Pepper Crusted Bacon Cheeseburgers

In my world there’s nothing better than a burger cooked on a super hot flat top griddle. Boy do I love that nice little char you get on the patties. These pepper crusted bacon cheeseburgers amp up that great flat top (though you can certainly grill them!) flavor even more.

The patties are loaded with sweet onion and lots of black pepper. Lots of black pepper. Crispy bacon, lettuce, smoky cheese and a fantastically garlicky aioli top it all off Every bite is loaded with flavor.
Pepper Crusted Bacon CheeseburgersDo not be shy with the black pepper when you roll the burger patties in it. You really want a good strong pepper flavor. I used smoked pepper but any good freshly cracked pepper will do. For extra smoky flavor used smoked garlic instead of regular raw garlic.

Also try my spicy bacon burger!

Pepper Crusted Bacon Cheeseburgers

Course Main
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 8 servings

Ingredients

For the garlic aioli

  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon parsley minced

For the burgers

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 small sweet onion
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream you can omit this if you don't have cream on hand
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 8 hamburger buns
  • Green leaf lettuce
  • 8 slices smokehouse cheddar cheese
  • 8 slices bacon cooked

Instructions

For the garlic aioli

  • Place garlic in a small bowl. Add the salt and mash with a fork until it becomes a paste.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until combined.
  • Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the burgers

  • Place beef into a large bowl.
  • Great 2 tablespoons of the onion into the beef. Slice the remaining onion thin.
  • Add cream, salt and pepper and mix well. Form into 8 1/4 pound patties.
  • Spread cracked black pepper out onto a plate. Lightly press each side of each patty into the pepper.
  • Cook patties as desired. I prefer them grilled on a flat-top griddle, but you can also cook them in a skillet.
  • Lightly toast the buns.
  • Assemble burgers by slathering buns with the garlic aioli. Add the lettuce, cooked patties, cheese and bacon and serve.

Cedar Planked Buffalo Chicken Bites

Wow. We were both totally blown away by just how incredibly fantastic these cedar planked Buffalo chicken bites were. Yeah, they’re supposed to be appetizers. Well, that’s not how they ended up here. Eat one? Two? Yeah, right. I’m a Buffalo wing addict to begin with so I’m all over anything that involves wing sauce. Bacon? Cheese? Chicken thighs? It’s like everything yummy all in a single bite, all with a wonderful hint of cedar flavor. Crazy good. One of the best things we’ve ever made. Easily.

Cedar Planked Buffalo Chicken Bites

Don’t worry if you get a little cheese ‘blowout’ when you make these cedar planked Buffalo chicken bites. And don’t leave that cheese on the planks, either. Nope, scrape it up along with the chicken and just go to town on it. These are delicious, one of the best things you can imagine.

I like to serve these with more warmed Buffalo wing sauce on the side. There’s no such thing as too much Buffalo sauce in my book.

Also try my planked meatballs!

Cedar Planked Buffalo Chicken Bites

Course Appetizer
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 14

Equipment

  • 2 large cedar planks

Ingredients

  • 7 chicken thighs boneless, skinless
  • 7 ounces Mozzarella cheese cubed into 14 pieces
  • 7 slices thick cut bacon cut in half width-wise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons BBQ Seasoning I used our Fire Eater rub
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup Frank's RedHot sauce

Instructions

  • Place the cedar planks in water for 30 minutes.
  • Fire up your grill for indirect cooking 350-400 F. You do not want flame directly below the place where you plan on placing the planks
  • Cut the thighs in half lengthwise. Place a cube of mozzarella in the center and roll the chicken around it.
  • Wrap a half piece of bacon around the chicken.
  • Sprinkle the chicken with the rub. Don't be shy with it.
  • Transfer to the planks, leaving at least 1/2" space between each chicken roll.
  • Transfer planks to grill and cook for 1 – 1 1/2 hours. As the bacon and chicken begin to render fat you may experience flare-ups. I keep a spray bottle full of fresh water nearby when this happens, being careful to spray down into the grill at the fire and not at the chicken which would rinse off the seasoning.
  • Meanwhile, place the butter and hot sauce in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring the help melt the butter.
  • Once the chicken hits 155 F internal temperature (make sure you measure in the meat, not the cheese!) using an instant-read thermometer, brush heavily with the Buffalo sauce.
  • Cook another 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is done (at least 165 F).
  • Brush with any remaining sauce and serve!

Notes

I like to have tons of Buffalo sauce, so I double the ingredients and serve half alongside the chicken for dipping.

Homemade Onion Rings

I’m addicted to onion rings. And I’m picky about them. I’m picking about the coating. It has to be light and crunchy and it has to stick to every inch of the onion. And I’m picky about the onion. Each bite has to be ‘clean’. Nothing is worse than biting into a ring and having the entire onion want to come out at once. And of course, they have to taste great. These homemade onion rings pass my picky tests and then some. They are truly fantastic.

Homemade Onion RingsThere is absolutely nothing I would change about the batter for these homemade onion rings. It has the perfect consistency and flavor. Well, ok, I might change up the seasoning just a bit depending on who I’m serving them to or whatever my mood is that day. Me, I like a bit of heat, so cayenne is my go-to seasoning. But, a little smoked paprika or even a dried herb such as Italian seasoning also makes for a pleasant change.

The batter would also be great on fish filets, making for a big plate of fish-and-rings.

For a nice twist on traditional onion rings, try my fried onion strips with dipping sauce. For something with a kick, you gotta make my spicy red onion rings.

Homemade Onion Rings

Course Side
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 -6 servings

Ingredients

For the onion rings

  • 2 large sweet onions cut into 1/2" rings, rings separated
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable or canola oil for frying
  • Kosher salt

For the batter

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne substitute Creole seasoning for something a little different
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup chilled club soda
  • 1 large egg

Instructions

For the onion rings

  • Place the rings into a large bowl.
  • Add the flour and toss to coat.
  • Let sit for 15 minutes.

For the batter

  • Heat 3" of oil to 365 F in a deep fryer or Dutch oven.
  • Whisk together the batter ingredients until smooth.
  • Working in batches, dip the onions into the batter and coat completely.
  • Fry until golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side, flipping once. Do not over-crowd the fryer.
  • Transfer to a wire rack and sprinkle with salt.

Cherry Limeade

Ahhhh, the perfect drink on a hot day. This cherry limeade hit the spot and then some. A little tart and a little sweet, you can make this regular or diet. The diet version isn’t completely carbohydrate-free. For that, you can omit the lime juice and cherries and instead use diet syrups, like the ones available from Torani. They make a wide range of diet fruit (and other) flavored syrups. We love them on sno-cones too!

Cherry Limeade

I recommend not storing this cherry limeade with the lime slices if you have any leftovers. The next day it’ll get mighty darned ‘limey’. Just drop the slices in when you are ready to serve, and remove them if you need to refrigerate the remainder overnight.

Also try my homemade sno-cone syrup.

Cherry Limeade

Course Drink
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 2 liters

Ingredients

  • 2 liter Sprite diet is fine
  • 1 cup lime juice fresh squeezed
  • 10 ounces maraschino cherries not drained
  • 1 cup sugar artificial sweetener is fine
  • lime slices for serving

Instructions

  • Place the soda, juice and cherries into the fridge for 1 hour.
  • Combine all ingredients except for the lime slices in a large pitcher. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Serve ladled into tall glasses, making sure to get some of the cherries. Add a few lime slices.

Copycat Burger King Whopper

My fast food dining days are pretty much behind me. Oh I might stop and grab something every once-in-a-while, specially if I’m traveling. I still crave some of my fast food favorites, but now I’m more a make-it-at-home kinda guy. So that’s how we ended up here, with a copycat of my favorite chain burger, the Burger King Whopper (although truth be told, McDonald’s Quarter Pounder and BigMac are close behind on the list!).

Copycat Burger King Whopper

I like to cook my copycat Burger King Whoppers on a flat top griddle on my grill. I get the griddle hot, screaming hot, first. That gives me that little char, that little crunch around the edges. And of course cooking on the grill gives you that char-grilled flavor just like at the restaurant!

If you don’t have a grill cook the burgers in a hot skillet!

Also try my copycat of McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese.

Copycat Burger King Whopper

Course Main
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 6 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 4 sesame-seed hamburger buns
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter melted
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt I prefer a little more
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper I prefer a little more
  • 4 slices American cheese optional
  • 12 dill pickle slices divided
  • 2 slices white onion separated into 8 rings, divided
  • 2 small tomatoes cut into 8 slices, divided
  • 4 teaspoon ketchup divided (just eyeball it)
  • 1 cup chopped iceberg lettuce divided
  • 8 teaspoons mayonnaise divided (just eyeball it)

Instructions

  • Heat a skillet, grill pan or flat top griddle over high heat.
  • Brush butter on buns and toast until lightly browned.
  • Season the meat with salt and pepper and form into thin patties. Cook 2-3 minutes per side, not flipping until you get a nice crust.
  • To assemble the burgers, place the patties on the bun bottoms.
  • Add the pickle, onion and tomato slices.
  • Add a good squirt of ketchup.
  • Add the shredded lettuce. Spread mayonnaise on bun top and serve.

Tropical Shrimp Salad

I’ve been a subscriber to Louisiana Cookin’ magazine for years. This tropical shrimp salad is a great example of why I’ve been a loyal reader for so long. This salad was incredible. A wonderful combination of fruits and shrimp, with a light creamy dressing that has a hint of vanilla. It was the perfect dish on a hot summer’s day.
Tropical Shrimp SaladI made this tropical shrimp salad a main dish by using large shrimp and large melon balls. You can also serve this as a side or a great pitch-in dish by using smaller shrimp and melon balls. This salad is also absolutely fantastic without the shrimp.

I used a Greek vanilla yogurt but regular ole yogurt works just fine too. There’s no way you can go wrong with this salad.

Also try my Peruvian Palta Rellena.

Tropical Shrimp Salad

Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 -8 servings

Ingredients

For the salad

  • 1 1/2 pounds cooked large shrimp peeled
  • 2 cups chopped pineapple
  • 1 1/3 cups honeydew melon balls
  • 1 1/3 cups watermelon balls
  • 1 1/3 cups cantaloupe balls
  • 1 cup peeled seeded, sliced cucumber (1 medium cucumber)
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion plus more for garnish

For the dressing

  • 1/3 cup fat free vanilla yogurt Greek is fine
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon light mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

For the salad

  • Place all salad ingredients into a large bowl and stir gently.

For the dressing

  • Whisk together all ingredients and pour over the shrimp and fruit mixture.
  • Stir gently.
  • Serve garnished with chopped green onions and dill.

Easy Fry Dipping Sauce

Even if you’re a die-hard I-only-put-ketchup-on-my-fries person, you have to try this easy easy fry dipping sauce. Fear not since it does contain (some) ketchup! And mayonnaise (a worthy fry dipping sauce on it’s own!). A few other ingredients and a little spiciness and you’ve got something different for your next batch of fries.

Easy Fry Dipping Sauce

I have quickly learned that one of the most valuable things in my fridge is a jar of pickle brine. It’s the liquid left after you’ve taken out the last pickle. Don’t ever toss it out. You can use it in so many recipes, from this easy fry dipping sauce to fried chicken.

Also try my Yum Yum sauce!

Easy Fry Dipping Sauce

Course Sauce
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings 2 cups
Author Mike

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon pickle brine
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 pinch cayenne

Instructions

  • Whisk everything together in a small bowl.
  • Refrigerate for at least one hour before using.

Notes

Never toss out the juice left in your pickle jars when the pickles are gone. You can use that brine in great recipes like this fry dipping sauce to fried chicken!

Hidden Valley Ranch Fried Chicken using the Vortex

The beauty of the Vortex BBQ insert is that you can take pretty much any deep-fryer recipe and use it on a charcoal grill. It doesn’t have to be for chicken either. This Hidden Valley Ranch fried chicken using the Vortex is a perfect example of just how amazing it is. The meat is crazy tender, unbelievable moist. And the skin? Well, let’s just say I leave it for last because it’s almost like dessert. A true treat.
Hidden Valley Ranch Fried Chicken using the Vortex

Hidden Valley Ranch fried chicken using the Vortex is incredibly easy to make. And there’s no mess or clean up like if you’d fried the chicken on the stovetop or in a deep fryer. It’s why I love all my Vortexes. I have some for my big charcoal grills and some for my smaller charcoal grills. Which one I use depends on how much I’m cooking, but no matter what, everything comes out fantastic.

Also try my Granny’s Secret Fried Chicken using the Vortex.

Hidden Valley Ranch Fried Chicken using the Vortex

Course Main
Cuisine American
Prep Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8 pieces
Author Mike

Ingredients

  • 8 pieces chicken I used skin-on, bone-in thighs
  • 1 cup Hidden Valley Ranch dressing prepared per package instructions
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • vegetable oil

Instructions

  • Place chicken in a resealable container or bag. Add the dressing. Seal and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  • Fire up your grill with the Vortex insert. Let the coals get good and hot.
  • Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off any excess.
  • Combine the pepper, flour and salt in a pie plate, bowl or baggie. Add the chicken and coat well.
  • Transfer chicken to your grill around the Vortex. Do not let the pieces overlap or touch.
  • Cook for approximate 45 minutes or until the chicken is done. Test for 165 F in several places then remove.
  • If desired, lightly brush the chicken with oil and let cook another 5 minutes. This will produce even crunchier chicken.
  • Let cool slightly and serve.

Smoked BBQ Baked Beans

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Double this recipe. And if you have a lot of leftover smoked pulled pork (or brisket) laying around, quadruple the recipe. Because these smoked BBQ baked beans are fantastic you’ll want to make as much as will fit on your smoker at one time. I got this fantastic (and easy) recipe and many others from¬†Brother Jimmy’s BBQ: More than 100 Recipes. If you’re a fan of smoking and grilling, you need Brother Jimmy’s now.

Smoked BBQ Baked Beans

Just about any smoked meat will work just fine in these smoked BBQ baked beans. I prefer brisket or pulled pork, but chicken and turkey are good too. This is an excellent way to use up leftover (or not leftover) meats.

Also try my peach BBQ beans.

Smoked BBQ Baked Beans

Note: You can make this dish in the oven. Just bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. I recommend that you use a smoky BBQ sauce if making in the oven.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Mike

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 32 ounce can pork and beans, undrained
  • 1 cup leftover smoked pork butt cubed or shredded
  • 1/2 cup your favorite BBQ sauce
  • 1 tablespoon molasses

Instructions

  • Fire up your smoker for smoking at 225 F.
  • Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes.
  • Combine the onion and remaining ingredients in a medium disposable aluminum pan.
  • Transfer to your smoker and smoke for 45 minutes-1 hour or until hot and bubbly, stirring occasionally.

Okra Hush Puppies

This is the first time in a long, long time that I didn’t take a picture of a dish after I plated. Why? Well, because my okra hush puppies were only on a plate for about 30 seconds. Yeah, sure, my hush puppy shaping skills are lacking, but it so didn’t matter. They were incredible. I mean just flat-out absolutely the best hush puppies ever. The perfect batter. And my favorite, fresh okra. I loved it!
Okra Hush Puppies

You pretty much gotta go with fresh when it comes to the okra for these hush puppies. You might bet away with frozen when fresh is out of season, but the color, the crunch, won’t be quite the same. It’ll still taste delicious though.

Note: Yeah, I might have eaten several of these before they even cooled off. And yeah, they were pretty darned hot but I could not control myself. You won’t be able to either.

Also try my copycat of the hush puppies from Long John Silver’s!

Okra Hush Puppies

Course Side
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 4 cups fresh okra sliced thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup onion minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups self-rising cornbread mix I used a small box of Jiffy
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Heat oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 350 F.
  • In a large bowl combine the okra, garlic powder, onion, and parsley.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and sugar. Add to the bowl of okra and stir gently to combine.
  • Stir in the cornbread mix. Add the salt and pepper and stir..
  • Working in batches, scoop out a spoonful of batter and gently drop into the hot oil. Fry for about 5 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through, flipping as they cook.
  • Remove to a wire rack to cool.