V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N!

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We are outta here! I’ll be taking a break from the blog while we’re off to the little island of Nevis for some much-needed rest and relaxation.

We plan to spend some time lymin’, exploring, and enjoying the local food and drink. I hope to bring back some West Indian recipes to share here (and a good deal of rum that I’ll be keeping for myself).

P.S. Just got our photos from the trip finished: Our Adventures in Nevis.

Wing Sauce – First Try

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I love grilled wings – crispy, sweet, spicy, tangy, juicy, smoky – what’s not to love? I just look for excuses to make them. This batch was an experiment in making my own wing sauce. I’ve tried a lot of the bottled sauces and been happy (sometimes ecstatic) with most of them, but I still wanted to try my hand at creating my own unique sauce.

3-4 pounds chicken wings (about 16-24 wings), cut at the joint into two pieces
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup cider vinegar
4 tablespoons butter
Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon medium chili powder
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar

In a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients except the wings and the butter and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Add the butter and boil for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Makes about 2 cups.

In a large container with a lid, combine half the sauce with the wings and and shake to make sure that they are well-covered. 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.

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When the grill is ready, put the wings on the grill and cook undisturbed for 30 minutes. Flip and cook for another 30 minutes, or until brown and crispy.

Pour remaining sauce into a large bowl Add the wings and toss to mix well. Move to a plate and serve with bleu cheese dressing and celery sticks.

The Verdict

While these were some tasty wings, there’s plenty of room for improvement:

  • They had just a little heat up front, but it lingered and built. I liked it, but by the 4th wing or so some folks found them a little overwhelming. Next time I’d go down to 1 teaspoon cayenne and add 1/2 teaspoon chipotle.
  • Way too much vinegar. I’ll leave out the white vinegar entirely and double the balsamic and maybe add a 1/4 cup or so of beer.
  • More sweet – double the brown sugar.
  • Maybe a tablespoon of ketchup or tomato sauce to help meld the flavors.
  • The grocery store was out of fresh wings,  so I had to use frozen –  never again, no way, no how – the frozen ones are much smaller and the texture just isn’t as good.
  • To marinate or not marinate: that is the question. Marinating gets me a deeper flavor. Not marinating gets me a dryer skin, which means a crispier wing. Not sure which I like more.

Well, it looks like I’ll be be running a few more tests. The nice thing about experimenting with food is that you get to eat your mistakes.

Early Valentine’s Day – Steak & Crab

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We’re going to be busy getting ready for a trip next week, so we took advantage of a deal on crab legs and had an early Valentine’s Day dinner.

About an hour out, my dear wife set the oven at 350°F and put the foil-wrapped potatoes in to bake. I took the steaks out of the fridge and set the Big Green Egg up for a direct cook at nuclear temperature – 700°F plus.

I seasoned the steaks on both sides with a generous amount of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. When the grill was ready, I put the crab in the oven and the steaks on the grate over the hottest part of the fire.  I closed the lid and gave them a good 90 seconds of undisturbed searing. Then I flipped them, closed the lid and gave them another 90 seconds.

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These New York strips were so thick that I flipped the steaks up onto one edge, closed the lid, and let them go for another 90 seconds. Then flipped them onto their other edge and did the same thing.

I like steak medium-rare, which is just about exactly what these were when I pulled them off and put them on a warm plate and covered them with another plate, and let them rest for 15 minutes while the crab finished cooking and I grilled the romaine.

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Just about a minute on each side with the lid open to give them a little char, then rough chopped with some tomatoes and into the salad.

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Steak, crab, baked potato, and salad with home-made Caesar dressing.

Life is good!

Pickapeppa Chicken

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Pickapeppa sauce is kind of the Jamaican version of a Worcestershire or steak sauce. It’s a spicy/sweet/savory blend of tomatoes, onions, cane vinegar, peppers, mangoes, raisins, tamarind, and secret spices. While it smells a lot like jerk seasoning, it doesn’t have anywhere near the heat. Often called “Jamaican ketchup,” you can use it as a condiment, a barbecue sauce, or (as in this recipe) a marinade.

8-12 chicken thighs
1 bottle Classic Pickapeppa Sauce
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Combine all of the ingredients, except the chicken, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Put the chicken in a Ziploc bag and cover with the marinade. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, overnight is better, 48 hours rocks.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook over medium-high  (400°F) heat. Put the thighs on the grill skin side down. Close the lid and cook for 20 minutes. Flip and cook  until the internal temperature has reached 180°F in the thickest part of the thighs, about another 40 minutes.

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When the chicken is done, remove it to a warm plate and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve with more Pickapeppa sauce and a Caribbean hot sauce on the side.


Pork in Adobo

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It’s cold and I’m on a chile roll. Slow-cooked pork shoulder in adobo (red chile sauce) is one of my favorite Dutch oven dishes. It’s a bit of work, but well worth the time and trouble. This recipe makes enough sauce for 2 batches, so I always freeze half of it in a food-saver bag.

12 Guajillo Chiles, dried
8 Ancho Chiles, dried
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 large yellow onion, chopped fine
1/4 cup olive oil
12 ounces Mojo Criollo
1 cup water
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons Achiote paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cumin, ground
1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
8 pounds pork butt (shoulder roast)

Wearing rubber gloves, stem and seed the chiles. If you gently pull the stem off  it takes most of the seeds with it. Cut open the side of the pepper with kitchen shears, then spread it open and scrape out the remaining seeds and veins.

In a dry skillet (no oil) over medium heat, fry the chiles in small batches for just for about 15-20 seconds a side until they start to change color and become fragrant. As they finish cooking, remove them to the bowl of water.

When all of the chiles are cooked and in the bowl, use a small plate to weight them down so they are completely covered in water. Let this sit 15 to 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat, add the onion and garlic and cook until softened. Drain the chiles, discarding the soaking water, and add them to the onion and garlic. Stir in the water, Mojo Criollo, chicken broth, and vinegar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Use an immersion blender or food processor to blend the chile mix until smooth. Add the salt, sugar, cumin, and oregano. Cook until the sauce is thick enough to heavily coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and let cool. Once cool, divide the sauce and freeze half for later.

Bone the pork butt and cut into half inch cubes, removing any excess fat or connective tissue. Place in a large, sealable container – a gallon-size freezer bag set inside a 9×13 baking pan works fine. Add the adobo, mix well, seal tightly, and refrigerate at least 24 hours (48 is ever so much better), turning often.

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The Cook

Set your grill or smoker up for at least a 5 hour cook over indirect heat at 300°F. On my my Big Green Egg that means filling the firebox with lump charcoal and using the plate setter with a trivet on it to diffuse the heat. Once the Egg had stabilized at 300°F, I added a couple of chunks of hickory for smoke.

Pour the meat and marinade into a large dutch oven or other grill-safe pan. Put the pot in the cooker uncovered. For the first few hours, stir the pork only once every hour or so. The longer you wait between stirring, the more the chunks of pork on the top will start to brown.

Keep a close watch and stir more often once the adobo thickens up and the meat starts to fall apart. You may want to add a little water or stock to keep the bottom from burning.  Total cook time is about 3 to 5 hours. The dish is done when the meat completely falls apart and most of the liquid is gone.

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We served this batch on corn tortillas with a little cilantro. It was outstanding.