Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hamburgers: Size Matters

Are you firing up your grill for this Fourth of July weekend?

If so you aren't alone. Based on 2010 sales of Kingsford Charcoal, the #1 charcoal manufacturer in the USA, Independence Day is the busiest grilling day of the year:

Independence Day – 40,914,710 pounds
Memorial Day – 40,783,128 pounds
Labor Day – 29,327,990 pounds

A lot of those grills will be seeing the basics like hamburgers and when it comes to hamburgers,

SIZE DOES MATTER

The size of your hamburger patty has as much to do with the final burger as your ingredients do. Size affects
  • the texture of the burger, 
  • how long it takes to cook, and 
  • the taste of the burger. 
So which size of patty is right?  That is still up to you and your preferences. Here are my thoughts about some of the usual sizes.
Yes, I actually made 5 different sized patties...sigh, I need help!
First, I like to weigh out my portions. It keeps your sizes consistent which is important for similar cooking times. It's hard to tell the difference between these two without the scale, isn't it? 


2 ounce patty
Perfect for making slider style or mini-burgers. Other than that, I almost never use this size.

3 ounce patty
If you like small, thin patties, these are the ones for you. These are the size I would use either for making a double patty burger (double cheese, Big Mac) or for making a Jucy Lucy where you put a piece of cheese between two 3 oz patties and seal them together. These grill quickly but they are so thin they can be difficult to handle without falling apart. These cook in 3-4 minutes per side at 450f.

Quarter pound patty
To me, this is a good “standard size” burger that properly fits the bun. It gives a good balance between the chargrilled outer texture and the juicy, meaty interior. These cook right at 4 minutes per side at 450f.

Third pound patty
This is what you want when you want a thick, juicy burger. You end up with a burger that leans towards a more beefy interior and proportionately less chargrilled surface, so you definitely need quality meat for these. These cook at 4 ½ to 5 minutes per side at 450f.   Be sure to temp check your burgers at this thickness.

6 ounce patties and larger
I call these “meatloaf burgers” because the balance of chargrilled meat and inside meat is out of whack, making the texture “meatloafy”. Plus when I see people make these behemoths, they usually throw everything but the kitchen sink into the mixture. It's also harder to cook these properly without burning the exterior. The exception would be if you get them rolled out as thin as other burgers and then served on a larger bun. Then you are getting the burger texture, just more of it.

If you need some burger ideas for this weekend, here are a few easy ones from Grilling.com
Photo courtesy of Grilling.com



So what is your favorite sized burger?   What is the biggest burger you have ever eaten? 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Infinite Possibilities Pork Chops

One of my favorite "local" restaurants in is Rafferty's Restaurant and Bar.

It was one of the first restaurants I visited when we moved to Knoxville.  I could go on and on about why I like this place (friendly service, excellent food, fun atmosphere, and they cook with real hickory wood) but this post isn't about a restaurant review.  

Nope.  This post is about my interpretation of their hickory grilled pork chops with Six Shooter Cajun Butter that I had on a recent visit there with Alexis.  (Forgive the photo quality.  It was taken with a phone on their deck at night so the odd lighting is from nearby signs.)


Actually, I guess this is really just about the concept of pork chops and compound butter.  It's an inspirational idea for grilling and perfect for the upcoming 4th of July cookouts.  

This idea kicks butt because you can grill a bunch of pork chops all the same way for a crowd of guests.   Then you let them individualize theirs with their choice of some compound butters from a "butter bar" that you made ahead.  And you sit there looking like a grilling rock star!

First, make your compound butters.  Tonight I made two.  One is an attempt at Rafferty's Six Shooter Cajun butter and the other is Apple Pie Butter.  

Almost Rafferty's Six Shooter Cajun Butter
1/2 stick butter, softened
1/4 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp granulated garlic
1/8 tsp onion powder
pinch of celery salt

Mix together thoroughly with a fork.  Scoop into 4 portions with a melon baller or teaspoon.  Freeze for 15 minutes and then keep refrigerated.

Apple Pie Butter
1/2 stick butter, softened
1/4 tsp brown sugar

Mix together thoroughly with a fork.  Scoop into 4 portions with a melon baller or teaspoon.  Freeze for 15 minutes and then keep refrigerated.

Infinite Possibilities Pork Chops
Inspired by Rafferty's Restaurant and Bar

2 ea piggy porterhouse steaks (aka 1" thick bone in pork chops)

Pork Chop Brine
2 cups apple juice
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
enough water to cover the pork chops
Pork chop rub
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp tri color pepper, fresh cracked 
3/4 tsp thyme, dried

Brine the pork chops for 4-6 hours in the refrigerator.  

Rinse and dry the pork chops.  Season with the pork chop rub.

Build a fire in your grill and set it up for indirect heat at 250f.  
Option 1:  Big Green Egg - lump coal, 2 hickory wood chunks, plate setter in, legs up
Option 2:  Charcoal grill - Kingsford w/ Hickory, coals banked to the sides of grill with a void in the middle.
Option 3:  Gas grill - Burners on but not under the meat.  Place a foil pack w/ hickory chips over one burner.  [See Patio Daddio for a perfect tutorial on gas grilling with wood smoke]

The raised rack over a pan is another way to do indirect heat.

Smoke the pork chops until they reach an internal temperature of about 135f.  This took about one hour at a cooking temp of 250f.  Next time I'd be tempted to go for around 300f to speed it up.  

Now turn the heat on the grill up to 450f.  If your coals have died down, you can add more pre-lit coals.  Grill the chops over direct heat for about a total of 4 minutes, flipping half way through.  You want them to be 140f when you pull them off.  

Now these chops would be a solid dish as is.  Perfectly acceptable and delicious.  


But as soon as they come off and while they are ready to rest for 5 minutes, if you add a pat of the Apple Pie Butter....


Or the Almost Rafferty's Six Shooter Cajun Butter.....

NOW you have a flavor party!  When you cut into that pork chop the butter and spices cascade down the meat and covers it with wall to wall "tastes so good".   The silky smooth butter and juicy pork chop just make my mouth do back flips.

These butters are just two possibilities, but as the title implies, the possibilities are infinite.  Play around with the taste combos and find something you like on your own.

Speaking of the upcoming holiday, if you need other inspiration for 4th of July cookouts, check out Grilling.com.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Grilled Big Mac

Filed under:  "Hell, why not?"

I think that a lot of people can remember when they were a kid and had their first Big Mac. It was kind of a rite of passage, graduating from a plain small burger to a “grown up” burger (or so we thought).

The Big Mac isn't really a bad burger in concept. Usually it's execution that's the problem. So on a whim yesterday, I decided to make grilled Big Mac style burgers for lunch.   These are intended to be a Big Mac clone, just a grilled version of them.

Photo taken "Pre-smush".  To fit it in my mouth I had to "smush" it so it wasn't so thick.

Want the recipe? Here is is

two all beef patties
special sauce
lettuce
cheese
pickles
onions
on a
sesame seed bun.

What? Seriously that was about it.

The special sauce I made was an adaptation from TopSecretRecipes.com
½ cup Dukes mayonnaise
2 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sweet pickled jalapeno, diced
1 teaspoon dill pickle, diced
1 teaspoon Vidalia onion, finely minced
pinch of salt
pinch of black pepper

Whisk it all together and put in the fridge for 1 hour.

Instead of just using chopped onions on the burger, I grilled some and chopped them up. Grilling them concentrates the already sweet flavor of the Vidalia onion.

I grilled my buns. I cut the top off of a top bun and the bottom off of a bottom bun to make two “middle buns”.
My buns are toasted!

I used my normal burger mix (1 egg, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, ½ tsp garlic powder, 1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce, and ¼ cup bread crumbs per pound of ground chuck) to make 3 ounce patties. Grilled them for 8 minutes total.


Then it is as simple as putting it all together.


I'll be honest. I grilled a Big Mac kind of as a spoof. I was killing time before I started to smoke a few pork butts overnight. Turns out it was a very good burger, not anything like what I've ever gotten at a drive through. Everyone devoured theirs and asked that I make these again sometime. 

It did put me in a “food coma” for an hour or more afterward though.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Blackened Redfish with Grilled Peppers and Rice

Fishing was a big part of my youth.

My grandfather taught me to fish in the “tobacco pond” on his North Carolina farm. Later I taught myself to fish in the mosquito laden coves, Intracoastal waterway, and on the creaking ocean piers of Florida. Those sun washed days of waiting for the rod tip to twitch and bend produced plenty of fish but I never ate any. I'm a fish-o-phobe. Love catching them, hate eating them.

My son, Brett, and his friend took a fishing trip in Florida last week and returned with some fresh redfish. When I think of redfish I immediately think of blackened redfish made famous by Paul Prudhomme. That begs a question: If you blacken redfish (aka red drum) are you supposed to redden black drum?

I took this opportunity to try out a recipe or two from a book I will be reviewing soon, 1001 Best Grilling Recipes by Rick Browne. I took the blackening seasoning from one recipe for salmon and matched it with his Grilled Peppers & Rice. 


Blackened Redfish with Grilled Peppers & Rice

4 ea redfish fillets
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp parsley, fresh chopped
4 Tbsp butter

1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 2” wide strips
2 medium onions, cliced into ½ inch slices
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ cup cooked long grain rice
½ cup cooked wild rice
¼ cup fresh basil
1.5 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp parsley, fresh chopped
¼ cup roasted red bell pepper
½ tsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Start your rice at the same time you fire up the coal for your grill for a direct heat cook at 350f.

Mix the salt, pepper, cayenne, oregano, garlic and thyme for the fish seasoning.

Brush the onion slices and peppers with oil and grill 3-4 minutes per side, until the veggies have char marks and are tender. 


Remove and dice the vegetables.

Mix these veggies with the rice, basil, lemon juice, parsley, red bell pepper, salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm.

Now put a cast iron skillet or griddle plate on the grill. I was using a Craycort castiron grate so I was able to just switch out one of the grates for a griddle insert. Whatever you use, you want to get it preheated HOT. Real friggin' HOT (technical culinary term)! Place the butter and parsley in a tiny sauce pan.


When grilling fish, here are two quick tips [Source: Rouxbe.com]
  1. Dry the exterior of the fish. This will help prevent sticking to the griddle pan and get a nice blackened instead of steamed crust.
  2. Keep the fish cold until the last possible minute by keeping it on a bed of crushed ice. Fish proteins break down quickly from heat.

Place the fillets on the griddle and top with 1 Tablespoon of the butter mixture. Be careful. If the butter splashes onto the glowing coals, it will flash over. Either way, it will smoke heavily. 


Cook for 2 minutes and then flip. Top with another Tablespoon of the butter. 


Cook for 2 more minutes and then remove from heat. Serve immediately with the rice.


I didn't eat the fish, because, well.....it is fish. Brett and Cameron devoured it though. But the grilled peppers and rice rocked. It reminded me of “dirty rice” without meat but amped up with the fire roasted veggies.  It is the perfect side dish for blackened redfish or just about any Cajun dish.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pub Food On The Grill

Pub food isn't fancy.

Pub food isn't healthy.

But there is something about pub food that draws me to it like a moth to a cheese-dripping, bacon crunching flame.

The good news is that I don't eat dessert. Chocolate cake, pecan pie, and cheesecake don't interest me. Tiramisu?  Meh.  My indulgences lean towards an occasional stack of deep fried onion rings or a few bacon wrapped, cheese stuffed jalapenos.

Here are two quickies I've done in the past week.

Chicken Wings

I've done chicken wings many times on here. Hot wings, bbq wings, sriracha wings, teriyaki wings, and well....a lot of wings. But they always start off basically the same. Fire roasted 30-20-10 at 375f. That means cooked indirect on a 375f grill for 30 minutes, flipped, 20 minutes, sauced and cooked for 10 more minutes.

This time I did something different. I started of using a bold marinade for an hour instead of a dry rub. The wing soak I created was

¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ tsp dried minced garlic
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
2 tsp parlsey, chopped
2 tsp oregano, chopped
2 tsp roasted red pepper, chopped
½ cup oil

I fire roasted them as usual. You can see the first layer of flavor clinging onto the wings.


These were tossed in teriyaki sauce, Trevor's favorite, and served with Bush's Bourbon and Brown Sugar Grillin' Beans. 


These wings definitely brought more in the flavor department. The one downside is that the texture suffered from the marinade. They weren't as crispy as usual and I pride myself in that perfect crunchy bite. So let's classify this as a work in progress.

Next time:
I'll air dry them in the fridge for an hour after pulling them from the marinade. Maybe put the sauce on earlier to roast the skin crisper (30-15-15?). Or both!

Twice Baked Fajita Potatoes (kind of like potato skins)

Not a real recipe here. I just had some leftover steak fajitas and needed a snack on Sunday. I roasted a potato for about 1 hour 15 minutes on Alexis' Big Green Egg. I split it in half and scooped out the insides. It was almost too hot to handle and steam escaped as I dug into them. I mixed the insides with some cheese, chopped steak fajita, the leftover peppers and onions, cilantro, and fajita finishing sauce.

Those bad boys went back on the Big Green Egg for about another 10 minutes, just long enough to melt it all together into ooey-gooey goodness.

Hit them with a bit more of cilantro and finishing sauce (just sour cream and fajita marinade mixed) and it was a rocking  snack. 


So do you have a favorite pub food “guilty favorite”? Stuff mushrooms maybe? Chili cheese fries?

Monday, June 13, 2011

GrillGrates: Open Letter to Brad Barrett

Dear Brad,

It seems I owe you an apology. I was wrong. (dammit)

Last year when I first saw GrillGrates on a website, I was skeptical. My view was
  • they were for people who can't control their grill and always burn things
  • they were useless to people who can manage fire
  • that goofy looking spatula is just a gimmick
Then I met you at the Eggtoberfest last year and we talked about them while he made a grilled pizza. I told you my point of view (for people who can't grill) and that GrillGrates didn't do anything my Craycort cast iron grates could do. It was a very pleasant exchange and you challenged me to try them side by side but I didn't take you up on your offer.

Then at Kingsford University this Spring, Chris Lilly used them during the National Pork Board's demonstration. Yes, the several time Memphis in May winner (including 2011) used them and I was still stubborn.

Chris Lilly cooking at Kingsford U 2011.
The students of Kingsford University received a free set of Grill Grates but mine sat in a corner for another month or so. Then I finally broke them out.

So what are GrillGrates?
You've probably noticed these weird things in some of my posts over the past two months. They are a set of 1 or more plates that lock together and can fit on just about any type of grill, gas or coal. They fit right on top of your existing grates. They are multipurpose; they create beautiful sear marks, make cooking delicate items easy, and prevent greasy flare ups.


I made this graphic for you!  (Kidding, stole it from their site.)

Here's a picture of mine before I got them all dirty and greasy seasoned them.




Any audiophile or computer geek looked at that and said that they look just like a heat sink. That's pretty much what they are – a heat capacitor. It absorbs heat and then doles it out evenly.

I still stand by my first assertion, that these are for people who can't control their fire.
The design has the grease drip down into the valleys of the rails where they sizzle away. Normally, they grease would fall to the flames causing flare ups that burn your burgers and chicken. If you have problems grilling, I think these would help you immensely.



I was wrong that these are useless to someone who knows how to grill.
I thought I would use them once and put them away. But I use them about once or twice a week. I always use them for burgers because they make flipping them so easy (see next section). GrillGrates work amazingly for delicate fish. I find it easier to grill chicken breasts on them without drying them out. They are also great for pork chops. They rock for making quesadillas and pizzas on the grill too.


Let's talk sear marks. I can get great sear marks on my cast iron grates but GrillGrates make flawless grill marks EASY. There are two schools of thought about the importance of grill marks. One says, “you can't taste a grill mark”. But the other side knows that you taste with your eyes first.

Remember this food porn?  Done on GrillGrates.

I was wrong about that “goofy looking spatula”.
Just like the GrillGrates, I use it way more than I thought it would. I even use it when I'm not using the GrillGrates. Have you ever gone to slide a spatula under a burger or piece of fish and instead of sliding under, it “pushes and smushes” the food? The angled finger like tips make it so easy to get under then lift the food. I really thought this was a dorky piece of equipment that was only even needed because of the GrillGrates. This is my favorite spatula now so I guess I am the dork!



Would I give up my Craycort cast iron grates for them? Heck no! I still use them in almost every single cook I do. But I am very glad to have GrillGrates in my grilling arsenal, especially when I'm cooking on some of my other grills that can't use Craycort grates.

I've used them about 17-18 times now and GrillGrates work as advertised*. If you scroll back through the past 2 months, you will see them pictured but not mentioned. I was testing them out to be sure they worked.

They would be a “grate” addition to anyone's grill or an excellent gift for Father's Day. I felt bad because I was posting this so close to Fathers Day but then I found out you can buy these at retail locations too. Check outtheir website for areas around you.

So Brad, you were right, I was wrong. I wonder how crow tastes on GrillGrates....

Sincerely,
Chris

*Except for the “searing in juices” part. It has been proven that searing on any surface does not actually seal in juices but it does add to the dish.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Buenos Aires Heart Stopper

When I first saw a photo of this Argentinian recipe in Planet Barbecue! last year, I thought it looked like a heart attack waiting to happen.

It's a strip steak smothered with fried eggs, bacon and chimichurri.

I went back and forth about trying the recipe for over a year.  I knew it would either be over the top fantastic or just a car wreck on the culinary freeway, there wasn't going to be much middle ground.  

Anyway, Raichlen knocked it out of the park with this one (once again)!  The taste jumped off of the plate.  Alexis loved it because with every bite you got different flavor combinations depended on what all got onto the fork.  I have made two dozen or more recipes from Steven Raichlen's Planet Barbecue! and Barbecue Bible and highly recommend these books for anyone interested in grilling.

Don't think I didn't take the "heart stopper" part seriously.  I've been exercising a lot more this week in preparation for sparring with the black belt candidates this weekend, so I thought if there was a week to try this recipe, it was THIS week!

Here is my slightly altered version. 

Buenos Aires Heart Stopper
Adapted from Planet Barbecue!

1 skirt steak, inside cut
salt and pepper
4 eggs
8 strips bacon

Chimichurri
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely diced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Begin by mixing the chimichurri together and cooking the bacon until crisp.

I used a skirt steak instead of a butterflied NY strip steak that the recipe originally called for.  Since it is thinner, no butterflying was needed.   I trimmed some of the fat and scored the skirt steak.


Season the steak with salt and pepper.   Grill over direct heat at 450f for 2 minutes per side.  Skirt steak cooks quickly.

If you have a griddle insert like my Craycort cast iron grate, start your eggs after you flip the steaks and they should finish close to the same time.  


If you are using a griddle plate or cast iron skillet, cook the eggs sunny side up after the steak has finished cooking and is resting.

Thinly slice the skirt steak ACROSS THE GRAIN (see video) and divide into 4 portions.  Top each portion with 1 fried egg, 2 slices of bacon, and drizzle with the chimichurri sauce.  
I left a piece whole for the picture...do as I say, not as I do :)

Father's Day Grill Giveaway
Brad's Deals is giving away a brand new Kenmore grill, steaks, and accessories.  

From what I read, you can enter once a day between now and June 15th.  It's a four burner gas grill with a side sear burner too.  The steaks are four fillet and four strip steaks.  If you win, I won't tell the Dad in your family that you scored it for free, I promise. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Grilled Scallops On A Stick

Why is food on a stick so fun?  I don't know but it is.

A few weeks ago, I received a copy of On A Stick! 80 Party-Perfect Recipes ($16.95) by Matt Armendariz for review from Quirk Books.  Yes THAT Matt with mad photography skills from the world famous food blog Matt Bites.  (For the record, Matt does not actually bite, he just has a loud bark.)
On A Stick! on sticks....gee Chris, you're so clever....not.

On A Stick! is more than a collection of shish kebab recipes.  It is an exploration of party foods on a stick, both sweet and savory.  Of course, there are the more traditional satays and yakatori.  But there are also unexpected items like Spaghetti On A Stick and Chicken and Waffles.  The line up of sweet stick foods will surely blow you away.  Chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick?  Check!  Deep Fried Candy Bars?  Yep.  Red and White Sangria Pops?  Yes, please!

Matt presents the recipes from the perspective of entertaining guests.  Each recipe includes a full page, stunning photograph that gives you a flood of ideas on how to serve party food.  Matt shows small little styling tricks that make the food pop off of the plate with color, texture, and flavor.  If you are doing any food entertaining this summer, On A Stick! will give you everything you need to know to create the perfect tasting menu.  

The two things I like best about this book are it's variety of cooking techniques and it's inspirational nature.  For stick food, it would be easy to be 100% about grilling, right?  But no.  On A Stick! balances grilling, deep frying, freezing, dipping in chocolate (yes, that counts as a cooking technique), and using fresh raw ingredients.  While the recipes are solid and easy to follow, this is also the kind of book where you can thumb through it for 15 minutes, put it down and go make something similar inspired by things you saw in the book.  

For example, I made this easy recipe based on several recipes from On A Stick!

Grilled Scallops with Sweet Chili Sauce
inspired by On A Stick!
Serves 4 main or 8 appetizers

1 lb Scallops
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup red plum jelly
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Sriracha sauce
2 tsp mirin 
1 Tbsp cornstarch 
3 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped

In a small sauce pan, heat the vinegar, sugar, and jelly until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the garlic, Sriracha sauce, and mirin and simmer for 5 minutes.

Whisk the cornstarch and cold water together.  Add into the sauce mixture, whisking until thickened to a sauce consistency.  Remove from heat, add the cilantro and let cool for 1 hour.

Set up your grill for direct grilling over high heat.  Here I am using a highly technical method taught by Neil "Big Mista" Strawder on the Ultimate BBQ Showdown on CBS last weekend.  "I'm putting this charcoal in a geometrical shape....called a pile."

My Bodom Picnic grill that I got from Kingsford University this year.

Scallops are delicate so you want to make sure your grates are thoroughly clean, preheated, and well oiled or seasoned. Otherwise, your scallops will definitely stick and tear.  Here I'm using Craycort cast iron grates which are well seasoned.  If you are using stainless or porcelain grates, moisten a towel with oil and rub it on the grates about a minute before grilling. I had the grates over the flame for a good 10-15 minutes before starting to cook.


Place your scallops on skewers.  I like to use the double skewer technique, this keeps the scallops from spinning when you flip them.  Great for shrimp too.  Season the scallops with a few pinches of sea salt.

Grill over high heat for 2 minutes per side.
Stick tip:  Use a heat shield like this to keep from burning your skewers.

Garnish with cilantro and a drizzle of the chili sauce.  Serve with extra dipping sauce.

[Standard Disclosure]  I received my review copy of On A Stick! from Quirk Books at no cost.  The statements are all my own, I didn't even read the press release they sent with it. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Alexis' Fire Roasted Lasagna

Which do you think gets your house hotter during the summer, cooking inside OR going in and out to cook outside on the grill?

One night this week, I cooked a meat sauce and vermicelli on the stove top and garlic bread in the oven.  It was 95f outside and 71f inside.  The temperature inside rose 4 degrees to 75f.  

The next night it was 95f outside and 71f inside.  Alexis cooked her lasagna and garlic bread on her Big Green Egg outside and the temp only rose two degrees to 73f.    Just one more reason to be cooking outdoors!  

Quick Grilling Tip
If your grill's thermometer is held in place with a spring clip on the inside of the grill, take it off so your thermometer spins freely.  Then, when you are cooking, rotate your dial so the target cooking temperature is at 12 o'clock at the top.   Here I have 350f at the top.

Then you can see from a quick glance at a distance if you are on your desired cooking temp.  You can't read the numbers from here but because it's easy to tell if the red needle is straight up and down.  

Speaking of Alexis' lasagna.....

Alexis' Fire Roasted Lasagna

1 lb lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
2 lb ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups mozzarella, shredded
6 cups meat sauce for spaghetti
4 cups mozzarella, shredded

Mix together the ricotta cheese, eggs, basil, oregano, parsley, garlic and 2 cups of the mozzarella.

Cover the bottom of a 13 x 9 stoneware casserole dish with a layer of the noodles.  Top with a layer of the ricotta mixture.  Sprinkle a little more mozzarella on top, maybe 1/4-1/2 cup.  Cover with another layer of noodles and add one half of the meat sauce, spreading it evenly.  

Repeat all of that for the third and fourth layer.  Top the meat sauce with the mozzarella cheese and any of the ricotta mixture that is left.  All this prep should take about 5 seconds if you are as fast as Alexis ;)
Click on picture for animation.


Preheat your grill to 375f set up for indirect heat.   The Big Green Egg and other ceramic cookers are IDEAL for this since they are effectively wood/coal fired brick ovens.  In this case, Alexis set up her Egg in the convection oven configuration with the plate setter in, legs down.  She put spacers so the casserole dish did not sit directly on the plate setter.    

Place the uncovered casserole in the grill and close the lid.....

Cook the lasagna for 1 hour or until hot and the cheesey gooey crust is golden brown.  She rotated hers once during the cook for even cooking.

At the halfway point.

Remove from heat and let rest for 15-20 minutes to cool down.

Meanwhile place 1/2 loaf of french bread, split, face down directly on your plate setter (only if it is clean like Alexis'.  I would have to put foil on mine before doing this).   For regular grills, you could use a preheated pizza stone as long as it was HOT.

Cook the bread cut side down for 2-3 minutes until browned and then flip.  Brush with a mix of clarified butter, parsley, and minced garlic.  Cook for 2 minutes more or until golden brown. 

Cut and serve.

Fire roasting the lasagna really brought out certain flavors.  The meat sauce was a little sweeter and the crispy cheese picked up a slight smokiness.   It was excellent.  Not only did we have it for dinner last night and for lunch today, we're finishing it off for dinner tonight.

Grand Slam Burger Recipe Contest
Philly-Gourmet Meat Company has a contest running where you could win this Burton tailgaiting kit.  

They are having the Philly Gourmet Grand Slam Burger Recipe Contest from April 15th through July 15th, 2011.   Click HERE for a link to their site and details on how to enter.