Thursday, December 27, 2012

Oven Baked Brisket

A few years ago, my younger self would have scoffed at the idea of cooking a brisket in the oven, but cold weather, darkness, lack of time, and the need for a potluck dish to feed up to 20 of my co-workers caused me to actually embrace the idea last week.

I used the Cook's Illustrated brisket recipe circu 2005 that I credit for helping me fine tune my competition brisket technique. After experimenting with the recipe a little bit back in the day I drastically improved the consistency of my brisket at KCBS contests. I would gladly post a link to the recipe if I could find one, but most of the links are to personal blogs and discussion boards that have reprinted the recipe from the published magazine. If I run across a direct link to the recipe, I'll post it here.

Whole brisket trimmed to make it a "flat".
I used a skillet for 7 minutes to help sear the meat side.

I flipped the brisket and skipped the skillet for another 7 minutes.

Then I carmelized some onions with a little brown sugar.

I don't have any more pictures of the process to share, but to summarize the onions were layered across the bottom of the pan with the brisket placed on top. I finished off the brisket in the oven for 3 hours at 300 degrees. At that point the brisket was 198 internal temperature.

I removed it from the oven and let it rest 30 minutes at room temperature before slicing. The slices were marinated in the au jus overnight in the refrigerator. The fat was skimmed from the surface before reheating.

The brisket was reheated for 25 minutes with some cooking wine and 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar as suggested by the original recipe.

An oven cooked brisket will never compete directly with a smoker cooked brisket, but it was actually pretty good overall.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

A Visit to Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, MI

We were in Ann Arbor today for some Christmas shopping.  After a trip to Sears and Macy's we headed across town to the Hallmark store.  Before making the trip back to Bellville for stops at Dunham's, Dick's, and Kroger, we decided to find a place to eat lunch.

As luck would have it, the Hallmark store shares a shopping center that includes Zingerman's Roadhouse. Click here to read more about Zingerman's.
The front door area at Zingerman's Roadhouse on Jackson Road.
This cell phone picture doesn't do justice to the sign.
I wish it had been dark outside. It must be amazing at night!

Here is a view of the drive through area aka Roadshow constructed from a vintage Airstream trailer.
Here's another view of the drive thru at Zingerman's Roadhouse.
And in case anyone doubts the authenticity of the bbq served at Zingerman's,
here's a picture of their smoker behind the restaurant.
This alternate view of the bbq smoker includes a bag of Kingsford charcoal.

The menu includes many comfort food choices including chicken,
smoked ribs, bbq pork and beef, and grits of course. I thought about
trying the whole hog, but opted for the pork sliders.
The Traffic Light Pulled Pork Sliders were excellent.
They are the perfect choice for sampling the variety of bbq pork
 on the menu. They were served with all three choices of bbq sauce with
a side dish of mustard coleslaw. I also ordered the twice
cooked sweet potato fries. They are baked in the oven and fried. Ummm...
Linda had the Grilled Cheese a Go-Go with cheddar cheese.
I didn't take any pictures of them, but the walls are decorated with hundreds of salt and pepper shakers stored in glass cases. Click here to read more about the salt and pepper collection.

I enjoyed reading about how the collection was built, especially those that arrived at the roadhouse via Jim Metzler of Elkhart, Indiana.

From the Zingerman's website:

If you head back through the hallway past the entrance to what we’ve come to call the “fireplace room” you’ll be looking straight at an entire case of shakers that came courtesy of Jim Metzler of Elkhart, Indiana.
And...last but not least here are a couple of pictures of the pork slider sandwiches:

The sliders are small bites of bbq goodness.
I detected a healthy amount of vinegar on the pork.
It definitely reminds me of the first time I ate bbq pork
more than 20 years ago in Dickson, TN.

If you look closely past the slider, you can see the
 mustard coleslaw and twice cooked sweet potato fries.
For the non-believers who can't travel to Michigan to check it out first hand, here's a list of awards for the restaurant:

James Beard Award, Best Chef Great Lakes – Alex Young, 2011
James Beard Nominee, Best Chef Great Lakes – Alex Young, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
Current 2011 Dining Guide – Friendliest Wait Staff, Friendliest Bartenders, Best Place to Dine Alone
Alton Browns’ Food Network Show Best of – Best Comfort Food in America, Macaroni and Cheese
Bon Appetit – Top 10 Barbecue Restaurants in 2010
Open Table Diner’s Choice Award Winner – Fit for Foodies, Most Booked, Great For Lunch, American
Lifetime Achievement Award, Bon Appetit 2007 – Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses
Coolest Small Company in America, Inc. Magazine, 2003 – Zingerman’s

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Smoking a Turkey on the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM)

I usually deep fry our Thanksgiving turkey, but a few years ago I decided to learn some new tricks. The goal was to smoke the bird low and slow at 250 degrees or less and prevent it from drying out to compete with the moist and tender deep fried birds we've been eating for the past several years.

I started out at Publix and purchased a Fresh Not Frozen turkey.

Next stop...Ace Hardware for some Cherry Smoking Chips.

The turkey was injected the night before smoking with Shake's Honey Brine and refrigerated.

I started by making a "smoking pouch" for the chips and placed them on the charcoal resulting in instantaneous smoke. Tip: Soaking them in water overnight will help them burn a little slower and the smoke will last longer.

Another tip: If you have access to cherry wood "chunks", you'll achieve more smoke flavor. I had to settle for the cherry wood "chips" this time.
After reading a few of the posts at The BBQ Bretheren, I decided to drape some bacon on the bird for a little insurance, but I was hopeful to avoid a turkey that tastes like bacon. Tip: If I do this again, I'll start the cooking process without the bacon, which will help achieve golden brown skin on the bird. Bacon is effective, but could be added after the turkey has been cooking for a couple of hours.

I started the water pan with a 1/2 gallon of apple juice mixed with a 1/2 gallon of water. I stuffed the turkey cavity with five or six apple halves and smoked the bird on my WSM at temperatures hovering consistently between 240 - 250 degrees. I pulled the turkey off the smoker when the temperature in the breast reached 170 degrees. I've read a lot of "guides" recommending cooking the birds to 180 degrees as measured in the inner thigh as well.

After looking back through my pictures tonight, I noticed that I failed to take a picture of the finished product.

My smoked first smoked turkey was a semi-success. I achieved tender and moist white meat, but the bbq turkey was not quite as satisfying for me as the deep fried turkeys I'm more accustomed to.

Will I do it again? Definitely yes. I love a bbq challenge.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fried Turkey Time

For the past 6 or 7 years I've been frying a turkey for Thanksgiving Day dinner and for the past 3 years I've also been frying 2 for potluck lunch for about 35 co-workers.  A fried turkey is so much better than oven baked turkey.

For the uninitiated, fried turkey retains moisture better than oven baked, but even though it's cooked in peanut oil or cottonseed oil the turkey is not greasy.  Simply heat the oil to 300 degrees, turn off the heat source, and slowly lower the turkey into the oil.  Relight the heat source and cook the turkey 3 1/2 to 4 minutes per pound.

A 13lb. turkey is the perfect size for deep frying. Any bigger and you risk a boil over or undercooking the bird. For a smaller bird, you simply have less turkey goodness to enjoy, and who would want that?

I use Shake's Honey Brine from The BBQ Shack and brine my turkeys overnight prior to cooking. You can still use the brine for a baked turkey or even a slow cooked bbq turkey. You can also stuff the turkey with mango, peach, apples, organges, etc. - or something else - to get creative and add a little something extra to the flavor profile.

Here's a video I did back in the summer for a recipe contest where I used mangoes. The video is for a smoked turkey, but the brining process is similar. It goes without saying, but if you decide to deep fry, stuffing the bird with fruit is not a good idea (insert smiley thing here).

And here's a word of final advice, because fried turkey does add an extra element of risk....Think Safety.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dutch Oven Beans

We've been watching our weight more and more going into the holiday season as a cushion toward the inevitable holiday 5 or 10 that we gain each year. (I have lost 9 lbs and Linda has lost 7 lbs by increasing proteins and decreasing carbs.)

Today I brought on the dutch oven and made a 5 bean soup that turned out well. Well actually it was 4 beans and some peas, but legumes nonetheless.

5 Bean Soup Recipe
  • 1 cup great northern beans
  • 1 cup red beans
  • 1 cup pinto beans
  • 1/2 cup navy beans
  • 1/2 cup black-eyed peas 
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Kosher salt
Directions:  Soak dry beans for 4 hours. Drain beans. Add bean mix, ham hock, 2 quarts of water to a medium sized dutch oven. Cook for 4 hours in the dutch oven on medium low heat or until beans are tender (use bottom heat only).

Dutch oven table, ash bucket, and bag of charcoal briquettes

I started with 9 briquettes and added 6 - 7 hourly

Ham hock

Legumes ready for cooking

Adding the beans to the dutch oven pot

I used a single slice of ham hock

Adding the spice mixture

Half way there

Bowl of beans topped with some home grown pepper relish
 The beans turned out very well. The relish adds just the right amount of additional heat. If I make this recipe again without the relish  I'll add 2 tbsp of vinegar instead.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

BBQ Contest Transportation

A lot of new bbq contest competitors are amazed at some of the RV's used by more experienced teams. (I know I sure was back in 2001.)

I've always dreamed of owning an American Eagle or American Tradition manufactured by Fleetwood RV's American Coach luxury division. I'd even settle for a Holiday Rambler Ambassador. But just like in 2001, I don't have the serious coinage it requires to own a new one because a new one ranges in price from $225,000 - $500,000 and maybe even a little more depending on the exact options chosen.

I suspect I'm like most "average folks". When I daydream about things that are out of my personal economic reach, price is no object. Daydreams are free, right? Who would even think about checking into a used one? Well, it turns out there are a lot of very nice used motor coaches on the market right now.

Here are a few examples:

1996 Beaver Monterrey
1986 Bluebird Wanderlodge
2000 Holiday Rambler Ambassador
1999 American Eagle

If you really get serious about looking, there are many, many other examples ranging in price from $19,900 to roughly $39,000 are available. The chassis used for many of these Class A coaches (Freightliner, Spartan, or Roadmaster) are designed to last for 1,000,000 miles, so the owners most likely wear out before the coaches do. Many of these coaches have Detroit Diesel, Catepillar, or Cummins Diesel engines that have been recently rebuilt and have proven themselves for decades of RV use.

2000 Nemar Dutch Star listed for $39k on

Monaco Diplomat listed for $38k on

Happy shopping! Happy day dreaming!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Happy Trails! Chili Seasoning Mix

With temperatures falling into the lower 40's, we're beginning to crave chili on the weekends. Linda usually cooks up 2 gallons or so for lunch and we eat leftovers all week long. Her basic recipe includes a little bit of this and little bit of that with some ground beef, garbanzo beans, chick peas, black beans, kidney beans, chopped onion and some diced tomatoes.

Earlier this month, I purchased a chili mix from hoping to get some ideas about how chili spices are supposed to taste from the perspective of a world champion chili cook.  The Happy Trails! Chili Seasoning Mix is marketed by Tom Hoover, a very successful ICS chili competitor and businessman. Tonight we decided to try it out.

I followed the recipe directions on the back of the package:
  • 2 lbs of ground beef (browned and drained)
  • 1 pkg of Happy Trails! Chili Seasoning Mix
  • 2 cups of water
  • 8 oz. of tomato sauce
  • I added two cans of beans (my aplogies to any Texans that might be reading this)
I brought it to a boil and simmered the chili for 30 minutes prior to serving.

I've got another package of the mix to experiment with. Next time I'm going to use top sirloin instead of ground beef.  If you want to try some for yourself, you can purchase it at

Sunday, October 21, 2012

BBQ Made Simple

O.k. I'll admit it. 

This weekend I was in the mood for some complicated bbq.

I pulled out my favorite copy of Peace, Love and Barbecue last night and prepared to cook one of the numerous World Championship bbq recipes that are featured.  Unfortunately, after a quick trip to the pantry for supplies to mix up a pork rub, I soon realized that I was missing a primary ingredient - sugar. (We've been trying to eat a little healthier and I've been using stevia in my iced tea.)

Since it was almost 9 p.m., heading out to the store did not sound too appealing. Sometimes you just have to drop back and punt, so I headed back to the pantry and returned with some leftover Billy Bones spice rub that we purchased at Cabela's.

After a couple of apple juice-mixed-with-honey injections and a quick-but-liberal sprinkling of spice rub, the pork butts were marinating in the refrigerator. There was minimal mess and less fuss compared to mixing up a recipe from scratch.

Keeping with the less-is-more philosophy of the day, I pulled out the Weber Smokey Mountain water smoker this morning instead of rearranging the garage to pull out the custom built insulated upright that works pretty well with temperatures nearing refrigerator levels here in Southeast Michigan. The WSM is nearing it's 11th year birthday, but still works like new. It's a true set it and forget it cooker. Who needs a fancy smancy computer controller? And what good really comes from those my-smoker-is-bigger-and-more-expensive-than-yours models?  Truth be told, I have always gravitated toward using the $189.99 basic black cooker versus the $1,500 custom painted red version of the same basic design for informal personal cooking sessions.

I often think about putting my retirement savings on the back burner for a while and putting my name on the waiting list for a premium offset smoker that's all the rage on the competition circuit these days.

But on days like this while watching the Sunday morning talking heads, reading the newspaper, surfing my favorite bbq websites, catching up on Facebook, and writing a couple of bbq blog posts I remember why I started cooking bbq in the first place. I really enjoy good food cooked the way I like to eat it without having to spend a lot of money.

Pulled pork seasoned with Billy Bones spice rub from Cabela's
In competition I cooked pork butts to 196 degrees and let it rest in a cooler for 4 or 5 hours before turn in time.

I cooked this pork at 225 degrees for roughly 8 hours to an internal temperature of 200 degrees. I have found that when cooking the meat a little longer, it doesn't need to rest quite as long before pulling. These butts rested for 90 minutes and separated easily.

While I had the cooker fired up I decided to cook some pork ribs too. I purchased these ribs locally from Back Forty Acres in Chelsea, MI. They are untrimmed, but for eating ribs at home it's not always necessary to trim them. Trimming is time consuming and there's also a certain amount of waste that occurs.


Untrimmed pasture raised Tamworth ribs from Back Forty Acres
Update:  I took some leftover ribs for lunch and they were delicious.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Great Lakes Regional Chili Cookoff

On Sunday we'll be heading to Plymouth, MI to compete in the Great Lakes Regional Chili Cookoff. It's our first attempt at a chili cookoff. I'm not expecting to win, but it's an opportunity to dip my toe into the competitive chili arena. I've attended the event many times and see some similarities with bbq contests sanctioned by FBA and KCBS.

The weather today was raining and cold, but the forecast for tomorrow looks a little warmer with a chance of rain in the morning.

Here's a picture from last year taken while I was sampling some verde chili.

I'm entered in ICS red and ICS verde. My personal tastes gravitate a little more toward the verde than the red, but as a bbq enthusiast I'm used to eating a lot of pork :-)

If you're in Plymouth, or near it, stop by and say hello.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Music to BBQ By - Kings of Leon

I don't typically listen to contemporary artists and bands, but I make an exception for Kings of Leon. After watching a documentary special on Showtime last year about the band, I started listening to them on occasion. Here is my favorite tune they perform.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Have You Read Thin Blue Smoke Yet?

If you are looking for bbq gifts for hard to buy for friends and relatives you can't go wrong with the paperback edition of  Thin Blue Smoke. I read the hard back version cover to cover when it first became available on But, don't take my word for it - there are currently 38 positive reviews from readers on Amazon.

It sounds like a bbq book and certainly talks alot about Kansas City BBQ, but it offers so much more than that. It's a book about life, about Kansas City, and about forgiveness. I think the chapters that focus on the character Ferguson Glenn could be spun off into a stand alone novel. If a movie were made based on this fictional Episcopal clergyman, I'd be the first in line to purchase a ticket and some popcorn.

Congratulations (again) to Doug Worgul for a fine work. I can't wait for his next novel.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Music to BBQ By - Dusty Springfield

This week's bbq music post features Dusty Springfield.


Dusty in Memphis was a tremendous success. Anchored by one of Springfield's biggest hits, "Son of a Preacher Man," it climbed to No. 10 on the U.S. charts. In 1994 that song received a second round of popularity when it became one of the featured songs in the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction. Read more...
This one reminds me of Adele.

In case you are wondering, she passed away in 1999 after a battle with cancer.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Chili Verde

Green chili sans beans
Looking for ideas to use my current abundant supply of jalapenos I decided to make some "green" chili today. is the home page for the International Chili Society's (ICS) competition information. In ICS competition, beans are not allowed so my chili would be something a little different than the typical "home-style" chili I'm used to eating this time of year.

My attempt at chili verde was loosely based on Gambler's Chili as published on the ICS website.

1. I started with 2 lbs of pork loin chops purchased at Meijer that I cut up into small 3/8 inch sized pieces. I browned it in skillet with a small amount of olive oil for 10 minutes and then drained the liquid.

2. I added 1/2 a jar of Green Salsa, 2 cups of chicken broth, 1 cup of finely chopped onion, and 1 cup of finely diced green pepper to the pork and continued cooking for 1 hour.

3. I added the spice mix (see below) and continued simmering.

Spice Mix

1 medium sized clove of minced garlic
2 ½ Tbsp Watkins chicken base
1 tsp celery salt
1 Tsp Arrowroot
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp jalapeno pepper - diced
1 Tbsp dried cilantro

4. Then I added 14 oz of canned chopped green chili's and simmered for another 30 minutes.

For my personal tastes, the results were pretty good. The pork was very tender. Some might like a little more heat or salt, but that's easy to regulate by adding a dash here and there for your preferences. Beans can also be added, if you like your chili "homestyle".

One option for adding some heat using jalapenos is to cut them lengthwise and drying them on the lowest heat setting in the oven. When they are dried out, they can be ground up using a coffee grinder and used as a powder.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Starting a Food Buisness and the Cottage Food Law

In a previous post, I wrote about cottage food laws. Michigan and many other states have enacted sets of specific rules and regulations that allow a framework for food entrepreneurs to get started on a small scale. These laws allow individuals to do some test marketing before plunging headfirst into a full scale, licensed, food processing business.

The cottage food laws do have limitations. There are labeling requirements, limitations on the types of foods that can be produced for sale from a home kitchen, and guidelines for maximum annual revenues that can be earned.

Outside of the cottage food law allowances, many states and county governments offer other resources to help guide a prospective small business owner through the process of operating a food business legally. In Michigan, the state government provides significant resources online. The 64-page Guide to Starting and Operating a Small Business in Michigan provides a checklist that can be used to plan for a start-up. The guide covers taxes, business plans, licenses and regulations, hiring, financing, managment, and insurance considerations and many, many more.

All of this may seem like a lot of red tape and hassle for folks that just want to grow a hobby or personal passion into a source of income. I've seen and known many bbq enthusiasts who do bbq and other types of catering "under the radar" and out of compliance with legal requirements. This may seem like a harmless undertaking, but upon closer examination this is a pretty risky proposition. The personal liability is significant and should not be taken lightly.

There is a lot of information available to help you do it right, if you take the time to look for it. And the best part is that most of it won't cost you any money while you progress through the initial planning stages.

If you are aware of other resources that would be helpful along these lines, feel free to post them in the comments section or send me a separate e-mail so I can share the information with others who may find it useful.

Here's an example from the Small Buisness Administration (SBA):

Small Business Assessment Tool

Good luck.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Music to BBQ By - Charlie Daniels Band

This is a continuation of my new weekly feature - Music to BBQ By

When your bbq party gets a little rowdy, put some CDB on the stereo. Or better yet, if you bbq party is dull, liven it up with some CDB.

I attended a Charlie Daniels concert in Dearborn Michigan in 2004. It's been several years now since I first heard this song on 61-Country, my favorite radio station from the late '70's and early '80's out of Kansas City. We spent hours and hours listening to guys with names like Charlie, Conway, and Kenny.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Red Chili Practice Cook

Red chili aka chili without beans

This was my second weekend spent working to develop a contest-worthy-chili recipe. Last week left me a little disappointed, but this week's result turned out closer to my expectations.

I have searched and searched on Google images for what ICS contest chili is supposed to look like with very few results, so I am still unsure whether I am getting closer (or farther) from competitive quality.

Last week I tried to some inexpensive sirloin cuts labeled as "stew meat" on the package. This week I purchased a $15 package labeled as Top Sirloin and the texture and tenderness of the chili was much better.

I feel much more comfortable with the level of heat in the chili too, but that is the area I most unsure about. If a judge is just eating a one bite sample the chili can stand to be a little hotter than if eating an entire bowl (i.e. cup).

Next week I'll be working on a green chili recipe.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Trip to the Spice Store

As I prepare for my first chili cook-off in a few weeks, I made a trip to the local Penzey's spices store this morning. Here's some of the chili specific spices that I purchased:

I have never cooked a chili contest sanctioned by the International Chili Society (ICS). To help promote chili cooking, contests, and in support of prospective new contestants like me, the ICS publishes winning recipes on Last weekend I cooked Jim Weller's Macktown Chili recipe to establish a base to build from. The plan is to make adjustments here and there to eventually develop my own recipe.

I'm a chili novice and I'm a little fearful of making my entry too hot, if that is possible. Most of the past winning recipes look pretty hot to me, so I am sticking to a recipe that is on the milder side of things. I chose some ground chipotle, some guajillo chili peppers, and ancho chili powder for my recipe. All three are the on milder side of the Scoville heat scale.

Chipotle: 5,000 - 10,000 Scoville heat units
Guajillo: 2,500 - 5,000 Scoville heat units
Ancho: 1,000 - 2,000 Scoville heat units

For a comparison, Cayenne pepper is 30,000 - 50,000 Scoville heat units; and a Scotch Bonnet or Habanero pepper yield between 100,000 - 350,000 Scoville heat units.

I plan to enter the "red" and "green" chili categories. From what I've seen on the web, sometimes the green chili recipes are even a little hotter than the red ones.

I'm not expecting spectacular results in my first event, but I do expect to have a lot of fun preparing and competing. Perhaps best of all...the event I'm cooking is in it's 17th year. The event typically raises a lot of money for local charities. The grand total over the lifespan of the event is more than $265,000 in donations.

Look for a new post tomorrow when I put these new spices to use.

Music to BBQ By

I've been writing, talking about, and sharing bbq ideas on the internet for more than 10 years. Most folks that have been reading this blog or my original bbq website that was merged into this current format a few years ago have probably picked up on my personal musical tastes over the years. And to honor some of my favorite styles of music and the artists that perform them, I am introducing a new feature this week - Music to BBQ By.

So here's the first installment...

There have been numerous versions of this song recorded and performed through the years (you can see many of them on YouTube), but I have never being one to conform with what others may regard as "popular" or "normal". I like to explore the "not so obvious" and that's why I picked this version to share with you this week.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The BBQ Guy Tries ICS Chili Cooking

As the weather here in Michigan makes the gentle turn toward fall with shorter days and longer nights, my thoughts turn toward football, and naturally, toward foods that accompany the changes.

Plymouth, Michigan, near our home in Belleville, hosts the Great Lakes Chili Cookoff. The event is scheduled for October 14th this year. I've toyed with the idea of competing in the event, but knowing very little about competition chili cooking other than visiting a few events in Florida and here in Michigan through the years, I've never progressed much past the "thinking about it" stage.

3 lbs of lean beef

Today I decided to give chili-cookoff-style chili cooking another try. For any seasoned chili competitors who might come across this bbq blog post about competition chili cooking, I want to apologize just in case I've violated any cardinal rules of ICS chili.

I've cooked Jim Weller's Macktown Chili recipe as pubished on the International Chili Society (ICS) website a couple of times. Admitting that I know little about cooking chili sans beans and hamburger, Mr. Weller's world championship winning recipe from the year 2000 looked like a good starting point to develop my own novice version of ICS chili.

I did not cook the recipe exactly because I did not have the exact ingredients on hand, but being a bbq cook who likes to tinker with different ingredients and amounts, I cooked the version below this afternoon.

Brian's Chili Recipe

3 lbs of stew meat from the local big box store
14 oz of beef broth (Watkins mix)
14 oz of chicken broth (Watkins mix)
8 oz can of Hunt's tomato sauce
1 C of water
1/2 tsp of hot sauce (Louisiana Hot Sauce brand)

8 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp chipotle chili powder
3 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp garlic granules
1 Tbsp onion granules
1 Tbsp arrow root

I combined the liquids into a sauce pan and heated it for 15 minutes. I cut the beef into small 3/8 inch sized cubes and browned it in a skillet. I combined the liquids and beef into a pot and added 1/2 the spice mixture. I simmered the meat and liquids for 90 minutes, added the remaining spice mix and cooked another 30 minutes on medium-low heat (a slow boil).

I cut the beef into bite sized pieces. I was aiming for 3/8" or "pecan sized".

Beef after browing and draining

Hot sauce
In case you're like me and don't know what arrow root is I'll try to explain. It is used to thicken things similar to flour. Unlike flour, a little arrowroot goes a long way.

I have no way of knowing for sure what I need to add to this recipe in order to meet expectations at a chili cook off, but here are a few things I'm going to try based on samples I've purchased at a few events.

  • Add 1/4 cup of chopped onions.
  • Add 1/4 cup of chopped green peppers
  • Add another 8 oz can of Hunt's tomato sauce
  • Instead of 1 C water, use 1 C of beef broth/chicken broth mixture
  • Use Tabasco sauce instead of Louisiana brand.

Any other suggestions?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chicken Thighs in a Skillet with Lawry's Seasoning

Taking a certain risk that some of my readers may disagree....Sometimes you just do not have time to fire up the grill or smoker and prepare a proper bbq meal.

We were watching football recently and I had a craving for grilled chicken thighs, but I didn't want to step away from the game long enough to prepare them bbq-style. I headed to the kitchen pantry and looked for some sort of seasoning to use and found some Lawry's Perfect Blend Seasoning and Rub Chicken & Poultry staring back at me.

I seasoned six boneless and skinless chicken thighs with the Lawry's seasoning and let them marinade in the refrigerator for 3 hours. If you like your chicken thighs a little more on the salty side, you can marinade longer. If you like less salt, you might want to marinade for less time, or add less spice rub from the get go.

I added some olive oil to a large skillet and then cooked the thighs on medium-high heat for about 15 - 20 minutes turning occasionally. I covered the skillet with a lid. When I cook chicken like this, it seems to help speed up the cooking process. I cooked them to 175 degrees internal temperature.

It's not real bbq, but it's a quick alternative that doesn't taste half bad.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Low Calorie Dutch Oven Braised Rabbit

We purchased a rabbit from Back Forty Acres in Chelsea, Michigan and today I cooked it in my dutch oven. The recipe and pictures are included below.


1 rabbit (4 – 5 lbs.)

2-3 slices of bacon

2 or 3 onions – Cut 2 into quarters and chop 1 into small pieces

3 or 4 carrots - Slice into chunks

3 cloves of garlic

2 bay leaves

5 or 6 potatoes cut into small chunks

3 stalks of celery chopped into small pieces

1 can of chicken broth

2 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. black pepper


• Brown the bacon slices and 1 finely chopped onion in the Dutch oven with bottom heat.

• Add the rabbit and brown it on both sides for 3-4 minutes

• Add 1 can of chicken broth

• Add onion quarters, chopped celery, chopped carrots, and potatoes

• Add enough additional water to cover the vegetables.

• Cook at low heat until meat and potatoes are tender.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Tunnel Bar-B-Q Windsor Canada

Today we make the short drive from Belleville, MI to Windsor, Ontario for a site seeing trip and to eat lunch at Tunnel Bar-B-Q. Since it's opening in 1941, the restaurant has a long history in downtown Windsor.

We stopped by for lunch after a visit to the Riverfront Sculpture Garden offering a great view of downtown Detroit. 

The service was very good with a friendly waitress who is planning a driving trip through Tennessee, down to New Orleans and onward to Texas for a Carribbean cruise in a couple of weeks.

Always inquisitive, Linda couldn't resist asking if they prepare the bbq in a real smoker or in the oven. Since we parked in the rear of the restaurant with no signs of wood, a smoke stack, etc. I already knew the answer. I'll give bonus points for honesty. It is after all "the best policy".

For oven 'que that is far from the traditional southern-style that we prefer, it was acceptable lunch fare.

The dessert menu was the highlight of the visit. Linda and nephew Gus shared a chocolate brownie mousse and I had Peach Melba (ice cream wtih peaches and raspberry sauce).

I can't recommend making a special trip just for the 'que, but if you're already in town and looking for some lunch give it a try.