Monday, October 3, 2022

Mushroom Swiss Burgers on the Grill

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We've been chowing down on mushroom Swiss burgers in the past few weeks. Not that you need a recipe for mushroom Swiss burgers, but I have a basic recipe that I follow for the mushroom topping, and it's easy to prepare one of three ways; sauteed, saucy, or creamy.

I add chopped bacon to my mushroom topping to add a smoky, salty element.

Fun Fungi Facts

Here are some fun facts about mushrooms from Harold McGee's epic On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. [Affiliate Link]

  • Mushrooms are natural flavor enhancers. They naturally contain monosodium glutamate, and many also contain guanosine monophosphate. 
  • Mushrooms don't have cellulose like plants. Instead, their cell walls are made of chitin which is the same thing as the exoskeletons of crustaceans. 
  • Mushrooms produce octenol (an 8-carbon alcohol) and there is more in the gills. Therefore, mature mushrooms that have opened have more gills and more flavor while unopened mushrooms like button mushrooms have less flavor.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with Tex-Mex Rice

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These shrimp tacos burst with spice and have smoky heat. The cilantro-lime slaw brings brightness and balances out the peppery shrimp. 

Chipotle shrimp tacos with Tex-Mex rice

The recipe is Eating Well's Chipotle Shrimp Tacos (August 2022 pg 114), I just changed it up a bit for us - I used a more complex-flavored seasoning and cooked the shrimp in a wok over hot coals. Finally we served it with a quick and easy Tex-Mex Rice.

Their seasoning was just ground chipotle, garlic, and salt, which is fine. For tacos, I wanted to jazz it up a bit with smoky paprika, toasted cumin, coriander, chili powder, and turbinado sugar. 

Chipolte Seafood Seasoning

Published: 09/24/2022

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Teriyaki Shaoxing Wings on the Grill

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College football is back, and these wings epitomize great Game Day eats! They are sweet, smoky, and spicy because we glaze them at the end with teriyaki sauce cut with Shaoxing.

Teryiaki Shaoxing Wings on the Big Green Egg kamado grill


What the heck is Shaoxing? It is a traditional fermented rice wine, also known as Shaohsing or "ye."ow wine". It is yellow or amber in color and mildly sweet, and highly fragrant, reminding me of a strong marsala wine (another favorite of mine). 

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Fire-Roasted Gochujang Glazed Salmon

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Fire-roasted salmon gets an upgrade with a spicy, spicy, and tangy glaze in this dish. 

This is really Eating Well's Gochujang Glazed Salmon with Garlic Spinach that I modified for the grill. I served it with teriyaki broccoli and red pepper orzo. We've made it a few times and each time every bite has disappeared.


Wednesday, August 24, 2022

How I Blacken Chicken on the Grill (or fish, scallops, etc)

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I recently had this dish at Lakeside Tavern in Knoxville and liked it so much that I decided to recreate it at home. It is blackened chicken breast, and andouille sausage smothered in their signature creole sauce with red and green bell peppers, served on a bed of jasmine rice. 

Here’s how mine turned out...

Plate of blackened chicken, double smoked sausage, peppers, dirty rice, and Voodoo cream sauce
My version features double-smoked sausage, blackened chicken thighs, pepper melange, Voodoo cream sauce, and dirty rice.

Before I get into that recipe, let’s talk about blackened food. I think most people’s experience with blackened food is seeing BURNT food and joking that it’s “blackened.” That couldn’t be further from the truth.

What is Blackened Food?

Blackening is a technique pioneered by Chef Paul Prudhomme. It involves cooking food over high heat with butter and a flavorful seasoning to create a dark-as-night crust that is NOT BURNT. The food should be tangy and spicy, not acrid and ashy.

blackening chicken in a cast iron skillet on the grill
The black part of blackened foods comes from the seasoning and milk fats in the butter cooked over high temperatures.


How to Blacken Fish, Chicken, and Other Foods

In my experience, there are 3 main elements for blackening food. Paul Prudhomme’s technique involves dredging food in butter and through his blackening seasoning, then cooking it over high heat.
  • Butter – Butter is the key because half of the “blackening” comes from the milk fats in the butter cooking over high heat. You will not get that from cooking oil, pork fat, tallow, or even clarified butter. You dredge the food through melted (NOT CLARIFIED) butter and season it heavily. I also use butter in the skillet as well.
  • Seasoning – The seasoning should be herbal, garlicky, and have the Cajun pepper power trio of black, red, and white ground pepper. Paul Prudhomme’s recipe is online, or you can use your favorite recipe. My go-to is Meat Church Holy Voodoo, which is not billed as a blackening seasoning but works as one.
  • Hot Cast Iron – The technique's creator used cast iron skillets for a reason – you need complete contact between food, butter, and hot metal. So, I like to use a skillet or griddle on the grill. Grilling chicken seasoned with blackening seasoning is not blackened chicken in the same way that chicken baked in an oven and slathered with BBQ sauce is not BBQ chicken.
Let's take a look at these elements in practice...

blackened chicken thighs, smoked sausage, and peppers with creole sauce and dirty rice

Lakeside Tavern Style Cajun Chicken and Sausage

Published 08/05/2022

Blackened chicken, spicy smoked sausage, grilled peppers and onions, Voodoo cream sauce, and dirty rice.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

My Low Effort Brisket Cook

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This isn't a tutorial, just notes from my latest brisket cook which was a lazy but tasty effort.

Several weeks ago, Kroger had USDA Choice whole beef briskets on sale for $1.99 a pound. I'll always jump on brisket at that price. If I do nothing but grind it into ground beef, I'm still getting about half off. I picked out a nicely shaped one and I was thrilled when I flipped it over and saw the Certified Angus Beef® Brand logo.

CAB brisket for $1.99?  That's like reserving an economy rental car and getting to the rental place and they give you a convertible sports car or SUV upgrade.

I wasn't in a hurry to cook it so I wet-aged it at 33-36°f for 30 days. It's not as good as dry aging but it is much easier and that was the theme of this brisket.....minimal effort. 

Brisket Prep

Again, I took the easy road at every turn on this cook. I have been extremely busy at work this summer and barely have time to come up for air. 

  • Trimming - I normally like to split my brisket into the point and flat, competition style. I do this because it shortens the cook, lets a big brisket fit in a Large Big Green Egg, and provides maximum surface area for bark development. Not this time, though. I trimmed the silverskin off of the flat and a little bit of fat here and there but not much, not even enough for the tallow pile.
  • Injection - None. 
  • Seasoning - I did a base layer of Obie-Cue's Double Strength Garlic Pepper and then a moderate coat of Obie-Cue's Big Bull's Texas Brisket seasoning
  • Dry Brine - After seasoning, I wrapped it loosely in a large food bag and put it in the fridge overnight to let the magic of dry brining take place.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

How to Set Up a Two-Zone Fire in a Kamado Grill

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“I think this is the best chicken I've ever had,” my youngest son's girlfriend said as we finished eating this Bacon Caprese Chicken. 

Bacon Caprese Chicken on the Big Green Egg kamado grill
Bacon Caprese Chicken with Rice Pilaf

It is grilled chicken adorned with a thick, garlicky balsamic glaze and topped with double-smoked bacon, mozzarella, and an herbed slice of tomato.

This is just a variation of Eating Well's Tomato and Mozzarella Smothered Grilled Chicken (June 2021), so I won't post the recipe, just what we did adding double-smoked sweet bacon. Since I was grilling mine, I chose a two-zone fire to avoid burning the balsamic glaze.

Two-Zone Fires

So what is a Two-Zone Fire and when do you use it?

Renown grilling expert Steven Raichlen writes in The Barbecue Bible, “In a two-zone fire, you spread the coals out in a single layer over about two-thirds of the bottom grill grate, leaving one third of the grate coal free. The zone with the coals is your cooking area – use it for grilling simple foods for a small number of people. The coal-free zone is your cool or safety zone. To control the exposure to the heat, move the food closer to or farther away from the lit coals.” (Raichlen 18)

It is important to note that a two-zone fire involves a heat gradient; it's not an on/off type of direct and indirect heat.