Labor Day Filet with Red Wine Reduction

Recently on a family trip to the 30A area of the Florida panhandle we were visiting one of our favorite local restaurants to take advantage of the abundance of fresh seafood not found in the land-locked state of Tennessee.  That night at dinner we had a couple of nice surprises:

(1) We ran into some friends that were also visiting the same restaurant and staying in the area (isn’t it cool when you are hundreds of miles away from your stomping ground and you see someone you think looks familiar and when you get closer, you realize “Hey, that IS you…!”)

(2)  Our daughter loves salmon and catfish but isn’t much of a seafood fan so she IMG_6152 (002)went the “turf” route of “surf n turf” and chose the filet medallions with red wine reduction.  Served with mashed potatoes, she said it was the best steak she ever had and didn’t stop raving about her dinner, even when we were back home in Tennessee.

So…..we tried it at home and I must say, the results were pretty darn successful!  Tonya picked up some nice filets from a local butcher (we usually stick to rib-eyes or New York strips so Filet Mignon is a treat!) and we had a bottle of red wine ready to go. We rubbed the filets with cracked black pepper and ghost pepper sea salt (from Gulf Coast Saltworks out of Panama City, FL) and IMG_6160 (002)

then seared on the grill to lock in the juices, finishing the meat on indirect heat.  Served with mashed potatoes (the reduction makes a fantastic gravy!) and grilled asparagus, our daughter said it was “almost” as good as what she had at the restaurant but we all agreed it was an instant house-hold favorite!  Good enough to lick the cast-iron skillet!





Labor Day Filet with Red Wine Reduction

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

3-4 10-12 oz Filets, seared in pan or on grill and cooked to desired wellness and set aside.IMG_6142 (002)

2 cups red wine

1-2 tbsp finely chopped shallots

5 tbsp butter

salt and pepper to taste

Start by sauteing the shallots in 1 tbsp butter and any juices from the filets in a heavy skillet over low to medium heat until tender and translucent.  Add the 2 cups of red wine, bring to a simmer and reduce by half.  Stir in the remaining butter 1 tbsp at a time until the reduction is smooth and syrupy.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Pour the reduction the steaks and serve immediately.


Smokey Chicken’s Favorite White Sauce

I had the chance this past weekend to help a buddy smoke 50 lbs of pork butts and 50 lbs of chicken breasts for a church picnic on Saturday.  Eric put the butts on the rotisserie smoker Friday morning and added the chicken breasts a little later in the day.

IMG_5676 (002)

By around 6:30 pm we were pulling everything off the smoker (along with some ribs a neighbor donated and some Conecuh Sausage from Alabama…the four basic food groups:  pork, pork, pork and chicken) and proceeded to pull and sample, pull and sample!

As we were driving to the picnic site on Saturday morning Tonya was lamenting that she should have put together some white sauce for the chicken.  We had plenty of red BBQ sauces for the pork and we had talked about our favorite sauces on Friday night.  I was first introduced to white sauce when managing Hog Heaven in Nashville many, many moons ago and serving their Kickin’ Chicken white sauce and it’s still a local favorite!  We have been working on some variations at the house over the years and have come up with a quick, simple version that the family loves!

Go Preds!

Smokey Chicken's Favorite White Sauce

  • Servings: hard to say, a lot
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

½ cup mayonnaise

image2 (002)

1/3 cup sour cream

1 tbsp Dijon or brown spicy mustard

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

½ tsp smoked paprika

¼ tsp cayenne pepper, more for spicer sauce

½ tsp garlic powder

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine mayonnaise and sour cream, stirring until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and chill.  Tastes even better the next day!

image1 (002)

Chicken Noodle Soup!

Well, yesterday was  March 11 (my brother’s birthday…Happy Birthday Ty!) and it IMG_5360 (002)was SNOWING. Yes, white stuff falling from the sky Saturday morning in the middle of March in Tennessee!  It was 75 degrees two days ago and I had planned to mow the lawn over the  weekend but we woke up to our tulips peeking out from under a blanket of slushy snow and the daffodils that came out early having seconds thoughts.

IMG_5370 (002)Sunday is Souper Sunday at church so what better dish to prepare on these cold, blustery days than Chicken Noodle Soup!  Ahh, the savory aroma of tarragon- and thyme-spiced chicken broth boiling on the stove, then adding the veggies and thick noodles as the anticipation of enjoying a big steaming bowl of wonderfulness builds up…Chicken Noodle Soup!  Sit by the roaring fireplace and watch outside as the Winter Wonderland returns during springtime.

Chicken Noodle Soup for the SOUL.  A nice bowl of soup always seems to make a sick person feel better, a wintry day feel a little warmer and even soothe the spirit, bringing back memories of Mom’s special recipe, a little dash of this spice and that spice, combined with big chunks of chicken and carrots and celery and noodles…Our daughter said she would have a cold any day as long as she could have the this chicken noodle soup!

Chicken Noodle Soup

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

2-3 large skin-on chicken breasts

9 cups chicken broth (homemade or store bought)IMG_5372 (002)

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped

3 stalks of celery chopped

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 tsp tarragon

1-2 sprigs fresh thyme (2 tsp dried thyme can be substituted)

1 tsp dried parsley

1 bay leaf

1 package kluski or other egg noodles uncooked

1 lemon

Salt & pepper

Bring chicken, broth, garlic, and onion to a boil.  Cook over low/medium heat until chicken is tender, 30-40 minutes.  Remove chicken, cool.  When chicken is cool, remove skin and bones.  Chop or pull into bitesize pieces.  Strain garlic and onions from broth, discard vegetables.  (I like to do this step the day before making the soup so I can refrigerate the broth and skim fat off the top.  The chicken is also easier to pull when cold)  Bring broth back to a boil.  Add in carrots, celery, tarragon, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf.  Simmer 45 minutes.  Add uncooked noodles.  Simmer until noodles are tender, 10-15 minutes.  Reduce heat to low.  Add chicken to soup.  Stir in juice of one lemon and salt and pepper to taste.  Remove bay leaf before serving.







Sauerbraten and Potato Latkes…”Or so the German’s would have us believe”

“…or so the Germans would have us believe” – Norm Macdonald, Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update.

That phrase has always “tickled me funny bone.”  When you insert those eight simple words into a conversation, you either get that confused look and “Yeah. Umm, what?”  (Millennials or Gen Y) or someone might say “Oh yeah, I remember that…but who said it? Seinfeld? Richard Lewis?” (Baby Boomers/Generation X)

Buried deep in my wife Tonya’s lineage, struggling to culinarily  burst forth, is the German side of her gene pool.  The result of this internal battle manifests itself in a hearty favorite dish of MEAT and potatoes known as:  Sauerbraten and Potato Latkes!  Now get this everybody, if you aren’t aware, Sauerbraten is roast BEEF that is marinated for 3 days, yes 3 days, and during the cooking process and when done, can be covered with a sauce made from…Gingersnap Cookies!


Tonya first started experimenting with this dish in the 1990’s and we also ordered the Sauerbraten at one of Chicago’s most famous German restaurants, The Bergoff Restaurant.  Imagine hoisting a stein of good German brew as you salute your tablemates and pretend you speak German while feasting on their fantastic offerings.


  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 cup waterimg_5166

1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar

1/2 cup dry red wine

2 onions, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

2 bay leaves

3 whole garlic cloves

1/8 tsp ground allspice

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp black peppercorns

4 pound rump roast

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1/3 cup all purpose flour

2/3 cup finely crushed gingersnap cookies

Combine water, red wine vinegar, red wine, bay leaves, onions, carrots, allspice, garlic cloves, peppercorns and salt in large non-metal bowl.  Place roast in marinade, cover and refrigerate for 3 days.  Turn once daily.

Remove roast from marinade (keep marinade) and wipe dry.  In large heavy pot or Dutch oven, brown the roast on all sides, sprinkling the flour as you turn it. Add the marinade back to the pot with the roast, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 3-4 hours, until meat is tender and easily pulls apart.

Remove roast from pot, strain marinade and discard vegetables and whole spices. Return marinade to pot, bring to slow boil while sprinkling in the crushed gingersnap cookies.  Slice meat, add back to pot and simmer 5 minutes.  Serve.


Potato Latkes

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

4 large raw potatoes, peeled and grated

1/2 cup onion, grated

1 large egg

3 tbsp flour

salt and pepper

vegetable oil for cooking

Whisk all ingredients except for potatoes in bowl.  Stir in potatoes.  Form mixture into patties, making sure to squeeze liquid from mixture, and fry in skillet until golden brown.

Serve hot with a dab of sour cream

We had the Sauerbraten and latkes with baked apples and salad.  Some recipes call for the Sauerbraten to be served with Spaetzle, an egg noodle common in German dishes.  Either way, it’s a hearty dish even more delicious on a cold night with a cold beer.

My buddy Ray swears by Bitburger beer, a popular German brew that is a great accompaniment to the Sauerbraten.  It’s not craft, its not dark, it’s a pilsner. The company has been around since 1817 so they may know a thing or two about brewing…Or So the Germans would has us believe…

Thanksgiving Eve! Smoked Hot Turkey and Smoked Sage and Apple Turkey

Welcome to Thanksgiving Eve, an underrated and often overlooked “eve”.  Not the same panache as Christmas Eve for most people.   Thanksgiving Eve is the day preceding Thanksgiving, so there is still plenty going on.  Deviling the eggs, cooking the yams (by the way, my daughter Emma said my turkey name is “Yam Bam Messy Dressin”…).  Going to sleep at night with dreams of candied sweet potatoes, dressing and corn and potatoes all mixed up and smothered with gravy…Wait, what am i forgetting?

Turkey!  Yes!  The centerpiece of the meal!  The foundation of all the Thanksgiving food that follows.  The focal point of the dinner table.  The prize bird that perpetrated the myth that Benjamin Franklin once proposed the turkey should be our National Bird. (He didn’t actually formally state that he wanted the turkey instead of the bald eagle, just that the drawing of the bald eagle looked like a turkey and felt the turkey was a more “respectable” bird).

067So what has become a family tradition is the smoking of the turkey on Thanksgiving Eve and this year was no exception.  Today our smoker contained not one, not two, but THREE smoked turkey breasts!  We smoked a Hot Turkey in the Nashville tradition, following the “Hot Chicken bandwagon”  brined in hot sauce and rubbed with hot spices, as well as two  traditional versions, brined in apple cider and sage and rubbed with various spices.  (Please see my blog “Hot Turkey Brine and Sage and Apple Turkey Brine” for the brining instructions.)055


Once we pulled the birds from the brine, we coated each one with a dollop of mayonnaise to help the rub stick to the bird better.  For the Hot Turkey rub, we created our own using hot spices (cayenne pepper, pepper flakes, some other secrets found in the cabinet) along with my brother Kent’s (aka The Deck Chef, check his site here)  So Damn Hot Cajun Rub. Shout Out to my Bro!!

The rub for the other turkeys included dried thyme, dried sage, dried parsley, white pepper and garlic powder.  Once the birdie breasts were good and rubbed down and covered, they were placed on the electric smoker breast side down initially and turned over
about half-way through the smoking
process.  The drip pan liquid used for the Hot Turkey smoker included water, hot sauce and of course…beer.  For the other smoker, we used water, apple cider and…beer.  When smoking, you have to keep liquid in the drip pan to add moisture during the smoking process along with enhancing the flavor.  We used apple wood for both smokers  which is less strong than hickory and adds a subtle flavor while not taking over-powering the natural taste of the turkey and brine.

(The beagle or other family pet is essential during the smoking process to help clean any spills along with keeping you vigilant.)

Turkeys need cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.  You can actually 041
pull the bird off when you reach 160 degrees and they will continue to cook while sitting in a pan.  This helps prevent over-cooking and drying out your bird breast. Smoking time could be anywhere from 30-45 minutes per pound, and since smokers vary  for a 7 -9 pound breast figure a good 5+ hours.  Avoid the temptation to lift the smoker lid!  This is the same concept with opening the oven door when cooking. You don’t want the heat to escape.  Every once in a while you may want to replenish your soaked wood but even opening the little door lets heat escape.089.JPG075

The Hot Turkey turned out just as we had hoped.  The brining process added a lot of juiciness and the flavor was fantastic!  The meat itself had a little bit of spicy bite but  the real heat came from the skin.  The rub combined with the smoking had a heat comparable to some of the “hot” levels at local Hot Chicken spots but certainly not the hot, hot level where the heat can get in the way of the taste.  It will certainly appeal to those fans of Hot Chicken!


The beer used for the drip pan is not the same beer I’m recommending!  You have to try Peanut Butter Milk Stout!  Brewed locally by Tailgate Beer, this beer is one of my favorites from the brewery located just down the road from my family’s old West Nashville house. Just a hint of peanut butter, smooth and verrry drinkable.  Best from the tap but the cans do it justice!  These cans from The Casual Pint in Franklin.




Hot Turkey Brine and Sage and Apple Turkey Brine

(2 recipes in one post!)

Turkey Day!!!  Yes, it’s that time of year when men go old-school and decide to spend theimg_3335 day avoiding most pre-Thanksgiving chores by breaking out the smoker and announcing “Honey, I really wish I could help you get the house ready for all the family and friends descending on us for Thanksgiving but I am going to be way too busy smoking a turkey and it will probably take my undivided attention…yes, for the entire day…no, really……long”

(Reality Check:  Wives wake up at 4:00 am on Thanksgiving day and put the turkey in the oven, then start working on the sides and desserts, while men sleep longer, only to be woken by the aroma of oven-baked turkey, come into the kitchen and grab a bowl of cereal, then sit on the couch and watch the parade….)

(Double reality check:  Turkey smoking happens the day before Thanksgiving and husband wakes up with wife on Turkey day at 4:00 am to help prep and cook the Thanksgiving feast.  Edited by wife)

Generally some of the best whole turkey-cooking methods involve brining the turkey in a salt mixture before cooking and the smoking method follows the same principle.  We like to prepare the brine and soak the breasts a least 24-36 hours before smoking.  Make sure the turkey is thawed when brining.

The Sage and Apple brine is for the more traditional turkey lovers who enjoy their bird with the smoke flavor highlighted by the apples and herbs.

Jumping on the back of the Hot Chicken bandwagon was an easy decision since it’s a favorite of mine and it’s popularity has outgrown Nashville.  The Hot Turkey idea  was inspired by many visits to Hattie B’s Hot Chicken,  Big Shakes Hot Chicken and, of course, Prince’s Hot Chicken

Whatever recipe you use, always make sure the brine is cool before you submerge the birdie-breasts and remember that you need to clean any materials that come in to contact with the raw turkey to avoid contamination.  This brine can be used for either oven-baked or smoked turkey.

Sage and Apple Turkey Brine

  • Servings: brine for 2 turkey breasts or 1 whole turkey
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 gallon water

2 quarts apple juice or apple ciderimg_3329

2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock

3/4 cup kosher salt

2 cups light brown sugar

2 tbsp chopped fresh sage

4-5 bay leaves

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

3-4 fresh rosemary sprigs

1/4 cup whole peppercorns

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

2 tsp orange zest

Bring the ingredients to a boil or at least hot enough to make sure the salt and brown sugar dissolve and the flavors from the herbs or hot sauce infuse the mixture.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Once cool pour over the turkey breasts (Remember to remove the giblets from the cavity if they are included. Don’t want any surprises! ) and seal in a cooler or a large pot in your refrigerator. We use double kitchen trash bags and set in our large cooler with plenty of ice.