Archive | January 2012

Surf and Turf and Sprouts

According to Mrs. Esquire, Sunday night’s dinner was our best in quite some time.  It was really quite simple, but so delicious!  Sometimes you just need to let the food speak.

We’ve been enjoying Brussels sprouts lately.  So for a side, I prepared Brussels sprouts and leeks in the redware.  I tossed them in olive oil and seasoned them with white pepper, garlic salt, and freshly ground five pepper blend.

I threw the Brussels sprouts on the big green egg first, for about 20 minutes at about 425.

The star of the dinner was a long shrimp and pineapple kabob.  I seasoned the shrimp quite simply as well: juice from one Meyer lemon, olive oil, salt, and cracked pepper.

Just for good measure, I threw on a small New York strip, seasoned with Montreal Steak seasoning.  Since my steak was quite thin, and my shrimp were, well, shrimp, the final portion of the cook was really quick.  I started the steak with a two-minute sear.  Then I flipped the steak and threw on the shrimp.  After two more minutes, I flipped the steak again and tried to flip the kabob around.  Turns out flipping a flexible kabob circling the grill is easier said than done.  After another minute I gave the steak one more flip and the kabob one more attempted flip.

I pulled the steak first and ran it upstairs, meaning the shrimp and the steak each got about six minutes at around 500 degrees.

The combination of the lemon juice and pineapple gave the shrimp such a fresh and delicious taste!  The quick, hot cook left the shrimp very tender and juicy.  Mrs. Esquire and I were really happy with the results.  Of course my steak was delicious, too.

As always, thanks for reading!

Recipe Recap – Brussels Sprouts

You’ll need Brussels sprouts, a leek, white pepper, cracked black pepper (or five pepper blend), garlic salt, olive oil.

Wash and dry Brussels sprouts.  Trim the knob off the end of each sprout and slice in half.  Slice leek in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide slices.  Toss sprouts and leeks in olive oil.  Season to taste with white pepper, cracked black pepper (or five pepper blend), and garlic salt.

Grill in redware or a stone at 400-450 degrees for about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.  Watch for char on the leeks and outer flakes of the Brussels sprouts.  Remove from heat when sprouts are tender and you’ve achieved sufficient char.

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Tinfoil Time

I think I’ll start using more aluminum foil when I grill fish.  Last Friday I had a big piece of salmon for my Big Green Egg.  It wouldn’t fit in my redware.  I decided to lay it out in tinfoil.

I don’t know why, but I used to feel like there was something wrong with putting fish on aluminum foil.  Like it was cheating or something.  Or perhaps the foil would interfere with the airflow and the grilling process.  This salmon taught me otherwise.

I poured a good bit of olive oil into the foil.  I sprinkled the salmon with an interesting rub from Favorite Son, a Minnesota company.  I know what you’re thinking – a Minnesota company making barbecue rubs?  Isn’t that like the Jamaican bobsled team?  Or that old commercial – “This salsa’s made in New York City!  New York City?  That really chaps my hide.”  But the salmon rub is really good.  For true Minnesotans they have a rub called Minnesota Nice – with a “Scandinavian Kick!”

I digress.  Back to the foil.  To make sure I didn’t lose the flavor of the Big Green Egg, I threw on a bunch of apple chips.  I gave it a good hot smoke at about 425.  Plenty of good flavor!

Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Gloom of Night

My dad taught me that grilling is not a weather-dependent activity.  This was especially important growing up in Minnesota, where winter lasts six months and during the other six months of the year the weather can change directions on a dime.  Grilling is a method of preparing food, not necessarily an activity to be enjoyed with volleyball, sunscreen and watery beer.

Special meals at my parents’ house often involve the grill.  This means there are many occasions for winter grilling.  I have a distinct memory of one Christmas break during college, hanging out with my dad on the deck while he grilled steaks.  My beer froze before I could finish it.  Ah, Minnesota.

I can also remember many an evening up at the lake (Minnesotans go “Up North” for summer vacations and weekends) when the rain swept in at dinner time.  No matter – that’s what umbrellas are for!

We’re a little spoiled here in the Northern California when it comes to weather.  Sure, it gets cold and foggy in San Francisco, but for 9 months out of the year we don’t even have to think about rain.  Then there are nights like last night.

We dinner for six at our house last night.  It rained all day.  This meant two things: 1) since rain turns Bay Area Traffic into gridlock, we knew the timing of the dinner would need to be flexible, and 2) I’d be grilling in the rain.

I decided to go with pork tenderloin.  I used three different rubs, for a little variety: a chipotle rub from Pampered Chef (a great purchase idea when invited to a party), the Black Hills Barbecue rub from Savory Spice Shop, and Sweet Mama’s Chicken Rub from Savory Spice – one of my favorites.  One interesting note from the Pampered Chef rub – it called for a coating of olive oil prior to rubbing.  This was a good idea, since the rub had nice pepper flakes that otherwise might not stick well to the meat.

A few observations and tips about grilling in the wind and rain.  First, I hedged my bets on the fire starters.  Usually I use one Big Green Egg fire starter split into four pieces.  Last night I used two, each split into two pieces.  This trick saved me, because only two of them caught and stayed lit.

Second, I realized that the BGE is a great rainy day grill.  When my dad and I grill in the rain Up North, we usually have one guy standing with an umbrella over the Weber until the coals were ready to go.  With the BGE, you can get your fire going then shut the lid.  This leaves only a small hole (at the top) for the rain.

As expected, some of our guests ran into traffic.  No big deal!  This gave me time to let the cast iron grill warm up.  I’ve come to realize that I really need to take the time for this step.  It’s hard because I usually use the cast iron grill on a quick cook, when I’m ready to eat!  But the extra preheating time really does make a difference.

Third, I wonder if the rain affects the temperature gauge in the dome.  Whether it was because of the extra preheating time, or the relatively small cuts, my pork cooked way faster than expected.  My quick read thermometer jumped past 145 degrees after only fifteen minutes at about 400.  The pork wasn’t fatally overdone, but I was lucky I didn’t wait until 20 minutes to check it.

These guys were delicious!  A real nice char and still plenty juicy.

Steak a la Marin

Mrs. Esquire and I returned this afternoon from a wonderful long weekend in western Marin County.  To drive through Point Reyes National Seashore is to be transported to a different time, maybe even a different world.  I always expect to see Hobbits running through the hills.  It is truly a blessing to have such an enchanting getaway within an hour of one of the greatest cities in the world.  The beauty of Northern California is part of what makes San Francisco such a great place to live!  (I have to remind myself of these things each month when I pay the mortgage).

No trip to Olema or Point Reyes Station is complete without a stop at the Marin Sun Farms butcher shop.  The cows freely roaming the hilly pastures of Marin County become the most delicious steaks you’ve ever eaten.

Today, I bought a bone-in rib eye.  I decided to go with a pepper-crusted preparation.

I brushed both sides with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.  I used a five peppercorn blend for the cracked pepper, which I spread on only one side.

I warmed the Big Green Egg up to 500 degrees and let the cast iron grill preheat for a good long time.  I sometimes lose patience at this point, but luckily for me Mrs. Esquire needed some extra time upstairs with the greens.  I started searing the steak, pepper side down, for about 2.5 minutes.  Then I flipped for another 2.5 on the other side.

I then gave the steak an additional three minutes on each side.

Mrs. Esquire had a few bites of my steak and supplemented her dinner with some pasta and vegetables.  A delicious end to a wonderful weekend!

Another Weird Fish

One of the joys of living in the Mission is the easy access to unique foods.  Tonight I branched out again.

I stopped by my normal fish guy hoping to buy some salmon for the Big Green Egg.  Much to my dismay, his shop was closed!  Apparently their ice machine is broken.

No matter.  There’s another fish shop on my way home.  I’ve never tried it because it seems kind of sketchy.

So I strolled in tonight.  Not much selection in the case, but they had some nice looking fillets of Vietnamese barramundi.  Barra-what?  The guy assured me that barramundi is a delicious white fish similar to seabass.  His preparation tip was to keep it simple.

OK, so I’ll keep it simple.  I drizzled the fish with some olive oil, sprinkled some pink sea salt, clipped some fresh herbs from the garden, and topped it with some sliced lemons from our tree.

I grilled it over direct heat at about 425 for 20-25 minutes.

Here’s the final product.

So what do I think?  Like the Gasper Goo, I’m not a big fan.  I guess mystery white fish just isn’t my thing.  I’ve moved on to chips and salsa for the rest of the (DVR’ed) Punt and Kick Championship game.

Life’s A Journey, Not A Destination

I’m having writer’s block.

I know I should write about the pulled pork I cooked up yesterday.  Instead, I’m just sitting here staring at a blank screen.

I’m hesitant to write because I haven’t arrived yet on my pulled pork.  Since I’m not completely satisfied with my product I’m not ready to put myself out there.

Mrs. Esquire is telling me to get over myself.  She says the pork tasted great and everyone liked it.

This blog is about the learning process, it’s about my personal growth with my Big Green Egg, and it’s about loving life and making good food.  But there’s something permanent and enduring about inking a pulled pork manifesto on the internet that I just can’t get past.

So I’m not going to talk process in this post.  Instead I’ll share some pictures and one little piece of the puzzle.

Here’s the main guest all rubbed down and ready to go.  I injected my pork for the first time:

Many hours later, I pulled that bad boy at halftime of the Lions-Saints game.  (Can anyone make a tackle?  Please?)

So there you go.

OK, so I will share this.  I’m zoning in on a three-phase North Carolina system.  You might call it the triangle offense of barbeque.  Here’s what I did this time:

Injection

  • ½ c. Apple Cider Vinegar
  • ¼ c white vinegar
  • ¼ c apple cider

Drip Pan

  • ½ c apple cider vinegar
  • ½ c white vinegar
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp tabasco
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper

Sauce (warm in a saucepan prior to serving)

  • ½ c apple cider vinegar
  • ½ c white vinegar
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp tabasco
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar

Here’s my thinking on the three phases.  1) Liquid only in the injection, to be easier on my tools.  I may add a little tabasco and cayenne next time.  2) No sugar in the drip pan, to prevent burning.  3) This is the full boat goodness for dipping or saucing.

I might up the volume on the drip pan and sauce next time.  The drip pan cooked up bone dry.  I ended up a little short on the sauce – but that could have been because I left it boiling on the stove while I watched the game.  Thank goodness Mrs. Esquire was around!

So there you have it.  Thanks for reading!

Follow-up Note:I’ve continued to revise and revamp this recipe, increasing the amount of apple cider vinegar and decreasing the heat in the sauce.  The day you stop learning is the day you stop living!

Grinding Beef

Santa brought Mrs. Esquire a Kitchen Aid stand mixer for Christmas this year!  I was also a winner, as Santa’s Elf sweet-talked the Macy’s lady into throwing in a free meat grinder attachment.  Tonight I tackled home ground hamburgers.  The punchline of my first spin with the grinder: I should have remembered to K.I.S.S.  Keep It Simple, Stupid.

I started by sauteing onions, pepper, and garlic in olive oil.  As that simmered on the stove, I cubed some chuck.

I salted and peppered the beef and marinated it in the fridge for about 30 minutes with the saute, some fresh thyme, and a little worcestershire sauce.

So now the real fun begins.  Time to get the Kitchen Aid cranking.

First impression on the meat grinding: woah, this is a lot of work!  I kind of expected the beef to just churn its way out in nice little tubes.  That wasn’t the case at all.  It was a really, really, really slow go.  The butcher recommended three passes through the grinder; the manual recommended two.  I fully intended to do three, but I gave up after two.

After the beef was ground, I mixed in some shredded cheese and formed the patties.

If you look at these patties with a careful eye, you can see trouble on the horizon.  There’s no structure to the patties.  They are very tender, but almost kind of watery and sloppy.

The trouble hit when I went the flip the burgers for the first time.  Let’s just say I left lots of beef on the grill and in the coals.  It was touch and go for eight tense minutes.  When it was all said and done, I had some very tender, if slightly misshapen, burgers.

Next time I’ll skip all the fanciness and just grind some beef.  Hopefully that works out a little better for me.

Happy New Year, readers!