I’ve been using Weber’s FireStarters lighter cubes for years. They’re fantastic for getting a chimney or Vortex full of charcoal going in no time. At less than $0.15 a piece they’re an inexpensive way to get a fire going. But, I decided to see if I could make my own versions of the cubes. What I ended up with light very, very well and burn for a good amount of time. The final cost was less than $0.10 for each cube, not exactly a huge savings, but that was only part of my reason for the pursuit.
Woo hoo! Just in time for the Super Bowl! I just wrapped up the total re-design of the Life’s A Tomato new free eCookbook of chicken wing recipes. It’s packed with over 50 recipes for the Char-Broil Big Easy, grill, smoker, deep fryer or oven! Here’s just a sampling of what you’ll find:
I received an email the other day from our local Fresh Market saying they had cases of Hatch chiles available for order. Well, I thought, that’s something new for me, so I’ll do it. I’ve never prepared or cooked fresh Hatch chiles, I’ve just used the canned ones you get in the supermarket. My plan was to roast them all, and I did. I also got to find out how big a case of Hatch chiles is: 18 pounds. Over 150 peppers. Yep, over 150 peppers. I fired up my largest charcoal grill and got to work. Batch after batch, I roasted the Hatch chiles until lightly charred. My plan was to only use a few of the roasted chiles immediately, so most went into bags and then the freezer for use later. After I got a system down roasting them was actually very easy. And boy, did it ever smell fantastic on the desk. I can getting a case of Hatch chiles becoming a yearly thing in our household.
I froze the chiles whole without removing stems, membranes or seeds. I found that they clean up quite easily when thawed and maybe (maybe) have more flavor that way. Plus, with 150+ peppers, I was definitely not up to cleaning that many peppers in one evening. Roasting them was enough of a chore!
Perhaps I should get one of those big chile roasters you see in serious pepper-roasting folk’s yards…. Hmmmm…. A new toy!
Want to surprise everyone at your next picnic or get-together? Bring a jar of grilled pickles. Everyone will want to know how you did it. You don’t have to admit how easy it is. The pickles do get a little char flavor, but not much. They still taste like, well, dill pickles, but with just slightly less crunch. The grilled red onions do add a nice light onion flavor. These jarred grilled pickles are good for 5 days. And don’t feel like you have to grill only spears. Sliced pickles or even whole pickles can be grilled just as well. If you don’t want to grill the pickles but still want a hint of grilled flavor, just grill some red onion and then add that to a jar of pickles and refrigerate overnight.
I’m always on a search for ways to add more cooking capacity to my Char-Broil Big Easy. I started with my homemade Wingin’ator 3000, which works great but you do have to make it yourself. Then Char-Broil came out with a cooking rack that gave you 5 cooking levels. Sadly, the rack wasn’t available for sale for long. A reader of Life’s A Tomato mentioned something to me the other day that should’ve occurred to me long ago: you can use two of the Char-Broil Bunk Bed Baskets at once, giving you 3 cooking levels! Doh! It’s as easy as it looks. Grab the basket that comes with your Big Easy and just lower two bunk bed baskets down into it, securing it with the handles on the sides. You’ll need to offset the two baskets by 90 degrees, otherwise the handles from the lower basket will interfere with the top basket. You can kind of see that in the picture on the right, above.
You’ll get about 3″ of cooking room on each level, plenty for wings or drumsticks. You can fit up to 6 chicken breasts on too, if they aren’t too huge. All in all, it’s a win-win!
The nice thing about this approach is that all of the baskets are dishwasher-safe, readily available, and easy to use. You don’t get quite as much cooking room as with a Wingin’ator 3000 or the (now unavailable) cooking rack, but 3 levels is plenty for a good cookout!
I love when locally-grown jalapenos are at their peak. That’s the time to go grab a few pounds to make quick pickled jalapeno rings. They keep in the pantry forever, always on hand for a pizza, sandwich, salad, burger… hot dogs… everything! You can use this recipe for other peppers too, so go to your farmer’s market at peak pepper time and grab a variety.