I’m fair how are you?

I haven’t done much cooking lately, at least not for myself. The Exchange Club Fair was in town last week, and I spent five days cooking hamburgers and sausage for the hungry crowds.  I have been a member of the Exchange Club since 1994, and during that time I’ve always helped with the fair. It’s something I really love. In fact, I have on occasion, considered running away and traveling the country as a carny. I always wanted to be the guy that ran the Flying Bobs. Commonsense usually takes over and I realize that might not be the best idea.

Hopefully, I will get back to cooking next week. There are some new things I want to try and some I want to revisit to see what can be improved. I am working on blocking the week and trying to focus on one thing depending on what day it is. For example, Mystery Box Monday. If I cook on Monday the main ingredient will be a surprise.  Back to basics Tuesday would be a cooking method or recipe that should be second nature to a good cook, like risotto or roasting chicken.  I hope it will make planning what to cook easier, and give some structure to my cooking and recipe selection.

So with that I will leave you until the next post. Be on the lookout for the Friday Morning Roundup and in the meantime, I would like to know what your favorite fair food is? Mine is corn dogs, or anything on a stick for that matter.


Steak and pie

I like steak, a lot. I don’t care how you cook it, as long as it’s not over cooked. Sous Chef Carrie picked up  a couple the other day, so I used one of my favorite recipes – Alton Browns Pan Seared Rib Eye. The only drawback to cooking this way is your house will smell like a steak house for days to come. Honestly, there comes a point where you wonder if the oven caught fire because of the smoke boiling out, but in the end it is so worth it. Just a little salt, pepper and oil is all you need for a great steak. That, and a rocket hot cast iron skillet. I decided at the end to add a bit of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, since I had it in the fridge.

For the sides, or garnish, if you’re a Hell’s Kitchen fan, I went with homemade mashed potatoes, fried eggplant spears, homemade, rough-cut coleslaw and sautéed mushrooms and onions in a white wine reduction. I wish I had recipes to post for these, but I really just made it up as I went along.  It’s all pretty easy using things I had on hand.

The potatoes were cubed, then boiled and finally tossed into the stand mixer. I added a little salt, pepper, minced garlic, half and half, and some Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Then I turned on the mixer and let it go until the potatoes became light and fluffy. While this was happening, the eggplant was sliced and salted, to draw out some of the moisture. Then, I coated the spears with flour and fried until GBD (golden brown and delicious). The coleslaw consisted of shredded green and red cabbages, shredded carrots, diced jalapeno, a little red bell pepper, and some store-bought slaw dressing. To make the mushrooms, I chopped some Portobello mushrooms and onion, added that to a pan and poured in some white wine and Worcestershire sauce. This was brought to a simmer and cooked for about 15 minutes.

That’s it. Simple, made up on the fly, and so good. I love using recipes, but sometimes it’s good to just wing it and come up with your own ideas. I was stuffed.

But wait, there was  pie cooling in the kitchen. Not just any pie. My first pie ever. A sweet potato pie sitting in a pie shell I created from scratch. So, I had to have a slice.

I got the recipe from Paula Deen. No, not from her personally.  The recipe can be found here, and the pie shell came from Frugal Feeding, How to Make Perfect Shortcrust Pastry. Sweet potato pie is one of my favorite desserts, ok pie in general is my favorite dessert,  and the addition of the cream cheese made this incredibly creamy and smooth. The pie shell turned out good, too, so thanks to Frugal for the great recipe. It really wasn’t hard and now I have pie under my belt. Just remember one thing – don’t forget about the pie shell baking in the oven.

So there you have it, another episode of What’s Travis Cooking. Be sure to tune in next week when I will post about my experiences cooking burgers on a flat top and the Burke County Exchange Club Fair. In the meantime, what have you, the faithful reader been cooking? Have you tried anything I’ve posted? I would love to hear about your experiences.

Chicken picatta, and the green plate

I was going to say it had been a slow week for cooking but after last night I don’t think that holds true anymore. When I got home from Myrtle Beach (still working on that post) I decided to vegge out and Tuesday wasn’t much better. Wednesday was burger night at the shop and that was relatively easy so I decided I needed a challenge.

One of our customers brought in a box of peaches and green peppers so I snagged about eight of each Wednesday and stared thinking about what to do with them. Stuffed peppers are coming next week but the peaches looked so good, I had to go ahead and use them. I had never made peach cobbler so I thought, why not go ahead and bring out the big guns and do risotto too. I had never done either it should be fun. Throw in a little chicken picatta and steamed broccoli and you either have a great meal or quite a challenging evening. I will go ahead and say it was both.

I  made the cobbler up first since it would take time in the oven and need a chance to cool a little and set up. The peaches were fresh and perfect and would have been very good on their own. The cobbler turned out really good. A little bready and not as much “juice” as I would have liked but still very good.

After preparing the cobbler I moved to the chicken picatta. I used some frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts that I had in the freezer and whipping it up didn’t take long at all. I had made this before so I knew it would be good. I added a little extra lemon juice and capers than called for because I love both.

At this point I got the broccoli steaming and move into the most challenging portion of the evening, the mushroom and scallion risotto. If you have ever seen Hells Kitchen then you can understand my apprehension in making this dish. As I was preparing it I kept waiting for Gordon Ramsay yell at me to p*ss off, and get out of the kitchen, but it never happened.  It was a lot of work. Stirring and adding the stock to the rice, I was wondering if it would ever get done or if my arm was going to fall off first, but it finally did and I have to say it was one of the best things on the plate last night. Creamy and just a hint of the white wine, if it wasn’t so labor intensive I would make this for every meal.

After plating the food I realized I had made and error. There was color on the plate and everything looked really good but it was all green. Not a bad thing but a little off looking in my opinion. I guess I will have to work on harmonizing the colors a little better in the future.

All in all a good, hard night but fun and quite tasty.  Check out the recipes and give them a shot and if you do let me know what you think.

Peach Cobbler

Chicken Picatta

Mushroom Risotto

9/30 Friday Morning Roundup

It’s Friday! Time for the Roundup

Gruyere Risotto Cakes
Pork Tenderloin with Apple Stuffing and Cider Gravy

Perfect Pesto Pasta

Venison Medallions with Cognac Sauce

Stuffed Peppers

Baked Ziti Marsala

Two ways with rump steak… part two

The Friday Morning Roundup (FMR) is a list of recipes (and anything else I deem worthy of posting) that I have found around the web and wanted to share. I make no claims as to how they taste or how they would turn out if you made them but if you do let me know what you think and, if I make them I will post them in a follow up in the future.

09/12 Friday Morning Roundup (In the afternoon)

The Friday Morning Roundup (FMR) is a list of recipes (and anything else I deem worthy of posting) that I have found around the web and wanted to share. I make no claims as to how they taste or how they would turn out if you made them but if you do let me know what you think and, if I make them I will post them in a follow up in the future.

Sous chef for a night

Last night I turned over the kitchen to sous chef Carrie who came up with a really great meal. Pan Fried Pork Chops w/Mushroom Pan Sauce, Vegetable Medley, Martini Macaroni and Cheese, Cream Cheese Pound Cake and Ice Cream.

I mean what more could you want. The bone in chops were seasoned with a little salt and pepper and we made a pan sauce with white wine and mushrooms. For the vegetables we simply cut up squash, onion, and a little jalapeno for heat sauteed in bacon drippings.

The star of last nights meal though was the Martini Mac and cheese. If you like olives then you will defiently love this. It was creamy and the olives added a slightly salty taste, but gave it a great texture contrast to the noodles and cheese. I would certainly make this again. It’s was also really good leftover for lunch and eaten right out of the fridge.

For dessert there was pound cake. I’m not a big dessert person but I do like pound cake, and not just any pound cake, a cream cheese pound cake. I really love the taste and texture that the cream cheese gives it versus a sour cream pound cake.

All in all a great meal that left me stuffed but, on the bright side there was left over mac and cheese. There may be some friend mac and cheese pictures coming soon.

Martini Mac and Cheese

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Beef Stroganoff

Last night I decided to pull out an old tried and true. My mothers Beef Stroganoff recipe. It’s good easy comfort food, and I love the flavor. Served with wide egg noodles, Le Sueur Peas, and some garlic bread, it is one of my all time favorites. The original recipe calls for sliced chuck roast but I use hamburger sometimes. Also I add fresh mushrooms and Worcestershire to taste. I like a little more than the recipe calls for. This is also makes great leftovers so I usually make a double batch.

Beef Stroganoff

“There can be only one”

***Spoiler Alert***

It was no surprise that Paul and Will were the last two standing in the finally of Hell’s Kitchen. Check a couple of posts back and you will see that I even called it. I’m not going to question chef Ramsay, he sees more than we do since we at home view get the chopped up edited version of the show.

I think in the end either one was a good choice and have felt that way since the early episodes of the show. Both seemed to have it together early on and didn’t get caught up in the drama that always seemed to surround some of the other contestants.

I’m not sure why Tommy was in the final four. Every time they showed him he was screwing something up. It may have just been the dumbfounded look that the camera kept catching though.

And of course there was Elise, the one everyone loved to hate. I love reading the comments on Facebook about her but I think she can cook and must have done something right to go as far as she did. I think she really shined last night though.

In the end it was Paul. After the initial tasting of his dishes I would not have bet on him but he seemed to pull it together in the end. I really thought Will had it but the choice was made and Paul deserved it.

So now that that’s out of the way and Master Chef is over what do we watch now?



Ribs… part II

We spent Friday evening preparing our 6 slabs of ribs for the contest. Trimming and rubbing them down with our special blend of spices. Saturday morning started at 6:30am, cold and windy, very unusual for September in Georgia. We lit our fire at 6:45am and started setting up our tents and chairs. Buy 7am our smoker was at 225 degrees and ready for the meat. We placed out ribs on the racks and closed the lid hoping for perfection in about 4 hours.

Unfortunately it wast meant to be. We came in 10th in the rib cook off this weekend. I can only assume that the ribs that beat us were out of this world because our ribs were fantastic. Tender, juicy, sweet, and a little spicy. I’m not sure what else we could have done but rest assured we will continue to practice until we can win a contest, or get sick of eating ribs.

I said the other day that I would post the recipe if we lost so check below for that, and I am also posting the recipe for the jalapeno poppers that we made up to snack on as well. If you make these be careful, they were pretty hot wow were the good.

Competition Ribs

Jalapeno Poppers


Everyone loves fall of the bone tender ribs and I cook really good ribs that way. Rub them down with a little seasoning and throw them on the grill. They are great. One thing people don’t understand about competition BBQ is that while cooking ribs is fairly easy cooking them correctly for competition is not. I once asked the question of why competition ribs should be tender but not fall off the bone. I was told that anyone can cook them this way but there is a fine line to getting them just right where they yield to gentle pressure and peel away from the bone clean and fall off the bone done. In competition you strive for this perfect balance between tender but not over done.

Saturday Fire in the Hole BBQ will be competing at Racks by the Tracks in Waynesboro GA and looking for those perfect ribs to turn into the judges and hoping to hear our name called as the first place winner. If you get a chance come out and say hello. We won’t be selling anything this year but always love to see people while we are cooking.

I have been doing this for a long time and I feel like we have a really good rib to turn in this year. As always it will be in interesting time and if we don’t win I will post the recipe for everyone. If we do win I am keeping it to myself.

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