at The Ricky Shack with Richard George

Bacon is such a versatile food, eaten alone or used for wonderful flavoring. One way to experience bacon is by using it as an ingredient in various small plates, or tapas. Tapas are actually an appetizer or snack in Spanish cuisine. In America, we sometimes refer to this as hors d’oeuvres. Some American restaurants are beginning to distinguish this as “small plates” on their menu. Many times tapas are served at a bar.

Let’s “pig out” with five couples, enjoying hot and cold dishes and some refreshing cocktails. In the South we sometimes refer to this as a cookout; at The Ricky Shack, we just call this a get-together.We might even watch a ballgame or race on TV. My preference is to listen to some good music, smell the smoke from the Big Green Egg and catch up with family and friends.


Enlist someone from your group to help by acting as the bartender for your get-together.

A good drink for bourbon lovers is a Grumpy Old Man. Put ice into an old-fashioned glass, mix two parts Maker’s Mark with one part lime juice–fresh is better but Rose’s or ReaLime concentrate is OK–and top off with ginger ale. The Grumpy Old Man can become a milder drink with more ginger ale.

In cooler weather, try a White Cosmo. Combine 3 ounces of citron vodka, 1 ounce of white cranberry juice, 1 ounce of fresh lime juice, ¼ ounce ofSt. Germain Elderflower Liqueur or Cointreau and ¼ ounce of simple syrup. Combine over ice in a martini/shaker tin. Shake well and pour into chilled martini glass. Float a couple of cranberries, or if you have a small plastic ice tray, place a cranberry into water and freeze overnight. Use a lowball rather than a martini glass; it makes a great conversation piece.

If you prefer to drink wine, enjoy a glass of Elizabeth Spencer Sauvignon Blanc, a light bodied white, or Easton 2015 Zinfandel, a full bodied red, recommended by Annette Birchfield at The Wine Cellar, Whitesburg Drive in Huntsville.

With the profusion of local brewing companies, pick your favorite craft beer or maybe even that favorite Down South Sweet Tea.


Prepare a couple of cool dips to snack on while the tapas are cooking, like Gayle’s Corn Dip or Kalamata Olive Dip.

Gayle’s Corn Dip

Make ahead of time and chill to allow the flavors to meld. It keeps well in the refrigerator.

2 cups traditional shredded sharp cheese, not fancy or finely cut
1 can diced Rotel tomatoes, drained
1-2 cans Mexicorn, drained
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
dash of pepper
½ cup chopped green onions or 2 tablespoons dehydrated chopped onion
Several chopped jalapeños or ½ teaspoon diced peppers with juice
Sprinkle of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning to taste
Mix well and serve with your favorite corn chips or tortilla chips.

Kalamata Olive Dip

6-ounce jar pitted Kalamata olives, drained
8 ounces sour cream1 tablespoon dried dill
2 8-ounce blocks of cream cheese, softened
4 ounces Feta cheese, crumbled
Combine olives, sour cream and dill in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Add cream cheese and Feta to mixture in the food processor and pulse until creamy. Serve with pita chips.


Bacon Wrapped Chicken Bites

2 pounds of chicken–four skinless, boneless breasts or strips
1pounds of thin-sliced bacon, cut each piece into thirds
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Cut chicken into approximately 1 inch squares. Cut bacon strips into thirds.
In a bowl, mix brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder and onion powder. Toss the chicken pieces in mixture, then wrap each seasoned cube with a piece of bacon. Use toothpicks to secure bacon. Cover and refrigerate until fire is stabilized.
Prepare indirect fire to 325 degrees. Cherry or pecan wood adds a sweet, smoky flavor.
When the fire is stabilized, place bacon wrapped chicken bites on grill. Cook for 15 minutes, then flip the bites over. Cook another 10 minutes and flip again. Sprinkle any remaining sugar mixture on the bacon wrapped chicken bites. When the bacon is cooked to your desired crispiness, remove from the heat and serve. Minimum internal temperature for chicken is 165 degrees.

Jalapeño Poppers

Your fire should still be good to accommodate this next treat.
12 jalapeño peppers
8 ounces cream cheese
1pound of bacon
Slice the jalapeño top off and remove the seeds and inner membranes using a jalapeño scraper, or slice the jalapeño in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds and membrane with spoon. The heat comes from the seeds and membrane, so definitely remove them if you wish to reduce heat. Fill with cream cheese and wrap with bacon. Any cheese or combination of cheeses will suffice.
Using a jalapeño rack, cook for 20-30 minutes, removing when bacon is crispy. Hit it with a little Krazy Jane’s or Paula Deen’s House Seasoning Mix, or you can make your own SPG seasoning–salt/pepper/garlic in 4:1:1 ratio. Or use anything from your spice cabinet you have been saving for a party!

Sausage Wraps

Throw a few hickory or mesquite chips on the fire and slightly stir or shake the charcoal to increase the heat, stabilizing at 350-375 degrees.
1 package of Conecuh hickory-smoked sausage, cut into 1.5-inch pieces
1pound of thick-cut pepper bacon, cut into thirds
Emeril’s Original Essence Seasoning

Captain Rodney’s Glaze

Wrap bacon around sausage and secure with a toothpick. Sprinkle with Emeril’s Original Essence Seasoning. Cook for 10 minutes, flip them over and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove when bacon is cooked to your desired crispiness. Recommended sausage internal temperature is 160 degrees. Remove from fire and drizzle with Captain Rodney’s Glaze. Combining several different selections is a good way to sample different foods in small portions, and tapas can be combined to make a full meal. You may pick any of these as an appetizer to be combined with a main dish, or have a party and enjoy them all. Whichever way you choose to try these recipes, have a SMOKIN’ GOOD TIME!