All In a Day’s Smoke: BBQ For a Little Girl
So I was assigned the prestigious and heady duties of procuring pulled pork for our daughter’s first birthday party. Even tho she can hardly manage a cheerio, I accepted the duties in full. I briefly scanned the weather charts and learned of the veritable monsoons that would impact our fair hamlet, naturally and precisely when I needed to smoke said pork shoulder. Now the reasonable minded cook would probably defer to his or her crock pot, I’m sure, or oven, but being I have a rep around here as a hardened pit jockey, I pretty much have to cook outside. No matter what.
The big day started fairly early, as most pork butts do, loading the fire bowl of the 22″ Weber Smokey Mountain with 20 pounds of charcoal. Yes, the entire bag. It’s a rather big cooker people, reminiscent of a Chevy Suburban and it’s awe inspiring 40 gallon gas tank. I suppose I could have dialed down the fuel costs on this smoke, but I didn’t feel like messing around. You know how it goes. It’s my baby’s birthday!
Anyways, the pork shoulder was seasoned the night before in the old stand-by, Miners Mix Memphis Rub, and dusted over yet again the next morning before plunking it on the smoker. The more time the pork has to marry with the spice rub, the better. The meat went on at 8 am, as I settled the giant porcelain enameled lid on to the smoker and surveyed the sky. It was gray over cast, with a minimal wind. Smoke curling straight up. I kept in mind the weather app on my phone is only wrong half the time. And the other half it just seems confused. We can do this!
By 9 am the first sprinkles dappled over the pond and the camouflage tarp I had strung up, just in case. It was lovely in it’s own way. A symphony of rain drops pattering like Beethoven in the key of nylon. I did the most proper thing I could think of, and simply sat in my BBQ chair and listened to the rain for a while, the sounds of pork sizzling in the pit, and watched the apple wood smoke pillar into the humid air.
By 10 am the rains fell considerably, like bed pans and hammer handles, pounding the pond side pit with gallons upon gallons of sky-born water. I dashed for the good cover of the house, and found sanctum on the couch with Netflix, and a lovely beverage there. Standard operating procedure for a hardened pit master.
By 11 am the rains came sideways as the fury of the tempest lashed like a thousand vipers outside my sliding patio door. To it’s credit, likewise to the engineers of Weber, the Smokey Mountain some how puffed contentedly away despite the Midwestern waterworks. Whilst the good critters of the world hunkered in their caves and holes, the rain continued to fiercely pound the land, and the wind bellowed from the north like Joshua’s trumpets. I could just make out my temperature gauge through the rain-cloaked window pane. The WSM was holding 250 degrees. Lo, this is how we BBQ!
By 1 pm the rain let up a trifle, good enough anyways that I could get the beans on the pit too, thus to lap up a bit of that good apple wood smoke there. They were your basic beans tightened up a bit with some ground beef, molasses, and some BBQ sauce. I was pleased also to see the butt, previously divided in half, had already developed a nice bark on it. A rough likeness suitable for a stand-in model of a good meteorite or something. But that’s how bark ought to be. It should raise the eyebrow of the uninitiated, and twist the grin of the seasoned pit maestro.
Around 2 pm the sun fairly exploded from behind curtains of gray, and the skies split into blue pastures, where song birds darted on the wing. Nice of it to wait until after I was done cooking, but that’s how it is sometimes at the pit. Mother nature gives us the finger. We adapt. And BBQ is accomplished never-the-less.
Around 3 pm all the guests arrived and sunk their chompers into this, a most succulent and well-deserved meat opus! Son-of-a-bacon-maker! Then they all celebrated one year of successful planetary living with our little girl: gathered around, watching her smile, opening gifts, crawling through multi-colored wrapping paper, and laughing like only one year old’s can for the benefit of our cameras, all the while unbeknownst of the previously mentioned rainy day smoking trials, patron to the pit. And after thinking about it for a bit, isn’t that precisely how it ought to be. Amen.
The Long and Short of It: Updates From the Pit
The days they taper slowly now, pulled by an ebbing sun. The tweety birds have all had their babies. And the green pepper plants are knee-high to a pit jockey’s eye. The cottonwood trees, pond-side, have completed their annual farting of the white fluffy things, which scatter in the summer breeze. The Lilacs have come and gone already, but my they were grand. And just like that, it’s summer time at the pit, and it’s glorious. And in some ways I thought it would never get here. Let’s digress…
Hearken back with me, won’t you, to just last April. Here is what it looked like then. This photo below tells the story so well that it made the face book page of our local news station.
April blizzards were the norm. Wintry tempests that would not cease. The wee one fancied a good window pane then, as you can see, observing the powerful winter storms beyond. They swirled endlessly it seemed, the hopes of summer BBQ but a whisper in the wind.
One day in May, I think, or was it June, the snow eventually petered away, and ground thawed and mud puddles and rain filled the days. The dirt smelled good and so we planted things there. They eventually took off like things do. And I suppose also that’s when the baby figured out how to crawl.
It was like a teenage kid learning to drive a manual transmission, stuttering in first gear in the parking lot at Sears. Eager and unashamed at the face of this daunting task, eventually she learned how to get the crawling mechanism going. Well sort of. She looked akin to a wounded puppy, sort of dragging herself along. But it worked. And she got to where she wanted to go. Which is good, I guess, it’s just that the only place she really wanted to go was straight to the fireplace.
Thus began the Chase Era. Every parent knows it. The span of months, maybe years, where you have to run down your little one and pluck them from danger at the last minute. And that’s the era we’re still in now. Maybe it never ends. Ever the perpetual eye must be kept on the little one, for the world is brand new to her, and exciting, and everything is worth investigating she thinks. And here at the beginning of July, today in fact, she is turning 1 years old already. How about that!
*On an aside, we here at PotP HQ would like to thank those of you in the readership who have faithfully stood by, or inquired where we’ve been and how we are doing. It’s been a while, I know. But we are doing amazing. As my Grandpa in-law is fond of saying, “We are blessed and highly favored!” And it’s true. Never has a rough pit master’s heart melted like this, people, nor his soul felt so satisfied. And as we start to find our new rhythms with baby, we hope to get more grilling posts out to you soon. Thank you kindly for your patience, and on going support.
As I grilled supper the other night, turning the protein over a beautiful bed of coals, breeze drifting quietly east to west, I thought back through the last year of raising a pup. I need not go into detail of the joys and the trials of such things. You all know that stuff already. But I am rather fond of one line of advice several people have told me over this last year, concerning babies. I think about it often. Perhaps you’ve heard it too.
That old saying that goes,” The days are long, but the years are short”.
How can something be so long and so short at the same time? I don’t know. But have yourself a baby and you will at least experience it first hand. I cannot for all the pork chops in Thailand figure how it has been a year already since birthing the wee one. Seems to me it was just a few weeks ago that we brought her home. Yet, in the same breath, it’s felt like this last year has taken a generation to unfold. And I suppose before you know it, she’ll be driving that stick shift and bringing home boys I do not like. These are the heady anomalies in the human condition I suspect we may never figure out. But a good reminder, however, to pay keen attention to the days we are in, and to whom we are with. For the days they may seem to taper slowly, but the years will be gone tomorrow. Like mesquite smoke snatched by the autumn wind. Amen.
Happy Birthday Day Emma! We love you!
How To Fall In Love: The Birth of a Patron
She came upon a balmy eve just a few days prior than when the doctors said she would. Just a day before the 4th of July fireworks illuminated the night skies across this mighty country. She looked purple at first, and covered in cheese, but after a while the Lord put breath into her little lungs and she became cute. And still is cute. And somewhere around there I also fell in love.
Our readership may have noted it’s been a bit quiet around this blog lately, and now you know why. Welcome to the world, little Emma Jean, all of 7 pounds and 2 ounces. You are brand new to us, yet in this short time you have already wiggled down into the tender most parts of our hearts, nuzzling the skin of our souls there, and now we are forever smitten for thee. And I don’t think I am being biased either, when I say, you are the sweetest little package of cuteness mine eyes have ever seen. That’s right. And I’ve seen a full packer brisket once.
I guess when pit jockey has a baby he ought to cook something. So I headed out to the pit and whipped up some chicken thighs, just because. Truth is, I couldn’t much keep my mind on the cooking for mine heart was back inside with this little one. But here are a few shots of the cook, even so. Just because.
Nothing quite so fine as some fatty chicken thighs seasoned in Miners Mix. We usually just do the Poultry Perfection for our chicken, but this time decided to turn up the heat a little with some Wholly Chipotle, which if you’ve never had occasion yet is one of the finer hot rubs you will find on the market today. A lovely balance of flavor and heat, by the good folks at Miners Mix. A little goes a long ways too, unless you’re a devout pepper head. But I’m Swedish, and that’s all you probably need to know on that.
Anyways, supper came off the grill without a hitch. Stuff we’ve done a thousand times. Spoils wrought from sheer muscle memory. And in the golden slants of an evening sun, I plated it up with out much for way of fan fare or small talk, and sidled in through the back patio door for to feed the family. The aromas of chicken hot off the grill wafted through the house as my eyes dropped gaze on to our new family member. Our new patron to the pit. Boy is she cute. She smiled and promptly fill her drawers in a long, gurgling sort of fashion, which was at once arrested by a silent room. Classic. I smiled back. She could do no wrong. A quaint stage of life where everything you do is somehow adorable. But then, I was in love, you see. And well, you know how it goes.
Welcome to the family little Emma Jean. You are a beautiful gift straight from God. The bearer of much joy, much happiness, and much wonder. You melt our hearts with but a single glance, and turn any manliness I once had straight to goo. We love you. We will do our best to take care of you. To show you a few good things in this life, and someday, when you’re able to chew things, feed you some very acceptable BBQ. I think you’re going to like it here. In point of fact, it’s already a better place because you are. Amen.
All American Burger Night: A Summer Time Tradition
The mesquite smoke curled with a certain impunity on this balmy summer’s eve. The South wind wormed it’s way through the residential hamlets and marshlands like a warm bath, bringing a sort of sticky contentment to the pit jockey who tarries near to his craft. Oh yes, summer has arrived here on the 45th Parallel, finally, and I suppose one ought to grill something. I mean, it is “grilling season” after all. That hallowed sliver of the calendar where the once captive masses return to their barbies in one accord and offer forth pillars of enriched smoke to the BBQ gods. I dunno, I guess when you refrain from grilling for a tally of three seasons running, you would rather tend to miss it. I know I would. But to us folk who run a year around BBQ blog, summer grilling is just another chapter in a year’s worth of grilling endeavors, except I suppose, sweatier.
Yes, nothing is quite so charming as wandering out to the mail box on a muggy summer evening, only to return to the house cloaked in sheen of your own juices, and sporting a rankness not even desirable to the neighbor’s bull dog, whose standards are suitable low anyways. But that’s summer in the Midwest. You sweat. And the sooner you come to grips with this inherent reality, the sooner you can move on and have fun with this most pleasurable of seasons. You just smell like a stink bomb is all. What can you do. Anyways, on to something that smells a whole lot better than I do. It’s burger night at the pit, and here’s how it went and came to be.
Summer time grilling don’t get too much better, folks! Check out them grass fed burgers and onions on the new Craycort grate. Yum! As usual, we think you all know how to grill a hamburger already, but we will mention the seasoning was just a packet of Lipton Onion soup mix, dispersed amid two pounds of ground beef. Easy cooking, and even better eating.
Toast Thy Buns
Of course we toasted the buns. You are toasting your buns aren’t you? Nothing quite so adds that touch of gourmet to your burgers quite like a crisp, toasted bun. The texture is a pleasure, as well as the satisfaction of knowing you went the extra mile in your burger craft.
Going The Distance
We do rather get into burger night over here at the pit. Note the cool little red baskets, and homemade fries. Not to mention the ultra chocolate shake all served up 50’s diner style. All ideas of my lovely wife who loves burger night as much as anybody, I’d wager. Good times, patron to the pit. And Amen.
Look at that grub! Man! I won’t even mention the joy of feeling your belly wrapped around this greasy handful. I think you get it! Mercy! And with that we bid you a toodaloo from the pit, as the summer sun traverses a blue, Minnesota sky. Blessings to the readership and happy 4th of July in advance.
Secret Spots: How to Survive in the Woods Like a Boss
Somewhere in northern Minnesota
When the wind stopped talking to the stately pines, and the waves settled into calm glass, I could at once hear the lonesome wail of the loon and the distant cry of an eagle in flight. The sun waxed amber over the western shores, distantly beautiful and studded in balsam and papal and birch. The pine-scented air hung freshly in the encampment, as I came down to the canoe for to survey my kingdom and the wilderness sanctum that which spanned the miles nary soiled by the hand of man. I stood there at the water’s edge, gazing, letting the silence which echoed through the forested primeval melt into my mind, and drip down hither into my soul. This is where I longed to be. Where I simply had to be. Living deliberately. Somewhere in northern Minnesota.
My Secret Spot
No, I shall not in a thousand and one blogs be likely to illuminate you as to where this lovely photo was snapped. I cannot reveal my paradise, not even to you good folk and readership of the POTP. You must understand the glories of the quieter places, and the toils upheld there to preserve them. Nay, you’re just going to have to go find your own wilderness sanctum, let it’s magic sidle upon you and nestle into your heart, and when you return home, figure out yourself how to not mistakenly divulge your secret spot’s location. It’s hard not to tell people, but alas, it would not be a secret spot any more if you did. So I won’t. I will tell you however, that we did eat well out there. Not all camping is hardtack and swamp water you know. Not if you’re a patron of the pit.
Brought the Solo Titan along on this romp. You might remember this piece of kit from last autumn. We did a review on it. A wood gassifier stove! Yeah, it’s a wee bit too heady to explain right now, but if you want to read the review and learn all about it, here is a link for that. Solo Stove Titan Review
We cooked up a couple of bannocks and this lovely dish of corned beef hash and eggs for breakfast. A filling way to start a day in the bush. Or were we ending the day? No matter, good is good.
Somewhere Else in Minnesota
Oh we’ve been getting around. Let me show you another secret spot about 7 hours away from the last spot. Stream-side we were, where the native brook trout make their home and lives in the swift flowing currents of this quaint river. I couldn’t catch trout this day, but that did not mar my dinner plans. I knew I wouldn’t woo any trout so I brought along a suitable protein in it’s stead. Steak!
For this cook we broke out the old Mojoe Griddle. Remember this beast? If ever there was a love affair with a 1/4 inch, hot-rolled, 35 pound steel disc, then this is it. As always, a privilege to cook on, especially in the prettier places. It’s a restaurant grade griddle, and could not be more fun. If you want to learn more about the Mojoe, check out our review in this link – Mojoe Griddle
Aside the babbling stream we fried up a massive hunk of steak, sided with several piles of black beans and corn and fajita stuff; all of this was served over a good bowl of red beans and rice, and thus topped with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. Go ahead and wipe the drool from your chin now…We’ll stand by and wait for you. Oh man that was good! I could eat this every day!
And….Somewhere Else Again…Still in Minnesota
This secret spot was along Lake Superior. That’s all I’ll disclose. Suffice it to say there is no better place to cool off on a summer’s day than on the rugged shore of the big lake they call “Gitchigumi” . That’s Ojibway for “Huge Water“, in case you’re interested. Anyways, we ate good here too! Man was it pretty!
More steak and beans, this time on the Instagrill. Yet another cooking gem we reviewed not long ago. Truly a portable charcoal powered cooking unit fit for the gypsy and wandering nomad in all of us. Love this little pit!
We cooked all our meals on it at this campsite. Here is a lovely breakfast burrito in the making. We’re toasting the tortilla whilst the ham and egg and cheese innards stay warm up in the corner. We really enjoyed cooking over this thing. The perfect camping grill. If you missed the review of this one, you can check it out here, InstaGrill Review
Or better yet, just check out their website Myinstagrill. By the way, they met their kickstarter goal, and are supposed to go into production of this little cooker this summer sometime. Good on you Jonathan!
A fine little grill to be sure. But if you can swing it, and have the inclination, not to mention perhaps a fair degree of lunacy, then nothing beats a 22 inch Weber Kettle grill in camp!
Somewhere Else’s Else….Yes, still in Minnesota
Boy we’ve been living the camper’s dream this spring. Gone every other weekend, living sweet lives. My cronie, bless his heart, he done dragged this Weber kettle about an 1/8 of a mile down the winding trail, through the woods and across creeks, to one of our favorite campsites, where upon we enjoyed quaint billowing clouds of wood smoke and the aromas of slow cooking pork ribs. Nothing is quite so fine as that in a rustic, backwoods encampment. It would have been better tho, I suppose, had he remembered to bring the cooking grate.
Indeed. But with a few pop cans and some green branches procured from the camp-side thickets, we were able to make do and eat well anyways, patron to the pit. Let no obstacle stand between a man and his meat! It’s all about working with what you’ve got, and adapting to your place in the sun. And that is how you stay alive in the woods, not to mention some secret spots of paradise that we can’t really tell you about. You understand.
Life is good when you go bush. Life is even better if you have good food there. And we did. And you can too! Amen.
The World’s Easiest Smokehouse Quality Pulled Pork
It was a morning of slow-curling pillars of pecan smoke which tapered and twirled in the golden shafts of a rising sun. The tweety birds also were in full symphony, flirting in the naked dogwoods at the pond’s edge. And the breeze which sifted through the patio furniture was cool, but soft to the touch, with a tint of mildness lingering in the eddies; a heady sensation not privy to these parts in many moons. And the winter’s snow bounties are receding now, like an old man’s hairline. And there is grass. It’s not the best grass, but alas it’s grass no how, and say what you will, but in February in Minnesota, that is no small thing. I delight also in the way the snow courts the spruce trees yonder. Filling in between the needles. The contrast of green with pockets of white. It’s just a lovely time of year. A first hint of longer days.
Pulled Pork in Less Time With More Bark
On the pit this morning, awash in the early morning light, we have what might appear to be two handsome pork butts. But in point of fact, they are only one. One petite butt, actually, sliced in half. And the reasoning for this is something we’ve been experimenting with here at PotP Headquarters for some time.
You see, I’ve had to eat a few sandwiches for you people to figure this out, but alas, it’s a price for knowledge that I am willing to pay. I’m good with it. But it turns out you do not need to smoke a pork butt for 12 hours to accomplish effective BBQ. That is, I suppose, if you don’t want to. Because there are plenty of days I would just as soon take the scenic route like that, if for no other reason than I rather fancy the journey. But there is a secret bypass on the road to succulence. A route in detour slightly swifter, but just as edible. One that flirtatiously courts the ever-ebbing passage of time with the affable affinity and gentle premise of the tooth fairy. Lets go there, shall we. Lets do this!
The Power of Halves
By slicing your pork butt in half, what you have done, we figure, is reduced the cooking time by maybe a third. My calculations are crude, I admit, but it’s something like that. Smaller butts cook faster than bigger ones. It just stands to reason. What you have also done is increase the surface area. This opens up more acreage for more spice rub and further, more smoke penetration. And what all that means is, you’ll get more bark.And every pit jockey fancies more bark. All of this just from slicing your butt in half. So we sliced it.
The night before, in a zippered plastic bag, we marinated the pork in Kits KC BBQ Rub, from our friends over at Miners Mix. Meat and spice. It’s like hooking two lovely souls up on a highly engineered blind date. It just can’t help but to go swimmingly. We just let the flavors mingle the night long, and let nature take its course. To “get happy“, as they say, in the romantic, yet estranged confines of the refrigerator. And by golly, they did!
Or if you want to whip something up yourself, here is a basic rub recipe pretty amazing on pork.
Basic Pork Rub
- 1/4 cup Paprika
- 1/8 cup Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- 2 tablespoons Garlic Powder
- 2 tablespoons Onion Powder
- 1 tablespoon or more Cayenne Pepper
- 1/4 cup Coarse Salt
- 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
In the morning the meat was ready, already smelling amazing, and was plopped accordingly on the old kettle grill. Now, I would usually use the Weber Smokey Mountain for pulled pork, but again, I was in the experimenting mood. There isn’t much, after all, you can’t accomplish with a good kettle grill. The smoker is designed to hold a lower temperature, but you can do it on the Weber too. The trick with the kettle grill, at least the 18.5 that I used, is to build a smaller fire than usual. We’re talking just ten to fifteen briquettes, if that. Maybe a few unlit briquettes to sport a little Minion Method if desired. All this to keep the temperatures low, say around 250 degrees.
We tossed on a couple chunks of pecan wood, mostly because it’s the only wood we have in stock right now. Just so happens tho, pecan wood seems to go well with any meat you might wish to smoke. A fine all-around smoke wood. Anyways, we plunked on the old enameled lid, and went about our business. Namely that of tucking a periodical under the arm and sauntering into the little pit boy’s room for a spell. You know how it goes.
On an aside, we often get asked about our cast iron grates. They are from a company called Craycort, and might very well be the nicest thing you ever do for your Weber. Check them out on our Amazon affiliate link below. It helps keep a good company in business, gives us a wee kickback, and pretty much pimps out your kettle grill to the highest order. Sincerely, they are great grates!
Cast Iron Grate, Pre Seasoned, Non Stick Cooking Surface, Modular Fits 22.5″ Grills
*Rotate the butts 180 degrees every now and then for even cooking.
After the coals had nearly gone out, we checked under the lid and I noted I had gotten the color I was after. And that’s good enough. You don’t even need to take it’s temperature. That’s how easy this pulled pork is. And that’s all the further time the butt needs to spend on the pit. The next step is to plate them up temporarily, and ferry them inside and put them into…I can’t believe I’m saying this…but yes, put them into a….crock pot.
Now I know what you’re thinking. What would a patron of the pit be doing with a crock pot! Well, to answer that, I know what else you’re thinking. You’re thinking crock pots are awesome! Brilliant pieces of culinary technology worthy of enshrinement in various halls of fame and grandmotherly kitchens. Why wouldn’t a patron use one! And I agree. But let’s digress, shall we, to the day you were born.
Babies and Pork Butts
You see, those first couple of hours on the pit are not unlike a baby’s first two hours out of the womb. It is the golden period of maternal bonding and modern meat smoking alike. Not only are the first two hours after birth where a mother bonds intensely with her spore, but likewise, it is also where a man imprints with his meat! Okay, I got carried away there. What I’m really try to say is, your meat gets all the smoke it needs after the first two hours. In point of fact, I’ve read from multiple sources that a smoke ring is done forming around 140 degrees internal temp. Or about two hours. It just works that way. Any smoke after that point, technically, is wasted in kind. You can read more about such things, here, if you’re interested.
So the pork has all the smoke it needs after two hours on the pit. That’s the thing to remember here. It’s not done cooking. It has just received the high blessings of the pit, is all. It has been anointed in smoke. We then transferred it to the crock pot, with a few squirts of BBQ sauce, where upon and with the aid of modern crock pot wizardry, you simply leave it to it’s own devices. Bequeath it to the BBQ fates to fall apart as it will. And it will indeed at around 195 – 200 internal. And you do not need to take its temperature here either. Pulled pork in a crock pot is easy like that. Just let the meat speak to you. Use your pit master instincts. It will tell you when its done by its tender flanks submitting to the masterful glide of your fork, as succulent pieces of butt topple over itself into whetted pools of its own glorious juices. The crock pot really does take the guess work out of it. The babysitting. And when its done, it will even keep itself warm until supper. Golly! What utter decadence! It is like a Boeing 747 landing its self on autopilot, and the pit jockey need not raise a finger. And in the end, after you pull it into savory shreds, and stuff it into a good roll, you’ll have yourself some authentic, smoke house quality, BBQ pulled pork, succulent enough for the kings, fit for the pit master, and the crown jewel of your crock potting career. And it was easy too. Real easy, patron to the pit. Amen.
Savory pecan smoked pulled pork, with plenty of delicious bark. Patron to the Pit. Courtesy of the Kettle Grill/Crock Pot Hybrid System. Works real good. But tastes even better.
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Testament of a Grilling Geek
*Another experiment, resurrecting a post from the archives. One of our lesser read pieces, that explains in part, I think, why it is we do what we do. Enjoy.
Blessings – PotP
I went out to the grill the other night, in routine fashion to tend the meat, and found myself for a time just standing there, staring into the hot, glowing coals. It was a crisp night, and the hea…
Source: Testament of a Grilling Geek
Poultry Perfection: What Your Meat Needs
The temperature was a balmy 32 degrees. The aromas of pecan smoke were in curl. Long, tapering, plumes of it, wafting into a gorgeous February sky. The sounds of chicken flesh could be heard sizzling over a hot bed of coals, and for a while at least, you could almost, but not quite, feel the warm sun press gently against your face. Oh it was a nice afternoon at the pit, I don’t mind telling you. Very abiding. A real treat after several weeks of sub zero grilling. It’s odd, I know, that 32 degrees can feel balmy, but trust me when I say, a body adapts. A sort of biological antifreeze develops, and you just get used to the cold, I suppose. And when it gets up into the 30’s in February, well, it is with great restraint that you some how resist the nagging urge to slip into your designer swimming trunks, smear SPF 15 suntan lotion over your hairy belly, and sidle over the neighbor’s fence to inflate their pool noodle. And all the neighbors rejoice.
This is to say, in other words, it was nice out, and yours truly frolicked accordingly. And the Black Capped Chickadees where in abundance, too, all singing their praises for another day of cavorting amid the piney trees. Of all the tweety birds I observe in the backyard, and living on a pond there are aplenty, I think my favorite is still the humble chickadee. They are not large, showy birds, who demand to be seen, but rather tiny little things, and somehow still maintain the quality of being impressive. I think what impresses me is that they are just more gregarious than other birds. Friendly, you might say. Chickadees have been known to drop onto your outreached hands for some seeds. Up north, where Chickadees are truly themselves, they will even land on your hat while you walk in stride, iffin that is you put some bread crumbs up there. They’re just cool little birds. Chickadees are also of the proper stock that does not leave us for the southern states, when winter’s tangled tempest encroaches our shores. Nay, the Black Capped Chickadee stays the winter long, chin up, and somehow seems to thrive. Like I said, impressive little birds. And they are always my little fuzzy cohorts, and inspiration, for these winter grilling sessions. Speaking of, today on the pit we have some chicken wing appetizers. You know, the kind you get at sports bars and the like. Tho these are undoubtedly better what with being cooked in a nice haze of smoldering pecan wood. Yum!
I do rather fancy how the sunbeams rest on my meat at times. Indeed, just to lay there, feeling that glorious heat do its bidding, with no pretense nor shame. Reminds me of my brother in-law’s old bull dog. He used to favor a sunny patch of linoleum at the foot of the stairs, where the 4 O’clock sun beam would make it’s way through the window pane, casting a warm glow upon the shoes and stuff on the floor. And the bull dog would go lay down in that patch of sunlight, belly up and illuminated, and simply revel there, with the sun warm upon his meat. Yup, I know from what he aspires to there…What we we talking about again? It was chicken wings, I thought! Hmm. I don’t know anymore…
I suppose I should let you know that these wings were all done indirect, meaning opposite the hot bed of coals. I do 90% of all my grilling indirect like that. You run very little risk then of burning your plunder. Or drying it out. Indirect slows down the cook too, I believe, and gives a pit jockey more time for the important things in grilling, such as: watching cloud shadows, observing more chickadee flirtations, dashing inside for a manly beverage, investigate your trees, dashing back inside to the little pit boys room, grabbing more manly beverages, picking your nose, and general, tho not always practical, pit-side loitering. Yup, indirect, people. It’s the best way to go!
Our seasoning of choice today, like most days lately, was from the kindly folks at Miners Mix. They have a lovely gamut of flavors, for all your culinary needs, and today we needed something for chicken. So it was off to our Miners Mix private shelf for some Poultry Perfection. I’m not sure how they do it, but they are certifiable spice wizards those dudes. If it didn’t exist in 1850, it ain’t in there. That could be one clue to how they do it. They use real stuff! The don’t put a ton of salt in it either, which makes it not only healthier, but I think promotes more attention to the subtleties of flavor. All this is to say, they make some really good rubs. If you’d like to grab some for yourself, and see what we mean, this rub and many more are on amazon. Below is our affiliate link to get you there. It would help support companies like Miners Mix, and we would also get a wee kickback too, so that we could go buy more Miners Mix. Plus your food would taste better. It’s just a happy deal all-around!
Poultry Perfection Seasoning Rub for Turkey, Goose, Duck, Chicken, and Game
So it was, under glorious blue skies that our appetizer wings came to a most edible and succulent maturity. Then with a “new” paint brush from the garage, we glazed the spoils with a modest sheen of Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce. The flavors merged together under the dome into a yard bird tome, sure to put any meat maestro on the brink of tears. I cannot divine an accurate way of conveying just how savory they smelled, tinted in pecan smoke and spice. Nor how flavor-packed and juicy they tasted. So I won’t. You’ll just have to make some yourself, and let the meat speak for itself. And if you’re a lucky bloke, you may even feel the sun smile on your face. Amen.
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The Turn: Mesquite Smoked Pork Chops
Autumn is a lovely time of year. Cooler days and chilly nights. Walking out to the car in the morning, there is a crisp bite in the air, and it just smells better, somehow, because its cold. Geese are on the wing, daily it seems, flying like bomber squadrons overhead, honking as they strafe past, their strong wings whooshing through the chill air. And then there are the leaves. Umpteen billions of them. Golden, and orange, and fiery red; around every corner, down every road – and they quiver and tingle on thin stems in the slightest breeze, quaking there. Waiting to drop. Waiting the turn.
I was cooking supper at the Pond Side Pit the other night, just admiring the autumn scene. Namely the big, old cotton wood there, and how resplendent its leaves looked against a blue, October sky. I don’t know how it is in Texas, or the desert, or even for our friends down there in Ecuador, but autumn in Minnesota is maybe why we all live in here in the first place. It is surreal. Something beautiful to behold every square foot, leastwise in the natural realm. All the trees gussied up so fine, free of that chlorophyll stuff, and my but they look akin to bride’s maids for the Fall.
Supper was some pork chops. Thick-cut of course, for not only are we Patrons of the Pit, but hark, we’re also hungry! So thick-cut it would be. For seasoning we tried some rub our old buddy, TJ Stallings, sent to us. His good friend, O’Neill Williams, of O’Neill Outside came up with some new flavors, and we were lucky enough a hold of some,thanks to TJ. Tonight’s medley of yum is the Wild Game Seasoning, tinted with a light mesquite smoke, and some darn succulent chops. Granted, my pork chops aren’t too wild, but no how, good is good, right, and now wildly good, perhaps, with some of this seasoning. We’ll give it a shot.
As I bandied a pile of orange glowing coals to the side of the little kettle grill for indirect cooking, it dawned on me that my leisurely summer evenings of cooking in the sunlight were coming to a close. The turn was at hand. Where autumn fades to longer nights. If there is a draw back to this fabulous season, at least for a pit jockey, it is the longer nights. Up here in Minnesota, the nights will come on all-too-swiftly in the coming weeks, and before somewhere in December, the nights will last about 14 hours altogether. That just ain’t right. So that means one of two things for a pit keeper. You either make your supper elsewhere, or you grill in the dark. For some reason I cannot completely divine, we’ve always been partial to the latter. Probably the sum result of inhaling one too many smoke plumes off a smoldering hickory log. Aw well.
So as I brought these gorgeous chops to the sultry land of succulence, I couldn’t help but to lavish also in the scant light that which lingered at the pit this night. How the long slants of an autumn sunbeam washed through the fluttering cottonwood leaves, and lit up that blue sky above for just a few minutes more. Indeed, we’ve been blessed. I savored the moments here, pit side, with tongs in hand, listening to the pork sizzle over the bed of coals, and enjoying the radiant heat off the old kettle grill. This was nice, I thought. Very pleasant. Maybe because I knew in the back of my mind that the winter grilling season was right across the way. I mean, I could see it yonder. Just over there, behind that seasonal curtain waiting to drop. Behind those beautiful leaves fixed to fall. But for the moment anyways, and maybe even longer than that, I know that I am grilling in the light, and long may we tarry here in the sweet sun that which fills the day. Amen.
Mesquite Tinted Pork Chops seasoned with O’Neill Outside Wild Game Seasoning on an October Eve swiftly fading. And all the pit jockeys rejoiced!
Ps…If you’re so inclined, we made a little companion video of this pit session to share with you. Another way to see our meat! Yes, we have a you tube channel. And no, we never use it! But it’s there for times like these, even so. Enjoy!
Meat Lust: Tri-Tip on the Weber Kettle Grill
In all the years we’ve been into BBQ, and all the smoking projects to come and go across the pit, one of the most elusive has been the venerable Tri Tip. It’s not for lack of trying. It’s just that up here in Minnesota, and many other places across the country, Tri Tip roasts are rather hard to locate. Sort of like a kindly old grandma at a heavy metal concert, it just doesn’t happen. Indeed, I’ve searched this county high and low, and nary a Tri Tip to be found. And then last week, on a casual bacon foray at my local butcher counter, I cast first glance upon my meaty betrothed.
She was beautiful. So shapely and raw. Three points of beef, and decidedly marbled. She laid under the glass like a super model, next to the T-Bones and the rump roasts. My, but I was smitten for this cut of meat. I was ready to drop to my knee right there, and dig out my wallet when a voice bellowed from behind the counter.
“Can I help you with something?” asked the butcher in the white shirt.
“Where have you been all my life!“, I belched through a long-standing gaze, wiping my drool off my chin.
The butcher man just shook his head in shades of pity. I pointed to my quarry beneath the glassy pane.
“Oh, we’ve carried Tri-Tips for years“, he croaked. “You just have to keep an eye out for them, as they do come and go“.
Conversation was squelched by my giddiness, no time to chew the fat, well, at least metaphorically speaking, and before long I had my beloved swaddled in butcher paper and tucked under my wing like an NFL half back, as I darted hither and yon through the crowded grocery store. Putting a spin move on a mother of four. Lowering my shoulder to the door. Back to the Pond Side Pit I went. Back to my caloric destiny! And I knew precisely what must transpire next.
Whilst the coals came to maturation on the old kettle grill, we seasoned up the tri tip with same goodness we used on our 4th of July brisket a while back. Maynards Memphis BBQ Rub, from the good people at Miners Mix. Absolutely love this rub. It has been fantastic on ribs and butts, and likewise we were keen to discover it performs well on beef too. Said so on the back of the bottle. Said it was recommended for Tri Tips, and well, that’s all we needed to know. So we coated the roast liberally with it. Then, as a second layer of flavor, and just because, we sprinkled on a fair coating of Montreal Steak Seasoning. If you have none of this, the old stand-by of salt and pepper is nothing to hang your head about. Add a little garlic and onion powder to that, and you have yourself a time-tested, and most worthy spice rub.
*You can season Tri Tips liberally because you are going to slice it later into thin 1/4 inch pieces, like a brisket. So let the seasonings fly.
It wasn’t long before my meat bounty lay prostrate next to a fiery bed of coals. It sizzled accordingly when it hit the hot Craycort grates, a sound well-loved by many a pit jockey in good form. The sound of that first sizzle sort of signifies to yourself, and those who may be looking on, that the games have indeed begun. That for a while, man and meat will dance, and the fires will be hot. I love it. And to hold with Santa Maria Tri Tip culture, we tossed some oak chips onto the coals. Red Oak is the most poetically correct wood to use. That’s what the Californians would say. But if you’re a rebel, use what you want. I hear pecan wood is no slouch for competent tri tip. We’d caution against green treated wood, however, from your deck. Don’t do it people.
The Poor Man’s Prime Rib
What do you get when a brisket and a sirloin steak get married and have a baby? I think it’s
Tri Tip. It reminds me quite a bit of working with a brisket. But it tastes something like a steak. Tri Tips are harvested from the sirloin, we’ve heard, so that is part of it I’m sure. Some folks like to think of the Tri Tip as the poor man’s prime rib. I like that sound of that too. But it is an exquisite cut of meat, and quite fun to cook. Out in California, they do it all over an open Santa Maria style grill. If I’m ever out in Santa Maria, I must check out their Tri Tip prowess. Those open grills look like too much for a patron of the pit.
As meats go, Tri Tip is an easy cut to cook. Ours was done in about an hour flat, courtesy of the Weber kettle grill. The little lady is not so much fond of rare red meat, so we brought the internal temperature to 150 or so, all on indirect heat, opposite the hot coals, and then plated the beast up and let it rest for 15 minutes or so. During the rest, the meat will reallocate its savory juices in adequate fashion. Then, and only then, we brought it back out to the pit once more, and seared it over direct heat this time. The reverse sear, as it called. Meaning to sear at the end of the cook versus the beginning. This, the one last glorious finale to the grilling process, produces a pleasurable crust, and sort of locks in the rested juices. Searing it at the end of the cook like this also means you do not have to rest it again. In point of fact, serve it immediately to your guests, and watch their eyeballs pop open with delight. The meat burst with succulence. And note the accolades which befall the chosen pit master. Man, can you smell it! Tip your hat, draw a lovely beverage, and thus tarry now in the wake of deeds well done. Indeed, where man and meat hath danced as one. Amen.
*When you slice your Tri Tip, do so as you would a brisket. Cut on the bias, or across the grain for a tender chew. It makes a remarkable difference.
Oak Smoked Kettle Grilled Tri Tip. Come on people now, it don’t get much better than this!
Random Acts of BBQ
Two Men, Two Pits, and Forty Pounds of Yard Bird
It was early Saturday morning at the Track Side Pit. The song birds were singing as brightly as the warm, August sun, of which it’s golden shafts dropped with authority from an eastern sky, kissing the Petunias that which bordered the patio here. Soft music played on the pit speaker system, whilst the tall, leafy stalks of the track-side Mullen plants leaned in the morning breeze. Smoke curled off the freshly lit charcoal chimney, as I prepped the 22 inch Weber Kettle grill for action. My fellow patron, and caretaker of the Track Side Pit, patiently tinkered with his old, Char-Griller Outlaw, also prepping it for business. Yes indeed, a dual patron cook out was in progress. We love it when this happens. It is not often both co-founders of PotP bandy together to ply their craft in one locale. But we did this morning. We had things to do. Manly things. And we would do it together, by and far, as Patrons of the Pit. We would do it for Lee.
There is this BBQ chain that I rather admire, called Sonny’s BBQ. Many of the readership here have probably heard of it. Many have probably even partook of it. Sad to say I have never been there however, nor sampled their smokey wares. I’m sure the vittles are good tho, I don’t question that. But it isn’t their food so much that impresses me, even tho I know it would. Nay, it is their character, and in particular, this thing they do, called, Random Acts of BBQ.
What they do is find some one in the community who has been giving selflessly, of their time and talent to others. And doing so whilst asking for nothing in return. Just plain good people helping other people. Anyways, the team at Sonny’s BBQ cater a bunch of tasty BBQ to these folks, throwing a shin dig as just a way to say thanks, and to let them know they are appreciated. Pretty cool stuff. Well, figuring that there is no copyright on kindness, we here at PotP thought we’d dabble in the practice ourselves, and do something nice for some one else, who could use some good BBQ.
That some one is friend that goes to our church. She’s been through a rough time of it lately, rougher than most people I know, losing her husband, Lee, in a car accident last spring. It’s miserable stuff, but with grace handed to her from the Lord above, she’s managing through it alright. Life goes on, as you know, and here lately, she had to throw a graduation party for her daughter, and she needed a lot of meat grilled up for this. She needed help. And this is where a Patron of the Pit must answer his calling. This is what we’re born to do! And we were glad to do so.
40 pounds. That’s about how much chicken we had to grill up this morning. This would later be chopped up for a massive quantity of Chicken Caesar Wraps, sufficient enough in-part to feed a parade of hungry tummies. It’s a lot of chicken! And rotating between two pits: the 22 -inch kettle grill, and the Char-Griller Outlaw, we made it happen. Systematically cranking through it. Several chimneys of charcoal. Several lovely beverages. And four hours of good, meat-flipping comradeship. We were men, you see. Soldiers of the Smoke. And highly smitten for the day. What a pleasurable cook it was. And it started of course, with bacon.
No, the bacon was not an ingredient for the Chicken Caesar Wraps. Nay, it was for us! If you’ve not yet experienced the joys of breakfast at the pit, well you’re missing out on some of the finer moments of life. My fellow patron brought out his camp stove, and set it up pit-side, and in a few moments, the sounds and aromas of sizzling bacon were at play. That combined with a gaggle of fried eggs, a cup of coffee and some old fashion donuts, well, such set our bellies off right, here in the golden shallows of a morning sun.
So it was, batch by batch, we grilled our way through the morning hours, whittling away on the 40 pound pile of chicken breasts. It is not technical grilling. Anybody could do it. We seasoned each chunk in a light offering of salt, pepper and garlic. SPG as it’s called in the business. Then we placed them over direct heat to start, right over the coals, this to sear them a touch, and promote a moderate crust with lovely bits of char. And when this was completed on both sides, the breasts were then escorted by tong in hand over to the other side of the grill, opposite the hot coals, and there they would finish out the remainder of the cook, and their journey to excellence. And we did our best of course, not to get in the way of that.
Indeed, once we found our rhythm, we settled down into our patio chairs when appropriate, legs crossed like gentlemen of leisure, and just watch the smoke pillar from from our grills. Sunbeams broke through the deck above us, illuminated in smokey shafts. Tweety birds sweetly serenaded us from afar, and the grass yonder never looked so green. The children frolicked in the sand box, and you could almost hear the garden growing right beside us. We looked at each other and smiled. Nary a word was said, or needed to be said. We both knew we had arrived. Doing precisely that which is well with our souls. What a beautiful day to grill something. And what a better day yet, to do something helpful for someone else. And to let them know that they matter, and that we’re here for them, by and by.
This one’s for you, Lee. And the little lady. Blessings. And amen.
What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.
– James 1:27
Pork Chops and Fishing Poles: A Loiterer’s Tale
It was with small fan fare that my elder brother and I made way this weekend last, for the resplendent, and highly secretive, Valley of the Trouts. A quaint locale of which neither of us is particularly keen in giving you the coordinates to. You know how it goes. Tell one person, tho well-meaning, and that person will in-turn will tell another, and that one passes it on to yet another bloke, and so on, thus engaging the metaphoric domino topple of death to your secret place. So we’re not going to disclose its location. Not today. We will tell you, however briefly, that the stream which gurgles along the valley bottom is of the sweetest variety. Clear and cold and sick with rainbow trout. Winding like a watery tapestry through forests of Oak, and Pine, and Shagbark Hickory. And the sun swings high in a summer sky there, dropping its warm light on golden slants to the valley floor, dappling through the hardwood canopies, and glittering upon trout waters. Indeed, it is a place worth being.
So it was my elder brother and I made an encampment upon these earthy shores of paradise. The stream ever-gurgling past our snug respite. Tweety birds in full form. We got to work doing what we do best – eating! Brother put some bacon to cook in the camper, whilst outside, I fired up the flimsy, old, portable BBQ grill that has seen a thousand and one campsites over the years. What holds that contraption together still, I do not know, but the answer must reside somewhere in the sinew of memories of campsite’s past, and the grilling under the tall pines we have done there. Oh how we love to cook out-of-doors. And especially this is so, in camp.
Perhaps it is the fundamentals of such things, why we aspire so to cook in camp. Just to lay meat to flame in the wild places. Or to hear supper sizzling over a quaint bed of coals, whilst the breeze whispers through stands of stately pines. Life nary achieves a simpler status than this. For a while anyways, all the complexities of our day-to-day are cast aside. And the only thing left now, the only pressing matter in life, is to eat. And to eat good. And then maybe watch the world slowly turn by.
From time to time, it is well to live this almost simpleton’s existence. It sort of reboots a soul to function proper-like, once again. And could nary be more fun.
“You know, cooking bacon is kind of like photographing a beautiful woman!” my brother belched from within the camper.
I’m not sure what he meant by that, for comparing women to bacon could go a multiple of ways, but no how, and even so, I could hear the bacon crackling in its pan of juices, whilst brother manipulated various plates and utensils. And I reveled in the acoustic glory of it. The aromas, too, of thick-cut pork belly wafting out the camper door. Mercy! And amid this splendor, I tended the grill and two portly pork chops there, with the bone in for added flavor. Seasoned simply with garlic and onion salt. And just like with the Weber kettle back home, I created a little pocket for indirect cooking, for a modicum of thermal control under such raw and primitive conditions. Camp life was in full swing.
Of course we engaged in our share of trout fishing whilst there. When you camp next to a trout stream, it sort of stands to reason. And when you love to fish, as we do, it is all but a certainty. We caught a few rainbows, but returned them all. Something a little easier to do when you have a baker’s dozen worth of pork chops in the RV ice box. And you can’t beat a trout camp for ambiance either. Just seeing the fishing gear propped about brings a smile across my heart. Old waders and spin casters and fishing bags. I haven’t however the faintest of clues who Bensy is, but they made the photo even so.
The chops were done at the same time the potatoes were. That’s true camp harmony right there. When two cooks conspire in the woods bringing together the perfect little meal, at just precisely the right time. We don’t always nail it like that, but we did this time. We forgot the cooking oil, however, so we had to fry our potatoes in bacon grease. It worked exceedingly well.
So we tarried there, with a plate of good food, in the Valley of the Trouts. The stream babbled over stones and fallen trees, creating a song which sang sweetly unto our ears. Wood smoke curled off the camp fire, and an old, white-enameled coffee pot sat nearby, and at the ready. Leaning back in our camp chairs with a plate of vittles on our lap, I gotta say, this was proper living. Our chosen life style if we could get it. We gobbled down our food like two pumas to a warthog, and fed the fire whilst the sun ebbed behind the valley rim. And the blue skies all tapered to black, and the stars emerged like scattered diamonds on high. We bantered into the night, as per par for trout camp, enjoying the soft glow of a kerosene lamp, the randomness of fire flies, and a contented feeling residing kindly in our bellies, and deep in our soul. Amen.
Stream side with grilled pork chops and fried potatoes. Oh yes, and bacon!
Keeping it Simple: How to Grill for the Mass Populous
Rule #1: Don’t Experiment On Your Guests
The heat index hemorrhaged around 102, but of course, it felt even hotter than that. It pretty much had too. I was grilling, you see. Grilling on the hottest day of the year. I stood abreast the pit, fires blazing as if spurted up from the very bowels of Hades, sweat tumbling off my nose like a Yosemite waterfall, spatula in hand, working deftly a herd of cheeseburgers about the grate, trying to coral them all into the indirect heat, opposite the orange bed of coals. The grease spilled from the burger underbellies, igniting like Ron Howard’s Back Draft on the coals below. The casualties of burnt knuckle hair a’waft in the evening slants of golden light. I slipped the lid on with all due haste, snuffing the inferno. Vexed like a Saber Toothed Tiger who just chased a monkey up a tree. I grabbed a paper towel and drew it across my forehead. My but it was hot and sporty at the pit today. Unmercifully heated! But I worked it. I had to. I stood my ground as Keeper of the Coals. For I had people to feed today. Lots of people.
We were having some company over, you see, and my bride hereby appointed me head cook for the crowd. You can do that, I guess, when you’re a wife of a patron of the pit. There are certain privileges they enjoy, such as not cooking, and getting to sample your routine grilling spoils. It’s a good life for them, I cannot deny. But they also must endure. They oft-times are the humble recipients of your experimental meat art. Of new flavors, and coarse culinary ideas. She never quite has let me live down the smoked peach cobbler incident, that which tasted more like a rank ash tray that any peach we knew. But what can you do? Seemed like a good idea at the time. This day, however, we were going with a known quantity sure to sooth the populous tongue. Cheeseburgers! And thus, under blue skies and a rather hellish sun, so it was, and came to be.
You Seasoned it With What???
Now when cooking En masse, because of a distinct variety of tastes you’re trying to please, I find a good technique as far as seasoning is to err on the edge of simple. Keep it simple. For some folks do not care for bold, in-your-face, flavors. They just don’t. And it is a pain in the pit keeper’s hind quarter, but alas he should refrain from impregnating his beloved beef patties with his newly contrived ghost pepper sauce. Just don’t do it. Lest you enjoy hearing your name moaned in vain across three and one-half zip codes. Keep it simple.
So to season our burger patties we went about as simple, and as time-tested as you can get. Just some kosher salt and some fresh cracked black pepper. That’s it. That’s all you need when sailing the sea of many palates. Throw some smoke wood on your coals to give the burger a little something extra, patron to the pit. And your guests will know at first bite that your burgers hail from the smokey realm. And don’t forget the bacon either!
Enter The Meat Candy
Being your quintessential red-blooded man, I estimated we needed roughly two pounds of thick cut, maple-smoked bacon, give or take, for our cheeseburgers. A frying project perfectly suited for the Mojoe Griddle. We took the steel behemoth from its box and lugged it pit-side, and centered it over the 30,000 BTU burner of the Camp Chef stove. Glory be, you have never in all your days seen a mound of bacon cook so swiftly, and so effortlessly as this. And the heady aromas which pummeled your nose bordered on cardiac utopia. Once again, we are smitten with the Mojoe way of life. But then, who wouldn’t be with all that bacon.
If you haven’t yet had occasion, and if you feel like it, do go and check out http://www.mojoegriddle.com/ You can learn all about the Mojoe there, and who knows, maybe even pick yourself up one for your next meat party.Worth every dime.
Thus it was with a sweat laden reproach that we scooped the last burger off the pit, some of them cloaked in a gooey pile of medium cheddar. Man! Lightly seasoned only in salt and freshly cracked pepper, and tinted with a sweet kiss of pecan smoke, just because. And all the fixings left to the discretion of your supper guests. That’s how you do it. If you’re a good pit jockey, you might even toast the buns for them. Amen.
Food and Fellowship: How BBQ Could Save The World
A thin-blue smoke pillared from the old bullet cooker as a bandy of black birds sang from the pond’s edge. It was mid-afternoon, mid-summer, and mid-week come to think of it, and all the world seemed on the bustle today, and busy, and hurried to get along. Well, save for yours truly that is. Nay, I had other plans this afternoon. To smoke up a rack of ribs, for one, and also some chicken wings to take to some friends who could use a good meal these days. A BBQ care package, I guess you could say. People just like barbecue.
Something For Everyone
Barbecue. Have you noticed ever when you go into a BBQ joint that there is just something in the air, something besides the most succulent aromas known to mortal man. That’s right. There is an abiding sort of gastronomic appreciation there. A universal reverence almost, for what is smokey and good. A joy for BBQ scattered in unbiased fashion across the social cross-section. Your class or zip code makes no bearing in BBQ. Doctors and lawyers, I suspect love BBQ. So do teachers and garbage men. Clergymen and atheists. Pig farmers and even vegetarians, I bet, tho they won’t eat it, deep down admire BBQ. Even people from Iowa! Indeed, black, yellow, white or brown, your skin matters not in BBQ. Every one is free to tarry on it’s savory shores.
That’s the beautiful part about good BBQ. People from many walks of life coming together in food and fellowship. No matter who you are, or where you’re from, if the BBQ is good, you will gladly slurp it off a paper plate, and wipe your face with your sleeve.Whether you’re a grease monkey from Queens, or the Queen of England herself, everybody is equal where fine smoked meat is concerned. And say what you will on this, but that is no small thing. For BBQ is oft times regarded as a fickle, and snobbish pursuit. One of the most opinionated subjects in the free world, just behind politics and religion. Yet, and somehow, we all come together in fellowship for some good BBQ.
It’s a childish notion, I know, but what if all the leaders of a world gone mad, conspired together for lunch some day, and had BBQ. All sitting around a big table, with make-shift, paper towel bibs, and tall drinks at hand. Communing and dining on perfectly executed BBQ. I bet they’d be in a pretty good mood for the most part. Well as good a mood as you can be, I suppose, being a world leader and all. There’s just something about BBQ that makes it all okay.
And so they would eat and feast and look around the table at each other, everybody sporting a little BBQ sauce wayward on their face, and a pleasant, satisfied feeling deep in their bellies. For a while at least, and maybe even longer than that, I hope they would notice that it’s not all bad having lunch together. That if they can get along well enough for an hour or so, maybe they can do it some more, and maybe even become friends, with a plate of good food in front of them. Childish notions for sure, but hark, the working model of this, of course, has already been perfected -a little something your local BBQ shack has known for many years. BBQ brings people together.
A Time to Share
As the mallards milled about on the pond’s edge, and the breeze mingled sweetly in the trees, I glazed up the wings with some more Blackberry BBQ Sauce, from the kindly folks at Joe Joe’s Hog Shack. On the other pit, the ribs had just come out of the foil, highly pampered there in brown sugar, butter, and a squirt of honey. Smoked with pecan wood. Oh buddy! They were almost, but not quite, falling off the bone. Time to deliver these spoils for whom they were intended! And time to make time, for what is good. And what is right.Barbecue may never save the world, but I’ll tell you this, it sure is a better tasting place because of it. And that’s a start at least. Amen.
Grilling Paradise: How To Be There When You’re Not
How we love to tarry in the prettier places. Often times striking off for the pristine hinter regions of northern Minnesota. And there, under the whispering pines, beside tumbling rivers, we press a tent stake into the soil, and rest like gentlemen of leisure. The cares of the city life metaphorically swirling down the drain, like dirty bath water after a long day afield. Soon, we think of nothing else, nothing but the wind, the sky, the woods, and the loveliness of water falling in paradise.
The river flows with a fierce elegance up here. She will dazzle you with her beauty, and in the flip of a heart beat, wash you into one of her deep pools, and pin you there but for the wages of eternity. Kayakers know this. And so do Patrons of the Pit, who cower wisely on the shores. Nay, these waters are best left to the native brook trout which loiter in the eddies, awaiting the wayward drift of a Rhithrogena germanica or the like.You know how it goes. Anyways, whence the night falls over the forest primeval, we do rather like to kindle a fire and bandy close to its coals.
An old, blackened tea-pot with a dented, and beaten-up lid, hangs hobo style over the fire, bringing the evening’s water to a boil. I rummage through my pack for my twenty year old steel mug, whilst the flicker of the flames dance softly over head on the bottom of the pine bows. Found it. I rip open a package of cinnamon tea, and plop the bag into my cup, it’s string hanging limply over the lip. I look up. The stars are out now, shimmering behind the tall pines, dappling through the thin needles. The river tumbles in the darkness. And I can smell the smoke waft off the fire, and taper into the pine-scented woods. Can you smell it!
Via the powers of the blogosphere, you have now been transported. Swept away through space and time, and plunked down in a saintly fashion at the Track Side Pit, where our fellow Patron is plying his craft upon a congregation of yard bird legs. Chicken legs for you city folk. He’s got a nice char going on, as you can see, with flirts of caramelization. Seasoned with who knows what, but it’s good! The aromas bellowing off the grill would turn a vegan silly, I’d wager. And can you smell the smoke…
Smoke. The smell of it. For some reason God has linked smells inextricably with memory. And that’s the curious link between here and there. Between cooking on the patio in the city, and cooking over the open fire, far away, encamped in a quiet, forest hollow. We’ve mentioned it before, but we’ll say it again. Because every time we light the fires here at home, the aroma of the smoke in-turn triggers a rush of memories from camp fires past. And a great many of those fires have been in the wilder places, in paradise, doing what we love to do. And as we rotate these gorgeous chicken legs over a fiery bed of coals, with metal tongs in hand, we cannot help but to reminisce at the same time of the beautiful locales from whence we’ve tarried. Oh yes. To reach back on the tender wings of nostalgia, and thumb through our memory vaults to those campsites past, fire-side, under fragrant pines and starry skies, where the water falls in paradise. Amen.
How To Think of Nothing Else: Pecan Smoked Chicken Fajitas
The fly line went taut and the rod hooped over nicely, as I set the hook into the leviathan that which swam the grass banks. I soon managed to get the fish onto the reel as I played him closer to shore, determined this time not to let old “Moby” elude me once again. A light rain dappled over the pond, tapping lightly on my rain jacket, as I let out some more line, the reel singing as the fish muscled for rank. “Keep the line tight”, I thought to myself. I have already lost this bucket mouth once today, and this time, if I could help it, he would be mine. The bass suddenly torpedoed out for deeper water, like bass do, then reconsidered to the divining will of my 5 weight fly rod, and made haste instead for a small passel of weeds, there upon and of which he was, I dare say, masterfully escorted unto the damp shore from whence I stood. He laid for a moment there in the grass, panting. We both did.
I do not know what it is about fishing, but I am continually amazed how sweet life’s keen focus is when a fish is tight to our line. More sharpened moments of clarity I seldom see. Likewise, I’m reminded of the show Gilligan’s Island, and something they once said there. I digress. You see on Gilligan’s Island, the Skipper and Gilligan were fishing in the lagoon one day. And the skipper, being a salty, fishing man who never changed his blue shirt, said to Gilligan in a bellowing fashion, that when you’re fishing, and you get a fish on line, for as long as you’re hooked up together, that fish and you, you will in turn think of nothing else. And it’s true.
You think of nothing else.
Maybe that’s why we like to fish so much around here. For the focus. For the rendering of life’s many complexities into quaint, articulate moments of intense, penetrating focus. Fish do that to a body. Don’t ask me why. And we are blessed and highly favored to have a nice pond, pit-side, in which to partake of our craft nearly every day if we want. To stand on it’s earthy shores, and for a while at least, think of nothing else. Man…
Anyways, all this fishing of late has made this little pit boy ripe with hunger. And if you are too, you’re in luck. Tonight’s feast will sooth what ails you, believe me. Pecan smoked chicken fajitas, patron to the pit. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than this.
Today’s seasoning once again comes from our friends at Miners Mix. XXX Garlic, and man does it do right by poultry. All natural, no junk in this stuff, people. If it wasn’t around in 1850, it ain’t in there. If you’re still looking for your next favorite rub, go and check these mates out. We don’t know how they do it, but they’ve managed to crack the code on spice rubs. We’ve really been enjoying their products. Anyways, we semi-liberally dashed this garlic rub over some boneless chicken breasts, and set them indirect on the Weber Kettle Grill, along with a good bandy of pecan smoke. Lid on, and damper tweaked. I sat back in the BBQ chair with a manly beverage in hand, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure.
When the chicken was almost, but not quite done, we removed it and set it aside for a few short moments. If grilling wasn’t fun enough, it’s about to get even better. Enter the ever-sexy, oft-coveted, Mojoe Griddle. Oh yes…
I tell you this people, if ever in the world a piece of cooking equipment were to have a swagger, this is it. If you’ve been in our readership over the last year or so, you’ve seen this beast surface now and again. 35 pounds of high grade, hot-rolled steel- a restaurant quality griddle, and it all fits neatly over a multiple of heat sources. Simple, effective, and tough. Thus, not wanting to let my cooking coals go to waste, we plunked this behemoth over the top of the Weber Kettle and, viola, the best griddle action money can buy.
We are pretty much in love with this griddle. And we aren’t bashful about it. If you want to up your game some day, or just want to learn more about it, we did a review on it a while back, and you can read that here. Or better yet, go and visit our friend, Cam, the inventor of the Mojoe Griddle, at his website, http://www.mojoegriddle.com/ , and he’ll show you around. Tell him PotP sent you! Anyways, where were we…
On a hot, oiled, Mojoe, we set forth our green peppers and onions to saute their way to greatness. Spatula in hand, what great pleasure it is to stand aside the hot steel, cooking in the freshened air. Where the song birds trill and the skies are so blue they do not stop, save for to smile down upon the lone, outdoor cook, flipping his vegetables yonder, amid a soft, summer’s breeze. There is great therapy in cooking outside.
Next we chopped up the smoked chicken and tossed that into the mix too, and listened to it sizzle there, next to the green peppers and onion. Oh man! The aromas which filled the patio were point blank, off-the-charts. Olfactory high-def stuff, people. Thus, and with great exuberance, I plowed thy spoils about with the steel edge of an inverted spatula, and smiled to myself, as the cloud shadows calved silently across the lawn. Oh if only to slow this cook down, and to extend the moment for the moments sake. I was enjoying this. This relatively simple moment of cooking supper in a complex world. There is just something magical about it. Something right under the sun. If you’re lucky in this life, you will enjoy a few pursuits like this, that which gently cull you from the throngs of haste. Activities that which defy distraction. And promote moments of lingering focus. Like fishing I suppose, and cooking outside. The results of which will illuminate your day, and tug by tender strings, the joy for which tarries down in your soul. Amen.
Pecan Smoked, Garlic Tinted, chicken fajita makings, patron to the pit. I do believe you can take it from here. Yum!
When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking: Chipotle Grilled Chicken
A lone Drake in good form, and handsome as a duck can be, glided silently over the water, whilst the sun hung dimly on the horizon. It’s scant rays caressing the roof tops, and budding leaves which adorned the neighborhood parkways. I just got home from a long day of responsibilities and the like, and wanted nothing more than to prop my feet up from the vantage of my man chair, and do little else there, save for to monitor the latitude of my eye lids. Yes sir, one of those days where you get home, foot sore and dirty, weary of body, and would fancy a lovely home cooked meal if it were there, but wished frankly to exert no effort towards that end. That’s the predicament I found myself in the other day. And I think we’ve all been there.
Well, I had two choices. Lay there and go hungry, or get back up again and cook supper. It’s times like this where you know you have, what they call, “1st World Problems“. Or, “Rich People Dilemmas“. At least there is a choice. My wife once took a missions trip to Africa. To the East African Rift zone, and the harsh plains of Kenya there, where upon she encountered many a family who didn’t have a choice in the matter at all, as to what’s for supper. Their day, no less weary than mine, and they would, by enforced circumstance alone, indeed keep laying there after all, and go hungry despite. And here I am grumbling about the ordeal of cooking supper. Not cool.
Thus, and with this renewed outlook and shift-of-mind, I swiftly came to the very accurate conclusion that cooking supper, whether I’m tired, in the mood, or not, is indeed and always a great privilege. And one we probably ought not to be grumbling about. If you don’t believe that, just ask some of the Kenyan families I just told you about. Anyways, the evening was still lovely. I had some chicken in the freezer. Some potatoes at my disposal. And it’s a given, that I always love to grill once I’m out there, where the wood smoke also rises. So lets get after this, shall we, and procure some supper, patron to the pit.
Meat and potatoes. That’s me. Classic man food. Freshly humbled, I got to work over the old kettle grill, with steely tongs in hand, plying my craft in the waning light. Some tin foiled potatoes were placed over direct heat. In the foil and swaddled decently there, were of course, potatoes diced to uniformity for even cooking, a sliced up onion, a few pats of butter, and some salt and pepper to taste. I think some peas too, just because. One of the simplest, and maybe our favorite kettle grill side dish. Tin foiled potatoes. If you’re one of the 5 people left on the planet who hasn’t made potatoes this way yet, well, you’re missing something out of your life. Direct heat – 20 minutes ought to do it.
For to season our chicken today, we went with one of our favorite rubs as of late, Wholly Chipotle, by the good folks at Miners Mix. This one has a little kick to it, well, leastwise to us sally-tongued Swedes it does, so dash it on accordingly. If you slow down, and eat like a civilized cave man, you can notate a slow parade of flavors in this rub. A nice smokey chipotle base which marries well with a variety of meat. Man!
Ah the glories of grilling in the fresh evening air. I was glad I resisted the gravitational pull of the couch. But then I always am where grilling is concerned. Something about the ambiance of wood smoke in curl, and the serenity of the pit. Of communing with the tweety birds, and watching how the grass bends gently in the breeze. How the light dapples through the tree tops. And the how the clouds idle in a pastel sky.
A thin-blue smoke, patron to smoldering hickory wood, pillared forth from the top damper. It looked good there, in the wee, slanting light. We most always include some sort of smoke wood when grilling. The flavor of charcoal is well enough, and ten times that of any gas grill (sorry gassy people), but if you really want to amp up the flavor of your next cook-out, toss a chunk of hickory onto the coals. Or peach wood. Or pecan wood. Or apple wood. Your dinner guests will know at once your kettle fare hails from the smokey realm. A kingdom of which you alone shall rule over with tongs in one hand, and a manly beverage in the other. Ah yes, I love to grill, and I love to tarry out-of-doors under wide open skies. This is your privilege people. Seize it!
And this then is the trick, you see, of how to go about cooking supper when you don’t feel like it. You just get up and do it anyways. You do it because you need to eat. And because you can. And because in a world where so many go hungry, he who is too lazy to cook his own spoils, that which he was richly given, is not at all resonate of a thankful heart. I don’t know about you folks, but I think we should always give thanks for our food. And for the kindly hands that prepared it. Amen.
Hickory Smoked Chipotle Chicken Breasts sided with Crispy Tin Foiled Potatoes. Another winner, patron to the pit.
Cooked: Are You Trending the Wrong Direction?
Mesquite Fired Chicken Fajitas and the Decline of the Western Kitchen
I’ve been watching a show lately, called, Cooked, and it’s fascinating. Any food blogger worth their apron, I’d wager, would probably be intrigued by it also, because I know I was, and I don’t even have an apron. I must say, the docu-series has inspired me, as if I need any further inspiration, to, and for a lack of better words – cook. But it has. One of the things they said on the show, the thing that stirred the soup of my soul, if you will, was that the average American house hold is trending away from cooking. And it’s been heading that way for a long time.
Since the 60’s, they said, we’ve been cooking at home less and less. Preparing food in the kitchen has declined almost 50%. And the United States, they said, cooks less than any other country in the world.
That’s right. And the reason is time, or lack of it. We’re in too big of a hurry these days, to cook a proper meal in our own kitchen. In point of fact, we’d gladly pay some one else to do the cooking for us. And in the process of this, we’ve lost something rather precious, and inalienable along the way. We’ve lost the fellowship of the cook. We’ve diluted the human food experience to a few beeps and boops on the microwave, or the speed dial on our cellular phones. In our haste, we’re bypassing the good stuff, the therapeutic sounds, say, of a knife chopping through vegetables in a quiet room. Or the aroma of bread baking on a wintry afternoon. Or the satisfying taste of a homemade soup wrought from the nourishing bounty of our own gardens. Not to mention a disbanding of the most important thing maybe, and that is the warm camaraderie of family or friends gathered in fellowship, in the kitchen, whilst we dutifully ply our craft. We’re missing out on all of these pleasantries when we’re too harried to cook. And because of that, we are cooked.
Well that did it. I needed to cook then. No ordering out for a pizza tonight. No forays through the freezer for a frozen dinner. I got to do this right. Take the scenic path. And I figured my best shot at it, being that I’m a man and all, would be out at the BBQ grill of course. Thus, and emboldened with new vigor, I got right after it out at the old kettle grill. First cooking up some boneless chicken breasts, smoked with mesquite wood, and gently dusted in Miners Mix Wholly Chipotle Rub. This rub is excellent, but I should tell you, off-hand and by-the-way, it does have a little kick to it, so be mindful not to dump it on with a great abandon, lest you enjoy a runny nose dribbling onto your supper plate. Anyways, the chicken was seared a little on both sides, as is often the case with grilling chicken, and tucked indirect, opposite the hot coals for the remainder of the cook. The meal was coming together nicely. Then I brought out my chopped vegetables. I tell you, the modular cast iron grate from the good people at Craycort sure made the difference in this cook-out. What a pleasure it is to grill with this sort of equipage. Everything just seems to fall right into place. And they operate with a certain sort of ease that which I find very comforting to the soul. We put the pan insert into service tonight, as you can spy, and sauteed up the lovely and timeless duo of green peppers and onions. The aromas of which garnished the air of this chill evening, whilst the tweety birds quietly puttered in the alders at the pond’s edge. We love to cook, it’s true. But what we really love is to cook outside.
Next we needed some corn and black beans, of which came to edible maturity in short order, thanks again to the cast iron pan insert. They sizzled accordingly there, adding more aromas to the outdoor kitchen. I cannot deny, there is a certain love affair going on with this cast iron grate. It’s a relationship. And if you’re good to it, it’ll be good to you. Cast iron is like that. It requires a modicum of attention, with a gentle oiling before and after each use. As if it needs to be reminded you care, I guess. But then again, who isn’t like that.Who doesn’t like to be told they are loved from time to time. Cooking at last brings people together like that, so that we can tell them, if only through making them a simple meal, that we love them. Like our friend Mr. Dodd likes to say, “What you cook isn’t nearly as important as who you cook it with.” Amen Mr. Dodd. Amen.
Speaking of Mr Dodd, just above is a link to his site of you’re into reading about tasty BBQ, of which you must be or you wouldn’t be reading this!
An Act of Small Rebellion
Well, after the chicken is done, and the peppers and onions are done, and after the beans and corn are warmed through, seasoned with some Miners Mix Steak and Veggie Seasoning, and after you’ve boiled up a pot of rice, bring the food henceforth inside, and let the savory aromas at once curl into the air. And watch now how the respective noses of family members pan your way. There is energy in the air. Note also the abiding communion which begins, or has begun, ever since you first lit the flames to cook. This one simple act of taking time out of your busy day, to slow down and deliberately cook supper, even when you don’t feel like it, is at once an act of small rebellion in a world gone mad with haste. And it is beautiful.
Chop up the protein into sizes of appropriate diameter for your body’s largest orifice, and thus assemble at your leisure, this lovely mesquite smoked chicken fajita bowl over a steaming bed of rice. Man, can you taste it! Don’t forget the freshly shredded mozzarella cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Let the flavors mingle together, and get happy there. The fajita flavors are designed to marry on your plate. This is what they do. They are many times better together than apart. A fusion of individual tastes. Of texture and spice. And when you think about it, in a round about way, so are we. And that’s why cooking healthy meals at home is so important you see. Because it brings us together in fellowship and good food. And say what you will, but precious few other things in this world are quite as lovely as that. And not nearly so tasty. Amen.
*Here is the show, Cooked, that we were talking about earlier. Good stuff!
What Women Want: Parmesan Crusted Grilled Chicken Breasts
“I do not know what it is about women and cheese, but I wager a good block of it will catalyst even the most apathetic of them into action.” -Me
Evening was soon to draw across the Pond-Side Pit, as I henceforth gathered my plunder in the soft, waning light. A glorious light of which is fleeting this time of year, for the supper that which teases the hollow rumble of my belly. I soldier on. I bank some fiery coals to the back of the old kettle grill, setting it up for a quiet spot of indirect cooking. Poker in hand, and shamelessly doting over the orange-glowing rubble, like they were precious gem stones in a cauldron of enameled coated steel. It’s March, on the 45th Parallel, and the breeze is as cool as it is sweet, summoning the best flannel shirts your closet has to offer. Indeed, I had mine on as I tended the fire, enjoying it’s radiant heat on my hands. Admiring the comradeship of the coals, whilst I waited on my lovely bride to shred the cheese.
She openly volunteered to shred up some Parmesan cheese for our supper tonight. I do not know what it is about women and cheese, but I wager a good block of it will catalyst even the most apathetic of them into action. Women love cheese. Leastwise mine does. And so she shredded me a large quantity of it, like a crazed beaver to Cottonwood tree. Swiftly earthing a pile of cheesy goodness into a modest, porcelain bowl. That and an equal part bread crumbs too, these for to play the supporting cast in tonight’s grilling ensemble. Parmesan Crusted Grilled Chicken Breasts, patron to the pit, of course.
What we did is this. We rolled the bone-in chicken breasts in a warm, slippery bath of melted butter, and after saying a quick prayer, liberally packed on a delightful preponderance of that cheese/bread crumb mixture we just talked about. Pack it on thick, people, and don’t be shy. If you want to give your woman what she wants, well this is it! Well, this is it this side of an empty wallet coming out of a jewelry store anyhow.
Kind of looks like coconut chicken, but it isn’t. This is where you must wield your meat with the authority and delicateness of a brain surgeon. Your dear chicken is in it’s most fragile state right now, so be mindful young pit jockeys, not to knock off that which you have so fiercely labored for. Place your lovely proteins with a gentle hand opposite the hot coals. Place the lid on next, and dutifully step aside. We didn’t use any smoke wood this time. The crusty cheese to come will do all the talking here.
It doesn’t take long before you lift the lid and see something like this going on. A beautifully textured crust – the highly edible marriage of Parmesan cheese fused with lightly toasted bread crumbs. This at last to usher these lowly chicken breasts unto their utmost culinary ideal. Glory!
Of course when confronted with nicely crusted proteins, such as these, I cannot help but to tarry pit-side in a bevy of my own thoughts. Here we have two ingredients, that which make up this crust. Two entities. That of Parmesan cheese, and the other of plain old bread crumbs. The Parmesan cheese is like my wife perhaps – white, and silky, and very good. Very forgiving. Gets better with time. And better, by and far, than I deserve. And I am not unlike the lowly bread crumbs here, even whiter still, and if left to my own devices, will likely only make a big mess of things. But here is where the analogy gets interesting, and far better for me. When married together on the charcoal grill of life, the cheese adapts like good cheese does, and works it’s way amid every nook and hollow presented thee by the flaky bread crumbs. In time, the cheese holds the humble bread crumbs together, even, and gives them support and reason and flavor. The bread crumbs thus toast to perfection, coming of age, if you will, and the two together form the most beautiful Parmesan crusted chicken you’d ever want to lay thine eyes upon.
It’s weird what comes to your brain whilst puttering over your pit. It’s all about relationships, my wife keeps telling me. Relationships. Maybe this is what women want. Just to love and be loved – together. Seems reasonable, I guess. And sure seems to be the case with my chicken tonight, I can tell you that. And in the pale light, I plated up said chicken, plunked the old kettle lid back in place, turned heel, and made way from whence I came. To my sweetheart residing warmly inside. Amen.
How To Burn A Hole In Your Tongue: Fire In The Hole Cheeseburgers!
Feel The Burn!
Some time ago, back in the sultry days of summer, we received some rubs from the good folks at Miners Mix; a small bandy of spice wizards out way of California, who are quietly putting together, we learned, some of the best flavors in the world. They said if we ever wanted to try a “real rub”, just to let them know. Well, we’ve succumbed, and you’ve probably already read some accounts now of their rubs, and we will kindly remind you that they did not disappoint. Anyways, in passing, they mentioned that they also had some hot rubs, new to their line up, and if we wanted to try some of those too, they would set us up accordingly. Initially, I passed.
You see I am not a pepper head by nature. Nay, I’m Swedish. Which means concerning the spicier things in life, I am what you might call a pansy. A sally-tongued neophyte as easily recoiled by a humble jalapeno pepper, as I might be if my face were melting off. I know – boring. Luckily, however, the smokey co-founder of the Patrons of the Pit is most certainly a hot head, and I mean that in the most kindly of ways. He seems to favor a delightful burn. I mean, a sweaty forehead and runny nose is common place for the man. And it was he who offered to sample these hot rubs for us today. And I eventually caved in, as any grill jockey ought to, and went over to his house the other night for to sample some heat. Some Fire in the Hole Cheese Burgers. Oh man!
A cool, February wind whistled through the Track-Side Pit, where I found my fellow patron grilling up the burgers in the dark. When you grill in Minnesota in February, chances are you’ll be doing it in the dark. Anyways, he declared he tightened up the burgers with Fire in the Hole spice rub, from Miners mix. Now, I’ve heard of these guys!
Fire in the Hole. The name says everything you need to know, folks. All too much, in point of fact! This stuff is something else. Loaded with all matter of hot, make-your-forehead bleed sort-of mojo. Such as: Cayenne, Jalapeno, Habanero, Chipotle, Ancho, and oh yeah, Ghost Pepper powder! Mercy! One fellow at our little burger bash threw a pinch or two of this rub in his mouth, and promptly proclaimed “it burned a hole through my tongue!”
Indeed it could.
The Ghost Pepper, originally known as the bhut jolokia, is a interspecific hybrid chili pepper cultivated out yonder in India or something, and it means business, people. 400 times hotter than Tabasco, they say. At 1 million Scoville heat units, I’d wager they’re right about that. In point of fact, in 2007, it was lofted as the hottest chili pepper on the planet. That honor now belongs to the dreaded Carolina Reaper. I think I’d rather eat grilled spiders with John from Ecuador than make the acquaintance of a Carolina Reaper. Even so, we must still respect the ghost pepper. Anyways, that digression aside, Miners Mix loads this Fire in the Hole rub up with a nice quantity of ghost pepper powder, and when you note that such powder runs at about $180 per pound, well, let’s just say that the little bottle suddenly becomes the most handsome of all bottles on your spice rack.
Where’s The BEEF!
He plopped it down in front of me. I don’t think I had ever seen a hamburger in my life that was as tall as it was wide, but this one came dang close. A monolith of spicy hot meat in which to come of age with. We’re talking it must have been 3/4 of a pound of ground beef here, and maybe 2 tablespoons of Fire in the Hole rub, worked into every corner of protein. Our fellow patron took it one step further, and impregnated the burger with a molten core of Colby Jack cheese, and that too, was laced with even more spicy goodness. Mercy sakes, call the fire department! And I wasn’t hungry again for two days!
Thus, four men sat around a wooden table of red meat, attempting to open their pie holes to adequate apertures, for to make way with these giant, Juicy Lucys. Some of us had bigger mouths than others, and those somebodies gradually developed a good and abiding burn first.
Now it wasn’t the sort of burn than sends a man running post-haste for a glass of milk, blabbering in tongues of fools, but it was undeniably present, even so. Enough to make your eyebrows go moist, and your face to feel a little funny. A little runny nose deal is to be expected as well. And of course, the all encompassing fire from Hades in your mouth syndrome. Depends on your proclivity and tolerance for the spicy side of life, I suppose. And don’t even get us going on the morning after, whilst reading the paper in the little pit boys room. We need not go there! At any rate, I seemed to be doing better than I thought I would, concerning the heat, and here is where it got down right wonderful to behold.
We all noticed that after the burn had tapered, it was then we started picking up on the subtleties of the rub. A parade of delightful flavors start showing up in our mouths. In point of fact, from the moment you put the food in your mouth, clear down through your last burp of after taste, the flavors keep coming. And this is what sets this rub apart from a great many others we’ve tried over the years.
Our fellow patron said, and quote,”These guys got it going on!”
He said, “There just hasn’t been many spice rubs that can do that“, and he added, “with such a wide palate of flavors surfacing after the burn”.
Same thing happened with the HOTBANERO spice rub they sent us too. Not as hot as the Fire in the Hole, but spicy enough for Swedes like me. When the burn subsides, you get another show, an encore of flavors, like: chili powder, sugar, rosemary, onion, thyme, and a slight salty flavor. And it’s all really good! And the parade seems to meander from the front of your mouth towards the back. For a while, I was starting to see maybe what all ye pepper heads enjoy so much about spicy foods. Maybe there is more to it after all, than just burning a hole through your tongue. Indeed I wager now that there is.
If you’re a fan of a fine and pleasant burn, accompanied by exquisite flavors, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you go check out these guys. Outstanding work once again, good folk at Miners Mix. Man we love what you do! Amen.
My Brother’s Cabin: Pecan Smoked BBQ Chicken Breasts
My brother has a cabin way up in the woods you see. A humble conglomerate of shingle and cedar. A manly outpost on the edge of all things, in rhythm with the earth and sky. Maybe even a last vestige, perhaps, of solitude in a world surely gone mad. You need only to get in your truck and go there. Out past the city limits, indeed way yonder past that. Past the wind-swept prairies drifted high in waves of granulated white. Over the frozen river and through the woods, where the brown, crisp leaves of the red oak trees still tremble in a winter’s wind. Past the next hamlet and the one after that. Down the winding gravel road you must go. Keep going past all these places, until you reach where the stately white pines rise up and anoint a beautiful, blue sky, and the Blacked Capped Chickadees cavort with a contagious enthusiasm. To where the morning sun dapples on an earth seldom trampled. And here, where the wood smoke curls serenely from a lone chimney stack, on a hill just up from the lake, you will find my brother’s cabin.
I haven’t been to my brother’s cabin in some time now. And I guess the misery of it is, neither has my brother. Oh elder brother is fine and all, it’s just that the wretched noose of society hath wrapped it’s callous coils around his neck again, refusing ever to let go. It’s called work. And responsibility. That’s the high problem of the city life. The city, by it’s very nature will try to pin you down and hold you there, wriggling like a worm under an angler’s thumb. It is it’s most favorite thing to do, seems like. For all the social postures we thus escape, and still to maintain a reasonable and untrammeled urban profile, well, it’s some trick. Some kind of way yonder too big a trick.
So I think of my brother’s cabin now, as I put these chicken thighs to flame. Listening to them sizzle over a hot cast iron grate, with pecan wood buried into the coals. The interesting thing is, every time I light the grill, and smell the wood smoke pillar into the air, even here in urban America, it triggers something, and I cannot help but to recall a vast gamut of recreational fires past, and elsewhere, all over the country in part, and some of those, yes, at my brother’s cabin. That’s the wonderful, under-stated, glory of wood smoke and memories. They are linked in a symbiotic dance. And my how it brings you back. Oh how I fancy to be there right now, under that old, squeaky roof, towering with snow, to hear the crackle of pine and the cedar pop in his portly, old wood stove. A kettle of orange tea simmering quietly there. The sweet, radiating heat of the fire, glory be how it feels like Beethoven incarnate on your cold feet. And I would tarry in the chair there, just because, sipping from an old tin cup, and gaze out across the frozen lake to the far distant shore where the Bald Eagles perch. Drinking in the quietude set aside for thee. Yup, I miss that place. And you need only to get in your truck and go there. And we might, iffin it weren’t for this whole earning a living thing.
This post is turning out rather anemic concerning the things of BBQ, and for that I apologize. I guess I’m engaged in a bit of what you might call, “day dreaming”. It’s just that the winter wears long in these parts, and to a man, we haven’t felt the sun on our face in some five billion years, feels like. Those of you blessed with eternal summers, patron to the good southern life, I do not know for certain if you feel our kink here. Of how long a winter can ride. Or how giddy we can get at the mere thought of spring. For let it be said, it’s that time of the year again, where all that we do, and all that we ponder on, is the promise of spring. Well seems like, anyway. And we pace at the edge of night, with a cup of hot tea in hand, fire crackling in the old wood stove, listening to the cold sleet tapping against our window panes. In the paraphrased words of Jim Klobuchar, “we tingle and ache, waiting for the exploding sun”.
Yes indeed we do that.
Pecan Smoked, Grilled Chicken Breast, varnished in a light but tangy BBQ sauce. Man! Can you smell it people!
Every time we light our fires, we kindle also those quaint fires past. Those smokey memories impressed on the tender fabric of our souls. That and we usually get something good to eat too! Just another couple of reasons to cook outside and revel in it. Amen.
Grilled Chicken Thighs, Little Old Ladies, and The Theory of Mass Convergence
*Rummaging about in the digital vault lately, we happened upon an article of old that never made the light of day. Not sure why. We’ll file it under the “Lost Patron Essays“, those wayward tomes which never took root in the cyber soils, left for dead and forgotten by the publishers that be. So it is our pleasure to kick the dust off this old one, now, which you might hazard, has been aging nicely in the digital wine cellar of PotP. Enjoy at your leisure. Or cast aside for further aging. We understand.
So one day you’re driving down a country road, kicking up gravel dust behind you, blue skies over head, and panoramic fields of long green grass swaying in the breeze. Your shadow looks good as it flies along beside you in the ditch, fluttering over the picket fences and such. Cold beverage in the cup holder, windows down, your favorite tunes on the radio. Life is good. And for a solid hour straight you have had the road to yourself now, nay the whole wide world to yourself. Up ahead you finally see a tractor idling slowly down the road.
So you slow down some, then just as you begin to make your move around him, you note an old pickup truck parked alongside the road, precisely where you and the tractor will meet. How does this happen! Not only that, now is also the time when you meet your first oncoming automobile in the last hour. And all of you, every single one of you, somehow through the mysterious forces of the working universe, your paths all manage to come together at this one geographic spot on the globe, and do so at this exact moment in time. If the timing were just a few seconds off, if you would have finished that whole cup of coffee, you’d all miss each other. Instead, you all converge in space and time.
Welcome to the Theory of Mass Convergence, and I don’t get it.
I was thinking about this phenomenon whilst lighting up the grill the other day. I was in my patio chair, doing my best not to do anything, save to sip a lovely beverage, and admire my Cottonwood tree, and how pretty it looked against a pale blue sky. A lovely evening to be sure. The smoke off the charcoal chimney swirled about, and the tweety birds sang sweetly in the waning light. Then I noticed the moon was out, tho not quite full, but hanging just over the budding crown of my tree. How nice I thunk. Then with a squint of the eye, I noticed something else, a jet plane, or the contrail of anyways, and who knows how far away it was, but it was heading straight for the moon. And for a moment in the vast time continuum: the plane, the moon, the Cottonwood tree and my patio chair all lined up as if it were their high calling all along. That is a weak example of the convergence theory, but none the less it is there.
The Theory of Mass Convergence, just to be clear is my own theory. And I admit to still be tweaking the math on this one. It’s just that the observations of this matter are so plentiful that I cannot disregard it’s inherent validity. I see it all the time. Anyhow.
I scratched my head at these simple wonders and rather than continued efforts in vain at divining the intricacies of universe, I did something rather more productive, and plopped a few chicken thighs on the barbie! Now this I understand. Man put meat to flame. Flame cook meat. Meat make man happy! Also on the pit, we did up a batch of tinfoil potatoes. Those were easy too, and maybe our very favorite side to make on pit. Just dice the spuds up into uniform chunks, season with what ever strikes your fancy, add a few pats of butter and wrap it all up in a sheet of tin foil. Place over direct heat for 25 minutes or so, flipping once at your pit master instinct. If you wanna get fancy with your tin foil potatoes, try adding any matter of vegetables that move you at the moment, from: onions, to corn, to peas, to carrots, shucks, it’s all tasty done up on the grill this way.
Now back to those thighs. The thighs were seasoned with some Bone Suckin’ Seasoning, which has been our go to bottle as of late. Fairly good stuff of which I humbly admit being wooed by its odd, but catchy nomenclature. They were thus liberally seasoned and seared a bit over direct heat. Such was the skin crisped up a might there before escorting back to the cool side of the grill, opposite the hot coals. And there they would stay the rest of the cook, slowly pampered in mesquite smoke.
With the lid in place and damper tweaked, the draft thus engaged, sending heady plumes of mesquite curling forth. I settled back into the patio man chair, positioned left leg over right, cold beverage in hand, and further mused over the intricacies of the universe at hand. Still thinking about that convergence thing. In point of fact, the very thighs which roast over these coals now, were wrought from mysteries of convergence.
We’ve all been there. Walking slowly down the grocery aisles, pushing that slightly squeaky cart to and fro, the one that always wants turn to the left, and will at the most inappropriate times. Well anyways, I was making my way there, rounding the corner to the meat section. I see a little old lady coming my way, her head just peaking up over her enormous purse residing in the infant seat of the grocery cart. She plods along, tipping her nose up for to gander through her bifocals at various things attractive to little old ladies. She has a slow, but steady strafe going on, very efficient I must say, as she sweeps along the meat aisle. Now like any red blooded man with a pulse, I just want to get to the poultry section, of course, grab my thighs, and make haste for home. The sooner done with shopping, the better. But as I approach the target area, and as if right on queue, our little old lady stalls out right smack in front of the chicken thighs, whereupon she gazes over them for some time, whilst rifling through a hand full of coupons. I yield for little old ladies. And chicken thighs too, I guess.
The theory of convergence strikes again. Some times I wonder if the Good Lord brings people together like that on purpose, cause it sure happens more than I can tell you. Here is yet another classic.
Also in the grocer, and don’t deny you this hasn’t happened to you, but you find yourself alone, say in the frozen foods aisle, and for a while now you have been battling a growing gas pain deep within your wretched being. You cast a glance hither and yon, as well you should, and the coast is irrefutably clear. Then, as if prompted by your carnal instinct, you bequeath an air biscuit of suitable proportion to your misery. Relief floods your body. A smile curls across your face. And then it happens. It always happens. The most beautiful specimen of a super model struts around the corner, long locks of blonde hair flowing in the florescent light, heels clacking over the hard white floor, and they make way straight for you. Classic convergence. And there isn’t a darn thing you can do about it. Anyways.
After a suitable fashion and the juices ran clear on the chicken, we varnished it over with some of that Orange Ginger Sauce we’ve been playing with as of late. Man that stuff is good. It has sugar in it tho, so be mindful not to burn your spoils too close to the fire. Blessed be the adept tong that which orchestrates your smokey symphony to a better end game. We plated up the mesquite scented thighs along with those tin foil potatoes, and sidled in through the patio door. One more convergence yet to go today. Namely this here succulent protein with my hungry belly down below. May it make the acquaintanceship post haste. Amen.
Sitting In The Sun and BBQ Wings
The sun is 93 million miles away. That’s what they say anyways. And only a small fraction of the light given off from it ever even reaches the earth. And a smaller piece of it yet, ever makes it to places like, Minnesota, where I am from. Even so, and despite it’s seemingly scant privilege, the light of a new day is cast no how, every day, often times sparkling over crusty fields of snow. It melts through piney tree tops, alive with darting Black Capped Chickadees. It glares over the frozen pond, all tracked-up now with little webbed footprints from the resident ducks. And the good light also spans the roof tops of the city, with their numerous chimney stacks, back-lit, and puffing into the crisp morning air. For not getting much sun light, what we do get we sure seem to notice. For example, some of that sunlight even slipped in through my bathroom window the other morning, and illuminated my toilet.
Ninety and three million miles away and it still lights up my can like it was all in the world it had to do. How about that. It’s the little things, people. And it is pleasurable event indeed, I cannot deny, to thus engage in your morning constitutional whilst positioned at the tail of a sunbeam. Sort of sets a man off right in his day, so-to-speak. I felt like the solar roulette wheel landed on my number for once, and graced me there on the bowl. Hey, it has been a long, cold, and exceedingly dark winter, so let a fellow bask when he can!
Anyways, onto lunch. It was simple affair of wings and spice. Nothing earth-tilting to report, but delicious even so. Now you all know how to grill a chicken wing, there’s nothing to it really. But here is how we did it, just in case.
Of the first order was to spice the wings up with one of our new favorite rubs from the kindly folks at Miners Mix. They call it Poultry Perfection, which does indeed live up to it’s billing. And we used it liberally. We put all the wings into a plastic bag, dumped in a good pile of this spice rub, and did the old “shake & bake” maneuver. Well in this case, “shake & grill“, which, off-hand, is about 93 million times more fun.
The generously coated wings were then placed opposite a hot bed of coals – indirect as we like to say in the smokey arts. Why? One reason comes to mind foremost. So they don’t morph into blackened charcoal-like substrates better utilized below your grate than above. In other words, so they don’t burn. Indirect heat is markedly gentler, and gets the job done just the same, and often times with a juicer, more evenly cooked end game. But best of all, by cooking indirect, you nary need worry then about whether or not your dear plunder will be sacrificed to the grilling gods in a column of black smoke. It’ll be just fine. Which frees up the pit jockey for equally as important pursuits, such as filling up his favorite mug with something lovely to slurp. Or watching the puffy clouds idle slowly overhead whilst loitering amid the earthy aroma of tomato plants. And if the day will have it, just maybe, to find someplace quiet to sit in the sun. Which when you think about it, at 93 million miles away, is about as indirect as it comes. Especially so on the privy! Amen.
Indirect, lightly smoked chicken wings, seasoned in Poultry Perfection, touched up with Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet n Spicy. Yum!
In Retrospection: The BBQ Life
It’s that time of the year again. Time for noise makers, popping corks, and quiet moments of retrospection by the fireside. Just shoveled out the BBQ area today, and it’s looking good. It only snowed a few inches. Tidy and well-kept, it is ready for action. Ready for some New Years Day pork ribs, and Boston butts. Anyhow, as I take a sip of tea, I find myself rummaging backwards in time through the annals of my memory, in particular, the many BBQ moments and cook outs often tallied on these cyber pages. It was another very good year at the pit. I think we averaged about once a week, year round. No matter what the outside temperature. No matter the weather. We stood stalwart at our pits, patron to the gently curling plumes of hickory smoke. In retrospection, I should like to favor you with some of our favorites culinary forays from the past year in the BBQ arts. Or at least the ones that stand out to us as remarkable, and worth mentioning again. The first, I guess, being the beaver.
Yes, aquatic rodent. You read that right. We ate one, oh, a little less than a year ago. That was a different sort of endeavor, I don’t mind telling you, but hey, we’re always up for a new challenge. We barbecued that thing just as kindly as we knew how. Dusted in rub, swaddled in foil, we ushered the odd but savory meat to what we declared a decidedly succulent end game. Turned out better than we hoped, and we didn’t hope for much. It looked akin to pulled beef, and didn’t taste far off from it either. Oddest BBQ Award goes to the beaver!
On occasion here at the pit, we fancy to do a review or two. But we usually only do such with stuff we really like. Because we could say yes, I suppose, to every buckaroo that hits up our inbox, but if their product stinks, well we’ve just wasted your time. So we try and only review the best of the best. Looking back, I think our most favorite piece of outdoor cooking equipment we reviewed this year has got to be, hands down, the Mojoe Griddle. 35 pounds of restaurant grade hot-rolled steel, nearly stick free, and oh what a pleasure to cook on, patron to the pit. When you’re not cooking with it, and if by chance you should find yourself in the heady crossfire of a gunfight, you can tip this griddle on edge and hunker behind it for blast protection. When the battle is finished, you can flip it back up and make pancakes for every one. We loved this griddle. And our Editor’s Choice Award for the year, goes to the Mojoe Griddle. Truly, the best of the best.
A great many spice rubs also come our way in a given year. Some that we buy, some that we make from scratch, and some that are sent to us by people who create them. Our surprise favorite spice rubs this year all came from our readership, and one reader in particular nailed it the best. Miner’s Mix. They challenged us to try a “real rub”, and sent us some samples. And we were blown away. Clean ingredients, great flavor, and even better people. We’re still trying out their many flavors, but if you’re looking for that next great rub to add to your larder, it don’t get much better than these cats. Our Favorite Spice Rub Review of 2015 goes to the good folks at Miners Mix.
We also had occasion to test out some mighty nice cast iron. Cast iron and cooking, especially grilling, is a marriage conceived straight from heaven. And one of the best upgrades you can make to your standard Weber kettle grill, is to grace it with a cast iron grate. One to last the eons, and give you those all impressive char marks. But it gets better. If you’re lucky enough to have a grate from the folks at Craycort, you also get to play with cool inserts. Our Favorite Cast Iron Accessory we tried this year, no doubt, was the cast iron pan insert for the Craycort grill. That thing was all too pleasant, and more than enough fun for a pit jockey proper. It’s pie shaped robustness slips nicely into place, merging with the main grate to create a symphony of cooking options for your grill. What a great idea, and a tip of our BBQ hat to the good people at Craycort for offering such coolness.
Somewhere along the way it rained. Lots of places across this beautiful globe get their wet seasons I’m sure, and Minnesota was no exception this year. We had a soggy stretch where it must have rained for 14 days straight. Such enduring weather would send most folk indoors to stare glumly out the window, but not a patron of the pit. Nay, we simply erected an old, blue tarp and carried on as usual. Thinking back over a year of BBQ, of all the umpteen cook outs, one beef rib smoke in the rain comes to mind as maybe our most favorite smoking sortie of 2015. There was just something keenly pleasant about roosting under a well-strung tarpaulin in a rain storm. Something quite therapeutic about it that which melted straight into the soul. The infinite drumming of the rain drops over head, whilst the hickory smoke silently pillared from the damper on the old weber smokey mountain. Not exactly sure what it was, but it was perfect even so. Hard to articulate, but easy to appreciate. Our Favorite Smoke of 2015 goes to the Rainy Day Beef Ribs. And oh yes, they hit the gastronomic bulls-eye!
Every once in a while, we like to venture away from base camp, and bring you something a little different. To go somewhere, and do something BBQ related. Well, it didn’t take much retrospection to find the most different thing we did this year. Dating way back to last winter, in point of fact, we loaded up our cameras, downy jackets, and headed north to the Fire on Ice BBQ Competition. The only BBQ competition in the world that we know of to be orchestrated over 4 feet of ice. It was a giddy experience shuffling past all the many custom pits lined up so neatly on the ice, forming the hallowed “BBQ Alley”. If you ever get the hankering to smoke a beef brisket whilst pulling a walleye up through a hole in the ice, this is the place. The Coolest BBQ Road Trip goes to the Fire on Ice BBQ Competition.
As I toss another log on the fire and warm up my tea a bit, I find there has been a vast many pleasantries, BBQ-wise, to come our way this year. Plenty to be thankful for. We’ve been undeniably blessed. Many good memories gently forged in the company of orange glowing coals and soft tendrils of wood smoke. The best memories tho, are not of ribs, or steak, or perfectly executed pork shoulder. Nor do they hail from all the cool toys a patron of the pit gets to play with. Nay, the best memories are of the people. Of you guys. Those lovely souls who often sidle by, if for nothing else, than just to say hi. You are our prized brisket. The true gems of the pit. So, a kindly and sincere thanks to the readership, and the regulars who frequent these online accounts. Who give lift to our airfoil in the cold vacuum of cyber space. We thank you for putting up with us, and tuning in so faithfully. We love to BBQ, and we love to tell you about it. To butcher the late, Robert Traver’s fly fishing tome, with BBQ in place of fishing – it isn’t that we regard BBQ as being so important, but it’s just that so many other things in life are just as unimportant, and not nearly so much fun. Amen.
Happy New Year!!