Often Overlooked; Frequently Underutilized

No, it’s not parts of camel or baboon that are only eaten by that guy on TV.  It’s Grill Baskets!

pork

If you don’t have a grill basket in your selection of BBQ implements, then you’re lacking one of the most useful tools known to the world of grilling. You most definitely need to ask Santa for one, or make a visit to your local Grillin’ superstore to get properly equipped. A grill basket expands the grilling horizon to just about anything that swims, walks, runs, flies, or is anchored into the ground via roots. With a grill basket, you can cook all sorts of stuff over real coals that you’d never otherwise consider putting onto the grill, except maybe foi gras or refried beans!

Grill baskets come in a plethora of shapes and sizes. Some are essentially rectangular or square flat cages, with lids that latch closed. These do a fine job of containing fragile foods like fish so the entire basket can be flipped without fear of consumable goodies falling down into the fire lurking below. Some are elongate, rectangular, and narrow. They’re designed to do kebobs without that pesky bamboo skewer. Some are not baskets at all, but more like a rack of some kind.

Many, however, are clearly and cleverly designed to catch grillers and their hard-earned dollars, rather than fulfill an actual useful role in a griller’s tool kit. There are baskets designed to hold corn on the cob, and there are some that have indentations to hold hot dogs. Other than a nice flat steak, there are few foods in this entire world that are more amenable and perfectly shaped for grilling than are corn and hotdogs. Now it seems to me that a BBQ grill is a kind of basket, in and of itself, so why in the world would one need a basket to grill wieners?

In my opinion, the most versatile and useful of all grill baskets are kind of like flat-bottomed woks full of holes, or a bowl made from stainless steel mesh. Usually these are about 12” dia, tapering down to maybe 8” or so at the bottom where they sit on the grill, and they range from an inch or two to 4-5 inches or more in height. Baskets come in a range of sizes, so be sure to get one that’s sized appropriately for your grill. You don’t want a basket with an 8” bottom that you plan on using on a 4” square hibachi, for instance. Sometimes grill baskets come with a lid, which is a mystery to me because I don’t know why anyone would want to grill something that might jump out of the basket. Baskets with removable handles are nice, since permanent handles tend to get so hot that gloves are in order to move the basket, or to dump the contents once all is cooked. Your basket is going to get really grubby; be sure it’s dishwasher-safe and avoid fancy wooden or other non dishwasher-safe handles as well.

These bowl-baskets facilitate wonderful flavors that you’ve never dreamed could be imparted to foods that may be small, fragile or unusual. With the bowl baskets, you sort of stir-fry your way to eye rolls when your creation hits the table. Plus, with these bowl-baskets, you can still do things like kebobs, but you now have more flexibility! With conventional kebobs, everything is either skewered together, or all in the same kebob basket which makes it impossible to include veggies like squash or potatoes alongside your tomatoes, onions, and bits of steak. By the time the squash or potato is done, the meat is crunchy jerky.

With the basket, however, you can start with cubed potatoes or squash, drizzle with a little olive oil and seasoning of your choice, and grill ‘em until they’re almost done, then add in the onion, cook a little longer, then toss in the tomato and meat. With this technique, you actually end up with medium or rare steak chunks in your kebob alongside perfectly done veggies. The final product won’t look like a kebob because it’ll be jumbled together in a basket, but will taste better because everything is cooked as it should be, and nothing is overdone. Plus, with a gentle stir fry technique, the veggies get bathed in all that wonderful meat juice and end up tasting far better than if they’d all been impaled on a stick with a chunk of meat every now and then.

Here are a few items, some crazy, some more “normal” that I’ve cooked with my grill baskets over the years.

Hominy: Yep, no kidding! I bet I’m the only person in theHominy entire world that has grilled        Hominy! With some olive oil and our Steak and Veggie Rub, it was pretty dang good too!

Shrimp: Grill baskets are perfect for doing shrimp over charcoal. These were thawed, then marinated in a few tablespoons of olive oil and an equal amount of Miners Mix XXX-Garlic Seasoning and Rub. The secret to stir-frying shrimp over medium heat charcoal is not to cook them too long. They’re done when they cook 30 sec to a minute or so longer after they turn opaque and begin to show pink near the tail. Try one to see if it’s done before taking them off the grill. Once they’re done, melt about half a stick of butter with 2-3 tablespoons of XXX-Garlic Seasoning and Rub and pour the butter seasoning mixture over the cooked shrimp.

Shrimp1  Shrimp2

Ravioli: These were thawed and lightly brushed with olive oil then grilled in one of those rectangular baskets. I grilled them until they were lightly toasted. RavioliThey would have been better if they’d been boiled first, then allowed to cool, oiled, then grilled. Might give this another try at a later date.

Pulled Pork, Carnitas Style: Carnitas are little crispy pieces of pork, and when done correctly, they are wonderful. Next time, instead of serving up mushy, limp pulled pork in sauce, first dump a hunk into your trusty grill basket over fairly high heat. Stir fry it some, and allow it to crisp up and caramelize for enhanced flavor. While the pork is crisping, sprinkle it with more Maynards Memphis BBQ Rub as you stir it in the grill basket. The crispiness of the pork yields a wonderfully unique crunch to sandwiches when mixed with BBQ sauce.

Pork     Veggies

Grilled potatoes, zucchini and squash: Dense veggies like this need to be precooked somewhat in the microwave or by boiling. When close to done, dice them up and drizzle with olive oil and Miners Mix Steak and Veggie Seasoning, then finish them off in the grill basket over medium to high heat. YUM!

Potatoes Potatoes2

Grill Basket Herbed Potatoes: Recipe is pretty similar to the recipe above. Potatoes are precooked, then drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with Miners Mix Steak and Veggie and finished in that grill basket.

Mushrooms: This dish is one of the standards we do at nearly every event or demo where we have access to a grill. It never fails to elicit OMG! along with an eye-roll from everyone who tastes it. Even folks who don’t like shrooms are impressed by this one and it’s one of the reasons that Miners Mix has taken home 5 People’s Choice awards at various EggFest events in CA. Best of all: .IT’S STUPID SIMPLE! Start with white grocery store variety mushrooms (Costco). If they’re large, quarter them, wash, then bag in a ziplock and douse liberally with olive oil. Sprinkle very liberally with Miners Mix Steak and Veggie Seasoning, then dump into the grill basket over fairly high heat and stir fry until nice and done. Taste one or two and use more Steak and Veggie if necessary.

mush Mushroom1

If I figure out how to do refried beans or come across foi gras, caviar, or any other yummy, un-grillable item, rest assured there’ll be a forthcoming blog about my experiences!

Happy grill basketing!

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We Went, We Cooked, We Won!

4 years participation; 3 wins, and one second!

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Miners Mix EggFest Recipes

 Miners Mix Pulled Pork, Carnitas Style

Rub your pork butt heavily with Miners Mix Maynard’s Memphis BBQ Rub. For the best flavor, wrap the rubbed pork with stretch wrap and allow to sit in the fridge for at least a day or two. Lacking time for this EggFest, however, they went directly into the BGE after the rub. I used boneless butts from Costco.

Set the Egg up for a smoke. Use quite a bit of smoking wood, 40% or more of the fuel load. Since I planned to smoke for only about four hours and then finish up in the oven, I wanted a heavy smoke pulse, so I used real Mariposa oak limbs that were about 3” in diameter and about 4-6” long. There were probably 8-10 pieces this size in the fuel load. Almond and apple produce much lighter smoke flavors, and are probably better for overnight smokes. Because I did a shorter smoke, I smoked at a higher temp., about 300F using a plate setter and a drip pan.

After about four hours on the Egg, I removed the butts, placed them in an aluminum roasting pan and covered the pan tightly with foil. Into the oven they went at 250 for another five hours, until they were falling apart tender. One could finish in the Egg this way, but I needed the Egg for another two butts for the event! Finishing in the oven facilitates the collection of fantastic smoked pork juice and smoked grease, which are great additions to boxed au gratin potatoes, stove top stuffing, or anything that calls for butter and would benefit from a smoke flavor as well. If a recipe calls for butter, substitute an equal amount of smoked pork fat instead, for great smoky flavors. Use the juice to make a fantastic smoked pork gravy.

After cooking in the oven, the pork was allowed to cool, divided in half, and then placed into ziplock bags and then the freezer. porkOn EggFest day, the pork was thawed and half a butt dumped into a grill basket directly over the coals (no plate setter). NOTE: I don’t remove any of the fat layer at any time; it ends up in the grill basket just as it came out of the bag in which it came from the store. The grease in the fat is essential for crisping over the coals. As the pork heats over the coals at medium high heat, 350-400+F or so, shred it with tongs, turn it, and sprinkle with more Maynard’s Memphis Rub. Allow the meat to get a little crispy, so it becomes pulled pork carnitas. Serve on Kings Hawaiian rolls with your favorite BBQ sauce. 

Salty, Crusty, Bacon-Wrapped Ol’ Miners Balls For EggFest, there were three variations.

 Bacon –wrapped, garlic mashed potatoes with Lil’ Smoky inside. For EggFest, I used instant mashed potatoes. At home I use real potatoes. For using real potatoes, bakeballs

or boil three medium potatoes until they are done. Peel and mash without adding butter or milk. To three potatoes, add half a pack of Miners Mix OMGarlic! Cheese Bread Spread, and about 1 cup sour cream. Adjust the amount of sour cream up or down to obtain the constancy of the potatoes you desire. For salt, use chicken bouillon granules instead of white salt. To wrap with bacon, I wanted dry potatoes, however, for mashed potatoes with dinner, I’d add butter or maybe some of that smoked pork fat from above along with a little milk. The sour cream is what makes the magic happen though.

When cool, scoop a small gob of potatoes, roll it into a ball, and shove a Lil’ Smokie sausage inside. Wrap the ball with a strip of bacon. When the strip overlaps itself, angle the bacon and begin to wrap a different portion of the ball, so that most of the ball gets covered with bacon. Allow the balls to sit and harden up somewhat, or better yet refrigerate while you make more and different Miner’s Balls.

NOTE: After cooking at EggFest, I’d add an egg or two next time, depending on the amount of potatoes, so that the balls hold together better while cooking.

Bacon-Wrapped Stove Top Stuffing with Lil’ Smokie. I wanted stuffing to hold up to the bacon in texture and flavor, so I used cornbread stuffing. You want the stuffing to be dry, so use only one cup of water and nothing else. When cool, add one egg/package of stuffing used and mix well. Form balls, shove a Lil’ Smokie inside and wrap with bacon as for the potatoes, above. Dust liberally with Miners Mix Maynard’s Memphis Rub and allow to sit and set-up, or refrigerate.

Bacon-Wrapped Steak and Lil’ Smokies.   Hot Tip! Our local meat market has “Stew Meat” in their freezer that they sell REAL CHEAP (about $2 / lb). The chunks are actually trimmings from rib steaks, New York, Porterhouse, etc….so the meat is very tender, lean, and of exceptional quality. Worth getting to know your local meat market and looking into “Stew Meat”, I’d say!

big ballsTake a couple pieces of “Stew” meat, season with Miners Mix Original Steak and Veggie Rub, surround a Lil’ Smokie, and wrap the whole with a strip of bacon. All there is to it!

Grill your Crusty, Salty, Bacon-Wrapped Ol’ Miners Balls at about 400F over a plate setter for 20-30 min or so, until the bacon is the desired degree of doneness. Allow the balls to cool a little, then burn the heck out of your mouth as you eat greedily! 

Miners Mix Magic Shrooms 

Wash mushrooms and cut in half or quarters if they are large. Drizzle mushrooms liberally with olive oil and coat liberally with Miners Mix Original Steak and Veggie Rub. Stir fry with tongs in a grill basket over fairly high heat until the shrooms are golden brown, tender and juicy.

mush

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Getting ready for Wine Country EggFest (www.winecounrtyeggs.com)

I’m not much of a competition BBQ guy. Lugging all that gear, tables, pop-up canopy, coolers, tools, etc., plus that pit smoker, never seemed like much fun to me. Some of these serious BBQ guys have pits that would take a forest just to get up to temperature! When you figure you have to lug it all home again, wash it, and put it away, all that work really puts a dent in the fun quotient. Plus I think the competition among the grill masters kind of kills any camaraderie that might otherwise occur between competing chefs (Naw, you can’t peak at how I do things cuz you might learn some of my secrets and beat me next time). Also, way back in my KCBS judging days in CA, most competition BBQ events prohibited the general public from actually sampling what the competitors send to the judges table. I always thought the lack of the public’s opportunity to taste truly magnificent competition BBQ at these events negated the entire point of having these events in the first place.

About the only competition BBQ I enter are Big Green Egg EggFests, which are not really competitions at all. They do award a People’s Choice, but truthfully, what makes these events cool is the opportunity to talk to attendees who paid an entry fee and are looking to purchase an Egg of their own. eggSome of these folks have absolutely no clue about grilling and smoking and some actually know which end of the tongs to grasp. There are usually at least 20 cooks who are provided with a new, pristine Egg, lump charcoal is supplied, and the chefs can prepare anything they want to cook. At the conclusion of the event, the slightly used Eggs (mine always look like a war zone) are sold to the attendees at reduced prices.

EggFests usually start around 9AM or so with the lighting of the charcoal, and food starts coming off the Eggs at around 10. The chefs cook a variety of things all day long, and the attendees get to visit with, and eat everything that those 20 or so cooks make. There’s folks who make paella, cookies, brownies, cobblers, pizzas, breads, grilled Twinkies (really!), about the only thing I haven’t seen yet is grilled ice cream and foi gras. I’ve had the pleasure of cooking, “competing” and winning People’s Choice multiple times at EggFests in northern CA over the last several years. I don’t do breads, pizzas and desserts, but instead focus on more traditional BBQ fare, all seasoned with Miners Mix, of course!

If you’ve viewed the food porn slideshow, you’ve seen some of the oddball and the conventional items I’ve cooked at EggFests. It’s really cool to see the eye rolls and get those OMG! responses when people try  bacon-wrapped Thanksgiving dinner or Mac N Cheese, for instance.

Lacking any real idea of just what I wanted to cook and having a temporary total lack of creativity, I started experimenting with different things to grill. Stuff to finish in less than an hour so I can get it out to the attendees. Sooner is better. Here’s a few of the things I fooled around with:

I was sent a BBQ Pit Boys youtube link to on making Beer Can Burgers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hq2kmbI_1EA&feature=player_embedded

I made these. Maybe I should have used a real beer can, but I had none with any beer, and nasty canned iced tea was all I had sitting around. Basically you take a lump of ground beef and jamb the can into the gob of meat, then form the meat up around the can to about half way up. It basically forms a cup. Wrap a couple strips of bacon around the meat, then gently rock and twist the can to loosen it and remove the can from the ground beef. Fill the meat cup with whatever you want to put in there and grill over indirect heat for 35 min to an hour or so, until everything is done. I used canned chili, caramelized onions, tortilla chills and lots of sharp cheddar cheese. The end result wasBeef cups Cooked beef cups       not so great. While they looked spectacular, there was way too much meat compared to filling.

I decided to try again with smaller meat cups using small drinking glasses as the mold. We made the meat sides much thinner to try to get the filling/meat ratio right and we filled these with jalapenos and sharp cheddar, macaroni and marinara sauce (sort of an insideSmall beef cups out meatball), canned chili, pulled pork with BBQ sauce, and some other things. I even made a cup out of breakfast sausage and filled the cup with waffles and maple syrup! These proved to be far too labor intensive to make in quantity for an EggFest and the end result was still not the result for which we were looking. While really impressive looking, the ratio of meat to filling was just not where it needed to be for maximum eye rolls.

Back to the drawing board

I’ve grilled/smoked a lot of unusual things wrapped in bacon. This stuff makes everything better. After perusing some of the BBQ recipe sites to get inspiration, I decided to put on the thinking cap and try something that had not been done before, as far as I know. I call my results Salty, Crusty Miners Balls!

PotatoMy son and I smashed three medium potatoes without using milk or butter. I used about 8 oz. of sour cream and half a pack of Miners Mix OMGarlic! Cheese Bread Spread. To get the salt flavor right, we used some chicken bouillon. The resulting potatoes were pretty dense and stiff which is what we wanted. Josh rolled the potatoes into ping pong sized balls, around half a Lil Smokie cocktail sausage, and then suffingwrapped a slice of bacon around the ball.

Next, I made some Stove Top cornbread stuffing with 1 cup of water and no butter, so that the stuffing was very dry and stiff. When it cooled, I cracked an egg into the mix so it would hold together when cooked. Josh rolled ping pong sized balls of stuffing and covered them with a strip of bacon. We sprinkled them liberally with Maynards Memphis Rub.

Then I decided to try prosciutto and cheese tortellini wrapped with bacon. These were in the refrigerated foods case, not frozen. We simply wrapped 1/3 slice of bacon around the uncooked tortellini and held it in place with a toothpick. These were finished off with a Tortheavy sprinkle of Maynard’s Memphis Rub.

Finally, to balance our diet and get some beef into the mix, we sliced cube steak into strips, seasoned liberally with our Steak and Veggie Rub. Half of the strips got spiked with Lil Smokies sausage. Josh wrapped the cube steaks in bacon. Josh wants everyone to know he is truly the bacon wrapping king.Beef

I placed all the balls on the grill over indirect heat, about 350F or so, and gave them about half an hour cook time.

This is what the tortellini, mashed potato and stuffing balls looked like when finished. We didn’t get pictures of the cube steak balls, but they looked pretty good as well!

Done

We’re all pretty sure that these Salty, Crusty, Miners Balls will get the kind of responses we seek. Up here in the backwoods of CA, we call that kind of “OMG!” and eye roll, a Miners Mix response!

At the EggFest in a couple of weeks, I’m going to do pulled pork sliders ( I’ll smoke the pork ahead of time and crisp it up there in a grill basket, sort of carnitas style) as well as one of my Miners Mix standards, grilled mushrooms along with these Salty, Crusty Miners Balls. We should be good to go!

If you have a opportunity to attend an EggFest either as a chef or just to go and graze, it’s a great time either way. Low key and great BBQ makes a great combination. In the future, I hope to see you at one near me!

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What a calendar!

mmlogo

Well the Fresno Food Expo was a wild ride!  The Ol’ Miner is busy working up his next blog entry for you, so we thought we’d grab the blog for a couple of quick, shameless plugs!

Fresno was very busy for us, but it was fun, and we got to meet lots of folks.  As usual, the Miners Mix line of products WOWED the crowds.  FresnoOur next event will be the Eggs on the River Eggfest.  Miners Mix is a sponsor for the event, and we’d love to have you come visit us there!

For those who’d like to join the conversation, you can find us on Twitter.  We’ve also got new content slated for the website, so keep an eye peeled there!  We’ll also be firing out Instagram images from Eggs on the River.  If you’d like to see them, follow us on Twitter!

We’d love to hear from you.  You can leave a comment below, or email us at info@minersmix.com.

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Photos to make your mouth water…

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  If that’s so, then this post is worth 100,000 words.  This is a link to a cornucopia of photos taken by the Ol’ Miner of food and food prep he’s done using the Miners Mix Brand of products.  If you’re hungry (or wanna be), take a look at what the Ol’ Miner likes to call his collection of Food Porn!

Click to view

The Ol’ Miner himself is in a few of these shots.  See if you can find him!

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Fresno Food Expo is Coming!

Big News! Miners Mix just obtained a vendor number from Market Centre/Unified Grocers, one of the largest distributors in the nation. Being a vendor to Unified means that all the grocery chains they service can now buy and stock our products!

PLEASE START ASKING STORES WHERE YOU SHOP TO CARRY OUR STUFF!

To better showcase our fantastic products, Miners Mix will again be at the upcoming Fresno Food Expo Thursday, July 23, 2015. Here’s the web site: http://www.fresnofoodexpo.com/   If you want to see what the Central Valley of California has to offer in terms of eats and food companies, this is the place. There will also be beer and wine for sampling! Since inception, the Food Expo has grown and attracted more buyers, and now with Miners Mix on board with Market Centre, our fantastic new labels and packaging plus our flavors, we are more attractive to those buyers.

The first several hours are trade only (buyers, brokers, chefs, store owners, etc), but the doors open to the general public at 5PM. Tickets are available; please check the Food Expo website for info on purchasing them. The event closes at 8PM after a very long day for the exhibitors.

We’re going to be sampling our incredible garlic bread and also carne asada to showcase our seasoning rubs. To make the garlic bread faster and more uniform, we recently invested in a commercial, restaurant-grade conveyor toaster. The toaster needed fairly extensive modifications to suit our needs, but thanks to McGuyer, it now does garlic bread really well in a single pass through the machine. There are no open flames or charcoal allowed at the Food Expo, so we can’t do any (real) grilling there, which means electric. We wanted a grill that was 1500 Watts or less because we pay big bucks for power at the show and that power is sold in 1500 Watt allotments. With a 1500 Watt grill, I only have to buy two circuits. We know from experience (but don’t tell anybody) that those show electrical guys cut it real close! 1501 Watts means blown circuits and angry tech people.

 After poking around on that South American river website, I settled on a Zojirushi EB-DLC10 Indoor Electric Grill. I wanted a grill that was a real grill, not some frying pan or griddle masquerading as a grill. You can’t cook pancakes or foi gras on this thing! It’s large enough to meet our needs and get hot enough to cook our carne asada quickly, plus it leaves fantastic grill marks just like a restaurant charbroiler.grill

 It’s also coated in some kind of super Teflon they describe as “titanium enhanced nonstick coating”. We have a couple of Faberware grills we’ve used in the past, and this thing cooks rings around those grills, uses less power than the Faberware, and is easier to clean. It was fairly spendy, over $100, but I think it’s well worth the price.

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Fresno Food Expo and other related stuff and junk

While this space is usually reserved for the Ol’ Miner to talk about what’s on his mind, occasionally we (his trusty staff) steal it for our own devious purposes.

As many of you know, the Ol’ Miner has a regular Miners Mix roadshow that attends many competitions, trade shows and other events. Generally at these events, the Ol’ Miner does some grillin’, or if that’s not possible, some other type of cookin’ to showcase the Miners Mix Brand of products. At these events, we provide LOTS of samples of food, and we talk with folks about how and when to use our products (and anyone else’s that you want to know about!!).

The Ol’ Miner is always around to talk one on one with anyone who wants to talk cookin’, and he answers questions, gives advice and generally shoots the breeze with everyone who stops by. This month, we’ll be at the Fresno Food Expo, in Fresno, CA. FFEThis event is a great place to find out about what’s happening in the food world as the San Joaquin Valley (California’s Great Central Valley) is the undisputed Food Capital of the World! The public portion of the event takes place on July 23rd. Please see the event web site for more information. If you drop by, come see us at the MM Gourmet booth – and don’t forget to vote for Miners Mix for the People’s Choice Award either at the event, or on the Fresno Food Expo Facebook page or web site!

We’ll do our best to keep our show agenda posted here (and on our Facebook site) so keep a look out for when we might be near to you. Meanwhile, if you’d like to chat with the Ol’ Miner, or any of us here at Miners Mix, please feel free to drop us a line at info@minersmix.com, or just leave a comment below!

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