Grilled Sweet Potatoes

I was grilling some Boston butt country style ribs and decided to use the long cook time to grill a sweet potato, too. It is sort of a misnomer as they aren’t really ribs but they take a fairly long cook to melt the collagen so I had about 2 hours of grilling time to play with.

If you’re concerned about the fat, toss the potatoes in olive oil instead of butter.

This method adds delicious flavor to the potatoes plus the addition of smoke, raises things up a level. In fact, I baked an extra sweet potato to completion on the grill (a little over an hour) and then removed it from the skin and mashed it up to put in a later recipe (like mashed sweet potatoes, sweet potato biscuits or sweet potato pancakes). Freeze in 1 cup amounts in a zip top bags so you’re ready to go when the urge for sweet potato hits.

Grilled Sweet Potatoes

2 large sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (1 tablespoon if using fresh)
½ teaspoon salt

Wash the sweet potatoes. Set up the grill for indirect grilling by placing a chimney full of white hot coals along one side. While the fire is at its hottest, place the sweet potatoes between the meat and the hot coals. Grill for 30 minutes.

Remove the sweet potatoes from the fire.

Cut into rounds and peel. Place in a bowl with the butter. Once it has melted, stir to coat the sweet potato rounds. Sprinkle on the brown sugar, rosemary and salt and stir again.

When there are 30 minutes left on the meat cooking, return the sweet potato rounds to the grill. I placed them on a grill pan, in two rows with the thickest rounds in the first row and the smaller in the next. If your grill grates are close enough together, you can place them directly on the grill.

Set the sweet potatoes almost but not over the coals and grill for 30 minutes more.

They are done when tender. Serve warm.

Herbes de Provence Turkey Brine

Winn-Dixie had a sale on bone-in turkey breast and so I donned my mask and headed out to the grocery to pick one up. I brined the turkey breast overnight before placing it in my Dad’s Weber over a pan of water and grilled it for almost 3 hours.

We served it with the last of the asparagus and some potato cakes made from potatoes leftover from the shrimp/crawfish boil on Mother’s Day (recipe here).

Lots of yummy, tasty goodness. Can’t wait for sandwiches, though!

This brine is good on chicken, too.

Herbes de Provence Turkey Brine

½ cup coarse kosher salt
½ cup brown sugar
juice of 2 lemons, about ¼ cup (keep rind)
3 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
2 quarts water

1 bone-in turkey breast, 4-6 lbs

3 tablespoons butter, softened

Dissolve salt and sugar in three cups of water. Once the salt and sugar are dissolved, add in 1 cup of ice and stir until melted. Add in lemon juice and herbes de Provence. Let brine cool to room temperature.

Cut through the turkey’s backbone and split open in a butterfly. Place turkey in zip top bag with the lemon rinds and add water to the brine to bring it to 2 quarts. Pour into the bag and seal. Place in the fridge for 12-18 hours. If you don’t have a large enough bag, place in a pot big enough to cover the bird. Put a plate on top to keep it submerged.

Remove from fridge while starting to heat the coals. Rinse and pat dry. Use your fingers to loosen the skin. Press pieces of the softened butter under the skin and rub any extra over the skin.

Set grill for indirect cooking – I banked all the charcoal on one side. Add a wood chip like hickory for smoke. Place a pan with water on the opposite side to the coals. Put the turkey on the grate over the pan of water, with thickest part closest to the fire. Grill over indirect coals for at least 2 hours or until the internal temperature of the meat registers 165 degrees F.

 

#FrontYardCookout Beef Brisket

May is National BBQ Month and I’m starting it right with a beef brisket on the grill. On May 1st, I covered a 9lb beef brisket in a Dalmatian rub (equal parts kosher salt and black pepper) and wrapped it in plastic wrap and placed it in the fridge overnight.

Today, I pulled it out of the fridge to come to room temperature. I then followed the ATK method (outlined here) and lined Dad’s Weber Grill with a charcoal snake and lit one side for a slow, 5 hour burn with a couple hunks of hickory for lovely smoke. I placed a pan of water in the center of the grill to keep things nice and humid in there.

When it hit the stall, around 160-170 degrees F, I wrapped it well in aluminum foil and let it continue to cook to 200 degrees F, about 3 hours more. Timing here is all estimates based on weight of the meat and temperature of the grill. Rule of thumb is it takes about 1 hour 15 minutes per pound at 250 degrees F.

Once you remove the brisket from the grill, leave it wrapped for at least an hour and up to three to rest and let the juices redistribute and the meat to relax. I put it in a cooler in order to lessen the temptation to snack on it during this time.

Slice against the grain and give the eaters a choice of cuts from the flat or “lean” portion or the point or “fatty” portion. Anyway you slice it is a truly mouthwatering experience.

Oscar Mayer is encouraging people to get outside while maintaining a social distance of 12 hot dogs apart to cook for a cause. Bring your grill to the front yard and cookout with your neighbors while giving back! The company will donate one million meals to Feeding America, and each time someone shares their cookout on social media with the hashtag #FrontYardCookout, Oscar Mayer will donate an additional meal to the nonprofit organization, for up to one million extra meals.

Here I am in the front yard, cooking out!

Buttermilk Ranch Oven Fried Chicken Drumsticks

I cook a lot of chicken but my favorite kind of chicken is fried. I really like the drumsticks, when they’ve been done right so the meat is juicy and the skin is crunchy. This process has the oven fry the chicken and, while you need be careful when moving the oven rack and turning and removing the chicken so as not to spill the oil, it makes a pretty delicious fried chicken.

I had a 10lb bag of chicken leg quarters that I divided and used the thighs for another recipe.

This being the time of isolation, I had no ranch seasoning in the house. However, I made one up from the spices in my parent’s cabinet.

It was quite good with the skin crunchy and the meat flavorful and juicy.

Buttermilk Ranch Oven Fried Chicken Drumsticks

4 lbs chicken parts (I used drumsticks)
1 quart buttermilk
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk

1 cup peanut oil

Place drumsticks in a zip top bag. Combine buttermilk, salt and pepper and pour over the chicken. Seal the bag well and place in the refrigerator overnight.

Mix together the ranch seasoning ingredients with the flour. Place in a shallow dish. Pour the buttermilk in another dish.

Roll the brined chicken pieces in the flour, a few at a time, until well coated. Then, dip chicken in the buttermilk followed by another coat of seasoned flour. Place on wire rack when done and keep in the refrigerator while the oven comes to temperature. Letting the chicken dry out a bit will help the coating stay on better.

Preheat oven to 450 with a 12″ cast iron skillet and the peanut oil in it. The oil should come up about ½ inch of the skillet. It is important to be heating the oil and skillet as the oven heats.

After the oven has been at temperature for 15 minutes, open oven and use tongs to carefully place chicken in the hot oil. Be careful here, especially when moving the oven rack in and out.

Cook for 30 minutes. Turn drumsticks over and cook for 30 minutes more. Internal temperature of the drumsticks will be 175-180 degrees F. Remove to paper towels to drain and serve.

Sourdough Blueberry Pecan Coffee Cake

When I first moved to California in the mid-1990’s, I stayed with some folks in Palo Alto who were real fans of Hobee’s Restaurant and their blueberry coffee cake. We went there several times and, when I finally got my own place, they gave me a well worn brochure that included the recipe and it has been one of my go-to brunch recipes ever since (with the addition of pecans in the topping). Here is a link to the original recipe.

I needed to use some starter and I’ve found that in cake and other recipes that call for sour cream, you can substitute sourdough starter and you get a nice tang with a little added lift. I gave it a try with this one and it worked amazingly.

I used cake flour for a nice tender crumb but, if you only have all-purpose, drop the flour to 1 ½ cups.

To warm it up the next day, place it in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds (depending on how big a slice you have).

Sourdough Blueberry Pecan Coffee Cake

1 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup sourdough starter
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup fresh blueberries, tossed in 2 tablespoons corn starch

Topping

5 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8×8 baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl, resift flour with baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt

In another mixing bowl, beat sugar and eggs. Stir together sour cream and sourdough starter to loosen it up and then add to the sugar/eggs mixture. Mix to combine. Add in vanilla.

Add in the flour mixture and beat until smooth.

Pour half the batter in the buttered pan and scatter the berries over. Pour in the rest of the batter and smooth the top.

In a small bowl, mix topping sugar with the butter and cinnamon with a sturdy fork, until they are blended. Add in pecans and stir to combine. Sprinkle topping over batter.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a clean toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out dry.

Cool slightly; serve warm or at room temperature.

Seven Layer Dip

I had some Lindsay’s Naturals ripe green olives the other day (Thanks to Helen for turning me on to them) and found them to be buttery and delicious. As I thought about them during the long dark night, I dreamed they’d be an excellent topper to a 7 layer dip.

Yes, I dream in appetizers.

The only solid rule to this dip is to use a glass dish so you can see the layers. Everything else, including order is up to you. For a bowl game, I’ve upped everything to fit into a 9×13 baking dish. This version is using a round bowl as I couldn’t find mom’s trifle dish.

For making my dip, I start by using a can of refried beans mixed with about a half cup of sour cream to make it dippable as my first two layers. As I’m in isolation with my parents, I’m only using 2/3rds of the can plus a quarter cup sour cream.

Then, I use taco meat for the next layer. I had some in the freezer from our last batch of tacos but it is a simple matter to brown a pound of ground meat and add seasonings to taste (here is my taco seasoning blend). Let cool completely (or thaw completely) before using.

I’m using frozen guacamole I thawed. Because I need to stretch it further, I mixed it with the meat before spreading that layer out.

I then did a layer of grated pepper jack and cheddar cheese. Toss on sliced grape tomatoes and, finally, sliced olives.

If you want to be pedantic and say the mixed layers don’t count as their individual parts, add a layer of lettuce after the meat but before the cheese. Add salsa as a layer and you can even add more sour cream as a layer. Or, be like my dad and cover your side with pickled jalapeño slices.

Once you’ve built it to your standards, place in the refrigerator to chill before serving with tortilla chips.

Yummy and shareable!

 

Red Velvet Cupcakes

My favorite cake is Red Velvet with chocolate cream cheese frosting. Not only is it a beautiful color (also my favorite), it is so soft – one might even say velvety. It is not the deepest chocolate (that would be this cake) but, with the cocoa in the frosting, it is just enough.

I am making my own birthday cupcakes (or, as my friend Charlotte calls them, fucupcakes) this year as I’m isolating with my folks and to say they aren’t bakers would be putting it mildly.

For the last couple of trips to the grocery I saw very low supplies of all purpose flour. I was able to grab a box of cake flour and it gave a very nice and fine texture to the final product.

I only use a 1 ounce bottle of red food coloring because I use Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa and it already has a brick redish color. You can use more food coloring if you want a more vibrant red but, as you can see from the two cupcakes I haven’t fully frosted, they’ve got plenty of color.

So yummy! Such a happy birthday to me!

Cake:

2 cups sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 to 2 ounces red food coloring
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vinegar

Frosting:

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
2 sticks butter, softened
3 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon Creme de Cacao liquor or vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Mix cocoa and food coloring together and then add to sugar mixture; mix well. Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla. In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin tins lined with cupcake cups about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Frosting: Sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Scalloped Potatoes

I was making pork schnitzel (see recipe here for chicken schnitzel) and decided that instead of hot potato salad, I’d try scalloped potatoes again.

I’ve failed before on making au gratin potatoes before as the milk fats can separate and make for a still tasty but pretty ugly dish. This version has you make a roux to hold the milk together. You’re not aiming for any color on your bechamel sauce so 3 to 5 minutes should be sufficient. Once you’ve added in the cheese to melt, it is almost foolproof – and I know as I’ve been fooled before!

Final dish is cheesy and creamy and delicious. You can make it with cream or milk, although I can tell you it is super luscious with cream.

A wonderful comfort food in this time of uncertainty.

Scalloped Potatoes

4 cups thinly sliced potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1⁄2 cups cream (or milk)
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash cayenne pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1⁄2 cup grated cheese, to sprinkle on top

In a small sauce pan, melt butter and blend in flour to form a roux. Cook, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes over low heat to cook the flour taste out. Let sit for a minute. Add all of cold cream/milk, stirring with a whisk. Season with salt and cayenne.

Cook sauce on low until smooth and boiling, stirring occasionally with a whisk. Reduce heat and stir in cheese. Place one third of the sliced potatoes in a lightly greased one quart casserole dish. Pour a third of cheese sauce over potatoes and use a spatula to spread over the entire surface.

Repeat with second and third layer of potatoes and cheese sauce.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake uncovered for an 1 hour at 350°F. Let stand for 5 minutes to tighten up before spooning onto plates.

 

Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies

I’m at that point in my cycle and isolation that I’m beyond a simple chocolate craving. Regular brownies wouldn’t touch this need. A chocolate baking bar, cocoa and some some chocolate morsels hit the spot, though.

So good. Deeply, darkly chocolate with a lovely chew. Pecans are optional, of course, but they add so much beyond flavor!

Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Generously butter a 9×13 pan. For thick brownies, use an 8×8 pan.

Melt butter and chocolate on low heat on the stovetop in a double boiler. Remove from heat and pour into a stand mixer. One at a time, whisk in cocoa, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour and salt. Mix well. Stir in pecans and chocolate morsels. Pour into prepared pan. Smooth the top of the batter.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until edges are set and center is a bit soft. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with a little batter coating it.

Cool at room temperature. Remove from pan. Serve at room temperature.

Brownies can be refrigerated if you’re stuck in isolation alone and don’t want to eat the entire right away or frozen for up to a month.

 

Olive Egg Salad

There is just something about an egg salad sandwich for Easter. Especially with briny olives.

Start with 2 eggs per person and adjust below recipe to your taste.

6 eggs
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup Spanish/Manzanilla olives, chopped plus 1 teaspoon brine from jar.

Stir to combine, taste for seasoning. If you want extra crunch, add a stalk of celery, diced.

Serve on toasted bread.