Link Love

A roundup of sites I’ve recently found useful and interesting:

Just in time for thanksgiving, Fred the SmokinGuitarPlayer shows us how to roast your turkey to perfection on the Big Green Egg. Part 1 of 2.

Casual Kitchen’s discussion on the  The Pros and Cons of Restaurant Calorie Labeling Laws

Tasty-looking  Chickamauga Chicken from Chris at Nibble Me This who is guest blogging over at OuR KrAzy kItChEn.

Gluten-Free Tuesday: Gomasio from our gluten-free girl Shauna James

100th Post

I’m not big on introspection (I’m the absolute last guy you’ll find staring at his navel, trust me on this one), but sometimes it’s nice to observe mileposts and take a look around at where we’ve been and what we’d still like to do.

So, we’ve hit 100 posts with the Food & Fire blog. I say “we,” because while I do most of the writing, photography, and cooking;  my dear wife does the shopping, editing, and food styling (you have to have an odd number of things on your plate and everything looks better with a little parsley). She gave me the Big Green Egg for our anniversary. Without that gift, her love, understanding, and tolerance for my geeky foodiness, this blog never would have happened.

I’ve been blogging for just over a year. In that time we’ve covered all manner of meat, a bit of veggies and fruits, more than a little seafood, and a few book and product reviews. I’ve made some new friends in the food blogger community and enjoy reading their posts. I’ve been interviewed by the Charlotte Observer and by a researcher for NYT food writer Molly O’Neil.

I’ve been gluten-free for a year and as trans fat and high-fructose corn syrup free as is humanly possible. It hasn’t always been easy, but I feel a lot better and that makes it all worth it. I will continue to make sure all of the recipes here can be easily made gluten free.

Looking down the road, there are some changes I’d like to make to the site. This has never been a commercial venture. It’s always been just me writing about what I enjoy doing, and that isn’t going to change. I’d like to post more often, but some weeks it doesn’t feel like I can run any more food through the Big Green Egg, so I’ll probably start adding posts with links to food news and other recipes that have caught my eye. I’d like to do more product reviews, since god knows I don’t own nearly enough cook books or barbecue sauces ;).

I’m taking some steps to improve my photography (hello early Christmas present) and will post about the changes I’ve made. I want to tweak the look and feel of this site a little. I’m looking into taking a WordPress development course.  Right now I just know just enough to be dangerous.

So, happy 100th post and thanks to my wife and all of the folks who read and support this site!

Teriyaki Wings

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I like these as a change of pace from our usual buffalo wings.

Teriyaki Marinade

3-4 pounds fresh chicken wings (about 16-24 wings), whole
3/4 cup teriyaki sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1-2 teaspoons sriracha chili sauce (a.k.a. Rooster Sauce)

Apricot Dipping Sauce

1/3 cup apricot preserves
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoons honey
1-2 teaspoons sriracha chili sauce

Preparation

Combine the ingredients for the marinade (minus the chicken) in a large container with a lid. Mix well. Add the wings to the mix, seal, and shake to make sure that they are covered with the marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight, turning the pieces occasionally.

Set up your grill for an indirect cook at 400°F. Use a pan under the grate to catch any drippings and further diffuse the heat.

Remove the wings to a plate, reserving the marinade. Put the reserved marinade in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Combine the ingredients for the apricot dipping sauce and refrigerate.

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Put the wings on the grill and cook about 15 minutes, flip the wings, and baste them with the reserved marinade. Repeat every 15 minutes until the wings are done (about 45-60 minutes total).

Serve hot from the grill with the dipping sauce on the side.

Smoked Peppers

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We ended up a with just a small crop of jalapenos and habaneros this year. Not enough to pickle or make hot sauce from, but more than what we’d go through before they’d spoil.

I washed our harvest, and (wearing gloves) trimmed off any bad spots, slit the pods lengthwise, and laid them out on a perforated pizza pan.

I set the Big Green Egg up for an indirect cook at low heat (200°F) with a couple of pecan chunks for smoke. I smoked them for 3 hours and then moved them to the oven at 170°F for 5 hours. I turned the oven off and let them sit in it overnight.

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I the morning I tossed my little leathery bits of heat and smoke into a glass jar for storage. I see them lighting up a batch of chili and staring in some jerk marinade in the near future.

Cottage Bacon

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Cottage bacon (a.k.a. buckboard bacon) is made from cured pork butt, rather than the usual belly meat. It’s a meaty, leaner product that makes great BLTs. After buying some from a local farmer this summer, my dear wife asked if I thought I could make it.

“Sure, but I’ll need a meat slicer.”

“Make me bacon like this and I’ll buy you the slicer.”

“Done!”

Ingredients

2 pork butts (pork shoulder roast), boned and trimmed
1 tablespoon Morton’s Sugar Cure per pound of meat
1 teaspoon white sugar per pound of meat
1/2 cup maple syrup or molasses
1 tablespoon ground black pepper

The Cure

I cured the 2 butts separately. Each went into a FoodSaver bag with 1 tablespoon Morton’s Sugar Cure and 1 teaspoon white sugar per pound of meat (so the 8 pound butt got 1/2 cup cure plus 8 teaspoons sugar, the 6 pound butt got 3/8 cup of cure plus 2 tablespoons of sugar). The smaller butt had a 1/4 cup of molasses added, and the larger one got a 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Both got a 1/2 tablespoon of ground pepper. I made sure to rub the cure into the meat and cover all sides.

I sealed the bags using the partial vacuum option (I only pulled out about half the air to give the cure room to circulate) and stored them in the refrigerator. After the first day, liquid began to collect in the bags, indicating  that the cure was working. I cured them for 7 days, flipping the meat over once a day.

After 7 days, I removed the meat from the cure and soaked in cold water for 3 hours to remove some of the salt. I dried off the meat and let it rest covered in the fridge overnight.

I set the Big Green Egg up for indirect cooking with a plate setter to diffuse the heat and a drip pan to catch the fat. I added a chunk each of apple and hickory for smoke. When the temperature stabilized at 225°F, I put the bacon-to-be on. I smoked them at 225°F for 5 hours until the larger of the 2 hit 140°F internal.

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I pulled the butts, let them cool a little, and stored them in a covered container in the fridge overnight. The next day they met my new Chef’s Choice 610 Electric Food Slicer (thanks, honey).

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In about 5 minutes I turned the 2 butts into a couple of big piles of 1/4 inch slices. Most of it went into quart-sized FoodSaver bags to be frozen for later, but I also loaded up a broiler pan with some for breakfast. I baked it in the oven at 350°F for about 15 minutes a side.

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Crispy, smoky, just a little sweet – like a cross between country ham and belly bacon. Very tasty.

Chef’s Choice 610 Electric Food Slicer

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We’ve been curing a lot of our own meat for a number of years now. It tastes great, but slicing it all up for storage has always been a bit of a chore.  This summer we developed a slight addiction to BLTs made with cottage bacon. At 8 bucks a pound, my dear wife offered that if I made our own bacon she’d get me an electric slicer.

Behold the Chef’s Choice 610 Premium Electric Food Slicer.

  • Food carriage is large and tilted so that slicing goes pretty quickly.
  • All the parts (blade, food carriage, food pusher, food deflector, and thickness guide) come off for easy cleaning.
  • 7-inch blade slices cleanly from deli-thin to 1-inch thick slices
  • High-torque motor handles hard foods and big slices.

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So far I’ve run 14 pounds of cottage bacon, several sticks of pepperoni, and a load of zucchini through it and it has handled it all like a champ – nice even slices with no tearing. Some of the slices of bacon were a good 7 inches long, but the motor never slowed down.

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It cuts very quickly and the feed is real smooth, so make sure to use the guard and food pusher.  I ran both pork butts through it in under 5 minutes.

All the moving parts come off for cleaning (I put them in the top basket of the dishwasher even though the manual says not to), and the then you just have to wipe down the body.

If we had a little more counter space I’d even consider leaving  it out as an alternative to a box slicer or mandolin.

Habanero Mojo Criollo

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This Caribbean citrus sauce works wonders as a marinade for meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables. Try to use fresh-squeezed juice as it makes a ton of difference in the taste.

Habanero Mojo Criollo

6 cloves garlic
Juice of 3 oranges (about 3/4 cup)
Juice of 2 limes (about 1/4 cup)
1 Habanero pepper, seeded and deveined (wear latex gloves for this)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Put the salt and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the remaining ingredients and give them a whirl until they are well-combined.

Pour into a screw-top container (I use a pint canning jar) and refrigerate for at least an hour to give all the flavors time to meld. Shake well before using.

Mojo Chicken

1 3-5 pound roasting chicken
1 cup Habanero Mojo Criollo

Clean and rinse the chicken, then pat it dry. Place the bird in front of you, breast side down. Cut up through the backbone with either a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife. Open the chicken like a book and flip it over so it’s breast side up. Half the chicken by cutting through the breast bone.

Put the chicken halves in a Ziploc bag and coat with the mojo. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, overnight is best.

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Set your grill up for a indirect cook over medium-high (400°F) heat. Put the halved on the grill skin side up. Close the lid and cook for 15 minutes. Flip and cook skin side down for another 15 minutes. Flip skin side up and cook until the internal temperature has reached 160°F in the breast and 180°F in the thigh, about another 30 minutes.

When the chicken is done, remove it to a cutting board and let it rest for 10 minutes. Quarter the bird for serving.

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