By the time you read this, my dear wife and I will (hopefully) be “knee deep in the water somewhere” in Vieques, Puerto Rico. I’m looking forward to eating as much fresh seafood and tostones as possible, relaxing on the beach, enjoying the local rum, and generally taking it easy.

While I’m not quite sure what’s going on in this video, I love the song and anything with Zac Brown and Jimmy Buffett in it has to be good.

Hasta luego!

Winter Grilling Tips & Tools

My Big Green Egg is so well-insulated, it really doesn’t care how cold it is, so even though I live in a northerly clime, I still pretty much grill year-round. While winter grilling can be more of a challenge, it can still be a lot of fun if you keep these things in mind:

  • Dress for the weather, both of them – it’s not just about staying warm outside, it’s also about managing the transition from outside to inside. Dress in layers that you can easily remove. I wear pak boots that I can slip off at the door and have a “landing strip” of rugs both inside and outside so I don’t track all over the house.
  • Clear your cooking area – shovel out the grill, your working area, and a path to the door. You do not want to go down in a pile while juggling a plate of food.
  • Plan on using more fuel and time – anything below freezing and I add 25% more time and fuel to my projected cook just to be on the safe side.
  • Wear insulated/fire-resistant gloves – both heat and cold can burn you and the risk goes up when the temps go down. Slap a bare, damp hand on a MAPP cylinder at  5°F and you’ll feel about as dumb as the kid with his tongue stuck to the the flag pole.
  • Cold = dark – if you’re cooking in the late afternoon you need to be prepared to do it in the dark. Grill lights or flood lights are nice, but to see what’s really going on with the food,  I like my headlamp that my dear wife calls a “dork light.”
  • Go hot ‘n fast or set ‘n forget – steaks are a joy, even when it’s cold out. Wait inside until the grill is up to temp and then your total outdoor cook time is well under 10 minutes. With ribs or butts you’re only outside to put them on, check the temp every now and then, and take them off when they’re done. Use a remote thermometer and you barely have to get off the couch.

ONE YEAR AGO – Valentine’s Day

TWO YEARS AGO – Wing Sauce – First Try


Thai Sweet Chili Spareribs

I’ve had a big rib craving lately, and fortunately for me, somebody decided to play football on Sunday so I had all the excuse I needed to make up a batch. I planned to go with a Kansas City-style sauce, but Asian flavors kept calling me and I just couldn’t say no to the brand-new bottle of sweet chili sauce sitting in the pantry.

1 rack pork spare ribs, trimmed and membrane removed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried lemon peel
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried cilantro (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

The night before the big game, combine all of the herbs and spices in a shaker-top container (I used an empty Penzeys spice jar) and shake well to combine. Lay the ribs out on a baking sheet and coat heavily with the rub, working it in on both sides. This recipe should make just enough for one rack of ribs, so use it all up.

Cover the ribs with some cling wrap and stash in the fridge until just before you fire up the grill.

Thai Barbeque Sauce
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup Thai sweet chili sauce (Mae Ploy)
1/2 cup hoisin sauce (Premier is gluten free)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce
1 bunch – cilantro
3 green onions, sliced to fit in food processor
1 to 3 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil

I like to make my sauces up the night before to give all the flavors time to develop. For this one – put the garlic, green onions, and cilantro in a food processor and pulse until minced. Add the chili sauce, hoisin, vinegar, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, fish sauce, and sesame oil and blend until well combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pour into a covered container and store in the fridge overnight.

Plan on a 5 to 6 hour cook on game day. You want the ribs over indirect heat at 300°F.  I filled up the firebox on my Big Green Egg, lit it, and once it was up to temp added some hickory wood for smoke. I used an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat and a pan with some water in it to catch the drippings.

Cook the ribs for 3 hours at 300°F, flipping every 30 minutes.

Sauce the ribs on both sides and then wrap in two layers of heavy-duty foil or arrange them in a flame-proof 9×13 jelly roll pan and cover tightly with foil. Return the ribs to the grill and cook for another hour.

Carefully pull back the foil and check to see how done the ribs are. If the meat has started pulling back from the bone, they are ready to come out of the foil. If not, seal them back up and check again in 30 minutes. Repeat as needed.

When the ribs are ready, move them out of the foil and back onto the grill. Sauce both sides and cook for 20 minutes. Now check for doneness – the meat should have pulled well back on the bones and tugging on a bone should show that it’s ready to come apart. If the ribs are done, sauce them again and put them back on for another 10 minutes. Sauce them one more time and take them off the heat.

Let them rest for 10 minutes, then cut them along the bone into individual ribs and serve with more of the barbecue sauce, or plain sweet chili sauce, on the side.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Wow! Just the smell of the rub alone was enough to win me over. By the time they were smoked and sauced these ribs were outstanding – lots of sweetness, but also a nice amount of heat and umami by the ton. This recipe will be making a repeat appearance very, very soon.

The Nutrition
A four bone serving is 600 calories and 10 Weight Watchers points, so skip the half-time show and run some laps, because these ribs are worth it.

ONE YEAR AGO – The Agony of Defeat

TWO YEARS AGO – Early Valentine’s Day – Steak & Crab


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


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