Saturday, August 31, 2013

BBQ Chicken

For the last holiday outdoor BBQ of summer, the Grinch of the Grill serves up a Labor Day BBQ Chicken recipe. Almost everyone has their own recipe but I take it a step further with a dry rub for extra flavor. Read on for my grilling tips, 99 Cent Chef style.

My dry rub uses easy-to-get small bottles of spices. You can use any of these you have on hand. The dry rub doesn't have to have every ingredient I list -- it will still be flavorful. And you can use a favorite BBQ sauce, either store bought or homemade.

What I like to do is grill the dry rub coated chicken pieces until almost done. If you have a favorite BBQ sauce add it during the last couple of minutes. Don't slather it on until the end because most sauces have a lot of sugar -- so the chicken can burn too much.

I bought a whole chicken at my local Latin market for 77 cents a pound. It takes just a few minutes to break it down into wings, leg quarters and a whole breast. I even cut out the back and grilled that up. Of course you can use any favorite cheap cuts of packaged poultry.

Dark meat leg quarters takes longer to grill than white meat breast, so I like to leave the breast whole, that way it's ready about the same time. The wings and back cook quicker, so you will need to check on them earlier. (If you use spit breast halves, then check on them earlier as well.) All the chicken is ready when there are no red juices when pierced and no red meat showing -- just make a small cut to the bone as well, to check for doneness.)

I use a gas grill so it's easier to control the cooking time, but if you have a typical charcoal grill you should let it cook over a hot heat at the beginning, but move the chicken pieces towards the edges when you add BBQ sauce, so it doesn't burn too quickly. You may need to move the chicken pieces to the edge when the skin sides are cooking, too - they tend to flare up the coals from all the dripping fat.

And I have a couple of classic BBQ sides for you, just click on the following names of Coleslaw and Potato Salad to see my recipes.

So for your final holiday BBQ, just follow a few of my cheap$kate tips for a delicious backyard BBQ Chicken feast.

Ingredients (2 to 4 servings, depending on size of bird)
  • 1 whole chicken - cut up into leg quarters, breast, wings, and back. You can use leg quarters only or any favorite poultry cuts (with or without skin.)
  • Favorite BBQ sauce

Dry Rub Ingredients (use any combination, don't worry if you have it all. Spices are ground and dry.)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (or flakes)
  • 1 teaspoon salt - or garlic salt. (Then leave out garlic power.)
  • 1 teaspoon pepper


Get the grill going if you use charcoal.

Add dry rub spices in a bowl and mix well.

Coat chicken pieces on all sides with the dry rub mix. (You can leave on or take off the skin.) 

Fire up the gas grill (or wait until your coals burn white.) I like to start grilling with the skin side up so the fat and juices coat and moisten the grill. Depending on the grill heat, it should take 3-5 minutes for each side to cook through.

You will need to go by sight, so check the chicken pieces and cook until they are medium charred. Flip them over onto the skin side.

Cook the skin side for a about 3-5 minutes more (again check for medium char, as fire temperature will vary.)

Now time to finish up. Add BBQ sauce to charred side. Carefully turn over (skin may stick so loosen slowly, grabbing skin to pull it free) and add bbq sauce. You only need to cook another minute or so, on each side, to caramelize some of the bbq sauce.

Check for doneness with a small cut to the bone -- no blood or redness should be there. Or if you have a thermometer the internal temp is 165 degrees.

And serve with my cheap$kate coleslaw or potato salad.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cheap$kate Dining Video - McDonald's Filet-O-Fish Friday

The Penny-Pinching Cafe Critic dives deep into the fast-food waters and takes a bite out of McDonald's popular fish sandwich, the Filet-O-Fish.

Now, I'm not above eating a giant fast-food chain's meal from time to time, unlike local food newspaper critics whose taste buds have been so elevated as to be out of touch, like this condescending review by LA Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila's of a McDonald's Premium Wrap (a portion of the article's title says it all "Fast Food Virgin") just click here to read the tasteless prose describing the zombie-like clientele and food. Hey, if you can get a paid-for gig eating the cream of the crop, power to you, but don't look down on the palates of the pay-your-own-way teaming masses. That's right, I'm defending fast food cuisine, so read on to have your taste buds corrupted. (And check out my Cheap$kate Dining video review at end of this post.)

The price is right at $1.59 (plus tax,) when McDonald's brings back the Filet-O-Fish Fridays special - that's practically half price! (In Los Angeles the sandwich is normally priced at $3.19, and a meal is $5.19.) I always look for a banner or window poster on the facade that announces it's return. The Friday Special usually lasts a month at a time and returns a couple of times a year. (Usually during the Christian days of Lent in March and April.) But those are plenty of days to get my deep-fried flaky fish fix.

I've always been a fan of the Filet-O-Fish. It's certainly small but has all the ingredients that make fast food so addictive and palate-pleasing: white bread carbs, processed cheese, creamy sauce, and a well-prepared filet of protein.

The fish fillet is usually made of pollock, not tilapia, as the server mentioned at the start of my video.

And it makes a satisfying first bite. The bun is okay, but it's what's inside that counts. The fish filet is flaky and moist and the crust is not too thick or oily from deep frying. The coating is well seasoned and crunchy. And the filet has a pleasing mild taste.

I like the creamy tartar sauce too. They give you a generous scoop for the sandwich. And the mayo/pickle/vinegar mixture is well balanced and tart.

My one complaint is the small landing strip of melted American cheese. It's almost an afterthought - a thicker or larger slice is needed for better balance.

So check out The Bottom Feeding Chef's latest Cheap$kate Dining video to see how McDonald's Filet-O-Fish weighs in on a scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best.

McDonald's Filet-O-Fish Friday - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 1 minute, 40 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.
99 Thanks to Greg for shooting the Chef under the Santa Monica pier.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Restaurant Nocturnes XIII - Video

The Midnight Nosher is back with another nighttime roundup of Los Angeles eateries. Some old some new, some hip some old school. This is my thirteenth Restaurant Nocturne compilation video. And on the way to the video at the end of this post I'll point out, with photos and animated gifs, a few highlights to you.

It's been a banner year for new restaurants in Los Angeles. I feature a couple of notables where the young chefs who run them are still in their mid-twenties, and are lauded among the best chefs in America.

Alma in downtown Los Angeles just awarded Bon Appetit's "Best New Restaurant in America." Located between a Latino taxi dancing club and a marijuana dispensary, the look of Alma's facade is low key. (Just hanging out front shooting my photos I got an eyeful watching women in impossibly tight attire and high heels tap tap by cowboy hat wearing gents taking cigarette breaks outside the club next door.) The Chef co-owner, 27 year old Ari Taymor, earned his whites working in San Francisco restaurants then moving here becoming a pop-up chef -- taking over established restaurants during off hours or slow nights in Venice and Silverlake. Listen to the maitre d' give a delicious menu description that I recorded earlier this year.

East of downtown in the Echo Park neighborhood, at recently opened Allumette (French for "matchstick cut",) it's not too difficult to get a reservation... for now. Maybe it's because of the Echo Park location that they're not booked up months in advance, although they are hipster-adjacent to Silverlake. 25 year old Chef Miles Thompson (former sous-chef for dining hotspot Son of a Gun) gets creative sourcing local, organic and sustainable ingredients. For Allumette's video segment, cocktail creator Serena Herrick guides you through a menu of highlights with a voice as smooth as George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey.

Night + Market, at the West end of the Sunset Strip, is the best deal on that end of the Boulevard. While the Thai food by Chef Kris Yenbamroong is just "the kind of stuff he would eat after school with his buddies, when he was living in Bangkok," it's food reimagined with creativity and elevated ingredients, but not elevated in price -- appetizers start at $6 and most main entrees are from $10-$14 (with some "market priced" seafood.) Finally a cheap enough hipster eatery where even the Tightwad Cinematographer can set down his camera and tripod.

But for the cheapest deal in my Restaurant Nocturnes XIII video look no further than Top Round Roast Beef. The neo-fast food joint looks like it stepped out of a 1950's magazine advertisement. This middle American-style sparking new diner was hatched by a clutch of LA Chefs. The menu is just roast beef sandwiches and fries, plus desserts of frozen custard, shakes, floats and malts. The sandwiches are $4.95 to $6.45 a piece. For being a collaborative chef-centric menu, it's stripped down but well thought-out fast food fare. The roast beef is slow roasted for over 10 hours and some of the condiments are even made in-house. How about the Beef & Cheese sandwich with house made cheese "wizz" on an onion bun, and "Dirty" Fries with gravy, provel cheese, caramelized onions and round sauce? I'm one lucky photog because this joint is located on the corner of La Brea Avenue and Olympic Boulevard, just a couple of miles from my condo.

And I end with possibly the most unique restaurant in Los Angeles. Proud Bird is part museum and classic clubhouse restaurant, located just a few blocks from LAX on Aviation Boulevard. If you have a long layover at the airport (it's about a $5 taxi ride away) or are dropping off someone there, make it a point to drop by the Proud Bird sometime.

As you can see from the photo there are vintage airplanes on the grounds. I counted about a dozen. If you were an airplane model builder as a kid like I was, you could spend an hour walking around the grounds. They have everything from a WWI German Fokker to an American WWII Spitfire. And that's only the half of it. Once inside there are photo and memorabilia filled nooks and hallways dedicated to the barrier breaking WWII black Tuskegee Airmen, long distance flight aviatrix Amelia Earhart, and countless other air flight pioneers. Grab a happy hour drink special and a couple of signature tacos and roam the halls -- totally fascinating.

With 11 restaurants curated and photographed by The 99 Cent Chef, Restaurants Nocturnes XIII gives you a thumbnail inside and outside peek into the local bustling and varied food scene. Just hit the play button below and see for yourself, no reservation required.
Restaurant Nocturnes XIII - VIDEO

Play it here. Video runs 8 minutes, 9 seconds.

To view or embed from YouTube, click here.

Restaurants in order of appearance - click on name to see website or review:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Homemade McDonalds McRib Sandwich

Perpetually on it's final tour, the Frankenfood pork sandwich, McRib, is celebrated and reviled at the same time when it's reintroduced once or twice a year by McDonald's. For the latest outre entree The 99 Cent Chef rides to the rescue for those (with Job's patience) who love them. Well, the wait is over -- here's a cheaper Homemade McRib Sandwich you can make anytime!

For my cheap work lunches $1 (or 99 cent) Banquet and other frozen dinners are on rotation. Sometimes it's Salisbury Steak, Cheese Enchiladas or Turkey Dinners (it's not every day, as I have healthier frozen dinners I also find on sale.) I've recently added their Boneless Pork Riblet Meal. It was only a matter of time until I placed the Pork Riblet with it's barbeque sauce between two slices of bread, adding chopped raw onion and a few pickle slices. It didn't take long to put two and two together -- well, those are the ingredients for the McDonald's McRib sandwich.

Yeah, I know it's a cheat, but it's a lot of trouble to ground a bunch of mystery pork scraps to form a McDonald's McRib patty, so The Slothful Chef is taking the easy but tasty route! 

A McRib is relatively inexpensive -- but not cheap enough for The Frugal Forager. A McDonald's McRib sandwich cost almost $3, but with my chintzy twist, you can make your own for less than half that price, after the initial investment for a package of steak rolls, an onion and a small jar of pickles, plus a few Banquet Boneless Pork Riblet Meals. (Another homemade fast food entree I've done is an Egg McMuffin, that's also cheaper than the original, just click here to see my recipe video post.)

I always find all these ingredients cheaply, especially onion, pickles and bread at local 99c only Stores. They don't always stock frozen Banquet meals, but my local big chain grocery stores do for around a dollar each.

A McRib patty is pale white like typical cooked pork (because of extra chemical bleaches and dyes?) while a Banquet Riblet is brown, and it's fine ground, with a little more texture than a hot dog. The Riblet patty is thin and about the same size as a McRib, but still large enough to fill a steak bread roll.

And the Banquet Riblet barbeque sauce is passable, slightly sweet with a typical smokey ketchup flavor. And as a bonus the Banquet meal comes with sides of mashed potatoes and corn -- so take that, McDonald's.

The corn is the best side with a fresh frozen kernel flavor -- much better than canned corn. I've never cared for their frozen mashed potatoes. It has the flavor and texture of  powdery dried and reconstituted boxed mashed potatoes -- mainly there to soak up the gravy or barbeque sauce that comes from the meat container part.

I guess the main question is how does the Banquet Riblet compare with a McRib pork patty? Well the porkiness of a McRib is superior. While not objectionable, the Banquet Riblet is mild in comparison (it's made from mechanically separated pork and chicken, plus soy protein.) And the advantage of making a Homemade McRib Sandwich is you can add as much barbeque sauce, chopped onion, and sliced pickle as you desire (plus anything else you like.)

Click on photo to read ingredients -- if you dare.

So, on my Deal of the Day and Cheap$kate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best, this Homemade McRib Sandwich  gets a 6. While my Homemade McRib Sandwich is inferior to McDonald's, it will tide you over until the real thing washes ashore once again. So, keep on reading to see how I make a Homemade McRib Sandwich.

Making a Homemade McRib Sandwich
Microwave or bake the Banquet Riblet Dinner according to directions. While it's heating up, chop some onion and get out 3 pickles slices, and a steak roll.

When the TV dinner is hot, carefully remove riblet and place inside the sliced steak dinner roll. The heated barbeque sauce amount is more than what you get on a McRib, so slather on as much as you like.

Finally top with chopped onion and pickle slices. And serve with the corn and mashed potato sides.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Name That Herb? - Video

In The Tightwad Tiller's latest fun video post you are quizzed about fresh herbs. Can you recognize basil from oregano? I make it easy for you with footage of five different fresh herbs from my garden. All you have to do is leave a comment with the herb number and your guess - you can get the kids involved too! If you need a cheat sheet, click here for a general list of herbs with photos.

I've grown all kinds of herbs over the years - in an apartment window box to a small condo garden plot. As long as you have a sunny spot, herbs are pretty easy to grow. Just make sure you don't over water them, and pinch off any flowering buds so new plant leaves continue to sprout.

Some herbs will last years, like parsley, oregano, thyme and mint. Others die off after a couple of months, like basil, cilantro and dill.Click here for an herb list of annuals and perennials.

If you want to see some of the herb recipes I've come up with over the years, enter an herb name in the "Search" box in the upper right side of my blog under the title "Enter Ingredient or Recipe Keyword(s)."

So check out my short video below and see if you can pass the herb test.(Answers are in the comments.)
Name That Herb?  - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 1 minutes, 2 seconds.

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