Archive | March 2011

Sizzling Salmon

I’m loving the redware!  I’ve never been a fan of cedar plank cooking. It seems a little cliché.  Or maybe I’m just too cheap to buy a one-time-use cooking apparatus.  If I want smoke, I can just throw in a few wood chips, right?  Given that I love to experiment, I’m sure I’ll give the plank a try sometime.  But in the meantime, the redware does the trick.

I prepared this salmon quite simply. Basically, I just drizzled it with lemon juice from our tree.  I cooked it hot and quick.  The key to fish, as we all know, is not to overcook it.  I don’t have a definitive time for cooking the salmon – I just took it off when it seemed done.  I love the way it sizzles!  It kind of reminds me of getting fajitas at a family Mexican restaurant.

Verdict on this one: good, not great.  Some at the dinner table thought it was a little too simple.  Next time I’ll use some capers, herbs from the garden, and lemons.  This was a good lesson.  The whiter fish can easily be overpowered by sauce and seasoning.  Salmon can stand up to a little bit more substance.  Even though it was just the fish, it was still great!

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Redware and Potatoes

Every February I attend a conference with other Esquires someplace warm and resorty.  This year the convention was in Puerta Vallarta.  As we usually do, we stayed an extra night to get away from the resort and get a feel for the “real” town we’ve visited.  The highlight of our last day in Puerta Vallarta, at least for purposes of this blog, was our redware discovery.

Our bed and breakfast was hilarious and wonderful.  There was mandatory happy hour. If you were late, you were forced to sing the German drinking song.  At happy hour, we were served on redware pottery.  We asked about the pottery – do people really use it?  Does it work well?  The local guy at the B&B told us its the traditional way of cooking.  His mother cooked on it growing up.  You could use the pottery over direct flame.  This piqued my interest.

The next morning we set out to find some redware pottery.  It was easier said than done.  We had to get deep into town, past the kitschy stands and into one of those markets where locals buy two foot stacks of tortillas for 75 cents.  We finally found a great shop that had shelves of the stuff tucked away into the back.  Slowly and carefully, we picked our way through the selection.  We must have pulled thirty different pieces off the racks and set them on the floor.  We ranked, sorted and shuffled the redware into groups and piles.  In the end, we spent about $50 and came away with two massive bags of beautiful pottery.  I can truly say I wish we’d bought more.

I’ve gotten into grilling potatoes, carrots, beets, and anything else I find at the farmer’s market, in my new redware.  Today, I’m cooking a pile of potatoes, and also some beets and carrots.  I almost have the potatoes down to a science.  First, it’s important to cut them into uniform sized pieces.  This way they’ll cook evenly.  Second, and this one is really hard, you can’t fill the dishes too full.  If the potatoes are touching each other or, even worse, sitting on top of one another, they’ll steam instead of fry and will turn mushy.

The first thing I do is salt the potatoes with sea salt.  I happen to have a mind-blowing truffle sea salt that works really well.  I like to let the potatoes sit in the salt for a good 20 or 30 minutes.  This draws some of the moisture out of the potatoes and allows them to fry to a nicer crisp.  As I’m warming up the egg to 400 or 425, I’ll soak the potatoes in olive oil.

Here, you can see my potatoes, as well as some beets and carrots, in the redware and on the Big Green Egg.  I probably filled the redware a little too full.  It’s just so hard to resist!  It’s important to keep a close eye on the potatoes as you’re grilling.  I’ll check them every five minutes or so, stirring them up with a spatula.  You want to flip them around so one side doesn’t burn.  Usually I’ll grill the potatoes for about 20 or 30 minutes, until at least one of the side has a really good char.  Here’s the final product!  Yum!

Recipe Recap

Chop potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, or other vegetables into uniform cubes.  Set in stone dish in one loose layer.  Sprinkle with sea salt and let sit for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat Big Green Egg to 425 degrees.  Set for direct cooking.  Drizzle olive oil over vegetables and stir to coat evenly.  Place directly on the grill.  Stir regularly, every 5-7 minutes.  Grill until some of the vegetables begin to char, approximately 20 to 30 minutes.