Hickory, oh Hickory. You are the only wood for me. You give me pungent sweetness and aromatic delight. No wood compares. Not close. Not at all. I love nothing more than to sit with you as you escape silently through black vents and dance delicately across my face, kissing my cheeks oh your way to heaven. You whet my appetite and arouse my senses. You are a stimulating symphony of barbeque ecstasy. You are rich and savory and beautiful, Hickory, oh Hickory. You are the only wood for me.
I’ve tested a number of competition and prosumer brand seasonings, especially over the last year, and my wife’s chief complaint is salt concentration. The truth is, most seasonings you buy at a specialty BBQ store—or even from you local grocer—will list salt as the first ingredient. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is a factor to be considered in your approach to seasoning application. A heavy handed pour may invite a large glass of water at your plate side during dinner.
The sodium conundrum is a tough issue to balance with the lust for bold flavored meats. Every brand will vary to some degree, and unless you take diligent notes, you are likely to experience inconsistent results; at least in terms of whether the sodium level is excessive. The level of non-salt flavor of a particular seasoning is bound by the sodium constraints prescribed by the maker. And if you exceed that threshold wanting greater spice, you may pay for it with overwhelming salt.
The other thing to consider is heart health. Let’s face it, most of our favorite seasonings would not meet the approval of the American Heart Association. Which leads me to the purpose of this post: TJ’s Herbal Blend Seasoning.
As of this writing, this seasoning is available by custom order only and, as far as I can tell, is essentially the seminal seasoning of a start-up business yet to be officially started. The owner and creator doesn’t make his living seasoning meat (his profession is something involving technology beyond my comprehension), and yet this seasoning is worthy of sitting in my cupboard next to some more notable brands.
In a one gallon size plastic Ziploc bag, I added roughly five (5) tablespoons of TJ’s blend, some olive oil, and a splash of water. This creates a fairly viscous, seasoning infused marinade. Next I added the dark meat from one chicken. Letting most of the air out before sealing, I then massaged the mixture into the meat until liberally and evenly coated. Then I placed the bag into the fridge for about three hours to allow absorption.
I cooked the meat, skin side up over direct medium-high heat (about 450 degrees) for 25-30 minutes. As usual, I took care to stagger the meat outward from the hottest point to minimize charring. Next, I closed the vents to about 25% airflow (shooting for 325 degrees) and flipped the chicken skin side down for another 20 minutes.
The meat was moist without dripping juices and fall-off-the-bone tender (thank you BGE). The flavor from the seasoning was pleasantly palatable without being overbearing and the absence of salt was welcome. The skin was perfect, simply put. In fact, this was the first time I’ve ever seen my wife eat chicken skin, which was a reddish gold color and lightly crisped, with a texture that tears along the seam of your bite or knife point instead of breaking and crumbling under pressure or giving to elastic pull. There was no evidence of black char to the skin either, which is unusual for chicken cooked at these temperatures and over direct heat. Also, the skin was exactly where I remembered it when it went on the grill, no shrinking or breaking while cooking.
My conclusion is that the seasoning provides an excellent, complementary depth to the many flavors of charcoal grilled chicken, while helping to maintain the integrity of the skin, which in turn adds an additional flavor element. For someone (like my wife) who has a salt sensitive palate, this is really a great option for a regular chicken seasoning and would probably be excellent in other applications as well (I’m thinking fish, poultry, and vegetables especially).
My skin theory is yet to be fully tested, but I think the culprit is salt, which I am stating to believe may rob moisture and increase charring. That is something I will research and report in another post—not that it will avert my personal use of salt. But until then, I leave you with my complements of TJ’s Herbal Blend.
If you are interested in a (maybe free) sample, email me at email@example.com and I will see about making arraignments.
The warm glow of a spring sunset, clouded in a haze of Georgia tree pollen, cast light upon the face of Greeneggboy. Looking at the rubble that Gasgrillman had left behind, he thought to himself: “When will his reign of terror end? How many dinners must be ruined?” Greeneggboy was too late this time, but he swore to himself he wouldn’t let it happen again.
He heard a whimpering soft voice from behind, “The chicken…it’s so dry. Why did this have to happen to us?” It was little Sally Jones, not much older than five. She stared furtively at Greeneggboy’s broad dark green shoulders as he cast a brief glance backward. He turned back to the sunset, silent, not willing to hear the words come from his mouth.
Sally’s problem was not unique. Gasgrillman was spreading a macabre plague of blandness across the country. The food at this table was unrecognizable to Greeneggboy. Disgusted, he walked toward the green egg mobile, pausing as he reached for the door handle. He bowed his head and a single tear dropped to the ground.
After his car passed over the hill, little Sally Jones kneeled down, and with her pointer finder she dabbed the spot where the tear had dropped. She raised it to her lips and put her finger in her mouth. It was delicious…
On an unexpectedly beautiful Saturday afternoon in mid-march, I ventured onto Main Street Tucker (in the suburbs of Atlanta) for a chili cook-off. I went because the Big Green Egg was competing and wanted to see how they stacked up against some local restaurants. Their chili was good and I’ll get back to it, but it wasn’t what stood out to me about the outing. It was Tucker.
Some history is probably helpful. I grew up in the neighborhood next to Tucker. I went to the high school in the neighboring district. I passed through Tucker a hundred times before March 16, 2013, and before then I would boldly stand by the claim that Tucker is nothing notable. I don’t know what the hell happened, but a new wave of restaurants, a bakery, a growler bar, a cross fit gym, and other boutique shops has begun overtaking this formerly rundown hick strip. The community is totally backing it up, too, with upgrades to infrastructure, hardscapes, and landscaping. Dare I say it? Tucker is turning from blue-collar shanty to trendy yuppie. And fast.
I suppose the notion of a chili cook off, or any festival generally reserved for the likes of Decatur, is a big indicator of the cultural change of the locality. And I guess this is the sort of thing families are looking for these days when deciding where to settle down. The more I think about it, Tucker is an obvious place to makeover into the next Virginia Highlands-esque strip: quaint and rustic, hundred year-old architecture laid out in two or three sequential blocks, and the real estate values are depressed enough to attract young aspiring business owners with creative ideas but a lesser appetite for risk.
A great example is Growler Town. First off, I can’t emphasize how pumped I am about having a growler bar two miles from my house. The owner has done a great job of building off of his surroundings with a style that makes any man want an ice cold, high gravity IPA. I just can’t believe this place is in Tucker.
Before you pick up a growler, though, grab a bite to eat at one of the nearby food joints. Excluding Mathew’s Cafeteria—not because it isn’t awesome, but because it is an institution older than I am—there are three choices within spitting distance. Across the street is the Local 7, a quasi-pub where you can get a chicken Cesar salad, artesian burgers, fish and chips, and any top shelf liquor, all while watching a CSX train haul ass though town. Other options include a colorful looking Mexican restaurant I have yet to try (or learn the name of) and a little pharmacy soda a little further down the row. I haven’t tried that either, but the lady standing outside said they do milkshakes.
After that, check out Sweet Dee’s bakery for a red velvet cupcake on your way to the gardening store, uppity pet store, or the store that specializes in custom crafted fireplaces and other fire place accoutrements.
Old-timers, if you’re beginning to worry about all of this, don’t…Main Street Tucker still has a hardware store.
In case you were wondering, all of these businesses were cashing in on this day. Growler Town especially because there were no open container restrictions as far as I could tell and the only other booze option was Yuengling lager as furnished by the Local 7. I saw a couple of guys walking down the street with a large growler and a cup. Works for me.
I should probably get to the chili, which is what prompted this post to begin with. But before I comment on the best of the contestants, you should know the judging format. There may have been a formal judging by professional chili taster guys, but I didn’t care to find out how that played out. I was there to do my part in deciding the people’s choice award.
Everyone who walked through the gate was given a little red ticket. When you found the one you thought was the best, you drop it in that vendor’s little cup and the tickets get totaled at the end. Easy enough.
You might expect me to be a homer who sides with BGE, and I’ll admit that I hastily voted for them early in my tasting, but now is when I officially go on record. The Big Green Egg had a very good brisket chili. Indeed I asked for the recipe (I was denied without hesitation). But BGE wasn’t my favorite and not by far.
In accord with the theme of young upstarts, another one stole my heart, my chili heart. The winning chili was given to me by a soon to be food truck company called the Kraken Chili Company. The guy I talked to said they are about six months out from being operational, and I’ve got to be honest, I can’t wait to see what they are all about. If you are interested in the growth of the food truck industry, which apparently is coming to Atlanta, I give my vote of confidence to the Kraken. Look for them on Facebook.
So that’s not much of a BGE post, and frankly I’ve been thinking about broadening the scope of this blog lately, but the BGE is about good eats and satisfaction in life. So if that’s what you are into, then I would recommend two things: one, get a Big Green Egg if you don’t have one already; and two, check out what’s going on down on Main Street Tucker.
I’m that guy on Facebook. You know, the one who is always posting pictures of what he’s having for dinner. To others, the Big Green Egg has become part of my identity.
The thing about Facebook is that it keeps us up to date on the lives of people we might otherwise have forgotten. Case in point, I ran into an old friend from high school a couple of weeks ago, whom I hadn’t seen in years, and the first thing he asked me was, “what’s so great about the Big Green Egg? I think I can do the same thing on my Weber.”
Oooh, boy, my reaction was not unlike that of Dr. Alan Grant being told that a velociraptor looks like a six foot turkey. I went on to lecture extensively on the BGE, but realized it was fruitless. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and this was one of those circumstances when I should have just shown him this hot-off-the-BGE, mesquite smoked, leg of lamb shank:
Do that with your Weber.
My Publix will order this for me, but the Dekalb Farmers Market already had it. At about 7 bucks a pound, this is a pretty good deal and would have fed four hungry people.
Process and Procedure:
Step 1: Fire it up and bring Egg to 350-400 degrees.
Step 2: Flavor Additives—there are a number of things you could do to bolster the flavor of lamb. I saw a great recipe that involved poking a bunch of holes in the meat and stuffing them with garlic, rosemary, and frozen kalamata olives. Ultimately, though, as I wanted to start small and build in the future, I just dusted it with my favorite blend of seasoning.
Step 3: Toss some wood on the coals. I used mesquite for this one.
Step 4: Insert platesetter, some tin foil to catch drippings, drop in the grate, place the meat, sit on the couch and wait for about 90 minutes.
Step 5: I used an instant read thermometer and pulled it off at around 140 degrees internal temperature. This was about medium-rare.
As you may know from my earlier post, I wasn’t that impressed with the Down and Dizzy seasoning. I found it frustrating that I had to use so much seasoning in order to enjoy any significant taste. To be honest, I had written off the entire line of seasonings until I got a recommendation on Whirly Bird from someone I trust.
Whirly Bird, as its name indicates, is intended to be a poultry seasoning, although it works fine on most meats. The BGE website describes it as,
A clever blend of herbs, spices, citrus, garlic and pure maple sugar adds intrigue to fowl, fish, meats and veggies alike! Fresh herbs and spices combined with citrus, a bit of garlic and pure maple sugar deliver an unforgettable taste sensation!
Since picking up a bottle last week, I’ve used it on chicken and lamb. Here’s a picture of the chicken:
It was pretty good on both. As a matter of fact, I really liked in on the leg of lamb—which is why I say you can probably ignore the food classifications on the BGE site.
My initial reaction is that Whirly Bird is an enjoyable combination of flavors with mild spice safe enough for my toddler, who is actually a really big fan of this blend. This is a great example of the bold, creative taste we have come to expect from The Dizzy Pig BBQ Company.
I guess I’ll be giving the rest a chance.