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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Bacon Pesto Stuffed Turkey Breast

Earlier this year at the World Bacon Championships in Rochester, NY, one of the turn in categories was turkey.  It could be any kind of turkey, it just had to contain bacon in some form.  So, after some thinking and experimentation over the spring, we settled on a turkey breast stuffed with basil pesto and bacon.  Bacon and pesto match well.  At least I think so.  But the judges didn't think so as our entry finished in the middle of the pack.


First, we took a turkey breast and butterflied the meat so that it could be stuffed with the bacon and pesto filling.


Once butterflied, we brined in a batch of our homemade brine solution.

I always use this brine when I am smoking chicken, turkey, or any thing with wings.  It really does tenderize the meat and take out all of those bad juices.  I always reference this recipe in my poultry posts.  So, I decided to make my life (and yours) easier and make a separate link.

BOS's Chicken Brine:

Ingredients:
1 gallon Water
1 cup dry wine
¾ cup Kosher Salt
¾ cup Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp Granulated Garlic
2 Tbsp Chili Powder
¼ cup Orange Juice
⅛ cup Worcestershire Sauce

I placed the turkey breast in the brine and allowed it to soak for about four hours.

As preparation time drew closer, we prepared the bacon pesto filling.  For the bacon, I took about a half pound of bacon and cut it into small cube.  Then, I browned the bacon until slightly crisp, then I drained the fat.  Once this was done, I stirred the bacon into 1/2 cup of basil pesto.  Then I removed the turkey breast from the brine, rinsed well with cold water, and patted dry.  Then, the breast was stuffed with the pesto mixture, rolled up tight, then tied shut with butchers twine.  Then, I lightly coasted the skin with olive oil and seasoned lightly with salt, thyme, and rosemary.


I smoke roasted the breast on a smoker at 350 F with a piece of pecan wood in my ash pan for smoke flavor.  I roasted the bird until the internal temperature reached 160 F, about one hour.  Then, I removed the breast from the smoker and allowed to rest for 15 minutes before slicing.



The meat was tender and juicy.  The flavors mixed well.  The leftovers made a great grilled turkey club of sorts the next day with crusty white bread, provolone cheese, and sliced tomato.  Obviously, this recipe did not work well for us in competition.  But, for at home, I'll be making this again.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Southwestern Roasted Corn and Grilled Chicken Pizza

Last weekend is one of the weekends of the year that I look forward to with unbridled anticipation.  Yes, it was the weekend that our favorite farm market, Ambrose Farm Market, was open for business.    They offer various types of greens, peppers, cucumbers, melons, and squash.  But, what they are known for is their butter and sugar corn.  This corn is the best corn in Butler County, period.  Never starchy, always sweet.  It is worth the hour round trip drive.  Last weekend, my bounty also included some beautiful Early Girl tomatoes and jalapeño peppers.  Life is good.

Last night was pizza night.  I wanted something different.  We had three ears of corn left in the refrigerator.  Not enough for a meal, but enough to experiment with a nice little spicy pizza pie.  I had been concocting this recipe in my head all day long.  If you are a Chilihead, you will not be disappointed.

First, I thawed some chicken thighs and threw them on a hot grill.  While the thighs were grilling, I whipped up a spice blend:

1 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Dried Parsley (you can substitute Cilantro here, but I am in the class of people that think Cilantro tastes like a bar of soap)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/2 tsp oregano

After Hope removed the kernels from three small ears of corn and I thinly sliced half of a sweet onion.  The corn, onion, and two large cloves of minced garlic went into a bowl with three tsp of the spice blend and two tbsp of olive oil.  After mixing well, I placed this mixture into a cast iron skillet, then roasted on my grill when the chicken was done.  With the remaining spice blend, I added two cloves of minced garlic and enough olive oil to make the mixture mobile.  I placed this off to the side while I was roasting the corn.


The grill was around 400 F, so I closed the lid to help with the roasting process.  Every five minutes or so I gave the mixture a good mix.  After about 20 minutes the corn was starting the brown and caramelize.  So I removed the skillet from the grill and let cool while I prepared the final pieces of this pie.


While Hope sliced a jalapeño into rings, I removed the chicken from two thighs and diced an Early girl tomato.  Normally I would use a roma tomato, but, if you quarter an Early Girl and remove the pulpy interior, you can dice the flesh and substitute for a meatier roma.

The final piece was thinly sliced smoked chipotle cheddar cheese.  Time to build this pie.


On my dough, I brushed on a thin coat of the olive oil spice mix.  Next up I layered the cheese, followed by the roasted corn, onion, and garlic.  This was followed by the chicken, tomatoes, and jalapeño slices.  This pizza was ready to bake.


After 15 minutes in a 450 degree oven, my creation was ready.


I waited five minutes for the cheese to set up a bit, then I sliced this pie, grabbed a cold beer, and sat down to try this creation.


The first flavor that came though was the sweetness from the roasted corn, onions, and fresh tomato.  Where was the heat?  Well, that kicked in about five seconds later.  Lightly roasted jalapeño pepper, followed by the chili powder and cayenne, all tied together with the cumin.  This was one balanced pie.  Not that grab your tonsils, Atomic wing hotness.  But, rather that satisfying dull burn that deepens with each satisfying bite.  The chicken was a nice touch, but not needed.  If you wanted a protein on this pizza, you could even substitute shrimp instead of chicken.  Black beans maybe?  Why not.

I was more than happy with how this pizza turned out.  This recipe requires a bit of preparation, but it was well worth the work.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Rethinking Chicken - Sticky Fish Sauce Chicken

Every year at the Crossboarder Blues, Brews, and Que competition the organizers, Carol and Frank have two extra categories in addition to the four standard KCBS entries.  One is always an entry where you have to make something with your leftovers.  The second category changes from year to year.  This year the entry was Rethinking Chicken.  Carol challenged teams to make a chicken entry that conforms to KCBS turn in rules, but did not conform to the rubbed and sauced standard that every team turns in every competition.  Alabama White Sauce, go for it if you choose.  Peri-Peri?  Why not.  While flipping through my one of m recipe feeds on Clipboard one evening, I found an entry that would definitely fit the "outside the box" spirit of this competition.  As a matter of fact, the idea was not only outside the box, but it was off the table as well.  I chose a Sticky Fish Sauce chicken.

The recipe came from this website over at White on Rice Couple.  It appealed to my tastes: sweet and sour with an Asian flair.  Perfect for this competition.  To practice, I whipped up a batch of sauce for some chicken I was grilling one night.  I liked how it turned out.  The honey started to caramelize and was complemented by the sriracha, lime, and fish sauce.  A nice alternative to sweet American style chicken.  We were a go for Wilson.

Come competition day, I chose legs for this entry and I also chose to cook using my KCBS chicken recipe with some changes.  For seasoning, I lightly seasoned the chicken with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.  After the first 30 minutes on the smoker, I eliminated the butter bath component from the cooking method.  Our cooking method turned out to be one and a half hours at 275 F.  The legs were dunked in the sauce after 30 minutes and then cooked in a pan.  After 30 more minutes, I reapplied the sauce and let the chicken cook for 30 minutes more.  That is it.


Our entry turned out pretty good.  But, there was an issue.  The fish sauce this time around was a bit on the overpowering side.  I realized that the sauce needed that caramelization that you get from the grill.  I should have finished these legs over a hot fire.  Live and learn I suppose.

The entry came in 22nd out of 27 teams.  I would say though that we scored in the top 10 for Rethinking Chicken.  Would I make chicken like this again?  Yes I would, The Youngest scarfed these legs down.  But, I would not use the smoker and make these strictly on the grill.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

I Love BBQ and Music Festival - Lake Placid, NY

Over the Fourth of July weekend, half of the Three Dogs BBQ crew hi the road to compete in the I Love BBQ and Music Festival all the way up in Lake Placid, NY.  Hope had to stay home to tend to one of the dogs, but I had very capable help in the form of Sandy, Jason, and Dave from Locked N Loaded BBQ.

As you may have heard, the 1980 Winter Olympics were held in Lake Placid.  The BBQ competition itself took place on the infield of the speed skating oval.



The historical significance of this speed skating venue was not lost upon me.  The 1980 Winter Games were my first exposure to the Olympic games.  On this very track, Eric Heiden won five gold medals for the USA at distances ranging from 500 to 10,000 meters.  Unheard of today with the specialization seen between sprinters and distance skaters.  If it wasn't for the Miracle that took place in the hockey rink next door, Eric Heiden would have been the face on the Wheeties box that winter.


The weekend is a long one.  Friday is the New England Barbecue Society competition as well as the People Choice Pulled Pork competition.  In NEBS, the categories were strip steak, chicken, fattie, and pizza.  Twelve total teams competed.  Our steak came in 9th place, chicken came in 3rd, the fattie in 4th place, and the pizza in 10th.






The Locked N Loaded crew were in charge of the chicken (stuffed with spinach and cheese) and the fattie (buffalo chicken stuffed sausage, wrapped in bacon).  I took care of the steak and the pizza (Brisket Cheesesteak).  We came in 9th overall.  Congrats go out to The Basic BBQ Team, our Grand Champions and to Buckner Brothers Barbecue, our Reserve Grand Champions.

But, the highlight of the day was winning the Peoples Choice Pulled Pork contest. No one was more shocked than I.


Day two was The Best Ribs in the East competition.  Three Dogs came in a respectable seventh place.  Also on Saturday, the Locked N Loaded kids competed in the Youth Division of the Kids Q as Hot Shot BBQ.


In their first time out, Hot Shot BBQ won the Grand Championship with a strong showing in the categories of steak, chicken, pork ribs, and dessert.  Good job guys!

The final day at Lake Placid brought the KCBS competition.  This event is so competitive that the art of shigging has been elevated to new technological heights.

If you look hard enough, you can see a drone under that tent
Here are our entries:





The chicken, ribs, and pork were respectable, finishing 12th, 17th, and 10th respectively.  The brisket as not so good, coming in 26th place.  These entries were good for 16th out of 31 total teams.  Average defined!  Not our best showing, but far from our worst.  

Congrats to out to Smokin Hoggz BBQ, our Grand Champion and to Quau, our Reserve Grand Champion.  I would also like to thank Dmitry and his staff for putting on a first class event.  Three Dogs will be back next year for sure.  

We are now in the middle of our mid summer break.  Next up is the Hudson Valley Ribfest in August.  See you then!

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill