Chili-1

I was reminded recently that there can be disadvantages to being a chef. I belong to one of our local Kiwanis groups. The other week, another Kiwanis group, in a town a few miles away, decided to hold a Chili cook-off and invited a number of other Kiwanis groups from around the area. I was asked to represent our group in the cook-off as I was a chef, and should have no problem winning it. Needless to say, I didn’t win, or even come in second. My problem; I am a chef at heart, and I over thought the whole thing. I have cooked in a number of Chili cook-offs, in the past, geared my chili more towards those “sanctioned” events rather than the crowd that I would be feeding and who would, ultimately be also judging. Sure, I strayed outside the bounds of a sanctioned event by adding beans to my chili, but I knew that we wouldn’t be following the “professional” rules anyway and up here, in Wisconsin, it is unthinkable that Chili wouldn’t contain beans. But other than that, I made a chili that I felt confident could win any major Chili cook-off.

So what happened? What went wrong? It’s simple. I feel into the trap that many chefs fall into at sometime in their career. They forget who they are cooking for, and instead, let their ego take over, at which point they often determine that their guests are “clueless” and need to be educated about “real” food. Sometimes this can work out for chefs, but for the vast majority of us, the reality of the business side of the restaurant world slaps us in the face, and reminds us that it isn’t about feeding our egos but about creating something that our guests will enjoy and want to come back to time and again.

There are many chefs out there that like to think of themselves as “artists” and I would bet that every chef goes through that phase at one point or another. Sure for a small handful that thought process works out for them, but for most of us those thoughts eventually lead to failure as we alienate many of our guests, slowly shrinking that pool of repeat customers until our business can no longer be sustained and we have to shut our doors, putting numerous people out of work, and adding to the statistics of yet another failed restaurant.

I’m not saying that what we chefs do doesn’t have an element of artistry, or at the very least, craftsmanship to it, but once we start buying into the hype that we are artists, we start taking what we do way too seriously and give ourselves too much credit. Nor am I saying that chefs should not pour their heart and soul into their food, which will always engender a bit of ego on our part. But we can never forget that what we do is cook food for people and the people should be our main focus at times. Sure we can attempt to “educate” our customers, and should do so, but it needs to come from a genuine place, not a place filled with our ego, demanding that they understand our food or get out. Yes, food is our job, but we can never forget that our real job is people, and the serving of those people. Chefs can, and should, have a passion for food, but more importantly they need a passion for serving people. If you just have the passion for food you can get by as a chef, and maybe even gain a bit of notoriety for yourself, but while your flame my burn hot, it will die out rather quickly. But couple that passion for food with a passion for serving people and not only can that flame burn bright, but it can burn long.

So back to my Chili story; yes I lost and it was a rather humiliating loss in my eyes. The chilis that took 1st and 2nd place were soupy concoctions full of ground beef, chunks of tomato and onion and just the faintest hints of chili powder and cumin in them. And the only complaints about them were that they would have been better with noodles in them (and yes, that is a big thing up here in Wisconsin). In other words the exact opposite of what mine was; thick, hearty, with the heat of 4 different kinds of chili peppers powering it up. No ground beef in my chili, but rather a mixture of diced chuck and sirloin. While I might have found the winning chilis laughable I was obviously in the minority as these dishes readily beat me. And why, did they beat me? I could go on and on about what “real” chili is, how good mine was, and how bland theirs was, but the truth of the matter is, I didn’t think about my audience. If I hadn’t let my ego get in the way and I took a couple of minutes to really think about it, I would have realized that there was no way my type of chili would win up here in Wisconsin with the type of crowd I was cooking for.

That being said, how about a recipe for a non-winning chili? In all honesty, I think that this recipe is pretty damn good, and I shared some of the chili with a few friends that are chili fanatics like me and it has gotten good reviews, so I am going to share it. I mean, come on, it’s loaded with bourbon. What’s not to like?!

Bourbon Barrel Chili
makes approximately 1 1/4 gallons

3 cups Water
4 each Guajillo Peppers*
4 each Ancho Peppers*
3 pounds Diced Beef (stew meat, chuck, roasts, inside round, sirloin, etc.)
2 Tbs. Vegetable Oil
5 each Jalapenos, diced (more or less depending on how hot you like it)
4 cloves Garlic, minced
3 medium Onions, peeled and diced
2 tsp. Ground Cumin
1 tsp. Dried Oregano
1 Tbs. Ground Chipotle pepper
1 ½ cups Bourbon or whiskey
¼ cup Brown Sugar
1 Tbs. Cocoa Powder
1 can (6oz) Tomato Paste
1 can (28 oz) Diced Tomato (with the juice)
3 cans (15 oz each) Pinto Beans, drained

Directions
Heat a dry pan (no oil) over high heat. Meanwhile bring the water to a boil. Toast the chili peppers, on each side, until just starting to brown and add to the water. Turn off heat and allow the peppers soften for 10 minutes. Drain off the water but reserve. Open up the chilis and remove the seeds. Place in a blender with just enough of the reserved liquid to make a thick puree. Set aside.

Heat a large pot over high heat. Add the oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Working in batches so as to not overcrowd the pan, sauté the meat until nice and brown.

Chili-Meat

Set aside. Add the onions and jalapenos to the pot, reduce the heat to medium high and sauté the onions until soft and starting to brown, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes longer. Add the cumin, oregano and ground chipotle pepper and sauté another minute. Add the chili paste you made earlier and sauté another 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and sauté for another 3 minutes. Add the Bourbon, brown sugar and cocoa powder. Cook for 5 minutes to remove most of the alcohol. Stir often to keep the mixture from burning. Finally add the diced tomato and pinto beans, along with the meat, stir, cover and cook for 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is nice and tender. Stir often to keep chili from burning. Season with salt and pepper. If chili is too thick use reserved water, from softening the peppers, to thin it out.

If you want to increase the heat use more guajillos or anchos, or use cayenne. Do not use more chipotle as the smoky flavor will start to overpower all the other flavors.

*Guajillo and Ancho peppers are dried Mexican chili peppers and can be found in Mexican markets are stores with larger Hispanic food aisles.

Chili-2

Peach-Preserves1

This post probably should have gone out about 2 weeks ago, as peach season as ended for most of us here in the US, but in case it hasn’t, or you find yourself with a bunch of leftover peaches then this is your lucky day.

A couple of weeks ago my wife was out and about and had stopped at this little Amish farm that also runs a bakery out of their house. She loves to stop there to pick up their Bacon-Cheese Bread, Pecan Sticky Buns and their soft Pretzels. This day they had a number of boxes of peaches sitting outside with a sign telling people that they were free. Word was that they had gotten partially frozen and now weren’t any good for what they needed them for. Well Wanda picked up a box and brought them home. They ended up being quite mealy in texture so they weren’t very good for eating although they had great flavor which means they would be great for cooking. Pie was made. Cobbler was made, and of course, preserves were made.

Being me, I couldn’t just make plain old Peach Preserves. I had to dress it up a little so I made Gingered Peach Preserves and Bourbon Peach Preserves, but if these don’t interest you, no problem. The recipe starts off as plain Peach Preserves and I just add to it. If you want them plain then just skip the add-ins and continue to follow the recipe. Also, this recipe doesn’t use any pectin and relies on cooking down the preserves to the proper consistency. This results in a jam that may not be as fresh and vibrant tasting as a short cooked jam, but you end up with a deeper, more concentrated flavor. In my opinion neither is better…just different from each other.

Peach Preserves 3 Ways – Plain, Gingered or Bourbon
makes 8-10 half pints

8 pounds Peaches
5 cups Sugar
1/3 cup Lemon Juice
1/2 cup Candied Ginger, chopped fine (optional)*
1/2 cup Bourbon (optional)*
*(double portion if you only want to make one type and will be using the whole batch)

Big a large pot of water to a rolling boil. While waiting for the water to boil, cut a shallow “X” in the blossom end of each peach. Also prepare an ice bath. Clean and sanitize your sink then fill with cold water and about 2-3 pounds of ice. When your water comes to a boil add a few peaches at a time and cook for 1-1 1/2 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure all sides get time in the boiling water. Transfer immediately to the ice bath. Repeat until all the peaches have been blanched.

Using the back of a knife gently scrape the skins from the peaches. If you cooked and chilled them properly the skins should easily come off. Cut the peaches in half, remove the pits, and then roughly chop. Divide the peaches, sugar, and lemon juice in half and place in 2 large, non-reactive pots. Add the candied ginger to 1 pot and the bourbon to the other. Alternatively, if just making 1 kind of preserves, place all the peaches, sugar and lemon juice in 1 pot. Double the portion of bourbon or ginger if adding to the whole amount of peaches.

Cook over medium heat until the juices start to develop then turn up to medium high. Gently mash the pieces to reach the texture you prefer. I like my preserves a little chunky so I don’t mash too much.

Place a couple of saucers in the freezer. While the preserves are cooking prepare your jars and lids for canning-sterilize your jars and lids, get the water boiling in your canner. Don’t forget to stir the preserves regularly while doing this so that they don’t stick and burn.

Cook the preserves for 20-25 minutes before you start checking for doneness. To test for the jellying point I use 2 methods. First is the ”sheeting” method. Dip a cool metal spoon into the preserves and pull it out of the steam rising off the pot. The preserves should come off altogether as 1 “sheet.” If it drips off in single drips, one after the other, you still have a ways to go. If it starts off as 2 drips that then meld together you still have a little ways to go. If it sheets off the spoon you should be there. At that point I then double-check with the “cold plate” test. Place a small mound of the preserves onto one of the plates you put in the freezer. Place it back in the fridge for about 30 seconds then remove. If the preserves hold its shape when the plate is tilted they are done. If it runs then you need to cook a little longer. You can also run your finger through the mound. If it runs back together cook a little longer. If it hold the line you drew then they are done.

At this point, transfer to your canning jars, leaving a 1/4″ headspace. Top with lids, per the manufacturer’s directions and process, in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove from the water and allow to cool, on a cooking rack until room temperature. Store any open preserves in the fridge.

Peach-Preserves2

Manhattan

December 7th – Red Stag Manhattan

Not all cocktails have to be complicated affairs. Just like with food, sometimes simple is better. Many of the “classic” cocktails follow this rule. I’ve got nothing against complicated cocktails, or drinks with numerous ingredients, as exhibited by many of the drinks I have posted about, but I also enjoy cocktails with few ingredients, especially when those ingredients are top notch.

One of my favorite cocktails, being a Bourbon fan, is the classic Manhattan. With only 3 ingredients, this drink allows the Bourbon, or other style of whiskey, to shine through. Served straight up, the Manhattan is my pre-dinner cocktail of choice although I’ve never been known to turn down the offer of one.

While doing research for this series I tried Jim Beam Red Stag Black Cherry for the first time. While it will never become my drink of choice it makes a great alternative. It’s a little too sweet for me to drink regularly, but I do have to admit that I do really like the Black Cherry flavor that it has been infused with. It also makes a great base for a number of variations on whiskey based cocktails, including the Manhattan.

Traditionally, Manhattans are stirred, not shaken, but I like my Manhattans icy cold, but straight up so I always shake mine for at least 15 seconds. This causes the drink to get a little cloudy, but I think both mellows out the edges while opening up the flavors a bit from the water that melts from the ice during shaking.

Red Stag Manhattan

2 parts Jim Beam Red Stag Black Cherry infused Bourbon
1/2 part Vermouth, sweet
2 dashes Orange Bitters (angostura is an acceptable substitute if you don’t have orange bitters)

Chill a martini glass by filling with ice and water. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add the ingredients and shake for 15 seconds. Dump the ice water out of the martini glass, shaking out as much excess water as possible. Strain the cocktail into the martini glass and garnish with a cherry, a few cranberries, or better yet, either a chocolate covered cherry or cranberry.

Manhattan2

Bourbon-Cider-Cocktail2

December 1st – Gingered Cider Bourbon Cocktail

About 1 1/2 weeks ago my wife convinced herself that Godiva should make an Advent Calendar for the Christmas season. After searching both the web and the local store we discovered that they do not make an Advent Calendar, but if we so desired, we could purchase individual chocolates and create our own. I opted to pass on that one, but it got me to thinking about other adult versions of Advent Calendars and thus the concept for The Christmas Cocktail Advent Calendar was born.

I am going to attempt to post a cocktail a day between December 1st and December 24th. The goal is to keep them all holiday themed, or at the very least, incorporate the flavors of the season. Some will be re-hashes of cocktails I’ve posted about in the past, some will be adaptations of cocktails I’ve run across while doing “research,” and some will be completely new creations that I’ve come up with all on my own.

Of course, this type of undertaking requires a lot of “research” and “experimentation,” but I’m willing to make the sacrifice for my dear readers. So, I hope you enjoy these cocktails as much I’ve enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy over the next month, creating and refining these drinks. It looks like it’s going to be a very festive holiday season for me, filled with the Christmas “spirit.” Hopefully, you will join me for a drink or 2.

To start things off, I wanted to combine my favorite alcohol, Bourbon, with my favorite seasonal beverage, cider. Add in a hint of ginger and touch of maple syrup and you have a drink that is both refreshing and warming. Perfect for those cold, bleak, early December days.

Gingered Cider Bourbon Cocktail
1 oz. Bourbon
3 oz. Cider
1 tsp. Maple Syrup (the real stuff, not the artificial pancake syrup)
squeeze of fresh Lemon juice
2 slices Ginger, fresh, sliced paper thin

In a shaker, filled with ice, combine all the ingredients. Shake for, at least, 30 seconds to give the ginger enough time to impart a bit of its flavor to the cocktail. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Serve as is, or garnish with an orange twist.

Cider-Bourbon-Cocktail1

Fairs-Logo

September is a great month for foodie festivals and fairs. Not only do a number of states have their State Fairs this month, but all across the nation harvest season is in full swing which means that just about everywhere you turn, there is a community that is celebrating food in some way.

More than any months, September and October fill the weekends with fairs dedicated to local foods which makes it very hard to narrow it down to only 6-8 events to share with my readers. This is just a very small sampling of what is going on in September. I encourage everyone to check out your state’s tourism website and the local websites of the communities close to you. You are bound to find some great celebration close by.

Wisconsin
Pardeeville Watermelon Festival September 7 Pardeeville, WI
www.pardeevillewatermelonfestival.com
Not only is there a Watermelon Carving contest and Largest Watermelon contest among the days festivities, this festival also hosts the Championships for both Watermelon Speed-Eating and Watermelon Seed Spitting, often resulting in new World Records. Come watch the action or sign up and take a stab at a new World’s Record.

Warrens Cranberry Festival September 27-29 Warrens, WI
www.cranfest.com
Here are 2 facts that might surprise you: 1. Cranberries are Wisconsin’s largest fruit crop, contributing over $300 million, a year, to the economy. 2. Wisconsin is the country’s largest producer of cranberries, a title I always thought belonged to Massachusetts. So it’s no wonder that Warrens, at the center of Wisconsin’s cranberry harvest, should throw a 3 day bash celebrating this tart, red berry.

North Carolina
Ayden Collard Festival September 5-8 Ayden, NC
www.aydencollardfestival.com
Join Ayden as they turn out to celebrate, not only one of their most important cash crops and icons of Southern cuisine, but their town’s history as well.

Utah
Utah State Fair September 5-15 Salt Lake City, UT
www.utahstatefair.com
Going strong since pioneers first held their Deseret Fair in 1856, 40 years before Utah would officially become a state, Utah has celebrated food and their agricultural achievements. Like all state fairs agriculture takes center stage, so take a minute to watch the 4-Her’s in the judging ring, learn more about Utah’s most important cash crops, and most importantly, attempt to eat nothing but fried foods the entire day.

Kentucky
Kentucky Bourbon Festival September 17-22 Bardstown, KY
www.kybourbonfestival.com
Here’s one that I am truly sorry I’m going to miss. Bourbon is my drink of choice and to come across an entire festival devoted to my favorite adult beverage…it can’t get any better. While I may not make it to this one, it will certainly be put on my bucket list to get there some day. If anyone attends, or has ever attended this event, I would really love to get the low-down on this one, from someone with personal experience.

Oregon
Scappoose Community Club Sauerkraut Festival September 21 Scappoose, OR
www.scappoosecommunity.org/scappoose-communityclub-sauerkraut-festival/
Started in 1989, this relatively new festival may not be the largest or flashiest, but you have to love a festival that is devoted to one of my favorite foods, sauerkraut. Besides where else can you go Cabbage Bowling?!

Texas
Houston Food Truck Fest Sept. 28 Houston, TX
houstonfoodtruckfest.com/
In the last few years food trucks have been popping up, in cities all over the country. Depending on frame of mind, you either love this trend or despise it. Houstonites seem to be of the frame of mind where they wholeheartedly endorse the Roach Coaches and have even created a festival that brings the best of these to one place, for a day, so that people can experience all the greatness that is the Houston Food Truck movement.

If you have been following my blog for any length of time you should know by now that I am a huge Bourbon fan. While I’ve never met a Whiskey I haven’t liked, over the years I’ve found that I prefer Bourbon to all other Whiskeys, including Scotch. I’ve always been a Bourbon, at least since my college days, when I drank copious amounts of Jim Beam. While in culinary school I discovered Basil Hayden and the rest of the Super Premium Bourbons and haven’t looked back since. Basil Hayden is still one of my favorites, although I can’t afford it often so my “go to” Bourbon is Maker’s Mark or Buffalo Trace.

While in college I usually drank Jim and Coke, or did straight up shots, but occasionally I would go on Whiskey Sour kicks. I quickly outgrew those drinks as they always seemed too harsh and abrasive. It wasn’t until years later that I rediscovered what great drinks “Sours” could be once you gave up on that nasty premade bottled stuff made with chemicals, acids and a very small percentage (if any) of real juice. Real purists will probably tell you that it is best to make each and every drink completely from scratch. While I will occasionally make my Sours this way, I prefer to streamline the process and make up a batch of homemade sour mix. This is a great time saver, but only make enough to use up in a couple of days. After that, the fresh lemon and lime juice starts to oxidize and loses that wonderfully fresh flavor that one can only get with fresh squeezed juice. Technically, the sour mix will stay good for a week or so, but to really experience the drink in its prime use up your sour mix in a day or two. Also, this drink is all about freshness so don’t even consider using a shortcut and buying one of those plastic lemons and limes. It’s not worth it and you might as well just go ahead and purchase the sour mix itself. Trust me those plastic lemons and limes taste nothing close to fresh squeezed.

Finally, and I’ve covered this before, but it’s been awhile, many old, classic drinks contain egg white. It lends a rich, almost creamy mouth feel to cocktails. Make sure that you use the freshest eggs you can get your hands on and don’t overdo it or it will add an off flavor to your drink. If the thought of a bit of raw egg white totally grosses you out, you can skip it and the drink will still be good, but I encourage you to try it, at least once, and see if it doesn’t elevate the drink from just good to great.

Sour Mix
makes about 4 1/2 cups

1 1/2 cups Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 cups Water
1 cup Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 cup Lime juice, freshly squeezed

Combine the sugar and water in a small pot, bring to a boil and cook just until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Strain the lemon and lime juice to remove any and all pulp and add to the cooled simple syrup. Chill until ready to use. Best if used in the first 3 days but will stay good for a week or so.

Whiskey (Bourbon) Sour
makes 1 drink

2oz. Bourbon
3oz. Homemade Sour Mix
1 Tbl. (1/2oz.) Egg White”"

Combine Bourbon, sour mix and egg white in a cocktail shaker and dry shake (shake without ice) for 5 seconds. Add ice to fill the shaker half way and shake for about 20 seconds. Strain into a tumbler filled with ice, making sure to allow the shaker to drain completely. Garnish with a cherry and lemon or orange wheel. You will notice in the picture above there is no cherry. We had some maraschino cherries in the fridge but it looks like my daughter got to them before I did!

**Egg whites can be difficult to measure out as they want to stick together. You can combat this by adding a drop of water to the egg white and giving it a quick beating with a fork to break it up. If it still wants to cling together it’s best to under portion the egg white rather than over portion it.

Like most of the people in the upper Midwest, I can’t believe the weather we are having. We’ve had almost a full week of 70-80° temperatures and it’s barely the middle of March. Of course, we’re all holding our breath, just waiting for winter to make one last bid for supremacy. We watch the news religiously expecting to hear that the season’s worst blizzard is heading our way and that this weather is nothing but a short tease before we are plunged back into sub zero temperatures.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been out, enjoying this early preview of summertime. It seems that every day our neighborhood is infused with the aromas of people grilling out and watching the kids play outside in their shorts makes me think that the end of the school year is right around the corner, not Spring Break.

To celebrate this early taste of summer I created a new cocktail. Well, okay, I hate to say “created” as someone, somewhere has probably come up with this flavor combination before, but it’s new to me. You will need to make a couple of things first though. You will need to make the Ginger Lime Syrup and Homemade Sweet and Sour Mix, both recipes follow the main recipe. The Ginger Lime Syrup I originally created as a flavoring syrup for homemade soda and while it makes an okay Ginger Ale, it makes a much better mixer for cocktails. But if you have a Sodastream, or another such carbonator, give it a try. Of course you could use store bought sour mix, but why? It tastes nasty and leaves a strange aftertaste in your mouth. Besides, it masks all the other wonderful flavors in this drink.

While, techniquely this drink really would be considered a collins because of the addition of soda to top the drink I’ve called it a “Sour” which I’m sure will annoy those sticklers out there. Either way its still a good drink. I also haven’t added the egg white, which is often customary in a classic sour and which gives a “Sour” its creamy smoothness.

Gingered Bourbon Sour
makes 1 drink

2 oz. Bourbon, your favorite brand (whiskey would be fine also)
2 oz. Ginger Lime Syrup, recipe below
3 oz. Homemade Sour Mix
Club Soda
Lime, or Lemon slices

Fill a highball or Collins glass with ice. Pour in the Bourbon, ginger syrup and sour mix. Give a quick stir then fill with club soda and garnish with lemon or lime slices. After finishing the first one, enjoy another, and maybe another…only if you aren’t planning on driving anywhere!!

Ginger Lime Syrup
makes approximately 3 1/2 cups

2 cups Water
1 1/4 cup Sugar, granulated
3/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
3 oz. fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp. Coriander seed, lightly cracked
3 Limes
1/8 tsp. Salt

Combine water, sugars, ginger and coriander in a sauce pot, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, covered. Remove from heat and allow to steep 10 minutes more. Meanwhile zest and juice the limes. Add the zest and salt to the ginger mixture and steep 5 minutes longer. Strain and cool. Once room temperature add the lime juice and refrigerate until ready to use. Will hold for 2 weeks.

Homemade Sweet and Sour Mix
2 cups Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 1/2 cups Simple syrup (1:1 water to sugar ratio)
1/2 cup Water
1/3 cup Lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/3 cup Orange juice, freshly squeezed

Combine all ingredients and strain to remove any pulp and/or seeds. Refrigerate until needed. Will last for about 1 week, but tastes best within a day of making.

This past Saturday the family and I headed down to Wauwatosa (a suburb of Milwaukee) for the #MKEfoodies Potluck Picnic. #MKEfoodies is a group of food bloggers, food writers, food enthusiaists and anyone interested in the Milwaukee food scene. While Fond du Lac is about an hour north of Milwaukee I became aware of the group this past spring when I donated a few dozen cookies to their bake sale in support of kid’s cancer research. Since then I’ve lurked among the fringes of the group, following their exploits via Twitter. With the long drive, crazy schedule for both my wife and I, and the fact that we have a 4 year old, I haven’t had a chance to make to any of their events. So when I heard that they were having a picnic on the weekend I knew I had to get involved.

Needless to say, it was a great time, with the folks (Lori & Fred) over at Burp! Where Food Happens, organizing the whole event. Thanks you guys!!! Everyone brought a dish or 2 to share while the meat was donated by Fox Bros. Piggly Wiggly, Big Frank’s Wiener Waggin’ and Bunzels. There were even Cherry studded Brats donated by Cherryland’s Best. We ate plenty of great food, met some wonderful people, drank some good beer and wine, and even Gigi made a few new friends.

Our contribution to the event, besides eating all the good food, was a pasta and vegetable salad made from vegetables in our CSA box. It was tri colored rotini tossed with shaved fennel, dried cherry tomatoes, scallions, green pepper, and yellow squash, all tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. I also made Bourbon Peach slushes to serve. And I think I have a new favorite summertime beverage!!!

The recipe below will make about a half gallon of slush mix or about 8-10 servings, but this recipe is easily doubled or tripled and since you are putting it in the freezer why not make a large batch to keep around for those hot summer days. The other great thing about this recipe is that you can play with the ratio of bourbon to peach schnapps. For this party I went a bit heavier than the 1:1 ratio, favoring the peach schnapps. If I was making this for me I would probably go heavier on the bourbon although my wife would probably disagree. As long as the total amount of booze doesn’t go above 2 cups then feel free to play however you wish, even going so far as to drop the peach schnapps all together if you really like bourbon.

Bourbon Peach Slush
makes 1/2 gallon of slush mix

4 tea bags, black tea
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 6oz can orange juice concentrate
1 12 oz can lemonade concentrate
1 cup bourbon, your favorite brand (don’t use the really cheap stuff, but also no need to use ultra expensive either)
1 cup peach schnapps
lemon lime soda

Place tea bags, sugar and water in a sauce pot. Heat to just below boiling, turn off heat and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags and add the frozen concentrates to cool the tea down. Add the bourbon and peach schnapps and place in a plastic container. Freeze for 3-4 hours. Stir and allow to freeze at least 6-8 hours longer, preferably overnight or longer.

To serve, fill a cup 2/3′s of the way with the slush then fill with lemon lime soda. Give a quick stir and serve.

It has been awhile since I last posted about ribs. I think it was back in September. Well, it’s high time I posted again about them as you can never have too many rib, rub, or barbecue sauce recipes as far as I’m concerned. Besides, it gives me a chance to play with my smoker yet again. Man, I love that thing! While have have gotten quite adept at barbecuing on my Weber kettle grill, life has become so much easier with my smoker. Now, instead of having to babysit my barbecue all day, I can load it up and let it go, checking it once an hour or so. The downside to that is I can’t use barbecuing as an excuse not to do things around the house. It won’t be long before my wife catches on, and the days of “tending the grill” all day, while sucking down copious amounts of beer will be at an end. If she hasn’t already caught on, I’m SOL now, as she reads this blog. Don’t worry though, I’ll find another excuse to waste away the day drinking beer and cocktails (if anyone has any good suggestions for such an excuse let me know).

Of course, if you have read this blog for any amount of time you are well aware of my love affair with all things pork – aka, god’s gift to all mankind. Grilled, roasted, braised, stuffed into sausage casings, cured, and/or smoked, there is nothing that can compare with a piece of well cooked pork. I feel for my friends who, because of religious or other reasons, are forbidden to consume the flesh of the pig. If they only knew what they are missing! While I think this nation as gone a little “bacon crazy” in the last few years, I am fully of the opinion that “everything is better with bacon,” a phrase I have uttered here numerous times, because if pork if delightful by itself, once you pair it with long, slow cooking in a smoke filled chamber it becomes absolutely divine!

In my personal heirarchy of pork, bacon reigns supreme, followed closely by pulled pork – slowly cooked over wood for hours on end. In close third comes ribs, the subject of today’s post. Today I’m just going to focus on a great rub and simple barbecue sauce to go with the ribs. I am going to assume you already know how to barbecue them. If you are not familiar with barbecuing then check out my earlier posts on pulled pork or barbecued ribs and it will walk you through how to barbecue on a kettle style grill. The most important thing when cooking in this style is to use an indirect method of cooking and making sure that your grill doesn’t get too hot. I like to barbecue between 225°F and 250°F. Depending on their size, baby back ribs will take you 2 1/2-3 hours to cook properly. Any shorter length of time and you will end up with dry or tough ribs. Talking about tough ribs, there is a misconception, here in the north, that ribs should be falling off the bone tender. I’ve got news for you, if they are then chances are they are dry, and that’s why so many places in the north end up drenching their ribs in sauce. Properly done ribs should still cling to the bone, yet yield easily when pulled, with just the slightly resistance before coming free.

Let your ribs rest for 2 hours to overnight after applying your rub

Depending on the thickness of your ribs, your should apply your rub anywhere from 2 hours to overnight before you commence cooking. This will help to ensure the development of the “bark,” or crust. As far a sauce goes, many regions of the US consider sauce to sacrilegious, but if you like sauce, like I do, wait until the last 20 30 minutes of cooking before brushing it on. If you brush it on too soon, chances are the sugars in the sauce will end up burning, creating an unpleasant bitter, burnt flavor to your ribs.

Rib Rub
enough for 4 racks of baby back ribs

1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Combine all ingredients until well mixed. Place in an air tight container and store for up to 3 weeks. To use, sprinkle liberally on both sides of the ribs and gently rub it in. Allow to rest for at least 2 hours or overnight before cooking.

Bourbon Molasses BBQ Sauce
enough for 4 racks of baby back ribs

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup bourbon or whiskey
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 oz. yellow mustard
3/4 cup ketchup
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and simmer over medium heat until onions are tender, about 15 minutes. Blend then cook until thickened and reduced by about 1/3. Brush onto ribs about 20 minutes before ribs are done. Brush again with about 10 minutes. Serve any left on the side for people to add more. Store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

I hate coming back to work after a fun holiday weekend. Work seems like such a let down after enjoying that time with family and friends but, unfortunately, this blog isn’t making me rich so for now I need to continue with my day job. One of the things I do enjoy about my job though is the drive to work. I have a 45 minute commute to work each day. Some people think that that is too long of a drive and it must bore me to death. It’s quite the opposite in fact. I love the drive. In the morning it gives me a chance to wake up and organize my day while at night, it gives me a chance to unwind after a stressful day. There’s no one there constantly needing something from me, calling my name, or asking me questions. It’s just me, the radio and the road.

The drive, itself, is nice though in winter it can get a little scary with blowing snow and icy patches, but in general its a beautiful drive through some of Wisconsin’s richest dairy land. The landscape is ever changing and each season brings with it its own beauty, from the lush green of summer, to the vibrant colors of fall, to the stark black and white palette of winter. Even after 1 1/2 years there is something new or different to see each day.

This recipe today is a recipe I have used many times in the past in all sorts of restaurants, from fine dining to sports bars. The bourbon in this marinade pairs especially well with pork, though chicken works well also.

Bourbon Mustard Marinated Pork Chops

1/2 cup bourbon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup spicy brown mustard (most any kind of mustard will work)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 oz. Worcestershire sauce
1 splash hot sauce
2 green onions, chopped
8 boneless pork chops (loin chops) 3/4-1″ thick (use thinner chops if you want to use them for sandwiches like I did)

Combine all ingredients, except pork chops, in a large, 1 gallon zip lock bag and mix until sugar is dissolved. Add pork chops, seal and allow to marinate overnight. Prepare your grill for direct grilling over medium high heat. Remove chops from marinade and lightly blot dry. Season with a little salt and pepper and grill to desired doneness. I usually like my pork just slightly pink in the center so cook to about 150°F. Make sure to flip often as the sugar in the marinade has a tendency to burn. It should take about about 8-10 minutes to cook.

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