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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Chicken Shawarma Pizza

I'm not the type to go out to lunch too often.  I usually brown bag leftovers from the night before.  If I went out to lunch all the time, I would be broke and weigh 350 pounds.  But from time to time, the guys in the office go out for lunch when we need some time away from the rat race.  Occasionally, we head to this great Lebanese place close to work by the name of Aladdin's Eatery.  They serve a healthy, diverse menu that doesn't break the bank.  One of my favorites is the Chicken Shawarma Pita Wrap.  Marinaded grilled chicken, wrapped up in a pillowy fresh pita with tomatoes and greens.  I also add black olives, crumbled feta, onions, and a dab of their outstanding hummus.  It really is good stuff.

One night earlier this summer, I was in the mood for hummus, but we were having pizza for dinner.  I decided to get creative and see if I could turn this pita wrap into pizza form.

First, I took a boneless, skinless chicken breast and marinaded in a mixture of olive oil, the juice of a lemon, some kosher salt, and a teaspoon of Balti seasoning.

My mom turned me on to this seasoning with some spectacular pork tenderloins.  It is a mild curry type blend.  Not too hot and definitely not lacking in flavor.  After marinading the chicken for about an hour, I grilled the breasts until done.  After cooling, I cubed into bite sized chunks.

While the chicken was marinading, I whipped up a batch of hummus.  My hummus recipe is also from my mom.  I do not know where she came up with this recipe, but I would definitely put it up against any hummus served at a restaurant.  Here is the recipe:

Three Dogs BBQ Homemade Hummus

2, 16 oz cans of chickpeas
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup of tahini (ground sesame paste)
3 garlic cloves, minced fine
1 Tbsp of Olive Oil, plus more for when serving
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
Dried Parsley for garnish
Fine diced red onion for garnish

Drain the water from the chickpeas and reserve.

Process the above ingredients along with enough of the reserved chickpea water to obtain a soft, creamy consistency.  Add salt as needed to taste.  Serve with a drizzle of olive oil along with pita or tortilla chips.  I also add some dried parsley and diced red onion as well.

I couldn't pass up a little snack while I was waiting on the pizza dough to rise...

So, after Hope stretched out the pizza dough, I assembled the pizza.  I took the hummus that I had made and thinned it out a bit with some olive oil so that it could be spread across the dough.  Then I added in no particular order:

The grilled chicken breast
Thinly sliced Roma tomatoes
Thinly sliced red onion
Black olives
Crumbled feta cheese

Then, the pizza went into the hot pizza oven.  Since there was not a lot of cheese to look for the "brown and bubbly" mark of being ready, I kept an eye on the crust.  When it looked brown and crispy, I pulled the pie from the pizza oven.

I declare this experiment wildly successful.  I was worried about how the hummus would turn out after being exposed to high heat.  But, it did not separate and had a nice roasted flavor.  The next time I am craving some Middle Eastern flavor, I am making this pizza again.

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, September 17, 2016

End of the Summer Season

It has been too long since our last post.  You know how it can be.  Life gets in the way, interests and hobbies suffer.  Rest assured though, we have been hitting the competition trail this summer.  Let's look back and see what has gone on since Roc City.

First after Roc City was a trip to Covington, Va for the Covington Cork and Pork Festival.

The competition was held the same weekend that the flooding was taking place just 20 miles away in southern West Virginia.  As a result, all of the teams donated their leftover food to Operation BBQ Relief to feed first responders and those in shelters in the White Sulphur Springs area of West Virginia, one of the hardest hit areas. I've always known that BBQ people have the biggest hearts. This just confirms what I already knew.  As for our results, we came in 17th overall, including a fourth place rib entry.  We have always wanted to win one of the cutting board trophies.  Mission accomplished.

Next up was the first annual Salamanca Rock'in Ribfest in Salamanca, NY.  The hot, humid, and rainy theme for summer 2016 continued.  Even George was looking for some high ground.

Results for this competition were mixed with an 8th in pork and a 7th in brisket.

We had some issues with the other categories, leading to a 21st place overall finish.

Next up was one of our favorite competitions, the Hudson Valley Ribfest in New Paltz, NY.  Again, it was hot and humid, with a 100% chance of flies.  Lots of them.

Chicken has historically been one of our best categories.  So, our low scores this year were a bit of a head scratcher.  But, after Salamanca, I sat down and thought through what we were doing.  I realized that I had left out a few small, but important details.  As a result, we scored an 8th place chicken call with a 28th place finish overall.

So, since reexamining the process worked with the chicken, I reexamined our process with our other meats before competing at the Finger Lakes Fire and Smoke Festival in Geneva, NY over Labor Day weekend.

Our first competition of the year with cool and dry conditions.  Very refreshing after the hot and sticky summer.  The attention to detail paid off with chicken placing just out of the top 10 with an 11th place finish, 5th place ribs, and 5th place brisket adding up to an 8th place finish overall.

So, that sums up the summer season.  I've taken some more notes to capture the little things and we are ready for our last competition of the year in three weeks at the Keystone Classic BBQ Competition in Harrisburg, PA.  Hopefully the upward trend will continue.

Finally, I have been cooking and have some new recipes to share.  I promise in the next few weeks to post more regularly.  Life has just gotten in the way.

Thanks for stopping by,


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Grilled Venison Backstrap with a Balsamic Marinade

A few weeks ago, The Oldest called me up late in the week and wanted me to smoke 30 pounds of assorted venison and goose meat into jerky.  I didn't have any firm plans, so I told him to bring beer and charcoal and we would fire up the smokers.  The day passed and on Monday, Hope called me at work to tell me that The Oldest had also brought over a venison backstrap for me to grill one night for dinner.  Let's call this, "Payment for Services Rendered".

The backstrap is the Bambi equivalent of the fillet on Elsie the Cow.  I've cooked a few fillets in my time, but never one from a deer.  I do know that you can dry them out quickly if not cooked properly.  I have had them prepared via a sous vide method and loved how they turned out.  Very juicy and tender for a very lean piece of meat.  But, after a day at work, I didn't feel like rigging the beer cooler for Redneck Sous Vide Mode.  Internet, here I come.

I was looking for a marinade that could add some flavor and some acid to help tenderize the meat.  A quick search led me to an old Dr. BBQ recipe posted on O'Neill  Ray Lampe can't steer me wrong.  Right?  Champion griller and pit master.  So, I gave it a shot.  Hope whipped up the marinade and the backstrap had a chance to marinade for a good 10 hours.  

Balsamic Marinade for Venison Backstrap

1 Venison backstrap, about 2 pounds
1/3 cup soy sauce 
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil 
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 
2 tablespoons honey 
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons sesame oil 
1 teaspoon black pepper 

Venison backstrap has a tendency to run on the smallish side.  Usually closer to the size of a pork tenderloin than that of a beef fillet.  Perhaps the 10 hour marinade time would be too long for such a small piece of meat.  I could not have been more wrong.  I had no idea how large this piece of meat was until I pulled it out of the plastic bag.

After lighting a chimney of charcoal and setting up the grill for a two zone fire, removed the backstrap from the marinade and placed it over direct heat for searing.  

What genetically engineered monster of a deer did this piece of meat come from?  We rarely see deer this big around here.  Then, I remembered.  This venison fillet must have come from the doe The Oldest shot with time ticking down and the sun setting on last years season.  She was one monster doe.  I would say this backstrap weighed in at over four pounds easily.  Anyway, I digress.  

I seared both sides of the backstrap over direct heat for about seven minutes a side.  Then, I moved the meat to indirect heat and covered the grill.  The grill temperature at the dome was around 550 F.  I checked the temperature of the fat end of the fillet every ten minutes, flipping the meat every time I checked the temperature.  After the 14 total minutes of searing and 20 minutes at 550 F, the backstrap was at an internal temperature of 135 F.  Time to pull, rest, and slice.  

Perfect.  The meat ran from medium to medium rare depending on the thickness of the meat.  It was tender and very juicy.  The honey in the marinade caramelized just a bit on the outside of the meat, forming a nice crust.  This marinade tasted so good, I am going to try it on beef, chicken, and pork.  This fall, after you have harvested your deer, you just might want to give this recipe a try. 

Thanks for stopping by,


Monday, July 18, 2016

Garlic Lovers Grilling Sauce

A couple of weeks ago as I was scrolling through my Flipboard feed, I saw this tasty looking garlic grilling sauce posted from the Date Night Doins website.  I clicked on the link and I instantly liked what I saw.  Four simple ingredients; garlic, canola oil, lemon juice, and salt are combined to make a sauce that you can brush on meats and veggies while grilling for a nice garlicky glaze.  So, Hope whipped up a half batch and we started experimenting.

Here is the recipe from their website.  The process is quite simple.  Remove the garlic cloves from their skin, turn to a paste along with the salt in a food processor, then slowly add the oil and lemon juice to form a thick emulsion.

Our half batch made about one pint, plus a little more.  As you can see, the sauce is quite thick.  To start, I brushed some on a steelhead fillet and seasoned with some salt and pepper.

Next, I grilled the fillet over indirect heat to promote caramelization of the sauce.

With the slow grilling, the garlic had that mellow, sweet flavor that you get with roasted garlic.  Pretty tasty stuff.

We have used the sauce as a base for a white pizza that worked very well.  I also seasoned the sauce with basil and oregano and brushed on some grilled chicken that turned out perfect.  I would venture to guess that you could use this sauce as a base for some garlic bread or perhaps a seafood scampi dish.  Needless to say, this sauce is very good.  We will be keeping some of this in our refrigerator at all times.  More to come in the future as we experiment further with this great find.

Thanks for stopping by,