Sunday, May 29, 2011

High 'N' Dry Chicken

It's been quite a while since my last post here, mostly due to weather and not being able to do much grilling during the work week. No excuses though, the warm temps are finally here to stay and I have lots of new recipes to try out on My Three Grills! Since I cook mostly for a toddler and wife who can't take the heat I usually have to keep things on the mild side. Sometimes I cook two seperate recipes to accomodate my own fiery needs but that's not always easy. This afternoon I kept things simple with some chicken legs and thighs seasoned with Weber Seasoning Salt and black pepper.

After taking the chicken out of the packaging I let it sit in a container uncovered in the fridge for about 15 minutes. This was to help dry out the skin a little bit due to the packaging liquid. I have heard this also helps with getting crispy skin which was my main goal. Meanwhile I set up the grill for classic indirect grilling and soaked a handful of cherry wood chips. This was also the first opportunity I had to use my new leg and wing rack. The rack itself is tall enough so the chicken legs hang slightly above the grill grate and luckily my Weber top just barely fit. So for this setup I used a chimney full of charcoal on one side and an aluminum foil drip pan on the other.

I kept the seasonings real simple for this meal, black pepper and Weber seasoning salt applied after a thin coat of canola oil was brushed on.

The legs hung from the rack while the thighs went directly on the grate.

Added a handful of soaked cherry wood chips and let the smoke do it's thing for a bit.

I checked to see how they were doing after about an hour and half. The drumsticks were definitely done, so were the thighs...guess I should have checked them after an hour! The skin was perfectly browned and crispy, exactly what I was going for. I quickly put on an application of Sweet Baby Ray's Hickory & Brown Sugar barbacue sauce - the ladies' favorite,

This meal turned out pretty good for spur of the moment. The seasonings combined with the indirect heat created a very crisp and flavorful skin which I have had a hard time achieving in the past with my gas grill and smoker. Thanks to the BBQ sauce the dry meat wasn't much of an issue but next time the temp will be taken after an hour on the grill.

I've been listening to this one quite a bit this week so I figured it would be a fitting name for the chicken...Crank it to 11 and fire up the grill!

High N' Dry Chicken

Bone-In Chicken Thighs & Drumsticks
Weber Seasoning Salt to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
Canola Oil
Handful of Soaked Cherry Wood Chips
1 chimney starter of Kingsford Charcoal

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Big Mouths & Boss Hawg Beans

Every so often my wife and I like to eat at one of the various chain restaraunts like Chili’s, Applebees, TGI Shenanigans, etc. Stephanie usually orders some form of chicken, potato, and salad/vegetable...pretty standard fare for her. Myself, I go for the burgers every time! I look at the ribs, chicken, and steak on the menu and just can't order it knowing at home I can make it much better AND much cheaper. Their hamburgers, on the other hand, are always fantastic and I find myself ordering them every time.

Then I read some terrible, terrible news. One of my favorites of the group, Chili’s Smokehouse Bacon Triple Cheese Big Mouth Burger with JalapeƱo Ranch Dressing, was voted Worst Burger in America by Eat This, Not That. This mammoth meat creature weighed in at 1,901 calories, 138 g fat (47 g saturated), and 4,201 mg of sodium. I didn't even want to look at what percentage of the daily intake this made up. I was a big fan of Chili's line of Smokehouse Burgers and had tried them all at least once. I knew it was bad...usually food with bacon and triple cheese aren't good for you but I never thought it was this level of bad.

So it was time for a backup plan…I was going to make my own! Over the weekend we had some family visiting so burgers and hot dogs was a fun and easy dinner. I started with some 80/20 ground chuck, that’s 80% meat and 20% fat. For a juicy, flavor packed burger this is the best type of grind to get…the fat is indeed the flavor! You could also use ground beef, ground sirloin and even ground chicken or turkey. We started with about 2.5 lbs and made 6 patties. Each one was seasoned with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and put on the grill over medium-high heat. Most turned out well done except for a few of the thicker burgers which had a little pink in the center. We had some all beef dogs on as well.

The key to making a good burger great is the toppings. Here is what we used to make ours:

2.5 lbs. 80/20 ground chuck
Coarse sea salt
Ground Black Pepper
American Cheese
Mayonnaise (we used Chipotle Mayo)
Yellow Mustard
Sliced Red Onion
Sesame Seed Buns

As a side dish I wanted to try a baked beans recipe I spotted over at Steven Raichlen's message board. The original version called for it to be made in the smoker but with wind and rain in the forecast I decided to use the oven instead. This recipe is from Boss Hawg’s BBQ in Topeka, Kansas and was featured in America’s Best BBQ by Ardie Davis & Chef Paul Kirk. Here is my rendition:

Brian’s Boss Hawg Beans
3 16-ounce cans Pork & Beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 cup dried bacon pieces or chopped bacon
1 cup diced Granny Smith Apples
1 cup diced onion
1 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s Original BBQ Sauce
¼ cup golden raisins
2 tsp liquid smoke (omit if using outdoor smoker)
2 cloves minced garlic
½ tsp ground coriander

If cooking in the oven: Preheat to 350 and combine all ingredients in a 2 Qt. casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until the beans are bubbly.

If cooking in the smoker: Preheat grill to 275 and combine mixture in a 2 Qt. foil pan and cook uncovered for 3 hours with wood smoke from soaked cherry or apple chips.

This dish got mixed results from our group. The original recipe called for 2 cups brown sugar and that just seemed like a lot to me so I left out a ½ cup. Wow, even without the extra sugar these beans were sweet. The apples, raisins, and BBQ sauce added even more sweetness. The bacon pieces gave it some nice flavor as did the coriander but for me this was almost more of a dessert! I probably wouldn’t make this again unless it was requested but would definitely still like to try it in the smoker. Despite the mixed reviews the leftovers were gone by the next night.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

White Turkey Burgers

Lately I've been reading Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries, and Shakes book which understandably got me in the mood for last night's meal. We've had a pound of ground turkey frozen for a few months so I decided to thaw it out and form it into three burger patties. If you've ever cooked hamburgers you know that they always shrink while cooking so I tried a technique used in Flay's book to get them formed better. The small indention in each center allows for the burger to expand upward on the grill making it more even when it is finished. Otherwise you end up with raised tops which usually causes backyard chefs to press down on their burgers creating flareups and releasing all the juices. The result is usually a dry, burnt burger with less flavor. This was my first try at making my own patties, and doing it with ground turkey was definetely a challenge. Due to the low fat content the meat didn't want to hold together very well, I think if you wet your hands it makes it easier. I made these in the morning then put them back in the fridge until dinnertime. When it was time to cook I added some coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to both sides.

I preheated the grill to high and oiled the grate with some vegetable oil to avoid sticking. The burgers went on the gas grill over medium high heat at about 400 to 500 degrees for 6-8 minutes per side. When I started to see bubbles form on the top, that's when I knew when to flip them. If you mess turkey burgers too much (i.e. constant flipping and moving around) they start to fall apart so I just let them cook until both sides were a nice, dark brown and the juices ran clear.  

As you can tell here the burgers definetely shrunk more than I expected for the buns I bought. Next time I will have to make the patties bigger but these worked out well for a first attempt. This White Turkey Burger is served on a jumbo sesame bun with mayonaisse, grilled yellow onion and swiss cheese. On the side we have rice and green beans.

The meat was very juicy despite having only 10% fat, the one flip method really helped to retain the moisture. My only real complaint is the flavor, next time I will go a little heavier on the black pepper. It was perfect for my toddler, she ate an entire burger without the bun AND without ketchup!

The Ingredients

1 - 1.5 lbs Ground Turkey
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Sesame hamburger buns
Swiss Cheese
1 medium yellow onion

Friday, March 25, 2011

Smoked Corned Beef & Cabbage

Over the weekend we celebrated St. Paddy's Day by making the holiday favorite Corned Beef and Cabbage with a smoky twist. I started with a packaged 3 lb. corned beef brisket flat from the grocery store. From there it went into a plastic ziploc full of water for a 48 hour soak to draw out some of the salt and other additives.

The water was changed every 12 hours and then patted dry with a paper towel and covered in the spice rub. Then back in the fridge it went overnight to cure.

The next morning I preheated the smoker to 250 with Royal Oak Lump Charcoal and started cooking the brisket. I wasn't sure how long this would take so I started at 11AM hoping to eat by about 5PM. Cabbage was on sale for .19 lb. so I bought a big one. I used this 5 lb. head during my workouts for bicep curls earlier in the week! The Smoked Cabbage recipe came straight from Steven Raichlen's How to Grill book. The bottom stem of the cabbage was cut out and filled with a mixture of melted butter, sauteed onions, and precooked diced bacon. Then on top some more butter pads just for emphasis. Below is the cabbage right before being put in the smoker, sitting on a beer can chicken holder. The recipe called for a 2 lb. cabbage to be smoked for 1 to 1.5 hours so I let this one go for three.

Here is the finished product, it tasted better than it looks here. The charred outer layer was removed and the cabbage was very moist and tender and the addition of the onion & bacon mixture gave it some extra flavor. We had plenty of leftovers!

The corned beef took longer than I expected, at 3pm it was only up to 140 degrees so I decided to start up the Weber to get things moving along. I cooked it foiled over indirect heat for another two hours and that got the temp up to 190 rather quickly. It came off and rested for about 15 minutes then we started slicing.

The Recipe:
1 prepackaged corned beef brisket flat (3-5 lbs)
For the Rub
1.5 tablespoons ground coriander
1.5 tablespoons cracked black pepper
3 cloves minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon ground mustard
coarse salt to taste
1/8 cup light brown sugar
1/8 cup sweet or smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Here is the finished Reuben sandwich on toasted rye with swiss c
heese and thousand island. Smoked Cabbage and a Yukon Gold potato on the side.

What I would do differently next time
The cabbage turned out great, we just had a TON of it. A 5 lb cabbage will probably feed 8-10 adults with good appetites. The next day we reheated the leftovers in some foil over direct heat. The corned beef had a really nice outer crust from the spice rub but the meat just wasn't very tender. This was obviously due to moving it to indirect heat for the last 2 hours. Brisket is one of those cuts you really can't rush, it would have been better if I started earlier on the smoker and let nature run it's course...

The brisket was a perfect size for our little group and we even had plenty for leftover corned beef omelots the next morning! This will definetely be on the menu for next St. Paddy's Day.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Note from the Blogger...

Let me start off by saying that I don’t consider myself a good cook. I usually need help boiling noodles and watching me chop an onion would be considered stand-up comedy in some parts of the world. Therefore I let me wife handle the pasta dishes and use the food processor whenever knife skills are required. The purpose of this blog is to document my trials and errors with live-fire cooking. I became obsessed with it a couple of years ago after seeing an episode of Barbecue University with Steven Raichlen on PBS. I already had a nice gas grill that I used to burn hamburgers, hot dogs, and the occasional flat-iron steak, but after watching that show I knew I had to get a smoker! A few months later I ordered a small Char-Broil offset barrel smoker and this past Christmas got my first Weber kettle grill. Living in Central Illinois I don’t get to grill that much in the winter but now that the warmer weather is almost here the grills will be fired up very often. This blog will serve as my online food diary, a place to post pictures and recipes of my triumphs and failures and maybe a product review or two. Right now I really enjoy reading bbq cookbooks ( I never thought I would say those words!) and usually take ideas and techniques directly from them as well as a few blogs I follow. Hopefully in the future I will start to branch off and come up with some of my own rubs and sauces to experiment with. Hope you enjoy reading MyThreeGrills and please feel free to leave comments and suggestions.

10 Things about Me:

1.       No matter what dish I cook on any of my grills, there will always be something I criticize or do differently the next time. It drives my wife absolutely CRAZY!!
2.       I don’t like fish…I don’t like it in a house, I don’t like it with a mouse. I don’t like it here or there, I don’t like it anywhere.
3.       In my Weber I only use Kingsford charcoal, in my smoker I use Royal Oak Lump exclusively. If either one of these companies would like to endorse my blog and throw some fuel my way, please feel free…
4.       I don’t use steak sauce. My steaks get salt and pepper and maybe some olive oil before they head to the grill. I’m not opposed to compound butter or salsa after they come off but never steak or barbecue sauce and certainly never KETCHUP!!
5.       During the long Illinois winter my weapon of choice is a La Creuset cast iron dutch oven we got as a gift this past Christmas…I seriously don’t know what I would do without it, it’s awesome!
6.       My refrigerator staples are Frank’s Redhot, Sriracha, Tabasco, Sweet Baby Ray’s and Country Bob’s All Purpose Sauce.
7.       I’ve never met a chicken wing I didn’t like…and my heat limit is between 200,000 and 300,000 Scoville heat units.
8.       I never thought I would have my own blog…I also never imagined I would ENJOY reading cookbooks!
9.       I’m very particular about my hot dogs (I prefer all beef)…I’m less particular about my bacon (I’ll eat whatever bacon you put in front of me, even turkey).
10.   I claim no regional affiliation when it comes to barbecue…I like it all!