Something(s) to Serve with Your Barbecue

In this part . . . Dr. Atkins aside, most people like a little something nestled up against their barbecued ribs or smoked chicken — a spoonful of baked macaroni and cheese, maybe, some coleslaw, or even stuffed dates if you’re throwing tradition to the wind (and why wouldn’t you?). In this part, I give you a treasury of recipes for dishes handed down through generations and modern concoctions.

Baked beans and macaroni and cheese have been making it onto barbecue plates practically since the dawn of smoking, but how about parmesan-stuffed dates, pizza bread with crispy prosciutto, or stuffed jalapeño peppers?

In this chapter, you find dishes traditional and unusual, many of which you cook right on your grill or smoker.

Beans, Beans: The Most Magical Food

Cook them in your smoker, on your grill, on the stove, or in the oven, and baked beans tend to please crowds. They’re a cookout staple and a wildly adaptable one, at that.

The recipes in this section provide three very different takes on the long-loved classic, starting with a version closest to traditional and moving through versions spicy and smoky.

Loophole’s Baked Beans

Baked beans have been nuzzling up next to brisket and ribs and such since the beginning of barbecue. Stink-Eye BBQ provides this version, which improves on the sweetish classic by including spicy sausage.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Yield: 10 servings

  • 1⁄4 pound lean ground beef
  • 1⁄4 pound spicy sausage
  • 2 15-ounce cans pinto or white beans
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup mustard
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1⁄2 large onion, diced
  • 1⁄4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 11⁄2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3⁄4 cup barbecue sauce

1 Brown ground beef and sausage.

2 Drain the meat.

3 In large bowl, mix beans, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, onion, Worcestershire, cinnamon, vanilla, cayenne, garlic, and barbecue sauce.

4 Stir in beef and sausage.

5 Pour into 3-quart casserole pan.

6 Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Smoky Black Beans

The smoked pepper powder and chipotle chilies give Paul Kirk’s black bean dish a smoky overtone.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Yield: 12 servings

  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 or 2 chipotle chilies (canned in adobo sauce), minced
  • 4 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3⁄4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, skinned (see the “Skinning tomatoes” sidebar), deseeded, and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder or smoked habanero powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1 In a 2-quart heavy stockpot, cook the onion in the oil over low heat, stirring until onion has softened.

2 Add chilies and continue cooking, stirring regularly, for 2 minutes.

3 Add beans, water to cover, and orange juice.

4 Mash lightly with a potato masher.

5 Add tomatoes and chipotle powder and simmer mixture for 15 minutes.

6 Season with salt and pepper.

Tip: If tomatoes are out of season or if you just want to make things a little easier on yourself, substitute a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes for the fresh version. Throw in the whole can with all the tomato juices.

Santa Fe Pinto Beans

Paul Kirk’s take on beans tweaks the typical sweet baked variety with a touch of chilies.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Yield: 10 servings

  • 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • 141⁄2-ounce can chicken broth
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cumin
  • 15-ounce can black beans, drained
  • 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained
  • 10-ounce can diced tomatoes with green
  • chilies, undrained
  • 10-ounce package frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 In 2-quart heavy stockpot, sauté green bell pepper, onion, and garlic in oil for 3 minutes.

2 Stir in chicken broth and cumin.

3 Bring mixture to boil.

4 Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

5 Add beans, tomatoes, corn, and vinegar, and heat through, simmering another 15 minutes.

Skinning tomatoes

Tomato skins can add a bitter flavor to recipes, which is why some call for the skins to be removed — a feat that takes a little getting used to. To skin a tomato, follow these steps :

1. Wash the tomato and remove its stem.

2. Scratch an X on the bottom of the tomato to give yourself a place to start peeling when the time comes.

3. Fill a medium mixing bowl halfway with ice and water. Set aside.

4. Bring a pot of water to a boil.

5. Drop the tomato into the boiling water.

6. Remove it with a slotted spoon as soon as you see the skin start to peel.

7. Place the tomato immediately into the ice bath.

8. Let the tomato cool in the ice bath for at least 5 minutes.

9. Pull the skin from the tomato, using a paring knife to nudge away any stubborn bits from the tomato.

Baking Unique Sides in the Smoker or on the Grill

Impress your friends and amaze your neighbors by baking biscuits or making pizza outside in your smoker or on your grill. (Of course, you also can make these recipes in the oven, if you’d rather, but it’s not nearly as cool.)

Iron Skillet Potato Bacon Biscuits

Cook up Paul Kirk’s savory biscuits in your grill or smoker.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: About 15 minutes

Yield: 6 servings (2 each)

  • 1⁄3 cup butter
  • 1 cup self-rising soft-wheat flour
  • 1 cup potato flakes
  • 1⁄2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 3⁄4 cup buttermilk
  • 1⁄4 cup melted butter

1 Grease a 9-inch iron skillet or baking pan with shortening.

2 Cut 1⁄3 cup butter into flour and potato flakes with a pastry knife until mixture is crumbly.

3 Add cheese, bacon, and buttermilk.

4 Stir until dry ingredients are moistened.

5 Turn dough onto floured surface and lightly knead three or four times.

6 Roll or pat dough to 3⁄4-inch thickness.

7 Using 21⁄2-inch round cutter, cut out 12 biscuits and place in skillet.

8 Bake in smoker or grill (using indirect heat — see Chapter 2) at 425 degrees 12 to 14 minutes.

9 Brush tops with melted butter.

Tip : Baking these biscuits in an 425-degree oven works well, too.

Pizza Bread with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Crispy Prosciutto

Salty, crispy prosciutto gives this recipe, from Grillmaster’s Garden, a lot of snap, but in a pinch, you can substitute plain old bacon.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Dough :

  • 1⁄2 cup hot water (115 to 120 degrees)
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon oil
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 11⁄2 cups all-purpose flour

Toppings :

  • 14 ounces cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, chopped and fried crispy
  • 4-6 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonade (see Tip at end of recipe)

1 In a large bowl, mix the water, yeast, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1⁄2 teaspoon oil, and oregano.

2 Let mixture stand 5 minutes.

3 Gradually add flour until dough pulls away from bowl.

4 Knead dough by hand for 5 minutes.

5 Brush a clean, large mixing bowl with olive oil.

6 Place kneaded dough into greased bowl and let rise 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.

7 While dough rises, preheat grill to 425 degrees.

8 Toss tomatoes with oil, salt, and pepper and place on baking sheet.

9 Bake on grill for 15 to 30 minutes, or until tomatoes have softened. Set aside.

10 Remove dough from bowl and knead for 5 minutes.

11 Roll out dough to desired thickness (about 1⁄8 inch), dusting with flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking. Transfer dough to an oiled piece of foil.

12 Allow dough to rise for a few minutes.

13 Using a fork, poke several holes in pizza dough.

14 Top with 1 tablespoon olive oil, roasted tomatoes, prosciutto, and mozzarella.

15 Grill directly on grate at about 425 to 450 degrees for 4 to 7 minutes.

16 Remove from grill and top with fresh basil.

Tip: Chiffonade means “cut into shreds.” The easiest way to cut these very thin strips of basil is to stack the leaves, roll them end to end, and slice strips from the roll.

Preparing Potatoes with a Plethora of Approaches

Bless the versatile spud, so adaptable to growing conditions and kitchen conditions, so ready to be mashed, baked, or fried. It’s a particularly gregarious vegetable, playing nicely with about anything you throw at it.

This section gives you recipes that blend potatoes with barbecue techniques and flavors.

Super Spud Casserole

This decidedly rich and exceptionally simple potato casserole recipe comes from Paul Kirk.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 1⁄2 cup sharp grated cheddar cheese
  • 1⁄2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cans cream of potato soup
  • 2-pound bag frozen hash browns
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped ham or pulled pork
  • 1 cup diced bacon
  • 8 ounces sour cream

1 Combine cheeses and reserve 1⁄4 cup of mixture.

2 In a large bowl, mix soup, hash browns, bell pepper, ham or pork, bacon, and sour cream.

3 Pour mixture into one 13-x-9-inch or larger glass dish.

4 Sprinkle remaining 1⁄4 cup of cheeses over top of casserole.

5 Bake on grill or in smoker or oven for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

In the United States, you most commonly see only a few varieties of potatoes. In South and Central America (where potatoes originate), cooks have dozens upon dozens of potato types to work with.

Potatoes have something in common with barbecue: They came into prominence as a staple of the underprivileged. Potato plants are extremely easy to grow and not terribly fussy about where you plant them. They’re kind of like the tuber equivalent of pigs, which eat anything and can handle most climates.

Mississippi Potatoes

This is a goes-with-just-about-anything and easy-to-make casserole from Paul Kirk.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

  • 8 cups cooked and diced potatoes
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound processed American cheese, diced
  • 1⁄2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 to 6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1⁄2 cup green olives

1 In a large mixing bowl, toss potatoes with mayonnaise, salt, pepper, cheese, and onion.

2 Place mixture in greased 10-x-14 baking dish.

3 Sprinkle with bacon and olives.

4 Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Shamrock Golden Tubers

The Smokin’ Irish BBQ Team points out that, in the motherland, potatoes are called “tubers,” and they round out a barbecue on either side of the pond.

You can whip up these tubers on the smoker, on the grill, or in the oven.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 1 to 2 minutes

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

  • Special equipment: Mandoline
  • 8 ounces Irish cheddar cheese
  • (Kerrigans or Dubliner), shredded
  • 3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 stick butter, divided into 16 pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1 Reserve 1⁄2 cup of the shredded cheese.

2 Spray a 3-quart casserole dish with cooking spray.

3 Using a mandoline, slice potatoes to about1⁄8-inch thick.

4 Add one layer of potatoes to casserole dish.

5 Top with about one quarter of the garlic, onions, and cheese.

6 Add salt and pepper.

7 Repeat layers until you’ve used up all the potatoes, garlic, onions, and butter (four pats of butter per layer), adding salt and pepper to each layer.

8 Layer remaining cheese over the top.

9 Cover with lid or aluminum foil and cook on smoker or grill for about 11⁄2 to 2 hours at 250 degrees, or in a 375-degree oven for about 45 minutes.

A mandoline is a hand-operated slicer that works magic by slicing vegetables in any of several configurations. You can use it to get uniform slices — thick or thin — or to julienne (cut into strips like French fries) vegetables or even to dice onions.

You can find mandolines in a lot of variations (and in prices from $20 to $120 or so) — made from wood, plastic, or stainless steel and with varying degrees of adjustment — but they’re all long and narrow, with a main blade and several attachment plates that you use according to the kind of cuts you want to get. The suckers are sharp, so you use a guide that comes with the mandoline to hang onto vegetables while you slice them.

Making Yer Mama Proud : Recipes for Veggies

Nothing is outside the reach of the smoker or grill. Certainly not asparagus, jalapeños, or green bell peppers, as the recipes in this section show.

Smokey Joel’s Grilled Asparagus with Garlic and Butter Joel Schwabe, head cook of the Smokey Joel team in Chicago, says that this recipe is good with just about any vegetable and recommends trying it with1⁄4-inch slices of zucchini or1⁄2-inch slices of portobello mushrooms.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

  • 1 bunch asparagus (20 to 25 pieces)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove minced garlic

1 Preheat grill to medium heat.

2 Trim tough ends (last 1 to 2 inches) off asparagus.

3 Place oil on sheet of aluminum foil.

4 Roll asparagus in oil to coat.

5 Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

6 Place asparagus (on foil) on grill and cook 5 minutes.

7 Turn asparagus and grill 5 more minutes.

8 While asparagus cooks, place butter and garlic in saucepan atop grill.

9 Remove pan when butter is melted.

10 Place cooked asparagus on fresh plate, and pour butter sauce over it.

Swinetology Smoked Stuffed Jalapeño Peppers

The Church of Swinetology team warns that although these stuffed peppers are addictive, making them is a little “like a game of Russian roulette” at first. Until you get the hang of choosing jalapeños that meet the spice level you can handle, you may end up with a few that run past your comfort zone.

What’s life if not lived on the edge, anyway?

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 60 to 90 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 12 large jalapeño peppers
  • 1 package bread stuffing
  • 1 cup Andouille sausage, chopped fine
  • 8-ounce package mild or sharp shredded cheddar
  • Barbecue sauce

1 While wearing rubber gloves, cut the stem ends off the peppers and deseed them with a paring knife.

2 Wash peppers inside out, and let them dry.

3 Prepare bread stuffing according to package instructions.

4 In a medium skillet, cook the sausage over medium heat.

5 Drain sausage and set aside.

6 Put half of the stuffing into a bowl with the cheese and sausage and mix thoroughly.

7 Push the stuffing mixture into peppers, and then top off each pepper with bread stuffing at the open end.

8 Place peppers upright in grill pan (see Tip following this recipe).

9 Smoke peppers at 225 degrees until peppers are hot and soft, approximately 1 to 11⁄2 hours.

10 Serve with barbecue sauce.

Variation: Use pulled pork, bacon, breakfast sausage (or any other type of sausage) in place of Andouille.

To make a grill pan, start with an aluminum vegetable pan (which has holes on the bottom) or punch holes in an aluminum pan.

Stretch two layers of aluminum foil over the top of the pan and crimp foil around the pan’s edges. Poke pencil-size holes in the foil 2 inches apart and secure the peppers by forcing the bottom tips of the peppers through the holes in the foil. Figure 12-1 shows you how.2-261.jpg


Figure 12-1: Fashioning a grill pan for Swinetology’s peppers.

Roasting peppers

When you roast a pepper, you blacken the skin. Even better, you bring out the sugars and a unique, smoky flavor. It works best over a flame (simply hold it over the flame with tongs until the skin blackens), but you can do it in a broiler, too.

Here’s how to roast a pepper :

1. Rub olive oil over the pepper.

2. Hold it over a flame or put it under the broiler, turning until all sides are blackened.

3. Put peppers in a paper bag and fold over the top.

4. Allow peppers to steam for 20 minutes.

5. Remove peppers from bag and scrape off blackened skin.

6. Cut peppers open and remove stem, seeds, and membranes.

Stuffed Peppers

Chef JJ of Grillmaster’s Garden started making these peppers as a healthier alternative to fried jalapeño poppers but found that people tended to eat twice as many of them, so that kind of threw out the health benefits he was shooting for.

Preparation time: About 20 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Yield: 6 servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 white onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 jalapeños, roasted (see the “Roasting peppers” sidebar), seeded, and chopped
  • 1⁄2 bell pepper, roasted (see the “Roasting peppers” sidebar), seeded, and chopped
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 16-ounce can Bush’s vegetarian baked beans, drained but not rinsed
  • 12 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 5 mild peppers, such as poblano or Anaheim

1 Preheat a grill set up for indirect cooking (see Chapter 2) to 400 degrees.

2 Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.

3 Add olive oil, onions, garlic, jalapeños, and bell pepper.

4 Sauté mixture until onions have softened.

5 Lower heat and add cilantro, hot sauce, cumin, baked beans, and cheese.

6 Add salt and pepper.

7 Halve each of the five mild peppers and deseed them.

8 Brush lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

9 Fill each pepper half with bean mixture and set on a baking sheet.

10 Add wood chips to grill.

11 Grill peppers for 10 to 14 minutes, or until they’ve darkened and softened slightly.

Note: If you prefer to make this recipe without leaving the house, use the stovetop for steps 1 through 6, and then cook the peppers in a 400-degree oven.

Mixing Salads, Making Memphis-Style Slaw

Slaw is an important part of barbecue, and this section includes a recipe from one of the four barbecue regions. Pasta salad may not have quite as long a history, but it has made it into the lineup at pretty much every backyard party of the past several decades, so it clearly has earned its spot at the table. This section also includes a spinach salad recipe that has a long reputation as a crowd pleaser.

Warm Apple Spinach Salad

Dr. Chuckie’s BBQ offers this award-winning recipe, which Dr. Chuckie himself says is the first thing to disappear at any potluck dinner that he brings it to.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 small red onion, chopped fine
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 10-ounce bags of spinach

1 Cook the bacon slices and set aside.

2 Remove most of the bacon grease from the pan and then cook the onion over medium heat until it’s barely tender, about 2 minutes.

3 Add the apple cider, cider vinegar, mustard, and salt.

4 Heat mixture through, but do not bring to boil.

5 Put the spinach in a large bowl.

6 Pour the warm vinaigrette over the spinach.

7 Crumble bacon over top.

Variation: After adding vinaigrette, try mixing in water chestnuts, feta cheese,

and/or raisins into the salad.

Memphis Slaw for Pulled Pork

Coleslaw can be a traditional side dish for barbecue in many regions, with subtle variations in texture and twang. Tom Schneider, who runs Poppi-Q BBQ and who contributed to this book, prefers a crispy version, not soggy or finely chopped, with a little heat and sweet. He recommends trying it as part of a pulled-pork sandwich with a little barbecue sauce drizzled over the top.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: None

Yield: 10 to 12 servings (about 9 cups)

  • 5 cups coarsely chopped green cabbage
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped red cabbage
  • 1⁄2 cup shredded carrots
  • 11⁄2 cups salad dressing (Miracle Whip or similar)
  • 1⁄4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1⁄4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1 In a large bowl, lightly toss the cabbage and carrots.

2 In a separate medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients and mix until well distributed and smooth.

3 Refrigerate at least 2 hours until chilled.

4 Just before serving, pour over cabbage and carrot mixture while tossing lightly. Serve as side or pulled pork sandwich topper.

Tom’s recipe calls for prepared horseradish, which you find in jars in the condiment section of the grocery store. Horseradish starts as a root and is then grated and mixed with distilled vinegar and in many cases (depending on who’s making it) oil, and some salt and a little sweetener.

Horseradish lends an intense and unmistakable flavor to whatever you put it in. (Bloody Mary, anyone?) It doesn’t heat up until you hurt it. Break it open or have at it with a grater, and its defense system kicks in, releasing a strong irritant — the very thing that provides the root’s heat when you use it in recipes. Distilled vinegar stabilizes the stuff, keeping it in top form for spicing up your salads, dips, and such.

Mount Vernon Macaroni Salad

An annual tradition for the Shigs in Pit team when it competes at the King City Showdown in Mount Vernon, Illinois, this recipe feeds the team members and their friends and family after the stress of the competition is over.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: None, but let sit at least 1 hour and preferably overnight

Yield: 10 servings

  • 1 pound macaroni, cooked according to package instructions
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1⁄2 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups Miracle Whip
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper

1 In a large bowl, combine the macaroni, carrot, celery, and green bell pepper.

2 In a separate mixing bowl, stir together the sweetened condensed milk, Miracle Whip, sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

3 Add dressing to pasta mix.

4 Refrigerate about at least an hour and preferably overnight before serving.

To Macaroni and Cheese and Beyond

Rich, cheesy sides cozy up nicely to sharp, smoky barbecue flavors, and this section provides some creative ways to test that theory, as well as a real butt-kicker of a macaroni and cheese formula.

Parmesan-Stuffed Dates Wrapped with Bacon

Grillmaster Garden’s stuffed dates make a unique hors d’oeuvre that’s sweet and savory.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Yield: 8 servings (2 each)

  • 16 dates, pitted
  • 8 slices bacon, cut in half
  • 16 small pieces Parmesan or other hard cheese

1 Set up grill for indirect cooking (see Chapter 2) and preheat to 400 degrees.

2 Place a small piece of cheese into each date.

3 Wrap1⁄2 slice bacon around each cheese-stuffed date.

4 Place prepared dates onto baking sheet.

5 Bake on grill for 12 to 15 minutes, or until bacon begins to crisp.

Variation: Finish the dates over direct heat for a more rustic effect. You can also go in the other direction and bake the suckers in the oven.

Dates don’t have a long history with barbecue, given that they’re grown primarily in the Middle East, but Paul Kirk is the Baron of Barbecue, and that counts for something. A fruit of the date palm, dates are eaten just as they are, dried, or made into vinegar, wine, paste, or syrup. The flowers of the date palm are edible, and even the leaves are cooked and eaten.

Blue Blazers

The rich, cheesy spread in this recipe from Paul Kirk gives a nice contrast to spicier dishes.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

  • 1⁄4 cup butter at room temperature
  • 2 ounces Maytag blue cheese at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon cognac
  • 1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons minced green onion
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 8 English muffins
  • Three olives (your choice), sliced

1 In a medium mixing bowl, mix the butter and blue cheese.

2 Stir in the cognac, Parmesan cheese, walnuts, onions, basil, and pepper.

3 Lightly toast the English muffin halves.

4 Spread the cheese mix on top of each muffin half.

5 Top each muffin half with an olive slice.

6 Brown lightly under the broiler (or in your smoker).

Cheesy Butternut Squash

This side-dish recipe won the Pepperitaville team first place in the Central Illinois Bragging Rights BBQ Contest in Arthur, Illinois.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 eggs
  • 3⁄4 cup sour cream
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Creole seasonin

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2 Cut off both ends of squash, slice squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and peel.

3 Cut the squash into3⁄4-inch cubes.

4 Put cubes in a glass baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 10 minutes.

5 While squash cooks, whisk eggs and sour cream.

6 Add cream cheese, milk, 2⁄3 cup of the Parmesan, 11⁄2 cups of the cheddar, and Creole seasoning.

7 Uncover the dish and drain the squash.

8 Fold the squash into the cheese and egg mixture.

9 Spray a 9-x-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

10 Spoon the squash mixture into the baking dish.

11 Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan and cheddar cheeses over the top.

12 Bake approximately 30 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.

Variation: Use zucchini or any other squash in place of butternut.

Artisan Macaroni and Cheese

Executive Chef Michael J. Pivoney runs the Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park, Illinois, and fittingly offers a superb recipe for mac and cheese that runs rings around the standard version.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes plus 20 minutes to bake

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

  • 8 ounces aged cheddar (see note), finely shredded
  • 4 ounces Gruyère cheese, finely shredded
  • 1 pound premium-quality macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed fine
  • 1 medium sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄2 cup white wine
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg (three gratings)
  • Salt, to taste

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2 Measure 1 tablespoon of the cheddar and 1 tablespoon of the Gruyère; set aside.

3 Cook macaroni according to package instructions, boiling only until al dente.

4 Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the oil and butter over medium heat until butter is melted.

5 Add garlic and onion, and sauté over medium-low heat for approximately

3 to 4 minutes, or until onion is translucent.

6 Add flour and stir constantly until well combined, approximately 4 minutes.

7 Pour wine into sauce and cook over medium heat an additional 3 to 4 minutes or until mixture is reduced by half.

8 Stir in milk and cream, and simmer about 5 minutes.

9 Over medium heat, gradually add the cheddar, Gruyère, and cream cheeses 1 tablespoon at a time, alternating the cheeses and stirring constantly, until the sauce becomes smooth.

10 Season with pepper, nutmeg, and salt.

11 Pour macaroni into greased 10-x-14 casserole dish.

12 Pour sauce over the top and sprinkle with the reserved cheddar and Gruyère cheeses.

13 Bake at 350 degrees until top browns, about 20 minutes.

Note: Pivoney recommends Widmer’s Cheese Cellars or Hook’s Cheese sixyear aged versions of cheddar cheese.

Chili Dip

This no-fuss recipe comes from BBQ by Dan. You can find more of Dan’s recipes at

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Yield: About 31⁄2 cups dip

  • 12-ounce can of chili without beans
  • 12-ounce can of chili with beans
  • 3⁄4 pound cube of Velveeta
  • 8-ounce container of sour cream
  • 4-ounce can of chopped green chilies

1 In saucepan, heat both cans of chili and Velveeta until the cheese has melted and is well blended with the chili.

2 Blend in sour cream and green chilies.

3 Serve warm with tortilla chips or the dip conveyance of your choosing.

Note: Dan says not to let this one get cold so it stays creamy and dippable.

Keeping it warm in a slow cooker will help it last through the party.


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