Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Memorial Day is the day when Americans honor the fallen, and it’s also the unofficial beginning of Summer here. This year, as usual at our house, it was a weekend of cooking outside.

On Friday evening, we had some friends over and I cooked New York Strip steaks, baked potatoes and roasted asparagus on the Weber Genesis. For an appetizer, I baked a wheel of Brie with herbs and a wedge of Havarti with Blackberry Jam on a cedar plank.

Saturday we took a break from cooking and cleared out some of the delicious leftovers. Sunday morning, we drove down to Friends Creek Cemetery where my parents are buried, leaving some flowers. It was nice to see that the place is still well kept.

Sunday afternoon Claudia’s folks joined us for dinner. I used the rotisserie on the Weber Kettle for the first time this year to roast a chicken. It turned out tasty and perfect, with lots of hickory smoke flavor. The drip pan potatoes were a hit, as always, and I also grilled some roastin’ ears on the Genesis.

Monday, it was cowboy cooking. First, there was my wife’s favorite baked beans from her Aunt Nancy’s recipe. Wolfe Pit cole slaw and Hidden Valley potato wedges cooked on the plancha rounded out the side dishes. The more I cook on the plancha, the more I like it. It adds a crispy crust to everything from potatoes to burgers, and it helps to hold the heat steady on the Genesis which is great when you’re using it as an oven.

The star of the show was Grownup Sloppy Joes from Weber’s Big Book of Grilling by Jamie Purviance. This time, I seared then smoked the roast with Cherry and Hickory on the Kettle, and did the braising in a Lodge cast iron dutch oven over on the Genesis.

By the time everything was finished, I’d been on my feet all day and was pretty beat, but a nice glass of Petite Sirah from Lodi served as a fine restorative. The bold flavor was a perfect match to all the smoke and char of the barbecue. The folks joined us again and we had a lovely time. We’d been expecting my sons to join us as well, but they weren’t able to make it. I wish I could have emailed the smoky smell of the patio while the roast was on the Kettle.

The only dish from the entire weekend that needs work is the cole slaw. We eventually added some additional cider vinegar and sugar, because it ended up a little flat and salty tasting. I doubt that it’s the fault of the recipe. I cut it in half, and may have screwed up the proportions along the way.

It’s one of the joys of life to turn out a decent meal to share with people you love, and cooking outdoors is a feast for the senses from start to finish. I can’t think of any way I’d rather spend a long weekend.

Argentine Asado Style Sunday Dinner

asado-dinner

This week for Sunday Dinner I had planned to do a long smoke with a less expensive alternative to beef brisket, a chuck roast. Having recently watched an episode of Barbecue Addiction where Bobby Flay did an Argentine cookout, I decided to try Chimmichurri sauce for the first time. The rest of the meal developed from research on typical Asado sides.

On Saturday night, I prepped the 3 pound roast with my usual rub. Since chuck is similar to brisket with a lot of connective tissue, it lends itself to a low and slow cook, so the plan was to cook it the same as I would a pork shoulder, with several hours at around 225 F on the Weber Kettle, than finishing it up wrapped in foil on the Genesis.

I also baked some polenta with parmigiana in a shallow two quart dish that night. It was the first time I’d ever made it, but it turned out great. I used this recipe from Martha Rose Shulman, adding some shredded Parm before the last stir and bake.

On Sunday morning, I set up the kettle with a water pan in the middle of the bottom grate and ten unlit coals on each side of it. Then I added eight lit coals and some Hickory and Cherry chunks.

water-smoker-setup-kettle

Once the Weber was up to 200 F and the top grate was clean, I placed the roast over the water pan, and kept an eye on the temperature, adjusting vents as needed to keep the grill around 225.

smoking-temp

I opened the grill at the end of each hour, adding coals and wood as needed, and checking the internal temp of the roast. I’d planned to take it up to 165 on the kettle, then wrap it in foil and move it to the gas grill to go up to 195, but I was delayed at the grocery store during the third hour and when I got back the coals in the kettle were completely cold. The roast only registered 135, but I wrapped it and moved it anyway.

The Chimmichurri sauce was dead easy. I put one bunch of flat leaf parsley (minus the stems) in a blender, along with some fresh oregano, ten chopped garlic cloves, 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup of olive oil, a little diced red onion and some salt and pepper. Once it was blended smooth, I gave it a taste and it was a little hot, so I added about another 1/4 cup of canola (we were out of EVOO) and that tamed it some. I thought that the heat was coming from the garlic and onion, but realized later that it was the oregano. If I make the sauce again, I’d use dried oregano instead.

While the roast continued to cook, I cut the polenta into squares and grilled it on the plancha in the Genesis for three or four minutes per side with a little olive oil spray.

grilled-polenta

I also cut up a red bell pepper, a couple of zucchini and yellow squash, and the rest of the red onion and grilled them in a veggie basket. This mixed grill turned out to be the best thing about the meal, for me. The only seasoning was salt and pepper, but it was really delicious.

I grilled a few Andouille sausages as well, meant to be appetizers, although we ended up eating them with the meal instead.

The final side was a hunk of Provolone cheese, melted in an iron skillet on the Genesis with some Herbs de Provence. It turned out to be a combination of gooey and crispy goodness that we spread on slices of baguette.

provoleta

Mrs. Noe made a nice salad, and I also used some of the Chimmichurri as dressing for that.

The roast was tender and flavorful, although if I’d left it cook just awhile longer it might have been a little better. I’d hoped for fork tender so we could shred it, but settled for slicing into servings and bite-size chunks. In any case there weren’t any complaints around the table.

What Asado would be complete without Malbec? We served a 2011 Alambrado Gran Seleccion that was the perfect pairing – deep and fruity with nice soft tannins.

I’ve not smoked brisket because it’s so damnably expensive, but I can’t imagine it being more flavorful or tender than the chuck roast, at nearly triple the price. Perhaps once I have the technique down pat I’ll be tempted to try one, but in the meantime roast will be my go-to cut of beef for a long cook.

Prime Rib On The Grill for Christmas Dinner

prime-rib-on-the-grill

I made another run at Prime Rib for Christmas Dinner this year. I prepared and cooked it very much as I had the first time, except that I used apple and cherry wood for the smoke, and also I seasoned it the prior night to let it dry brine a bit.

Once again, this had a great flavor, and once again, it was tough in the middle (though cooked to the proper temperature). I can’t blame the cut, as this was from a great butcher shop in our county.

After researching again, I think I would cook lower and slower next time. Many of the instructions I saw online said 350 F, but I’m finding some now that say to cook the cut like you would brisket or pork shoulder.

Due to the cost, it’ll be awhile before I try this again, and I’ll want to experiment with a smaller roast next time. This one was over 13 pounds.

Grilled Grownup Sloppy Joes

For Sunday Dinner this week, I tried a recipe from Weber’s Big Book of Grilling, which is one of their older publications. I picked up a copy used for $3 after a friend of mine had posted shots of dry rubbed ribs he’d made using a recipe from the book.

The recipe noted that if you grew up on Sloppy Joes as ground beef and something from a packet, you deserve better.

This was pretty amazing. It called for a (fairly typical) dry rub on a three pound chuck roast, which you then sear for fifteen minutes and cook indirect for an hour or so. The sauce starts with a red bell pepper, a red onion and some garlic. Then you add a little chili powder and flour to make a sort of roux, then add beef stock, canned tomatoes and barbecue sauce. When the roast is done, you carve it into small bits and let it simmer in the sauce for half-an-hour or so.

The result is something with a similar flavor profile to what you may remember from childhood, but much richer and with much more texture. Though it was a fairly labor intensive, it was well worth the effort.

We served this with potato wedges (coated with olive oil and a packet of ranch dressing seasoning, then baked on the grill while the beef was simmering) and a nice green salad.

Lucky for you, if you’d like to try the recipe, it’s online here.

Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Peppers

Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Peppers

For Sunday Dinner this week, I grilled Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Peppers. The recipe was from Another Pint Please.

Smoked Beef Brisket

Smoked Beef Brisket

There are several cuts of meat that are almost synonymous with “barbecue” depending on region. In Texas, they’re known for brisket. Considered by some to be “The Mount Everest of Barbecue,” this was the last of the large cuts that I was determined to cook this Summer. As it turned out, we sat down to Sunday Dinner just as Autumn rolled in for 2013.

I prepared the 7.5 pound flat-cut brisket on Saturday evening, salting it, slathering yellow mustard and Worcestershire Sauce on it and then applying a homemade rub of 2 t paprika, 1 t black pepper, 1 T turbinado sugar, 1 t cumin, 1 t garlic powder, 1 t onion powder, 1 t nutmeg and 1t Herbs de Provence. Come Sunday morning I removed it from the refrigerator and set up the Weber Kettle, putting a foil drip pan full of water on one side of the charcoal rack and spreading a chimney full of unlit charcoal on the other side. I then lit about a third of a chimney of additional coals, and poured them on top of the unlit ones, adding some Hickory and Cherry chunks for smoke.

Once the grill was up to temperature, I put the brisket on over the drip pan, fat side up. Using a dual probe thermometer I received for my birthday, I did my best to keep the temperature in the grill to around 250 F, adjusting the vents as needed during four hours of cooking. Every hour or so, I sprayed the brisket with equal parts brewed coffee, dark beer, apple juice and cider vinegar. I also rotated and turned the meat to ensure even cooking. After four hours the meat was measuring 160 degrees, so I pulled it off, wrapped it in foil and put it in the gas grill on indirect heat (again, at 250) to finish. After another hour-and-a-half, the meat had risen to 195 degrees and was ready to come off. We let it rest inside the foil for another hour prior to serving.

It turned out moist and flavorful, though at this point I made a rookie mistake, cutting it with the grain to serve it. My wife noticed this later as she removed the fat cap to store the rest of the brisket. The part that she carved against the grain was much more tender to chew. She poured the juices that we had reserved from the foil packet over the leftovers. The beef was still delicious today for lunch.

We served the beef with grilled asparagus, and a wonderful green bean & red potato salad with Dijon dressing that she made.

Other than proper carving, next time I would use more smoke, more pepper and more salt. Also, I think I might be tempted to cook it just a bit longer in the foil to get it “melt in your mouth” tender. This was good for a first attempt though, and I wouldn’t be intimidated to cook this cut again.