding. One directly over the coals for intense searing. One, cooler zone, opposite the hot coals for to nurture along your spoils at a safe and modest pace. And something rather of a Switzerland affair right in the middle. It is with these three zones of heat that we charcoal pit keepers can most effectively apply a sweeping thermal sovereignty through-out the smokey kingdom patron to the pit. Oh yes. Anyways, about those chops.
We lightly dusted them in garlic salt, both sides, and sent them straight to Switzerland. After a hearty rummage through the pit-side woodpile, I procured a lovely, baseball-sized chunk of apple wood, knocked the snow off it, and tossed it gleefully onto the orange coals to smolder there. Lid on the old kettle, and the smoke soon began to curl. And nothing is quite so fine on a cold, starry night, whilst the icy breeze sweeps over crusty fields of snow, than the heady aromas of wood smoke and pork. Man! After a fashion and a flipping of the chops, I whipped up the honey pecan glaze.
Honey Pecan Glaze
Are you ready for this. It’s complicated.
2 Tablespoons Honey
1 Tablespoon Crushed Pecans
Introduce them, marry them, and bring them together
Often times the better things in life are also simple in design. Like butter. And so go forth with your sweet and nutty glaze in pan, and whence your pork chops have almost, but not quite yet completed their journey on the pit, varnish them there in a fashion suitable to thee. Flip and brush some more on the other side, tucking them back to the cooler portions of the grill. Lid on, and be mindful whilst you tarry in the aroma of perfectly executed pork. Dang people! Bring them to the land of caramelization if you please, or not. It is a pit master’s discretion. But what ever you do, do not burn your spoils now! The resident sugars are prone to such fates, so monitor it closely, and bath it in smoke. When your chops reach their destiny according to your pit, plate them at once and sidle in through the door and present them to your loved ones. For a fairer fare you shall not find, nor ingest proper, patron to the pit, and courtesy of the coals. Amen.
“Here is where the metal meets the meat concerning burger-craft, and moreover, what separates you from the indoor chef – and that is smoke. Most folk don’t think to smoke their hamburgers, but let it be said, because its true, they are also missing something out of their lives.” -PotP
It was by all accounts a wintry evening at the pit. The recent snows had firmed up now, from the bone chilling cold. Crispy sounding to walk on, like Styrofoam on a cold kitchen floor. Tentacles of ice adhere like winter weeds to the faithful Weber water smoker, whilst the chill winds swirled from a darkened sky. The moon hung stoically behind a soft veil of gray, barely leaking through, scarcely there it seemed, as a night-light to the heavens. And the aromatic plumes of cherry wood smoke bellowed forth from an active pit, one of which I huddled dear to, this cold, winter’s eve in Minnesota.
On the grill tonight, an old staple – the hamburger. Now every grill keeper worth their tongs has sought to conquer this section of the menu. It is what most of us started out with, or cut our teeth on, so-to-speak. And no faction of the grilling arts, perhaps, says more about your grilling style, than the humble burger. Want to get a better idea of a grill jockey’s mojo, consider first his hamburger. It is a pit keeper’s thumb print. For instance, what ratio ground beef is used? Or is it just a frozen, mass-produced patty? Is there anything inside the burger?Are the buns toasted? Would your Grand mother be proud of your hamburger?
We love a good burger here at the pit. But then, who doesn’t. It’s an American way of life, hamburgers are, like the venerable, and ever-iconic, Big Mac. You know the jingle, “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions – on a sesame seed bun“. A few years back, I was loitering in the shadow of the infamous golden arches, where I had re-acquainted myself with their flagship burger. By golly, I thunk, the burger wouldn’t be half bad if it were done proper like, out on the pit that is. Surely with a few altercations, and a little tweaking, hark, it might even be a pleasant, yet reasonable experience. And so, after the passage of several years, I finally got around to making my own Big Mac – PotP style of course. I guess I sort of changed most everything about it, save for the special sauce, but man did it turn out! So grab a lovely beverage and settle in for a spell, and we will tell you a little more how it was done, and how it came to be, this the culinary remake of a franchise burger.
To start with, no frozen patties here, folks. But that is a given among our readership, for you all are reasonable folk when it comes to your hamburgers. Never would you render your innate craft so low as for the seductive, frozen pucks stacked like poker chips in the back recesses of your refrigerator. Never! We used a pound 80/20 ground beef from a local farm, raised drug-free on the cool plains of Minnesota. Now the Big Mac has two patties, but that is just likely a marketing gimmick if you ask us. Why have two patties when one, half-pound “proper-sized patty” will do just fine. Mercy! So we formed a couple of manly patties, lightly seasoned in garlic and onion salt. Next we brought them out to the grill, which was already puffing away.
Here is where the metal meets the meat concerning burger-craft, and moreover, what separates you from the indoor chef – and that is smoke. Most folk don’t think to smoke their hamburgers, but let it be said, because its true, they are also missing something out of their lives. Oak would be an excellent choice here iffin you have the means. Likewise, hickory or even mesquite if you go lightly. What we used however, and with great effect, was a baseball-sized chunk of cherry wood, which was just the trick for these husky beef patties. We placed them opposite the hot coals the entire time, never once exposing them to direct heat. The idea was to take them slowly, and infuse a good matter of smokey goodness that which every pit keeper and kin alike, crave.
Lid on, burgers in-direct, cherry wood smoke lightly puffing through the dampers, glory! The heck with the winter time blues, for there is no such thing patron to a well-loved pit. It’s token fiery bosom is well enough to keep us warm, if not but for our passionate resolve as well. Bank those embers tall boys, for neither ice, nor snow, nor the dark of night will keep us from our appointed BBQ!
Anyways, and with modest fanfare, prepare your buns with a light buttering. Whilst you’re at it, slice a tomato nice and thick, and like-wise with a good red onion, and a pickle, if you’re into that sort of thing. Chop a hunk of lettuce to size. Get your favorite cheese sliced and ready to roll too, along with your very best accompaniments. And then, when the time is right, deploy the “special sauce“. The big mac is known for its signature sauce. A little mayonnaise mixed with sweet pickle relish and yellow mustard whisked together with vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika. Or if you’re feeling a wee bit lazy, like we were, Thousand Island salad dressing will of course do the trick too.
Whence the burgers have pooled somewhat, in other words, juices have collected atop the patties, and/or they have engaged in a mild curl or sorts, flip them over, still opposite the hot coals. Toss on some more smoke wood if you need to, and let them finish up there, at their leisure, until firm to the tong, or your desired interpretation of the word done. Lastly, toast the buns accordingly, and dutifully, for this is your song, people, your triumph in hamburger technology! So make it count, and take some pride in your spoils. And when all of this is done, and you have supped another inch off your favorite beverage, roll up your sleeves, patrons, and assemble then your masterpiece. Indeed, be inclined.
So next time you’re thinking of swinging into the golden arches for a big mac, don’t. Rest assured, you can do better, a world better indeed, patron to the pit. And if your wife makes homemade french fries, all the better. Amen.
“There is just something emancipating about putting meat to flame, and declaring that it is good. Something poetic, yet raw. Something in the simple act which tugs on tender strings that which tarries deep in our souls. And the cold is no governor of this, tho the weatherman might say otherwise. “-POTP
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all the weathermen said it would get mighty cold. One said 14 below for these parts, and even colder still, up way of the frigid tiers across northern Minnesota. Wind chills would plummet to dangerous levels, they warned. And children should be kept inside, the elderly too, swaddled in warm blankets and faced with hot mugs of steaming cocoa cocoa. Machinery didn’t fare much better. Automobiles were going down like black hawk helicopters today, and you could see their cold carcasses scattered and abandoned in apocalyptic fashion along many a roadside. Why did Gramma have to live over the river, and through the woods too! It got so cold, in point of fact, that the chemicals the city put down on the roads for to melt the ice there, were at best, ineffective, paltry attempts at ice management. Things would just have to wait, the weatherman said, for a heat wave of about ten degrees or so. Things would have to wait indeed. Everything that is, but my supper this night. Which off-hand and by the way, was out smoking on the pit. So turn up your collar and let’s go have a look.
There is nothing quite so fine on a frosty winter’s eve than flames rocketing out of one’s pit. And when the mercury levels have dropped out of sight, and you are to question your very sanity, oh how sweet the British thermal units are which radiate from that fiery kettle. In other words, and to the point, the heat from the pit felt dang good! Moreover, I had two portly chicken breasts on the grill tonight, opposite the hot coals. Each one dusted nicely in a, spicy Cajun rub. Heat people. A patron of the pit will take it in any form or incarnation, on sporting nights such as these.
You all know how to grill chicken. There is nothing special here about the process. In-direct, flipping frequently, and cooked until the juices run clear. We did add a bit of apple wood for good measure, because that is how we roll. The rest, by and far, was left to the grilling fates. Indeed, sub-zero grilling is always an interesting time. In case of point, I had finished washing my hands, like BBQ people often do, and went out to the pit to check in on the evening’s plunder. Let it be said, and re-stated here, that super-chilled aluminum tongs and slightly wet hands provide a moment of clarity in sub-zero weather. Not as humbling as licking frozen steel, which is a rite of passage for a Minnesotan it seems, but genuinely notable, none-the-less. It took a little thawing out over the BBQ before the tongs peeled off my hand. Glory! Not that the victory endured tho, for soon the keen northern winds had in turn seared my left eye lid shut, which might have been my only inconvenience, had not I also had a wind-chill induced ice cream head ache coming on. Son!
Ah yes, winter grilling. Why would any one be so daft, you might inquire.
Because there is ambiance in the coals, I suppose. Camaraderie in flame. It is not like we don’t have a perfectly acceptable heat source out there, bellowing forth its glories anew. Oh we do indeed. And we embrace it all the more. It’s just the line is much sharper, tracing that hallowed ground between fire and ice. Between life and death. And you are drawn unto it with an enlarged capacity to appreciate it, nay to revel in it. And where the apple smoke gently rises there too is also peace. There is just something emancipating about putting meat to flame, and declaring that it is good. Something poetic, yet raw. Something in the simple act which tugs on tender strings that which tarries deep in our souls. And the cold is no governor of this, tho the weatherman might say otherwise. Amen.
It was a good day as days go. Plumes of cherry wood smoke in a cold November breeze. Black Capped Chickadees flirting to and fro, snatching seeds from the feeder. A pond frozen over, hard now, and awaiting its impending snowfall. A gentleman of leisurely BBQ, I crossed my legs and shifted slightly in my chair, and watched the day unwind, patron to the pit. A day where many folk I know, and few hundred million I don’t, dare the frothy seas of consumerism, shoulder-to-shoulder, seeking out what ever it is they could live without any other day but this. I don’t get it people. I don’t get it because there is no question the proper thing to do on Black Friday, iffin that is you have it off. And that is to smoke a ham of course! So pull up a seat and a hot brew, and we’ll tell you a little more about the process, and how it went, this heady business of smoking a ham.
Our Black Friday Ham started innocently enough, with a humble spiral cut procured from the refrigerated aisles of a local grocer. A tip of the hat to the deli lady there, and a sampling of her chip dip, I made haste for the door, ham tucked under my wing like an NFL full back. I was off in a cloud of camel dust, you might say. Or would be I suppose, iffin I lived in the desert. And come to think of it, drove a camel there. Anyways, when I got home, the ham was lovingly rubbed down with brown sugar on each flap of meat, then hit with a little Suckle Busters Competition Rub, for an additional depth of seasoning to the flavor profile. And I took my sweet pit boy time with it, too, doing it right, making sure not a slice of precious ham went unloved.
The pit was preheated to 250, and the cherry wood smoke had thinned out some by the time I placed the ham on the top grate. I basted it down with a little apple juice, and gently placed on the huge, enameled lid of the Weber Smokey Mountain. Cherry wood smoke soon was aloft, and for the next three hours, and maybe even longer than that, the world gently twirled. The aromas of sizzling ham and cherry wood, oh what a fine and pleasant respite it was from the retail gods and the consumeristic melee thrashing about the city. And there was great novelty too, in not being a part of it.
Now you might be asking, why smoke a ham if hams come already smoked? Well, trust us when we say, by double-smoking your run-of-the-mill ham, you will aptly up the flavor of the beast by ten-fold. And nary will you encounter a finer prize. The meat can take it. Nay, it wants it. It craves smoke like a woman desires more shoes. I don’t get it either. We like to use fruit woods on ham, but hickory, or pecan, or others are just as well. And we basted the ham in its own juices from time to time too, giving it some love, and some attention. An hour before it was done, we brushed on the maple and brown sugar glaze, which ushered it by the arm to the next level of optimum hamhood.
Maple and Brown Sugar Glaze
- 1/2 Cup Maple Syrup
- 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Apple Juice
- 1 TBSP Mustard
When glazing the ham, open all the vents on your pit, maximizing air flow there so to get it good and hot. This will help in the caramelization of the sugars. We will turn an eye if you need to do this part of the process in your oven. No one needs to know. Whence the ham looks right, and smells right, and samples correctly as per your pit master privilege, plate up the succulence at once, and offer it unto your loved ones. And then tarry in the wake of deeds well done, smiling faces, and the aromas of a perfectly execute ham.
Like I said, it was a good day, as days go. Amen.
Cherry Smoked Spiral Cut Ham with a delightful Maple and Brown Sugar Glaze. You can do other things on black Friday I suppose, but why…
A steady and abiding rain falls over the streets of Ketchikan, Alaska; a hard mist, as the locals call it. Gray clouds smother into the tall, green, mountainsides rising at the edge of town. My lovely bride and her mother take up position in the stern of a fishing charter, one of twenty, advancing out to sea. Stalwart sailors they were, and hardened anglers, listening to the rain tap over their up-turned hoods. The guttural rumble of the outboard engine merges onto the acoustic palate, along with the lapping of chill waters against the hull, and the distant bustle of the Ketchikan shores. Whales breached the choppy surface, spouted forth a few times, and submerged again; their mighty tails slapping the water with utter authority, and great majesty. A Bald Eagle drops suddenly from the heavens with an acute splash off the starboard, snatching a salmon for to feed her family. My bride is onto a salmon too, go figure, rod hooping violently, its tip tugging downwards towards the darkened abyss. A few minutes span on bobbing waves and rocking ship, reeling and peeling, and she too procures a salmon for the family; several of them, in point of fact. And despite her bouts with motion sickness, she had the mental faculty to have them put on dry ice, and airmailed hence forth to the door step of her working husband back home. And that, by and far, made his day.
It is a few weeks later now, I tarry pit-side, in good form, whilst a bleak and steady mist dapples over the pond, like a thousand pin pricks cast from on high. It is that hard-mist sort-of rain again; tho one that is livable, by Ketchikan standards at least, and doesn’t force a soul indoors, necessarily, to stare glumly out the window. Besides, I liked the rain. And I think the silver salmon in the smoker did too. Or would have. Sort of reminiscent, you might say, from whence what soggy straights they came. If you are going to smoke a fish from Ketchikan, after all, it is only right I guess, that you do it in the rain. It’s always raining in Ketchikan they say. And I believe them.
An October breeze rustles amid the water-side grasses, long and wet, and bending in the seasonal eddies. A gray over-cast parades over-head and the light smoke of apple and peach wood curls serenely from the WSM. No finer weather, let be said, than this, this barometric symphony of low pressure and constant mist, for the pleasures of the pit are only heightened. The aromas pop, as if in olfactory 3D. The joy of rain drops pattering over a hot lid. And the contentment patron to rising wood smoke on such a cold, and dreary day. Glory!
One of the finer spoils in the smokey arts is that of fish. And few fish seem better suited for the task than salmon. Thus, and with some fanfare, it was with the greatest delight when a box of them arrived on my doorstep. Good tidings from Alaska, and a smokey destiny according to my pit. Now the first order of business, before anything else, is to brine the fish for 24 hours. We used a wet brine this time around, one that has proven effective in the past. And it’s real simple to make.
Basic Brine Recipe
2 Quarts water
1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1 Cup Kosher Salt
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
*In an old gallon ice cream bucket, mix this all up thoroughly and allow your fillets to mingle in the solution for 24 hours.
Before you go and light the pit, and after the proper brine period, go ahead and dutifully rinse thy fillets under cold water and lay them out on a rack to air dry a bit. Mind your BBQ instincts, and linger here. I know, your young, and eager, and restless, and you want nothing more than to plop thy protein upon a smokey grate and commence with the task at hand. But don’t. Your patience kindled from years at the pit will serve you well here, if you let it. What it is you’re waiting for, you see, is the pellicle, and such can take a while. I know, you’re wondering what in the heck is a pellicle. Well, a pellicle is an outer coating of proteins that form on the surface of brined fish left to air dry, and is tacky, or sticky to the touch. Many a seasoned fish smoker covets the pellicle, for it is that very stickiness which also proves most abiding for smoke. For smoke adheres feverishly to it, like moths to fly paper, or novice skiers to snow fencing. So wait for the pellicle if you can. Some folks even use an electric fan here, to hurry things along. And you can too, I suppose, if you’re in a hurry. But if you’ve learned anything at all from this blog, you won’t be in such a tomfoolery mind-set anyways.
After the pellicle has formed, and is sticky to the touch, sally forth and ignite thy smoker. For this smoke, were looking to run it at about 150 degrees for 3 or maybe 4 hours. This was accomplished in the big 22 1/2 inch Weber Smoker Mountain by a single chimney of lit charcoal dumped directly in the middle of the fire bowl, along with 2 gallons of cold water in the water pan. It may have helped also, that a lovely, cool drizzle fell from the heavens this day, keeping the pit cooler. At any rate, do your best to get around 150 degrees. A little higher is fine. The salmon won’t care.
Whence you have established a stable pit, smoke gently puffing, spray a little PAM or some such thing over your grate, and lay your betrothed salmon hunks in orderly fashion over it. Many of the Alaskan locals like to smoke their salmon with alder wood, but we didn’t have any such flavor on hand. What we did have however, was apple wood, and let it be said, because it is true, that works just fine too. Let it smoke in accord, until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Its pretty much that easy. In the mean time, there is loitering to be done.
It was with the highest and most sincere pleasure I placed the heavy enameled lid on the smoker, and henceforth got along with the very important business of being a pit keeper. Namely, I went to the refrigerator and drew myself a manly beverage there. Seeing the rain wasn’t about to let up this day, albeit a light rain, I jockeyed for the man chair anyways, residing seductively in the living room. Some times we Brethren of the Brisket need to pamper ourselves. Yes we do. Toe-pits up, left foot crossed over right, I admired how the rain drops fell this day, on and off, outside the glass patio door. The symphony in mist, and the homey curls of apple wood smoke. My eyes grew weary, heavy from the day. I listed slightly in my man chair, ensconced in warmth and dryness; two glories made only sweeter on such a cold and decidedly wet day. My eyes fell shut, and my thoughts drifted out to sea. Leisure had asserted itself. A perfect day, as days go, to smoke a salmon. And I suppose to consider for a moment, for the moment’s sake, the rain which fell in Ketchikan. Amen.
Apple Smoked Salmon. Man! So next time you’re faced with a rainy day, and maybe feeling a little fish hungry, do the only sensible thing and light the pit. For any day is a good day where the wood smoke also rises.
A chimney of hard wood lump charcoal crackled on the pit, its campfire-like aromas enveloping the patio. I long have fancied the patron scent of lump charcoal. The way it lights, smells, and pops like a Jack Pine fire kindled on the wild lake shores of the Canadian shield. Something in its fragrance, its mood, that transports me all at once, back to those rugged expanses of wilderness, and earthy camps from whence I have tarried long in my youth. I poured the fiery chimney load to one side of the old kettle grill, and reminisced some more like men do whilst playing with fire. My gaze sweeps over the back yard, as I mingle with the coals. The grasses surrounding my patio grow long now, with the ilk of a deep and abiding green. The sort of green that is there to stay. And there is a symphony of song birds too, perched all about, all yapping it up like a room full of women scrap booking, with hot tea at their sides. The sky is gray, the sort of gray that is a bridesmaid to the wet season it seems. Nary a breath of wind, and its neat to see the smoke from the grill go straight up for once. Some mallards conspire at the pond’s edge, rain drops cling to a lone Petunia, and a Canadian goose ambles by, trying to nonchalantly as a goose can I guess, check out my supper, and confirm it is not their kin they smell roasting under the lid.
No, it’s not goose, tho one day I probably should I suppose, just to get the awkwardness out-of-the-way. Nay, today on the grill is a simple affair – just some chicken legs, smoked over some hickory, with a light, honey twist. It’s real easy to do, easier than a lot of grill keepers might tell you. For it is an age-old rule of grilling, to apply your sweet sauces at the end of the cook, for the sugars inherent to sweet things can easily burn, and hence ruin your intended spoils as easily as a favorite dog squatting over your new carpet. You don’t let your dog onto your new carpet, and you certainly don’t put sweet things on your BBQ at the beginning of a cook out. But I do. And you can too if you’re careful is all. I rubbed down the chicken legs first in honey, then dusted them in liberal fashion with some Suckle Busters Competition Rub. Then set those legs in-direct of course for the entirety of the cook. A small piece of hickory wood for the smoke, placed directly on the coals. Lid on with the vent over the meat for a proper draft. Oh what sweet smoking pleasure it is, to kick back in your BBQ chair, lovely beverage in hand, and simply watch the smoke curl there. And to smell the damp earth mingle with that of smoldering hickory.
The only trick really to these sorts of sugary endeavors, lest the burning fates acquire your supper, is simply to keep an eye on it. Keep your tongs close, and check in on the meat. It’s OK to lift the lid, for this is no 14 pound pork butt or anything. Nay these legs will cook all too fast as it is. So visit them often, and let them know you love them. Pamper them, and turn them, and position them accordingly to your pit master instincts. If you see some going astray, be there for them, to catch them, and set them back on the proper path to excellence. See how they sing bathed in a fine hickory smoke. And note also, off-hand and by-the-way, how the world has spun on without you for a while now, whilst tending your humble pit. A sure sign that you’re doing it right. For you are in your own little paradise now, aside glowing coals, and gently wafting, blue-tinted smoke. You have put meat to flame, and in that alone there is something good enough, and it is well with your soul. Tongs raised to the heavens, this is your time now, to govern your meat with a supreme authority bequeathed those shapely souls who tarry near the fires and grilling posts of yore. Ah yes, grilling with honey – let us at once take our meat by the arm and walk it slowly down that fiery aisle, thus to culinary matrimony with our impending, tho forgiving bellies. Near the end of the cook, I brushed on a little more honey, just because. A little something more, as it were, for the old goose to think about. Amen.
Honey Tinted Hickory Smoked Chicken Legs. Dang! And yes, we ate the broccoli too!
Way up yonder, in the northern reaches of Minnesota, a series of Weber Smokey Joe grills quietly puffed in turn beneath the whispering pines. Men plying through their coolers, and spice stashes. Other men circling about, taking pictures. Patties of ground beef delicately formed, and laying at the ready. And a light humidity hung in the air. This was the scene of the 2013 Burger Throw-Down. A gastronomic snippet of a men’s retreat. A humble tho seriously esteemed competition held in the hinter lands of Northern Minnesota, along the White Fish chain of lakes. It was there in these competitive pools, that my fellow blog host sought to ply his burger craft. Each contestant was provided 2 pounds of ground beef, 4 hamburger buns, a Weber Smokey Joe, and what ever spice and accompaniments they wish to steal from their home pantries . There would be 8 judges, each sporting a most scrupulous eye, and two hours, give or take, in which to greatly impress them.
As the Canadian Jays and Black Capped Chickadees cavorted in the white pines, and the air smelled of damp earth from recent showers, the contestants hovered over their prep areas, one and all, prodding over patties of beef, and a litany of spice and cheese. The game was on, and our fellow blog host recalls, in his own words, getting things underway, in this, the great burger throw down of 2013.
“The burger throw down was as fun as I thought it would be. I was the first one to show up knowing I would have much prep for my burgers. I had my premixed jerk rub tightly vacuumed sealed for freshness and a large can of pineapple rings. I also brought a zip lock bag of hickory chips that has been soaking since Thursday night, so almost 2 days. So, I started my coals first, as one should always do, and as they began to burn I started moving them around the bowl of the Smokey Joe. Placing them on one side of the bowl so I can do a little in-direct smoking once the burgers were fully cooked. When people saw what I was doing with the coal placement, I could hear comments like “wow, he’s got it down to a science, or this guy is serious”. I was just doing what I’m used too.”
The men henceforth got down, as men do in competitive burger making. Got down to the heady business of procuring something memorable, and pleasing to the palate. Something apt to move a judge’s tummy for the better, and put a mile on his face. The contestants were up for the challenge Everything from pesto and jalapeno to feta and Munster cheese. Our fellow patron admits to being slightly intimidated, standing alongside some of these Meat Maestros. But he sticks with his game plan, and his secret weapon – 48 hour soaked hickory chips.
“I then quickly began to prep my burgers. Now, I brought a lot of spice rub with me and I wasn’t sure how much I should use so I decided I would start mixing the rub into the meat until I could smell it. I used about half of what I brought, folding and pounding the meat until the smell joined the wet pine of the camp. I quickly shaped my patties and filled the middle with blue cheese. I sprinkled a little more rub on the cheese and laid the other patty on top of it. I finished by pinching the patties together and rubbing spice on both sides of it. I think soaking the chips as long as I did helped put steam into the meat because I know my burgers were juicy. After they were fully cooked I moved them to indirect heat and placed the pineapple over the coals. I charred them up a little and then toasted the buns. I threw everything together and mine were the first for the judges to eat. I realized at that point I forgot two of my main ingredients, bacon, which would have gone on top of the pineapple, and then some smokey bbq sauce to go on top of the bacon. I’m glad my burgers were juicy, because sometimes without sauce you get a dry burger.”
Were talking a burger here folks. One that would make even a heathen man pause to say grace. One-half pound of hickory smoked ground beef, filled with a pocket of gooey blue cheese, seasoned with the patron kick of good jerk rub, topped with a charred pine-apple ring and of course, a toasted bun. Dang! You certainly are not going to eat a whole lot better under the whispering pines nor burger shack alike. And apparently the judges thought so too, as they gave our fellow patron 1st Place honors for his Smoked Blue Cheese Jerk Burger. Well done old chap. Well done indeed.
Besides getting to sport the title of Defending Champion for a year, he also won himself a chef’s hat and an apron. If we’re nice to him, and flatter him a little, maybe we can even get him to model it for us. I doubt it, but maybe.
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.
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.
Dunking your brand new white mop into a fresh batch of homemade sauce goes against everything mother had taught you. OK all rules ascend out the window when you begin to baste a half-done smoky rack of ribs. The aromatic mix of spice, vinegar, and smoke waft into the air, and you can’t help but to apply more.
I’d like to share a recipe I found online and tweaked a little for my taste. It’s a Chocolate Infused BBQ Sauce. I know what you’re thinking, “What is he thinking?” Chocolate and BBQ? Chocolate and Smoke? Don’t get me wrong, it sounds weird, but tastes very good. Here’s how it’s done!
- 2 cups ketchup
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper – See Note Below
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped – See Note Below
- Combine ketchup and next 9 ingredients (through pepper) in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.
I decided to make a few notes for the interested reader.
- If you’re going to use Chocolate, go big! OK, I didn’t look too hard at the grocery store. I went with what cost more than Hershey’s or Nestle. I decided to go with Guittard’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. I felt the flavor stood out more when I have baked with them in the past.
- Also, when a recipe calls for freshly ground pepper, then ground your pepper freshly! I have a mortar and pestle. I love going with a rainbow mix of Peppercorn.
- For those of you who have ever tasted chili infused chocolate, go ahead and throw in some chili powder to taste. The sweet of the chocolate and brown sugar really compliment the kick of pepper and chili powder.