Farfalle with Italian Sausage, Tomatoes and Cream

Farfalle Pasta with Italian Sausage, Tomatoes and Cream
Farfalle Pasta with Italian Sausage, Tomatoes and Cream

     We’re gonna take a step back from BBQ today and go down a little different path…Pasta! This dish holds a very special place in our hearts. It was actually the very first thing I ever cooked for Mrs. G when we were dating. It was also my first attempt at cooking it. I don’t know what I was thinking…cooking a dish for her that I had never cooked before? Luckily, it was a big hit and has graced our table on countless occasions since. She considers it one of her favorites to this day (I know because I overheard her telling her Mom about it when I was cooking it the other night). So much so that she requested it for her birthday this week. How can you deny a Birthday Girl her request? And yes, if you are following along, Mrs. G and I have birthdays in the same week, 3 days apart. Well, actually 368 days apart if you want to be technical.

Homemade Hot Italian Sausage
Homemade Hot Italian Sausage

     This is a very simple dish to execute and only takes about 30 minutes to prepare. Super easy, yet packed full of flavors. You can take it up a level by including  homemade Hot Italian Sausage, but it’s not necessary. Store bought will work just as well. If you can’t find bulk sausage, buy the links, slit open the casings and pull out the meat.

Fresh basil and oregano
Fresh basil and oregano

     Adding fresh herbs to your dishes really enhances the flavor, especially if they are picked from your garden moments before.

Adding fresh herbs like basil and oregano isn't necessary, but really adds a wonderful flavor
Fresh herbs added to the meat mixture

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces farfalle  (bow tie pasta)
  • 1 lb hot Italian Sausage (or 1 lb  Sweet Italian Sausage + 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano, drained
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • about 4 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 sprigs of fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Adding the cream to the mixture
Adding the cream to the mixture

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat a tbsp or so of oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Cook sausage (and pepper flakes if using sweet Italian sausage) until sausage is evenly brown. Stir in onion and garlic, and cook until onion is tender. Stir in fresh basil and oregano, tomatoes, cream, and salt. Simmer until mixture thickens, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Stir cooked pasta into sauce, and heat through. Sprinkle with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese before serving.
This is what your sauce should look like before you bring it to a simmer
This is what your sauce should look like before you bring it to a simmer

     By this time, your house should have the enticing aromas of an Italian kitchen from cooking the sausage, onions, garlic and basil. Taste the sauce now while it is simmering and make any adjustments you feel are necessary.

Add the farfalle directly to the skillet
Add the farfalle directly to the skillet

     Once the farfalle is al dente and the sauce has thickened up, add the drained pasta directly to the sauce. This isn’t one of those pasta dishes you want to ladle on top of the pasta. You want the sauce to cover all the surface area and nooks and crannies of the pasta. Don’t forget to grate some fresh Parmesan cheese on top and sprinkle on some basil for garnish.

How can you resist a bowl of pasta that looks like that?
How can you resist a bowl of pasta that looks like that?

     I can’t say whether cooking this dish for Mrs. G caused her to fall in love with me or not, but I like to think it helped increase my appeal in her eyes. Like I mentioned before, we’ve cooked it on numerous occasions and every time, we think back fondly to that first night I cooked for her. It might not be the most fancy or most complex of dishes, but it will always hold a place in our hearts. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

Things I Would Do Differently

Nothing. Not a thing. Not saying that you can’t add things to tailor it to your tastes or to use up things in your pantry. We’ve altered it before by adding mushrooms, black olives and/or even artichokes, each adding a unique twist to the dish. But it doesn’t need it. It works fine just the way it is. Take it, experiment with it and make it your own.

Spicy Ranch Chicken Wings Updated 11/4/13

Spicy Ranch Chicken Wings
Spicy Ranch Chicken Wings

     I know what you are thinking…another wing recipe? What can I say? I love wings. And since my birthday was this past weekend, I decided I wanted to cook some wings. I was trying to come up with a new recipe and I remembered some spicy ranch wings that I got at a wing place called Pluckers. They were ok, but I figured I could find a better recipe that incorporated that ranch flavor into the wings. These came out nothing like Pluckers, BTW.

Calibrating my thermometer in boiling water.
Calibrating my thermometer in boiling water.

     Before I got started, I decided to calibrate the dome thermometer on my BGE. Lately, some of my cooks have been taking longer than usual. I started boiling some water and placed the thermometer in the pot. In the above picture, the water wasn’t even boiling and it was already reading over 300F. For those who don’t remember their science classes, water boils at 212F at sea level. My thermometer was reading about a 100 degrees too hot, that could explain quite a bit! If you are running a Tel-Tru thermometer (and possible some other ones), you will find a nut on the back of the thermometer. Using a wrench to turn that nut, you can adjust the needle so it reads 212F when placed in boiling water. Always a good idea to check your thermometers a couple of times a year.

Wings in a Zip-LOck bag with the marinade.
Wings in a Zip-LOck bag with the marinade.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs chicken wings
  • 3/4 cup hot pepper sauce (we like to use Franks)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1  envelope ranch dressing mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Directions:

  1. In a gallon-size resealable plastic bag, combine hot pepper sauce, melted butter and vinegar.
  2. Add chicken wings, seal bag and toss to coat evenly.
  3. Refrigerate for 4-8 hours.
  4. Set up your grill for an indirect cook at 400F. If using a BGE, set it up for a direct raised grate cook.
  5. Mix together the ranch dressing powder and paprika.

    Ranch dressing mix and paprika for the rub
    Ranch dressing mix and paprika for the rub
  6. Remove wigs from marinade and sprinkle liberally with dressing mix and paprika.
  7. Grill  for 35-40 minutes. Wings can be cooked higher than chicken breasts and I usually take them to 175-180. More of the fat renders out and they become crispier than if you pull at 165.
Raised grate on the Egg at 400F
Raised grate on the Egg at 400F

     The wings should take 35-40 minutes to cook, but keep an eye on them. You may want to flip and rotate them if you have hot spots on your grill to prevent them from burning and to ensure they cook evenly. If desired, add some wood chips to give them a hint of smoke flavor. We really like a touch of mesquite with our wings.

Done
Done

     The wings are done and separated into flats and drums. Is there a picky eater in your house that prefers one over the other? In our house, Mrs. G likes the drummettes and I prefer the flats, so it works out perfectly.

Plated up
Plated up

     Plated up (or should I say basketed up?) with some steak fries, celery and ranch dressing. This was a first for us. Although the marinade is pretty close to a classic Buffalo Wing Sauce, I’ve never marinated them in it before. Usually I just toss it on at once the wings are done. Not sure that it really added any extra flavor. I did get a nice twang from the ranch dressing powder that was sprinkled on before grilling. I really liked that added flavor to the wings and can see doing it again. Didn’t catch much, if any, flavor from the paprika, however. Nor was there much heat. For a “spicy” recipe, this one fell short of the mark. Overall, I’d say it was a very good recipe, the name was just misleading. Buffalo Ranch Chicken Wings would have been more accurate. Maybe I’ll throw in a bit of chipotle powder into the rub next time just to give it some heat and really make them Spicy Ranch Wings.

Update

     This past weekend, I attended the Plano Outlaw Eggfest. A decision that was made at the last minute. Not having much time to plan, I decided to cook these wings, but changed the recipe to address the lack of heat. In addition to the ingredients listed above, I added:

  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp chipotle chile pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ancho chile powder
  • 1/8 tsp chile powder
  • 1/8 tsp of white pepper

     I really think it helped out quite a bit. It gave it more of a complex flavor, more depth and increased the heat, but not so much that your mouth was burning. I’d say it came out just right and people were asking me for the recipe all day so that says something.

 

Bacon Wrapped Venison Tenderloin

Bacon Wrapped Venison Tenderolin
Bacon Wrapped Venison Tenderloin

     I’ve been trying to think about what I wanted to do with the tenderloins from the deer I shot last Thanksgiving. They are a first for me, both to cook and to eat. I finally decided to go with the KISS method…Keep It Simple Stupid, and I’m glad I did.

Two venison tenderloins
Two venison tenderloins

     For those not familiar with deer, the tenderloins are pretty small. These were smaller than the pork tenderloins you would normally pick up at the grocery store. The two of them were just enough for Mrs. G and I. Before getting started, I trimmed them of all the fat (that’s where the “gaminess” is) and the silver skin.

Soaking in a marinade
Soaking in a marinade (excuse the crappy picture, not sure what happened to my camera)

     I then soaked them in a bath of milk (my Father-In-Law said it helps draw out the blood and tenderizes it), some hot sauce, a bit of rough chopped onion, garlic powder and some fresh cracked black pepper for about 45 minutes. I would have like to let them marinate longer, but didn’t have the time.

Wrapped them in bacon
Wrapped them in bacon and onto the grill

     After 45 minutes, we removed them from the marinade and rinsed and dried them off. Then, we sprinkled on some salt, pepper and garlic powder. Next, we par-cooked four slices of bacon in the microwave for about a minute and a half (should have done two minutes) and then wrapped each tenderloin with two slices.

     The tenderloins were then placed on the Egg which was heated to medium-high (I’m not exactly sure on the temperature. I think my dome thermometer is off and needs to be recalibrated. I just went by feel). We used less than a handful of mesquite chips just to add a hint of smoke flavor. We cooked them for about 12 minutes, turning every so often to crisp up the bacon and pulled them when the internal temperature had reached 125. All my research online had shown that going much higher would ruin the cut of meat and make it very tough. After pulling, we let it rest for, loosely tented with aluminum foil, for five minutes.

Removed from the grill and resting before eating.
Removed from the grill and resting before eating.

     I really have no idea what is going on with my camera, but please excuse the blurry pics. For some reason last night it did not want to focus. Trust me, I tried. I must have taken at least 10 pictures and they all came out bad. I know you’ll let is slide this one time…right? If I had the chance, I’d do the cook again and hopefully get better pictures, but you only get two tenderloins per deer and that’s all I have until next season.

Plated up with some brocolli.
Plated up with some broccoli.

     Kept the sides simple with just some broccoli and a salad, but this was an impressive dinner. I’d be hard pressed to compare it to a beef tenderloin or a pork tenderloin. Sure, it comes from the same general area on the animal, but the taste was something else. It wasn’t “gamey” at all and the bacon and mesquite complimented it perfectly. Just a hint of salt and smoke from the bacon and a light kiss of smoke from the mesquite helped to enhance the flavor of the venison. And talk about tender? It was so tender, it just melted in the mouth.  I’ll take a venison tenderloin over a beef or pork one any day. I know most of you out there don’t have access to venison, but if somebody ever offers you any, take them up on the offer. You won’t regret it.

Green Lightning Shrimp

Green Lightning Shrimp
Green Lightning Shrimp

     Do you have a recipe that’s been on your to-do list forever? Something that you keep meaning to cook, but for whatever reason you keep putting it off? I know I have a few, but green lightning shrimp has probably been on that list longer than anything else. Every once in a while, this recipe will resurface again on The Barbecue Bible Forum and I’ll think to myself, “Self, you really need to make this. Don’t put it off.” And I end up putting it off…again. Stupid Self.

     A few weeks ago, my friend Kristi at Necessary Indulgences mentioned on Facebook that she had some shrimp and did anybody have any ideas what she should do with it. Of course, green lightning shrimp immediately came to mind, so I suggested it but told her I had never cooked it before. She liked it so much, that once again it moved up my bucket list, but this time I was bound and determined that I was going to cook it.

Ingredients for the marinade
Ingredients for the marinade

     This recipe is courtesy of Steven Raichlen, was shown on BBQ U and can be found in its original format here.Of course I took a few liberties with it. I really don’t know why I can’t follow a recipe to save my life. For starters, I cut the marinade in half as we weren’t feeding 6 people. I guess that’s how it usually starts. We also omitted the lime from the marinade per Kristi’s suggestion since we didn’t want mushy shrimp (citrus cooks seafood). We did not baste the shrimp as it cooked with the garlic cilantro butter (again per Kristi’s suggestion) because melted butter can cause flare ups. And finally, because I’m lazy and didn’t feel like messing with skewers we “nixed” the whole kebab idea and opted to use a grill pan.

Ingredients

(serves 2-3 people)

  •  1 pound shrimp
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, rinsed and coarsely chopped
  • 2-4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped (for hotter shrimp, leave the seeds in)
  • 1/2 bunch scallions, both white and green parts, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic (2 cloves coarsely chopped, 1 clove minced)
  • 1 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • couple of turns of your pepper grinder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 – 1 lime
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Lime wedges, for serving
Ingredients for marinade pulsed in a food processor
Ingredients for marinade pulsed in a food processor

Directions

1. Rinse the shrimp under cold running water and then drain and blot them dry with paper towels. Peel and devein the shrimp. Toss the shrimp into a large zip-lock bag to marinate.

2. Set aside 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cilantro for the garlic cilantro butter. Place the remaining cilantro, the jalapenos, scallions, chopped garlic, salt, black pepper, and cumin in a food processor and finely chop. With the machine running, add the olive oil  through the feed tube and puree to a bright green paste. Pour this marinade over the shrimp and let them marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 30 minutes, turning the shrimp several times so they marinate evenly.

3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and the 1 1/2 tablespoons of reserved cilantro and cook until the garlic is fragrant and sizzling, but not browned, about 2 minutes. Keep the garlic cilantro butter warm until ready to use.

The butter mixture can be prepared on the stove or on the grill.
The butter mixture can be prepared on the stove or on the grill.

4. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.

5. When ready to cook, spray Pam or wipe down your grill basket with oil. Dump the shrimp, marinade and all into the grill pan. Place the grill pan on the hot grate and grill until just cooked through, 1 to 3 minutes per side. When done, the shrimp will turn pinkish white and feel firm to the touch. Transfer the grilled shrimp to a platter or plates, drizzle the garlic cilantro butter sauce over them, and squeeze the lime on top.

Cooking away on the grill
Cooking away on the grill

     Watch your shrimp carefully. They only take a few minutes and are easy to over cook. When they begin to firm up and turn pink, they are done.

Drizzled with garlic cilantor butter and fresh lime juice
Drizzled with garlic cilantro butter and fresh lime juice

Quick,simple and healthy dinner, served up with some grilled chicken Caesar salad (yes, we grilled the Romaine lettuce as well). Just wish I had taken the time to get better pictures, but the Spurs game was starting and you must have your priorities straight.

Sorry for the bad plated up picture. :(
Sorry for the bad plated up picture. 😦

     I really don’t know why I waited as long as I did to make this recipe. Kind of ashamed that it kept getting pushed to the back burner for OVER 6 years. The shrimp was outstanding, herbaceous, salty and with a touch of citrus from the lime. I know some of you out there are hesitant about this recipe due to the jalapenos. It was not hot at all. Seeding and removing the ribs of the jalapenos takes out the majority of the heat, cooking over high heat tends to take out more. In fact, I didn’t get any heat out of this dish at all, which disappointed me a bit. Maybe I got really mild jalapenos? I’ll try again in a week or so when the jalapenos on our plants are ready to pick. Regardless of the heat, I think this recipe is going to become my go to recipe for grilling shrimp. Yeah…it was that good. 🙂

     This just came to me…I wonder how well this shrimp would work on top of a grilled pizza? Hmmm…gears are turning…

Cheddarwurst

Cheddar Bratwurst on a bed of sauerkraut
Cheddarwurst on a bed of sauerkraut

This has to be, hands down, the best wurst I’ve ever made!! Come on…when talking about wurst, you’ve got to expect the “best wurst” joke to pop up at some point, right?

I can’t remember the first time I had  cheddarwurst. I vaguely recall eating Hillshire Farm’s Cheddarwurst sometime in my childhood, but that surely shouldn’t count. I also remember some pre-cooked “hot dog” like bratwurst made by Johnsonville that is now called Beddar With Cheddar. From there, I graduated to their Cheddar Bratwurst, a far superior product but was it really authentic? Actually, as far as I can tell with a little bit of research, cheddarwust isn’t really authentic and was probably made up by an American sausage company, but I could be wrong. Anyway, I was sure that I could make a better version, and I did!! Just like the breakfast links, the credit for these ones go to Kevin P on the Smoke Ring Forum.

5lbs of Cheddar Wurst
5lbs of Cheddarwurst

Ingredients

  • 5 lb pork butt, ground
  • 5 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 5 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tb Ground Coriander
  • 1 Tb Ground Sage
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tsp fresh Rosemary, finely chopped (or 2 tsp dried)
  • 1 Tb Dry Mustard
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • 8 oz Cheddar cheese, cubed in ¼” pieces (high temp cheese if you can find it)
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 32mm Pork casings; tied off into 6” lengths.

Directions

  1. Prepare 5 lbs of pork butt by deboning and cutting into 1 inch cubes. Place the meat into the freezer for 30 minutes to chill but not freeze. At this time, it would be a good idea to place the metal parts of the meat grinder into the freezer as well. Heat is your enemy when making sausage.
  2. While meat is chilling, combine your spices.
  3. Grind your meat with a fine cutting plate (I believe mine is 3/16″).
  4. Blend the meat and seasonings well by kneading for about 3 minutes.
  5. Gradually mix in the cheese cubes to the paste and knead until they are distributed evenly.
  6. Cover tightly and refrigerate over night to allow the spices to marry.
  7. The following morning, take a small amount of the mixture and pan fry in a skillet. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
  8. Prepare your 32mm hog casings per package directions.
  9. Stuff the hog casings with the cheddarwurst mixture.
  10. Cook the sausage within 24 hours or freeze for later use. Make sure that the internal temperature reaches at least 150 if using fresh, home ground pork, 160 if store bought (for safety reasons)
Cooking cheddar brats directly
Cheddarwurst cooking directly on the Mini Egg

     The simplest way to cook the wurst would be to grill them directly at 350F turning frequently until the internal temperature reaches 150F. Make sure not to pierce the casings as the fat will leak out and leave you with a dry sausage. You can also cook them in a 350F oven, but I’m not sure on the time as I’ve never done them that way.

Sauerkraut, yellow onions, beer and a touch of butter coming to a simmer
Sauerkraut, yellow onions, beer and a touch of butter coming to a simmer

Another favorite way of mine is to partially cook them in a sauerkraut bath. This method takes far less vigilance and will allow you to sit back and sip on a cold beverage or two. Take a 32 oz jar of sauerkraut, a bit of yellow onion, a coupla pats of butter, a few glugs of whatever beer you have on hand and dump it in a cast iron skillet. Add a pinch of dry mustard, a dash of paprika, a bit of red pepper flakes, some garlic powder and a few turns of the pepper grinder. Don’t you just love my exact measurements? Place directly on a 400F grill and bring to a simmer, about 15 minutes.

Add in your brats
Add in your wurst

Once the sauerkraut has had a chance to warm and the butter has melted, give it a stir and place your wurst on the bed of sauerkraut. Cook for 15 minutes, flip and cook for another 15 minutes (so far that’s 45 minutes of kicking back and relaxing time).

Take the brats out and grill directly
Take the wurst out and grill directly

After the wurst has been in the sauerkraut for 30 minutes, remove them, brush off any ‘kraut, and place directly on the grill. Now you are going to have to be vigilant so that your casings don’t burst. Grill, turning often, until the IT (internal temp) has reached 150. Not sure exactly how long that took as I had now enjoyed 45 minutes of cold beverage time and I wasn’t really concerned about the time. 10 minutes of so? Don’t quote me on that. Return the wurst to the skillet, take inside and its time to eat.

Plated up on a bed of 'kraut
Plated up on a bed of ‘kraut

     Is your mouth watering yet? If not, there must be something wrong with your mouth-watering gland. You might need to get that checked out.

Sliced view of the brats
Sliced view of the wurst, the only thing missing is some spicy, brown mustard.

Whowee!! Ain’t that some mighty fine looking sausage? Moist and juicy and if you look closely you can even see a slight smoke ring from some of the peach wood that was left over in my pit. Hillshire Farms and Johnsonville don’t hold a candle compared to this cheddarwurst. Savory with just the right amount of spice. The only thing missing is some fried potatoes or a warm German potato salad. I’d even take some spaetzle to go along with these beauties.

Things I Would Do Differently

Not a whole heck of a lot. I do like a bit of heat in my sausage, though. I might up the black pepper or maybe add some red pepper to them. I might increase the dry mustard as well, but I am perfectly happy with the way they came out.

I might switch the casings I used. I’m not really sure what happened there, but these sausages were Gi-Normous!! The casings I used, Homepack Brand, were supposed to be 32-35mm, but mine were easily 40mm. No way would you be able to find a bun that these would fit in. I’m not sure if it was because they were thawed out when I made my Venison Jalapeno Cheese Sausage (which were no were near this thick), re-frozen and then thawed out again for these brats or what. I think I’ll go back to the LEM brand. Nothing wrong with big sausage, I was just looking for smaller ones. BTW, I estimate that these probably came out to about 1/2 lb each. Just a bit large for individual portions, don’t you think?