Thursday, August 30, 2018

Feasts and Fun at Doug’s Steak and BBQ.

Doug’s Steak and BBQ
496 North Main Street (Hwy 191)
Monticello, UT, 84535

Phone: (435) 587-2255


Hours of Operation:  Thursday thru Monday, 5pm – 10pm; Closed Tuesday and Wednesday

Knowing I was moving to the Southwest, my biggest thrill was, “Yes, all the barbeque I could ever want!” but that was not to be.  In fact, there was a severe lack of this type of culinary delight within San Juan County.  Karen and Doug Whipple, owners of the Peace Tree CafĂ© and Juice Bar restaurants decided it was time to rectify this atrocity upon diners.

Property for sale, across from the Monticello Peace Tree, had just dropped in price; and they pounced on this like a mountain lion had stalked an Abert’s squirrel.  Purchase the property they did, and the planning began.  While plumbing may have been in Doug’s, and son Eli’s, blood, so was food…good food, lip smacking, finger licking, I want more of this, food!  The Whipples are foodies, so is it any wonder they get along so well with other foodies, like the Cokenours!?!  Reading through books geared towards smoking (they and I agree that Smoke and Spice by Cheryl and Bill Jamison is the Bible of smoking foods), experimentation began. 

What is the best wood to use?  Eli states it’s dried hardwood of oak found on our beloved Abajo Mountains.  Any additives to the water used to soak the wood, like alcohol or carbonated beverages?  No!  Pure wood and water is all there should be for a perfect smoke.  Up at 3am, the smoker is stoked and by 5am a temperature of 225F is achieved; it must stay consistent for 12 hours to achieve meat nirvana.  For brisket, after it reaches an internal temperature of 175F, it is wrapped in a special butcher paper specific for smoking brisket.  By 3pm, the brisket has reached an internal temperature of 200F; out of the smoker, it is placed inside a “hot box” to rest for two hours.

Unwrapping the paper, setting the brisket onto a cutting board, the aroma assails the nostrils causing salivation immediately.  The crust of a secretive spice mixture is glistening; the ends cut off to be saved for other uses.  Eli begins slicing; a watchful eye keeps the hand steady for 1/8 – ¼ inch slices of heavenly goodness.  Cutting against the grain, never with, taking a bite out of the first slice, the flavorful, tender meat begins to dissolve inside the mouth.  Slight shivers as the angels sing the “Hallelujah” chorus; alright, so I’m exaggerating a tad, but it could happen.  Anyway, I have tried brisket at many a barbeque joint, and Doug’s has the most outstanding!

Oh, the ribs, the ribs could make the devil himself bow down to the Whipples.  These are St. Louis style ribs; again a secretive spice mixture, but it’s the honey glaze that makes you want to hug a bee and kiss its mandibles.  The ribs go through a similar smoking process as the brisket, sans the paper, and Doug does a basting of apple juice.  They are so tender, just the ever so slightest tug of the teeth, your mouth fills with yumminess so good, you won’t feel bad about stabbing someone’s hand if they reach for your plate.

Eli is also part of a dynamic duo; with Greg, they are the “Grill Masters”!  These two have made the term, “flipping burgers” into an art form.  Half pounders of a mixture of 1/3 beef short rib, 1/3 ground chuck and 1/3 ground brisket; even after cooking, they are easily a half-inch thick!  Oh, the char, the char brings to mind grilling in the outdoors, the lick of flames as moisture drips down.  Using a digital thermometer, internal cooking temperatures are checked to get the customer’s desired doneness.  From rare to medium-well, your wish is their command.  Don’t dare ask for well done, no hockey pucks served on a bun, just on the television screens depicting sports games of football, baseball, hockey and racing.

That’s right, Doug’s is not only a family friendly restaurant, but can double as a sports bar.  Want to see a big game, but no room at home?  Bring the gang down to Doug’s, order platters of Bacon-wrapped Jalapeno Poppers filled with smoked apple cheddar (sourced from Apple Beehive in Ogden, UT) and cream cheese, wrapped in a full slice of crispy bacon.  These poppers are smoky and sweet with heat; barbecue sauce and ranch dressing are your dipping sauces.  Then there is the Smoked Nachos, crispy tortilla chips piled high with pinto beans, melted cheddar cheese, pulled pork, chicken or brisket.; served with salsa and guacamole.  Get a wheel barrel; you’ll need it to get yourself out to your vehicle.

Pitchers of Moab Brewery beer will make it all slide down your gullet so smooth and easily; that is until the opposing team gets a touchdown.  Hankering for a mixed cocktail, bartender and mixologist Nicole will put a punch in your punch, a dance in your step and bring a smile to your lips.  This sassy sweetheart knows her liquors and how to mix them up just right.  Fancy a margarita, that salt around the rim is Holyoak Smoked Salts (pure vanilla extract and bath soaps as well) located right here in Monticello.  Now that’s local sourcing!

Remember those burgers I mentioned before, indulge in a Greg’s; juicy meat topped with grilled Anaheim chile peppers, bacon, pepper jack cheese and chipotle mayo.  First you taste the char, oh that wonderful char; the heat from the peppers tickle the taste buds, but the creamy cheese and mayo snap a whip to tame the heat and then it’s bacon!   Even though it comes with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and onions on the side; to add these would be a blasphemy to the burger; makes a nice side salad though.  Joe’s has luscious grilled mushrooms and onions, bacon, yes I said bacon again, and melty cheddar cheese.  Eli’s is provolone cheese, red onion slices, bbq sauce and that mouth-watering brisket sent down from heaven itself.  Hungry yet?

Want the other white meat?  The pulled pork is out of this world; smoky, tender, juicy; the perfect pairing for the platter is rich and silky mac n’ cheese with a drizzle of barbecue sauce (well that’s what I put on them).  Then there is the half chicken; the flavorful seasoning on the skin permeates the meat of the chicken right down to the bone.  Pair this baby with au gratin potatoes chock full of cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, or baked pinto beans with maple syrup and another secret seasoning mixture.

Doug, Eli and Greg, Doug, Eli and Greg; poor Karen, I bet she’s feeling a bit left out by now.  Working closely and diligently with her head chef, Michael Pipkin (35 years of culinary experience and of the Moab Pipkin clan), and assisted by cook Tyler.  They are inventing house made salad dressings, sauces and side dishes.  Think sweet potatoes are only good for Thanksgiving casseroles and pies; not when tenderly cooked, diced and mixed with diced sweet apple, honey, mayo, ginger and diced celery.  Another to die for item, Karen’s corn muffins; these are not typical corn muffins that are usually dry and crumbly to the touch.  Oh no, these are less dense, light, stay together as creamy butter is spread and then drizzled with honey.  Oh Lordy, there goes those singing angels again!

Doug’s Steak and BBQ does a good amount of their food sourcing from local businesses, but if they cannot find an ingredient they must have, then it’s Utah only, like Applewood Beehive. 

Doug and Karen Whipple love what they do; they love food.  The camaraderie of the staff is wonderful; they’re more like a huge family.   Their pride shows through the atmosphere they portray to their guests; sincere and outright friendliness; quality in the food products.  Wait staff RJ, Lucinda and Jens are amazing and go out of their way to give guests the best experience.  It’s not unusual though to see owner Karen and bartender Nicole carrying platters to hungry patrons, or filling up water glasses.  Everyone gives a helping hand and no one stands alone.  This ain’t no ballet company full of divas, each vying to be prima ballerina.  Oh no, this is a TEAM with a unified goal…SUCCESS!!! 

You might be asking why, why do they all care so much?  Simple really, the sustainability of a small town relies on its businesses.  From locals to visitors, showing passion encourages people to come, and come often; it encourages visitors to Monticello to stay, play, eat and have a grand time.  

Let’s put it all in a nutshell, Doug’s Steak and BBQ is family friendly, casual dining, perfect for sports enthusiasts, large groups are always welcome, and catering is available for parties and events.  If you have not visited Doug’s yet, here’s your invitation; what are you waiting for, get on over there and eat up!?!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Meatloaf Again? Stuff It!

…and so it came to pass, three pounds of lean ground beef defrosted and I am clueless as to what to do with it.  I had a game plan when I took it out of the freezer, but the idea just seems unappetizing suddenly.  Writers get “writer’s block”, so shouldn’t a cook get “I don’t feel like cooking now block”?  *sigh* but the meat is defrosted, can’t be refrozen and finances dictate that eating at a restaurant is not feasible.

Personal recipe book out, flipping through the pages, looking for a meal that can be made without too much effort.  Aha!  The old time favorite that seems to bring a sense of comfort and satisfies…meatloaf!  What to serve with it though?  So tired of mashed potatoes with a vegetable; wait, wait, I have leftover homemade macaroni and cheese.  Oh dear, that’s when the desire for something simple and easy got kicked into creative gear.

Of course, no article on cooking will be complete without a bit of historical referencing.  Meatloaf was not an American culinary invention; sorry to burst your bubble Betty Crocker.  A manuscript, called an Apicius, dating back to 900 A.D., is a collections of recipes; one being a loaf made of minced meat (real meat, not the fruity stuff put into pies).  The Apicius was named for Marcus Gavius Apicius, a Roman gourmet who lived during the reign of Tiberius.  American meatloaf’s origin began with the Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish and Mennonite) who brought a recipe for scrapple (mixture of cornmeal and ground pork) from their homeland, Germany.

Basic of meatloaf, a ground meat mixed with some type of ground grain, maybe seasoned with herbs and spices, then baked or smoked.  The “loaf” part of the name indicates the cooking was done in a loaf pan of some type which made for easily portioned slices.  Served with brown gravy, that’s Swedish style; stuffed with hard boiled eggs, ham and cheese is welcome to Italy; ketchup, tomato sauce or brown sugar glaze on top and hello to the USA.  International cuisines have developed their own styles as trading of goods introduced new foods, spices and cooking techniques.

What happened with my basic meatloaf?  I took the macaroni and cheese and served it up of course, inside the meatloaf.  That’s right, I stuffed it!  The aroma in the kitchen was awesome, but the taste of the final product was out of this world.

 Stuffed Meatloaf


3 lbs. lean ground beef
1 (12 oz.) bag dried stuffing cubes
1 cup milk
1 (15.5 oz. can) diced tomatoes with sweet onions (available at Blue Mountain Foods)
1 cup diced green bell pepper
2 Tbsp. saltless seasoning mix
1 tsp. ground black pepper
5 cups macaroni and cheese (see Note)
Ketchup for glazing

Preheat oven to 375F; line a 4 quart baking dish with aluminum foil and spray foil with nonstick cooking spray. Line a large jelly roll pan with parchment paper, wax paper or aluminum foil.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together all ingredients except the macaroni and cheese and the ketchup. Invert bowl over center of jelly roll pan and deposit mixture onto it. Flatten mixture out to edges of pan. Cut macaroni and cheese into 3 sections and line up edge to edge down lengthwise center of flattened meatloaf mixture.

Put hands under lining and carefully lift mixture over filling, press down firmly and carefully peal back lining; repeat with other long side. Seal the seam over the filling and the sides of the meatloaf; smooth the meatloaf mixture over to create a firm seal.

Turn the baking dish over the meatloaf; with one hand hold down the baking dish while lifting the jelly roll pan with the other hand; flip over and let the meatloaf drop into the baking dish. Remove the lining off the meatloaf; make sure to position the meatloaf down the center of the baking dish; smooth over any cracks that may have opened. Brush ketchup over top and sides of meatloaf to create the glaze.

Place baking dish on center rack of oven and bake for one hour; brush a second layer of ketchup over the top and sides and bake for one additional hour.

The meatloaf will be too large to remove from the baking dish, so cut slices and use a narrow spatula to remove to a plate.

Makes 12-14 servings depending on how large the slices are cut.

Note: The Macaroni and Cheese used should have been made previously and refrigerated in a rectangular container to make for easier slicing.  My macaroni and cheese is a 4-cheese recipe; perhaps I’ll share that in another article.  

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Humble Hummus.

Since the pushing of healthy eating habits and finding alternatives for snacking, many items that used to be a "luxury" have now become an all-consuming fad; such is the case with Hummus.  Hummus is a puree of garbanzo beans (a legume) also known as chickpeas in the United States and England, or Ceci beans in Italy.  Their origin can be traced back to the Middle East, as far back as 3500 BCE; so they truly cannot be called a modern "fad" food item.  The other main ingredient needed to make hummus is Tahini; a sauce made from the puree of toasted sesame seeds and olive oil.  The other ingredients that go into the making of hummus?  That is a matter of taste.

Tahini has a very nutty scent and flavor to it and can be substituted for peanut butter which is great news to folks with a peanut allergy. If you can eat regular peanuts, then adding a dollop of Tahini to your PB&J brings out an awesome richness of peanutty taste and flavor. For baking, think about adding Tahini to a recipe calling for peanut butter; and don't forget its wonderful addition to Middle Eastern cuisine.   Tahini can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three months in an air tight container.  Since oil is used in the process, it will rise to the top and solidify under cold temperatures.  Simply let the Tahini come to room temperature, mix the oil back in until you have a smooth sauce; sort of how you would work with the all-natural peanut butter spreads that are on the market now.  Tahini can also be frozen in air tight freezer containers or bags, but after six months it needs to be discarded.

How to Make Tahini


3 cups sesame seeds
1/2 cup olive oil


Preheat oven to 350F; spread the seeds onto a clean jelly roll pan (baking sheet with a 1/4 inch around it); place into oven for 5 minutes.  Stir the seeds around and toast for another 5 minutes, but do not allow them to get brown in color.

Put the seeds into a food processor or blender; add 1/4 cup of oil and begin blending on high.  A paste will form; switch off the appliance and scrap down the paste with a rubber spatula.  Turn the appliance back on and slowly add in the remaining oil until a smooth sauce begins to form; sort of like a smooth peanut butter consistency; not all the oil may be required.

Makes 2 cups.

We have our Tahini, let’s continue on to making Hummus.  I'm going to give a basic recipe that can be used as a dip for toasted pita chips (Stacy’s is a great brand), or even a base sauce on a pita pizza (recipe will be given).  This basic hummus can be a simple canvas for making many types of dips by adding roasted red bell peppers, diced tomatoes, diced green onions, diced chile peppers, chopped herbs and the list goes on and on.  If entertaining and serving several varieties of hummus, don't just garnish each type with a teaspoon of an ingredient to identify its type.  Place a small bowl of the ingredient next to the bowl of hummus and let guests add to a plate with their portion of dip.  A garnish will be gone by the third guest, and how will anyone be able to identify the flavors then?  Also think about having slices of toasted French baguette besides the traditional pita chips, so guests can make their own version of a bruschetta.  Now onto the making of Hummus...

How to Make Hummus

1 (16 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup Tahini sauce (or 1/4 cup if using a Tahini paste)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper


Mash the beans slightly and place inside a food processor or blender; add the Tahini, garlic, oil, lemon juice, salt and black pepper.  Set speed on puree and blend until desired consistency is achieved (slightly firmer than a sour cream dip is best); add more oil if needed.  Use a rubber spatula to scrap down the sides of the appliance if necessary.

Makes 1 and 1/2 cups.

Note: During the puree process, a tablespoon of a flavoring ingredient can be added such as diced tomatoes, roasted red bell pepper, chopped herbs, etc.

Some folks enjoy a chunkier hummus, some, like me, enjoy a smoother consistency.  If you’re not sure which you prefer, make a small portion of both and do some taste testing.

I gave you a tease before about making a Pita Pizza, and here's the information I promised to give you.  Normally a pizza dough is made with a leavened bread which rises because of yeast, but it can also be made from an unleavened bread such as a tortilla, Navajo Fry Bread or pita bread. As a base sauce, the traditional red tomato sauce can be used or pesto, but I've found that hummus makes an interesting take on a pizza.  By pureeing tomatoes, red bell peppers or basil into a hummus, you can turn the traditional brownish coloring into the illusion of a red or green sauce; and have the flavoring too.

How to Make a Pita Pizza


1 Pita bread (standard size to be cut apart, or single serving size)
1/4 cup Hummus (traditional or flavored), 1/8 cup for smaller pita

Now here's the fun part; the rest of the ingredients depends on what you want on it. If using any meats or poultry, it must be precooked. Don't add too much of any one ingredient, you want just enough that each item will be tasted when biting into the pizza.   I created one with diced tomatoes, diced goat cheese and spinach leaves; just a 1/4 cup of each spread around on a standard sized pita went a long way.


Preheat oven to 400F.

Spread hummus over pita; spread other ingredients over all, but not entirely to the edge.  Place the pizza directly onto the center rack of the oven and bake for 12 - 15 minutes, or until edges of pita darken.

A standard pita can be cut into fourths; a small pita eaten as is.

There is my adventure into the Middle Eastern world of Tahini, Hummus and Pita Bread; don't be afraid to have your own adventure.  Enjoy!

Mary Cokenour