Kansas City Style Pork Ribs

2 out of 3 isn't bad. Friday night I got around to making the ribs I had been eyeing all week. Actually Thursday night I gave them a dry rub and stuck them in the fridge and Friday we cooked them. First off, I can't put enough emphasis on how much the dry rub helps, or how much I think it does. By Friday evening the 13 x 9 dish they were resting in had filled to the top with the excess water that had been pulled out of the meat by the salt in the rub. I'd definitely recommend preparing these ribs at least 6-8 hours in advance, or overnight.

Since the ribs were on sale ($0.88/lb) we got about 7.3 lbs for $6.99.

After making this recipe, I can safely say that the Neelys can be trusted:

2 slabs pork spare ribs, 3 pounds each
Kansas City Barbeque Sauce, recipe follows

Dry Rub:
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Remove the thin white membrane off of the bone-side of the ribs. Mix together the brown sugar, dry mustard, cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Massage the rub into the ribs and let sit for 1 hour or up to overnight.

If cooking on the grill, place the ribs meat-side down next to medium-hot coals that are about 225 degrees F. The indirect heat will cook them slower, making them tender. Allow to cook for 1 hour. Turn ribs every half hour and baste with the Kansas City Barbeque Sauce. Cook until the ribs are tender, about 3 to 4 hours.

If cooking indoors, place in a roasting pan with a rack. Slather the ribs with the Kansas City Barbeque Sauce and tent a piece of aluminum foil over them. In a preheated 350 degrees F. oven, place the ribs, basting with the sauce every 30 minutes and removing the foil for the last 30 minutes and cooking until fork tender, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Kansas City Barbeque Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 (about 2/3 cup)small onion, finely diced
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup (2 (6-ounce) cans) tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a small sauce pot on medium-high heat, heat the oil and add the onion, cooking until translucent.

Add the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix together. Add to sauce pan and let simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Use to baste the pork spare ribs.

Yield: 3 cups

The sauce was phenomenal. A little spicy at first, but once it sat in the fridge overnight the cayenne pepper disippated. However, if I made it again I'd cut the cayenne in half. Same with the dry rub. A whole tablespoon can be a bit strong, I'd reduce it to 2 teaspoons. Also, unlike other sauces I've tried to make from Food Network recipes, this sauce reduced as it was supposed to and made a reasonable quantity relative to the amount you use. I'd recommend making the sauce the night before too. When it cools and thickens I think it will provide a stickier glaze on the ribs.

The one major change I did make was that we used shoulder blade Western style ribs rather than a rack or half rack of spare ribs like you would normally picture when someone says ribs. Western or Country Style ribs are a bit more lean with a great deal more meat per rib. Some pieces are boneless, while others are essentially T-bone rib steaks. Depending on how your ribs look, you may or may not want to trim the fat before you start cooking. Mine were pretty lean, so I left the remaining fat intact for moisture, and cut if off while I was eating.

We cooked these ribs in the oven at 375 for about 2 hours on a baking rack on top of a parchment lined half baking sheet and covered with aluminum foil. After 2 hours the ribs were about 145 degrees, so I pulled them off and finished them with direct heat on the grill at 450 for 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature hit 160. Then I let the ribs rest 5-10 minutes and let the carryover take the internal temperature to about 170.

Like I said before, these are more knife and fork rib steaks than finger foods. They were awesome enough that we had the leftovers for dinner on Saturday night. 

Chicken Kebabs with Roasted Asparagus

The credit for this meal goes entirely to Lauren. She was walking by the meat counter at Meijer, saw some kebabs in the display case and thought "I bet we could make those better and cheaper" (I think they were selling for $2.99 per skewer). I'll admit I was initially skeptical, because meat skewers do not look very filling. When I see a plate like ours my first thought is always "awesome, but what is everyone else going to eat?". 

No recipe here to speak of just some simple dressings:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped chunky
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped chunky
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped chunky
  • 1 medium/large yellow onion, chopped chunky
  • Italian dressing
  • Olive Oil
  • Lemon Pepper
The first thing you'll want to do is to soak your wooden skewers in water for 15-30 minutes. 

Take your chunks of chicken and marinate them in Italian dressing for 10 minutes. Take your peppers and onions, toss them in olive oil and sprinkle with lemon pepper. Fire up the grill, heat it to around 400-450 and grill for 10 minutes, turning three times for even coloring.

As a side dish we made some long grain wild rice, roasted some asparagus (olive oil, pinch of salt under the broiler or on the grill for about 10 minutes) and mixed it together, topped with shredded parmesan.

Lauren made an excellent choice. It was easy and delicious. The chicken was $5, peppers $3, rice $1 and asparagus $3.29, which made 7 skewers and our side dish, which would have probably been around $25 to buy pre-made.

Next time we'll have to cut up a pineapple and include that in the kebabs.

Hamburgers & Potato Salad

Part one of my meal plan is complete. However I am almost certain parts 2 & 3 will never materialize. Its too late in the week to have them on back to back nights, we've already got plans for dinner Saturday and Lauren specifically said that beer can chicken is of no interest to her when I brought it up. Tonight we're having chicken kebabs.

So last night we had the first burgers of the spring/summer grilling season. I doubt you need a recipe, but here are the ingredients we generally use:

  • Certified Angus Ground Chuck (it was on sale, otherwise I'd just use regular ground beef)
  • Onions
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • Pepper
  • Egg
Mix it all together to your taste, add one egg for binding, form patties and grill. In my opinion the extra lean (4% fat) ground beef isn't great for burgers. I'd find something with at least 10% fat, or add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil to your ground beef mix.

Anyhow the point of this post isn't the burgers. It is the homemade potato salad. I've always been mildly annoyed that the grocery store deli charges $3-$6 per pound for potato salad. Not enough to do anything about it, but that all ended last night. Never again will I wonder how long that potato salad has been sitting in the display case, subconsciously forcing me to chose the whitest (and typically most bland) variety available so as not to mess with the unknown yellow of the other varieties. Sure, that yellowing might be from mustard, but are you willing to take that chance at $4.99/lb?

The recipe I chose came from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. It doesn't have a fancy name, just potato salad:
  • 3 pounds small white potatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
Directions Place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Allow the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, dill, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in quarters or in half, depending on their size. Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl. While the potatoes are still warm, pour enough dressing over them to moisten. Add the celery and red onion, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature.

As for the changes, Lauren and I went in a couple of different directions. First, the potatoes. As I mentioned earlier the whiter the potato salad, the more bland it looks and often tastes. So we skipped the small white (russet) potatoes and went for something with more flavor. When choosing your potatoes here is what you need to know:

While Russets are still by far the most commonly used variety of potato , consider mixing it up a little. There are several high-moisture varieties with a texture that many people refer to as 'waxy'. Among these varieties are Yellow Finns, Yukon Golds, and red potatoes. Their high moisture means that they have a more pleasant texture when they are cold, and their waxier flesh holds up better to chopping and to tossing with dressing than that of the drier, more mealy Russets.

Following that line of reasoning we chose redskin potatoes. I think they may have been some kind of hybrid Yukon Red or at least named in such a way on the packaging. Whatever they are they were on sale for $2.50 for 5 lbs at Meijer this week.

Our second change was that we didn't simmer and steam the potatoes. We placed them in cold water, brought them to a boil and boiled them whole for almost 20 minutes, taking them out when they slid off of our potato stabbing fork (aka fork tender). You could chop the potatoes beforehand, but the smaller the pieces the smaller your margin of error in cooking them. Cook too much and you might as well turn it into mashed potatoes. Once we thought the potatoes were done we dumped them into a colander and tried to stop the cooking process by running them under cold water. As soon as they were cool enough to handle (3-4 mins), we chopped them into potato salad appropriate chunks, layed them out on a baking sheet and stuck them in the fridge for about 20 minutes while we prepared the burgers.

The last two changes in potato salad were the use of green onions instead of red, and dried dill instead of fresh. Drieb herbs are quite a bit more potent than fresh (generally 1 tbsp fresh = 1 tsp dry, so 3:1), so if you make the potato salad this way you're going to want to use about 1/3 of what the recipe calls for. I didn't really measure, but I estimated about 1/8 cup of dried dill.

One thing I forgot was that while I did let the potatoes cool a bit, I in no way came close to waiting hours (or even one hour) to eat the finished potato salad. It might be better today at lunch than it was immediately after we made it last night, but this isn't a recipe you must make the night before.

I am about 90% certain that the next time I'm asked to bring a side dish, this potato salad will be it.

Slow Weekend

Sorry, there is nothing new from the weekend to post. Friday night we bummed dinner from Lauren's roommate, who was making dinner for her visiting mother and wound up making more food than she had planned for. Free dinner on a Friday night? Yes please.

Saturday I had soccer in the afternoon, followed by beer and BBQ at a friend's house and a birthday party in the evening. So I spent the night grazing on snacks and appetizers.

Sunday I again had soccer (coaching) followed by more soccer (playing) which meant that I left the house around 2pm, stood outside where it was 45 degrees and raining, drove across town, played soccer indoors then got home about 8pm cold, wet, sweaty and not in the mood to get groceries and start cooking.

But I did have a chance to look at the Sunday flyer for the local weekly grocery stores and noticed that the following items were on sale:

  • Meijer Fresh Grade A Whole Chicken ($0.98/lb)
  • Ground Beef from Chuck Certified Angus Beef ($2/lb, save $1.40/lb)
  • Pork Shoulder Bone-In Western Style Ribs ($0.99/lb, save $0.80/lb)

So my plan over the next 7 days is to make beer can chicken, Kansas City style pork ribs and burgers (which probably wouldn't make the blog). Evidently I have subconsciously decided that its time for this blog to give The Neely's their day in court.

Now whether or not Lauren is going to roll with that menu is anybody's guess. I could sneak attack her with it by buying everything, preparing it and then saying "you're more than welcome to go to the grocery store and pick something else out if you don't want to eat this", but that is either going to lead to a few very quiet dinners or me eating a rack of ribs for lunch and dinner every day until it is gone.

If I had to guess I'd say that the ribs get done over the weekend, the beer can chicken gets done on Tuesday or Wednesday and the burgers get done tonight. But in order to do that I'm probably going to have to agree to all green side dishes (which wouldn't be so terrible even though I am badly craving mashed potatoes) or I'm going to have to agree to at least one, if not two vegetarian or fish meals on the "off "days.

We'll see. I'll (obviously) keep you posted on how my meal plan unfolds.

The Kitty Litter Cake

Lauren and I made this about a year ago for her birthday, or near her birthday. If I recall it was a not so subtle "thanks for making me bring my own birthday treat to the office" for her work. Plus her birthday is April Fool's Day, so some humor was expected.

Anyhow I was going through an online photo album of mine and came across that picture. So I thought I'd share, since a cake like this is usually the kind of thing everyone says they want to make or tells people that a friend of a friend of a co-worker made one time. It may as well be listed on Snopes. Here was our effort to add to the Internet's anthology of Kitty Litter cakes:

  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package German chocolate cake mix
  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package white cake mix
  • 2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 (12 ounce) package vanilla sandwich cookies
  • 3 drops green food coloring
  • 1 (12 ounce) package tootsie rolls
  • 1 brand new kitty litter box
  • 1 brand new kitty litter scoop
Directions Prepare cake mixes and bake according to package directions (any size pan).

Prepare pudding according to package directions and chill until ready to assemble.

Crumble sandwich cookies in small batches in a food processor, scraping often.

Set aside all but 1/4 cup. To the 1/4 cup add a few drops of green food coloring and mix.
When cakes are cooled to room temperature, crumble them into a large bowl. Toss with 1/2 of the remaining cookie crumbs, and the chilled pudding. You probably won't need all of the pudding, you want the cake to be just moist, not soggy.

Put cake mixture into box. Put half of the unwrapped tootsie rolls in a microwave safe dish and heat until softened. Shape the ends so that they are no longer blunt, and curve the tootsie rolls slightly so that they look like cat turds. Bury tootsie rolls randomly in the cake and sprinkle with half of the remaining cookie crumbs. Sprinkle a small amount of the green colored cookie crumbs lightly over the top.

Heat 3 or 4 of the tootsie rolls in the microwave until almost melted. Scrape them on top of the cake and sprinkle lightly with some of the green cookie crumbs. Heat the remaining tootsie rolls until pliable and shape like cat turds. Spread all but one randomly over top of cake mixture. Sprinkle with any remaining cookie crumbs. Hang the remaining tootsie roll over side of litter box and sprinkle with a few green cookie crumbs. Serve with the pooper scooper for full effect.

The cake is surprisingly good.

Cornflake Chicken Casserole

Its sickening the way Good Eats seems to influence what I crave. Tuesday night I saw an episode about casseroles, so of course all day Wednesday I sat around thinking about what kind of casserole I should make. So I decided on a corn flake chicken casserole, but sort of made it up as I went along.

  • 3 stalks of celery (diced)
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (low sodium)
  • 1 package (10 oz) frozen corn
  • 1 package (10 oz) frozen peas
  • 2 medium potatoes, your choice (I used Yukon Gold, peeled & diced)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1.5 lbs cooked chicken (3 cups?)
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbps flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 cups crushed corn flakes
Preheat the oven to 350.

Blanche the potatoes, until fork tender. Then set them aside. Sweat the celery and onion in a skillet (5 mins) with a pinch of salt. Push the vegetables to the outside of the pan and use the middle to make a roux with the buttter and flour. Let the roux cook for 3-5 mins before stirring in the celery and onions. At this point, if you have some lemon pepper seasoning, you can sprinkle it into your roux.

Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and 1/4 cup lemon juice to your roux, bring to a boil for 1 minute. Stir in your frozen vegetables, add your can of cream of chicken soup, followed by the chicken and potatoes. Stir thoroughly to coat, then dump your casserole filling into a 9 x 9 or 13 x 9 baking dish. If it seems thick, don't worry. It will thin out during the bake. Top the casserole with 2-3 cups of crushed corn flakes and bake for 45 minutes.

Once you've finished, I think you're supposed to let the casserole rest for at least half an hour so that it can return to being sliceable. I got a late start on all of this so by that time it was nearly 9pm and I couldn't wait any longer. So I ate pretty much right out of the oven. I also saved an extra cup of crush cornflakes to sprinkle on top of my hot, amoeba-like piece of casserole to give it some extra crunch.

The final product was good. Not great, but solidly good. I debated whether or not I should post it, if thats any indication. I think had this been 2 months ago and I was still in the habit of craving winter comfort food I'd be more excited about this. But since I've mentally transitioned to cooking outdoor with fire, I'll just give it a thumbs up.

The Black & White Gyro

This turned out to be a hodgepodge of recipes and cooking methods that I found this weekend after Lauren mentioned taking a second run at gyros. The first time I found the meat to be a little bland and the meal to be very lacking compared to what you can buy at your local Middle Eastern deli. Not only that, but we forgot to take the feta out of the fridge and put it on our gyros.

The base recipe was Alton Brown's Gyro Meat with Tzatziki Sauce. Be sure to start the sauce first because it takes the longest. I know what you're thinking because we skipped it the first time, but you definitely want to drain the yogurt (even one hour would do wonders) or you will end up with a really thin sauce of a consistency closer to milk than yogurt. If you're wondering what a tea towel is, it is basically a linen napkin.

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 16 ounces plain yogurt
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped (or pulsed in a food processor)
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced (I used just two)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 5 to 6 mint leaves, finely minced
Place the yogurt in a tea towel, gather up the edges, suspend over a bowl or large mouth cup, and drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator. Place the chopped cucumber in a tea towel and squeeze to remove the liquid; discard liquid. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the drained yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. Serve as a sauce for gyros.

Lamb Gyros
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped or shredded
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon dried ground rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Process the onion in a food processor for 10 to 15 seconds and turn out into the center of a tea towel. Gather up the ends of the towel and squeeze until almost all of the juice is removed. Discard juice.

Return the onion to the food processor and add the lamb, garlic, marjoram, rosemary, salt, and pepper and process until it is a fine paste, approximately 1 minute. Stop the processor as needed to scrape down sides of bowl.

To cook in the oven as a meatloaf, proceed as follows:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

I used 1 lb ground lamb and 1 lb ground chicken, which I think gives me the leeway to call them black and white gyros. Not to mention ground lamb is about $6/lb and ground chicken is just $3.

Rather than mess with the food processor for the lamb I mixed it in the KitchenAid on medium speed, as though I were making a meatloaf. The result was the same as it was when we did it in the food processor last year.

From there I found Tammy's Recipe for Lamb Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce, which use marinated, sauteed lamb steak. So here is the marinade:

Gyro Marinade
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano (if using chopped fresh oregano, use 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary (if using chopped fresh rosemary, use 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Understanding that my mixed meatloaf would be unlikely to suck up the moisture of a true marinade I simply added the wet ingredients while mixing it in the KitchenAid, left out the salt and seasonings but kept the pepper. Then I shaped my meatloaf in two parts using a greased glass loaf pan. After pressing the bottom half of the loaf into the pan I cut off a chunk of feta and crumbled it on top, then pressed the second half of the loaf on top for a feta stuffed gyro loaf. I wrapped the finished loaf in parchment and rested it in the fridge for an hour or so (just because I wasn't going to be eating dinner right away).

Half an hour before I was ready to cook I gave the exterior a dry rub with Tammy's seasoning, which I also found listed in several other gyro recipes as the "Greek seasoning" they use at Mediterranean delis:

Gyro Seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons paprika (sweet or regular)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • dash cayenne pepper
I rolled my meatloaf in this dry rub, then seared it on the grill for about 6 minutes total. Then I stuck the seared loaf in my preheated oven on a metal rack for about 1 hour.

Using a meat thermometer I pulled the loaf when it reach 165 degrees and let it rest for 10 minutes to complete the cooking process. During the rest I took 5 whole wheat pitas, wrapped them in a damp tea towel, wrapped that in tin foil and set them on the rack in the oven to warm.

Once that was complete it was just a matter of cutting the gyro loaf into chunks (sorry, it doesn't quite shave like the rotisserie lamb at the deli), spreading some Tzatziki sauce on the pitas and topping with sliced tomato.

The gyros were delicious and made the kitchen smell awesome. Lauren and I each had one gyro which left enough for at least another two person lunch and two person dinner. So I would say it serves about six.

New York Style Cheesecake Done Right

As usual (and much to our delight), Lauren and I were charged with dessert for Easter dinner. Last year we made this Easter Bunny cake.

This year we went with New York style mini-cheesecakes. Lauren has three sets of mini cheesecake pans for just this sort of thing and generally we used a completely different recipe for the minis than we use for the big ones. A typical mini cheesecake batter uses about 5 blocks of cream cheese and makes about 36 of these bite-sized cheesecakes. 36 and thats it. So the plan was to make 36, give a bunch of them to Lauren's roommate and take the rest to my parents' house for Easter dinner. However we quickly found out that using the New York style batter to make mini cheesecakes was going result in a whole lot more. We made 36 mini cheesecakes and barely put a dent in the batter.

Rather than do any more minis, we took the remaining batter and made a 9 inch cheesecake, which we took to my parents house for Easter. We left a tray of about 18 mini cheesecakes in her refrigerator.

I am so sick of cheesecake. I'm hoping Lauren takes the remaining minis and drops them off at work.

Lauren decorated the big cheesecake with peaches, strawberries and blueberries with picket fences made from white chocolate Candy Kwik. The little one above was also supposed to have its own picket fence Easter basket decoration, but we were so cheesecaked out that we didn't even bother once we decided not to take them to Easter dinner.

In case it was unclear, the recipe for this cheesecake is the exact same as the one I previously posted for New York style cheesecake. Only this time we baked it at the correct temperature, so the top didn't get hideously browned.

Grilled Tilapia w/ Peach BBQ Sauce

I've wanted to make this recipe for a couple of weeks, but had a hard time lining up the fresh tilapia and the opportunity to make this. It seems as though Meijer gets it freshest seafood in preparation for the weekend. I say that because I went there on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (I am a terribly inefficient grocery shopper) and the first two days they had a very limited selection of some very odd types of fish. Then Thursday night rolls around and they've got fresh cod, tilapia, tuna and quite a few other varieties I've actually heard of.

So I think from this point forward I'm only going to buy fresh fish Thursday through Sunday. For this recipe I used a package of frozen tilapia fillets. They worked out pretty well as far as taste was concerned, but they stuck to the grill and had pretty much fallen apart by the time they were cooked through. I'm sure I flipped them too much. I have a habit of doing that on the grill in an attempt to get perfectly brown grill marks on all sides.

One final note. Amazingly this recipe is probably the one Paula Deen recipe that doesn't use butter or heavy cream:

Peach BBQ sauce:

  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons prepared mustard
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch garlic salt
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh or canned peaches
  • 4 (7-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • House seasoning
  • 1 lime, juiced
Directions Mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan, excluding the peaches and simmer over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, puree 2 cups of canned or fresh peaches. Once the sauce is cooked, add the pureed peaches to the sauce and stir together. Preheat the grill to medium heat. Season the tilapia with house seasoning. Cook the fish on each side for 3 to 4 minutes. During the last few minutes of cooking, brush the fish with some barbecue sauce. Once cooked and plated, ladle a nice spoonful of the Peach barbecue sauce on top of the fillets.

The sandwiches were very good, but the Food Network really needs to learn how to post better sauce recipes. The flavor was great, but the recipe made more than a quart of sauce. The four sandwiches didn't make a dent in that. So there are about 30 oz of peach bbq sauce in the refrigerator right now. Also, the sauce doesn't reduce during the simmer. I thought it might reduce and turn into a glaze, but that didn't really happen. I think in order to make that happen you'd have to up the brown sugar tremendously. Like upwards of 1/3 cup. But for starters I'd recommend you cut everything in half or more so you end up with a manageable amount of sauce. Lastly, "prepared mustard" = "not dry mustard". It doesn't matter if you use dijon, spicy brown or just yellow mustard. Choose according to your own tastes.

Turkey Cheddar Burgers w/ Sweet Potato Steak Fries

On Thursday the weather here was wonderful (relative to early April in Michigan, of course), high 50's, clear sky, no wind. Which gave us the opportunity to pull the grill out of the garage and make some burgers. Lauren suggested turkey, so I went to Food Network and found a recipe:


  • 1 large shallot (or medium onion), finely chopped (1/4 cup)
  • 3/4 of one medium red bell pepper, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey (not labeled "all breast meat")
  • 1 block (5-6 ounces) extra-sharp Cheddar (or your favorite block cheese), cut into 8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices
  • 4 hamburger or Kaiser rolls
  • 1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
Mix the turkey, salt, pepper, olive oil, onion and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Turn out turkey mixture onto a sheet of waxed paper on a baking sheet and divide into 8 equal mounds. Pat 1 mound into a 4-inch patty and top with 2 pieces of cheese, then put a second mound on top, patting it onto the other patty to seal and shape into a single patty. Stick your wax papered tray of patties in your freezer for 20 minutes while you cook your sweet potato fries.

To make the mayonnaise and assemble the burgers: Puree the tomatoes with water, vinegar and salt in a blender or mini food processor, scraping down the sides as necessary, then blend in the mayonnaise.
For a thicker, more pimento cheese like mayonnaise mixture, add everything at once and blend/pulse on high speed for about 2 minutes, then refrigerate until the last minute. For a thinner, more mayonnaise like mixture fold the mayonnaise in by hand.

I found the sweet potato fries through Google, at the website Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Sweet Potato Fries
  • 1 - 1 1/2 lb sweet potatoes (about 2-3 large sweet potatoes)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (preferably the easy release kind).

Peal the sweet potatoes. Cut into strips that are about 1/2 inch wide on each side.

Place the sweet potatoes into a sealable plastic bag. Add oil, salt, paprika and cinnamon. Seal the bag and shake well to thoroughly coat the fries. Spread the potatoes out onto the baking sheet in a single layer.

Cook for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. Transfer immediately to a paper towel lined plate and serve warm.

Fire up the grill, and let it heat to about 450 (medium to medium-high). When you flip the potatoes for the last time, throw your freezer firmed patties on the grill for 5-6 minutes on the thicker side (because you probably won't make the two patties even), then flip and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.

Split some buns, spread your mayonnaise, plate your burgers and enjoy!

The burgers were wonderful, but I erred on the side of thinness with the patties. There just was not enough burger for the bun, which probably had something to do with me only using a single pound of ground turkey, and still trying to make four patties.

The fries could have been crispier, but I don't think they would ever get to French fry crispiness unless I truly fried them. The best bet here is to make sure you give the fries plenty of room to lay flat on your baking sheet.

Cider Brined Pork Loin w/ Dijon-Brown Sugar Glaze and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Meijer has had this Center Cut Half Boneless Pork Loin on sale for $1.79/lb off and on for about a month now. I've been looking for something to do with it because... well, look at it. Its awesome. I'm only like a few steps removed from having hunted and killed the pig myself. Between this and the chicken wings I am on track for certified butcher status.

The word "brined" in the case of this dish is actually a bit of a misnomer. After researching this cut of meat I found that a typical grocery store meat department sells these cuts "enhanced", meaning they were injected with an 8%-12% salt water preservative. In effect the brining process has already been started for you, minus all the flavor of flavorful liquids and spices.

So I did some more research and tried to figure out a way to short brine this pork loin with less salt, which lead me wandering on to some tailgating BBQ forum where I eventually decided my best bet would be a marinade. As it turned out the marinade I found was essentially the same as a few of the brine recipes, minus the salt. So here is what I did:

  • 1 center cut half boneless pork loin (4.5-5.5 lbs)
  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp orange juice concentrate
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
Whisk together the ingredients in a heated sauce pan, then allow the marinade to cool (5 mins). Add some ice cubes if you want to hasten the process. Taste the marinade to make sure the ingredients suit your taste. I found it to taste somewhat like warm apple cider.

If you want to go to a butcher and buy a natural cut of pork and brine it yourself, just add about 1/2 cup of kosher salt and 2 cups of water to the above ingredients and let it sit at least overnight, if not 12-24 hours.

Take a gallon slide lock freezer bag and stick your pork loin inside it. Make sure you can zip it shut before you pour in any liquid. If necessary, cut the pork loin into two parts so that it fits in your freezer bag (or use two). Pour in the liquid, squeeze out the air and zip the bag shut.

For safety's sake place the bag in a dish and put the dish in your refrigerator, in case anything leaks. Leave it there for 2-3 hours.

Take the pork out of the refrigerator, pour out the marinade, pat the exterior dry with a paper towel and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. At this time preheat the oven to 350.

Place the pork loin on a rack, or if you don't really have a roasting rack do what I did and lay a cooling rack over a 13 x 9 inch baking dish and put the pork loin on that. FAT SIDE UP! You want that big layer of fat to drip down into your meat while it cooks. You can cut if off of the individual pork loin medallions when you slice and serve.

A pork loin this size and cut usually has a cook time of about 20 minutes per pound. Given the extra liquid from the marinade it takes roughly 25 minutes per pound. So anywhere from 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes is a safe bet. However you're going to need a meat thermometer to judge its final temperature.

Around the 1:45 to 2 hour mark (or once the temperature hits 140 degrees), glaze the top of the loin (recipe below).

When the thickest part of the loin hits an internal temperature of 155 degrees, pull it out, cover it with foil and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.

Now I don't know if I spilled vinegar somewhere and never saw it, but I'll warn you right now that the first hour of this roast may make your kitchen smell like vinegar. I felt nauseous in part because of the smell and partly because I thought I was going to ruin Lauren's birthday dinner.

As far as the glazing goes here is what you need to do:
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
Heat the ingredients in a sauce pan and allow to cool (5 mins). Generously brush the top of the roast with the glaze about 30 minutes before its finished cooking.

If you want a sweeter glaze that might be more prone to crusting the exterior of your loin, use the full 1 1/2 cups of sugar. If you want more of a sweet mustard BBQ glaze, use just 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Save any extra to use as dipping sauce for your pork loin.

Lastly, we have the roasted garlic mashed potatoes. These are the ingredients:
  • 6-7 (3 lbs) Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 whole bulb garlic
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) (room temperature or melted)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
In order to coordinate everything so that the potatoes and pork loin are ready at the same time, here is what you need to do:

Prior to glazing your pork loin, wash and peel 6-7 Yukon Gold potatoes. Then cut them into large chunks. Cutting the potatoes into small chunks will allow them to cook faster, but they'll also retain more water, making your mashed potatoes more like a paste. So large chunks it is.

Immediately after you glaze the pork loin, cover the potato chunks in cold water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes or until fork tender. Then cut the top off a bulb of garlic, pour in one tablespoon of olive oil and stick that in a foil covered pan on the rack below your pork loin. Roast at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the garlic cloves have become soft and brown. Remove the garlic from the oven and let cool (5 mins).

Peel the skin off the garlic, drain the potatoes and mash them together. When you're done combine the garlic and potatoes add the milk and butter. DO NOT USE the residual heat of the potatoes to melt the butter or warm the milk. I'm not Alton Brown, but from what I understand the combination of hot potatoes and cold milk/butter makes the potato starch a bit more fragile and will most likely lead to texture issues (paste) in your mashed potatoes.

Once you've added all your ingredients to the mashed potatoes, mix thoroughly. I threw them in the mixing bowl of the Kitchen-Aid and ran it on medium speed for 2 minutes to give it a more whipped potato texture.

Given that I had a hot oven and a few minutes of resting time for my pork loin, I took the resulting mashed potatoes, stuck them in an 8x8 baking dish, topped them with shredded Colby Jack cheese and stuck them back in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese was melted and the potatoes were heated all the way through.

This dinner was awesome. Way too much for two people, but it was definitely worth the experience. In the future we can use half for a roast, cut the other half into uncooked chops and freeze them. The leftovers are at Lauren's house, and I'll be sitting at work all morning hoping that she doesn't eat all the mashed potatoes or take them to work and "accidentally" leave them there.