Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Rib Roast

We had 15 come to Christmas dinner at our house. In the lead up my wife asked, "If we bought a rib roast, is that something you could cook on the Big Green Egg?" Of course having never done such a thing before I immediately replied, "Absolutely!" 

The next thing I know, we have a 17.8 lb, seven rib, standing rib roast. It reminded me of the thing that toppled Fred Flintstone's car at the drive-in. The first place I went was the eggheadforum.com. Somebody there linked to www.seriouseats.com which walked me through the logic and science of the reverse sear--which I'd heard of many times, but never tried.

The idea is simply that you get a more uniform doneness by first cooking your meat at a lower temperature and finally searing the outside. The idea that you first sear all the juices in apparently doesn't actually work and you end up with a band of gray meat before you get to the coveted medium rare bits. Made sense to me.

From http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/12/perfect-prime-rib-with-red-wine-jus-recipe.html I followed the instructions of rubbing the night before and cooking low and slow. I didn't really go in for all the other steps in the recipe--primarily because across 15 people I knew that a fancy rub and a fancy sauce wouldn't please everyone in our entourage. 


I ground up a boat load of peppercorns and mixed it with good, old fashioned sea salt. I rubbed the whole thing down the night before and by 8:30 Christmas morning I had the roast on at 200f--measured at the grate. It cooked right about that temp (ribs down) indirect over a dry drip pan until 2:00 when I decided it was done.

 How did I decide it was done, you ask? Well I was really sweating this. I craved medium rare. Some of our guests did too. Others politely requested something more medium. In the picture above you can kind of appreciate how this problem resolved itself. The left end is fatter. The right end: skinnier. So I failed to notice this at the beginning. But as I took readings with my Thermapen I realized that this was going to work out well. The roast came off with one end reading 130f and the other at 120f. There were some spots in the very middle that were reading 117f, but I told myself that was ok.


Next: The Reverse Sear
--or--
How We Almost Visited the Burn Unit for Christmas

Is it wrong that I love cranking my Egg all the way up for a sear? I know you can achieve a sear at lower temps, but somehow I can't resist the urge to let 'er rip. And let 'er rip, I did. The roast does its resting while the grill goes from 200f to THERMONUCLEAR. The recipe suggested a 8-10 min sear. By 8 minutes, my uncle, my dad and I had spent all 8 minutes consternating about how to get this roast beast back out of the grill.

Three men, four oven mitts, two sets of tongs and two spatulas. This wasn't the optimal setup for removing the roast. What would I do next time? I'm not really sure, but this was mildly frightening. I guess a 550f sear would've done the job more safely. There's probably some kind of beef gloves or rib wench or roast pulley out there I don't yet know about. But we scooped it out without anyone getting hurt--or even singed. Yay!

But putting this on the table? This was a thrill and a joy to have successfully served this to my family for Christmas dinner.

There were nice medium pieces on one end and good medium rare slices at the other. As I served it up to everyone I felt like I needed one of those big white, stovetop chef hats like you see at the Sunday buffet.

How did it taste? It's awfully hard to beat a salt and pepper rub. This really was a knockout crust with great flavor. My uncle (who may have been influenced by the death-defying experience before the meal) declared over and over that it was "the best beef I've ever put in my mouth!" With a touch of horseradish, this was really delicious. 

Bottom line: this was some of the most fun I've had cooking. I guess it's just impressive to set this down in front of guests. It's also exciting to pull it from the flames. The anticipation as you slice into it thinking, "Oh man, I hope this came out ok," and to see that it's a gorgeous medium rare, is so gratifying. Even though most folks had seconds and thirds, I wound up eating leftovers for days. Frying slices on a thin layer of olive oil in a nearly-smoking hot pan made for tasty holiday lunch. 
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Woody's Weekend Brisket Adventure

You remember Woody. Woody was my college buddy, former roommate and BGE comrade. He's also the guy who taught me about Mountain Dew-brined turkey He and I got to trading texts on Friday. The forecast for the lovely fall weekend was calling for 100% chance of Eggin' in his back yard. We were discussing what to cook. He was so excited about the outcome that he offered to post the following entry here. When I heard how it all came out I grew sad that we only talk about Egging and don't have opportunities to, you know, hang out--and like eat his stuff, too. Sounds awesome. Way to go, Woody.

It is with gratitude and a watering mouth that I present Woody's weekend brisket adventure.

Meat Prep
Had two pieces of brisket:
·         one 7.5 lb flat (from BJs.  Majority of the point was removed by butcher before packing)
·         one 3.3 lb flat (from Lowes Foods meat cooler vacuum packed)
·         I didn’t trim any fat from either cut.  Other than the fat cap, they were fairly lean.



For 7.5 lb flat
Took out of plastic wrapper and rinsed in cool water.
Patted dry with paper towel.
Slathered it with decent layer of Mister Mustard Hot Mustard.
Covered heavily with this homemade dry rub recipe I found on web (http://www.the-greatest-barbecue-recipes.com/dry-rub-recipes-3.html ):
Traditional Texas Brisket Rub
NOTE: This recipe is for a 5-6 lb./2.3-2.7 kg beef brisket.
Mix together thoroughly the following:
·         2 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
·         1 Tbsp kosher salt or sea salt
·         1 Tbsp chili powder
·         1 tsp garlic powder
·         1 tsp onion powder
·         1 tsp dried parsley
·         1 tsp oregano
·         1 tsp sugar

Wrapped tightly in saran wrap and put in fridge overnight.  Took out of fridge, unwrapped and set on counter for 45 min before putting over heat.  Added more rub just prior to putting on BGE.

For 3.3 lb flat
Took out of plastic wrapper and rinsed in cool water.
Patted dry with paper towel.
Slathered it up with Koop’s Horseradish Mustard (was AWESOME!)
Covered it heavily with store bought McCormick’s Grill Mates Steak Rub
Wrapped tightly in saran wrap and put in fridge overnight.  Took out of fridge, unwrapped and set on counter for 45 min before putting over heat.  Added more rub just prior to putting on BGE.

EGG Prep
Cleaned out BGE, filled with fresh lump and added some pecan and hickory wood chunks scattered throughout
Used plate setter and placed an aluminum drip pan on it with an inch or so of water in the bottom.
Brought BGE up to 250F.

Was a dry, cool, breezy day.  The wind kept my temp dancing at times.  I would say the temp was more in the 260F range the majority of the time.

For lack of space reasons…I started with the larger piece of brisket.  Placed on grate fat cap down.  Took about 6 or so hours to get the meat to plateau temp of 165F.  Then double wrapped the meat in foil and placed back on BGE to finish.  The larger piece had finally shrunk enough where I was able to fit the smaller brisket on at same time.

Moved main temp probe to the smaller brisket and periodically checked the foil wrapped meat with Thermapen.  Pulled larger brisket when internal temp hit 200F and the Thermapen pushed into the meat with ease.  It took another 2 hours or so to push temp up.  Kept it in the foil and wrapped it in two towels and placed in microwave to rest for a three hours.

Followed same protocol with small brisket (took about 4 hours total) but was only able to let it rest for an hour before carving.  Slice the meat across the grain.

Outcome
Marnie says it was the best low and slow meat I have cooked on the Egg.
The larger brisket had great flavor.  The meat fell apart very easily which made slicing tough.  Probably over cooked it a bit, but the meat was very moist and could chop it easily. 
The smaller brisket had a perfect smoke ring.  It sliced much better.  The horseradish mustard gave it some awesome flavor.




Monday, July 21, 2014

Dark and Stormy



It was a dark and stormy afternoon on Cape Cod. We were thirsty.



I put this recipe up on Facebook and a friend critiqued the small amount of rum. Please feel free to use ratios that appeal to your taste and habits.

Dark and Stormy:

1 shot of dark rum in a glass with ice and juice from a lime wedge.
Top off with ginger beer.

Stir.

Batten down the hatches.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sweet and Crunchy Grilled Salmon




 Steven Raichlen sends out an email news letter, "Up in Smoke." This recipe caught my eye and I clipped it to Evernote for those weekends when I know I want to get on the grill, but I don't know what to cook. This happened to be one of those weekends.

By the way, since first tasting NoDa Brewing's CAVU blonde ale, it's been my go-to beer this spring and summer. It's light and crisp, but still got a nice flavor to it. CAVU is an aviation term meaning "Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited." The brewery describes it as their summer seasonal. I hope it becomes part of their regular stable of excellent beers. Besides, their tall boy cans are cool.

Back to the salmon. First, the recipe as found in the "Up in Smoke" newsletter:

Sweet and Crunchy Grilled Salmon
Brock Hale, of Baltimore, MDT

This incredibly simple treatment for salmon creates a show-stopping flavor for a readily available fish. It is a delicious contrast between the sweet and crunchy crust and the meaty texture of the fish. Top it with a store-bought mango salsa for an easy main dish, or use it with the recipe below for an entrée-sized salad.

The flavor when the salmon is paired with the salad is a particularly winning combination.
Grilled Salmon
4 4-6 oz. salmon fillets, skin removed
Cinnamon-Sugar coating mixture (3 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon, by volume)
1. Preheat grill to medium-high and oil grate.
2. Place salmon fillets directly on the grill, and coat the top liberally with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Close lid and grill for 4 to 6 minutes. Sugar will melt and coating will adhere to the fish.
3. Flip the fillets, taking care not to break them apart. Coat the second side with the cinnamon-sugar, close lid, and grill another 4 to 6 minutes.
4. Remove from grill. Serve as a stand-alone main dish or with the salad recipe below.
Sweet and Spicy Salmon Salad with Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette
Serves 4
1 recipe grilled salmon (above)
Salad
2 romaine lettuce hearts, chopped
2 large ripe mangoes, diced
2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, finely diced (optional)
Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dark sesame oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Japanese rice vinegar
1 inch grated ginger root (about 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend to mix.
2. Divide lettuce between 4 plates and top each with an equal portion of mango, tomato, onion, and jalapeno. Add salmon hot off the grill, and dress salad and fish with the sesame-ginger vinaigrette.
3. Serve with a chilled wine with citrus notes (Montes 2003 Sauvignon Blanc or Kris 2004 Pinot Grigio are good examples) to balance the sweet and spicy flavors of the salad.

I like sugar. But I also believe a little goes a long way. As I was putting all this sugar/cinnamon mixture on the salmon it just felt like I was doing something wrong. I was generous, but still held back much of what the recipe called for. 
Also, as a rule, I don't remove the skin from salmon. If you start by grilling skin-side down, the skin separates on its own. In fact, you can see it above to the upper right in the photo. It's much easier than taking it off when the fish is raw. I seasoned it again with the sugar/cinnamon mix after flipping.
Finished fish. Served it up on top of the salad with some corn and fresh bread.


We used store-bought ginger sesame dressing and I forgot to put the tomatoes on until after I was done taking pictures and started stuffing all this into my face. It was really quite tasty. Very fresh, colorful and healthy. Would we do it again? Certainly. Here's the thing though: The salmon didn't come out very crunchy. I think I was supposed to use more sugar. But I can't believe that it would help the overall flavor of the salad. Next time I might simply use good, old salt & pepper on the salmon rather than all that sugar. Overall, fun and tasty. It was a hit around the dinner table.





Saturday, May 31, 2014

Pizza!


So for all the goofing around I've done on the Big Green Egg, pizzas are something I've only tried once before. Looking back I was surprised to see it was almost exactly 4 years ago when Labon and I cooked pizzas directly on the grate.

Friday is Pizza Night in our household, but it's always made in an oven and coming out all yummy-like just about the time I get home from work. Last night the kids were with the grandparents, so there weren't the usual time constraints. I could come home, roll up my sleeves and fire up the coals.

My wife, the pizza expert, made the dough ahead of time using our bread maker.

Pizza Dough in bread maker for 2 medium pizzas. Takes about 90 minutes:

3/4 Cup warm water
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon powdered milk
2 1/4 Cups bread flour
1 teaspoon yeast
For the first pie, we put the dough down on a corn meal-covered cutting board, brushed with olive oil and covered with:

Blue cheese crumbles
Sliced pear
Arugula 
Walnuts
Sautéed onion 

The Egg had the plate setter facing feet down and a pizza stone on top. Corn meal on the surfaces keeps the pizza from sticking, by the way.


When the dome temperature was 500f we liberally covered the pizza stone with corn meal and carefully moved the pizza over to the stone. A pizza peel would have been very helpful here. What I did was to lift half the pizza with the spatula and wiggle my hand under the other half. It worked, but wasn't ideal. More on that later.




 After about 9 minutes the crust was lightly browned and the toppings were looking good. The spatula slid under a crust that felt crispy and solid, so we slid it off and cut it up to eat right away.




Next we tried a Margherita-style pie with:

Sliced tomatoes
Fresh mozzarella 
Fresh basil leaves
Light sprinkling of salt and fresh-ground pepper
(again brushing the dough with olive oil first)


Pro tip: A pizza peel (the big shovel you see guys using to get pizza in and out of ovens at restaurants) would be ideal. But I don't have one. What worked really well was to carefully get the spatula under one side of the pizza and hold the cutting board over the pizza stone. With my right hand I performed a "dump and pull" with the cutting board while simultaneously pulling the pizza flat onto the stone with the spatula in my left hand. My description sounds more complicated than it was. Essentially the pizza slid off the cutting board with some guidance from the spatula and came to a very nice, flat resting place on the pizza stone. Perfect.

Meanwhile I had scraped the now-blackened corn meal off of the pizza stone an applied a fresh layer.



Y'all, these were GOOD EATIN'. The Egg gives you such a nice brick oven flavor with just a tad more smoky flavor. It was so stinkin' good. My wife says the second pizza was missing a certain something, but I was in love with the texture and flavor of both of these pizzas. So easy, fun and yummy. Don't know why I haven't done it before.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Woody's Mountain Dew Turkey

Woody and I were friends--even roommate for a while--back in college. Over the years we have stayed in touch, but our friendship took a leap forward a few years ago when we learned that we had both become "Eggers." 

Ever since, Woody's been leaning on me about his Mountain Dew turkey recipe. I finally got around to trying it a few weeks back for a family dinner we hosted. For this post I will intersperse my photos with his instructions.



Full Text from Woody's November 2012 email. Reprinted with permission.

I promised a few folks that I would type up the process I used to prepare this year’s Mountain Dew Thanksgiving Turkey.  Let me begin by saying that I, in no way, take full credit for any of the ideas contained in this recipe.  I made several phone calls to folks and researched a few websites to get some ideas.  I only collected the information and then followed the instructions.  That being said…this turkey was darn tasty, and I will certainly take credit for that!  I did my best to assimilate the steps I took, but in full disclosure, I was consuming mass quantities of adult beverages during the process.  I may have left a detail or two out.

These are the two sites I primarily used to get ideas for Egg set up and cooking temps etc.:
http://www.nakedwhiz.com/madmaxturkey.htm
http://www.biggreeneggsperience.com/Turkey.html

Items Used:
I used a smaller bird
  • Big Green Egg
  • Full bag of Harris Teeter brand lump coal
  • Chunk of apple wood
  • 19 lb turkey - Bought fresh (not frozen) and kept in fridge for a few days before the brining process.
  • Farberware Brining Bag - found at Target and used to hold the bird and liquid.  The double Ziploc top is necessary to prevent a potential mess.
  • 1 Disposable aluminum roasting pan
  • 4 liters Mountain Dew
  • Roasting rack
  • EVOO
  • Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning (2x 3.25 oz bottles)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 2 red apples
  • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 gallon freezer bag full of ice
  • 1 stick of butter
  • Aluminum foil

Brining:
  • Remove giblet bag and neck from cavity of turkey. (I discard, but I know some use these items for gravy and/or stuffing)
  • Rinse turkey inside and out with cold water
  • Place turkey in brining bag
  • Pour all 4 liters of Mountain Dew in the brining bag submerging turkey as much as possible.
  • Seal brining bag releasing as much air as possible
  • I placed the bag in garage refrigerator to keep turkey cold.  You can use a cooler and ice bags as described in the sites listed above.
  • Brine the turkey for a total of 36 hours (roughly 2 hours/lb)
  • I flipped the turkey halfway through the process to ensure both sides of turkey were adequately submerged in the Dew.


Turkey en Dew

Egg Set Up:

I poured a full bag (roughly 6lbs) of the lump coal in the Egg.
I placed one decent sized piece of apple wood in the coal to add a little smoke
I used the inverted plate setter method with the ceramic feet as a base on which to place the roasting pan. (good picture of process in the Egg Set Up section of the Naked Whiz link)
As always, test the set up in advance to ensure that everything fits inside the Egg.
Go ahead and light the Egg to bring it to temp 300-320 F.  I let it warm for 20 min or so.


36 hours later . . .
Turkey Prep:
Remove turkey from brine and discard liquid
Pat dry turkey inside and out with paper towels
Liberally rub turkey with EVOO
Coat turkey with Cavender’s seasoning inside and out.  Be sure to cover the entire surface of turkey and even try to sneak some between the skin and breast meat.  You can’t use too much.
At this point, I placed turkey on the roasting rack sitting inside the roasting pan.
Place the Ziploc bag of ice over the breast for about 20 min.  Both websites describe this process and reasons for doing it.  Worked great for me.
Quarter an onion and place in turkey cavity
Quarter and apple and place in turkey cavity
Rough chop a large celery stalk and place in cavity
Place the three rosemary sprigs in cavity
Tie the legs together
Quarter last apple and place in bottom of roasting pan
Soften a stick of butter and mix in some Cavender’s Seasoning (don’t liquefy)
Remove the bag of ice after 15-20 min
Apply the butter/seasoning mixture over the breast (good picture of process in the Egg Set Up section of the Naked Whiz link)
Add roughly 64 oz of water (two big plastic stadium cups full) to bottom of roasting pan (might want to wait until the pan is sitting in the Egg before adding the water to make it easier to carry)

Cavender's butter atop the breast

Icing up, son.

Cooking:

I was able to keep the Egg temperature fairly steady in the 300-310 F range.
Place roasting pan with turkey in Egg and start cooking.  Let cook for 60 min.
After initial 60 min, take some remaining butter/seasoning mixture and, using a brush, baste the breast and legs.
Repeat basting step every 20-30 min.
After two hours or so, keep an eye on the skin as you may want to loosely tent the wings, thighs and breasts with aluminum foil to prevent from over browning





Progress over the course of the morning.

Review:

Back to the voice of your humble Grill Knuckles correspondent. This turkey got rave reviews from family. It was tasty indeed. The Mountain Dew doesn't actually convey much flavor to the turkey meat that any of us picked up on. My wife is a turkey traditionalist. The oven-roasted bird will probably always have a place at our own table, but this is a great recipe for any time you've got a group to feed and want to hit them with a fun and delicious twist on a traditional meal. Thanks, Woody!