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.

Ze Boeuf

“I’m making ze boeuf,” I announced Sunday afternoon, in my best Pepé Le Pew accent.

“Julia’s boeuf?!?” my dear wife asked excitedly.

“Oui!” I then marched off to the kitchen with a copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking under my arm to create my take on her famous boeuf bourguignon.

6 slices bacon, thick cut
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 lbs lean stewing beef (rump roast in this case), cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons flour (I used Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking Mix)
3 cups red wine (I used a full-bodied Big House Red)
2 -3 cups beef stock (Pacific Natural)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, mashed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms, sautéed in butter
1 cup fresh peas, shelled
6-8 new potatoes, peeled & quartered

Pre-heat your oven to 450°F.

On the stove top, heat a 9 to 10 inch flame-proof casserole (I christened my new All Clad 8-quart wide stockpot) over medium heat. Add the bacon and fry until it is just crisp. Remove the bacon and reserve for later. Add the olive oil to the bacon fat and increase the heat to medium-high.

Dry off the pieces of beef (I dabbed them with a paper towel) and sauté them, a few at a time in the hot oil/bacon fat until they are nicely browned on all sides. As they are done, move them off to a side plate.

When all the boeuf is browned, add the onion and the carrot and sauté until softened. While the veggies are cooking, slice the bacon strips into lardons (thick matchsticks). Pour off any excess fat and return the lardons and the beef to the casserole with the carrots and onion. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the flour. Toss to coast evenly.

Put the uncovered casserole in the oven for four minutes. Toss the contents of the casserole again and return to the hot oven for another 4 minutes.

Reduce the oven heat to 325°F and move the casserole to the stove top. Add the wine and enough stock so that the meat is just barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf.

Bring the uncovered dish to a simmer on stove top. Cover and move to the oven. Simmer for 2 hours, checking to see if the meat is tender. Continue cooking until you can easily pierce the meat with a fork.

When the meat is tender, remove the casserole from the oven and empty its contents into a colander set over a saucepan. Reserve the sauce. Wash out the casserole and return the beef, bacon, and veggies to it.

Add the potatoes and sautéed mushrooms to the casserole.

Skim the fat off the sauce and simmer it for a minute or two, skimming off any additional fat which rises to the surface. It should be thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. If not, bring to a boil and reduce to the desired consistency. You should end up with 2 1/2 to 3 cups of sauce.

Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.

Cover the casserole and simmer over medium heat until the potatoes start to soften (about 10 minutes). Add the peas, cover, and cook for another 5 minutes.  Serve steaming in hearty bowls.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I don’t even have words to describe how wonderful this was – rich, meaty, succulent, and complex. The veggies all held their shape and flavor. You could taste each individual ingredient and the many-layered sauce at the same time. Remarkable.

Steak Fajitas

As I write this it’s 4°F outside, so you know this is going to be a stove-top recipe.

I pretty much just plain stole this from Chris at Nibble Me This. It’s not an exact copy, but close enough. I really like how he uses the marinade as the base for a finishing sauce. It helps to bring all of the flavors together.

Steak Fajitas
1/4 cup oil
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup Mezcal (I keep a bottle of the cheap stuff with the worm in it right at the front of the liquor cabinet just to make our guests worry about my tastes)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 1/2 pound sirloin steak

3 bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 yellow onion, sliced into rings

Put the salt and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the oil, lime juice, Mezcal, soy sauce, and remaining spices and give them a whirl to combine. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the marinade for the finishing sauce. Put the steak in a large zip-top bag and cover with half of the marinade. Squeezed the air out of the bag, seal it, and toss it in the fridge to marinate.

Put the peppers and onion in another large zip-top bag and cover with the remaining marinade. Squeezed the air out of the bag, seal it, and toss it in the fridge next to the steak. Let everything marinate for about 2 hours.

Remove the steak from the marinade and pat dry. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add a couple swirls of oil oil and heat until the oil just starts to smoke. Put the steak in the pan and sear one side for 4 minutes. Flip and sear the other side for another 4 minutes. You want a nice char on the outside but the meat should still be pretty rare.

Remove the steak to a cutting board and let it rest while you cook the veggies.

Reduce the heat the medium and add the peppers, onion, and their remaining marinade to the pan. Cook until they start to soften (about 10 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat.

Slice the steak against the grain into thin strips.

Add the steak the the veggies and return to the stove. Cook until the meat done to your liking (I went another 5 minutes for medium rare).

Nibble Me This Fajita Finishing Sauce
2-3 Tbsp NMT Steak Fajita Marinade
1/2 cup sour cream

Mix the marinade into the sour cream. Serve fajitas on warm corn tortillas with a squeeze of lime and a drizzle of the finishing sauce.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
Excellent recipe! The marinade added some great spice to the dish and the finishing sauce did a nice job pulling everything together. My only issue is that I didn’t get the pan quite hot enough and didn’t get as nice of a sear on the meat and veggies. This is a dish that’s decidedly better on the grill.

Maybe if I won that Craycort Cast Iron Grate that Chris is giving away, or got one from Santa (hint, hint), I’d be willing to risk freezing my tukus off to make these on the Big Green Egg ;).

Beef Short Ribs

We get some really nice beef from my brother-in-law and you’ll see it featured a lot on this site. When we ordered up this last quarter of a beef from him, the butcher asked if I wanted the ribs. Of course I did. So when I started loading meat into the freezer, I expected to come across a big ol’ pack of dino-ribs.  Nope, just a half dozen little packs labeled “Ribs.”

Hmmmm… must be short ribs. Now I’ve eaten short ribs, but never cooked them before. I quizzed the fine folks at the Egghead Forum and Fearlesskitchen pointed me to his version of Adam Perry Lang’s short ribs. They looked so promising that I decided to use it as a starting point for my own version.

Mustard Rub
8 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Your favorite brisket rub (I went with Tasty Licks Black Bart’s Brisket Rub courtesy of Fred’s Music & BBQ Suppy)

Combine the mustard, Worcestershire, and vinegar. Moisten all sides of the ribs with the mustard mixture, then dust the ribs heavily with the rub. You can do this right before the cook, but I like to do it the night before to let the rub melt into the ribs.

Set your smoker up for at least a 6 hour indirect cook at 300°F. On the Big Green Egg this means 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. You are going to smoke the ribs first to give them that wonderful flavor and render out a lot of the fat, and then braise them in aluminum foil to make them tender.

Once the smoker is up to temp, toss in your smoking wood (I used pecan), and arrange the ribs bone side down on the grate. Close the lid and let the smoker do its magic for 4 to 5 hours, or until the ribs reach 160°F internal.

Wrapping Mixture
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon butter

This is for the braise. While the ribs are cooking, prepare the wrapping mixture. Start by pouring the beef broth into a small saucepan and bringing it to a boil. Let boil for about 10 minutes, or until the broth has reduced to about 1/2 cup. Reduce the heat to low and add the sugar, honey, Worcestershire, vinegar, and butter. Stir and cook just until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.

When the ribs are ready, lay down a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil in a 9×13 baking pan.  Add the ribs, meat side down, pour the wrapping mixture over them. Put another sheet of aluminum foil on top of the ribs and crimp to seal the two sheets together.

Put the pan full of ribs back on the smoker for an hour, or until the ribs reach 190°f internal. Remove the meat from the smoker, and allow to rest in foil for 15-30 minutes.

Serve drizzled with pan juices or your favorite barbecue sauce.

The Verdict: ★★★☆☆

These were some very tasty ribs – rich and peppery with plenty of smoke.  The Black Bart’s added a bit of background heat from the cayenne and a good bit of back pepper spiciness up front. This is a great beef rub.

The 3 stars are my fault. I ran short of time and didn’t leave the ribs on the smoker long enough and didn’t return them to the smoker after the braise like Lang suggests. As a result – I didn’t render out as much fat as I should have and didn’t cook the ribs long enough to make them really tender. They were good, but if I had done them right they should have just melted on the plate. Better luck next time.

Deck Warming – Prime Rib & Yorkshire Pudding

Time to break in our new deck with a little get-together. Nothing too big – just some good friends, good food, and good drinks outside on a lovely September evening.

We had planned an end-of-summer party with just a variety of appetizers, but a change in the weather called for something heartier.  So we went with a full-on prime rib dinner with all the trimmings.

Prime Rib
1 6-pound Hereford Beef boneless ribeye roast
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon celery salt

You’ll need a flame-proof roasting pan (I use an old 9×13 baking pan) with a rack. Set the grill up for a 3 hour indirect cook over medium heat (350°F). On the Big Green Egg this means using about half a fire box full of lump charcoal, an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat, and a trivet to set the roasting pan on.

Put the garlic and kosher salt in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the Worcestershire, oil, pepper, thyme, and celery salt and give them a whirl until everything is blended together.

Remove the rack from the roasting pan and lay the roast in it so that the deckle (fat cap) is on top. Score the deckle by making shallow diagonal cuts in a diamond pattern at about 1-inch intervals.

Wet the roast with the Worcestershire sauce mixture. Rub it all over, making sure to work it into the deckle.

Move the roast to the rack (still fat side up) and set the rack in the roasting pan. There will probably still be some of the Worcestershire sauce mixture left in the pan. That’s fine as it’ll just add to the flavor of the drippings.

Add about a cup of water to the pan to keep the juices from burning. Toss some smoking wood in for added flavor (I like grape vine trimmings for beef). Set the roasting pan on the trivet, close the lid, and cook until the internal temp of the roast hits 125°F, about 2 hours.

Remove the roast to a carving board. Let rest while you make the pudding. After the pudding is in the oven you can carve the roast so that they are ready at about the same time.

Yorkshire Pudding
2 cups flour (I used Pamela’s Ultimate Baking & Pancake Mix)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup beef drippings

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Pour off all but 1/4 cup of drippings from the roasting pan and put the pan in the oven for 5 minutes.

Put the flour, salt, eggs, and milk in a bowl and whisk together. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and pour the batter into it. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the pudding is puffed and golden brown.

Spoon the pudding out of the pan and into a serving bowl. Serve the pudding with the roast and a bit of grated horseradish on the side.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Scoring the deckle made it crisp up like a cross between burnt ends and pork rinds, while the rest of the roast stayed juicy and tender – lovely.  I went with a little heavier smoke than I usually use for prime rib, and the result was excellent. The tartness of the grape vine smoke went with the richness of the meat just like a good red wine would have (and did!). The Yorkshire pudding? How can anything involving beef drippings and batter be bad? It was indulgent – crispy on the outside and rich and soft on the inside. The whole meal was a hit. It was a memorable way to initiate our new deck.

Barbecue Beef

We got some great looking rump roasts with our last order of beef. I wanted to do a saucy falling-apart dish like my Italian Beef, but  with more of a smoky, barbecue base. So I decided to smoke the roasts first before braising them.

Barbecue Beef
2 boneless rump roasts (3-4 pounds each)
2-3 tablespoons barbecue rub (I used Dizzy Pig’s Cowlick)
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (12 ounce) bottle of beer
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (I used John Henry’s Honey Barbecue)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed

Dust the roasts heavily with the rub. Use your hands to work it into all the sides.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook for at least 4 hours at low (250°F) heat with a drip pan under the meat.  I set the Big Green Egg up with an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat, a trivet on the plate setter, and the roasts in a v-rack roasting pan on top of that. Pour the beer into the roaster pan.

Add some wood chunks for smoke (I used pecan) and smoke the roasts for about 3 hours, or until they reach 160°F internal temperature.

Remove the roasts to a large dutch oven. Deglaze the roaster with a little water to loosen up all the brown bits. Pour the pan sauce over the meat. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, barbecue sauce, and enough water to come half way up the roasts.

Put the lid on the dutch oven and move to the grill. Cook for an hour at 250°F. Remove the lid and flip the meat over in the dutch oven. Cook for another hour with the dutch oven lid off.

After an hour, check the roasts for doneness. They should be 200+°F internal and have started to fall apart. Remove the dutch oven from the grill. Cut or pull the meat apart into serving sizes. Serve as a main dish, or atop a crusty french roll as a sandwich. Top with additional barbecue sauce if desired.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
Very tender and a great, rich, smoky taste. Could use a more vinegary sauce. The meat stayed very moist, but I’d like to try it with a chuck roast that has more internal fat and will fall apart more.

BBQ 25 Steaks

Adam Perry Lang is a classically-trained chef-turned barbecue pit master. He’s got 2 books out now – BBQ 25: The World’s Most Flavorful Recipes-Now Made Fool-Proof, and his first book, Serious Barbecue: Smoke, Char, Baste, and Brush Your Way to Great Outdoor Cooking.

While Serious is a considerable tome, BBQ 25 is described as a “BBQ survival guide”. It’s the top 25 barbecue (and by barbecue, Lang means grilling and well as smoking) recipes laid out in a slick, simple, visual manner. All of the recipes involve layering flavors – brines, marinades, mops, bastes, and sauces all come into play. There’s a lot of butter and oil involved too, but it’s mostly as a vehicle for moving the flavors around and getting them to work together.

Since I just happened to have a couple of nice t-bones waiting to hit the grill, I decided to start with the first recipe in the book for marbled steaks under an inch thick.

Marinade
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 teaspoons chile powder
2 tablespoons grated or finely chopped sweet white onion
2 tablespoons grated or finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup cold water
1 bunch fresh thyme

Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a zip-top bag. Mix to combine. Add the steaks and turn to cover. Seal and stash in the fridge for at least 3 hours, but overnight is best.

Baste
Combine in a foil pan or heatproof pan and warm on the side of the grill:
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
5 crushed garlic cloves
4 tablespoons finely chopped savory herbs such as rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano and/or sage

The Cook
Set your grill up for a direct cook over high (600°F+) heat. While the grill is heating up, remove the steaks from the marinade. “Glisten (Lang’s term)” them with oil and just a little kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper.

Put the steaks on for 90 seconds of undisturbed searing. Flip them, brush the top with the herb baste,  and let them go another 90 seconds. Flip them again, baste, and start checking for doneness.  I was looking for a nice medium-rare – 130°F with a hint of red and the center. It took one last flip and another 30 seconds a side to get there.

Put the steaks on a warm plate, baste them one last time, cover them gently with another plate, and let them rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

The t-bones ended up being totally luscious – rich and tender and wonderfully seasoned. I don’t usually use the word “floral” in connection with meat in a good way, but you could really taste/smell the herbs as a nice top note that complimented the meat. Lang recommends rubbing a little beef base into the steaks right before putting them on the grill, which I didn’t do.  But would definitely use it or a little Worcestershire next time to “ground” the steaks a little more.  Otherwise – this one one of the best steaks I’ve ever had.

Meat on a Stick

Kabobs have got to be one of my favorite summer foods – easy to make, quick to grill, and damn tasty to boot. This time I did a batch of Korean bulgogi and some spicy chicken thighs. I served them up with my take on Alton Brown’s Asian Slaw.

Step 1 – Get Everything Marinating

Bulgogi

1 1/2 pounds ribeye steak
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
1 green onion (white and green parts)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Slice the steaks across the grain into thin slices. This works better if the steaks are still a little frozen.

Put the sugar, garlic, and ginger in a food processor and pulse until the garlic and ginger are minced. Add the remaining ingredients, except the steak, and give them a whirl until everything is well-combined.

Put the steak in a zip-top bag and cover with the marinade.  Toss to coat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it, and put it in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, overnight is better.

Spicy Tamarind Chicken Thighs

10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 cup tamarind concentrate (ready-to-use, not paste)
1/4 cup Sriracha (a.k.a. Rooster) sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Put the salt and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the remaining ingredients, except the chicken, and give them a whirl until everything is well-combined.

Put the chicken in a zip-top bag and cover with the marinade.  Toss to coat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it, and put it in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, overnight is better.

Step 2 – Assemble the Slaw

You can make this a day in advance to let the flavors blend.

8 ounces rice noodles, cooked according to the directions on the package, then drained and cooled
1 1-inch piece ginger
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce (nuoc nam)
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 head cabbage
1 red bell pepper
1 small cucumber
3 green onions, cut on the bias, all of white part and half of the green
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
2 tablespoons mint, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Set a box grater in a large bowl. Using the fine holes of grater, grate the ginger. Switch to the coarse side and grate the cucumber. Switch to the slicer side and grate the pepper and cabbage. Remove the grater. Add the noodles, green onions, cilantro, mint, red pepper, and black pepper to the bowl and give everything a stir to combine.

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, oil, and peanut butter. Pour dressing over the ingredients in the large bowl, then stir to combine.  Refrigerate the slaw until you are ready to serve it.

Step 3 – The Cook

You’ll need 8 to 10 bamboo skewers. Soak them in water for at least an hour.

Set the grill up for a direct cook over very hot (500°F +) heat.

Remove the meat from their respective marinades and thread onto skewers.  Grill chicken about 6 minutes per side. Grill the beef for about 3 minutes per side. In both cases you’re looking for some crispy bits on the outside without overcooking the meat.

Serve meat, slaw and some perfectly ripe sweet corn for an amazing summer treat!

Italian Beef

This is one of those dishes that’s so good I could make it once a week for the rest of my days and never get tired of it.

The Ingredients

1 (3-5 pound) chuck roast
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large onion, chopped
1 (7 ounce) jar roasted sweet red peppers
1 (16 ounce) jar mild pepperoncini peppers
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup red wine, beef stock, or beer
1/2 cup water

The Cook

Preheat oven to 300°F.

In a small bowl, combine garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, basil, black pepper, and salt. Rub spice mixture into the roast.

Heat a 4-6 quart dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the roast and sear on all sides (about 4 minutes a side).  Remove from heat and add the both the jarred peppers, onion, garlic, wine, and water. Put the lid on the pot and move it to the oven.

Cook for 3 to 4 hours, until the meat is falling apart tender. Use a slotted spoon to remove the roast and veggies to serving dish and keep warm.  Let the remaining  juices in the pot settle for about 5 minutes and then skim the fat off with a big spoon.  Bring the juices to a simmer and then pour over the roast.

Serve as a main dish, or atop a crusty french roll.