October 1-6 2012

BREAKFAST

Bacon & Eggs in Toast Cups (6 cups)
  • 6 slices of bread
  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of shredded cheese
  • salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease Muffin Pan with butter.

2. Using a cookie cutter, cut circles out of bread slices about 3 inches in diameter.

3. Take bread circles and press them into the muffin pan, set aside.

4. Heat a large skillet on medium-high. Cook bacon on the skillet until partially cooked but still pliable, about 3 minutes.

5. Shape bacon strips into the toast cups, fill with 1 Tbs of shredded cheese. Place in the oven for 5 minutes, allowing the bacon to toast just a little more. Remove from oven.

6. Crack your egg and separate out most of the egg white. Drop eggs into the cups, sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste. Place back in the oven and cook until white begins to set, about another 8 – 10 minutes.  The yolk should be creamy.

7. Remove from oven when done and pop out using a spoon, serve warm.

Enjoy!

Adjustments:

  • I only made two since hubby was already off at work. 
  • I prefer thick cut bacon but had a hard time fitting it into the cups.  So I made the ultimate foodie sacrifice and reduced the recipe to a 1/2 slice of bacon per cup. 
  • The thick cut bacon also cooks longer.  So if you opt for thick cut, be prepared for it to take an extra few minutes to par-cook. 
  • I’ve never cared for runny eggs.  So I scramble one egg with a little half and half and split it between two cups.  So, three eggs and 3 pieces of bacon to make this recipe. I cook for the time listed above but find that they take another 2-4 minutes to set, usually.  A quick shake of the pan to see if there’s any jiggle left will tell you if they’re done.
  • I also prefer American cheese with eggs and bacon.  So I toss 1/4 a slice of American Cheese in per cup and then sometimes a tiny bit of cheddar on top.

Tips:

  • I’ve come to find baking bacon is much easier and more consistent for me (than frying… I would often get distracted for just a minute and come back to burnt scraps waaaaaa!).  For fully cooked bacon, I usually preheat to 400, toss in the bacon (on a grill pan so the grease can drip off a little.  If you don’t have one, a rack over a cookie sheet would accomplish the same result) check after 20 minutes and then watch for doneness (usually about five more minutes).  Sometimes I flip the bacon at 20 minutes so both sides crisp up evenly.  But generally it’s unnecessary. 
  • For this recipe, I’ve found that I cook for 12 minutes then check for doneness (sometimes going up to 17 or 18 minutes till par-cooked depending on thickness).  For this recipe, I cook until the bacon is just barely getting that golden brown in spots.  But not yet crispy.
  • Take your time making the toast cups.  A tear in the bottom is just going to let all your cheese run out the bottom.
  • I have some of those small metal tart pans (the type where the bottom comes out).  I’ve found that this is a great size for cutting out the circles (based on my size muffin pan).

Ideas:

  • Every time I make these I think how good they would be with some scallions or chives tossed in or on top.  But they’re so good that I can’t bring myself to mess with the recipe!
  • Consider a “western omelet” style cup.  I would maybe sautee the veggies a little as they may not have enough time to cook down then toss them in when the egg mix goes in the cup.
  • And the obvious substitution of sausage, ham, etc in place of the bacon.
  • Even other toasts.  Maybe a rye bread with corned beef and swiss cheese as a take on a Reuben.  Substitute ham and swiss for the bacon and cheddar. 
  • Just have fun with these.  No matter what you do, you’ll leave your guests in awe of your cooking prowess.

LUNCH

Well, today I decided to take some lunch to Hubby.  He wanted leftover boiled cabbage from yesterday and I decided to have some chicken salad.

Boiled Cabbage

  • 1 head cabbage
  • 1/2 onion (I used a leek cause I had one on hand from BountifulBaskets.org)
  • 4-6 redskin potatoes (used yukon gold.. again, it’s what we had on hand)
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 smoked sausage sliced (I think I used Hillshire Farms)
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 1 can beer
  • about 12 oz (10 or 14 is fine) chicken stock
  1. Toss the butter in a stock pot till melted
  2. Add onion (cut this however you like.  Diced/sliced/quartered… it’s just a matter of preference)
  3. Once onion is wilted (slightly translucent) add sausage
  4. While sausage is cooking, chop potatoes into 4-6 pieces (about an inch cubed)
  5. Add potatoes
  6. Add Beer
  7. Chop Cabbage and toss on top of other ingredients.  Let it sit on the top for 10-15 minutes to wilt.  Then mix in to other ingredients stirring occasionally until it’s the consistency you like.

Adjustments:

  • I forgot I used the last of my chicken broth that morning so after a dig for my bouillon (that I know is SOMEWHERE in my mess of a kitchen) I added one can of water and the packet from a chicken Ramen Noodles.  No I’m NOT kidding!  lol
  • Not a big fan of pepper and rarely cook with it.  So I didn’t add that to this recipe.  But most people would enjoy just a bit.

Tips:

  • Cut the harder parts of the cabbage or you’ll have goo before they break down.  A good knife run around the core should take care of most of the hard roughage.  My mentality is if I’m not sure, I just leave it in.  We don’t hesitate to pull something un-chewable out of our mouths at the dinner table and sneak it to the dog.  In polite company, I’d say when in doubt, just cut it off.  You’ll still have plenty of food

Chicken Salad

This is a very crunchy (I love the texture it adds) chicken salad.  It’s also very chunky instead of being more of a spreadable type.  This doesn’t stop me from making a sandwich out of it.  Yumm!

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 2 hardboiled eggs
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1/4 onion
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • Miracle Whip
  • 1 can chicken broth
  1. Boil chicken in chicken broth to poach, let cool (you can do this while the eggs boil if you like)
  2. chop chicken into 1/2 inch chunks
  3. dice onion and celery (tutorial to come)
  4. chop and add COLD eggs (I like to just go all caveman on this one instead of trying for an even dice.  Sometimes you get a big chunk.  other times it’s muddled more into an egg salad.  Each bite is a little different.  Variety is the spice of life, right?)
  5. Add Miracle Whip (I’m not putting an amount.  Just dole it out on spoonful at a time till you get a consistency you like)
  6. Salt and Pepper to taste

Ideas:

  • Shred the chicken if you don’t care for a chunky salad.
  • Omit Celery if you don’t care for the crunch.  Or replace with pickles or cucumbers if you want a more subtle crunch
  • Use scallions instead of onion if the flavor is too strong
  • Try unique additions like dried cranberries, walnuts, grapes, etc.

DINNER

Homemade Yeast Rolls with Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad Recipe above

Yeast Rolls:  Yeast Breads and I have never gotten along very well.  I try from time to time but things never quite pan out.  The problem is I’m not familiar enough with correcting the issues I’m having.  If it’s mealy, what did I do?  If it’s too dense, what have I done wrong?  So throughout the month, I may just put a little more effort into yeast breads than I usually would.  I would ADORE being able to make a good bagel as we don’t really have anything in the area… especially not to my standards.  There isn’t even a Panera here!  ugh!

Yeast Rolls (made 1/2 of following recipe)

4 tsp. active dry yeast

1/2 c. warm water

2 c. milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm

3 Tbl. of melted butter, slightly cooled

1/2 c. sugar

2 quarts all purpose flour (7-8 cups)

2 whole eggs

2 tsp. salt

Dissolve yeast in warm water with a teaspoon of sugar; let stand until frothy.  Combine yeast mixture, milk, 1/2 cup sugar and enough flour to make a medium batter (about the consistency of pancake batter).  Beat thoroughly.  Add melted butter, eggs and salt.  Beat well.  Add enough flour to form a soft dough.  Sprinkle a small amount of flour onto counter and let dough rest.  Meanwhile, grease a large bowl.  Knead dough until smooth and satiny and put in greased bowl; turn over to grease top. (I used the dough hook on my Kitchen-Aid to knead this for about 4-5 minutes).  Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk.  Punch down.  Turn out onto a floured board.  Divide into portions for shaping; let rest 10 minutes.  Shape dough into desired forms.  Place on greased baking sheets.  Let rise until doubled.

No adjustments or ideas at the time.  I need to do some research on yeast breads first!

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Tuesday

BREAKFAST

A Whatever Smoothie

Made from whatever random things I had in the kitchen.  Today was frozen strawberries, a Carnation Instant Breakfast (strawberry), a banana, and some Orange Sherbet

Ham, Onion, Cheese Hash Browns

Again, nothing special.  One of my “go to” breakfasts when I don’t wanna get too involved.

Toss onions in a pan with oil or butter, let sautee until translucent.  Add hash browns and cook to desired consistency.  Toss in ham just before finished (to warm it up or sear it if you like).  Top with desired cheese.

Enjoy!

Adjustments:

  • I sometimes season this with Lawry’s Salt one the hashbrowns are added

Tips:

  • I tend to buy shredded hashbrowns cause they cook faster.  If you buy diced, plan on them taking a little bit of time and consider covering the pan to steam them.
  • if making hashbrowns from scratch, consider par-cooking the potatoes.  It’ll make them fry up faster without falling apart before reaching the crispness you desire.

Ideas:

  • Top with whatever you like.  Sausage, Bacon, different cheases.  Sometimes I top these with a fried egg or egg white.  The sky is the limit!

DINNER

Beef Burritos

  • 2-3 lbs Beef Roast (whatever cut you like)
  • 1 packet of taco mix
  • 1 lime
  • 1 can beef broth or consume
  • 1 bell pepper sliced
  • 1 onion sliced

Chop Beef into 1.5 inch cubes.  Toss into a ziptop freezer bag.  Add all ingredients using only 1/2 the lime juice.  Either freeze for a later date or toss it all into the crock pot for 6-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high (long and low is ALWAYS preferable with this one).  When ready to eat, shred (if tender enough) or chop beef into small pieces.  Taste and add salt and more lime juice to taste.  Serve with tortillas, rice, salsa… whatever floats your boat.  We eat this with Lime/Cilantro Rice.  Easy enough to make.  2 cups (uncooked) rice, cooked then tossed with chopped cilantro (to taste) and the juice of one lime.

Adjustments:

  • I’m not a big fan of spice.  I’ve just never had a tolerance for it.  I usually buy the McCormick MILD Taco Seasoning.  But I had a coupon for El Paso so figured we’d give that a try.  Their “original” flavor had more spice than I would have liked.  So if you have someone in the house who hates spice, go with McCormick’s Mild
  • Feel free to add water or beef broth if you need more liquid to cover your meat.  The secret to good crockpot meals is making sure meat is COVERED with liquid.

Tips:

  • The longer you cook this the better it gets!  Don’t be afraid to make a batch of this on the weekend and toss it in the freezer.  Whatever day you want to have burritos, you can toss the frozen mix into your crockpot on low and forget about it till dinner time!

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Wednesday

Breakfast-Oatmeal, nothing special

Lunch- skipped (naughty me)

Dinner

Creamy Chicken

This is quite possibly one of our favorite dishes.  It tastes like it came out of a fine dining restaurant!

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (about 1 pound), trimmed of fat
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 14-ounce can chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup chopped chives, (about 1 bunch)

Preparation

  1. Place chicken between sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or heavy skillet until flattened to an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Season both sides of the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place 1/4 cup flour in a shallow glass baking dish and dredge the chicken in it. Discard the excess flour.
  2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, cover and keep warm.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring constantly and scraping up any browned bits, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon flour; stir to coat. Add wine, broth and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil, stirring often.
  4. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until heated through and no longer pink in the center, about 6 minutes. Stir in sour cream and mustard until smooth; turn the chicken to coat with the sauce. Stir in chives and serve immediately.

Adjustments:

  • I ALWAYS at least salt the chicken if not season with some garlic&herb mix.  Otherwise, tasty as the sauce may be, I find a big bite of chicken tends to be just a tad bland.
  • I typically use green onions instead of chives cause I always seem to have green onions around and they’re typically much cheaper than chives.
  • And I find one large shallot is plenty.  You can substitute onions if you can’t find shallots.  But shallots are going to give you a much more delicate flavor.

Ideas: 

  • I’ve served this with just about every starch.  Noodles, potatoes, rice.  They’re all good.  You are going to want something on the bland side to wipe up all the yummy sauce that’s left on your plate!  So avoid serving with just veggies.
  • Sometimes this yields more sauce than others.  When I end up with a lot of sauce, I freeze it and save it for a “quickie batch” another time.  Side by side, I’m sure the fresh tastes better.  But the reheated sauce was incredibly good and after months of not making this dish, I couldn’t tell that it was reheated.

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Thursday

Might not share anything today.  Breakfast was some oatmeal again.  I’ll probably do something simple for lunch like Velveeta Mac n Cheese or a sandwich.  Tonight hubby’s unit has some get together at the VFW so there’s no need to cook dinner.

Today or tomorrow I’m hoping to cook some yams for hubby to take to lunch.  Need to get something done with them before they go bad.  lol.  Either way, I’ll share one of my big yam (sweet potato) secrets.  Never, EVER cook them with water!  It makes them stringy and watery.  Ew!

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Was majorly tempted to get lunch out.  I just couldn’t think of something in the house I felt like cooking.  So I went t one of my favorite local spots BLACK MEG.
If you’re still getting your fast food burgers at Wendy’s or Burger King, you’re really doing yourself a disservice.  Black Meg serves up real beef burgers made in house and they are YUM!  The fries might just be even better than the burgers!  Imagine a Lawry’s seasoning but with a ton of garlic added in and you have the beginnings of their delicious seasoned fries.  They offer other variations like their Garlic&Parmasean, Cheesy Bacon, and Cheesy Cheese.  Pair that with offerings like the Avocado burger or the Cowboy (topped with TWO onion rings) and you’ve got a recipe for an amazing meal (or a heart attack).  One final thing in case I haven’t sold you on trying this spot yet…The cheeseburger combo (burger, fries, drink) is only $5 even!  Try getting that price for this amount of food at Mc D’s!
If you have a furry member of the family, it gets even better!  Take your little one through the drive through and ask for a “dog treat”.  It’s not uncommon for a restaurant or bank to have cheap dog biscuits in their drive through.  But Black Meg puts them all to shame!  Each pup gets their very own hot dog wrapped in a slice of American Cheese.  And let me tell you it MUST be tasty cause our pup goes nuts every time we go!  If we do take out, she sits in the car, grinning ear to ear cause she knows what’s coming.  And then once we get home, she immediately runs to the door to get let in (most other times, we have to sniff around the yard first and make sure no one’s claimed our property).

Locations: one on Rancier in Killeen and one on 190 in Cove.

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Friday

Today was boring.  (and unhealthy) I literally had velveeta mac n cheese for breakfast.  Lunch was Black Meg (again) cause hubby heard I had it yesterday and that made it a bee in his bonnet.  Can’t blame him.  It really is one of those places where you’ve just gotta have it once someone mentions it.  lol

I did make a new recipe which I’m calling “quickie apple crumble”.  I’ll post it tomorrow.  All you need is apples, graham crackers, butter, cinnamon, and sugar.  They’re YUMMMM!

But the BIG deal, the one you should REALLY tune in for is our Ribs tomorrow.  We’re cooking up BBQ ribs and chicken (same recipe for both, pretty much).  And if hubby OKs it, I’ll share our super secret recipe…well, as much as I CAN share.  So much if it is just measured by eyeballing or taste testing.

Warning, these are Yankee style ribs.  I couldn’t say if it’s memphis or KC or carolina BBQ.  But I know for certain it is NOT texas BBQ.  And we have yet to hear a single complaint, I can say that much.  The last time we cooked this at a party, one wife ate 3 pieces of chicken then demanded everyone finish them up cause she couldn’t stop herself even though she was full.  lol!  So stay tuned!  Good things coming your way!

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Saturday

Barbecue

While I ate other things on Saturday, the focus of this post is going to be BBQ.

I MUST qualify this post and say this is NOT Texas BBQ.  Yes, we live in TX.  But we’re not FROM here.  And TX BBQ (though an artform in and of itself) seems to be our least favorite regional BBQ of all time.  We never owned a grill as a couple.  And we never really cooked out with friends.  But when we moved to TX and tried the BBQ, it was obvious we needed to just learn to make it ourselves.  It seems to be that if you didn’t grow up on it, you have a hard time acquiring the taste for it (and I am FAR from the only out-of-stater to express a difficulty appreciating TX BBQ…so please accept that while I appreciate the skills and methods involved (we HAVE done our research) we’re really just not keen on the resulting flavor).

So, after a few months of struggling to find a BBQ in the area that we like, we began trying to make our own.  Our methods aren’t anything region specific.  We’re from Ohio which isn’t known for BBQ.  You’re more likely to spot a place in Ohio claiming “texas BBQ/Carolina BBQ/KC BBQ” than you are to see them claiming it’s an “Ohio BBQ”.  Ohio just doesn’t have a “style” when it comes to that.  And after years of trying the Ohio take on regional BBQ and various travels giving me the pleasure of trying Carolina, Memphis, and Kansas City, I began my own journey to MY “perfect BBQ”.  And it’s just that, it’s how *I* like my BBQ.  Others may detest it.  And I’m perfectly OK with that.

I’ll do my best to give measurements but it’s really just come down to “a little bit of this, taste, a little bit more, taste, a little bit of that, taste…and so on”.  While that may drive some people crazy, for others you’ll find that you begin to develop your own recipe that’s just loosely based on our methods.  And ultimately, that’s what makes a Chef and not a Cook.  Don’t follow recipes to the letter if you don’t want to.  Adjust these as needed for your palette.

So, let us begin.  Our BBQ is worked in 3 stages.  The Brine, The Bake, the BBQ.  We use pretty much the same method for doing chicken as our ribs and pork butt.  The chicken just gets a little help before hitting the grill.

The Brine

Brining is an age old method.  We don’t do it EXACTLY how it’s supposed to be done scientifically (adding enough salt until the water is properly salted (an egg floats instead of sinking).  But we’ve found what I like to think is the perfect mix between a marinade and a brine.

  • 1 large can pineapple juice (46 fl oz)
  • 1 bottle apple juice (64 fl oz)
  • 1/3 cup salt
  • dry/fresh herbs to your liking (for us, usually about 2 tablespoons total seasonings)
    • We’ve been known to toss in fresh basil, oragano, rosemary, etc.  But the base we use is typically LOTS of ground garlic, some oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil (if you have a generic garlic and herb mix from any seasoning company, this would work fine.  You can also substitute like an “Italian mix” along with some garlic.  Or play around and come up with your own)
  • You’ll also want to reserve about 2-4 tablespoons (if making ribs or pork butt) to add into your rub.  So make extra if necessary.  Or just buy it like we do

Mix all ingredients in a LARGE pot/bowl or in a mid size cooler you want the container to be JUST big enough for the meat to fit in (have some ice or ice packs on hand if using a cooler).  The resulting mixture will be incredibly salty to the taste.  But I strongly recommend tasting it so you have a starting point to adjust next time.  The key to this whole recipe is getting the salt level just right so the meat absorbs just the right amount.

Add your meat to this mix.  Try very hard to find a container that fits your meat well.  You need this mixture to cover the meat completely.  If absolutely necessary, add water (and perhaps some more salt) to cover the meat in liquid.  Try VERY hard to avoid adding more water if you’re using a cooler and ice as the ice will melt and water down your brine anyhow.

Let the meat soak in the brine for at least 12 hours.  Feel free to go as far as 24 hours so long as the meat is properly refrigerated (we usually aim for 18 hours).  About halfway through the soak, you’re going to want to turn all pieces of meat.  I find that whatever is touching the bottom of the container or resting against another piece of meat doesn’t get brined nearly as much.  So do make an effort to spot pieces/areas that still look red or pink (most parts will be a faded shade and very bloated looking) and make sure those darker areas are repositioned so they aren’t touching anything.  This will prevent any “tough” spots because they weren’t brined.

The Bake

  1. Prep: Invest in either a disposable roasting pan or Reynolds SUPER DUTY aluminum foil (If using foil, make sure you have enough to build a “pouch”.  You’re going to be making your container as air tight as possible.  So be sure the foil you have is enough to fit around your ribs…be that folded or in two separate sheets).
  2. Get your rub (recipe below) prepped and in a bowl small enough for your ribs to lay on the same counter
  3. move your container/cooler as close to the sink as possible and be prepared for a bit of a mess.  If working alone, have some handsoap ready and waiting cause you’re going to get sick of the rub being all over your fingers between working pieces of meat.

When you’re ready to start cooking the meat, remove it from the brine a piece at a time and rinse it off.  You don’t need to soak it in water or anything.  You’re just trying to rinse off any of the herbs that have stuck on and get that outer layer of oils, fats, and salt from the brine.  When rinsed, pat dry with a paper towel and immediately begin rubbing with your rub.

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp garlic herb mix
  • 2 tsp salt (more to taste)
    • The thing I look for in my rub when I taste it is first I’m hit with the saltiness.  Not too much.  It shouldn’t be off-putting.  Then the sweetness of the sugar.  And finally you should get a punch of garlic.  It’s a very layered flavor.  But no one flavor should be unpleasant.  If it is, balance it out by increasing the other two ingredients.
  • This batch would be enough for one rack of ribs.  increase as necessary, double for a pork butt if you want a thick coating.

Rub each piece on all sides with the rub.  I find doing this one piece at a time makes things go much easier.  Usually we have an assembly line kind of thing going where one of us washes the brine off, the other rubs it down and gets it placed on the foil.

Seal up your ribs in your foil pouch or cover your roasting pan with a tight layer of foil and place in the oven on 200 until they reach 160.  How long this takes usually depends on how many ribs we’re doing and how thick the meat is.  Ultimately you’re going to rely on the thermometer on this one.  Undercooked pork is DANGEROUS!  If you don’t have a thermometer, GET ONE!  We have a “leave in” thermometer that can be set with a desired temp.  We leave it off (to save the battery) and just check it every hour or so, finally leaving it on when we’re approaching our final temp.  It alerts us when we hit 160 and we’re ready for the next step!  If using the pouch method, you might want to put a little foil on the rack under the edges to catch any drippings)

A note on pork butt:  Boston Butts/Pork Butts/Pork Shoulder Butts are all the same cut.  So don’t worry about accidentally grabbing the wrong thing.  You’re looking for a piece of pork that’s approximately cube shaped with a bone on one side and a lot of fatty bits on the other.  We do NOT bake our Butts.  They cook on indirect heat on the grill.  I’ll get more into that later.  As far as brining, the steps are the same.  Once it comes out of the brine, we wash it off, I then take a flavor injector and pump some leftover brine back into the meat.  You can’t add too much and half of it will seep out before you get to the grill, anyhow.  So skipping this step won’t kill you.  If your grill has a smoke box, you can smoke your butt.  I prefer very little smoke so we usually just use indirect heat inside the grill.

The BBQ

Ribs: Remove ribs from oven.  If using the pouch method, try to keep the corners up so your juices don’t leak out.  Cut a small hole in one corner (or peel it open) and drain the juices into a bowl.  This will be your “marinade” that you baste them with on the grill to keep them moist.  Open the ribs and carry them outside to get them onto the grill.  The ribs are going to cook on indirect heat for as long as you like.  Pick a corner and keep tasting.  We like to get a subtle sear on it.  It crispens up something along the lines of a bacon (just around the edges) but the meat itself is still moist and tender.

Once you’ve reached the desired doneness on the ribs, begin coating with your favorite BBQ sauce (or use a homemade one like we do) and moving them closer to the heat.  THIS is the part where you’re going to babysit them and keep a VERY close eye.  You want to caramelize the BBQ sauce without burning it too much (unless you’re into that).  I would say we do approximately 3-4 layers of sauce on each side (turning about every 15 minutes).  You can speed up this process or even eat them without sauce.  Some people we know will just drench them with sauce at the very end and yank them off the fire.  It’s up to you.

Pork Butt: Since it doesn’t go into the oven, you’ve just finished rubbing it and are now taking it outside to a HOT grill.  A cool grill is just going to make the meat “sweat” and all your rub will melt right off.  Instead of using drippings on the Butt, we’re going to use AppleJuice in a spray bottle (I get them from Sally Beauty Supply for about a dollar.  It looks like any old household cleaner spray bottle but we fill it with apple juice).  DO NOT spray your butt until it’s formed a bit of a crust from the heat and the rub.  Again, we don’t want to make the rub drip off.  The Butt will cook for at least 3-4 hours on the grill.  Our grill doesn’t have a very reliable thermometer.  All I can say is it usually takes a rather small fire (well tended) to keep a low, constant heat.  We cook the pork butt to 195 internal temp.

  • Why so high?!  The “safe cooking temp” for pork is 160!  Why would we DARE to take it up to 195?!  Since we’re taking it up slowly, we’re giving all the tougher meat time to cook slowly and thus break down.  Cooking to 195 gives the tougher sections (that make pork butt so cheap to begin with) time to break down and become tender.
  • Second, because this allows the meat to stay in the cooler at a “safe temp” vs. being in the “danger zone” while cooling.

Each time you open the grill to check the temp or stoke the fire, you’re going to spray it with the apple juice (assuming we are at a point where it has formed a crust or skin and we aren’t just squirting off the rub).  Spraying with apple juice will keep it from drying out with the constant hot/cold it’s going to experience with the grill being messed with.  It also helps form a “bark” AND can even help along a smoke ring (check out BBQ websites or competition shows for info on those).  The apple juice will also get into some of those hole from the flavor injector and add another bit of flavor to the meat.  YAY!

Once your pork butt has reached 195, you are going to remove it from the grill, wrap it as airtight as you can get it with foil (I usually do two or three layers), wrap it in a thick towel, or even better, put it in a small travel cooler (the smaller the better).  We use a little styrofoam cooler.  What we’re doing now is “ramping” the meat down.  it’s also going to steam the meat.  Let it sit in the towel or cooler for 1-3 hours if you have the patience.  The longer the better.

  • Why can’t I eat it when it comes off the grill?!  You can.  You absolutely can eat it straight off the grill and it’ll be yummy!  Wrapping it up will just improve the texture and taste of the meat beyond good to GREAT.  Your friends will hail you as the best BBQer they know!
  • This “ramping” replaces the “low and slow” method of cooking a pork butt that usually takes 8-10 hours.  Depending on size, a small pork butt done this way could be completely cooked on the grill AND ramped for 3 hours and still take only 6 hours total.  Low and slow would dictate spending AT LEAST 8 hours on the grill.

Once the meat comes off the grill (not ramping) or out of the cooler (you ramped it), you can start pulling it apart.  We find the ramped meats “pull” much better.  If we eat it straight off the grill, we usually have to resort to chopping it.  Either way, it tastes GREAT!.  Once you’ve pulled or chopped your meat, top with BBQ sauce or eat as is.  There should only be one bone in your butt.  It’s called the “blade” and once that’s out, you shouldn’t have anything to work around except some fatty bits and some gristle here and there.

Ok, now that you’ve read all my ramblings, jibberish, tips, and explanations; let me break this down into a few easy steps that you can copy and paste to leave on the fridge or something.

  1. Soak the meat in brine for at least 12 hours
  2. Remove, rinse, blot, rub
  3. Bake (if ribs) or move straight to the oven
  4. Baste with juices from baking or spray with apple juice (pork butt)
  5. Coat ribs with BBQ sauce and cook until desired or remove and eat as is
  6. (pork butt) remove and “ramp down” in a cooler for 1-3 hours to super tenderize the meat
  7. ENJOY!

Chicken

Typically I just cook thighs.  Oddly enough, thighs are not my favorite cut.  I don’t typically order them when I’m out to eat and don’t prefer it to breasts or even legs.  But when BBQing, I’ve found that (through experience and research) thighs to best on the grill.  Don’t worry if you prefer breasts.  Cook some thighs and breasts in the same batch.  You may find you prefer the thighs as well.  I’ve found that when properly cooked they come out tasting like well cooked chicken breasts.  They aren’t greasy and “wet” like I find thighs from, say, KFC.  The meat just comes across as light and tender and moist.  So here’s how I do it:

  1. brine as we did above (you could probably get away with a half batch
  2. remove and rinse, blot dry
  3. coat with italian dressing
  4. sprinkle with any seasoning you like (I tend to just do a bit of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  5. (extra step you can skip if you find it too tedious) peel back skin and fill “pouch” with a bit of BBQ sauce
  6. Move to grill, grill skin side down until seared, turn (indirect heat works best for this)
  7. Turn often as necessary to prevent burning.
  8. Once seared, coat in BBQ sauce of your choice, turn to keep from burning and cook until 165 (safe cooking temp)
  9. ENJOY!

Adjustments:

  • You can try substituting different juices if that appeal to you.  I read somewhere that pear juice makes for a good marinade.  But (although it was easy to find in Ohio) I have not been able to find it where we’re located in Texas.  Personally, the apple juice is mild enough that I would first try other options in place of the pineapple if you don’t care for the flavor.  If this is your first batch, I would give it a try.  The flavor ends up very subtle and people often ask what that “fruityness” is because they can’t put a finger on it.
  • We typically use Motts apple juice (I like the balance of sweet and tart) but any brand you like would work well.  A good rule of thumb is “if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it”.  Pineapple juice, we tend to buy whatever’s at a good price.

Tips:

  • I’ll post photos of the garlic and herb mix we buy.  One was from Costco, the other from Sam’s Club (no costco near us in texas…it sucks here).  Before we started BBQing on a regular basis, one of those containers lasted us a little over five years.  Now we’re almost halfway through the container we bought less than a year ago!  Then again, we use it in nearly every meal we cook.  It always adds the right balance of seasoning.  I strongly recommend having it around the house.
  • SAVE THAT BRINE! We always use our Brine twice.  Just pour it into the empty Motts jug and/or any other containers you have lying around.  And reuse it.   We only reuse the brine once, being sure to toss it out on the second use (our thinking being that after two times, it’s been loaded up with meat fats and juices and is now a diluted mess of its former glory.
  • Please stay tuned for step by step photos (to come at a later date when its not so gloomy and we can get some good pictures of the process.  Feel free to ask for any explanations or descriptions that might better explain our process.  I do realize I can be hard to follow from time to time.