Spicy Grilled Hummus

It's pretty obvious that my blog isn't what one would call a destination for healthy food options. However, I do occasionally stick my big toe out of my usual dude food box and venture into things that flirt with the healthful. This would be one of those rare times.

I will be completely honest and say that prior to making this I'd never tasted hummus. I know, I know... It just didn't appeal to me in the slightest. To me it had all the earmarks of something that only Birkenstock-clad folks eat. And, having now made it, I can't say that it's a favorite. My daughters (who apparently got some Birkenstock in them somewhere in the gene pool) assure me that this concoction of mine is good, but how do I know? They could be just stroking my ego despite my assurance that it wouldn't hurt my feelings if they thought it sucked.

So, here, try it and tell me what you think.

1 can (15.5 oz) Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1/3 cup Tahini
1/2 cup Water, boiling hot
1 large Lemon, halved
4 large Cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 Tbsp Olive oil, extra virgin, divided
2 Tbsp Chives, minced (for garnish)
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp Sweet paprika
1/4 tsp Ground cumin
1/4 tsp Ground chipotle

Start your grill and prepare for direct cooking over medium heat (325-350º).

Wrap the edges of a fine mesh rack with foil to ensure the chickpeas don't roll off while grilling. The girls and I have dubbed this "the bean corral".

Combined the chickpeas, garlic and 2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium mixing bowl and stir to coat.

Arrange the chickpeas, garlic and lemon halves on the rack. Keep the bowl handy for later.

Spicy Grilled Hummus

Place the rack directly over the coals and cook until the chickpeas are golden and lightly charred, about 15 minutes, rolling them around gently with a spatula every five minutes.

Spicy Grilled Hummus

Remove the rack from the grill and let cool about ten minutes.

Spicy Grilled Hummus

Put the chickpeas in the original mixing bowl, squeeze the juice of the lemons into the bowl (no seeds, please), and squeeze the garlic cloves out of their paper into the bowl. Add the boiling water and salt and let soak 30 minutes to rehydrate the beans.

Add the tahini, cumin, paprika, chipotle and 1 tablespoon of the oil to the bowl. Blend to a semi-smooth consistency with an immersion blender, or process in a blender or food processor.

Put the hummus in a bowl, drizzle on the remaining oil and garnish with the chives.

Serve with pita chips and enjoy!

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BBQ Central Radio

Last night I was a guest on Greg Rempe's BBQ Central Radio program. We discussed how my blog came to be, my recent briq-to-briq review of Kingsford® Competition and Stubb's® Briquets, my Funky Cristo recipe, competition barbecue, and some other general topics.

You can catch the podcast of last night's show here. My segment starts at about an hour and 35 minutes (01:35:00) into the two-hour program.

If you've never heard the program, I highly recommend that you peruse the show archives and hear what you've been missing. Greg offers the only weekly show of its kind. It is truly the best-produced live-fire cooking show available. Tune in each Tuesday and hear the show live at 9PM EST on The Barbecue Central Radio Networks.

Note: The show is also available on iTunes. Just search for "BBQ Central Radio" (without the quotes).

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Fire-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Corn Cakes & Apple-Rum Compote

Pork tenderloin is a great, and often under-appreciated cut. It's fairly inexpensive, easy to cook, healthy (with about the fat of boneless/skinless/just-this-side-of-worthless chicken breast), and it's a wonderful blank canvas for all manner of experimentation. It doesn't take much to elevate this cut into something special, as I did here.

Pork tenderloin is very lean (thus the healthy part), so it really needs some help in the moisture and flavor department. A brine is a great way to bring both to the party. This cut is also a great candidate for a finishing glaze, sauce, or in this case, a fruit compote. How can you possibly go wrong with pork, apples and rum? It's a flavor trifecta!

For the starch in this dish I decided to try something completely new for me -- corn cakes. I used a medium-grind corn meal along with creamed corn to add a hearty and interesting textural component.

When you're shopping for pork I strongly recommend that you look for a natural product that doesn't include "up to a 12% solution of (insert chemicals here)". If you see a label with that kind of verbiage, warning Will Robinson! If that's all you can find, just skip the brine.

This may look like a lot of work, but it really isn't.

2 Pork tenderloins, about 1 1/2 lbs each

1/2 cup Kosher salt
1/3 cup Brown sugar
1 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning
1 1/2 cup Boiling water
4 cups Ice
3 cups Apple cider

2 Tbsp Brown sugar
2 tsp Kosher salt
2 tsp Black pepper, ground fresh
2 tsp Sweet paprika
2 tsp Ground ancho chile
1 1/2 tsp Ground cumin
1/2 tsp Ground ginger

3 medium Fuji or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced to 1/3"
2 cups Apple cider
1/3 cup Rum (I used Appleton)
1/3 cup Brown sugar
3 Tbsp Sherry vinegar
2 Tbsp Butter, unsalted
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 tsp Allspice
1/2 tsp Black pepper, ground fresh
1/4 tsp Groud cumin

Corn Cakes
1 cup Boiling water
3/4 cup Bob's Red Mill® Medium Grind Cornmeal
1 cup Creamed corn
1/4 cup Milk
1/4 cup Vegetable oil
2 Eggs
1 cup All-purpose flour
1 Tbsp Baking powder
2 tsp Kosher salt
1/8 tsp Ground white pepper

Combine all of the rub ingredients in a small bowl, whisk well to combine, and set aside.

Fire-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Corn Cakes & Apple-Rum Compote

Make the brine by combining all of the ingredients, except the ice and cider in a large mixing bowl. Whisk until the sugar and salt are dissolved, then add the ice and cider.

Remove any silver skin and excess fat from each tenderloin. Put them in a large baking dish or zip-top bag and cover completely with the brine. Refrigerate for at least two, but no more than four hours.

Fire-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Corn Cakes & Apple-Rum Compote

Combine all of the compote ingredients in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil.

Fire-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Corn Cakes & Apple-Rum Compote

Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Fire-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Corn Cakes & Apple-Rum Compote

Blend the compote lightly with an immersion blender. You want to leave some small chunks. Cover and set aside.

Fire-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Corn Cakes & Apple-Rum Compote

About 30 minutes before you're ready to serve, remove the tenderloins from the brine and pat them dry with paper towels. Put them in a baking dish or on a platter and coat all sides with a medium coating of the rub then set aside.

Fire-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Corn Cakes & Apple-Rum Compote

Prepare your grill for two-zone cooking (direct and indirect) at medium-high heat (about 400º).

While you're waiting for the grill, make the corn cake batter by wisking all of the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.

Cook the tenderloins indirect until they reach an internal temperature 140º, about 15 minutes, flipping once.

While the tenderloins are cooking, make the corn cakes.

Heat a griddle or cast iron skillet to medium-high, and your oven to warm (about 175º).

Make the cakes by pouring the batter in about 5" rounds on the griddle or in the skillet. Cook them until all of the large bubbles pop, then flip them over and cook about 90 seconds longer. Keep the cakes warm in the oven.

When the tenderloins have reached an internal temperature of about 140º move them to the direct portion of the grill and sear them for about two minutes per side. You're looking for a final temperature of 155º.

Remove the tenderloins to a platter, tent loosely with foil and let them rest for five minutes.

Cut the tenderloin across the grain into 1/4" medallions, plate on two corn cakes, and top with a good helping of the compote.

Serve and enjoy!

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Review: Big Ranch, Big City Cookbook

I love cookbooks, but I don't love them for the obvious reason. For me cookbooks are all about knowledge and inspiration rather than the recipes they contain. For me the recipes are the dessert, while the expertise and insight of the author are the main course. I don't so much want to learn merely the how, but primarily the what and why of the dishes. I also want the back-story and I want to be pushed to explore new techniques and try new things.

That's a tall order, and this cookbook does all of the above.

Given my criteria for a great cookbook, there are relatively few that fit my niche. When you add the fact that I'm all about hearty, rustic, and unpretentious "real people" food, it's even harder for a cookbook to fall into my sweet spot.

Let me just cut right to the bottom line and say that the Big Ranch, Big City Cookbook is simply outstanding. The range of dishes, stories and incredible photography are a serious treasure for cooks that appreciate authentic heart-felt food from an inspiring chef.

Lou Lambert comes from the stock of seven generations of West Texas cattle ranchers, and he is also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. He earned his chops working in restaurants in New York and San Francisco, including Wolfgang Puck's Postrio. He then parlayed his unique culinary approach into the development of his popular Texas restaurants Lambert's Downtown Barbecue, Lambert's Steaks, Seafood, and Whiskey; Jo's, and Dutch's Burgers and Beer.

As I said earlier, the recipes in this book are impressive, and that the photography is outstanding. Well, take a look at a small sample.

Review: Big Ranch, Big City CookbookSlow-Smoked Pork Butt with Vinegar Barbecue Sauce

Review: Big Ranch, Big City CookbookMexican Ceviche Cocktail

Review: Big Ranch, Big City CookbookWood-Roasted Chicken with Mexican Chocolate Chile Rub

Review: Big Ranch, Big City CookbookBeef Chiles Rellenos in Spicy Tomato Broth

Review: Big Ranch, Big City CookbookSalt and Pepper-Crusted Prime Rib of Beef

Review: Big Ranch, Big City CookbookBrunch Buttermilk Biscuits

Review: Big Ranch, Big City CookbookWest Texas Venison Chili

In addition to the authentic and inspiring recipes, the book includes a bunch of great stories from Chef Lou. They aren't just filler, but, rather, they give you a glimpse into the heart that goes into the food.

If you appreciate great authentic down-home unpretentious-yet-classy food made from the heart, go get a copy of the Big Ranch, Big City Cookbook!

Disclaimer: A review copy of the book was provided to me free of charge, but the thoughts expressed are my own, and I stand by them.

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Beer-Battered Onion Rings

Who doesn't like onion rings? Well, I'm sure that there are plenty of folks that don't, but I'd of course be suspicious of them. These monsters are coated in an amber ale batter that provides a thick but nicely crisp exterior. In fact, they would probably be more aptly named "crunchy onion doughnuts".

Sure, making onion rings at home is a bit messy and sort of a pain. I'll admit that these were born of necessity. Yesterday I was grumbling under my breath as I scoured the freezer section of the grocery store. I typically opt for the easy way out in the form of Ore-Ida® Gourmet Onion Rings, but they had none. I decided to look at the silver lining. I'd get to do a little recipe development and I'd get a blog post out of the deal.

Here's what I came up with.

2 Large sweet onions, sliced into 3/4" rings
8 cups Buttermilk
1/3 cup Hot sauce (I used Louisiana brand)
2 1/2 cups All-purpose flour
1 tsp Baking powder
2 cups Amber ale (I used Alaskan Amber)
2 Eggs
2 tsp Seasoned salt
2 quarts Canola or vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Salt and pepper

Add the buttermilk and hot sauce in a large flat-bottom container, and whisk well to combine.

Add the onion rings to the buttermilk mixture, arranging them so that they are submerged. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours, or overnight.

Beer-Battered Onion Rings

About 45 minutes before your ready to serve, heat the oil in a deep-fryer or a large heavy pot to 365º. I used an enameled cast iron Dutch oven.

While the oil is heating, batter the onion rings. Add the flour to a large bowl. One at a time, remove each onion ring from the buttermilk mixture, put it in the flour and coat all sides, knocking the excess flour off on the side of the bowl. Set each ring on a large sheet of wax or parchment paper.

Beer-Battered Onion Rings

Add the baking powder, beer, eggs and seasoned salt to the flour and whisk well to combine into a smooth batter. You want a batter that's barely more loose (thinner) than pancake batter. Add more beer if it's too tight (thick).

Line a large lipped sheet pan with wax or parchment paper, and insert a wire rack. Line another lipped sheet pan with paper towels.

Preheat your oven to 250º and put the paper towel-lined pan on the center rack.

Dip each ring in the batter until it's completely covered. Set the rings on the wire rack to allow the excess batter to drain.

Beer-Battered Onion Rings

Working in batches, fry the rings until they are nicely golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcrowd the fryer/pot.

Tip: I like to use a bamboo skewer to handle the rings while frying. It makes maneuvering them very easy, the wood stays cool, and they're disposable.

Season the rings lightly with salt and pepper immediately after they come out of the oil. Set them in the paper towel-lined pan in the oven so that they stay hot.

Beer-Battered Onion Rings

Serve and enjoy!

(Makes about 8 servings)

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