Monday, July 27, 2015

Texas Barbecue Dope

This is a recipe for a Texas barbecue sauce that was very famous in and around the Fort Worth area in the late 1800s to early 1900s. It was created by two men (J. R. Hawley and George C. Battles) who were members of the Panther Club that met at Hermann's Park. The sauce was known as  "Panther Club Dope."

In a pot, bring the following to a boil:

2 quarts of cold water
1 15 ounce can of tomatoes
1 sliced onion

Then add:

1 cup vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 TBS table salt
1 Tsp of cayenne pepper

Let the dope simmer until the tomatoes and onion are thoroughly cooked. Then add 1/2 pound of butter. When the butter has melted into the sauce, thicken it by whisking in a slurry made of cornstarch and water until it is at the desired thickness.

Just before serving, strain through a colander and add a pint of sherry and the juice of two lemons. Serve hot.

Friday, July 3, 2015

1808 Independence Day Barbecue in Virginia

In 1808, a barbecue was held in Charlottesville, Virginia, for the Independence Day celebration. President Jefferson chose to remain at the Whitehouse. His youngest sister, Anne Scott Jefferson, attended in his stead. The following details of the Fourth of July barbecue were reported in a local newspaper.

The citizens of Albemarle county convened in Charlottesville to celebrate the 4th of July. The Declaration of American Independence was read to a large assembly in the Courthouse. At three o'clock the company animated by the presence of many of the most accomplished ladies in the vicinity, sat down to a handsome barbecue provided by Mr. Elijah Garth. After dinner, on the retiring of the ladies, the gentlemen drank the following toasts in the republican [spirit] of their own country.

1.) The 4th of July 1776 - May the principles it consecrated animate us in every crisis to defend the blessings it bequeathed.

2.) The People - The only legitimate source of power. May they ever beware of those insidious friends who would protect them from "their worst enemies, themselves."

3.) The Constitution of the U.S. - The solar central point of the Federative system; may its mild and beneficent attraction harmonise in their respective orbits the planets that compose it.

4.) America - The world's best hope; the last asylum of persecuted freedom. She has strangled the serpents in her cradle - she need not feat their hisses now.

5.) Virginia - In the 'war of the revolution' she led the van. In the dark period of the reign of terror, she fanned the decaying flame, and cheered the drooping sons of freedom. she will never tarnish the lustre of her fame.

6.) George Washington - His meritorious services will consecrate to his memory the "fairest page in the volume of faithful history."

7.) The President of the United States - Useful and illustrious is the consciousness of having faithfully devoted his best efforts to his country's service, will constitute the happiness of his retirement.

8.) The Judiciary of our State - Wise, republican and independent. A shield to the virtuous and a terror to evil doers.

9.) The Governor of Virginia - May his country remember his services, and his successors emulate his virtues.

10.) Wilson C. Nichols, our representative in Congress. Wisdom to discern; and firmness and independence to pursue the best interests of his country.

11.) The Embargo - A weapon of more effective hostility than the canon or the sword. It promises the advantages of war without its waste of blood and treasure.

12.) The Manufacturing spirit now moving over the face of our land. May it grow strong, may it be general and permanent; then shall we be indeed an independent nation.

13.) The Patriots of '76 - Should their descendants be called upon to defend the independence they established, their spirit will support, and their example will animate and inspire them.

14.) The Militia - The rights of the nation are their rights; they will know how to defend them. The best source of political reformation - the scourge of those who would destroy, and the support of those who cherish true republicanism.

15.) The freedom of the Press.

16.) The Minority in Congress, and the friends of that minority - "Monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it."

17.) The state of Massachusetts - A caution against the security, and a call upon the vigilance of republicanism.

Friday, June 5, 2015

2015 Gordonsville Chicken Festival

Here is yours truly hosting the Central Virginia Public Access Television's special about the 2015 Gordonsville, Virginia Fried Chicken Festival.

For over 100 years before the Colonel introduced the country to his chicken, some resourceful and energetic African American women in Gordonsville, Virginia were nationally known for their delicious fried chicken. Learn more of their story here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Green Fire Steak

Green Fire Steak! This is a deliciously spicy way to trick out that steak. Just slice some fresh jalapeno peppers and sauté them in a little olive oil, butter, garlic, salt and pepper. Server over grilled steak. So delicious! This recipe can be very spicy for some people, so, if you are sensitive to hot peppers, you might want to skip this one.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Now for Something Decadently Different - Smoke Roasted Avocado

Smoke roasted avocado with creamy eggs! Here is how I did it.

1.) Fire up the smoker/grill.
2.) Fry bacon in an iron skillet.
3.) Remove bacon and sauté chopped onion and chopped chili pepper.
4.) Remove onions/peppers and set aside.
5.) Reserve bacon fat.
6.) Slice avocado in half, remove pit, slice a thin slither off the "bottom" to make a sturdy base.
7.) Add a teaspoon of bacon fat to the pit cavity of each avocado half.
8.) Season with salt and pepper to taste.
9.) Crack an egg into each pit cavity.
10.) Put a teaspoon of bacon fat over each egg.
11.) Top with the sautéed onions and peppers and jack cheese.
12.) Cook indirect at around 350 degrees F until the egg reaches desired level of safe doneness.

That's it. Serve with the bacon and some Indian hoe cake on the side. Smokers like the Big Green Egg and Chargriller Akorn make this kind of thing easy. Just fire up with direct heat for the frying part. Then, put in the diffuser for the smoking part.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Hillbilly Red's Barbecue - Genuine Virginia Barbecue

Down by Richmond International Airport there is a little barbecue place called Hillbilly Red's Barbecue. The owner, whose nickname is Red, started the business about eight years ago. He was a contractor before starting the restaurant and all he knew about barbecue at the time he started the business was that he liked eating it. In that part of Virginia, they often have pig picking parties where they barbecue whole hogs in peoples' backyards and throw a party. That was his reference for barbecue.

I stopped by recently and ordered a chopped barbecue pork sandwich with slaw. It was a big sandwich and was very moist and tasty without sauce and adding his house sauce made it nice and tangy. Red serves three types of sauces: House, tomato based, and North Carolina style. Now, don't be too hard on Red for his North Carolina style sauce and his neglect of labeling his house sauce as Virginia style, which it is in every respect. Virginians aren't used to bragging about their barbecue. We can thank TV, newspapers, and magazines for that.

As I discussed barbecue and his background, Red unknowingly revealed several things about his barbecue that are genuinely Virginian. He cooks his pork butts without any seasoning on them at all. That's a traditional Virginia method. He also has a spiced and tangy house sauce. That's traditional Virginia style as well. As I talked to him about the influences on his barbecue recipes and told him how that what he is doing is very much in the Virginia tradition, a little smile came over his face. I could almost see his Virginia barbecue pit master chin rise up as he realized that he didn't have to hide behind the North Carolina label.

Red's story isn't unique. There are places all over the state serving really good barbecue that is genuinely Virginian but the marketing of the barbecue seems to always reference North Carolina. But, those marketing gimmicks are not accurate at all. You should have seen the smiles when I explained to him and his wife how that the traditional eastern North Carolina "sauce" is actually of Virginian origin. They had no idea and were delighted to learn of it.

That's the fulfillment of my mission. I am on a crusade to make sure that Virginia barbecue cooks know the history of their craft and aren't ashamed to proudly proclaim that their barbecue is Virginia barbecue.

Red and I parted as friends after that visit and he agreed to be interviewed for my upcoming book. That's what it's all about.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Stone Boilers

Assiniboine Warrior
The Assiniboine people, also known as the Nakota and originally from the Northern Great Plains, used to boil stews using stones. In fact, the name of Assinaboine means "Stone Boilers" or "those who cook with stones." They had no technology of making earthen pots so to boil water and make stews they would dig a hole in the ground and line it with the hide of an animal making a water tight basin. They would fill it with water, add the meat and to boil it they would put red hot stones in the water. They added stones as needed to maintain a simmer.

At some point, the Stone Boilers learned to make earthen vessels and also traded with Europeans for metal pots and gave up the practice of boiling stews with hot stones. But, the most interesting part of their story is, much like is done nowadays with Brunswick stew and Burgoo, for a long time the Assiniboin preserved their tradition of boiling stews with hot rocks at public festivals where they took pleasure in cherishing and perpetuating their ancient customs.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Struttin' with some Barbecue

Written by Louis Armstrong's wife in about 1927, this tune entitled "Struttin' with some Barbecue" isn't about food. The word barbecue in the jazz musician slang of that era meant pretty girl. Pay attention to the notes Armstrong hits playing that horn. It's quite amazing.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

South Carolina Barbecue Hash

Barbecue Hash & Grits

So, you like to cook, do you? How about a dish that takes about eight hours to prepare? Here is the recipe for South Carolina Barbecue Hash. It's pretty tasty, but I would recommend making several batches and freezing it because it's so time consuming.

This stew is made in the style that you would find at Midway Barbecue in Buffalo, South Carolina. Add a sweet mustard/vinegar based sauce at the end for a style similar to what you would find at Maurice's Piggy Park in West Columbia, South Carolina. Use cheap cuts of meat like chuck and pork shoulder.

3 pounds of cubed beef
2 pounds cubed pork
3 - 5 lbs chopped onions
32 - 48 ounces water
1/2 stick of butter
salt, pepper, cayenne to taste

Put meat and onions in a pot, cover with water (about 32 to 48 ounces) and simmer until the meat is tender and the onions can be easily mashed. This should take about 4 to 6 hours. Remove meat from the pot and let it cool enough to handle. Once the meat has cooled, put it through a meat grinder or just chop it fine. It should be at a consistency that a young child could eat without needing to chew. The onion pieces should be chopped too. Make sure that no onion pieces are recognizable. Return the chopped meat to the pot and continue to simmer until the meat and onions reach a thick consistency with little broth. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Add butter and stir until melted. Serve hot by itself or over rice or grits or bread. It can also be served on BBQ sandwiches.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Teres Major: Economical and Delicious Cut of Beef

Teres Major
Next time you are shopping for beef, keep an eye out for a cut called teres major. Sometimes it's also called mock tender. It's a delicious and tender cut from the shoulder (chuck). It rivals tri-tip in flavor and beef tenderloin in tenderness. I like to cook it in my smoker at about 225F until it reaches 125F internal. Then, I quickly sear the outside on my grill and let it rest before slicing. The only seasoning I use is salt, pepper, and garlic. While tri-tip was selling for about $8.00 a pound and ribeye at about $10.00 a pound, I got two teres major roasts for $5.49 per pound. Please don't tell the butcher that it's worth way more.

Old School Virginia Brunswick Stew

,You know the stew is done when your paddle stands up in the pot.

Recently, I had the privilege of hanging out with the Proclamation Stew Crew as they cooked a "little" pot of Brunswick Stew. Lots of fun and delicious Brunswick stew to boot!

A close up look at the stew.

Time to eat!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Old Virginia Barbecue Coming Soon to a TV Near You

Here I am spritzing the barbecue while being recorded by Charles Thomas of CVTV

It was a hot July day as filming (actually digital video, no film required) commenced of the first episode of a TV show featuring yours truly demonstrating how to cook Virginia barbecue as well as discussing its history and traditions.

In this episode, I demonstrated how to barbecue tri-tip, pork tenderloin, and baby back ribs using typical backyard grills such as a Weber kettle, a Chargriller Outlaw, and a home made barrel cooker. I shared a couple of Virginia barbecue recipes and also one or two tips and tricks for cooking top notch, high quality barbecue in your backyard.

The show will air on the Central Virginia TV station and may also be shown in other areas and states.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Shenandoah Valley Barbecued Chicken

Virginia's Shenandoah Valley Barbecued Chicken

The late Dave Shirkey is the Shenandoah Valley's most famous barbecue chicken cook. He cooked barbecued chicken for around 60 years before his death. He got his start cooking barbecue chicken doing fund raisers for his Sunday school class. Since then, his recipe is legendary in and around Dayton, Virginia.

Shirkey cooked his chicken over a long open pit.  He would fire up the pit, put the chicken on the grates about two feet above the coals and begin basting it with his famous chicken mop. He would turn the chicken about every half hour and baste after each turn. He knew the chicken was done when he could "twist a leg." Once finished cooking, the chicken was dipped in the mop and wrapped in foil to rest in a cooler. It's best after about an hour staying warm in the cooler bathed in the mop.

I don't have a pit that can raise meat two feet above the coals, so for my version I used my weber kettle setup for indirect cooking. I added a couple of chunks of hickory for smoke. I mixed up the mop in a repurposed ketchup bottle. Before putting the chicken on the grill, I just gave the bottle a good shake and poured a little of the mop over it. After putting the chicken on the grill with a good basting of the sauce on both sides, I flipped the bird every half hour and basted again each time I flipped it.

The Finished Product. That reddish color indicates that
the meat has been properly barbecued. It is not raw.
Here is the mop recipe -

1/2 cup peanut oil
2 cups apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes (my addition)

When the chicken was done after about 2 hours it reached an internal temperature of 170 F in the breast and about 180 F in the thigh (I could twist the leg but also used my trusty thermapen to be sure), I poured a little mop on it and wrapped in foil for 10 minutes. For best results, put chicken in foil, add some mop, wrap tightly and store in a cooler to keep it hot while it rests (or wrap in a blanket) for 45 minutes to an hour before serving.

The chicken will be juicy and tasty with a little tang from the vinegar and hint of smoke from the hickory.


1.) The USDA tells us that minimum safe internal temperature for chicken is 165 F. I like to cook the meat until the internal temperature is a little higher just to be safe. That being said, barbecued chicken often takes on a pinkish color. Don't be alarmed. That's normal as long as the meat has reached at least 170 degrees F internal temperature.
2.) The 4 tablespoons of salt may sound like a lot of salt, but actually it's perfect. Remember, this is a mop to be used while cooking not a sauce that is served on the side. To ensure best results, use kosher salt. If using table salt, reduce amount to 3 tablespoons.
3.) Beware of cross contamination! If you are planning on using some of the mop to put on the chicken after it is finished cooking, make sure you reserve some for that purpose. You don't raw chicken juices that will be transferred into the mop from the brush or other utensil you use to apply the mop to the meat with on your perfectly cooked chicken.
4.) If you are not cooking whole half chickens, you may want to increase the heat and possibly even grill the meat especially if you are cooking chicken breasts. Smaller cuts of chicken will dry out at low and slow temperatures that take a long time to cook the chicken.
5.) Mopping (basting) barbecue while it is cooking can be a messy job. You may want to place disposable aluminum pans under the chicken to protect your cooker from the excess mop that will fall through the grill grates.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Evolution of American Southern Barbecue

Whole Hog Barbecuing Antebellum Virginia Style
Recently, I had the opportunity to conduct a historical barbecue cooking presentation at the annual BBQ Jamboree in Fredericksburg Virginia. I demonstrated how Virginia Indian tribes cooked and dried food in the 1600's and also how the European colonists and enslaved Africans built upon Virginia Indian cooking techniques to give us American southern barbecue.

Corn and venison being dried over a low and slow bed of
coals the way Virginia Indians did it in the 1600s
When the first English colonists arrived at what is now Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, they were greeted by Virginia Indians who lived in the Tidewater region of Virginia. (I use the phrase "Virginia Indians" because that is what they prefer to be called.) The Virginia Indians comprised over thirty tribes confederated in the powerful Powhatan Chiefdom headed by Wahunsenakah who was called Powhatan by the English. This is why Virginia Indians of the Tidewater region are often referred to as Powhatan Indians even though there were actually many tribes.

The first couple of decades in Virginia were very challenging for the English colonists. If not for the Powhatan Indians in general and the Patawomeck Indians (specifically), who lived near the Potomac river in what is now Stafford and King George counties, the English colony would have surely failed because the English were incapable of feeding themselves. It was only after the English adopted Indian ways of farming and preparing food that they began to thrive.

Old school basting sauce
The hog that was cooked is what the old timers called a "shoat." A shoat is a young pig that weighs under 50 pounds. The hog was basted with a mixture of vinegar, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper pods just like it used to be done for hundreds of years in Virginia.

The evolution of American barbecue is shown in the photos. I had a great time and the whole hog turned out delicious!