Not a Plain Old Burger

My meat CSA is a common theme on this blog, and logically so, I suppose.  With the CSA sending me 10 pounds of meat a month, I only venture outside of the ready supply in my freezer for special occasions.  Most of the time, I’m grilling up some CSA meat.

With all the ink I’ve spilled on my CSA, however, I haven’t spent much time talking about the ground meat.  That changes now.  Because the ground meat in my CSA is some of the best I’ve ever tasted.  The beef is a 75/25 blend.  Pretty rich stuff!  It is awesome for burgers.

In my quest to explore the outer reaches of barbeque, the burger could be easily forgotten.  This should not happen.  Burgers are a staple of American outdoor cooking.  When prepared well, they are delicious.  This weekend I skipped the goat and grilled some burgers.

Even with burgers, though, I must explore.  I often go with a mushroom, onion and swiss burger.  I grill the mushrooms and onions in my redware before I grill the burgers, and place them on the burgers, topped with cheese, for the last minute or two of the cook.  This weekend, for my first burger cook, I experimented with cheddar and jalapeño.

Cheddar Jalapeno Burgers

I prepare my beef with Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, garlic salt, and a little cayenne.  After I form the patties, I always make a little divot in the middle.  This keeps the burgers from fattening up into a ball as they cook.  Although I am an avid flipper of steaks, I usually don’t flip my burgers that often.  I’ve read in quite a few different places that over-flipping burgers causes them to lose juice, and I tend to agree.

Prior to putting these burgers on the grill I roasted one jalapeño over direct heat until the skin charred on all sides.  I allowed the jalapeño to cool a bit, then I skinned it, seeded it, and diced it.

Then I threw the burgers on the grill.  I usually go about four minutes on the first side before flipping.  I then grill them for another 3 minutes or so, or until the burgers are almost done, before removing them from the heat.  I learned this trick with my mushroom and swiss burgers.  If you try to dress a grill full of burgers while they are over the flame, your burgers and your hands will end up overcooked.  For this cook I plated my burgers, covered them with jalapeños and cheddar cheese, and then put them back on the grill to cook until the cheese melted.  Sorry, no picture of the finished product, but they were good!

For my second burger cook of the weekend, I made lamb burgers.  I found this recipe on my All Recipes app.  As you can see if you follow the link (I’m not going to rehash the entire recipe here), the recipe calls for quite a bit of green stuff – oregano, mint, and cilantro.  It would be an expensive recipe if you bought a $4.99 bunch of each at Whole Foods.  We happen to have oregano and mint in our garden (the cilantro is coming along) and affordable organic cilantro at the corner bodega, so it wasn’t too bad.  I was excited to use a pound of CSA ground lamb.

Lamb Burgers

These lamb burgers were also delicious!  I was surprised that the mint, oregano and cilantro were not overpowering.  The ground cumin was quite forceful (which I liked), and the red pepper flakes added some subtle heat.  We will definitely use this recipe again.

You can see that one burger is smaller than the rest.  It was for the little guy.  As I reflected on this weekend of burger grilling, I decided that burgers need to be a big part of the rotation as we raise our family.  Mrs. Esquire likes them (if they are made with delicious CSA meat), they are relatively affordable, and I can experiment with tastes like jalapeño cheddar and spicy lamb burgers.  These recipes are both keepers!

Rack of Goat Lives On

A guest post by Mrs. Esquire

The Big Green Egg influences our meals even when we don’t fire it up
It’s a busy weeknight. While we love grilling on our Big Green Egg for any meal, there are nights when we’re pressed for time, and throwing something together on the range is all we have the capacity to do. But even on these occasions, there are ways that our Big Green Egg can continue to influence and flavor our meals.

After BBQ Esquire made delicious rack of goat on Easter Sunday, we took the remaining bones and made a broth. Tonight I whipped up a simple pasta dish, and boiled the noodles in the goat broth instead of water.  The method added a delicious complexity to very basic pasta.  The goat broth added a richness, and a very mild smoky Big Green Egg flavor.  This smokiness rendered itself in a flavor profile that piqued the sweet-sensing side of my palate.

Boiling Goat Broth Pasta

So even though our Big Green Egg was not touched tonight, the flavor derived from our BGE cooking had a big influence on this evening’s meal.

Making broth from Big Green Egg proteins
Just about any meat with a bone made on the Big Green Egg will yield a lovely broth with a delicious smokey quality.  I’ve run into a few situations where a dish made with a heavy Memphis-style rub will result in an overwhelmingly flavored broth, but aside from those rare occasions, I have had great success with Big Green Egg broths.

Select a pot for your range that fits the the bone from whatever you’ve made, so you can fill the pot with water just covering the bones, leaving at least 2-3 inches of space in the top of the pot. I use a 3.5 quart saucepan with built in spouts  for most broths, and it has the added benefit of having a built-in strainer for the broth. But before you add the water, check your kitchen for any vegetables or veggie greens you can toss in. I try to add the tops of carrots whenever I have them on hand. Occasionally if we have greens on hand that are on their last legs, I will toss them in to add flavor, and give a use to a food that would have otherwise been wasted. Fill the pot with water so the bones are just covered.

My method is not an exact science, but I like to bring the broth to a full rolling boil right away, and then when the broth hits a boil, drop the temperature of the range to the lowest simmer. I let it go for about an hour depending on how much content is in the broth – and how much time I have before I want to clean up and close the kitchen for the night.

After I strain the broth, I often freeze it for convenience. I like to have both dark (beef, goat) and light (chicken) broths on hand in my freezer so I can choose the style that works best for my dish when I start cooking.

Recipe Recap

In case you wanted to try the dish I made, I used a very simple list of ingredients:
• goat broth
• pasta
• olive oil
• chard
• carrot
• tomato
• sour cream

Method:
Follow recommended method for cooking your pasta per the package instructions, substituting goat broth for water.

Stir fry carrots in olive oil in a large fry pan. After carrots have begun to brown, add chard. After chard has started to wilt, add tomatoes. Strain pasta and add to to the fry pan. Drizzle some additional olive oil, and stir contents. Add a few scoops of sour cream if you’d like to give the dish a vodka sauce style.  Of course this would be even more delicious with a full-fledged vodka sauce, but I am trying to prepare a few dishes a week with minimal ingredients as a healthy challenge.  Enjoy!

Goat Broth Pasta

Fall Grilling

When looking back over my blog this weekend, I realized I started writing this post last year but never finished!  Such is life with a little guy running around!

Last fall we had a whole bunch of pumpkin on our hands.  We grew two in our garden, we bought one at a pumpkin patch, and we received one in our CSA.  That is a ton of pumpkin!  Mrs. Esquire and I shared the pumpkin cooking duties; she worked inside and I worked on the Big Green Egg.

After we gutted one of the pumpkins, we separated the seeds and I grilled them with olive oil in my Mexican redware.  Quite delicious!

Pumpkin Seeds

The seeds were merely a warm-up.  For the main event, Mrs. Esquire asked me to grill the Big Max pumpkin we grew in our garden.  The idea behind grilling the pumpkin was just to soften it up so we could peel it and then cook it more if necessary, to make soup or pie.  So I went ahead and tossed the pumpkin on the Big Green Egg.

Big Pumpkin on Grill

You might be thinking to yourself – there’s no way that worked!  Well, you are kind of right.  The lid didn’t close all the way.  I decided to grill it for a while anyway.  Eventually, the pumpkin softened up a little bit, squished into itself, and the lid fell shut.  I thought all was good.

I was wrong.

I pulled the pumpkin awhile later.  It grilled up just fine and we peeled away the skin.  The next time I fired up my BGE, however, I was greeted with a little surprise – the probe on my BGE thermometer had broken off just inside the grill.  I guess it was pressed against the side of the pumpkin as the lid was sitting slightly open, and the weight of the lid just snapped it off.  What a bummer!

I was out $30 for a new thermometer but I learned a valuable lesson.  Going forward, I will always pay attention to the thermometer probe when I grill something as big as this pumpkin.

Rack of Goat

I have a love-hate relationship with my meat CSA.  I hate the lack of variety in some of the shipments. I have about 6 pounds of sirloin and flank steak in my freezer right now. My CSA divides cuts into three categories – ground, roast, and steak – with “steak” cuts being the high-end cuts from each species. Sirloin and flank are considered “steak” cuts, but they are a far cry from a bone-in Rib Eye or dry aged New York Strip. I have a hard time using the lower end steak cuts and am always a little disappointed when they show up in my box.

Despite this frustration, I love that my CSA forces me to try new things. Case in point: the two racks of goat I grilled up for Easter dinner.

The pre-CSA BBQ Esquire would never buy rack-of-anything, much less rack of goat. The rack is an incredibly expensive, and frankly, incredibly inefficient cut of meat. You pay $20-$30 per pound, and you’re getting mostly bone! I know I would never walk up to a meat counter and chose this cut. But when I opened my meat box and saw two goat racks, I got a little giddy.  I decided they would be perfect for Easter dinner.

My racks did not come frenched (i.e., with the meat and fat trimmed from the bones on the skinny side of the rack). I planned to french them myself, but when I saw the tiny little racks, I just couldn’t bring myself to cut any extra meat away. Again, I guess this was my cheap nature coming through.

I marinated the racks in a simple marinade of olive oil, garlic, thyme, and rosemary. I’ve learned that a marinade usually has an acidic element, such as citrus, to break down the meat fibers and tenderize the meat. I was a little worried that this recipe had only fat, no acid. After a little hemming and hawing I decided to go with it anyway, since my CSA goat is usually plenty tender.

I set up my Big Green Egg for direct grilling, at about 450 degrees.  After removing the racks from the marinade I seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic salt, and a little cayenne.  I started with the rack meat side down for a 5 minute sear.  I then flipped them and cooked them for about 10 minutes longer.

GoatRack1

After about 15 minutes on the grill (total), I started checking temperature with my thermapen.  I ended up pulling them after about 20 minutes total, when they were at about 140 degrees.

GoatRack2

I ended up with a nice little sear on the top rack.  The meat also pulled away from the bone nicely.

GoatRack3

The goat was delicious!  The marinade retreated to the background and didn’t add much to the flavor profile, but the goat itself was so mildly delicious anything else might have been overpowering.  The three chops pictured above were taken from the leaner rack, which didn’t have much of a fat cap.  Honestly, the cap on the other rack made those chops a little cumbersome to eat.  Next time I attempt rack of lamb or goat, I will go ahead and french the rack.  I’ll just have to figure out some way to use the fat and meat I remove.

It was a beautiful Easter, and Mrs. Esquire and I ate like Kings and Queens with our two racks of goat.  I guess that really is the point of the CSA experience.  You won’t always get a box full of goat racks and bone-in Rib Eyes.  Sometimes, life gives you a flank steak.  But if you never eat flank steak and only eat rack of goat, the rack of goat will become ordinary.  I’ll try to remember this as I’m eating my way through the rest of the meat in my freezer.

Duck Fat Buns

A guest post by Mrs. Esquire

The perfect accompaniment to pulled pork
My husband, BBQ Esquire, has perfected his Big Green Egg pulled pork and Carolina sauce since he first started “egging.”  He presides over the grill, and I take control when it comes to baking.  So as he honed in on just the right method for his pork, I had to develop the perfect bun to go along with it.  We often serve his pulled pork without a bun, or with a simple slice of one of my hearth breads.  However, hearth bread is a little overpowering for pulled pork, and I knew a bun or biscuit type product would yield a better result.

While this blog is all about the Big Green Egg, I make these buns in our oven inside to accompany the meat cooked on the BGE.  I am certain you could experiment making these on your Egg by trading the baking sheet for a pizza stone, dropping the temperature a few degrees, and extending the bake time a little.  We haven’t tried this yet.  It would be an ideal situation for a family with more than one Big Green Egg in the backyard!

It starts with a scone
The basic concept for my buns to accompany BBQ Esquire’s pulled pork comes from a family recipe passed down from my grandmother and great aunts.  My dad’s family lived as subjects of the British crown, and afternoon and evening tea parties were a part of their family tradition.  Families would call on each other, often unplanned.  The host would quickly whip up a batch of scones.  Starting with this scone recipe means this bun cooks up quickly and easily, with simple ingredients you often have on hand.

But I love to experiment and try new things, so I made some adaptions from my family recipe, creating more of a biscuit and less of a scone.  Of course I cut the raisins, I backed out the sugar, and I added a dash of salt.  And by substituting all the butter in the recipe with duck fat, this suddenly became the perfect flavor compliment to the Carolina style pulled pork.

The perfect bun for your Big Green Egg pulled pork
Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour, plus one additional handful to roll out dough
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 dash of sea salt
1/2 cup duck fat (see next section on sourcing)
1 cup milk
1 egg

Mix all dry ingredients.  Add in milk, fat, and egg and quickly stir by hand until you have worked out most of the lumps.  Do not over-stir or your buns will not rise.  Roll the dough out and pat it flat to a 1/2 inch or so thick.  Sprinkle a handful of flour over the top to make handling easier.  Cut out circular buns with a small biscuit cutter or juice glass.  Arrange on a stoneware baking pan with edges touching.  I no longer have to grease my stoneware pan because it is well seasoned, but consider coating your baking surface with oil, butter, or duck fat if needed.  Bake at 400° F for 15 minutes.

Separate the individual buns, and slice them in half horizontally.  Fill them up with pulled pork and enjoy.

Did you say duck fat?  I thought this was supposed to be simple.
If you do not have access to duck fat, substituting butter will work, though you will sacrifice flavor.  You can find duck fat in some specialty grocery stores.  I skimmed my own duck fat, and it is not as complicated as it sounds.  We occasionally cook whole duck in our slow cooker.  After you serve the duck you are left with a lot of juice in the bottom of the cooker.  Strain it, and let it cool.  The fat will rise to the top.  I skim it off and save it in mason jars until I need it for a recipe like this.

DuckFatBuns

We’d love to hear what you think about this.  Did you try it with any substitutions?  Has anyone tried this in the Big Green Egg?  Tell us your experience if you try these out.

Cooking up Kale

A guest post by Mrs. Esquire

My love affair with lacinato kale
I eat a lot of kale.  It is one of my favorite foods, especially lacinato kale, which is also known as dinosaur kale.  I whip up a stir-fry of kale on my range several times a week, but once in a while when we are making something for dinner on the Big Green Egg, we  experiment with a kale side dish.

Grilling with kale
It seems like many folks who grill kale make “chips.”  While I love kale chips, my frustration is that a giant bunch of hearty kale turns into a few flakes of kale crisps.  I want to keep some of the moisture in the kale to make my dish substantial.  For the same reason, I also like to keep the center rib of the kale intact whenever possible.

We have a wonderful piece of red ware that we use like a dutch oven on the BGE.  Here, we filled it with a diced fennel bulb, lacinato kale, and olive oil.

BBQ Esquire cooked this creation on the BGE first with the lid of the dutch oven off, to get a stir-fry going.  Then he put the lid on to maintain more moisture as it finished cooking.

The fennel is a great flavor combination with the kale, and the Egg adds a delicious smokiness.  Sprinkle a little philippine sea salt on the kale before serving to round out the flavor profile of the dish.

IMG_5177

Experimenting with Hearth Bread

Hello, BBQ Esquire Community
Allow me to introduce myself: Mrs. Esquire here.  My husband, BBQ Esquire, is our family grill master, but I work on the prep side of some of our BGE collaborations.  My hands made a cameo on the blog in the Turducken post, and I did the camera work in the Caveman Grilling video. I hope to share my experience with some of our shared BGE creations, most of which involve baking.

Use your Big Green Egg to bake delicious hearth bread
In a small urban town home like ours, outsourcing some of your baking to the backyard can make entertaining easier, and it allows you to use the space in the kitchen for other projects.  Skip heating up your oven when your house is already packed with people, and skip piling up bread pans in the sink when you already have a bunch of dishes to do.  Hearth bread refers to loaves baked directly in a wood fired oven, or on stoneware.  These breads are rustic, freeform, and thick-crusted.

One aside about my baking technique: I love cookbooks and I love recipes.  However, most of the time I do not actually follow them.  I use recipes, and the gorgeous photos that often accompany them, as a starting point for an idea.  I make liberal substitutions, imprecise measurements, and add in my own “flair”.  It’s a little like the Swedish Chef from the Muppet Show when I get going in the kitchen.  Have you ever seen that guy use a measuring cup?

Many of my creations are one-time-only inventions, and I cannot recreate them.  But, I do use certain recipes regularly as my starting off point for a particular dish or item.   In the case of hearth bread, I always refer back to a recipe published in Gourmet Magazine in May 2008 for a Georgian cheese bread.  I have made this recipe in my oven following the actual method.  It makes a delicious bread.  But I also use the concept and a rough interpretation of the ingredients to make hearth breads in the Big Green Egg.

The recipe that inspires my BGE creations
Georgian Cheese Bread
Adapted from Natia Gigani
Caucasus Travel Ltd., Republic of Georgia

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (a 1/4-ounce package)
  • 7 tablespoons warm water (105-115°F)
  • 1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 pound Havarti cheese, coarsely grated
  • 1/4 pound salted mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted

Preparation:

Sprinkle yeast over warm water and stir in 1 tablespoon flour. Let stand until creamy, about 5 minutes. (If yeast does not activate, start over with new yeast.)  Stir together salt and remaining flour in a large bowl, then stir in egg and yeast mixture to form a dough.  Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and turn to coat with flour, then knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form into a ball and dust with flour. Let dough rest in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, punching down with a wet fist every hour, at least 2 hours and up to 3.

Preheat oven to 500°F with rack in middle.

Turn out dough onto floured pizza pan, turning to coat, then flatten with your fingers into a 7-inch disk. Toss together cheeses and press into a compact 3-inch ball with your hands. Place ball in middle of dough, then gather dough up around ball of cheese, squeezing excess dough into a topknot. Press down on topknot with a damp fist to press cheese out from center. Continue to flatten dough and distribute cheese evenly, pressing outward from center, until dough is an 11-inch disk.  Cut a 6-inch X through top of dough to expose cheese. Bake until pale golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Brush surface of dough with butter and bake until golden and cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes more.  Serve cut into wedges.

And now for the change-up
So the recipe I just listed is my inspiration.  I make all kinds of adjustments and substations.

For the slice of bread pictured here, I didn’t have nearly enough cheese on hand, so I used what I had, making the cheese more like a little garnish in the center rather than a major flavor contributor as it is in the original recipe.  I substituted about 1 cup of whole wheat flour for the all-purpose flour .  I substituted tolive oil for butter.  Because I had significantly less cheese, BBQ Esquire cooked the loaf lower and slower than the recipe calls for (375°F as opposed to 500°F, at least double the recommended cook time, or until the crust is browning).  BBQ Esquire set the grill with the plate setter legs down and the stone set on top of a spacer, such as the little Big Green Egg feet.

This bread won’t win any prizes at the state fair.  It was imperfect and strangely shaped, but it was absolutely delicious and fun to bake.  It is fun to experiment, so I hope you can use the basics of this Georgian Cheese bread as a starting point for your BGE creations, too.

IMG_5116

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