You could’ve just knocked me over with a feather. I don’t usually find myself bragging about a vegetable side dish. Until now. All of the flavors of the vegetables came together perfectly. Smokey bacon, a little garlic and a combination of tastes and textures cooked in almost no time. I’ve made grilled Tuscan vegetables a few times now and sometimes I leave off the Parmesan and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I add a pinch or two of red pepper flake for a little kick and sometimes I don’t. And if I don’t have spinach leaves? Or zucchini? That’s ok. You can substitute just about any vegetable you have on hand, but I always include the artichoke hearts. Always.
After smoking peppercorns, the next logical thing to smoke was salt. I love smoked salt, it really adds a nice slightly smokey flavor to dishes. If you have your smoker already fired up for other things, such as pork butt or brisket or ribs, you often have a little space leftover. No point in wasting all that great smoke, just add some sea salt to a pan and place it on the smoker until it starts to darken in color. I actually used a mix of Himalayan pink salt and coarse sea salt. The textures between the two are slightly different, and they brought different colors to the final mix of smoked salts. I keep the smoked salt in an air-right container right by my prep area. I still keep a salt pig nearby for those dishes where I don’t want that addition of smoke in my salt.
I’ve been making homemade pastrami for years. I make what is commonly called ‘cheater’ pastrami, or ‘fauxstrami’ since I don’t start with a brisket, brine (or ‘corn’) it for ages and then smoke it. I cut to the chase and start with a corned beef brisket. The end result is absolutely fantastic. I load up on corned beefs any time they are on sale. My relatives and neighbors absolutely love it when I make pastrami. It’s a huge hit. I took a slightly different approach than my traditional method and I’ve found this way to be even better than the old. You still get that slight peppery bite, but the pastrami-like flavor seems more pronounced and further penetrates the meat than when I use a more coarse spice grind.
1 corned beef brisket (try to get a flat one that is consistent in thickness, such as a corned beef brisket flat)
2 tablespoons (plus more, if needed) yellow mustard
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground allspice
3-4 tablespoons freshly ground pepper
Rinse and dry the corned beef.
Whisk together the mustard, brown sugar, coriander and allspice. You want the mixture to be slightly wet so that it adheres to the meat. If it does not, add a bit more mustard and mix.
Rub the mixture all over the brisket, then cover completely with the ground pepper. Place in a large resealable bag or wrap tightly in foil and keep in the fridge overnight.
The next day, fire up your smoker for 225-250 F. Place a chunk or two of light fruit wood in the smoker (I used cherry). Cook the brisket for at least 8 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 195 - 205 F.
Remove, wrap in foil, and let rest for 30 minutes.
Thinly slice the brisket against the grain using a meat slicer or sharp knife. Serve.
I made seasoned steak fries on my Weber Performer grill using the Vortex BBQ insert the other day. They came out really, really good. Which got me thinking… could I apply much the same technique to thinner cuts of potatoes, giving me crispy skinny fries? Yep, you bet I could and did! These seasoned skinny fries were fantastic. I ‘fry’ chicken using my Vortex on a pretty regular basis. At least on my Performer that leaves me some spare room for other things and by other things I now mean fries. What’s better than ‘fried’ chicken and crispy seasoned fries for lunch? Nothing.
Note: I only used 2 potatoes because I also cooked 2 large pieces of chicken at the same time as the fries. You could fit 4 potatoes worth of fries on a 22" grill if that's all you're cooking. Don't overcrowd them, though, or they won't cook evenly.
2 Russet potatoes, cut into thin sticks
For the seasoning (makes more than you'll need for one recipe)
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fire up your charcoal grill using the Vortex insert. You'll want to use a larger grill, 22" or bigger.
Meanwhile, place the fries into a large bowl of cold water.
Let soak for 5 minutes then drain.
Add water again and soak until you're about ready to start cooking.
Make the seasoning by combining all ingredients.
Drain the fries and pat dry. I like to dump them out onto a large towel and give them a good patting, tossing a few times to make sure I get them all dry.
Transfer fries back to the bowl (wiping it dry first) and add just a splash of oil.
Sprinkle with the seasoning, to taste. I usually use about half of the recipe, but I like mine spicy. You might want to start with 1/4th of the recipe (2 teaspoons or thereabouts). Toss to coat.
Transfer the fries to your grill. Keep them along the edges of the grate and at an angle to the grate so they don't fall in.
Cover (keeping the top vent open) and cook for 45 minutes-1 hour, rotating the lid 90 degrees every 15 minutes.
After 30 minutes carefully flip the fries, checking for doneness.
Remove the fries once they are getting golden brown.
Let cool slightly. The fries will crisp more as they cool.
I love smoked chuck roast. It’s something I make quite often. I usually end up chopping it for sandwiches, but I also cut it into small bites for chili. Yum. This time I decided to try something a little different by marinating the chuck roast overnight first in a wonderful marinade packed with a little sweet, a little citrus, a little soy and a hint of Worcestershire. Nothing in-your-face strong, just great flavor that penetrates the entire roast. Now, if you do want a little heat don’t be afraid to add some hot sauce to the marinade. To get the meat truly tender you want to get to at least 200 F. And do not let any of the juices go to waste. Add them back in to the chopped or sliced meat. It’s really great stuff!
Well, I did it. I finally made vegetarian burgers using black beans. And you know, they weren’t just OK, they were great! The patties held up, stayed moist, and had a nice little kick to them. A little sweetness from pineapple rings and teriyaki, plus the crunchiness of red onion finished off the deal just perfectly. I’m going to fit black bean teriyaki burgers into my regular menu more and more. And I can see myself trying other variations. I’ll skip the teriyaki and pineapple and add smoky BBQ sauce for a great southwestern black bean burger. Or maybe substitute coleslaw and vegetarian chili! Now we’re talking!
I use a Vortex insert on several of my charcoal grills, usually for making chicken of some variation or another. This time I thought I’d try something new and see if I could make steak fries just as easily and just as tasty. I could not have been happier with the results. Tasty, creamy, seasoned perfectly, with a slight crunch. Perfect fries to go with my ‘fried’ chicken. Steak fries cooked in the Vortex are as easy to make as fries out of a bag from the freezer, really. The only thing you have to watch for is letting the fries slip thru your grill grates. On my smaller grills that’s not a problem since the grates are pretty narrow. The grate on my Weber Performer is a bit bigger, though, so I keep the fries at an angle to the grates so they don’t slip on through.
I absolutely love making ‘fried’ chicken on my charcoal grill using the Vortex insert. Yeah, I know it’s not really fried, but that’s the point. You get that same crunchy exterior and moist tender interior, all without the oil. I use this southern fried chicken recipe the most, sometimes adding a sauce at the end, but often not,. It’s got that perfect crunch, whether you use skin-on or skinless chicken. I usually cook chicken using the Vortex on my 22″ charcoal grill, the Weber Performer or my Weber Kettle. You can buy a smaller Vortex for smaller grills, which works absolutely fantastic for chicken wings, but for bigger pieces like the split chicken breasts I used for southern fried chicken, I use a bigger grill so that the meat isn’t so close to the fire.