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Cooking with Monkey, Bass & Poisonous Jam

Robot Monkey

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I had some recipes that I know I promised some people here, so I'm just going to post what I have gradually. Here's salsa roja.


Salsa Roja



Time needed: Maybe 15 minutes

Difficulty level: Short bus

Specialty ingrediants: None




2 handfuls of fresh cilantro, picked off the stems

1 onion, cut into halves (half rough chopped and half fine chop)

1 jalapeno, roughly cut

2 32 oz. cans of diced tomatoes

1/2 t. dried oregano

1 t. Whole cumin seeds

1/4 t. whole black peppercorns

1 t. Garlic powder

1 t. salt


1. Drain both cans of diced tomatoes. I said 32 oz. cans, but I'm not sure of the exact size. Somewhere around 32 oz., anyway. Reserve some of the liquid.


2. In a blender, combine the oregano, cumin, peppercorns, salt, garlic powder and salt. Add 1/2 the jalapeno, about 1/2 C. of the cilantro, about a 1/4 C. of the reserved juice, and 1/4 C. of the drained diced tomato. Blend until smooth.


3. Now add about a cup of the diced tomato and the roughly chopped half onion to the smooth mixture in the blender. Pulse until the onion is chopped to your satisfaction. Dump out the blender's mixture into a mixing bowl.


4. Dump about a cup of the remaining diced tomato into the blender. Pulse the blender until the tomato is as smooth as you want it and then dump it into your mixing bowl. Process the rest of the tomato the same way.


5. Add the remaining onion (the finely chopped half) to the mixing bowl.


6. Finely chop some cilantro and add that to the bowl.


7. Mix everything in the bowl well and put it in the fridge for an hour. Now taste for seasoning. I usually end up finely chopping the remaining jalapeno and adding that, but your mileage may vary. I also tend to start with a whole jalapeno and a little more garlic, cumin and oregano. You'll figure out what you prefer.


I usually put it in a big ziplock and let it wait an hour in the fridge before serving.

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So the blender is able to chop the peppercorns and cumin seeds fine enough so no one gets a crunchy surprise in the finished product? Interesting.


I am always looking for a good salsa recipe because salsa is one of those things where homemade is invariably many times better than anything in a jar (barbeque sauce is another). I'll have to try this one out...sounds good!

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So the blender is able to chop the peppercorns and cumin seeds fine enough so no one gets a crunchy surprise in the finished product?


Definitely. I've made this with an old Oster brand blender as well as a new KitchenAid and it worked fine. Now, that stuff that gets blended in Step 1 gets blended on the puree or liquify setting for until I'm satisfied that everything is ground up. The rest is pulse.


I like my salsa roja a little chunky, so I *just* pulse the tomato in batches. Somtimes I don't blend *any* onion and just add a finely chopped onion to the mixing bowl. Some people like it very smooth, like in some restaurants, so do whatever you like.


You will definitely make a better second batch when you figure out that you like less onion, more jalapeno, more cumin or whatever. Use the amounts as a general guide.


I have a suspicion that the salsa would like some toasted pumpkin seeds in step one, so I'll try that some time.


Tomorrow: Salsa Verde.

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I am always looking for a good salsa recipe because salsa is one of those things where homemade is invariably many times better than anything in a jar (barbeque sauce is another). I'll have to try this one out...sounds good!


If you've got a good BBQ sauce recipe or two, please share. Store bought is so very disapponting.

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Salsa Verde



Time needed: Maybe 20 minutes

Difficulty level: Mainstreaming

Specialty ingredients: None




1 lb. fresh tomatillos

1 jalapeno

1 sm. onion

big handful cilantro

1 t. whole cumin seeds

3 cloves fresh garlic (not bottled or powdered!)

1/2 ripe avocado



1. Boil some water in a pot. Add 1/4 t. of salt to the water.


2. Tear off the stems and papery husks from the tomatillos. Cut them in half (or quarters for the really large ones -- you're shooting for vague uniformity here). When the water is boiling, dump these guys into the boiling water. Ignore their screams. They don't have nerve endings and can't really feel anything.


3. Remove the stems from a big handful of cilantro, and roughly chop the onion and jalapeno.


4. After a couple minutes you'll see the bright green color fade from the tomatillos and they will be soft. Grab a strainer, fish them out and drop it into your blender.


5. Add the rest of the ingredients (but no salt and only 1/4 of an avocado) to the blender, hit puree and wait until everything is smooth. Taste it. Adjust seasoning -- you may want another 1/4 more salt, more garlic, whatever. If the consistancy is fine, you're done. If it is too thin for your preference, add the other 1/4 of the avocado.


6. Put the whole thing in a jar or covered bowl and put it in the fridge. Wait a couple hours to serve.


EDIT: I forgot to say that you can completely omit the avocado if you want. I find that it brings the consistency up to the point where it won't run right off tortilla chips when dipping. If you are making this to top, say, chicken enchiladas (or to go in chicken enchiladas), the avocado is probably unnecessary.

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This is my favorite basic, tomato-based barbecue sauce. The Dr. Pepper helps sweeten the sauce and gives it a kind of mildly spicy, floral undertone. IMHO.


This recipe comes via Steve Raichlen's Barbecue Bible web site. I have three of his books and they are all outstanding. Most of my grilling recipes are either from his books or start from the recipes in his books. Try his Tandoori Cauliflower recipe!


Finally, for the n00bs out there, never grill with barbecue sauce -- the sugar burns. Use a rub or a mop sauce (or a combination of the two) instead and baste with barbecue sauce only as a finishing sauce just before you pull the meat off the grill.






1 large juicy lemon

1 clove garlic, peeled and lightly crushed with the side of a cleaver

1 thin (1/4-inch) slice onion

1 cup Dr Pepper

3/4 cup ketchup

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons A.1. steak sauce

1 tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce, or more to taste

1 tablespoon cider vinegar,or more to taste

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Coarse salt (kosher or sea)


1. Cut the lemon in half cross wise and cut a 1/4-inch slice off of one half. Remove any seeds in this slice. Juice the remaining lemon: You should have 2 to 3 tablespoons juice.


2. Place the lemon slice, 2 table spoons of the lemon juice, and the garlic, onion slice, Dr Pepper, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, hot sauce, vinegar, liquid smoke, and pepper in a heavy nonreactive saucepan and gradually bring to a boil over medium heat.


3. Reduce the heat slightly to maintain a gentle simmer. Let the sauce simmer gently until thick and richly flavored, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more lemon juice, hot sauce, and/or vinegar as necessary and seasoning with salt to taste, if desired.


4. Strain the sauce into a bowl (or clean glass jars) and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate, covered, until serving. The sauce will keep for several months in the refrigerator.


Bring to room temperature before serving.

Yield: Makes about 2 cups

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Jay, I couldn't agree more about Raichlen's books. I have "How to Grill" and the "Barbeque Bible" and they are simply the two best cookbooks I own. The sauce you posted is delicious, but my wife doesn't care for it for some reason so I use his basic barbeque rub and sauce for ribs and chicken. I found the recipe for his basic rub on his website:


Basic Barbeque Rub

1/4 cup coarse salt (kosher or sea)

1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

1/4 cup paprika

3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon dried onion flakes

1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon celery seeds



Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir or whisk to mix. Transfer to a jar, cover, and store away from heat and light. The rub will keep for several months.

Makes 1 cup


I use that rub on almost every chicken or pork dish I grill and it is amazing how much flavor it adds compared to just sauce alone. Rub it on the meat, let it marinate in for anywhere from 15 mins to 4 hours, grill the meat, and then as Jay said put the finishing sauce on just before you take the meat off the grill (I actually put it on about 15 mins before to sizzle the sauce, but that is over indirect heat. Over direct heat it would be more like 5 mins so the sugar doesn't burn.)


The basic sauce is very easy to make, and it is absolutely superb. Off the top of my head, it has ketchup, brown sugar, cider vinegar, worcestershire sauce, mustard, liquid smoke, dark molasses, some of that barbeque rub, hot sauce, onion and garlic powder, and maybe a few other things. Basically just throw that stuff in a pot and heat to blend and then reduce slightly. Couldn't be easier and it tastes fantastic. I will post the actual recipe for everyone else when I get home tonight.

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That is the same basic rub I use for chicken and it's is a fantastic thing to keep around all summer. I also use his basic mop sauce for chicken (the one that's is basically vinegar, worcestershire sauce and 2 TB of the basic rub).


Check out the recipe for the Filipino rib rub. I substituted the szechuan peppercorns for black peppercorns and added a single allspice berry to my grinder. It was killer on slow-baked pork shoulder.


And, Dave, pick up Raichlen's Barbecue U.S.A. as well!

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I don't have the Barbecue bible book, but I do have a book that he did on Sauces, rubs & marinates that's pretty good. Got a great steak rub out of there that's replaced the Club House Montreal Steak Spice as my go-to steak prep ingredient. Had to modify it slightly of course (more cayenne never hurt anyone :) but there's some good ideas in there.


fantastic thing to keep around all summer.


What, you have a problem with Barbecuing in the winter :) Sure, it's a little cold out, and you might have to shovel out the BBQ, but there's meat to be cooked!

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I have to put my 2 cents into the BBQ mix. My church has 2 big chicken sales every year. We get up about 4:00 am, get the fires going by the busiest street in town, then cook about 500 chickens over open pits for everyone to see/smell/eat...sells out every time.


Anyway, we use a "throw" made of basic spices, then a "dip" that we apply literally with mops. The entire process is fantastic and the chickens turn out great. I adapted our method for home use. If you're looking for a good, basic BBQ chicken recipe from start to finish, try:


Dip (We do this in enormous quantities, so the measurement are off, but close):


1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp vinegar

1 tsp hot sauce

4 tbsp any sweet BBQ sauce

2 tbsp butter


Combine all ingredients over heat until combined. Can keep in fridge or use immediately. Keep in mind this is not the finishing sauce, but more of a baste during the cooking process. It's purposely thin and a bit on the sour side. The chicken won't retain the bitterness after cooking, though.


1. Take chicken or chicken pieces and clean thoroughly. I like the skin on, but whatever you prefer. Sprinkle with mixture of spices you like (I like salt, pepper, garlic powder, seasoned salt, and paprika). Place the rub on top of and inside the skin.


2. Bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes on 350. While cooking, get grill up to low-medium heat. The baking almost makes the chicken done enough to eat, but not quite.


3. On low-medium heat, grill chicken for 30-35 minutes, turning only 2-3 times, but basting frequently with the "dip."


4. As Robot Monkey says above, do NOT add finishing sauce until the final 5 minutes, be sure to turn heat as low as possible once sauce is added. Use what you like, but I generally use the above "dip" recipe and add a bunch of brown sugar, some ketchup, and Coke, reduced over heat until thick.


The whole process takes a while, but is worth it. If anyone is interested, I also use a charcoal smoker quite a bit and use it for chickens, too. I'll post my method if it's wanted.

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Alrighty, then.


First, take the bird and clean it out, but do NOT cut it up. Basically snap the back so it lays flat. Be sure to leave the skin on...it becomes important later. Try not to seperate the skin from the chicken, but cut 4 or 5 inch-long slits in the skin and place seasons between the skin and the meat. Be sure to cover the skin with seasonings as well. I like salt, pepper, garlic powder, seasoned salt, and paprika, but whatever you like is fine.


Place the chicken on a sheet and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or so at about 350 degrees. The chicken will get pretty close to done, but still a ways to go before it's ready to eat. The beauty of this is that the temperature of the smoker can stay low and still cook the chicken through. The smoking process becomes more about flavor and less about getting the meat just the right temperature.


While it's baking, I get the smoker ready and the charcoal started. I really like to use hickory or mesquite wood chips (soaked in water for at least 30 minutes) in with my charcoal. This creates an enormous amount of smoke, so be sure you're aware of the wind direction and any open windows/concerned neighbors...my son's room still has a bit of "flavor" in it. In the water pan, I usually cut up one apple and one onion, then add a little apple juice in with the water.


After baking the chicken and getting the charcoal smoker to 200-250 degrees, place the bird inside. Let it go for about 2 hours, not disturbing anything if possible. Starting at the 2 hour mark, baste with the "dip" I mentioned a few posts above every 30-45 minutes or so. After about 4-5 total hours, the chicken should be done.


However, I add an extra step that really makes it nice. Once the above process is complete, I remove the water pan and add some small sticks or wood chunks directly into the charcoal. It lights up and creates a nice, small fire. Keep the chicken about 12-14" above the flame, but let the skin get crispy on the bottom after being exposed to the flame for just a couple of minutes. Flip the chicken over, but be very careful, it's extremely tender and can easily fall apart. I usually take a second grill grate, place it on top of the chicken so the bird centered directly between the two grates, then flip the whole deal over. Place the newly-flipped chicken above the flame and let the skin get nice and crispy. Apply remaining dip liberally and serve.


I've tried the fire method twice and really had fantastic results. Be very careful, though, the fire can burn the chicken very quickly without proper attention. The first time, I charred the skin, but the meat underneath was perfectly done and juicy as could be. I was a little more careful the second time, perfectly browning the skin....the best result I've ever had after smoking probably 12-15 birds. It could probably be accomplished just as easily on my grill, but hey, I get to play with fire this way.:D

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Alrighty, then...


That looks like a really tasty method, Bass. Sometimes I finish in the oven, but I don't think I ever started there.


IIRC, I've boiled ribs before grilling and it came off pretty well.


Have you experimented with your wood chips at all? For burgers, I'm *very* partial to Woodbridge Winery Vintage Barrel Chips.

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Have you experimented with your wood chips at all? For burgers, I'm *very* partial to Woodbridge Winery Vintage Barrel Chips.


Not really, but I'd like to. Around these here parts, hickory is the wood of choice, but I really liked the mesquite chips last time. I don't know what type of wood it is, but it was somehow flavor infused. I've heard very good things about the barrell chips though. I saw some Jack Daniel's barrell chips at the store, but didn't want that cheap Tennessee whiskey touching my meat...Maker's Mark or nothing for this Kentuckian.


IIRC, I've boiled ribs before grilling and it came off pretty well.


I tried that once, but I'm completely missing something...they were hard and rubbery. I don't know, maybe the heat is too high. Something's just not right...

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Boiling or parboiling ribs before you grill them is one way to go but I haven't had good luck with that method either (my ribs end up rubbery as well). I don't have a smoker so I do my smoking in a Weber charcoal kettle grill (I use the Weber gas grill mostly to cook thin cuts of meat like chicken breasts or veggies). I have tried a few different methods of smoking ribs, including wrapping them in tin foil with some apple cider and letting them steam for an hour or so during cooking, but the tastiest way I know is also the simplest (and again, this is mostly an adaptation of Raichlen's recipe):


I take two or three racks of baby back ribs (spareribs are meatier and more flavorful but for some reason my wife and I both prefer the baby backs), peel the membrane off the backs of them, and then dust both sides of each rack LIBERALLY with the barbeque rub I posted earlier. I let that marinate in the fridge for at least an hour, preferrably two or three. I used to marinate them in apple cider and the juice of one lemon for a few hours in the fridge and then marinate them in the rub but I got tired of waiting 4-6 hours just to begin smoking the ribs. :)


It's always a challenge to smoke things in a kettle grill because you have to maintain a heat of no more than 225 degrees without letting the coals just die out. What I do is light a chimney of coals and let it burn down until they are entirely coated with gray ash. Then I pour a few cups of apple cider into a big foil drip pan and put it right down on the grate that the coals sit on and dump the coals on either side of the pan. I close the air vents about 2/3 on the bottom and put my rib stand with the three racks of ribs directly over the drip pan. Finally I dump some presoaked wood chips on the coals, replace the grill cover, and then stick a candy thermometer in the holes on the top of the lid so that the tip is right at grill level. It's not a perfect way to gauge heat but my kettle doesn't have a built-in thermometer and the candy one is the longest one I own.


From there it's a dance between closing the air vents on the bottom of the grill enough to maintain a temp of about 200-225 degrees without letting the coals die out. As the coals burn down I very gradually open the vents to keep the temperature as constant as possible, and usually at about every hour mark I will start another chimney going so that by the time the original coals are exhausted I can replenish them (along with more soaked wood chips). Also, every half hour or so while the ribs are cooking I will spritz them with some apple cider to keep them moist.


I find baby backs cook from raw to perfection at 225 degrees in about 2.5 hours. I take them out with about 20 mins to go and slather them with a finishing sauce (aka barbeque sauce) but I have also left that off and eaten them with just the rub and they come out delicious.


This method results in some truly spectacular ribs, but the odd thing is they make lousy leftovers. They are incredibly smoky tasting, which is great when they first come off the grill, but by the next day the smoke flavor will intensify greatly, to the point that it actually detracts from the flavor of the ribs, rub, and sauce. Not that leftovers are usually a problem. :)


Barbeque sauce recipe to follow, as promised earlier...

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Here's Raichlen's barbeque sauce recipe I promised this morning. I have made lots of different barbeque sauces over the years but I find myself coming back to this one time and time again. It's got a great combination of sweet, smoky, and spicy that is fantastic on pork and chicken especially.


Barbeque Sauce

2 cups ketchup

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons molasses

2 tablespoons prepared mustard (I like Gulden's spicy brown for this)

1 tablespoon hot sauce (Texas Pete is my poison here)

1 tablespoon barbeque rub (recipe posted earlier)

2 teaspoons liquid smoke

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


Just throw all that stuff in a saucepan, bring to boil, and then reduce to medium and simmer about 10 mins.


Liquid gold.

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