Tri-tip Steak Salad

This meal was the perfect storm – I had just finished reading Ruhlman’s Twenty, my new High-Que stainless grill grate had just arrived, and my dear wife wanted a salad for dinner.

Stand back, I’ve got this covered…

The Meat
1 tri-tip roast
3-4 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the salt, garlic, and pepper in a small bowl and rub it into all sides of the roast. Go heavy, you want a nice, salty crust on the roast.

Let the roast sit at room temperature while you set up the grill for a direct cook over high (700°F+) temperature. Once the grill is ready, insert your cooking grate and let it sit for 15 minutes to make sure it is nice and hot.

Put the roast on the grate and sear for a minute on each side (tri-tips are typically thick enough that there are 3 sides), then cut the heat to 550°F by closing the draft vents and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes on each side until it reaches 130°F internal.

Remove from the grill, let rest for 10 minutes before slicing across the grain into thin slices.

Lemon-Pepper Vinaigrette, Caesar variation adapted from Ruhlman’s Twenty
6 tablespoons lemon juice
2 large egg yolks
4 large garlic clove, smashed with the flat side of a knife
2 anchovies, or 1 teaspoon of anchovy paste, or 1 to 2 teaspoons of Thai fish sauce
1 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds romaine lettuce, chopped
1 dozen cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese, in vinaigrette
Assorted herb snippings (whatever your wife brings you – fennel and chives, in this case)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, for topping
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

While the roast is resting, make the vinaigrette and assemble the salad.

Put the garlic and salt in a blender and pulse to mince the garlic. Add the lemon juice, egg yolks, tarragon, 1 tablespoon of the cheese, and anchovies. Blend to combine. With the blender running, pour in 2 or 3 drops of the oil, then continue pouring the oil in a thin stream until all the oil is emulsified into the vinaigrette. Taste and season with pepper and more salt if needed.

Toss the lettuce, tomatoes, and herbs together in a bowl.

Assemble the plate with a layer of salad, a drizzle of vinaigrette, some Parmigiano-Reggiano, and top with slices of tri-tip.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Grilled meat and a fresh salad – I can see some version of this showing up on our dinner table a lot this summer. The tri-tip was very tasty with a charred, salty crust and a juicy medium-rare interior. Ruhlman’s dressing recipe makes a very light, lemony caesar that paired perfectly with the rich, meaty tri-tip.

The Nutrition:
6-ounces of tri-tip is 9 Weight Watchers points and 390 calories. The salad is free, so go light on the vinaigrette and it’s a decent meal.

ONE YEAR AGO – The Perfect Margarita

TWO YEARS AGO – Spicy Mango Shrimp


Spring Slow-Roasted Steaks

I don’t want to jinx anything, but our spring has been phenomenal so far. A steady string of 70+°F days has woken up our flowers and allowed me to get in lots of grilling time. Considering that the same time last year it was 18°F, with 4-foot drifts, and our driveway slowing shrinking to a car-sized tunnel, I am one happy grillmeister!

To celebrate the arrival of ‘sitting outside’ weather, I decided to do up a couple of monster ribeyes. My dear wife also wanted some onions and mushrooms, so I tried a technique I use a lot with chicken and slow-roasted the steaks over the pan of veggies.

I set the Big Green Egg up for an indirect cook at 350°F, using a trivet to help diffuse the heat, and just a little bit of pecan for smoke.

I trimmed the asparagus and started it marinating in one glug of olive oil, 2 glugs of balsamic vinegar, a squirt of dark mustard, and a dash of kosher salt. I filled a foil pan with mushrooms, onions, a shot of olive oil, and a couple of frozen cubes of beef stock. The pan went on the trivet, the grate went over the pan, and the steaks (seasoned with just a few grinds of black pepper and sea salt) went on top of that.

I closed the whole thing up and let all the goodies roast for 20 minutes. I flipped the steak, gave the mushrooms and onions a shake, and put them back on for another 20 minutes more. By now the largest ribeye was at 130°F internal and  the mushroom and onions were  nicely soft and caramelized.

I laid the steaks on top of the veggies and moved the entire pan to a warm oven to rest.

I removed the trivet, and with the lid open grilled the asparagus for about 5 minutes, turning frequently, until the spears started to get tender and pick up a bit of char.

While it was warm enough to dine outside, it’s still only late March and we lost the sun just before the steaks were done, so we moved the party indoors.

The Verdict: ★★★★½
This may very well be my new favorite way to do big steaks. While the steaks didn’t have any sear to them, they were butter knife tender. The longer cooking time let the steaks pick up more of the wood smoke than they usually do. I wouldn’t want any more smoke on the meat, but it provided a nice, hot, note on the back of the your tongue. I would probably switch to a little lighter wood next time, or a little less of it.

The mushrooms and onions were outstanding – very intense with a  rich, (slightly) beefy taste.

My only big mistake on this cook was putting the steaks back on top the mushrooms and onions – the residual heat pushed the meat past medium-rare to just shy of medium-well. Still, I am surprised and how tender and juicy the steaks were even when a little over-cooked.

The Nutrition
Ribeye is 2.1 points per ounce, so we made those monster steaks cover 4 meals. A serving of the asparagus and the mushroom and onions are probably a point a piece just from the oil and those lovely beef drippings. Watch the size of your glugs to keep them healthy.

ONE YEAR AGO –  What Eggs are Supposed to Look Like

TWO YEARS AGO – Simple Carnitas


Surf & Turf

Steak and shrimp is one of my favorite meals – simple and classic in a supper-clubby kind of way. There’s very little prep involved and everything cooks fast on a hot grill, so just throw in an obligatory salad or baked potato and you’ve got a really nice dinner cheap and fast.

Spicy Asian Shrimp
I’m working on a base sauce for Kung Pao recipes, and these fiery shrimp are part of that experiment.

1 pound raw large shrimp, pealed and deveined
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon chili paste with garlic
1 tablespoon black bean chili sauce
1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
4 bamboo skewers

Soak the skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. While the skewers are soaking, combine the salt and peppercorns in a food processor and give them a whirl until the peppercorns break apart and combine with the salt. Add the chili paste, black bean sauce, Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, and wine. Pulse to combine.

Put the shrimp in a resealable bag and pour in the marinade. Toss to coat, then squeeze the air out, seal, and stash in the fridge while you get the grill set up.

Set your grill up for direct cook at a roaring 700°+F.  While the grill is heating up, season  the steak. For this nice, thick ribeye I used just a little kosher salt and some fresh-ground black pepper. Now is also the time to thread the shrimp onto the skewers.

When the charcoal looks like a pool of lava, toss the steak on for 90 seconds of undisturbed searing. Flip it, and let it go another 90 seconds on other other side. Flip again and check the internal temperature. I was looking for a nice medium-rare – 130°F with a hint of red at the center. It only took another 30 seconds a side to get there.

If the steak is looking good and you are getting close to your desired degree of doneness, flip the steak one more time and check again. If the steak is getting too blackened, but isn’t done yet, pull the steak from the grill while you reduce the heat (on the Big Green Egg I just shut the lower vent down). When the heat has dropped into the 500°F range, return the steak for another minute or so a side and check again.

Move the steak to a warm plate, cover with another plate, and let it rest while you grill the shrimp.

Cook the shrimp for about 2 minutes a side – just until they start to curl up and turn pink.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
The ribeye was perfect with a nice char on the outside and a tender, medium-rare interior.  The shrimp really stole the show – sweet and spicy with a great depth of flavor. Black bean sauce can be tough to find, but it’s what makes the dish. I had to turn to Amazon to find a gluten-free version, but you can find jars of the non-GF at your friendly, local Asian market.

The Nutrition
The ribeye is 2 Weight Watcher’s points per ounce. The shrimp are only 1/2 a point per ounce. We split the steak and had about 6 shrimp a piece. Add a small salad and the whole meal was only about 12 points.

ONE YEAR AGO – The Best French Onion Soup

TWO YEARS AGO – Pork in Adobo


Beef Short Ribs

This is my second attempt at beef short ribs. The last batch was tasty, but not as falling-apart tender as I would have liked. This time I wanted the great smoky flavor, but I also wanted to move more in the direction of classic Italian braised short ribs – less barbecue and more red wine.

Thankfully, She Cooks He Cleans has a great braised short rib recipe that I thought would adapt nicely for the Big Green Egg.

4 beef short ribs
1-2 tablespoons Dizzy Pig Cow Lick Rub
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2-3 sprigs of rosemary
2 cups red wine
2-4 cups water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cups beef stock

I seasoned the ribs with the rub and then set the grill up for an indirect cook at 350°F, using the plate setter to diffuse the heat and a little apple wood for smoke.

When the Egg was up to temp, I put a trivet on the plate setter, set a disposable foil pan filled with the wine and 2 cups of water on the trivet, then put the grate on top of the pan and arranged the ribs on top of that.

I smoked the ribs for two hours, then removed the grate and moved the ribs into the drip pan. I added more water until the ribs were halfway covered and let them braise in the pan for an hour.

I then moved the ribs out of the drip pan and back onto the grate over the pan and smoked them for another hour.

By now the meat was starting to fall off the bone but the meat itself wasn’t very tender. Flummoxed, I took the ribs off the grill and moved the cooking inside.

I took the meat off the bones and removed any obvious connective tissue and then put the rib meat into a Dutch oven along with the de-fatted liquid from the drip pan, the balsamic vinegar, and the beef stock. I brought the works to a boil on  the stove top, then reduced it to a simmer, put the lid on, and braised the meat for yet another hour.

I served the ribs with some of the remaining pan sauce ladled over top.

The Verdict: ★★★½☆ Not sure what I’m doing wrong here. The ribs had great beefy/smoky taste, but were still pretty tough and dry. When we get these at our favorite Italian restaurant, they start falling apart if you look at them too hard.

I’ve got one more pack of these left in the freezer, so I’d sure take suggestions on how to do the next batch. Thanks!

The Nutrition: 3 ounces is 11 Weight Watchers points, so they had better be damn tasty. These weren’t worth the calories.

One Year Ago – Shrimp Jambalaya
Two Years Ago – Spicy Orange Wings


New Year’s Prime Rib

Prime rib has become a New Year’s Eve tradition at our house. So much so that I started craving it a good two weeks ago. While researching recipes, I ran across Michael Ruhlman’s grill/roast method. It involves searing the roast on the grill, letting it rest, and then finishing it in the oven.


We had plans to go see a comedy show with friends, so the goal was to have all the prepping and searing done in advance and quickly finish it when we got home.

Prime Rib
1 6-pound Hereford Beef boneless ribeye roast
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dried rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons dried thyme or oregano
2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon paprika

Prepping the roast started on New Year’s Eve eve. First I scored the fat cap (deckle) on the roast, making shallow diagonal cuts in a diamond pattern at about 1-inch intervals. Then I combined the salt and spices to make a rub inspired by Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow Crust from AmazingRibs. I put the roast into a jelly roll pan and start working the rub into the meat, making sure to get it into the slashes in the deckle – sprinkling, rubbing, rolling, and repeating to coat all the sides. Working over a 6-pound hunk of meat is not the time to be shy. I picked up any rub that had fallen off by bouncing the roast against it, making manly grunting sounds as needed ;).

When the roast was heavily crusted with rub, I moved it to a rack set over a roasting pan, and then moved the whole works to the fridge, letting the roast sit uncovered overnight.

On New Year’s Eve afternoon, I removed the roast from the fridge and let it sit out while I fired the Big Green Egg up to nuclear temps – 800°F on the dome thermometer, meaning the grate was probably about 1000°F.

I took the roast off the rack and seared it on the grate for 2 minutes on each side (considering this was a $50 piece of meat, those were some of the longest 4 minutes of my life). I removed the roast to the rack and closed the vents on the BGE to reduce the heat to 500°F. I put the roast back on the grate for another 2 more minutes on each side.

I moved the roast back to the rack and inserted a Maverick remote thermometer. While the outside was wonderfully crispy, the internal temp was only 42°F (about air temp). I stashed the roast in the garage with a disposable drip pan as a cover and went inside to get ready for our guests.

By the time we were ready to leave for the show, the internal temp had risen to 75°F. When we returned it had dropped to 60°F.

I let the oven heat to 300°F, added about a cup of water to the roasting pan to keep the juices from burning, and put the roast on the middle rack of the oven to finishing cooking.

“Wait a minute – you let a beef roast sit naked in the fridge overnight, seared it so it was still raw inside, then let is sit for 4 hours in a garage, and you still plan to serve this to guests?!? Don’t you like them? How can that be safe?”

I hear you, but it’s perfectly okay. While I wouldn’t do this with ground meat, the inside of a roast is largely a sterile environment. Any nasties that get on the meat in the fridge are not going to grow because of the cold and the salt in the rub. Searing kills anything on the meat, and 4 hours in a unheated garage in a northern climate is pretty much the same as storing it for that long in the fridge. Yes, the internal temp is 75°F, but there’s no way for anything to contaminate the inside, and finishing it in the oven again kills off anything on the outside that might give you the gleep.

It took 2 1/2 very long hours for the roast to hit 125°F internal  (good thing for appetizers, wine and great conversation!). I removed it from the rack and let it rest, covered, on a cutting board for 20 minutes while I made the Yorkshire pudding.

The Verdict: ★★★★½ While it was midnight before the meal hit the table, our hungry (and extremely patient) friends said that it was well worth the wait. I gotta agree – the crust was thick and tasty with lots of salt and herbs while the inside was an almost perfect rosy rare.

But while the food was a hit, the timing was amiss. The show ran longer than we expected and that not only meant that the roast was late getting in the oven, but that it took longer to cook because its internal temp had dropped. Prime rib does taste wonderful with champagne, but I don’t think dining at midnight is going to become a tradition around here.

The Nutrition: Meals like this are the reason people make resolutions. Make it a great new year!

One Fire – Many Meals

No recipes this time, just some thoughts on making the most of what’s left of our fleeting daylight and fall grilling weather.

I got inspired to rethink how I plan meals on the Big Green Egg after reading the Kingsford U: Grill Once Eat Twice post over at Nibble Me This. Chris makes the point that it takes the same amount of time and fuel to to cook two chickens as it does to cook one chicken, and you end up with more tasty grilled chicken for future meals.

Even though I’m usually just cooking for the two of us, I put this idea into practice by typically doubling or tripling most recipes on the grill. The extras end up in my lunch, or as dinner later in the week, or they get frozen off  for those nights when nobody wants to cook.

Now I’ve started working on a variation of this that I call one fire – many meals. The idea is that once you’ve gone to the effort to get the grill set up, you might as well try and pass as much food over that flame as you can.

For instance – the other night I made steak for dinner. While I was getting the BGE fired up, my dear wife said that there were also a couple of packages of chicken tenders in the fridge that she would like cooked up for salads and snacks. She had planned on baking them, but they would be ever so much better grilled, wouldn’t they?

Fire = good so, of course, they would taste better. My only question was how to go about cooking the steaks hot and fast and then modifying the heat so that the tenders would get a little char on them, but not get overcooked and dried out.

I pondered this while I prepped the steak with some fresh-ground sea salt and black pepper. I had the tenders laid out in a 9×13 pan and was hitting them with a little Dizzy Pig Swamp Venom when an idea clicked – I could leave the heat alone after the steak was done and resting and then cook the tenders quickly over the roaring flame and move then off to a baste á la  Adam Perry Lang, cut the heat, and let them finish there.

Not bad, but wouldn’t the heat move too fast through a metal pan and just scorch the tenders?  Probably. Hmmm, how about a Dutch oven? Yeah that’d work. Or, even better, use the tagine. Genius!

I poured a couple of glugs of olive oil into the base of the tagine and then added about 4 cloves of crushed garlic and about a teaspoon each lemon zest, thyme, and sage.

With the BGE running at about 650°F, I put the steak on for 2 minutes a side and then moved it off to a warm plate, covered it with another plate, and let it rest while I cooked the chicken.

The tenders went on in batches. With the heat this high, by the time I finished putting the last row of tenders on the grate the first row was ready to be flipped. Once they had some nice grill marks on each side (but where still pretty raw on the inside) I moved them off the heat to the tagine, making sure to toss them a bit in the oil.

When all the tenders were in the tagine, I swirled another glug of olive oil over the top, put the lid on, and moved the tagine to the grill.  I closed the lid on the BGE, shut the bottom vent down to reduce the heat, and went inside for a lovely steak dinner.

When I checked on them 30 minutes later, the tenders were done and basting in their own juices. I moved everything inside, removed the lid, and let them cool before packaging.

Cooking this way does take a bit more time and fuel, but not much more effort. You’re essentially letting your downtime and residual heat work for you. For this cook I spent maybe an extra ten minutes packaging off the tenders, but we ended up with a steak dinner, a dinner of tenders and veggies the next night, chicken salad lunches for a couple of days, and about a dozen tenders frozen off for chicken stew the next week.

Not bad for a little extra work.

Simple Steaks

No recipe here – just some quick and easy steaks on the grill as a treat after a day of cleaning out the garage.

I set the Big Green Egg up for a direct cook at high (500°F+) temp, seasoned the ribeyes on both sides with some Dizzy Pig Raising The Steaks seasoning, and slapped them on the grill for about 2 minutes a side.

I almost never order steak when we eat out anymore. Even with minimal prep and seasoning like this, I can consistently turn out better steaks in the Egg than I can get in most restaurants.

Blackened Redemption

I’ve been trying all summer to make a decent blackened steak. So far none of the steaks have been complete disasters (although the butter fire was pretty impressive), but they just weren’t that perfect combination of tasty charred crust and warm, juicy center that I’ve been dreaming of.

So when my dear wife brought home this absolute beast of a ribeye, I knew I had the perfect candidate for my next blackening attempt – solid, compact, well over a pound, and damn near 1 3/4 inches thick. It was a steak that almost demanded to be blackened.

I melted a couple of tablespoons on butter on a dinner plate and rolled this bad boy in it to coat all sides. I then liberally dusted the steak with fresh ground back pepper and ground sea salt. I let the steak sit at room temp while I fired up the grill.

I set the Big Green Egg up for a direct cook at a sub-nuclear temp (600°F). When the temp had stabilized I put my Bayou Classic cast iron griddle directly on the grate and let it heat up for about 15 minutes.

I carefully put the steak on the griddle and let the sizzling begin. I let it go for 2 minutes, then flipped it over and went another 2 minutes. I flipped it again and kept flipping the steak about once a minute until I could feel the meat start to firm up a little under the pressure of the tongs.

A quick check with my Thermapen showed 115°F. I wanted it to end up at a nice, pink medium-rare. With a steak this big I knew there would be a lot of carry-over heat, so only needed to hit 120°F internal. I gave it one more minute on the griddle and then set it off to a plate to rest for 15 minutes.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
My dear wife took one bite and said, “This is the best steak you’ve ever made.”

We have a winner!

In fact, I don’t have enough stars for this one. I’ve made lots of tasty steaks in my life, but this one was perfectly done. There was almost no ring of gray, over-done meat at all –  just a thick, tasty char surrounding a tender medium-rare steak. I was planning on serving it with a little bleu cheese sauce, but it was so good we had it eaten before I remembered the sauce.

Not so Black, Plenty of Bleu, Redux

My dear wife is back! Whew, it was getting close there. Almost ran out of salami, Doritos, and clean underwear ;).

To celebrate, I re-made the Black ‘n’ Bleu steak we had right before she left. Only this time I switched to bottom round sirloin steaks and skipped the cast iron griddle.

I set the BGE up for a direct cook at about 650°F. After coating the steaks with olive oil, I seasoned them with a little fresh-ground black pepper and sea salt, and tossed them on the grate.

These were nice, thick steaks, so I ended up going about 3 minutes a side to get medium rare.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆

Getting better – the blue cheese topping is still a winner, and the steaks were closer to being done to my liking, but I missed the heavy char. I also prefer the firmer structure of the strip steak to the grainier bottom sirloin. Just going to have to try again, damn ;).

Badly Bungled Black ‘n’ Bleu Bon Voyage

My dear wife is gone on a vacation with her mother, so the cats and I are baching it. When I asked her what she wanted for her last meal on the Egg before she left, she said she had a craving for a big ol’ steak topped with bleu cheese.

I decided to try a black ‘n’ bleu version using a nice pair of a dry-aged New York strips and my cast iron griddle. The black is the nicely charred black pepper crust and the bleu is the simple bleu cheese sauce on top.

2 – 8 to 10-ounce New York strip steaks
Olive oil
Freshly-ground black peppercorns
Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons bleu cheese crumbles
1 tablespoon heavy cream

I drizzle both sides of the the steaks with olive oil and then seasoned them with a few grinds of salt and pepper. I let the steaks sit out at room temperature while I got the grill fired up and made the sauce.

I set the Big Green Egg up for a direct cook at nuclear temps (700+°F). When the grill was roaring like a dragon, I put the griddle directly on the grate and let it heat up for about 15 minutes.

I made the cheese sauce by working the cream into the crumbled cheese with a  fork until everything is combined, but still a little chunky. I stuck it in the fridge to set up a little.

Been wondering where the bungled part comes in? See that harmless looking griddle? I tossed the steaks on there for what was supposed to be 3 minutes per side.

Let’s just say that there was much smoking and sizzling. So much so that I flipped the steaks early at 2 minutes. Whoa – that’s some serious char.  By the time I got my Thermapen out of the drawer and checked the temp they were both at 135°F internal and headed into that dreaded grey zone called “well done.”

Hoping against hope, I pulled the steaks off and let them rest for 10 minutes. Then topped them each with a scoop of the bleu cheese sauce and served them with a salad, baked potato, and sauteed mushrooms.

The Verdict: ★★★☆☆
I feared the steaks were ruined, but they ended up tasting great – the black pepper offset the bleu cheese in a way that made the steaks rich, but not over the top. The char was perfect and the steaks were still a bit juicy, but they were badly over-cooked.

Luckily my dear wife is very forgiving and enjoyed her meal. I’ll try these again, but next time I’ll dial down the heat to the 500°F range and flip them once a minute, checking the temp more often.

She’s back in 10 days, maybe she’ll send home fresh salmon, and we’ll have surf and turf!

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