Smoked peppercorns is something I’ve been wanting to make for quite some time. I was waiting until I used up the last of the bottle of smoked peppercorns I picked up at Jungle Jim’s outside of Cincinnati. The end result was definitely a lot better than and a lot cheaper than store-bought. This being my first time making smoked peppercorns I also learned a lot along the way. I kept some of the smoked peppercorns whole for grinding or cooking later, and some I ground fine for this week’s dishes. The first thing I needed for smoked peppercorns was some sort of rack to place them on when I put them on the smoker. Someone suggested using a grease splash screen. I found one at WalMart, twisted the handle up, and bam! The perfect tool for smoking peppercorns! I also think this screen will work well when I give smoked salt a try soon!
How long you should smoke the peppercorns is up to you. Obviously the longer you smoke them the stronger the smoke flavor. You can go for quite some time, just make sure you keep the temperature around 90 F. You want a cold smoke for the peppercorns, similar to what you’d do for smoking cheese.
Set up your smoker for cold smoking, 80-90 F. I used 4 lit charcoal briquettes and a large piece of hickory wood. Keep some unlit charcoal on hand for when the charcoal starts to burn out, you may need to add more depending on how long you smoke the peppercorns. You can add unlit charcoal, just make sure you do it soon enough that it gets time to get well-lit from the already-burning coals.
Add the peppercorns to a food-safe screen and place onto the smoker.
Smoke at least 4 hours depending on how much smoke you want. You may want to remove a few peppercorns and grind them to taste for smokiness.
I’m almost too giddy to even write this post. Every time I look at the picture of grilled buffalo mac-and-cheese I flash back to the first time (of many) that I made it. Oooey gooey creaminess with a slight char, drizzled with a spicy homemade Buffalo wing sauce. Make no mistake about it, this is some fantastic macaroni-and-cheese. There are two things you have to be mindful of when grilling Buffalo mac-and-cheese. First, make sure your mac is set up good before cutting it. You want it a little solid, a little thick. Second, you want to be careful flipping it on the grill. When the cold mac gets hot it’ll want to return to it’s original creamy state, and fast. Don’t mess around, flip it, char it, and get it on a plate. Time’s a wastin’!
For the macaroni-and-cheese (if using made-from-the-box mac, make it per package instructions and skip to step 6)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, heat cream in a large skillet.
Add cream cheese and salt and stir until cheese is melted.
Add cheddar and American cheeses and stir until melted.
Add cooked pasta and stir to coat well.
Transfer to a container lined with wax paper. Use a container that is small enough that your mac-and-cheese ends up being at least 1" thick (thicker is better here).
Place in the fridge and refrigerate at least an hour. You can also place it into the freezer. You want the mac-and-cheese to set up so it can be sliced.
Fire up your grill for direct cooking.
Carefully remove the mac-and-cheese from the container and slice thick.
Transfer to a grill over high heat and grill for just a minute per side, long enough to get grill marks and a bit of a crunch. Do not play with the mac-and-cheese while it's on the grill or it will crumble. Be careful flipping it. If you lose some, you lose some.
Transfer to a plate and drizzle with plenty of the Buffalo wing sauce.
For the Buffalo wing sauce
Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Once the butter is melted add the remaining ingredients.
Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer and continue simmering for 5 minutes, stirring often.
Wow, talk about a burger that just rocketed to the top of our favorite-to-make list. These campfire burgers are just packed with flavor, inside and out. The patties are not boring, combining ground beef with cheese, bacon, Worcestershire and just a hint of smokiness. And then there’s the caramelized onions. Caramelized onions are a wonderful thing but adding balsamic vinegar to them makes them spectacular. And finally, a lightly smoky creamy sauce to top it all off. I recommend making more of the onions than the recipe calls for. On the off-chance that you have leftover onions they are also fantastic on grilled hot dogs. I also recommend making more of the sauce. It’s great to have on hand for, well, hot dogs again, but also po boy sandwiches or even as a dipping sauce for chicken nuggets.
It was one of those days where I wanted to seriously up my game. I figured (correctly) that a stop at our local fish mongers, Caplinger’s, would inspire me even more. And so I set off to make crab-stuffed shrimp on the grill. Large shrimp are butterflied, the meat separated from the shells but still connected, and then stuffed with an absolutely delightful mixture of crab and seasonings that reminds me very much of crab cake. I cooked the shrimp over charcoal in a cast-iron skillet, giving the shrimp a light smoky flavor. The end result was out-of-this-world delicious. For appetizer-sized crab-stuffed shrimp use smaller shrimp, like the 16 count shrimp I used. For main dishes, get some 6-8 count shrimp. The larger the shrimp the easier they are to butterfly and the easier it is to separate the meat from the shell, which is definitely the most difficult part of making these shrimp. The rest is easy peasy.
As I sit here and remember just how fantastic the crab stuffing was in these shrimp, I recall back to the best crabcakes I’ve ever had, at Timbuktu’s in Hanover, Maryland. Their crabcakes have the largest and most delicious chunks of crab in them… mmmmmm….
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons mayonnaise, plus more if needed
1/2 pound lump crab
Fire up your grill for two zone (direct and indirect cooking). Alternatively, you can cook these shrimp in the oven at 350 F.
Cut a slit down the backs of the shrimp. Do not cut all the way thru.
Butterfly the shrimp and remove the vein.
Separate the shell from the meat but do not remove it. The shell will still be attached at the tail, but the meat will not be attached to the shell.
Lightly butter a 7" cast iron skillet. Add the shrimp, butterflied side up.
Melt 1/2 pound of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low and add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Remove from heat.
Crumble the crackers into a large bowl. Add the bread, Old Bay seasoning, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
Add most of the melted butter. Do not add any of the onion or garlic, you just want to add the liquid.
Mix and add the mayonnaise. Try to squeeze the mixture together. If it holds together, it's ready. If it's too dry add more of the melted butter and a little bit of mayonnaise and mix and try again. Keep adding more butter/mayonnaise until the mixture holds together.
Lightly chop the crab and fold into the cracker mixture.
Working in batches, squeeze a tablespoon or two of the stuffing into a small log shape and place inside the butterflied shrimp. Don't be shy with the stuffing, you'll have plenty.
Place over indirect heat or in the oven and cook 20 minutes or until the shrimp is done. The shrimp will be pink in color on the outside and the flesh is opaque. If cooking on the grill rotate your skillet once to achieve consistent cooking.
Place the lemon halves over direct heat on the grill and grill until seared. If cooking in the oven, just use the halves as is - don't cook them.
Sometimes what you think might be a mistake can end up being one of the best things that you have ever done. I ordered some pork shanks from our local butcher. My goal was to make pork wings, which are made from the shank. Well, I didn’t explain myself well and what I ended up with was a big bag of shanks that had been cut in half, which definitely weren’t going to work for pork wings. Well, a quick glance around the web and I found tons of great recipes for braising shanks, which I will do but I also found the idea of smoking them and using them in the place of smoked hocks. Now that’s an idea I can get excited about because I love hocks and beans. So I took 8 of the shanks (trust me, I have plenty more), brined them for a while and then smoked them. The end result was tender, perfectly smoky-flavored shanks that were amazing in a big pot of beans. I wouldn’t hesitate at all to get more shanks from my butcher for no other reason than to smoke them. They’ll be great this fall and winter in soups and stews. They also fit in well with my ‘no empty space on the smoker’ rule, which says if you’re going to fire up your smoker, use all available room that you have. No point in wasting smoke. Shanks are the perfect size for using up valuable smoker grate space in my opinion.
I’m not sure why I was hankerin’ for egg salad, but I was. But I figured it was time for a little twist on the ole classic, so I decided to fire up my smoker with a few charcoal briquettes and a chunk of apple wood and smoke a few eggs. I figured a little smoke flavor would really make for a special egg salad. I was right. Eggs are also a great thing to toss (er, gently of course) onto your smoker after you’ve finished smoking a pork butt, ribs, brisket or whatever, and you still have a good fire going. They take just two hours. Smoked eggs can have just a hint of smoke (use a small chunk of light wood) or a stronger smoke flavor (use hickory), but it doesn’t take much smoke so don’t overdo it.
How do you make a great hot dog better? Yes, you wrap it in bacon. Crispy, yummy bacon. But you’re not done yet. Then you add a good helping of a thick, sweet-heat sauce that makes mustard and ketchup boring. These bacon-wrapped hot dogs with Fire-Eater dog sauce are a great way to change up your everyday dogs. You can add more of your favorite toppings if you like, but don’t bury that great bacon flavor. The Fire-Eater dog sauce is also perfect on hamburgers and fries, so make an extra big batch and keep it on hand in the fridge. To make a great smoky version use a hickory BBQ sauce. For an even spicier version use a hot BBQ sauce and add a few splashes of your favorite hot sauce.
Love hot dogs as much as I do? Check out my free eCookbook that is packed with tons of hot dog recipes.
I loved grilled fruit. Anita, not so much. Until now. Grilled maple bacon pineapple rings made a believer out of her with the first bite. Sweet lightly charred pineapple, heavenly real maple syrup and smoky bacon. It’s the perfect simple grilled dessert. Or side dish. I mean, I served it as a side dish. Why not? I bought this really cool pineapple corer from Amazon the other day. I’ve been wanting to use it forever. I picked up a pineapple on sale, got the corer out of the box, and in about a minute I had perfect fresh pineapple rings for these grilled maple bacon pineapple rings. The corer can also be used to make a pineapple ‘bowl’, great for serving things like fried rice and grilled shrimp with pineapple. Click on the picture below if you want to learn more about it on Amazon. It’s a fun little gadget.