Grilled Mexican Roadside Chicken

I came into this with high hopes.  I have been infatuated with how tasty it looked.  I kept counting down the days until Wednesday to give it a try.  I found this recipe last week for Grilled Mexican Roadside Chicken, and it looks delicious and sounded interesting.  So I whipped it up today per the recipe, but in lieu of a whole chicken used several drumsticks I had in the freezer, same concept.

Grilled Roadside Mexican Chicken

And I have to say it was not bad chicken, but it wasn’t chicken that left me wanting more either.  It let me down.  It was juicy, but I attribute that more to technique than the recipe.   I had high hopes for it and it just fell short, flat on its face at my feet, I was disappointed but when piled onto of a salad with some taco-ranch dressing it was almost just like any other chicken, but perhaps with just a hair more Mexican flavor and eaten that way it was quite alright.  So here is a copy of the recipe should you wish to try it.  I did use half the amount of cinnamon because that was all I had around.

Ingredients
1 1/2 tsp ground ancho chile pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 garlic cloves pressed
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 c fresh orange juice
1 tsp Kosher salt
chicken (parts or a whole)

Instructions
If using a charcoal grill, get some charcoal going in a chimney (I used half a chimney full).  Mix all ingredients except chicken together in a bowl to create a wet rub.  Once the charcoal is ready place all of the coals on one side of the grill to set up a cool zone and a hot zone.  Place the chicken on the cool side of the grill, brush healthily with the wet rub.  Turn chicken and brush the other side with the wet rub.  Cover the grill and cook until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken reads 165°F; basting with any remaining rub throughout the cooking period.  Remove chicken from grill and allow to rest for a while 5-10 minutes for parts or 10 to 15 minutes for a whole chicken.

The original recipe called for green onions to be grilled once the chicken was done, maybe this is where I went astray.  It also called for a whole chicken and not for parts, maybe that was the problem.  Either way it wasn’t bad, but like I said it let me down, it wasn’t all I had hoped for and the process of making the rub filled my kitchen with a heavenly familiar aroma of Jerk Chicken and made me think, why am I not making Jerk Chicken?  Well I may just have to do that soon.

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Gizmos and Gadgets for better BBQ – Thermometers

Smoker Cooking Temperature Thermometer

Smoking and grilling are expensive habits.  Not only do you get to cook some prime cuts of meats occasionally but there are lots of gizmos and toys that make smoking so much more cool easier and more consistent.  But perhaps the most important aspect of all of these are those gizmos that help me know when my food is done!  And for that I rely on my thermometer(s).

Smoker Cooking Temperature Thermometer

The first and perhaps most important thermometer in my arsenal is the one I have affixed to the top of my smoker.  It is an expensive, non fancy 2″ thermometer I picked up off of Amazon.  It was simple to install just had to drill a hole in the top and of the smoker dome, insert the thermometer and tighten the nut on the back.  When I initially go it I calibrated it with boiling water and it was dead on.  I have been using it for a little over a year with no complaints.  This is a must have in my book.

Maverick ET-84 Thermometer Next on my list is my Maverick ET-84.  For a long time this was my bread and butter thermometer, I have two of them and they both rock.  You can get replacement probes for them with either a silicone encased or braided stainless steel type wire.  It also has a nice back light for outdoor after dark cooking.

The talk of replacement probes may scare some away but I have been using both of mine for well over a year and have had to replace the probes once, as a result of a terrible mishap in the oven.  The silicone probes do not survive extreme temperatures, greater than 500°F.

Ordering new probes was easy and inexpensive via email through the Maverick Industries website.

I use these with meat on the grill, in the smoker and in the oven.  Its nice to be able to see where the meat is at temperature wise without having to lift the lid or open the door.  In addition these thermometers talk, kinda creepy when you aren’t expecting it but they will remind you to baste.  This can also be turned off.

As I said I have used these thermometers for quite a while in hot weather, in cold weather and in nice weather.  Typically in unfavorable I have increased the geek quotient of my smoking operation by adding a wireless webcam to the set up to monitor the smoker from the comfort of my home.  With the proper set up it is possible to monitor both the thermometer on the smoker itself and the ET-84 positioned near it (the probes have a 48″ lead).  With the webcam I am also able to see if the smoker is well smoking, this is a bit more difficult in the bitter cold because you have a bit more steam, but smoking is after all an instinctual thing.

I calibrated or rather made sure they were properly calibrated using the same method as for the grill top thermometer above, dunked it in boiling water and it checked out.  It is important that when calibrating this way you are sure not to touch the probe to the bottom of the pan.  The pan will be much hotter than the water inside of this, you could zap a probe.  Its not nearly as scary as it sounds

Maverick ET-901 Receiver Unit

Finally the latest and perhaps coolest addition to my thermometer arsenal, the Maverick ET-901.  Like the ET-84 above the ET-901 is an electronic thermometer that allows you to monitor the temperature of meat you are cooking without opening the door or raising the lid.  But it has the added benefit of being wireless it consists of two pieces, the transmitter seen below that will sit with the smoker, grill or oven you are cooking with and a receiver you take with you.

Maverick ET-901 Transmitter with smoker

This is the newest addition to my arsenal and it was met with some skepticism.  The internet is full of bad talk about wireless thermometers and their range, so I was quite skeptical when I got it but wanted to give it a try for monitoring temperatures when I am away from a computer or don’t feel like hooking up the webcam and want to know how my food is cooking.  I could not be happier with the results,  this thing is money and well worth the money I spent on it.  I am currently using it as I cook up some pork to pull and it has limited my trips to the smoker drastically.

Maverick Industries ET-901 Transmitter RangeJust to get an idea of the range at which I am using the remote thermometer, the image above is an action shot of my set up today.  The transmitter is sitting next to the smoker outside the garage and I am in the house with the receiver.  I am well within the 150′ range touted by the manufacturer, I am passing through a brick wall and have had no problems thus far.  It also works well from behind my condo, which suggests it would work great next to my bed for overnight cooks, more sleep less worrying.

In addition being wireless the ET-901, like the ET-84, has a back light for after dark cookouts and like the ET-84 it has user programmable doneness levels.  So for instance when cooking pulled pork to 205°F, I can set it for 205°F and it will alert me when my food has finished cooking, instead of at a preset doneness level, of which it also contains several.

Like the ET-84 replacement probes are available for this model from Maverick Industries.

So after all that which one do I use the most?  Well that is a tricky question, inevitably the thermometers mounted directly to the smokers and grill get used the most.  But of the electric ones it is a trick question, they wireless ET-901 is the newest and will get used the most on single piece of meat cook I imagine.  But like today where I have two pieces of meat on the smoker the ET-901 is in the smaller of the two pieces of meat to give me a heads up when they are getting close to being done; while the ET-84 is in the larger piece of meat just so I can periodically check on its progress.

With that I will leave you with a picture of my setup today and a question.  Do you have a thermometer you you can’t live without and why?

The smoker thermometer setup today

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Venison Meatballs

I like meatballs.  They are simple but they can be so tasty.  I was kind disappointed when the Saucy Balls guy was eliminated from America’s Next Great Restaurant.  I wanted to try those meatballs.

Venison Meatballs

The best thing about meatballs is that there is really no limit to what you can do with them.  You can put them in soup, you can put them in spaghetti, you can just eat them plain; the list goes on.  They are tasty and typically made with beef, which my doctor informs me must be eaten in moderation.  No that I believe him, but I happen to like venison more than beef and it is better for the body than chicken and has more iron than beef.  So for me venison meatballs are a win-win.

Tonight we are having minestrone with venison meatballs, is that allowed?  I don’t know but it sounds tasty and hearty so we are going to give it a go.  So in the interest of time I precooked the meatballs this morning.  And thought I would share the recipe here.

Ingredients
1 lbs venison
1/2 c italian bread crumbs
1/4 c grated parmesan (not the canned garbage)
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp garlic powder
1/3 c milk
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
Combine bread crumbs, parmesan, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper in dish.  Mix well and set aside.  In a large bowl combine milk and eggs, beat until well mixed.  Squeeze blood from venison and add to milk and egg.  Mix.  Slowly add the dry mixture incorporating evenly into the meat/egg/milk mixture.  Once combined put a skillet on over medium/medium-low heat and coat with a thin layer of olive oil.  Form meatballs to desired size with hand and add to skillet, make sure they do not touch.  Brown meatballs, turning frequently.  A spoon works good here.  Once the meatballs are done you have some options.  If you are making spaghetti add you sauce to the skillet cover and cook until the meatballs are cooked through about a half hour.  I was making soup so I added some beef stock and italian seasoning in place of the sauce.

These freeze well do if you make up a batch and only want to use half save the uncooked meatballs for another time.

Now a cast iron skillet is ideal here in my mind, but I like cast iron it feels more primal to cook in unrefined cookware and it just tastes better.

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Rosemary Dijon Grilled Pork Loin

Perhaps my favorite way to have pork is like this, grilled and rubbed with dijon mustard and a rosemary/garlic concoction.  It was the first way I had cooked pork in out of my Dutch tradition and has been one of my favorites.  Its simple and the combination of the flavor of pork, rosemary and dijon are always a win.

So in typical fashion in getting ready to put this on the blog I made the pork, tried to stage it nicely and took a bunch of pictures.  Then in my moment of brilliance I decided I needed to organize the pictures before writing this post.  There in lies the problem…I deleted them having thought they were copied off somewhere else.  So you will have to take my word for it the pictures were something to behold, they did the meat such justice.

So without further ado and before I lose the recipe with the pictures here it is.

Ingredients
1 pork loin (4lbs-ish)
2 tbsp dijon mustard (or more)
2 tbsp chopped red onion
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 clove garlic minced or pressed
2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves

Instructions
Several hours before grilling time, mix all ingredients except pork loin and dijon.  Then you have a choice to make either flatten the loin by cutting into it the long way while rotating it to come out with one large and consistently thick piece of pork, like a piece of rolled out dough or just use it whole, both ways are superb.  Rub entire piece of meat with dijon and then the rub the entire piece of meat with the rub made above.  If you did not flatten the meat you can simply wrap it in saran wrap and throw it back in the fridge tell you are ready to cook it.  If you did flatten it you will not need to roll it back up, like a long line of cinnamon rolls and then proceed to wrap it in saran wrap and toss it in the fridge tell cook time.

Once cook time comes around, prepare the grill for indirect cooking.  With charcoal like below or with gas preheat the grill with both burners and turn the one you will be cooking over off.  For gas grills place the loin on a grill rack over a drip pan.  For charcoal you will have a drip pan filled with water in the center of the grill with charcoal on either side.  Just toss the meat on the pre lubricated grate being sure if you flattened and rolled the meat it does not come unrolled.  Cook indirectly until the center of the loin reaches you desired done-ness.  I pulled mine at 148ºF and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing into it.

Indirect cooking over charcoal

Cooking indirectly over charcoal is easy and quite rewarding.  Just prepare a normal amount of charcoal for your grill using a chimney or other method.  Fill a foil pan with boiling water and place it in the center of the grill and tuck the charcoal on opposing sides of the pan.  Be sure to add a half dozen briquettes every 45 minutes or so to keep a consistent fire.  You can also toss on a chunk or two of wood to give it a little smoke flavor.

You will notice that the openings on my grill grate are strategically positioned over my charcoal pockets, this allows for easy replenishment.

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Balsamic Glazed Grilled Chicken

Chicken.  Blah.  Ok, maybe I should say we eat more chicken than we rightfully should, I mean we should have way more pork and beef in there somewhere, but chicken it more often times than not is.  So with that we try to spice it up and give some flavor to the unflavorable, so today (actually last night) I set out to make a balsamic glazed grilled chicken.

Balsamic Glazed Grilled Chicken

And I must admit it was rather tasty, albeit quite sweet, which for some reason I was not expecting.  Once I got past the sweet and onto the rest of the chicken it was as I said rather tasty, very tender and juicy; which is always better than dry chicken.

In hindsight I should have cooked my stuffing a little bit before shoving it in the bird.  The breasts and thighs of the bird were ready about 20 minutes before the stuffing reached a safe temperature, which much to my surprise did not dry out the meat or give it even the slightest burnt taste.

I grilled the bird on my Weber kettle over charcoal for about an hour and twenty minutes, the bird was just shy of 4 pounds.  I replenished the charcoal once at about 45 minutes with six fresh briquettes on each side and a handful of apple chips.  Once the breasts were about done I glazed the bird liberally and let it finish out its cooking, which because of the stuffing was longer than anticipated when I applied the glaze.  But it didn’t seem to burn.

Ingredients
1 chicken (or parts if you don’t wanna mess with a whole bird), about 4 pounds
1 medium onion
1 stalk celery
1 clove garlic
1/2 c ketchup
1/4 c balsamic vinegar + extra
6 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper + extra
a few stalks of rosemary

Instructions
To make a rub combine 2 tbsp brown sugar with paprika, chili powder, cumin, lime juice, oil salt and pepper.  Mix well and rub all over chicken making sure to get plenty under the skin.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

On cooking day remove chicken from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.  Chop up onions into large pieces, chop celery, rosemary and garlic and combine in a bowl with pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and stuff in bird (if I were to listen to my advice I would likely bake the stuffing at this point prior to stuffing the bird for say 20 minutes in the over).

Prepare the grill for indirect cooking, clean and lube the grate and toss the bird on the grill. Once the chicken is on the grill prepare the glaze by combining ketchup, vinegar, 4 tbsp brown sugar and oregano.

Once chicken is nearly done brush chicken liberally with glaze mixture.  Cook until internal temperature of chicken breasts and thighs is 167°F and stuffing is 165°F.  Once pulled allow chicken to stand for 15 minutes before slicing.  Enjoy

Without the glaze I dare say the chicken would have been quite south western but with the glaze it was sweet and magical.  Now if I can just figure out what to do with the left overs.

 

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