Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Don't Know How That Beer Can Got Up That Chicken's Butt, Mr. Officer.......

Any old fool can cook a chicken. It takes only marginally more effort to smoke one. However, if your smoked chicken doesn't have a can of beer crammed up its toot, you just aren't even trying.

!!!!Warning!!!! Explicit Content!!!!
!!!The Sight of Chickens With Cans in their Butts Might Be Offensive to Some Viewers!!!

Beer Can Chicken is no new thing. It's been around for a while, but how many people really do it? I know this was my first time. Why is that? Everybody always says that it makes the most perfect, lusciously moist, well seasoned poultry you'll ever have. So why aren't people doing it all the time?
Allow me to show you why...

People like to eat well prepared food, but Pregceratops is right at the top of the list of those people who would never eat it again if they ever saw it in this type of compromised position. Well I say, get over it. (I said it without all caps and any emphatic punctuation, because I don't want Pregceratops to hear. At 7 1/2 months pregnant, she is easily roused to anger. I want the chicken to be the only one with.....well, you get the point).
It's just like anything else. If you want the reward, you have to put in the grunt work. If you want an omelette, you have to break a few eggs. If you want a teardrop tattoo, you have to find some foo who wanna be a gangsta and fade him befo' he fades you. If you want to be a male Olympic figure skater, you have to install a testosterone drain and abandon all masculinity whatsoever forever and ever. And if you want to smoke a perfect chicken, you have to stuff a beer can south to north. It's just part of the deal.
I picked up an apparatus at some store or another a couple months ago specifically designed to beer can chicken, and it really made the preparation a cinch. It is basically a wire frame with a 12 oz. can sized hole in the middle, and it makes a perfectly stable base for the can and the chicken.
The chicken I used was the one I picked up at the farmer's market last week. Here's a note about farmer's market chicken. The guy explained to me all the benefits of this bird for like, two hours. It was free range, organic, hand fed by a Hungarian leprechaun who only emerges from his cave in the peaks of Afton mountain on the night of a full moon, massaged daily by a Swedish Robot Masseuse from the Future, and read bedtime stories nightly by Charlottesville's mayor, Dave Norris. Sounds great, right? Wrong. It was the sickest, saddest little bird I ever saw. I'll take my birds jacked to the gizzard with hormones, antibiotics and butter any day. But that's neither here nor there...
I pattted the bird down with a cajun rub that we used on fish once, and assembled the frame.
When shopping for the perfect beer can, I found this awesome kit, specially designed for beer can chicken.

Who knew that they came packaged with one for cooking, and five more for drinking? I mean, way to go food marketers! Wowzers, Harris Teeter officially has everything.

After rubbing the bird liberally with a store bought cajun rub, I poured out half the beer (into a glass, which I drank), poked some holes in the top of the can, and poured about 1 tbsp of the rub inside.

Then...well, I took the see, you have to put the can in......okay, this shouldn't be this spread the chicken's legs, and.........what I'm trying to say is, you've got the cavity, and then you've got the can, and....
Okay, if you can't figure it out from here, you need to have a long talk with your parents.
It should look like this
It went into the As-Yet-Unnamed Smoker, which was preheated to about 300 degrees, and I threw on a scoop of mesquite wood chips that had been soaking in water for an hour.
I maintained the temperature and added wood chips as needed for about an hour and a half, until a meat thermometer read 170, which is "won't kill you" for chicken.

When she came out, she was perfect! All that proctology paid off big, because we had a perfectly moist, perfectly flavored chicken! But it needed a side, worthy of its sacrifice.....

I read something recently about grilled corn on the cob with lime butter at a restaurant in Australia, and I had to make it.

The Lime Butter was one of the best tasting things I have ever cooked. When The Pregsident of the United States bit into one of the ears of corn, she gave me a look of pure, pleased-palated bliss that said "This food can save lives. It can heal the sick. It can change the world, one child at a time. good corn."
I will never grill corn again without some kind of flavored butter.
Though we had barbeque sauce, I ended up dripping just a drop of the garlicy lime butter onto the chicken, and it made for some perfect bites. Just a couple though, because, like I said before, this chicken was runty.

So, the moral of the story is this. A chicken can have the most natural, pleasing life a chicken can lead, but should it end up in my reusable grocery bag at the Charlottesville Farmer's Market, it might be subjected to all manner of indignities before it makes it to the Jacked Up Grill's table. Now that I know I have the mettle for this kind of food preparation, all kinds of doors are opening......
I'm having thoughts about a whole cow and a keg........

Grilled Corn with Lime Butter
However many ears of sweet corn, shucked
4 tbsps butter
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
6 lemon sage leaves, chopped
salt to taste

Melt butter and stir in all ingredients. Brush over corn while turning on a hot grill for 7-10 minutes.
Allow sauce to cool until slightly thickened and serve at the table for more basting.

The Jacked Up Grill Wins!!! I am the Greatest Griller in the World!!!! Bring Me Your Finest Meats and Cheeses!!!

We totally won the Grilling With Jack Daniel's Contest from GrillGrrrl's blog.

I have gone into every contest or competition I've ever entered in my life with 100% conviction that I would win. It's just who I am. Sheer force of will alone has actually scored me quite a few victories. But usually, it's times like these, when I have no real training, skills or experience that I go down in flames. Like the time I entered that Tough Man Boxing competition and got my head clubbed repeatedly by a guy with tattoos all over his scalp. (We found out afterwards that inmates from a local prison were allowed to compete that night....seriously)
Anyways, the sun was officially shining on this dog's butt today, and my Ultimate Jack Daniel's Dinner brought home the prize: One bottle of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey!

Congratulations to my co-champion (also known as "runner-up), Meat, Inc., for his recipe for Jack Infused, bacon-wrapped, smoked Twinkies, which I will be trying tonight.

Thanks, GrillGrrrl, for providing a contest for me to dominate!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Jack Daniels Chipotle Flank Steak, Bacon and Grilled Peach Infused Cocktail, and Key Lime Pie with Whiskey Whipped Cream......

Sunday dinner is the Last Castle. It is the final display of freedom before work on Monday sinks its teeth into you, and you go back to the grind. It's a metaphor, really, for capitalism and the trade deficit...Just kidding. I don't even know what a metaphor is. I always thought similes were just frowns turned upside down. Today we're going to drop a lot of my usual gags for actual talk about food, because this was one of my most complete meals to date, and there's a lot of food to talk about here. And drinks. With liquor. And bacon....Mmmmmmmm. Bacon!

When I read that there was a challenge on GrillGrrrl's blog ( involving recipes with Jack Daniel's Whiskey, I was intrigued. I love me some contests, and I love me some Tennessee Whiskey, so I thought this was a win-win-win. I decided, in true Jacked Up Grill style, that I would go so over the top with Jack flavors, that I would win with sheer overwhelming force. So, since my wife is seven months pregnant, and fetal alcohol syndrome is never a good  punchline, I invited my buddy over (his wife and kids are out of town, and he is a federal government employee, so going to work drunk on monday is actually expected) for the Ultimate Jack Daniels Sunday Dinner. Here is the Menu....
Cocktail:     Bacon and Grilled Peach-Infused Jack Daniel's Old Fashioned
Entree:        Honey Chipotle Lime Whiskey Flank Steak
Sides:          Jack Daniel's Summer Slaw with Green Apples, Red Peppers and Snow Peas
                   Smoked Gouda Potato Gratin
Dessert:       Key Lime Pie with Honey Whiskey Whipped Cream

It all started Saturday afternoon.......(Doodley Doo! Doodley Doo! Doodley Doo!) (Flashback Screen Effect!)
I first heard of bacon flavored cocktails on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman, I belive. There was a fat washing technique that infused the smoky bacon flavor into the alcohol without retaining any of the actual fat. Since I am an expert in fat washing, I thought it would be a piece of cake. After extensive googling, the one I wanted to try was from a hipster bar in NYC called PDT (probably stands for something that doens't make any sense, but is artistic. Like Pretty Donkey Truffels. Or Pandora Diplomat Teepee).
I picked up the smokiest bacon I could find (a dry rubbed Black Forest variety) and rendered out a couple of ounces of fat, which I strained. The bacon fat actually looked just like Jack Daniels, which is beautiful, yet disturbing.

I wanted to try a couple different modifications, so I poured out two measuring cups with four ounces of Jack each. I added one ounce of the bacon fat to each cup and let it sit for 6 hours. To mix it up, I grilled up some some peach slices and added them to one of the cups. After the infusion, I put both cups in the freezer overnight.

The morning, the measuring cups had something truly horrible floating on top of them, but after straining, they just looked like whiskey again. (Tip: If you infuse with a fruit, take the fruit out before putting the whiskey in the freezer. My peaches froze up the whole thing, and I had to wait on them to thaw, then get them out and start the freezing over again to get the bacon fat out. Stupid Peaches).
When drinking time came around, I mixed the Jack with a squirt of honey (probably 1/2 tsp), the juice of 1/2 of a Meyer lemon, a couple shakes of Angostura bitters and some ice in a cocktail shaker. I shook it violently and then strained it into a chilled glass and garnished with a grilled slice of Meyer Lemon and a piece of bacon.
I tried it with the peach/bacon and just the bacon flavored Jack, and the peach one was the clear winner. I thought the bacon flavor would be a punch in the face, but it was actually only the faintest smoky salty hint. If anything, I wish I could have had a little more savory in there. The peach and the sweet,tart lemon were perfect complements to the whiskey. Don't be scared! This is a great drink!

For the flank steak, I normally make this marinade/steak sauce with tequila, but I like to keep my liver guessing, so Tennessee Whiskey was a natural fit. I scored both sides of the steak in a diamond pattern and let it marinade in honey, lime juice, garlic, chipotle peppers and Jack for about 6 hours. I saved some of the marinade in a pot and reduced it on the grill to make a thick steak sauce for the table. The steak hit the grill for about 6 minutes per side, and then I let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing it on the bias.

We needed something unhealty to go with dinner, so I made my famous smoked gouda potato au gratin with bacon, and put a scoop of that on the plate under the flank steak slices.

To get just a little more Jack Daniels in there, I made a slaw with julienned red peppers, green apples, and snow peas with some lime juice, whiskey and dijon mustard.
The finished plate was not bad looking.

The best thing I made all day was the Key Lime Pie. I was inspired by a local blog called Pie It Forward ( The author posted a simple recipe for this pie on friday, and I found myself going back to look at it over and over....I was stalking a pie. I'm not even ashamed. Now, I have never made a pie of any kind in my life, but i was determined to do this one right. I had to search the world over this weekend to find real Key Limes, but I did at the last moment, and after following the recipe, my pie looked perfect. I used Paula Dean's recipe for pie crust (, but I replaced the ice water with ice cold Jack. Mmmmm.
I whipped up my own whip cream and added Jack and honey to finish the pie. It was phenomenal. The perfect summer treat. And I made pie making manly. Grrrrrrrrr

At the end of the meal, I wasn't drunk, which means I missed something, considering this was a whiskey challenge, but I made a wicked awesome, complete, coherent dinner. The Jack Daniels flavors were there, though they were subtle, and I impressed myself a little.

Now I get to go fill peoples' prescriptions tomorrow with a clear head and a full belly......

Grilled Peach-Bacon Old Fashioned
Mix 1 ounce bacon fat with 4 oz. Jack Daniels
Add 4-6 grilled peach slices
Stir thoroughly, then let sit at room temperature for 6 hours
Remove peach slices and strain into freezer safe bowl
Let freeze overnight, then strain again to remove solidified fat

In a cocktail shaker, add whiskey, ice, juice of 1/2 Meyer Lemon, a few dashes of bitters, and 2 tsp honey. Shake and strain into chilled glasses (2 servings). Garnish with grilled lemon and bacon strip.

Jack Daniel's Honey Chipotle Marinade/ Steak Sauce:
1/2 cup honey
4 chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped
juice of 2 limes
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup Jack Daniel's Whiskey

Mix and seal with meat in a ziploc bag for at least 6 hours.
For steak sauce, heat in a saucepan until thickened to a honey-like consistency

Smoked Gouda Potatoes Gratin
1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes
1/2 pound smoked gouda cheese, shredded
4 strips bacon, crisped and chopped
1/2 vidalia onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375.
After browning bacon, reserve some bacon fat to cook onions and garlic until translucent. Mix with 1/4 cup cream and bacon pieces and season with salt and pepper
Peel potatoes and slice into 1/8 inch discs. In a bowl, pour 1 cup cream over potatoes and toss thoroughly, then season with salt and pepper.
Add a layer of potatoes in a greased casserole dish, then add a layer of bacon/onion mixture, then a layer of cheese. Repeat until out of potatoes, then pour remaining cream over the top and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake for 1 hour covered with aluminum foil, then remove foil for 30 more minutes to get a brown top.

Jack Daniel's Apple, Red Pepper Snow Pea Slaw
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 granny smith apple, julienned
20 snow peas
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Jack Daniel's
Blanch peas, then place in ice bath. Finely julienne red pepper and apple, then mix with vinaigrette.
For vinaigrette, stir all ingredients together, and then whisk very quickly while adding olive oil. Mix peas, apples, peppers and vinaigrette until everything is coated.

Key Lime Pie With Jack Daniel's Flavored Whipped Cream
Substitute Jack for Ice Water for a sublte caramel flavor in the crust.
For Key Lime Pie Recipe, see
1 cup Whipping Cream
2 tbsps confectioner's sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp Jack Daniel's
In a mixer, combine all ingredients and gradually increase mixer speed until cream is puffed up and firm enough to hold its shape. Spoon out as desired onto pie.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A New Weapon in the War on Meat!!!!

Thanks to the very helpful staff at The Happy Cook ( in Charlottesville for helping me choose the perfect chef's knife. I have been looking for a good knife for a while, and I went with the 10 inch Shun Classic by Kershaw.
Kershaw, of course, is a great favorite of mine for the fine pocket knives they make. A great example is the Kershaw Ken Onion Steven Seagal Edition Folder, which was a present a few years ago from Pregpocalypse.

If you read the Jacked Up Grill, and I'm confident there are at least two of you out there who do, then you must know that I am Steven Segal's Number One Fan.
You should watch Out For Justice tonight. Just because.

Anyways, back to knives. There was an 8 inch model of the Shun Classic on display in the knife window of The Happy Cook, and the very pleasant and helpful sales associate was kind enough to let me handle if I know the difference between a good knife and a bad knife.....and I was ready to leave. But then, I felt Steven Seagal speaking to me inside my head, which happens often.
Steven said "Justin.....I bet they have a bigger one....Ask her about a bigger one......"
So I asked, and they had a bigger one. It is like a meat slicing sword.
I begged Pregatron, and she let me have it. And now I will use it to cut food.
Stay tuned....

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

There's a Whole in My Heart That Can Only Be Filled By Foods. Whole Foods...Get It? The Grocery Store?

We all need something to hate on. It's true. You can't wear that big fake smile and love happiness, puppies and sunshine all the time. When you have a bad day, everyone needs to drink some Haterade sometimes and just spew evil at something. Example: Crocs. If I'm in a bad mood, and I see someone wearing those rubber monstrosities on their feet, in my mind, the lion starts roaring, and I start thinking "Stupid Crocs. Crocs are so stupid. Try running away when the zombies invade in a pair of Crocs and see how long you survive. Stupid Crocs. Show your team spirit on a pair of ankle length socks with a bob on the back like a grown up instead of on some rubberized clogs........Crocs are stupid."
Well, today, I had to drop a mark off of my list of "Things to Hate on When I am Illin'"
I couldn't help it. It was one of my go-to targets to vent on, but today, it won me over with a a full-fledged assault on all my defenses.
I thought Whole Foods was just a grocery store that tailored to the Charlottesville granola-eating, organic-everything-including-drinking-water, get-the-news-from-All-Things-Considered, only-eat-meat-from-animals-who-die-from-natural-causes crowd. That is all true. But when Preggy McPreggerpants and I went to check out the brand new location here in town, I found out that it is so much more.

As we walked through the insanely busy parking lot filled with mid-90's Volvos and SMART cars (stupid SMART cars), my first impression was that every ten parking places or so had a spray paint stencil on the ground with some witticism such as "We put the MMMM in community." Strike One.
We elbowed our way through the crowd of extremely rude CVillians queueing up by the front doors who wouldn't make way for a pregnant lady and a baby (Strike Two), and just as I started to hear the Beast Within start to growl, the cool air and the smell of happiness hit me like a freight train. If you've never crossed the threshold of this store, you should muster up a really rotten mood and then do it. See how long it takes  for the sight of a giant wall of neatly and artistically arranged fruits and vegetables, all tastefully lit and glistening with water droplets, each hand placed by a Buddhist monk with a tiny hand-blown glass dropper, to chip away at your inner monster. See if your poison can withstand the aroma of about two thousand containers of exotic spices that you can buy by the scoop, including things you only see on Food Network such as pink peppercorns ($53 per pound!), juniper berries, dried morel mushrooms, and, I'm pretty sure, even though I didn't see them, Pickled Martian Eggs (free range, of course).
The place is amazing. It punches all your senses in the face right when you walk through the door.

We penetrated further, and the only thing keeping me from wearing a big grin on my face was the fact that people kept shoving us out of the way to get to whatever we were marvelling at. But just when my buzz was about to turn into a headache, I saw it: The Meat Counter. It was like a mythical beast. The Loch Ness Meatster. La ChupMeatCabbra. The Meatsquatch? Okay, I'm done.
There was more protein in more variety than can possibly ever be sold before it spoils. (We'll come back to that later), including about 40 different types of artisinal sausages all made in store.

I'm not going to rave about every aisle in the store, but it was just more of the same. There was an absolutely extreme standard of quality, selection and presentation in every department. The place is beautiful. I might cry, if my tear ducts hadn't been turned to stone by exposure to testosterone over the years.

I was curious to see what the service would be like. Many high end retailers only hire people who are highly trained in how to make you feel like you are wasting their time. That was not the case here. Everyone was fantastic. You couldn't turn a corner without someone magically appearing just outside the range of your personal bubble asking you if they could help you. Plus, I had a suspicion that they were all experts in whatever you happened to be looking at. Enter Sean. As I perused a lengthy wall of beer, Sean appeared out of a portal from Beerland and sidled up to me to assist in my selection. He asked what my tastes were, and I desperately tried to sound knowledgable, but even though I'm confident he saw right through it, he still patiently and courteously helped me mix and match a six pack (an AWESOME feature) of things I hadn't tried before. He was great. Though I am worried about his liver, considering he had had everything they sell.

My son was crying, so another lady came running with a tiny cup of strawberries to pacify him. She even tracked us down later and gave him a lollipop (organic). The service was top notch.

The bottom line is this. The place is like a foodie amusement park. It was a truly enjoyable experience, and it is nice to know that I have a source for all the things I have wished I could find in my cooking. Sure, it's expensive. Sure, if you're looking for a Coke, you're out of luck. Sure, you have to shop along side the douchiest crowd the People's Republic of Charlottesville has to offer, but I still officially declare Whole Foods awesome.

So, I'm taking applications for new things to hate, since Whole Foods is off my list. Until I get a new target, I'll just have to stick to my old faithfuls. Like dog shows. Stupid dog shows. People shouldn't carry dog treats in their mouths. Stupid dog shows.....

By the way, for dinner, we had grilled pork chops with rosemary and thyme from the Jacked Up Grill's own herb garden, grilled zucchini and corn from my friend's garden, and Pregatron's famous macaroni and cheese. Until next time!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bacon Jam.......You read it right. Bacon. Jam. It has a special place in my heart. That place is called my right coronary artery.

I have read many blogs about bacon jam. I have seen shows that feature bacon jam. They all share a common need to use extremely flourishy, overly dramatic, ridiculous verbiage to describe this food. I will not do that in this description. It is, after all, just food..............

Picture an old man. The old man is reclining in an easy chair by a fire, his warm living room surrounding him with pictures and knick knacks, each one a good memory, an old friend. His trusty dog Skip is curled up on the throw rug lazily wagging his tail, his gray whiskers twitching as he snores by the firelight. The old man looks around at the teary eyed faces of his three children, six grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren, all gathered around him. They pat his hand and try to huddle close, so that they can share in his company for just a little bit longer. One grandson, in a low voice, says, "Grandpa, what's the best thing that ever happened to you?"
He carefully studies each of their faces, fondly remembering each of their births, each of their weddings, graduations and school plays. He muses about the Christmases they all spent together and the times they celebrated their victories and shored each other up in their challenges. After a long, pregnant pause, he looks his grandson square in the eye and says....
"Bacon Jam."

Bacon Jam is the Shangrli La of condiments. Bacon Jam saves babies from falling in wells. Bacon Jam can bring peace to the Middle East. Bacon Jam could make it okay for white comediens to do impressions of black people. Bacon Jam can sit on a stool in an empty room with a spotlight on it and call itself "performance art," and it would actually be good art. Bacon Jam should run for office. I'm thinking County Commision. Even pigs like Bacon Jam. Bacon Jam makes even my pork tacos taste good. Bacon Jam can punch through a stack of flaming bricks. Bacon Jam breaks hearts....literally. Bacon Jam makes perfection look like it has a lot of room for improvement. Bacon Jam can get Mark Antony and J-Lo back together. Bacon Jam can right wrongs and sing songs. Bacon Jam could win any rap battle, and without using bad language or talking about anyone's mother. Bacon Jam is the Steven Segal of food products. Bacon Jam. It's what you eat when you're in heaven.

Okay. I apologize for that.
Bacon Jam is exactly what it sounds like. It is a sticky, melty, slightly sweet, slightly crunchy, spread made from reduced, rendered bacon and a bunch of spices. It was apparently a product sold by a street food truck called Skillet Street Food, and then it was on food network, and now everyone writes about it (try and find that old man bit on another won't), and I had to try it. It just sounded too good to be true.
Of the recipes I read, mine is the closest to the one on an Australian lady's blog called Not Quite Nigella. It can be found at
I busted out the porcelain covered cast iron Dutch Oven (hee hee) that Preggy Potter got me for our anniversary, and I went to town....

Here is the Mother of My Children chopping bacon. I might cry, this image makes me so happy....

We browned the bacon and then sweated some shallots and garlic in the bacon drippings, then combined it all in the dutch oven.

Next, I stirred the pot around every thirty minutes for two hours, adding water when it got a little dry. 

one hour

Two hours

After a quick blast in the food processor, it was ready to chill and serve.
I brought some to my friend, and he has sent me many messages saying how much it transformed breakfast sandwiches into works of art, but honestly, I was almost afraid of my own creation. In fact, it was a solid four days before I properly ate the bacon jam on anything. But tonight, I punched my inhibitions and my cardiovascular system in the face and added it to the Perfect Pork Burger (See
Now, I'd like to say that since I had bacon jam on my burger, I didn't need to add a strip of bacon. I would also like to have one million dollars in not sequential bills, but I have coped with the fact that that is not true either. I put bacon jam on there with bacon. That's like the time my grandmother took leftovers from Thanksgiving, including turkey, and fed it to her chickens. It's just wrong.  But if you don't like it I DON"T CARE! (In Pizza Shop Arnold voice). It was insane. It was incredible. It was burger nirvana.
I am done here, folks. I know my post may not measure up to the others out there about this topic, but I feel like the two and a half people who read this blog need to know how good this really is. Try it. Tonight. Harris Teeter is open all night.......
Bacon Jam
(Modified from Not Quite Nigella's original)
1 pound Smoked Thick Cut Bacon
4 cloves garlic
5 smallish shallots, sliced
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Cholula hot sauce
1 cup McDonald's Coffee (yes, coffee)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple flavored syrup (walmart brand)
Water as needed

Chop bacon into one inch pieces and brown slightly. Drain about half the grease and then sweat the shallots and garlic until translucent. Add bacon, shallots and garlic to large dutch oven and then stir in other ingredients. Simmer, uncovered, for two hours, stirring and adding water every half hour until it looks like the La Brea tar pits.
Allow to cool and transfer to food processor, then gently pulse until it looks spreadable. Don't puree too smooth. Spread on toast, burgers, or anything really. I'm thinking about putting it on a carrot, just for the irony. You need to try this one. Really. It's good food.

Friday, July 8, 2011

East Meets Further East! Asian Flavored Kebabs with Grilled Baba Ghanoush

In the early days, there were a bunch of dudes eating raw meat. They worked so hard to kill the mammoth, and then they just sat there and gnawed on the bloody, unseasoned carcass. Those were some unsatisfied Cro-Magnons. Along came some slightly larger brained dudes, and they started putting their mammoth on a fire to cook. Grilling was born! But those dudes had only slightly larger brains, and they had very badly burned hands. Enter a dude we'll call "Steve." Steve says, "Grrrrrah! Boolah Boolah Huh Huh Gobbledy Blah!" which is caveman for "Hey idiots, lets skewer this mammoth on a stick when we cook it. Honestly, you clowns can barely pick nits out of each others' back hair without naturally selecting yourselves for extinction."
And that is how the kebab was born.

When I think of kebabs, I think of little mediterranean places like the Olive Branch in Birmingham and the Ariana Kebab House here in Charlottesville, where the meat has a thick, powerful layer of seasoning and you buy stock in GlaxoSmithKline (the makers of TUMs antacids) before you show up for dinner. We, here at the Jacked Up Grill, are all about strong flavors. So tonight we decided to represent that part of the world with meat on a stick.

For our meat sticks, I chose one pound of black angus New York strip ($6 per pound at Harris Teeter this week) cut into one inch cubes, green bell pepper, Vidalia onion, pineapple chunks and zucchini fresh from my friend's garden.

Here's a word about assembling a proper kebab. Any old caveman can stab a bunch of ingredients randomly and slap them on the fire, but what separates us from the primates is our ability to put them on the stick in the right order for maximum meat nirvana. First, you need a proper skewer. The good ones have a ring on one end that aids handling, and it is essential that the length of the skewer be flat and not just round like wire. The flat edge keeps the food in place so when you flip it on the grill, you don't just spin the food around a million times like a knucklehead. Now, start with a firm vegetable to act as a stopper, then something softer like a petal of onion. It is good to put the meat next, because the onion really melts into it. If you use pineapple, putting it next is critical, because the juices really add to the steak, and the acid helps tenderize it. Next, add the zucchini to firm it up and then repeat until you run out of real estate. Make sure you put bell pepper or zucchini at the very end to hold everything on, and you're ready to go.
I have kebabbed many times, because it's easy and fun, and I have tried many different marinades and flavorings for the meat. Tonight, we went to Japan for our inspiration, and used a ginger-soy-sesame flavored glaze. These ingredients really favor the meat and vegetables on the skewer because they are pungent and salty, where the bell peppers, pineapple and onion can be overly sweet. This kind of glaze can be made from scratch, and it tastes the best that way, but sesame oil and fresh ginger are pretty expensive, and there are many bottled salad dressings and marinades that are already made that taste great and only cost a couple million yen ($2-3 American). I used Lawry's Sesame Ginger Marinade ($1.75 on sale at Harris Teeter).  Of course, these flavors aren't really Mediterranean, but more on avoiding international incidents later.

The kebabs hit the grill for about five minutes per side, and I applied the glaze liberally throughout cooking.

We went back a little left on the map for our side item. When you want your food to sound impressive, you cook something with a great name. Baba Ghanoush (BOBBA ga Noosh) is an awesome name for anything, and even makes a great expletive when you stub your toe on something. "Baba Ghanoush! Who left this toy in the middle of the floor!?" See? It works.
Baba Ghanoush is a Middle Eastern dip made from eggplant, and we thought it would compliment our meal nicely. I started by stabbing the eggplant many many times with a fork (they can violently explode if not vented) and then I tossed it on Meat Blaster for about twenty minutes, turning it every five.

When it looks like a droopy, charred, slop filled bag, it's done. I put it in the fridge for about fifteen minutes so I could handle it without ending up with crispy fried fingers like ole Cro-Magnon #2, then peeled all the skin off and put it in the food processor. Next came garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, salt and a goop called Tahini, which is a paste made from sesame seeds and olive oil.

 NEVER EVER EVER EVER taste tahini on its own. It tastes like the caulk they use on the shower tiles in Hell. However, when added to everything else and pureed until smooth, it makes a wicked awesome dip. We finished the dip with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika.  I used tortilla chips, but Preglociraptor favored triangles of naan bread (similar to pita) for dipping.

We put the kebabs on beds of rice, set the table and dug in.

So you might be thinking, "Japanese marinade and Afghanistananny flavored dip? Who the What?!?"
Try not to think about it too hard. I mean, Panda Express and Gyro King are right next to each other in the Food Court, and I'm pretty sure I saw "Steve the Original Kebabbing Caveman" eating in there the other day. Maybe Ole Steve innovated again and put the two together on the same plate. Or maybe I was the first one? Who knows for sure. Nobody, that's who. But we'll raise our glasses to Steve tonight, for bringing out the caveman in us all. Maybe I'll try and drag Pregasaurus Rex around by the hair later......maybe not.

Baba Ghanoush
One large eggplant
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons tahini paste
1 lemon juiced
1/4 teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
Tortilla chips or naan bread points for dipping
Poke many holes in eggplant and place on grill turning frequently. When soft all the way through, remove from grill and chill until handleable. Peel of skin and puree eggplant with all other ingredients. Serve at room temperature. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Birmingham Style Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Indepenence Day Extravaganza!!!

I'll sum it up in one word: Meat whole houselhold has them. The Meat Sweats is a condition that sets in when you dig in to a meat feast so delicious that you go into a sort of trance. Symptoms include flushing, high blood pressure, hallucinations, and drowsiness. Seeing the signs of a full blown case of the Meat Sweats on someone you cooked for is a true compliment to the chef. Just beware of the related, yet more serious advanced case, the Meat Coma. That one can ruin your productivity for days.
To celebrate our great nation's independence from tyranny today, we had our friends over to celebrate our independence from dieting, and we came up with an unforgettable American menu to do it.

I fired up the smoker at 5am this morning because there is a short list of things that are worth doing at 5am, and firing up a smoker is on it. Other things included are....well there's....okay, THE ONLY reason to be up at 5am on a holiday is to prepare a smoker for some excellent barbecue.

Our primary protein today was a 7 pound Boston Butt, or pork shoulder, rubbed with the same dry rub I used on my ribs in the last post. I held back on the Celery Salt at Pregatron's request (all night pregnant heartburn), and it tasted fantastic. I rubbed the Butt (ha ha) last night and put it in the refrigerator for this morning.

It took me about an hour to regulate the temperature on the smoker to a solid 250 degrees, but once I had it, I had it all day. The Brinkman Vertical Smoker is actually very easily manipulated. I added coals and soaked hickory wood chips about once per hour for the duration. The meat came off the rack 5 1/2 hours later and we pulled it apart for sandwiches. However, we didn't stop there on this most American of holidays.

I added three links of spicy chicken sausages that are fresh made daily at a local grocery store and let them roast underneath the pork for about three hours. Turns out, this was about 2 hours too long. More on that later. But wait, there's more...

If you google "grill blog," at the top of the list, you'll find, an excellent blog run by a girl, for you slow types. She has a ton of recipes for all kinds of grilled food and drinks, and among them, I found this little gem: I turned on Meat Blaster's two left hand burners and set up a Rube Goldberg-esque contraption on the right including a baking rack, a shrimp skewer and a beer can chicken holder to keep the poppers aligned right. After an hour of slow cooking, the bacon was rendered down and the rub had caramelized, and the perfect appetizer was added to the table. Thanks for the tip!

The rest of the menu included Pregpocalypse's Famous Macaroni and Cheese, my mom's baked beans, and for dessert, Allison's Ice Cream Sandwich Cake. Hopefully she'll share that recipe with us, because it was ridiculous. We made our sandwiches Birmingham style, which means sauce on the side (two choices: Guy Fieri's Kansas City and the tangier Johnny Harris from Georgia), a pickle slice, cole slaw and a dab of Wickle's hot pepper relish on a fresh potato roll.

Winners were the bark on the pork butt, the overall flavor of the sandwiches, the awesome jalepeno poppers, and the fun visit with friends. The #1 high point was the macaroni, which was completely devoured. I'm just glad there was other food to distract us from the macaroni, because otherwise, we would have gotten into a potential friendship ending feeding frenzy over it.

Losers were the fact that 5am wasn't early enough, because, though fully cooked, the pork wasn't done enough to truly fall apart. I had to chop it to get it ready for the sandwiches. Also, the sausages were so dry after being on the smoker so long, you could chip them, then use them as packing peanuts that you need to last forever, like say for a shuttle mission to another solar system or something.
Happy Independence Day everyone!

Happy Independence Day everyone!