Friday Link Love

Just one big unsolicited plug here for Dizzy Pig Barbecue Company. Over the years I have had nothing but good luck and tasty results using their barbecue rubs and it’s about time I told everybody out there how good they are.

Dizzy Dust is my “go-to” rub for ribs and butts.
Raging River is a huge hit on salmon.
Spicy Swamp Venom is great on wings.
Shaking the Tree is a better-than-lemon-pepper rub for chicken and pork.
Red Eye Express, Raising the Steaks, and Cowlick are all in my rotation for  steak and burger seasoning.
Jamaican Firewalk is the jerk king, mon.
Pineapple Head rocks on sweet potatoes.

They have a new newsletter out this month and they’re in the running for About.com’s 2011 Readers’ Choice Award for Barbecue Rub (vote early and vote often). They’ve also just moved into a new production facility and have great plans in the works.

Thanks to Chris and the gang for producing some of the best fresh, hand-blended rubs out there!

Emile Henry Flame-Top Cookware

The fine folks at Emile Henry have been kind enough to send me some of their new Flame-Top clay cookware to try out. While they have been making cookware in Burgundy, France since 1850, this is their first line of flameproof ceramic designed to go directly on a live flame, like a gas burner or a barbecue grill.

I can’t wait to try the pieces out on the Big Green Egg, but so far the weather hasn’t been cooperating. In the meantime, I made this chicken pizza in our oven on the Emile Henry pizza stone.

1 12-inch pizza crust (Against the Grain Gluten-Free in this case)
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 large cooked chicken breast, diced
2 cups (8-ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon Greek oregano
1 (6-ounce) can ripe olives, sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup pepperoncini peppers, diced
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

Place pizza stone in oven and preheat to 350°F. Put crust on stone and pre-bake for 10 minutes. Remove stone from oven and top crust with the sauce, chicken, olives, feta, peppers, and onion. Cover with mozzarella and sprinkle with oregano.

Return pizza and stone to oven and bake for 20 minutes, until crust is crisp and the cheese is brown and bubbly. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
It’s pizza – what’s not to love? I’m usually more of a pepperoni and sausage kind of guy, but the chicken is good with the contrasting salty/spicy peppers, olives, and feta.

The Emile Henry stone really made a difference in the crispness of the pizza crust. The Against the Grain crusts are great, but this time it was considerably more crisp, but still nice and chewy. The stone also cleaned up easily with a little soap and water. Can’t wait to try it on the Egg.

Birthday Surprise

We usually try to get away to someplace warm every year for my birthday. Mostly because the middle of February is a great time to try and dodge cabin fever, but also because I have this idea that if I’m out of the country on my birthday it doesn’t really count. But this year we decided just to lay low.

I thought that meant a nice, quiet weekend lounging around the house, but my dear wife surprised me with a last-minute getaway in a cozy cabin on Lake Superior. She’s the BEST!

No Egging, but we did pack the fixins for my favorite breakfast in the whole wide world – biscuits and gravy.

6 gluten-free biscuits
1 pound pork breakfast sausage
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup gluten-free flour (I like Pamela’s Amazing Bread Mix or Gluten-Free Pantry Country French Bread Mix)
1 teaspoon hot sauce (Suck Creek WFR Hot Sauce in this case)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Do not drain.  Add the flour and cook over low heat for 5 minutes until it forms a roux and begins to brown.

Remove pan from heat and stir in the milk a little at a time. Scape the bottom to get up any brown bits. Return to medium-high heat and stir occasionally until gravy comes to a simmer and starts to thicken, about 10 minutes. Add the hot sauce, salt, and black pepper and stir to combine. Remove from heat and ladle over warm biscuits.

We ended up getting caught on the wrong side of the blizzard that swept through on Presidents’ Day and had to stay over, snuggled in front of the fire, for another day. Darn it ;)!

Valentine’s Day

I would no more go out to eat on Valentine’s Day than I would go out celebrating on New Year’s Eve.  It’s amateur night – too many packed restaurants with uninspired food and iffy service. Plus, since we’d both been sick, I didn’t want to be out with a whole bunch of people. I just wanted to be home with something tasty – oh, and a good meal too.

Earlier in the week I had gotten a couple of really nice ribeyes out of the freezer and my dear wife had caught a deal on a some king crab legs, so we were set.

I fired up the Big Green Egg and set the oven to 350°F. I seasoned up the steaks with a little sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. When the Egg got up to 600°F, I put the crab legs on a jelly roll pan in the oven and headed out to the grill.

The ribeyes went on for 90 seconds of undisturbed searing. Then I rotated the steaks 90 degrees and gave them another 30 seconds on that side. I flipped the meat and repeated the process on the other side. I flipped them back over and checked for doneness. I gave them another minute on the grill and pulled them when the big one had hit 130°F.

I pulled the steaks off to a plate, covered them with another plate and let them rest for 10 minutes. By then the crab was heated through and my dear wife had bowl of roasted brussels sprouts ready.

A better-than-going-out Valentine’s dinner on the table by 7pm. Not too shabby.

Sweetness Day Surprise

I’ve been old and boring and sick all this week – winter and the crud have had me down. So we were just going to take it easy this weekend. Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning and my dear wife presented me with an early Valentine’s Day treat – chocolate-covered strawberries!!!

She’d gotten up early to make them for us. She even took photos of the preparations (did this food geek marry well or what?). They were absolutely decadent – rich and sweet and juicy.

Isn’t she the best?

Sadly, sharing chocolate-covered strawberries is also a great way to share the crud and now she’s down sick :(. Not to worry, I’ll nurse her back to health and it’s supposed to hit 40°F this week. Winter isn’t over, but I can see the end from here.

The Agony of Defeat

We were supposed to have some folks over to eat wings and catch a bit of the game on Sunday, but that all fell through when I got sick. I ended up making a half-hearted attempt at throwing some wings together in the oven (of all things).

I’m not even going to share the recipe – save that it involved pomegranate molasses and much disappointment.

The Verdict: ★☆☆☆☆
Do you ever think that some days your only purpose on earth is to serve as a warning to others? This was one of those days. Nasty, hot-oil burned taste from the oven plus a sour marinade. This was not one of my finer moments.

Why not zero stars? Well, they were still wings after all. Not rutabagas. We ate almost all of them anyway.

Super Bowl Link Love

I’m planning a little “The Super Bowl is Just Another Excuse to Grill Wings” party this coming weekend. While the menu isn’t set yet, I thought I’d share some recipes that I’ve been checking out for inspiration over the past couple of weeks:

Sweet And Spicy Chicken Wings – a spicy barbecue (or what some folks call American-style) grilled wing.

Piri Piri Wings – these fiery wings come from Steven Raichlen’s Planet Barbecue! via Chris over at Nibble Me This.

Hot Sriracha Garlic Chicken Wings – anything with sriracha in it has my attention, although I’d grill these instead of frying them.

Superbowl Sweet & Savory Wings – a very intriguing recipe from Noble Pig.

Sticky Red Wings – pomegranate and peppers make this look interesting.

Grilled Buffalo Wings – it’s hard to beat this classic recipe.

Velveeta Spicy Cheeseburger Dip – not a wing recipe, but nothing says “football” like a processed cheese product, right? It’s so kitschy it just has too be good.

The Best French Onion Soup

This putzy, Cook’s Illustrated recipe still makes the best French onion soup, hands down. To break up the time commitment a bit, I caramelize the onions in the oven the first night and then finish the soup in about 2 hours on the stove top the next night.

3 tablespoons butter
6 large yellow onions (about 4 pounds)
2 – 3 cups water
1/2 cup dry sherry or red wine
4 cups chicken broth (Pacific Natural)
2 cups beef broth (Pacific Natural)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400°F and adjust the rack to the lower-middle position.

Halve the onions and cut pole to pole into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Try to stick with yellow onions as this dish needs their lower sugar and stronger, more complex flavor.

Grease a large Dutch oven and add the butter, onions, and salt. Put in the oven and cook, covered, for 1 hour.  Remove the pot from the oven and stir the onions, making sure to scape the bottom and sides. Return the pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar and cook for another hour. Again, remove the pot and give everything a good stir. Return the pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar continue to cook until the onions are very soft and golden brown (about 30 to 45 minutes).

Remove the pot from the oven. At this point you can let the onions cool in the pot and refrigerate for a day or so before continuing with the recipe.

Move the pot to the stove top over medium-high heat. Continue cooking the onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until all the liquid evaporates and the onions brown (about 15 to 20 minutes).

Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the pot bottom is coated with a dark crust of fond (about 6 to 8 minutes). Scrape the tasty brown goodness back into onions.

Deglaze the pot with 1/4 cup water, scraping the pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until the water evaporates and pot bottom has formed yet another dark crust (another 6 to 8 minutes).

Add another 1/4 cup of water and deglaze the pot again, cooking until the water evaporates and pot bottom has formed yet another dark crust (another 6 to 8 minutes).

One more time – add another 1/4 cup of water and deglaze yet again, cooking until the water has evaporated and the onions are very dark brown.

Now (big change of pace here) stir in the sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the sherry evaporates (about 5 minutes).

Stir in all the the broths, 2 cups of water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any remaining bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot.

Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

I served this steaming hot with a sprinkling of Gruyère cheese and lots of bread for dipping.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Excellent soup – nice clean onion flavor, but with a a lot of depth and richness to it. It was a real winner both as a dinner served along with grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, and as a warming lunch after a round of shoveling snow.