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It’s time to step up your game.

8 Aug

If you’re good with a grill and have decided to take the next step and start smoking, I would highly recommend starting with this book.

Backyard BBQ: The Art of Smokology

Backyard BBQ

This is an excellent book if you’re just learning how to run a smoker, and it’s still my go-to book for smoking recipes.   I have a large stack of cookbooks for grilling and smoking and find myself coming back to this one all the time.  Along with his great recipes, he explains the basics of smoking for you.  There are bigger and fancier books out there, but Richard W. McPeake’s recipes are just plain good.

My bacon and bourbon bean recipe started with a recipe in this book that I modified to give more bite.

His twice smoked recipe for pulled pork is the best pulled pork I have ever had, and I’ve had a lot.


Smoked Bacon & Bourbon Beans

8 Aug

I remember when I was growing up my grandma was famous for her baked beans.  They were a staple at every family reunion and in high demand at functions she attended.  I love baked beans and have tried hundreds of different kinds in my lifetime but hers were the standard that none other lived up to, that is until I discovered a recipe and modified it to this.  I have to admit, this recipe is cheating a little bit.  Unlike hers, they start with beans from a can so there is a lot less time just getting the beans ready, but I think she would still be proud of the result.

Adding the finishing touch to the beans.

Adding the finishing touch to the beans.


1 lb.           bacon sliced into 1/4″ pieces

1                large onion

4                jalapenos, seeded

1                28 oz. can Bush’s Country Style Baked Beans

1                small can pinto beans (drained)

1                small can great northern beans (drained)

1/4 cup    molasses

1/2 cup    brown sugar

4 TBS       plain yellow mustard

1/4 cup   BBQ sauce (I tend to favor Carolina style sauces with lots of vinegar)

1 tsp        paprika

1 tsp        garlic powder

2 tsp        cayenne

1 TBS      BBQ rub



Fry the chopped bacon until the fat is mostly rendered out.  Without draining, add the onions and jalapenos.  Continue cooking until onions are translucent.  Stir in the brown sugar until everything is nicely caramelized.  Transfer to your dutch oven.  Stir in all other ingredients except the bourbon.  Place your dutch oven, with the lid off, in your smoker.  If you have a vertical smoker put the beans right under your smoking meat so the juices drip down into your beans.   Doing this with different types of meat just adds a little variety to your recipe.  I’ve done it with both beef brisket and pour shoulder and it’s just a slightly different flavor of delicious.  Because the recipe uses canned beans it will be ready much quicker than if you started from scratch, 1-2 hours depending on how thick you like your beans.  I like mine nice and thick so they get the full 2 hours.  When your beans are almost done, add some bourbon to taste.  It doesn’t take much, a TBS or two.  Take your beans out of the smoker and let them cool and thicken a little before serving.

If you don’t have a smoker, or just want to cook some beans when you don’t have your smoker going, just dump all your ingredients in a crock pot and add a couple drops of liquid smoke.  They won’t be quite as good as if they were smoked, but still damn tastey.

BBQ Potato Salad

5 Aug

I spent some time over the weekend reading about how to improve my food photography.   Apparently flashes are bad, which explains the odd lighting and reflections I’ve been struggling with.  Close ups at odd angles seem to be good, but I haven’t figured that out yet.  Generally, most of my pictures have been crap, like this.

An example of my bad food photography

What do you mean adding a cloth napkin doesn’t help?

On Sunday I decided to practice some of the tips I had learned.  I was planning to grill a couple of chickens for dinner and thought I should whip up some potato salad to go with them.  I wanted to try something a little different, so I decided to make a BBQ version.  I didn’t really have a recipe, but improvised with things I found in the fridge.

It starts with ptatoes

It starts with potatoes

I bought a monster size bag of red potatoes at Costco this week, which inspired the potato salad.  I boiled and cubed about three pounds of potatoes.  I took this picture to see if I could get decent natural light from the windows near the kitchen counter.  I think the lighting is much better than when I was using a flash, but the composition isn’t great.

Lots of onions.

Lots of onions.

We love onions, so I wanted lots in the salad.  I chopped an entire bunch and added them to the potatoes.  This picture was another attempt at using the natural light from the nearby windows.  I think the lighting is good, but the focus is terrible.  I’m struggling to get close and keep my hands steady.  Next time I’ll use the mini tripod.

Peppers - jalapeno and bell

Peppers – jalapeno and bell

I wanted to add some spice, so I diced a jalapeno pepper.  Note the pepper corer in the picture.  If you cook with a lot of jalapenos like we do, you need to invest in one of these.  A corer makes is easier to get the seeds out while minimizing the amount of juice you get on your hands – which in turn minimizes the risk of rubbing your eyes and crying for the next 30 minutes. (Not that this has ever happened to me).  I had half a red bell pepper hanging out in the fridge, so I diced it too.  This picture was my lame attempt at an interesting layout.  I wanted to feature the corer next to the peppers. The camera focused on the red peppers instead –  so my focus point is out of focus.  Maybe its time to learn how to manually focus the camera. 

My favorite store bought sauce.

My favorite store bought sauce.

Now for the dressing.  I mixed up some mayonnaise and sour cream and thinned them just a bit with some milk.  Salt and pepper to taste and a healthy shot of barbecue sauce.  I had a bottle of Rufus Teague in the fridge with not enough sauce for the grill, but too much to throw away – so I dumped it in the dressing.  By the way, Rufus is my favorite store bought sauce.  Sometimes you don’t have time, or just don’t feel like bothering with making your own sauce.  On those occasions, we use Rufus.  Its no too sweet and the “Touch of Heat” has a nice level of spice.  This is the best photo of this post.  That’s because Allen took it for a future blog post reviewing BBQ sauces.  I like the lighting and aspect.  Maybe I should just let him take that the photographs.

Everything is better with bacon or cheese...or both!

Everything is better with bacon or cheese…or both!

After stirring the dressing into the potato, onion and pepper mixture, I added the last two ingredients:  bacon and cheddar cheese.  Everything is better with bacon.  I even put a little of the bacon grease in to the dressing to add a smokey flavor.  I figured at some point I would need to photograph the mixing bowl, but I have no clue how to do that artfully.  Seems like maybe a bit closer would have been better.

BBQ Potato Salad

BBQ Potato Salad

The finished product.  It tastes great.  I even like this photo.  But I played around and took another one from a slightly different angle:

More potato salad.

More potato salad.

I think this one is ok – I’m starting to get a feel for the lighting.  But I like the first one best – its a bit closer, a bit more focused, and I think the fork is more interesting than the dish towel.

So I learned a few things, but need much more practice.  Maybe that will inspire me to create more recipes.  In the meanwhile, here is the recipe for the potato salad:

BBQ Potato Salad

4 slices of bacon

3 pounds of red potatoes

6-8 green onions, chopped

1 jalapeno, diced

1/3 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 c mayonnaise

1/2 c sour cream

1T bacon grease

splash of milk

1/4 c BBQ Sauce



1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

  1. Fry the bacon, drain, and crumble,  Save some of the bacon grease for the dressing.
  2. Boil the red potatoes whole, and when tender, drain.  Cube into bite-sized pieces.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the potatoes, onions, and peppers.
  4. In a smaller bowl, mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, bacon grease, milk, salt and pepper (to taste).
  5. Add the dressing to the potatoes and stir till well coated.
  6. Mix in the bacon and cheddar cheese.

Serves 8 – 10.

Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Chili Glaze

31 Jul
Tenderloins ready to come off the grill.

Tenderloins ready to come off the grill.


A couple pork tenderloins

1 quart water

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup kosher salt

1 recipe sweet chili glaze

Take your tenderloins out of the package, rinse them, pat them dry, trim off any silverskin or excess fat.  Make a brine by combining the water, salt, and sugar.  Brine your tenderloins for about 45 minutes.  Remove the tenderloins from the brine and pat them dry again.  Smear your chili sauce all over the tenderloins.  Preheat your grill on high for about 10 minutes.   Once the grill is good and hot cook your tenderloins using a 7-6-5 method.  Put the tenderloins on the grill, close the lid and wait 7 minutes.  Flip the tenderloins, close the lid and wait another 6 minutes.  Turn off the grill and without doing anything to the meat just let it set in the cooling grill for another 5 minutes.  Check your tenderloins with an internal meat thermometer.  They should be 145-150.  If they are not quite there yet just close the grill and let them set for another 5 minutes.  After you remove the tenderloins let them set for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.  When I first saw this method of cooking I was pretty skeptical because until then I had always cooked loins low and slow, but I was surprised by how well it works.

Sweet Chili Glaze

31 Jul

A quick and easy glaze that is sweet and spicy.  Great for pork, but even better dabbed on the top of some ice cream.


4 tsp oil

4 tsp chili powder

1/2 cup frozen pineapple juice concentrate, thawed

Heat the oil in a saucepan, mix in the chili powder and keep stirring until it is well mixed and starts to sizzle.  Add the pineapple concentrate.  Cook it down until it is nice and thick.  It should yield about 4 tbs.  You can let it cool slightly but will want to smear it on your meat before it cools completely as it gets really thick when it cools and is harder to spread.  The original recipe I started with called for a tsp of cumin as well.  The chili powder I use has plenty of cumin in it already so I just leave that out.  It’s not as good on the ice cream with an overpowering cumin flavor.

Firecracker Salmon

31 Jul

Monday evening, Allen came home with 5 pounds of fresh caught wild pacific salmon.  His boss just returned from two weeks at Shelter Cove, where the fish were biting and everyone was catching their limit each day.  The salmon was some of the prettiest Chinook salmon fillets I had ever seen – dark red and rich.  If I didn’t know better, I would have guessed it was sockeye.  We plan to smoke half of it later this week – it should turn out great!

We decided to grill the other half of it for dinner.  Usually, Allen grills salmon on cedar planks and tops it with a creamy dill-mustard sauce.  Its really good that way!  But this time he decided to try something new and did a little internet sleuthing to find a new recipe.  I had asked for a spicy soy based glaze, and he found the perfect recipe to meet my request: Firecracker Salmon.

Firecracker Salmon and asparagus.

Firecracker Salmon and asparagus.

The sauce was easy to throw together because its comprised mostly of items everyone has in their pantry.  The only fresh item you may need to run out and get (beside the fish) is the green onions.

We grilled the salmon on alder planks, which was new for us, because we usually use cedar.  I really liked the alder flavor as it is a bit milder than cedar and really let the flavor of the sauce take center stage.  If you’ve never cooked on planks before, I encourage you to give it a try – especially for fish.  Fish can be messy on the grill as it can start to fall apart on the grate.  But with the plank you get the effect of indirect heat and cook things a little slower without worrying about your fillet falling apart and through the grate.  Even I can manage to grill fish with a plank (but I still leave it for Allen to do, because hes so much better at it)!

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