Thursday, December 4, 2008

Atomic Buffalo Turds (ABTs)

There is much talk about these yummy treats around the BBQ web sphere, and many a variation on this recipe. This is my version. My nickname for them is "Heart Attack" which becomes obvious when you see the ingredients and prep.

1 dozen fresh jalapenos
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
12 Little Smokies Smoked Sausages
12 slices of thick bacon

Feeling any chest pains yet? Yeah, we only eat these on special occasions. Now for the prep:

Note: Gloves are a must when preparing the peppers. Treat these things like nitro-glycerin!

  • Cut the top off each pepper and use a small knife or spoon to clean out the seeds and remove as much of the ribbing as possible from the inside of the pepper. The seeds and ribs are where most of the heat is, so if you like it really warm, leave more of the ribbing and just get rid of the seeds. Keep the tops for later.

  • In a bowl, with the cream cheese at room temperature, mix with the shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

  • Fill each pepper with the cheese mixture. This can be done with a piping bag similar to what you would use for cake frosting or you can do what I do and improvise by filling a quart size zip-lock baggie with the filling and cutting one of the corners. Instant pipe bag!

  • Jam a Little Smokie into the middle so it is surrounded by the cheese filling.

  • Sprinkle the top of the filling with your favorite dry rub or choice of seasonings.

  • Replace the top of the pepper and wrap the whole thing in a slice of bacon.

    Some like to use toothpicks to keep everything together, but I find that if the bacon is long enough this isn't necessary. If you do use toothpicks I recommend the kind that are not dyed as the coloring can run.

  • A variation on the prep is to just cut peppers in half, fill each half with filling, a smoky, and wrap in bacon.

    Put these in your smoker or grill using indirect heat for about an hour at ~250. Everything is essentially ready to eat, the smoker just adds smoky goodness and softens the pepper. The most difficult part of this process is figuring out how to put these on the grill. You can stand them up or just lay them flat on the grate. Either way use a drip pan because they are messy!

    Once you pull these off the grill, it will become plain where they earned their name!

    These are great for keeping guests hunger at bay while waiting for larger cuts of meat to cook. I have found that they are less spicy when still warm from the grill and seem to get warmer when allowed to cool or when refrigerated over night.


    Wednesday, December 3, 2008

    Beerwurst & Onions

    Below is a simple recipe for Bratwurst that, a far as I am concerned, is the only way it should be prepared. Using this method makes the end product very juicy and adds a little hint of smoky flavor.:


    12 Bratwurst
    2 Medium white onions
    1 can Sapporo beer
    Kosher salt
    Cracked pepper
    Extra virgin olive oil


    Set up your grill for indirect cooking. It cannot be overemphasized that cooking bratwurst over direct heat is a bad idea. The high fat content of the sausage, when heated too quickly, will cause the skin to split open. This means delicious juicy goodness ending up in your drip pan and not in the food. Bad. Anyone who has grilled bratwurst on too high a heat knows exactly what I mean. It tastes good, but a sausage all split open and oozing flavor is not good eats.

    Once your rig is up to about 225, in go the brats. You can coat with oil, but I generally do not and I recommend not trying to season them as they have their own great flavor and my experience has been that the seasonings do not dissolve and have a gritty consistency when eaten. I throw on a handful of dry wood chips directly on the hot coals (Brazilian style) for some smoke. Put the lid on and walk away. Don't peek for at least 20 to 30 minutes or you will let the heat out. Patience is a virtue that will pay off here.

    I usually put a small pan directly over the coals adjacent to the meat to get the onions going right away. You can either chop the onion and sauté or cut them in half, coat in oil and a little salt and pepper and put them directly on the grill. I have also seen people wrap them in foil to caramelize. The goal is to cook the onions until they are brown. This process of cooking the sugary onion until it caramelizes brings out it's natural sweetness and is a great compliment to the sausage.

    When Are They Done?

    After about 30 to 45 minutes, the sausage should be done. You can tell because they are not "mushy" and, if the skin has stayed intact, they look like they are about to burst. That is the juicy goodness I mentioned before. If you must, you can verify doneness by sacrificing one with a knife.

    The Final Touch

    Now that you have yummy, juicy, sausage goodness barbecued to perfection and caramelized onions, you could just grab a bun and some mustard and proceed to the eating. But why stop there when you can add one more layer of flavor?

    In a saucepan, add the bratwurst and onions, following with the beer. Bring to a simmer. This is called a "jacuzzi" and it brings beer flavor to the party as well as being a great way to keep the brats warm until service.


    I have eaten bratwurst and onion just by themselves and that is good. My favorite way to eat them is on a soft roll with mustard, jalapeno, and sauerkraut. A 2nd Sapporo, or your beer of choice, is also a good accompaniment.

    Remember, if you don't need one hand to dab the sweat from your forehead, you need more peppers!

    Saturday, November 29, 2008

    Thanksgiving Menu... and the Day After

    Ahhhh, Thanksgiving was all I hoped it would be! Me, Mrs. Bullfrog, and the tadpoles spent most of the morning at home preparing a dessert dish and doing some general picking up in preparation for my Father-in-law.

    Once the dish was ready, we headed to my wife's in-laws, who happen to be Filipino, and were greeted with a traditional American menu:

    Turkey, ham, stuffing, smashed 'taters, yams, and rolls.

    But it didn't end there. Much to my delight and expectation, they had also prepared some Filipino dishes:

    Pansit (fried noodles with veggies and chicken) and "gramma" was busy in the kitchen making pork lumpia, which is a fried egg roll. She loaded it with pork and garlic and served it with a spicy sweet and sour sauce which was a perfect accompaniment. She then proceed to laugh at me when I started perspiring due to the spiciness. To me, food is spicy enough when you are eating with one hand, and dabbing your forehead with the other.

    Of course there were many desserts like lemon meringue (not a HUGE fan, but I sampled it), pumpkin pie, raspberry cheesecake, fruit salad, and the absolute most delicious: Mrs. Bullfrog's double-layer pumpkin cheesecake, with a Pecan Sandie crust and caramel glaze. She makes this all from scratch, and varies the crust between graham cracker and this latest experiment of crushed Pecan Sandie cookies which was excellent. On request, I may be able to talk her into sharing so I can post the recipe here.

    As if that weren't enough eating, we also decided to make food the day after Thanksgiving for family that were traveling to see us. Here is what we prepared:

    BBQ Spareribs (recipe to follow shortly), homemade BBQ sauce courtesy of the Mrs., Bratwurst grilled and boiled in beer and grilled onions (they love a good jacuzzi), and a candied pecan, bleu cheese and apple-pear salad that was amazing! This was accompanied by chocolate-dipped fruit and another double-layer pumpkin cheesecake.

    We cooked all day and everyone really enjoyed the food and the company, so I would call it a raging success!

    Now we have some walking to do to burn off all this good grub!

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Wax Philosophic With Me: What is Barbecue?

    First, let us take a moment to talk about the difference between barbecuing and grilling. Grilling is cooking quickly over high heat, and imparts flavor through caramelization, and some smoky goodness if you are grilling over charcoal. Barbecuing is cooking food slowly over indirect heat usually with the addition of smoke. For the purposes of this discussion, grilling will be excluded, although I will be posting recipes for grilled food on this blog and welcome grilling discussion.

    The word "barbecue" means different things, depending on the person you ask. To some, it brings to mind meat slathered in sweet sauce with a side of coleslaw (and lots of napkins, of course). While to others it is used in the more general sense to describe a party where cooking outside plays some part. I have spent a lot of time on countless websites that are dedicated to this subject and what I have seen covers the whole spectrum. One thing is for certain: when it comes to "Q", just like religion or politics, you have your hardline zealots who believe no sauce should ever touch meat (EVER!) and you have your liberal-minded cooks who just want to eat good food and don't care about convention or tradition.

    Some of these guys are serious about barbecuing, from the grill or smoker they spend thousands of dollars on, to the method of preparation that is used to tenderize and flavor meaty goodness with low heat and smoke. Debate is heated at times, and I am sure feelings get hurt, but overall I have met a great bunch of guys that just like to eat good food. A good number of regulars out there are actually competitive cooks and a lot of money can be at stake. I suppose if $10,000 were at stake, I would be that serious too.

    As is my usual bent on any topic, I fall somewhere in the area of moderate when it comes to barbecue. I am somewhat traditional, and believe the product that comes out of your smoker or grill should taste good all by itself and sauce should be the extra something that adds an extra layer of flavor. It isn't about the sauce to me. If you think meat is just a vehicle for a good sauce, I say just save time and money and eat the sauce. Don't spend your hard earned money buying spareribs at $3 a pound so you can boil it and drown it in your favorite store bought barbecue sauce. Instead go buy a delicious McRib. As to the type of sauce, I prefer the sweet sticky kind, and I always (or rather Mrs. Bullfrog) make sauce at home. Making sauce is really easy and fun, even the kids can help, and you can tweak it to your liking. If you are in a pinch, go ahead and spend $4 on a bottle of ketchup and brown sugar, just don't let me see (I'm closing my eyes). Some Southern barbecue traditionalists insist that only the thin, vinegar flavored sauce is appropriate for good barbecue (heard of it or had it?), and I will reserve judgement as I have not tried it.

    I am a purist when it comes to certain methods of food preparation, like par-boiling for example. The mention of par-boiling makes me cringe. This is a simple one to explain: if you are, at any time, boiling a piece of meat, poultry, or fish, you are making stock. You are transferring flavor from the food to the water using heat, which means the flavor is not in the meat anymore. When I am talking to someone about barbecue and the conversation turns towards recipes, they inevitably start with, "First I boil..." or "I like to shorten the cook time, so I start by baking..." Sigh... If you are in the house boiling or baking anything, are you barbecuing? I assume I don't have to answer that.

    So let's at least agree that to be barbecuing, you have to be outside standing over an open flame of one sort or another.

    Which brings a subject of much debate: gas, charcoal or wood?

    Personally, unless I am grilling weenies or burgers, I cannot picture myself using gas. It sort of takes us back to the "being outside" statement I made earlier. In terms of flavor, what is the difference between cooking in the house using your gas stove and cooking outside on your gas grill? Okay, you are outside and the grill marks, while they do take practice to master, are appetizing and somewhat impressive. Other than that, not much flavor difference unless you are real creative. If convenience is more important to you than patiently creating a delicious product, you are not worthy of barbecue and may go now, hand over your apron. Just kidding, keep reading.

    The key difference between gas and charcoal is that charcoal makes heat and flavor at the same time! Gas only makes heat, and it does that consistently with little bother. While keeping a good fire going using charcoal and maintaining consistent heat is generally more work, I reckon it is worth it in the end. As for wood burners, if you have access to a good wood in your area I hear this is a great way to go. I live in San Diego and it is pretty hard to find a good wood source, not to mention "stick burner" smokers (at least the ones I would consider purchasing) are out of my reach financially.

    So for me, charcoal it is. But for the purposes of this debate and for future recipe posts, I will concede that using a "gasser" is acceptable, and I will include creative ways to add smoke to the equation when using a gas grill.

    Smoke really is a key component of flavor and what differentiates good barbecue from bad. When you eat at that really good BBQ joint that taste so much better than the ribs you got at Chili's, it is likely smoke that made that difference. So learn how to use it.

    Saturday, November 22, 2008

    The Joy of Cooking

    I have blogged about this subject before, but I was inspired to get this blog going again and this seems like a fitting way to re-launch it.

    My interest in barbecue is rooted in a more general interest I developed in cooking early on. My mother taught my brother and I to cook at a young age and, once she was confident no one would be harmed in the process of cooking or eating the food, we both had a night each week when we were responsible for cooking a meal . From there I cooked out of necessity and although I found some joy in it, I didn't have the love (or the money) as a young man to really get passionate about it.

    It wasn't until 1995, when I became very ill and was physically disabled and unable to work that I developed a real interest in experimenting with food. How, you say? I was bed-ridden for a period of 8 months (see upcoming autobiographical blog) and watched hours of television. Part of my daily viewing schedule was the Discovery channel and the Food Network because I eventually got bored watching mindless talk shows or sitcoms (okay, I was really into Days of Our Lives too). I would always watch "The Essence of Emeril"; this was when Emeril Lagasse first got started and it was a typical cooking show, just him, food and a camera. He didn't start throwing food and yelling, "Bam!" until later, which is also when I stopped watching. A couple other shows I would watch religiously were "Great Chefs, Great Cities" and "Great Chefs of the West". They were both similar, touring the world watching talented, and sometimes well-known chefs do what they do. It was mostly gourmet, which never appealed to me as I feel there is too much emphasis on presentation, but what they do with food is amazing. The pastry chefs and confectioners (candy chefs) are particularly interesting to watch.

    Through repeatedly being led through the process of cooking, including prep and presentation, I got over the inhibitions I had about cooking. I think I was always a little afraid to really cook and seeing it happen made it seem easier and peaked my interest.

    I started with easy stuff, like pasta with sauteed chicken or shrimp. I did pretty much everything sauté, and would add fresh vegetables, experimenting early with fresh ingredients like garlic, onion and celery as opposed to using powdered spices. Dried herbs and spices definitely have their place, like marinades and rubs, but I like the depth of flavor fresh stuff brings.

    Around that time I was befriended by my supervisor at work who saw some potential in me to be a good student. He was definitely a "Jack of All Trades" and enjoyed sharing what he knew with someone he thought would appreciate and use what was learned. He spent years as a sous chef for big hotels and taught me alot about prep work. Through this I discovered that the preparation of the food before cooking was more fun than the cooking itself. I enjoy knife work and the various methods of preparation: slice, dice, julienne, chop, etc. He also taught me how to make asian food like egg rolls, fried noodles and even sushi. Most of what I learned then I still use to this day, like how to cut an inexpensive piece of meat so it is tender and delicious. Very useful stuff.

    I have never enjoyed baking or confection as there is too much measuring involved. I generally keep it simple when I cook and try to use only fresh ingredients. A typical meal at my house with me in the kitchen is pretty much any kind of meat, poultry, or fish; a starch, usually rice; and vegetables which are steamed in most cases, although I love grilled veggies as well. I have gotten away from frying pretty much as I am watching what I eat for health reasons, but I do make fried chicken occasionally. I still cook the stuff my mom made when I was growing up, like meatloaf, shepherds pie, and macaroni and cheese, but I put my own twist on it (don't tell my mom, but I like my fried chicken better than hers).

    My foray into barbecue, which inspired this whole blog, started about 2 years ago. It is yet another way to prepare meat and poultry, and I love everything about the process: buying a good grill or smoker (I love toys), being outside, lighting fires, tending the fire (which is why I don't use gas), and of course the amazing flavor imparted by smoke (another reason I don't use gas, no offense to you "gassers"out there). My specialty, and Mrs. Bullfrogs absolute favorite, is pork spareribs (recipe to be shared soon). I started out with these early on and learned later that they are supposedly the most difficult to prepare well. I seem to have a knack, so they are my stand-by. I also barbecue chicken (white or dark meat), fish, and have started setting my sites on larger cuts of meat like pork shoulder, pork butt, and the like. My ABT's (Atomic Buffalo Turds) are pretty good, but due to the potential for heart attack of eaten too often I save those for special occasions.

    In my next post, I will explore the broad spectrum of the subject of barbecue. Stay tuned!

    Wednesday, May 28, 2008

    Memorial Day Surf n' Turf

    Rather than going to the meat section of my local grocer with a particular plan in mind about what I want to cook, I tend to let what is available in the meat section decide what is on the menu, based on what looks good and what fits the budget. I ventured to my local Costco and after perusing the poultry and pawing the pork spareribs and baby backs, I bought some nice tri-tip, AKA "Santa Maria Steak" (after it was made popular for BBQ in Santa Maria, California) for Memorial Day. I have never barbecued this particular cut of beef, but had heard good things.

    I immediately let Google do the walking as I educated myself about the origin of tri-tip (geographically to the cow, that is) and the "best" cooking methods out there. Of which there are many, of course. I generally start by learning about all sorts of different methods of preparation, from heat source to sauce, then distill that into a version that suits my taste (more below).

    I also had some salmon in the fridge that needed cooking, so I decided to prepare both along with some Jasmine rice and steamed green beans. Here is the recipe for the tri-tip; I apologize for any vagueness as I made up the marinade as I went along. In the future, I will also try to post pictures as I go along for your visual enjoyment:

    2 tsp garlic powder
    2 tsp onion powder
    1 tsp chili powder
    1/4 tsp cayenne (mild for the kiddies, add as much as you can handle)
    1 tsp cracked pepper
    1 tbsp soy sauce
    1 tbsp dijon mustard
    2 tbsp olive oil

    The Meat
    4 lbs tri-tip

    Combine all of the ingredients for the marinade and whisk. Ideally, the end result will be a paste consistency. If it is dry, just add olive oil a little at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

    Use a basting brush to coat the tri-tip with the marinade and refrigerate for at a least a couple hours or overnight. I found that the proportion listed above was just enough to coat my 4 pounds of tri-tip. You can store the meat in ziplock baggies, or plastic ware. I prefer Glad Press-n-Seal as it provides a good airtight seal, especially good for overnight.

    Fire up your grill for indirect cooking:

    1. If you are a "gasser", get one side going on high heat and leave the other burner off.

    2. Charcoal users can push their lit coal to one side, or use baskets if you have them.

    Optionally, a foil pan filled with water can also be placed directly over the heat to add moisture to the occasion, but I generally reserve that method for longer cooks than this one. Add another pan under where the meat will be placed to catch any drippings. This will save some cleanup and some like to use drippings to make sauce.

    I recommend taking your marinating meat our of the fridge at least an hour before your grill is ready so it isn't cold when it hits the heat. This way, your heat doesn't have to defrost the meat before it begins to cook it.

    Once your heat is ready, you may want to consider another layer of flavor. So far we have the meat and the marinade, but we can do more!

    1. For propane grills, seal soaked wood chips in heavy duty foil and poke holes in the foil to create a "flavor pouch". This pouch will be placed on your hot side, which will make some nice wood smoke for added flavor.

    2. Charcoal users can drop a handful of soaked (or dry, "Brazilian Style, my preferred method) wood chips directly on the coals to make smoke.

    Now, time to introduce the meat to the heat!

    Place the tri-tip over the drip pan, away from the flame and close the lid (no peeking). After about 20 to 30 minutes, I check to see that all is well, but this really isn't necessary; I am overly anxious as I have a new grill set up. Keep in mind, every time you crack the lid, you let heat out and add about 5 minutes to your cooking time, so patience is definitely a virtue here.

    I slow-cooked my tri-tip for 35-40 minutes and finished it over the heat for about 5 minutes each side to get some nice grill marks. The result was a perfectly medium-rare tri-tip that was juicy and delicious with a little touch of smoke flavor. Adjust the cooking time to your liking but remember tri-tip is fairly lean.

    Enjoy! Serves 4-6

    I'll post my salmon recipe at a later time.

    Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    Hot Grillin' Mama

    There is really nothing better than a woman who knows her way around a grill.

    It gives me great pleasure and pride to announce that "Mrs. Bullfrog" has taken the plunge and has learned how to do just that! I have been grilling and smoking food for her to enjoy for some time, and she has mentioned before that she wouldn't mind trying it for herself some time.

    A couple weeks ago she asked me to show her how to get the charcoal started so she could use the Weber to cook some meat. We had a heat wave come through our neck of the woods and she didn't want to turn the stove on. So I showed her the ropes, and since then I have been able to enjoy delicious grilled goodness without even getting all dirty and smokey myself! And we are talking the more difficult way; no lighter fluid here, we use a charcoal chimney to get the coals going. She even knows how to arrange the coals so she has a few different temperature zones to work with (I'm tearing up...). Beautiful!

    Last night she made a grilled scallop and shrimp salad with walnuts and feta cheese; it was awesome!

    So, this summer just got better.