Alabama Mashed Potato Salad

MeMaw's Alabama Mashed Potato Salad
MeMaw’s Alabama Mashed Potato Salad

     About two weeks ago, when I posted the Bacon Blue Cheese Grilled Potato Salad, I promised that the next time Mrs. G made her Mashed Potato Salad, I would post it up here. This recipe was handed down from MeMaw (Mrs. G’s Grandmother) to her daughter and then to Mrs. G and will be handed down to our kids someday.

     Now, I don’t really know what kind of ties this has to Alabama. I don’t know if it is a common dish there or not. All I know is that MeMaw lived in Alabama at some point in her life and that is what it is called in her recipe (**update – I’ve been informed that MeMaw was born and raised in Alabama and moved to Texas when she was 18**). If any of you are from Alabama, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Anyway, I’m going to hand this over to Mrs. G to finish off the post.

     This one of those recipes that you have to taste as you go along.  Some people like it more mayonaisy and some like it more mustardy.  I like it somewhere in the middle.  You can add but you can’t take away!  Tasting is key.

Ingredients

(6-8 servings)

  • 6-7 Potatoes  (this is a medium sized batch)
  • 1 small Diced onion
  • 3-4 celery stalks diced
  • 1-2 medium diced dill pickles
  • 1-2 T pickle juice
  • 3 cups of mayo
  • ¼ cup of mustard (not sure how much I used…I would just taste it and squirt more in until I thought it was right.  I would start with a few tablespoons and add more if needed)
  • 5-6 hard boiled eggs

Directions

  1. Peel and boil potatoes.  Let stand to cool then mash.
  2. Add mayo and mustard…a little at a time until you get the consistency you want and flavor
  3. Add celery, onion, pickles, pickle juice.
  4. Add 4 boiled eggs, chopped. 
  5. Mix ingredients well until smooth- if you like it a lil chunky don’t mash it up as much
  6. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Slice the remaining 2 boiled eggs for the top.
  8. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Recipe by Memaw!

Alabama Mashed Potato Salad
Alabama Mashed Potato Salad

     Ok, it’s me, Griffin. I’m back and here to let you know what I think of this dish. Back when I was dating Mrs. G and I first had this potato salad, I was a little surprised, to say the least. Let me start off by saying that I’ve never been a huge fan of potato salads. If a barbecue doesn’t have one, it’s not a big deal to me. Meat is the center and showpiece of any good barbecue. This one caught me off guard, though. It was unlike any potato salad I had ever had. It’s got the texture of mashed potatoes, but served cold. And yet it has all the familiar tastes of a normal potato salad, it was just missing those big chunks of potatoes (that are often undercooked in my experience). To be honest, it was kind of hard to wrap my head around it. After having it a few times, I really began to like it and now after years and years of being served this potato salad, it’s become the one I prefer.

     How do you like your potato salad? Chunky or smooth like this one? Does yours lean more towards a mayo or mustard base? I’d love to hear what kind of potato salad you guys are eating alongside your barbecue…if any.

Taco Soup

Is there any food more comforting than a bowl of soup?
Is there any food more comforting than a bowl of soup?

     Soups. Not something we’ve tackled a lot of here on this blog. In fact, this is only the second one we’ve done. Not really sure why that is. Soups are generally easy, cheap and comforting. So maybe we’ll try and do some more this year as we move from summer into fall and then winter. Maybe we’ll even cook some on the Big Green Egg. Or maybe we won’t. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

     This is one of those super easy soups to make and chances are that you have most of the ingredients on hand in your pantry already. Heck, the most labor intensive part is dicing an onion so I know you can handle it. Quick to throw together and only needs to simmer for a minimum of an hour. Perfect for lazy Sunday afternoons.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of ground beef
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 can pinto beans (14.5 oz), drained and rinsed
  • 1 can hominy (14.5 oz), drained and rinsed
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes (14.5 oz), Mexican style if available
  • 1 can Rotel (10oz)
  • 1 pkg taco seasoning
  • 1 pkg Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (dry)
  • 2 1/2 cups water or more
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil or canola oil

Directions

  1. Heat a large pot on high. Add in 1 tbsp oil and the diced onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the 2 lbs of ground beef and cook until brown. Drain off fat.
  3. Add in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. (If your stewed tomatoes are in large chunks, you may want to cut them down into smaller portions before adding to the soup.)
  4. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for at least one hour.
Soup's on!!
Soup’s on!!

     Quick and easy and packs a punch of flavor. Perfect for a chilly Sunday afternoon…not that we’ve had one of those yet this year. But they are coming, or so the weather man promises.

     Use the ingredients above as a guide and vary the soup on what you have on hand in your pantry and fridge. Ground turkey instead of ground beef? That’ll work. No hominy, but you have corn? That works, too. Black beans or kidney beans instead of pinto beans? Go for it. Got other vegetables you want to try? Sure thing, but don’t get too crazy of you’ll wind up with some kind of Mexican vegetable soup concoction. Nothing wrong with that, but this here is taco soup.

     And don’t forget the garnishes. Think about tacos and what works well with them. Try adding shredded cheese, cilantro, sour cream, avocado and/or lime juice to liven up the party. Be creative and have fun with it. And if you have a little bit of extra energy remaining after preparing this “labor intensive” soup, cornbread goes nicely with it on the side. At least, I think so.

Mediterraneanish: A First Look

New from Dizzy Pig...Mediterraneanish!! Coming soon to a store near you...I hope.
New from Dizzy Pig…Mediterraneanish!! Coming soon to a store near you…I hope.

     If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a huge fan of Dizzy Pig. If you looked in my spice cabinet, you would find a whole shelf almost completely devoted to them. The all purpose Dizzy Dust (both fine and coarse), Swamp Venom, Cow Lick, Red Eye Express and the list goes on. In fact, the only ones I have not tried are Shakin’ the Tree and Pineapple Head, which I have heard great things about.

DP compared to Italian Seasoning and Greek Seasoning
DP compared to Italian Seasoning and Greek Seasoning

     So when I went to check my mail Saturday, it was a pleasant surprise to find a sample packet of their newest offering Mediterraneanish, a blend that captures the essence of Italy and Greece. Unfortunately, Mrs. G had just returned home from the store with fixings to make chili. 😦 I love chili, but I really wanted to try this new rub. Alas, it was not to be.

Pork Tenderloin rubbed with Mediterraneanish
Pork Tenderloin rubbed with Mediterraneanish

     Fast forward to last night. We had a pork tenderloin that we had to use and use quick before it went bad. I had been planning on saving the Mediterraneanish to try first on something like lamb or fish, but why not a pork tenderloin? Dizzy Pig said in their note that they tried it on pork. Good enough for me.

     The pork tenderloin got a quick brine for two hours (recipe at end of post) before being rinsed, dried and rubbed with DP’s newest spice. Then, it went on the Mini Big Green Egg because it seems to light faster, uses less charcoal and really just because I feel like it’s been neglected recently. The Egg was set up at 400F. I thought about using some wood chips for smoke, but in the end, decided that I didn’t want anything competing with the flavors of the new rub. I wanted to taste it by itself to get a feel for it.

Just about done, cruising on up to 135ish.
Just about done, cruising on up to 140ish.

     I didn’t really pay attention to how long the tenderloin took to cook. Honestly, I wasn’t planning on doing a blog about it, but let me tell you…the aroma wafting out the top of the Egg and tantalizing our taste buds was making my mouth water. This stuff smelled amazing and it was all I could do to keep from licking the tongs after turning the tenderloin. That would not have been very sanitary, now would it? The tenderloin cooked somewhere between 15-20 minutes, but remember, time is not important, temperature is! I will continue to stress that. And if you haven’t heard, the USDA did lower the safe temperature of pork to 145F…way back in May of 2011!! So we pulled the pork from the grill at about 138-140ish and let it rest for 10 minutes knowing that the internal temperature would continue to cruise on up to 145F.

Sliced and ready to eat.
Sliced and ready to eat.

     I’ve got to hand it to Dizzy Pig, they’ve done it again. Another winner for sure. I don’t know what all is in this rub, but it was fantastic. Very herbaceous, definitely tones of rosemary and oregano. Just the right amount of salt for my tastes. Perfectly balanced and it does make you think of the Mediterranean. I think this could be added to any Greek or Italian dish and really give it a boost of flavor. I’ve not attempted lamb yet on the blog, but upon taking the first bite or two, I know I am going to have to try this on lamb for sure.

     The day I discovered Dizzy Pig’s Swamp Venom was the day I quit buying Tony Chachere’s or any other Cajun/Creole seasoning. I won’t go so far as to say that I will stop buying Italian Seasoning as Mrs. G uses it in quite a few recipes, but I will add some of this spice to see how it works for sure. And that Cavender’s Greek Seasoning? Yeah…won’t be buying that anymore. Mediterraneanish for me from now on. That’s how good this stuff is. I can’t wait to try it on something else. I’m not sure on when their planned release date is to the public, but keep your eyes and ears open and I’ll try and let you know if I hear something. I’ll be waiting because I know that this small sample I have won’t last long.

Brine Recipe: Bring two cups of water to a boil along with 1/4 cup kosher salt, 1/8 cup of sugar, 2-3 bay leaves, 8-10 peppercorns and a pinch of cumin and Mediterraneanish. Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and add two cups of cold water and allow to cool before adding to pork. Allow to brine for 2-4 hours in refrigerator. Rinse pork, pat dry and apply Mediterraneanish rub and then grill.

***And just so you know, I am in no way affiliated, paid by or endorsed by Dizzy Pig. I have no ties with the company and no money has switched hands. I, along with many other Eggheads, grillers and barbecuers were offered a free sample and asked our opinions of the product. I do not receive free bottles of rubs from them except for the free small sample bags when they released Mediterraneanish, Fajita-ish and Bombay Curry-ish and this ends my disclaimer.

Pork Medallions with a Garlic Mustard Compound Butter

Pork Medallions with Garlic Mustard Butter
Pork Medallions with Garlic Mustard Butter

     I think of pork tenderloins as the often overlooked portion of the pig. Which when you think about it is really a shame. It’s the same cut that is used to make filet mignon, just from a pig, not a cow. It’s a very lean cut of meat and since it is not weight bearing, it contains less connective tissue and is extremely tender when cooked right. In the barbecue world, however, most of the attention goes to ribs and butts and even pork belly. Granted, you do not want to cook a tenderloin low and slow, but it’s still a wonderful cut of meat when grilled over high heat.

Preparing the Garlic Mustard Butter
Preparing the Garlic Mustard Butter

     Last night, I wanted to do something other than just grill a whole tenderloin. I looked for recipes, but most contain fruit of some kind. Nothing wrong with that, but if you’ve ever met Mrs. G, you would know that wouldn’t fly in our house. Somewhere along the line, my ADHD kicked in and I found myself looking up compound butters, don’t ask me how that happened. Then it hit me…why not treat the tenderloin like individual steaks and top it with a compound butter? And since a pork tenderloin is the same cut as a beef tenderloin, why not wrap it in bacon and treat it like a filet mignon? (I know this isn’t rocket science and it’s not something new under the sun, I’m just explaining how my thought process works)

Pork wrapped in pork!!
Pork wrapped in pork!!

Ingredients

  • one pork tenderloin (Yes, I know they usually come two to a bag. I need to figure out what to do with the other one)
  • 7 or 8 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 stick of butter, softened
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp of your favorite BBQ rub + more to season the medallions (we used Salt Lick)

Directions

  1. Combine butter, mustard, garlic and 1 tsp BBQ rub in a small bowl. Spoon the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap and roll tightly into a cylinder. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Lay one slice of bacon on a cutting board. Using the bacon as a guide, slice your tenderloin into 7 or 8 medallions the same width as the strip of bacon. (The amount will vary depending on the size of the tenderloin and you may not even want to bother with the 8th one as one size of the tenderloin will taper down on the end. You can see at the top left of the picture above, that my 7th and 8th one are much smaller)
  3. Wrap each medallion with a slice of bacon until it just overlaps and then cut off the remainder of the bacon (save remaining bacon for some later use. You’re smart, I know you’ll figure something out). Use a toothpick to secure the bacon.
  4. Lightly dust your medallions with your favorite BBQ rub and place in the refrigerator until ready to grill.
  5. Set up your grill for a direct cook and pre-heat to 400F.
  6. Grill medallions for 3 minutes per side, then stand on end to crisp up the bacon. “Roll” the medallions every minute or two to crisp up each side. Cook until 135-140 depending on how rare you like your pork, about 10-12 minutes.
  7. Remove from grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes loosely tented with foil. Remove compound butter from refrigerator at this time.
  8. After 5 minutes, top each pork medallion with a slice of the compound butter.
Onto the grill at 400F
Onto the grill at 400F with red oak chips for smoke. Can you think of anything better than meat over fire?

     I really like how the above picture turned out. Shooting pictures of fire is not an easy task, especially when it’s dark out (we got a really late start on dinner) and you have minimal outdoor lighting. Not the best pic in the world, but I still like it.

Don't forget to rest your meat after you grill it.
Don’t forget to rest your meat after you grill it.

     Resting your meat after cooking it allows the muscle fibers in the meat to relax and the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. If you slice into your meat right after it comes off the grill, you will end up with a puddle of juice and a dry hunk of meat. That is no bueno.  By allowing the meat to cool, the muscle fibers will relax and when you slice into it, the juices will stay right where you want them, in the meat and not on your plate. Five to ten minutes is good for a steak, longer is better for a roast or large piece of meat. So endeth today’s science lesson.

Dinner is served!!
Dinner is served!!

     Tonight’s dinner was served up with a simple salad and roasted cauliflower. As you can see from the above picture, when the pork was sliced on the plate, we did not end up with a puddle of juices. Although that piece might have cooked a bit more than I would have liked, it was still tender and juicy. The bacon added a salty flavor while the Salt Lick rub added a bit of peppery heat. The garlic mustard compound butter placed on top and allowed to melt down onto the pork added a rich depth to the tenderloins. It might not be healthy, but it sure tasted good and was a step up from grilling a plain, whole tenderloin. One last thing before I let you go…don’t forget to remove those toothpicks. 😉

Spiced Salmon Kebabs

Spiced Salmon Kebabs
Spiced Salmon Kebabs

     Kebab or kabob? I’ve often wondered which was the correct spelling. To me, it seemed like kabob was a Western spelling of the word. No real reason for that, just how I felt. Looking around this morning, I also found it spelled as kebap and kabab. It seems the word kebab is derived from an Arabic word “kabab” and was first mentioned in a Turkish script in 1377, so maybe that’s the correct way to spell it. However you choose to spell it, kebabs are no doubt a fun and easy way to grill up a healthy meal.

Assembling the kebabs for the grill
Assembling the kebabs for the grill

     Ever had one of those ADHD moments? I have them all the time. Yesterday, I was in the store procuring the necessary ingredients for dinner last night and tonight. One thing I needed was a cup of Greek yogurt. Have you looked for one cup of Greek yogurt before? You can get the small ones…6 oz. Not enough. Or you can get the gi-normous containers that would be way too much. I decided to go with the 6 oz, but now I had to decide what brand. Finally picked one, came home and started getting my sauce ready. The last step involved to do was dump in the yogurt and as it starts to fall into the food processor, I look closely at the container and wouldn’t you know it? Yep, I grabbed VANILLA Greek Yogurt!! In all my thinking about size and brand, somehow I overlooked plain vs. vanilla. Let me tell you, it was not going to work at all.

     With salmon already in the fridge, I was committed to my protein. Do I go with the tried and true Dizzy Pig Raging River spice or do I scramble madly about and find something else? Yep, scrambling madly about won and I’m glad it did. What I stumbled upon was Bon Appetit’s Spiced Salmon Kebabs. We stuck to the recipe, but I had some squash and zukes that needed using up, so they got sliced up and added to the kebabs as well.

Onto the grill that was pre-heated to 400F
Onto the grill that was pre-heated to 400F

Ingredients

  • 1 lb skinless salmon fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 squash or 1 zucchini or 1/2 squash and 1/2 of both (optional)
  • 2 lemons, very thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 Tbsp oil, olive or canola
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Soak 8-10 wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat grill to about 400F or medium heat.
  3. Mix oregano, sesame seeds, cumin, salt and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.
  4. Thread vegetables, salmon and lemon onto skewers. Use two skewers per kebab to keep meat and vegetables from spinning while grilling. Make sure that each piece of salmon has lemon (folded in half) contacting it and start and end each skewer with squash or zucchini.
  5. Brush kebabs with oil and season with spice mix.
  6. Grill kebabs, turning and flipping every 2 minutes or so, until fish is done, 8-12 minutes.
Finished
Finished

     Don’t those look pretty? Some cherry tomatoes would have made a nice addition with the red contrasting with the yellow and green and pink, don’tcha think?

Plated up and ready to eat
Plated up and ready to eat

     I’m sort of glad I screwed up the sauce in the original recipe I was going to prepare. This “replacement” dish turned out spectacular. While seemingly pretty simple with the ingredients, it burst with flavors. The lemon, which is always a nice addition to seafood, seemed to have basted the salmon with its juices every time the kebabs were turned or flipped.  The oregano added a wonderful herby flavor and the cumin and red pepper flakes gave it an extra boost of flavor with out overpowering the salmon. Mrs. G and I both loved the way the salmon turned out. By cubing it up, the salmon “nuggets” had extra surface area to hold flavors and get a nice char on it while not drying the fish out. I think from now on I might only cook salmon on kebabs.

     I think that the only thing I would do different is to omit the squash and zucchini from the kebabs. While it visually looks more interesting, I’m not a big fan of mixing meats and veggies on kebabs. It’s hard to get everything cooked perfectly because the proteins and veggies usually have different cooking times. Instead, I’d give the veggies their own skewers. I also think that having a slice of lemon between every “nugget” of salmon (instead of veggies) would add extra lemony flavor to the fish.

     And don’t think I’ve forgotten about the original recipe I was going to try. I want a redo on that one because I think the sauce would be a fantastic accompaniment to salmon. Look for it to appear here soon, possibly next week.