Monthly Archives: September 2012

Drink This Beer: Green Flash’s Rayon Vert

Google Translator confirms what my six years of French tutelage told me – Rayon Vert means Green Ray. No, I’m not talking about a Jules Verne novel. I’m referring to the fabulous Belgian Ale by the Greenflash Brewery, Rayon Vert.

Their IPA came across my radar a few months ago in this blog’s infancy, and now like a green laser beam the Rayon Vert greets me whilst out for a birthday dinner with my family at Tavolo V in the St. Louis Loop.

Hey, the mayor’s here!

How about a picture?

What a nice photogr… dammit.

My dad thought it would be oh so hilarious to “Fork Bomb” my photo of the beer and it’s glass just as the iPhone camera clicked. Thanks, Pop.

Take 2:

 

Ah, much better

At a hearty 7.0%, this is a perfect follow up to my  Goose Island Matilda Belgian Ale, of equally potent ABV.

I picked up on some very fruity hoppy flavors, reminiscent of a classic Belgian Ale. I dare say that I prefer this to the Matilda, but that might be considered heresy. The flavor is very distinct and enjoyable, with a crisp bubbly palate. More aromatic and flavorful than hoppy, but the hops shine though and provide flowery fruity tastes that complement the robust flavors of the grains. Complex yet simple… a damned fine beer.

What did I have for dinner? It was so friggin’ good that I forgot to take a picture until it was half gone. I present the bistro filet (a tenderloin of beef shoulder), atop a medley of sauteed potatoes, brussels sprouts, pork belly, garlic, and onions. Butter was also present, I believe.

Hey, who likes beef?

Medium rare, of course. A spectacular meal accompanied by wonderful beers in the presence of my loving and caring family, including my father, who picked up the tab.

My recommendation for Greenflash Brewery’s Rayon Vert beer, especially when someone else is paying: Drink This Beer

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Drink This Beer: O’Fallon Kite Tail

It’s been a while since I demanded that you Drink This Beer… how about O’Fallon Kite Tail?

O’Fallon Kite Tail

Esquire magazine thought enough of this beer to name it one of the top “mellow beers” for summer 2012. Unfortunately, the Rate Beer people didn’t think as highly of it, and Beer Advocate only has rather middling reviews. Still, it’s worth a shot for me.

O’Fallon Brewery calls it a Cream Ale, something suitable for summer. Though summer passed into fall last week, this is still readily available on the grocery store shelves.

Kite Tail… still in a bottle?

Time to crack this beer and get it in a glass for sampling.

Less than 5% ABV?! Better be tasty…

Kind of light for a Simpson BBQ beer

I see where they get “cream ale” as I sip the beer. You get a very faint hint of cream soda. Perhaps it’s suggestive, but I think that I pick it up. Very smooth… far smoother than most ales or even lagers.

It’s nice and crisp, certainly something that should be in a can after I cut the grass or pull weeds. This is a particularly drinkable beer with a pleasant aroma. You can’t really say that there’s any distinguishing about this beer other than it is a tasty, easy drinkin’ session beer with local ties. At $7.99 per sixer (at both Schnuck’s and Target), it’s not like you are taking a hit in the pocketbook.

My recommendation for O’Fallon Kite Tail: Drink This Beer

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Brewery Restaurant Review: Trailhead Brewing Co

In the second installment of my Brewery Restaurant Reviews, I went with my father for lunch last week to the Trailhead Brewing Co in historic downtown old St. Charles, MO.

Let’s take a look at the ol’ beer menu:

Variety! (damn camera glare)

So much to choose from… well, what’s the Brewer’s Selection Seasonal Beer?

Oktoberfest in September?! Amazing!

Well, dammit I love Oktoberfest beer. So hard to choose. How about a sampler? Sure, twist my dad’s arm.

Six pretty little beers all in a row

This can only turn out better than our last beer flight during a working lunch.

Let me run down the list and give my general thoughts (left to right) as my lunch cooks:

Oktoberfest – Cloudy, hoppy, smooth. A very nice beer, but much milder than many other popular Oktoberfests (Schlafly, Samuel Adams, etc.). One of my favorite styles of beers, so I might be biased, but this did not disappoint.

Trailblazer Blond Ale – Tart, a little sweet. Not my favorite, but a middle of the road beer for Trailhead. Very drinkable, but lighter than my typical beer purchases.

Riverboat Raspberry – A little too sweet, but good berry flavor. It takes a few sips to really get into this beer.

Red Amber Ale – Mine was a little bit flat at first taste, but there was a strong solid flavor. I consider this a great red ale, though I don’t get them that often. I had a few in the past and didn’t really care for red ales amongst other styles, so I shied away. Now that I see how complex and drinkable they can be, perhaps I need to reconsider. That’s something to say about a beer – yours made me want to buy more of that beer style. Impressive effort. If I was buying a growler, it would be this one.

Missouri Brown – Malty, a good brown ale. Quite smooth. Nice beer, but not among their best.

Old Courthouse Stout – Super smooth but effervescent for a stout! Great roasted flavor, rich and creamy. Well played, Trailhead!

For lunch, I ordered the avocado bacon turkey burger. If I am going to cut out 400 calories switching from beef to turkey, then I can add some bacon, six little beers, and a bunch of fries on the side, right?

Lunch

The sandwich was good, though they put on so much avocado that it overpowered the turkey patty flavors. The fries were bigger than shoestring or typical fries though smaller than steak fries. Good effort and a solid sandwich. Too bad they didn’t have a Cuban on the menu, though.

Dad offered some feedback on his beer preferences by making a handy little bar graph out of his beer flight place mat:

Dad’s beer rankings

As you can see, he is way down on the Stout and Blond Ale, but smitten by the Red Amber Ale.

I countered with my own ranks, using his (soon to be patented) system:

My beer ranks

I agree that the Red Ale is superb, probably their best beer. I am not normally a red ale guy, but Trailhead’s is phenomenal.

Their stout is solid. I think it has the right body, flavors, consistency, effervescence of a proper stout.

The raspberry didn’t do it do me, but that’s only because Schlafly spoiled me with their raspberry beer. Nothing has been comparable.

I’m not much of a brown ale guy… Trailhead’s is good for a brown ale, but their other beers outshine.

I have to say that these are six solid beers, with some real stars among them. The food is good, having never been disappointed. They make a nice BBQ chicken pizza and respectable fish & chips for the Lent crowd. Return visits and repeat beer flights are in order (and I can’t say the same for Granite City Brewery).

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3rd Annual Backyard BBQ Bash (or, Complete and Total BBQ Failure)

“I hate losing more than I love winning, and there’s a difference.”

– Billy Beane (from Moneyball, the movie)

When I started this blog, my goal was to narrate my journey from incompetent to proficient, not to create a How To guide for BBQ. Keep that in mind as you read this post. It’s about Failure with a capital F.

If you ever want to win a BBQ competition, this is a How Not To Guide.

I entered the Third Annual Backyard BBQ Bash, held yesterday in Arnold, MO. The categories were chicken, ribs, and mystery meat. With all proceeds going to the Wounded Warrior Project, you could also give away samples for $1 suggested donations. So I decided to make some stuffed mushrooms and give those away.

Chicken was due at 3:30, mystery meat at 4:15, and ribs at 5:00. I rolled in at 8:30 and discovered that the mystery meat was beef tri-tip.

People would be by for samples after 11am, so I got cracking on my stuffed mushrooms. I bought a couple containers of baby portabella mushrooms, then popped out the stems and cleaned the caps, before washing them off in cold water. Each was generously stuffed with a mixture of muffuletta olive salad and feta cheese crumbles.

Stuffed mushrooms

From there, each was wrapped in bacon and placed on one of two water soaked red oak planks on the Weber 22″ kettle.

Plank smoking … so tasty

It took about an hour and a half to fully cook all of the bacon.

High in fat and sodium. Wash down with beer.

I put them out for sampling by the public. Frankly, these were quite delicious. The pork fat basted the mushrooms while the wood smoked the concoction and added a hearty wood flavor, without letting the appetizer burn. Feta cheese, which you don’t normally describe this was, provided a smooth, rich and creamy complement to the salty, earthy mushroom/olive combination.

Get ’em while you can

These things went fast and I made $34 for the Wounded Warriors. Tons of positive feedback from the hungry hordes. This was the highlight of my culinary day.

Let’s get to the parade of failures that comprised my BBQ competition efforts. First, let me be clear that I paced myself on beer. No alcohol-related errors today. Lots of bad timing, poor decisions, lack of garnish, misuse of ingredients, inept performance, lack of planning, etc.

For my chicken sauce, I roasted and peeled six large Anaheim peppers, then de-seeded them. Those were chopped up with half of a white long-sliced onion and sauteed in a skillet with cider vinegar and chicken stock.

Failsauce in early stages

To make a seasoning paste, two garlic bulb’s worth of unpeeled cloves and a handful of whole peppercorns were cooked in a non-stick skillet on the grill. I smooshed it up with a pestle and mortar and smeared it over the chicken skin, then put a tablespoon sized pat of salted butter under the chicken skin, next to the meat. The chicken went right on the grill, adjacent to the sauce (which had reduced quite a bit and been re-thinned with more cider vinegar), about 45 minutes before service.

So much promise… will not be fulfilled

Most unfortunately, the chicken’s internal temperature did not rise as I expected. With ten minutes left, I was looking at 140 degree chicken. That’s some Holy Shit territory. USDA says 165 for poultry and I was low on time.

Looks kinda good, but unfortunately isn’t good

To remediate, I moved the chicken thighs closer to the fire, pulled the sauce, and put a lid on the grill. Eventually the largest thighs got up to 158, and a few of the small ones were at 165. I couldn’t tell if the temps were false positives because they were so close to the fire – the thermometer spiked to 180 in some instances.

Meanwhile, the sauce had thickened horribly. I wanted those distinct flavors, so I portioned it out and tucked it under the thigh skins.

So I served the smallest six of the eight, thinking those would be done for sure. I didn’t garnish at all, which apparently was a huge disadvantage. Dumb dumb dumb.

Don’t eat this. Ever.

I tried my last two thighs. Blah. When you eat meat and think, “Yeah, I think this is done… I think“, it’s probably a terrible sign. In fact, two of the six judges DQed my chicken, presumably due to under-doneness. I didn’t think the flavors were very good, the sauce had very little zest and added nothing. Horrific effort. I felt a little down after this one.

Next in the sequence of shameful BBQ was my tri-tip. I should have done something creative. I should have tried a new recipe. I should have used flippin’ Google on my iPhone to figure out how to do something distinct and interesting. I didn’t. Due to my chicken dejection, I didn’t think to take many pics of this tri-tip fiasco.

Instead, I went simple. Seasoned salt, garlic powder, a little cayenne pepper on the meat side and I tossed it on the grill with some apple wood smoke, fat side up to baste. Tick tock, tick tock…. 30 minutes to go and I was looking at 85 degree meat. W.T.F.

Drastic measures were taken. I carved the fat, then dropped the meat into a foil wrap of Sweet Baby Rays, liquid Parkay, and some honey. This went over semi-direct heat with the thermometer probe inserted.

Poor cow. Never had a chance.

With 7 minutes left, it hit 135 degrees. I pulled to give it a chance to rest.

Doesn’t look that horrible.

I sliced it up, giving six fairly large pieces to the judges. No garnish once again, seeing as how I am an inexperienced jackass. Some of the sauce/juice was liberally sprinkled on the meat in the service box.

Although this was just another step in my journey towards serious public shaming, I have to say I really enjoyed this meat. It was juicy, tasty, tender, succulent. No smoke lines, a tad short of medium. While this wasn’t ideal, I felt a little lifted since I had saved a disaster… or so I thought.

On to my ribs! Surely I could turn in some serviceable ribs, right? I worked hard on the ribs.

Three baby back slabs from Sam’s were met with a rub of brown sugar, paprika, seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, onion powder. The first of the three out of the pack gave me no problems with respect to the concave rib membrane – it came right off. The next two were shredded… I could not get the membrane off cleanly. Perhaps a sign of problems to come.

They went on the Big Blue smoker with a heapin’ helpin’ of hickory wood chunks.

Surely you can’t ruin all three meats, can you?!

Hours later, I checked on my ribs, which had been put on concave side down.

Problems

Uh oh. We have some serious charring on the underside of the ribs. I had been spritzing them with a mist mop of beer, cider vinegar, juice, and a dash of Frank’s hot sauce. Still, the bottom didn’t get much liquid and apparently burnt a little bit.

The smoker performed well, by the way. I had problems at the pork steak competition with it, but nothing like that today. With minimal interference from me but for some fiddling with the ball valve baffles at the base of the smoker, I kept a temperature between 195 and 225.

After four hours of smoking, a dozen or so coals were added to the fire and the ribs were wrapped in a foil full of liquid Parkay butter, honey, and some of the rib rub. Each was returned to the smoker.

A little char. Probably too much char.

After two and a half hours in foil, the ribs were unwrapped. I could tell that I had some problems. It looked like I had over-tenderized the ribs. In trying to pick up a rack with two tongs, some of the rib bones began to separate themselves from the meat. Crap.

I let the ribs rest on the cutting board for about 10 minutes before carving into six rib portions. I was hoping that the meat might firm up a little.

From a tenderness point of view, they were really good. I didn’t see much of a smoke ring, which disappointed me. Since I don’t typically sauce my ribs, I rely on the flavors from the rub and the moisture/stickiness from the sugar of the rub interacting with the mop and foil wrap. The ribs had a strong smoky, paprika flavor and held their own as tender without completely falling off the bone. I wanted some bite and got it, but only after they rested for a little while.

Going back to my samples, I gave out Rib in a Cup to the hungry public.

Rib in a Cup

Feedback from the commoners of Arnold, who I can presume have no formal BBQ judging training, was generally positive. All of my ribs were eaten, and a few people stopped to tell me that they were their favorites amongst all competitors. A judge’s wife even told me that they were her favorite!

My kids loved them, which is really important to me. I don’t get a trophy for that, but it makes me happy.

So… the results. The awards came and went and I left empty-handed. No shock. A little disappointing, but no shock. My kids were really dejected for me. They are somewhat disillusioned with regard to my BBQ skills, but I appreciate it. It’s important to think your father knows what he is doing.

Then I got the master list with all of the scores. Where was Simpson BBQ? Dead last. Last. Worst team of 25 competitors. Last place chicken, second to last place tri tip, and fourth to last place ribs. Complete annihilation and failure. I can’t deny that I felt pretty shitty at this point. Luckily, I had been drinking beers since noon and stepped up beer consumption after the rib turn in time.

Scott, who runs the Grillin’ Fools website and ran this event, seemed to genuinely feel bad for me. He said he needed to work with me on my technique… a few times. He asked if I would write up my Backyard BBQ Bash experience for the blog. Well, of course. This is a learning experience and I can’t hide from my failure. My complete failure.

(Scott, by the way, deserves a ton of credit. This event raised over $3K for the Wounded Warrior Project, and then every winner who earned cash donated it back to the charity. They have to have cleared $4K. Awesome.)

A lot of things went through my PBR-filled head when I read the results. Give up. End the blog. Delete the blog. Pick a new hobby. You suck. Generally not a pleasant feeling.

Then I realized that, had I come back in time from Sunday afternoon (now) to Saturday morning at 6:00am when I got up and said “You are going to have a ton of fun today and meet some really awesome people and raise money for a great charity, but… you are going to finish in last place overall and none of your food will be any good (in the eyes of the judges),” I would probably still have come to the event. I was sandwiched between a team I have competed against at Schlafly (really nice people) and some great guys who chugged Jameson and smoked cigars all day while trying to ignore Mizzou’s thrashing at the hands of South Carolina. What a total blast I had with these neighbors.

Plus, I can use this failure. Every great comedian has bombed. Yesterday I bombed. You can either stay on the mat or pick yourself up, and I choose to pick myself up. I know what I did wrong and I am going to improve. This is a huge motivator for me, and it’s a great teaching moment for my kids. Everyone loses and you don’t always win. It’s part of competing in anything. Someone has to be last, and it was my turn.

In the end, and I apologize for being so verbose, this competition was about doing a lot of things wrong and being humbled for it. Work harder, practice more, dig deeper. Next year I am going to kick ass at this competition. I will never finish last again at a BBQ competition. I am not quitting my amazing, heart-unhealthy hobby. I am going to use this experience as a push for success in the future. Hugely disappointing and humiliating and dejecting, but I had a ton of fun and this is not going to hold me down.

Kosher Bison Short Ribs

Who doesn’t love an excellent lunch during the work week? I am partial to Kohn’s Kosher Deli in Creve Coeur, MO. Even a goy like me can enjoy a hearty nosh from time to time.

Besides their epic corned beef, I am partial to sweet kugel (essentially a bread pudding made with noodles) and kasha (some grains and pasta, with a little warm gravy). I can’t say I’m much of a knish guy, though. Still, my recent lunch there was amazing.

Kohn’s Corned Beef Lunch

You need to realize how amazingly huge and succulent the corned beef sandwich was.

My amazing lunch

Kohn’s claim to fame is purportedly their “killer” pastrami, but my strong Irish genetics tell me that their corned beef is wildly superior. I’m no schmuck and I’m not being shmaltzy, but try the corned beef already! Oy vey!

While my meal settled, I lingered at the Kohn’s kosher meat counter. A guy in a Hartford Whalers hat told me that Kohn’s was the only place in the country where I could buy kosher bison. How the hell could I not buy a couple pounds of bison short ribs? (Even if it is expensive as all hell.)

Early on Sunday afternoon, I put the two 1 lb strips of kosher bison meat in an aluminum lasagna pan filled with 2 PBRs and a few sprigs of rosemary & some fresh basil, both from my garden, along with a bunch of whole peppercorns. The whole set went over semi-direct heat on the Weber 22″ grill.

Don’t kvetch. It will turn out okay.

They certainly looked good at the 30 minute mark, when I gave them a turn. It’s really difficult for me to describe via this blog just how delectable this smelled.

Woah, Nelly, do these smell good.

Finally, after an hour braising, I pulled them. The short ribs went over indirect heat on the far side of the grill from the coals and I added a bunch of the Ozark Sugar Maple wood chunks to the fire. Though the wood was dry, it still produced an ample amount of smoke without burning.

I handed out copious coatings of Jack Stack BBQ sauce and left it alone for about an hour.

Bison looking good

All of my internet pre-BBQ diligence said that you should treat bison the same as beef. What I would later learn (from sampling) was that I should have treated these like pork and wrapped them in foil to tenderize!

Still, the one hour product looked amazing.

So close to the finish line!

The final product was savory, sweet, smoky… everything was perfect except they weren’t very tender. I dare say they were a little tough! Dammit.

Finished and ready for this goy’s belly. Oy vey!

Disappointing though it may have been in the tenderness department, the short ribs were phenomenal on depth of flavor. They were super-easy to make.

Next time, I will give them a foil wrap over semi-direct heat and let them tenderize with the sauce and maybe some liquid to finish them off. I don’t want them to be too tender such that they are mushy and the bones fall out, but there has to be some kind of bison happy medium.

Kosher BBQ is a new avenue for me. (Technically, the bison was surrounded by non-kosher catfish and very non-kosher pork bratwurst, but who’s keeping score.) I will head back to Kohn’s soon to get some more bison… they sell bison brisket, by the way!

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BBQ Braised and Smoked Beef Short Ribs

You need to download the Weber Grills app. I was gifted some organic corn-fed beef short ribs by my most excellent rural uncle and aunt, and I turned to the Weber app for guidance. Braise, smoke, and grill said the app. Sure thing.

Not For Sale? Approved for consumption, though.

I went down to the backyard veggie garden in search of some home-grown spice and tracked down some jalapenos and other miscellaneous peppers.

Spicy!

I chopped up the jalapenos (and washed off the seeds), then tossed it in a braising liquid consisting of red wine, Miller High Life, sage, rosemary, basil, Lawry’s seasoned salt, sea salt, and a little vegetable oil. That all went in a pot on the Weber 22″ grill over semi-direct heat. In went the meat.

Braising is not really parboiling, is it?

After about 15 minutes, I flipped the short ribs in the pot and gave them another 15 minutes or so.

While at my local Ace Hardware, I came across a couple goodies!

Got wood?

Jack Stack is my favorite KC-area BBQ restaurant, bar none, and I had four years to try them all. They make something called the Martin City Mayor sandwich… holy hell. If you ever want to wow someone, though, get the burnt ends and a tower of onion rings. Atheists will see Jesus.

Anywho, after some braising, I let the short ribs smoke indirectly with the Ozark Sugar Maple wood (having been soaked in water for an hour or so, of course).

Braised, smoking

Every 10-15 minutes or so, I would re-braise the meat in the sauce. Many dunks were needed.

Braised, smoked, dunked

Now would be a good time for a beer. How about this one?

Trout Slayer

Wow, this is an awesome beer. Not quite the best canned beer I’ve ever had, but damned close. And it’s a Whale, from Montana no less!

Back to the BBQ… I gave each short rib segment a hearty coating of the Jack Stack sauce, and then returned it to the indirect heat. A total of 30-4o minutes indirect heat will more than finish the short ribs.

Yes, some other meat snuck onto the grill.

So maybe some pork burgers and a huge corn-fed beef steak made it onto the grill as well. That steak was EPIC, by the way. (Also part of the uncle / aunt frozen meat gift set.)

The verdict on the beef short ribs… fatty as all hell. The parts of the meat that we managed to pull were very tender and flavorful, but there was so much fat, both marbleized and in chunks, that it was hard to navigate. I was impressed with the meat itself, but my kids were hacking around fat while eating the meat.

This cooking method may work for some kosher lamb ribs (foreshadowing) or other meat. I just may not sink cash into beef short ribs anytime soon, particularly when so many other cuts provide leaner, more tender meat on the BBQ. Still, what I ate was delicious and I was super-grateful for free meat.

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Beer Can Chicken

When I told my two older kids (ages 6 and 4) that I was going to make chicken on the BBQ by sticking a PBR up a chicken’s butt, they thought one of two things: “Dad is lying” or “That is awesome”. Either way, they were super-psyched to see me finally put one of my BBQ-themed Fathers’ Day gifts to good use.

Such a simple design

I went with a super simple rub of brown sugar, paprika, garlic salt, seasoned salt, sage, rosemary, and cayenne pepper.

Sweet, savory, and spicy

I cracked open one of my Schlafly Pumpkin Ales to help me along. It’s like drinking a pumpkin pie, if the baker had a very heavy hand with the pumpkin pie spice and he also made it high alcohol. Yet another fancy sippin’ beer from Schlafly.

Download the Schlafly beer app

I discarded the neck and guts, then coated the chicken in and out with the rub. Before the bad beer anal probe, I tossed in some garlic cloves that could sautee and add a little extra flavor.

Ready for chicken

On went Mrs. Cluck.

Don’t mind this. This is doctor’s orders.

And then promptly onto the BBQ pit over semi-direct heat, breast side to the coals.

Chicken and corn… simple yet satisfying

After 30 minutes, I had charred the hell out of the breast skin. No matter, since I don’t eat the skin. Perhaps a more controlled burn next time. I rotated 180 degrees and continued.

Beer can juices steaming nicely

Why let a healthy corn and chicken meal go unchecked? I made up some Brussels sprouts on the stove top… quartered and sauteed with a pound of chopped bacon, half stick of butter, and half a diced onion of course. It cooks in less than an hour and makes an amazing side dish.

An exceptionally unhealthy veggie

Finally, the chicken was ready to come off the grill for service after about an hour and 15 minutes or so, having been verified with a few thermometer readings in the breast meat.

PBR suppository – not FDA approved

This is as simple as it gets. You don’t really even need a chicken can rack. You can just jam the can up there and make a tripod with the chicken legs and the can, but I prefer the stability.

What a wonderful dinner, another hit with the kids. It was super moist throughout, and the meat was tender and flavorful. Hopefully they don’t think sticking beer cans up butts is acceptable in any other animal application.

Speaking of other animals, I’m sorry to report that Samantha moved on to Doggie Heaven in mid-June, way ahead of her time. It was a very sad time for us, something I didn’t really feel like mourning publicly when it happened. She could no longer negotiate steps, puked after she ate, couldn’t squat to pee, etc. and was just miserable. She was the only dog I ever had and the best dog I’ve ever known.

It took two months, but the kids finally broke my resolve and we picked another puppy up from the pound. Meet the newest Simpson, Buddy the Dog.

Woof

Buddy isn’t just doing a Jeffrey Leonard impression for the photo. He really does always have one ear perked up and the other folded down. One Labrador ear and one Shepherd ear… perfect for a mutt born to a stray mom who we found at the Humane Society. We are trying to hold off on people food (as in BBQ scraps) for as long as possible. The kids seem to have taken a shine to him, though.

Someone loves their new puppy

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Grilled Chicken With Escabeche

Rick Bayless is a favorite TV chef in the Simpson house. If we can ever get back to Chicago, a visit to Frontera will be on the agenda. In lieu of a road trip, why not try out a BBQ recipe inspired by Chef Bayless?

Besides, having just entered as a competitor in the Backyard BBQ Bash, I need to practice grilling chicken. Chicken thighs are a resilient, succulent piece of chicken. That in mind, Chef Bayless has a grilled chicken recipe on his website.

I started with a couple green chilies from my garden, a bulb’s worth of unpeeled garlic cloves, and some whole peppercorns all in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat.

Many great things start with garlic

Once toasted, I peeled and smooshed up the garlic, along with the peppercorns and chilies to make a lumpy paste for the chicken thighs.

Garlic & pepper paste

In the meantime, following Chef Bayless’ recipe for the escabeche sauce, I toasted three large Anaheim peppers , peeled them, and then cooked them in a non-stick skilled with half a chopped white onion, chicken broth, apple cider vinegar, cilantro, salt and pepper.

Nearly escabeche

The only omission from his recipe was the pickled red onions, since I wanted more of a salsa verde flavor with the acidity of the vinegar without the heavy saltiness of the pickled onions. It simmered for a while, and I would thin it out lightly with some broth and vinegar as it thickened.

According to the super-accurate Wikipedia website, Mexican-style Escabeche is an acidic and peppery presentation of meat. It sounds like it can be a loosely-defined term that covers many types of sauces, particularly with respect to the regional influence.

In parallel to this entire adventure, I decided to crack open my home brew kit and make some brown ale. After cooking it all down, I had to wait for the wort to chill enough for the yeast. Combined with the garlic, peppers, onions, etc., the brewing beer aromas made for a very delightful scent throughout the house.

Wort, pre-yeast… beer in a few weeks

I put about two thirds of the paste onto the chicken thighs, with the other third going into the escabeche sauce.

Chicken thighs

Each went on the grill over semi-direct heat, skin and paste side up.

Twenty minutes later or so, I flipped the chicken to skin side down.

Nearly complete!

Plating is simple. The sauce is thick and glorious.

Grilled chicken with escabeche, plated

The pepper and onion sauce was wonderful. The tartness and acidity of the vinegar cut the spice from the peppers and peppercorns, while the texture of the onions and peppers was reminiscent of a chunky yet smooth verde salsa. This sauce alone would work on tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, etc.

You might think that chicken with a garlic paste on it would be overwhelming, but it provided a mellow, savory flavor. (I don’t eat chicken skin anyway.) It was moist and delicious, and even my kids ate it.

Epilogue: The next day we made quesadillas with the pepper sauce and pulled chicken, along with Mexican cheese blend, a sprinkle of Parmesan, and a wheat tortilla. After 15 minutes in the oven… Exquisite.

Chicken quesadilla with verde sauce

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