The Turkey Breast that Time Forgot

I was so excited about my bologna post, I forgot I also smoked a turkey breast that day.

The night before the smoke, I preped the turkey breast by injecting it with ranch dressing. Nothing special, just ranch dressing straight out of the bottle. I put a few squirts in a glass so I could fill my injector without cross contaminating the entire bottle with raw turkey.

I get real obsessive compulsive when working with poultry. My hands get raw from washing so many times, because I don’t want to touch anything and leave some stray poultry gunk to fester. Better safe than sorry.

I had some ranch left in the glass, so, I slathered it all over the turkey to use as a binder for the barbecue rub.  I think the ranch helped the turkey brown real nice as well.

One nice thing about smoking just the breast is, during prep, you can just use a big bowl to hold the turkey breast. No wings or legs flopping about to get in the way. When I was done injecting and rubbing, I just covered the bowl with foil and stuck it in the fridge. Overnight, the ranch absorbed throughout the meat.

I smoked the turkey the next day along with the bologna from the previous post. I put a can of Budweiser in the water pan. The meat probe of the Mighty Masterbuilt went in the turkey breast, since the bologna didn’t need monitoring. I loaded up the hickory chips and waited for the breast to hit 165 degrees, which took about 6 hours at a temperature temperature of 225 degrees.

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Hickory smoked turkey breast

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The breast browned real nice. It sliced well, also. The family thought it tasted good.

I like the combination of the barbecue rub with the ranch dressing and hickory smoke. The spice of the rub was a good counterpoint to the creamy-herby taste from the ranch.The hickory smoke drove it all home. I’ve used apple wood for smoking poultry. I like the fruity taste the applewood provides, but something always seemed to be missing. The hickory smoked let you know that, yes this was barbecued. After all the time and effort that’s part of what you want to taste.

My Bologna

The thing about any method of cooking bologna is, you really don’t need to.

Some time had passed since the last time I grilled or smoked a nice chunk of animal. It was my weekend, which falls on different days than most people, and there was a nice 8 lb turkey breast in the freezer. Planning ahead, my wife thawed the turkey a couple of days earlier. My weekend came, and I prepped the turkey breast for the smoker.

I really hated to fire up the smoker from one item, so, on my way home from work, I picked up a 3 lb chunk of bologna. Nothing fancy. Just plain Amish bologna. Why pay extra for the fancy stuff when the bologna was destined for the smoker?

A little mood music:

At the butcher shop, the gentleman behind the counter didn’t make a big deal about my request. I don’t know what kind of reaction I was expecting. The butcher probably gets request like mine ten times a day. I guess I’m just used to buying meat at the grocery store and getting what is available. I hear tell there are butchers behind the scenes of the grocery market deli counter, but I’ve never made any special requests. I may have to try it next time.

Or, on the other hand, just stick with supporting a local, independent butcher. Continue reading

Our Fourth of July Cookout

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We held a cookout for the Fourth of July for a number of reasons.  I actually had a holiday off from the Rocksino.  I was in the mood to do a large amount of grilling.  I didn’t want to waste a holiday off running to other people’s houses.  Take your pick of the reason that makes me sound less like an antisocial guy.

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Breaking out the toys for the Fourth of July

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I went all out.  I even created an event on Facebook inviting friends and relatives a few weeks in advance.  I think that is what surprised people the most – I didn’t leave the inviting to my wife.

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Continue reading

Smoked Pork Belly

My first attempt at not poultry in the smoker. And piggy nipples.

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I finally watched enough Steven Raichlen and Aaron Franklin to try smoking some of the bigger cuts of meat.  Pork belly seemed like a natural choice for a couple of reasons.  The pork belly is consistently the same thickness throughout the cut, which means no trimming and even smoking all the way through.  Pork belly is relatively cheap.  Not a lot of people actually know what pork belly is, so it is easier to impress  a crowd when serving.

First step, I had to obtain a pork belly.  Raichlen preaches “How your pork is raised is ever bit as important as how you prepare it.”  That makes sense to me, so I thought I would give it a try.  Fortunately, I live near Cleveland’s West Side Market.

pork-chop-shop

In the West Side Market, there is a stand called the Pork Chop Shop.  Ohio raised, steroid free, hormone free, preservative free pork.  There are other butcher stands at the market, but the Pork Chop Shop is the only one that is exclusively pork.  I figured I couldn’t go wrong.

I took my pork belly home and prepared it for the smoker.  The skin was still on the cut.  I wanted to leave the skin on for the cracklin.  I cut a cross hatch pattern into the skin to allow smoke and seasoning to get through to the meat.  Make sure you have a sharp knife, and keep the belly cold to ease cutting.  I had a chuckle while making the cuts because the belly came complete with two nipples, and I’m juvenile like that.  Seriously.  Piggy nipples. After the cutting was complete, I dusted both sides with my favorite rub, Pensey’s BBQ 3000.

porkbelly-1
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I started pre-heating the Mighty MasterBuilt to 250° and filled the water pan before preparing the belly.  I put the belly on a middle rack and loaded up the hickory chips.  Only thing left to do was wait.  And wipe up the kitchen counter.  And check the temperature on the meat probe when I added more hickory chips.  After a few hours, the probe hit 188°, and I pulled the belly.

porkbelly-2

The pork was good.  Nice smoke flavor without being overpowering.  Possibly the sweetest, tenderest pork I ever had.  I chalk that up to the Pork Chop Shop.  My pork belly was successful, but, it could have been better.

What will I do different next time?  I think I will go heavier on the rub.  I could taste the rub, but, not enough.  Despite the looks of it, pork belly is a big ol’ hunk o’ meat, and soaks up rub without remorse.  I think I will let the meat temperature get to 200° next time.  This is to render the fat more, and crisp up the skin.

I will be doing pork belly again, though, and it will come from the West Side Market.
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Recipe: The Big Kahuna Burger

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I like movies.  I’m not too picky about them, as long as its Science Fiction, Fantasy, Action, or a Western.  I can appreciate other genres if they are really well done.  I used to teach high school, therefore, I find horror movies boring.

I will watch anything by Quentin Tarantino.  I dig his movies, but they always make me hungry.  My guess is my blood sugar drops after three or more hours in a theater.  And the characters are always eating.

big kahuna 1
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I used my first Tarantino film, “Pulp Fiction,” and the hunger it induced, to inspire one of my favorite grill creations: The Big Kahuna Burger.

The Big Kahuna Burger

  • Difficulty: Seriously?
  • Print

  • Dipping the pineapple rings in sugar before grilling will give you some nice caramelization.
  • Use a skewer to grill the onion slices to prevent the rings from separating.

Ingredients

  • Hamburgers – The breakfast of champions!
  • BBQ sauce
  • Pineapple rings
  • Red onion, sliced
  • Spam, sliced
  • Provolone slices
  • Buns

Directions

  1. Grill the Spam slices, pineapple rings, and onion slices and set aside.  Hit them with some BBQ sauce during grilling if you like.
  2. Grill the burgers to your liking.  After flipping, slather on some BBQ sauce.
  3. Top the burger with a pineapple ring, an onion slice, and a slice of grilled Spam.
  4. Check out the big brain on Brad!
  5. Top with a slice or two of provolone.
  6. Close the grill and let the provolone melt for a few seconds.
  7. Remove to a platter and let the burgers rest before placing on buns and serving.

The provolone not only tastes great, it serves the structural purpose of holding the whole thing together.  Rather than running like other cheeses, provolone shrink wraps itself around the burger and toppings.  I’m thinking two slices would work better.

big kahuna 2
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big kahuna 3

Who doesn’t enjoy a tasty burger?

The Daddy Paddy

I’ve been neglecting the grilling aspects of my little piece of Cyberspace, so, I thought I’d dig a bit into my photo albums on Facebook and bring up some past projects.

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The Daddy Paddy is the name my kids gave to the burgers I make on the grill.  I’ve ruined fast food burgers for them.  That’s a good thing.  Unless we’re at Red Robin or some place similar, the kids won’t touch a burger.  They’d rather have a chicken sandwich.

Here’s the thing about my recipes: Continue reading

Just Some Thoughts on a Snowy April Day

More of an excuse to see if I understand the embedding tags.

I like it when I can light my grill before Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. We had a pretty mild winter in North East Ohio. We had some snow, but nowhere near as much as we’ve had the last two years. It didn’t get as cold, either – no -13F days with wind chills below -30F. Moving out of the secondary snow belt of Maple Heights probably helped.

I’ve taken my talents to the West Side. I do all of my grilling in Parma Heights.

Besides The Old Farmer’s Almanac saying we were going to have a mild Winter, I pretty much knew it when I was able to smoke turkeys for Thanksgiving on a sunny day with temperatures in the upper 50s in November.

Alas, I put the grill and smoker away for the Winter. Switching from Graveyard shift to Days, and all of the unpacking from the move, left little time for outdoor cooking theatrics.

Then February came, and with it, some beautiful Spring-like days that allowed me to bust out the Weber kettle.

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With weather like this, why wait for Opening Day?

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Of course, being able to grill before Opening Day also means having to mow the lawn before Opening Day, a rite of Spring I don’t care to celebrate. I’ve got a metric shit-ton of lawn. (Or is it a fuckacre? I digress.) When I was done, I felt like I mowed the outfield at The Jake. Fortunately, I have a teenage son who is going to need gas money soon to help with clean-up.

Yes, you read that right. I said The Jake. Progressive Field is too much of a mouthful, and it really doesn’t lend itself to many nicknames. “The Prog.” Eww. As my younger friends and coworkers would say, “As if I can’t even.” I’ll stick with The Jake. Or my other favorite names for the Indian’s home field, “The Corner of Carnegie and Ontario,” and “The House That Beer and Smokes Built.”

I opened my Weather Channel app yesterday, and there they were. Three words I had not seen since last Winter.

Winter.
Weather.
Advisory.

I went into shock. The television and radio didn’t help, either, throwing around those other dreaded terms “Lake Effect,” “Snow Belt,” and “Alberta Clipper.”

But, I snapped out of it. “I’m a West Sider now,” I thought. “These awful terms certainly don’t apply to me anymore.”

It was not to be. I awoke to three inches of the white stuff covering the lawn, and at least an inch on the walkways and roads. Why plow on a Saturday? Nobody works on Saturday. And there were still huge flakes falling. It looked like a giant, fluffy down pillow exploded over the North Coast. I left early for work, which was good, because I-480 East was at a crawl.

OK. It wasn’t that bad. The roads had been plowed, but, what are you going to do when the snow keeps falling? The highway was slushy at first, but ODOT did do a good job of getting it cleaned up before I hit the Valley View bridge. And honestly, anything less than 60mph IS a crawl on the I-480 Speedway. I pulled into The Rocksino earlier than usual.

The worst was the sight that greeted me when I arrived home.

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So much for Spring.

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Sure, I still could have grilled. Just a little shoveling and I would have been in business. The thing is, I haven’t tried this grill out yet, and I didn’t want to get my heart set on burgers or brats, only to spend the evening on the phone with the gas company. Or worse, blowing the house up due to faulty equipment. I’m still not too sure I’m sold on the idea of a natural gas grill. And the cars were already in the garage, so, the kettle was trapped.

Besides, Christine was already making her chicken soup, and that sounded better on a day like today.