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Smoked Bacon Wrapped Sweet Potatoes

15 Aug

So many ways to make sweet potatoes and I haven’t found one yet that I didn’t like.  These ones are simple and delicious.

Bacon Wrapped Sweet Potatoes

Bacon Wrapped Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:

3-4 sweet potatoes

1lb  bacon

1/2 cup  maple syrup

1/4 tsp   cayenne

black pepper

toothpicks

Directions:

Set your smoker up at 225 deg.  While that is coming up to temp peal and rinse your sweet potatoes.  Slice them into pieces the same width as your bacon.  Wrap your potatoes with the bacon one time around until it overlaps.  Pin the bacon on with a toothpick and trim off the excess bacon.  Place your potatoes in a tin foil pan and sprinkle a little black pepper on the top.  Place your pan in the smoker and cook until the bacon is done and the potatoes are nice and soft, around 2 hours.  While that is cooking take your bacon trimmings plus the slices that were left over and chop them up into 1/4 pieces.  Fry those up nice and crispy.  You don’t need them for this recipe but just add them to whatever you want to make it 100% better.  Take a tablespoon of the bacon grease and add it to the maple syrup, along with the cayenne.  When the potatoes are about 15 minutes from being done.  Pour that glaze over the top of them.  When your potatoes are done take them out and let them stand for 15 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

If you don’t have a smoker, this recipe still works on the grill with indirect heat.

p.s. be careful when eating these, the bacon makes a nice insulator and will keep the sweet potatoes hotter than you think.

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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.

Ingredients:

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

Bourbon

Directions:

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

Salt

Pepper

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.

Grilled Macaroni and Cheese

31 Jul
Grilled Macaroni and Cheese

Grilled Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:

1/2 lb bacon

1 pound macaroni

1/2 stick salted butter

3 TBS flour

2 cups whole milk

1 cup grated Asiago cheese

1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese (I prefer one of the flavored varieties, garlic jack works real good)

1 cup grated Mozzarella cheese

2 cups Cheddar cheese (I use smoked cheddar if I have it)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 jalapeno finely chopped

1/4 cup bread crumbs

Directions:

Slice your bacon up into 1/4 inch pieces, fry it up crispy and drain off the grease.  Boil your macaroni in some salted water for about 12 minutes.  Melt your butter in a saucepan then wisk in the flour to thicken, about a minute.  Add one of the cups of milk and wisk it in.  Start stirring in your cheeses.  Gradually mix in the cheese until it is all nicely melted.  You need to play with the heat a little and get it hot enough to get the cheese melted without scorching it.  Add the second cup of milk as needed if your cheese sauce is getting too thick.  Once the cheese is all melted add the jalapeno, black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, and bacon.  Your macaroni should have been cooked and drained at this point.  Add your cheese sauce to the macaroni and mix well.  Take a pan that is safe to cook with on the grill (I like to use a dutch oven), and wipe down the inside with some melted butter.  This helps to make some nice browned crunchy bits around the sides that are my favorite part.  Pour in your macaroni and cheese, sprinkle the bread crumbs, and optionally a little more cayenne pepper, on the top.  Place uncovered on the grill with whatever meat you’re cooking and close the grill. 10-15 minutes if the grill is on high, longer if it’s lower.  Once the top is a little crusty and you can see some nice browned stuff on the edge you’re done.  Take it off the grill and let set a few minutes before serving.  If you’ve never had real homemade mac and cheese you won’t believe how good this stuff is.

Spicy Tri-Tip and some grilled onions

31 Jul

We grill tri-tip pretty regular so I am always looking for new recipes to keep it interesting.  Luckily that’s pretty easy these days with all the recipes to be found on the web.  Last night I found a couple good ones.  In order to give credit where it is due, and because I’m lazy and it’s easier than typing out the recipes, here are the links.

Spicy Tri-tip

Grilled Onions

I rarely use a recipe without changing it a little to suit my taste.  In this case in spite of being called “spicy” the tri-tip looked pretty tame to me so I doubled the red pepper and it came out pretty good.  For the onion, I used beef bullion instead of chicken and it was great.  The next time I make it I’ll add some cheese to the stuffing and drop it on a piece of Texas toast to serve.

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