Thursday, June 30, 2011

Benmarl Winery Chili Cook Off

The Benmarl Winery up in Marlboro, NY held its 2nd Annual Chili Cook Off on Saturday June 25th and I am darn glad that Tango Spice was able to be up in the Hudson Valley for this fun event. This was an ICS sanctioned event, so you just know the big guns were going to be out in force cookin' up some of the best chili on the east coast.

I had come up the previous night in order to get an early start. This also gave me a chance to see the vineyard and winery before the cook off crowds got there and the booths were set up. It was nice to drive on in Friday afternoon and take in the spectacular beauty that is Benmarl. Even to a person such as myself, uneducated about wine, the Benmarl Winery is quite impressive. Being America's oldest professional vineyard lends a feeling of long history as you walk the grounds.

A picture perfect setting for a chili cook off. Now the last post about a chili event was about us cooking up in Somers, CT. This time it was a little different, as Tango Spice wanted to be a part of this as a vendor Team Gad Zukes had the weekend off. Yep, as the cooks worked their magic over steaming pots of red & green, I was hawking my wares on the spice trail. I did take a little good natured ribbing from Mad Mike about not stoking' up a pot. All in good fun. Once again as I start to attend these chilihead events, I can see the family type atmosphere which surrounds the cooks. From the seasoned (well seasoned) veterans to the virgin cooks, everyone totally supportive of one another. Though they may be competitors, they are also friends and friends to be.

As had been the way of the weather for the past week, Saturday dawned dark & threatening. Of course as we all know, chili waits for no cloud and this is a rain or shine event. Trophies, cash & sacred chili honor are at stake! Getting to the site I saw that there were a good amount of the competitors already set up and I was able to get the Spice Mobile in and get my little corner all set up in no time. The cool thing about being there early is the chance to head out and say hello to everyone and get some cool photos before everyone shows up.

As the morning rolled on the cooks began preparing the green chili, then the red. Being in the clean mountain air which is now filled with the wafting aroma of peppers, meats, spices all cooking up in the deep pots sure can create an appetite. Then it happens. The clock strikes the appointed hour and the expectant crowds start to arrive. Benmarl is a destination place, the sort of place it is nice to go and enjoy the day, even if there is no cook off. This was apparent as a couple of 'brides to be' stopped in with their entourages. There were also families and friends who had come up for the chance to sample the people's choice chili. 

Throughout the day the clouds rolled in and out, yet spared us any rain. This was really nice, as the sun provided much warmth, then just as it seemed a wee bit too hot, a cloud would stroll on by to cool us off a little bit. Everyone was strolling around, sampling great chili. Also available for sampling was some of Benmarl's wines. For the non wine drinkers like myself there was a frosty keg.

Everyone knows that you should have some good music to go along with your chili and everyone was very much into the sounds of The Crossroads Band. A group of guys playing good, classic rock. Great group of guys for sure.

A big part of any ICS chili cook off is the money raised for a very worthy, local cause. I always like to tell people who have never been to a chili cook off, this is why these folks are so great. All along the good fun and great chili is the awesome work it does for the locals. The money you pay for your tasting kits is money you can feel very good about spending. During the Benmarl cook off, money raised was going to Fraxa research for the cure of Fragile X.

The entire event was really great. From the location to the cooks and the wonderful crowds it was a great day to be up in wine country.

Tango Spice will be back next year at the Benmarl. You never know, perhaps even Team Gad ~ Zukes chili will be there as well. Either way, I would hope that you'd be there as well.

The Winners Are!

Red Chili
First Place > Jim Heywood

Chili Verde
First Place > Vicki Buma Tankis

First Place > Roxanne Ballachino

For more information click the links below:

How about some photos? Yeah!

All Quiet Before The Cooks Arrive

Tango Hangin' With The Chili Folks!

All Smiles

Great Place To Be With Friends

Is This A Backdrop Or What?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fatty ~ With Leftovers!

Ya know how it is, sometimes when you open the fridge door it is like a walk down memory lane. There may be leftovers from the past few days of fine meals, that is if it was not all scarfed down. So it was yesterday, there was a little bit of that, a little bit of this and a smidgeon of other tid bit from the last couple of dinners.

What To Do, What To Do?

Hey, let's combine a few ingredients into a fatty that smacks of spicy leftover goodness!

The sausage was one pound of Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage that never made the breakfast cut over the weekend. Onto this was sprinkled a good layer of the soon to be available Tango Spice Tango Verde Green Chili Powder. The hottest blend we have yet to come out with!

Now, for the stuffing... All just left overs waiting in the fridge to be let loose.
Sticky Rice
Avocado Salsa
Smoked Pork Loin / cubed
Sharp Cheddar / cubed
Granny Smith Apple / cubed
Sriracha Sauce / just because

Put all the stuffing into the fatty cannon and roll that bad boy up. Put it out on the grill, using indirect heat and let that cook away. Yeah Man!

Yep, once again it was time to cook up a fatty! Never Too Soon To Roll Another Fat One!

Here Goes!

Tease Ya With A Slice!

Jimmy Dean Covered In Tango Verde Green Chili Powder
(available soon)

Fill The Fatty Cannon!

Oh Yeah! Spicy Tangy Goodness!

See The Cheese! See The Apple!

Wrapped & Ready To Cook!

Almost Done!

Lookin So Darn Tasty!

Yep, Just Get Ya A Big Ole Fatty!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tango In The Desert!

BBQ'n & Grillin' in the desert southwest - ya just can't beat that! Spending 25 years in Lake Havasu, AZ gave me the opportunity for year round grilling enjoyment. 360 days of sunshine a year does lend itself to cooking outdoors quite well. 

This is also where I really started to enjoy coming up with my own spice blends to enhance the flavor of grilled foods. The seeds of Tango Spice were planted in the dry heat of the Arizona sun. Now mind you, Tango Spice in based in Sound Beach, NY, yet we never forget the great back yard BBQ's we had 'back in the day'.

There will always be a great connection between Havasu & Sound Beach for me, even over the years and the 2,611 miles.

With this in mind it is my pleasure to let my 'home town' desert dwelling friends that Tango Spice is now on the shelves over at Shishcabob's BBQ & More Store!

I would like to thank Dana & Bob Eland for allowing Tango Spice to enjoy some highly sought after shelf space in their fine store. When you are out and about, please stop in and say hello, check out all they have to offer and pick yourself up some Tango Spice!

Shishcabob's BBQ & More
911 N. Lake Havasu Ave. #106
Lake Havasu, AZ

Hurry On Down Today! 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Grapefruit & Avocado Salsa

Summer time has arrived and in some parts of the country that means warmer, even hotter days are at hand. Of course my friends in Arizona have been dealing with summer-like temps for a weeks now while we here on the east coast are still dealing with rain, rain, fog and then rain.


When summer arrives the want of light & cool eats is always there. Here is a salsa that I like to make when I find the good avocados at the local markets. This is a snappy salsa that sports some ingredients that most folks to not think pair well together. Trust me, this is a dynamite salsa, served with chips, over grilled fish or just eaten with a spoon.

Try this and I am sure you will be hooked!

Grapefruit & Avocado Salsa W/ Pickled Onions & Jalapenos

For the pickled onions & chiles
1/2 Cup Rice Vinegar
1 TBS Sugar
1 TBS Tango Spice Southwest Sunset 
          (or chile powder if you are out of Tango)
1 Medium Red Onion / sliced razor thin
4 Large Jalapenos / seeded & sliced into matchsticks

For the salsa
2 Grapefruit / peeled real well and sliced into bite sized pieces
2 Avocados / peeled and sliced into bite sized pieces
1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro

In a medium size, non- reactive bowl mix the vinegar, sugar & Southwest Sunset. Let the sugar dissolve.
Add the onions and jalapenos and let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

While the onions are pickling, peel and slice the grapefruit, making sure to take out any seeds. Place in a non- reactive bowl. Slice up the avocado and add that to the grapefruit, mix together gently.

Strain the onion mixture, discarding the liquid. Add the onions and jalapenos to the grapefruit again mixing together gently. Add a pinch of salt, blend and then place salsa in the fridge for one hour.

Remove the salsa from the fridge, and add the cilantro.
Serve with chips, pita bread or with a spoon!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dutch Oven Chicken Leg Quarters

In the last post here I was talking about a day of BBQing & grilling a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It was just a nice day spent out in the yard with a fire going in the fire pit, charcoal going in the smoker and food in the fridge ready for fire.

The day before I spied chicken leg quarters for 99 cents a pound. For me this price is a 'must buy' price. Getting some chicken on the cheap is always cool, as it allows me to grill something up tasty and inexpesive and also cook enough to make sure there are left overs for more meals.

The night prior I had taken the quarters, broke them into pair and marinaded them in differing concoctions. Trying out new combinations of ingredients is fun, and at 99 cents a pound you can really go out on a limb in your choices.

The offset smoker was going with an 8 pound pork butt and the ABTs so I was going to put a pair or two in there, and also fire up the weber kettle for some grill chicken. Like I wrote earlier, the fire pit was also in full bloom. I was spending some of the free time away from the grills to chop some fire wood for the winter. As we were stacking it all nice, the odds and ends were tossed into the pit and there was a really nice blaze going. Lucky we stock marshmallows here. 

As the wood chopping ended I let the fire die down to the coals and when the time came to grill the chicken the temperature in the pit was still about 500 degrees. Nice! An idea strikes and some good eats are on the way.

Raid The Fridge! Yes, there is some left over marinara we had made for pasta earlier in the week. Maybe about 2 cups is there and that is perfect. We had the few ingredients needed for something really good. So, here is a spur of the moment dish that just happened to work out real well.

Chicken Quarters in a Dutch Oven 

2 Chicken Leg Quarters

1 Cup Liquid From A Can Of Ortega Roasted Green Chiles
(reserve chiles for other recipes)

2 TBS Butter
2 Small Yellow Onions / sliced into rings
2 Cups Marinara / had some in the freezer from a large batch
1 10.5 oz Can Rotel Tomatoes & Chiles / drained
A couple of fresh basil leaves

12 inch dutch oven

Drain the Ortega chiles, reserving the liquid. Place the chiles in a non reactive container and save them in the fridge for another use.
In a bowl, mix 1 cup of the chile liquid and 2 TBS Tango Spice Sante Fe Seasoning. Blend this real well. 
Put two chicken leg quarters in a zip lock bag, add Tango chile liquid, seal and place in the fridge for at least four hours and up to 18.
The next day, get your fire pit fully engulfed in flames, adding wood as you see fit. Cook some marshmallows while you are building a great fire. It is ok to have marshmallows before dinner. Of course, if you do not have a fire pit, these directions have now become worthless. Read on anyway since you have gotten this far and the pictures are coming up real soon.
When the fire has died down and there is a very hot bed of coals it is time to get everything ready.
Take the chicken out of the fridge, drain and discard the liquid. Plate the chicken and cover with saran wrap, allow to sit at room temp for 20 minutes or so.
In the meantime, slice up two onions, however thick you like.
In a bowl, mix the marinara sauce and Rotel tomatoes together.
Lower the dutch oven in to the fire pit, let sit on the coals for 1 or 2 minutes to heat up. Take back out and place on a fireproof surface. (duh)
Put the butter into the oven, swirls around the bottom, add the onion to cover the bottom. Place the chicken quarters on the onions, skin side up. Pour the marinara Rotel mixture over the chicken. Put the lid on and lower the oven on to the coals.
Let this cook for 20 minutes, then take off the lid and put a couple of basil leaves on the chicken pieces. Cover with the lid and let cook for 10 more minutes. At the 30 minute point I took the oven out of the pit and the chicken had an internal temperature of 158. Put the cover back on and let sit for another 10 minutes off the coals.

Took the quarters out of the oven and got ready to eat.

Wow, this was some darn tasty chicken. I was very pleased with the entire thing. The cooking method was fun, the onions and sauce were wonderful and the chicken was juicy and amazing. This is the start of many more experiments when we have the fire pit going. Heck, it is an excuse for light more fires, we have piles and piles of wood!

Thanks for stopping by and checking out a simple & fun way to cook some great chicken.
And now, the pics!

This Looks Cool

Fire Pit Ready To Cook

Butter & Onions In The Hot Oven

Add The Chicken Quarters

Add The Sauce, Sip The Guinness

Cookin' Away

20 Minutes & It Has A Wonderful Aroma

Ready To Eat

Very Tasty Indeed!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

ABTs With Goat Cheese

This past Sunday was such a nice day after the biblical rains we had been 'enjoying'. Not too hot & very sunny made for a welcome change indeed. This was the perfect day for doing a few chores around the yard and cooking a little of this and a little of that. As always is the case, once the cooking begins it seems that even more ideas for goodies pop into your head.

Snacks! I needed a snack to munch on before the other stuff started to come off the grills. Lucky thing I had some peppers and cheese and other tasty stuff - INCLUDING BACON!

Here is the recipe for this day's version of ABTs (Atomic Buffalo Turds). The two basic ingredients never change, jalapenos & bacon. Once you have those two, your imagination can go wild and should only limited by what you have in the fridge.

So, without further ado, here they are…

ABTs with Goat Cheese & Smoked Sausage! 

6 Jalapenos / big ones, seeded & ribbed
6 Small Sweet Peppers / same size as the jalapenos, seeded & ribbed
(you can use 12 of either)
8 oz Goat Cheese
4 Slices Pepperoni Cheese / ask your deli person
1 to 2 TBS Prepared Horseradish / hot
1 Cup Smoked Sausage
Bacon / thin cut, any style

Tango Spice Southwest Sunset (or any other of our fine blends)

Cut the tops off of the peppers, clean out the seeds and ribs.
Mix up the cheeses, horseradish & sausage in a bowl, combine real well.
Spoon mixture into the peppers, just to the top, do not over fill.
I use a jerky cannon to fill them, a pastry bag or a one gallon plastic bag with a corner snipped off will work just fine.
Lay the bacon out on a baking sheet, sprinkle with Southwest Sunset, then roll one slice around one pepper. It will go around more than once. Use a toothpick to secure.
Bring your smoker to temp, I was at 230, and place on the grill grate. Let them cook until the bacon is to your liking. The ones here were on the smoker for just about 2 1/2 hours.
Take them off, let them cool for a minute or two then enjoy these power packed snacks!

** If you are using a charcoal or gas grill, use indirect heat. Do not place ABTs directly over the heat or flame. Try to use medium heat at the most, and keep an eye on them so they do not burst into a bacon fueled conflagration!

Colorful & Inviting

Southwest Sunset

Wrapped & Ready

Let's Get Cookin'

Into The Smoker


Lil' Smokey Likes

A Plate Of Pepper, Bacon & Cheesy Goodness

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Plank Grilled Twinkies!

Can you think of a combination that works better than Twinkies & Grilling? I thought so, ya can't can you? There is something about the hot, grilled goodness of that golden cake which brings back all those childhood memories right?

Ok, that may be a little bit of a stretch, or even a lot of a stretch. I am sure that there are a few of you (all of you) who have never heard of cooking up some Twinkies over hot coals. Well, be glad that you stopped by to see how all this goodness comes off the grill.

The idea for this grilled 'dessert' came about when a new Throwdown was issued over at The BBQ Brethren. This one was for Carnival Food. Ah yes, the food of the Midway, the food you are not supposed to eat before going on the tilt a while, but you still do!

I decided to go for something that I have never heard of being at a carnival, but I think it should be. May I present to you….

Plank Grilled Twinkies!

Twinkies / however many you think you 'need'
Nutella Spread
Mini Marshmallows
Toffee Bits
Oreo Cookies / broken into bits

Cedar planks / soaked in water for 30 to 90 minutes

Place the Twinkies in theta fridge to stiffen up the cake a little
Start the coals
Take some Nutella, put it in a small bowl and stir to get it smooth
Put the now hot coals into your grill
Pat the planks dry
Now take the twinkles out of the fridge and spread a thin layer of Nutella over the top and side, not the bottom, place them on the plank. Do not let them touch or come close to the edge of the wood.
Press some marshmallows into the nutella, and then sprinkle on some toffee bits. Lastly press in some of the Oreo cookie chunks. Try to get as much of these goodies to stick as you can without covering the plank.
Place the plank on the grill, directly over the coals. Let this sit on the heat for 15 minutes, or until the marshmallows are golden brown. While it is heating up check the plank once or twice to make sure it is not lighting on fire, use a spray bottle to put out any flare ups.
Once the gooeyness is to your liking, take the plank off the coals and set on a FIRE PROOF surface. Allow them to cool for a couple of minutes, slice into it and ENJOY!

All The Tasty Ingredients & Twinkie The Kid

The Kid Likes His jack Daniel's

Ready To Grill

Let's Get Cookin'

A Plate Of Gooey Goodness

Look At That Golden Color

Dig in Folks!