Honey Hog Barbecue Sauce v3.0

Honey Hog Chicken

I’m getting ready to cook up a big pile-o-pork for a graduation party. I’d like to make all my own rubs and sauces for it, so I thought I’d start with a quart-sized batch of Honey Hog sauce.

1/2 cup honey
1 cup raw or turbinado sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup tamarind concentrate
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
1 tablespoon half-sharp paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon allspice

Combine the tomato paste and sugar in a medium sauce pan and cook over low heat, stirring often, until the sugar melts into the paste.

Honey Hog Barbecue Sauce

Add the remaining ingredients, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stirring constantly, raise the heat a little until the sauce is bubbling away nicely. Keep stirring and cook until all the sugar has dissolved and the sauce starts to thicken a little bit (about five minutes).

Honey Hog Barbecue Sauce

Reduce the heat to low and let sauce cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Bottle and store in the fridge. Makes about 1 quart.

Honey Hog Chicken

Since you can only tell so much about a sauce while tasting it off of a spoon, I tried it on some grilled chicken thighs to get an idea of how it would work and play with others.

About 2 hours before cooking, I dusted some bone-in, skin-on thighs with a bit of salt, pepper, and paprika. I put them in a single layer on a sheet pan and let them sit uncovered in the fridge to let the seasoning work its way into the thighs and dry out the skin a bit to make it crispy.

I set the grill up for a raised indirect cook over medium (350°F) heat. I used the plate setter under the cooking grid on the Big Green Egg to diffuse the heat.

I put the thighs on the grill skin side up, closed the lid, and let them cook for 20 minutes. I flipped them and let them go another 20 minutes. I flipped them back skin side up and checked for doneness. While chicken is technically done when the juices run clear and the internal temperature hits 160°F, that leaves the thighs kind of rubbery. I like mine cooked a little longer to at least 180°F so the meat is tender and the skin is crisp.

This batch of thighs needed about 20 more minutes to hit 180°F. At this point I sauced them on both sides with the Honey Hog, put them back on for 10 more minutes, sauced them one last time and moved them to a warm plate and let sit 10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Sometimes less is more. I basically doubled the main ingredients in the v2.0 recipe, but decided to leave out some of the herbs and spices that I didn’t think were key players. The result is a sauce that has a nice sweet and tangy tomato flavor with enough heat and spice to make it interesting. It’s not as complex as the previous version, but I like the clean, straight forward taste.

The sauce was lovely on the chicken thighs – adding a nice spicy sweetness. The thighs themselves were so crispy that biting into one was like biting into a slice of bacon. Mmmmmmmmmmmm… chicken bacon… mmmmmmmmmm…

The Nutrition:
3 ounces of chicken meat is only about 100 calories and 4 Weight Watchers points. The sauce maybe adds another 1/2 point per thigh.

One year ago – Spring Slow-Roasted Steaks
Two years ago – What Eggs are Supposed to Look Like

Pan-Fried Fish

Pan Fried Tilapia

It’s Lent, and the former altar boy in me is craving fish. Specifically – fried fish. More exactly – Filet-O-Fish. Since there aren’t really any gluten-free options at the golden arches, I adapted this Sandra Lee recipe to try and scratch my itch.

1/3 cup gluten-free flour
1 tablespoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds firm white fish fillets
2-3 tablespoons peanut oil

Pan Fried Tilapia

In a shallow baking dish (a 9×13 pan works great for this) combine flour, seasoning, salt and pepper. Pat the fish dry, add to the pan, and coat each side with the seasoned flour.

Pan Fried Tilapia

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in small batches, shake any excess flour off of the filets and arrange them in the skillet. Brown the filets on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add more oil if needed in between batches.

Pan Fried Tilapia

Serve with this killer tarter sauce from Kitchen Konfidence and some creamy coleslaw.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
Definitely not McFishparts and it took care of my craving. I used tilapia and thought it was a little muddy tasting. I’d use cod next time.

The Nutrition:
A 4-ounce serving is 5 Weight Watchers points and 125 calories. Take it easy on the tarter sauce and it’s pretty healthy.

One year ago – Sweet Chili Barbecued Pork
Two years ago – Reuben Dip

Corned Beef Hash

Corned Beef Hash

Did things get a little too Irish over the weekend? This’ll fix you up me boyo.

4 medium red potatoes, shredded
6 ounces diced corned beef (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 medium onion, shredded
2 tablespoons peanut oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the potatoes, corned beef, onion, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a bowl. Stir to combine.

Heat the remaining oil in a 12-inch fry pan over medium heat. Fill the pan with the hash mixture, then use a spatula to press it into a flat, even layer.

Corned Beef Hash

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the bottom begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Flip and flatten again. Continue to cook, flipping every 10 minutes, until hash is well browned, about 40 minutes total.

Season with salt and pepper and serve topped with a couple of fried eggs.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Crispy taters mixed with sweet onion and tender corned beef – perfect!

The Nutrition:
This is medicine, not food. There aren’t any calories in medicine.

One year ago – Longaniza Sausage
Two years ago – Oven-Baked Oatmeal

Standard Issue Creamy Coleslaw

Coleslaw

This is an ever-so-slightly updated version of the creamy cabbage salad that you’ll find at almost any barbecue or picnic.

1 small head of green cabbage, shredded
1/2 small head red cabbage, shredded
2 medium carrots, grated
1 small onion, grated
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice or buttermilk
1-2 teaspoons Louisiana-style hot sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise (I used Kraft’s Olive Oil Mayo)
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Grate cabbage, carrots, and onion into a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Cover and stash in the fridge for at least an hour so the flavors get to know each other. Toss again, taste and adjust seasonings, then serve immediately.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This may well be my favorite coleslaw recipe. It’s creamy and flavorful without crossing over into being gloppy and heavy. It’ll stand up to barbecue or burgers, but won’t overwhelm them. Making it with lemon juice gives it a brighter taste, while using buttermilk makes it creamier.

The Nutrition:
Switching to light mayo and sour cream keeps the creaminess, but really cuts the fat. 1/2 cup is about 100 calories and only 1 Weight Watchers point.

One year ago – Sweet Chili Barbecued Pork
Two years ago – Spring!

Double-Smoked Ham

doublesmokedham-1010078

When we ordered our last pig, we got something I hadn’t seen before – ham roasts. Not a full ham, but more like a really thick cured and smoked ham steak. Normally I’d pan fry one of these for ham and eggs, or chop if up for ham and bean soup. Instead I decided to treat it like a regular ham and  gave it the double-smoke and glaze treatment.

1 ham roast (2-3 pound thick ham steak)
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice

Combine the honey, vinegars, Worcestershire sauce, and spices in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let simmer until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon – about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook over medium heat (350°F). On the Big Green Egg this means using an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat, and a trivet to set the pan on. I added a good-sized chunk of pecan wood for smoke.

On fully cooked hams, all you need to do is warm the ham to 140°F internal. At 15 minutes per pound, this 3 pound roast should take less than an hour. Place the roast in a small roasting pan (I used a 9×13 cake pan). Close the lid and cook the roast for 20 minutes.

Flip the roast over and baste the ham with the glaze. Close the lid and cook for another 20 minutes. Glaze again, and continue cooking until the ham reaches 140°F internal. Glaze one last time and remove to a cutting board.

doublesmokedham-1010063

Let the ham rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Skim the fat off the pan juices serve it as an au jus.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
Cooking ham is easy, and double smoking and glazing the roast like this is a great way to really bump the flavor up without adding much more effort to it.

This cut got a little dry, but that was the only problem. Next time I would probably glaze it right before putting it on the grill and then eery 15 minutes or so until just done.

The Nutrition:
Ham is 130 calories and 4 Weight Watchers points per 3 ounce serving.

One year ago – Longaniza Sausage
Two years ago – Tamale Pie

Carnitas Nachos

Carnitas Nachos

I’ve been in the mood for some porky comfort food, but it has just been way too cold and wet to make it on my Big Green Egg.  So I moved this carnitas recipe inside to the oven.

8 pounds pork shoulder roast
Juice of 3 oranges (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon achiote oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano

Preheat your oven to  350°F.

Cut the roast into 3 to 4-inch chunks, discarding any stringy connective tissue, but keeping all of the fat.

Combine all of the ingredients in a Dutch oven, and give it a stir. Put the lid on and move to the oven. Let it simmer for an hour. The orange juice should be bubbly and the fat in the meat should have started to render out.

Carnitas Nachos

Remove the lid, stir, and return it to the oven uncovered to simmer for another hour. Keep checking and stirring once an hour until most of the liquid has evaporated and the pork has started to fry in its own fat (about 3 hours total).

As it gets closer to being done, start checking and stirring the meat every 15 minutes to make sure the meat is getting crispy, but not becoming dry or burned. Total cook time for this batch was just shy of 5 hours.

Carnitas Nachos

Remove the carnitas to a serving dish using a slotted spoon. Cover and keep warm while you put the sauces together.

Avocado Dressing
1 avocado
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ranch dressing mix (Penzeys Buttermilk Ranch in this case)
1 cup buttermilk
1 medium shallot
2 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
2-3 tablespoons picked jalapenos, including juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Pit the avocado by cutting it lengthwise around the seed and then twisting the two halves apart to expose the pit.

To remove the pit:

  • If you are brave and good with a knife, hold the avocado half with the pit in the hand that you can afford to lose (you can use an oven mitt to protect your hand, but you lose style points ;)) . Tap the pit with the heel of a chef’s knife blade hard enough that the knife sticks into the pit. Twist the pit out, then slap the knife’s tang  flat against the edge of a trash can edge to release the pit. Take a little bow.
  • If you have more common sense than you do knife skills, just twist the halves apart as above, then use a tablespoon to pop the pit out.

Once the pit is out, use said tablespoon to scoop the avocado flesh out of the skin and into a food processor. Add the mayonnaise, ranch dressing mix, buttermilk, shallot, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and jalapenos. Give it a whirl until everything it blended smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stash in the fridge while you make the cheese sauce.

Cheese Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking Mix in this case)
2 cups milk
8 ounces Colby-Jack cheese, shredded, about 2 1/2 cups
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
Pinch Hungarian paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pot, melt the butter and add the flour to it. Whisk together and cook flour and butter for a couple of minutes over moderate heat until it starts to bubble. Gradually whisk in the milk until it is smooth. Simmer gently until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese, cayenne, and paprika. Keep whisking until everything is smooth and melty. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat.

Assemble nachos by alternating layers of chips, cheese sauce, meat, avocado, salsa, sour cream, more chips, just smidge more meat, hot sauce, maybe some more cheese, etc… until you have your personal nacho nirvana.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Aside from not having the smokey goodness that the grill adds, these carnitas rocked – crispy, juicy, and tender. I really liked the added orange juice as the citrus sweetness played real well with the earthiness of the anchiote.

Both sauces were very tasty, but the avocado sauce was a real standout – smooth, fresh, and herby.

The Nutrition:
Carnitas will never be diet food. Four ounces of meat is 5 Weight Watchers Points and 190 calories, so use it sparingly. The cheese sauce won’t do you any good either, but the avocado sauce is lighter and more flavorful than guacamole, so you can save some calories there.

One year ago – Caribbean Lobster
Two years ago – Tamale Pie

Cooking in Cozumel

Cooking in Cozumel

Lest you think I spent my entire vacation with my toes in the sand and a drink in my hand – while we were in Cozumel my dear wife signed us up for a cooking class with local chef Josefina Gonzales Luigi. The class offered a truly immersive cooking experience – from touring Josefina’s prolific garden (and playing with her four kitties), to deciding upon the menu, then trying out our Spanish while shopping San Miguel’s mercado for fresh ingredients, and finally assembling the goodies under Josefina’s guidance.

Cooking in Cozumel

We walked from Josefina’s kitchen over to the market to pick up supplies. The mercado is a block-sized labyrinth of vendors selling everything from fresh meat and produce, to hand-made linens, cooking utensils, and clothing.

Cooking in Cozumel
Fresh red snapper on their way to becoming lunch.

When we returned from shopping, Josefina’s assistant had a big batch of refreshing agua de jamaica (hibiscus tea) waiting for us.

Cooking in Cozumel

1 cup dried hibiscus flowers (found in large bags in the ethnic foods section of most big grocery stores)
3/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, to taste
1/2 gallon water

Put 4 cups of the water and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat until boiling and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in the dried hibiscus flowers. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain into a pitcher, discarding the flowers

Add the remaining water (or ice and water if you want it cold fast) and chill.

After enjoying the agua de jamaica we started the ceviche right away so it could “cook” while we prepared the rest of the goodies.

Cooking in Cozumel

1 pound firm white fish, deboned and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup lime juice (about 4 limes)
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon habañero pepper, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Because there is a (small) risk of parasites if the shrimp are fresh, you’ll want to boil them before adding them to the ceviche – fill a medium saucepan with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp to the boiling water, stir, cover and remove from the heat. Let stand for 8 to 10 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and just cooked through. Drain shrimp off into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.

Put the fish and shrimp in a large, non-reactive bowl. Cover with lime juice and stir well to make sure everything gets coated in lime juice. Let sit in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, Stir and return it to the fridge for another 20 minutes. After 40 minutes in the lime juice the fish should be “cooked” through and change from being pinkish grey and translucent to whiter in color, firm, and opaque. Stir in the onion, cilantro, and chile. Return to the fridge for another 20 minutes to let the flavors develop.

Serve with tortilla chips.

There were 10 other folks in class, and all told we ended up making refried black beans, guacamole, nopale (cactus) salad, red and green sauces, ceviche, margaritas, mango and cucumber salad, achiote sauce, habañero salsa, corn tortillas, and quesadillas. It was quite a meal and a real joy to get to learn from a talented cook and get to use fresh local ingredients.

A huge thanks to my dear wife for setting this up. It was the highlight of our trip and a great way to spend my birthday!