Thursday, May 27, 2010

Grilled Pizza with Roasted Corn Salad

Labon and Katie had us over so that Labon could continue to break in his Egg and sharpen his skills.  In true Labon fashion he went from the kiddie pool to the high dive.  He is not afraid.  We arrived to learn we would be having tomato and hearts of palm salad with roasted corn to start followed by margherita pizzas on the grill--not on the plate setter.  Not on a pizza stone.  On the grill.

He did the extensive prep ahead of time.  I got to watch the fun stuff and take photos.

First we roasted up the corn and set it aside for the salad.  Check.
Next we got the pizza dough out of the fridge where it had been rising.  By the way, it was colored cellophane, not raspberry jam all over that dough in the back  Heather taught us that pizza dough is easier to work with once it warms up a little.  It also has something to do with why the first pizza looked like Italy to Labon and Florida to Katie. 


See? It's a little peninsular, isn't it.


The Big Green Egg was zipping along at around 550f, so it didn't take long at all for the dough to cook up on one side.  The Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen suggests 2 minutes per side, but that was simply too long in our case.The extreme heat also made it difficult to arrange the dough on the grill with any care.  You had to sling it on there and get your hands out of the way.
When one side is done, you flip it.  Coat with olive oil and cover with the sauce, cheese and parsley.  The first pizza was peninsular (I'm thinking sort of a Baja shape) and charred.  But daggum it was tasty.

We (Labon) started to get the hang of it.

Flip it.  Oil it.

Slap on the goodies.


Doesn't that look good?  It tasted even better.  Check out those grooves from the grate. 

Did I mention we had salad?  It was really scrumptious.  Check out the recipe below.  You'll note there was some jalapeno in there, which gave it a really nice kick.

Here are the recipes from Steven Raichlen's BBQ Bible.  You can see that Labon was a busy bee prior to our arrival.  What a great meal. 

Grilled Pizza Margherita with Two Cheeses
Pizza dough (recipe follows)
1 can (28 oz) plum tomatoes, drained
1/4 c evoo
1/4 c fresh basil leaves
3 cloves minced garlic
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 c mixed grated Fontina and Pecorino Romano cheese (5-6 oz of each)
1/3 c finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. Make the dough.  When it is almost done rising proceed with the recipe.
2. Puree tomatoes until no large chunks remain.  Add olive oil, basil and garlic while food processor is still running.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Proceed as described above with a hot grate.

Pizza Dough:
1 3/4 C warm water
2 packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 t.)
1 T. molasses
2 t. coarse salt
3 1/2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1. Place water, yeast and molasses in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Stir to mix and let stand until slightly foamy, 5-10 min.
2. Add salt and 2 T of olive oil and mix with a dough hook on the low speed until combined--about 2 min.  Add the all-purpose and whole wheat flours and mix on the low speed until a smooth dough forms and pulls away from the side of the mixer--8 to 10 min.  The dough should be soft and moist, but not sticky.  If the dough is too wet, add a little more flour.  The dough can also be made in a food processor; in this case, add the flour and salt first, followed by the yeast mixture and 2 T of olive oil.
3. Use the remaining T of olive oil to oil the inside of a large bowl.  Gather the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl, turning to coat all sides.  Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in size, 1 - 1 1/2 hours at room temp or over night in the refrigerator.
4. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured board.  Knead the dough a few times with your hands until it has reduced to its original size.
5. Divide the dough into 6 even balls about 3 inches in diameter. Place the balls of dough on a lightly oiled baking sheet and brush each with a little oil.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise at room temp until soft and puffy, 20 - 40 min.
Makes dough for 6 individual pizzas.

Tomato and hearts of palm salad with Grilled corn
2 ears sweet corn, shucked.
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T Dijon mustard
1 t brown sugar
1 T fresh lime juice
1 T red wine vinegar
1 fresh jalapeno pepper seeded and minced
1/4 c finely chopped fresh cilantro
12 oz fresh hearts of palm or 1 can (14 oz) hearts of palm drained and rinsed
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes rinsed and stemmed
1 head Boston or Bibb lettuce, broken into leaves, rinsed and spun dry.
1.Roast corn and remove kernels using a chef's knife to cut the cob lengthwise.
2. In a large mixing bowl combine garlic, mustard, brown sugar, lime juice, vinegar, and jalapeno.  Add 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper.  Whisk until the salt dissolves. Wisk in the remaining 3 T. of EVOO in a thin stream then add the corn kernels and cilantro.
3. Cut the hearts of palm length-wise into halves or quarters.  Cut tomatoes into half.  Arrange lettuce, hearts of palm and tomatoes on 4 plates and spoon dressing over each just before serving.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Easy. Tasty. Pineapple.

This was one of my favorites from the Carolina Eggfest.  Matthew Underwood of the Caldwell Grill and Brew Club put me on to this.  I've grilled pineapple before, but never with cinnamon.

I went to a potluck dinner last week for church and had to bring an appetizer, so I jumped at the chance to try this myself.

Alright.  So how easy is this?  You just cut up pineapple, sprinkle with cinnamon and grill.

I cranked it up to about 550f to get the cast iron good and hot for searing purposes.  I wrapped it in foil and hustled it over to the church.

It was aromatic as all get out.  It tasted so fresh and juicy.  It's so healthy.  Folks gobbled it up.  Awesome.  Thanks Matthew!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Love That New Egg Smell

I had the privilege of helping Labon assemble his new large Big Green Egg (and its nest) recently.  A few posts back I mentioned that he bought one at the 1st annual Carolina Eggfest.  The following Tuesday we pulled 'er out of the box and got to work.  The most nerve-wracking element was ensuring that the bands which hold the lid and base together were securely fastened.  How's it look (above)?  It seemed snug to us.  The bolts bent back and the brackets bowed toward each other.

Ain't it purdy in there?  Look how clean!

The first fire.

A college pal/Egger who lives in Denver now recommended we try bacon-wrapped dates.  You pit the dates and wrap them in thick-cut bacon.  Simple enough right?

   After all the assembly and food prep, I was too hungry to photograph the finished product.  I seem to do that a lot.  Sorry.   But here they are (below) ready to go before we cooked 'em up direct at 350f for about 15 minutes.  I have to say that I wonder if the dates were fresh or something.  While the flavor of bacon and date together was really nice, the dates were too gooey in my opinion.  Long after the bacon was done I was still working on date.  There was a texture or a ratio that didn't quite jive with me.  Also Trey recommended getting the bacon directly from the butcher.  As you can see above I just nabbed it from the shelf.  Maybe that was the thing.

We also tried pig candy (not pictured) which was something that we missed at the Carolina Eggfest.  From what we gathered it's supposed to be thick-cut bacon sprinkled with cayenne pepper and brown sugar and sizzled all up.  It sounded yummy.  Either we messed something up or it's just really sweet bacon.  As we all know, bacon goes great with everything.  But this just wasn't bacon's night somehow.

Next up: wings.

Here we just sprinkled them all up with some pork butt rub and cooked them direct at about 400f for 20 minutes until they were all crispy.

I need a tripod or something.  I liked the glow of the coals under the wings here, but I couldn't hold the camera still very well at this hour in the evening.  Please pretend that the wings are in focus and not blurry.  Thank you.
Again, I scarfed these down without arranging them on a plate to photograph.  Please believe me that they were beautiful and delicious.  We certainly had the best for last.  It was a lovely maiden voyage for the new Egg.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Retro Burgers

For Mother's Day my wife requested good old burgers for dinner.  So we decided to have good old burgers for dinner.  For some reason I felt a nostalgic tug from the yard.  I tapped my Weber charcoal kettle grill for the task.  She hadn't been in service since the Big Green Egg arrived back in October.  So it seemed like a good idea.  We had big, softball-sized patties for dinner.  The kids each enjoyed a "slider" sized burger.
My burger philosophy has been heavily influenced by Steven Raichlen.  He advocates for big, round patties made of fatty beef.  I usually get the 85% beef.  Mmm.  As I form them into balls I try to handle them as little as possible.  I spray them with olive oil and then sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper.  These guys were grilled on high heat for 5-6 min on each side.  I pulled them with an internal temp of about 145f.  Normally I go for burgers piled with anything you can fit on the bun.  Heather had picked up some bleu cheese though, so I went rather minimalist.  I must confess: I did add ketchup along the way.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Carolina Eggfest

Casual Furniture World in Winston-Salem, NC hosted the first annual Carolina Eggfest in this field behind their store.  It was a great spot for a party.  The wind was fierce all day long.  A number of tents bit the dust and the main tent where folks gathered for shade struggled to stay up as the day wore on.  Eventually they had to take it down.

So my dad, my uncle, Labon and his dad had to check out the action. There were 11 Eggs in use by some really great folks who fixed us a wide variety of treats all day long.  I know some of the cooks were from Lenoir.  We had some guys from Roanoke, VA.  There was a group from Morganton and another gang from Greenville, NC.  I think there were some guys from Texas too, but I'm not certain of that.

 I'm embarrassed now to realize how few people I actually met, but the festival was a success thanks to the efforts from the cooks and the good organization from Josh at Casual Furniture World.  Of course the food was good, but we also had the benefit of some great pickin n' grinnin from a banjo and guitar duo.

Here's some of the foods we enjoyed.

Above: first layer being woven of the "bacon explosion," which is like a pipe bomb made out of pork--and it doesn't really explode.  The good folks of the Caldwell Grill and Brew Club were manning this station.  And yes, the president of the Caldwell chapter and I have spoken about a Mecklenburg chapter.

This is genius.  It's just those little pies you can get at gas stations (growing up B&G was the brand in my home town).  You just heat 'em up for a few minutes to caramelize the sugar on the outside and heat up the peachy goo on the inside.

EggieG from Virginia made some New Orleans style barbecued shrimp that was really good.  I snapped this photo after eating the last shrimp.  You can see it was a good stew served up with pieces of bread to sop all the good stuff.

If there was one piece of gear that I coveted most from the whole weekend it was the extra large cast iron skillet made for the XL Big Green Egg.  These guys from Morganton used it to its fullest capabilities by whipping up some amazing paella. Look at the smiles.  One guy has his hand to his heart.  He knew he was about to get into something tasty.

The guys from Greenville, NC made some great stuff too.  They made the ribs you see below, which were super tender, but not over cooked.  I tried to get a shot of their glorious smoke ring, but the photo doesn't do it justice.

Here were some chorizo-stuffed jalapeƱos from our Morganton friends.  One of my favorites from the day. 

My uncle approved of the corn that the guys from Greenville made.

Here you see some great pineapple slices from the Lenoir guys that were simply sprinkled with cinnamon and grilled up for everyone.  They also did up some nice banana slices.

Perhaps the highlight for me was that Labon finally decided it was time to get his own Egg.  I choked back tears of joy--or were they from the chorizo-jalepeno burn?  Anyway.  I was pleased.  Great day.  Thanks to all who made it so much fun.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tall Boy meets Big Bird

Labon brined a 7lb chicken overnight in water with some salt, honey, cinnamon sticks and brown sugar.  The rub consisted of paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper and brown sugar.  The big bird perched upon the tall boy Bud Light and set inside Labon's gas grill for just over 90 minutes on indirect medium heat.

Here I must confess that my role was primarily that of photographer.

Oh and I did have a couple of beers.  Camera work has been known to give a powerful thirst.

This was some of the juiciest chicken I've ever eaten.  I'd never brined a bird before.  I must say I was skeptical that it would make things taste too salty, but that was not the case here.  This really was delicious, juicy and sweet.  The brown sugar in the rub had caramelized in a way that made the skin really tasty--but it wasn't too sweet.  All in all I give Labon kudos and thank him for hosting me for this enjoyable afternoon on the grill. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Braised Short Ribs

Saturday night my dad and I were eager to try something new.  My cousin got married on April 10 and they had really tasty short ribs at the reception.  My dad and I thought we should give it a go.  He located this recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks blog and we modified it to suit our tastes and supplies.

We began with 8 slices of diced bacon in the Dutch oven.  I have to come clean here to state that we did not use the Big Green Egg for the first part of the cook.  We just did this on the stove top.  But we cooked the bacon until there were just two things: fat and crispy bits.  Yum.
Meanwhile we some short ribs that were boneless and some that were bone-in.  We cut up the boneless pieces a little as you can see.

 Next we covered the ribs (about 2 lbs beef short ribs) in salt, pepper and flour.

How's that bacon coming?  Oh, it's about ready.  We scooped out all of the bacon, set it aside (after sampling a bit: crunch, crunch) and left the grease.  To the grease we added 2 Tbs of olive oil.

To that sizzling brew we added the ribs and braised them for about 45 seconds per side.

Coming along nicely . . .

Once we'd gotten the ribs on all sides, we scooped them out and set them aside too.

From there we stirred in 2 C. chicken stock and 2 C. dry, white wine.  Once it was boiling we stirred in the chopped veggies (carrots, onions, celery, garlic) and mixed it up for a couple of minutes.  We dumped the beef and bacon back in and then stuck it on the Big Green Egg for 2 hours at 350f indirect.  With about 20 min to go we added some mushrooms.

The Pioneer Woman added fresh herbs and served it over polenta, which sounded awesome.  We skipped the herbs and ladled it over some brown rice.  Sometimes you can judge how tasty something is by the leftovers.  In this case there were none.  'Nuff said.

We're definitely doing short ribs again.  Anyone got a favorite method or recipe they'd like to share?