Italian Pork Loin

This is the dish I made exactly 16 years ago on the night I proposed to my dear wife. Well, this is actually way better than that dish – back then it would have been marinated in cheap bottled dressing and cooked in the oven until it was bone dry. In 15 years of marriage I’ve managed to become a better cook, and a better person. Thanks for loving me, hon!

Italian Pork Loin
1 4-6 pound boneless pork loin
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
5 cloves garlic
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

Put the loin on a cutting board, fat side up. Score the fat cap by making shallow diagonal cuts in a diamond pattern at about 1-inch intervals.

Toss everything, except the pork, in a blender and give it a buzz until it’s all blended together. Put the loin in a zip-top bag and cover with the marinade, toss to coat the loin and make sure to work the marinade into the fat cap. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it, and put it in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, overnight is better.

You’ll need a flame-proof roasting pan (I use an old 9×13 baking pan) with a rack. Set the grill up for a 3 hour indirect cook over medium heat (400°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 roasting pan on.

Roast the loin until the internal temperature of the pork hits 140°F (about an hour). Move to a cutting board and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
It was our anniversary dinner, so of course the meal was good and the company was lovely. I liked the way the fat on the loin crisped up, but it might get even crispier if I skip the roaster next time and do it direct on a raised grid. The marinade was just a little too sweet, so the recipe here reflects reducing the sugar to 1 tablespoon.

Biscuits & Gravy

If I ever need to come up with a death row last meal request, this is it.

In my pre-gluten free days I used to make this at least twice a month. Since the Celiacs, I’ve tried a version over GF waffles that I call Country Eggs Benedict. Tasty, but not the real deal, so I kind of gave up making it altogether.

But prompted by my success with making gluten-free biscuits and Nobel Pig’s great sausage gravy post, I decided to try whipping up a batch of honest-to-god-clog-your-arteries-and-put-a-smile-on-your-face biscuits and gravy.

1 pound pork breakfast sausage (Jimmy Dean’s in the case)
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup gluten-free flour (I like Pamela’s Amazing Bread Mix or Gluten-Free Pantry Country French Bread Mix)
3 tablespoon pancetta, diced
1 tablespoon bacon grease
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Melt the bacon grease in a  large skillet. Add the sausage and pancetta and cook until the sausage is uniformly brown and the pancetta is a little crispy. Do not drain. Add the sage, red pepper, salt, and black pepper and stir to combine. Add the flour and cook over low heat for 5 minutes until it forms a roux and begins to brown.

Remove pan from heat and stir in milk a little at a time. Scape the bottom to get up any brown bits. Return to medium-high heat and stir occasionally until gravy comes to a simmer and starts to thicken, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and ladle over warm biscuits.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Man, they were good! The pancetta added some crispy bits and porky goodness, while the bacon fat added a smoky richness. The red pepper and a shot of hot sauce warmed up the gravy, and the soft biscuits did a fine job of soaking up all that wonderfulness. Perfect. They could strap me in ol’ sparky tomorrow and I’d be a happy man.

Gluten-Free Bisquick

General Mills is jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon by adding gluten-free Bisquick to its product lineup. I’m very excited about this for two big reasons:

  • While it’s not a new and innovative product (there are lots of GF baking mixes available), it is a General Mills product which means it’s going to be available everywhere. Even my Mom in small-town Iowa can buy it at her local Hy-Vee.
  • It’s Bisquick, and while it’s not a one-for-one replacement for the original, it does mean that there’s about a gajillion recipes out there that can now readily be made gluten free.

The first thing I wanted to try making with the GF Bisquick is my favorite recipe that I used to make with the original Bisquick – biscuits. I even broke out Grandma R’s dough blender to do the job.

2 cups Bisquick Gluten-Free mix
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup milk
3 eggs

Heat oven to 400°F. In a medium bowl, combine Bisquick mix and butter.  Cut in the butter, using pastry blender or fork, until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in the milk and eggs until a soft dough forms.

Drop dough by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown.

I served these right out of the oven, topped with butter and honey

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
Fair warning – I am not a baker, that’s my dear wife’s specialty. Even so, the biscuits turned out crispy on the outside and fairly tender on the inside.
The dough was heavy and the biscuits ended up being a little dense. They weren’t the flaky bits of perfection that my grandmother used to make, but they were as good as any box mix biscuit I’ve ever made. Taste wise, I couldn’t tell they were gluten free, and that’s a huge plus.

Hot Wings

Somewhere out there, a professional team is playing some kind of organized sport. I don’t care if it’s football, polo, or badminton, that’s all the excuse I need to grill up a batch of wings.

In this recipe I did a couple of things to make sure the wings stay nice and crisp. First, I added cornstarch to the rub both to help distribute the spices and to dry up any moisture on the skin. Second, I let the wings sit uncovered in the fridge for a couple of hours. This might sound a little unsanitary, but it’s safe and it helps to pull even more moisture out of the wings.

6 pounds chicken wings
1 cup wing sauce (I used Suck Creek’s Medium Wing Sauce)
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

Combine all the spices (everything but the wings and the sauce) in a small bowl. Stir to combine.

Put the wings in a large bowl and dust with about a third of the rub. Toss the wings. Add another third of the rub and toss again. Repeat with the remaining rub, making sure that all of the wings are covered with the rub.

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 2 to 6 hours.

Set your grill up for a direct cook at 350°F. I use an extender of the Big Green Egg to move the grate up little further from the flames.

Arrange the wings in a single layer on the grate. Grill the wings for 20 minutes, flip and cook for another 20 minutes, or until the wings are golden brown. Mop the wings with the sauce and cook for another 5 minutes. Flip, mop and cook for another 5 minutes. Repeat one or two more times until the wings are crisp and coated in sauce.

Remove the wings to a plate and drizzle with any remaining sauce. Serve hot from the grill with bleu cheese dressing and celery sticks.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
I ended up running short on time, so the wings didn’t get to sit in the fridge as long as they should have. They were still pretty crisp, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. The flavor was layered and wonderfully complex, with the wing sauce adding just enough tang and heat. I might bump up the garlic and black pepper in the rub and try these without sauce next time just for a change of pace. Also, I am done buying wings that are already cut up. The drummies and flats end up being much smaller than if I cut them up myself.

Deck Warming – Prime Rib & Yorkshire Pudding

Time to break in our new deck with a little get-together. Nothing too big – just some good friends, good food, and good drinks outside on a lovely September evening.

We had planned an end-of-summer party with just a variety of appetizers, but a change in the weather called for something heartier.  So we went with a full-on prime rib dinner with all the trimmings.

Prime Rib
1 6-pound Hereford Beef boneless ribeye roast
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon celery salt

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

Put the garlic and kosher salt in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the Worcestershire, oil, pepper, thyme, and celery salt and give them a whirl until everything is blended together.

Remove the rack from the roasting pan and lay the roast in it so that the deckle (fat cap) is on top. Score the deckle by making shallow diagonal cuts in a diamond pattern at about 1-inch intervals.

Wet the roast with the Worcestershire sauce mixture. Rub it all over, making sure to work it into the deckle.

Move the roast to the rack (still fat side up) and set the rack in the roasting pan. There will probably still be some of the Worcestershire sauce mixture left in the pan. That’s fine as it’ll just add to the flavor of the drippings.

Add about a cup of water to the pan to keep the juices from burning. Toss some smoking wood in for added flavor (I like grape vine trimmings for beef). Set the roasting pan on the trivet, close the lid, and cook until the internal temp of the roast hits 125°F, about 2 hours.

Remove the roast to a carving board. Let rest while you make the pudding. After the pudding is in the oven you can carve the roast so that they are ready at about the same time.

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 400°F.

Pour off all but 1/4 cup of drippings from the roasting pan and put the pan in the oven for 5 minutes.

Put the flour, salt, eggs, and milk in a bowl and whisk together. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and pour the batter into it. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the pudding is puffed and golden brown.

Spoon the pudding out of the pan and into a serving bowl. Serve the pudding with the roast and a bit of grated horseradish on the side.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Scoring the deckle made it crisp up like a cross between burnt ends and pork rinds, while the rest of the roast stayed juicy and tender – lovely.  I went with a little heavier smoke than I usually use for prime rib, and the result was excellent. The tartness of the grape vine smoke went with the richness of the meat just like a good red wine would have (and did!). The Yorkshire pudding? How can anything involving beef drippings and batter be bad? It was indulgent – crispy on the outside and rich and soft on the inside. The whole meal was a hit. It was a memorable way to initiate our new deck.

National Celiac Awareness Day

Today is National Celiac Awareness Day. Celiacs is an autoimmune digestive disease that is triggered by eating the protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten damages the small intestine and, if left untreated, can develop into osteoporosis, thyroid disease, and cancer.

I have Celiacs and have been gluten free for over a year now. It hasn’t been easy, but I feel a ton better.

I want to take this opportunity to thank my dear wife, our friends, and our families for helping me stay gluten free. They’ve made a lot of adjustments and sacrifices to keep me healthy, and I truly appreciate that.

Here are some resources for gluten-free sites, restaurants, products, and recipes that we’ve had good luck with:

Against The Grain Gourmet – We just served their baguettes to a bunch of friends and no one could tell they were GF.

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness – A non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funding for celiac disease research, education, and screening.

Udi’s – Best GF bread and pizza crust I’ve ever had.

King Arthur Flour – Now offering a whole line of GF baking mixes.

Northland Celiac Support Group – A Minnesota support and educational group for folks with Celiacs. Their dining guide has saved us more than once.

San-J – Gluten-free tamari and teriyaki sauces that taste a whole lot better than the Kikkoman we’d been using.

Bob’s Red Mill – Extensive line of GF flours and mixes as well as GF steel-cut oats.

Coborns Delivers – A grocery delivery service in central Minnesota with an extensive GF selection.

Red Bridge Beer – Yay, I can have beer again!

Trader Joe’s – Seven pages of GF products. Having one of these nearby has been a real boon.

Gluten Free Girl – Excellent recipe and a wonderful perspective on living gluten free.

Gluten Free Goddess – Tons of very tasty GF and dairy-free recipes.

Amazon Gluten FreeGreat place to find GD products if you don’t live near a co-op or major grocery store.

Penzeys Spices – Excellent products and only a couple of their soup bases have gluten. All their herbs and spices are gluten-free.

Gluten Free National Restaurants – There are more and more national chains that have GF menus. We’ve had good dining experiences with Outback Steakhouse, P.F. Chang’s, Big Bowl, and several restaurants in the Lettuce Entertain You chain.

Roasted Chicken with Lemon-Garlic Asparagus

Well, I guess not everything has to be cooked on the Big Green Egg. We’ve been traveling a lot to see family so my dear wife adapted this great, quick one pot meal from Real Simple so we could have an easy, yet tasty, dinner when we finally got home.

As they roast, the lemons in this dish become very soft and savory and infuse the rest of the ingredients. Waxy potatoes seem to work best. We used some gorgeous heirloom fingerlings. You can switch out the asparagus for 3/4 pound of fresh green beans, trimmed.

6 tablespoons olive oil
2 lemons (1 thinly sliced, 1 juiced)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch asparagus
8 small red potatoes, sliced in half
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Coat a 9×13 baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Arrange the lemon slices in a single layer on the bottom.

Arrange the lemon slices in a single layer in the bottom of the dish.

In a large bowl, combine the remaining oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Add the asparagus and toss to coat. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the asparagus and arrange them on top of the lemon slices.

Add the potatoes to the same olive oil mixture and toss to coat. Using the slotted spoon or tongs, remove them from the oil and arrange along the inside of the dish, on top of the asparagus.

Place the chicken in the same bowl with the olive oil mixture and coat thoroughly. Arrange the chicken on top of the asparagus. Pour any of the  remaining olive oil mixture over the chicken.

Put the chicken in the same bowl with the olive oil mixture and coat thoroughly. Arrange the chicken on top of the asparagus. Pour any of the  remaining olive oil mixture and garlic over the chicken.

Roast for 50 minutes or until chicken is done (160°F internal) and the potatoes are tender. We served this with the last of the sweet corn.


Link Love

Some sites that I’ve enjoyed recently.

Thanks to Jeff over at Smoke in the Ozarks for this great video on making roasted tomato sauce on the Big Green Egg.

TheshoeboxKitchen A new (to me at least) site that features some wonder recipes and truly amazing food photography.

My Year on the Grill Cul de Sac Cuisine. Making the most of local, fresh and best the suburbs have to offer. Also a great section on Caribbean recipes.

Noble Pig I suffer from recipe envy every time I read this blog. Very creative dishes and photography.

The Paupered Chef A couple of serious Chicago foodies share their eating experiences, trips, and recipes.

5 Second Rule Cheryl is a fellow Accidental Hedonist alum with a keen writing style and exceptional photographic eye.

BBQ 25 Chicken

I’ve said this before – I am not a big fan of boneless/skinless chicken breasts. They almost always end up being kind of dry and flavorless.  But my dear wife likes to have some around for lunches and chicken salad, so I decided to give this version from Adam Perry Lang’s  BBQ 25: The World’s Most Flavorful Recipes-Now Made Fool-Proof a try. I figure anything brined and basted can’t be all bad.

The Brine
8 – 12 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated or finely chopped red onion
2 cloves grated or finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
1 bunch fresh marjoram or basil
1 bunch fresh thyme
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Juice of one lemon
4 cups cold water

Combine everything but the chicken in a zip-top bag. Mix to combine. Add the chicken and turn to cover. Stash in the fridge for at least 3 hours, overnight is best.

The Glaze
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
1 bunch fresh thyme, leaves only
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

Combine all of the glaze ingredients in a shallow, flame-proof pan (a disposable 9×13 foil pan works great).

The Cook
Set your grill up for a direct cook at medium high (400°F) heat. Set the pan containing the glaze on the grill and heat until the butter melts. Stir the glaze to combine all the goodies, then remove the pan from the heat. I set mine right next to the Big Green Egg to keep it warm and handy.

Remove the breasts from the brine and put them on the grill. Grill the breasts 10 minutes on one side, flip and baste with the glaze. Grill 5 minutes on the second side. Brush with the glaze and grill for 5 more minutes. Flip, brush, and grill until just this side of done – the juices will be just a little pink  and the internal temperature of the chicken hits 155°F.

Remove the breasts from the grill and set them in the glaze pan. Turn them to coat with the glaze. Return the pan to the grill and heat until the glaze comes to a boil and the internal temperature of the chicken hits 160°F (about 5 minutes).

Remove the pan from the heat. Let the breasts rest for 10 minutes in the glaze before serving. Top with remaining glaze.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Another winner from Lang’s BBQ 25! The breasts stayed moist and tender from the brine while picking up all the buttery/herby deliciousness of the baste. They not only made an excellent dinner, but were also great for lunch the next two days. Even nuking them in the microwave at work didn’t dry them out. Now that’s the test of a juicy chicken breast.

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