Honey Hog Barbecue Sauce v2.0

barbecue sauce

The latest version of my home-made barbecue sauce. I switched to a little less honey, and a little more raw sugar (in place of the brown sugar I used to use), and used my General Purpose Rub v1.5 as the seasoning base.

The raw sugar makes a huge difference in the taste. The sauce had a kind of fruity/floral sweetness that rocks when balanced with the heat from the peppers.
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1/4 cup gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate or  pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons General Purpose Rub v1.5

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until all the sugar has dissolved and the sauce starts to thicken a little bit (about five minutes).

Bottle and store in the fridge. Makes about 2 cups.

Have Ribs, Will Travel

barbecued baby back ribs

I recently had the opportunity to cook up a mess of barbecued baby back ribs for some friends. The only kicker was that we were to bring them over to their place. No problem.

The ribs need to be almost fully cooked, travel for 30 minutes, and finish cooking in our friend’s oven. Since I wanted to make sure there were leftovers for everyone, I figured on one rack of baby backs per adult, so 5 racks total.

The first thing I did was rub the racks heavily with my General Purpose Rub v1.5. Then I set the Big Green Egg up for an indirect cook at 250°F

baby back ribs

When the Egg was up to temp, I added both a plate setter and a drip pan to diffuse the heat and keep the ends of the racks from burning. I added a little hickory wood for smoke and when it burned clean I loaded up the ribs.

This is more ribs than I’ve ever tried on the Egg, and an inverted roasting rack really came in handy to keep the ribs from crowding each other so they’d cook as evenly as possible.

barbecued baby back ribs

I let the ribs cook for an hour and then flipped the racks end for end. I let them go another hour and then rotated the whole roasting rack 180°. I let them go an hour and a half undisturbed, then moved them out of the rack and onto the grate and sauced them.

Honey Hog Barbecue Sauce v2.0
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1/4 cup gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate or  pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons General Purpose Rub v1.5

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until all the sugar has dissolved and the sauce starts to thicken a little bit (about five minutes).

barbecue sauce

I sauced the racks fairly heavily and let them cook for another 30 minutes. I then sauced them one more time and moved them to a large baking pan. I sealed the pan up with 2 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil and we hit the road.

Once at our friend’s house, the ribs went into a 350°F oven for an hour.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
I have to say that I am really liking General Purpose Rub v1.5. It’s got a lot of flavor, a bit of heat, some herbiness, and it all works well together. The Honey Hog Barbecue Sauce v2.0 is also a winner, with all the goodness of the rub plus a tangy, almost fruity, sweetness.

The ribs? They were tasty, but they were big baby backs (average 2 1/2 pounds per rack) and I overestimated how much they would cook in the foil while being transported. They ended up good, but chewier than I would have liked. On the plus side, a rack per adult was way too much food, so we all enjoyed leftovers.

The Nutrition
Ribs never will be diet food. A four bone serving is 600 calories and 10 Weight Watchers points with the rub and the sauce.

ONE YEAR AGO –  Corned Beef Hash

TWO YEARS AGO – Tri-tip Roast

 

Chicken & Chorizo Fajitas

It was 74°F Saturday and today it’s spitting snow!?! Go figure. It’s been one crazy spring, but never let it be said that I am one to waste a chance to grill and eat outside. So before Mother Nature had a chance to change her mind, I whipped up a quick batch of fajitas while it was still nice out.

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken pieces (I used tenders, but breasts or thighs work great, too)
8 ounces Mexican chorizo
3 bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 yellow onion, sliced into strips
4 cloves garlic (chopped to go in the veggies)
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
3 cloves garlic (whole for the marinade)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1 tablespoon worcestershire or soy sauce
2 tablespoons achiote oil (or 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon paprika)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded

Toss lime juice, 3 cloves of the garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, worcestershire, oil, and jalapeño into the food processor and blend to combine.

Put the bell pepper, onion and chopped garlic in zip-top bag and cover with half the marinade.  Do the same with the chicken. Stash both in the fridge while you get the grill fired up.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over high heat (450°F). You can use a grilling basket or pan to cook the meat and veggies, but I like using a cast iron griddle.

Set the griddle on the grate and let it heat up for about 15 minutes.

Fry the chorizo on the griddle. I rolled the meat up into little balls, but you could also break it up. When it’s browned, move the meat off to a warm plate.

Put the chicken on the griddle and cook until until browned on both sides and cooked through, about three to five minutes per side. Remove from the griddle and put with the chorizo.

Put the veggies on the griddle. Cook, stirring often, until they are soft and nicely browned, about 5 to 10 minutes.

When the veggies are done, add back in the chorizo and chicken. Stir and cook until just warmed through, about 2 minutes.

Move the whole works off to a serving platter. Serve with warm tortillas and some guacamole or sour cream.

The Verdict: ★★★★½
Lightly charred veggies, tender meat, and just the right amount of heat from the marinade came together to make this a very tasty dish. It’s similar to, but not as greasy as, the parrillada platter at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. The only thing that would have made this better would have been to crumble the chorizo and fry it loosely so it would be distributed throughout the dish.

The Nutrition
Two fajitas with corn tortillas are 361 calories and 9 Weight Watchers points, so if you go easy on the sour cream this is a very healthy, veggie-packed meal.

ONE YEAR AGO –  Lemon Pepper Chicken

TWO YEARS AGO – Spring Sirloin & Asparagus

 

General Purpose Rub v1.5

This is the second version of what I hope will be a stock barbecue seasoning that I can use as the base for a variety of recipes. For the code geeks out there, this is a “dot release” with a few little tweaks, but no major changes. I increased the sugar and salt, dialed down the lemon zest, added some thyme and chili powder, and bumped up the allspice.

3 tablespoons raw or turbinado sugar
2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried lemon or orange zest
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice

Combine everything in a shaker jar and stir to combine and break up any lumps. Makes about 2/3 cup.

The rub smells and tastes great, but the real test will be when it meets a rack of ribs. Soon, very soon…

Fish Tagine with Chermoula and Moroccan Rice Pilaf

If you haven’t figured this out by now, I really dig my tagine. At first I thought it was just a funny-looking Dutch oven, but I’m discovering that its unusual design is the reason everything that comes out of this North African cooking pot tastes so good.

The tagine’s wide, shallow base lets you start a dish uncovered on the stove top to brown meat and veggies or reduce stock like a sauté pan. Once your stock/sauce is ready, you can just add your remaining ingredients, put the lid on, and keep cooking on the stove top or move everything off to the oven for longer cooks.

Either way, the conical top allows air to circulate above the food without the flavors escaping. The food both steams and roasts (aka braising) at the same time. Yes, you can get a similar effect in a Dutch oven, but because the tagine is wider and shallower, more of the food gets braised rather than boiled.

Finally, it’s hard to beat the presentation when you set the tagine in the middle of the table, pull the lid away, and let all of the wonderful aromas billow out in a cloud of steam. That said, watch your fingers around that steam! I always open it by grabbing the top with an oven mitt.

The Chermoula
A fancy name, but this is just a flavorful Morrocan herb and lemon based marinade that’s traditionally used on fish, but would work well for veggies and chicken too.

1 1/2 pounds cod (or other firm, white fish) fillets
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Put the garlic cloves and salt in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the cilantro, paprika, cumin, ginger, cayenne pepper, oil, and lemon juice and give everything a whirl until it is well-combined.

Put the fish in a zip-top bag and cover with the marinade. Toss to coat and stash in the fridge while you’re putting the pilaf together.

 Moroccan Rice Pilaf
1 cup long grain rice
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 dried cranberries, chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads

Heat the butter and oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and peppers and cook for 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook until the onions are translucent and the rice begins to color.

Add the cinnamon, salt, ginger, cumin, turmeric, cilantro, apricots, and cranberries and stir to combine. Add the stock and saffron to the rice. Bring the stock to a simmer, and taste for salt. Adjust the seasoning. Cover the rice, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently and undisturbed, for about 25 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.

While the rice is cooking, put the tagine together.

The Fish Tagine
The marinated fish and all of the chermoula
1 large onion, chopped
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup black and green olives, pitted
2 tablespoons olive oil

Pour the olive oil into the tagine base and heat on the stove top over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, ginger, salt, pepper, turmeric, and lemon juice and bring to a low boil for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the fish, all of the chermoula, and the olives.

Cover the tagine, and cook over low heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until the fish flakes with a fork.

To serve – put down a bed of the pilaf, top with a fish fillet, and cover everything with a scoop of sauce.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
There are so many flavors going on in this dish that I have no idea where to start. I love the way the fresh green tang of the chermoula pulls the sweet and savory ingredients together.

The dish did end up a little thin. I’d use half the amount of tomatoes next time.

The Nutrition:
6 servings (4 ounces of fish, 1/2 cup of pilaf, a few olives, and a cup of sauce), 443 calories, 11 Weight Watchers points. This is a filling dish, but I’d use less fat and more fish next time.

Testing 1, 2, 3…

I’m trying out a new home-made barbecue rub. Yes, I still have more shelf space devoted to jars of commercially-made rubs than I care to admit to, but I’ve got some good reasons for venturing out on my own:

Availability – as much as I love the rubs by folks like Dizzy Pig, John Henry, and Tasty Licks, I always feel bad when I recommend a specific rub in a recipe because I know that not everyone has ready access to them. If somebody gave me a recipe that specifically called for Uncle Crunchy’s Pecan Butt Rub, and Uncle Crunchy wants $12 for a jar of rub plus $6 shipping, I wouldn’t be jumping up to make that recipe. My goal is to have a couple of stock rub and sauce recipes on this site, so folks can just make it themselves.

Experience – the more I learn, the less I know. Combining herbs and spices to create a specific flavor combination is a whole lot harder than it looks. Working out my own spice blends helps me learn more about how the individual ingredients work together.

Versatility – ultimately, I’d love to come up with a base rub that can be used on almost everything, and then create a half dozen variations that can be made with that base. Want a poultry rub? Take X amount of base and add these poultry-specific ingredients. Want an Asian barbecue sauce? Take that same base and add it to so much hoisin sauce. Stay tuned for more on this work in progress.

That said, here’s my General Purpose Rub 1.0 on some chicken thighs.

3-5 pounds chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
2 tablespoons raw or turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice

Combine everything but the chicken in a shaker jar. Stir to combine and break up any lumps. Makes about 1/2 cup.

At least 2 hours before cooking, dust the thighs heavily with the rub (1-2 tablespoons per pound of chicken), then lay them out in a single layer on a sheet pan and let them sit uncovered in the fridge. This lets the seasoning work its way into the thighs and also helps to dry out the skin a bit to make it crispy.

Set the grill up for a raised indirect cook over medium-high  (400°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg, I used the plate setter to diffuse the heat.

Put the thighs on the grill skin side down, close the lid, and let them cook for 20. Flip them and let them go another 20 minutes.

Check the thighs for doneness. Chicken is technically done when the juices run clear and the internal temperature hits 160°F, but I like my thighs cooked a little longer to at least 180°F.

So leave the thighs skin side up and continue to cook until they hit 180°F, then remove them to a warm plate and let sit 10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★½☆
The chicken turned out tasty and crispy, but the rub could use some more work. It had plenty of heat, but almost all of it was at the end, nothing up front. There were lots of individual flavors going on, but it needed a little more sugar and salt to unify them. So it’s a good rub, but not a great one, yet.

This is one of the first times I’ve used turbinado sugar (raw sugar crystallized from the initial pressing of the sugar cane), and I can highly recommend it.  Raw sugar is a different beast than regular brown sugar (which is just highly processed white sugar that’s had some molasses added back into it). It has an almost floral aroma to it and a nice caramel flavor that’s more complex than the strong molasses flavor of brown sugar.

The Nutrition
Chicken thighs are 4 Weight Watchers point a piece (3 points without the skin, but who wants to live without crispy chicken skin)? As for the rub, even at 2 tablespoon of rub per pounds of chicken, there is so little raw sugar in it that it doesn’t even merit a point.

ONE YEAR AGO –  Smoked Salmon Dip

TWO YEARS AGO – Shrimp & Corn Chowder