Thursday, May 31, 2012

Win A Big Green Egg

I did it again.  I've gone on a fishing/work trip to Florida.

Please don't try to steal my Big Green Eggs off of my deck.  Our older son is there and I'd hate for him to have to waste ammo chasing you off (kidding...maybe).   Instead, Johnsonville is giving you a chance to win your own Big Green Egg.  

Enter to win a Big Green Egg here by telling what a brat (that's bratwurst by the way, not a spoiled kid) means to you in 140 characters or less.

In the meantime, I'm going back to fishing.  Today, Trevor did the best on our boat landing 8 fish including a feisty Spanish mackerel.  

Me?  I was the only one that didn't catch anything for the first several hours.  I was catching flack from Trevor and my father-in-law about striking out when I finally caught a HUGE fish!  

That's not's a croaker that I caught on live shrimp.

Don't worry, I'm pacing myself for when the red snapper season opens tomorrow!

Now go enter to win your Big Green Egg and stay off of my deck! 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Grilled Stuffed Pork Chops

As I wrote earlier today, our third annual blogger get together was this Memorial Day weekend.

One of the cool things about this event is that so far, no one has had to get a hotel room in order to attend. The local East Tennessee bloggers have opened their homes to the out of state bloggers who have traveled to get here.  This year, our "roomies" that stayed at our house were David and Jackie (Inspired by eRecipeCards, My Year On The Grill).  

When they arrived Saturday, we made a quick appetizer of grilled ribeye steak kebabs (Greek marinade) with Tzatziki sauce, olives and grilled flat bread wedges.  

Then we went "free form".  I told Dave that I had a boneless pork loin to cut up into chops and we bounced around some ideas.

This is the refined version of what we came up with on the spur of the moment for one of our Memorial Day cook outs.  It's a pork chop marinated in a chipotle marinade and stuffed with a cheesy, roasted red pepper mix.

grilled stuffed pork chops

We served it with the Black Bean Fiesta flavor of Bush's Grillin' Beans which wasn't a coincidence.  The marinade and stuffing mix for the pork complimented the bold savory chipotle sauce and red peppers in the beans.   Trevor says that the only thing you have to add to Grillin Beans is your fork! 

Grilled Stuffed Pork Chops
serves: 4

  • 4 pork chops, boneless, 1"thick with a pocket cut into the middle off each chop's side
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup honey flavored BBQ sauce*
For the marinade
  • 3 oz vegetable oil
  • 1 oz white wine vinegar*
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 chipotle chile, seeded and chopped
For the stuffing mix
  • 1/2 cup shredded pecorino-Romano cheese*
  • 2 Tbsp roasted red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 Tbsp green onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp panko bread crumbs
  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together in a blender or mini-food processor.  Marinate the pork chops for 4-6 hours in a zip top bag, turning occasionally.  
  2. Mix the stuffing mix together in a bowl.  Remove chops from marinade and stuff with a quarter of the stuffing mixture.  Seal edges with toothpicks.  Season the outside with salt and pepper*.
  3. Preheat your grill to 350f (medium high).  Make sure the grates are clean and lubricated. 
  4. Place the stuffed pork chops on the grill and grill 6 minutes.  Flip and brush the tops with BBQ sauce.
  5. Cook another 6 minutes until the chops are an internal temp of 145f.  
  • Honey BBQ sauce - You can buy a honey flavored BBQ sauce or just mix 3 oz of your favorite BBQ sauce with 1 oz of honey.
  • Vinegar - if you don't have white wine vinegar, you can use white vinegar, lemon juice, cider vinegar, etc.
  • Cheese - Substitutes could be any salty hard cheese like parmesan, manchego, etc.
  • Salt & pepper - Just sprinkle it on to your liking.  If you insist on a quantity, we used about 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  But's salt and pepper.  You know how much you like.
Stuff them a little thicker than you need, the mixture will compress once you seal the chops up with toothpicks.

This grill master's best friend - a bold, easy to make side dish.

Marinated, stuffed, grilled and glazed....

Tender, spicy and delicious!

Still hungry after a day on the lake yesterday skiing for the first time.

[Standard Disclaimer]  I received compensation for this post from Bush Grillin' Beans, one of my premier sponsors.

Blogger Get Together 2012

We had our third annual Blogger Get Together yesterday on Tellico Lake at Larry and Beverly's home (Big Dude's Eclectic Ramblings).

This year our food theme was a Cajun crawfish and shrimp boil.  Since AJ and Katherine (Smoky Mountain Cafe) hale from Cajun country, they headed up the cooking activities but everyone pitched in, one way or another.  

Despite my earlier assertion that I would NOT eat crawfish, I did.  I even did the whole sucking the juices out of the head thing.  Shocker, right?  This avowed fish hater ate a mudbug and didn't choke.  It actually tasted good - spicy and slightly meaty in texture.    

I could go on and on about the day but let's just suffice it to say it couldn't be beat.

crawfish, mudbugs, crayfish, cajun, cajun boil,
The guests of honor.

Dave helping me prep the veggies in the morning.

AJ, Alexis, Jackie, and Dave hanging around the boiling action.

AJ "beating our lunch back into the pot" with a crawfish paddle ;)

The venue....

Alexis and Sam.

Katherine demonstrates how to properly eat a crawfish.

Sausage, crawfish, shrimp and veggies - an amazing meal.

AJ giving Alexis and Trevor lessons on how to eat a mud bug.

Our hostess shows she knows how to eat a crawfish.

What a spread of food!

AJ and Alexis on the jet ski.

The kids, just before the rope got caught on the shaft of the jet ski....

AJ spent an hour, 30 seconds at a time, under the water cutting the rope off of the shaft.

Larry giving margarita lessons.

We had a great time, I got to meet some new folks and we had a few new bloggers this year.  If you missed it this year, we hope you can join us next year!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sweet Honey Soy Vinaigrette

Remember those Bulgogi skewers the other day?  Lea Ann of Cooking On The Ranch confirmed that they are also quite good cooked under a broiler.  I had two skewers left over for the next day and they made a quick salad for lunch.  

I mixed some hydroponic Romaine lettuce and Summercrisp lettuce, Roma tomatoes, grilled red onion, fried egg noodles, and topped with the skewers.

I whipped up a quick vinaigrette that followed the Asian theme and turned out to be one of the best vinaigrettes I have made.  

Sweet Honey Soy Vinaigrette

  1. Place all ingredients in a mini-blender (speaking of Magic Bullet*) and blend for 20 seconds until emulsified.
  • Alexis bought this for me when trying to find Sweet Soy Sauce.  Not the same thing but I do like this product.   It is sweet and salty with a robust flavor.  I don't know where the "grilled" comes from in the name but it does great with grilled foods like wings.  If you can find it, try it, but it's hard to find even on the Internet.  Meanwhile, I'm going to try to come up with a similar sauce on my own, I love it.  It has honey, soy, pineapple, garlic, ginger, sesame seed, molasses, cider vinegar, brown sugar and grape wine.  
  • Magic Bullet.  Please please please tell me that you have seen their new commercial for the Party Bullet.  It is either incompetently horrible or brilliantly funny, I'm not sure which.  ( )   It was like a car wreck, I had to watch.  Then I had to make Alexis watch.  Seems like an SNL parody, doesn't it?
[Standard Disclaimer]  I have no affiliation with the Asian Gourmet or Haddon House people behind the sauce.  Just thought it was a good find.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Product Review: CLR Grease Magnet

This weekend a lot of people will be dragging out their grills for the first time this year.   Those stowed grills are going to need some cleaning before jumping back into action, ESPECIALLY if you didn't clean them good the last time you used them.  

I grill all year and my Big Green Eggs stay clean through routine maintenance and high temp cooks.  But my Smoke Hollow combo grill/smoker has been a little neglected over the winter and was looking a bit like a Nick Nolte mug shot.

I was offered a sample of CLR Grease Magnet and I thought about my poor Smoke Hollow grill, all dusty and greasy under the tarp, hidden away like a dirty secret.   I gladly took them up on their offer.  After all, we have used CLR for years for calcium, lime and rust stains around the house.  [I honestly didn't know CLR was a brand, I thought all they made was that little silver bottle that we all have tucked away in our garage or under the kitchen sink.  They make CLR, Grease Magnet and a whole host of products at Jelmar. Who knew?]

The intended use per Jelmar's website is: Grease Magnet is a fast-acting powerful cleaner formulated to make short work of cleaning stubborn oil, grease and tar from a wide variety of surfaces, including grills and smokers.

We put it to work in a few applications and this is what I thought.  

FIRST - there is no magic bullet for cleaning a nasty, greasy grill.   Cleaning grills is a dirty job and requires elbow grease, there's no getting around that.  A "spray on and wipe off with a paper towel" grill cleaner is like a unicorn or chupacabra.  I know because Bigfoot told me so.    

Yeah, "Gross!"

Another's easier to KEEP a grill clean than to GET it clean. 

Grill Cleaning
  • Exterior:  CLR Grease Magnet did very well on removing surface grease and grime on the three grills.  The surface was clean and ready for their annual reseasoning after an application.
  • Interior:  CLR did a good job of cleaning the grease on the inside areas where grease hides, like the rails that hold the grill grates.  You still have to physically remove accumulated grease first per their instructions, they don't claim to be magic.  
  • Grill Grates:  Okay for stainless.  Not recommended for cast iron (will ruin the seasoning of the metal).  I think you're better off doing a high temp burn and scraping when it comes to grill grates.

Before and after grill top.

This is the stain in the previous picture.  Notice how the grease turned bluish as it emulsifies.

Before and after grate rail.  Probably the greasiest part of my grill.

Before and after tray handle.

Side by side comparison of gas grill drip covers, one done by my normal cleaner and one by CLR Grease Magnet.  Similar results.

Finished and ready to re-season. 

I also cleaned my Bodum Fyrkat and Weber Smokey Joe, little grills need love too.

Garage Floor
  • Sometime last year, I walked out to go to work and had an oil leak under my car in the garage.  Not a drip but a river.  I said a few **** and @@@@ and assumed it was a major engine failure.  Turned out to be something relatively inexpensive ($300) but I never got rid of the stain on the floor.  Year old oil stain - perfect challenge for the CLR Grease Magnet.
  • First I did a test strip per their directions.  5 minutes on, scrub with brush, wipe off.  Wow. 
  • Then I did the whole thing.  The before and after pictures speak for themselves.
Test strip just to see how it did.

If I speak for myself, why did he add this stupid caption?  Pfft. 

Overall thoughts
  • Most pit cleaners I have seen use up to 30% sodium hydroxide, a noxious little bugger.  It is rather reactive and can damage skin and eyes easily at that concentration, nasty stuff.   I liked that CLR uses no sodium hydroxide per their MSDS.  
  • For metal grills, it does a good job.  But it is still a dirty job and they don't claim otherwise.  Take care of your grills.  
  • For concrete floors and vinyl siding (Alexis used it on some grease stains that I may or may not have gotten on the siding, I plead the 5th), the skeptic in me was impressed.

Okay, I'll be back tomorrow with a food post I promise.  Now go clean your grill if you put it away dirty last year....

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bulgogi Skewers

Sometimes I'm creative and come up with something cool.  But other times I just get lucky and stumble onto something when messing around.  This was a "stumble onto" because I was trying to solve a problem that I wasn't sure even existed.  But it is a technique that rocks and will work with many flavor profiles.

This is a "Far East meets Middle East meets my backyard" kind of thing.   Korean bulgogi grilled on a skewer - reminiscent of shawarma, gyro, or even tacos al pastor done on a vertical bbq spit.   The result is sweet and spicy grilled beef that has crispy edges, juicy insides, and is pull apart tender.

Bulgogi Skewers, different ribeye idea

It looks like whole pieces of meat on a stick but as you pull pieces off, they tear into thin, delectable ribbons of "oh my snap that tastes so good".   The flavor is a pop in the mouth but it's more about the range of textures.

Here's how I stumbled into this.  
  • I've been wanting to make Korean bulgogi ever since seeing Josh at The Meatwave post about his almost two years ago.  [If you don't follow The Meatwave you should.  Great photography, solid bbq/grilling techniques, sauce reviews, and more.  I think he has one of the most underrated BBQ sites on the Internet.]  
  • I looked at Josh's recipe, Mark Bittman's, then sort of combined them for the marinade.  I just wasn't crazy about grilling thin slices of steak over hot fire with a sugary marinade.  I was worried that trying to flip them all fast enough as they quickly cooked through (and the sugar started burning) would be a pain.  
  • That's when skewers entered my mind.  I wasn't thinking about the great variety of textures I would get.  I was just being lazy smart and efficient.
Bulgogi Skewers
Inspired by Josh Bousel and Mark Bittman

  • 2 ribeye steaks, 1" thick*
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarse chopped
  • 1 green onion, coarse chopped
  • 2 fresh basil leaves, coarse chopped
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flake
  1. Freeze the steaks for 30 minutes and then slice as thin as you can across the grain.  Place in a bowl.
  2. Place the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until the solid ingredients are pulverized, smashed, and decimated...about 20-30 seconds.  Pour over the sliced beef and toss to coat thoroughly.  Marinate for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat a charcoal fire to 450f (medium high heat).  
  4. Fold and thread the ribbons of steak onto skewers.  You want to push them up against each other so only the edges get crispy (see pictures).  
  5. Place on the grill and cook for 2 minutes.  Cook another 3 minutes, rotating a quarter turn every minute.  I don't have an internal temp target for you, you are just looking for the exterior to get lightly crispy and browned.
  • Equipment needed:  6-8 bbq skewers.  If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water while the meat is marinating.
  • Steak - You can substitute strip steak, flat iron, or flank steak.  
Partially frozen beef will be easier to slice thinly.  

The ribeye can have a sinewy piece of silver skin that is NOT good eats.  I cut around it like this, before continuing to slice.

Bulgogi Skewers
Before cooking, they still look like individual ribbons of heavenly beef.

Bulgogi Skewers
As they grill over the hot coals, they start to form together. 

Pull apart tender.
We've had these twice this week, they were so good.  The same technique would be fantastic using a Greek marinade for gyros (pull the meat off and serve in pitas with tzatziki sauce) or using thin shaved pork with a Mexican marinade for tacos al pastor (pull meat off and serve in tortillas).  

Gimme Shelter
Two weeks ago, I bought a new awning for our deck grilling area.  They only last about a year but at least they count as "temporary" so the homeowners association can't complain about it being "an unapproved permanent structure" requiring the architectural committee's approval.  My neighbor, grilling co-conspirator, and fellow Big Green Egger, John, helped me put it together that afternoon.  

The new cover has side pieces that FINALLY let me hang the sign that my parents had made for me last year.

Nibble me this big green egg

It's taken so long that they probably thought I had used the sign for smoking wood in the Egg ;)