There’s nothing better than weekend “homegating” (ie. tailgating from home), particularly this time of year with college football bowl games, NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl at month’s end – A hot grill, mouthwatering fare, hard-hitting grid iron action, and great friends to celebrate alongside!
This Sunday afternoon we’re throwing down several dozen grilled chicken wings on my All-American, sleek and sexy, fire-breathing Twin Eagles Grill. These bird arms were beer-brined overnight, seasoned with a bold homemade ancho chili and roasted garlic dry rub, charred over direct heat, then turned down low and slow and basted in layer upon caramelized layer of a spicy sriracha buffalo sauce. Dressed in an aged blue cheese crumble, then served alongside a 12 pack of ice cold Bell’s Two Hearted Ale!! -Cheers and stay hungry my friends, David
Beer-Brined and Grilled Sriracha Buffalo Chicken Wings
2-3dozenwhole chicken wings, trimmed
Fresh parsley, to garnish
Aged blue cheese, crumbled, to garnish
Chicken Wing Beer Brine
1cupgranulated white sugar
2tablespoonsancho chili powder
2teaspoonsroast garlic powder, granulated
1teaspoonsonion powder, granulated
Kosher salt and fresh ground peppercorn, to taste
Sriracha Buffalo Sauce
1 1/2sticksunsalted butter, melted
Brine: In a 6-8 quart container, dissolve salt and sugar into warmed water, then stir in beer and vinegar. Remove from heat and let brine rest until completely cooled. Immerse chicken wings, cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove chicken from brine and discard brine. Rinse wings with cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Spread chicken in a single layer over a large baking sheet and place back in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours, to dry and tighten the chicken's skin.
Sauce: In a small sauce pan over medium heat, warm butter until melted, then whisk together remaining ingredients. Stir intermittently until sauce simmers gently. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Preparing to Grill: Preheat grill by turning half of the burners to high heat, while setting the other side of burners to low heat. While grill is warming, toss wings in olive oil and liberal amount of the herbs and spices, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss to coat thoroughly and rest until ready to grill.
2-Zone Grilling: Lay seasoned wings directly over the hottest grill grates and sear chicken 3-4 minutes per side with the grill lid open. Then, turn down all burners to low, transfer wings to the cooler grill grates and close the grill lid. While finishing the wings over indirect heat, intermittently open the lid to baste one caramelized layer of homemade buffalo sauce upon another until wings are cooked through, juices run clear, and have reached an internal temperature of 165F. Remove wings from the grill, brush one final time with sauce, and rest for 5 minutes prior to serving.
Plating: Garnish chopped parsley and blue cheese crumble. Pair with additional buffalo sauce for dipping and a handful of ice cold IPA brews. Cheers!
Nearly four hours north on Highway One, far from the hustle, bustle, bright lights, glitz and Hollywood glamour of Los Angeles lies the Santa Ynez Mountains and gateway to one of California’s few destinations where the pace of time, for decades, seems to have romantically rambled on just a little bit slower than otherwise. Gently nestled in valley of these breathtaking coastal mountains is the renowned Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort. Due immediately west, the Spanish colonial heritage of oceanside Santa Barbara, and to the east, dramatic countryside landscapes and endless rolling hills, nearly seventy-five unique vineyards, among the most fruitful farmland on God’s green earth, and golden sunsets that could only be painted by the hand of the Good Lord, Himself.
At the center of this picturesque Rockwellian image is a distinctly-charming jewel of the region, Alisal; with history dating to the early 1800’s and richly-steeped in traditions of America’s famed Wild West, this 10,000 acre property boasts a fully-immersive working dude ranch (accompanied by 73 luxury guest suites), a private all-recreation lake, an adjacent river and seasonal streams abound with runs of enormous steelhead trout, more than 50 miles of horseback riding trails, 2 championship golf courses, and host to one of the most inspirational live fire cooking events annually from Sea to shining Sea.
Long on my bucket list of culinary travel destinations, it was here that I had the privilege to attend (and honor to play a small part in preparing several meals) at Alisal’s BBQ Bootcamp 2019.
BBQ Bootcamp is an all-inclusive and entirely-immersive outdoor cooking adventure, conducted in the native Santa Maria-style of cooking, led and co-hosted by some of the most talented individuals across the world of live fire cooking, working together in effort to prepare one awe-inspiring, mouthwatering feast upon another, from sun up to sun down for 3 consecutive days!
Born, bred and baptized in the art of red oak smoke and Santa Maria-style cooking, Alisal’s BBQ Bootcamp is led by the brilliantly-talented Chef Anthony Endy. Joining Chef Endy was the acclaimed Chef Frank Ostini, James Beard Awarded-Author Paula Disbrowe, my good friend and internationally-recognized pitmaster Burt Bachman, breadmaker-extraordinaire Bob Oswaks, and television personality Chef Valerie Gordon (who also expertly played the dual role of event emcee). Over the following 72 hours, we would indulge in the barbecue experience of my wildest carnivore dreams, directed at the hands of this championship collective of culinary talent, each performing their art in the Santa Maria Style of cooking.
With that said, it is important to understand, what is “Santa Maria Style”?
Simply speaking, it is a regionally-influenced form of live fire cooking centered upon a specific type of grill, specific type of wood, and for the traditionalists in our audience, a very specific cut of beef (tri-tip).
The heavy-duty grills are cast in iron, constructed in an open-lid boxed-shape, and equipped with an elevated hand crank (or wheel) and chain system that raises and lowers the grate in proximity to the fire pit, in effort to control temperature. Lower the grate and impart direct, high heat. Spin the grate upwards and yield indirect, lower temperatures. The wood employed is always red oak, primarily as it is abundant on the west coast, is fairly dense and subsequently yields higher temperatures over a longer period of time as compared to other varieties of wood. And, far from least, the wood imparts a beautifully-subtle essence into cooked foods, both sweet and savory.
In terms of the beef… while we were spoiled with dozens of chimichurri-rubbed @SnakeRiverFarms American Wagyu tri-tip beef steaks over the grill, dozens of dishes throughout the weekend employed the same style of cooking – the Santa Maria style!
To give you a flavor of the meals prepared, take a peek below.
Locally-harvested oysters shucked, simply seasoned, dressed with a beautiful herbed-butter, rested over a bed of sea salt in cast iron, and prepared to perfection over a bed of red oak embers. Paired with skewers of enormous barbecue spice-rubbed pacific prawn. And, all washed down with two handfuls of ice cold Figueroa Mountain IPAs!
Dozens upon dozens of enormous tomahawk steaks. Not to mention the smokers packed to the tilt by @slab with whole briskets, beef short ribs, turkeys and St Louis pork ribs. That’s not even including the showstopper sweet treats prepared by @valerieconfctns over the @biggreenegg.
From forest to fire. And fire to table!!! Freshly-harvested Wild Mountain Quail. Skewered, seasoned simply, then basted with a buttery buffalo sauce and prepared to tender perfection Santa Maria-style over an inferno of live fire and smoky red oak wood. So awesome!!
By the way. Somewhere in the middle of this meat madness we handcrafted dozens of homemade seasoning concoctions, using the most unique herbs and sought-after spices, with great thanks to expertise of @solvangspice. What a special treat to take home and share with friends and family.
Carnivore Heaven!! The finest beef on God’s Green Earth. More than a dozen of the most mouthwatering Newport Farms prime grade cowboy-cut Porterhouse Steaks rubbed in a bold barbecue blend of dried herbs and toasted spices, finished with an herbed-butter baste, and paired with wild mushrooms, roasted garlic, onion and peppers. Then, all washed down with two handfuls of ice cold Firestone Walker lager brews.
Tabasco-herb butter basted Spiny Lobsters – fished only hours before from the cool coastal waters of Santa Barbara, California. Grilled over white hot cast iron and red oak embers in the traditional Santa Maria style. Just phenomenal work by Chef @anthonyendy and his team all weekend. Very grateful to have played a small role in preparing this meal. A beautiful evening amongst family and friends at @alisalguestranch!
If this wasn’t enough, on our final morning, we were greeted at dawn with a warm cup of coffee and a horse-drawn hayride through the rustic, winding trails of the ranch to a remote adobe just beyond the sycamore groves and pristine waters of Lake Alisal. Here we were treated to an intimate final breakfast prepared by Chefs Gordon and Endy. Quite literally, this pork belly-smoked brisket-baked brie bread pudding prepared in the Big Green Egg may have been the most phenomenal thing to have touched my taste buds all weekend. Simplicity. Perfection!
Whether you’re motivated in the New Year to learn the basics of the backyard barbecue, or you’re a well-seasoned master of the pits, this is a must-attend event. And, if your time at Alisal is anything like mine, you’ll not only leave with a full stomach, but an unforgettable experience, and a host of new friends for a lifetime. Take a moment, click below and give my friends a follow. -Cheers and long live the adventure, David
Thanks to Kingsford for sponsoring this post. All
opinions are my own.
I couldn’t be more excited to cook outside this weekend at
our home in the great north of pure Michigan. What better time of year to light
a chimney of smoldering Kingsford Charcoal, enjoy the warmth beside a billowing
fire and prepare a family-favorite recipe.
These slow-roasted portobello mushrooms are not only a breeze to prepare, but the recipe only calls for a short list of ingredients that you most likely already have on hand, and the dish is ready in less than 30 minutes! Above all, these mushrooms are beautiful in presentation and loaded with an abundance of umami flavors, from the earthiness of the fungi itself, to the sweetness of the aged balsamic, saltiness of the soy, to the nutty flavors of browned butter, fragrance of fresh rosemary and touch of heat from the cayenne pepper. Just and incredible dish sure to be loved as a standalone, garnished atop a hunk of perfectly grilled prime-grade beef, plated to compliment a filet of hardwood-smoked salmon, or tossed into a rustic wholegrain and herb salad, as shared in this post.
To get started, simply rinse the mushrooms in cold water and wipe clean with a damp paper towel. Be certain to not soak the mushrooms in water as they have a naturally high water content. This method will not only help the mushrooms incrementally absorb the marinade, but will also better brown in the cast iron pan. Marinade and browning = Flavor!! At this juncture, you are welcome to leave the mushrooms whole, slice in half or quarters – your preference.
Once the mushrooms are prepared, to make the marinade, whisk together the oil, butter, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, fresh rosemary, garlic and cayenne pepper, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Easy enough, right? And, if you love the essence of fresh rosemary like I do, don’t hesitate to toss in an extra sprig or two of rosemary! In an air-tight, re-sealable plastic container pour in the marinade and mushrooms, stirring to combine. Press out all extra air and refrigerate for two hours, up to overnight.
Thirty-minutes prior to the cook, work your way outside to light the grill. Load your chimney starter full to the brim with Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquets. Under the chimney stuff a couple pieces of crumpled newspaper. Ignite the paper and allow the coals to do their work. When coals are glowing and just ashed over, dump into a pile onto one side of the grill, then rake a few coals from your original pile to the opposite side of the grill floor, creating one high-stacked hot zone for searing (or sautéing) and one cooler zone for roasting. Also, be sure to keep a fresh bag of Kingsford Charcoal on hand – for every forty-five minutes of cooking, add a half-chimney of coals to keep the cook roaring.
To prepare the perfect pan of portobello mushrooms, pour all contents of the marinade container into a well-seasoned and oiled cast iron pan. Using protective gloves, carefully place the pan directly upon the high-pile of glowing charcoal embers – yes, right in the coals – cowboy-style! Once the liquid in the pan begins to simmer, stir the mushrooms consistently until the liquid is reduced by half. Then, move the pan over to the indirect cooking zone to slowly finish cooking. Stir intermittently while the mushrooms are imparted with all that delicious smokiness from the charcoal. When the mushrooms are tender and cooked through, and all pan liquids have evaporated, remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool. For additional “umaminess,” pour in a half glass of white wine to the bottom of your pan at the end of the cook to deglaze the pan. Using a wooden spoon scrape up all those browned bits and reserve the drool-worthy sauce when it’s been reduced by half – preserve to pour atop your roasted mushroom just prior to plating. So. Darn. Good!
These mushrooms can be beautifully plated as a standalone dish or added into a warm quinoa and fresh herb salad – see photos below! But, just to give you a few extra ideas – these mushrooms can be stored for up to 4-6 days and easily repurposed into an array of other dishes! A few of my favorite include – grilled flanken-style short-ribs, portobellos and eggs over the campfire – just toss in a few of these mushrooms to take your steak and egg game to the next level. If considering amping up your next burger night, mince these mushrooms and press into your hamburger mix – the sweet, spicy and fragrant flavors will not only infuse phenomenal flavor, but cut calories in the process – how is that even possible??! Or, consider folding the mushrooms into a sweet-savory brie-bread pudding with celery and onion. Speaking of cheese… grilled cheese quite possibly may never be the same – just imagine all that melty, cheesy, mushroomy goodness in one buttery toasted sammy! Last, but not least, fold a few handfuls of these chopped portobellos into a creamy pasta dish with parmesan and prosciutto! The options are near endless. Now, get outdoors, light that charcoal and enjoy your cook!
Slow-Roasted Balsamic Portobello Mushrooms over Cast Iron and Live Fire
2poundsmini portobello mushrooms, rinsed and cleaned
2tablespoonsbrowned butter, melted
3tablespoonsfresh rosemary, finely chopped
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Whisk together oil, butter, vinegar, soy, rosemary, and garlic. Toss mushrooms in the
liquid and marinate for two hours, up to overnight.
Thirty minutes prior to cooking, ignite the charcoal in a chimney starter. When coals are
glowing and just ashed over, dump into a pile onto one side of the grill, then rake a few
coals from your original pile to the opposite side of the grill floor, creating one high-stacked
hot zone for searing (or sautéing) and one cooler zone for roasting. For every hour of
cooking, add a half-chimney of coals.
Meanwhile, add mushrooms and marinade to a well-seasoned and oiled cast iron pan. Place pan directly into the smoldering charcoal embers, stirring intermittently until liquid
reduced by ½. Move pan to indirect heat by repositioning the pan away from the coals or
above the coals on an elevated grill grate. Remove from heat when the mushrooms are
tender and all liquid absorbed.
Rest for 5 minutes and season additionally to taste. Plate atop a bed of quinoa and fresh
It’s a beautiful, slow and smoky Thanksgiving in the great north of wild Michigan. What a breathtaking time of year to be outside with a cool breeze and leaves falling, next to the grill, preparing the greatest of feasts for those you love the very most.
These heritage cornish hens are one of our very favorite alternatives to roasting a 15-25 pound turkey! Instead of grilling-smoking one massive bird for 5-6 hours (not including the days prior of prep and planning), these hens are not only loaded with flavor, but are perfect for individual plating, take only 90 minutes to prepare, and are breathtaking in presentation.
To get started, I brined near a dozen of these birds overnight, rinsed them clean the next morning, patted dry with paper towel, then injected with a savory compound herb butter. The birds were filled to the brim with a homemade cornbread stuffing with honeycrisp apple, cranberry, fresh herb and Italian sausage – so delicious!
While I can get my Twin Eagles Grill down to a low and steady 180F (incredible!), this cook was set at 225F across all three cooking chambers of my 42″ grilling surface. The birds were rested atop cedar wood planks, then intermittently basted over the next hour to succulent, tender perfection. Once the dark meat in the thickest portion of the thigh reached 160F, I removed the planks from the heat and rested for 10 minutes.
These gorgeous birds were served alongside roasted root vegetables, a winter kale and fennel salad, mashed buttery acorn squash, a few bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, the closest of family and best of friends. So much to be grateful for this holiday season. -Cheers, David
1/4cupItalian seasoning, finely ground into powder
1teaspoongranulated garlic powder
Salt and pepper, finely ground, to taste
In a large stock pot, bring all brine ingredients to a rolling boil. Stir intermittently until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, then submerge hens into the brine. Cover pot with a lid and place in refrigerator for 24-48 hours.
Remove the bird from it’s brine 2-4 hours prior to cooking. Discard brine. Thoroughly rinse hens inside and out then pat dry with paper towel. Liberally season every portion of the winged beast with olive oil, salt and pepper. Fill the meat injection syringe with the herbed butter injection and insert into several points of the breast, thigh and leg meat. Tightly wrap the bird with plastic and rest at room temperature.
Meanwhile, prepare the homemade or store-bought stuffing. Set aside.
Preheat grill to 225°F and begin filling the birds with the breaded stuffing. Lay down a bed of fresh herbs atop the cedar wood planks, then rest two hens over each board. Place the birded planks directly upon the grill grates and cook for 45 minutes – 1 hour, with the grill lid closed. Baste intermittently with remaining melted herbed-butter and remove from the heat when internal temperature in thickest, inner-most portion of the thigh has reached 160F.
Rest the bird for 10-15 minutes before carving, allowing the denatured proteins to relax and reabsorb their juices, while carry-over cooking elevates the meat and stuffing to it's proper serving temperature of 165F. Carve and serve.
I don’t care what time of day. Or day of the week. I’m scarfing these double-thick cowboy-cut, tomahawk duroc pork chops!
Beer brined overnight, then seasoned in a brown sugar, chili and smoked paprika rub, before rolling these “hawks” around their edges in a robust blend of finely ground coffee beans and toasted spices – these two-toned chops are layered in flavor, aesthetically impressive and ready to be laid to flame.
For the perfect result every time, I prepare a multi-zone grilling surface in my Twin Eagles Grill. The far left burner is dialed up to the max, the middle burner is set on mid range and the far right turned down to it’s very lowest setting. The chops were first placed over the coolest, indirect grill grates, intermittently basted, flipped and rotated, slowly elevating to 130F internal temperature. In the final minutes of cooking, these glorious hunks of bone-in pork were moved over the directly heated stainless steel grill grates – charring the exterior of the pork until the internal temperature reached 145F.
After resting for 10 minutes, these steaks were splashed with a fruity olive oil and garnished with an aromatic garden of fresh herbs, then served alongside a platter of root vegetables, an apple-caramelized walnut salad, and two handfuls of crisp, ice cold craft-brewed amber ales.
Life in the great north of wild Michigan doesn’t get much better than this. -Cheers, David
1/2cupsweet and spicy barbecue rub, homemade or pre-made
1 cupregular coffee, finely ground
2tablespoonsdried onion flakes
2tablespoonsroasted garlic powder, granulated
Kosher salt and freshly ground peppercorn, to taste
Trim excess fat from steaks, rinse meat in cold water, and pat dry. Brine overnight in a chilled bath of 3:1 water to beer, plus 1 cup salt and 1 cup sugar. Remove tomahawks from brine 2 hours before cooking and rest on counter until near room temperature.
Preheat grill using the two-zone method by turning burners to high on one side of the grill while leaving the other side off. Meanwhile, rub the pork in olive oil, season liberally with the BBQ rub, then roll the tomahawk edges in a blend of the coffee grounds, garlic, onion, and pepper. Season additionally, to taste, with kosher salt.
Lay the chops over coolest grill grates, bating, rotating and turning intermittently until internal temp registers 130F. Move to hottest, directly heated grill grates and char beautifully, until internal temp has achieved 140F. Remove from the grill, loosely tent with tin foil for 5-10 minutes and allow carry-over energy stored in the steaks to finish the cook – serving temperature at 145F.
To plate, carve tomahawks alongside the bone, removing the meat, then slice the steak in 1/2" cuts across the grain and on a bias. Plate the chops atop a bed of charred vegetables and alongside a beautiful fall salad. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve.
Two-Zone Cooking Method: Elementary technique to create one hot searing zone (direct heat) and one cooler smoking zone (indirect heat). This grill arrangement is imperative to cultivating perfectly prepared hunks of steak.Gas: Turn the right side of the grill to high & leave the left side off. If using a with an odd number of burners, turn the far right side of the grill to high, the middle to medium-low and leave the left side off.Charcoal: Ignite the charcoal in a chimney starter. When coals are glowing red, dump coals into a pile on one side of the grill floor. Rake a few coals the opposite side of the grill floor, creating one high-stacked hot zone and one cooler zone. For every hour of cooking, add a half-chimney of coals.
David Olson is a nationally-recognized American Culinary Federation (ACF) Chef, television personality and social network influencer, award-winning recipe developer, live fire grill master, international adventurer, and the creator behind, “LiveFire Republic”…