Appetizers and Sides - The Wood Pellet Smoker and Grill Cookbook: Recipes and Techniques for the Most Flavorful and Delicious Barbecue - Peter Jautaikis

The Wood Pellet Smoker and Grill Cookbook: Recipes and Techniques for the Most Flavorful and Delicious Barbecue - Peter Jautaikis (2016)

Chapter 1. Appetizers and Sides

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Atomic Buffalo Turds

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Jalapeño peppers stuffed with cream cheese and topped with a Lit’l Smokies sausages are affectionately known as Atomic Buffalo Turds (ABTs). Every bite treats you to a symphony of flavor layers. If you’re not a fan of jalapeños, rest assured that they get milder as you cook them. For a less spicy alternative, substitute baby bell peppers for the jalapeños.

Serves: 6 to 10

Prep Time: 30 to 45 minutes

Cook Time: 1½ to 2 hours

Rest Time: 5 minutes

RECOMMENDED PELLETS: Hickory, Blend

10 medium jalapeño peppers

8 ounces regular cream cheese at room temperature

¾ cup shredded Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese blend (optional)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

20 Lit’l Smokies sausages

10 thinly sliced bacon strips, cut in half

PREPPING FOR THE GRILL

1. Put your food service gloves on, if using. Wash and slice the jalapeño peppers lengthwise. Using a spoon or paring knife, carefully remove the seeds and veins and discard them. Place the jalapeños on a vegetable grilling tray and set aside.

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2. In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese, shredded cheese, if using, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes, if using, until fully incorporated.

3. Fill the hollowed jalapeño pepper halves with the cream cheese mixture.

4. Place a Lit’l Smokies sausage on top of each filled jalapeño pepper half.

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5. Wrap half a slice of thin bacon around each jalapeño pepper half.

6. Use a toothpick to secure the bacon to the sausage, making sure not to pierce the pepper. Place the ABTs on a grilling tray or pan.

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ON THE WOOD PELLET SMOKER-GRILL

1. Configure your wood pellet smoker-grill for indirect cooking and preheat to 250°F using hickory pellets or a blend.

2. Smoke the jalapeño peppers at 250°F for approximately 1½ to 2 hours, until the bacon is cooked and crispy.

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Remove the ABTs from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes before serving as an hors d’oeuvre.

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Notes

I recommend wearing food service latex-free nitrile gloves when handling the jalapeño peppers and seeds to keep the jalapeño juices from soaking into your skin.

Smashed Potato Casserole

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Your family and friends will rave over this decadent and scrumptious yet easy-to-make potato side dish. The recipe was inspired by the “Pelletheads Potato Casserole” posted by Laurence Hill on pelletheads.com. I first used Larry’s recipe a few years ago with leftover mashed potatoes from a Thanksgiving feast. The flavor profiles from the layers add new dimensions to potato casseroles. Feel free to tweak this recipe a smidge here and there as I have over the years.

Serves: 8

Prep Time: 30 to 45 minutes

Cook Time: 45 to 60 minutes

Rest Time: 10 minutes

RECOMMENDED PELLETS: Any

8 to 10 bacon slices

¼ cup (½ stick) salted butter or bacon grease

1 small red onion, sliced thinly

1 small green bell pepper, sliced thinly

1 small red bell pepper, sliced thinly

1 small yellow bell pepper, sliced thinly

3 cups mashed potatoes

¾ cup sour cream

1½ teaspoons Texas Barbecue Rub (page 171)

3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

4 cups frozen hash brown potatoes

PREPPING FOR THE GRILL

1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes on each side. Set the bacon aside.

2. Transfer the rendered bacon grease to a glass container.

3. In the same large skillet, over medium heat, warm the butter or bacon grease and sauté the red onion and bell peppers until al dente. Set aside.

4. Spray a 9 × 11-inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray, and spread the mashed potatoes in the bottom of the dish.

5. Layer the sour cream over the mashed potatoes and season with Texas Barbecue Rub.

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6. Layer the sautéed vegetables on top of the potatoes, retaining the butter or bacon grease in the pan.

7. Sprinkle with 1½ cups of the sharp cheddar cheese followed by the frozen hash brown potatoes.

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8. Spoon the remaining butter or bacon grease from the sautéed vegetables over the hash browns and top with crumbled bacon.

9. Top with the remaining 1½ cups of sharp cheddar cheese and cover the casserole dish with a lid or aluminum foil.

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ON THE WOOD PELLET SMOKER-GRILL

1. Configure your wood pellet smoker-grill for indirect cooking and preheat to 350°F using your pellets of choice.

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2. Bake the smashed potato casserole for 45 to 60 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling.

3. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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Notes

Leftover mashed potatoes or instant mashed potatoes both work wonderfully in this recipe.

If counting calories, use fat-free sour cream, extra-virgin olive oil instead of the butter, reduced-fat cheese, and skip the bacon or use turkey bacon.

Crabmeat-Stuffed Mushrooms

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Crabmeat-stuffed mushrooms are a delicious adaptation of a classic crowd favorite. These delicious bites will be the hit of any dinner party, potluck, or best of all, your own family dinner. For that extra mushroom flavor, use medium-sized portobello mushrooms.

Serves: 4 to 6

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 to 45 minutes

RECOMMENDED PELLETS: Any

6 medium portobello mushrooms

extra-virgin olive oil

⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese

FOR THE CRABMEAT STUFFING:

8 ounces fresh crabmeat, or canned or imitation crab meat

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

⅓ cup chopped celery

⅓ cup chopped red bell pepper

½ cup chopped green onion

½ cup Italian bread crumbs

½ cup mayonnaise

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

½ teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon dried parsley

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

PREPPING FOR THE GRILL

1. Clean the mushroom caps with a damp paper towel. Cut the stems and set aside.

2. Remove the brown gills from the undersides of mushroom caps with a spoon and discard.

3. Prepare the crabmeat stuffing. If using canned crabmeat, drain, rinse, and remove any bits of shells.

4. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the celery, bell pepper, and green onion, and sauté for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

5. Gently combine the cooled sautéed vegetables with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl.

6. Cover and refrigerate the crabmeat stuffing until ready to use.

7. Fill each mushroom cap with the crab mixture, creating a mound in the center.

8. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle each stuffed mushroom cap with the Parmesan cheese. Place the stuffed mushrooms in 10 × 15-inch baking dish.

ON THE WOOD PELLET SMOKER-GRILL

1. Configure your wood pellet smoker-grill for indirect heat and preheat to 375°F using any pellets.

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2. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the stuffing is hot (165°F measured with an instant-read digital thermometer) and the mushrooms are beginning to release their juices.

Notes:

A mushroom is like a sponge—when washed with water it will become soft. Use a damp paper towel to clean the mushroom caps to prevent the caps from absorbing water.

Chop and add the mushroom stems when sautéing the vegetables in step 4 if desired.

Substitute the crab stuffing for shrimp stuffing (page 137).

Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus

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Living in Northern California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta area has given me access to all that locally grown, sweet, fresh asparagus. Every spring, for 8 to 12 weeks, the vegetable stands and grocery stores are full of it. There are so many different ways to enjoy it—deep-frying, sautéing, steaming, baking, and broiling, to name just a few—but my absolute favorite method is grilling bacon-wrapped asparagus on my wood pellet smoker-grill.

Serves: 4 to 6

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 to 30 minutes

RECOMMENDED PELLETS: Any

1 pound fresh thick asparagus (15 to 20 spears)

extra-virgin olive oil

5 slices thinly sliced bacon

1 teaspoon Pete’s Western Rub (page 169) or salt and pepper

PREPPING FOR THE GRILL

1. Snap off the woody ends of asparagus and trim so they are all about the same length.

2. Divide the asparagus into bundles of 3 spears and spritz with olive oil. Wrap each bundle with 1 piece of bacon and then dust with the seasoning or salt and pepper to taste.

ON THE WOOD PELLET SMOKER-GRILL

1. Configure your wood pellet smoker-grill for indirect cooking, placing Teflon-coated fiberglass mats on top of the grates (to prevent the asparagus from sticking to the grill grates). Preheat to 400°F using any type of pellets. The grill can be preheated while prepping the asparagus.

2. Grill the bacon-wrapped asparagus for 25 to 30 minutes, until the asparagus is tender and the bacon is cooked and crispy.

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Brisket Baked Beans

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Brisket baked beans can easily be a meal unto itself. It’s a great way to use up smoked beef brisket leftovers—that is, if you have any. These beans are a wonderful complement to any meal as a side or main dish, easy and quick to assemble, and rich in sweet and spicy flavors.

Serves: 10 to 12

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1½ to 2 hours

Rest Time: 15 minutes

RECOMMENDED PELLETS: Any

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 medium green bell pepper, diced

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

2 to 6 jalapeño peppers, diced

3 cups chopped Texas-Style Brisket Flat (page 91)

1 (28-ounce) can baked beans, like Bush’s Country Style Baked Beans

1 (28-ounce) can pork and beans

1 (14-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup barbecue sauce, like Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce

½ cup packed brown sugar

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 teaspoons ground mustard

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

PREPPING FOR THE GRILL

1. In a skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil and then add the diced onion, peppers, and jalapeños. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. In a 4-quart casserole dish, mix the chopped brisket, baked beans, pork and beans, kidney beans, cooked onion and peppers, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ground mustard, salt, and black pepper.

ON THE WOOD PELLET SMOKER-GRILL

1. Configure your wood pellet smoker-grill for indirect cooking and preheat to 325°F using your pellets of choice. Cook the brisket baked beans uncovered for 1½ to 2 hours, until the beans are thick and bubbly. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Notes

Vary the heat factor of the beans by increasing the amount of jalapeño peppers and retaining the seeds. Pellet selection is not important at 325°F since there will be very little, if any, smoke. If desired, prior to baking the beans, smoke them for 30 to 60 minutes at 180°F to give them a smoky flavor.

Bacon Cheddar Sliders

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I remember wolfing down those yummy Original White Castle Sliders back in the early ’70s in Key West, Florida, while serving in the Navy. This isn’t a copycat version of those sliders, but rather my homage to days gone by. These cooked-on-a-griddle, delightfully seasoned bacon and cheddar sliders are a great start to any meal.

Serves: 6 to 10 (1 to 2 sliders each as an appetizer)

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

RECOMMENDED PELLETS: Any

1½ pounds ground beef (80% lean)

½ teaspoon garlic salt

½ teaspoon seasoned salt

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon black pepper

6 bacon slices, cut in half

½ cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons creamy horseradish (optional)

6 (1-ounce) slices sharp cheddar cheese, cut in half (optional)

½ small red onion, thinly sliced

½ cup sliced kosher dill pickles

12 mini buns, sliced horizontally

ketchup

PREPPING FOR THE GRILL

1. Combine the ground beef, garlic salt, seasoned salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper in a medium bowl.

2. Divide the meat mixture into 12 equal portions and shape them into small, thin, round patties (about 2 ounces each) and set aside.

3. Cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside.

4. To make the sauce, mix the mayonnaise and the horseradish, if using, in a small bowl.

ON THE WOOD PELLET SMOKER-GRILL

1. Configure your wood pellet smoker-grill for direct cooking in order to use a griddle accessory. Check with your manufacturer to see if they have a griddle accessory that works with your specific wood pellet smoker-grill.

2. Spray the cooking surface of the griddle with cooking spray for the best nonstick results.

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3. Preheat your wood pellet smoker-grill to 350°F using pellets of your choice. The surface of your griddle should be about 400°F.

4. Grill the patties 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until cooked through to an internal temperature of 160°F.

5. Place a slice of sharp cheddar cheese on each patty, if desired, while the patty is still on the griddle or after the patty has been removed from the griddle. Place a dollop of the mayonnaise mixture, a red onion slice, and a burger patty on the bottom half of each roll. Top with pickle slices, bacon, and ketchup.

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Garlic Parmesan Wedges

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Crispy on the outside, yet tender on the inside, these delectable potato wedges will more than satisfy every French fry fan. The perfect appetizer, snack, or side dish to any meal.

Serves: 3

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 to 35 minutes

RECOMMENDED PELLETS: Any

3 large russet potatoes

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1½ teaspoons salt

¾ teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons garlic powder

¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley (optional)

½ cup blue cheese or ranch dressing per serving, for dipping (optional)

PREPPING FOR THE GRILL

1. Gently scrub the potatoes with cold water using a vegetable brush and allow the potatoes to dry.

2. Cut the potatoes lengthwise in half, then cut those halves into thirds.

3. Use a paper towel to wipe away all the moisture that is released when you cut the potatoes. Moisture prevents the wedges from getting crispy.

4. Place the potato wedges, olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a large bowl, and toss lightly with your hands, making sure the oil and spices are distributed evenly.

5. Arrange the wedges in a single layer on a nonstick grilling tray/pan/basket (about 15 × 12 inches).

ON THE WOOD PELLET SMOKER-GRILL

1. Configure your wood pellet smoker-grill for indirect cooking and preheat to 425°F using any type of wood pellets.

2. Place the grilling tray in your preheated smoker-grill and roast the potato wedges for 15 minutes before turning. Roast the potato wedges for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until potatoes are fork tender on the inside and crispy golden brown on the outside.

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3. Sprinkle the potato wedges with Parmesan cheese and garnish with cilantro or parsley, if desired. Serve with blue cheese or ranch dressing for dipping, if desired.

Roasted Vegetables

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Accentuate any main dish with these wonderful crispy, caramelized roasted fresh vegetables with delicious flavor from garlic, herbs, and olive oil. These colorful vegetables will brighten any dinner table. It doesn’t get any easier than this.

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 to 40 minutes

RECOMMENDED PELLETS: Any

1 cup cauliflower florets

1 cup small mushrooms, halved

1 medium zucchini, sliced and halved

1 medium yellow squash, sliced and halved

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped into 1½ to 2-inch pieces

1 small red onion, chopped into 1½ to 2-inch pieces

6 ounces small baby carrots

6 medium stemmed asparagus spears, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes

¼ cup roasted garlic-flavored extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon garlic salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

PREPPING FOR THE GRILL

1. Place the cauliflower florets, mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, red bell pepper, red onion, carrots, asparagus, and tomatoes into a large bowl.

2. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, thyme, oregano, garlic salt, and black pepper to the vegetables.

3. Gently hand toss the vegetables until they are fully coated with olive oil, herbs, and spices.

4. Evenly scatter the seasoned vegetables onto a nonstick grilling tray/pan/basket (about 15 × 12 inches).

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ON THE WOOD PELLET SMOKER-GRILL

1. Configure your wood pellet smoker-grill for indirect cooking and preheat to 425°F using any type of wood pellets.

2. Transfer the grilling tray to the preheated smoker-grill and roast the vegetables for 20 to 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are al dente. Serve immediately.

Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash

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Spaghetti squash is a very versatile side dish. Since it’s naturally low in carbohydrates, it makes a great alternative to heavy pasta and holds up well to toppings and sauces. This fun, easy, and quick baked spaghetti squash is cheesy, gooey, and just as good as twice-baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.

Serves: 2

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 to 60 minutes

RECOMMENDED PELLETS: Any

1 medium spaghetti squash

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

PREPPING FOR THE GRILL

1. Carefully cut the squash in half lengthwise using a large, sharp knife. Remove the seeds and pulp of each half using a spoon.

2. Rub olive oil over the insides of the squash halves and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

ON THE WOOD PELLET SMOKER-GRILL

1. Configure your wood pellet smoker-grill for indirect cooking and preheat to 375°F using any type of wood pellets.

2. Place the squash halves face-up directly on the hot grill grates.

3. Bake the squash for approximately 45 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 170°F. When done, the spaghetti squash will be soft and easily pierced with a fork.

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4. Transfer the squash to a cutting board and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

5. Increase the wood pellet smoker-grill temperature to 425°F.

6. Being careful to keep the shells intact, use a fork to rake back and forth across the squash to remove the flesh in strands. Note that the stands look like spaghetti.

7. Transfer the strands to a large bowl. Add half the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and stir to combine.

8. Stuff the mixture back in the squash shell halves, and sprinkle the tops with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

9. Bake the stuffed spaghetti squash halves for another 15 minutes at 425°F, or until the cheese starts to brown.

Applewood-Smoked Cheese

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Delectable smoked cheese is a great appetizer served with crackers and your favorite glass of wine. Below I have recommended some cheeses to use, but almost any hard or semi-hard cheese can be effectively cold-smoked.

Cold-smoking cheese is mostly achievable in one of two ways on a wood pellet smoker-grill. You can either use a cold-smoke box, like the Super Smoker Box accessory available for a MAK 2 Star (check with your manufacturer to see if they have a cold-smoker accessory), or a cold-smoke generator like an A-MAZE-N Pellet Tube Smoker or Smoke Daddy Cold Smoke Generator. This recipe uses the Super Smoker Box on a MAK 2 Star.

Cold-smoking occurs at smoker box temperatures between 80°F and 100°F. Smoke cheese when the ambient temperature will remain below 80°F for 2-plus hours.

Serves: Many

Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Cold-smoke time: 2 hours

Rest Time: 60 minutes

RECOMMENDED PELLETS: Apple

1 to 2½-pound block of the following suggested cheeses:

Gouda

sharp cheddar

extra-sharp 3-year cheddar

Monterey Jack

pepper Jack

Swiss

PREPPING FOR THE GRILL

1. Depending on the shape of the cheese blocks, cut the cheese blocks into manageable sizes (about 4 × 4-inch blocks) to enhance smoke penetration.

2. Allow the cheese to rest uncovered on the counter for 1 hour to allow a very thin skin or crust to form that acts as a barrier to heat but allows the smoke to penetrate.

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ON THE WOOD PELLET SMOKER-GRILL

1. Configure your wood pellet smoker-grill for indirect heat and prepare for cold-smoking by installing a cold-smoke box. Ensure smoker box louver vents are fully open to allow moisture to escape from the box.

2. Preheat your wood pellet smoker-grill to 180°F, or use the smoke setting if you have one, using apple pellets for a milder smoke flavor.

3. Place the cheese on Teflon-coated fiberglass nonstick grill mats, and cold-smoke for 2 hours.

4. Remove the smoked cheese and allow to cool for an hour on the counter using a cooling rack.

5. Vacuum-seal and label your smoked cheeses before refrigerating for a minimum of 2 weeks to allow the smoke to penetrate and for the flavor of the cheese to mellow.

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Notes

Soft cheese does not smoke well due to its low melting point.

Use hickory pellets if a stronger smoked flavor is desired.

Vacuumed, smoked cheese can be stored in your refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Hickory-Smoked Moink Ball Skewers

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Traditionally, moink balls are thawed, store-bought frozen beef meatballs wrapped with bacon and secured with a toothpick. “Moink” is a combination of “moo” and “oink.” This, however, is not your traditional moink recipe. I think you’ll enjoy the extra “oink” my fresh approach brings to the ball.

Serves: 6 to 9 as an appetizer (2 to 3 balls per serving)

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 to 1¼ hours

RECOMMENDED PELLETS: Hickory

½ pound ground beef (80% lean)

½ pound ground pork sausage

1 large egg

½ cup Italian bread crumbs

½ cup minced red onions

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup finely chopped parsley

¼ cup whole milk

2 garlic cloves, minced, or 1 teaspoon crushed garlic

1 teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ cup barbecue sauce, like Sweet Baby Ray’s

½ pound thinly sliced bacon, cut in half

PREPPING FOR THE GRILL

1. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, ground pork sausage, egg, bread crumbs, onion, Parmesan cheese, parsley, milk, garlic, salt, oregano, and pepper. Do not overwork the meat.

2. Form 1½-ounce meatballs, approximately 1½ inches in diameter, and place on a Teflon-coated fiberglass mat.

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3. Wrap each meatball with half a slice of thin bacon. Spear the moink balls onto 6 skewers (3 balls per skewer).

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ON THE WOOD PELLET SMOKER-GRILL

1. Configure your wood pellet smoker-grill for indirect cooking.

2. Preheat your wood pellet smoker-grill to 225°F using hickory pellets.

3. Smoke the moink ball skewers for 30 minutes.

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4. Increase your pit temperature to 350°F until the meatballs’ internal temperature reaches 175°F and the bacon is crispy (approximately 40 to 45 minutes).

5. Brush the moink balls with your favorite barbecue sauce during the last 5 minutes.

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6. Serve the moink ball skewers while they’re still hot.

Notes

Use ground beef that’s at least 20% fat to maximize flavor and retain moisture.