Monday, June 29, 2009

Quick Tip of The Day

People often have exotic marinades that they use for meats to be grilled. Special super secret ingredients, specific times, whatever. Don't get me wrong, I love marinades too. But I don't often hear of people marinating for grilled veggies. That's my quick tip of the day: Marinade your vegetables.

Do I have a scientific explanation about how the marinade breaks down the cellulose structure of the vegetable cells and penetrates each with vital flavor? No. All I know is I've been doing it for a few years and it tastes good to me. What? That's not good enough? You want PROOF? Okay.

Here is a bowl of veggies to be grilled, WITHOUT MARINADE. Notice how they all are reserved and shy, keeping their flavors separate? It's like boys and girls at the first school dance. No mingling of tastes.Now here is that same bowl WITH MARINADE. Holy Cow! Look at them go! It's a veritable vegetable orgy! Hey you two....yeah, you Red Pepper and it down or get a room! It is flavor of Caligulian proportions.These veggies were for fajitas, so I made my quick southwest-ish veggie marinade which is:

Southwest-ish Veggie Marinade
(I just actually named it for the first time one sentence ago...aren't you proud?)
2 T vegetable oil
3 T lime or lemon juice
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t cumin

Slowly pour oil into the juice while you whisk feverishly like a madman. (A bit over dramatic?) Add spices. Toss veggies in the mix, marinade for 30-60 minutes, and grill.

If I'm doing stir fry, I do a similar thing:

Asian-ish Veggie Marinade
1.5 T peanut oil
1/2 T sesame oil
3 T rice wine vinegar
1/2 t garlic powder, fresh ground from dried minced garlic
1/2 t ginger, fresh ground
1/2 t basil, fresh chopped
1/4 t red pepper flakes

Thank goodness I don't have an Amish veggie marinade because "Amish-ish Veggie Marinade" would sound silly.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday Afternoon Snack: Meatball Sliders

I have a confession for you bbq smokers out there. I hate MOINK balls. There, I said it. I love ABT's and fatties, but not the MOINK (moooo + oink)

For those of you who aren't running around in the bbq world, a MOINK ball is simple a cheap store bought meatball, wrapped in bacon, hit with a dry rub, smoked and then dipped in bbq sauce. I've made them a twice and just didn't care for them.

So, I have a half bag of frozen meatballs leftover, it's Saturday afternoon, and I need a snack. PANTRY RAID and the result was meatball sliders.Ingredients
18 meatballs
9 dinner rolls (Kings Hawaiian Sweet are the BOMBDIGGITY!)
1 cup red sauce (whatever you have - jar ragu sauce, pizza quick, or our quicky*)
9 thick slices of cheese

Simmer meatballs in the red sauce to cook as directed by the meatball package instructions.

Split rolls and place slice of cheese on the top halves. Stick under a broiler until the bread toasts and the cheese starts to brown/melt.

Top each bottom with 2 split meatballs & sauce. Top with the cheesy top piece.

Eat. Repeat.*Our cheap quicky sauce
1 can tomato paste
1 T basil, fresh chopped
1 T oregano, fresh chopped
1 T thyme, fresh plucked
1 clove roasted garlic pulp
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 T sugar
water or broth to thin to desired texture

Breakfast Shepherd's Pie

I was doing the "refrigerator stare" Thursday night. You know, when you stand in front of your open fridge or pantry with a blank stare, seeking inspiration to make something out of what you already have. That's when I came up with the idea for "Breakfast Shepherd's Pie".

This is totally a work in progress, not really a recipe per se. But Alexis and I both agreed that it tastes unbelievably good and could be served either as a breakfast or dinner. Sorry about the picture. Something went totally screwy with my white balance.
1 cup grits, stone ground or coarse ground. Don't try subbing instant grits.
1 lb bulk pork sausage (breakfast sausage)
1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 sweet onion, finely diced
1 cup shredded cheese

Make the grits according to directions. I used a 50/50 mix of chicken broth and water, instead of just the water called for in the directions.

While the grits are slowly cooking (25 minutes in our case), brown the sausage, onion, and pepper together in a saute pan. Strain, reserving the oil.Layer the bottom of a lightly greased, small casserole dish with the meat/veggie mixture. Top that with a nice quality cheese.Top that layer with the cooked grits and place in a 350f oven. We first tried 20 minutes (since everything was already cooked, thought it might be done) but the texture of the grits didn't hold. Put it back in for another 30 minutes or so and it was much better. Alexis pointed out that it may do perfectly if we cook & assemble the components, then let it sit in the fridge for a few hours before popping it in the oven.

While the casserole is cooking, take 1/4 cup of the strained oil, add 1/4 cup of butter, and bring to medium heat. Slowly sift in about 1/2 cup of flour, whisking constantly to make a dark roux. You want to take it darker than you think you want it, which took about 15-20 minutes in my case. Whisk in about 1 cup of chicken broth to get a gravy the desired consistency that you want. Add in some ground pepper and fresh chopped herbs, I used about 4 sprigs of thyme.

This was fantastic tasting and hearty. It almost must be spiritually inspiring because Alexis kept saying, "Oh my God!" as she was eating it. I will definitely be taking a second attempt at this.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Funday Friday

It was "take your grill to work" day today, so I had my brother in law drag my Brinkmann's Professional Charcoal Grill to work for me. Two chimneys of Kingsford had that cranking at 600f ! I grilled easy burgers & dogs, the staff brought sides, and the company had all the condiments, drinks, etc. After we all had a nice lunch and dessert, we washed all of our cars right there in the parking lot for the afternoon.
I think we ended up washing 12 or 13, I lost track. It was stupid, yet fun....better than actually working this afternoon.

I'm a bit tan, quite tired, and I'm sitting in my office with damp underwear...this had better be Friday afternoon, because if it's Monday morning, it's going to be a looooong week.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

30-20-10 Smoked Hot Wings

I love me some smoked hot wings. Well technically, they are more "fire roasted" than smoked because of the higher temp. I call them 30-20-10 just because that's the whole recipe.

Grill them indirect heat at 375f for 30 minutes, flip, 20 minutes, toss in sauce, 10 more minutes.

Easy peasy, huh?

If you follow Lord of The Wings' wing evaluations, you know that to get great wings, you have to start with nice, plump chicken wings. If you buy a package of pre-cut wings & drummettes, you never really know what you are getting. That's why I like to buy whole wings and cut my own. Here's how I break mine down:

After I cut them, I like using the following rub from the BBQ classic, Smoke & Spice, by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.

Poultry Perfect Rub
3/4 cup Hungarian paprika (don't use Spanish, the type DOES make a difference)
1/4 cup black pepper freshly ground (I used McCormicks new Smokehouse pepper)
1/4 cup celery salt
1/4 cup sugar (use Sugar In The Raw or turbinado sugar instead)
2 tablespoon onion powder (I coarse grind dried onion flakes instead)
2 tablespoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons cayenne (I cut 1/2 t and replaced it with 1/2 t of red pepper flakes)
2 tablespoon zest from 3 to 4 lemons dried and minced (I used lime instead)

I use the coarser ingredients like the sugar, onion, and pepper flakes in my rubs because it gives a noticeable texture to your meats compared to plain ground spices.

[If you don't want to make your own, Weber is currently making a nice chicken rub called "Kickn Chicken". It comes as dried spices in a mill container so you grind it fresh as you need it. I have used it and would recommend it if you don't like making your own.]

The sauce I tossed mine in was a 50/50 mix of butter and hot sauce with a squirt of Sriracha sauce. Trevor tossed his half in store bought terriyaki glaze. Both came out great.

Here's his play by play and color commentary. Excuse the dark video, I was enjoying the tail end of a sunset while cooking.

For printable rub recipe, click here:
Poultry Perfect Rub

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pulled Chicken

Most everyone has heard of pulled pork, but did ya know you could pull chicken too?

I'm helping a friend cook for a BBQ fund raiser and in trying to minimize costs, I suggested serving pulled chicken for one of the meats instead of the usual quarter chicken you get on a bbq plate. That way instead of only getting 4 servings per whole smoked chicken, you are getting 6 or more 4 ounce portions.

But Zydeco Paws had an even better suggestion. Before I divulge his idea, check out his blog. It's kind of like NaBloPoMo, where bloggers try to post every day for a month. But his No Excuses BBQ blog is documenting his attempt to BBQ at least once a week for the entire 2009 calendar year.

He recommended using boneless thighs instead of whole birds to minimize picking around bones. Here's his post on it.

It worked great, IMHO. I followed his technique, but used a different rub.

165f....must me time to take them off right?Nope, these are thighs, we let this test batch go to 175 to 180.After they were done, we pulled them using a pair of forks, tossed them with just a hint of BBQ sauce and they were delicious on plain hamburger buns!This was a definite success and we'll be making it again. So if you want to STRETCH your chicken budget wise, trying PULLING it!

Thanks, ZP!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dinner for less than the price of two combo meals

I wasn't even going to blog about this but when I realized that this meal for our family of 4 plus 1 guest cost about $10, I couldn't resist.Alexis scored a 3.35 lb "boneless pork sirloin roast" at the store for under $4. A pork sirloin is apparently just the extreme end of your run of the mill pork loin. It wasn't close dated, green or anything. It was nice and pink. It was just something on sale, nothing wrong with it.

I rubbed it with a paste of 2 TB of rosemary (from our front yard), 1 t of minced garlic, 1 t of kosher salt, 1 t of pepper, and about 1/4 c of olive oil. I popped it in the oven** at 450f for 10 minutes in a oven safe skillet. After 10 minutes, I reduced the heat to 250f and cooked it to 150f internal.

I too it out of the pan to let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. I added 1 minced shallot to the pan on the stove top over medium heat and sauteed for about a minute. Then I deglazed the pan with about 1/4 cup "cooking wine". After it reduced a bit I added maybe 1/2 cup of beef broth, mixing well. I whisked in a tablespoon or two of flour and a finely diced green onion.

We served it family style with a nice rice pilaf that Alexis made up all on her own. I was very impressed since she normally doesn't cook something unless she has a strict recipe to follow. And guess was better than the pilaf I normally make!Sure beats a couple of McDonalds extra value meals.

**Yes! Can you believe it? I actually own an oven and use it from time to time. I know that comes as a shock since this time of year almost everything we cook is cooked outside.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

London Broil

Do you have a "promiscuous butcher"?

Aren't sure? Here's one of those quick Cosmo type quizzes.

A "London Broil" is

1) A cut of beef available at the supermarket
2) The third album by The Clash
3) A stalled high pressure warm front over London
4) A technique or recipe

Despite what your supermarket meat department might tell you, the answer is 4), it's a recipe/technique.

One of the best lines I read when looking into London Broil was this one from OChef : "Some absolutely promiscuous butchers label various cuts of meat London broil, including flank steak, sirloin tip, top round, etc. "

So if your butcher is selling "London Broil", time to change butchers, Alice....Sam has been hittin' something else.
The butcher at Food City must believe in an "open relationship" since their label openly admits to being "London Broil" and/or "Top Round". (Wow.....this post is going down hill quick.)According to Joy Of Cooking, a London Broil simply refers to "a quick pan -broiling over high heat and thinly slicing the meat across the gain before serving." I don't really live up to the pan broiling either, so I'm not sure what the hell you'd call what I made today, but I figure if everyone else can call their meat cuts/recipes "London Broil", then I can do the same!

I took a 3.35 lb certified angus beef (CAB) top round roast and rubbed it with my beef rub.I smoked that chunk o' meat with lump coal and Jack Daniels oak chips on the Big Green Egg at about 250f, indirect heat, until the internal temp of the meat was 105f.

Then I removed the chunk o' cow and crank the cooker heat up to 500f or more, returned the beef to the cooker and seared each side for a few minutes per side.This is called a "reverse sear" because instead of searing the meat at the beginning, I waited until it was almost done to sear it.I pulled the beef off at 130f internal, only to find that my thermometer was actually off and the temp was really about 138f internal. More done than I wanted. And I haven't even let it rest for 10 minute yet.
You really have to be careful with tough cuts like this. If you take them past medium rare they only get tougher and ya might as well go all the way to beef jerky at that point. Fortunately, I got them off the grill just soon enough to save it.Make sure you slice it very thin with a very sharp knife. That helps ensure tender texture.Serving suggestions? Pile it on a yeast or onion roll with a nice slather of horseradish sauce.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Corn Wholed

Tonight, I grilled some chicken breast and made a variation of corn husk skewers, based on the recipe from Chris Lilly's new book, Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book. In my opinion, this is a great BBQ/grilling book and I highly recommend it. This isn't the exact recipe, but is close enough. I subbed potatoes for zucchini, lime for lemon juice, and changed some quantities.

Corn Husk Skewers

4 ears of corn (in full husk)
4-5 red bliss potatoes, sliced into 1/2" slices
8 T butter, softened
3 T dijon mustard
1 T lime juice
1 T fresh lemon thyme
1 T green onion, finely diced
1/2 t garlic salt

Pull the husks back on each ear of corn and remove the silk.
Cut the corn cob into 1-1.5" pieces, leaving one piece intact at the base. Soak the husks in a bowl of water.

Mix the butter, mustard, lime juice, thyme, onion and garlic salt together in a bowl. Add the corn and potato pieces, tossing thoroughly to coat all pieces. Don't even bother trying to keep your hands clean, just get in there and mix it up!

Stick a metal skewer through one of the cob bases. Then alternate pieces of corn and potato, ending with a corn cob tip.

Pull the husks back up around the "re-assembled" cob and wrap each cob in foil. Cook over a hot coal fire (mine was 375f) for 20 minutes, turning a 1/4 turn every 5 minutes. Then remove the foil and cook another 10 minutes, turning a 1/4 turn every 2 1/2 minutes. Don't worry, you'll see some charring at this point and the husks can burn all they want.

Pull off and make sure you let them cool before serving smoking hot metal skewers to your guests.
My grades:
Creativity - A
Fun and different idea.

Flavor - A
The butter mixture is perfect, it didn't need any other seasoning. Everyone loved them.

Difficulty - MF or at least a PITA
Honestly? I will NOT make these again. As cute as they are, they are a complete pain in the ass (PITA) and not very safe sticking the skewers through the hard corn cobs.

Next time
I'd just roll the husks back, slather them with the butter mixture, and then grill as noted. The fun presentation wasn't worth the effort and risks. But the cooking times, the process, and butter mixture work great!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Flank Steak Marinated with Chimichurri

No, not chim chimeny chim chim cher-ee, I don't care how lucky a chimney sweep might be.

No! Not chimichangas, the fried Mexican burrito, although those are awesome too!

I'm talking about the Argentinian meat marinade/sauce. I've never had it. I've never made it. But have seen it on several blogs in the past few weeks and have been wanting to try it. I found this version through KimDeC's blog and the short story is that it ROCKS!

1 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, trimmed of thick stems
3-4 garlic cloves
2 Tbsps fresh oregano leaves (can sub 2 teaspoons dried oregano)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Chop the parsley, garlic and oregano in a food processor.

Mix vinegar, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes, then whisk in the olive oil.

Whisk the two mixtures together.

I scored a flank steak by drawing a knife lightly through in one direction at a 45 degree angle and then reversed it.
I marinaded the steak for about 4 hours in a ziploc bag. In the mean time, I made up some veggie kabobs.
I grilled the kabobs over indirect heat at about 400 on the Brinkmann grill while I seared the steak on the Big Green Egg for 3 min-flip-3 min - flip, 2 - min, remove to rest for 10 minutes.
I thinly sliced (across the grain) that bad boy up and it disappeared!
I love chimichurri and will DEFINITELY be making this again.

Kikkoman Tropical Chicken Packets

This is an easy, almost impossible to screw up way for cooking a boneless, skinless chicken breast that comes out juicy and flavorful. We used to make it way back when I changed overnight from single to married with two kids and I was learning to feed a family of four. I liked it then because

1) It was easy
2) didn't mess up a bunch of pots
3) It was hard to screw up

If I remember right, it was a cross promotion thing from Reynolds and Kikkoman. I hadn't made this in probably a decade so I thought I'd make it once again yesterday.

Kikkoman Tropical Chicken Packets

4 ea chicken breast half
4 ea green onion (diced into 1" pieces)
1 can pineapple tidbits in their own juice
1 ea red and yellow bell pepper (I only used about 1/2 red pepper and 1 jalapeno, thinly sliced)
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ginger (used fresh grated)
(I also added 4 basil leaves, chopped)
2 cups rice

Center a chicken breast half on a 12 x 18" piece of aluminum foil. Top w/ green onions, pineapple, and bell pepper. Pour teriyaki sauce, brown sugar and ginger mixture over it. Bring up foil sides, double fold the top and ends to seal packet, leaving room for heat circulation. Repeat w/ other three breast halves. Bake 18-22 minutes on a cookie sheet in 450 F oven or 14-16 minutes in covered grill. Serve over rice.

One of the packets being assembled:

Sealed packet ready for the grill.

I did these for about 15 minutes on indirect heat on the Brinkmann Professional Charcoal grill at about 400f. (See? I don't ALWAYS use the BGE for outdoor cooking).

They were as good as they always were, but to be honest, they suffered in comparison to the food I cook now. While the foil packets are fool-proof and great for use in an oven, they rob the meat of the benefits of grilling.

The next time I make this again, I'll just marinade it all together in a dish and then grill the chicken over direct heat. I'd cook the veggies up in a saute or grill basket.

Again, still a solid dish and great for someone who considers themself a kitchen hazard.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Food for Thought

Typically, this blog is only about food, but my tag line is "Thoughts about food and food for thought" so just consider this post the latter.

On Sunday, I saw this post about ...plowed fields and lessons... over at Robin's photoblog "One Still Frame". It reminded me of a similar lesson I learned from my grandfather.

Growing up, the highlight of my summer vacation was getting to spend as much time as I could on my grandparents farm in North Carolina. Sure most people wanted to head to DisneyWorld in nearby Orlando, but I loved being on that farm, playing in the fields and exploring the barns and pack houses. They grew tobacco, soy beans, corn, and then all of their own vegetables. What we ate for dinner, we usually had picked that morning. Can't get much fresher than that.

My grandfather taught me how to plow in a straight line, by first having me plow one or part of one on my own. I carefully tried to steer the tractor, keeping a close eye on the front wheels and struggling to keep them in a straight line. I was meticulous. If I thought the front wheels were even slightly veering one way, I'd adjust back to the other side. I thought I did a good job until I looked behind me and saw a squiggly swerving line.

Then my grandfather had me try again, but this time, he told me to focus not on where I was, but where I was going to be. He told me NOT to be staring down at the front wheels and the ground below. He had me pick a tree on the opposite side of the field and told me to use THAT as my guide instead. Look at THAT tree and drive straight towards it. I did it his way and sure enough, I left a straight line behind me.

When vacation was over that year and I was back in Florida, I practiced this when mowing the lawn. I'd pick a spot before me in the distance, a fence, a bush, whatever and laid straight lines. Everytime I did it, it reminded me of that particular day with Grandpa.

Much later in life, I realized that my grandfather wasn't just teaching me how to plow a straight line that day. He was also giving me a life lesson about keeping an appropriate focus on life. He was teaching me it isn't where I am right this second that is important, rather, it is where I am going that matters. He was teaching me about keeping my eyes on the prize, so to speak.

I'm 41 now. Oneil (grandfather) has been gone for some 20+ years. The farm has been sold long ago. I haven't stepped foot on a farm in forever. Trevor (9 y/o) carries Oneil's name. I hope that I can teach him how to "plow straight lines" one day as well as my grandfather taught me.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

This is a recipe that I found on BigOven a while ago (apparently 1 year, 39 weeks, and 6 days ago....according to their stats). Even though it's not completely authentic, I like that it is more of a marinade than just a rub. The original recipe is linked at the bottom of the post. The main thing I did different from the original recipe is that I used thighs (bone in) instead of breasts since most jerk chicken I've seen is bone in dark meat, like thighs and legs.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

1 tb Ground allspice
1 tb Dried thyme
1 1/2 ts Cayenne pepper
1 1/2 ts Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 ts Ground sage
3/4 ts Ground nutmeg
3/4 ts Ground cinnamon
2 tb Salt
2 tb Garlic powder
1 tb Sugar
1/4 c Olive oil
1/4 c Soy sauce
3/4 c White vinegar
1/2 c Orange juice
Juice of 1 lime
1 Scotch bonnet pepper, Seeded and finely chopped (I used a habanero pepper instead)
1 c Chopped white onion
3 Green onions, finely chopped
4 Chicken breasts (I used 8 bone in thighs instead)

Yes, I forgot the onion, soy, and habanero in the picture....just pretend this is a yearbook class shot and they are in the "not pictured" row.

Be very careful handling the habanero pepper, these beyotches are one mean customer. Use gloves when chopping and de-seeding them. Believe me.

Mix all the first 10 ingredients together in a large bowl. Whisk in the olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar, orange juice, and lime juice. Add the pepper, onion, and green onions and mix well. Put the chicken in a casserole dish and pour the mixture over the chicken. Cover and marinade for at least one hour. I like going about 6 hours.The recipe calls for grilling them direct heat for 6 minutes a side. I did them on the Big Green Egg at 350f and used a raised grid so they were about 8 inches from the hot coals. Since I can't get authentic pimento wood locally, I went with some oak wood chips instead.

I did them 10 minutes on skin side down. Flipped bone side down and cooked another 10 minutes. I put them back skin side down for another 5 minutes or so until they were 175f internal temp. I served it up platter style with carribean rice and summer corn.

Ahhhh yeah, eating this makes everyting irie!

For printable version, click here:
Jamaican Jerk Chicken