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Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Smoking Cow

Earlier this year, The Grilled Cheese Academy ran their yearly grilled cheese contest on the Book of Faces.  $10,000 was to be awarded to the winner.  That would finance a lot of BBQ competitions for sure.  So, I decided to meld my love of BBQ into a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. After some deliberation, I decided upon a pulled beef sandwich with a buffalo twist.  I give you The Smoking Cow.

First, I took a chick roast and seasoned liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic.  I brought my smoker to a temperature of 250 F and added some pecan chunks to the fire to use as my smoking wood. I placed the roast in an aluminum pan and placed the pan in the smoker.  After the roast reached 175 F, I covered the pan tightly with aluminum foil and brought the roast to a temperature of 205 F.  I then removed the pan from the smoker and allowed the chuck roast to rest on the counter for one hour while still covered.  Then Hope pulled the meat off of the bone.  I gotta tell you, it was hard not to eat all of the pulled beef at this point.  It was that good.

The rest of the sandwich goes like this.

Buffaloed Cole Slaw

1, 1 lb package of pre made cole slaw mix that contains carrot
1 celery rib, finely diced
1/4 cup of finely diced sweet onion
1/4 cup of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/2 cup of your favorite buffalo ranch wing sauce

I mixed the ingredients together to use as a topping for the grilled cheese.  By the way, the slaw is so good, you could use this as a stand alone side dish.  I loved the spiciness of the dressing mixed with the creaminess of the Gorgonzola cheese.  The celery and onion just helped to add that buffalo flavor.

Next, it was time to build and grill the sandwich.  For bread, I used asiago cheese bread from Pepperidge Farm.  You could use any bread of choice.  I would probably use something nice and crusty the next time around.

I buttered the outside of the bread and placed two pieces of thinly sliced provolone cheese on each piece of bread.  Then, I placed a generous helping of pulled beef on top of one half of the sandwich.

Next I topped the meat with the buffalo ranch cole slaw and placed the other half of the sandwich on top for grilling.

Hope and I pulled out our trusty cast iron skillet and grilled the sandwich over medium high heat.

I really love how this sandwich turned out.  All of the flavors came together nicely.  Spicy, creamy Gorgonzola, melted provolone, crispy cheese bread.  We uploaded our entry in anticipation of doing well in the contest.

Unfortunately, we did not win this year.  Perhaps we will have better luck next year.  But, we did have fun creating this sandwich.  I suggest that you try this grilled cheese at home.  You won't be disappointed.

Thanks for stopping by,


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,