Sunday, April 19, 2009

The BBQ: Gas verses Charcoal

In the beginning there was only wood and a rock fire pit but today we are faced with options only the space age could conjure up. Decisions, decisions and more decisions, how do you make a clear concise determination on what type of BBQ to acquire? Everyone’s needs and wants for their outdoor extravaganza is different and as such their tools must match the job at hand.

Lets examine both.

GAS: Definitely a faster and cleaner way to BBQ. Turn the knob, press the button and instant flame. Heat your lava rock for a few minutes throw on your prize cut of meat and within minutes a palatable delight is gracing your table. That is, if you don’t run out of gas. I found this to be my number one problem with the gas BBQ. The cure? Have a spare tank on hand.

It only takes a few precious seconds to change tanks and your back on course. Gas grills are particularly good if you BBQ often on the stern of your boat, as charcoal tends to absorb moisture and becomes very difficult to light. Another consideration for this is no ashes to dispose of.

Gas BBQ’s are fast, no muss no fuss cookers ideal for the spur of the moment chef. Over a period of time they are less expensive to operate too. The down side of the gas grill is the expense. Although they have come down in cost considerably since their inception, the multitude of styles often make it hard to purchase the more affordable ones.

Stainless steel exteriors, double and triple shelves, additional burners for your side dishes, condiment holders, and cabinets for your accessories are impossible options to pass on, so expect to make a considerable investment when purchasing. The more reserved BBQer is more likely to purchase gas over the charcoal unit.


CHARCOAL: Tribal desires drive men to the charcoal BBQ. The age old desires to build and tend a fire are urges just to strong to overcome for some men. The perfect arrangement and stacking of the briquettes becomes an ancient ritual to obtain perfection of temperature and evenness of cooking. The charcoal chef is born of redneck ancestors and beer guzzling traditions necessary to tend the wild eruptions of searing fat and dripping sauce.

If your choice is charcoal, prepare yourself for singed beards and blistered fingers for without these added wild antics, charcoal cooking is extremely uneventful until the prize is removed from the smoking embers. The costs for a charcoal unit range from relatively inexpensive to moderately priced depending on weather your setting it on stolen milk crates or you prefer it to be raised from the dirt on its own legs. Critics claim the taste of BBQ is no different whether you use gas or charcoal. I guess because of being from dubious ancestry, I much prefer the charcoal BBQ.

Regardless which barbecue you decide on, make sure the one you purchase has either stainless steel or porcelain cooking racks. More BBQ’s are tossed aside because of rusted and warped cooking racks than for any other reason. I also recommend one that has a vented cover. This serves several purposes. It protects the interior of your barbecue during inclement weather, it helps maintain temperatures under windy conditions, and it also helps in the flavor of your meats as the smoke is held internally while its closed.

Another important accessory to your BBQing experience is the utensils. Purchase only heavy duty stainless ones that wont bend or twist causing the loss of your dinner to the dirt. Although the 3-second rule always applies to BBQ, it’s really hard to brush the dirt out of the sauce.

Gas or charcoal, it matters little as long as the end result is a full belly and a smiling face. Neither unit is better than the other; they just fit different lifestyles and tastes, personalities and urges. Just gather together your family and friends and enjoy your companionship and creations.


The following video, I Love Lucy | Building a B.B.Q. (Part 2), courtesy of You Tube.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Party Up With Fun To Eat Appetizers

Planning a party but don’t want to serve the same old, same old? Well, why not “warm-up” the party with appetizers that are both fun to make and fun to eat?

Following are some creative recipes that are designed to keep the compliments coming and, because they’re so good, the plates will be kept clean. Have fun!

Horseradish Ham Spread Tropicale
(approximately 96 hors d'oeuvres)
1-1/2 lb ham
8 oz. canned crushed pineapple, well drained
1 tbsp horseradish sauce
1 tsp mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise

Puree ham in a food processor. Add pineapples, horseradish sauce and mustard. Puree until the mixture resembles smooth paste. Add mayonnaise and mix until just combined. Serve spread with assorted crackers.


Chutney Cream Cheese
(144 hors d'oeuvres)
1 lb. cream cheese
1 tbsp jalapeno pepper sauce
8 oz commercially available apple chutney
1/2 cup green onions, sliced

Beat cream cheese and pepper sauce with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy. Fold in chutney and green onions by hand. Serve with toast points.


Spicy Potato Skins
(6 halves)
8 slices bacon
3 medium baking potatoes
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
8 oz monterey jack cheese with jalapeno, shredded
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)

Cook bacon until crispy. Scrub potatoes thoroughly and bake in 400ยบ F oven for 1 hour or until done.

Allow potatoes to cool to the touch. Cut in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop the pulp leaving 1/4 inch shell (reserve the pulp for use in another recipe or discard.) Sprinkle the potato cavities with salt and pepper. Add in crumbled bacon and green onions, and top off with cheese. Place potato skins on a baking sheet and place under a broiler until cheese melts. Potato skins may be served with sour cream, if desired.


Zesty Turkey Quesadillas
(12 appetizer size pieces)
4 6" soft flour tortillas
6 oz roasted breast of turkey, sliced
4 oz chedder cheese, shredded
2 tbsp canned green chili
1/2 cup green onion, sliced
1/2 cup chunky tomato salsa
1/2 cup sour cream

Chop turkey into small pieces. Divide turkey, cheese, green chili and green onion evenly over 4 tortillas. Fold tortillas in half and cook in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Turn the tortillas after two minutes and cook the other side 3 minutes longer. Cut into thirds; serve warm and tomato salsa and sour cream.


Sun-Dried Tomato Bruschetta

(16 appetizer size pieces)
3/4 stick unsalted butter
3 cloves fresh garlic
1/8 cup fresh sweet basil, chopped
1/8 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 12" french bread
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup romano cheese grated
4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a small pan, heat butter, garlic, basil and parsley together over medium heat until butter is completely melted. Set melted butter mixture aside. Cut french bread lengthwise. Brush melted butter mixture evenly on both cut sides of the french bread. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the buttered bread evenly with pecorino, mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes. Place bruschetta on a baking sheet and bake in the center of oven for 12 to 13 minutes. Cut bruschetta into 16 equal pieces and serve immediately.


Break Time: The following video, New Casper Cartoon Show Opening title sequence, courtesy of You Tube.