Pork Burnt Ends

I love to grill, smoke and BBQ – even through the winter!  I’m always looking for new recipes, methods and cuts of meat to try some experiments.  Thankfully, I always have plenty of willing taste-testers.  The recipe below was inspired by one I read in The Smoking Bacon & Hog Cookbook by Bill Gillespie.  Burnt ends are traditionally beef, but I really like this take using pork.  They make a perfect dinner, appetizer or snack for the Super Bowl next Sunday!

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PORK BURNT ENDS

Ingredients

  • 3-4 Lbs. Boneless Pork Country Ribs
  • 1/2 Cup Yellow Mustard
  • Savory BBQ Rub or Any Dry Rub (I used Butt Rub on these)
  • 6 Tbs. Butter
  • 2 Tbs. Cayenne Hot Sauce
  • 1 Tbs. Honey
  • 1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar, Packed

Instructions

  • Coat country ribs evenly with yellow mustard.  Dust liberally with BBQ rub of your choice.  The mustard will help tenderize the meat and help the rub to stick.
  • Using a smoker, charcoal grill or gas grill, cook ribs directly on the grate offset from the heat at a temperature of 250 degrees for roughly three hours or until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees.  I used my charcoal grill, natural oak lump charcoal, this time with applewood chips for smoke.
  • Remove ribs from smoker or grill and allow to cool for about 30 minutes.
  • While the ribs cool:  In a small saucepan, melt butter and add hot sauce and honey.  Stir to combine well.
  • Cut ribs into 1-inch cubes.  Using an injector fill each pork cube.  The butter mixture will run out some, but that’s OK.  Place cubes into a shallow foil pan.  You will have some butter pool in the pan as it runs out of the pork.
  • Sprinkle the cubed meat with brown sugar and another light coating of rub.
  • Return foil pan to the smoker or grill and continue to cook on offset heat at 275-300 degrees for 1-2 more hours.  Stir every 15 minutes to evenly coat pork with rub and sauce.
  • Your burnt ends are ready when they reach your desired darkness.  Given the fat content and butter in the meat, you can create a great bark without drying out the meat.

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So this was my first run at making these and I couldn’t be more pleased with how they turned out!  You could easily finish these with your favorite BBQ sauce instead of the rub and brown sugar, but be careful of the sugar content.  It could cause them to burn quickly.  Served as a main, in a sandwich or as an appetizer, you’ll look like a BBQ pro for your family and friends.  Give them a try and let me know what you think.  Dig in!!

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Mixed Potato Home Fries

I’m breaking in my new cast iron skillet lately.  I thought there was a good chance to test out the crisping capability with a batch of home fries for breakfast.  While the recipe is simple there are a few keys.  Definitely use a cast iron skillet for perfect heat and crispy edges.  Using a combo of canola oil and butter will also help to brown and flavor these.  Finally, mix it up a little bit by using both sweet and russet potatoes.

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MIXED POTATO HOME FRIES

Ingredients

  • 1 Large Russet Potato
  • 1 Large Sweet Potato
  • 1/2 Medium Yellow Onion, Diced
  • 2 Tbs. Butter
  • 2 Tbs. Canola Oil
  • 1 Tsp. Sweet Smoked Paprika
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. Pepper

Instructions

  • Peel potatoes and dice each into 1/2 inch cubes.
  • Put oil and butter in skillet and warm over medium heat.
  • Mix up potatoes and diced onion and then place into warm skillet.
  • Sprinkle salt, pepper and paprika over ingredients.
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes.  Potatoes will be soft and everything will have brown crispy edges.
  • Serve immediately.

Breakfast, brunch or dinner, these home fries will be a hit with you and your guests.  The recipe above serves 4, but you can easily double it for a larger serving.  If you like, the addition of a half red or green pepper diced in this recipe is excellent as well.  Maybe you’ll try it and use it as a base for a hash?  Try diced ham and a few fried eggs over the top.  Any way you fix it, it’ll be delicious.  Dig in!

Seven Lamps – Atlanta

On a recent business trip to Atlanta I was lucky to have an evening to catch up with friends in the bustling Buckhead area.  What a great evening we had at Seven Lamps!  Co-owner and Chef Drew Van Leuvan has developed a delicious menu of craft food and cocktails served in a warm comfortable atmosphere.  On an unseasonable warm evening we shared a communal table outside near the warm gas fire pit.  Both inside and out feel casual yet refined – you could find yourself here for a special occasion or any weekday lunch or dinner.

While we ordered wine and local beer from Creature Comforts in Athens, GA we were brought complimentary house pickled vegetables and whipped creme fraiche.  The vinegary and crunchy combo with rich smooth creme paired well with our hoppy IPA’s.  Scanning the menu, there’s a beautiful selection of oysters and charcuterie as starters.  With limited time, we all decided to dive right into dinner though.  What I love about the menu is that there are endless combos of starters, small plates and entrees.  Whether drinks and snacks, mains-only or full-on courses, you can find the perfect meal for your night out.

I ordered the Idaho Potato Gnocchi which were buttery pillows complimented by seasonal mushrooms and asiago cheese.  If it’s possible for a dish to be insanely rich and light and delicate at the same time, this is it.  We also ordered the Tortellini which was filled with a rich combination of braised beef and mustard greens.  Served in a light sauce and with creamed parsnip and ricotta, this beautiful pasta was a treat from some of the more traditional fare you find in other establishments.  We ordered dinner portions of both pasta dishes and they were generous without being overboard.  There is a lunch portion available for all pastas as well.  Finally, we ordered the Springer Mountain Chicken Breast, a wood-grilled preparation served on cheddar grits with roasted baby carrots and a dijon vinaigrette.  It was perfectly cooked and a delicious take on roasted chicken.

We loved our experience here – from the food to the atmosphere to the service, all made for a perfect al fresco night in Buckhead.  I’m dying to come back for the monkfish or the ridiculously large pork chop we saw at the table next to us.  I highly suggest adding Seven Lamps to your list of must-eats in Atlanta.  Chef, you’ve outdone yourself with this place!  Find out more and view the full menu at sevenlampsatl.com.

Dante – Cleveland, OH

I wasn’t thrilled to be away from home on my birthday, but a scheduled dinner with clients at Dante in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland made it one for the ages!  Tucked into an old bank on a quiet street, this beautiful little spot is perfect for a special night, a business dinner or everyday night out.  The warm atmosphere is cozy and comfortable with plenty of seating and a short bar for cocktails and starters.

Being with a group, we were luck to sample a few things to start our evening.  The goat cheese tartlets with cranberry orange chutney were creamy and rich with the right balance of sweet.  Crispy calamari and shrimp were given a little kick tossed with spicy mayo.  It was a good take on traditional calamari you might find anywhere else.  The highlight was absolutely the charcuterie plate.  A huge portion of house-made salumi, terrine, mortadella, duck confit and chicken liver pate was accompanied by bacon onion jam and various chutneys and fruit.  You can take a look at their curing room in the old vault and see Chef Dante’s passion in the variety and beauty of his charcuterie.

The well-curated menu has a lovely selection of vegetables, meats, pasta and seafood.  Portion sizes are adjustable based on your preference, but we stuck to dinner portions for tonight.  Both the beef cheek and ribeye were beautifully cooked and came dressed with vegetables.  The salmon was a work of art worthy of praise for taste and presentation.  The creamy broccoli risotto was also noted as delicious.  My dinner was the venison osso bucco with celery root and an apple donut (apple ring battered and deep fried).  It was rich, tender and a wonderful balance of flavor and texture.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone cook venison better.

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Overall, it was a perfect dinner in every way.  With an ample wine list, craft cocktails and great beer selection (try the Italian peppercorn IPA) there is plenty to keep your interest throughout the night.  The friendly and knowledgeable staff also made it a great night out.  Compliments to Chef Dante Boccuzzi for creating this gem in Tremont.  And thank you for making my “birthday dinner” (that no one knew about) really special!  You can find out more about the location and view their full menu at dantetremont.com.

Chicken Apple Sausage

I’ve been making my own sausage for several years.  And while you definitely need some special equipment, i.e. meat grinder and sausage stuffer, it’s a really fun and actually pretty easy process.  The thought of store-bought sausage makes some people wince – what in the world do they put in that stuff??  Whether you make fresh or smoked, you can control ingredients, flavors and salt content by making your own.  Below is a recipe for fresh chicken apple sausage, flavored with onions, garlic and allspice.  I hope you love it!

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CHICKEN APPLE SAUSAGE

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 Lbs. Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 2 Lbs. Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 2 Medium Honeycrisp Apples, Peeled
  • 1/2 Large White Onion
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Kosher Salt
  • 1 1/4 Tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1 Tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tsp. Ground Allspice
  • 1/2 Tsp. Ground Thyme
  • About 9 feet of fresh hog casing

Instructions

  • Slice chicken into 1-inch strips.  Place in freezer for 15 minutes while you prepare apples and onions.
  • Using the largest holes on a box grater, grate peeled apples and onion.  Sauté in a large frying pan with butter for 10-15 minutes.  They should be soft and moisture should be evaporated.  Allow to cool in bowl.
  • Using a meat grinder, or grinder attachment on your mixer, grind semi-frozen chicken on the finest grind.  Grind into a large mixing bowl so that you have room to mix in spices, etc.
  • Add apple and onion mixture to ground chicken an mix with your hands to incorporate evenly.
  • Sprinkle all seasonings evenly over mixture and then mix again with hands until combined.
  • Place ground mixture into a sausage stuffer.
  • Stuff into hog casings and link into 3-4 inch sections.  Allow to dry on a cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes.
  • You can now cook immediately on the grill or in a pan.  However, the flavors will be better if the sausage rests for a day or longer.  We freeze ours in a vacuum sealer.

The sweetness of the apples combined with the savory onions, garlic and thyme make for a delicious combination!  You’ll find that this recipe has a lot less fat than store-bought sausage so be careful not to overcook and dry it out.  If you have the time and tools, give it a try – I think you’ll find yourself making sausage more often than buying it.  Either way, dig in!!

Blueberry Salad w/Homemade Balsamic Dressing

After a few weeks of heavy holiday eating (we loved every minute of it!) it’s time to lighten the menu.  This salad recipe elevates mixed greens with the sweetness of blueberries, bite of red onions and saltiness of feta cheese.  Now, on their own these are a wonderful combination, but they’re even better when drizzled lightly with this perfectly balanced balsamic dressing!  Great at any time of the year, it’s a bright crisp addition to any meal, especially with winter soups and stews.

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BLUEBERRY SALAD

Ingredients

  • 4 Cups Mixed Greens
  • 1 Cup Blueberries
  • 1/4 Red Onion, Sliced Thinly
  • 1/2 Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese

HOMEMADE BALSAMIC DRESSING

Ingredients

  • 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 Tbs. Cranberry Pear Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Sugar
  • 1 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 Tsp. Black Pepper

Instructions

  • In a small bowl or mason jar with lid, place all dressing ingredients.
  • Whisk together or close lid and shake well until thoroughly mixed and sugar is dissolved.
  • Refrigerate until used or up to 1 week.
  • Y0u can use any fruited balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar for a lighter, more neutral flavor.
  • Arrange salad ingredients on 2-4 plates, depending on portion size.  Drizzle lightly with dressing.

This is a basic recipe that can be updated with all kinds of variations.  Try substituting dried cranberries and orange segments for the blueberries and goat cheese for the feta.  As long as you keep the balance of sweet, tart and salty.  I also like adding the crunch of candied pecans, toasted pine nuts or salty pistachios.  Give a few of them a try and let me know your favorite combination.  I’m sure you’ll get a lot of use our of the recipe from weekday suppers to weekend dinner parties.  Dig in!