BBQ Deconstructed, Part 2: Smoked Jerk Turkey Legs, Mac n Cheese, Smoked Stuffed Jalapeños.

In Part 1 of this post I gave a modest philosophical defense of cooking “the hard way” as the secret to good BBQ. I stand by this and will add that in my opinion spending all day sweating, chopping, shredding, and marinating is my twisted idea of a good time. In addition to getting you off your ass and making you work for your meal it is creative and challenging and gives you a sense of pride that you can’t get anywhere else. But I will skip the philosophizing for now and get to the food.

Smoked Stuffed Jalapenos a.k.a. Atomic Buffalo Turds.

I came across a recipe on the internet for something called Atomic Buffalo Turds, which are basically jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese and “little smokies” sausages, wrapped in bacon and grilled or smoked. I am not a fan of the name or the little smokies but I used this as an inspiration to make my own smoked stuffed jalapeños as an appetizer for our July 4th BBQ this year.

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Ingredients.

20 Jalapeños
1 lb Colombian Chorizo
1 pkg cream cheese
20 slices bacon
About ¼- ½ lb cheddar cheese

I picked up about 20 large jalapeños at the local market, and decided to go with Colombian Chorizo in lieu of the little smokies. I also added some white cheddar left over from making macaroni and cheese (little white chunks in the zip lock baggie left over from hand-grating the cheese). I cut the jalapeños in half and removed the seeds and veins. Jalapeños vary wildly in terms of heat level but these were on the hot side and gave my hands mild chemical burns by the time I was done so I will remember to wear gloves next time.

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Chop up the chorizo (remove the skin if it is not too much of a hassle) and brown it in a saute pan. Once cooked add the cream cheese and cheddar cheese and stir until the cheese is melted. You need to let the mix cool down so do this part first and set it aside while you prepare the jalapeños.

Cut 20 slices of bacon in half. Stuff the peppers with a spoonful or so of the chorizo/cheese mixture, wrap with a half slice of bacon and use a toothpick to hold it all together.

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Smoke for about 2 hours or until the bacon is cooked. I threw them in a foil pan and added to the top warming rack of my smoker while the meat was smoking. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of the final product so you will need to use your imagination for that.

Smoked Jerk Turkey Legs.

The star of our BBQ this year was pernil ahumado, a specialty of mine to which I have dedicated a post last year. If you are going to make something like as succulent and elaborate as that you can’t just throw on some burgers to go alongside it. When people see that pernil on the smoker their eyes get wide and their mouths start to water (I myself can’t stop looking at the picture below). You either need to make enough pernil to feed everyone or you need to throw something equally eye-popping alongside it. For me, that calls for Smoked Jerk Turkey Legs.

pernil ahumado

pernil ahumado

I have posted a recipe for Smoked Turkey Legs before. I have also posted a recipe for Jerk Chicken. Each is a standby for me in its own right. But combine the two in an unholy matrimony and you get something sublime and unique and mouthwateringly delicious.

First I start with a brine. This step is not required but highly recommended as it will add flavor and make the meat more moist and tender. The jerk rub is not going to penetrate to the center of a turkey leg no matter how long you let it marinate. If you want to get those jerk flavors to penetrate deep into the meat, you need to incorporate them into your brine. I brined about 20 lbs of turkey legs in a gallon of brine. To make the brine, I boiled the water with ¼ cup kosher salt, 1 tbsp fresh ground allspice, 1 tbsp fresh ground coriander, 1 tbsp thyme, 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tsp black pepper, 2 scotch bonnet peppers, and ¼ cup Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning. Allow to cool and then pour into a brining bag with the turkey legs, and leave in the refrigerator or a cooler for 4-6 hours.

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Once brining is complete, drain the bag and remove the turkey legs. Rinse and pat dry if you want – this is always recommended but I never do it. This is a short soak in a relatively low-salt brine so it is really not going to make the meat that salty. Next you are going to rub the meat with the same dry rub/wet rub combination I described in my post on Jerk Chicken. Be generous with the rubs, these are thicker and more savory than chicken pieces.

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Allow to marinate overnight, then smoke at 250-275’F for 4-6 hours. Eat right off the bones like a caveman or chop the meat into a pan before serving.

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Macaroni and Cheese.

When I barbecue I don’t skimp on side dishes, and since most of the time I am barbecueing with a Latin or Caribbean twist that usually includes rice, beans, plantains, etc which I think most folks appreciate as a nice change of pace from the typical potato salad/cole slaw cookout fare. But at this point, regardless of what meat I cook or what other side dishes I whip up, it is becoming mandatory to include what has become my specialty – macaroni and cheese. It is the type of thing that people rave about, drool over, and from time to time stab one another with plastic knives over when the pan runs low. There are thousands of recipes online and everyone claims they know the secret so I will spare you all that and just give you my version, which at this point I am comfortable with saying I have perfected.

I will say I think there are three keys to making this really good. First, Velveeta is disgusting. But you need something to make this creamy, if you only use cheddar cheese it will be hard and look like a lasagna or something. Use cheddar cheese soup instead of Velveeta. It will make it creamy and you will not taste it. Second, gate your own cheese. I read that the packages of shredded cheese have some additives to keep them from sticking together that also makes them not melt as well. All I know is that once I started grating my own cheese (not easy, using the crappy mandolin I use) it really put it over the top. Buy a block of good cheddar cheese and grate it yourself. You can do it the day before to save time. Finally, add some pepper flakes or chipotle powder. Not enough to make it notably spicy (cheese really takes the edge off of the peppers anyway), but enough to give it some character. I have used red pepper flakes, homegrown ancho powder, and store-bought chipotle powder with good results each time. A couple tablespoons will usually do.

Ingredients.

1 lb elbow macaroni
2 lbs block cheddar cheese (Cabot White Cheddar works great), grated
2 cans Cheddar Cheese Soup
4-8 tbsp butter
1 can of milk (eh…pour the milk into the can, don’t buy milk in a can)
1 egg
Salt
Chipotle Powder or Red Pepper Flakes

Cook the macaroni per the directions on the box (I prefer to slightly undercook it). Drain and rinse the macaroni and return to the pan. Add the rest of the ingredients (save a cup or two of cheese) and stir until you have a creamy, gooey mess. Pour into a pan, top with the remaining cheese and a bit of paprika for looks, then bake at 350’F for 30 minutes.

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Make sure you make enough for everyone. Trust me if you don’t it will get ugly.

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