Sweet & Spicy Almonds

Just in time for the holidays, my dear wife has been whipping up batches of these nuts for gifts and parties. It’s impossible to eat just one or two. Most people take a couple to taste and then quickly come back for a handful. As much as I like to pick on Martha, this is based on one of her recipes.

1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2  1/2 cups whole, raw almonds
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Spread the almonds out onto a 12×18 jelly roll pan or rimmed baking sheet. Toast the nuts until they are fragrant and start to get golden-brown, about 10 minutes.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the sugar, salt, and cayenne pepper.

In a large skillet over medium heat, combine the water, honey, and olive oil . Cook until the mixture starts to bubble, about 1 minute. Add in the toasted almonds and stir until they are evenly coated.  Cook for another minute.

Stir in the sugar mixture and continue to cook until the mixture has thickened and the sugar starts to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Spread nut mix onto a baking sheet in a single layer and let cool to room temperature.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Quick, easy, tasty – these have been a huge hit with everyone who has tasted them. There is a good bit of heat to them, and it hits you right up front, but then the sweetness catches up and you’re right back in the bowl for more.

Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again. If you are looking for some gifts for your favorite grillmeister, here are some tools, sauces, and books that I “discovered” this past year that have really helped me out in both the kitchen and on the grill:

Silicone Prep Bowls – very useful when it comes to measuring and having all of your ingredients ready. They’re flexible, so you can just squeeze them to get sticky ingredients like honey out neatly and they easily clean up in the dishwasher.

Insulated Food Gloves – these are great for handling hot food without getting burned. I use them when pulling pork or carving up a turkey.

Flat Bamboo Skewers – I discovered these this year. They work so much better than round skewers. Threading food into them is a breeze and and they flip a lot easier without the food rolling.

Lightning Nuggets Firestarters – since we got our new deck I’m leery of flying sparks. I just have to touch one of these with the MAPP torch and in 20 minutes the Big Green Egg is roaring.

Egg Rite Egg Timer – no guesswork, just boiled eggs exactly like you like them no matter now hot the burner, what size the pan, or how many eggs are in it.

Pickapeppa Sauce – Jamaican ketchup, a spicy/sweet/savory blend that’s somewhere between jerk seasoning and Worcestershire sauce. Wonderful on chicken wings or thighs.

Pasta de Aji Amarillo/Hot Yellow Pepper Paste – this South American pepper brings a mild, fruity flavor to the table. It’s essential for the highly addictive Crema de Ají.

Tiger Sauce – a wonderful sweet and spicy hot sauce that I love on shrimp and salmon.

BBQ 25 – Adam Perry Lang’s simple and straight forward guide to putting more flavor into your grilling. This book has dramatically changed my cooking style.

Serious Barbecue: Smoke, Char, Baste, and Brush Your Way to Great Outdoor Cooking – I’m hoping Santa is listening and I find this other Lang book in my stocking this year.

Happy Holidays and Happy Grilling to all!

Thanksgiving

We held our Thanksgiving dinner on Friday this year. With an extra day to work with, I thought I’d try taking the bird apart, making the gravy and sides dishes in advance, and then grilling turkey first thing the next day.

The problem I have with roasting a whole turkey is that while the white breast meat is done at 160°F internal, the dark meat is still pretty chewy at that point. Legs and thighs really need to go to at least 180°F to be tasty. By separating the dark and white meat, and by placing the dark meat closer to the heat, I was hoping to get both done perfectly.

Taking the bird apart was the hardest part. I started with an 18-pound, natural bird. Working just with a good chef’s knife, I first removed the hind quarters by pulling the drumstick away from the turkey and then cutting through skin between leg and body down to the joint. I pushed the thigh flat until the joint popped, and then cut through the joint.

I removed the wings by cutting all the way around the joint until the wing came free. Next, I removed the breast by inverting the body and cutting down through the ribs on each side until I cut through the shoulder. A clever might have come in handy here, but my dear wife’s childhood memories of cutting up freshly picked chickens helped, too.

The breast and hind quarters got coated with some olive oil and a heavy dusting of Tasty Licks BBQ Turkey Rub courtesy of Fred’s Music & BBQ Supply. I put them in the fridge overnight uncovered to help crisp the skin.

The wings, back, neck and giblets got coated with some olive oil and sea salt and went into the oven to be roasted at 375°F until golden brown and crispy (about 2 hours) and then into the stock pot with some water, herbs and veggies to become the base for the gravy.

It was a cold and snowy start on Friday. Just 17°F when I shoveled a path across our deck and fired up the Big Green Egg. But within 20 minutes she was at 500°F, and once I got the temp adjusted she sailed along at 350°F for several hours.

I set the grill up for an indirect cook, using a plate setter to diffuse the heat. I put the breast in the center of the grate and arranged the hind quarters around it.

The breast hit 160°F after 1-1/2 hours on the grill. I checked the hind quarters and they were at 190°F and 195°F, so I took all the turkey off the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving. Here it is served with all the usual suspects.

And for dessert we had my dear wife’s gluten-free version of Noble Pig’s Pumpkin Cheesecake.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I’ve been grilling turkeys for 10 years, and this was the BEST bird ever – very flavorful with a just a hint of smoke. The breast was so moist the juices ran all over the cutting board when I carved it, even though I’d let it rest awhile. The thighs and legs just about fell apart. Wonderful.

The cheesecake was also outstanding – rich and tangy. My dear wife substituted gluten-free gingersnaps and flour, used black walnuts instead of pecans, and baked it in a 9×2 spring-form pan.

Thankfull

We’re doing Thanksgiving here with my folks tomorrow, so today has been mostly cooking and cleaning, but I wanted to take a minute to reflect on just how lucky we are.

A couple days ago my dear wife told me that we had a “problem” with freezer space because we’d gotten a load of beef from her brother and didn’t have room for any of the Thanksgiving supplies. “We’re so lucky,” she said.

Too much food, a roof over our heads, four spoiled cats, and (soon) a house full of family. Ain’t those nice problems to have?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Prime Rib & Yorkshire Pudding

primerib_122609P1010237

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.

primerib_122609P1010238

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.

primerib_122609P1010242

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.

Christmas Eve

Egginsnow_

We’re in the middle of a blizzard so no cooking on the Big Green Egg ’til the snow stops. Tonight it’s roasted chestnuts for a snack and oyster stew for dinner.

Roasted Chestnuts

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Set chestnuts on a cutting board, flat side down. With a small, sharp knife cut an X in each chestnut. This lets the steam to escape while they are cooking and makes them a lot easier to peel.

chestnuts_122609P1010200

Put chestnuts cut side up in a low rimmed pan and bake 20-30 minutes until the shells burst open and the chestnut are golden brown. Pour into a dish towel-lined bowl, cover, and let cool for 10 minutes.

chestnuts_122609P1010212

As they are cool enough to handle, peel and enjoy!

chestnuts_122609P1010215


Oyster Stew

oysterstew_122609P1010208

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 pint oysters and liquor, separated
4 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 1/2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (Frank’s or Tabasco works well)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and celery and sweat until translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add celery seed and hot pepper sauce.  Add the reserved oyster liquor, cream, and milk and bring to a simmer. Do not let boil.  Add the oysters, lemon juice, and parsley and simmer until the oysters start to curl, about 3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

oysterstew_122609P1010220

Serve with crackers and more hot sauce.