Archive for ‘Recipes’

The Best Mac and Cheese in the World (Recipe)

It is fine to to be skeptical if you are reading the title and thinking, “Yeah, I’ve heard it all. Mac and cheese. There’s nothing to it. Best ever? OK.” You would be correct by saying there is nothing to it, so ditch the boxed Kraft mac and other types of off-the-shelf fake cheese pasta, and make it from scratch. It really doesn’t take all that much time, and it is oh so rewarding.

First things first, I have to pose a question: asides from bacon-wrapped cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers, is there any side dish that is better than macaroni and cheese, particularly for a barbecue? I don’t think so. If you disagree, let me know your thoughts in the comments so that I can test out your counter recommendation. Mac and cheese is an almighty comfort food that warms the hearts of many people, including mine. My recipe is not particularly unique, but it is a formidable one that I believe you should give a chance. It is caloric dense due to the fatty nature of it, but hey, it is mac and cheese. There is no rhyme or reason to skimp on the ingredients. Go big or go home.

Golden brown mac and cheese

Golden brown, bubbly and ready to roll!

First things first, the main tool used as well as the ingredients:

— 6 quart Dutch oven
— A whisk
— 1 lb. of pasta (elbows)
— 20 oz. of sharp cheddar cheese (cubed or grated)
— 4 cups of milk
— 1 stick of salted butter
— half a cup or a touch more of flour
— Liberal sprinkle of smoked paprika (optional)
— Shredded Fiesta blend (Monterey Jack, cheddar, queso quesadilla and asadero cheese — optional)

Before I continue, I urge you to check out the video posted above. Check out the crust as well as the sound of the bubbling of the rendered fat from the cheese. If that doesn’t make you hungry, I don’t want to meet you.

Instructions:
Cook the pasta in a separate pot other than the Dutch oven. This is fairly cut and dry. Follow the ingredients on the back of the box. Drain.

— Heat a Dutch oven over medium low heat and add the stick of butter
— Once the stick of butter is melted, crank up the heat to medium high
— Add the flour and whisk it with the butter until it browns to your liking, clearing any clumps, creating a roux
— Reduce heat to medium/medium-low and add the milk
— Sprinkle in the smoked paprika (again, optional)
— Allow the mixture to thicken as it simmers for five to seven minutes.

Important step regarding the cheese: I used two 16oz. ‘blocks’ of sharp cheddar cheese (only 4oz. of the second block) that I bought from a local grocery store. Rather than shredding it with a grater, I cut it up into tiny cubes. It doesn’t take very long, and it accomplishes the same job as grating it, as it will melt just fine when cooked. This is my personal method.

— Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
— Add a handful of cheese on top of the roux’n’milk in the Dutch oven
— Begin folding in the pasta into the Dutch oven in layers. What I did was, I added some of the pasta before adding more cheese and so on and so forth
— Save a few cubes of cheese to top the pasta after you add in all of the pasta
— Top with a big ol’ handful of Fiesta blend cheese
— Add the Dutch oven into, well, your oven and allow it to cook for 18 to 25 minutes until golden brown and bubbly on top

Some people like to top their mac and cheese with breadcrumbs prior to cooking it in the oven. I’ve never tried it that way, because I love browning the cheese for a perfectly brown crust.

Flatiron Pepper Co. Hatch Valley Green crushed pepper

I like to top my mac and cheese with Flatiron Pepper Company’s Hatch Valley Green blend of crushed pepper. It adds an incredible depth of flavor on top of what is already a karate chop to the tastebuds.

If you give this a go, let me know what you think. I ate this mac and cheese as a side item to some Nashville hot fried chicken.

My Advice for Making The Best Smash Burgers Ever

Blackstone Griddles and smash burgers are synonymous with each other, and it’s no surprise as to why: a smoking hot griddle and a sizzling ball of ground beef being smashed into a burger patty, influencing the maximum amount of surface contact for the Maillard reaction to occur, when the amino acids in the meat come into contact with the heat of the griddle, creating the beautiful brown crust and the delicious flavor we all enjoy out of a burger.

I’ve taken better burger photos in my time, so I apologize for how lackluster it is, but take a look at how thin the patty is, with the caramelized crust. I topped this one with cheddar cheese, bacon and caramelized onions & jalapenos.

Big ol’ fat burgers are nice (and I say that because I have a genuine penchant for burgers in general), but in my humble opinion, smash burgers are the best way to prepare a hamburger. When you smash the meatball, you flatten out the created-by-action patty to allow more surface area for the Maillard reaction to build a crust. The outside is given its color and flavor, and the inside stays juicy if not cooked for too long.

While making smash burgers on my Blackstone griddle is my favorite method for preparation, you can make them in a cast iron skillet as well. When I cook them on the griddle, I use high heat during the entire cook, but if I’m making them in a cast iron skillet, while I may preheat on high I will modify the heat to being between medium high to medium. The griddle, to me, is more forgiving than the cast iron on my indoor glass top stove, and maybe it is because the glass top stove, and perhaps that can be attributed to electric glass top stoves not being optimal for the very best cooking methods (debatable, but that is my limited anecdotal $.02 cents for you), so your mileage may vary pending on the equipment used.

When selecting your ground beef for smash burgers, choose a higher fat beef. An 80/20 protein to fat ground beef is the most commonly agreed on superior ratio for burgers, because there is enough fat to deliver premiere flavor in a burger, but not too fatty that a great deal of fat will render out during the cooking process. I go a little extreme, oftentimes, I suppose, because my local grocery store features amazingly cheap prices for 73/27 protein to fat ground beef, as I can usually buy 5 lbs. for $10 — there was even a special one day where it was $.99 cents a lb. and I scored 5 lbs. for $5. Even if you think 73/27 ground beef is too fatty, that was an amazing bargain. With this high fat content, I typically make larger meatballs to account for the rendered fat loss during cooking. However, 3 to 4 ounces of ground beef for smashburgers is typically recommended for 80/20 or 85/20 ground beef, though I must now admit my laziness when it comes to bothering with weighing out the meat when I prepare them. I just measure it by feel and by the judgment of my eyes.

When you have preheated your stovetop or griddle and the meatballs have been placed onto the skillet or griddle, use a heavy duty cast iron press to smash the meatball flat. I use the Blackstone stainless steel press-and-sear burger press. One tip that I recommend for this: use parchment paper under the press to smash the meatball flat in order to prevent sticking. You don’t have to, but it saves a moment of aggravation if some of the cold meat from the top of the beef sticks to the press. You may be wondering if you can use your spatula to smash the meatballs into burgers. Well, you can, I suppose, if you have a spatula that can handle the task, but most spatulas don’t have the weight to properly smash the meatballs, and in my one experience using a flimsy kitchen spatula, it created an absolute mess. Just buy yourself a press and thank me later.

Here’s a better look of the same burger from the first photo. Just admire the crust that was formed on this smash burger.

As for when to season the burgers, I’m typically known for being a guy who loves bold flavors with seasoning on both sides of the meat, but my method involves a bare meatball to begin, and after I smash it into a patty I will liberally season the upfaced side with my choice of seasoning (salt/pepper/garlic sometimes, Caribeque Big & Bold Beef, Reload Rub Fully Loaded, Blackstone All Purpose — just my four favorite methods that I switch up from time to time), and that is the only side I season. I feel that there is no need to season the other side once flipped, because by making the burger patty thin and by generously seasoning the one side, you give it enough flavor that you can taste throughout the patty versus overpowering it.

You may be wondering, “What about adding seasoning into the ground beef and mixing it up before forming the meatballs?” Salt has the potential to dry out meat by drawing out moisture. You want the inside of the patty to be juicy while the outside is properly browned. I will make a loosely packed meatball, because according to the food scientists, that is the way to go, and to my unscientifically inclined taste buds, they agree with said food scientists.

Typically, with my smash burgers, I will flip them after four to five minutes once I see the top of the burgers becoming wet from the rendered fat, as well as observing the edges browning nicely. Three to five minutes once flipped, and you are ready to go.

Brown/toast your buns for even more flavor, and add your favorite toppings. You are good to go from there. Create it however you want it. Plain? With cheese? Loaded with toppings? It is your burger — do how you please.

For my burgers, I like: American cheese or cheddar cheese, bacon, sauteed mushrooms & onions & jalapenos (or habaneros if I can easily find them here). Sometimes I like mixing up mayonnaise with a little ketchup, mustard and dill relish. Occasionally I add hot sauce.

“Troy, you just spent a thousand words writing about how to make a burger, which is one of the most simple things a person can concoct.” Hey, smash burgers are a delicacy in my book and should be considered to be their own food group due to how delicious they are. Homemade smash burgers are way better than any burger you will buy from a restaurant. Methods and techniques are important. Utilizing the right amount of heat is the most crucial variable of the cooking process in churning out the best burger you can potentially make. I’m just adding my personal method, because I want you — the readers — to give it a go and let me know what you think, because I think it will become your favorite burger concocting method.

Perfecting a Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey

Yesterday’s smoked turkey

I hardly consider myself a poultry pro.

When I was growing up, I was a picky child. Every time I would go out to eat with my family, when the question of, “Where does everybody want to go eat?” arised, my suggestion was always, “Somewhere with good chicken wings.” When we would go on vacation, it surprised nobody in the family that I was going to order wings everywhere we’d go.

When I grew up, I wanted to learn how to master chicken breast. Not how to consistently produce moist chicken breasts, but how to flavor them in different ways so they wouldn’t become boring. The grocery stores where I live often feature family packs of chicken breasts on sale for $1.99/lb. or under quite often, so it is an easy source of protein to come about. (My favorite method: hot-smoked on the Barrel House Cooker for 20-25 minutes, using lump charcoal, with Caribeque Signature Series Chicken Rub on the breasts — my all-time favorite seasoning for chicken if we aren’t going into the topic of spicy grub).

Turkey is a different beast, though.

I like turkey, but it isn’t something that I crave often. I became so conditioned to having standard, oven roasted turkey for Thanksgiving all my life. Deep-fried turkey is fantastic, but once you get past the skin, turkey still tastes just like regular ol’ turkey.

Fast-forward to last year: my first time smoking a turkey for Thanksgiving. My first time ever hosting a Thanksgiving in my life, at age 27. My mother had a stroke two weeks before Thanksgiving, and it was an emotionally charged time for my family because she was still in the hospital during Thanksgiving. I had my heart set on one ultimate goal for turkey day: I was going to smoke that bird. My method? Hanging the turkey with the EZ-Load Turkey Plus Kit from Barrel House Cooker Co. For the sake of shortening this particular Thanksgiving day story, this method of smoking a bird produced the most flavorful turkey I can recall ever having.

This year, I wanted to outdo myself from last year. This was my preparation for the 15-lb. turkey I smoked for Thanksgiving dinner:

(One caveat: I did not brine this bird, because it was already pre-brined. Keep this in mind if you are planning on cooking a turkey that hasn’t already been pre-brined.)

The day before Thanksgiving, with the turkey being thawed out in the refrigerator for around three days, I sat it out in a pan, removed the giblet package and the neck, and patted it dry with multiple paper towels.

Afterwards, I used duck fat spray (I originally found duck fat spray at Cabela’s, but now many Wal-Mart locations are carrying it for a couple of bucks cheaper) to spray the skin of the turkey. Not only does this spray act as a binder for your rub, but you add an extra layer of fat, yielding more flavor.

Last year, I used the ‘Everything Rub’ by The Killer Cook, which is fantastic, but this year I went a different route: Slap Ya Mama. I wanted to throw down a Cajun smoked turkey. I seasoned the bird liberally with Slap Ya Mama. While it is quite a salty seasoning, I wanted to give the skin enough flavor to where enough would penetrate into the meat by the end of the cook. With the turkey ready to go, I let it sit in the fridge overnight to absorb the seasoning.

I started up my Barrel House Cooker 14D with about half of the charcoal basket with coals while filing a small charcoal chimney up before lighting. After letting the coals burn for 15 minutes, I added them on top of the charcoal basket, placed two chunks of applewood (I used cherrywood last year) onto two separate sides of the coals and placed the base of the Barrel House Cooker onto the bottom charcoal station and closed the lid.

At around 8 in the morning, I added the turkey, hanging it in the cooker using the EZ-Load Turkey Plus Kit. This was about ten minutes after I added the charcoal to the basket.

I let it roll until around 11:45, when the thigh and legs were reading 175-180 and the breasts were reading about 163-164. I removed it from the cooker and allowed it to rest in a foil pan for 20-25 minutes before tenting it with foil. The temperature gauge read 250-255 for the majority of the cook, so I imagine the turkey was cooking at around 300-325.

This was, hands down, the best turkey I’ve ever eaten, and not one complaint was uttered by the guests (maybe they were just being nice). I have no shame in calling this, ‘perfecting’ a smoked turkey. It was incredibly juicy and absolutely tender.

Some may describe the skin as being too dark, preferring more of a brown skin for their bird, but that also has much to do with what kind of rub you use. Again, I used a liberal amount of Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning, and I’m sure that is the reason for the darker skin, as it certainly was not burnt in the slightest.

Drum smokers like the Barrel House Cooker are perfect for poultry. I did not use a water pan. One of the reasons drum smokers are so formidable at producing flavorful grub is that the juices from the meat will hit the hot coals and the vapors resulting from that action will rise and baste the meat during the cooking process. I owe the juiciness of the turkey to that mechanism of the cooker.

I highly recommend giving this method a shot if you have a drum smoker. Your family, unless opposed to smoked grub, will thank you for it, especially on a day to be thankful.

Chicken’n’Steak Stir Fry in a Carbon Steel Wok

The Killer Cook Chow Khan Pan-Asian seasoned chicken’n’steak stir fry in my carbon steel wok.

This could have been easily made on my Blackstone griddle, but I had an injury from an accident with electric hedge trimmers that required stitches from two deep lacerations and a fractured thumb that I’m still recovering from. After hearing a ton of hype about carbon steel pans, I found a 14″ carbon steel wok for a good price ($26 with a 20% off coupon) and decided to give it a trial run with some chicken’n’steak stir fry.

Recipe
— I had a 1-lb. sirloin steak and a 8oz. ribeye in the freezer that I defrosted and cut up into small, bite size pieces
— I found a couple a pack of chicken tenders at my local Food Lion grocery store that I also cut up into bite size pieces. About six tenders were used.
— Pre-cooked rice that I cooked the day prior
— One decided white onion
— Water chestnuts
— Sliced white button mushrooms
— Sliced red bell pepper
— Green beans
— Broccoli
— Diced green onions (I used about two)
— Refined coconut oil
— Soy sauce
— Oyster sauce
— Tablespoon of MSG
The Killer Cook Chow Khan Pan-Asian rub

Instructions
— Preheat the wok to medium high heat
— Dice up the steak and chicken. I added a light coating of kosher salt to both proteins in order to dry up some of the moisture on the outside of the meat.
— Add a heaping tablespoon of refined coconut oil to the wok and allow the oil to coat around the upper parts of the wok.
— Saute the vegetables, sprinkled with a generous dose of the Chow Khan Pan-Asian seasoning, until thoroughly cooked to your preference (I like ’em soft) and set aside in a plate or bowl.
— Add another heaping tablespoon of refined coconut oil before adding your meats; I cooked the steak first, removed and sat aside, before adding the chicken, cooking the poultry through. Once again, add a helping of the Chow Khan Pan-Asian seasoning.
— Re-add the steak, vegetables and then mix the rice into the wok with your other ingredients.
— Add some more Chow Khan Pan-Asian seasoning. Without taking exact measurements into account, I used it liberally because I love the flavor.
— Add soy sauce. You can wait until it is finished to add soy sauce, but I like adding it during the cooking process.
— Add the oyster sauce. You don’t need much. I made a little circle with it before mixing it into the stir fry.
— After thoroughly mixing and getting your rice brown from the sauce and seasoning, you are ready to plate up and eat!

The Chow Khan Pan-Asian rub from The Killer Cook is one of my favorite go-to seasonings. From stir fry to grilled/smoked chicken wings, it is fantastic. My family is always running back for second helpings every time I make some stir fry with it.

Carbon steel pans are gaining traction here in the United States because it is lighter than cast iron but it retains heat almost as well. One of the appeals to me, asides from being lighter than cast iron, is that it heats up faster and cools down faster when you remove it from the burner on the stovetop.

Give this one a go, if you’d like, and comment with your thoughts!

The Secret to Making the Best Hot Dogs You Will Have Ever Had in Your Life


I grew up eating hot dogs and hamburgers like crazy during the summer. My dad was quite the chef, but he was always working as the owner of his mining parts company and never grilled. My aunt, who lived down the road from us, was always doing the grilling for the family, whether it was done so on a little charcoal grill or on her gas grill.

These hot dogs, on the Blackstone Griddle, changed my entire worldview of hot dogs. Give them a try and you’ll see. Quoting a line from the movie ‘Limitless’, “I was blind, but now I see.”

Laugh all you want, but you are getting a recipe + instruction guide for these hot dogs, whether or not you already see them as a simple cook for an otherwise throwaway dinner.

Recipe
Nathan’s skinless beef franks (you can use the cheapest hot dogs out there, and they’ll still be serviceable, but use quality ‘dogs for a mindblowing flavorgasm for your tastebuds).
— Olive oil
— Granulated garlic
— Black pepper
— Buns
— Your favorite toppings

Instructions
I used my 17″ Tabletop Blackstone Griddle for this cook, setting the heat to medium/medium-low.
— Once the flat top griddle surface was hot with a thin coating of olive oil, I added the hot dogs
— Using a little squirt bottle full of olive oil, I coated the top of the hot dogs with olive oil and sprinkled the granulated garlic and black pepper on top of them
— Moments later, I rolled the hot dogs over and added another layer of granulated garlic and black pepper to them
— Keep turning your hot dogs every 35-40 seconds
— Finish them to the doneness of your liking. I like for my hot dogs to be browned up, but some people like them lightly cooked or even burned. Cook them how you like them.
— Remove and enjoy in a bun with your favorite toppings

Toasted buns are a must

Please give this a try. It’s simple: olive oil, granulated garlic and black pepper. Just a couple of changes transforms a hot dog from being an ordinary ‘dog to being the best damn hot dog you will have ever eaten in your entire life.

The first time I made hot dogs like this, I made my personal homemade chili recipe, which I will share in the near future. It blew my mind as to how good they were. I had never eaten such a delicious hot dog before in my entire life. Before, they were just hot dogs; now, they are “hot damn!” dogs.

If you give hot dogs a shot this way, let me know what you think. I guess you could do the same on a charcoal, gas or pellet grill, but remember: olive oil, granulated garlic and black pepper. Shout out to America’s Griddler, Todd Toven, for this exceptional idea. I doubt I will ever make hot dogs any other way for the rest of my life, but then again, I’m always down to try new things when it comes to going on a flavor journey.

How to Make Thin and Crispy Pizza on the Blackstone Griddle

This was after I finished all the pizzas I made. Yeah, the photo is a little messy, but I will be making these again in the near future and I’ll recapture some better shots.

This, much like anything you can think of (asides from candy bars), can be made on any model of the Blackstone Griddle. It’s easy, simple and delicious. I love pizza any way I can get it. While my all-time favorite is an ultra-cheesy, Chicago deep dish pizza, thin’n’crispy is always a hit, too.

Recipe
— A pack of flour tortillas (8-10 inch ones)
— Pizza sauce (I use Classico pizza sauce, but you can use whatever you want; if using marinara sauce, I recommend adding a pinch of sugar to it for a little sweetness.)
— Cheese (I used shredded mozzarella, but you can use virtually any blend of cheese)
— Toppings (much like cheese, you can use virtually anything you want; I made a barrage of different pizzas, from pepperoni only to pepperoni and sliced’n’sauteed white button mushrooms to cooked’n’crumbled Jimmy Dean hot pork sausage.
— Basting cover (I used the 12″ basting cover from Blackstone Products, but you can use any kind of basting cover… even a cheap aluminum pan!)
Optional: Italian seasoning (I love the McCormick Organic Italian seasoning, which features a blend of marjoran, oregano, thyme, rosemary and basil). Adding this adds an extra punch of flavor to pizza. I like to add a little garlic powder to this mix as well.
— Optional: Fresh, chopped basil

Instructions
I used my 17″ Tabletop Blackstone Griddle for this cook, but you can use any model, including the 22″, the 28″ or the 36″.
— Fire up the griddle to medium/medium-low heat
— Once hot, add a tortilla onto the flat top cooking surface
— Using a spoon, add your sauce all around the pizza — have the freedom of using how much sauce you want… a little or a lot!
— Optional: sprinkle the Italian seasoning all around the surface as it will sit into pockets of sauce
— Top with cheese
— Add your toppings onto the cheese; this is where I added the fresh, chopped basil.
— Cover with the basting cover for a minute or so; when I watched Todd Toven make pizzas on the griddle at the Blackstone Griddle More Tour demos, he added a couple of ice cubes to the surface when he covered the pizzas with the basting cover in order to promote steam and quicker melting, but I didn’t use any.
— Remove the basting cover; once the bottom side of the tortilla is browned the way you like it, carefully remove it from the flat top cooking surface (I used a couple of Blackstone spatulas).

It’s a really easy, simple recipe that makes for a delicious meal, and it’s fun to cook, because you can do virtually anything you want with these pizzas.

Note: I cooked up both the mushrooms and the Jimmy Dean hot pork sausage prior to cooking. As for why I cooked the mushrooms first, it is due to how how water they lose when they are cooked (nobody wants a watered down, soggy pizza), not to mention mushrooms are much more digestible when cooked.

Simple Homemade Flour Tortillas (Recipe!)

Homemade flour tortillas

As a big fan of soft tortillas, I had to give these a shot.

Ingredients
— 4 cups of all-purpose flour
— 6 tablespoons of lard (or vegetable shortening if you are opposed to lard for whatever reason)
— 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt (I used kosher salt)
— 2 teaspoons of baking powder
— 1 1/2 cups of hot water

Tools needed
— Board of some kind, as in a big cutting board or a rolling board, dusted with a smidgen of flour
— Rolling pin dusted with a smidgen of flour
— If you have a tortilla press, use it! I didn’t, as I don’t have one, but it’s on my personal wishlist.

Recipe
— Start with your dry ingredients: whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt
— Add in the lard and use your hand to mix together
— Use your other hand to pour in some of the hot water, mixing it along the way
— Knead it! It took me about 25 minutes of kneading before it finally came together and formed a nice supple ball. No idea why it took so long. I watched a video where it only took the person making tortillas around ten minutes of kneading. Then again, I’m a newbie at making homemade flour tortillas, so maybe I’ll get better in due time.
— Separate into little balls. I made around 24-26 of them.
— Let rest for 10 minutes under a damp paper towel
— Add the dough balls to your board and start rolling them thin, rotating them 90 degrees after every roll.
— Heat up a skillet (I used a Lodge cast iron skillet) to medium to medium-high heat
— Cook your tortillas one by one. Takes about a minute or so on each side. You know it’s ready to flip when they start bubbling, and after the flip you can check the bottom side to see if it is golden brown

Enjoy with whatever you want. They are delicious even with some Kerrygold butter spread onto them fresh out of the skillet!