Asian Pork Skewers

When we ordered our pig we got some truly tasty ground pork and I wanted to show it off with this rough adaptation of Adam Perry Lang’s Asian Pork Meatball Skewers from his book Serious Barbecue.

The Pork

1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Sriracha Rooster sauce

Soak 4 flat, wooden skewers in water for an hour.

In a medium bowl, combine the pork, fish sauce, cilantro, garlic, hoisin, ginger, salt, pepper, and Sriracha. Work everything together by hand.

Divide the meat into 4 even portions. Form each portion into 4 or 5 meatball-ish lumps. Slide the lumps onto the skewer and then form them together into a long, thick kabob. Press the meat firmly onto the skewer.

Cover and stash in the fridge until you are ready to grill them.

The Sauce

1/2 cup fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime (about 1/4 cup)
4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Sriracha Rooster sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil

Put the sugar and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the remaining ingredients and give them a whirl until they are well-combined. Set aside.

The Cook

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

Grill skewers until browned and crispy, about 2-3 minutes per side.

Remove from grill and drizzle with a bit of the sauce. Serve with more sauce on the side.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I served this over rice with a side of wokked green beans and it was a big hit. Sweet and spicy with a good amount of tang from the lime juice, a huge umami boost from the fish sauce, and a rich pork flavor.

I scaled this recipe back a bit, complexity-wise, from the original recipe. I may have to try it with the full Adam Perry Lang treatment, but these sure didn’t seam to be missing anything on flavor.

Chocolate Custard Ice Cream

Summer is fleeting. To try and make the most of it, my dear wife whipped up this yummy custard this weekend. A custard-based ice cream is a little more work, but the smoothness and the rich flavor make it worth it.

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup whole milk
1 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a medium-size bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until the mixture is thick and lemon colored. Add the cocoa and beat to combine. Set aside.

In a small heavy saucepan over low heat, bring milk just to a gentle simmer – just until it begins to bubble around the edges – and remove from the heat.

Gradually whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of a wooden spoon (stir constantly, don’t let it boil or the mixture will curdle), about 5 minutes. Check with an instant-read cooking thermometer, the temperature should be between 165 and 180°F.

Remove from heat and cool the custard quickly by setting the pan in ice or cold water and stirring for a few minutes. Place cooled mixture in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight as this will give the ice cream more body and a smoother texture.

When the custard base is cold, stir in the heavy cream, vanilla extract and half the almonds. Stir until mixture is well combined. The custard is now ready for the freezing.

Set up your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. We used a Krups machine that is just about as simple as it gets- freeze the bowl, insert the paddle, pour in custard, slap the lid on and let it run for 20 minutes.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
OMG – rich, creamy, eggy, chocolaty wonderfulness! The almonds added a great little crunch and nutty flavor. Not too sweet, but very rich and filling. The perfect summer treat.

Not so Black, Plenty of Bleu, Redux

My dear wife is back! Whew, it was getting close there. Almost ran out of salami, Doritos, and clean underwear ;).

To celebrate, I re-made the Black ‘n’ Bleu steak we had right before she left. Only this time I switched to bottom round sirloin steaks and skipped the cast iron griddle.

I set the BGE up for a direct cook at about 650°F. After coating the steaks with olive oil, I seasoned them with a little fresh-ground black pepper and sea salt, and tossed them on the grate.

These were nice, thick steaks, so I ended up going about 3 minutes a side to get medium rare.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆

Getting better – the blue cheese topping is still a winner, and the steaks were closer to being done to my liking, but I missed the heavy char. I also prefer the firmer structure of the strip steak to the grainier bottom sirloin. Just going to have to try again, damn ;).

Kindle Here I Come!

Using my crappy Photoshop skills and channeling my best Billy Mays impression (bless his black-bearded, huckstering soul)…

Food & Fire is now available via Amazon’s Kindle Blogs. For a measly $0.99 a month you can get recipes from this blog delivered automagically to your Kindle so you can read it anytime, even when you’re not wirelessly connected.

But wait! There’s more… you get a 14-day free trial! Don’t like it? Cancel in 14 days and you pay nothing. Like it? Don’t do a thing and your subscription will automatically continue at our special low monthly rate of $0.99.

Special thanks to the the fine folks over at She Cooks He Cleans for helping me to get this deal set up. I appreciate it! I hope this is another way for folks to discover my blog so I can share my geeky love of food.

Belizean Grilled Shrimp

My dear wife caught a great sale on these monstrous 10/12 count JUMBO shrimp. I knew I had to do these babies proud, so I went with my version of the chili lime marinade that we first had at Wish Willy’s in Belize.

1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon hot sauce (preferably Marie Sharp’s)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of 1 lime, about 1/4 cup

Put the salt and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the remaining ingredients, except the shrimp, and give them a whirl until they are well-combined.

Put the shrimp in a freezer bag and cover with the marinade. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal. Marinate in the refrigerator for as long as it takes to get the grill going.

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

Put a veggie tray or grill pan on the grate and let it heat up for about 10 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the shrimp from the marinade and put them into the pan. Reserve the marinade.

Grill the shrimp until they are pink and curly – about 3 to 5 minutes a side. Remove to a bowl and top with the reserved marinade.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
The shrimp really took on that lovely Caribbean blend of tangy/sweet/hot/salty/spicy. Each bite was a big burst of flavor, but nothing got overwhelmed.

The only change I would have made was to cook them just a little more – they were so big that even though the outsides had picked up a bit of char, the insides were a little underdone. If I get a bunch this big again I might skewer them together tightly so they cook more like one big piece of meat.

Keep watching those sales, honey!

Great Grate Upgrade

I was doing some spring cleaning on my large Big Green Egg when I noticed that my fire grate (the metal plate at the bottom of the firebox that lets air in and keeps the charcoal from falling through) had not only cracked, but also deformed so that it was domed upward.

This is the second time this has happened in 5 years. The last time I just called my dealer and he had a free replacement for me in about a week. So, kind of a bummer, but not a huge deal. I put the broken grate back in and figured I’d pick a new one up when I got a chance.

But when I checked my email that night I had a note from the fine folks at High-Que wondering if I’d be interested in testing out their grate upgrade.

Talk about timing.

A couple of days later I had a new fire grate in my mailbox.

The BGE grate is cast iron and built like a floor drain with holes in it. The High-Que one is stainless steel and built like a grill grate. High-Que says that this design not only allows more air to get to the charcoal, but it won’t clog up with with ash either.

The High-Que grate fits perfectly, sitting on the same little bumps inside the firebox that hold the original grate in place. I loaded the firebox about a third of the way up with lump charcoal from a bag that was about half empty. You lump charcoal aficionados out there know that that means the lump was about 50/50 large chunks versus little chunks. There was very little dust (the few bits of lump you see in there are what was left when my shop-vac crapped out).

I lit the lump like I usually do – one Lightning Nuggets fire starter in the middle of the lump and then hit it with the MAPP torch just long enough to get the starter going. I closed the lid and the bottom vent screen, but left the upper daisy wheel vent off and the top open.

About 10 minutes later I had this little inferno going and the dome thermometer was just shy of 700°F.

I put the upper daisy wheel vent on and adjusted it the where I usually get 375°F (main opening covered and the little daises opened all the way). After 10 minutes the temp settled down to 425°F and stayed there for the 20 minutes it took to cook dinner.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I’ve used the High-Que grate 6 times so far, and so far it performs just as advertised – the Egg comes up to temp faster and burns between 25°F and 50°F hotter than it did with the old grate. I’ve not had any problems with ash clogging the grate, even though I’ve reused the lump that was left from the last fire every time and the and lump keeps getting smaller as I work my way to the bottom of the bag. I’ve not had to use my wiggle rod once to get the fire to take off.

It does feel like I’m using a bit more charcoal with the new grate, but I can’t tell if I’m really burning more, or if more of the little bits are falling through the grate. Also, all of the cooks so far have been medium to medium-high heat. While I don’t doubt that it will rock at nuclear temps, I’m curious to see how it does on an overnight low-n-slow cook.

The grate is made in the USA, has a 5 year warranty, and retails for $32.88 plus $4.99 shipping.

P.S. High-Que also carries a Nomex gasket with adhesive backing that I’m looking forward to tying out when my current gasket dies.

Food & Fire App

Boy am I a geek. I got a new smartphone not long ago and it took just seconds for it to make itself indispensable. I use it to check the weather, read email, make dinner reservations, see when my bus is due,  update grocery lists, surf the web, play Angry Birds, get directions, scan SKUs to look up prices, ready blog feeds, and even sometimes make phone calls. If I have even a minute of downtime, I’m poking at my phone like a chimp, going “Ooo-oo-oo!”

So it was a natural that I create a mobile version of Food & Fire. You can either view a compact version of Food & Fire with any smartphone’s browser, download the site as an Android-only app at: http://www.appsgeyser.com/getwidget/FoodFire, or scan the QR code at the start of the post. Note that since this is not an Android Market app, you’ll have to click the “Settings” button on your phone that lets you download non-market apps.

I am very excited (in a bespectacled, nerdlinger kind of way) about this because I now  essentially have all of my recipes with me all the time. I can hear it now:

“Do you have a good barbecue sauce recipe?”

“Sure, there’s an app for that.”

Ah, geek nirvana.

1st Sweet Corn

Okay, it’s from Florida, but this is the first fresh sweet corn we’ve seen since last September so I wanted to make sure these big, perfect ears got some very special attention.

Since reading Adam Perry Lang’s BBQ 25 and Serious Barbecue I have become a huge fan of moving food back and forth between the grill and a basting liquid a couple of times while cooking to build up layers of flavor. Most of the time it’s meat going into an oil and herb baste, but this time I wanted to give the sweet corn the “treatment.”

4 to 6 ears sweet corn, husked
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Ancho chili powder
Couple of grinds of black pepper

Set up your grill for a direct cook at 450°F.

Combine everything but the corn in a 9×13 flame-proof pan (aluminum foil drip pans work great for this).

When the grill is ready, set the pan on the grate and heat just until the butter is melted. Remove from heat, but keep warm nearby.

Grill the corn directly on the grate, turning a little it every minute or so until the kernels are a deep yellow and have started to lightly blackened (about 5 minutes). Move ears to basting pan and rotate to coat. Return to the grill and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, turning often. Remove to the basting pan, rotate again to coat, and then move the pan full of corn to the grill. Let it sit on the grate until everything starts to bubble, about a minute.

Rotate again before serving hot from the pan.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Wow – this corn was the star of the meal. Short of injecting them, I don’t know how I could have gotten any more buttery goodness cooked into the ears. The chili powder was a nice, warm touch and the lime juice balanced the slightly caramelized, smoky-sweetness of the corn.

Morels!

Nothing says spring like morel mushrooms. These wild ‘shrooms have a short growing season and it takes a sharp eye to spot them in the woods, but their wonderful nutty/meaty/smoky flavor makes them worth the hunt.

While I don’t seem to have the knack for finding them, I am lucky to have two brother-in-laws who have a special gift in that area, and sometimes they even share!

The only wrong way to prepare morels is to either overcook them or hide their flavor. I like them with just a little olive oil or butter, a grind of sea salt, and then a quick sauté. If I can do it on the grill, that’s even better.

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