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