Fajitas

Fajitas are a great, simple dish for summer. You’ve got your smokey meat, tender veggies, spicy chiles, and all without having to fire up the stove – what’s not to love? I used sirloin steak for this recipe, but it’s also excellent with flank steak, skirt steak, tri-tip, or cena.

The Ingredients

2-3 pounds sirloin steak
3 bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 large onion, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced into strips
Juice of 1 lime, about 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano

The Cook

Create a marinade by whisking together the lime juice, oil, chili, soy sauce, garlic, salt and oregano in a small bowl. Place 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, onion, and zucchini 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.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over high (500°F+) heat.

Remove the steak from the marinade and grill for 4-5 minutes per side. We’re looking for medium rare with a nice char on the outside.

Remove the steak and set aside to rest. Put the veggies in a grill pan or veggie basket and grill until they are soft and just a little browned, about 5-10 minutes.

Remove the veggies from the grill and arrange on a serving platter.

Slice the steak into thin strips, cutting against the grain.  Arrange the strips on top of the veggies and give the whole thing a big squeeze of lime before serving.

Recipe Revamp – Grilled Swiss Steak

The is the first in a series of posts where I take a good recipe and tweak it (usually with the addition of smoke and fire) to try to make it a great recipe.

Here’s my original take on this recipe from February of last year – a rich and hearty braised dish that I make on a regular basis when it’s cold and nasty out. While this is a fine dish, it takes some time to prepare so it’s hard to make on a weeknight. I wanted to make a lighter, quicker version that could be done on the grill.

Ingredients

2 pounds minute steak (about 4 steaks)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 (8.5 ounce) can sliced mushrooms
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Smoked Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Directions

Set your grill up for a direct cook over medium-high (400°F) heat.

In a flame-proof skillet (I use an old Calphalon Commercial pan), add enough of the oil to cover the bottom and set it on the grill. Add the garlic and onion and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, paprika, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine and cook until the tomatoes start to break down and the liquid has reduced a bit, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Remove the pan from the grill and set aside.

Season the steaks on both sides with a little salt and pepper. Grill for about 2 minutes a side until done. Serve the steaks smothered with the tomato and mushroom mixture.

Revamp Verdict: ★★☆☆☆

Sadly, this dish wasn’t nearly as good as the original. I’d almost call it Grilled Swiss Misteak. Now, there were no complaints – it was tasty, and a perfectly fine meal for a Wednesday night. But in comparison to the slow-cooked original, there was no contest. It missed the melting texture of the meat and the richness of the sauce that only braising can give. Oh well, there’s always the consolation of being able to eat your failures. Better luck next time.

Steak and Shrimp

The Steaks

I seasoned the t-bones up with a little olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh-ground black pepper, then set the Big Green Egg up for a direct cook at 700+°F.  When everything was good and hot, I tossed the steaks 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.

The folks who were over for dinner liked their steaks a little more medium than rare, so I flipped the steaks again and checked the internal temp. When it hit 135°F internal (about another 30 seconds), I pulled them off the grill and onto a warm plate and covered it with another plate, and let them rest while I grilled the shrimp.

The Shrimp

These are (pretty much) Mark Bittman’s Spicy Grilled Shrimp via AZRP on the EGGhead Forum. They’ve got a great flavor to them and make excellent appetizers as well. I made up the marinade in advance and poured it over the shrimp right before I put the steaks on.

1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil

I put the salt and garlic in a food processor and pulsed until the garlic was minced. I added the remaining ingredients, except the shrimp, and gave them a whirl until everything was  well-combined.

I put the shrimp in a zip-top bag, covered them with the marinade, then squeezed the air out of the bag and sealed it. I put the bag in the fridge and let them marinate for about 10 minutes – don’t let them go for much more than this as the marinade will start to cook the shrimp.

I grilled them direct at 500°F or so for about 2 minutes a side – just until the shrimp started to curl up and turn pink.

Talk about my carnivorous habits – the only veggie on the plate was a lonely sweet potato, and it was just there to keep the pat of butter warm.

Tri-tip Roast

Beef tri-tip is one of my favorite roasts. It’s inexpensive, and because it comes from the bottom of the sirloin, it’s got great beefy flavor while still being lean and tender. I usually just season it with salt, pepper, and a little garlic; but this time I wanted to spice things up and go with a West Indian theme.

Pickapeppa Tri-tip

1/2 cup Classic Pickapeppa Sauce
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Habanero-based hot sauce (I used Marie Sharp’s)

Combine all of the ingredients, except the beef, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Put the beef in a Ziploc bag and cover with the marinade. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.

Set the grill up for an indirect cook over medium-high heat (about 400°F). This cut is so lean that you really don’t want to cook it much beyond medium-rare. Cook the roast for 30 minutes. Flip, and continue to cook until the internal temperature hits 125°F, about another 20 minutes.

Remove the roast to a carving board and tent loosely with foil. Let rest 10 minutes. Slice across the grain and serve with more Pickapeppa sauce on the side.

Spring Sirloin & Asparagus

Spring here means that asparagus makes an appearance on the dinner plate about as often as I can get it. Here I paired it with a simple sirloin and a baked potato for the perfect Sunday dinner.

The Cook

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 fired up the Big Green Egg and set it up for a hot (600°F+) direct cook.

This dry-aged sirloin just needed a light coating of olive oil and a bit of kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper and it was ready for the grill.

I grilled it over the hottest part of the grill for 90 seconds of undisturbed searing. I rotated it 90 degrees and gave it another 30 seconds. I flipped the meat and repeated the process on the other side.

I shoot for medium-rare with steak. So after I flipped the steak I checked the internal temp. When it hit 125°F internal (about another 30 seconds), I pulled it off the grill and onto a warm plate and covered it with another plate, and let it rest while I grilled the asparagus.

I left the lid open and grilled the asparagus for about 5 minutes, turning frequently, until the spears started to brown and caramelize.

It was still a little too cold to dine al fresco, but Spring’s longer days meant I could actually see what I was grilling ;).

Tacos Cecina de Res con Crema de Ají

Great minds think alike.

I had just finished reading Andrea Lynn’s post about her Search for the Green Peruvian Aji Sauce Recipe, when my dear wife called from the mercado and asked if I needed anything.

“Well, honey, I do need a few things…”


Crema de Ají (aka Crack Sauce)

1 fresh jalapeño, seeded, deveined, and sliced
1 tablespoon aji amarillo paste
10 sprigs cilantro leaves and stems
2 tablespoons grated cotija cheese
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Put the salt and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the mayonnaise, and process until a smooth paste forms. Add the mayonnaise and mix to combine. Makes about 1 cup.

Tacos Cecina de Res

Cecina de res is a very thin-sliced beef that’s been seasoned with salt and oil.

Heat a large fry pan medium-high heat. Cut the meat into into tortilla-length strips that will fit flat in the pan. Working 1 or 2 pieces at a time, lay the strips on the hot pan for about  30 seconds, flip and go another 30 seconds on the other side.  Remove to a warm holding plate.

We served the tortillas topped with cecina and a shmear of  crema de aji. The great beef taste of the cecina really befitted from the green heat and tang of the sauce.


Early Valentine’s Day – Steak & Crab

Arlo & Janis

We’re going to be busy getting ready for a trip next week, so we took advantage of a deal on crab legs and had an early Valentine’s Day dinner.

About an hour out, my dear wife set the oven at 350°F and put the foil-wrapped potatoes in to bake. I took the steaks out of the fridge and set the Big Green Egg up for a direct cook at nuclear temperature – 700°F plus.

I seasoned the steaks on both sides with a generous amount of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. When the grill was ready, I put the crab in the oven and the steaks on the grate over the hottest part of the fire.  I closed the lid and gave them a good 90 seconds of undisturbed searing. Then I flipped them, closed the lid and gave them another 90 seconds.

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These New York strips were so thick that I flipped the steaks up onto one edge, closed the lid, and let them go for another 90 seconds. Then flipped them onto their other edge and did the same thing.

I like steak medium-rare, which is just about exactly what these were when I pulled them off and put them on a warm plate and covered them with another plate, and let them rest for 15 minutes while the crab finished cooking and I grilled the romaine.

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Just about a minute on each side with the lid open to give them a little char, then rough chopped with some tomatoes and into the salad.

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Steak, crab, baked potato, and salad with home-made Caesar dressing.

Life is good!

Prime Rib & Yorkshire Pudding

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Christmas Day this year meant shoveling a path out the side door and putting this fine rib roast on the Big Green Egg. This is an adaptation of Dr. BBQ’s simple and tasty Christmas Prime Rib recipe. This is also my first attempt at Yorkshire pudding. I told my dear wife that I just didn’t understand a savory pudding, she said, “You will after the first bite.”

Prime Rib

One 6 pound Hereford Beef boneless ribeye roast
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon steak seasoning (I used Penzeys English Prime Rib Rub)
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper

Set your 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 pan on.

Wet the roast with the Worcestershire sauce, rubbing it all over. This adds nice flavor and color and gives your spices something to stick to. Season liberally with the steak seasoning, then coat it lightly with salt and pepper.

Put the roast fat side up side up on a rack set in a shallow roasting pan. Add about a cup of water to the pan to keep the juices from burning. Set the pan on the trivet, close the lid, and cook until the internal temp reaches 125°F deep in the center of the roast, about 2 hours.

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Remove the roast to a carving board and tent loosely with foil. Let rest 20-30 minutes while you make the pudding.

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 425°F.

Leave 1/4 cup of drippings in the roasting pan and place in the oven.

Put the flour, salt, eggs, and milk in a bowl and whisk together. Pour the batter into the hot roasting pan and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. While the pudding is cooking, carve the roast.

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Serve the pudding with the roast and a bit of grated horseradish.

This was so good – salty and rich with just a little smoke – and so easy that I’m going to be hard pressed to ever order prime rib in a restaurant again.

Chile Chili

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There are a lot of regional chili styles out there, and sometimes it seems that the debate about what should or shouldn’t go into chili overlooks what chili is really about – chiles.

This recipe blends whole dried chiles into an adobo sauce that gives this dish a  nice, deep chile flavor.

2 pounds ground chuck (coarse grind if you can get it)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 ounce) diced tomatoes with liquid
1 can (15 ounce) diced tomatoes with liquid
2 cans (20 ounce) dark red kidney beans, drained
2 cups beef broth
2 ancho peppers, dried
4 guajillo peppers, dried
2 chipotle peppers, dried
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Chili powder to taste

The Chilies

The night before – wearing rubber gloves, stem and seed the chiles. I find this easiest to do with a pair of kitchen shears. Gently pull the stem  until it pops off (this often takes most of the seeds with it), cut open the side of the pepper, then spread it open and scrape out the remaining seeds and veins.

Fill a bowl about half full of hot water and have this ready beside the stove.  Get some ventilation going with an open a window or an exhaust fan. In a dry skillet (no oil) over medium heat, fry the chiles in small batches for just for about 15-20 seconds a side until they start to change color and become fragrant. As they finish cooking, remove them to the bowl of water.

When all of the chiles are cooked and in the bowl, use a small plate to weight them down so they are completely covered in water. Let this sit overnight.

The Adobo

Drain the chiles, discarding the soaking water. In a sauce pan, combine the chiles and the beef stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

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Blend the chile sauce until smooth. You can do this by running batches through a blend or food processor, but I find it easiest to just leave everything in the pot and use an immersion blender. Remove the pot from the heat and put it in the sink to help contain any splatters. Put the sauce aside to cool.

The Cook

This is one of the few recipes that I find easier to start on the stove and then move to the Big Green Egg. You could do it all on the stove top, but then you’re missing out on all the wonderful flavor that smoke brings to the dish.

Set your grill or smoker up for at least a 3 hour cook over indirect heat at 300°F. On the Big Green Egg that means filling the firebox with lump charcoal and using the plate setter inverted with a trivet on it to diffuse the heat. I used a little guava wood for smoke.

On the stove, brown the ground beef in a large dutch oven or other grill-safe pan. Drain if needed. Season with the salt and add the onions, garlic, and green pepper. Cook until the veggies go limp and the meat is fully cooked (about 5 minutes).

Add the adobo, mix and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and beans. Mix well and move the the grill. With the cover of the pan, close the grill lid and cook for an hour. Stir and check your seasoning, adding chili powder, salt or pepper as needed. Close the lid and cook for another hour.  Adjust seasonings again, and serve.

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I served this with some cornbread and honey butter. It was remarkable – great, well-developed, chile flavor with just enough heat for this yankee.  In the end, I only added about a tablespoon of actual chili powder (Penzeys Chili 9000) to the whole batch, and that was mostly just because I wanted to give their new blend a try. It has a lot of great non-traditional ingredients like turmeric and cloves, that added even more interest to the dish.