Monday, June 28, 2010

Cast Iron Rehab: Chapter 2

Our subject spent 48 hours sitting in a garbage bag while soaked with oven cleaner.

It's starting to look a little better.  This is an 8" cast iron pan made by Griswold that found its way into my family sometime in the last 50+ years.  

Using instructions from the Pan Man I soaked the pan in oven cleaner for 48 hours and then gave it a scrubbing with a wire copper brush.

If you look back at Chapter 1, you'll note some real progress.

But some of this crud still wouldn't come off, so back into the bag for another 48 hours with a fresh bath of oven cleaner.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cast Iron Rehab: Chapter 1

Not too long ago I was reading on the Egghead Forum about cast iron cookware.  There was some discussion about what new brands were preferred, but the two discontinued brands that everyone liked best were Wagner and Griswold.  This got me thinking about the pan in the back of the cabinet that my mom had given me at one point.  I grabbed it out.  Lo and behold it was a Griswold!  Cool.  Griswold was a cast iron maker in Erie, PA which has been out of business since the 1950s.  So this piece is at least 50 to 60 years old.
I know a certain amount of "seasoning" makes your cast iron cool, but this piece seemed to be pretty corroded.  Last summer my wife and I were in Charleston,SC and we visited the CSA Hunley--the world's first submarine used during the Civil War.  This pan looked like it had been pulled from the wreckage. 

Check it out.  The 8 tells you that it's an 8" pan.

So now what?  I found help from the Pan Man who has a guide on his site for cleaning and seasoning old cast iron. Step one is to spray the piece down with oven cleaner all over and stick it in a plastic trash bag for a couple of days.  Keeping it in the bag keeps the cleaner from evaporating.  Stay tuned as I post the progress of this project.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tails: We win!

So I got a new table.  I'm pretty jazzed.  It's cypress wood, which supposedly does great out in the elements, but I read on the Egghead Forum where some coat their tables with spar varnish.  After reading up, I decided that the Minwax Helmsman was the way to go.  Over the course of about a week I put on 3 coats and sanded in between.  I also went with the high gloss when somebody on the forum commented that it repels barbecue sauce as well as water.  Above you can see the new table beside the empty nest--former home to the Egg.

As you may or may not know, a Big Green Egg weighs a lot.  It's also weird and awkward to handle.  As you might have guessed I enlisted Labon's help to lift the sucker into its new home.  Many folks on the forum suggested removing the dome first. I don't have any idea how I would do that since my bolts and hardware are all bent up from where they torqued everything into place when it was assembled.  So we just bear hugged it and dropped it in while Heather and Katie made sure the paving stone and Egg "feet" were in place. It wasn't a walk in the park, but it wasn't all that bad either.  Using a work glove I did some of the final adjustments by reaching down into the thing and lifting by the vent hole.  The work glove was nice, because that sheet metal around the vent is sharp.  Anyway, it was easier than I would have expected.

Always on the lookout for deals, Labon pointed out that Harris Teeter had a special on lobster tails.  Half off!  So this seemed like a good food to break in the table.  All of the tails were about 0.4 lbs.

After some research I found that the Naked Whiz had a recipe that sounded good, called Dwell in the Shell (see page 89 of the .pdf document).  

I kind of thought 6 tails would be enough for 4 people, by the way.  Was it?  Let's just say that Heather made a HUGE salad and there was nothing left.  In other words nobody filled up on lobster.

But to prepare the tails the first order of business was cutting off the legs and membrane on the underside.  I did this with some kitchen scissors.  On the flip side I used a big ol chopping knife to crack a notch in the tops of the shells going lengthwise. After rubbing the meat down with a little olive oil I applied some lemon juice, season salt and garlic powder.  The tails went back into the fridge for about 90 minutes.

With the Egg around 450 I put them on for 5 minutes.  Let's take a peek with the daisy wheel cam . . .

Here they are after 5 minutes.  Notice, that I haven't replaced my gasket yet.

We flipped them over and drizzled each with melted butter, which we had sautéed with minced garlic.

The butter flared up like a muther.

The recipe called to let them cook on their backs another 5 minutes.  But the recipe was for 1 pound tails.  These were less than half of that, so we yanked them after about 3 minutes on their backs.  I'd say they were just right.  We dipped them in the leftover garlic butter and I have to say they were yummy to quite yummy.

And check this out.  The next day we got some good rain, so I got to see how the varnish worked.  I like it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Guam Volcano Tuna

We wanted to do something light for dinner, so we did up some tuna with pineapple.

So for starters let me give a nod to Dave over at My Year on the Grill who suggested we make the pineapple extra snazzy with some rum.  Good idea, mon.  I don't know whether it's better if you soak it a week ahead of time or anything, but we gave it a good 15 minutes.  It had some rum flavor for sure, but it wasn't over powering.  So maybe that was good enough.

Secondly let me give a nod to Chris over at Nibble Me This for his praise of Steven Raichlen's new book Planet Barbecue! which I grabbed recently.  That inspired us for the tuna portion of our meal.  I found the recipe itself already posted at, so I was able to cut and paste all the gory details.  We only did 2 tuna steaks, by the way.

For the Dipping Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon wasabi powder, or 1 tablespoon wasabi paste
  • 1 piece (2 inches) fresh ginger, peeled (for 1 tablespoon grated)
  • 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 scallion, both white and green parts, trimmed and sliced crosswise paper-thin
  • 1 hot chile, thinly sliced crosswise

For the Tuna
  • 4 tuna steaks (each about 1 1/2 inches thick and 6 to 8 ounces)
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Lemon or lime wedges, for serving

1. Prepare the dipping sauce: If you are using powdered wasabi, place it in a mixing bowl and add 1 tablespoon of warm water. Stir to form a paste and let stand for about 5 minutes. If you are using wasabi paste, place it in a mixing bowl. Grate the ginger on a fine grater into the bowl; you should have about 1 tablespoon. Cut the lemon in half and cut a thin slice off one half. Cut the slice in quarters, remove any seeds, and set the lemon quarters aside for garnishing the sauce. Squeeze the juice from the remaining lemon into the bowl, squeezing it through your fingers to catch any seeds. Add the soy sauce, scallion, and chile and stir to mix well. Divide the sauce among 4 small bowls. Float a quarter lemon slice in each bowl. The dipping sauce can be prepared up to 1 hour ahead.
2. Prepare the tuna: Place the tuna steaks on a large plate and thickly crust them with cracked peppercorns, pressing the pepper onto the fish on both sides and the edges. Generously season the tuna with Old Bay seasoning and salt. Place the olive oil in a shallow bowl.
3. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high.
4. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Dip each piece of tuna in the olive oil on both sides, then arrange it on the hot grate. The dripping oil may and should cause flare-ups—it's supposed to. The flames will help sear the crust. Grill the tuna until it is dark and crusty on the outside but still very rare inside, 2 to 3 minutes per side, turning with tongs. When done the tuna should feel quite soft when poked.
5. Transfer the grilled tuna steaks to a cutting board and cut them into 1/4-inch slices. Cut down through the steaks, holding the blade perpendicular to the cutting board. Each slice will have a dark crusty exterior and a blood-rare center. Fan out the slices on a platter or plates. Garnish the tuna with lemon or lime wedges and serve the bowls of dipping sauce alongside.

Oh and also.  I figured that the rum-soaked pineapple leftovers would make excellent pineapple-soaked rum drink over ice. Turns out I prefer a little bourbon on the rocks to a little pineapple-tinged rum on the rocks.  But it looked pretty.

This tuna was amazing.  I must tell you that I did it once without photographing it.  My wife invited her book club over a while back.  They all brought husbands, kids and/or significant others.  Most folks ate my pulled pork (which was very tasty if I do say so for myself).  I fixed the volcano tuna for the "vegetarians" in the crowd who preferred not to eat pork.  It was a hit.  Many of the pork-eaters were wishing they had RSVP'd as vegetarian.  The dipping sauce was dubbed "The Magic Sauce."  It really is something else.

The thing that worried me about this recipe was that all the Old Bay and cracked pepper would overwhelm the tuna flavor.  Fear not.  This was really a great adventure for the taste buds.

Oh and the book club session just so happens to be when I fried my gasket trying to sear this tuna.  Stay tuned for a post about how to replace your gasket on a Big Green Egg.