Coming back after a break

So, a lot has changed in the few years it’s been since I’ve posted any cooks or cigars.

In 2015, I hit a peak weight in my life, hopefully for forever. I weighed in at 310 lbs and realized I needed to start making some changes in my life. I started walking and even ran some and I managed to lose about 35 lbs that I maintained for the next few years. Last year, in 2019, I met my girlfriend and soon after I decided to try and get under 250 lbs, a weight my doctor assured me a few years back, if I got there, he would stop giving me grief. I stepped up the exercise game. I hit the elliptical hard. I got back into lifting. I started paying attention to the foods I was eating (no specific diet, just starting to actually make smarter dietary choices). And on my 40th birthday, I weighed in at 245 lbs. It was about this point where I started looking at that 2015 picture of myself pinned up at my desk from a vendor event and it suddenly became motivating.

I still didn’t go back to MY doctor yet, but I had the sense of accomplishment knowing I got there. And again, I was able to maintain the weight loss. I was keeping the weight off, not doing the yoyo thing.

On January 5, my girlfriend told me she was starting keto the next day. And I jumped right in with her on a nutrition plan that I had looked on with great skepticism since the first time I heard of it because isn’t this just another one of those fad, low carb South Beach/Atkins plans? There’s no way that is healthy. And it isn’t sustainable. Once I lose the weight and stop the diet, I’ll just gain it all back. The same chorus I’d heard repeated over and over again. The same excuses I had made for not losing that 20 or 30 lbs when I was 28.. Or 30.. Or 32.. The same excuses that landed me at 310 lbs.

And after losing 65 lbs the slow way and keeping it off, I set a manageable goal weight of 215 lbs. I picked 215 because I considered myself to be in pretty good shape when I was 22 and 204 lbs and when I was 25 and 225 lbs. 215 sat neatly in the middle. By the time the COVID-19 lockdown started in Alabama in mid March, I weighed 215. But it didn’t stop there. I kept losing weight. Sure, it slowed down some. I wasn’t going to sustain 3.5 lbs a week indefinitely. But by June 2020, I was down to 185. And I’ve even had days at 182 and 183. I’ve held steady at 185 +/- 3 lbs for the last 90 days or so.

I don’t snore anymore. My bloodwork is literally perfect. My cholesterol and blood pressure are both down. My doctor, who I have seen now, is completely onboard with my nutrition plan. And we had a good laugh when I came in for the first time in 3 years and I’d lost 93 lbs between visits.

So I look back at all of the cooks I’ve posted in the past and there are a lot of things out there that I choose not to eat anymore, at least not with any regularity. But steaks, scallops, wings.. These are all things I can still eat on keto. Sometimes I can eat them exactly how I used to. Other times, recipes require some modification. Substituting a side item (I’m looking at you parmesan risotto) or substituting an ingredient to make a comfortable meal comply with the low carb framework of keto. On an unrelated note, I don’t eat pork anymore, so the pork chops and ribs and Boston butts are quite literally off the table.

I’m a lot pickier about nutrition labels and ingredients today than I used to be. I eat virtually zero trans fats. I don’t eat any wheat based anything (to be clear, I don’t have a gluten sensitivity). I avoid processed soybean based foods like the plague.

Anyway, I’ve had coworkers and acquaintances and friends say a lot of supportive things about my weight loss over, specifically, the last 16 months or so. Some of the best compliments I’ve received are when a colleague or someone I know, but am not especially close with, says that my progress has inspired them to make changes to their diets or try keto. I’m not here to say that keto is for everyone. But if you’re interested in keto foods done the right way, I’d like to start posting some of my cooks that fit this new way of eating. There’s a lot of bad information out there about keto, but there’s also good information about how to leverage keto to get healthier. I still love food. I just look at food differently today than I used to.

If you have any kind of underlying health condition, you should talk to your doctor about whether or not keto is safe

for you. Otherwise, welcome to a healthier .

Steak au Poivre

Curses, Tony Bourdain!!!

I ran across a video on Facebook one night and realized that I must cook this. Anthony Bourdain did a video with Balvenie where he made steak au poivre over an open flame and was both immediately hungry and inspired. I didn’t have 7 hours in front of me to make the demi-glace in his recipe, so I made some modifications to the recipe, taking some liberties with his project. Steak au poivre is a French dish that consists of a steak, traditionally a filet mignon, coated with loosely cracked black peppercorns and then seared. The peppercorns form a crust on the steak when cooked and provide a pungent but complementary counterpoint to the rich flavor of the high-quality beef. It won’t be quite as tender of a loin cut, but NY Strip would also be a suitable cut for you to use at home.

As I typically already reverse sear steaks on a routine basis, this cook is a low degree of difficulty. It does, however, give me the opportunity to sear these steaks in the normal order and is dressed up a notch by the pan sauce. Tonight included potatoes au gratin and farmers’ market lima beans to accompany the steak. If you wanted to stick with the French theme, lentils or haricot vert might also make excellent options for sides.

Steak au Poivre

Steak au Poivre


  • USDA Choice or better Filet Mignon (substitute NY Strip if you prefer)
  • Kosher Salt
  • Cracked Black Peppercorns
  • Unsalted Butter
  • For the pan sauce
  • 1/3 cup cognac, brandy or whisky (Scotch or bourbon would both suffice if your home bar is like mine and lacking in the brandy department)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • More unsalted butter


    Prep brine the steaks
  1. 30 minutes beforehand, remove the steaks from the fridge and dry brine with kosher salt.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, grind black peppercorns.
  3. Spread the black peppercorns on a plate and press the steak into the peppercorns, leaving a peppercorn crust on each side of each filet.
  4. Cook the steaks
  5. Preheat a cast iron skillet the oven to 350F. Preheat the grill to 600F-700F.
  6. Melt butter in a second cast iron over the grill
  7. Sear the steaks for two minutes on each side.
  8. Remove the steaks from heat and transfer into the cast iron pan in the oven and cook to desired doneness.
  9. With steaks, you should be cooking to temperature and not for time. But, as a general rule, a 1" filet should take about 8-10 minutes to reach Medium Rare (135F). The same steak should take 12-15 minutes to reach Medium (145F).
  10. Remove the steaks from heat and transfer to a plate to rest.
  11. While the steaks are finishing in the oven, prepare the pan sauce
  12. Over medium heat, in a pan, add 1/4 cup of cognac or liquor and ignite. Shake the pan until the fumes are extinguished.
  13. Add the heavy cream, whisk for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
  14. Salt to taste.
  15. Add 1 tbsp of unsalted butter and whisk in.
  16. Serve
  17. Plate the sides.
  18. Slice steak across the grain.
  19. Top sliced steak with pan sauce.

Bon appetit!

Eiroa First 20 Years

Holy Smokes! Do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior Christian Eiroa?

In 1995, Christian entered the cigar business working for his father, Julio, at Caribe. Later that year, the family purchased Camacho cigars where Christian was able to make a name for himself in the premium cigar world. Business was good enough that, in 2008, Davidoff acquired Camacho. And in 2012, Christian started CLE Cigars, his current venture where his lines include Eiroa, Asylum and Edgar Hoill OSOK. In November last year, Eiroa started shipping a new premium cigar called First 20 Years to commemorate his first twenty years in the cigar industry. One of CLE’s reps is a friend of the show and we joke that he might as well be a co-host. Jason said early on as this cigar was just shipping that this was going to be a tremendous cigar and that he’d personally purchased a box and intended to purchase another one. I’m unaware that he’s given out any free samples of this cigar to anyone, meaning I’ve also personally paid for every one I’ve smoked.

I think I grabbed one from the first box to pass through Cigars and More 280 before they’d even been put into inventory and I’ve had a couple more since. What a stick! Anyone who has listened to the show knows that I’m a big fan of the Nat Sherman Timless Nicaraguan and the Liga Privada T52 by Drew Estate. Those two cigars and an occasional Padron 1926 are the mainstays of my “I’m going to the beach for the weekend” cigar lineup.

So this past weekend, Mrs MagicCity Burn and I headed down to the beach. I shook things up and didn’t take a Timeless or a T52 with me. I smoked four cigars while I was there, including the 2015 Cigar of the Year, My Father Le Bijou boxpressed, and the unquestionable star of the show was this Eiroa First 20 Years. It’s a full bodied masterpiece. The exact blend hasn’t really been discussed or released, but we’ve been told it’s a boxpressed Honduran puro and that’s good enough for me. It has a deep, rich Maduro wrapper and its construction and burn have been flawless every time. The flavor profile sits well with my Nicaraguan leanings lately. It’s heavy on cocoa and espresso, with just a hint of cinnamon. And this stick has a really pleasant aroma from start to finish. It’s on another level from most other handmade premium cigars.

It absolutely holds its own with an Opus X or a Padron 50th at a fraction of the price. From a budget perspective, I want to say these run about $13 locally, plus sales tax, as opposed to $20 or more for an Opus and $17 to $100 depending on exactly which Padron you’re lighting up.

MagicCityBurn’s New Adventures in Charcoal

So, I’ve largely used the same charcoal for years now. It’s an 80/20 Oak/Hickory blend and not some secret recipe like the Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe Natural Lump Charcoal. Lately, ownership of my favorite local store changed hands and they’ve stopped carrying the good stuff in favor of the branded stuff from Kamado Joe. They assure me that it’s the same, but, especially, for low and slow cooks, any shift in charcoal can really impart changes to the flavor of your meat. And I’ve been reluctant to make a large scale change, preferring to buy small bags of whatever natural lump coals I could find at the grocery store. Anyway, I ran out of charcoal before my last NY Strip cook and had to sear steaks over apple wood chunks with hickory chips. It was a sad day in the Magic City (the steaks were fine, but it took a couple days for the smell to wear off).


So, after some significant time reading reviews, I have begrudgingly accepted the newest member of the Magic City Burn family, Fogo All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal. It extols supposed virtues like a brown bag, mild, oaky flavor, no sparks (which may be worth the switch all on its own), and is apparently the #1 Best Seller for Lump Charcoal on Amazon. Of course, like all natural lump charcoal, it isn’t loaded down with chemicals, fillers and lighter fluid.

I’ve got 35 lbs of the stuff on the way. So I should be able to give it a good trial run. I may re-run through some old recipes or try some new ones to kick the tires and light the fires, so to speak. Stay tuned for rum and bourbon laced opinions.


Ain’t No Thing But a Chicken Wing

If you knew me in real life, you would know that I have a special place in my heart for chicken wings at, probably, any flavor or heat level you could come up with. Lend me your Jerk Seasoning, your Buffalo, Ghost Chili, Dry Rubbed, naked, breaded, smoked, baked, fried, grilled. I am your guy.

So why has it taken me literally years to post a chicken wing recipe? I dunno, but here’s one for you. It’s written for the Big Green Egg, but you should be able to re-create this on any smoker or grill that you can setup for indirect heat. In a pinch, a convection oven will even do.

Sweet Chili Glazed Wings


  • 2 lbs Chicken Wings (20-25 wings)
  • For Marinade
  • 1/4 cup Peanut Oil
  • 3 Tbsp Chopped Cilantro
  • 3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 10 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 2 Tbsp Ginger, Minced
  • 1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • For Glaze
  • 1 cup Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • Sriracha Sauce, to taste
  • Green onions, Sliced


    Marinate the wings
  1. Mix oil, cilantro, soy, ten garlic cloves, ginger and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes in a large bowl
  2. Add wings to mixture. Stir to coat.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours
  4. Cook the wings
  5. Setup the Egg for indirect heat.
  6. Preheat to 400F, with the cooking grid placed over the platesetter, feet up, and an aluminum pan underneath to catch any drippings.
  7. Wings will cook through in approximately 20 minutes. Turn once during cooking.
  8. Make the glaze
  9. While the wings are over the fire, combine vinegar, sugar, water, Sriracha, two garlic cloves and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes in a medium sauce pan.
  10. Bring to a boil.
  11. Reduce heat and simmer.
  12. Glaze should thicken in 15-20 minutes.
  13. Toss the wings
  14. Place wings into a second, clean large mixing bowl.
  15. Pour the glaze over the wings.
  16. Toss wings in glaze to coat.
  17. Garnish with sliced green onions

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

I just returned from a trip to Jamaica and it was amazing. I stayed at an all-inclusive resort near Montego Bay and took a day excursion over to Negril. While I was in Negril, my driver took me to a Jerk Chicken shack and I waz immediately hooked. It’s juicy, spicy and fragrant (think curry). That combination makes it basically unlike any BBQ chicken we eat stateside.

I found a source for Pimento wood (AKA Jamaican allspice) online and they’re apparently the only legal importer of Pimento wood in the US. So begins our experiment of trying to nail down authentic Jerk Chicken at home. Once I get any kinks ironed out, this will probably go into heavy rotation at the house.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken


  • Chicken. You can use a whole chicken, quicken quarters or boneless, skinless breasts/thighs. Up to you.
  • Pimento wood chips. You almost certainly won't find these locally, so be prepared to order them online. I got mine at eXotic Wood Chips, LLC, apparently the only legal importer in the US.
  • 5 scallions
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 Scotch Bonnet peppers (If you can't find them, you can substitute habanero peppers)
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger


    For the sauce:
  1. Prepare the scallions, garlic, onion and thyme by chopping them prior to placing them in the food processor.
  2. Do the same with the peppers. These are pretty hot, so you may want to wear gloves to keep from rubbing any of the oil in your eyes or nose. You can remove the seeds for a milder sauce, but for an authentic marinade/table sauce, you should use the whole peppers.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse a few times.
  4. Turn on to puree for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is uniformly consistent.
  5. Move to a container where it can be stored refrigerated for up to one month. Recipe yields about 3 cups of sauce.
  6. Chicken prep:
  7. Use a fork to poke holes in the chicken to permit deeper penetration of the marinade.
  8. Drizzle and rub marinade all over the chicken. Reserve any remaining marinade to use as a table sauce.
  9. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. I aim for more like 12-24 hours.
  10. Wood chips prep:
  11. Soak a handful of Pimento wood chips in water for at least an hour prior to the cook. You want the wood to smoke and smolder, rather than burn.
  12. Prior to starting the cooker, wrap the soaked wood chips in aluminum foil.
  13. The cook:
  14. Setup the Egg for indirect heat. Aim for a cooking grid temperature of about 275F.
  15. Remove the marinated chicken from the fridge. Discard any of the remaining used marinade.
  16. Place the aluminum foil pack of Pimento wood on top of the lit coals. You should have an opening in the top of the aluminum foil pack to release the smoke.
  17. Overcook the chicken slightly to an internal temp of 175-180F. For chicken breasts, this will take about an hour. For a whole chicken or quarters, you may be looking at two and a half hours or more.
  18. It's irie! Top with table sauce and serve over saffron rice and black beans.

USDA Prime Ribeye

AKA #MagicCityBurn vs. Shula’s Steak House

Recently, I was lucky enough to receive a $100 gift card to Shula’s Steakhouse, somewhere that I would never normally eat. Dinner there was quite an experience. I had an amazing glass of XYZin 50 Year Old Vine Zinfandel and their 22 oz bone-in, dry aged, USDA Prime Cowboy Ribeye. Having eaten at Fleming’s and Ruth’s Chris in the past, I’ve grown pretty confident that I do well enough with USDA Choice steaks that I don’t need to spend the extra on USDA Prime. But I was flat out outgunned by Shula’s.

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