Friday, September 28, 2018

Grilled Huli Huli Chicken

In Hawaiian, "huli" means "turn."  And, as the story goes, cooks would place chicken between two screens with a handle.  They would then place the screens over charcoal to grill the chicken.  When one side of the chicken was done, workers around the cook would shout "huli" or "turn."  After two turns, you have "huli huli chicken."  Actually, I should probably say "huli" chicken, because the name "huli huli" was patented by Ernie Morgado. 

Ernie patented "huli huli" is a sauce based upon a family recipe. That recipe incorporates two major ingredients: ginger and soy sauce.  That's about all one knows about the original recipe, because Ernie never revealed it to anyone. Of course, I could buy a bottle of Ernie's patented Huli Huli Sauce, but that defeats the purpose of having cooking as a hobby.  It also runs counter to my endeavor to learn as much as I can about not just cooking generally, but about the specifics of cooking.  This includes learning about rubs, sauces and marinades used around the world.  

So, the $12.00 that I could have spent on two bottles of the iconic sauce would be spent on the ingredients for a recipe that I found on the Internet.  Any such recipe is at best an "approximation" of the original huli huli chicken recipe. This particular recipe is unique in its use of pineapple juice, which contains bromelain, an enzyme that acts as a natural meat tenderizer.  The bromelain is found only in fresh pineapple juice. The canning process removes the enzyme from the juice.  So, if possible, you should use fresh pineapples for the juice, because that will lead to the best results.  But, if you only have access to canned pineapple juice, that will work too.  The rest of the ingredients are things that you can probably find in your pantry, such as soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar and chicken broth.  That makes this a relatively easy dish to prepare ahead of time and enjoy the next day during a busy workweek.

One other note about the recipe: the use of chicken thighs.  Although I can't say for sure, I would assume the original was done using whole chickens or half chickens.  One could also prepare this dish using chicken breasts; however, in my humble opinion, the chicken thigh works best for this recipe because it has a lot more flavor than the chicken breast.  If you are on a diet or looking to reduce calories, don't bother with this dish.  Embrace the chicken thighs because, on the grill, they are far better than chicken breasts.

In the end, this particular approximation produces a very delicious dish.  It does not look like the pictures from the recipe I used; however, that could be remedied by setting aside some of the marinade (before putting the chicken in it) for use to baste the chicken as it grills  Still, I ate the chicken, I began to wonder how amazing the original dish could be.  Perhaps I may buy those two bottles of Ernie's sauce for a comparison.  But, until that time, I will keep making this recipe. 

Recipe from the Recipe Critic
Serves 6-8

4 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 cup of unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 cup of soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, grated
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
Green onions, sliced for garnish

1.  Prepare the chicken.  In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, chicken broth, ginger, and garlic.  Reserve 1 cup of sauce for basting.  Add the chicken thighs and sauce to a Ziploc bag and marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight.  

2.  Grill the chicken.  Heat a grill over medium heat for 6-8 minutes on each side or until no longer pink.  Baste occasionally with reserved marinade during the last 5 minutes.   Garnish with green onions if desired. 


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Spiced Shrimp

Sometimes, simple is best. This can be especially true when one is talking about shrimp. The crustaceans cook so quickly and can be overcooked so quickly.  For this reason,  a simple boil in beer, water and some spices can produce a quick and tasty appetizer.

I learned this many years ago when I worked for a seafood restaurant. At that restaurant, there was always a pot on the stove with water, beer and the restaurant's version of Old Bay.  Drop a dozen shrimp in and in a couple of minutes (at most), you pulled them out and put them in a basket.  It was that simple. The hardest part was making sure that the pot was filled with the right mix of beer, water and spice for the whole night. A lot of shrimp would get that 2 minute bath every night, throughout the night.  Spiced shrimp -- or, as the restaurant would call them "barbecued shrimp" -- were very popular. (And, before anyone says anything, I know that authentic "barbecued shrimp" is not prepared in this fashion, it was just a thing for this particular restaurant. What did they know ... they were a crab house ....)

There are a couple of things about this recipe that you should keep in mind.  First, use a lager beer.  If I recall correctly, the restaurant used Yuengling for its spiced shrimp.  I don't like Yuengling.  Period.  The best beer in my humble opinion for this recipe is a pilsner. I love Pilsner Urquell, but other pilsners, like Victory's Prima Pils also work well. Second, you need a great spice mix. Old Bay works well. But, if you happen to be somewhere with a market that has good selection of shrimp, fish and crabs, you should see if they also have their own spice mix. Often times, it is Old Bay, but, every once in a while, you come across a small seafood market who actually makes their own spice mix, and it is very good. For this recipe, I found such a seafood market in the Outer Banks, who make their own spice mix.  Third, save some of the spice mix to sprinkle on at the end, like a garnish.

You can serve it with cocktail sauce, hot sauce or something else.  Or, you can do what I do and just eat them. 

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 4

2 pounds of fresh shrimp (21-26 count)
4 cups of lager beer
6 cups of water
Approximately 3/4 cup of Old Bay or similar spice mix

1.  Prepare the boiling liquid.  Combine the beer, water and spice mix in a pot, but reserve some spice mix and set aside.  Bring to a boil over high heat.

2.  Boil the shrimp.  Add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp is opaque, about 2 minutes.

3. Finish the dish. Remove the shrimp from the boiling liquid and divide into servings.  Sprinkle some of the reserved spice mix over the shrimp.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

Project Maryland BBQ: Part 2, Old Line Barbecue Chicken

The first element of any regional barbecue style, in my humble opinion, is the protein. In the Carolinas, whether eastern, western or southern, it is pork. Whole hogs. In Texas, whether it is brisket or barbacoa, it is beef.  In between, either in Kansas City or Memphis, it may be beef or pork, depending upon the cut. (Go north to Kentucky, it is mutton.)  But, what would the protein be in Maryland, if Maryland had a regional style of barbecue?

The protein for barbecue is defined by what is around you.  If you are in the Carolinas, it is hogs, because there are a lot of pigs.  More than four million hogs are being raised in North Carolina alone.  There are more hogs currently in North Carolina than there are people in the entire countries of Bosnia & Herzegovina or Uruguay.  There are more than 12 million cattle cows (for beef) in Texas.  That means there are more cows in Texas than there are people within the borders of Belgium or Cuba.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there were only 46,000 cattle for beef production and 26,000 hogs for pork production in the State of Maryland. If there was a barbecue style in Maryland, it would most likely not involve either beef or pork. However, there are 306,700,000 chickens in the State of Maryland.  That's right, there are more chickens in the State of Maryland than there are people in the countries of Pakistan, Brazil or Indonesia.  For a point of reference, there are over 326,000,000 people in the United States.  There are almost as many chickens in Maryland as there are people in this country. 

The location of large scale chicken farms in the State of Maryland.
So, if there is a such a thing as Maryland style barbecue, then the protein would be chicken.  A lot of chicken. And, if one were to drive through the Eastern Shore of Maryland, he or she would agree.  Drive the backroads of the DelMarVa (the region of Delaware, the eastern Shore of Maryland and the Virginian peninsula), and you will see -- and maybe even smell -- a lot of chicken houses.  Many of those chicken houses are owned and run by hardworking chicken farmers (and, just how those farmers are treated by big chicken companies will definitely be the subject of another post, because I have a lot to say on that subject.)  Many more are large scale chicken operations, either CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) or MAFOs (Maryland Animal Feeding Operations).  (Just what is a CAFO or a MAFO, as well as their impact on the environment, is also a subject for another day.)

Thus, the first element of a regional style of barbecue is in place.  Maryland style barbecue, if it exists or existed, should or would be centered around chicken. Just like Texas style barbecue focuses on beef and Carolina style barbecue focuses on pork.  That is not to say that there can't be beef and pork in Maryland barbecue (after all, there are those 46,000 cattle and 26,000 hogs in the Old Line State).  All it means that we need to nail down a recipe for smoked chicken that could serve as the foundation for Maryland barbecue.

It seems only natural that chicken should be the protein.  After all, there is the Delmarva Chicken, which is a tradition on the Eastern shore. Local groups and firehouses get together, marinate large amounts of chicken, grill that chicken and offer it to anyone willing to enjoy it.  The thing is that Delmarva Chicken is as much barbecue as pit beef is barbecue. The recipes for Delmarva Chicken involve grilling the bird or its constituent parts, as opposed to the low and slow smoking of the meat.

Nevertheless, the recipe for Delmarva Chicken can serve as the basis for Maryland barbecue. It starts with the rub.  Delmarva Chicken calls for a rub of poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic powder.  Rather than use poultry seasoning, I think that a good substitute could be Old Bay seasoning.  Old Bay is practically synonymous with Maryland because of its use with our beloved blue crabs.  What is little known (despite the advertising) is that Old Bay can be used in other recipes, including chicken.  With Old Bay, and the remainder of the ingredients, I have the basic rub for Maryland barbecue. 

The recipe of Delmarva Chicken also includes the use of oil and vinegar.  These liquid ingredients could work well with barbecue chicken and provide a distinctive character. Most recipes for Delmarva Chicken, such as this one, call for the chicken to be placed into a bowl, with the rub ingredients added, followed by oil and cider vinegar. Those instructions baffle me a little bit, to be honest, but, if they are rearranged, then they could provide a basis for preparing the chicken.  Place the chicken in a large bowl, whisk the cider vinegar with the oil to create an emulsion, pour that emulsion so that it covers the chicken, both on the skin and underneath, and then spread the rub over the chicken both on the skin and underneath.  The emulsion will help the rub stick to the chicken and, if you get it underneath the skin, it will also flavor the meat.

While the Delmarva Chicken provides the basis for the preparation for the Maryland barbecue chicken recipe, I have to say it ends there.  If you look at Delmarva Chicken recipes, there are no mops (after all, it is grilled chicken).  The recipes call for a "sauce," but, in my humble opinion, the sauce is somewhat questionable in the context of barbecue.  Many recipes describe a sauce that consists of 1 part oil and one part salad dressing or mayonnaise. Salad dressing is out of the equation.  That leaves mayonnaise.  However, a mayonnaise-based sauce for chicken that is clearly and indisputably identified with Alabama barbecue (see Big Bob Gibson's Chicken with White Sauce).  This project focuses on defining Maryland barbecue. Thus, Delmarva Chicken can take us far towards Maryland barbecue chicken, but, just not across the finish line.

In any event, the sauce for Maryland barbecue is a subject of its own, and, it will have its own post in this project.   Until then. the basic recipe for Maryland-style barbecue chicken, which I have dubbed "Old Line Barbecue Chicken" ...

Recipe adapted from Lang BBQ Smokers
Serves 4-6

1 whole chicken, spatchcocked
1 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar
1 cup of olive oil
2-3 teaspoons of Old Bay Seasoning
2 teaspoons sea salt (or kosher salt)
3 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
1  1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder
Chunks of hickory, pecan or apple wood
     (I used apple wood)

1.  Prepare the chicken.  Place the spatchcocked chicken into a large bowl.  In a separate small bowl, combine the spices (Old Bay, salt, pepper, and garlic powder) and mix well.  In a medium bowl, add the vinegar and then whisk in the oil.  Once the oil and vinegar have been whisked into an emulsion, pour some of the mixture over the chicken, rubbing it into the skin and beneath the skin on the meat.  After the entire chicken is covered with the oil/vinegar mixture, move the chicken to a cutting board.  Apply the rub to all sides of the chicken, both on the skin and under the skin on the meat.  

2.  Prepare the smoker.  Start a chimney and, when ready, place the coals in the smoker.  The desired temperature is 275 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  

3.  Smoke the chicken.  Place the chicken on the smoker.  Add the wood chunks to create the smoke.  Smoke the chicken until it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove the chicken from the smoker and cover with foil.  Let rest for 10 minutes until the temperature comes up to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  Carve the chicken into pieces - sliced breast meat, thigh, legs and wings for service. 


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Project Maryland BBQ: Part 1: The Beginning

Barbecue is regional, albeit the names are more local.  There is Eastern Carolina barbecue, with smoked whole hogs served with a piquant vinegar sauce (perhaps my favorite).  There is also Western Carolina barbecue, which is still pork based, but there is an added tomato tang to the sauce.  Then, there is Southern Carolina barbecue, which goes its own way with a mustard based sauce.  Travel west, and one finds Kentucky barbecue, Memphis barbecue, Kansas City barbecue, Texas barbecue and, even further west, Santa Maria barbecue.  Add to all of these the international styles of barbecue, brought to the United States by immigrants who brought their culinary traditions with them (think, barbacoa, for example).  

I am a big fan of barbecue, but I don't live in the Carolinas.  I don't call Memphis, Kansas City or any part of Texas my home.  I live in the Mid-Atlantic, the State of Maryland to be exact.  These questions got me to thinking about barbecue in the State where I live.  To be sure, there are a lot of good barbecue joints across Maryland, and, I have eaten at quite a few of them.  Those restaurants feature barbecue that draws its inspiration from those major regions ... Eastern Carolina vinegar-based pork; pork ribs with the tangy, spicy Kansas City barbecue sauce; and central Texas style brisket.  

If one were to look past the barbecue joints and ask what is true Maryland barbecue, the first answer might be Baltimore Pit Beef with Tiger Sauce.  But, as much as I love pit beef, it does not fit the definition of barbecue, that is, the low, slow cooking of proteins over wood smoke.  Pit beef is more about grilling, using a higher heat to generate a crust on the beef, which is thinly sliced, piled onto a bun and dressed with the sauce.  Others may say Delmarva chicken (which someday will be a post of its own), but that is really just grilled chicken dressed with a sauce that is one part oil and one part salad dressing or mayonnaise.  To be sure, one could have smoked chicken with a mayonnaise sauce; after all, Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur, Alabama perfected it. (You can check out my effort to make the recipe here.)  However, there is little doubt that Delmarva chicken is more about grilling than it is smoking.  

So what is Maryland barbecue?  Is there such a thing as Maryland barbecue?

There is no easy answer to these questions, because there is no accepted concept of a Maryland style of barbecue. That does not mean that it does not exist.  I will need to look around the Old Line State.  I need to go beyond the barbecue joints and focus upon the essence of barbecue: cooking protein over over wood smoke in a low and slow fashion. Even if there is no such thing as Maryland barbecue, I will take the initiative to create one.  Hence, the Chef Bolek's "Project Maryland BBQ" Series.  

A disclaimer ... this entire endeavor is for fun.  Over a series of posts, I will explore those fundamental elements of barbecue -- (1) protein; (2) rubs; (3) mops/sauces; and (4) wood/smoke -- and how they fit into a style of barbecue that could be called Maryland's own. I will also focus on other aspects of barbecue as they would relate to a style. Only time will tell whether or what will come of this endeavor.  Until then ...


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Glen Manor Cabernet Franc (2014)

Wines with a sense of place.  The particular place in question is located along the western flank of the Blue Ridge Mountains. At that spot, there are steep vineyards, where there is soil rich in variety but rocky. Amidst that rich and rocky soil, there are rows of vines, growing a range of varietals.  These grapes include the standard Rhone varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. They also include others such as Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng and Nebbiolo. The grapes that grow there find themselves in the wines of Glen Manor Vineyards. 

The vineyards were started in 1995 by Alpheus White and his three sons. The vines were planted on a farm that had been within the family for five generations and over 100 years.  The first vines were Sauvignon Blanc, which were planted in 1995. In the following years, the Whites planted additional grapes, such as Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

I visited the Glen Manor Vineyards tasting room with my beautiful Angel.  We sampled a variety of the wines, including the St. Ruth, Vin Rouge, Hodder Hill and Sauvignon Blanc. We also tasted the Cabernet Franc and we liked that wine so much that we bought a bottle of the 2014 vintage to have at a later date.  

The Cabernet pours a crimson red, with deep almost burgundy tones in the center that fades to a lighter shade of red around the edges of the glass. The aromatic elements include strawberries, with other red fruit like cherries and raspberries. There is a little graphite in the nose of the wine as well.  

As for the taste of this wine, the elements include those red berries, especially strawberries, providing a certain jammy character with each sip. Other fruits are also present in the taste, such as plums and blueberries. The taste also featured some of the earthiness that was in the aroma, along with a slight hint of pepper in the background.

Overall, this is a very good Cabernet Franc, and it provides a good contrast to other Cabernet Franc wines that I have. For example, this wine was much brighter and fruitier than the Cabernet Franc from Elk Run Vineyards, which is located in Maryland.  While I like both wines, I think that the Glen Manor Cabernet Franc is a wine that could pair with a wider range of food, especially chicken and pork dishes, whereas the Elk Run Vineyards wine would pair better with beef dishes. Such differences even though the grapes are grown and the wines are produced about eighty or so miles away from each other.  Maybe that explains the emphasis on "terroir."  Probably not, but, until next time ...


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Mauch Chunk Turkey Burger

A caveat at the beginning.  This recipe -- Mauch Chunk Turkey Burger -- gets its name from one fact.  I came up with this recipe during my recent vacation in the Poconos.  We stayed at a cabin in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. The town is named after Jim Thorpe, the Native American football player and Olympian who is buried there. 

Before the town was known as Jim Thorpe, it was known as Mauch Chunk. That is the Anglicized version of Mawsch Unk or "Bear Place" in the language of the Munsee-Lenape Delaware, who were the first to inhabit the area. (Interestingly, Jim Thorpe was a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, a Native American tribe that was forcibly relocated to Oklahoma.)  The reference to bears may be due to the proximity of Bear Mountain, which (before decades of mining) resembled a sleeping bear.  For this recipe, the name Mauch Chunk is a simple recipe to the place where I first divined this recipe.

The key feature of this recipe is the combined use of ground turkey and turkey sausage.  I know: the combination of sausage and ground beef is almost a regular on the menus of many chain restaurants.  However, in my experience, the typical combination involves a combination of beef and chorizo. I know because I have had a couple of those types of burgers (although not at a chain restaurant).  I wanted to experiment not just with the use of the sausage, but also the use of additional spices to make a turkey burger that went beyond the typical turkey burger.

Let's face it, most turkey burgers are bland.  At best, you get one that is properly cooked and there is still some modicum of juiciness to it.  But, the burger itself remains bland.  The addition of the turkey sausage provides a substantial amount of flavor to the burger, primarily due to the spices added to the sausage.  I wanted to take the recipe one step further, by adding some additional, albeit traditional spices, such as paprika, garlic powder and oregano. 

To help maintain the ideal juicy nature of the burger, I added some very finely diced onions.  The onions have water, which gets released during the cooking process.  Those onions will help keep the turkey moist while it is either in the oven or on the grill. The onions need to be finely diced because, to state the obvious, no one wants to bite into onions in their burger. The only bite from onions should be on top of the burger.   

The Mauch Chunk Turkey Burger was an experiment; a brief cooking experience during my down time on vacation.  My beautiful Angel loved the taste of the burger.  That reason alone means that all future turkey burgers will be built upon this experimental foundation. 

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 5-6

1 pound of ground turkey
1/2 pound of turkey sausage (mild or hot), casing removed
1/2 yellow onion, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tomato, thickly sliced
6 bread slices, toasted

1.  Prepare the meat. Place the ground turkey and turkey sausage in a bowl.  Mix well.  Add the minced onions and garlic.  Mix well again.  Add the spices (garlic powder, paprika, oregano, salt and black pepper).  Mix one last time.  Make 5-6 patties.  

2.  Cook the burgers.  If you are using an oven, cook the burgers at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes.  Flip halfway though the grilling process.  If you are using a grill, heat to high.  Cook for about 15 minutes, flip halfway through. 

3.  Finish the dish.  Serve the burger with one slice of toast, cut in half, a tomato slice on the bottom, the burger and thinly sliced red onions on top of the burger.   Serve immediately.