Surf & Turf

Steak and shrimp is one of my favorite meals – simple and classic in a supper-clubby kind of way. There’s very little prep involved and everything cooks fast on a hot grill, so just throw in an obligatory salad or baked potato and you’ve got a really nice dinner cheap and fast.

Spicy Asian Shrimp
I’m working on a base sauce for Kung Pao recipes, and these fiery shrimp are part of that experiment.

1 pound raw large shrimp, pealed and deveined
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon chili paste with garlic
1 tablespoon black bean chili sauce
1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
4 bamboo skewers

Soak the skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. While the skewers are soaking, combine the salt and peppercorns in a food processor and give them a whirl until the peppercorns break apart and combine with the salt. Add the chili paste, black bean sauce, Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, and wine. Pulse to combine.

Put the shrimp in a resealable bag and pour in the marinade. Toss to coat, then squeeze the air out, seal, and stash in the fridge while you get the grill set up.

Set your grill up for direct cook at a roaring 700°+F.  While the grill is heating up, season  the steak. For this nice, thick ribeye I used just a little kosher salt and some fresh-ground black pepper. Now is also the time to thread the shrimp onto the skewers.

When the charcoal looks like a pool of lava, toss the steak on for 90 seconds of undisturbed searing. Flip it, and let it go another 90 seconds on other other side. Flip again and check the internal temperature. I was looking for a nice medium-rare – 130°F with a hint of red at the center. It only took another 30 seconds a side to get there.

If the steak is looking good and you are getting close to your desired degree of doneness, flip the steak one more time and check again. If the steak is getting too blackened, but isn’t done yet, pull the steak from the grill while you reduce the heat (on the Big Green Egg I just shut the lower vent down). When the heat has dropped into the 500°F range, return the steak for another minute or so a side and check again.

Move the steak to a warm plate, cover with another plate, and let it rest while you grill the shrimp.

Cook the shrimp for about 2 minutes a side – just until they start to curl up and turn pink.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
The ribeye was perfect with a nice char on the outside and a tender, medium-rare interior.  The shrimp really stole the show – sweet and spicy with a great depth of flavor. Black bean sauce can be tough to find, but it’s what makes the dish. I had to turn to Amazon to find a gluten-free version, but you can find jars of the non-GF at your friendly, local Asian market.

The Nutrition
The ribeye is 2 Weight Watcher’s points per ounce. The shrimp are only 1/2 a point per ounce. We split the steak and had about 6 shrimp a piece. Add a small salad and the whole meal was only about 12 points.

ONE YEAR AGO – The Best French Onion Soup

TWO YEARS AGO – Pork in Adobo


Pseudo Fries – Roasted Delicata Squash

My thanks to the fine folks over at She Cooks He Cleans for this tasty dish. I love delicata squash, and always buy a couple whenever I can find them, but I had no idea that the skin on them was edible.

3 delicata squash
Olive oil
1-2 teaspoons chili powder (ancho or aleppo works great)
1-2 teaspoons sea salt (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F. Wash the squash off, trim off the ends, and split the squash lengthwise. Use a tablespoon to scoop the seeds out of each half.

Slice the squash crosswise into french fry-sized wedges. Arrange the wedges on a sheet pan and spray them with a little olive oil (the Misto Olive Oil Sprayer makes this easy). Sprinkle with salt and chili powder.

Roast for about 30 minutes, until they brown up a bit and get soft on the inside.

The joy of the new Weight Watchers points system is that veggies like squash are free (like in beer, wait… beer has points? Never mind.). I figure I used about a teaspoon of oil (the sprayer is great for cutting down on the fat), so you could eat the whole dish and it’s still only 1 point.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
While you won’t mistake them for steak frites, they are very, very good and remind me a lot of sweet potato fries. I plan on making these again soon as a side dish and maybe as an appetizer with (just a little) dip.

Chicken & Veggies

This is the time of year when zucchini start mysteriously appearing everywhere. Seems like we’ve had a glut of them at home, and we didn’t even plant any. If the neighbors aren’t unloading theirs on our doorstep, it’s my folks passing on their surplus.

Since we’ve been graced with a couple of extra weeks of grilling weather, I decided to make up a big batch of my Chicken & Veggies recipe featuring as many of the zucchini as I could squeeze into a 9×13 pan.

The Chicken
8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons herbes de provence
1-2 tablespoons kosher salt

Lay the thighs out in a baking pan. Season both sides with the herbs and salt. Set in the fridge uncovered while you prep the veggies.

The Veggies
2 large zucchini, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh ground back pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a disposable foil pan. Mix well.

The Cook
Set up your grill for an indirect cook over medium-high (400°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg I use about half a fire box full of lump charcoal, an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat, and a trivet for the roasting pan.

Set the pan full of veggies on the trivet. Place a small wire rack or grill grate on top of the pan. Lay the chicken thighs skin side down on the grate above the veggies.

Close the lid and let cook for 20 minutes. Lift the grate with the chicken on it off of the pan and give the veggies a stir. Add more oil or a little chicken stock if they are starting to stick. Put the grate back on the pan and flip the chicken. Close the lid and cook for another 20 minutes. Check the veggies again. If they are done, take them off the grill and set them someplace warm while the chicken finishes.

I usually leave the rig set up for an indirect cook and let the thighs finish cooking, but I was running short on daylight and the thighs were looking a little anemic, so I pulled plate setter out and finished the thighs directly over high heat.

It only took about another 3 minutes a side to put some char on the thighs and finish them up.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
I think this is one of the best ways to cook chicken. Cooking the chicken above the veggies means the veggies soak up all those lovely chicken drippings and the moisture from the veggies keeps the chicken nice and juicy. Win-win.

My only issue with this recipe was using boneless, skinless thighs. They tasted great, but just don’t cook up as crispy and juicy as chicken with the skin still on it.

Rub note: I liked the herbs on this and might need to work up a rub like John Henry’s Chicken Tickler.

Crazy Day Leftover Chicken Corn Chowder

1/2 of the rotisserie chicken from yesterday, chopped
1 big slice cottage bacon left over from Sunday breakfast, diced
The small red potatoes left over from the Tuna Nicoise, quartered
2 cups sweet corn kernels (grilled, cut off the cob, and frozen at peak freshness this summer), thawed
However much onion is left in the crisper, chopped
Whatever chicken stock is left in the carton in the way back of the fridge
About a cup of heavy cream, but leave enough so my dear wife can have some in her coffee the next day, or else
Hot sauce
Salt and pepper
Bacon grease from the cottage bacon

In a medium saucepan, melt the bacon grease over medium heat. Add the bacon and onions and cook until the onions are soft (about 5 minutes). Since it’s already late, and you don’t have time to mess around, just go ahead and nuke the potatoes while the onions are cooking to soften them up a bit.

Add the stock to the pan, then the chicken. Bump up the heat so it starts to boil. Add the corn and potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and add the cream. Cook, stirring in between taking out the trash and emptying the dishwasher, until it comes to a simmer.

Taste and add hot sauce and salt and pepper as needed. Cook covered for 5 more minutes while you go get out of your work clothes, put on your comfies, and make a round of drinks.

Dish into bowls and serve with the last of the baguette from Tuesday and more hot sauce if needed. Sigh and smile. Tasty way to end a crazy day.

Sweet & Tangy Thighs with Peanut Noodles

Sometimes you need a little help. We had a friend visiting from out-of-town and I wanted to put together a nice meal on the Big Green Egg. We also had a lot of other things that we wanted to do, but was really feeling short on time.  Lucky for me, I hit these two two saviors while I was digging through our pantry.

SAN-J makes a lot of gluten-free sauces, but they are hard to find in our local grocery stores. Fortunately, I’d run into a bunch of them at an Asian market and grabbed a few to try.

Peanut Noodles
3/4 pound dried spaghetti (use corn or rice noodles to make it gluten-free)
1 (10-ounce) bottle SAN-J Gluten Free Thai Peanut Sauce
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips

Cook the pasta according to the direction on the package until al dente (if you are going to let this sit in the fridge, shorten the cooking time for a little firmer pasta). Drain into a colander and rinse with cold water.

Dump the pasta and veggies into a lidded container and pour about 2/3 cup of the peanut sauce over them.  Put the lid on and toss to combine. Store in the fridge until just before dinner, then remove and let warm up a bit before serving. Add more sauce and maybe a squirt of sriracha before serving if needed.

Sweet & Tangy Thighs
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 (10-ounce) bottle SAN-J Gluten Free Sweet & Tangy Glaze
4 flat, wooden skewers

Put the chicken in a zip-top bag and pour on enough of the glaze to cover them (about 2/3 cup). Toss to coat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it, and put it in the fridge to marinate for at least 2 hours. Put the skewers in a pan of water to soak.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over high (450°F) heat.

Thread the thighs onto the skewers (about 3 on each). Grill chicken about 10 minutes per side or until the internal temp hits at least 180°F. I like my thighs a little more done, so I went another 10 minutes until the meat started to get a good crispy char on it and the internal temp was 200°F.

Remove the skewers from the grill and let rest 10 minutes before serving over the noodles.

The Verdict: ★★★★½
Where these as good as my usual Teriyaki Kabobs and Peanut Noodles? I didn’t think so, but the meal met with rave reviews (although that may have been the Cucumber Margaritas talking), so who am I to argue?

The thighs were indeed sweet and tangy with a good mix of savory umami and bright fruit flavors. The noodles were rich and peanutty and had a nice crunch from the veggies. I would have added a bit more garlic to the chicken and a little lime juice to lighten up the noodles,  but that’s more niggling than complaining. In the end, the trade off in taste was minor for the ease of putting this meal together.

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