A shout-out for my boys at La Caja China…
A shout-out for my boys at La Caja China…
Yes, I know this recipe isn’t for everyone, but I love grilled chicken hearts, and I love nuoc cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce), so I figured that marinating one in the other, before grilling, might be a good idea.
Turns out…it was a fantastic idea!
I’ll keep this quick and simple:
1 lb fresh chicken hearts
Wooden skewers (8-16, depending on length)
1/3 cup lime juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/3 cup fish sauce
2 garlic clove, finely minced
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (tuong ot toi), optional
Rinse the chicken hearts and pat dry.
In a saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients (except skewers) and bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. If you need to speed this up, only add 1/2 cup of water before simmering, and then add 3/4 of a cup of ice cubes to cool.
Place chicken hearts in a large zip-bag and pour the cooled marinade over the top. Seal and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours. Remove chicken hearts from the brine (dispose of the brine), and let rest on the counter for up to an hour, to come to room temp.
Meanwhile, set skewers in a shallow pan and cover with warm water.
Let soak 1 hour.
Thread chicken hearts into skewers, and grill over very high heat, 2-3 minutes per side, until well marked and just cooked through. You do NOT want a “well-done” chicken heart!
Enjoy as is, or with some sticky rice and sesame Asian slaw. I like to serve mine sprinkled with freshly minced cilantro and a little warmed chili garlic sauce on the side, for dipping!
Burnin’ Love BBQ
Our Facebook Friend Mary asks:
Hi Chef Perry! We’re planning on cooking 3 turkeys in our La Caja China box for Thanksgiving…. 12-14 lbs each. Can anyone tell me approximately how long it will take? Thanks in advance….and planning on brining them if that makes a difference? – Mary B.
Mary, thanks for asking!
Every year, we roast 8-10 whole turkeys in our Semi Pro for the Thanksgiving dinner at our local homeless shelter, The Father’s Heart, in Oregon City.
Here are 5 tips we’ve learned over the years, for roasting the perfect turkey(s) in La Caja China roasting boxes.
Burnin’ Love BBQ
Make sure your turkey(s) are COMPLETELY thawed by the night before. The bone temp of the turkeys will make or break the La Caja China process. The USDA recommends cold water thawing.
Allow about 30 minutes per pound, and be sure the turkey is in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination and to prevent the turkey from absorbing water, resulting in a watery product.
Submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.
Always, always, always brine your turkeys (or chickens) before roasting! The differences in the flavor, the tenderness, and the juiciness of the meat are indescribable.
To brine one turkey, bring 1 quart of water to a simmer, add salt and sugar, stir to dissolve completely. Add 3 quarts of very cold water to cool. (See our recipes, the the link below, for some great tips on other delicious ingredients you can add to your brine!)
Place turkeys in a water-tight container, large enough to allow a little space around each, and pour the cooled brine over the turkeys, add more cold water to cover (if needed). Move turkeys to a cold area, or refrigerate 8-10 hours.Discard brine and rinse turkeys thoroughly, before prepping for roasting.
Just Also, be sure to cover (just) the top of each turkey loosely with a small piece of foil. The thin skin burns easily in the direct heat of the caja. You need a separate piece for each turkey, so you don’t block the heat getting down and under the birds (been there, done that! LOL)
4. NO PEEKING
I know I’m a bit of a broken record on this subject, but it really is important. Lifting the lid from the box effectively removes all the cooking heat, and it takes a LONG time to build back up, as your turkey is cooling at the same time. Use a remote probe thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, and (personal opinion) a metal dust pan and scoop to remove the ashes, instead of removing the lid. NEVER lift the lid until your turkey has reached “resting temp”…which is 10-15F below your target finished temperature.
5. COLD WEATHER COOKING
Let’s face it, holiday cooking, for many of us, means if we want to BBQ or grill…we’re cooking in the cold! Make sure you start out with every ounce of the recommended coal weight, to ensure that the box reaches its “honey spot” for you.
Keeping the box protected from the wind is key, I often start mine in the driveway, and once the fire had gone out, roll it into my garage – keeping the door open, and the box a safe distance from any flammables, of course!
Also, shave 10 minutes of each “add coals” cycle; this has helped me in the past.
For more tips, tricks, and insider secrets on cooking anything in (and on) La Caja China, be sure to download our free La Caja China eGuidebook!
If you’d like to see a full holiday menu, including this delicious La Caja China turkey recipe, please vist our post: La Caja China Christmas Menu with Recipes
Oh, and if you’re hankerin’ for smoked turkeys this year, watch our short video: Smoked BBQ in La Caja China with the A-Maze-N Smoker
Hey all, just a heads up…we’re comin’ up on 8 years of the Burnin’ Love BBQ blog, and we’ve had a wonderful time q’ing and grilling with ya’all!
This week we migrated the blog to a self-hosted platform and, unfortunately, the techs managed to permanently delete our entire subscriber list (that horrible sound you heard around midnight was me shrieking at my monitor…)
SO…as I know that a LOT of you were subscribers, I’m posting to ask you to please go to the “Get some Burnin’ Love via Email!” subscription box in the right-hand column, and enter your current email to subscribe again.
If you’re already subscribed, nothing will happen…so don’t worry about getting double posts.
We have some great grilling videos and recipes in the works, don’t miss ’em!
La Caja China rocked it at last month’s Sparks of Hope camps!
As part of our MY KITCHEN Program, we taught cooking classes during the days, and then did a pig roast feast each Saturday night. “Knights of the Round Table” for the boys (no utensils, lol), and “Island Luau” for the girls.
For these young survivors of horrific abuse, anything that brings a smile to their faces is a major victory, and there were LOTS of smiles at the feast!
Thank you Roberto and La Caja China for being a faithful supporter of our work with these kids, and for helping us bring a smile to their faces.
And, of course, the pigs were awesome!
Burnin’ Love BBQ
MY KITCHEN Outreach
Our SimplySmartDinnerPlans friend (and La Caja China brutha), Clem, asks…
“Chef Perry. I am going to try a pork butt on my #2 la caja china this weekend for my fantasy football group. Can you advise me on the amount of charcoal to initially use for a single roast in this unit?
The la caja china recommended 18#’s seems like a lot. The tip you offered on your whole pig la caja china made sense to primarily cover the ham and shoulder areas with coals, so I thought the same for a pork butt.
BTW I am going to roast a whole pig for the first time soon and your terrific video has given me a big confidence boost. Thanks so much! – Clem”
Clem, you’re certainly welcome!
I wish I had a better answer for you on roasting a pork butt in a model #2, unfortunately, I’ve never tried that.
Here’s the challenge: you’re going to have so much extra empty space that will have to maintain cooking temperature, that while you may need less coals to get it to temp at first, in the long run you’re going to need MORE coals to keep all that empty air hot. A whole pig, or several shoulders/butts, take up a lot of mass, and once they start to warm up, they help keep the ambient temperature up.
Without that mass, it’s going to be a constant fight.
Here’s my completely unauthorized, and untested, possible solution This is what “I” would try: I would go with your idea of a selective fire, ie: build your coals up at one end of the box, and then build some kind of barrier INSIDE the box….maybe fire-brick, or foil wrapped pans (to reflect the heat). THEN heat a big pot of water to a simmer, foil the top (to minimize steam escaping), and place it in the OTHER side of the box. This should minimize heat loss.
Now you’ve created a (somewhat less efficient) Model #3 “Cajita”. See instructions for roasting a shoulder in a Model #3, here.
Basically, you start with 5lbs of charcoal and add 4lbs every hour until you reach your desire temp. I would add 25% to each of those numbers to make up for our fix, and do everything you can to minimize heat loss. I have some tips in my free e-book, La Caja China Guidebook that should help. If you haven’t been to our BBQ page (at that link), we have TONS of La Caja China stuff there.
Again, this isn’t something that your model #2 is designed to do, so it comes with all of the standard “McGyvver” warnings and disclaimers, lol.
That said, if you DO try it, and it DOES work…please take lots of pictures so I can add them to this post!
Let us know how it goes!
Burnin’ Love BBQ
Our friend Joanne asks:
“I have trouble cooking anything on the grill. I either burn it or it’s not done enough. I’m guessing a thermometer would help me too. Can you recommend a good one?”
Joann – They’re all pretty much the same, the important thing is to keep them calibrated. Anything from Cash & Carry, BB&B, or any “kitchen store” should be fine. Here’s the one I use… (FYI – everything in our Amazon store is an item that one of us (Terry, Chris, and I) have tested or use regularly).
With grilling it’s usually one, or a combination, of four problems…
1. Too high of heat for the food. A lot of time we crank it up and either the outside burns before the inside cooks, or the inside is raw when the outside looks perfect.
Always keep an “indirect heat” area on your grill, with one burner on med-low (or with just a few coals) and if the internal temp of the meat isn’t high enough and you’re concerned about burning, move the food to that area and tent loosely in foil until the temp comes up to your desired doneness.
2. Not enough “babying”. Unlike food cooked on the stove-top, which often needs to be “left alone”, food on grills are at the mercy of flare-ups and temp spikes. You have to be constantly monitoring your food. Is there too much flame under the food? (move it or use a spray bottle of hot water). Is one area of the grill cooking faster? (rotate the food between all areas of the grill). This is referred to in grilling lingo as “multi-zone cooking“.
3. Was the food prepped correctly? Food that is still chilled in the center (especially with bones) is going to cook unevenly, and this is especially true on the grill.
Some folks don’t like to hear this in our sterilized, bacteria-phobic society, but most meats need to be removed from the refrigerator and allowed to rest at room temp at least 30 minutes (and up to an hour, depending on thickness) if you want them to grill evenly. A chilled chicken leg is basically a hunk of meat wrapped around a ice-cold spike.
The outside layers WILL burn before the bone warms enough to allowed the meat touching it to even start cooking.
4. Saucing too soon. Most sauces are heavy in sugar, either natural or added. Sugar burns at high temps.
Food should basically be cooked through, the grill temp lowered, the food sauced (I like the dunking method over the brushing method) and then the food returned to the grill, turning often and redunking as needed, until the sauce had glazed. This is another good place to alternate between multiple zones.