Monday, July 30, 2012

4th of July

The 4th of July also happens to be my dad's birthday. That means a special effort for as many of our family as possible to get together to celebrate. This year was no different. For the last several years we have tried to meet up in the North Carolina mountains, but this year we met up in Rural Hall, NC.

When my dad and I get together we like to cook things over fire. So let's get down to it. In the days leading up to the 4th this short video caught my eye.

I'm a guy who loves to load down my hot dogs with goopy stuff like slaw or relish (never both). So the idea of creating a little more room in the bun was very exciting to me.

That was my idea. My dad found some recipes that he wanted to try. Namely: Beer Brats and Bacon-wrapped Asparagus.

First the Beer Brats.

Beer Brats & Bacon-wrapped Asparagus

Beer Brats (from

4 (12 ounce) beers
1 large onion, diced
10 bratwurst
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Lightly oil grate - Preheat grill for medium-high heat

Combine the beer and onions in a large pot, bring to a boil. Submerge the brats in the beer, add the red pepper flakes, garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Reduce heat to medium and cook another 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the brats from the beer mixture, reduce the heat to low and continue cooking the onions.

Cook the brats on the medium-high grill, turning once, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with the onions as a topping or a side. 
My dad found these delightfully patriotic Budweiser "tall boys." (Let's forget for a moment that the King of Beers is now owned by Belgian conglomerate, InBev. Because, what's America, if not a melting pot of cultures, languages, ideas and beverages?) It was a 3 pack, so we passed one back and forth. We poured the other 2 into his dutch oven and got everything simmering on the side burner of his Weber gas grill.

Brats go into the boiling brew . . .
Coming along nicely . . .

Ooh. Look at those guys. Time to brown 'em up on the Big Green Egg. We also had regular ol' burger patties from the store as you can see here. While tasty, there's no particular recipe or technique that I'll go into here.

Finally, here are the asparagus.


Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus

10 fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
ground black pepper
5 bacon strips, halved
Toothpicks (soak in water)
Place asparagus on a sheet of waxed paper, coat with cooking spray.
Sprinkle with pepper, turn to coat. Wrap a bacon piece around each
spear, secure ends with toothpicks
Lightly oil grate, Preheat grill for medium heat
Grill, uncovered, over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes on each side or until bacon is crisp.
Discard toothpicks

My dad had this great seafood flipper thing.

Too bad I'm a klutz. When I tried to flip the asparagus somehow I opened up the basket by mistake and asparagus went everywhere. Oh well. You can see them here next to our spiral-cut hot dogs. You can also see that we didn't cut all of them up that way in case somebody just wanted a regular dog.

The Verdict:

I would do all three of these recipes again. 

Spiral-cut dogs: I really liked the novelty of these hot dogs. Some folks commented that biting into a spiral cut hot dog lacked that same crisp, juicy experience. But I found that there was more grilled surface to caramelize and again I liked being able to get just a little more stuff in my bun.

Beer Brats: The big surprise for me was how I found myself going back for more of the beer-soaked onions. Dang, they were good. And they had just a little kick to them too. This might have been my favorite recipe of the three, but I must confess that I favor bratwurst over hot dogs most days.

Bacon-wrapped Asparagus: This was the crowd favorite for sure. I really enjoyed them too. What I found pleasantly surprising here is that the asparagus+bacon+pepper becomes something greater than each ingredient on their own. I could've sworn there was some other seasoning on there. It just really worked and worked well. It's good to make sure the bacon gets fully crisped though. Otherwise it's hard to get a clean bite and the next thing you know you're sawing with your teeth to get through the bacon and then if you have a fibrous asparagus you're working on that too before you're completely free with your nibble.

All in all, it was a great Fourth of July and birthday celebration.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

One Man's Trash Is My Gift To My Mother-In-Law

How great is this?! 

Last week we were visiting my mother-in-law. Driving along the street right before you get to her road I locked up the brakes on our rental car and threw it in reverse. Some generous soul had put this little baby out to pasture.

Heart pounding I abandoned my family back in the car. Good thing too. There was a wide-eyed guy pulling over just as I got my two hands on the thing to start rolling it the short distance to Grandma's. 

These 3-burner Weber grills are the true gems of the gas grill world. With some love and occasional replacement parts you can use these things forever and make some mighty tasty food along the way. My first grill back in 1997 was not too different from this one. I've still got it. And it still works like a charm.

FREE WORKS: The 2 best words to see on a roadside grill.

This means that going forward when we're visiting and I have the chance to grill--as is often the case--I'll be able to use this instead of the lousy, falling apart, sorry excuse for a gas grill that she has now (brand name withheld).

Was her "new" Weber in perfect shape? Uh, no. I lifted the lid to find a very corroded grate. One hefty pork chop would do it in. Flavorizer bars? Nowhere to be seen. Igniter switch? Busted.

But hey. I ordered up these things online. She ran out to buy a cover for it.

Yessir. Life is good.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day to Me

For Father's Day all I wanted was a steak on my Big Green Egg. I like a New York strip brushed with olive oil and seasoned with fresh ground pepper and coarse salt. I got my cast iron nearly white hot and seared this one up just right. There you have it. Mmm.