Archive | September 2011

Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce

I grilled up a very simple sauce today and it was delicious!  I’ll definitely make this one again! I used tomatoes from our garden, sweet peppers from our CSA, and garilc from our garden.

Peel 5-6 cloves of garlic.  Slice and seed 3-4 sweet peppers.  Wash 8-10 small tomatoes, but keep them whole.

Set the Big Green Egg for direct cooking and warm it up to 450.  Brush the peppers and tomatoes with olive oil.  Place the peeled garlic in your mexican redware (or other suitable dish) and pour olive oil into the dish.

Set the peppers, tomatoes, and garlic dish directly on the grill.  Grill for 3-4 minutes, then carefully flip tomatoes and peppers.  Grill 3-4 more minutes and flip the tomatoes and peppers again.

Your tomatoes will likely burst and ooze juice.  That’s OK.  Make sure you get some good char on the tomatoes and peppers.  Pull the tomatoes when they’re charred but not too shriveled, and the peppers when they have a good char on them.

The garlic may take a little longer than the other veggies.  Stir the garlic occassionally.  It should begin to fry in the pool of olive oil.

Continue to cook the garlic until it browns.

Let all three ingredients cool.  Drain excess water from the tomatoes.  Chop the peppers, tomatoes, and garlic.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Blend the ingredients in a blender.  Reheat in a saucepan immediately before serving.

The result is a smooth and smokey tomato sauce you can use on meat, pasta, sandwiches, or whatever else meets your fancy.  Enjoy!

Beer Can Chicken

Beer can chicken, beer butt chicken, whatever you want to call it – this is the best way to cook chicken on the Big Green Egg.

I’ve made beer can chicken three or four times since I bought my egg.  I made a couple of changes today and I liked the results.

If you’ve never made beer can chicken you’re missing out.  The basic idea is that you keep the chicken moist by sticking a can of beer up its cavity and grilling it standing up.  Pure genius.

My biggest struggle with beer can chicken is too much moisture.  Crazy, I know.  Usually the challenge is keeping the meat moist.  My chicken is always plenty moist, but I can’t get a crispy skin to save my life.  The skin always looks beautiful as its cooking but ends up a wet rag by the time I’m ready to carve.

I have a hypothesis about moisture.  My brother, who lives in Boulder, Colorado and also has a Big Green Egg, once told me he had issues with ribs drying out.  This surprised me because nothing has ever dried out for me on the egg.  How could we have such different results?  I decided it must be the difference in humidity between San Francisco and Boulder.  The air in San Francisco is always humid (the fog!), and the air in Boulder is always dry.  I think my brother has to take steps to promote moisture, while I have to worry less about my meat drying out.

In the past I’ve spritzed my beer can chicken regularly with a mixture of beer and apple cider vinegar.  I’m a big fan of the spritz.  But I decided the spritz isn’t necessary when my problem is too much moisture.  So no more spritzing my beer can chicken.

I’m also a big fan of low and slow.  But again, since I have plenty of moisture in my chicken, I decided I can afford to crank up the temperature.  So that’s what I did this time.

I made one other change with this beer can chicken: surgical gloves.  What do surgical gloves have to do with grilling?  Everything!  I’m very careful with raw meat.  I wash my hands regularly and segregate raw meat dishes and utensils.  So when I apply rub, I’m always thinking about salmonella getting underneath my fingernails.  Hence the surgical gloves.  What a difference!  I dug right into that chicken today!

So here’s the process.  Start out with a good rub.  Today I used Team Sweet Mama’s BBQ Chicken Rub from Savory Spice Shop in Boulder.  Absolutely delicious!  If you want a crispy skin use a rub with a good bit of sugar.  This rub has brown sugar, which carmelizes during cooking.

It’s important to rub the outside of the chicken.  But it’s more important to get as much rub as possible under the skin.  This is where the surgical gloves come in.  I really dug in this time.  You should also dump a whole bunch of rub inside the cavity.

Next comes my favorite part of the recipe: drink 3/4 of a can of beer.  Please do yourself a favor and buy a good beer.  Many microbrews are starting to distribute in cans.  Dale’s and 21st Amendment are my go to beer can chicken beers.  If I can’t find those, I’ll but a Tecate, dump it out, and pour a good beer into the can.

Once you have 1/4 of a beer in the can, fill it up to half full with apple cider vinegar.  Then dump some of your rub into your can.

Now you’re ready to grill.  Set your Big Green Egg for indirect cooking.  Bring the temperature to 375.  Toss some wood chips on the coals if you want some extra smoke.  Right before you place the chicken on the egg, drizzle with olive oil.

Carefully lift your chicken onto your beer can.  Lift the bird and beer onto the grill.  Use the drumsticks to balance the bird so it stands up straight.  There’s something eerily alive about the bird sitting like this!

My five-pound bird cooked for about an hour and twenty minutes to reach 160 in the breast.  I always let the chicken sit for about 10-15 minutes before carving.  I was pretty happy with the skin this time!  The wings and drumsticks had some good skin on them.  I leave those intact when carving.  Here she is:

Walk like an Egyptian!

Recipe Recap

Rub a 4-5 pound chicken with your favorite rub.  Pour rub into cavity and under breast skin.  Let chicken sit while you start your Big Green Egg.

Set the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking and preheat to 375 degrees.  Drink 3/4 of a can of beer.  Fill the can back to half full with apple cider vinegar.  Pour some of your rub into the can.  Set the chicken on top of the can.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Set the chicken on the grill, using the drumsticks to balance the chicken.

Grill at 375 until the breast reaches 160 degrees, about 75-90 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the heat, being careful not to spill the remaining beer from the can.  Carefully tip the chicken sideways over a sink to pour out the remaining beer.  Remove the can.  Let the chicken sit for 10-15 minutes prior to carving.

Whole Fish

Yesterday I bought a fish I’d never heard of before.  The fishmonger prepared it in a way that was totally foreign to me.  I grilled it up without a recipe.  Please join me on this wild ride!

The fish is called a Gasper Goo.  It’s a freshwater fish from Louisiana.  The fishmonger prepared it by cutting off the head and tail, rubbing off the scales, and making three diagonal slices along both sides of the fish.  My later reading about whole fish grilling confirmed that these slices are pretty important.  They allow the heat and flavors to penetrate the skin.  They also provide a place to stuff herbs!

I was a little mystified when I opened the fish at home.  I’ve grilled whole fish once before, but that was trout.  The fishmonger de-boned the trout and opened it up completely.  This fish was still in one large chunk.

So the picture above is the fish as I prepared it.  I started by salting the fish inside and out with sea salt.  Then I stuffed the slits with fresh herbs from our garden.  I also stuffed the cavity of the fish with herbs.  I drizzled the top with olive oil, added the sliced lemons (from our tree), and added some freshly ground pepper.  Lastly, I poured a pool of olive oil in the pan and rubbed the fish in the pool, to oil the bottom side.

I also decided to grill some onions while I was at it.  Here are my onions, sliced, brushed with olive oil, and peppered.

Now, on to the grilling!  As noted above, I didn’t have a recipe for grilling this fish.  I figured I didn’t want to cook it too hot.  I set the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking and warmed it up to about 375.  I’ve been struggling with meat thermometers lately.  I decided to try the internal probe thermometer for this one.  I figured the meaty part of the fish would be too small – but you never know unless you try.

Before I placed the fish on the egg I brushed the grill with olive oil.  This is key if you have any hopes of keeping the bottom skin of your fish intact.

It turns out I was right about the thermometer.  The fish reached 145 after about 25 minutes.

I let the fish reach 150 as I prepared to pull.  I used two spatulas to remove the fish.  I tried to separate the skin from the grill by using quick, forceful thrusts with the spatula.  Turned out my olive oil trick didn’t work – most of the bottom skin stuck to the grill.  In the end, it’s not a really big deal.

So here’s the finished product – or so I thought.  As I cut into the fish, I quickly realized it wasn’t done.  Bummer.

But a wise man once told me that grilling is learning.  If you pull your meat too quickly, you can always put it back on the fire.  There’s no shame in that.  Perfection comes with experience.

So the fish went back on the fire.

Twice.

After about 25 more minutes on the flame, we were ready to eat.  The fish was delicious.

I did learn a few things from this experience:

  • The next time I cook a whole whitefish I’m going to cook it hotter, perhaps 450+, and plan on about 25-35 minutes for a two pound fish.
  • The probe thermometer doesn’t work for this product.
  • When I put the fish back on the grill after pulling it too early I put it on aluminum foil.  This worked really well.  I don’t think I’d cook the fish the entire time on the foil.  It seems this would get in the way of the cooking process and prevent airflow to the bottom half of the fish.  However, the foil was a lifesaver this time because I left the bottom skin on the grill when I pulled the fish the first time!
  • The gasper goo is an OK eating fish, but not great.  It was very tasty.  It has an oily characteristic that’s slightly off-putting, though.
  • I picked up some tips online for serving the whole fish.  It was actually quite easy.  You start by cutting filets from the top of the fish.  Insert your knife just above the backbone of the fish and cut from head to tail.  The fishmonger’s slices make nice little portions.  After the top filets are served you can remove the entire bone.  If the fish is cooked properly it should be very easy to remove.  Then you can serve the bottom filets.

I’m looking forwarded to trying whole fish again sometime soon!  Check back for refined recipes!

Open Faced Eggplant Sandwiches

This weekend was a tough one for egging.  We made dinner plans Saturday and Sunday and lunch plans on Saturday.  Although Monday was Labor Day, I had to fly to Seattle for depositions.  So I was left with only one grilling opportunity on Labor Day weekend – a sad state of affairs!

The deck was also stacked against me because we had a pile of vegetables from the CSA and our garden.  This was not the time to bust out with a beer can chicken.  Surveying the bounty, I decided to grill up some eggplant.  We had some cheese in the fridge and a fresh loaf of sourdough bread.  So it was grilled eggplant sandwiches for lunch on Sunday.

I’d never grilled eggplant before.  It’s such a weird vegetable – kind of the vegetarian equivalent of spam.  I sliced the eggplants lengthwise into quarter-inch eggplant steaks.  I drizzled them with olive oil and instantly wished I’d brushed instead – the eggplant immediately absorbs the oil right at the point of contact.  Lesson learned.  I salted and peppered and let them sit.

Next I fired up the Big Green Egg for direct cooking.  Once it was up over 350 degrees I threw the eggplant on the fire.  I checked them after about 5-6 minutes at about 375 and it was time to flip.  In total, I only grilled the eggplant for about 12 minutes.  Much less time than other vegetables take.

While I was grilling the eggplant I also grilled some red onion.  I used a trick I learned with my zucchini casserole, grilling a quarter-inch cross-cut slice of the onion (so the concentric circles stayed together in a nice little package).

After I pulled the veggies I closed up the top and bottom vents on the Big Green Egg.  You don’t want too much flame when grilling melts / cheese sandwiches.  I sliced the bread, brushed one side with olive oil, then made little stacks of bread (oil side down), eggplant, red onion, and a cheddar / gruyere cheese from Trader Joe’s.  I put the sandwiches on the grill at about 325 and checked them every few minutes.  Turns out I cooled the fire down a little too much, so after the cheese was melted (5 minutes or so) I opened the lid and let the flames do their work on the bottom of my bread.

Pure deliciousness!  This was a great way to use some veggies and get my egg fix.  The only thing I would do differently in the future would be to put something between the eggplant and the bread to hold the eggplant to the bread.  Maybe a small slice of cheese or a creamy sauce of some kind.  But all in all, I would call it a success.

Recipe Recap

Slice eggplant and red onion into 1/4 inch thick slices.  Brush with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Grill 5-6 minutes per side at 375, checking to prevent burn.  Remove eggplant and onions from the grill.

Close vents to lower temperature to 325 and quiet flames.  Brush slices of bread with olive oil on one side.  On the other side, stack eggplant, red onion, and cheese.  Grill for approximately 5-7 minutes, checking to prevent burn.  If cheese melts before bottom of bread is toasted, open lid and bottom vent to increase flames.