29 February 2008

Chicken Pot Pie v.2

Round Two of Homemade Chicken Pot Pie on the Big Green Egg

Back in December of 2006, we tried the first pot pie on the Egg. This time, it all started with homemade crusts - my wife's cream cheese and butter crust (minus any sugar, plus a little extra butter and salt) - pressed into the cast iron skillet.

1. Cut roughly a pound of boneless skinless chicken breast into small chunks and season it with Smokin' Guns Hot Rub.

2. Place the chicken in a large saucepan along with sliced potatoes, chopped carrots and frozen green peas - you could add celery or other veggies here if you want to. Cover the chicken and vegetables with water and boil the mixture for 15 minutes. Drain the mixture in a colander and pour it inside the bottom crust in the cast iron skillet.

3. In the same saucepan, melt 6 to 8 tablespoons of butter with 2 to 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic. Add about 1/3 cup of flour and your favorite seasonings - a little salt, pepper and seasoned salt. Stir in one can of chicken broth, one can of cream of chicken soup and 2/3 cup of whole milk (add slowly and stir quickly).

4. Pour the liquid over the chicken and vegetables in the cast iron skillet and cover the dish with the top crust. Seal up the edges and cut a few steam slits. Cook the pot pie in the Big Green Egg for 25 to 30 minutes around 425 degrees.

In this round, the consistency inside the pie was excellent - very thick and creamy. Using the homemade crusts made a huge difference and the potatoes were a great addition.

28 February 2008

In honor of JoJo, I have some Red Beans for ya

Since I am covering for our resident DJ Joe Baine, I am bringing you a tune from one of my favorite bands Widespread Panic. Widespread has always had a fondness for New Orleans and Professor Longhair. They have covered everything from Stag-O-Lee to Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand. Tonight, I bring you one of my favorites: Red Beans.

For those Panic fans out there, you will appreciate this version as it features David Blackmon on fiddle.

This version is from 1/23/96 at the Ten Mile Room Breckenridge, CO.

Red Beans

27 February 2008

BBQ Art?

Someone posted this on the bbq forum and I thought I would share it with everyone.

and your mother told you to not play with your food.

25 February 2008

Beer Battered Fish Sticks

Fish sticks often carry a bad connotation in just about everyone's mind. However, I have a fish stick recipe for you that might change your mind.

Cut 2-4 Tilapia fillets into 1 inch strips. Dredge the strips in cornstarch before dipping the fish strips into the batter. Shake off the excess and dip into the beer batter. Slowly lower the battered fish into the deep fryer (preheated to 350°) flip once and cook until golden brown.

Beer Batter
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/4 teaspoon Bad Byron's Jubilee seasoning (a substitute for Old Bay)
1/4 teaspoon bbq rub
1 bottle brown beer, cold

What would some fish sticks be without tartar sauce? In my first attempt to make tartar sauce I just threw something together and it turned out pretty good.

Tartar Sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
several dill pickles chopped
splash of pickle juice
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
shake or two of some garlic powder

mix well

24 February 2008

Ulika Website Update

Thanks to my wonderful wife, the Ulika website has now been updated.


21 February 2008

Who Sucked Out The Feeling?

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Hello Ulika fans. Hope everybody is well. I'm doing great today as I got a huge bit of news I'd like to share.

In a couple weeks, I'll have the honor of recording one of my all-time favorite bands, Superdrag at my studio, Lake Fever Productions. The original line up has reformed to get back to what they do best - playing shows and making killer records. You might remember their one, big rock hit back in 1996, Sucked Out. Perhaps you remember the video as well...

Have a great weekend!

19 February 2008

NASHVILLE BBQ: Smokey's Bar-B-Que (Winchester, TN)

The town of Winchester, Tennessee, is a place that is certainly steeped in Ulika lore. In addition to being the hometown of both Phillip Fulmer AND Dinah Shore, Winchester is home to one of our favorite barbecue contests - High on the Hog. I went to HOTH in 2004 before I even really knew what a barbecue contest was. And of course there was HOTH 2006 - our very first contest - such a flood of emotions...and of rainwater. And then there was the triumph and vindication of HOTH 2007. Such good times...but I digress.

For as long as I've been spending time in Winchester, there has been but one barbecue restaurant - Larry's. Larry's might actually be in Decherd, Tennessee, I'm not sure, because it's hard to tell where Decherd ends and Winchester begins. Larry's is, for the most part, a takeout establishment. There are some High on the Hog trophies on display in the window, and the barbecue is pretty good. Oh, and they serve pool room slaw, though I think it works better on a cheeseburger like they make them in Fayetteville than on a barbecue sandwich. But again I digress. On to the point.

It seems a challenger has appeared in Winchester. Smokey's Bar-B-Que has recently opened in what was formerly a Mexican restaurant, just down Dinah Shore Boulevard from Larry's. Smokey's is a full-service, sit down restaurant with full bar service and a definite blues theme - loud blues music on the stereo, photos of blues musicians on the walls, etc. And though I'm not normally a fan of blues as a musical genre, in a barbecue joint, it's as natural as the smell of hickory smoke. So I approve.

Upon being seated, we were served a basket of white bread slices with a bowl of barbecue sauce. I have been to a lot of barbecue restaurants, dear reader, but I have never seen this. It's not a bad idea, I suppose, especially if the barbecue sauce is good. In this case, it was merely average - ketchup based and very sweet, but lacking anything interesting in the way of spices.

When it was time to order, I asked our waitress what the best thing on the menu was, and she emphatically endorsed the ribs. So ribs it was. There was no pool house slaw to order as a side, but there was...corn pudding. Score! I went with the C.P. and some baked beans.

The ribs themselves were very tender - falling off the bone, in fact. Is that a good thing? I guess that depends on whether you're a KCBS judge or the general public. I grew up thinking of "fall-off-the-bone" as a positive descriptor, but in competitions, it's a no-no. I guess that's a debate for another day. Suffice it to say that these ribs were very tender. The ribs were also generously slathered with the same barbecue sauce that came in our bread basket. It's hard for a rack of ribs to rise above the sauce they're wearing, and in this case, the overall result was a very average rack of ribs.

As mediocre as the ribs were, though, the sides were just as amazing. The baked beans had just the right amount of brown sugar and molasses sweetness, with bits of sausage and jalapeno peppers mixed in to add a hearty kick. The corn pudding was cooked perfectly - viscous but not rigid - and was buttery rich and slightly sweet.

As our waitress collected our plates, she said, "I'll be back with your banana pudding."

"We didn't order any banana pudding," I replied.

"It comes with your meal."

Wow. Another first - free dessert. I can't complain about that.

I am convinced that, theoretically, Smokey's and Larry's can coexist. The greater Winchester-Decherd area is sizeable, and is growing all the time, and I think it can support two barbecue restaurants. And really, the two restaurants are quite different in execution. One is more of a grab-something-quick takeout place, and one is a place where you might want to go and stay awhile. Best of luck to both.

Smokey's Bar-B-Que - 836 Dinah Shore Blvd; Winchester, TN 37398; (931)962-1661

17 February 2008

Las Americas Restaurante

Right in the heart of the Hispanic district of Nolensville Rd in Nashville sits a small restaurant and market called Las Americas. While you will find dozens of Mexican restaurantes along Nolensville Rd, Las Americas sets itself apart by also offering traditional dishes from Mexico's neighbor to the south, El Salvador.

Most prominently featured is the pupusa, which is a round, flat cornmeal patty stuffed with one of several ingedients, including frijoles (refried beans), quesillo (a white Central American cheese), and chicharrĂ³n (pork rinds). The pupusas are hand made, stuffed and fried right in front of you while you wait.

The pupusas are a warm, satisfying treat - perfectly fried almost to a crisp on the outside and all gooey and bursting with savory flavor on the inside. I personally think the cheese and/or pork works better as a filling than the beans. The cheese melts so perfectly and the pork rinds - just crunchy enough - are a nice textural complement to the rest of the pupusa.

While the pupusas are a traditioal favorite at Las Americas, this little known place has garnered a reputation for also having one hell of a burrito. My friend Kramer introduced me to these gargantuan gems. He often recalls the day when these burritos were just $2.49. Now a days the burrito will run you $3.99 (still one heck of a bargain).

I had often wondered how much one of these burritos weighs, so I threw it on the scale. It was a whopping 1.5 lbs.

This burrito is absolutely the best in Nashville. It comes with your choice of beef or chicken, and always with a big helping of cilantro and onions on the side. The tortilla is so soft that it almost melts in your mouth. As you can tell by the weight of the thing, it is loaded with chicken, beans, and other goodness. If you haven't ventured over to this local hot spot, I highly recommend it.

Breaking in the Stumps

This weekend we cooked a few more items on the new Stumps.

First off, we cooked a 2 lb country sausage (sorry no after pic):

Cooked a little brisket flat (unfortunately I still can't get a whole brisket):

Saturday ribs were served:

Sunday Morning Breakfast

For a great breakfast sandwich:

2 pieces of white bread
2 fried eggs
leftover brisket (chopped)

16 February 2008

U-li-ka What's in a name?

pronounced yoo 'lie kuh

I am asked "Where did the name Ulika come from?" or "What does Ulika mean?" fairly regularly. Just as regularly, I hear the name mispronounced. When we took 8th place in chicken at the Nashville competition, the lady announcing the awards called us You-Lick-Uhh. Everyone got a nice little laugh, but we were the ones really laughing. For some reason, we had a feeling that day that we were going to get a call...and that the person doing the awards would jack up our name.

The name was inspired by the U-LI-KA Paramount Cleaners in Knoxville. I would always drive by the location on North Broadway as I headed to team member Peter Swanson's house. There was just something about the U-LI-KA Cleaners that was always funny to me. This place was next to a crack house hotel and was a shady establishment at best. For whatever reason, the name just stuck with me and I have been using it ever since.

I started out using Ulika as a screen name and I was always trying to get my friends to name their various bands Ulika. None of my friends went with the name, instead going with the Sneaky Eaters, My Tyger or Girls and Boys. When it was officially my time to name something, it was a no brainier.

The name is just great. How many other teams have a name with so much meaning and functionality? Our team name is not only statement, but also a question. As a declarative statement, I might say to my wife, "ULIKA my ribs," because she does indeed like my ribs very much. To someone new, I might ask "ULIKA barbecue?" or more directly, "ULIKA my barbecue?" when we meet.

14 February 2008

Payback My Chicken

Our chief cook has asked me to contribute a weekly song for your listening pleasure. I plan on posting songs that have something to do with food or eating or chewing or swallowing or perhaps throwing up, as this is in fact a food blog. However I make no promises as such is not a common theme for good songs. Hope you enjoy the hot jams!

This week's song is Chicken Payback by The Bees, a very cool band from the UK. Now I don't think this tune has anything to do with eating, but nonetheless it's a great dance number with the word chicken in the title that should get your feet moving. Hope you like it! I sure do.

13 February 2008

BP vs. The Grease

This is what it's come to at the BP household when it's time to fry something up in the cast iron skillet. I got fed up with spending three times as long cleaning up all the grease as I spent cooking the food. I'm sure this is probably a horrendous fire hazard, but it works.

10 February 2008

First Cook on the Stumps

Ulika Outdoor Kitchen

This weekend was the inaugural cook on the new Stumps cooker. I started out easy and cooked four pork butts.

I started the smoker on Friday evening at about 6:30 and had the butts on around 8:30. When I filled the charcoal chute, I mixed in some wood chunks and I added some to the fire box as well every hour for the first two hours. Then - here's the best part - I went to bed at 10:30 and slept until 5:30. In the past, with my stick burner smoker, the terms sleeping and cooking were never used in the same sentence.

I prepared the butts the same way that I would for a competition, doing some testing with the difference between foiling and not foiling. I foiled three of the butts and let one stay on the smoker unfoiled. The butt that was not foiled had a great bark and was very flavorful, but I was surprisingly pleased with the bark on the foiled butts as well. Sometimes in foiling, the moist environment can cause the bark to not set properly, but the bark on the foiled butts was really good. I was pretty happy with the butts overall. The flavor profile that I was going for worked out and I believe that the more cooking and seasoning that the Stumps gets is only going to give me more flavor.

Next week, I will be working on cooking briskets. Thanks to Pat Martin (visit his blog and his bbq joint), I have a new brisket supplier. Pat put me in touch with Dalton Garner of PFG and he is going to be getting me Certified Black Angus briskets from CreekStone Farms. Hopefully I will have a sample brisket for next weekend and I will deliver a full report.

Here are a few pictures:

Thursday's Music Selection

As the Ulika Food Blog grows, I am expanding the joyous offerings of this blog to our readers...the Ulika Food Blog will now feature a weekly music selection. Our resident DJ and Ulika team member Joe Baine Colvert will bring you Ulika Music Thursdays.

Food and music are so very interrelated - especially bbq and music. At most bbq contests, you will find some live music (usually not very good - but music nonetheless), and most bbq joints feature live music nights. Just about every bbq place in Texas also serves as a music venue. It's only appropriate for a food blog based in Music City to offer you some fresh tunes every week.

So, I hope you enjoy our new "Music Spotlight" every Thursday.

07 February 2008

A Recent Discovery

Just in the past few years that I have come to discover a little forgotten piece of meat: the skirt steak. One reason the skirt steak is often overlooked is because of how it looks. This is a fatty, stringy and outright ugly piece of meat, but it is truly packed with tons of flavor. The skirt steak comes from the plate (or belly) of the cow, and is between the brisket and the flank.

This steak really works best with fajitas or any other dish that calls for strips of steak. I have been cooking this steak ever since my friend Alfred turned me on to it and had always cooked this steak on the grill at high heat...until recently. Upon the advice of Alton Brown, I threw the strip steak in a cast iron skillet. This method has truly produced the best results. The high heat from the cast iron creates a great exterior crust and a tender, juicy interior.

For a quick and easy meal, just stop by your local Mexican restaurant and get chips and cheese "to go". Cook up some skirt steak in a cast iron skillet and cut it into thin strips, cutting against the grain.

nachos with skirt steak

04 February 2008

The Stumps has Arrived

Today my new Stumps cooker was delivered. It took four of us to get the 1100 lb cooker onto the back "stoop".

I am in the process of seasoning it right now. I will post more pictures and additional information later.....

03 February 2008

Super Bowl Sunday

Wings + Ribs + Crushers = Super Bowl Sunday

02 February 2008

Prince's Hot Chicken Shack

In north Nashville, off of Dickerson Rd and Ewing Dr, lies a little place called Prince's Hot Chicken Shack. Prince's is just one of Nashville's several hot chicken restaurants, but it is considered by most to be the measuring stick. I never really knew that Nashville was known for their Hot Chicken restaurants, until I saw some national publications that referenced the chicken. Watch this video by the Southern Foodway Alliance for a quick history.

When you enter Prince's, there is nothing fancy about it. There are a about 5-6 white booths decked out with some mismatched table cloths. Just like some of my favorite places (Dreamland BBQ in Tuscaloosa and Buster's in Murfreesboro), there is no printed menu. There is a letter board menu on the wall that outlines your options: breast quarter, leg quarter, half chicken and a whole chicken with a few choices for sides. Then you have to decide on the temperature. For the novice, there is the Plain option, after that you can graduate to the Mild, then if you are feeling pretty good, there is the Medium. For the traditionalist there is the standard Hot, but for the brave and mighty, they will serve it up Very Hot.

I ordered a Hot half chicken with some fries and, most important of all, a bottle of water. The best thing about this chicken is that it is made to order, fried in the most traditional way in a cast iron skillet. You can see in the image below that it is served with several pickles on pieces of white bread. The inclusion of the white bread is a nice touch as this absorbs some of the spices from the chicken and is a great complement.

From the very first bite you can tell that this chicken is serious business. It is not only hot with spice, but also hot with heat.

I only ate half of my half chicken and I took the other half to go. Let me tell you, as this chicken sat for a little while, the heat really started to set in. The second half of the chicken, eaten a few hours later at home, was even hotter.

If you love it hot, and most know that I do, you will love Prince's Hot Chicken.

- UlikaBBQ

* * * * * *

You can call me a wimp all you want, but I'll still take mine "plain." Is that kind of like going to Ruth's Chris and asking for A-1 with your steak? Yeah, kinda, but hear me out. Spiciness has a way of dominating everything else in the equation. When you order your chicken with all of that heat on it, that's pretty much what you're going to taste. But if you strip away the heat, what remains is an absolutely perfectly fried piece of chicken - tender and juicy on the inside, crispy and delicious on the outside. Every bite is bursting with a perfect harmony of fresh and wonderfully complex flavors. Now why would you want to go and cover that up with a bunch of heat? But the bottom line is: if a reputation as the spiciest place in town is what's going to keep Prince's in business, then bring on the heat. This place is one of Nashville's true culinary treasures, whether you like it hot...or not.