Buttermilk-Brined Chicken

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Buttermilk makes an excellent brine for chicken. It does a great job of penetrating the meat, so the chicken stays moist and the flavor of the spices go all of the way through.


Ingredients

3 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup Louisiana-style hot sauce (I used Frank’s RedHot Original)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

2 (3 to 4 pound) chickens, each cut into 8 pieces

Combine the buttermilk, salt, hot sauce, Worcestershire, and spices. Mix well. Add the chicken and turn to  coat. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight, turning the pieces occasionally.

Set up your grill  for a direct cook over medium (350°F) heat.

Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and put on the grill. Grill for about 40 minutes, flipping every 10 minutes or so, until the juices run clear or when a meat thermometer reads 180°F when inserted in the thickest part of the thigh.

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I served this with baked beans and a Summer-y pasta salad.

More Flat Iron Steak

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The flat iron steak is another one of those cheap, tasty and (relatively) unknown cuts of meat that is gaining in popularity.  Cut from the top shoulder of the chuck, it is as tender as tenderloin and as flavorful as a strip steak.

Ingredients

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 canned Chipotle pepper in Adobo, minced
1 tablespoon Adobo sauce from peppers
2 teaspoons kosher sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 flat iron steak (2 halves)

Instructions

Combine all ingredients, except steaks, in a small bowl. Mix to combine. Pour over steaks, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight if possible.

There’s lots of marbling in flat iron steaks, so I don’t mind cooking them a little lower and longer than I would normally do steak. Set your grill up for direct cooking over medium-high heat (450 to 500°F).  For medium rare, grill the halves for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, or until they reach 130°F internal. Let them rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

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Pulled Pork a la Alton

I adapted Alton Brown’s molasses brine to make one of the most tender and moist batches of pulled pork to ever come out of my Big Green Egg.

Ingredients
2 quarts water
12 ounces kosher salt
1 cup molasses
1 tablespoon chili powder
Basic Pig Rub (or your favorite barbecue rub)

6 to 8 pound pork shoulder roast (Boston butt)

The Brine

Combine molasses, salt, chili powder, 1 tablespoon of the rub, and water in 6 quart stockpot over medium heat. Stir and cook only until the salt has dissolved and everything is well-combined. Remove from heat and let cool.

Trim excess fat from pork shoulder. Make shallow cuts through the remaining fat cap every half inch or so.

Put the roast in a big Ziploc bag and add the brine. Squeeze out the air and seal the bag. I like to put the bagged roast right back in the stockpot and arrange it so that the meat is fully covered by the brine.  Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, overnight is better yet.

The Cook

Remove the roast from brine and pat dry. Dust heavily with barbecue rub, working it in with your hands to get a good coating. Wrap the roast in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to cook.

Set up your cooker for an indirect cook of at least 18 hours at 225°F. Add some chucks of pecan or hickory for smoke. Use a drip pan to catch the fat as it renders off.  Pork butts take about 2 hours per pound to cook at this temperature, so this is really a job for a smoker or ceramic cooker.  I like to set it up as an overnight cook starting at 6pm so I can plan on serving pulled pork for lunch the next day.

Begin checking butt for doneness after about 10 hours of cooking. Pork butts are done when the collagen and connective tissue has melted into tasty gelatin and the meat literally starts to fall apart. I like to get mine to about 190°F internal, and then wrap it in a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil and put it back on the cooker for another hour or so until it reaches 210F internal.

When the butt is done, remove it from the cooker and let it rest in the foil for an hour. When it has cooled a little,  pull the meat apart using a couple of forks (or better yet, a pair of these bear paws) to separate the fibers. The idea is to remove all the remaining inedible bits, break the meat down into bite-sized pieces, and ensure an even distribution of the chewy bark.

I like to serve it on cheap white buns with dill pickles, sweet potato chips and an assortment of barbecue sauces.

Country Eggs Benedict

This is a gluten-free variation of my favorite breakfast – biscuits and gravy.

Ingredients

1 pound pork breakfast sausage
2 cups milk
1/4 cup gluten-free flour (I like Pamela’s Amazing Bread Mix or Gluten-Free Pantry Country French Bread Mix)
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 gluten-free waffles (I used Van’s Frozen Wheat Free Buckwheat – sweet and tasty)
4 eggs

Directions

Cook sausage in a large skillet until uniformly brown. Do not drain. Add sage, red pepper, salt, and black pepper and stir to combine. Add flour and cook over low heat for 5 minutes until flour forms a roux and begins to brown. Remove pan from heat and stir in milk a little at a time. Return to medium-high heat and stir occasionally until gravy comes to a simmer and starts to thicken. Reduce heat to low.

Prepare the eggs. Any style is fine, but I really like them fried sunny side up with runny yolks. Toast the waffles and then top with eggs and sausage gravy.