Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Did It All For The Gnocchi Soup

I came to a realization tonight.

I am an impractical cook. Or at least inefficient. Who else could make and "easy" dinner using leftovers and still mess up 2 pans, 1 pot, 1 baking sheet, and a meat slicer? But in my defense it was worth it.

I took the last little bit of our prime rib and shaved it thin on the slicer.

Then made mini sandwiches with caramelized onions and a demi-glace mayonnaise (2 tsp demi-glace to 1/2 cup mayo).

But as good as the sandwiches were, this post isn't about them it was all about the soup, because it was phenomenally good. I enjoy thick, creamy, hearty soups in the winter and this one does my bidding. I had it for dinner last night, lunch today, and dinner tonight. I hope I came close in writing it all down the way we made it because Alexis and I both said this was one of the best things we have eaten in all of 2010.

I Did It All For The Gnocchi Soup
Inspired by's clone of Olive Garden Chicken And Gnocchi soup

4 Tbsp butter
1 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup celery, finely diced
1 large clove garlic, chopped
4 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups half and half
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup carrots, shredded and then chopped
2 cup beef stock
2 cups fresh spinach, rinsed, stemmed and chopped
1 ea poblano chile, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped (sub one can diced chilies)
1 lb potato gnocchi
3 sprigs thyme
1/2 t black pepper
1 t salt
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup potato starch (substitute corn starch if needed)

Garnish: Homemade croutons

  1. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat and saute the onions and celery for about 5 minutes until they are starting to turn semi-opaque...ummm clear...uhh..awww screw it, TRANSLUCENT.
  2. Add garlic and cook another minute.
  3. Sprinkle in the flour while stirring and cook for a few minutes to make into a light roux.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the half & half/cream/milk mixture. The recipe called for a quart of half & half, I used what I had on hand to make a quart so don't get hung up on the proportions.
  5. Return to heat and simmer until thickened and starting to reduce (about 15-20 minutes). Make sure to keep your heat at a simmer at most from this point on.
  6. Add the carrot, stock, spinach , poblano, and seasonings. Simmer and stir until reduced (Another 30 or more minutes)
  7. Remove 1-2 cups of the mixture and liquify in a food processor, blender, or Magic Bullet (yes I actually have one for just this kind of thing). Whisk in the starch and return to the soup.
  8. Add the cooked gnocchi and 1 Tbsp butter. Stir and let warm through.
  9. Serve topped with homemade croutons.

  • I already told you that the soup was a magnificent dish, enough said.
  • But this was the first time I ever taken the time to really caramelize onions, taking 1 1/2 hours. I didn't get them as brown in the end that I should but ding dang nabbit, their tender sweetness made them good enough to snack on.
  • The "demi glace mayo" which started as a joke because of the "Creme Fraiche" episode of South Park added a nice beefy depth, I can see using that with burgers in the summer.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Chorizo Rice Dressing or Stuffing

Trying new recipes is kind of like that Kenny Rogers' song The Gambler.

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run

Sometimes you instantly know that you won't be trying a certain dish again. Sometimes you know you've got a keeper. But it's the "in between" ones that can test you. If it didn't thrill you the first time, is it WORTH trying again with modifications? Or are you just wasting good ingredients & time after bad?

I wanted a different stuffing/dressing for Thanksgiving last year and found one called Arnold's Rice Stuffing With Chorizo and Hot Chilies. It was okay but my comment that I wrote down "Okay, but not really a stuffing. More like a baked rice dish."

I tried it again this year but this time I adapted it according to the notes I made last year, made substitutions/additions, and cooked it on the grill.

Chorizo Rice Dressing
Adapted from a lost source*

1 poblano chili
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 lb Mexican chorizo (raw chorizo, not smoked like Spanish)
2 cups cooked rice
4 slices white bread, cubed
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, fresh chopped
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup beef stock (or au jus if available)

Roast the pepper directly over flame. You can do this on a gas burner or a broiler, but I did mine over a 500f grill. Just put on and let go until each side blackens and blisters, about 2 minutes a side. The aroma that chilies release as they char is inspiring for me as a cook, it's as if they are opening up all kinds of culinary kick-assery. (NOTE: I am doing two here but the recipe just calls for one. I made an extra to have for eggs, tacos, etc.)

Anyway, when they are done, put them in a zip top back and let them rest for at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, reduce the heat on your grill to medium (~350f). On the Big Green Egg I did this by cutting the bottom vent to only about 1/8th inch open. Remove the chilies and cut off the large end. Slice down the length of one side to open the pepper flat. Remove all the seeds. Flip and remove the charred skin. You can do this by hand but a paring knife makes quick work of it.

Next preheat a wok on the grill (translation: preheat a large skillet on your stove top for you kitchen dwellers, ha ha) and add 1 tablespoon of a high heat oil such as peanut oil. Saute the onions for 4 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook another minute. Next add the chorizo and cook until browned. This was probably about 10 minutes but I really wasn't counting.

Add the rice, bread, green onion, cilantro, salt and pepper and toss thoroughly for about 1 minute.

Transfer to a buttered 2 quart casserole dish. You can make ahead to this point and hold refrigerated for a day or two, which is what we did. (And the only reason I have pictures, because I had a "no picture/blog" rule for Christmas dinner this year.)

Set up your grill for indirect heat at 350f. Drizzle the dressing with beef stock, cover tightly with foil, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove foil and cook another 10 minutes.

The dressing turned out much better this time and it is one that I will "hold" not "fold". It was the right choice to go with the rib roast we had but would be equally matched as a stuffing for a spiral sliced pork roast.

I don't have pics of that because of my self imposed Christmas photo/blog blackout. But if you happen to have any makes a fabulous breakfast topped with a fried egg!

*The source was lost. I found a link for it but when I searched for it today, I can't find it online. The only exact match came from a UK site that does people searches and it matched on "Andrew Rice" but oddly enough, the search thread gave the exact recipe title even though I didn't include the all of the words.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Waffles: Two Pigs In A Poke

Need an idea for using up some of that leftover holiday ham?

We smoked a ham Wednesday afternoon because we knew that we were going to be wildly busy the two days before Christmas. We wanted to have plenty of options for quick meals like ham & cheese omelets and ham sandwiches. Here is one of the quick breakfasts that we came up with - Two Pigs In A Poke Waffles.

Finely dice ham and cook a few slices of bacon.

Put some of the bacon and ham in your waffle iron. For a Belgian waffle maker like my Waring Pro, use two slices of bacon and about 2-3 Tbsp of chopped ham. You can read my full review of this waffle maker here, but after several months, I highly recommend it. If you have a gift card to use, keep an eye out for this one. We bought ours at Sam's Club.

Pour your favorite waffle batter over top of the meat. I was using the recipe for Oh Boy Waffles!

Cook as you normally would. One of the problems I ran into at first was trying to judge how much batter to use, since I needed to reduce the normal amount to account for the extra volume of the ham and bacon. The first ones I reduced the batter too much but they still tasted good.

But with a little practice.....

Then next batches came out perfectly. Turns out you don't have to reduce the volume of batter much at all.

waffles with bacon and ham inside
Want to know a secret? Even the ugly ones taste great.

Waffles with bacon and ham inside
Now it's time to go clear a path out to our Big Green Eggs, I don't want to be tracking in snow and ice while I cook.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Fire Day Friday Post: Smoked Cheese

Today is my weekly Fire Day Friday post when I guest post over at Our Krazy Kitchen. You know that you want to know the story behind this contraption, don't you?

The local news is calling for snow starting 1am Christmas morning and lasting through the morning. We are getting our first White Christmas ever!!! I probably won't post until after that so I want to genuinely wish each of you and your families a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Travel safe, be well, and may your stocking be full of natural hardwood lump coal!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


(This was actually supposed to be a post for my near dead photo blog but I accidentally posted it here. Since it's already sent out an RSS feed I'm leaving it up.)

We are off for the next two days and it was DEAD in the office so I broke out my camera to keep myself amused.

Chairman of the Bored
Actually, this is a training room, not our Board Room. Here are the 4 stages of any meeting.

Broken Down On the Information Superhighway

Feeling Boxed In At Work

Monday, December 20, 2010

December On Our Grills Challenge

I have very little experience with kumquats. Scratch that, I have very little experience EATING or COOKING with kumquats.

Epicurious tells us that:
The edible golden orange rind is sweet, while the rather dry flesh is very tart. The entire fruit — skin and flesh — is eaten, and very ripe fruit can be sliced and served raw in salads or as a garnish. The kumquat is more likely to be found cooked, however, either candied or pickled whole or in preserves or marmalades. Fresh kumquats are available from November to March.
What they fail to mention is that they are also very aerodynamic. When I was a kid in Florida, one of my neighborhood friends had a kumquat tree in his yard. We never ate many but we had many a "kumquat battle", pelting each other with the tiny fragrant fruits.

What does all of that have to do with today's post? Well it's that time of month again, the On Our Grills challenge where a group of grillers is challenged with creating a meal based around 4 ingredients and at least the protein has to be cooked on the grill (or some sort of live fire). There is no winner and no one gets voted off. It is just an exercise in creativity and pushes ones culinary preferences. This month's ingredients are:

flank steak



Wow. Ok, flank steak and kumquats was easy, I went straight to a marinade idea with the kumquats.

1/4 cup ginger - soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry
4 whole kumquats, pulverized in a mini food processor
2 dried red chilies
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp ginger sea salt from Marx Foods
1/4 cup peanut oil

I marinated the steak for 3 hours.

I'd never cooked fresh beets before so I followed the process in Joy of Cooking for roasting them (roasting covered in a pan with a little water). But I added some mirin in the roasting pan to follow the Asian them that the steak started. And of COURSE, instead of the oven, I used Alexis' Big Green Egg to roast them for an hour at 375f. When they finished I peeled them, cut them up and tossed them in some butter and fennel pollen.

When that was about half way though, I fired up my Big Green Egg.

I grilled the flank steak for 4 minutes per side at 450-500f.

As soon as that came off the grill to rest, I put my wok on the grill and stir fired (stir frying on the grill) some store bought gnocchi and a sauce made of
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp cold water
3 tsp crunchy peanut butter
3 tsp teriyaki sauce
1 1/2 tsp honey
1 1/2 tsp ginger, ground
1 dried red chili

I added in:
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup shredded carrots

The results were surprisingly good.

  • The steak was perfectly medium rare and was flavorful but I could have used more of the Asian and citrus flavors. I think a longer marinade time would help that. And sriracha in the marinade would be nice too.
  • The gnocchi stir fry was delicious and I will definitely make that again.
  • The beets...ummm....yeah. I just didn't care for their "earthy" taste. They also could have cooked another 15 minutes. I wish I had gone with my first impulse and use them in some pot stickers.

Check out the other participants to see what they came up with using these same 4 ingredients.

About the "On Our Grills" 4 Ingredient Challenge Bloggers

Grill Adventures by Broadcast Marc
Grill Adventures by broadcastmarc was started in March of 2010. I started the BBQ thing when I was 30, before that we ate a lot outside. had fun, but when the kids came into our life we started serious cooking. Most of it is really healthy I think). The grill has a special place in my heart because we love to do things outside. Everything I make is an adventure, and sometimes we use the books. We try to grill as much as we can year round.
Marc's December Ingredient Challenge Recipe:

The BBQ Grail
The BBQ Grail website was created in 2007, initially to document the author’s quest to find the perfect backyard BBQ experience. Since that time The BBQ Grail has become one of the more popular BBQ blogs on the internet and is listed as one of the top BBQ blogs.
Larry's December Challenge Recipe

Into the Flames
Rob launched Into The Flames in the summer of 2010 as a way to share his passion for cooking, eating, and exploring food.
Rob's December Challenge Recipe

No Excuses BBQ
The No Excuses BBQ website was started in January of 2009 as a way to record the author's goal of cooking outdoors at least once a week throughout the year and showing the results to the world. Somewhere along the way things got out of control...
No Excuses BBQ’s December Ingredient Challenge Recipe

Bob’s Brew and ‘Que
Bob started Bob’s Brew and ‘Que in August of 2009 with the intent of sharing his views on food and drink. Originally focused on BBQ and Homebrew, it was inevitable that the influences of his upbringing in the San Francisco Bay Area and it’s wealth of ingredients as well as his heritage as an American of Japanese ancestry would help focus his blog, as it has his approach to food and drink.
Bob’s December Challenge Recipe

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Twenty Tips: Prime Rib on the Grill

The guest of honor at many dinner tables on Christmas Day is a Beef Rib Roast (aka prime rib, standing rib roast, ribeye roast).

kamado prime rib, kamado joe prime rib, primo prime rib
Reverse seared boneless ribeye roast.
I put together this list of 20 tips for a perfect fire roasted beef rib roast. Some of them are ones I have learned by experience, some are from my favorite cooking resources.

Selecting the right beef rib roastkamado prime rib, kamado joe prime rib, primo prime rib, big green egg prime rib
  1. How big of a rib roast do you need? Estimate ¾ lb per person for a bone in rib roast or ½ lb per person for a boneless rib roast (Rouxbe).
  2. What grade of meat do you want? “Prime rib roast” does not designate that the meat is prime grade automatically, it’s just a name (Lilly 97). You will want to stay with either USDA Prime or Choice grades of beef. Avoid select grade if possible, it is too lean and can dry out.
  3. What do you want to look for? Look for a deep red color, nicely distributed marbling, and a nice thick fat cap (about 1/2”) on top of the roast.
  4. Do you want a bone in or boneless rib roast? It’s up to you. Generally, a boneless rib roast is easier to find in stupidmarkets, cooks faster, and is easier to carve. A bone in rib roast usually gives a juicier end product, makes a nicer presentation, but it takes a little longer to cook.
  5. What do you ask your butcher? Whether you are going boneless or bone in, tell your butcher that you want a roast from the “first cut” (aka short cut, loin cut). The entire roast is from ribs 6 through 12. The meat attached to ribs 9-12 (first cut) is more tender and contains the definitive rib eye (Becker 648). If you are getting bone in, ask your butcher to remove the rib bones and then retie them to the roast. This will make carving easier.

prime rib, rib roast, beef roast, holiday roast, prime rib big green egg, prime rib grill dome
A whole ribeye can easily be broken down into roasts and ribeye steaks.

Preparing your rib roast

  1. No bones about it. If using a boneless rib roast, it is important to tie the roast or have your butcher do it for you. This will give you a more compact shape that provides for more even cooking (Becker 648).
  2. Remove any moisture from the roast's surface with a paper towel (moisture is the enemy of browning) (Rouxbe).
  3. Simply season. You can do fancy horseradish, mustard, or rock salt crusts but if you have a quality roast, it really isn’t necessary. Quality salt and pepper are just fine. Maybe some garlic and rosemary springs. Pitmaster extraordinaire, Chris Lilly advises, “Usually the simpler preparation the better for this cut of beef (97).”
  4. Keep your temper. Temper the roast by letting it sit at room temperature (seasoned) for at least one hour, longer for larger roasts. The salt will help prevent bacterial growth during this period (Rouxbe)
  5. Rack it up. Use a roasting pan with shallow sides, a heavy bottom, and just big enough to hold the roast (this keeps your drippings from evaporating away) (Becker 649). Raise the roast off of the pan using coarse chopped (1” pieces or bigger) root vegetables or use a roasting rack. You want to roast the meat, not braise it.

how to prime rib on big green egg, grill dome prime rib, kamado rib roast
Tying the roast helps maintain its shape and facilitates more even cooking.

I have 2 cups of broth, 2 garlic cloves and a sprig of rosemary in the drip pan.
If you want a less smoky au jus, remove and reserve the liquid in the container after 45 minutes.  Heat to a simmer for 5 minutes.  Taste and add salt/pepper as  needed.

Searing your beef rib roast
  1. Direct heat method – Set up your grill for direct heat and preheat to 500f. Sear the meat for 2 minutes per side for the top and bottom. Sear the sides and ends for 30 seconds each.
  2. Indirect heat method – Set up your grill for INDIRECT heat and preheat to 450f. Roast until the meat begins to form a crust on the outside, about 20-30 minutes.
  3. For either of these two methods, after searing the meat, remove it from the grill (or oven) and reduce the heat to your roasting temperature (see next section). If you used the direct heat method, change your grill set up to indirect heat. Also add wood chunks at this point if you are using them.
  4. Reverse Sear method - This is the method I prefer for easy of cooking and quicker times since you don't have to wait for the Egg to cool down.  Roast first (see next section), pull when the roast comes within 10 degrees of your target  temperature and then sear over a very hot grill (500f or so).  Read more about the Reverse Sear
  5. TIP FOR REDUCING CHARCOAL GRILL TEMPS – Normally you reduce charcoal grill temps by slightly adjusting air flow. But in this case, you are trying to reduce your heat by up to 250 degrees and do it quickly. ADD MORE COAL. Yeah, I know that doesn't make sense. I got this tip from a class taught by Chris Lilly in May 2010 and I thought he had lost his mind. I finally tried it last night after my temps wouldn’t get down from 340f and it immediately knocked my Egg’s temp from 340 to 210. I guess it's the combination of adding cool mass to the fire and smothering it slightly at the same time.

The sear doesn't take long, only about 45 seconds to 1 minute per side.  Make sure to get all sides seared, including the ends.

Roasting your beef rib roast
  1. Set up your grill for indirect heat (click for info on how). Roast at 250f for a more evenly cooked and juicy rib roast. This is important for rare or medium-rare (Rouxbe).
  2. Roast at 350f if you want a quicker cooking time and a roast that has a varying degree of doneness (done on the outside, medium, then med rare at the center)(Rouxbe).
  3. General rules of thumb such as so many lbs per pound or time & temp charts are ONLY an estimation. It is difficult to generalize when so many variables affect cooking time, such as; size/shape of the roast, bone/boneless, actual temperature of the cooker, and the internal temp of the roast when it began (Rouxbe). To get a properly cooked roast you must go by internal temps, so a fast instant read thermometer or remote probe thermometer is necessary.
  4. Warning – Once your roast gets up to an internal temperature of 100f, don’t turn your back on it for long. It can jump up in temperature very quickly so keep an eye on your temps. That’s how mine got over done to almost medium last night.
  5. Carry over cooking – Once you take your roast off, it will continue to rise in temp approximately 5 to 10 degrees more so you need to adjust what internal temp you are pulling off the roast. For example, I target medium rare (130 to 135f) so I pull my roast off when it hits 125f. Unless I screw up like mentioned above!
Resting your beef rib roast
  1. Rest your roast on a raised rack above a drip pan. Placing a roast on a flat surface will steam the surface of the meat, opening the pores, and allow the juices to flood out.
  2. For the same reason, don’t wrap the roast in foil, that will steam it. After 5-10 minutes on the cooling rack, you can loosely tent it with foil but tear a hole or two in the top of the foil.
  3. Let rest like this for at least 15 minutes but up to 1 hour, it will stay warm. The redistribution of the internal juices will also help an overcooked or undercooked roast to a certain extent.
  4. Flip the roast over half way through the resting period. This helps the redistribution.

Chef's Treat
  1. If you used a bone in roast, to carve it the first thing you do is slice off the rib bones. When no one is looking, steal them, brush them with some BBQ Sauce and toss them back on the grill for a little while. Keep them for yourself, absolutely delicious. Forget giving them to the dog, remember that time he threw up in your shoe or chewed up your newspaper?
Here's the cooking log from a sear first cook. (Click picture to enlarge for detail)

And here is one from a reverse sear cook (Click to enlarge for the detail).

  1. Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book by Chris Lilly
  2. Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen
  3. Rouxbe Online Cooking School
  4. Joy of Cooking by Ethan Becker

Fire Roasted Beef Rib Roast Tips

Sorry, this page has moved to:

It's worth one click, I promise.  I did an update, the URL changed and I can't change it back.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wood Fire Roasted Chicken Wings

The most necessary ingredient for my cook tonight was salt. Lots of salt.

No, it wasn't for the wings....

I had to salt my deck just to get out to our Big Green Eggs today.

An ice storm hit Knoxville about 3am this morning creating a real mess across the city. Even Y-12, the facility that houses the fuel for the U.S. nuclear weapons opened 4 hours late this morning! The top of our deck was solid ice, even the spots under the awning.

Even after trying to salt and shovel off the excess, you can still see ice on the deck behind my feet in this picture late this afternoon. (Excuse the expression, it's what you get when an 11 y/o calls your name when you are busy and then snaps a picture.)

But back to the wings. I've done hot wings several times on my blog and am pretty happy with my results. However, tonight I was trying something different. I was making BBQ wings.
  • I used Adam Perry Lang's technique & recipe for wings from BBQ25 (fantastic book that I won from Robert at White Trash BBQ)
  • I kept the wings whole instead of breaking them down into drummettes and wingettes.
When I do my wings whole, I like to flip the wing tips back like this:

My normal wing routine is what we call "30-20-10 wings" which is cooking the wings (already rubbed) @ 375f (indirect) for 30 minutes, flip. 20 minutes, toss in sauce. 10 minutes.

Adam's routine is using your favorite marinade or rub and then cooking indirect at 300f for an hour. Then toss them (literally) in a cup of your favorite BBQ sauce, a little brown sugar, and green onions and finish them at 400f for 30 minutes. (You could try the same thing in your oven.)

I used 2 fist sized chunks of cherry wood for my smoke. The BBQ sauce I used was Carnivore Robust which is one of my new favorites. I bought two bottles at the Eggtoberfest and have really enjoyed the rich texture and spicy taste.

I served the wings with an easy saffron rice and roasted chickpeas.

Everyone thought the wings were smackalicious. The flavor was just about perfect, Lang's marinade and the Carnivore sauce delivered. The wings were something that 97.25% of people would devour and never have a second thought.

But the perfectionist in me would have liked just a bit more crispy texture in the skin. The next time, I'd either start with a dry rub (instead of a wet marinade AND a wet finishing sauce) or finish the wings over direct heat to get the sauce to "set" a little better.

But that is nit picking. These were damn good!

Today's question:
Today I had to salt the deck to get rid of the ice. Tell me about a time when weather directly affected how, what or when you were cooking dinner.