Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

Stewed okra and tomatoes
Stewed okra and tomatoes

     The other day I was walking through my local Sprouts and I spotted some beautiful okra sitting in a large barrel. For those that don’t have one in their area, Sprouts touts themselves as:

“Sprouts is a neighborhood grocery store with the feel of an old-fashioned farmers market. Our bright, friendly stores are filled with everyday staples and specialty items at a great value. You’ll find mountains of fresh fruits and vegetables, barrels of wholesome grains, nuts and sweets, full-service deli, meat and seafood counters—complete with homemade burgers and sausages. Roam around our spacious aisles and you’ll find fresh baked goods, eclectic beer and wine, gourmet cheese, sensibly-priced vitamins and supplements, and thousands of natural, organic and gluten-free groceries.”

It’s a great place to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, grass fed beef and exotic meats such as bison, elk and others. And if you are into it, they have all kinds of health nut things. Vitamins and organic this and that and gluten free everything. Great stuff if you are into it, but I mainly go to get fresh fruits and veggies.

     Like I was saying, I spotted some beautiful okra and I grabbed it thinking only of making fried okra. Then I got to thinking that fried was probably not the healthiest choice I could make and instead decided stewed okra and tomatoes would be much healthier and I’m glad I did. I knew that Mrs. G liked it. What I didn’t know was that it is one of her favorite dishes. Score some extra bonus points for me. 🙂

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh okra, stems and tips removed and sliced (frozen is ok if that is all you can find)
  • 2 slices of thick bacon
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (I used red as Sprouts did not have green and I don’t like green anyway)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 14.5 can diced tomatoes with juices (basil, garlic and oregano preferably)
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp creole seasoning, such as Tony Chachere’s
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional 1 tsp of sugar (to cut the acidity if desired)
After simmering for awhile
After simmering for a while

Directions

  1. In a large saute pan, cook the two slices of bacon. When done, remove bacon and set aside. Coarsely chop when cool.
  2. Sautee the onion and bell pepper over medium heat in the reserved bacon grease until tender (add extra oil if needed). Once tender, add the garlic and sautee for an additional minute of two, making sure not to brown the garlic.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients including the chopped bacon, turn the stove down to a low simmer and cover the pan. Cook for about 30 minutes or until okra has reached your preferred texture.

*Note – this dish is even better if made the day before or if allowed to set for a few hours after cooking to allow the flavors to develop and marry.

Plated up with a nice piece of fish and home made tartar sauce.
Plated up with a nice piece of fish and home made tartar sauce.

     Even though I was craving fried okra when I was at the store, I’m glad I went the healthier route. This dish is chock-full of flavors. A little tart, a little sweet, a little heat and just the right amount of acidity. It doesn’t look very pretty on a plate, but don’t let its looks fool you. Mrs. G declared the dish a winner, although she said I overcooked the bacon. She thinks I shouldn’t have gotten it as crispy as I did.

     As for the fish, we’ll get to that tomorrow. Or the next day. In the meantime, you can find the recipe for our home made Horseradish and Tarragon Tartar Sauce HERE. The only changes we’ve made is to use yellow onion instead of the red onion. The red onion tends to turn the sauce pink if allowed to sit to long.

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Barbecue Pork and Pepper Jack Twice-Baked Potatoes

Pulled Pork Twice-Baked Potato
Pulled Pork Twice-Baked Potato

     So, you smoked too much pulled pork? I don’t call that bad planning. Hell, I call that good planning!! You went through all that effort and time to cook the perfect pulled pork, who wouldn’t want some for leftovers? Truth be told, if I’m going through all that effort to cook a pork butt, I’ll go ahead and cook two. It doesn’t take anymore time, effort or charcoal and it freezes beautifully.

     What to do with all that extra pulled pork? We’ve covered Pulled Pork Nachos before.  You could always do Pulled Pork Tacos or Pulled Pork Quesadillas. But we were looking for something a bit different for last night’s dinner.

The lowly potato.
The lowly potato, often overlooked and underestimated.

     So we were sitting around brainstorming, when Mrs. G ran across a recipe for Twice-Baked Potatoes Four Ways in the November 2013 issue of Southern Living. Pulled pork? Pepper jack cheese? Sounded like a winner to me.

Potato Filling
Potato Filling

Barbecue Pork and Pepper Jack Twice Baked Potatoes

(adapted from Southern Living, November 2013, p.126, serves 8)

Ingredients

  • 4 large russet potatoes
  • 4 oz 1/3 less-fat cream cheese, cubed and softened (1/2 of an 8 oz package)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups chopped barbecue pork (about 1/2 lb)
  • 6 oz pepper jack cheese + 2 oz for garnish
  • 1/3 cup minced green onions + more for garnish
  • 3 tsp Ranch Dressing Mix
  • your favorite barbecue sauce (we used Stubb’s BBQ Sauce)
Ready For The Oven
Ready For The Oven

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400° and line the bottom rack of your oven with aluminum foil. Pierce potatoes several times with a fork. Rub potatoes with canola oil and sprinkle on coarse sea salt. 
  2. Bake directly on oven rack 1 hour or until potatoes reach 210F. (Baking directly on the rack keeps skins crisp and firm to hold the filling.) Cool 10 minutes.
  3. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise; carefully scoop pulp into a large bowl, leaving shells intact.
  4. Mash together potato pulp, cream cheese, milk, chopped barbecue pork, 6 oz pepper jack cheese (1.5 cups), green onions and Ranch dressing mix.
  5. Spoon mixture into potato shells, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Top with remaining pepper jack cheese (.5 cup).
  6. Bake at 400° for 15 to 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated and cheese is melted.
  7. Top with your favorite barbecue sauce and green onions if desired.
After baking 15-20 minutes
After baking 15-20 minutes

     Did you know that 210 is the perfect temperature for baked potatoes with a crisp and golden skin and light and fluffy on the inside? I had heard that before, but never paid much attention to it. I’ve just always baked my potatoes as 400F for an hour. A few weeks ago, Mrs. G went out with some of her girlfriends and I stayed in and grilled a steak and baked a potato. Now, I know that my oven temperature is a little off on the low side, but I figured an hour would be fine. Not so much it turns out. The potato was way undercooked. Last night, I used a thermometer and one hour was not long enough. Two potatoes took an hour and ten minutes and two of them took an hour and fifteen minutes. I always say cook meat to temperature, not time. I guess I should start applying that to other foods as well.

When finished, drizzle a little barbecue sauce on top and garnish with green onions.
When finished, drizzle a little barbecue sauce on top and garnish with green onions.

 Twice-baked potatoes of any kind are a wonderful side. And one of the great things is that they can be made ahead of time. Just prepare the potatoes through Step 5 and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake them for the second time. Or you can freeze them for later. Just place in the freezer for one hour until firm and then place in a Zip-lock bag or vacuum seal them. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight when you are ready to eat them. Then bake at 45 minutes at 350F or until hot.

Could be served as a side, but we made them as our entree.
Could be served as a side, but we made them as our entrée.

     As I said, these could be served as a side, but with the chopped pork they made a perfectly filling entrée for us. They were smooth and creamy and had a subtle hint of smoke from the pork shoulder. The sweetness of the pork was offset nicely by the faint heat from the pepper jack cheese. And the tang from the bbq sauce was a nice addition to the taters. what else can I say but these twice baked potatoes were out of this world good. The next time you cook too much pulled pork and are looking for something to do with it, I hope you remember these twice baked potatoes and give them a try and let me know what you think.

     Don’t think you have to stick to this exact recipe either. I’ve already got ideas running through my mind about how to incorporate leftover barbecue chicken or chopped beef into the next batch of twice baked potatoes. Maybe some different cheeses? Maybe adding in some vegetables? The sky is the limit with what you can do with these babies..

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.

Bacon Blue Cheese Grilled Potato Salad

Bacon Blue Cheese Grilled Potato Salad. Kind of a mouthful, huh? Thought about about adding in red and purple but figured that would be way too long.
Bacon Blue Cheese Grilled Potato Salad. Kind of a mouthful, huh? Thought about adding the adjectives red and purple but figured that would be way too long.

     A few weeks back, I was talking to my good buddy Mr. Grayson on the phone. He mentioned that the day before he had made one of my rib recipes and he and the wife really enjoyed them (at least that’s how I choose to remember the conversation). He went on to say that he was surprised that we didn’t have any potato salad recipes on our blog.

Always nice to sit down and relax with a cold beer while waiting for the grill to pre-heat.
Always nice to sit down and relax with a cold beer while waiting for the grill to pre-heat.

     Well, there’s a bit of a story behind that. While I like potatoes, I’m not the biggest fan of potato salad. They are usually ok, but nothing spectacular as far as I’m concerned. Mrs. G is very particular about her potato salad. She’s likes the one her Mom handed down to her for an Alabama mashed potato salad recipe (which if I can get permission I’ll get posted up here next time we make it, I promise). For those two reasons, we always make hers and I haven’t tried my hand at coming up with anything before now.

Red and purple potatoes give this potato salad an nice color contrast.
Red and purple potatoes give this potato salad a nice color contrast.

     Mr. Grayson’s comment stuck with me, though. I should try and come up with something of my own, but there should be certain elements included. One, some part of it had to be grilled because that’s how we do it here at Griffin’s Grub. Two, it should include bacon because you know what they say about bacon.  And three, it should be cool and creamy. Nothing wrong with warm potato salads or ones with vinaigrette dressing, I just prefer cool and creamy, especially when it’s hot outside).  This is what I ended up with and I’m pretty proud of it if I do say so myself. 🙂

Taters par-boiled, sliced and ready for the grill.
Taters par-boiled, sliced and almost ready for the grill. Just need to be tossed with some oil and salt and pepper.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs red potatoes
  • 1.5 lbs of purple potatoes
  • 5 strips of bacon
  • 1/2 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 green onions
  • 1 cup of blue cheese (about 5 oz)
Grill the potatoes around 450-475 until golden brown.
Grill the potatoes around 450 until golden brown.

Directions

  1. Scrub potatoes and place in a pot. Cover with water and add 1 Tbsp of salt. Bring the water to a boil and allow to cook for 10 minutes or until they just start to become soft.
  2. While potatoes are cooking, now would be a good time to cook the bacon until crispy. Allow to cool and roughly chop or crumble the bacon.  It would also be a good time to mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar and salt and pepper. Place in fridge to chill.
  3. Drain potatoes and allow to cool.
  4. While potatoes are cooling, go outside and pre-heat your grill to around 450F. If you so choose, sit back and enjoy a nice cold beverage while you wait.
  5. Once your potatoes have cooled enough to handle, roughly chop them up (don’t worry if some of the skins fall off, especially with the purple potatoes). Depending on the size of the potatoes, you might want to quarter them, or you might want to cut them up further. Just make sure that you don’t cut them too small or you will struggle to keep them from falling through your grates. We’ll cut them up to smaller pieces once they we have finished grilling them.
  6. Toss the potatoes with a tablespoon or two of canola oil and some salt and pepper.
  7. Grill the potatoes for about 5 or 6 minutes per side until golden brown.
  8. Cut the grilled potatoes into bite sized portions and place in a large bowl
  9. Add the mayo-sour cream mixture, bacon, green onions (reserving some for garnish) and blue cheese. Gently fold the ingredients together. Can be served immediately, but best if allowed to chill in the refrigerator. While it is chilling, relax, have another cold beverage and then start grilling up the rest of your meal.
  10. Right before serving, sprinkle on the remaining green onions as garnish.
Perfectly grilled and ready to add to the tater salad.
Perfectly grilled and ready for the tater salad.

     You can see in the above picture that the potatoes are definitely not bite sized. You want to keep them large enough so that you  aren’t struggling to keep them from falling through the grates while you are turning them )If you have a grill basket or grill sheet, feel free to cut them smaller). Once you pull them from the grill, cut them into bite sized pieces.

All the remaining ingredients added in.
All the remaining ingredients added in.

     Bacon, blue cheese and potatoes, what’s not to like about that? Gently fold in the ingredients so you don’t break up the potatoes.

Gently fold in and then chill until dinner is served.
All mixed together  and ready to be chilled until dinner is served.

     Just about done. All it needs is time in the fridge to cool off. Looks good, doesn’t it? Go ahead and take a bite. I know you want to try them and I don’t blame you. Truth be told, I did at this point. 😉

Man can't live on tater salad alone no matter how good it is.
Man can’t live on tater salad alone no matter how good it is.

     While the potato salad is chillin’ in the fridge and the flavors are co-mingling, go ahead and get the rest of your dinner on the grill. Since it’s football season, we opted for some hatch chile cheese sausages and some wings…like I need an excuse to make wings? Buffalo wings are easy and always a hit around our house.

Garnish with a bit more green onions right before serving.
Garnish with a bit more green onions right before serving.

     The red and purple potatoes make a nice contrast. Throw in some green onions for garnish and you have a beautiful mixture of colors. If you can’t find purple potatoes in your area, it would be fine with just red potatoes, but it wouldn’t be as pretty. Feel free to play around and use any other kinds of potatoes you so desire. Yukon gold potatoes. Fingerling potatoes. Whatever your heart so desires.

My mouth is watering while looking at this picture and writing this post.
My mouth is watering while looking at this picture and writing this post.

 You know you want to try some. Between you and me, I’m glad there was enough left over to pack some in my lunch today.

Dinner is served!
Dinner is served!

     Along with the Buffalo wings and potato salad, we also had Mrs. G’s Brussel Sprouts. I’m not really sure how that fits in with the Game Day Theme, but I’m a big fan of them so I wasn’t going to argue. As you can see, we served it all up on our finest China. Hey…it’s football season! Who wants to be stuck in the kitchen doing extra dishes and missing them game?

     This just might be my new favorite potato salad. It was everything I hoped for. Grilled. Cool and creamy. And it contained bacon. Could you ask for anything more? A side benefit that I hadn’t even planned on was how well the blue cheese in it worked with the spiciness of the wings. Blue cheese dressing and wings are a classic combination, right? So is this potato salad and wings as far as I’m concerned. We’ll definitely be making this more, but first I’ll try and get that Alabama mashed potato salad recipe I was talking about earlier for you. Ahh, the things I do for you my readers. 😉

Jimmy Dean-like Breakfast Links

Jimmy Dean Style Breakfast Links
Jimmy Dean-like Breakfast Links

     I got into making sausage about a year and a half ago. Partly because you have no idea what goes into store bought sausage and partly because of my love for sausage. The more I read about it, the more fascinated I became. I knew right away that I was going to try to make my own breakfast links. I have no idea why it took me so long, but I finally got around to it. No more store bought breakfast sausage for this family.

Two 5lb boneless pork shoulders (we'll get to what the second one was for later this week)
Two 5lb boneless pork shoulders (we’ll get to what the second one was for later this week)

     Lately, I’ve been going to Hirsch’s in Plano to get the pork for my sausage. They have a wonderful selection of meats, not to mention all their different types of wood for smokin. Recipes for sausage often call for 2.5 or 5lbs of pork butt. Hirsch’s will cut you the exact amount you need and will even debone it for you (I hate deboning butts). Not only that, but the quality of the meat is so much better. Plenty of marbling which is perfect for sausage making. If you aren’t in the area, I highly recommend you find a local butcher and shop there.

I thought about cropping the Jack out of the picture, but then decided to keep it real.
I thought about cropping the Jack out of the picture, but then decided to keep it real.

     Full credit for the recipe goes to a guy by the name of Kevin P. He’s a regular on the Smoke Ring forum and is considered a genius when it comes to sausage. I’ve learned a lot from reading his posts and have enjoyed all the sausage recipes of his that I have tried. This recipe is copied directly from one of his posts.

Jimmy Dean-like Breakfast Links

  • 5 lb pork butt, ground
  •  36 g kosher salt (about 5 tsp)
  • 1.0 g ground sage (little over a tsp)
  • 2 g red pepper flakes (add more to your taste)
  • 2 g thyme leaves (little over a tsp)
  • 3 g black pepper (1.5 tsp)
  • 2.5g ground coriander ( (little over a tsp)
  • Optional: 1/3 cup real maple syrup**
    **I find it too sweet & don’t add it.
  • 20-24 Sheep casings(or make a large chub to slice!) (I actually used 21mm collagen casings)
Meat all ground up and spices mixed in.
Meat all ground up and spices mixed in.

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. Cover tightly and refrigerate over night to allow the spices to marry.
  6. The following morning, take a small amount of the mixture and pan fry in a skillet. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
  7. Using your smallest stuffing tube, stuff your sheep or collagen casings.
  8. Cut the sausage into lengths about 3″
  9. Cook the sausage at 350F for about 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 150F, turning about halfway through).
  10. Cook the sausage within 24 hours or freeze for later use.
This is the casing I used for the sausage. I only used about half of one of them.
This is the casing I used for the sausage. I only used about half of one of the tubes.

     Here is a picture of 4lbs of the sausage all stuffed. 4lbs? You might be thinking “you said 5lbs of pork butt, though”. I took about a pound of it, divided it up into 1/4lb batches and saved it for later. Mrs. G likes to fry up bulk breakfast sausage and mix it in with her eggs. You can stuff it all, keep it all bulk or any ratio you desire. It’s up to you. I personally like links because I can take them to work with me and reheat them in the morning for breakfast.

All stuffed and ready to package
All stuffed and ready to package

     At 350F, they only take about 15 minutes to cook up. That gives you plenty of time to brew some coffee and cook up some eggs while you wait.

No more buying store bought breakfast sausage.
No more buying store bought breakfast sausage.

     These came out really good. I shouldn’t be surprised because Kevin P knows his stuff and he worked on these awhile before he dialed them in. They had a better mouth feel to them than store bought. Kind of hard to explain, but the texture and consistency was just better. The flavor was right on and the grease…they were nowhere near as greasy as the store bought stuff. I even gave some to a co-worker this morning to see what she thought and she loved them. She even asked if I would make her some more.

Things I Would Do Differently

     I think next time I would cut back on the sage. Although Mrs. G and my co-worker didn’t mind, I thought it was a bit much. Now, that could very well be an error on my part. I have a digital scale to weigh things out. It goes up to 11lbs, I believe, which is nice. But I think the drawback is that it doesn’t measure small amounts as well. I added in 1.0 g of ground sage, but it sure looked like a whole lot more than 1 tsp. Every bite I took, I kept thinking Thanksgiving (sage reminds me of Thanksgiving), but my other taste testers approved. I think I need to get a small scale for weighing out spices, herbs and seasonings.