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.

Peanut Pork Burgers

2 pounds ground pork
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 green onions
5 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 cup Asian sweet chili sauce
2 tablespoons peanut butter

Put the garlic cloves in a food processor and pulse until minced. Add the ginger, green onions, oil, fish sauce, chili sauce, and peanut butter and give them a whirl until they are well-combined.

In a large bowl, combine the pork and the sauce mix. Work everything together with your hands. Form the meat mixture into 6 to 8 1/2 inch thick patties. Stash in the fridge so all of the ingredients can mingle and the burgers stiffen up a little.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over high (450°F) heat. Grill burgers about 5 minutes per side, or until the meat hits 160°F internal. Remove from grill and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Top with a dollop of sesame mayo if desired.

The Verdict: ★★★☆☆
“Meh,” that’s the sound Owen, our little gray cat, makes when he is unimpressed with my  attempts to entertain him. It’s his way of saying, “Look, nothing personal here. I’m sure it’s a fine stuffed mouse, and you’re doing a heck of a job waving it around, but it’s just not exciting enough for me to get up off my fury butt and bat it around. Sorry.”

That’s how I felt about these burgers. There’s a lot of good stuff in them and tons of flavors to enjoy, but the end result was something less than impressive. Not bad, just not memorable. I might make them again sometime, but it’ll be with a lot more garlic, ginger, and something crunchy like water chestnuts or ground peanuts.


Hearty Grilled Tuna Nicoise

I was very excited to make this dish, and I can’t tell you what that means to me.  I’ve been suffering from some serious food blogger ennui lately, and it ain’t pretty.  It’s just been hard to be excited about cooking. Isn’t that weird?

Maybe it’s the end of summer blues? I don’t know, but rather than fight it, I figured I’d just sit around and eat Doritos while it ran its course. Thankfully, when my dear wife called and said she’d found some nice yellowfin tuna, I knew exactly what I wanted to make – Tuna Nicoise.

Tuna Nicoise is a traditional French composed salad usually served as an appetizer or a light dinner. I wanted something a little heartier that would benefit from some time on the grill, so I bumped up the amount of meat and potatoes and substituted grilled asparagus for the usual haricots verts.

Note: this recipe looks complicated, but the walk though is pretty straight forward.  If you have everything prepped and ready before the tuna comes off the grill, it goes together in moments.

The Tuna
2 pounds yellowfin tuna steaks
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup of the marinade (recipe follows)

The Marinade & Dressing
2 anchovy fillets, drained (or 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil
1 medium shallot
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence

The Nicoise
1 pound red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into thick rounds
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
4 cups mixed greens or Bibb lettuce, washed and dried
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup halved and seeded black brine-cured olives
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil

Make the dressing and marinade first by putting the garlic, shallots, and salt in a food processor and pulse until the garlic and shallots are minced. Add the anchovies, pepper, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, and herb blend and pulse to combine. With the processor running, add the oil in a steady stream. The mixture will begin the thicken and form an emulsion, kind of a like a thin mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Marinate the tuna by pouring about a 1/4 cup of the dressing/marinade onto the bottom of a lidded container. Arrange the tuns steaks on top of the dressing and turn to coat. Season both sides with a little salt and pepper. Stash in the fridge along with the remaining dressing.

Combine the potato slices, butter, and parsley in a microwave-safe container. Nuke for a couple of minutes until the butter melts. Stir to coat and nuke another 5-10 minutes until tender. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm in the microwave.

Put the asparagus in a zip-top bag and season with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Shake to coat and stash in the fridge.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over high (600°F) heat.

Grill the asparagus for about 5 minutes, turning frequently, until the spears start to brown and caramelize. Set asides and keep warm.

Grill the tuna steaks for between 30 seconds to a minute per side, checking for doneness often. For this dish, I like the steaks medium rare where the tuna will be gently yielding when you press on it with the tongs. Anything past medium is headed for cat food territory, so it’s best to pull the steaks off the heat just before they are done and let the carry-over heat do the rest.

Remove the steaks to a plate and drizzle with some of the dressing.

To serve, arrange all the goodies on the table and let everyone assemble their own plates. I like to put down a layer of mixed greens; top that with the tuna and some capers; then surround it with the potatoes, olives, eggs, asparagus, and tomatoes; and top it all with a healthy drizzle of the dressing.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Wow, this was good! The meal was rich (perfect for a chilly early fall day) but not overwhelmingly so. I like grilled tuna anyway, but the marinade keeps the fish moist while adding an herby zip. All the other goodies then just come together to compliment each other. The olives and capers play off the salty tang of the dressing while the eggs and asparagus help to ground everything.

I can see mixing the leftover dressing with some canned tuna for an outstanding tuna sandwich.

Refinished Dual-Function Metal Top

Warning: this post contains Big Green Egg-specific geekery that’s kinda cool to me, but may be a bit boring for the non-Eggers out there.

The Dual-Function Metal Top (DFMT) that sits on the top of my large Big Green Egg and helps to control the temperature had gotten pretty grungy. Enough crud had built up over the years that it was hard to turn the daisy wheel to make small adjustments, so I decided to clean it by running the Egg up to nuclear temps and putting the top in for an hour or so.

When I recovered the DFMT the next morning, I was reminded of the line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, “Think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?” Not only was all the crud gone, but so was whatever finish the metal had had. I was left mostly with rusty cast iron.

I debated treating the top like a cast iron pan and just seasoning it with oil, but I like the look of the black top on the Egg and decided to paint it instead.

Two coats of Rust-Oleum high temperature black satin paint  and the top is as good as new.

Honey Hog Barbecue Sauce, v 1.0

I wanted to try a version of my Sticky Hog sauce using honey as the main sweetener.

1 cup honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1/4 cup gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until all the sugar has dissolved and the sauce starts to thicken a little bit (about five minutes).

Bottle and store in the fridge.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This is maybe an even better sauce than Sticky Hog. It has plenty of kick, but the honey gives it a rounder, more mellow taste. I think the addition of mustard and reduction in the amount of black pepper also helps round out the flavor. The allspice brings a nice warm sweetness to everything.

Notes for version 2.0 – maybe a little more allspice, maybe regular chili powder instead of ancho, and maybe try 50/50 brown sugar and honey.

Last Hurrah Ribs

Labor Day is pretty much the end of summer up around these parts. The air is turning light and cool and we’re getting a lot less daylight. I fire up the Big Green Egg mostly year-round, so I’ll still be out grilling, but the days of sitting out on the deck in shorts and t-shirts are numbered.

We were supposed to spend it hanging out with my family, but my dear wife came down with the crud and we were both out of commission for most of the weekend.  I didn’t figure I’d be doing any cooking, but she perked up a bit on Monday and out of the blue asked if I’d make her some ribs.

Sure thing, honey.

I tried a variation on my Express Ribs technique; cooking the ribs hotter and faster, then braising them in foil, and finally finishing them unwrapped. I set the Egg up for a raised, direct cook at 300°F with some apple wood for smoke.

I seasoned a couple of nice racks of baby back ribs with a heavy coat of Tasty Licks Ribit Rub. The ribs went on bone side down for an hour, then I flipped them ribs bone side up and let them go for another hour.

Then I removed the ribs to a sheet of heavy-duty foil and wrapped them up tightly. I did the same thing with a second layer of foil. The ribs then went back on, meat side down, for an hour.

After an hour of braising, I removed the ribs from the foil and tried to put them on the grill bone side down. I got one rack moved over intact, but the other was so done that it had started to fall apart before I even touched it.

I got both racks over to the grill as best I could and sauced them with the new version of my Sticky Hog sauce and let them cook for another 10 minutes. Since flipping them was not an option, I gave them a final coat of sauce and (carefully) moved them off the grill.

I let them rest for 10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
My dear wife LOVED these ribs. I was just happy that she was feeling better, so I sure wouldn’t argue with her. As done as they looked coming out of the foil, I was afraid they’d be mushy or soft. But going with a raised, direct cook meant that they were falling apart tender, but they still had a good bit of bark and some nice chew to them. Perfect way to say goodbye to summer.

The new sauce is a real winner too.

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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