Pork Steak

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.

Scallops

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.

Sunny Bang Hot Sauce

Sunny Bang Hot Sauce Review

I have been trying my hand at lacto-fermentation – making kimchi, sauerkraut, hot sauce, and veggie pickles the old-fashioned way using little more than salt, time, and  gut-friendly lactobacillus. It’s a little putzy and time-consuming, but I’m enjoying the results and am glad to be adding more probiotics to our diet.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find Sunny Bang Private Label commercially producing a lacto-fermented hot sauce that is still “alive” when you get it. Of course, I had to give it a try.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
The bright, orangey-red sauce comes in a very cool swing-top bottle. It has a nice, thick texture and a bright, fresh veggie aroma. There’s not much heat to it, but what there is comes all up front and doesn’t build up over time or linger. It has a bit if zip from the lactic acid and vinegar, but nothing harsh. The finish is all fruity sweetness with a little effervescence.

In short – this ain’t no bubba-slurping, taste-hiding, vinegary hot sauce. It’s harmonious (not a word I would ever imagine using to describe a hot sauce) – all the flavors work together to give everything you put it on a bright and tangy bit of heat.

Spatchcocked Chicken

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!

Pastrami

St. Paddy’s Pastrami?!?

For a lot of folks, St. Paddy’s Day is an excuse for the wearin-o-the-green and the puking-on-the-shoes. For me, it’s a great chance to pick up some cheap brisket and make up a big batch of pastrami.

I know it’s not traditional, but both corned beef and pastrami are corned (cured) brisket, right? While corned beef is cured and then roasted, braised, boiled, and/or (sometimes) steamed, pastrami is cured and then re-seasoned before being smoked. I like plain corned beef too, but I think that the smoke adds a ton of flavor to the meat.

1 (7-pound) beef brisket
7 tablespoons Morton Sugar Cure (1 tablespoon per pound of meat)
3 tablespoons raw or brown sugar
3 tablespoons corning or pickling spices

Combine the Morton’s, brown sugar, and spices. Put the brisket in a large freezer bag and coat with the cure. Rub the cure into the meat, covering all sides. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal, and stash in the fridge for 7 days. Liquid will begin to collect in the bag almost immediately. This is your curing solution. Do not drain it off. Flip the bag over once a day to distribute the cure evenly.

After a week, remove the brisket from the cure and rinse under cold water and then soak for an hour to remove some of the salt. Dry off the meat and season with a Montreal-style steak seasoning.

Set up your grill for an indirect cook that will burn for at least 5 hours at 300°F. Use a drip pan under the brisket to catch the fat. Add wood for smoke (I like grape vine). Cook brisket fat side up at 300°F for about 3 hours, or until the internal temperature of the meat hits 160°F internal.

Pastrami

Remove the brisket from the smoker and wrap tightly with several layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Return meat the the grill fat side up and cook for about another 2 hours, or until the meat hits 190°F internal.

Remove foiled brisket from the grill and let rest for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the foil (steam burns can ruin your day), reserving any juices that have accumulated. Slice the pastrami thinly against the grain to serve.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
We have a winner! I served it hot-off-the-grill with home-made sauerkraut and stone-ground mustard. Very tasty. The rest will go into pastrami reubens with melted Munster cheese and Russian dressing. Anything left over after that will become dip.

Ribs

Polar Ribs

Ribs

Winter has just barely started to loosen its grip in my neck of the woods. I did spot one poor, puffed up robin this morning, so maybe there is hope for spring after all.

Between visits from the Polar Vortex, I managed to cook a batch of ribs. For winter grilling, I like cooking foods that require plenty of time, but little attention – ribs and roasts; or foods that take some attention, but little time – steaks and seafood. The idea is to minimize the total amount of time I spend freezing my butt off. These ribs are a great example of this – no misting, mopping, or foiling – just a straight 5-hour cook with little intervention on my part.

3 racks of baby-back ribs
Fresh-ground sea or kosher salt
Fresh-ground back pepper
Barbecue rub and sauce of your choice

Get a fire going in the fireplace. Assemble winter gear. Get the hot cocoa started.

Boots, parka, and winter gloves on – go outside and shovel path then set up the grill before the warmth from shoveling wears off.

Set up grill up for a direct cook over low (250°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg, I didn’t use a plate setter to diffuse the heat, but did use a Woo2 extender to raise the cooking grid up about 4 inches further from the charcoal. Add a fresh load of charcoal, toss in a Lightning Nuggets Firestarter, hit it with the MAPP torch for 30 seconds or so, then run back inside until the grill gets going.

While the grill is getting up to temp, season both sides of the ribs with the salt, pepper, and rub. Warm hands in front of fire, sip some cocoa, and clear enough frost off the window to peek at the temperature gauge every so often.

When the grill is up to temp, make a quick dash outside to toss in your smoking wood (apple this time), put your cooking grate in place, and make any adjustments to keep the temp at 250°F. If you’ve got a remote thermometer to watch the grill temp, now is the time to set it up.

Dash back in and keep an eye out for the smoke to change over from white (bad and bitter) to blue (good and sweet).

Boots, parka, grill gloves, ribs – back outside and arrange the ribs on the grate bone side up. Close lid and stand around stamping your feet until it looks like the temperature has settled. Make any adjustments to keep the temp steady.

Back inside – add some Bailey’s to the cocoa and settle in front of the fire. Let ribs cook for an hour, peeking at temperature every so often.

Boots, grill gloves – back outside and flip the ribs bone side down.

Back inside – toss another log on the fire and arrange couch for napping. Add blanket and cats and/or dogs as needed for ideal warmth. Let ribs cook for two hours, peeking in between snoozes.

Ribs

Boots, grill gloves – back outside and flip the ribs end to end (still bone side down).

Back inside to start prepping side dishes. Let ribs cook for another hour.

Boots, parka, grill gloves – go out to start checking for doneness. Ribs are generally done when the meat has pulled back from the bones and a full slab will almost fold in half and start to crack when you pick up one end with a pair of tongs. If ribs aren’t ready yet, get back inside and get the barbecue sauce and basting brush ready.

Let the ribs cook for another 30 minutes.

Boots, parka, grill gloves, sauce, and basting brush – check ribs again for doneness. By now these ribs were getting very close to being done, so gave them a coating of sauce on each side and went back inside and let them cook for another 30 minutes. I made one last foray outside to sauce the ribs again and bring them in.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
I love ribs, and while these weren’t the best I’ve ever made, it was still damn fine to be eating ribs in the middle of winter. :)