June 06, 2005

The Story of the Butter Pig

The butter pig. Well, I've been meaing to explain for a while now. This is one of those stories that maybe is more interesting or funny if you were there at the time. Still, I get enough questions via email that I'm going to take a shot here.

A few years back, I was getting ready for one of my winter parties. I'd purchased some or all of the ingredients that I needed, and was lazing around with some folks at work. I mentioned that I had 16 pounds of butter (this is neither the most or least butter that I've used at a party, but I think this is the first time I'd gotten so much at once, so it seems like quite a bit to me at the time).

The reaction around the table was one of both horror and fascination. What on Earth was I going to do with so much butter? Was I going to carve something out of it? "What," I said, "like a pig or something?" And so, the butter pig was born. The next comment sealed the fate when someone said, "Sure! Then you could roast it on a spit." This mental image of a 16 pound block of butter somehow being spit-roasted became the in-joke during stressful times at work.

Since then, we've found butter lambs in the store during Easter time, and have come to learn that there are butter carving contents held at various state fairs. But nothing will ever replace in my mind the butter pig.

Posted by dowdy at 08:58 AM

June 05, 2005

Sun Sweet Chicken

Right off grill
Chicken with Orange Habanero Glaze

Yes, yet another in a series of "quick smoked BBQ." Today I made a pair of smoked chicken breasts. I wasn't really intending to do so, except that the package of "split breasts" that I got at the market turned out different than I was expecting. These were split breasts from a large roasting chicken -- probably two pounds each!

The marinade/brine was made up of:
- two cups of orange juice
- two tablespoons kosher salt
- two tablespoons fine chopped habanero peppers
- some packaged "jerk" seasonings (about a tablespoon)
I left the chicken to marinate for a few hours while i was cleaning and puttering around the house.

Fired up the grill to a medium fire, and added two large chunks of hickory wood to it. Offset grill/smoked the chicken breasts for about an hour and a half, basting with reduced glaze (see below) every twenty minutes or so.

Prepare to eat!

The dish turned out very nice. The extra weight of the meat made them much juicier than the normal smaller breasts you get in the store. I think from now on, I'll either seek these out on purpose, or perhaps try to use roasters whole.

While the fire was getting going, I reduced the glaze/marinade to a thicker consistancy. There are three reasons why you want to boil your marinade if you are going to baste with it:
1) kills off any bacteria caused by contact with the raw meat
2) by making it thicker, it sticks better and also concentrates the flavor
3) getting it up to temp keeps it from cooling off your product too much

I've been making a few things of late with habaneros in them. I like the flavor that these peppers have, but they are very hot. As a result, it is sometimes a pain to deal with just one (or half of one) for a single dish. To get around this problem, I used to use packaged hot sauces that contained mostly habaneros. Unfortunately, recently it is more and more difficult to find those -- often they use ground carrots to have a nice orange looking paste that turns out to be not very hot.

To get around this, I make my own habanero puree. Cut the tops off about a dozen habanero peppers and remove the seeds. I recommend wearing gloves while doing this -- it takes several hand washings to get the oil off your hands and even after that, enough remains to do your eyes some serious damage should you touch them. Place in a blender along with a good pinch of salt and enough vinegar to allow blending. Blend until a fine puree is achived -- adding more vinegar if needed. Place in a small container and keep in the fridge. It will probably separate a bit, this is fine, you can either scoop the puree from the bottom, or stir up as needed.

Posted by dowdy at 01:05 PM