A little BBQ humor (sort of…)

BBQ Humor

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Pulled Pork Tamales with Southwestern Béarnaise Sauce for Cinco de Mayo

Pulled Pork Tamales




This idea just popped into my head a few weeks ago, and I haven’t been able to shake it.

Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore and went shopping. I smoked my pork shoulder the day before in my La Caja China #3, using apple wood.

Turned out…very nice.

Slow Smoked Pork Shoulder

7 lb. boneless pork shoulder roast
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup smoked paprika
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preparation:

Combine all dry ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.

Pulled Pork Tamales

Finish butterflying the shoulder (along the cut the butcher made while removing the bone) and rub all surfaces of the pork with the dry rub.

Pulled Pork Tamales with Southwestern Béarnaise Sauce

Roll the pork back up, tie with kitchen string, and season the outside.

In a standard smoker, pork shoulder cook time can be figured at approximately 1.5 hours per pound, so an 8 pound shoulder will require about 12 hours in the smoker at 225. (The Caja will require significantly less time, see my post, here, for roasting instructions.)

Pulled Pork Tamales

For more of Chef Perry’s La Caja China Cooking recipes, check out his cookbooks at:

www.perryperkinsbooks.com

I like to smoke mine to an internal temp of around 140 (about half the cook time – be sure to use a good probe thermometer), baste with a mixture of 1/2 barbeque sauce and 1/2 cider vinegar, wrap in foil, and slip it into a 225 degree oven to finish. Pull it from the Caja or oven when them internal meat temp reached 200 degrees, not a minute earlier.

Pulled Pork Tamales

Allow the roast to rest, tented loosely in foil for about an hour, pull or chop the meat, and toss with another cup of bbq sauce/vinegar mixture and salt, to taste. You may use it to assemble your tamales now, or refrigerate in up to 3 days.



Pulled Pork Tamales

To assemble the tamales, you’ll need:

4 C MaSeCa Instant Corn Masa Mix
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 C corn oil
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 package of corn husks
2 cups pulled pork, cooled

You can follow this simple video…

Southwestern Bernaise Sauce

Southwestern Béarnaise Sauce

Béarnaise is a sauce made of clarified butter emulsified in egg yolks and flavored with herbs. It is considered to be a ‘child’ of the mother Hollandaise sauce, one[2] of the five sauces in the French haute cuisine mother sauce repertoire. The difference is only in their flavoring: Béarnaise uses shallot, chervil, peppercorn, and tarragon, while Hollandaise uses lemon juice.

1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2 shallots, minced
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 egg yolks
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp dry rub
1 sm can diced green chilies

In a small saucepan, combine the tarragon, shallots, vinegar and wine over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half. Remove this reduction from heat and set aside to cool.

Blend yolks and béarnaise reduction together. With the blender running, add 1/3 of the butter in a slow steady stream. Once it emulsifies, turn the blender speed up to high and add the remaining butter. Season with dry rub, fold in the green chilies, and set aside in a warm spot until ready to spoon over the finished (and peeled) tamales.

We also made a yellow sriracha sauce recipe that my friend Patti shared with me.

Sriracha is the name for a Thai hot sauce named after the coastal city of Si Racha, in the Chonburi Province of central Thailand, where it was first produced for dishes served at local seafood restaurants. It is a paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. Sriracha is a common condiment in many Asian restaurants and increasingly found in American and European homes.

It is also known as rooster sauce because of the rooster featured on its label. Typically a very hot red sauce, this is a milder version using yellow peppers.

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

 

Personally, I liked it even better with the tamales than the Southwester Béarnaise…unfortunately, I was too busy eating to get pictures of the two together.

Here’s the recipe, tho’…

Yellow Sriracha Sauce

3 1/2 cups yellow bell
1/2 cup chopped hot yellow peppers
10 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
2 Tbs light brown sugar

Yellow Sriracha Sauce

Chop the chilies and place in a bowl. Add garlic, salt & vinegar. Cover and let set on the counter overnight or 8 hours.

In the morning, remove peppers & garlic from bowl and place in saucepan. Add 1 cup of the vinegar mixture, 1/2 cup of water and the 2 Tbs of sugar.

Yellow Sriracha Sauce

You can add more vinegar if you want it more tart and a thin sauce. Bring to a boil and then simmer  for 5 min. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Yellow Sriracha Sauce

Puree until smooth.

If you love this recipe, please share it!

Also, you can open the “print friendly” version of this recipe, by clicking here.

My work being inspected…

Yellow Sriracha Sauce




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Last Day to Save 20% on Caja Cooking Books

La Caja China Cookbooks
This is it! Today is the last day to get in on the Direct from the Publisher 20% Discount on all previous La Caja China Cooking titles! That’s right, this is your chance to save big and complete your collection of magic box recipes, tips, and tricks from a professional chef and roasting box pro, me!

La Caja China Cooking, La Caja China World, La Caja China Party…all 20% off their regular price!

But…it ends tonight at midnight!

Just use the links below to select your titles, and then use discount code: MUFRQDBX. Lastly, join us for a special one-day-only launch discount on La Caja China Grill, on April 29th.

Let’s make some magic with the magic box!

~ Chef Perry

La Caja China CookingLa Caja China Cooking
La Caja China, the Cuban roasting box, has become the toast of foodwriters and celebrity gourmets, including Food Network’s THROWDOWN Chef, Bobby Flay.

“La Caja China Cooking” takes you on a gastronomic tourof America, from Miami’s classic Cuban dishes, to traditional Texas andCarolina BBQ, to the crisp, fresh flavors of the Pacific Northwest. Perkins includes grill-top favorites, amazing side dishes, and step-by-stepCaja China instructions for “in-the-box” crowd-pleasers like:

~ True Texas Brisket
~ Pacific Northwest Salmon
~ Southern Roast Turkey
~ Carolina Pork Ribs
~ Memphis Whole Pickin’ Pig

So, fire up the coals, pick your favorite recipe, and dazzle your guests with these simple, yet mouth-watering dishes. Wonderful things canhappen when you think inside the box!

La Caja China WorldLa Caja China World
La Caja China, the Cuban roasting box, has become the toast of food writers and celebrity gourmets, including Food Network’s THROWDOWN Chef, Bobby Flay.

In La Caja China Cooking: The Secret to Perfect Roasting, we took a gastronomic tour of America.

With this new collection of recipes, your La Caja China becomes a magic carpet, allowing you to take your friends and family to the far corners of the world, and experience the delicious wonders waiting for you there!

In every culture and country that we researched in gathering this collection, we found people who enjoyed gathering together with loved ones, lighting a fire, cooking meat over it (or under it), and eating together. Not coincidentally, we think, these folks shared a common passion for life and laughter, as well.

In La Caja China World, we invite your taste buds to join us on a globe-trotting adventure with dishes like:

Grilled Tri-Tip & Chimichurri in Argentina
Whole Roast Pig & Coconut Rice in Bali
Roast lamb & Potatoes in Greece
Beef Short Ribs & Scallion Salad in Korea
Christmas Goose in Sweden

If you’re looking to roast, grill, bake, braise, smoke, or barbecue; whether you’re cooking for a hungry crowd, or creating memories with your family – look no further than La Caja China World!

La Caja China PartyLa Caja China Party
Chef-tested and fully-illustrated party themes. Insider tips and tricks, and over 80 bbq, grilling, side-dish, and drink recipes for the La Caja China roasting box! Themes include:

~Big Island Luau
~A Night in Havana
~Cinco de Mayo ~ La Caja China Style
~Beach Party Clambake!
~A Fantastic 4th of July
~Ultimate Tailgate Party
~Labor Day
~Big Family Thanksgiving
~Opa! A Greek Feast
~Good Old Southern Pig Pickin’
~A Mexican Fiesta
~Moroccan Festival
~A Caja Christmas Party

Make it an event with the Magic Box!

20% Discount Code: MUFRQDBX

La Caja China Cookbooks

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20% Discount on Previous La Caja China Cookbooks – 5 Days Only

La Caja China Cookbooks
Hey Boys and Girls,

Just 5 more days until the new, “La Caja China Grill” releases, and I’ve got a present for you…

From now, until Midnight on April 28th, I’m offering a Direct from the Publisher 20% Discount on all previous La Caja China Cooking titles! That’s right, this is your chance to save big and complete your collection of magic box recipes, tips, and tricks from a professional chef and roasting box pro, me!

La Caja China Cooking, La Caja China World, La Caja China Party…all 20% off their regular price!

Just use the links below to select your titles, and then use discount code: MUFRQDBX. Lastly, join us for a special one-day-only launch discount on La Caja China Grill, on April 29th.

Let’s make some magic with the magic box!

~ Chef Perry

La Caja China CookingLa Caja China Cooking
La Caja China, the Cuban roasting box, has become the toast of foodwriters and celebrity gourmets, including Food Network’s THROWDOWN Chef, Bobby Flay.

“La Caja China Cooking” takes you on a gastronomic tourof America, from Miami’s classic Cuban dishes, to traditional Texas andCarolina BBQ, to the crisp, fresh flavors of the Pacific Northwest. Perkins includes grill-top favorites, amazing side dishes, and step-by-stepCaja China instructions for “in-the-box” crowd-pleasers like:

~ True Texas Brisket
~ Pacific Northwest Salmon
~ Southern Roast Turkey
~ Carolina Pork Ribs
~ Memphis Whole Pickin’ Pig

So, fire up the coals, pick your favorite recipe, and dazzle your guests with these simple, yet mouth-watering dishes. Wonderful things canhappen when you think inside the box!

La Caja China WorldLa Caja China World
La Caja China, the Cuban roasting box, has become the toast of food writers and celebrity gourmets, including Food Network’s THROWDOWN Chef, Bobby Flay.
 
In La Caja China Cooking: The Secret to Perfect Roasting, we took a gastronomic tour of America.  
 
With this new collection of recipes, your La Caja China becomes a magic carpet, allowing you to take your friends and family to the far corners of the world, and experience the delicious wonders waiting for you there!  
 
In every culture and country that we researched in gathering this collection, we found people who enjoyed gathering together with loved ones, lighting a fire, cooking meat over it (or under it), and eating together.   Not coincidentally, we think, these folks shared a common passion for life and laughter, as well.
 
In La Caja China World, we invite your taste buds to join us on a globe-trotting adventure with dishes like:
 
Grilled Tri-Tip & Chimichurri in Argentina
Whole Roast Pig & Coconut Rice in Bali
Roast lamb & Potatoes in Greece
Beef Short Ribs & Scallion Salad in Korea
Christmas Goose in Sweden
 
If you’re looking to roast, grill, bake, braise, smoke, or barbecue; whether you’re cooking for a hungry crowd, or creating memories with your family – look no further than La Caja China World!

La Caja China PartyLa Caja China Party
Chef-tested and fully-illustrated party themes.   Insider tips and tricks, and over 80 bbq, grilling, side-dish, and drink recipes for the La Caja China roasting box! Themes include:

~Big Island Luau
~A Night in Havana
~Cinco de Mayo ~ La Caja China Style
~Beach Party Clambake!
~A Fantastic 4th of July
~Ultimate Tailgate Party
~Labor Day
~Big Family Thanksgiving
~Opa! A Greek Feast
~Good Old Southern Pig Pickin’
~A Mexican Fiesta
~Moroccan Festival
~A Caja Christmas Party

Make it an event with the Magic Box!

20% Discount Code: MUFRQDBX

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Bastille Day BBQ : Leg of Lamb and Grilled Ratatouille

Lamb on La Caja China

Bastille Day is the name given in English-speaking countries to the French National Day, which is celebrated on the 14th of July each year. In France, it is formally called La Fête Nationale (The National Celebration) and commonly Le quatorze juillet (the fourteenth of July).

It commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789; the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison was seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation, and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution. (Thank you Wikipedia.)

So, in honor of Bastille Day, I will lay aside my usual witty jabs and cheap shots at the French, and offer up two of my favorite french-inspired grill dishes for your outdoor cooking pleasure. So, have some wine, smoke a cigarette, eat some brie, hug a socialist…but whatever you do, enjoy!

And to the country that has, admittedly, given the world some of its finest food and finest Chefs, I say…Vive la France!

Grilled leg of lamb on La Caja China

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb
Serves 8-10

The only way to eat lamb is medium rare or rare. That’s first. If you don’t like that, stop reading here and look for another recipe. Please, please, please DO NOT ruin this beautiful piece of meat, but cooking to “medium well” or “well done” both of which are oxymorons.

Now, if you’re still with us…awesome! Let’s grill!

We’re going to sear the lamb first, on both sides, briefly, and directly over high heat, then move it over to indirect (lower) heat until it’s cooked through. In our opinion.

To cook this lamb perfectly, you gotta use a meat thermometer to track the internal temperature of the roast. No questions, you just gotta.

So…the lamb:

1 boneless leg of lamb, 5 to 6 pounds, butterflied
1 medium sweet onion
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/4 cup herbs de provence*
1 lemon, zested
1/4 cup beef stock or broth
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
Sea salt (coarse) and fresh ground black pepper

*Herbs de Provence – a mixture of dried herbs which can be found on most spice aisles, or you can make you own by combining:
4 teaspoon thyme
4 teaspoon summer savory
2 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon sage

Combine sweet onion, garlic, herbs de provence, beef stock, lemon zest, vinegar, and olive oil into a food processor and pulse to combine.

Sprinkle a fist-full salt and pepper over the lamb. Put the lamb into a gallon freezer bag, pour in the marinade, and massage it into every nook and cranny of the roast. Seal ‘er up, and refrigerate for 6-8 hours, or overnight.

Remove the meat from your refrigerator and set it in one counter (still in the bag) for about an house, to come to room temperature.

Now, we’re ready to grill!

Remove the leg from the bag, and run a couple of long skewers through it to use as handles when flipping (you’ll lose less of that yummy coating than if you used tongs, and, of course, you wouldn’t DREAM of stabbing it with a meat fork…right…RIGHT?)

Prepping coals for La Caja ChinaIf you’re are using a charcoal grill, or a La Caja China (pictured) start your coals in a chimney, and pour them into a double layer on one half of the cooking area (right or left) and just sprinkle a few on the other side. This is a “2-Zone Fire”.

For gas grills, crank that sucker up up as high as she’ll go on all burners, and when she’s good and hot, turn one side off. Toss three or four chunks of soaked oak on the coals, or start some oak chips smoking in a smoker box on your gas grill.

If you don’t have any oak, no biggie, but it does add a nice, mellow flavor to lamb.

Set the lamb, fat-cap down, on the hot side of the grill. You’re going to get some flames, and that’s okay (that’s what we like to call “the flavor”) You might want to have a squirt bottle of water or beer handy, to control the flames if needed.

Grill it hot on one side for about four minutes, then flip ‘er over to sear the other side for another 4 minutes. Then, move that little lamb to the indirect heat (cooler) side side of the grill.

Cover the grill and let cook for an additional 35-45 minutes (You want the cooking area to maintain at about 325-350°F.), until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast registers 130°F (for medium rare).

I strongly suggest using a remote meat probe, so you don’t poke a bunch of holes it the poor thing before it’s done.

When done, move the roast to a cutting board, cover with foil and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Pull the skewers and toss.

Grilled leg of lamb on La Caja China

Slice the lamb across the grain, in half-inch thick slices. Arrange the slices slices on a warm platter (take it to the next level by covering the platter in a thick layer or hot buttery garlic mashed potatoes first) and pour the meat juices over the slices.

Serve with mint jelly or horseradish.

Leftovers make for a fantastic Bahn Mi sandwich!

Lamb Bahn Mi sandwich

 

grilled ratatouille

The Ratatouille

“Ratatouille doesn’t sound delicious. It sounds like “rat” and “patootie.” Rat-patootie, which does not sound delicious.” – Linguini

With all respect to Monsieur Linguini, while ratatouille may not sound delicious, it tastes freakin’ awesome, especially hot off the grill!

Ratatouille (pronounced rat-eh-too-ee) is a traditional French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, originating in Nice. The full name of the dish is ratatouille niçoise.

2 zucchini, cut into quarters lengthwise
2 eggplant, halved lengthwise
2 yellow squash, cut into quarters lengthwise
2 red onions, quartered
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and quartered
2 yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and quartered
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbs finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

Heat the grill to medium-high.

Toss all veggies in a bowl with the 1/2 cup of olive oil, and coat well. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Grill veggies, cut side down for 5 to 6 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time. Remove the tomatoes, cover your grill, and cook the remaining vegetables for 2 more minutes, or until almost cooked through.

grilled ratatouille on la caja china

Transfer vegetables to a cutting board and coarsely chop (leave the tomatoes whole).

Put the chopped vegetables and tomatoes in a large bowl, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic, oregano and parsley and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Toss gently and serve.

Note: The leftovers, if you have any, are great the next morning over eggs scrambled with a little feta cheese!

 

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Sweet & Savory Bacon Wrapped Dates

Heyya Peeps!

Today, because I love you, I’m gonna share my numero-uno, all-time favorite, git ‘er done grilled apptizer…Sweet & Savory Bacon Wrapped Dates.

I make these fairly often and I’ve had lots of folks tell me that they “weren’t fans of” bleu cheeses, or dates, or both…but I’ve never had a single person, who tried one, not come back for more.

Not one. T

here’s something about this recipe that results in a final tidbit that is truely more than the sum of its parts. The three distinct flavors meld into something completely unique…and awesome.

And, c’mon…everything tastes better with bacon, right?

Be warned, we serve these babies while the pig or lamb is roasting, and they go fast!

Sweet & Savory Bacon Wrapped Dates

1 lb thick-sliced bacon, cut in half
1 lb pitted dates (small)
4 ounces gorgonzola cheese, or your favorite bleu.
32 toothpicks

Slice dates up one side, and open them up. Pinch off a marble-sized piece of cheese, and place it into the center of the date. Kitchen shears work great for this!

Close the halves of the dates, and wrap a half-slice of bacon around the outside, secure with a toothpick.

Lay a single sheet of foil over La Caja China grill grates, and add the wraps in a single layer. This keeps the dripping grease from starting an inferno. I usually cut a few small slits in the foil, and then cover everything with an inverted turkey pan to catch a little smoke flavor.

Oh, and a few apple wood-chips on the fire is mighty nice, too.

Grill until bacon starts to crisp, then flip each wrap over. I pair of long tongs is invaluable here.

When the second side is crisped, remove the whole rack to a platter lined with paper towels, allow to cool slightly, and then get the heck outta the way, ‘cause folks will trample you to get them!

– Perry

PS – If you’re one one those people who won’t grill just because there’s a little monsoon or blizzard activity outside (it’s okay, we still love you)…preheat your oven to 350, place a rack (like a cookie-cooling rack) on a foil-lined cookie sheet, arrange wraps evenly, and roast until bacon looks crispy.

Remove the whole rack to a platter lined with paper towels and cool 10-15 minutes before serving. Almost as good.

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Chef P’s Smoked Swineapple


I’ve gotten a lot of messages and emails this year, asking me when I was going to get around to trying out the big fad recipe of 2016, the infamous “Amazing Swineapple” (A Frankensteinian flavor bomb of a pork-stuffed fresh pineapple wrapped in bacon!)

Well, as I promised to do my own take on it before the year is over, AND today just happens to be National Bacon Day, here we go…

I used our Burnin’ Love Pork Rub recipe, and my go to Yoshida’s Original sauce. I also decided to precook the pork, both for safety reasons, and to get some smoke and char into the flavor profile. It also makes the whole thing WAY quicker to cook, which gives you a better consistency on the pineapple.

Ingredients for Swineapple
1 Large Pineapple (the larger the better)
1 lb. of good quality, thin sliced, bacon (I like the “low sodium” for this recipe)
5/6 Boneless Pork Ribs (Picnic cut, from the shoulder)
Burnin’ Love Pork Rub (see recipe here)
Yoshida’s Original Sauce

Rubbed pork ribs for swineapple
Rub pork ribs with seasoning and refrigerate overnight in a zip bag. Remove to counter one hour before you plan to start cooking.

Grilling ribs for Swineapple
Grill ribs over direct high heat on well seared on all sides, but not overcooked (1-2 minutes per side). Brush with sauce as you turn each side.

Heat your smoker to 250F.

Coring pineapple for Smoked Swineapple recipe
Slice the rind off of the pineapple, cut off one end (do not discard) and carefully core out the center leaving an outer edge approx 1 inch thick.

Coring pineapple for Smoked Swineapple recipe
Stuff the pineapple with the pork ribs, packing them in tight.

Smoked Swineapple recipe
Carefully position the pineapple end you saved earlier back onto the end of the pineapple, securing with toothpicks.
MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

IMG_2842 (1024x768)
Create a “bacon weave” (see instructions here)

acon weave wrapped swineapple
Wrap the pineapple with bacon weave, and pinning in place with toothpicks. Sprinkle exterior generously with more rub.

Bacon weave wrapped swineapple
Place in the pre-heated smoker for 3 hours.

Bacon weave wrapped swineapple
When the smoked swineapple is finished remove all of the toothpicks, remove the top, slice and serve immediately.

Bacon weave wrapped swineapple
This is great over some simple white rice!

Chef Perry

Bacon weave wrapped swineapple

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How to prevent burning on a La Caja China whole pig

La Caja China whole pig

Got a couple of great questions today from JW, over at Chowhound. He asks…

Hey Chef Perry. Great Video! I am cooking a pig next week. In your opinion, what do prefer best. The Cuban way with the mojo, or something else.

Also, when I do our block parties pig, the parts that stick up the most get extra crispy/burnt.

Any way of making it more even?

Thank you! – JW


JW, thanks!

While the Cuban version is delicious, as a Georgia transplant, I personally prefer a Southern “Pickin’ Pig” with just salt, pepper, smoke, and an occasional spritz of apple-juice and cider vinegar. I use a couple of less pounds of coals per round, and roast for around 8 hours, looking for an internal ham temp of 190-195, before flipping.

RE: burnt spots – two things I do…

La Caja China Pig

First, for a long cook like this, I take a very quick peek (just lifting a corner and checking with a flashlight) every couple of hours. If I see one end getting darker faster, I’ll pivot the coal rack 180d to re-position the hot spot.

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this post, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

 

Second, if it’s getting two dark for my liking, I’ll patch those areas with foil (just enough to cover the problem). Typically between the 5 and 8 hour mark.

Removing ashes from La Caja China

A final trick – adding fresh coals will really jack up the heat if you’ve just dumped ashes. I usually put on fresh coals from my chimneys, spread, and wait about 1/2 hour before scraping the insulating layer of coals beneath. This tends to moderate the heat spikes that causes burn spots.

Hope that helps!

Chef Perry
Author
La Caja China Cooking
La Caja China World
La Caja China Party
La Caja China Grilling (Coming Soon!)
www.lacajachinacooking.com

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5,000th Copy of La Caja China Cooking!

Whole Pig Roast in a La Caja China Cajun Microwave

Just notified by my publisher that yesterday we sold our 5,000th copy of my first cookbook, “La Caja China Cooking: The secret to perfect roasting!”

That’s a lot of smoky, piggy goodness!

It’s been a crazy ride, and I’m not done yet, but I can’t let this milestone go uncelebrated!

So…for all of you magic box fans who haven’t picked up a copy yet, for the month of July I’m offering a 20% discount from my publisher’s e-store for the first book in my series!

Buy your copy of “La Caja China Cooking” here, and enter discount code MUFRQDBX

La Caja China CookingLa Caja China, the Cuban roasting box, has become the toast of foodwriters and celebrity gourmets, including Food Network’s THROWDOWN Chef, Bobby Flay.

“La Caja China Cooking” takes you on a gastronomic tour of America, from Miami’s classic Cuban dishes, to traditional Texas and Carolina BBQ, to the crisp, fresh flavors of the Pacific Northwest.

Perkins includes grill-top favorites, amazing side dishes, and step-by-step Caja China instructions for “in-the-box” crowd-pleasers like:

~ True Texas Brisket
~ Pacific Northwest Salmon
~ Southern Roast Turkey
~ Carolina Pork Ribs
~ Memphis Whole Pickin’ Pig

So, fire up the coals, pick your favorite recipe, and dazzle your guests with these simple, yet mouth-watering dishes. Wonderful things can happen when you think inside the box!

Also, be sure to check out this video, How to BBQ a Pig in La Caja China, from “La Caja China Cooking”… 


Chef Perry
Author
La Caja China Cooking
La Caja China World
La Caja China Party!

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4 Tips for Better Barbeque

Tips for better bbq

Photo by Dani Ramsey -Witt

Taking your Grill-Skill from Tragic to Magic
4 Foundational Tips for Better Barbeque

We’ve all see it…the flaming hot dog, the carbon-crusted hockey-puck that was once a hamburger patty, the black-on-the-outside, frozen-in-the-middle steak that comes off the grill like saddle leather, only with less flavor…

I mean, how hard can it be?

MEAT + FIRE = GOOD…right?

So why do so many well-intentioned grillers turn so much good meat into bad food?

Conversely, what do those smug bastards with their instant-read thermometers, and monogrammed aprons know that WE don’t?

What’s the secret?

Well, like many mysteries in life, there is no one secret to good barbeque*, but rather a number of simple skills that some people are taught, and others aren’t. Like almost everything else, no one is born with the ability to grill great food. It’s a learned skill.

So…let’s do some learnin’!

While there are innumerable tips and tricks that you can (and likely will) learn as you spend more time at the grill, more hours pouring over cookbooks and food Network shows, and more of Junior’s inheritance on shiny new grills and monogrammed aprons, for now, lets look at four very simple, yet foundational principles that can take your grill-skill from tragic to magic, quickly…and without cost.

Just a side note – none of these tips are about the price of the meat. Grilling and, to a greater extent, barbeque, is all about taking the cheap (and sometimes throw-away) cuts, and making them not just edible, but incredible. You don’t need to serve $30-a-steak rib-eyes, or fresh Maine lobster-tails, to make a great meal on the grill…watch and see.

(*BTW: I know, I know…grilling isn’t barbeque, and barbeque isn’t grilling. However, for the purpose of this article, I’m not going to get into the whole gas vs. briquettes vs. lump coal vs. hardwood vs. smoker vs. hide-lashed caribou-bone grilling platforms – debate. You’ll get there soon enough, or, if you have an extra month…Google it. For this article, the terms “grilling” and “barbeque” are going to be interchangeable and used specifically whenever I feel like it. Hate me if you must…you won’t be the first.)

How to brine a turkey1. Down to the Briny Depths with ye, Turkey!  

In cooking, brining is a process similar to marinating, in which meat is soaked in brine before cooking. Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis, and  by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked, via the process of denaturation. (Thank you, Wikipedia!)

How long to brine depends on the size and type of meat you’ve got. Larger meats like a whole turkey need more time for the brine to do its magic. Small pieces of seafood like shrimp shouldn’t sit in a brine for more than half an hour, or so.

Be sure not to brine meats that have already been brined before you buy them, such as “extra-tender” pork, which has been treated with sodium phosphate and water to make it juicier.

Meats that improve on the grill with a good brine:

Chicken & turkey (whole or cut)
Rabbit (or any non-red game meat)
Pork (especially boneless picnic ribs)
Salmon

Fatty meats like beef and lamb are generally not improved by brining.

My basic brine = 1 cup coarse Kosher or sea salt + 1 cup sugar (white or brown) + 1 gallon purified water.

Bring water to a high simmer, add salt and sugar to dissolve, and allow to cool to room temp before adding the meat. You can increase or decrease the amount of brine, as long as you have enough to completely submerse the meat, by modifying the brine ingredients in these proportions.

How much brine do you need?

Here’s a tip: put your meat in the container you’re going to soak it in, and fill it with purified water until completely covered. Remove the meat, and use this water to make your brine. Clever, huh?

How to brine a turkey

One caveat with brining is that whatever you put the meat in, needs to fit in your refrigerator or cooler. Both the meat and brine need to stay below 40F at all times. This isn’t a big deal with a couple of pork chops, but can present some logistical headaches when you’re roasting half-a-dozen turkeys, as I did last Thanksgiving.  In this case, you’re best bet is to sterilize a cooler that’s big enough to fit the meat, brine, and a couple of bags of ice.

General Brining Times

Whole Chicken, Salmon fillets                  4 to 12 hours
Chicken Pieces, Pork Chops                       1 to 1 1/2 hours
Whole Turkey or Pork Shoulder               24 hours
Turkey Breast, Rabbit                                   5 to 8 hours
Cornish Game Hens                                        1 to 2 hours

The beauty of a good brine is you can add whatever you want to it! I often add quartered lemons and chopped garlic to my whole chicken brine, and Chinese 5 Spice to my pork brine. The best flavored brines are often the simplest…citrus juice and dried mint will add a nice Mediterranean flavor to chicken, while cracked black pepper and red wine vinegar provide a rich French flair.


 

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How to brine a turkeyHaving said that, the best turkey I’ve ever eaten was roasted by my Burnin’ Love BBQ partner Terry Ramsey, using Alton Brown’s ingredient-heavy brine from his Good Eats Roast Turkey recipe. That was some next-level bird, brutha!

After brining, always rinse your meat and dry it well before cooking. Otherwise, your dinner is going to be super salty, likewise, don’t salt the meat before, during, or after cooking, nor any sauces or gravies you make with the residual broth (which, btw, is freakin’ awesome.)

Lastly, make sure to keep a close eye when grilling meats that have been brined. Brining adds sugar to the meat and can cause it to burn faster, another reason to use a 2-step grilling method.

Which segues nicely into…

Indirect Grilling

2. Direct vs. Indirect: Knowing when to Move Your Butt

What is the difference between grilling over “direct” and “indirect” heat?

Well, it’s pretty much what it sounds like:

Direct grilling = the food is cooked “directly” over an even heat source. Most experts will tell you that type of grilling really works best for foods that take less than 20 minutes to cook, such as steaks, chops, boneless chicken breasts, burgers and hot dogs.

Personally, except for maybe the burgers and dogs, I think that direct grilling is nearly always the ‘Step 1″ in the a 2-Step process, used to seal the meat and make those beautiful charred grill marks. Typically, I would then move the meat to indirect heat to finish cooking.  For example, a 2-inch-thick steak, or a well brined chicken breast, can be seared or browned over direct heat for a short period of time, and then moved to the indirect heat area to continue cooking internally without burning.

Indirect GrillingIndirect grilling = foods are not cooked directly over the heat. With charcoal grilling, the hot coals are moved or “banked” to opposite sides of the grill, this is known as a 2-Zone Fire (here’s a post on how to set up a 2-Zone Fire).  Often a drip pan with water, beer, or juice is placed on the bare grate, below the meat.

When grilling with gas, the burners are all pre-heated, and then one or more are turned off and the meat is placed directly over the “off’ burners.  I do with this chunks of meat as large as pork shoulders (aka Boston Butt) to sear the outside and seal in all the yummy juices.

Take a look at my “Butts on the Grill” recipe (“move you butt” – get it?) for more.

Again, I believe that indirect heat is best used for finishing foods that need to be cooked for a longer time like roasts, whole poultry, ribs and other large cuts of meat. Except for fish and shellfish, if a piece of meat is too thin to grill over direct heat first, it probably shouldn’t be cooked on the grill at all.

Lastly, never take a piece of meat off the grill when it looks done. By then, it’s too late. The time to plate your entrée is a couple of minutes before it’s done. The external heat will continue to cook the insides to meaty perfection. This is especially true of thin meats like hamburger patties.

When to sauce3. Know when to get Saucy

Many grillers, myself included, either eschew sauce altogether, or serve it on the side.

Too often, all we taste in our bbq is bbq sauce, and I want to enjoy that wonderful flavor of grilled meat! Also, sauce is probably the #1 leading culprit in burned bbq. Many folks don’t realize how much sugar there is in a typical bbq sauce, nor how quickly those sugars will caramelize, and then burn.

The one meat that I do invariably sauce is chicken. I especially like a nice, sticky bbq or teriyaki sauce on a big mess of grilled chicken legs and thighs (in fact, one of my favorite recipes, Lazy Chicken, is included in the Multi-Zone Fire post that I linked to, above.)

The same goes for pork. Beef – not so much. Of course, this is a matter of personal opinion, not religious doctrine, so, to paraphrase one of my favorite foodie personalities, “If it tastes good…sauce it!”

If you do want to sauce your chicken, turkey, or pork, you’ll do it towards the end of the cooking time, and do so after you’ve moved the meat to indirect heat, otherwise you run the risk of the sugars in the sauce burning. One exception to this rule (and of course there’s an exception), is when I’m “finishing” slow roasted ribs. Once they come out of the smoker (or oven), I like to sauce them thinly, and slap them down directly over hot coals for a few seconds, flip, and repeat the process 4-5 times. This layering of charring and saucing, over and over, creates an amazing and complex depth of flavor.

BTW – I do like a good sauce, I’m just a “serve it on the side” kinda guy.

Letting grilled meat rest4. Letting your Meat…Loaf

Have you ever gotten a steak or a chicken breast right off the grill, cut into it with a sharp knife, and had a gush of hot, steamy juices pour out onto your plate?

Me too.

Did you notice, a few minutes later, that that lovely, juicy piece of glorious cow had turned into sawdust?

Me too.

Once meat is removed from the heat, it’s vital that it be allowed to “rest”, tented loosely in foil. Resting allows the meat to relax and reabsorb its own juices back into the muscle fibers, as they cool. If you cut into that same steak or chicken breast after its rested under a foil tent for 5-10 minutes, you’ll see those same juices bead up on the surface of the meat, but not pour out of you plate. This means that the whole cut is going to stay moist.

With small cuts like steaks and chops, I think that just a few minutes (5-10) is sufficient.

Some larger cuts of meat, like pork shoulders, leg of lamb, or beef brisket, require foiling or wrapping tightly in foil, and coolering for a longer length of time. This allows the internal temp to rise the last few degrees without any additional heat, without the outside of the meat overcooking.

Here are some good general resting times:

Pork shoulders (Butts), & Brisket                                2 Hours
Whole Turkey, Lg Roasts                                                30 minutes
Smaller roasts, Whole Chickens, Turkey breasts  10 – 15 minutes
Steaks, Chops, Chicken Breasts                                     5 – 10 minutes

Always tent the meat loosely in foil to keep the surface temperature from dropping much faster than the internal temp. This can lead to drying, as well.

Oh, and while those steaks are resting…toss some chopped shallots, a cup of Merlot, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, and a teaspoon of chopped garlic into a skillet and simmer. Add any drippings from the steak plate, as well, then pour a couple of tablespoons over each steak, just before serving. (You’ll thank me.)

Okay, so that’s it…

1.     BRINE YOUR MEAT
2.     KNOW YOUR HEAT
3.     SAUCE WHEN BEST
4.     LET IT REST

Try these four simple steps and I guarantee that you will see an instant, and significant improvement in your ‘Que. No more wiener flambé, carbonized steaks, or particle-board chicken.

Clear your calendar, you are about to become the grill-god of your family/neighborhood/ office/church.

Welcome to the club…here’s your apron.

-Chef Perry

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