Tag Archives: Home Cooking

Scratch Made Chile Verde

With the weather having turned cold, I made some homemade from scratch chile verde to fight back against the cold weather. 🙂

It took some searching to find an authentic, made from scratch version of the recipe. Too many were canned this and canned that. Blah! I finally found one on NoRecipes.com (a jab at AllRecipes.com perhaps?), and am reproducing it here along with a few notes about what worked and what didn’t.

The Recipe:

3 Large Poblano Chili Peppers

2 Medium Anaheim Chili Peppers

3 Large Jalapeño peppers

6 Cloves of Garlic, Unpeeled (Yes, UNpeeled)

1 Extra Large White or Yellow Onion, peeled and quartered

2 2/3 Lbs (1200 grams) of Tomatillo Peppers (roughly 20 bigger ones)

An ounce (25 grams) of fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons of vegetable oil

3 3/4 Lbs (1700 grams) of pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch (5cm) cubes

4 Cups of low sodium Chicken Stock

2 Teaspoons of Honey

1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon

1 Teaspoon of Cumin

1 1/2 Teaspoons of Salt

More Cilantro and Cotija Cheese for Garnish

Important Pre-Prep Notes:

Before we get started, there’s a few important things to note.

First, the oil is going to be used to sear the pork in a dutch oven or pan before adding it into the mix. If you want to get creative, you could cook it on a smoker instead (which I would have done, weather allowing), or some other way. It will also be simmering a while in the final pot so try not to cook it beyond a medium rare so as to avoid drying it out.

Second: As best I can tell, the honey and cinnamon in the ingredients list only serve the purpose of reducing the heat or spiciness of the dish. The seeds in the peppers, especially the Jalapenos, are what generate that heat. If you prefer a milder Chili Verde and remove all the seeds, I’d avoid the honey and cinnamon as they’ll give the dish an unpleasant aftertaste without the heat to balance them

Third: This is a large recipe and will NOT fit in a standard size Crock-Pot or similar slow cooker without halving it. It will easily feed eight hungry people, particularly if you serve it on a bed of rice like my family (and my Latina godmother) used to.

Lastly: If you want to stay kosher / halal, or just find pork unhealthy, boneless skinless chicken breast works fine as a substitute for the pork.

The Prep Work:

Prep Time is supposedly 10 minutes, but I call shenanigans on that. Roasting and peeling the peppers should count as prep work not cooking. Total time with prep and cooking is just under 3 hours, but most of that is just letting it simmer on the stove so the flavors meld together.

Step 1: Preheat your oven to it’s highest setting or put it on broil.

Step 2: While the oven is preheating, Wash the Poblano, Anaheim and Jalapeño peppers and cut slits in them to prevent them from popping. Put them on sheet pans along with the garlic (skin side down), and onions.

Step 3: Remove the husks from the tomatillos and wash them thoroughly to remove as much of the waxy residue from their surface as you can. Cut slits in them to prevent them from popping in the oven and put them on sheet pans as well.

For those that have never seen a tomatillo, here’s what they look like with the ‘husk’:

AND, without the husk or stem:

Note I cut out a small bad spot in the one on the lower right corner. 🙂

Shopping Tip: Tomatillos are peppers, but also related to tomatoes. You can tell if they’re ripe by judging the firmness, just as if it were a tomato. If it’s hard, it’s not ripe. If it’s firm but has just a little give, it’s ripe. If it’s soft, it’s going bad.

Step 4: Put the green chili peppers in the oven and roast until their skins have blistered and started to blacken. Flip them over and roast until the second side matches:

Step 5: Roast the tomatillos in the oven until they’re soft and lightly scorched on top.

NOTE: The main reason for steps 4 and 5 is to soften up the peppers and blister up the skins on the green chilis for peeling. It does impart a little flavor also though. If you want to up the flavor factor, fire roast the peppers on a hot BBQ or over a gas stove burner instead of in the oven.

Image from Nonnasway.com

Step 6: When the green chilies are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool until you can handle them. Remove as much skin as you can from the peppers. It doesn’t have to be a perfect job. The work will be similar to peeling the skin off an onion. Once that’s done, remove the stems and seeds along with any light colored membranes. Then remove the stems and seeds along with any light-colored membranes. Peel the garlic.

One skinned and seeded Poblano pepper.

Remember the above note about seeds here. The Jalapenos are the hottest of the three green peppers, while the Anaheim and Poblano are typically milder. It won’t hurt to leave some seeds in, or even all of them if you like spicy food.

Step 7: Toss all the roasted green chilies, tomatillos, onions, garlic, and main recipe portion the cilantro into a food processor and process until no large chunks are remaining:

Vitamix for the win!

Steps 8 and 9 can be skipped IF you decide to grill the pork (or chicken) instead:

Step 8: Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch over over medium-high heat until hot. Generously salt and pepper all sides of the pork.

Step 9: Add the vegetable oil to the preheated pot and add the pork in a single layer, leaving a bit of space between each piece of pork (if it doesn’t all fit, then do this in two batches). Let the pork brown on one side undisturbed and then flip and brown the other side.

If grilling or slow smoking the meat, cook to the same level of doneness.

Step 10: Add the green chili and tomatillo puree to the pot, along with the chicken stock, honey, cinnamon (both of which are optional depending upon seed content of the mixture), cumin, oregano, and salt. Scrape up the browned bits of pork juice from the bottom of the pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the Chili Verde simmer until the pork is fall-apart tender (about 2 1/2 hours).

Lastly, adjust the seasoning to taste and then serve over tortillas, rice, scrambled eggs or whatever excites you. 🙂 Garnish with the additional cilantro and the cotija cheese.

A Couple Quick Final Notes:

First, three hours may seem like alot of time in the modern world, but it’s worth it. Most of that time is just letting it simmer also. No real work to that beyond occasionally checking and stirring it. You will NOT get flavor like this from canned products and a quickie version.

Secondly, the leftovers will slowly get a little spicier as they sit. That’s normal due to the tomatillo seeds (and possibly some of the others) being left in it. Freezing should stop that process and may be necessary depending upon how much leftovers you have anyway. 😉

If you really like spicier food, you might want to try doing steps 1 through 7 a day or two before and keeping the puree in the fridge until cooking day.

And my personal thanks to NoRecipes.com for posting this authentic recipe.

Hot Dog Chili or Cat Food?!? O_O

I wasn’t planning on posting about last night’s dinner. We simply did hot dogs as something quick and easy after having to take the cats to the vet.

Granted, they were GOOD hot dogs:

Even better than I had hoped actually, and we got them on sale for the same price as the standard run of the mill hot dogs. Even more so with Brioche bakery buns.

So here’s where the horror and comedy come in: I’m opening up the can of chili to heat up so we can have chili cheese dogs. The ONE brand of canned chili we liked while living back West isn’t out here, so we tried THIS…

The cats ignore me opening the can for a while, but eventually wander over and decide that the chili smells like cat food and start pitching a fit, LOL.

Well, I don’t know about cat food, but as it turned out, it was pretty bad. Not Hormel chili bad (nothing else, not even raw sewage is that bad), but I’ve had MUCH better. Time to look into making my own hot dog chili for those rare times we do them.

Still, the quality of the meat and bun and cheese saved the meal, and the finished product made a pretty picture:

OH and no, the leftover chili got tossed NOT fed to the cats. They did get a can of wet real kitty food though.

This at least gives me something to post today while I work on my Asian fusion smoked whole chicken for tonight. 😀

Homemade Meatloaf

I’m a day late posting it too, but I’ve been in a mood lately. None the less, here’s the homemade meatloaf that I cooked on the smoker last night. 😊

OK, a little greasy in that fresh off the smoker picture, and I used a pizza tray as opposed to a bread pan so that more smoke would permeate the meat. Here’s the plated final result:

The bread items were lunch leftovers brought home by my other half, so that saved me a little cooking, LOL. The red around the outer edge of the meat is not ketchup either; that’s the actual smoke flavor penetrating the meat.

That shot shows the smoke ring, such as it was, and how moist the meatloaf was. Unfortunately I forgot and put the A1 sauce on the surface early, and that kept the smoke from penetrating deeper.

THE RECIPE:

First, credit where it’s due; my recipe is a modified version of “Not Your Momma’s Meatloaf” from the Traeger Grills website. Traeger actually has some fairly good recipes, BUT they don’t know how to use their own (junk) grills low and slow. Everything at least used to be 350 degrees. Might as well use an oven at that temperature. You won’t get any smoke flavor.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 Lb of Ground Beef – not more than 20% fat content to avoid excessive grease

1 Lb of sausage of your choice, or another meat like pork or veal. I used Italian sausage last night.

2 Eggs, beaten

1 Cup of bread crumbs.

1 Cup of milk

1/4 Cup of diced Onion, ideally a mild variety.

2 Teaspoons of Salt

1 Teaspoon of garlic powder

1/2 Teaspoon of Sage

1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce

A-1 Steak Sauce or BBQ Sauce to be added later

Prep Work:

Prep on this is pretty easy. First, mix together everything except the meats and the BBQ or A1 sauce in a bowl. After it’s all blended together nicely, add in the meat and thoroughly work everything together. Typically, this is hand work, but I’ve found my Kitchenaid stand mixer works fine and keeps my hands neater. Just allow a little extra time vs hand mixing.

At this point, I add the meatloaf to a bread pan to give it some shape. If you’re preparing this early, you can cover the pan and put it in the fridge at this point. It’ll maintain a better shape during cooking as an added bonus.

Prep is very quick if you’re organized and the meat is fresh or defrosted. It should only take about 15 minutes.

Cooking:

There are a couple of options here. First is to just put it in an oven at 350 degrees and cook it for about an hour. If you go this route, just put the steak sauce or BBQ sauce on the top before it goes in the oven.

Side Note: Steak or BBQ sauce gives the meatloaf a more robust flavor than Ketchup in my opinion.

Now, if you have a smoker of either sort (stick burner or pellet grill), get it to about 200 degrees F and put the meatloaf on a wire rack or a ventilated pizza tray like I used. It’ll take a little over 2 hours to cook this way, but the meatloaf will be even moister and have that delicious wood fire flavor. When you’re about 20 minutes till finish, baste on the steak sauce or BBQ sauce, and turn up the heat to 350 or so. That will put a nice reverse sear on the meat, and make sure that sauce is baked on.

Putting the sauce on sooner will block the smoke penetration, which is why you wait if slow cooking.

Pull the meatloaf off the heat when it hits an internal temperature of about 140 F, let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve.

The leftovers will make fabulous sandwiches also.

Not Beer Can Chicken

Today’s food post turned out to be one where I had to improvise. I got a couple of ceramic “roasters” for making “beer can chicken”.

Beer Can Chicken???

I suppose I’ll have to divert for a moment and explain beer can chicken. It’s a (mostly) Southern thing. 🙂 Beer Butt chicken among the classy folk, lol. At it’s simplest, beer can chicken is standing the chicken upright with an open beer can stuffed in the body cavity. The beer steams the inside of the chicken, keeping it moist, tender, and adding flavor.

Since it’s hard to get the chicken to stand up on end, there are wire racks that you can use to hold the can, and thus keep it upright, OR you can get a ceramic one like I did:

The ceramic is the best option IMO, because you can use anything to “steam” the inside of the chicken. Refined aluminum (ie from the can) has been linked to Alzheimer’s and other health problems, then there’s the whole paint on the can too, so yeah… ceramic for me. Too many other bonuses on top of being able to use something other than skunky beer.

Back to the Meal!

So, I brined the chicken about six hours, then rinsed it off, dried and seasoned it:

The seasoning was a combination of Sucklebuster’s SPG and Clucker Dust:

1836 is Sucklebuster’s signature beef rub; and the year Texas became a state.

SPG is just salt, pepper and garlic. Easy to do yourself but handy to have in a single bottle and Sucklebusters really is a top notch spice company. Clucker Dust has a few more seasonings; primarily a little brown sugar and chipotle pepper. Not enough to make it sweet or hot. It’s just enough to make the flavor profile more complex.

OK, so after I got some rub on the chicken, I filled up the “roaster” (some BBQ folks in the South call them thrones), with water, apple juice, garlic, rosemary, basil and oregano. Then I put the chicken on the throne, lol.

At this point is where I hit my problem and had to improvise. The original plan was to smoke the chicken slow and low on the Rec-Tec 680. HOWEVER… the throne was too tall to fit in the smoker.

Improvise, adapt and overcome… Into the oven it went instead:

I cooked it at 275 F (or 135c ) so as to keep the meat tender. I was being cautious there since this was the first time doing chicken this way. If I had it to do over again, I’d cook it at 325 or 350 so that the skin got a little crispier. All in all, it turned out really well though:

You can see the juice running off the chicken onto the cutting board.

Add some steamed and seasoned green beans and some cheddar biscuits:

Half a yard bird to go. 😀

No, neither of us finished a full half a yard bird either, LOL. Leftovers are all part of the madness here at casa de silk. Here’s a look at how tender that chicken was also:

That meat just pulled right off the leg.

Flavor was there also. The diluted apple juice and seasonings added some mild flavor while still allowing the flavor of the chicken itself to come through. Higher heat might have steamed more flavor into the bird though. 🤔

Anyhoo, we’ve ordered the standard (not tall) size roasters from Amazon, which will shorten the height by 3 inches (7.62cm).

That should give us clearance to use the smoker next time. Probably get a slightly smaller chicken too. This one was fairly big. Overall a successful experiment. I’m looking forward to doing it again and adding some smoke flavor.

An Added Note on These Ceramic Roasters or Thrones:

The nice thing about these is that you can use anything to ‘steam’ the chicken with. Beer and Coca-Cola are the most popular options in the South, but you can use anything from Champagne to dark ale to fruit juice… even sauces. You MIGHT want to dilute stronger liquids with water though, or your lemon chicken could be REALLY lemony. Then add any seasonings you want into that liquid, and viola! Moist, tender chicken flavored any way you chose to do it. And you can use it in the oven, or with a smoker or grill.

They clean up pretty easy also.

There are also ‘throne’ models for turkeys, but that’s going to stand pretty tall…

Le Creuset Style Cookware Review

A slight spin on my “Meals Monday” given the current housing situation here… Even if I had all my kitchenware, I’m still left with no grilling allowed at the apartment and only a cheap electric stove to cook on. We’ll be improvising here for a while with Meals Mondays.

So let’s get to it… I’m sure some of you have seen the fancy cookware on the Food Network and cooking shows elsewhere. Vitrified porcelain coated cast iron that always looks so shiny and new. What are the pluses and minuses? Is it worth the money? Are there alternatives? Silk is here with answers! 🙂

The premiere brand for this kind of cookware is Le Creuset. They’ve been largely the only manufacturer for ages. Their stuff is world class, last a lifetime and pass it on to your kids quality (barring stupid level abuse). It’s also world class expensive. My 5.5 quart dutch oven is currently on sale for $288 (this is NOT stuff you buy at Walmart).

So is it worth it? If you’re like me and prefer things that last, instead of replacing things every couple of years, it probably is. As said, these will last forever under normal use.

HEAT: A Plus and Minus

This is probably the biggest determiner of if this type of cookware is right for a meal you’re making. Between the cast iron construction and the heavy lids, Le Creuset cookware is famous for retaining heat AND heating evenly. People say the dutch oven is great for baking bread because of that. NOW, if you’re making a recipe that calls for something to be cooked on high for a time and then reduce heat… You’re going to have problems.

My best example here is trying to do a one pan breakfast meal. Cook the meat on a higher temperature, then try to turn down the heat so I don’t flash fry the eggs next… Not much luck.

Sometimes it’s simply a question of making the heat retention work for you. Turn down a soup early, even pull it off the stove and it’s going to keep the soup nice and hot.

If you need exact temperature control and to be able to vary it though, some sort of aluminum cookware is probably best. Get something coated though, as aluminum has been linked to various health issues.

A True Heavyweight:

Being ceramic coated cast iron, this type of cookware is gawawful heavy. The dutch oven is 11.5 pounds all by itself. Think of the money you can save on gym memberships though, LOL. Seriously though, a few people will find the weight factor to be off-putting.

Nonstick??

SORT OF… The vitrified porcelain coating is reasonably stick resistant and is as good as most nonstick pans if you use a good coating of cooking spray like Pam. A little olive oil in the pan works fairly well also. I haven’t gotten to experiment yet with how well something like butter or lard work.

Durable?

Vitrified porcelain is specially made, and a good bit more durable than normal porcelain. You’re supposed to be able to use metal cooking utensils with no issues. I’m still careful here myself however.

Stain Resistant?

Well, not perfectly so. Stains will seem to sink into the porcelain, BUT any time they have, I’ve been able to scrub them out with some liquid cleanser. Barkeeper’s Friend FTW. 🙂 Long story short, food will not just slide right out of your pan like it was a TV infomerical, and it will take a little work sometimes to keep the pans looking brand new.

Alternatives?

Le Creuset had a virtual monopoly on this style of cookware since 1925. There are several brands out there now making slightly similar stuff with ceramic or porcelain exteriors, but SOMETIMES the interior is still bare cast iron. Personally, I **HATE** trying to season cast iron too.

The best alternative I’ve found is made by Crock-Pot. They make pots in very similar sizes to Le Creuset, but are typically 1/3 the price. Take a look at the 5 quart dutch oven on Amazon for example. Normally $90 vs $360 normal price for the Le Creuset, and currently on sale for $52. They also do skillets and frying pans.

The frying pan I did my breakfast pizza post in is a Crock Pot pan:

I have three other Crock Pot brand pans also:

The difference between the “knock offs” and the Le Creuset is that Crock Pot and others use a porcelain enamel coating that’s probably not quite on par with Le Creuset’s vitrified porcelain process. While still durable, it’s probably not QUITE as abuse tolerant as Le Creuset’s vitrified porcelain coating. It’s every bit as easy to clean up, etc… otherwise however.

“Vitrified porcelain tiles are created by combining clay with other elements such as quartz, silica or feldspar under incredibly high temperatures. The vitrification process creates porcelain tiles that contain a glass substrate. The glass substrate gives the tiles a sleek appearance, provides added strength and makes the tiles water and scratch resistant. Vitrified porcelain tiles do not need to be re-sealed or glazed.”

That per Wikipedia, and while the entry was referencing tiles for counters, floors and showers, the process is essentially the same with the porcelain coating.

Is it worth the extra money for the Le Creuset? In my opinion, probably not UNLESS you won’t miss the extra money AND you tend to be rough on your cookware. I operate under the philosophy of “take care of your stuff and it’ll take care of you”. Going by that, AND what I’ve seen of the Crock Pot cookware I have, I expect it to last just as long as the Le Creuset.

While Le Creuset is still a better product, alot of that big price difference seems to be just for the name. Common with luxury goods.

My 3 quart Cuisinart brand pot

Cuisinart also makes some products along these lines, as you can see from the picture above. Same as Crock Pot stuff but a bit more pricey.

My Verdict:

While not ideal for every coking situation, this style of cookware is durable, long lasting, heats evenly and cleans up well. The inexpensive brands should last a lifetime with a modest amount of care. Le Creuset is even more rugged yet, but comes with a premium price tag.

If you’re fed up with throwing out cookware every few years because the non-stick surfaces have decayed, and you can’t get the stains off the bottom, etc… This IS worth it. Pay a bit more, take care of it, and you should never have to replace it.

I love mine enough that they were among the few items we did NOT trust to the movers on the trip to Tennessee.

Cooking Tip: Rescuing BBQ

Every once in a while, no matter how you try, BBQing, or even cooking in the oven or on the stove just is NOT going to cooperate with you.

I had an incident like that a few nights ago. It was relatively easy to prevent in the first place, BUT I was rushed and distracted by a head full of other tasks that needed to get done. Here’s exactly what happened:

I was grilling whole boneless chicken breasts. I’ve done it dozens of times before and rarely have a problem. I got in a hurry though and just spread out the charcoal evenly to cook via direct heat. That would have worked if they were fillets cut thinner, but these were whole boneless breasts. They were thick enough that I should have cooked them slower over indirect heat (charcoal off to the sides).

Instead, the outside was cooking fast, but the centers… not so much.

That’s largely seasoning that blackened there also, by the way. 🙂

But, because I *am* a super genius:

I was able to salvage it and create a nearly perfect dinner. I just threw the chicken in the microwave for about a minute and a half (one piece at a time) and cooked the rare part without drying out the rest of the chicken breast.

Despite how the PC might be making it look, (my color seems to be acting up) there was no pink left, but it was still very tender and juicy. I should note also that with the minute and a half cooking time in the microwave that we have a 1200 watt microwave. It’s STRONG. 🙂 End result though:

So the lesson for the day is be creative if your meal isn’t turning out as planned. Some chefs will tell you that a microwave has no place in a real kitchen. I think I just proved otherwise, lol. Even if your attempt to rescue your meal fails, you’re no worse off than if you’d goofed it completely without trying a fix, right?

Another option with the chicken would have been to cut it up and cook it in a skillet on the stove, but that would have dried it out unless I was super careful.

Improvise, adapt and overcome. 😉

Breakfast Pizza!

I got bored with the idea of a normal sausage and eggs breakfast for dinner, While digging for ideas I remembered an OLD recipe for Breakfast Pizza. My mom originally found this in the newspaper or a magazine back in the 1980s.

History aside, let’s answer the obvious question for some of you: What the heck is a breakfast pizza?

You use croissant roll dough for the crust, then pile on sausage, eggs, cheese and shredded potatoes, and bake. 🙂 The original recipe is pretty simple and designed to be thrown together quickly.

INGREDIENTS:

1 Pound of bulk pork sausage (I like Jimmy Dean sage sausage)

1 package of refrigerated crescent rolls (Pillsbury or similar)

1 cup frozen loose pack hash brown potatoes, thawed

1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese (8 ounces) – can use Monterey Jack, Swiss or a Blend)

5 Eggs

1/4 Cup of Milk

1/2 teaspoon of Salt

1/4 teaspoon of Pepper

2 Tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano if you want to do it right. Trust me, there IS a difference)

PREPARATION:

In a skillet, cook sausage until browned, then drain off excess fat. I put the sausage on a plate with a couple of paper towels underneath it. 😉 Place the dough in an ungreased 12 inch pizza pan with points towards the center (see pic below). Press over bottom and up sides to make a crust. Make sure to seal perforations.

Note; I used a skillet since I didn’t have a pizza pan. A round casserole dish or similar should also work as long as it’s 12 inches in diameter. I also used cooking spray on the pan.

Spoon sausage over crust. Sprinkle with potatoes. Top with cheddar cheese (or cheese of choice). In a bowl, beat together eggs, salt, pepper and milk. Sprinkle Parmesan over all.

Finally, bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes.

Aside from some small commentary, that’s the recipe verbatim from the original article. Here’s a couple of observations from my first time remaking this in decades:

1: Make sure that the hash browns are indeed thawed. If you add them frozen, they’ll be very mushy. In fact you may want to try partially cooking them first if you want a more crispy texture.

2: If you use pre-packaged crescent rolls or croissant dough, the “Grands” (large) size rolls will make a thicker crust. I prefer the regular size. My personal advice would be to stick with plain ones also. If you go with buttery flavor, etc… you’re going to have really greasy crust that tastes like pure butter. We did regular and it was still a bit too close to that for me. My next experiment will be using Phyllo dough instead. There are several options a creative cook can play around with here,including making croissant dough from scratch.

3: As with any recipe, you can always adjust the seasoning. The original is not much salt and pepper, but it’s easier to add later than to take away after too much has been added. I personally like about double the parm cheese in the recipe also. It would be easy to throw some bacon or turkey bacon in the mix also. As a final note, I used 6 eggs, not 5 with no adjustments to cooking time (done in 30 minutes).

Regardless of whether you do it the easy way above or get closer to cooking from scratch, this is a hearty, flavorful meal that should easily feed a family of four. It only took 2 slices to make me full.

You can see how thick the “crust” is with the “grands” size Pilsbury crescent rolls used.

A quick apology to those on the metric system also. The measurement conversions should be fairly easy for you to look up online though.

Buon Appetito! 🙂

New Year’s Eve Dinner

We stayed home for New Year’s Eve this year. Avoided the crowds, the drunk drivers and the police sobriety checkpoints. Besides, the big screen provides a better view of the NYC fireworks than camping in Times Square would, LOL.

I made grilled chicken for dinner tonight. I have the usual pictures also, but I wanted to give a couple of tips for any charcoal grilling newcomers.

First is a piece of equipment that I consider essential. I was and still am one of those people who couldn’t get a traditional charcoal fire going to save my life. Then I discovered this:

It’s called a charcoal chimney. Stuff the bottom section with newspaper, junk mail sales ads or similar paper (crumpled up) then flip it over and fill the top portion with charcoal. Put the chimney on the lower rack for charcoal in your grill and light the paper. 15 minutes later you’ve got perfect coals for cooking over. Empty the chimney’s coals onto the rack, put the grilling rack on the grill and you’re ready to go. This thing really is flawless. You also avoid the need for any lighter fluid and the nasty aftertaste that it can add to food.

Here’s the end result there by the way:

Yes, it was dark out when I started. It gets dark crazy early here this time of year. The glowing charcoal at night made for a neat picture though. 🙂

Now the next thing I want to mention is how to avoid flare ups on a charcoal grill. Flare ups happen when fat melts from the heat and drips down onto the charcoal. The way around that is indirect heat. You arrange the coals along two sides:

And then put your food along the middle so that it’s not directly above the hot charcoal:

yeah, my iPhone’s flash finally decided to work, LOL.

Yes, the food is a bit too close together. Ideally you want it spaced out a little more so that it gets more uniform heat all around the individual pieces of food. By the way, indirect heat has two other advantages; you lose a bit less moisture, and it’s slower than direct heat. That gives you time to finish that side dish that’s taking longer than you thought, LOL.

So back to the chicken. It all got my usual Salt Pepper and Garlic treatment, then half got some lemon pepper seasoning and the other half got some chipotle pepper seasoning.

After grilling, add in some Au Gratten potatoes and steamed veggies and you have a nice relaxing meal at home to enjoy:

There Was So Much at Steak…

Nope, not a misspelling of steak. It’s time for my also promised nearly 3 pound (1.3 kg) tomahawk cut ribeye steak cook. 😀

As the picture hints at, the cut got it’s name from the bone being left in and the size of the cut. It bears a passing similarity to tomahawk.

As usual, it was salt, pepper and garlic for the seasoning, and then onto the smoker:

Notice I did go lighter than with the ribs yesterday also. A good steak should be seasoned lightly to let it’s own flavor shine through. Those ribs were a bit over seasoned also to be honest.

Since a good steak should also have a nice sear or grill marks on it also, I do something fairly unique here. Pellet grills and other smokers almost never put good grill marks on meat. So what I do id cook the meat to an internal temperature of about 95 degrees (35 degrees C).

Cooked slow and low, by the time it reaches that internal temperature, the meat has a nice,moderate level of smoke flavor. From there, it goes onto the Weber charcoal grill.

One thing I should mention here… If you’re going to BBQ with charcoal on a kettle like this… You ideally want the charcoal on two sides and a clear space in the middle where you can place your food. This prevents flare ups of the fire and the food getting burnt or cooked unevenly. I got in a hurry here and was sloppy with the charcoal.

Getting back to the actual cook, it stays there long enough to get to a nice 135 degree (57 degrees C) internal temperature. That’s just long enough to get it a perfect medium rare and put a nice surface sear on it for extra flavor:

This particular steak is a good example of learning to trust your instincts also. My thermometer lied and said it was still raw. When I pulled it though, here’s what we got:

That’s right on the high side of “medium” in terms of how cooked it is, which means it had an internal temperature of 140 to 145 degrees (62 degrees C). Still very edible, but not quite as tender as it could have been.

Cultivating that instinct takes work. You have to regularly make a mental note of how long items cook each time you do them, and their appearance as well.

Here’s a finished dinner plate, with the green beans and bacon now mixed with the Marsala sauteed mushrooms, some biscuits, and the raspberry yogurt fruit salad from Friday.

Smoked Chicken Breasts for Dinner

It’s time for another Silk cooking post! Tonight, I made smoked chicken breasts for dinner.

The finished product above is smothered with a slice of provolone cheese, and some vegies on the side. Here’s what the chicken looks like before the cheese:

My cooking philosophy is simple is better. Spices and seasonings should accent the flavor of the food they go on, not overpower it, etc…

With that in mind, all I used for seasoning here was salt, pepper and garlic. SPG as it’s known in some circles. 🙂 After I had them on the grill, I lightly dabbed a little hatch chili sauce on top of them.

Some of you who cook may wonder why not baste early and let them sit in the fridge before grilling. The reason is that they were slow smoked. Basting both sides would have acted as an insulator from any smoke flavor getting into the meat.

Due to time constraints, I had to turn up the heat a little over an hour into the cooking. Because of that, i didn’t get a nice smoke ring on the surface of the meat. The initial slow cooking did do a great job at sealing in the juices.

The faint pink around the edges is the start of a smoke ring also, not undercooking. The full cooked center establishes that.