Saturday, February 26, 2011

Blackened Steak Experiment

Can you feel it in the air?

It's coming.  I see it on the buds of tree.  I hear it in the voices of birds.  I smell it in the....ACHOOOOOO.... pollen floating around.  Yes I'm talking about SPRING!  Dig out and thaw out people, SPRING IS COMING SOON.

It was a beautiful blue sky day today and it couldn't be wasted inside.   Today was a day for playing in my open air kitchen on the deck.   I decided to blacken a ribeye steak, something I have not done before.   Steak doesn't need anything more than salt, pepper and charcoal, but I was in the mood for something different.

"Blackening" does not meant burned meat.  Blackening is a high heat cooking method that creates a dark, spicy seasoning crust on properly cooked meat.  Since it is high heat, it works best with relatively lean proteins such as fish, steaks, and pork chops.   This method was invented by famed chef, Paul Prudhome, so you can imagine the seasonings are Cajun based.

Blackened Ribeye Steak

2 ea ribeye steaks, at least 1" thick

1/2 Tbsp paprika
1 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp thyme, ground
1/4 tsp oregano, ground
1/4 tsp celery seed 

1/2 cup butter
1 clove garlic minced
1 tsp Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning  (You could substitute some of the blackening rub or a cajun rub)

Special equipment:  Cast iron skillet

One of the most important parts of proper blackening is making sure your cast iron skillet is cooking over a "rocket hot" grill, basically as hot as you can get it.  If you are using a normal charcoal grill, use Kingsford Competition Briquettes or lump charcoal for this one, they burn hotter. [Click here for a great explanation by John Dawson of Patio Daddio.]

Preheat your cast iron skillet.  Trust me, don't cheat here.  The entire process depends on a HOT HOT skillet.  Let the skillet preheat for 10-15 minutes.   

Not a skillet but plays one on TV.

Yeah, that's not a skillet.  I got a spider rig from the Ceramic Grill Store this week.  When cleaning last night, I noticed that the upside down lid to a Lodge #12 cast iron dutch oven makes a concave griddle that fits the spider rig PERFECTLY!  

Rub your steaks heavily with the rub on both sides.  Set aside.

Make your garlic butter mix by heating all the ingredients for a few minutes in a small sauce pan over medium heat.

Now it is time to drop the hammer on these steaks.  Pour some of the garlic butter mixture on one side of each and place that side down on the skillet.  Be prepared for some serious smoke.  That is why you do this outdoors!

Cook for a few minutes (2 minutes med-rare, 3 minutes medium) and then flip.  Ladle a little of the garlic butter mixture over the steaks.  Be careful when doing this because splash overs can cause a flash fire.  (My Facebook followers will see the uncensored video of this.)  If that happens, don't panic.  Just close the grill top and the fire should extinguish itself quickly.  

Remove the steaks from the grill to a raised rack to rest for 5-10 minutes.  I use a baking cooling rack over a plate, but you could just steal the rack out of your toaster oven.  When you put the steaks flat on a plate to rest, the heat trapped between the meat and the plate will "steam" the meat pores open, releasing the juices.  Raising the steaks prevents that. 

When serving, top with a little of the garlic butter mixture.

My test steak turned out darkened just right but not burned at all. 

And the inside was still nice and juicy.  

I prefer my steak medium-rare and this one turned out medium but that is because I gave both sides an extra flip for about 45 seconds each.  Next time I'll stick with the 2 minutes per side for medium rare or use a thicker steak.   The flavors were bold and a bit of a party, just like you would expect from Louisiana.   

Cheerwine Comes To Knoxville
The Carolina soft drink company is celebrating their expansion into Tennessee with a special event at Calhoun's on Neyland Drive this Thursday, March 3rd.    Guests can win various Cheerwine prizes, including an iPod, T-shirts, 12-packs of Cheerwine and goodie bags. Hors d'oeuvres and light refreshments, including drink specials, will be served.   If you are interested, visit Cheerwine on Facebook, at, to RSVP for a coveted invitation.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Greg's Default Orzo and a Spider

And along came a spider....

Quit buggin' out!

Wait, don't run away scared you big chicken!  It's not a real spider...but more about that later.

I wanted an easy and fast side dish tonight to go with some ribeye steaks I was going to grill.   I saw a package of orzo in the pantry and my mind immediately turned to SippitySup's "default pasta" process and came up with this.

Orzo and Stuff

2 cups orzo
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, diced
1/2 cup shredded cheese (we used the last of my home-smoked manchego cheese)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the orzo according to directions.   Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Drain the rest.

Pour the hot pasta on the other ingredients and toss in a bowl.   Season with salt and pepper.  Add pasta water, IF NEEDED, for your desired consistency.  See?  Easy peasy! (pun intended)

But back to that spider.   It's actually a 13" cast iron grate from Craycort and a "spider rig" that I bought from the Ceramic Grill Store

This is kind of specific to a Kamado cooker like the Big Green Egg.  The smaller sized grate and spider rig let you get your meat closer to the coals like this....

On my large BGE, the normal distance from the coals is about 5 1/4".  The spider rig lets me get under 3".  Being right next to the coals lets you sear your meat at even higher temps, like they do at premium steak houses.  

If you flip the "spider rig" over it becomes a wok base.  (Can't wait to do that cook this weekend.)

You can count on seeing the spider rig and the small Craycort in many posts to come because elite cooking equipment like the Big Green Egg deserves top level accessories like these! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lamb Chop Greek Pizza

We had two tiny lamb chops leftover and four of us to feed so I figured I had three options:

  1. Become a divinity and multiply it like the loaves and fishes (If I have that kind of power, forget the lamb....I'm going to make some wine.)
  2. Tell the boys there is a new XBox 360 game hidden somewhere in the basement and then quickly eat the lamb chops before they get back upstairs.
  3. Make a Greek pizza
I'm pretty sure that #1 isn't going to happen and the boys aren't going to fall for #2 a fourth time, so we made the pizza. 

Preheated the Big Green Egg coal fired pizza oven to 500f.

Topped the pizza crust with
-sun dried tomato pesto as the pizza sauce
-meat from 2 lamb chops, finely minced
-red onion, sliced
-2-3 mini sweet red bell peppers, sliced
-olives sliced
-oregano (about 1 Tbsp)
-feta cheese
-mozzarella cheese
-red pepper flakes (about 1 tsp)

Put it on a pre-heated pizza stone on the Big Green Egg and bake it for about 9-10 minutes, depending on who is keeping time and remembers to press the START on the timer. 

Yeah, this wasn't half bad for leftovers.

Have any favorite tips for making pizza?  What are your favorite pizza flavor combinations?

Monday, February 21, 2011

On Our Grills February

It is time for the monthly "On Our Grills" where a group of slightly imbalanced fools brave culinary adventurers take on 4 mystery ingredients.  The only rule is that the protein component must be cooked with some sort of live fire (grill, smoke, fire roast, etc).   The idea is to push our comfort zone, try new things, and compare notes on how we each approached the challenge.   February's challenge ingredients are:

lamb chops
napa cabbage
blood orange
elbow macaroni

I struggled with coming up with a menu that went together because napa cabbage is naturally used in Asian dishes and lamb chops seem anything but.  I thought about using the orange to make a marinade for the chops or a vinaigrette for a napa slaw.   I would never do well if this was a timed contest because it took me about 3 hours to finally decided what to make.

Blood Orange
I decided on a orange salad that Sam & Meakin of My Carolina Kitchen brought to our blogger get together last spring.   It is a simple mix of blood orange, thin sliced red onion, olives, feta cheese, and a vinaigrette.  Since this salad is sweet and tart, I made a vinaigrette to match.

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, ground to paste
2 pinches salt
black pepper
1 Tbsp agave nectar
3/4 cup olive oil

Alexis and I gobbled this down while the rest of dinner came together.  

Elbow Macaroni
This was the component that I just "mailed in".   I simply cooked the noodles, tossed them with jarred sun dried tomato pesto, and feta cheese.

Lamb Chops
I choose to use loin chops instead of the rib chops that most people associate with "lamb chops" because I wanted to be different than everyone else.  It was a strategic decision.  (<---He's lying, it was the only kind of chops they had for sale.)   I consulted Derrick Riches from for some general ideas for cooking times and flavors.  I marinated them for an hour in a mix of olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano.   I grilled them over direct heat at 400f for 5 minutes per side until they were an internal temp of 140f.  

Napa Cabbage
This was the shocker for us.  I went with a recipe for Napa Cabbage Gratin from Slashfood SOLELY because it was the first napa recipe that was not an Asian slaw, salad, or spring roll.   This turned out to be the star of the meal, a total surprise for us.   

Napa Cabbage Gratin
adapted from Slashfood
3 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 head napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp nutmeg, fresh ground
2 Tbsp sherry
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup half and half
3/4 cup smoked manchego cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 425f.  Melt butter and saute onions until translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add the napa cabbage and sherry, cover with lid and cook 7-8 minutes. 

Add the nutmeg, half and half, and about half of the cheese, tossing with tongs.  Season with salt and pepper - I just used a couple of pinches of each.  Cover and let simmer for a for more minutes.   I think part of what made this dish so great was the manchego cheese.   It was a batch that I cold smoked at Christmas and has aged very well.  

Divide the mixture into 3 gratin dishes.  Mix the remaining cheese and bread crumbs together and use this mix to cover the gratin dishes.  Bake until the top is golden brown, which was about 35 minutes for us.

This was a probably my favorite challenge meal yet because we were 4 for 4, firing on all cylinders.  I found out that I actually LIKE lamb when I make it instead of eating it at a restaurant.  The salad was as good as when Sam made it and the napa gratin was crazy good.  

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

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 February 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 February 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 February 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 February Challenge Recipe

Grilling with Rich
I am a young person breaking into the great world of barbecue. I enjoy everything about barbecue from the culture to the food. I am just a regular guy trying to have fun and enjoy the food and the process of cooking the food on the grill.  At Grilling with we go beyond just the normal cooking adventures and dig deeper into the large world of BBQ’ing, both professionally and for amateurs. Grilling with Rich focuses on the adventures of a regular guy and his quest to understand and learn as much as possible about the BBQ world.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Milk Braised Pork

"It's even better than pulled pork."

My wife uttered those sacrilegious words last night and I could not disagree.  I took another lesson at Rouxbe Online Cooking School this week and this time it was on Combination Cooking Fundamentals.  For the practice session after the video lesson, I chose to make the Milk Braised Pork.  

It takes quite awhile to make and it isn't very photogenic but it is easy to make and was heavenly.  The rich, velvety sauce and tender pork made my mouth swirl with happiness.   The sauce is so good  that I saved a little extra just to have on pasta this afternoon.  This dish is "company worthy" and I will be making it again.

Here is the link to the text version of the recipe, which is written for the oven:  Milk Braised Pork (you don't have to be enrolled to view the text).   Here is how I converted it to the grill, I'm just going to post what I did different from their recipe.

Pork Roast - The recipe calls for a 3 1/2 lb pork shoulder so I deboned a 7 1/2 lb pork butt and cut it into two rolled and tied pork roasts.  I used the one that had the bone in it because that is the best part of the pork shoulder (aka "money muscle").  I'm saving the other one for a Peurto Rican pork roast.  
Save the bone for stock!

Searing - I debated on this one.  Should I sear in the dutch oven over direct heat or sear it on the grate?  I tried it in the dutch oven at 300f for two minutes a side but wasn't getting the color I wanted so I switched to the grate.  This gave me the best of both, the flavor of coal fired pork and sucs in the pot for flavoring the sauce.  If you want to sear ONLY in the dutch oven, you will need to run at a higher temp, maybe around 375f.   

Ingredients - The only thing I did differently was added 1 dried red chili to the sauce, used an extra sprig of rosemary, and added 2 cups of half and half. (Note:  The extra liquid is because I didn't have the right size pot, a Lodge #10 would have been better but I only had a #12.)    

Simmering - I kept the dutch oven indirect and let the heat get up to 350f.  TIP:  Place your fat cap down during this part since the bottom will be taking more heat.  This will 1) protect the bottom of the roast AND 2) give the fat a head start on rendering out.    

Roasting - Once the sauce was simmering, I switched to indirect heat (Put the plate setter in, legs up) and cooked it at 300f with the lid on.  I turned the roast every 30 minutes and it took right at 2 1/2 hours.  As the  fat renders and the sauce reduces, you can SEE the flavor building.  They say remove when fork tender.  My BBQ experience says the pork butt collagen breaks down once you hit an internal temp of 195f which turned out to be accurate here too. 

Sauce - The video had some warnings about the sauce splitting and recommended an immersion blender.  I guess I was lucky because I only had to whisk mine while the sauce reduced and the meat rested.  Then I removed the rosemary stem.  The garlic cloves had broken apart smoothly. 
    While the lesson covers many topics and tips for combination cooking,  the tip that was most useful to me was about how to choose the right size of the pot and what happens if you don't.  In my case last night, I knew my pot was just slightly too big which meant I would have to add more liquid to get the right level or depth in the pot.  But the extra liquid can dilute flavor, so I knew I had to increase the seasonings too.

    No bones about it, this recipe is a keeper.  This was the best thing I've made all week. 

    [Standard Disclaimer] To be able to embed Rouxbe videos, I had to sign up as an affiliate member which means I get a couple of dollars for anyone that signs up through me.  I am not using it as a money maker, I just like being able to show their tip videos from time to time when it applies to something I am cooking or doing in that post.

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    Grilled Chicken with Barbecue Sauce

    Here's another quick "non-recipe" post. 

    Two weeks from know, I will be attending Kingsford University in Vegas, learning from pit master, Chris Lilly.  To say I am excited would be a massive understatement.  I feel like a kid the night before Christmas...and dagnabit I want coal in my stocking NOW!  It is a gorgeous day today so maybe some grilling will "take the edge off" of waiting for the next two weeks to pass. 

    I received a sample jar of Albukirky Seasonings BBQ Rub from fellow Egghead and blogger, Kirk Muncrief.  (See?  His name is Kirk and he lives in forget it, Albukirky is easier to spell anyway!)

    I'll do a full post about it later after I have tried it a couple of times but couldn't wait to try it today.  The boys wanted "bbq chicken*" sandwiches for lunch so I seasoned a few boneless skinless chicken thighs with the Ablukirky rub.  

    I fired up the Big Green Egg to 350f direct heat and grilled them for about 6 minutes per side.  Then I glazed them with some Smoky Mountain Smokers Barbecue Sauce, moved them to the cooler spots of the grill and let them cook another 2-3 minutes to let the sauce "set" onto the chicken.  

    Only add bbq sauce in the last few minutes of grilling so it won't burn.
    The boys loved the chicken and it disappeared.  I tasted a piece and it was quite good.  The rub is either sugar free (I'll find out) or low in sugar which made it perfect for grilling (won't burn).   That is why I used a sweet sauce like Smoky Mountain Smokers at the end to balance out the flavor.

    Here are my quick tips for grilling boneless, skinless chicken thighs:
    1. Trim excess pieces of fat from the thighs but don't stroke out over getting it all.  A little fat is a good thing.
    2. Wipe the chicken as dry as possible.
    3. Season with your choice of rub and let rest while starting your fire.
    4. Grill over direct heat (preferably charcoal fire) at 350-400f for 5-6 minutes per side.
    5. Often, one of the thighs in the package is the runt of the litter and it will cook faster than the others.  Keep the runt in one of your cooler spots.  
    6. When grilling, tuck that little flap of chicken on the back under the thigh.  This piece may fall off near the end of cooking.  If so, move it to a cooler spot of the grill so it doesn't burn and dry out.  When no one else is looking, pop it in your mouth and eat it.  Chef's treat.  
    7. Glaze with your choice of BBQ sauce and move to indirect heat or the cooler areas of your grill.
    8. Remove at an internal temperature of about 170f in the fattest part of the thigh.

    *What most people call bbq chicken is actually grilled or oven roasted chicken with bbq sauce.  True "bbq chicken" is smoked.    I'm just pointing out there is a difference.  I'm not a hard core traditionalist that is going to correct someone for calling their grilled chicken "bbq chicken".  I know what you mean.

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    Odds and Ends

    Fire Day Friday
    I have my Fire Day Friday guest post up over at Our Krazzy Kitchen where I was experimenting last night with a pulled pork/tamale cake appetizer.

    Deconstructed Tamale Appetizer Thingy

    Kitchen Tools
    Want to know one of my favorite kitchen tools?   A dry erase board. 

    I know that sounds weird.  But I use a dry erase white board in my kitchen almost every time I cook.  I bought a simple black framed white board and the way it is mounted in the kitchen, you really don't notice it unless you stand directly in front of it. 

    I use it to brainstorm ideas for an ingredient.  I write a base recipe on it and the modify it while cooking so I remember what I did.  I sometimes diagram my preparation ideas.

    I even draw out what I THINK the dish should look like when finally plated, as you can see on the board from last night's tamale cake.

    Grate Expectations
    I was excited to get one of the small Craycort cast iron grill grates this week.  It fits a small/medium Egg, a Weber Smokey Joe, or similar sized grills. 

    But my primary use of it will be for extreme high temp searing by using a spider rig on my large Big Green Egg.   That rig gets the grate right next to the super screaming hot coals.  I have my rig ordered and should have it shortly. 

    Sunday, February 13, 2011

    Jala-Cherry-Berry BBQ Sauce

    I like grilling pork tenderloins because they are easy to grill in a short time and mix well with a variety of flavor profiles.

    Pork tenderloins are easy and quick to grill.  My basic process for grilling pork tenderloins is 18 minutes over a 350f (medium) fire, turning them three times.  I try to keep the skinny tapered end away from the hottest part of the fire.  I like to pull them off when they hit about 138-140f internal temp in the thickest part of the tenderloin.   Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing to let the temp come up to 145f and the juices redistribute.  This produces a juicy and tender result consistently for me.

    Pork tenderloins are flavor friendly and get along with almost any flavor profile, which makes them fun to experiment with.   You can use a variety of rubs, marinades, and finishing sauces.  Yesterday I wanted to try something new so I adapted the following BBQ sauce from Smoke & Spice.  I used a commercial BBQ rub (Billy Bones Original) for my dry rub.

    A must have book for anyone serious about the art of BBQ.

    Jala-Cherry Berry BBQ Sauce
    Adapted from Jalapeach Barbecue Sauce in Smoke & Spice

    1 cup Peterson Farms Cherry Berry Blend (dried cherries, blueberries, and cranberries)
    1/2 cup water
    1/4 cup shallot, finely diced
    1-2 serrano chilies, seeded and diced
    1/4 cup pickled jalapeno slices, minced  (I used Hobo Howey's Jalapeno Treats)
    2 Tbsp cider vinegar
    2 Tbsp  chutney (I used Hobo Howey's Pineapple/Jalapeno Chutney)
    1 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
    1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp McCormick's Roasted Cumin
    1/2 cup simple syrup (1:1 sugar/water)

    To make the simple syrup, bring 1/4 cup of water to a boil and add 1/4 cup of sugar, stirring until dissolved. 

    Also, roasted cumin makes a difference.  If you don't have the McCormick's, toast your cumin in a saute pan over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring until it becomes fragrant as it releases it's oils.  

    Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Simmer for 25 minutes.  Allow to cool.  Blend the sauce in a blender or food processor until smooth.

    There are a lot of sugars in this sauce so do not put it on until the last few minutes of grilling and keep a watchful eye on your meat.  It is also a nice finishing sauce.

    We liked this sauce.  It went perfectly with the pork tenderloin and would also pair well with any roasted or grilled pork.  It is fruity with a kick.  It had a nice thick texture but if you like thinner, you could thin it out with more simple syrup.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    Grilled Flank Steak with Hubba Hubba Sauce

    Valentine's Day is coming up so you think this post would be about the sweet delicious Hubba Hubba sauce that I made tonight.

    But in actuality, this post is about punctuality, productivity and "put-it-on-the-table-ivity".   Alexis is in the middle of her three 12 hour shifts, Brett is just getting over the flu, and Trevor is in the middle of the flu.   Thanks to several short cuts, I got this on the table in 1 hour flat.  

    Shortcut 1:  I normally marinade my flank steaks for 4-6 hours to load them up with flavor but tonight I relied on a strong rub of S&P and a rich sauce to build extra flavor on the back end.

    Shortcut 2:  Multitask - Take advantage of "down time" when you are normally waiting.  I started the grill at the same time I started the water boiling for the pasta, then prepped the ingredients while they came to temp.   I made the sauce while the steak was resting.

    Shortcut 3:  Don't be too proud to use the jar.  My side dish was a total cheat since I simply cooked some vermicelli (6 minutes once water boiling) and tossed it with some Classico Pesto.  I also used demi-glace in a jar from Williams Sonoma in the Hubba Hubba sauce.  

    Grilled Flank Steak with Hubba Hubba Sauce
    Source:  NibbleMeThis

    1 ea flank steak (mine was 1.85 lbs)
    2 tsp pepper
    2 tsp kosher salt
    1 Tbsp butter
    1 small shallot, diced
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1/2 cup marsala wine
    2 Tbsp demi-glace
    1/4 cup beef stock
    1 Tbsp chives, chopped

    Fire up your grill for a direct heat cook at 500f.  I prefer charcoal but I won't hate on you if you use gas or a broiler.   (But charcoal is better.....I'm just sayin'.  I won't bash you for using gas, don't bash me for being right.)

    Score the flank steak at 1" intervals (Click here to see my video tip on How To Score Meat) and season with salt and pepper.  Instead of "just" pepper, I used some of Richard FL's Indian River Rainbow Pepper which ABSOFREAKINGLUTELY rocks with flavor.  Too bad you can't buy it, he just makes it for a few fellow Eggheads (Big Green Egg owners).  But you could use one of those tri-color pepper blends or even "just" pepper.

    Grill the flank steak for 3 minutes.

    Flip and cook another 3 minutes.  Flip the steak that is.  I don't expect you to do a front or back flip.  Unless you feel so inclined, then have at it.  But if  you aren't a trained gymnast and you have to say, "Here, hold my beer" first, I'd recommend against it.

    Flip and cook for 1 minute.  Ever notice that some flank steaks look like you are grilling a beaver's tail?

    Flip and cook for 30 seconds and them temp check.  It should be about 125f now, which is PERFECT for medium rare flank steak.  If you insist on ruining....errrr....if you prefer a medium steak, cook another minute or two.

    Pull the flank steak and rest it on a raised rack.

    While the steak is resting, heat a pan over medium heat and THEN add 1 Tbsp of butter.  The THEN is a major difference.  I used to throw oil (butter, oil, etc) into a cold pan and bring them up to heat together.  It makes a huge difference to preheat your pan first as shown here:

    Saute the shallot for 4-5 minutes, until softened.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

    Deglaze the pan with marsala wine and simmer for 3-4 minutes.  
    Stir in the demi-glace and simmer for 1 minute.  

    Kill the heat and add the chives.

    Slice the steak thinly across the grain in 1/4" slices and top with the sauce.

    For a dinner that was only intended to be time efficient, the Hubba Hubba Sauce was, well....."hubba hubba".  Flank steak signed up for and this sauce was his perfect match!

    Unfortunately for flank steak, Hubba Hubba sauce isn't as selective.  It would go excellently with any steak such as fillet, ribeye, or a porterhouse.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011

    Fire Roasted Hassleback Sweet Potatoes


    A part of dinner last night was those cute Hassleback potatoes and after dinner, Alexis wondered aloud if we could do that with sweet potatoes.  Why not?  So I tried it for lunch.  You could also cook this in the oven at the same time and temps, but fire roasting adds that extra touch.

    Plays well with a grilled ribeye!

    Fire Roasted Hassleback Sweet Potatoes
    source:  Nibble Me This

    2 ea sweet potatoes, washed and dried
    2 Tbsp butter
    3/4 tsp salt
    3 Tbsp butter
    2 Tbsp Agave nectar (or honey)
    1/4 tsp cinnamon, fresh grated
    1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

    Light your charcoal.  Set up your charcoal grill for an indirect set up (cooking over a void with coals to the sides) at 425f. 

    Slice the potatoes almost all the way through in 1/8" intervals.   I picked up a trick that makes that easier somewhere on the Internet and can't remember where.  So I can't give appropriate credit but I didn't come up with this genius idea.  

    When cutting the potatoes, lay a chopstick on both sides of the sweet potato like this:

    That way, you won't cut all the way through by accident.

    Drizzle the 2 Tbsp butter and salt over the potatoes. 

    Place on the grill and roast for 40-45 minutes at 425f.
    Veggies + Fire = Good
    Remove and let cool for 5 minutes.  You might need a wide spatula to remove them without breaking.

    Meanwhile melt the 3 Tbsp of butter and add the agave nectar (or honey), cinnamon, and red pepper.  Drizzle the butter mixture over the potatoes and serve.

    I'm not a huge fan of sweet potatoes, I usually make them because my life loves them (this was a practice run for Valentines and our anniversary coming up).    But I really liked these.  The fire roasting enriched the flavor and the velvety butter sauce has sweet with a subtle heat to it.  

    Deep Fried Hassleback Potatoes
    While that was cooking, curiosity struck again.  I wondered if you could deep fry small russets done hassleback style so I tried it with two of them.  I deep fried them for 3 minutes at 375f.   As soon as they came out of the fryer, I hit them with kosher salt.

    I topped them with melted butter, garlic, parsley, and chopped bacon.

    They were good but I prefer them baked.  The petals or slices open up better during baking whereas the frying happened so quick that I had to "reslice" some of the pieces to open them manually before salting. 

    Playing with your's not just for kids anymore.

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    Yellow Rice and Chorizo

    One of the first things I wanted to do to "get back to normal" after being in bed with the flu since Friday was to cook last night.   Even though I had been without fever for 12 hours,  I wore a dust mask and nitrile gloves just to be on the safe side.  Yeah, I'm not kidding and yes I looked like a dork.  

    Since I hadn't gone shopping over the weekend and wasn't about to go to the store, I did a pantry/fridge dive and came up with the following.  I mention Johnsonville by name because they are my personal favorite.  Johnsonville sausages are consistent, flavored right, available, and I have never had a problem with a single package I have bought over the years.  I know what I'm getting when I get my chorizo or italian sausage from them.  Plus the company supports grilling and BBQ events all summer log. 

    Yellow Rice & Chorizo
    Source:  Nibble Me This

    12 oz Johnsonville Mexican Chorizo (3 links)
    1 cup long grain rice (not instant)
    1 cup chicken stock
    1 cup water
    salt to taste
    1/4 tsp turmeric
    1 ea cherry pepper, seeded and diced (or 3 Tbsp diced red bell pepper)
    1/4 cup frozen peas
    1/4 to 1/2 cup fire roasted tomatoes (see last night's post for how to fire roast tomatoes)

    Set your grill up for direct heat at 300f (medium to medium low).  Grill your sausages for 25 to 30 minutes, turning every 5 minutes until they hit an internal temp of  at  about 180f or so.  They won't get dried out at this temp and it renders the fat so you end up with a succulent grilled sausage.
    Lower temps will cook them evenly without exploding and burning.
    Meanwhile, bring your water and stock to a boil.  Add the rice, turmeric, and season with salt.  Cook according to the rice directions (covered 18-20 minutes in most cases).

    In the last 10 minutes, add the diced pepper.

    Don't forget to keep flipped the sausages!
     In the last 5 minutes add the peas.

    When done, fold in the chopped fire roasted tomatoes, cover and let rest for at least 5 more minutes.

    Remove the sausages from the grill (if not already pulled).  

    Slice the sausages on a bias in 1/4" pieces and serve with the rice, garnished with cilantro.  
    Weeknight timing with weekend flavor!
    This was a quick and easy dinner for my first night back behind the grill.  Well, it would have been quick if I didn't have to fire roast the tomatoes for an hour first but let's just pretend I did that part ahead of time.   But the home made fire roasted tomatoes really put it a step up.  This would also be great chopped up and rolled in a burrito with some queso sauce!

    You could do this same recipe but cook the sausages stove top according to package directions.  You could also substitute canned fire roasted tomatoes but add 1 clove of minced and sauteed garlic for flavor.

    [Standard Disclaimer]  I have no affiliation with Johnsonville, receive no compensation from them and pay full retail for their products.