Saturday, August 30, 2014

Labor Day - Barbecue Sausage & Cheese Plate

Labor Day is rapidly approaching, signaling the end of another summer and barbeque season in the Midwest for most people. It seems like our summer really just began, after enduring one of the worst winter's that I can remember in a very long time. It is at this time of the year I often ask myself if it's time to become a "snowbird" and move to warmer climates during the winter months. 
Fall is coming
As you may or may not know, my brother and sister-in-law have been living near Memphis, a.k.a. barbecue country, for well over 23 years. According to my brother, their son, who was two years old when they moved, is now a full blooded Southern Gentleman. Their daughter was 2 months old at the time and is now a full blooded Southern Belle. Hey, I thought we were German Irish!
Cut up some cheese logs
Having lived 27 years as a Yankee and 23 years as a rebel, my brother now says that he's not as uptight as us Yankees. Who says I'm uptight? To say that he has barbecue sauce in his blood would be an understatement. When writing about barbecue, I often have to rely on my brother's experience with "all things barbecue."
How about some dill pickle spears?
When my brother cooks anything from fried bologna, pork chops, pulled pork, to baby back ribs, he goes into the "low and slow" lifestyle. When I talk about barbecue tools I mean a good thermometer, some wood chips, charcoal, tongs, spatulas, a cooler, some sauces and rubs.
When in Rome you need a traditional rub, or make your own
When my brother talks about barbecue tools, he is generally talking about a cooler full of beer, a pitcher or two of sweet tea, a smoker loaded for a long, low and slow cooking process and some snacks. What snacks you ask?
For starters, how about a sausage and cheese
Let's cut up some smoked sausage
plate, or pulled pork nachos and cheese with BBQ sauce? This brings me to the purpose of this post. What in the hell is a sausage and cheese plate? I didn't know either. Apparently the sausage and cheese plate is a Memphis tradition.
Cook up some sausages and dust with barbecue rub
When it comes to who has the best barbecue, there is no real answer, because it really depends on how you like your barbecue. Wet, dry, sweet, tangy, hot and spicy, the possibilities are endless without leaving the state of Tennessee. Depending on who you talk to about the best BBQ in Memphis, the answer just might be Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous, Corky's BBQ, Central BBQ, Cozy Corner, or the Germantown Commissary, just to name a few. The one thing they all have in common is the sausage and cheese plate for starters.
Smoked sausage dusted in BBQ rub
I asked my brother for a picture that I could use as a reference to make the sausage and cheese plate. He sent me a couple of different pictures, although I only needed one.
I can make this better
What goes on this plate other than the sausage and cheese is where they vary. Almost all have dill pickle spears, one or more types of cheese cubes or logs and Greek
pepperoncini. From there you can add green olives, seedless grapes and of course saltines. To make it true Memphis style, you just have to dust the plate liberally with BBQ dry rub, and serve it with a bowl of your favorite barbecue sauce.
A barbecue restaurant has some deep history to live up to and generally are not a fancy schmancy fine dining affair. In my opinion the love of barbecue is more of an addiction that somehow just doesn't taste the same if served in an upscale restaurant.

For my first attempt at making a Memphis style sausage and cheese plate, I decided on using "Eckrich Skinless, Original Smoked Sausage," cooked in some apple juice and onions. The apple juice and onions adds a nice caramelization to the sausages and enhances the overall flavor. For the pickle component, I chose Claussen brand dill pickle spears. Finally, for the cheese I just had to use
My version of a sausage and cheese platter.
Wisconsin cheddar and
Monterey Jack, from our neighbors to the north. Of course I held back a little bit on the rub, having never tasted an authentic sausage and cheese plate. Served up with some saltine crackers, this really is an appetizer that works well with barbecue. As my brother said, it really is a great appetizer when tending the barbecue, or any time really. So brew up some sweet
Sweet sun tea y'all
tea and as they say down yonder, "y'all put some South in your mouth."
If you have any traditional Labor Day recipes, or Memphis style barbecue appetizer recipes to share, please leave them in the comment section below. I'm especially interested in the pulled pork nacho cheese platter, or the fascination with deep-fried bologna.
Fried Bologna

I want to thank my readers, whoever they are since I am also celebrating reaching 50,000 page views. So that you don't miss a single post in the future, why not sign up to follow this blog at the top right of this page.

© TMelle 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Party Favorites - Shrimp Shooters

I can't believe that I am approaching a milestone on this blog. As I come closer to reaching that 50,000 page views, only 10 people have signed up to follow this blog. What's up with that? I know that many of the same people are visiting each and every month, but don't sign up for one reason or another. I have expected more comments, positive or negative, and hopefully suggestions for future posts. So if you like this blog why not sign up? It's free.
Shrimp Shooters
This month I've decided to stay in the wonderful world of seafood, both off and on the grill. Several years ago my wife and I attended a wedding, where the waiters were passing hors d'oeuvres during the cocktail hour. One of them was a tray of shrimp shooters, neatly prepared in shot glasses. In case you haven't guessed it, I just love shrimp. Any kind of shrimp. If you're having a party and looking for a starter with a certain "wow factor," then shrimp shooters are for you.
Traditional Shrimp Cocktail
You're going to need some shot glasses. How many you need depends on the number of guests you are having. You can buy plastic ones at your local party supply store, or rent real shot glasses. I prefer glass over plastic, strictly from a recycling point of view. If you just put out trays of shrimp and cocktail sauce, your guests will descend on the table like vultures.
Make or buy some cocktail sauce
By controlling the portion size and keeping them moving, you will reduce your costs considerably, while creating a lasting impression with your guests. Our children recently threw an anniversary party for us. Of the many appetizers they served, I immediately went after the shrimp shooters, as did many other people.
Fill the bottom of the shot glasses with shredded lettuce (optional)

Divide the lettuce or frisée evenly in each shot glass. Place a  tablespoon or more of the cocktail sauce on top. If no lettuce, just cocktail sauce divided evenly.
Place some large tail on, cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp on the edge of each shot glass and drizzle the lemon juice on top. Garnish each shooter with a lemon wedge. Cover and chill until needed.
This is starting to look real good

Since the shrimp shooters are an appetizer, figure about 2-3  per person. This is assuming that you are serving other appetizers. As an alternative, you can first grill some shrimp, lightly dusted with your favorite BBQ rub, a trick I learned from my brother. Skewer the shrimp on metal, or wooden skewers. If you use wooden skewers, soak them in water for about 30 minutes before using them. Place the shrimp skewers on the grill for 2 to 4 minutes per side, or until prawns become opaque. Don't over cook them. Remove from the grill and allow to cool before placing them into the shot glasses. Another alternative, use BBQ sauce. 
BBQ Grilled Shrimp

While waiting for shrimp to cool slightly, fill 8 shot glasses about halfway full with sauce. Place 1 shrimp in each shot glass, tail sticking out. Garnish with a lemon peel twist.
Get them while you can

© TMelle 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Citrus Grilled Salmon with Orange Vinaigrette

I received some comments lately stating that I only post recipes with meat on this blog. I decided to throw some salmon on the grill for those non-meat carnivores, like my sister-in-law who came to visit us last weekend. She eats fish but doesn't like meat. My wife and her sister asked me to grill some salmon. I decided on making a citrus grilled salmon. It can be made using salmon steaks or fillets.
Salmon fillet
This recipe was actually inspired by my neighbor who, many years ago, recommended a restaurant on Navy Pier in Chicago. He also recommended I order a grilled salmon fillet with baby spinach and fresh oranges. This was not on the menu but he told me they would make it to my specifications.
Perhaps you prefer steaks
2-4-6 oz. salmon fillets or steaks, room temp
Sea salt to taste
fresh cracked black pepper
to taste
1-10 oz. bag fresh baby spinach
1 small shallot, minced
1 small tomato, diced
2-4 whole eggs, hard boiled, peeled, sliced or quartered
Olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted, for grilling  
Insert lemon slices cut in half into salmon
About an hour before grilling your salmon, you're going to make some orange vinaigrette. The sweetness of the orange and light acidity balances the rich full flavor of the salmon. Feel free to experiment using blood oranges when in season.
Fresh orange juice
1/3 cup orange juice, fresh squeezed
1/4 tsp lemon zest, or more
1/4 tsp orange zest, or more
Orange and lemon zest
2 tbsp white vinegar
1/3 cup
extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground dry mustard
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 tsp agave syrup or honey, optional
In a blender or cruet add the juice from fresh squeezed orange and a 1/4 teaspoon each of fresh orange and lemon zest. Add the vinegar and dry mustard and blend or shake well. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and blend or
shake until incorporated and the mixture emulsifies. Taste it. If there is too much bite, add more olive oil, if not enough bite, add more vinegar. You might also add a half teaspoon of agave syrup or honey to balance the citrus flavor.
Wash and dry some baby spinach
Dice some shallots
and some diced tomatoes
Wash the spinach and spin dry in a salad spinner, or blot dry with paper towels.
In a skillet with a splash of olive oil, saute the diced shallots until tender but not brown. Put the baby spinach into the pan and toss with the shallots. Saute the spinach and keep tossing until wilted. Lower the heat and mix in the diced tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove the pan from the heat. 
Place the salmon skin side down on a piece of lightly oiled aluminum foil. Cut slits in the top of the salmon to accommodate lemon slices that have been cut in half. Slip the lemon halves into the slits. This will infuse the citrus flavor into the salmon while grilling.
Lemon slices added to salmon
Brush the top of the salmon with more oil and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Set up the grill for two zone cooking, one hot and one off. The heat from the hot side will carry over to the cold side. When the grill is hot (about
400°F), place the salmon in foil on the hot side. Do not cover yet. We want to cook the skin side until it sticks to the foil and the salmon begins to cook from the bottom up.
Don't cover yet let the bottom cook first over a hot grill
When the salmon turns from raw to cooked half way up the thickness of the salmon, drizzle lightly with olive oil and a little butter and close the grill cover. This is when you finish cooking the salmon. I prefer mine medium but some like it more well done. It's up to you and the quality of your salmon. Check the salmon until it's done.

To serve, place a bed of spinach, shallots and tomato mixture on the plate. Using a fish spatula, carefully slide it between the skin and the salmon. Remove the salmon, leaving the skin on the foil. Place the fillet on the spinach. Discard the skin and the foil. Drizzle the top of the salmon with the orange vinaigrette. Place the egg slices on top of the spinach against the fillet. Enjoy!
© TMelle 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Retro Mock Chicken Legs

Mise en place
This is a meal we had often growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. Chicken was expensive, so we had to settle for "mock chicken." This is what I call real comfort food and was something that we always looked forward to.
The recipe is pretty straight forward and she made them often from scratch in the beginning. Later on she would have them made up for her by our local butcher. She just had to bring them home and fry them up in a pan, finish them in the oven and serve them with mashed potatoes and pan gravy.
Ingredients (meat)
3/4 lbs. Veal, ground

3/4 lbs. Pork, ground
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
2 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3/4 cup bread crumbs, fine
1 whole egg, beaten, for breading
8 wooden skewers
6 Tbsp. Butter or margarine, clarified for frying
Use ice cream scoop to portion legs
Place the meat into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients  except the eggs, butter, and bread crumbs. Mix meat until the ingredients are well blended, but not over mixed. Using an ice cream scoop divide the meat into nine equal portions. Shape each portion evenly around each stick, or insert them later. Try to form raw meat into the shape that resembles a chicken leg.
Wrap each leg in waxed paper and refrigerate for about one hour. Preheat oven to 350°F. Dip each leg in the beaten egg and then roll in bread crumbs until evenly coated. Press crumbs into the meat with your hands so that it sticks well.
Soak sticks in water
Add some of the clarified butter or margarine to a medium hot skillet. Add the formed legs and fry on medium heat, turning frequently, until brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.
Add more butter as needed until all of the drumsticks are fried. Remove drumsticks to an oven proof platter and place into the oven for 20-30 minutes.
I used two sticks per mock chicken leg
Make the gravy using the pan drippings while the drumsticks are baking in the oven.
Pour slurry into pan drippings
Ingredients (gravy)
1/2 cup beef stock
3 tbsp. flour
3 tbsp. water
to taste salt & pepper
Directions (gravy)
To the pan dripping add beef stock. In a separate container mix together water and flour to make a liquid thickener (slurry). Mix this into the pan a little at a time and stir until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until gravy thickens to the desired consistency. Discard the unused slurry. Season with salt and fresh cracked pepper as necessary to your taste. Spoon gravy over the drumsticks when serving. 
Can you smell that?

Serves: 8-9

© TMelle 2014