Cook the World Project – Recipe 1: Uzbekistan

Uzbek Palov Osh Recipe

Two years ago, my (then) six-year old daughter and I begin a journey to cook our way around the world.

Approximately once a month, Grace picks a country from the big wall map. We research the food, the people, and the history of that nation and pick a traditional dish that we want to try. Next we shop and cook together, and maybe even work in a side trip to an ethnic market or food-truck, once in a while.

With about 15 of these under our belt (literally, for me) I’m going to start posting our processes, notes, and maybe a brief anecdote, but mostly it’s going to be about the recipes.

Here’s the first country my favorite sous chef picked…

Here we go!

-Chef Perry

January 29th, 2014

Wall Map

Okay, the map it up on the wall! (I had to go buy a second poster-board, it was a lot bigger than I thought!) This shot is pre-pinning. We have about 5 pins ready to go…Uzbekistan, France, Italy, and a couple of others.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI figure it’ll take at least a good 5-6 years to get through the list of 257 countries, not including regional pins for larger countries, and countries where we just choose to cook more than one recipe. I’ll be posting each pin (recipe, notes, and anecdotes) here, and then maybe compile all of those into a cookbook for the kiddo, when we’re all done.

If you’re wondering why I’m doing this, beyond loving to cook, loving to hang out with our awesome daughter, and best of all, combining the two…you can read these two posts on my other blog:

The Problem with Farm to Table

Tips for Raising an International Gourmet

This week, it’s Uzbekistan, and this dish is…


Uzbek Cuisine is influenced by local agriculture, as in most nations. There is a great deal of grain farming in Uzbekistan, so breads and noodles are of importance and Uzbek cuisine has been characterized as noodle rich. Mutton and lamb are a popular variety of meat due to the abundance of sheep in the country and it is part of various Uzbek dishes.

Osh, also called “Palov” or “Plov”, is a classical main dish of Central Asian countries including Uzbekistan. It is rich, filling and very tasty if prepared right. They are a number of optional ingredients, but base is onions, rice, carrots, oil and meat…typically lamb or mutton.

Oshi nahor, or “morning plov”, is served in the early morning (between 6 and 9 am) to large gatherings of guests, typically as part of an ongoing wedding celebration.

Things we learned about Uzbekistan:

  1. The Uzbeks believe that turning bread upside down will bring you bad fortune.
  2. According to an ancient tradition, a member of the family who is set to go on a journey has to take a bite from a small piece of Uzbek bread. The remaining bread is then kept buried or hidden until the traveler comes home.
  3. The Uzbek master chef is able to cook in just one caldron enough osh (plov) to serve a thousand men.
  4. Traditionally, osh is a dish that is specifically prepared by men.

Uzbek Osh

  • 2 lbs fresh lamb leg steaks, bone in
  • 2 medium onions
  • 5 medium carrots
  • 3 1/2 cups of Basmati rice
  • 1 head of garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 cup of grapeseed oil
  • 3 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of ground cumin
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 cups of boiling water
  • 1 cup pitted dates, chopped
  • 1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

Clean, wash and matchstick the carrots.

Cut the onion in half, then into thin slices. Cut the lamb into 2 inch cubes and pat dry with paper towels, leaving the bones in the center cuts. Season the meat but tossing with a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Uzbek Palov Osh Recipe

Start water boiling in a large pot.

Heat a non-stick pan (or cassoulet put, as pictured) on medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat until you see a shimmer.

Uzbek Palov Osh Recipe

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Using a skimmer, metal slotted spoon, carefully lower the lamb cubes meat in to the oil. Fry about 30 seconds per side until well browned. Cook in batches (you don’t want to crowd the pan, or your lamb will steam, instead of brown), then add all of the meat back into the pan when browned.

Uzbek Palov Osh Recipe

Once the meat has a nice brown crust, drop the onions on top. Add pinch of the cumin half of the listed salt and the black pepper.

Uzbek Palov Osh Recipe

Mix it all up to prevent the onions from sticking. Cook until the onions reach a deep golden brown, and then add the carrots to the pan. Add remaining salt and cumin. Stir it all up and fry until carrots start to soften. (Stir at least every 30 seconds to prevent sticking.)

Uzbek Palov Osh Recipe

When the carrots are done, lower the heat to medium, and pour in the 8 cups of boiling water. Bring the whole thing to a simmer, but don’t let it boil. Add the garlic bulb, pushing it down beneath the surface. Let the whole thing simmer on medium heat for an hour.

Uzbek Palov Osh Recipe

Meanwhile, put your dry rice in a large pot, and rinse it (draining through the colander) four or five times to get the starch out of the rice.

When done rinsing, mix in the chopped dates, and set aside.

Uzbek Palov Osh RecipeAfter an hour, remove the garlic bulb (set it aside, you ain’t done with it), stir the meat and veggies, and then evenly distribute the rice over the top. If there’s not enough water on top of the meat and veggies, add enough to maintain and inch of water above the rice. DO NOT STIR…you want to cook the rice ON TOP of everything else.

Push the garlic bulb back into the center and continue to cook on medium heat, covered. Watch it closely, once the rice has absorbed all of the broth, things can burn pretty quickly.

Now comes the fun part…

Uzbek Palov Osh Recipe

Scoop off all of the rice onto a serving platter, and put the garlic bulb on top of the rice. Cover with foil and keep warm (a 200F oven works nicely.)

Turn up the heat under the meat and veggies and cook it down until any remaining liquid is reduced to a thick broth.

Cut up the meat into a small cubes and distribute it, and the veggies, over the rice. Sprinkle a few olives, and maybe a sprinkle of cilantro over the top, and your osh is done!

Serve with warm flatbread, butter lettuce cups, or both.

Oh, and don’t forget…no silverware required! Eat with your fingers (of the right hand!)


Chef Perry & Gracie

Perfect Aromatic Roast Chicken recipe

The Most Amazing Roast Chicken (and a little about us…)

Perfect Aromatic Roast Chicken recipe

I wanted to share with you all our super-simple (and simply amazing) aromatic roast chicken recipe (below), inspired by Alton Brown’s famous Holiday Turkey recipe…thanks, Alton!

By popular demand, this is Christmas dinner at our house, and also one of the recipes we plan to add to future MY KITCHEN Outreach classes.

MY KITCHEN Outreach Program

A recent graduating class with their graduation gift: copies of the MY KITCHEN Cookbook, covering all of the recipes and techniques they’ve learned in class, and many more. For every copy we sell online, we can provide two for future students!

Our long-term goal is, in addition to continuing to support amazing programs like Sparks of Hope, the Amy Roloff Charity Foundation, and My Father’s House Community Shelter, is to offer 3-day cooking camps for at-risk kids, foster-teens, and young families who need to learn healthy nutrition, shopping, and cooking skills.

Would you help us do this?

Just sign up for our free weekly newsletter, which features not only the latest that’s happening in the MY KITCHEN Outreach, but also offers delicious, simple recipes, cooking how-to’s, Chef’s tips and tricks, and our Q&A…where your cooking questions are answered personally, by one of our three chefs.

Again, there’s no cost to subscribe.

Thank you for helping us, help kids!

Chef’s Perry, Terry, and Chris
MY KITCHEN Outreach Program

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramPlease subscribe to our free newsletter, right here! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids.


Perfect Aromatic Roast Chicken

The Most Amazing Roast Chicken

1 – (5-6lb) roasting chicken
3/4 of a cup of salt
1/2 cup each of sugar and honey
1 gallon distilled water (unless you have a well, or really good tap water)
1/2 small gala apple, sliced thin, skin on.
1/2 small Asian pear, sliced thin, skin on.
1/2 small naval orange, peeled and sliced
1/2 small lemon, peeled and sliced
1/2 small sweet onion, peeled and sliced thin.
2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled.

Combine salt, sugar, honey, and 1 quart of water, and bring to a boil, stirring. When all solids are dissolved, pour this mixture into you brining pot, and add 3 more quarts of very cold water.

Add your chicken, breast-side down, and brine in refrigerator 8-18 hours. The longer you brine, the more moist and flavorful the meat will be.

Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse thoroughly (this is important, as you must wash away the excess salt). Pat to dry well, and set on a rack on the counter to continue to dry for up to an hour.

Add all fruit, onion, and garlic to a saucepan. Add about a cup of water and bring just to a boil, covered.

Drain, and (carefully)  stuff the bird. FYI – you’ll toss the stuffing after roasting, and truss her up. Place the chicken, breast up, on a rack into a roasting pan, add 1/2 inch of water to the pan. Brush the bird lightly with oil (do NOT salt it!)

Preheat your oven to 425F, and roast the chicken for 20 minutes (rotating once), then turn the heat down to 350F for 90 minutes.

Flip to brown the back (personal preference, I like the skin!), then remove from oven and let rest 30 minutes, breast down on a rack, before carving.

Reserve bones and scraps for making stock for Hainanese Chicken Rice the next night!

I’ll post THAT recipe here, tomorrow. :)

Tomato Cream Bisque Recipe

Tomato Cream Bisque with Smoked Gruyere/Cheddar Grilled Cheese

Tomato Cream Bisque Recipe

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I am a big fan of “comfort foods”…and the king of comfort food is Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese.

It’s what my mom made for me when I pretended to be sick, and it’s what my wife still makes for me when I pretend to be sick. (Just kidding, Honey…really…)

After several decades of tweaking and perfecting, here’s my current favorite of each:

(And, yes…the base of this is good old-fashioned canned tomato soup. Deal with it.)

Chef Perry’s Tomato Cream Bisque
2 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
1/2 cup toasted breadcrumbs (the fine stuff)
1 pint heavy whipping cream, warmed
2 can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup
2 cups of hot water
2 Tbsp. Better Than Bullion Organic Roasted Chicken Base
1/4 cup Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar, grated
2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil

Toast breadcrumbs in butter with garlic until lightly browned.

Whisk in the hot water, cream and soup, then the chicken base.

Bring to a simmer, whisking in cheese. Lower heat, and basil and cook another 5 minutes, whisking often.

Taste for salt and consistency, adding chicken base, breadcrumbs, and/or hot water as needed.

And of course, the tomato soup isn’t complete without…

Smoked Gruyere & Sharp Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich

4 slices Texas Toast
2 Tbs sweet cream butter
3 oz grated Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar
3 oz grated Smoked Gruyere cheese
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Fire up your griddle to around 325F. You can use a flat pan over just less than medium heat as well, but a griddle works best.

Butter the Texas Toast on both sides. Combine the cheeses, paprika and garlic in small bowl.

Divide the cheese mixture evenly between the two bottom slices, press down lightly, and set the bottom slices on the preheated griddle (should have a very quiet sizzle, but no more). Leave the tops off.

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

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Griddle for 3 to 4 minutes or until the cheese has softened. Use a spatula lift a corner of the bread to check for doneness. It should be just golden, not brown. Add the top slices of buttered bread, flip, and repeat.

When done, remove to your sandwiches to the cutting-board and halve on the diagonal.

Serve immediately

PS – If you want to take this sandwich to the next level, add a couple of slices of good prosciutto and a schmear of apricot preserves to each sandwich before adding the tops!



Chef P’s Smoked Mac & Cheese


One of my favorite BBQ side dishes is Mac & Cheese.

Now, like many of you I’m sure, I grew up on that neon-orange boxed stuff and, truth be told, every once in a while I’ll still tear open a pouch of “cheez powder” and enjoy a taste of my childhood.

…but I wouldn’t serve in alongside my barbecue.

For that, here’s a recipe that I’ve modified from one that my dad, Chef Frank L. Perkins, used to serve in his restaurants (it was also one of his favorite “microwave” breakfasts).

I serve this beside slow-smoked pork shoulder, and Terry Ramsey’s amazing pepper corn bread….and it’s a tough combo to beat!

Chef P’s Smoked Mac & Cheese
1 (16 ounce) package penne pasta
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into large chunks
2 teaspoon hickory salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups extra sharp Tillamook Cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups Gouda cheese shredded
1 cup Asiago cheese, shredded
1 lb pork jowl bacon, or unsliced double-smoked bacon

Slice jowl bacon into 1/2 inch thick slices.


Smoked Mac & Cheese

Place on a rack over a baking sheet, and bake at 350 until crispy. Flip slices, and repeat. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain and cool. Chop coarsely.

Cook pasta according to package instructions, until just aldente. (Click here to see our instructions for perfect pasta). In a medium saucepan, melt butter, and whisk flour into the butter. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and thickened. Slowly whisk in milk and bring to a boil.


Cook 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Stir in cream cheese until mixture is smooth. Add salt and pepper.


In a large bowl, combine 1 cup Cheddar, 1 cup Gouda cheese, Asiago cheese, pasta, cream sauce, and bacon.


Spoon mixture into an 11 by 9 ½-inch disposable aluminum roasting pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. (You can use a non-disposable roasting pan too, like I did here, just know that it’s going to get smokey.)


Sprinkle top with remaining Cheddar cheese and Gouda cheese.

Load the wood tray with one small handful (1/4 cup) of wood chips and preheat the smoker to 225° F.

If using charcoal, burn one chimney of coals until ashed-over, dump in firebox, and toss in one small handful of chips or pellets.

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday. Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids.



For gas grills, fire up one side of the grill on med-high, place small pan of woodchips over the hot side, and your mac & cheese on opposite end (cold side).

Cook 30 minutes, stir pasta, and add more wood chips. Repeat twice more for a total cooking time of 90 minutes. When ready to serve, just pop the pan into a 400d over for 30 minutes until browned and bubbly.

Tip: If reheating in the oven, try topping with 2 cups of Panko breadcrumbs before browning!

PS: Pork Jowl Bacon…



Just what makes a “foodie”…?

What is a foodie

First, some definitions:

Foodie is an informal term for a particular class of aficionado of food and drink. The word was coined in 1981 by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, who used it in the title of their 1984 book The Official Foodie Handbook.” (From Wikipedia)

Nicole Weston, in her article, “What is a foodie, anyway” (February 10, 2006), says, “Although the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, foodies differ from gourmets in that gourmets are epicures of refined taste who may or may not be professionals in the food industry, whereas foodies are amateurs who simply love food for consumption, study, preparation, and news.”

UrbanDictionary brings the conflict to a whole new level:

“A person that spends a keen amount of attention and energy on knowing the ingredients of food, the proper preparation of food, and finds great enjoyment in top-notch ingredients and exemplary preparation. A foodie is not necessarily a food snob, only enjoying delicacies and/or food items difficult to obtain and/or expensive foods; though, that is a variety of foodie.”

So…back to the original article. The author states:

“I’m surprised by a prevailing assumption I often come across that being a foodie means having an overwhelming desire to cook — to recreate the work of masters in one’s own kitchen. I think that’s pretty presumptuous and in some ways, devalues the art of fine dining. Being a foodie is more about appreciation than recreation. It’s about being adventurous enough to try new things and to savor flavor combinations you never dreamed of.”

Unfortunately, the comment box was closed.

Well, if you hang around here much you know it takes more than that kind of thing to shut me up.

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday. Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids.


So, I’m moving the conversation over here to explore a little deeper.

Here’s my completely subjective .02 –

If you’ve seen the Pixar classic, Rattatooie, then you may remember one of the critic Anton Ego’s lines, following his “enlightenment” near the end of the movie. “Not everyone can be a great chef, but a great chef can come from anywhere.”

I think that the foodie/cook issue may be a similar juxtaposition – in that, you don’t have to be a great chef (or even like to cook) to be a Foodie, but most Foodies become passionate about cooking. I do know one thing, of the dozen or so friends and acquaintances that I consider to be hardcore foodies in my own little world, every single one of them loves to cook.

So, do you consider yourself a “foodie?” If so…why?

What do YOU think the defining characteristics of a Foodie are, and do they include a passion or interest in cooking…or are there any the defining characteristics at all?

Okay, I’m gonna go make a sandwich.

– Chef Perry


PS – Looking for a great book on the subject of Foodies?

Here’s my favorite:

How to Be a Better Foodie: A Bulging Little Book for the Truly Epicurious – Sudi Pigott

How to be a Better FoodieBulging with information, this little book is a delightful celebration of food that will appeal to anyone who is fiercely dedicated to finding the finest, latest, rarest, and most delicious culinary knowledge.

How To Be a Better Foodie serves up entertaining and informative morsels to satisfy even the most insatiable cravings, such as:

  • Unusual delicacies—prawn shells, radish leaves, parmigiano reggiano rind and more
  • The latest in culinary trends such as belly pork, wagyu beef, lotus root crisps, green tea iced meringue, and sous vide preparation
  • International foodie pilgrimages and an almanac of seasonal delicacies

With quizzes to test the reader’s foodie prowess, illustrations throughout, and page after page of compelling food facts, this book offers revelations for even the most advanced foodie as well as a wealth of tidbits for the eager novice.



BBQ Basics: Creating Your Signature Rub

Creating your own bbq rub

What is a Rub?

A Rub is a spice and/or herb blend that’s used to coat meats prior to cooking. Rubs can be completely dry or can incorporate some liquids. This is called a wet rub or paste. Rubs are typically used in barbecue and grilling because they stick to the meat whether it’s on a gas grill or in a smoker.

A common rub base is paprika and/or chili powder to add color and mild flavor.

Personally, I like to combine a generous amount of dry rub on the outside of the meat, with an injectable marinade to add flavor to the interior, especially with large cuts like pork shoulders.

Making your own bbq rub(Our dry rubbed Pulled Pork BBQ)

Mixing Your Own Rub

Homemade dry rubs are cheap, simple to make, and usually taste better than store-bought varieties, plus they can be easily tailored to your personal tastes or dietary restrictions. Once you nail down the basics, you can create an endless variety of dry rubs.

A good dry rub should include five elements: A base, a salty element, a sweet element, a spicy element, and a signature element.

Base: I like smoked paprika for a solid rub base, but many folks use a hot or sweet paprika as well. You can customize your paprika base by adding chili powder or cumin.

Salty: This would be salt. Avoid iodized table salt in your rub (in fact, avoid that stuff in anything you plan to eat…) common options are Kosher or sea salt (coarse or medium), seasoned salt, Hickory or smoked salt, or for pastes and wet rubs, you can try soy sauce or Thai fish sauce for your salt element.

Sweet: Again, an almost endless list of options: white or brown sugar, honey, molasses, or maple syrup (wet), ginger, cinnamon, etc.

Spicy: Black, white, and red ground peppers, red pepper flake, or for serious spice, try a little (a little!) ghost pepper powder.

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday. Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids.


Signature: Finally, make it your own with a dash or two of something you like, spices like coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, mustard, rosemary, and thyme. Even garam masala or curry power, anything goes!

Make it a cup at a time, and tweak your recipe until it’s perfect!

Here’s my rub recipe, from our cookbook,MEAT FIRE GOOD”:

BBQ Pork Shoulder Rub
“Burnin’ Love BBQ” is the name of the BBQ Team that my fellow pit-masters, Chris Renner, Terry Ramsey, and I operate. (Really, it’s just an excuse to stand around in smoke and cook a lot of pigs and briskets… just don’t tell our wives, okay?)
This is our secret pork shoulder rub.
  • ¼ C smoked paprika
  • ¼ C coarse sea salt
  • ¼ C light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs garlic powder
  • 2 Tbs onion powder
  • 2 Tbs Italian seasonings (spicy, if you can find them)
  • 2 Tbs coarse black pepper
  • 1 Tbs hickory salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne powder
  1. Apply the rub generously to the inside of a butterflied pork shoulder, roll it, tie it, and apply more rub to the outside. You MUST allow the rubbed shoulder to rest in the fridge at least overnight so that the rub will help form that wonderful “bark” while roasting.
  2. Finally, after it’s done cooking and you’ve pulled, chopped, or shredded the meat, give it one last sprinkle for an intense, spicy flavor.


BBQ Basics: The Minion Method

the-minion-methodSometimes we forget that just because WE study, with laser-like (ocd?) focus the minutia of barbecue and grilling methods, that not everyone who owns a grill does the same.

I mentioned the “Minion Method” to a friend the other day, and got a blank stare in return. Here then, is some info that I’ve gathered from several articles and websites.

Note: There are a bunch of variations to the Minion Method, and I’ve used my favorites from each.

Traditionally, you just add hot coals to the top of the pile of unlit ones, but I prefer the coffee-can method, as it burns from “the middle out” instead of from “the top down” and seems to cut down on the risk of losing heat to a smothering layer of ash.

Reader’s Digest version: Long, consistent cooking temps, without having to regularly add coals, or otherwise babysit your cooker. Ideal for cooking at 225-250°F for more than 6 hours.

Here’s the back-story:

the-minion-method“I was cooking in a competition, and on the morning of the turn-ins I had my wife go to a shop and pick up my first WSM*. I put it together, filled the ring with charcoal, and needed a way to light if off. I never did read the directions. I decided to do what is today call ‘The Method’. We took a 1st in chicken and 2nd in ribs that day. The only real debate was the fact that you were putting unburnt charcoal in the ring and it was lighting off as you go. Knowing a little about Jedmasters, I knew this was not really a problem and the results answered that.”

– The history of the Minion Method, as told by Jim Minion

(*WSM = Weber Smokey Mountain. BTW – I’ve used this method with my horizontal pit smoker, which has a vent at each end, and it seems to work just as well. )

So, the “Minion Method” in a nutshell…

  • Place a coffee can (no ends) in the firebox, and fill the rest of the firebox with unlit briquettes. Add a couple of dozen of so hot briquettes, burned evenly grey, to the can, then carefully remove the coffee can, so the lit coals are “nested” among the unlit.
  • Adjust your vents carefully, to control the amount of air entering the cooker to keep the fire burning low and steady.
  • The unlit briquettes catch gradually throughout the cooking session, resulting in long burn times of up to 18 hours, depending on the weather. You can start cooking right away, 15-30 minutes from lighting.

BBQ Basics: The Minion Method

This is a GREAT method for slow-smoking brisket or shoulders overnight. No more setting the alarm every 2-3 hours!

Cooking over half-lit coals…are you kidding???

So, the universal wisdom is that the harsh “just lit” briquette smell permeates the meat during cooking, hence the admonition to never put food over the fire until the coals are totally gray. But, for whatever reason, The Minion Method doesn’t seem to affect the appearance, aroma, or taste of food.

It’s used (with great success) by many winning teams on the barbecue competition circuit, so I figure it’s probably okay for my backyard, as well.

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday. Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids.


Here’s the Minion Method, step-by-step:

http://i2.wp.com/burninlovebbq.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/quickbutt7.jpg?resize=156%2C1441. Place a small, bottomless coffee can in the center of the charcoal chamber. Fill around the can with 12-15 pounds of unlit briquettes. (Personally, I think Kingsford gives the longest, most consistent burn.) Using a chimney starter, light a small number of briquettes. Warm, calm days = 20 briquettes, Cold, rainy, or windy days = 30-40 briquettes, Really cold days (you freakin’ junkie) = 50-60 briquettes. Burn until evenly grey.

2. Bury smokewood chunks throughout the unlit fuel, followed by a few chunks on top.

3. Put hot coals inside the can, then carefully remove using a long pair of tongs and heat resistant gloves. Put a couple of chunks of wood on top of the hot coals to start generating smoke right away.

4. If your cooker is equipped with a water pan, fill it. Tip: Use cool tap water on warm days, and hot tap water on cold days. If not, place a pan of water in the pit’s cook chamber, or on the “cool side” of your kettle.

5. Open all vents fully. (You’ll leave the top vent, or your smoke pipe, fully open throughout the entire cooking process.)

6. Add the un-rested meat and smoke wood to the cooker immediately.

7. The temp will start rising slowly. At 200°F, close up the bottom vents to about ¼ open. Watch carefully until it reaches 225-250°F, and adjust the vents as needed to maintain this temp.

8. Check the water pan every 2-4 hours and add hot water, as needed.

9. Depending on the weather and the amount of food being cooked, it may be necessary to add fuel after 12 hours of cooking. Light a full or partial chimney of charcoal and add the hot coals to the cooker.

For shorter cook times, follow the steps above, but fill the firebox with half as many unlit charcoal. This works well for 6-8 hour cooks.

PS – Here’s a money-saving tip: Once you’ve finished cooking, close up all vents tight to kill your fire. When the charcoal is cold, sift out the ashes (this can usually be done by just lifting the “coal rack” and giving it a shake) and save the remaining un-burned fuel for next time.

Poisson Meuniere with Garlic Mashed Potatoes

How to make Tilapia Delicious (and very French)…Poisson Meuniere

In her autobiography, Julia Child writes:

“It arrived whole: a large, flat Dover sole that was perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top … I closed my eyes and inhaled the rising perfume. Then I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth, took a bite, and chewed slowly. The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter. I chewed slowly and swallowed. It was a morsel of perfection.”

Julia would later state that it was the most exciting meal of her life.

SO looking forward to making this dish at our fundraising pop-up dinner in February, “Julia Child’s Paris!

Poisson Meuniere with Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Poisson Meuniere

2 6- to 8-ounce skinless fish fillets (tilapia sole, cod, flounder, etc.)
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Optional: lemon slices

Add the butter to a heavy saucepan and cook on medium heat until the butter melts, the foam starts to subside, brown flecks appear and the butter just starts to brown. Immediately remove from heat and pour into a heat-safe bowl. It will continue to darken once you remove from heat. It should smelly nutty. If it smells burned, you will have to start over (sorry!). Set butter aside.

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In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and pepper. In another small bowl, add the milk. Heat a heavy skillet on high heat (no oil) for four minutes.

Meanwhile, dip the fish fillets into the milk and then into the flour, tapping off any excess. Add the oil to the skillet, tilting the skillet to coat the bottom. Place the fish in the skillet — carefully, as the oil may splatter.

Cook for six minutes undisturbed on high heat. With a spatula, turn the fish over and, if the pan looks dry, add another tablespoon of oil. Turn the heat down to medium-high and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, give or take a minute depending on the thickness of your fillet.

Drizzle the lemon juice on top of the fish followed by a scattering of parsley and a generous drizzling of brown butter. 

Enjoy immediately, serving with Crazy Creamy Once-A-Year Mashed Potatoes and more lemon wedges at the table if desired.


Q&A: Do I need to soak wood for smoking?

Do I need to soak wood before smoking?

Ahh, smoked meat.

Is there anything better that the thick, pungent flavor of a slice of fork-tender smoked brisket, or that lovely ruby ring around the inside of a juicy chunk of pork shoulder?

(Hint: the answer is no.)

Few meats cannot be improved upon with the addition of a thick (or thin) blanket of aromatic, hardwood smoke.

But…to soak, or not to soak? There’s the rub! (sorry)

Seriously, though, this is a subject I’ve kicked around, waffled on, and argued both sides of, for years now.

Many pit-masters insist that you need to soak wood to avoid those flash flare-ups that can occur when opening the smoker to add meat, or argue that soaked wood maintains a lower temperature, keeping it in the “smolder-zone” longer, before in ignites, and therefore giving you more bang (or at least smoke) for your buck.

Others preach that in order for wood to burn cleanly, it has to first be dry and “seasoned”, and why bother if you’re just going to allow the wood cells to soak up water? They offer that because the temperature is kept below the point of full combustion, the burn is incomplete and the smoke and steam carry with it unburnt components, or creosote, that you really don’t want on your food. (Creosote = a gummy, tarry compound that, which often accumulates in a chimney or in your pit) Besides, they would say, if you soak, you just have to cook off all the steam before the wood can start smoking.


Chips are small pieces of wood, typically intended for quick bursts of smoke. Even soaked in water, chips will burn up and disappear pretty quick. If you’re smoking for a short period of time, or just looking for a hint of smoke flavor, you probably want to go with chips. In fact, some electric and gas smokers are designed to only handle wood chips.

According to Weber, “It’s not necessary to soak wood chips before use if you’re putting them in an aluminum foil pouch. When placing wood chips directly on the fire, soaking them first won’t do much to keep them from bursting into flames.”

Chunks are large, irregular pieces of hardwood, typically 2-3 inches, and are best for creating a long smoke, for slow, low temperature barbecue. If it’s smokin’ all day (or all night) your want to use chunks.

http://i1.wp.com/burninlovebbq.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/2979557490_969898059c_b.jpg?resize=540%2C360 Regardless of your preference to soak or not, most of the pros seem to agree that if smoke is rolling out every seam, hole, gap around the door, etc…you have TOO MUCH smoke! Starting up you’ll probably smoke heavily for a short bit, but it should lessen and thin considerably. Your ultimate goal is a thin blue smoke that’s close to invisible (sometimes IS invisible) but you can still smell it.

In researching this post, I found some great ideas buried in the user’s comments of various articles. Here are my favorites:

  • Soak both chunks/chips for a 2-3 days. Take them out of the water and put them in Ziplock bags and freeze them. You’ll always have smoking wood on hand this way, and if you forget to soak your wood, these are ready in the freezer.
  • Use a 50/50 split of soaked chips and dry …saw some guy on the food channel do that…seemed to work great.
  • If you’re going to soak your wood chips, soak them in wine or beer get a little more flavor going. I’ve even used the flavored Jack Daniels chips with great success.

http://i2.wp.com/burninlovebbq.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/p8270012b.jpg?resize=195%2C231In my pit, I favor the no-soak approach, mostly because I’m a big proponent of the Minion Method*. I like to use few half-fist sized chunks of oak and hickory, buried at different depths in my charcoal pile, with a couple of chunk placed right on top. As the pile burns down, I get an even amount of thin blue smoke, which leads to that wonderfully deep smoke ring, and great bark on my briskets and shoulders.

So, wet or dry…what do you prefer, and why?

-Chef Perry

*The Minion Method. Bury wood chunks throughout the unlit fuel, followed by a few chunks on top. Distribute the hot coals evenly over the unlit fuel, making sure some wood touches the hot coals to start generating smoke right away. You can see a step-by-step demo, on my Minion Method post, here.

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Pork & Chicken Cassoulet Recipe

Soup Week: Pork & Chicken Cassoulet

Pork & Chicken Cassoulet RecipeIt’s day two of Soup Week, celebrating the season with warm and wonderful soup recipes. Yesterday we made a delicious Oxtail Miso Soup…today, let’s head to France for an amazing cassoulet.

I guess, technically, Cassoulet is a stew, but I’ve never been a big fan of technicalities, so I’m calling it a soup.

My blog, my rules. :)

Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked bean stew or casserole originating in the south of France, containing meat (typically pork sausages, pork, goose, duck and sometimes mutton), pork skin (couennes) and white haricot beans.

Beloved by generations of French cooks, cassoulet is a rustic, slow-cooked dish made with white beans and a lavish assortment of meats, from duck confit* or foie gras to sausages and succulent cuts of pork, lamb or poultry.

Best Cassoulet PotThe dish is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the cassole, a deep, oval, earthenware pot with slanting sides.

The following recipe is adapted from Guy Fieri’s “pork-oulet”, though I put in more celery, carrots and yellow onion than the original recipe asked for. Somehow I managed to miss getting a pictures of the chicken thighs browning, but you’ll get the idea!

I make this recipe regularly and, seriously…it’s one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Incredibly rich and savory, layer after layer of flavors, big hunks of spoon-tender meat and veggies…this cold-weather comfort food at it’s best!

Tip: When buying your herbs, look for the “pork mix” package of fresh herbs. The one I found contained almost the perfect proportions of thyme, sage, and oregano, that this recipe calls for.

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Also, be careful not to add salt until the dish is ready to serve. Both the bacon and chicken stock (if canned) can be wild cards for saltiness, especially after cooking down. Test the broth just before serving and adjust accordingly.

Pork & Chicken Cassoulet

1/2 pound thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 pounds pork butt, cut into 2-inch by 3-inch pieces
4 bone-in chicken thighs
3 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
1 lg sweet onion, chopped large
2 cups peeled baby carrots
1 cup (1/2-inch) diced celery
1/4 cup roughly chopped garlic
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 Tbs fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tbs fresh sage, chopped
1 Tbs fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 lb button mushrooms, scrubbed
4 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained

In a pre-heated cast iron Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, add the bacon and cook until just crisp. Remove from the pot and set aside on a paper towel lined plate.

Braising Pork for cassoulet

Season the pork and the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the pork pieces to the bacon fat and brown on all sides. Remove from pot and set aside on a large plate. Add the chicken thighs to the pan and brown evenly, then remove and add to the plate with the pork.

Browning chicken thighs for cassoulet

Add the onion, carrots, mushrooms, and celery into the pot and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Mushroom Mirepoix Recipe

Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, then add in the stock, bay leaves, thyme, oregano and sage and combine well.

Perfect Cassoulet Recipe

Put the pork and chicken pieces into the sauce and cover. Reduce the heat and simmer until the meat is fork tender, about 2 hours.

Chicken and pork cassoulet recipe

Add in the cannellini beans and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with reserved bacon, and serve hot with warm crusty baguette, or over rice.


– Chef Perry

*Confit (con-fee) is a term for various kinds of cooked meats that have been immersed in a substance for both flavor and preservation. Sealed and stored in a cool place, confit can last for several months. Confit is one of the oldest ways to preserve food, and is a speciality of southwestern France.