Smoking Beef Ribs on the Grill

I picked up a 3lb vacuum pack of beef riblets because I wanted beef but not a steak. I also didn’t want to have to wait as long as something like a brisket or shoulder would take to smoke.

I started with the rub. I wanted one with no sugar as that doesn’t taste as good on beef as it does on pork. For brisket, I usually use a dalmatian rub of equal parts salt and black pepper but I wanted to put some additional flavor on the ribs. Once I put together granulated garlic and onion and some paprika, it needed a little something morish, so I added dry mustard. Excellent! You could put in some cayenne but the ribs I’m using are thin and I don’t want too much heat.

I cooked them in my Weber kettle grill over indirect with chunks of hickory wood for the smoke. Remember to give yourself plenty of time – smoking time on the grill was three hours but you need to add another hour of rest.

Definitely use a meat thermometer to check the internal temp but you know they’re getting near done when the meat has pulled away from the ends of the bone.

This is what you’re looking for – nice color, they crack a little at the bend and there is at least a finger width of bone showing. If you’ll be patient for just a little longer, you’ll have tender, juicy meat with a lovely flavor from the rub and the smoke.

After the long rest, they were very good and toothsome! Luckily no one else was around to see me eat the whole thing.

Smoking Beef Ribs on the Grill

¼ cup kosher salt 
¼ cup black pepper 
1 tablespoons garlic powder 
1 tablespoons onion powder 
1 tablespoons paprika 
1 tablespoon dry mustard

3 lb rack of beef ribs

Combine the rub ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Rinse the meat and pat dry. Remove the silver skin from the ribs. Loosen with a dull knife and use a paper towel to pull the membrane off. Coat both sides of the beef with the rub and set in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Store any unused rub in an airtight container.

Remove the meat from fridge and set on counter while the grill is prepped.

Prepare the grill for indirect cooking and to last 3 hours. I do this by putting a ring of unlit coals around my Weber kettle grill, making sure all the briquettes are touching each other. I fill a chimney with charcoal and, once the coals become ashy, I spread them on two sides of the grill, layered on top of some unlit coals. This way, they light the coals beneath them and slowly ignite the rest so the grill should maintain 225-250 degrees F for at least three hours.

Put a drip pan in the center of the grill and add water to the pan. This will keep things moist while the magic happens. Place the rack of ribs bone side down in the center of the grill. Add dampened hickory chunks to the fire to smoke. Let the ribs cook until they reach an internal temperature of 200-205 degrees F. Carry over temperature will bring them to 210, which is ideal for beef ribs. Take ribs off the heat and tent with aluminum foil. Let ribs rest for at least an hour before eating. If it will be longer than an hour before eating, place the ribs in a cooler lined with towels.

You can cheat once the meat reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees and wrap them in aluminum foil or butcher’s paper and let them finish cooking in an oven at 235 degrees F. While keeping them uncovered on the grill will allow for the best bark, I totally understand using the Texas crutch (and I have done so plenty of times myself).

While I don’t tend to use bbq sauce, the time to do so is when you wrap the ribs or for the final hour of cooking. Give them a generous baste and it will allow for another layer of flavor. Try my coca-cola bbq sauce. I avoid commercial sauces as they have a lot of sugar which can burn and add a bitter taste.

LA 23 BBQ

I was lucky to get invited to a tour of the Southwest Regional Flood Protection Authority facility on the West Bank with NOSHA and the local Sierra Club group. Absolutely fascinating about how much storm surge they stop and how much water they can pump out and how fast – to fill the Superdome from top to bottom would only take an hour and 45 minutes with their 11 pumps!

Regional Director Nicholas Cali begins the tour in front of the West Closure Complex

After the tour, I stopped for lunch with my friends Charlotte and Thomas at LA 23 BBQ. The entrance is right across from the Belle Chase Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base.

The building isn’t much more than the smokers and kitchen with a bunch of picnic tables under a metal roof. They are mainly open for lunch during the week. The food is good and comes out fast.

I had the pulled pork sandwich. It comes with the slaw on the sandwich but I had them put that on the side. Tender, juicy meat with a good flavor that hardly needed sauce. The mac and cheese was very tasty but a little grainy.

They’ve got a good selection of things besides sandwiches if you wanted to get a rack of ribs, whole or half chicken, turkey or brisket. They offer meat by the pound to take home or have meals for 10, 20, 30 people catered in addition to eating there in the open air. Check out their menu for the full list of options.

So, next time you’re over on the West Bank and want good food, fast – go to LA 23 BBQ

Oh, and if you open carry, you get a free drink!

LA 23 BBQ
9661 Highway 23
Belle Chasse, LA 70037
(504) 657-3693
11am to 4pm Tuesday-Saturday

Bold Tomato Pasta

I went to the Crescent City Sunday’s in City Park Farmer Market. They have an option to use the WhatsGood app to preorder from the vendors. On Sunday morning, you drive up and roll through the two aisles of the market with your trunk open and a placard in the window and the venders just put your stuff inside with no muss, no fuss, no contact.

I ordered a big amount of Creole tomatoes (they get their unique flavor from South Louisiana’s alluvial soil) and almost immediately upon returning home had a bacon and tomato sandwich. Delicious but I wanted more.

This is a pasta dish I had in Greece. It was tossed together as sort of an early pre-meal by one of my Dad’s coworkers for the crazy Americans who couldn’t wait until the civilized time of 9 or 10pm for dinner.

A little garlic, a lot of tomato and a touch of cheese make it simple to prepare and amazing to eat. The original was done with spaghetti noodles but I prefer rotini or penne pasta. They also used a goat cheese but I’m using what I have at home – Kraft Shredded Parmesan, Romano & Asiago Cheese.

It tastes like the essence of tomato. So, so good! Very bright and intense and so much better than any sauce from a can or jar.

This is an easy meal to scale up or down. The recipe below is for two people.

Bold Tomato Pasta


2 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 large tomatoes
½ teaspoon each salt and pepper
½ lb pasta (spaghetti or rotini or penne)
¼ cup Parmesan Romano & Asiago cheese blend 

Cut off a dime-size piece of the base of the tomato using a sharp knife. Grate the tomato from the base along the coarse side of an upright box grater, discarding the skin and stem top.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta to al dente.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over low heat and add the garlic. Cook until soft and fragrant. Add the grated tomatoes, raise the heat to medium and cook until most of the tomato juices have mostly evaporated and what is left is a thick pulp, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper and stir.

Serve the pasta mixed with the sauce and top, if desired, with a spoonful of cheese.

Oven Baked Turkey for the Best Sandwiches

I love turkey sandwiches and these days the price of sliced from the deli is sending me home with a turkey breast to bake my own. I use a simple recipe with just a little seasoning and aromatics in a sealed pot to keep the turkey tender and moist.

Select a bone-in turkey breast that will fit in your Dutch oven with about an inch of space around the bird and sides/lid. Choose a heavy pot – I went with cast iron and a bird of 6 lbs. I did butterfly it by cracking the breastbone in order to get it to lay flat to fit.

I usually divide the sliced turkey into portions that will last me for a week of sandwiches and freeze most of the packages. This cook gave me at least 3 pint freezer bags full of slices, a smaller bag to eat from now and a 2 cup bag of shredded turkey for casseroles.

I make my sandwiches on white bread with mayo, a little salt and a sprinkle of celery seeds. Simply delicious!

Oven Baked Turkey for Sandwiches

1 5-7 lb bone in turkey breast
1 large onion
1 large lemon

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Rinse turkey and pat dry with paper towels. Season all over with salt and pepper.

Slice the onion and place in the bottom of the pot to give the turkey a platform to rest upon. Halve the lemon and place in the cavity. Put the turkey into the pot. Fit a large piece of aluminum foil over pot, ­pressing to seal, then cover tightly with lid. Transfer pot to oven and cook until turkey registers 160 degrees, about 2 ½ hours for a 6lb turkey.

Remove pot from oven and transfer turkey to carving board. Cover loosely with foil and let rest for at least 30 minutes to cool enough to handle. Pull off and discard the skin and slice the breast meat for sandwiches. Pick any remaining meat from the bones and use for things like turkey tetrazzini.

Levantine Roast Chicken

I wanted to make Chicken Shawarma sandwiches but, first, I had to roast the chicken. I made a kicked up spice mixture for the marinade with cumin, paprika, turmeric, garlic and then added Aleppo peppers for an almost fruity heat. The flavor profile owes a lot to the mom of a Lebanese friend of mine who used to feed us when I lived in Oakland, California.

After roasting the chicken, we made a meal of it. I set it over a bed of rice pilaf and served it with the onions that I used to elevate the chicken during cooking. The meat was juicy and had a lovely flavor from the overnight marinade. The onion was tender and melt in your mouth good.

After we ate our fill, Mom and I picked the leftover chicken and tossed it in the pan juices before putting it in the fridge overnight with the leftover onion. I then made a delicious Greek yogurt sauce. For lunch the next day, we enjoyed Chicken Shawarma on pita with chopped tomatoes, rewarmed hunks of the roasted chicken and onion, topped with healthy dollops of the tzatziki sauce.

Just fold and enjoy. So very delicious with an awesome mix of textures and flavors with the spiced chicken and garliky, cucumber yogurt sauce. The best of street food and you didn’t have to leave home for it.

Levantine Roast Chicken

1 – 5lb whole chicken
2 lemons, juiced
½ cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper (can substitute red pepper flakes)
2 large white onions

Use kitchen shears to cut the backbone off the chicken and then slice into the breastbone and crack the bird open. Remove the breast bone and cartilage. Place chicken in a zip top bag. The backbone and breast bone can be reserved in the freezer until ready to make stock.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, turmeric and Aleppo pepper together and stir well. Pour over chicken and seal bag. Massage to coat the chicken and place in the fridge for at least 12 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a large cast iron skillet in the oven. Carefully remove the skillet and place the onions (each cut horizontally into three thick rounds) on the bottom of the pan and set the chicken on top. Pour over the marinade.

Roast for about an hour or until the meat registers 165 on a meat thermometer. For the last 15 minutes, cover the top with aluminum foil if the wings or skin is getting too dark.

Remove from oven and serve over rice pilaf with each person getting a large round of onion and a ladle or two of sauce.

Here is my quick and easy tzatziki recipe:

1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 cup Greek yogurt (I use FAGE Total Plain)
4 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon oilive oil

Grate cucumber into a clean dish towel and squeeze out the moisture. Place the cucumber in a bowl with all the other ingredients and mix well. Taste for seasoning.

I recommend you make 24 hours in advance so that the flavors really come together.

Chocolate Cherry Dump Cake

I wanted a quick and easy dessert for dinner. I had a box of Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake mix and a large jar of cherry pie filling. Perfect, especially with me adding in a half cup of dried cherries to increase the umph!

I’ve done this before with blueberries and a box of yellow cake mix (Khaki’s Blueberry Crunch). The final result from today’s is a delicious cross between a cherry cobbler and a black forrest cake.

This style of dump cake is pretty darn versatile – anything that can be made into pie filling can be the base and nearly every kind of cake mix will work. The only limitation is your imagination!

Just pour the pie filling (if using canned, two cans) into the bottom of a buttered 9X13 baking dish. Spread the contents of a box of cake mix evenly over the top and then pour a stick of melted butter on the top. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until it is dry on top and bubbly around the edges. Serve with ice cream.

Yum!

Peaches and Cream Ice Cream

I went to the local farm stand near my parents and got some peaches from Chilton County. This area of Alabama has some of the best peaches I’ve ever tasted. As I was eating my third peach (bent over the sink as the juices dripped down my face and arms), I decided I should probably do more than just gorge on them.

I’ve done peach ice cream before (with brandy, with buttermilk, with Greek yogurt) but not just a plain, simple peaches and cream. While you can also use frozen peaches in this recipe, since the peaches in the South are at their peak, I’ll be making mine with these beauties:

This ice cream is velvety in texture. The fresh peach taste is well complemented by the cream – so very good!

Peaches and Cream Ice Cream

2 cups chopped fresh peaches (4 medium peaches), peeled and chopped
½ teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar (divided)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine peaches with 1/2 cup of sugar and the lemon juice. Let stand for one hour.

Place mixture in food processor or blender and pulse until peaches are coarsely chopped. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, milk, cream and vanilla to the peach mixture and mix well. Chill for 30 minutes.

Pour into your ice cream maker and churn for about 20 minutes or until desired consistency. Place in an airtight container in the freezer to finish firming up.


Chocolate Cherry Sourdough Scones

It will be Michelle’s birthday at the end of the week. Now that we are all fully vaccinated, she came down to spend the Memorial Day weekend with my family and I wanted to make us a good treat and to celebrate her natal day.

I had a recipe for chocolate cherry scones but I wanted to use my sourdough starter so I had to do a bit of experimenting as I didn’t want them to be too heavy. 

We ate them out on the porch with coffee (Mom and Dad) and tea (Michelle) and juice (me). The scones are very flavorful and quite beautiful. The egg wash and cinnamon sugar made a lovely crunchy exterior and the interior was moist and filled with chocolatey cherry goodness.

Chocolate Cherry Sourdough Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate morsels, roughly chopped
1 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sourdough starter
¼ cup milk

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
cinnamon sugar

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and baking soda. Grate in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chips and cherry pieces.

Add vanilla and milk to the sourdough starter and stir to loosen it up. Gently stir the mixture into the dry ingredients until dough forms a ball.

Turn onto a well-floured surface; knead very lightly and press together with your hands to form an 8 inch round. Cut into 8 triangles and place on a buttered baking sheet. Chill for 15 minutes.

Remove from refrigerator and brush with beaten egg wash and sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar.

Bake at 425° for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and serve warm.

To freeze baked scones, let them cool completely and then wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze up to 3 months. When ready to eat, let thaw at room temperature. Heat them up in the microwave for about 30 seconds to eat them warm.

Shrimp Gazpacho

As we get into late May, I begin to long for gazpacho. I’ve posted other recipes here and here but my current dilemma is that tomatoes haven’t come in locally yet. The ones available in the grocery store are from Florida and are varieties designed for transport. They just don’t have the juice or the flavor of those coming from the local U-Pick farm or farmer’s market.

Sometimes you have to improvise. In my case, that means a can of V8 juice, fresh squeezed limes and some ketchup.

When boiling shrimp, I recommend using the liquid Zatarain’s Crab and Shrimp boil but a tablespoon of plain kosher salt works just fine.

You’ll notice there is no salt added to the dish – the many flavors mean it isn’t necessary for taste but I put some on the table, in case the other diners wanted it (they didn’t).

This dish is amazing with the crunchy veggies, tender shrimp, creamy avocado and the lovely tomato based sauce. I could feel myself getting healthier after eating a bowl but, more importantly, the way the flavors complement each other made all of us go for seconds.

Shrimp Gazpacho

1 small head of garlic
1 small onion (red, white, yellow – any works)
1 ½ lbs small to medium shrimp, deheaded with shells on
1 tablespoon Zatarain’s® Concentrated Shrimp & Crab Boil
1 hothouse tomato
1 cucumber
1 green bell pepper
2 avocados
1 – 11.5 ounce can V8 juice, cold
Juice of 2 limes (¼ cup lime juice)
½ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the top off the head of garlic. Place it on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle generously with olive oil and seal the foil around the bulb. Put garlic package on a baking sheet. Quarter the onion and separate the layers. Toss generously with olive oil and place on the baking sheet with the garlic. Roast for about 30 minutes or until tender, flipping the onions layers over midway through cooking. The onion may finish roasting before the garlic so be prepared to remove it early. Transfer onion to chopping board and chop roughly. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze out the softened garlic and place in a large mixing bowl with the onion to cool completely while the shrimp boils.

Bring a quart of water to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Stir in shrimp and Zatarain’s Concentrated Shrimp & Crab Boil. Cover and return to boil. Turn off heat and let stand 2 minutes or until shrimp turn pink and done. Pour off the water and place shrimp in an ice bath for up to 5 minutes. Drain and peel. Cut the peeled shrimp into bite size pieces – cut small shrimp in half and medium into three pieces.

Cut an X into the base of the tomato. Place in boiling water for 30 seconds and remove to a water bath for a minute. Take from the water and peel off the skin. Dice the tomato and place in the bowl with onion and garlic. Peel cucumber. Scrape the seeds out with a spoon and cut the cucumber into small chunks. Core and seed the bell pepper and dice. Take out the pits from the avocados and make slices into the flesh both length and widthwise. Peel the pieces from the skin. Place all the vegetables in the bowl and stir to combine. Add in the shrimp and stir well.

Whisk together the V8, lime juice, ketchup and olive oil. Pour over the veggies and turn to coat. If not eating immediately, place in the refrigerator to stay cold. Stir well before ladeling into bowls.

Serve with crusty bread – I had garlic bread on hand that worked well, too.

Salsa Verde Chicken Chalupas

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Pueblo, Mexico as a victory over France in the battle over Puebla and what better way to join the celebration than to eat a traditional street food of the region.

Chalupas (also known as sopes or tostadas) consist of a fried tortilla base topped with meat, salsa and cheese. They are a quick and easy meal to put together, especially if you cheat with a grocery store rotisserie chicken. Picked from the bone and mixed with some mild salsa verde (I use a can from Herdez), means you really elevate the chicken to the next level.

With a slathering of refried beans, a generous amount of shredded chicken and topped with cheese and avocados – this is super flavorful and delicious meal.

Sala Verde Chicken Chalupas

10 corn tortillas 
2 cups shredded chicken
1 – 7 oz can of Herdez salsa verde 
1 can refried beans
8 ounce block of pepper jack cheese, grated
sour cream or Mexican crema
2-3 sliced avocados

Fry the corn tortillas in a little vegetable oil. Turn over as they start to brown and remove from the oil when crispy. Drain on a wire rack over a paper bag or paper towels.

In a mixing bowl, combine shredded chicken and Herdez Salsa Verde. Stir to coat chicken well and microwave until warm, stirring after 30 seconds to a minute.

Warm refried beans in a saucepan.

To serve, spoon refried beans onto each of the fried tortilla shells. Top with the salsa verde chicken. Sprinkle on cheese, add some sour cream and top with avocado slices.