Piri Piri/Peri Peri/Berbere Wings

Whatever you call it, this spice mix is hot. Portuguese sailors brought the piri piri (pepper pepper) with them to North Africa. There the locals incorporated it into their cooking and this fiery dish was born. These wings get a double dose of heat both from the berbere seasoning and shot of hot sauce.

6 chicken wings, separated at joints, discard tips
1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon raw or brown sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon True Lemon Crystallized Lemon
1/2 teaspoon Penzey’s Berbere Seasoning (cayenne red pepper, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cardamom, cumin, black pepper, allspice, turmeric, cloves, Ceylon cinnamon, and coriander)
1/4 cup Nando’s Medium Peri-Peri Sauce

Make a rub by combining the salt, sugar, garlic, onion, pepper, lemon, and berbere in a small bowl. Dust the wings with the rub, making sure to cover both sides.

Piri Piri Wings

Set a cooling rack on a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan. Lay wings out on a rack and let them sit uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight to let the rub do its work and for the skin to dry out a bit.

Set your grill up for a raised direct cook at 350°F. On the Big Green Egg I used an extender to move the grate up to the level of the rim, putting the chicken further away from the heat.

When the grill is ready, put the wings on the grill and cook undisturbed for 30 minutes. Flip and cook for another 20 minutes, or until brown and crispy.

Baste the wings on both sides with the hot sauce. Let them cook for another 10 minutes, then baste again.

Serve with bleu cheese dressing and the reserved sauce for dipping.

truelemon

New product – I enjoyed True Lemon’s powdered drink mixes this summer and was glad to see that they had come out with powdered flavorings too.

The crystallized lemon gave the rub a nice bite in addition to a fresh lemon taste.

I’m looking forward to trying out their Orange Ginger seasoning next.

Grilled Lemon Tarragon Tuna

Tuna is the perfect fish for grilling – firm and lean with a meaty flavor that goes with just about anything.  Here I’ve bumped up the taste a little bit with an herby marinade.

1 1/2 pounds yellowfin tuna steak
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled (pickled, in this case)
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 cup olive oil

Make the marinade by combining the lemon juice, honey, peppers, salt, garlic, herbs, and olive oil in a food processor and giving it a whirl until everything is well-blended and has started to thicken, kind of like a thin mayonnaise.

Put the tuna in a lidded container, cover with the marinade, and turn to coat. Stash in the fridge while you get the grill set up.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over high (600°F) heat.

Grilled Tuna Steak

I treat tuna steaks like beef steaks – grill them hot and fast to just medium-rare. Grill the tuna steak for about a minute per side, checking for doneness often. The tuna should yield gently when you press on it with the tongs. Not too firm, or you’re headed toward cat food territory. It’s best to pull the steak off the heat just before it’s done and let the carry-over heat finish cooking it.

Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Tuna is a nice change of pace from steaks and chops and a great fresh and light taste for summer.

Pork Steak

I love a good pork steak. It’s one of those foods that has just enough fat in it to fry it in its own juices.

Pork steak is cut from the shoulder (a.k.a. Boston roast). It’s a very active muscle group and not particularly tender.  It does have a lot of marbling and connective tissue, which makes it very flavorful and moist if cooked right.

2 large pork steaks
Season salt and/or Penzey’s Northwoods seasoning

Heavily season both sides of the steaks (about a teaspoon per pound) and stash in the fridge uncovered while you get the grill set up.

Set your grill up for a raised direct cook at medium-high (350°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg, I used an extender ring to raise the cooking grate up away from the heat a bit.

Pork Steak

With the lid open, sear the steaks for about 2 minutes on each side. Close the lid and cook for another 5 minutes per side. Start checking steaks for doneness. The USDA says to cook pork to between 145°F and 160°F internal temp. That’s fine for leaner cuts, but these are some fatty steaks and there is little danger of overcooking them. I like to cook pork steaks closer to 190°F – about another 5 to 10 minutes per side. By then a lot of the fat has rendered out and what’s left has become chicharones-like crispy.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Crispy, salty, tender, and tasty – everything a pork steak should be.

Fire-Roasted Scallops Piccata

If you’ve already got the grill set up for something hot and fast like steak, then this is a quick and impressive appetizer to throw on first.

1 pound sea scallops
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 slice bacon
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers, drained

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

Pat scallops dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put a large, heavy skillet on the grill and let it heat up for a minute. Add the bacon and fry until nice and crispy. Remove bacon and set aside to cool.

Remove the pan from the grate and drain off all but a teaspoon of the bacon grease, then and add olive oil. Turn pan to coat it evenly and then return it to the grill until the oil begins to ripple, but not smoke.

Arrange the scallops in a single layer and sear about 2 minutes on one side. Don’t overcook. The scallops should have a nice crust on one side while still being translucent on the other side.

Remove the pan from the grill and add the butter, wine, and lemon juice. Flip scallops over to the uncooked side. Crumble in the bacon, add the garlic and capers then return the pan to the grill.

Cook until the garlic and butter have browned and the scallops are medium-rare (130°F internal temp or when the sides have firmed up but the center is still is translucent), about 3 to 5 minutes depending on how much the lemon and wine cooled off the pan.

Scallops

Serve right off the grill with any sauce left in the pan spooned over them and some crusty (gluten-free) bread to soak up the rest.

The Verdict: ?????
Tangy and sweet meets rich and salty – it’s a match that works really well together in this dish.

The 4 stars are because I can’t seem to find decent dry sea scallops. These were wet scallops that had been treated with sodium tripolyphosphate to plump them up. They tasted fine, but are almost impossible to sear so that they had a good crust on them.

First Chicken of the Year

Let the grilling season (kind of) begin!!!

We finally cracked above freezing around here (isn’t it amazing how good 35°F and sunny can feel?) and had to celebrate with the first grilled chicken of the year.

1 roasting chicken
1 tablespoon of your favorite rub (Plowboys Yardbird, in this case) per pound of chicken
Sea or kosher salt

Clean and rinse the chicken and pat dry. To cut down the cooking time, butterfly (spatchcock) the bird by setting the bird in front of you, breast side down, and cutting up through the backbone with either a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife.

Now spread the bird open like a book and locate the keel bone that sits between the breasts. Nick it with a knife to get it to open up, but don’t cut all the way through. Flip the bird over and press down on the center of the bird until it lies pretty flat.

Rub both sides of the bird with the rub, working it under the skin a bit. Set the bird skin side up and give it a good dusting of salt. Arrange chicken skin side up on a pan (I use a large jelly roll pan) and stash in the fridge, uncovered, for at least an hour. This not only lets the rub and the salt do their thing, but also helps dry out the skin so it stays crispy.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook at medium-high (400°F) heat. I used the plate setter with its legs up and my new monster drip pan to diffuse the heat and create a more convective cooking set up. I filled the drip pan with a couple of cups of water to keep the drippings from burning.

Spatchcocked Chicken

When your grill is up to temp, arrange the chicken on the grate skin side up. Close the lid and walk away – no poking, no flipping, no peeking (ok, maybe just a little peek to make sure everything is cooking evenly) for 60 minutes, or until the chicken is done – 180°F internal in the thickest part of the thigh and/or the leg joint moves easily and the juices run clear.

Remove chicken from grill and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
This chicken was a tasty way to kick off the grilling season, but in a way, it’s also the start of my larger search for the perfect grilled chicken – smoky, crispy, moist, and tender.

I’d like to stick with doing a whole bird, not pieces, although I am good with spatchcocking or halving (halfcocking?) it. I’d rather not wet brine if I can avoid it, so I’m thinking some kind of slather or dry brine. It’ll be tough to get the dark meat just about falling apart without drying out the breast, so whatever I do will have to involve keeping the moisture and the fat content up. Maybe start with the Zuni chicken recipe? Hmmmm…

Anyway, more on my chicken odyssey as the year unfolds. Wish me luck!

Putting Your Heart Into It

They call it a “Sweetheart Ribeye.” You butterfly a 2-inch thick rib roast and it’s supposed end up looking like a heart.

It looks like a heart, right? Kinda? Maybe? Sorta? Glad my dear wife loves me for more than my cooking skills.

Anyway, I gave it my standard hot and fast treatment on the Big Green Egg and it was very tasty. It was not, however, the big hit of the evening. That was the Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee from She Cooks… He Cleans. It was rich, chocolatey, not too sweet, and decadently good. I highly recommend it.

Hope you all had a great Valentine’s Day!

Grilled and Roasted Prime Rib

Prime Rib

We had a quiet New Year’s Eve this year. For the first time in over 10 years we didn’t host a party, so it was just my dear wife and me, four spoiled cats, a roaring fire in the fireplace, and this lovely hunk of prime rib.

1 3-pound boneless prime rib roast
2-3 tablespoons Montreal-style steak seasoning

1 tablespoon prepared grated horseradish
1 tablespoon Penzy’s horseradish dip
2 tablespoons hot water
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the roast on a cutting board with the deckle (fat cap) on top. Score the fat by making shallow diagonal cuts in a diamond pattern at about 1-inch intervals. Generously dust the roast on all sides with the steak seasoning, making sure to work it into the cuts. Stash in the fridge while you set up the grill.

You’ll need a flame-proof roasting pan (I use an old 9×13 baking pan) with a rack.

For the sear, set your grill up for a direct cook over high heat (700°F). Get the cooking grate nice and hot and sear the roast directly on the grate for 90 seconds on each side. When the roast is browned all over, move it to the rack (fat side up) set in the roasting pan.

Prime Rib

Move the roast to the fridge to cool for at least 30 minutes. The idea is to stop the cooking process so that the outside gets nice and crispy while the inside stays a uniform medium-rare.

Normally, I would finish this on the Big Green Egg, but a record cold front moved in and discretion got the better part of me.

Preheat the oven for 300°F. Add 2 cups of water to the roasting pan and place roast in oven. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes per pound, or until it hits 125°F internal.

Move the roast to a cutting board and let rest while you make the horseradish sauce.

Combine hot water and dip seasoning and let sit for 5 minutes. Add grated horseradish, sour cream, and mayo and mix to combine. Let sit for another 5 minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings.

Carve roast and serve with horseradish sauce on the side.

Prime Rib

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This is becoming my favorite way to do prime rib. The searing gives the roast a nice browned and tasty crust while finishing it at a lower temperature after a rest makes sure you have minimum amount of overcooked meat and a maximum amount of yummy medium-rare.

The horseradish sauce was exactly what I been trying to make. I like the creaminess of horseradish dip, but it never has enough bite for me. Combining the two worked perfectly.

Hope you all had a happy New Year!

Brined, Grilled, and Basted Pork Tenderloins

Pork Loin

I have to admit that I’ve never been a big pork tenderloin fan. They’ve always seemed kind of pricy, bland, and finicky. Not qualities I look for in food or friends, so I tend to gravitate to more complex and tasty cuts of pig like shoulder roasts and ribs.

Part of the problem with tenderloins is that pork has gotten leaner and cooking an already lean piece of meat to the old USDA recommend 160°F left you with a pretty dry and flavorless hunk of meat.

Thankfully, the government has seen the error of its ways and since lowered the recommended temp to a pink and juicy 145°F. So when the local MongoMart ran a sale on some nice-looking tenderloins, I decided to give them a try.

Dead Simple Brine
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups water
2 cups ice water
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 1/2 pounds each)

Combine the salt, sugar, and un-iced water in a small pan and cook over high heat until salt and sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Add the iced water and stir till the ice is dissolved.

Put the tenderloins in a zip-top bag, pour in the cooled brine, squeeze the air out, then seal the bag, Stash in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours.

Rojo Baste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
4 cloves garlic, crushed and diced
1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano

While the pork is brining, put the oil, butter, garlic, salt, juice, chili powder, cumin, and oregano in a large grill-safe pan (a 9×13 cake pan works fine).

Set up your grill for a raised direct cook over medium-high (400°F) heat. I used a Woo2 extender ring to raise the cooking grate up a bit.

While the grill is heating up, remove the tenderloins from the bag. Pat them dry, then rub them down with a little olive oil and dust them with your favorite rub or seasoning. We’re going south of the border for this meal, so I used Dizzy Pig’s Swamp Venom.

When the grill is ready, put the pan with the baste on the grill grate and heat until the butter melts and the garlic becomes fragrant, then move it off the grill but keep it warm and nearby.

Put the tenderloins on the grill and cook for about 2 minutes per side, until the tenderloins are starting to brown and show grill marks.

Move the tenderloins off the grill and into the basting pan. Roll them in the baste and return them to the grill. Grill them for another 2 minutes per side, then move them back into the basting pan.

Pork Loin

Roll them in the baste then put the whole pan with the tenderloins in it on the grill. Cook the tenderloins in the pan, rolling them in the baste every few minutes, until they hit 140°F internal (about another 6 to 10 minutes).

Pork Loin

Remove the basting pan and tenderloins from the grill and let them rest for 10 minutes. Slice the tenderloins crosswise into 1/2 inch thick medallions and serve drizzled with the remaining baste.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
These were the best tenderloins I think I’ve ever had – rosy-hued and juicy with great flavor. Not as rich (or fatty) as ribs, but they didn’t take hours to cook either. The mild flavor of the pork really benefited from the layers of flavor that the brine, flames, and baste brought to the game.

Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving

We will be traveling to see family for Thanksgiving this year, but decided to put together a few of our favorite T-day recipes a week early and share them with some good friends.

Thanksgiving

The bird was made with what is becoming my standard turkey recipe on the Big Green Egg.

A new recipe for this year was Michael Ruhlman’s custardy Thanksgiving Dressing.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Dressing
1 cup butter
4 medium onions, chopped
6 tablespoons fresh sage, minced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
12 eggs
6 cups turkey or chicken stock
16 cups cubed white bread (1 Udi’s gluten-free commercial 33 ounce, 20 slice loaf), torn into 1-inch chunks and left out to stale overnight
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat,  melt the butter and then sweat the onions until they begin to soften (about 5 minutes). Add the sage and thyme and season with a tablespoon of sea or kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper.

Reduce the heat a bit and continue cooking until the onions have just about melted themselves into the butter, but have not started to brown (about another 5 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool.

Whisk the eggs together in a medium bowl. Add the turkey stock and whisk to combine.

In the biggest bowl you can find, combine the onion mixture, bread, custard (eggs and stock mixture), and parsley. Toss everything to coat, then set aside while the bread soaks up the custard. Stir and press the bread down into the liquid every 10 minutes or so until all of it is wet.

Butter a 6-quart baking dish (this recipe expands as it cooks, so use a bigger dish than you think you need) and pour in the stuffing. Dot the top of the stuffing with extra butter. Cover and bake until the mixture has set (45 to 60 minutes), then uncover and bake until golden and crispy on top (another 15 to 30 more minutes).

Thanksgiving

Continuing with the butterscotch kick I’ve been on, dessert was Nancy Silverton’s Butterscotch Budino topped with David Lebovitz’s Best Chocolate Sauce.

Butterscotch Budino
3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed raw or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons cornstarch
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum

In a large bowl, combine the cream and milk and set aside.

In a large, heavy pot, combine the sugar, water, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking often to prevent burning. Cook until the sugar has caramelized to deep, dark brown and starts to smells nutty.

Reduce the heat slightly and continue whisking for a teensy bit longer until you get that first bitter whiff of the sugar starting to burn.

Remove from the heat immediately and slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Be careful – as it will steam and spit and the sugar will seize. Return to the heat and continue whisking until the sugar melts and caramel is fully combined. Increase the heat and bring to a boil while stirring frequently. Remove from the heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, and cornstarch. Temper the egg mixture by slowing adding  about half of the caramel cream, 1/2 cup at a time, while whisking constantly.

When the egg mixture is warm, pour it back into the caramel cream and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a very thick custard forms (about 2 to 3 minutes).

Remove the custard from the heat and whisk in the butter and rum, stirring until the butter has completely melted. Pour the custard into your serving dish, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

The Best Chocolate Sauce Recipe
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the water, sugar, corn syrup, and cocoa powder. When all of the sugar has dissolved and it just begins to boil, remove from heat and stir in the chocolate chips until melted.

Pour into a covered container and stash in the refrigerator until just before you are ready to use it. Rewarm before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Between these recipes and the dishes our friends brought, it was a very fine meal, a lovely evening, and we have much to be thankful for.

I see all of these recipes making repeat appearances on our table. This is the second year for this turkey recipe, and it is definitely a keeper – moist, tender, and tasty.

The dressing was just plain outstanding. I never would have thought of dressing as just a savory custard, but it tasted great – very rich and dense, but not at all gummy like some dressings can get.  Next time, I would combine the stock with the onion/herb mixture, let them simmer together for a bit to infuse the flavors, then taste and adjust seasonings before mixing everything together. Also, adding a bit of sausage wouldn’t hurt either.

The budino was amazingly rich and thick. It was almost more of a ganache than a pudding or custard. And the chocolate sauce was the perfect foil for it – the semi-sweetness playing well with the burnt sugar to keep it from being too sweet. Definitely a dish to serve with coffee.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving, everyone!

Grilled Ribeyes with Steak Butter

Ribeye

I have been very happy with my “hot off the grill” technique for steaks. There’s something very primal and satisfying about cutting into a still sizzling steak. The only thing that could make it better? Butter, of course!

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
1 – 2 anchovy fillets

In a small saucepan, melt half the butter over medium-low heat. Add anchovies and simmer until they melt into the butter, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the herbs, Worcestershire, paprika, salt, and pepper.

Remove from heat and let cool until mostly solid. Add the remaining butter and whisk to combine. Spoon mixture onto a large ramekin, cover with a sheet of waxed paper, and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

Season the ribeyes with a heavy coating of sea salt (2 to 3 teaspoons per side) and a few grinds of black pepper blend. Stash uncovered in the fridge while you get your grill set up for a direct cook at a sub-nuclear 700°F.

Sear steaks for 60 seconds, then rotate the 90 degrees and give them another 30 seconds on that side. Flip and repeat the process on the other side. After both sides have been seared, keeping flipping them every minute or so while checking for doneness. These steaks only took another 2 minutes of flipping to hit a nice medium-rare 125°F internal.

Ribeye

Move the steaks straight off the grill and onto your plates, pausing ever so briefly to spoon a dollop of steak butter onto them.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I was expecting the butter to be a umami bomb – rich and savory, but I was pleasantly surprised that the herbs gave it a much brighter taste. Between the anchovy and the herbs it had a fresh, almost briny, flavor to it that really woke up the steak.