Finger-Lickin’ Chicken

BentleyIt’s a lazy Sunday afternoon .. Curt tinkering in his wood shop + Mo our feline and Bentley our St. Bernard napping + breezy spring day = time to light up the smoker!

Check out these birds we found at Whole Foods market .. no growth hormones here! Looks like these chicks were able to walk around and forage to their hearts content. So if I’m gonna light up the smoker and babysit the coals for several hours, I fill that baby up! Also on the menu: rack of baby backs and a few brats.
RibsSmoke & Spice cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison is my textbook for smoking. Seriously, it’s by far the best book I’ve read about cooking with smoke. Check out this recipe, which is likely the best way of cooking a whole chicken ever invented in America!

Chicken on a Throne

Wild Willy’s Number One-derful Rub
6 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugarMo
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne

Injection Liquid
12 ounces beer
1/4 cup oil, preferably canola or corn
1/4 cup cider or white vinegar
2 teaspoons Wild Willy’s rub

Throne Mop (optional)
Smoke & Spice cookbook12 ounces beer
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup oil, preferably canola or corn
1 tablespoon Wild Willy’s rub

Two 3 1/2-pound whole chickens
Two 12-ounce cans beer (no bottles, please)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup cider or white vinegar
4 garlic cloves, minced
barbecue sauce

Serves 5-6Prepped chickens

The night before you plan to barbecue, combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl. In another bowl, combine the ingredients for the injection liquid. Remove the organs from the cavity of the chickens. With a kitchen syringe, inject about 1/2 cup of the injection liquid deep into the breast and legs of each chicken in several spots. MoppingMassage the chickens thoroughly, inside and out, with the remaining injection liquid, working it as far as possible under the skin without tearing the skin. Cover the chickens well with the dry rub, again massaging inside and out, over and under the skin. Place the chickens in a plastic bag and refrigerate them.

Prepare the smoker for barbecuing, bringing the temperature to 200-220 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove chickens from the refrigerator and let them sit at room temp for about 30 minutes. While you wait, open the 2 beer cans and drink half–and only half–of each beer. With a can opener, remove the tops of the half-empty beer cans. Place half of the onion, vinegar, garlic and reserved rub in each can. Insert the replenished beer cans into the cavities of the chickens, balTemperature gaugeancing the birds so they rest upright with their legs bent forward. The cans should sit flat on the grill or on a cooking tray, holding the chickens at attention while their insides are steaming and their outsides are smoking.chimney

If you are going to mop, combine the ingredients in a saucepan and keep the mixture warm over low heat. Transfer the chickens to the smoker. Cook for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, mopping every 30 minutes. When the chickens are done, their legs will move freely and the internal temp should be 180 to 185 degrees.

Let the chickens sit for 5-10 minutes, carve, and serve with BBQ sauce on the side.


Going Greek

Lamb BurgersA few years ago our friends Bryan and Karen treated us to a Food & Wine event featuring several well-known and up-and-coming chefs. Michael Psilakis, known for his classic and creative Greek dishes, was one of the presenters, and I was thrilled when he announced we were all going to receive his cookbook “How To Roast a Lamb.” On a warm summer evening just a few weeks ago I got the itch to go “Greek” so out came the Psilakis book. Here’s what was cookin’ in my kitchen.

eggplant in the fireFirst step is to get your fire goCooking spray tricking (this can be said of many things in life!).  Here’s my trick .. scrunch up a few pieces of newspaper then spray with cooking spray, Santa Maria BBQplace under your chimney charcoal lighter, fill the chimney with briquettes, and light. The small amount of oil will keep the fire going. When your briquettes are starting to char on the edges, it’s time to dump ‘em into your grill. When the coals are nice and hot, throw a piece of oak into the fire – the oak burns long and hot.babaganoush

2 large eggplants
2 onions
1 lemon, juiced
2/3 cup tahini ( sesame seed paste, available in the international aisle at the supermarket)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pita chips, for dipping

This is so much fun to make in a fire! Toss the onions and eggplants right into your coals, and char ‘em in the fire. It’s important to keep turning and rotating them so they roast evenly. The eggplants will take about 20 minutes to get nice and soft, onions at least 30-40 minutes. When they’re done, remove from the fire and place in a colander over another bowl (or in the sicharred eggplantnk). Don’t skip this step – really improves the consistency of the dip. Once the eggplants and onions are cool enough to touch, carefully peel the charred skin off (my friend Deborah suggested leaving a bit of the char so I tried it – definitely added more smoky flavor!). Put in your food processor and pulse with the lemon juice, tahini, parsley, salt & pepper. Whisk together and taste for seasoning. Feel free to add more lemon juice, more salt and pepper .. it will vary depending on your eggplant.babaganoush

Lamb Burgers
1 pound ground lambground lamb
2 slices white bread, crusts removed, cubed
3 tablespoons milk
diced onions
fresh herbs: parsley, mint, dill
salt & pepper to taste
tsatziki sauce (recipe to follow)

Pour milk into small bowl, add bread cubes and mash with a spoon. Mix lamb burgerslamb, milk/bread mixture, diced onions, fresh herbs and salt & pepper together with your hands. Do not overmix. Shape into patties (I form them to fit perfectly into a half pita) then press your thumb into the center to prevent burgers fropattiesm puffing up on the grill. Grill burgers over a wood fire, then tuck into a pita and top with tsaziki sauce, thinly sliced red onions and arugula.

grilling the burgers


Psilakis says “this is the one sauce you must make. It’s a classic and very easy to prepare, but be sure you use only a superior quality Greek yogurt or labne spread. It makes all the difference.”

1 English cucumber, peeled
10 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1 cup distilled white vinegar
4 shallots, thickly sliced
1 cup small, picked sprigs dill
2 1/2 cups strained or Greek yogurt, or labne
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Quarter the cucumber lengthwise and trim off the triangular wedge of seeds. Cut the cucumber into a very small, even dice. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

In a food processor, combine the garlic, vinegar, shallots and dill. Pulse until finely chopped but not pureed. Add the mixture to the cucumbers; add the yogurt. Fold together with a rubber spatula, adding the olive oil and lemon juice. Season liberally with kosher salt and pepper, starting off with 1 tablespoon salt. Taste for seasoning. You can store Tsatziki in a covered, clean jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

green beans

Tomato & String Bean Salad
This is one of my favorite salads .. so very fresh and tons of flavor.

shallots1/4 pound green beans, ends trimmed
1/4 pound yellow wax beans, ends trimmed
1/3 cup Red Wine and Feta Vinaigrette (recipe to follow)
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
4 vine-ripe tomatoes, preferably heirloom, cut into rough wedges
1 teaspoon dry Greek oreganoherbs
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
6 small sprigs parsley, torn
6 small sprigs dill, torn
16 leaves fresh mint, torn
Kosher salt and coarsely cracked pepper

Prepare an ice bath and bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the beans until tender but still snappy, about 3 minutes, then shock them in the ice bath. Drain well and dry on a clean towel.heirloom tomato

blanching beansIn a bowl combine the beans, vinaigrette, feta, tomatoes, oregano, red onion, and torn herbs. Toss well with clean hands. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Red Wine & Feta Vinaigrette

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 small onion, sliced and grilled
6 basil leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 cloves garlic, smashed
2 shallots, thickly slicedviniagrette
2 tablespoons dry Green oregano
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

grilling onionsIf you’re able, take the time to grill the onion for this vinaigrette. Slice into 1/2″ rings, drizzle with oil, and char on the grill until soft.

In a food processor, combine all ingredients except olive oil. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until smooth. Taste, and if needed, season with more salt and pepper.viniagrette


Cooking With Fire

Pork Recently our friends returned from a trip to Dallas and they brought back a gift that keeps on giving .. an autographed cookbook from a fabulous restaurant they had enjoyed. Do they know me well, or what?!  Entitled Smoke, the cookbook written by Tim Byres is all about new firewood cooking .. how to build flavor with fire on the grill and in the kitchen. I was inspired to take my smoker and grill to new levels, so my husband and I decided to host a potluck Memorial Day BBQ and called the event “Cooking With Fire.”

Our foodie friends can really cook! Joanna, one of Curt’s co-workers arrived early afternoon with her extended family in tow and truck-load of gear. Their family specialty is carnitas, and although I was a bit apprehensive seeing the tubs of Farmer John lard being unloaded, I gotta say those tacos were amazing.

CarnitasThey began by slicing chittlins (pig skin) into strips about 2″ x 6″, then cut pork shoulder roasts into big chunks (about 4″ squares), and placed them into a large copper vat over an outdoor open flame.

To be honest, I’m not sure on the specifics of what actually went into the pot ..

Since Mom Garcia is, what you may say, “height-challenged” we set the propane burner in the stones on the side of the patio.  She tended the pot for at least a couple of hours, tirelessly stirring, stirring.

stirring the pot

There was a recipe for lamb barbacoa tacos in my new Smoke cookbook that I was anxious to try.  I prepared a chile puree to rub on the lamb before it went into the smoker.  It added so much flavor!  Here’s the recipe:

Chile Puree
Ingredients: 1/2 pound dried chiles (ancho, arbol, chipotle, guajillo or pasilla)

To toast chiles:
Toast over a fire or in the oven. If using an oven, preheat to 500 degrees. On a baking sheet spread out a single layer of your choice of chiles. Chiles will puff and become fragrant in 1-2 minutes in the preparing chilesoven. They can burn very quickly, so don’t walk away from the oven. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. When the chiles are cool enough to handle, use kitchen scissors to cut off the stems, then open them to remove the seeds. Use gloves when working with chiles.

To soften chiles:softening the chiles
Place the stemmed, seeded chiles in a medium saucepan. Add enough water (up to 3 cups) so that the chiles float a little, but don’t completely cover or submerge them. Heat the saucepan over a high flame. When the liquid reaches a rolling boil, remove the saucepan from the heat, pour the chiles and all of the liquid into a bowl, seal the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside until the chiles have softened, about 1/2 hour. You want the chiles to be almost melting into the liquid.

chile pureeTo puree toasted, softened chiles:
Transfer the softened chiles to a blender, add a little bit of their soaking liquid, then cover and puree to a thick paste, adding more of the soaking liquid if necessary. You are looking for a consistency like ketchup. Be careful: the more soaking liquid you add, the thinner the puree will become. Force the puree through a fine mesh strainer using the back of a rubber spatula. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 7 days.

What a spread!To call this barbecue a feast is truly an understatement!  Our guests pulled out all the stops.  We enjoyed …

– EJ’s mac ‘n cheese: 100% unhealthy but delicious (his words, not mine!)
– Bourbon-glazed Rotisserie Pork
– Chris’ renditioCorn on the barbien of Giada’s Farrow Salad with Tomatoes and Herbs (I think she brought this so her uber-healthy husband would have something to eat)
– Luke’s homemade Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa
– Bob’s Smoked Tri-Tip
– Karen’s version of CPK’s barbecue chicken salad
–  Curt’s famous Chicken on a Throne
– Ron’s amazing deviled eggs
– Bryan & Lynn’s homemade Berry Cobbler and Iced Cream

Beth & Bob

Yes .. it was truly a FEAST and I’m already looking forward to next year!