Planked Scallops with Chorizo & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Planked Scallops with Chorizo & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Bacon has had its day in the sun – bacon explosions, Baconnaise, bacon soda, etc… I get it. I love bacon too, but I also have a soft spot in my heart for its spicy Spanish cousin – chorizo.

Like bacon, Spanish chorizo is cured pork. Only in this case the meat is ground with garlic and smoky/spicy paprika, stuffed into sausage casings, and then smoked and/or air cured. The end result is a very earthy and complex mix of smoke, a hint of sweetness, and a nice tangy finish.

I can eat chorizo-laced snacks all day long. But, like bacon, chorizo is also good to add at the start of cooking so that its flavors can spread throughout a dish. This is a recipe that makes good use of that.

The Sauce
1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, undrained
4 ounces chorizo, diced
3 cloves garlic
1-2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Put the garlic and salt in a food possessor and give it a whirl until the garlic is finely minced. Add the jar of red peppers (juice included) and puree until smooth.

In a medium skillet over low heat, add the chorizo and olive oil. Raise the heat until the chorizo starts to sweat out all of that lovely red fat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring ever once in a while, until the chorizo starts to crisp up a bit.

Add the pepper puree, stir to combine, and raise heat until it starts to bubble. Cook 5 to 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat, but keep warm.

The Scallops
2-3 pounds diver scallops
2 food-grade wooden planks (I used Maple), soaked for at least an hour
1 teaspoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning
Drizzle of olive oil

Set your grill up for a direct cook over medium-high (450°F) heat.

Rinse and drain the scallops. Pat dry. Push them into a large bowl and drizzle them with oil. Toss to coast. Dust with seasoning and toss to coat again.

Planked Scallops with Chorizo & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Arrange scallops on the planks, trying not to crowd them too much. Put the planks on the grill, close the lid, and cook until they just turn opaque and start to firm up – about 10-15 minutes. You want them about 130°F internal.

Planked Scallops with Chorizo & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Remove the scallops from the grill and toss with the pepper sauce. Put the skillet over medium heat and just warm everything up for a bit. Do NOT overcook the scallops.

Plate and serve.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Loved the combination of the tender, meaty scallops with the warm and slightly spicy sauce. Every bite that had a bit of chorizo in it was remarkable and the whole dish had a great smoky undertone.

The Nutrition:
The scallops were about an ounce a piece, so 3 scallops with sauce are only 150 calories and 4 Weight Watchers points.

One year ago – Grilled Sweet Corn in the Husk
Two years ago – Lemon Chicken Tagine

Pomegranate Pig Spare Ribs

Pomegranate Pig Spareribs

I have been craving ribs constantly a lot lately. Generally when I think ribs, I’m thinking of baby backs – those meltingly tender short ribs from the loin of the pig. But just to switch things up, I went with spare ribs for this cook.

Spares ribs sit below the baby backs and come from the from the belly side of the pig’s rib cage. Because they do more work (the whole breathing thing), spares have tougher muscles and more connective tissue. That means they also have a richer flavor, but it can be tough to get them tender (think of the difference between a filet mignon and a sirloin).

A full rack of spare ribs includes part of the chine (breast) bone and the connective tissue between the chine and the ribs themselves. I trimmed all of the non-rib bits off to make a St.Louis-style rack that is easier to handle and cooks more evenly. I also removed the tough membrane that covered the bone side of the ribs to let more flavor in.

After the ribs were trimmed, I gave them a generous dusting of Plowboys Yardbird Rub and then stashed them in the fridge while I got the Big Green Egg fired up.

I set the Big Green Egg up for a raised direct cook at 250°F, using a Woo2 ring to get the cooking grate further from the heat. When the Egg was up to temp I added some persimmon wood for smoke and put the ribs on.

Spare ribs take 5 to 6 hours to cook. I started them bone side down and then flipped them end-to-end and top-to-bottom ever hour. At hour 5 they started showing signs of doneness – meat pulling back from the bone, and meat cracking when I lifted up the rack at the end. I checked the internal temp (love my Thermapen for this as it can get right into the middle of the rib meat) and it read 180°F. Pretty much perfect.

I sauced the ribs on both sides with Pomegranate Pig Barbeque Sauce and let them cook for 10 minutes. I sauced the meat side and let them go for another 10, then sauced the meat side again and moved them off to a plate to rest for 10 minutes.

Pomegranate Pig Spareribs

The Verdict: ★★★★★
These have got to be among the best ribs I’ve ever made! Love the Plowboys rub and the way it works with the sweet tangyness of the sauce. Even though I cooked these raised over direct heat (no plate setter to diffuse the heat), they came out moist and tender. I like ribs cooked to the ever-so-slightly-not-yet-falling-off-the-bone point, and I nailed that here.

My only (very minor) disappointment is that the persimmon wood didn’t give me as much smoke flavor as I would have liked.

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

One year ago – 1st Carnitas of the Year
Two years ago – Badly Bungled Black ‘n’ Bleu Bon Voyage

Stainless Steel Vented Chimney Cap

Vent Cap

For Father’s Day, my dear wife and our 4 furry “children” gave me a stainless steel chimney cap from the folks at Eggware for my large Big Green Egg.

The cap is sold as a replacement for both the standard issue ceramic cap and the dual-function metal top (daisy wheel). It is a two-piece design that uses a fixed base and a rotating cap that can be adjusted through a wide range of openings to control the air flow and cooking temperature.

Vent Cap

The big selling points for the new cap for me were:

  • Stainless steel won’t rust or break like cast iron can – having lost one daisy wheel to breakage and having the replacement rust up on me, this is a big deal for me.
  • The fit is snug enough that the vent opening doesn’t change (thus throwing off your temperature) when opening and closing the Egg.
  • The overhang on the top lets you cook even when it’s raining (great benefit considering the weather we’ve been having lately) and can be left open when it isn’t being used to prevent crud from growing inside the Egg.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I’ve done both screaming hot and low and slow cooks with it and it has really performed nicely.

For cooking a steak, I brought Big Green Egg up to about 900°F (the thermometer was pegged all the way to the right), then put the cap on with the vents wide open and the temp didn’t drop a bit. It was like it wasn’t even there. After the steak, I put my filthy blackened plate setter in and left the vents open for an hour to do a clean out. I now have a (very nearly) clean white plate setter, fire box, fire ring, and a much cleaner dome.

For my spare rib cook, I closed the cap down until only a tiny hole (about the size of a roofing nail) was visible above the adjustment tab and shut my bottom vent down to about the width of a nickle. The Egg held 250°F for just over 5 hours, rock solid. When the ribs where done I closed the top and bottom vents and the Egg shut right down – losing 50°F in an hour and 100°F after two hours.

The only down side was that the cap gets a lot hotter than the daisy wheel ever did (be safe – always wear gloves or use tongs when adjusting), and there was some slight discoloration around the vent openings. I’ve been told that the top is dishwasher safe, so I might give that a try to remove the stain. If not, then it’ll be Bar Keepers Friend to the rescue.

In short – Big Green Egg ought to make this their standard cap, period. It easily replaces both the ceramic cap and the daisy wheel and offered better features than either.

One year ago – Tri-tip Steak Salad
Two years ago – Express Ribs

Sassafras Smoked Salmon Salad with Shallot & Poppy Seed Dressing

Salmon Salad

Sassafras Smoked Salmon Salad – try saying that five times fast.

I was down in central Iowa and made a stop at Hawgeyes BBQ to pick up some supplies. They had sassafras smoking wood, which I’d never seen before. One sniff of that sweet, anise/root beer aroma and I knew I had to smoke some salmon with it.


The Salmon

2 salmon fillet, preferably wild-caught
2 tablespoons raw or brown sugar per pound of fish
2 tablespoons kosher salt per pound of fish
2 tablespoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning

Combine the salt, sugar, and Bay seasoning in a small bowl and mix well. This is the cure.

Lay the fillets flat in a zip-top bag. Cover both sides of the fillet with the cure mixture. Seal the bag and place in fridge for at least 12 hours, but no more than 24 hours. Turn the fillets over every 3-4 hours.

Remove the fish from cure, rinse well in cold water and pat dry. Place the fish skin-side down on a rack. Move to the fridge to dry until surface is dry but slightly sticky to the touch – 1 to 3 hours.

Set up your grill for a 3 hour indirect cook at 225°F. Add your smoking wood (sassafras, of course) and smoke until the fillet hits 160°F internal and starts to flake – about 2 hours.

sassafrassmokedsalmon

Smoked salmon freezes nicely, so I smoked 2 fillets and Food-Savered off all but about 12-ounces for this salad.

The Dressing
1 large shallot, quartered
1 tablespoon brown or Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon of poppy seeds

Put the shallot and salt in a blender and pulse to mince the shallot. Add the vinegar and let sit for at least 5 minutes to sweeten the shallot. Add the mustard, honey, and vinegar. Blend to combine. With the blender running, pour in 2 or 3 drops of oil, then continue pouring the oil in a thin stream until all of the oil is emulsified into the vinaigrette. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in the poppy seeds, bottle, and stash in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

I served this as a make-your-own salad with mixed greens and an assortment of toppings.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
In the summer, I make a batch of this dressing up at least once a week. It’s the crack of the salad dressing world – rich, sweet, and tangy, and it goes together quickly, tastes good on a wide variety of salads, and doesn’t separate in the fridge. What’s not to love?

The salmon came out sweet and salty with a subtle root beer taste that worked really well with the Chesapeake Bay seasoning. Can’t wait to make up a batch of dip with the rest of the fillets.

The Nutrition:
It’s salmon and veggies – go easy on the dressing and you’ll be fine.

One year ago – Luxury Stainless Cooking Grid
Two years ago – The Perfect Margarita