bbq

While spending a few days in Austin last month, I basically dove head-first into Texas barbecue: the pickles, the vinegar-based cole slaw, and man, the brisket! I loved how a dry, blackened crust over their barbecued meats isn’t a bad thing, and how sauce is added according to individual taste, after plating. Even better, the barbecued meats are sold by the quarter pound, so each person gets to choose how much they want to eat. If that’s not the most American way of eating ever, I don’t know what is! These are all concepts that are relatively uncommon in our neck of the woods here in Maryland, so I decided to try my hand at some Texas-style barbecued beef the other day.

When choosing a meat to try, I decided to go the easy route with some boneless short ribs: they are a great size, and fatty enough that I was sure I didn’t need to worry about them drying out while cooking. Turns out I made a great choice – the short ribs were perfectly moist and tasty, and a great change of pace from our typical method of cooking short ribs (braising).

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The Cornish hen, often referred to as a Cornish game hen or Rock Cornish hen, is a hybrid chicken first developed in the United States in the 1950s. Besides being much smaller than its predecessor (the Cornish-Rock chicken, which is the common “broiler” chicken worldwide), it also generally has a higher white-to-dark meat ratio than its big brothers. Some other interesting tidbits include the fact that the Cornish “game” hen is not a game bird at all, it can be either male or female, and it reaches maturity within 30 days.

I love cooking these little bird because they’re the perfect single-person meal. You get the best of everything! Both drumsticks, both wings, and both oysters. I also find cooking Cornish hens easy and stress-free, and they can be ready in much less time than a full-sized bird.

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Some eagle-eyed readers may recall that in my Memphis-style barbecue beef back ribs recipe from earlier this year, I only used half of the huge 16 lb. package of beef back ribs that US Wellness Meats sent me. I had been eyeballing the remaining two racks of ribs for a while and I decided to take a different approach to the ribs this time; the Memphis-style recipe was a lot of fun, but it also took a lot of work (and some specialized equipment) to get that perfect taste. This time around, I wanted to make something that was ridiculously easy and still produced some high-quality, juicy, and tender beef ribs.

So I turned to my dear old gas grill, and let the magic of indirect heat run its course.

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Drumsticks are a great cut of chicken. My three-year-old son loves them, since they come with “handles” and he gets to eat with his hands. To celebrate these little legs I decided to write up a quick, foolproof recipe for grilling drumsticks.

They are also one of the easiest and most rewarding pieces of chicken to grill, because it’s hard to mess them up. Chicken breasts are great, but they have a very small window of juiciness, and will dry up quicker than a jackrabbit in a thunderstorm. Whole chickens are also fun to grill, but are best when brined, which can take some time and planning. Thighs are another good option, but let’s be honest here – they’re just not as fun as drumsticks.

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NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Shashlik (Шашлык) is a type of shish kebab commonly found in Russia and the former Soviet republics. It was likely brought to Moscow from Central Asia in the 19th century. Today, it’s a popular summer food cooked over an open fire at social gatherings. It’s traditionally prepared with lamb, but chicken, pork, and beef variations are becoming increasingly prominent. With summer in full swing throughout the country right now, I thought it would be a great time to share this tasty dish!

There are a few tricks that I came up with when developing this recipe that I think are pretty sweet. While the dish is traditionally marinated in either vinegar or lemon juice, I found that the combination of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar gives the meat a tangy and subtly sweet flavor. Secondly, leaving the salt out of the marinade and saving it for the last stage of the recipe provides for a really great complementary texture to the tender and juicy meat.

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For Thanksgiving last year, I roasted/smoked our turkey. It turned out so crispy and delicious that lately I’ve been smoking our chickens using the same method. This recipe isn’t terribly different from that turkey post, but I wanted to make sure it had its own dedicated post so that visitors can quickly find it.

I did a little experimenting and found that the combination of lemon and dill – traditionally used in baked salmon – creates a tangy, fresh tasting bird. Because I smoked this chicken during our January Whole30 Challenge, I tried rubbing clarified butter all over the chicken instead of regular butter – I found it easy to work with (the butter quickly became solid again once in contact with the chicken skin), and it produced a golden protective outer “shell” around the chicken, leaving the meat inside perfectly succulent.

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You may remember one of my favorite recipes, my easy BBQ ribs. Well, since posting the recipe last year (and a revised version this March), I’ve been slowly honing this dish, and I’ve made enough changes that I figured I should write a quick amendment post.

The biggest change is that after cooking, I have been letting the ribs rest for about ten minutes, and then cutting each bone away from the rack using a pair of kitchen shears. This step makes for a much cleaner and fulfilling eating experience.

I’ve also found that adding peppercorns to the apple cider/white wine mixture in the first part of the cooking process really adds a depth to the meat’s taste.

NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, summer is a difficult time to write new recipes. We’ve spent a lot of this summer traveling or entertaining guests; when we are home, I usually prefer to grill something, and most of my grilling recipes are already on this site.

However, this has also been a good time for me to try out healthier versions of pre-Paleo dishes, like teriyaki chicken. I grew up in Washington state, where you’ll find an abundance of Asian restaurants selling “teriyaki chicken” – likely influenced by traditional Japanese teriyaki sauce, which is made with soy sauce, cooking wine, and sugar or honey. Hawaii has a similar dish, simply called “BBQ chicken”. Traditionally, the sauce is boiled down and thickened before marinating the meat, but it’s often too long of a prep to cap onto an already long marinating process (2-4 hours). Here’s how I make it at home.

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