Grilled Sweet Corn in the Husk

We are just now getting our first local sweet corn of the season. It’s not at peak yet, but it’s still wonderful and I plan on eating bushels of it before the summer is over.

There are probably hundreds of ways to cook sweet corn, but my hands-down favorite is grilled with the husks on. It’s a little messy, but the husk and silk protect the corn from the direct heat of the grill so it kind of both steams and roasts in its own juices which concentrates the flavor.

Buy the freshest corn you can find – look for full, heavy ears with tight, bright-green husks. Trim the ears by removing the outer husks until you have just a few pale-green layers left. Leave the silk around the corn, but remove any excess silk on the end (I just cut everything past the end of the cob off with kitchen shears). Trim the stalks, leaving just an inch or so to use as a handle.

Soak the ears in ice water while you fire up the grill. You want a hot (500°F) direct fire.

When the grill is ready, arrange the ears directly on the grate and cook, turning every couple of minutes, until the husks are charred and blackened (and sometimes on fire), about 10-15 minutes total.

To remove the husks, hold the ear upright by the stalk (use a kitchen towel or insulated food gloves to keep from burning yourself) and peel it like a banana – pulling the husks down around the stem. Pick off any remaining silk, then snap the stalk off, taking the husks with it. Like I said, it can be a little messy, so I try to do it outside or over a trash can.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I’ve had a lot of sweet corn in my time, but this was some of the corniest ever (I know, sorry ;)) – the flavor was sweet, but also really rich. The husk and silk kept all that wonderful corn essence in, but still let just enough fire through to give it a little smoke and caramelization.

The only way to improve on this would be moving the cooked and husked corn back to the grill for a little butter baste at the end. But that might just be gilding the lily.

The Nutrition:
An ear is 113 calories and 2 Weight Watchers points without the butter. But who has sweet corn without butter?!?

ONE YEAR AGO – Asian Chicken Salad

TWO YEARS AGO – Buffalo Chicken

 

Zuccaghetti with Lemon Caper Sauce

Zuccaghetti? Combine a seasonal overabundance of zucchini with a wicked Titan Julienne Peeler and you get long shreds of zucchini doing a fine job of pretending to be pasta.

Zuccaghetti with Lemon Caper Sauce
1 large, or 2 medium, zucchini
1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 teaspoon capers, drained
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Use a julienne slicer or peeler to shred the zucchini into a colander. Toss with the saltand let drain for 10 minutes.

Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and has stopped foaming, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add the zucchini and bell pepper and sauté until the zucchini is heated through and just starts to soften, about two minutes. Stir in the capers and lemon juice and bring to a simmer.

Serve immediately, topped with a little grated Parmesan and fresh ground pepper.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
This is a great side dish for summer meals. The zucchini “noodles” have a very similar texture to real pasta, so you can scratch that carb-craving itch without all the carbs.

The sauce was a little too acidic, maybe more butter and less lemon juice, or just less lemon juice. I think this would also be good as a main dish with a meat sauce.

The Nutrition:
The whole dish is only 6 Weight Watchers points for the butter and oil. An average serving would only be 2 or 3 points.

ONE YEAR AGO – Huli Huli Chicken

TWO YEARS AGO – Mixed Berry Pretzel Icebox Dessert

 

Balsamic Baby Back Ribs

I love it when cooking becomes a social, innovative, iterative process. There are few things in life more boring for me than looking over a recipe that’s just a bunch of steps – no pics, no descriptions, no exposition, no tips, no love. Yech.

Now this rib recipe has got some history to it. I first came across it as Balsamic Pork Belly from She Cooks… He Cleans and it looked wonderful (and it comes with musical suggestions, gotta love that). They adapted it from Ian Knauer’s Sticky Balsamic Ribs over at FOOD52, also a tasty-looking recipe that Ian says, “These ribs just might be the best thing I’ve ever come up with.” High praise indeed.

So I’ve got two terrific recipes for two different cuts of meat, using two very different cooking styles, but with the same marinade and glaze. Oh man, this is going to be fun!

The Marinade
2 racks baby back pork ribs, about 5 pounds
4 large garlic cloves
1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 tablespoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons packed raw or brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/4 cup water

Combine the garlic and salt in a blender or food processor and give it a whirl until the garlic is minced. Add the pepper, rosemary, sugar, vinegar, oil, cayenne, and water and pulse to combine.

Prep the ribs by removing the membrane on the bone side and trimming off any scrapes of meat or excess fat. Put the ribs into a zip-top bag. Pour the marinade over the ribs, turning to coat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it, and stash in the fridge overnight.

The Cook
Remove the ribs from the marinade. Lay them out on a sheet pan and dust with some sea or kosher salt and black pepper. Return to the fridge, uncovered, while you set up the grill.

Set up your grill for an indirect cook that will burn for at least 5 hours at between 225 to 250°F. On the Big Green Egg that meant filling the firebox with lump charcoal and using an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat and a drip pan with a little water in it to catch the fat.

When the grill is up to temp, add your smoking wood (a chunk of apple in this case) and wait for the smoke to go from white (bad) to blue (good). Remove the ribs from the sheet pan and set on the grate bone side down and centered over the drip pan.

Close the lid and let the ribs cook for an hour. Flip bone side up and cook for another hour. After the ribs have been on for 2 hours, remove them from the heat, wrap them tightly in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, and return them to the grill bone side up for an hour.

After an hour, carefully unwrap ribs, making sure not to lose any of the drippings that have collected in the foil. Return the ribs to the grill bone side down while you make the glaze.

The Glaze
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup raw or brown sugar
1/4 cup water
Reserved drippings from foil

Combine the vinegar, sugar, and water, and drippings in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture has reduced to a thick and syrupy glaze, about 5 minutes. Watch this like a hawk because the once it starts to thicken the glaze can easily burn. Set aside, but keep warm.

Return to the grill and check on the ribs. Ribs are done when the meat hits 165°F internal, but they aren’t tender enough to eat until they hit about 185°F and the surface cracks when you lift up on one end of the slab or the meat starts to tear apart when you pull on one of the bones. When the ribs get to that point it’s time to sauce.

Brush the glaze on both side of the ribs and let them cook for another 10 minutes. Glaze both sides again and cook another 10 minutes. Brush ribs one last time with more glaze, remove the from the grill,  and serve remaining glaze on the side.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
To badly misquote Zaphod Beeblebrox  from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “If I told you how good these ribs are, I wouldn’t have time to eat them.”

Yes, they were that good – sweet and tangy with good smoke and enough heat from the cayenne and porky goodness from the drippings to tie everything together. They reminded me of the Minimalist Ribs I did where there are so few ingredients that every one of them gets to shine.

The Nutrition:
A four bone serving is 600 calories and 10 Weight Watchers points.

ONE YEAR AGO – Asian Pork Skewers

TWO YEARS AGO – Carnitas with Pickled Onions

 

Basted T-bones & Giardiniera

With the heat we’ve had lately, any excuse not to fire up the stove is a good one. I found these two t-bones lurking in the bottom of our freezer and decided to grill them both up so that we could have plenty of leftovers for steak salad.

My dear wife made a big batch of giardiniera (pickled veggie salad) well in advance so that it was nice and cool and all the flavors had drawn through. It can be ready to eat in 25 minutes, but making it a day ahead (and making enough to snack on through the week) is the way to go.

Giardiniera adapted from Eating Well
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 small head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into bite-size florets
2 cups green beans
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, bay leaf, and 1 teaspoon each crushed red pepper and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil.

Add the veggies and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid, then drain.

Transfer the vegetables to a medium bowl. Stir in oil, pepper, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon each crushed red pepper and salt and the reserved cooking liquid. Refrigerate for at least 25 minutes to chill. Stir and serve with a slotted spoon.

Butter Basted Steaks
2 t-bone steaks
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Remove the steaks from the fridge and give them a good dusting with some ground sea salt and black pepper. Then set your grill up for a direct cook at slightly sub-nuclear temperature (about 600°F).

While the grill is getting up to temp, make the butter baste. Combine the butter, oil, thyme, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a shallow baking pan (I use a 9×13 disposable foil pan) and heat it up right on the grill, stirring to combine everything as the butter melts. Then set the pan beside the grill to keep it warm.

Sear the steaks for 60 seconds on each side, then move them off into the butter sauce. Flip them a couple of times to coat both sides with all that herby/buttery wonderfulness, then back on the grill for another 30 seconds on each side. Keep flipping every 30 seconds or so and start checking for doness – I like my steaks medium-rare, so 125°F internal. These steaks took just over 2 minutes per side total.

Move the steaks off into the butter sauce and give them another flip. Let rest for 10 minutes, then move the steaks to a cutting board. Reserve the butter mix and keep the pan warm.

Trim off any fat or connective tissue from the steaks and then slice the meat on a diagonal into 1/4-inch slices. Put the sliced steak and any accumulated meat juices from the cutting board back into butter mix. Give the pan a shake to coat the meat.

Serve with the giardiniera on the side, or over a mixed green salad.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
The t-bones were mostly ribeye, so the meat was rich and tender. I got a nice char on them, and I love that contrast between the crisp, almost bitter outside and the smooth and meaty inside. The butter baste is the icing on the steak. You could live without it, but it does add lots of juiciness and more layers of flavor.

The giardiniera was a great accompanying dish with plenty of bite and a little heat. Feel free to double the recipe and use whatever veggies are fresh. This dish also makes a great appetizer, or bump up the olive oil and add some cheese and salami and you’ve got a light antipasto lunch.

The Nutrition:
If you trim it, t-bone steak is 5 points for 3 ounces of meat. The baste and the giardiniera adds about 3 more points for the oil. Go heavy on the veggies and it’s all good.

ONE YEAR AGO – Pulled Picnic

TWO YEARS AGO – Apricot-Glazed Pork Chops with Peanut Noodles

 

From My “I-just-gotta-make-this-sometime” List

We are traveling this week and I will be grill-less for the 4th. Since it seems that I always have more recipes squirreled away than I have the time to make, I thought I’d share some dishes that I’d be cooking this week if I had the chance.

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Ancho-Tequila Glaze Recipe, Steven Raichlen

Pinoy Pork Skewers, Grill Grrrl

Crema di Limoncello, Simply Recipes Recipes

Balsamic Pork Belly, She cooks…He cleans

Tsunami Spin Wings with Sweet Tamarind BBQ Sauce, Nibble Me This

Roasted Tomatoes, Our Life in Food

Fennel Syrup, Gluten Free Girl and the Chef

Shrimp with Redeye Gravy over Cheesy Grit Cakes, Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide

Bo ssäm (pork brûlée), Indirect Heat

Have a great 4th of July!