Category Archives: Entertaining


Happy Holidays (and last post of 2014)

Happy Holidays to you and yours! This will be my last post of 2014. We’re out of town for the holidays, spending a few days with my husband’s mother and squeezing in a quick trip to Vegas (a little perk of being an empty nester!). So I’m baking like mad even though I’ve caught the cruddy cold that’s going around. I’ve got a batch of these layer bars in the oven, using up my last jar of strawberry-rhubarb-ginger jam. I went nuts with home-roasted pumpkin, baking off some scones (a riff on this recipe, reducing the buttermilk and adding 1/2 cup pumpkin puree), a classic pumpkin bread jazzed up with some fresh cranberries (pictured next to the booze bottle below), and a batch of pumpkin yeast rolls from the King Arthur website.

One of our treats at the holidays is to order cheese from the Trappist Monks at Gethsemani Farms. They offer four varieties of their semi-soft cheese — our favorite is the Aged (aka “stinky cheese”). They make a pretty nice fruitcake, too. We love the cheese with crackers and salami, or in a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s available year-round, but it’s a holiday tradition for us.

So my last cocktail recipe of the year is **barely** a cocktail. At the end of the day nursing a cold, after a zillion cups of hot herbal tea, you really are sick of the fruity crap. But an iced cocktail is just NOT what the doctor ordered — you already have the chills! But a gentle hot toddy, well, that’s practically medicinal, right?

SAMSUNGHot Apple Toddy
Serves 1

Smidgen of butter
3 tablespoons Evan Williams Apple Orchard
Hot water
Cinnamon stick (optional)

Put the butter and liqueur in the bottom of a mug. Add hot water. Stir until butter melts. Garnish with a cinnamon stick if desired.



Fall Cocktails 2014 … let the fun begin

I’m gonna start with a caveat: I don’t drink alot of cocktails based on “brown” liquors. You know, the whiskey family: bourbon, scotch, rye. I never developed a taste for them straight-up or on-the-rocks, so I don’t reach for them when I’m developing a new cocktail. But I love a splash of bourbon in my pecan pie, so I usually have some Jack Daniels around for that. Why JD? It’s what my dad drank.

With our first burst of cool weather, I started thinking about cool weather cocktails. Fresh-pressed apple cider is one of those fall treats with a limited availability, so I wanted to try something to highlight it. Vodka wasn’t the right liquor – although neutral in flavor, too much “burn”. The botanical notes in gin were going to overpower the apple. I was out of black rum. But my little flask of Jack Daniels was there — and whiskey can have warm, caramel notes from the charred oak aging, which would pair beautifully with apple.

You’ll note I gave ranges for the whiskey and apple cider. I preferred the “lighter” version — less whiskey less cider and more ginger ale. The CGP preferred the “stronger” version — more whiskey more cider and a hit of lime at the end.

Apple Cider Fizz

2 – 3 tablespoons Tennessee Whiskey or good bourbon
1 tablespoon Pama liqueur
1/3 to 1/2 cup fresh-pressed apple cider (farm-stand or refrigerator section)
ginger ale
lime (optional)

Fill a tall pub glass with ice. Add the whiskey, Pama, and apple cider. Stir well. Top off glass with ginger ale and stir gently to combine. Add a touch of lime juice if desired.

We drank ours with homemade hand-pies filled with beer-braised chuck roast, onions, mushrooms, and a bit of Cheddar:


Party Notes: If I were serving this at a party — I’d make it by the pitcher, use smaller glasses, and garnish the edge of each glass with a little apple wedge.


A Seasonal Sangria

So I’m back from Florida and it is COLD. I’m a wimp, I know. But a week ago, I was snorkeling in the Gulf. In November! I got a sunburn! I slept with the windows open! I am NOT a winter person! The husband vetoed my suggestion that I telecommute from Florida this winter. **sigh**

So on my return weekend, I threw together an Indian-inspired lamb stew. I guess the CGP was in the mood for lamb, because three hefty shoulder steaks were waiting in the fridge when I returned (he came back a few days before me). But this was just the thing to let simmer on the stove for a couple of hours for supplemental heat :). The curry powder I used had a little spice to it, so I knew I needed an accompaniment with some body — hence a sangria rather than a wine. A basic white or prosecco would have been lost against this gamey, seasoned stew, and a red wine just wouldn’t have been thirst-quenching. So I reached into the larder and threw this one together — no complaints from you-know-who.

Seasonal Sangria
Serves 4

SAMSUNG1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
5 peppercorns

1 medium apple, cored and chopped
1/4 cup fresh cranberries (heaping)
1/4 cup apple jack
2 tablespoons ginger liqueur
1 bottle dry white wine, chilled
1 can ginger ale, chilled

Prepare your spiced syrup: Boil the water in a 2-cup pyrex cup in the microwave. Add the sugar carefully and stir to dissolve. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves, and peppercorns and let cool to room temperature. Remove the cloves and peppercorns. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Put the apples and cranberries in a large pitcher. Add the applejack, ginger liqueur, and 1/4 cup of the spiced syrup. Throw that cinnamon stick in too. Let the fruit marinate for an hour or two. If your kitchen is cool — the countertop should be fine. If you are still wearing shorts, you should probably refrigerate it.


Just before serving, add the chilled white wine and the chilled ginger ale. Stir gently. Serve over ice, garnished with an apple chunk and a cinnamon stick. Try to keep the cranberries in the pitcher — they impart a bit of tartness but are mostly there for color. They are pretty much indigestable, even after the brandy marinade.




Applejack: Laird’s Applejack is a blend of apple brandy and neutral spirits. It is less expensive than 100% apple brandy but still retains the apple essence. You could substitute another brandy for the applejack.

Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur: I adore this! It is absolutely killer in hot chocolate. If you didn’t want to buy this, add some ginger slices with the cinnamon and spices in the syrup. Discard along with the cloves and peppercorns. Additional brandy optional :)


What to do with the cranberries in the bottom of the pitcher at the end? Dump them in a saucepan with the rest of the bag of cranberries, the rest of the spiced syrup, the cinnamon stick, and some extra sugar. A bit of water too. Heat over medium until the berries start to pop. Taste for balance — add a little lime juice if too sweet. Any apple chunks left? Throw them in too. Their natural pectin will help the cranberry sauce set up a little firmer.


What’s shakin’, pumpkin?

I’ve still got pumpkin on the brain. But now, I’m obsessed with featuring pumpkin in fall cocktails. Crazy? Maybe … or maybe just crazy GOOD! I know there are pumpkin spirits to be found. I saw a pumpkin vodka and a pumpkin pie cream liqueur. I’m sure they are lovely, but they really are one trick ponies. And who wants to drink pumpkin vodka in June? So I pull out a trusty can of pumpkin and my favorite 100 proof vodka (feel free to use 80 or 90 proof) and decide to experiment.

So lets talk about a little trick I used for these cocktails — rimming the cocktail glass. Think about a classic margarita on the rocks – the salt really does add to the cocktail experience. In these cocktails, the pumpkin pie spice first hits your nose and then hits the palate. The sugar crystals provide some crunch. I could have put the pumpkin pie spice in the cocktail itself, but my experience is that cinnamon doesn’t dissolve well in cold liquids — the rim was the place for it.

SAMSUNGThe TJ’s spiced cider in the fridge is calling to me, so I have a go at that first. My first attempt wasn’t sweet enough (that tablespoon of pumpkin really does need TWO teaspoons of brown sugar), was a bit too thick (need more apple cider), and was lacking acid. The second attempt — more sugar, more cider, and some lime juice — THAT worked! The pumpkin is subtle, but adds a nice mouth-feel to this drink. The spices of the apple cider meld well with the earthiness of the pumpkin. This would be a nice cocktail to serve at a holiday party — it would easily translate to a pitcher, just rim glasses and fill with ice as needed.

SAMSUNGMy next attempt was a dessert-style “martini.” I knew vodka and Bailey’s was a good base for such a drink, so adding the pumpkin and spices would take it in the direction I was looking for. Again, my first attempt was not quite sweet enough, but the second drink with that extra teaspoon of brown sugar was spot on. You really do need to shake this one, because the melting ice will dilute the drink just enough. I really wish I had martini glasses at the brick house — these really would look so pretty in a proper glass!!

This was one of the CGP’s more enthusiastic tastings. Just saying.

Pump(kin) Up My Apple Cider
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) vodka
3 tablespoons unfiltered apple cider, I used TJ’s spiced cider
1 tablespoon canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons brown sugar
Squeeze of lime


Moisten the rim of a rocks glass with cider (yes, use the thumb and forefinger of your impeccably clean hand!). Dip the moistened rim into the the saucer of spiced sugar [see below], ensuring the rim is evenly coated all around. Fill the glass with ice.

In a separate glass (a 1 or 2 cup pyrex measuring cup could work well), use a spoon to thoroughly mix together the vodka, spiced cider, pumpkin, and sugar. Pour over the ice in the highball glass. Serve immediately.


Pumpkin Michelle-tini
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) vodka
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) Bailey’s Irish Cream
1 tablespoon canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons brown sugar
Cocktail shaker with ice


Moisten the rim of a martini or rocks glass with vodka (yes, use the thumb and forefinger of your impeccably clean hand!). Dip the moistened rim into the the saucer of spiced sugar [see below], ensuring the rim is evenly coated all around.

Put the vodka, Bailey’s, pumpkin, and brown sugar in a cocktail shaker filled halfway with ice. Shake vigorously for at least 10 seconds to make sure the pumpkin is evenly distributed. Strain into your martini or highball glass.


Spiced Sugar for Rimming

2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Mix together and spread evenly on a saucer. Discard any leftovers.



So one of our colleagues was getting married. Our office is ALWAYS up for a party, so we planned a pot-luck to wish her and her intended well in their new life together (I know it’s old-fashioned, but they weren’t cohabitating, so it really was a new life TOGETHER). We had main dishes and desserts covered, so I offered to bring an appetizer.

The bride-to-be is a flexitarian but mostly vegetarian, so I wanted to bring something that was meat-free. Also, we have a culturally diverse workforce with many dietary constraints, so going meat-free also allowed the widest possible sampling. I hoped to make two dips, one vegan and one with dairy. Not hummus.

The vegan was easy — a white bean dip. No need for dairy, no need for honey … consider it DONE. My little twist: using pan-charred garlic.

As for the dairy dip, I’ve been a little obsessed lately with pimento cheese. There are a couple of decent supermarket brands, but they are EXPENSIVE, so it feels like a splurge. But c’mon, isn’t it just cheese and mayonnaise and some red pepper? So when America’s Test Kitchen Feed posted a well-described amazingly-simple recipe for pimento cheese, well, I had to take it and improve upon it (of course).

Pan-charred Garlic

This is an alternative to the oh-so-time-consuming oven-roasted garlic. No added oil and takes as little as 10 minutes.

Throw some cloves of garlic, still in their skin, in a dry pan over medium heat. Shake and flip occasionally, until the skins are charred and starting to slip off. Allow to cool slightly, then slip the cloves out of the skins. Refrigerate any you don’t use immediately. Probably okay for 5 – 7 days (guess).



Garlicky White Bean Dip

SAMSUNG1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained well
3 cloves pan-charred garlic
Generous squirt of lime juice
Leaves from a few sprigs of thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground chipolte (or cayenne)
Kosher Salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


This couldn’t be easier. Throw it all in the food processor. Process until smooth. Put it in a pretty bowl and garnish with some thyme twigs (see the image at the top). I’m embarrassed to call this a recipe.

Serve with sturdy dippers — like crackers or pita chips.



Spicy Pimento Cheese
Adapted from a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen

SAMSUNG6 ounces block sharp cheddar cheese
3 – 4 ounces block pepper jack cheese (depends on your tolerance for spicy)
4 tablespoons chopped pimientos
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sweet pickle juice
Squirt or two of lime juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional) [*]

Shred your cheese by hand grater or in your food processor. Do NOT use pre-shredded cheese! The texture won’t come out right because that pre-shredded cheese is coated with stuff so it won’t stick together in the ziploc bag. I adore pre-shredded cheese for a bunch of other applications, just not THIS one.

Dump the now-shredded cheese into a medium-sized bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients. Start stirring with a fork. It will look awful at first. Keep stirring. Don’t add more mayo. Don’t add more pickle juice. Keep stirring. Suddenly — it will look perfect. STOP STIRRING. You don’t want to completely pulverize the cheese. Don’t panic if it looks a little loose … it improves after a few hours in the fridge and will firm up beautifully.


How to serve:

  • Put it in a pretty bowl and serve with saltine crackers
  • Spread on white bread and eat it as a sandwich
  • Spread it on buttered bread and make a grilled cheese sandwich
  • Smear it on a hot dog
  • Embed a gob within a raw hamburger patty and grill
  • Eat it straight from the fridge with a fork, at midnight


 [*] Worcestershire sauce is traditionally made with anchovies. There are vegan varieties available.

[photo: Casey Tantum]

Guest Post: Oreo Cookies and Cream Cake

[photo: Casey Tantum]

Julie says: If preference towards a type of food has anything to do with the perceived age and maturity level of an individual, then consider me a nine year old.  Funfetti is my cake flavor of choice, and I consider ice cream to be a major food group of its own, right there on the pyramid between dairy and protein.  With this said, you must understand the overwhelming feeling of excitement I experienced when I came across a recipe for a cake which not only looks like an Oreo, but tastes like an Oreo at the same time.  Dreams really can come true.

With that being said, when a coworker’s birthday just so happened to come the same week as the birth of the Royal Baby, this called for a celebration… and an excuse for me to make one of my favorite treats.  Besides, what screams royalty more than a cake made out of Oreos?

Now allow me first to read your mind and answer all of your questions ahead of time:

Q: It’s still beach season and I’m allergic to fun.  Is this cake healthy?
A: This cake is quite healthy, providing you with your daily dose of both Vitamin sugar and Vitamin whipped cream.

Q: Will I still be able to dunk my Oreo cake in a glass of milk?
A: An Oreo Cake, unlike your typical Oreo cookie, is too large to dunk into a standard milk glass, so cake dunking is not recommended.  However, the cake is quite rich so I would suggest having a glass of milk nearby.

Oreo Cookies and Cream Cake
Courtesy of Julie Giffin (

1 Box white cake mix
Eggs, water and oil as called for on the box
15 Oreos, crushed

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 16-ounce box powdered sugar
1 8-ounce container Cool whip, room temperature
15 Oreos, crushed
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cake: Grease and flour two 8″ pans.  Prepare cake batter according to package directions (or your own recipe) and set aside.  Put 15 Oreos into a Ziploc bag and smash yourself into oblivion until you have a bag of delicious chocolately crumbs. Stir the crushed Oreos into the batter before dividing between the two prepared pans.  Bake as directed on box or in recipe.  Remove cake layers from oven and allow to cool completely on cooling rack.

Frosting: In mixer, cream the cream cheese and sugar. Add vanilla, mix well, and stir in Cool whip by hand (do not beat it in or your frosting will turn out runny). Mix well. Fold in the remaining 15 crushed Oreos until well blended.  Keep in mind that you’ll have a fairly lumpy icing, but it adds to the fun. Frost cooled cake and refrigerate cake until ready to serve and refrigerate any leftovers.

Chef’s Secret: Use remaining Oreos to decorate the top of the cake by splitting in half and arranging on the top of the cake, chocolate side facing up.  OR you could always eat them.  The cake is beautiful on its own and you deserve it.



Michelle says: Now, I make a decent cake/cupcake myself, so I can be a little jaded. And picky. But this cake just blew my skirt up — it really is THAT good. So of course I begged her to write a guest blog and reveal her secret recipe!


Berrylicious Sangria

So peaches are still around and still luscious. The NJ blueberries are still delightfully plump (kinda like me?). And someone gave us some REALLY juicy cherries. So I threw together another summery sangria. I am REALLY sold on the spice-in-simple-syrup as a way to flavor sangria. Wait until winter, when I amp up the spice level in red wine with winter fruit!

Berrylicious Sangria
Serves 4

SAMSUNG2 – 4 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup boiling water
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3 cloves
1 ripe yet firm peach, peel left on
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh sweet cherries, cut in half and pitted
1/2 cup blackberry brandy
1 750 ml bottle dry prosecco, chilled

Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water (I used my trusty 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup). Add the cinnamon stick, star anise, and cloves and let set on the counter to infuse. Meanwhile, thinly slice the peach and put those, the blueberries, and the cherries in the pitcher. Pour the brandy over the fruit and stir. Remove the cloves and then pour the cooled spiced sugar syrup over the fruit and stir (I like to leave the cinnamon stick and star anise in to continue infusing). Refrigerate, ideally for several hours. Just before serving, add the chilled wine and stir. Serve over ice. Garnish with a peach slice.




I’m going to caveat upfront — this post really doesn’t contain a recipe. Because smoking a pork butt (the butt of the shoulder) is a PROCESS. But if you have 8 – 10 hours to hang out some weekend afternoon, you WILL be rewarded with sweet porky goodness at the end, with plenty to share.

In our house, all good barbecue starts with a rub. There are many fine commercial rubs. Penzey’s makes several and Nick’s makes a good one. So we’ve always got some around, but we do find they tend a little saltier than we like. So most of the time, we make our own. I don’t have exact proportions, but the basic rub for our pork tends to contain, in roughly descending quantities:

  • SAMSUNGBrown sugar (light and/or dark, depending on what’s in the house)
  • Smoked Spanish Paprika
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Ground cumin
  • Ground Chipotle or Cayenne



Taste it for balance. Sweet should be at the forefront, with a hint of salt and smoky. Should finish a little spicy from the hot peppers. You can always cut it with a little more brown sugar or paprika if the salt or heat is too dominant.



Don’t worry if you make more than you think you need — as long as you don’t cross-contaminate with the raw meat, it will keep for a while in an airtight container. If you accidentally cross-contaminate (you know, stick your porky hand IN the container), then either use it all or toss it out. Don’t even THINK about saving it, even in the fridge, for another time.


We like to apply the rub to our butt (stop giggling!!) the night before. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Just for reference, this was about 7 pounds. Here’s the befores (11pm) and after (9a):


The next morning, Keith configured our Big Green Egg for indirect grilling with a plate setter, aiming for 225F to 250F. We put the meat on around 9a. Don’t waste the juicy stuff in the bottom of the night pan — pour that over your butt!

SAMSUNGSo now you get to sit around and watch the ballgame. Maybe do a little shopping on Amazon. Mow the lawn. About once an hour, take a peek at your dome temperature, adjusting your upper and lower vents as needed to keep it between 225 and 250. Ours sat around 250 for most of the smoke. There is NO reason to open the lid of the smoker!!



Around 4pm, Keith transferred the meat to a disposable aluminum pan. He added about 1″ of apple juice to that pan, covered it all with foil, and returned it to the grill at the same 225F – 250F. This is called “wrapping” and ALL the competition barbecue people do it!


We are converts to wrapping for the last 1/2 or 1/3 of the cooktime. We do it with our brisket and we do it with our ribs. It keeps you from over-smoking your meat, it lets you get a little moisture or flavor on the meat with no risk of burning, and it cuts the cooktime down because the meat is almost “braising” or “steaming” at the end. Downside — your bark might soften up some, but if you get good color/carmelization on there early on, you’ll be fine.

Around 6:30p, we checked the internal temperature. Right at 200. We like to take pork butt to 195F – 200F, so we probably coulda pulled it at 6p, but Keith was still mowing the lawn (pork butt is pretty forgiving, especially if wrapped). We pulled the meat, let it rest about 15 minutes, then started pulling:


We like to serve it on soft potato rolls with a selection of barbecue sauces. Right now we are obsessed with two from Harris Teeter — a mustard based and a vinegar based. Don’t forget one of my fabulous frozen margaritas!


Party-Friendly Frozen Margaritas

So, a few years back, I perfected my frozen margarita recipe. The Internet had a multitude of recipes referencing frozen limeade, but the booze proportions were all over the place. So I tinkered and tweaked and came up with a balanced booze-to-limeade ratio that’s easy to remember. My husband could drink these all summer long.

These are a huge hit at large gatherings (even the occasional office kitchen after hours, depending on your employer). You can easily crank out pitcher after pitcher, just make sure to have lots of ice and to use smaller cups :)

SAMSUNGFrozen Margaritas
Serves 4 – 8

6 ounces frozen limeade concentrate
3/4 cup white tequila
1/4 cup orange liqueur
A bunch of ice

Scoop the still-frozen limeade into the blender. Add the tequila and orange liqueur. Add ice to ~40-ounce line. Whir on highest speed until a homogenous consistency. Serve immediately.



  • If you have frozen fruit in the freezer, throw it in before you add the ice. Maybe a cup or so? Tru frozen mango or frozen berries (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, or a mixture). Surprisingly good: about a cup of canned crushed pineapple, partially drained. Blueberries don’t work so well — the skins separate from the pulp — save those for yogurt smoothies.
  • If you have fruit liqueurs around, use 1/8 cup of the fruit liqueur and 1/8 cup of the orange liqueur. Pomegranate liqueur or creme de cassis are nice and tart and add a lovely color.

Ingredient Notes:

  • I like Minute-Maid limeade. It typically comes in a 12-oz can, so I use half of a can per pitcher.
  • I prefer 1800 Silver Tequila. It’s middle-of-the-road price-wise and makes a fine classic margarita.
  • I like to use La Belle Orange, a French orange and cognac liqueur. Again, middle-of-the-road price-wise. You could use triple sec if that’s what you have around. I probably wouldn’t use the 100-year old Grand Marnier — this is kind of a low-brow cocktail :)

Equipment Note:

These proportions are for a typical home blender. I think the pictured one is 48 ounce and my other one is a 40 ounce. If your blender is considerably larger or smaller, you need to adjust your proportions. A couple of ounces larger or smaller shouldn’t make a difference.


Fourth of July Feast

My mother-in-law and her SO were in town for the Fourth. We wanted to grill something fabulous that would feed a crowd — we knew there were at least 7 of us but frequently extra people get invited or show up as the smoke wafts through the neighborhood. We’d done 5 racks of ribs and a bunch of tofu the weekend before (NO pictures of that, hence no blog post; I’m lucky I still have plates and utensils that gang was ravenous!!), so we wanted something else. Brisket is one of our go-tos for a crowd, so we thought Mom would enjoy that. Plus, there’s a certain set-it-and-forget quality to our technique.

I should probably take a moment to wax rhapsodic about our Big Green Egg. A Big Green Egg (BGE) is a outdoor cooker. I hesitate to say grill, because it’s also a smoker. We use it to smoke ribs, brisket, or pork shoulder at 225F/250F (low and slow) for hours and hours … or grill a standing rib roast, butterflied pork loin, or whole turkey at 325F/350F for a couple of hours, or pop in some oysters at 450F, or sear off some steaks at 600F+. It’s amazingly versatile and practically idiot-proof. I should be embarrassed, because any time I’m at the garden center picking up charcoal or an EGGcessory, I’m always trying to sell one to the hapless soul who happens to be browsing while I’m there. Just for the record, I whole-heartedly recommend the LARGE.


Our brisket technique starts the night before.

Put your brisket in a giant zippered bag (I have some 2.5 gallon name-brand ones from Wal-Mart). The piece pictured above was about 6.5 pounds. We have done one as large as 12 pounds (it was a HUGE zippered bag).

Pour buttermilk into the bag. I use cultured whole-milk buttermilk, since that’s what my butcher carries, but low-fat should be fine. You want to put in enough that the whole piece is covered and there some sloshing about, but not so much that the bag overflows. Smaller briskets will take less than a quart (leaving some leftover for biscuits or a sweet bread). That monster one we did — I think it took almost two quarts.

Dump in some kosher salt (a couple of teaspoons probably), fresh ground pepper, garlic (fresh, granulated, powdered — whatever), dried rosemary, dried thyme, maybe some smoked paprika. Put the brisket in the fridge to marinate overnight.

The next morning, you’ll want to get your grill going. We use an electric starter to fire up the lump charcoal (and ONLY lump charcoal … lighter fluid is blasphemy around a BGE) and then set up the grill for indirect grilling with a plate setter. We pull the meat from the marinade, shake off the excess, and put the meat on. Shut the lid and begin the clock-watching. We know, from experience, that this size will take about 6 hours (the 12 pounder took about 9 hours). DISCARD the marinade!

Around the four or five hour mark, we take a peek inside. We’re looking for good brown caramelization, a bunch of fat rendering, and some shrinkage. Around this time we pull the brisket off, wrap it well in aluminum foil, and then PUT BACK ON the grill, still set up for indirect. We let it finish cooking the remaining hour or two wrapped in foil.

Why? Well, at this point, you probably aren’t getting any more smoke flavor into the meat. Whatever smoke ring and coloring you are gonna get, you done got. Also, this is about the time the internal temperature tends to plateau. Wrapping will hold in that heat and get the internal temperature rising again. Finally, the foil holds in the still-to-be-rendered fat and helps the meat to steam and stay moist for the last bit of cooking. You sacrifice some exterior “crustiness” but it’s worth it.


You know it’s done when you put in a thermometer and it feels like butter. Seriously, somewhere around 195F. Pull the wrapped meat and put on a cookie sheet (it’s pretty drippy) to rest for at least 20 minutes. We like to slice with an electric knife or get our friend Steve to do it with his fancy electric slicing machine.


After we pulled the meat, my husband pulled off the grate, pulled off the ceramic plate setter, put the plate setter out of reach of the dog, put the grate back on, and got the temp up around 400F. We then threw a dozen ears of corn, still fully husked, on the grill. Shut the lid and let them go about 5 or so minutes. Lift the lid, flip them and rotate (there’s always a hot spot), then shut the lid for another 5 or so minutes. You are trying to get good grill marks on the husk (’cause it looks fancy) and a little smoke into the corn, but pretty much just heating it up and letting it steam in its own husk.


Earlier, in the (relative) cool of the morning, I cooked off some summer squash. I think I had four zucchinis and two yellow crooknecks. Slice ’em kinda chunky, throw in a pot with a couple tablespoons of butter, a pinch of salt, and maybe some dried thyme. Bring to a bit of simmer, cover, and let steam until soft but not mush. They reheated nicely later in the day.



The day before, I had baked off some honey-wheat rolls from ATK/Cook’s Country. These are AMAZING, and surprisingly have more whole wheat flour than white flour, so I feel kinda virtuous making them. I really don’t buy much bread — I tend to make it — so these are a nice addition to my repertoire.



Our guests brought pie and ice cream. No pictures of those, but I will confess to eating raspberry pie for breakfast on Saturday.


Another gratuitous beefcake meat shot.