A summer side dish staple. baked beans are as popular at cookouts and camping trips as the burgers, steaks, or grilled chicken they accompany. Sweet and smoky, and sometimes spicy, baked beans get their flavor from a rich tomato-based sauce filled with spices, sugars, and (here's the best part) - bacon, and often, whiskey.
What's fun about baked beans is the endless ways people have of jazzing up the basic recipe. From mustard to molasses, onions to peppers, baked beans don't ever have to be made the same way twice.
That said, you'll probably want to make this particular recipe over and over again, because it's that good.
A note about the whiskey: Any type will do, really, but for a deeper, richer flavor, you might try bourbon. Experiment and see which you like best.
4 strips bacon
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cans Rotel brand diced tomatoes with chilies
½ cup molasses
1 small can tomato paste
½ cup whiskey
¼ cup brown sugar
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can black beans
1 can white kidney beans
1 can red kidney beans
Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Set aside, cool and crumble. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.
Add onion and green pepper to skillet and sauté for about 8 minutes until soft and translucent.
Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, molasses, brown sugar, mustard, salt, pepper, and
whiskey. Bring to a boil. Stir occasionally, then simmer for about 3 minutes.
Add beans and crumbled bacon, mix.
Pour into a shallow baking dish and cook at 350 degrees in the oven for 45 minutes.
Serves 4 as a side. Feel free to double or triple as needed.
If there's anything Alaskans know, it's not to let weather interfere with good food. Especially when it comes to grilled or smoked meats. Who says you can't fire up the grill or, in this case, the smoker, when it's -20 F outside? This guy.
This smoked chicken recipe takes some time (a three-step process, actually), so plan it for a day when you have little to do (like, say, a pandemic lockdown).
An important thing to remember with smoking any meats or fish is to appreciate the process; low heat and slow smoking to bring out the flavor of the meat, and the wood used for the actual smoke. Look for hickory, apple, oak, or cherry for a milder flavor, mesquite for a power smoke. Keep the wood burning and the temperature consistent, and you'll end up with the base to a wonderful meal.
I'll be talking up this recipe, along with a few sides, in my next appearance on Anchorage's KFQD radio later this week. Stay tuned, because you'll want to know what I usually pair with this fabulous smoked chicken.
First, the brine
The idea behind brining is to bring out a meat's juicy flavor. Tried and true, the extra step of brining before cooking will take a smoking game to the next level.
If you do not have a brinier there are several models on the market; “The Brinier” by Turkey Tom Products is my choice, but if you have a 5-gallon, food grade plastic bucket with a lid, that will work too. For that matter, so will a large zip-type bag, but in any case, be sure the meat you are brining remains submerged and it is kept at temperature below 40 F.
As far as brine mix, there are several brands producing a good formula, including Turkey Tom, but mixes are also available at local grocery or outdoor stores. If you are new to smoking meats, I suggest using packaged brine until you get the swing of things.
If you want to make your own brine, start with the basic and then add new spices as you gain skills. The recipe below is one that I have used with great success on chicken.
When not using a whole bird, I prefer to use chicken thighs for smoking. Fairly inexpensive and full of fat, this cut is very forgiving when it comes to smoking.
4-5 pounds chicken thighs (bone in preferred)
5 quarts water
½ cup canning salt or salt with no iodine contained in the package
¼ cup brown sugar
3 Tbs garlic powder
3 Tbs onion powder
2 Tbs ground black pepper
2 cups cranberry juice
2 cups orange juice
In a large pot bring water to a boil.
Add salt, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper. Stir well.
Boil for about 10 minutes and cool to a temperature of less than 40F <---- KEY. It must cool.
Once brine is cool, add to the brining device (bucket, bag, or actual brining device), then add cranberry and orange juices.
Remove skin from chicken and place in brine. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
Use a thermometer to ensure the temperature of brine and chicken stays at or below 40 F. This is critical, as bacteria can grow on chicken very quickly and make you sick, then you can't enjoy your masterpiece. So, be safe.
Now, about that rub.
2 tsp dried parsley
2 Tbs onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbs paprika
1 Tbs white sugar
½ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste. Less is better in this case
½ cup vegetable oil, to brush on chicken so that is will hold the rub.
Mix all ingredients, except the oil, in a bowl.
Remove chicken from brine and pat dry. Discard brine, do not re-use.
With a brush or paper towel, coat chicken in oil.
Dust chicken with dry rub.
Set on smoking racks.
The smoking process
Heat smoker to 230F (your smoker has a temperature gauge, follow it)
Wood used is a personal preference. For this recipe I used mesquite.
I prefer a Bradley Smoker, but use what you have.
Smoke the chicken at 230 F for three hours, with smoke running the entire time and the vent at the top cracked about ¼ inch. Venting is just a function of regulation, (remember, it was 20 below zero outside so I did not want too much heat to escape).
After 3 hours check the temperature of your chicken thigh meat; it should read 175F to be safe. <----There's that thermometer thing again.
Remove from racks, plate, and serve with sides.
*NOTE* If you are smoking meats in bear country (pretty much everywhere in Alaska), please be nearby to ward off any bruins that might come running when they smell this deliciousness. They can get their own dinner.
If last weekend's summery weather didn't convince you to fire up the grill and take advantage of fresh Alaska halibut, maybe this delicious grilled 'but recipe will.
Halibut season has begun, and there's nothing better than a slab of this firm, mild fish on the barbeque. The salsa, made to add a sweet-spicy flavor that compliments the fish, is easy and is also tasty on snapper, cod, or rockfish.
Serve this one up with a margarita, and maybe the guacamole recipe I posted last week. Make sure you have extra chips.
Halibut filet at least one inch thick, sliced into desired portions.
2 mangos, peeled and chopped
¼ cup crushed pineapple (fresh or canned. If going fresh, whirl in a blender for a bit)
½ cup chopped bell or sweet pepper
3 Tbs chopped shallots or red onion
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely sliced
½ Tbs chopped basil or cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbs FRESH lime juice
Salt to taste
First a few thoughts: I left several options open for ingredients, depending on your taste or whatever you have on hand in the cupboard or refrigerator. These are by no means rules, so feel free to make it your own.
Combine mango, pineapple, peppers, shallots/onion, jalepeno, garlic, and lime juice in non-reactive bowl.
Reserve the cilantro for garnish.
Grill the halibut over medium heat until the fat turns white (about 4-5 minutes). Time will vary with thickness. I like to make a foil boat and add a little butter to protect against burning. Don’t overcook halibut; it can go from tender to leather in the blink of an eye.
When done, remove halibut from grill and get ready to plate. In the photo above I used jicama strips to add a crunchy texture. Coconut rice would work great too.
Think you know guac? You don't know nothin', at least not where guacamole infused with the spirit-ual flavors of Alaska's own VooDoo Jams is concerned. Handcrafted in small batches, this small company's jams, marmalades, and finishing sauces are too good to pass up, so I went bold and whipped up a batch of The Flying Chef's guacamole, spooning in a few tablespoons of mango-vodka-peppery goodness known as "You Juicy Devil."
Go ahead, take a twist on a favorite summertime snack -- it'll change the way you think about avocados, and guac, forever.
3 to 4 ripe avocados, depending on size
3/4 cup grape tomatoes, sliced diagonally into quarters
1/3 cup diced red onion or shallot
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime (FRESH lime juice, please. This is a masterpiece we're working on.)
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced, seeds in for hotter flavor, or remove for a milder punch
2 heaping TBS of "You Juicy Devil: Ghost pepper, vodka, and mango jam"
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste
In a bowl, mash the avocado with a fork, making sure to leave a few tasty chunks.
Add lime juice, tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, garlic, VooDoo Jam, salt and pepper.
Mix to desired texture. Make sure not to overmix, otherwise guacamole will become mushy.
Reserve some cilantro and jalapeños for garnish.
Serve with chips or sliced red bell pepper as "scoops."
P.S. Do check out the VooDoo Jams website for the complete list of products, you won't be sorry.
Favorites from Chef Mark Bly
Looking for a copy of a favorite Flying Chef recipe? Need a tip for your next gathering? This is the place.