Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Grits. They're Not Just For Breakfast Anymore.

(Long....a recipe of sorts is at the end)

The name just sounds gross, I know. Maybe you've even had a bad experience with grits. But I'm not talking about a watery quicksand concoction with a joyless melting pat of butter in the middle of it. No instant or quick grits for me.

I'm talking about REAL grits. Coarse, stone ground grits like the ones from Whites Mill (the brand we use). This is an actual shot of their mill in Virginia. Every town and village in the south used to have a grist mill like Whites where you would grind your corn into flour and grits. The miller took his cut of your product as his pay (jeez....there's always a middleman, even back in the day!).

Stone ground grits are better, in my opinion, for two reasons. First, they are less processed and retain more nutrients. Second, they create a totally different end result than the quick or instant grits. They have more texture, substance, and actually taste like something!

But even if you like grits.....grits for dinner?
Sure! Grits are a staple at fish fry events, but I never really considered them a "side dish" outside of breakfast until I ate the absolute best dish I ever had in my life a few years ago, Shrimp and Grits at Puleo's Grille in Knoxville (my absolute most favorite restaurant ever!). The grits were like two mounds of mashed potatoes covered in shrimp, sausage, peppers, and onions in a tasso gravy, nothing like any grits I'd ever had, in texture or flavor. The grits were the base of the entire dish. If it weren't for the grits, it would be an okay soup or something.In attempting to clone Steve Puleo's recipe at home, my experimentation failed until I found stone ground grits at the Mast General Store. Then it was awesome!

So tonight I was trying to decide how to prepare a pork tenderloin and was all over the place with ideas when Alexis said, "You should do something with those grits". Here's what I came up with. I'll tweak it a bit but it was pretty great on a first run.

Fire Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Asiago Cheese Grits
Standard recent photo disclaimer: Nikon is in the shop from being dropped and until I get it back, I've thrown the towel in on getting decent food photos with this point and shoot.
1 cup stone ground coarse grits (seriously, don't bother with trying to substitute)
3 cup water
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 t kosher salt
2 T butter
1/2 cup asiago cheese, shredded

1 lb pork tenderloin
1 t kosher salt
1 t lemon pepper
1 t tarragon ground
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
1/2 cup all porpoise flour
salt, pepper, red pepper to taste

The grits & meat cook at the same time, but for simplicity I'm breaking them into two sections.

Asiago Cheese Grits
Start a covered pot with grits, water, broth, & salt at the same time you start heating the pan to sear the meat (see next paragraph). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 25 minutes, stirring often (think risotto). Add cheese and butter, cook for 5 more minutes. You don't want this runny, you want it thick where it will hold it's shape when scooped onto a plate. But if you think it's drying out too much while cooking, you can add a bit (tablespoons) of broth or water.

Fire Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Rub the pork with the salt, lemon pepper, and tarragon.

Set up your grill for high heat (350f) indirect cooking. Specifically for the Big Green Egg, I had it running 350f with the plate setter placed legs up. What you DON'T want to do is to get the lump charcoal red hot, put the wood chips on, and then absent mindedly shut the bottom air vent (instead of just closing it a bit). Yep. Hot coals + wood - airflow = SMOLDER. Toss a pop up canopy in for even more fun. Fortunately, no meat was harmed, nothing had gone on yet. I just thought these funny out takes made up for the lack of quality photos! Hey, everyone screws up now and then!

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add some oil (just enough to coat the pan) and sear the tenderloin on all 4 sides for about 60-90 seconds a side. Remove pan from heat and put the tenderloin on the covered grill. Cook until meat hits 145-150f internal temp. Remove and wrap in foil to rest.

Reheat skillet. Deglaze the pan with a few splashes of chicken broth. Add butter to melt. Whisk in flour. Whisk continuously until the butter/flour forms a dark roux. You want it darker than you think, because adding the rest of the broth lightens it up. Add the rest of the broth and whisk gravy to desired consistency.

Slice tenderloin very thin.

Place a heaping scoop of grits on a plate. Layer slices of pork around the grits. Ladel gravy over it and top with parsley.

For a first time, pulled it out of a hat recipe, our family of four rated it "four empty plates plus four sets of seconds". I'll be working on this one and perfect it but it's pretty damn good already.

For printable recipe click here:
Fire Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Asiago Cheese Grits

Monday, March 30, 2009

Blount BBQ Bash

The 3rd Annual Blount BBQ Bash is set for May 8th and 9th.This is a fun BBQ cook-off and charity event. I volunteered extensively in 2007 and had a fantastic time. One of the things I like about this event is that the $12,000 in prize money is split between the winners and a bona fide charity of their choose. For example, if a team wins the $1,500 for first place in butts, the team gets $750 and the charity of the teams choice gets $750. In addition, each year, the proceeds from the event go to a designated charity (this year it is Blount County Campus). The first two years raised over $50,000 for the previous two charities.

There is still time to enter a team until April 10, 2009. There are also opportunities to serve as judges and volunteers.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Grendeddy Dave's Hawg Rub and Hawgwash

[Standard Review Disclaimer: This product review is based on my subjective opinions only. When it comes to food, especially BBQ, what one person finds to be the best ever, someone else will call horrible. I have no business affiliation from any product reviewed and have paid retail price for the product, unless otherwise noted in full disclosure.]

I cooked two butts last night, one for me and one for a friend (I swear Ma! I'm not smoking butts, I was holding it for a 'friend'). I took the opportunity to test out Grendeddy Dave's on my pork butt so I could compare it to the other one.The butts went on the BGE at 5pm Friday. One rubbed with Grendeddy Dave's Hawg Rub and the other with what I consider the gold standard, Billy Bones Competition (green label) rub.

The BGE held steady at 250f overnight, as usual. Here's the log. When I re-read the weather column this afternoon, I started laughing. I totally forgot I did that.On edit: You might not be able to read my handwriting so I'll decipher:
5pm - cool, raining
6pm - rain
7pm - rain
8pm - more rain
9pm - building ark
10pm - collecting animals 2x2
11pm - pigs reluctant to get on board
12am - pigs consulting with big bad wolf on ark destruction techniques

I only had one working remote probe thermometer last night so I put it in the smaller butt*. Once it hit the target temp and it came off to rest, I switched the probe to the larger butt. That's why the temp changes drastically at 5am.The bigger pork butt finished almost exactly 15 hours after it started.
So both butts were cooked relatively the same so here are my opinions.

Grendeddy Dave's Hawg Rub: I wanted to like it. It has a nice aroma and gives a nice appearance. But every bite I had, the flavor of celery hit me. I guessed they used celery salt but it was actually celery seed. Either way, it was not a hit in my book.

Grendeddy Dave's Hawgwash: Loved it, loved it. This is an Eastern NC vinegar type sauce and it punched me in the mouth with heat and sweet. It tasted great on meat from either batch. I will definitely be getting this again. It's one of my favorite commercial sauces for pulled pork that I've ever had. It might be a good mop on chicken too.Alexis bought our Grendeddy Dave's products at Mast General Store, but you can also get it from Grendeddy Dave's directly online. As always, you can get Billy Bones products through his website in quantity or if you can buy individual bottles through online resellers (check link in 3rd paragraph).

*Reminds me of a funny joke, What's the difference between an oral and rectal thermometer? Leave your guesses about the punch line in the comments section and I'll post the answer later this week!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thai Beef Kabobs

"To feel good, you should run barefoot through new grass," shared our 9 y/0 son tonight as he panted on our deck while we cooked on the Big Green Egg. That's one smart kid in my book.

I had the the left over "chain of bull" and the end pieces from the whole beef tenderloin that we have butchered and cooked over the past few days. I wanted to make something great without a trip to the store so we made up these dishes tonight. Sure they aren't something that hasn't been done before, perhaps not even authentic, but it wasn't bad for just making it up on the spot. Forgive the horrible pictures, my DSLR is at the Nikon factory getting repaired after being dropped last week.

The menu was:
Thai Beef Tenderloin Kabobs
Honey Ginger Carrots
Sweet Jasmine Rice

Thai Beef Tenderloin Kabobs
1 lb beef tenderloin, cubed in 1" pieces
2 T oyster sauce
2 T fish sauce
2 T lime juice
1 T cilantro
1 t sesame oil
1 t red pepper flakes
1 t ginger, fresh grated (added after picture taken!)
We mixed all ingredients except the beef and then toss it in too. I let it marinade for an hour but longer would be better, maybe 2-3 hours. Put them on skewers. Cooked them on the Big Green Egg over direct heat at 500f. I used them on the grid extender because my skewer handles stick out of the egg and I wanted them level. If I used bamboo skewers I wouldn't bother with the extender. I did them about 1 minute and then turned them, repeating for a total of 4 minutes.

Other cooking alternatives would be (in order of my preference):
-over very hot coals on any grill other than the BGE.
-high heat on a gas grill
-broiling in an oven

Honey Ginger Carrots
1 lb baby carrots
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 T butter
1/2 inch piece of ginger grated
1/4 cup honey

Bring broth/butter to a simmer and add carrots. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until liquid is almost evaporated. Pour off liquid. Add ginger and honey and cook over low heat for another 10 minutes.

The result? Tasty!
Sure I'd change a few things if I had unlimited supplies. I'd add some finely diced chili peppers to the meat marinade. I'd add something more to add visual texture to the carrots (maybe finely diced sweet bell pepper?). But again, pretty darn great for something we just threw together because it's what we had!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Saturday Ribtacular part 2

A quick wrap up for yesterday's rib cook, taste test, product review, and all around NCAA March Madness Pig Out.

Trevor did a great job smoking his first ribs. Granted I was there every step of the way helping him but he was the pitmaster for the day.

Ribs after 5 1/2 hours of slow hickory smoking:Ribs ready to be devoured by us and two of Brett's friends watching the basketball games. Yeah, we eat our ribs "naked" or "dry". We have BBQ sauce on the table but yesterday no one put any on their ribs (although it was great dipping sauce for the tots):The pitmaster enjoys his "bone sucking good" ribs:
Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots
I couldn't sit by while Trev smoked and not use my Big Green Egg for something so I made a side dish of bacon wrapped tater tots. Yeah, not for the health conscious but it's damn good game watching food:) You simply take a half piece of bacon, sprinkle some brown sugar, and roll it around a tater tot.

Sprinkle some bbq rub (I used Billy Bones XXX Cherry rub. I'd recommend something low in salt since bacon and tots are salty on their own) and toss them on a grill on indirect heat set at about 400f. Yes, they can be made in the oven but what fun is that?Cook until the bacon is crispy, somewhere between 20-30 minutes. The tater tot will be done perfectly.

Taste Test
We tried three different rubs on the three racks (see previous post). The consensus favorite was the Billy Bones Competition rub. Rendezvous came in second and the Grendeddy Dave's Hawg Rub was a distant third but I reserve judgment on that for one reason. That rib just didn't cook the same as the other two. It wasn't as tender and it didn't have the same smoke ring, which are not functions of the rub. That piece of meat just was a bit subpar, in my opinion. I plan to smoke a butt with the Hawg Rub later this week, so it'll get a second chance.

Kingsford Briquettes with Hickory
Since we were using Trevor's offset smoker (I only use lump charcoal with my Egg), we tried one of Kingsford's new offerings, Kingsford with Hickory. My intial thoughts were it started decently with just a few sheets of newspaper in a chimney starter. It put off a pleasant smelling smoke and seemed to burn a reasonable length of time. On the other hand, it put off A LOT of ash compared to lump or even Kingsford's Competition briquettes.

So my thoughts are, I would definitely recommend it for use in a basic charcoal grill for doing things like burgers or chicken, which is what I'd guess 90% of people are doing. But for smoking or true BBQ, I'd personally stick with natural hardwood lump charcoal and real wood. I absolutely would NOT use it in a ceramic cooker, due to the ash production.

So that was our fun yesterday. Did you cook something you loved this weekend?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday Ribtacular part 1

Alexis loves me, she really does. How do I know? She brought home 3 racks of spare ribs for me to cook. Wait....maybe she just loves ribs? I feel so used;)

Actually, I'm not the cook today. Trevor (9 y/o) asked to be the pitmaster today and he wanted to use his smoker instead of my Big Green Egg. It's his first time smoking ribs.

I trimmed the ribs St. Louis style. I'm not ready to have him do the butchering. We save the trimmings, smoke them too and chop them up into baked beans...mmmmmmm.Trevor wanted to do a taste test on the ribs, so today's challengers are Billy Bones Competition Rub (my favorite), Grendeddy Dave's Hawg Rub, and Charlie Vergo's Rendezvous seasoning.Trevor rubbed two ribs with dry rub. The Rendezvous seasoning doesn't go on until the end, which is fundamentally weird to me.We both split the hickory for the smoker. I trimmed off the bark because it in my opinion it gives funky smoke. Some BBQ'rs do, some don't. It's a personal preference thing. For coal, I'm not actually using lump. Instead we're trying the new Kingsford Briquettes (never in an Egg) that contain hickory. It's my first time so I'll let you know what I think but they are putting off a nice smoke.The ribs went on an hour ago at noon. That black lab is Sofa. We call her our "not our dog". She lives up the hill at the Penrose Horse Farm. She started visiting us about 4 years ago, every time that we were BBQing. He's using the 3-2-1 method so the schedule is
noon: 3 hours at 225-250f
3pm: wrap ribs in foil and cook another 2 hours.
5pm: unwrap ribs, finish up for 1 more hour
6pm: pull the ribs off, rest, then devour.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Penne with Sun Dried Tomato & Asiago Cheese

I roasted a beef eye of round tonight on the Big Green Egg but it was not for dinner. After cooking it I wrapped it and put it in the fridge to slice up for cajun roast beef lunch meat for this week. (Excuse the picture, I was playing with a new lens for my camera.)So while that was cooking, I looked around the kitchen to make something for Alexis and I to eat for a light dinner. I had some penne pasta, some sun-dried tomatoes, and asiago cheese...
So what I made was something like this, I didn't measure anything.

1 cup dried penne pasta
2-3 T sun dried tomatoes, diced
2 T oil from the sun dried tomatoes
1/4 c shredded asiago cheese (by volume AFTER shredding, not 4 ounces of asiago then shredded)
1 T of dried basil (fresh basil will be much better in spring)
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1/2 t kosher salt

I simply cooked the pasta to directions and drained. I mixed the remaining ingredients together and tossed with the pasta. I shredded a bit of more asiago on top.

It was perfect for what we needed tonight. Flavorful, filling, and did I mention it was easy? I thought that the red pepper flakes gave it just a hint of kick here and there.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fire Roasted Parmesan Asparagus

Perfect. That's tonight, a perfect spring evening.

Sure losing an hour of sleep to Daylight Savings Time this weekend bites the big one but the immediate pay off is an extra hour of light when we get home. Tonight we cooked outside on the deck. The Sun filled the sky with pinks and purples while the bradford pear trees competed by saturating the air with their rich fragrance (ummmm and pollen).

I made grilled/roasted pork chops with Fire Roasted Parmesan Asparagus on the Big Green Egg.

For the chops, I simply rubbed some boneless chops that I had cut from a whole pork tenderloin with Billy Bones Competition Rub with a bit of his XXX Cherry Rub and let them sit for about 30 minutes. I seared them for about 90 seconds a side at 500f at direct heat and then put them on indirect at 400f (plate setter legs up) until they hit 145f.

For the asparagus, I used this recipe just modified as noted for cooking on the Egg.

2 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus (about 30 large)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper - freshly ground
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese - freshly grated
1 large Lemon cut in wedges for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. If the stalks of the asparagus are thick, peel the bottom 1/2 of each. Lay them in a single layer on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and return to the oven for another minute. Serve with lemon wedges

Tonight, we added some red pepper flakes to the asparagus at the beginning. We made a small rectangular pan out of foil to fit one half of the cooking surface on the BGE. Great flavor, the red pepper seemed to infuse into the oil. We loved it!

What's that? Yeah, we didn't have lemon wedges but if you look close, we did have lemons on the olive oil bottle;)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Fun With Pork

Alexis brought home a nice 9+ pound whole pork loin tonight. In case you haven't figured it out, we like buying larger cuts of meat at cheaper prices and then break them down into smaller cuts myself. I cut this loin into two pork roasts and then a half dozen thick boneless pork chops all for less that $2 a lb.

But the 7th chop, the very last one looked pitiful. He didn't have the form to be a proud chop on the grill. He was a little fatty here and there. More scraps than anything. So I decided to have some fun. I cut it up into 4 or 5 chunks, trimmed off the fattier pieces and pounded thin with a meat mallet into cutlets. By the time we were done, we had cut up 2 more of the chops having fun with the following versions of tasty, tender pork cutlets. Sides? Ummmmm we were just snacking on scraps:)

The basic process was
1) season both sides of cutlets
2) saute 1-2 minutes per side
3) deglaze with a liquid
4) toss the cutlets around in the resulting sauce and eat!

First version:
Seasoned with pork bbq rub & pepper, deglazed with lemon juice.

Second version:
Seasoned with just kosher salt & pepper, deglazed with balsamic vinegar.

Third version:
Seasoned with kosher salt, pepper, & basil, deglazed with veggie broth.

Fourth version:
Seasoned with salt & pepper, deglazed with Triple Sec (orange cordial liquor)

Fifth verson:
Seasoned with salt, pepper, a cherry BBQ rub, deglazed with Triple Sec.

We were going to try a batch with raspberry-chipolte glaze but we were full by then.

We were cranking these out as fast as we could to feed the 4 of us. All of them were great but my favorites were the first and last versions. I think the it was so much fun because we weren't trying to "make dinner". We were just trying to use scraps up, so it was a random "Hey, let's try this".

I will really be cooking something tomorrow night but this was fun tonight even if it was just goofing around.

Speaking of goofing around, here is the most disturbing yet entertaining in an "I just accidentally took 2 hits of acid" kind of way, video about pork. I found it posted at Dr. Zibbs months ago, but it still cracks me up. Enjoy.

Monday, March 2, 2009

For The Love Of Food

This post is a tribute to what I consider the absolute best non-commercial food blog For The Love Of Cooking. Here is what I love about this blog

-uses mostly fresh ingredients that you can find in season and locally. No "virgin goat foie gras", "kosher pork anus", or wild ingredients that you see on Iron Chef.
-recipes tend to be simple (from a fundamental standpoint) yet classic. They're not trying to impress anyone with gels, foams, and or "super micro infusion".
-photography is exceptional from lighting to composition
-the "view printable recipe" option for any posts makes it easy to import or print recipes.

Tonight we made Pam's Roasted Pork Tenderloin and her Baby Roasted Potatoes with Soy Butter. I won't repost the recipes here, because 1) she did a perfect job explaining them and
2) you need to check that blog out. What I will post is the few things I did different.

-Added 1 tsp of fresh ground ginger to the meat marinade
-Instead of the oven, I fire roasted (not grilled since it was indirect heat, but not BBQ, because the heat was rather high) them both on the Big Green Egg.

The cool thing is that you can fire both of these dishes on the Egg or an oven at the same temp so they finish at the same time.

We got the BGE up to 350f using indirect heat (plate setter in). We followed the potato recipe and put them (already parboiled) on the Egg at the same time we started searing the pork on a hot pan on the range top.

We put the tenderloin on a raised grid over the pan of potatoes so the juices would drip down onto the veggies in this set up:
The flavor of the meat was incredible, it was tender and the potatoes were awesome too!