Memorial Day Cookout

28 May 2018

Memorial Day Dinner

We stuck to traditional Mid-Century American fare for our Memorial Day cookout this year, with hamburgers and grilled roastin’ ears.

I also made one of my favorite desserts from childhood, a “cherry salad” consisting of cherry pie filling, coconut flakes, little marshmallows and banana slices.

Cherry Salad

Souvlaki

Sunday Dinner – May 27th 2018

For this Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, we had one of our favorite kabob dishes, Souvlaki (which literally means “little skewers” in Greek).

The recipe comes from The Spruce. I found it after we attended the Annunciation Church picnic a few years ago, and loved the flavors. We’ve had these maybe half a dozen times in the years since, and they’re always delicious. We served the pork in pitas with cabbage shreds and yogurt Tzatziki, using a recipe from the same site. The Greek-inspired flavors were echoed in a pasta salad recipe from the Hamilton Beach food blog.

For dessert, I tried my hand at classic Southern banana pudding. I’ve made custards a few times in the past (mostly for homemade ice cream), but this was my first attempt at pudding proper. Although I made a rookie mistake (misreading tablespoons versus teaspoons for the vanilla), it turned out fine. Claudia made fresh whipped cream to go on top, which certainly helped. We served it in vintage Currier & Ives bowls that had belonged to Claudia’s Grandma Wulff, bringing back fond memories of her Sunday Dinners long ago.

One of the nice things about this meal is that everything could be prepared the day before. It only took about twenty minutes to grill the skewers, so the rest of the day was spent enjoying the company of our regular Sunday crew.

We opened a very nice Rosé of Pinot Noir from Evangelos Bagias before the meal, and served a hearty Scott Peterson Rumpus Chaos (a cuvée of Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouchset and Grenache) with the food.

Monday’s meal will be more traditional American fare including cheeseburgers, three bean salad – and one of my childhood favorites, a cherry salad that my mom used to make. Here’s wishing everyone happiness, health, peace and safety as we observe Memorial Day 2018.

First Long Cook of the Year: Spare Ribs

Sunday Dinner – Mothers Day – 13 May 2018

Weber Kettle Smoke

For dinner on Mothers Day, along with the regular Sunday Dinner crew, we were pleased to welcome Claudia’s cousin Dan and his partner who were visiting from Florida. I prepared St. Louis Style spareribs, baked beans and coleslaw. Dan brought macaroni salad and Aunt Pat made an Angel Food Cake with macerated strawberries. Claudia also prepared some nice appetizers, including skewers of fruit, veggies and cheese. We also grilled some small peppers stuffed with cream cheese filling.

I got the grill going early, around 7:30 AM, and had the ribs on the rack by 8. I’d removed the silver skin and rubbed them the night before with my usual mix of Kosher salt, black pepper, Turbinado sugar, cumin, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. The grill was set up with ten unlit coals on each side of a water pan, five lit coals on top of each side, and some chunks of apple and hickory. Bottom vents started with two open and one closed, then I damped one as needed to keep the temp at 250°F. The sweet smoke smelled heavenly as we enjoyed our morning coffee.

I had knocked out both the coleslaw and crock pot baked beans on Saturday evening, but there still seemed little time for relaxation. Attending the ribs meant monitoring the temperature, adding coals as needed, and mopping the slabs every hour with a combination of apple juice, coffee and Schlitz from a spray bottle. We also had to attend some last minute gift wrapping for the moms, and Claudia and our daughter did some tidying and cleaning to prepare for company.

The cook was a classic 3/2/1 (three hours on a rack over smoke, two hours wrapped in foil, one final hour over smoke again to finish) and the ribs turned out great. The rest of the meal was fabulous as well, likewise the conversation.

In fact, we enjoyed ourselves so much that we failed to take food photos, so you’ll have to use your imagination. :)

We had a bottle of Alma Andina Malbec first, which was just sort of alright. Then I opened a California Zin from F. Stephen Millier. It was scrumptious.

It’s hard to beat a long cook, particularly when you’re sharing the results with good company. I’m especially appreciative of time spent with Claudia’s family, and the opportunity to honor her (and her mom) again this Mothers Day. She has created an exceptionally happy and loving home. Very literally a dream come true.

Easter Brunch and Dinner 2018

Easter Brunch

We had Claudia’s folks and her sister’s family over for Easter this year. We started with Mimosas and Bloody Marys, and enjoyed a marvelous brunch including egg casserole, Kiełbasa, fresh fruits, baked goods and more.

Later in the day, we served ham, green beans, pasta and Wulff Salad.

Easter Ham

The salad, by the way, is named for Claudia’s mom’s family. She learned to prepare this simple vinaigrette growing up. It’s unique in that the ingredients are added directly to the greens, one-by-one, rather than combining in a cruet first. It includes oil (she generally uses EVOO these days, but it could be any vegetable oil), vinegar (usually balsamic or red wine), salt, pepper and a bit of sugar. Nothing is measured, so far as I can tell.

I cook the ham on the grill each year, using Jamie Purviance’s Mustard-Molasses Glaze recipe from Weber’s Real Grilling. The first time I made this glaze, Claudia commented that it smelled like her grandma’s kitchen, which is about the highest compliment one can receive. Here’s the recipe.

  • ½ cup stone-ground mustard
  • ¼ cup unsulphured dark molasses
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Combine these in a saucepan and simmer a bit.

Score a 10 pound, bone-in (butt end) cooked ham with cross hatches, and place it cut side down in a foil pan. I add a can of 7-Up or ginger ale to the pan, and grill over indirect medium heat for two or three hours, brushing with the glaze after an hour or so, and again toward the end of the cook. This year I cooked it on the Weber Genesis gas grill, adding a few chunks of apple wood to the smoker box.

Claudia had baked an assortment of sugar cookies and almond/oat cookies. And of course, there were hard boiled eggs galore.

I had been sick the prior week and had barely been eating, so I overdid with all of the delicious goodies in the morning, and didn’t really get to enjoy dinner. But the ham was wonderful for days on end. Claudia made grilled ham and Swiss sandwiches Monday evening, and we used the bone to flavor some incredible split pea soup later in the week.

St. Patrick’s Day Weekend

Sunday Brunch and Dinner – 18 March 2018

Green Flowers

Aunt Pat’s Lovely Bouquet

We had the folks and Aunt Pat over early this Sunday so we could work in a late breakfast as well as dinner. Claudia was up before 7 AM putting together her white chocolate and raspberry scones, which involved a very labor intensive process of grating frozen butter into the dry ingredients mixture. We tried using a food processor for this bit, but that didn’t work out, so she went back to the box grater, painstakingly dispensing two pounds of Irish butter. Once the dough was resting in the fridge, she headed out to Yoga while I started preparing a huge pot of veggies and corned beef.

We had Pandora’s St. Patrick’s Day station streaming as the family arrived, and Claudia baked the scones. I had some sausages and Potatoes O’Brien ready, and a fresh pot of coffee on. Claudia, Pat and Mom added a wee nip o’ Tullamore Dew to their mugs. Aunt Pat brought a lovely, festive bouquet.

Claudia had also made Shamrock Bark on Saturday evening as an additional treat.

After breakfast, the folks and Pat settled in for some games of cribbage while dinner continued to simmer. In past years, we had always cooked the corned beef in a crock pot, but this year I decided to try a recipe we’d seen in Sunset Magazine for Patrick’s Corned Beef and Cabbage. I honestly don’t know how we survived before we got a 12 quart stock pot, and toward the end of the cook, it was almost too small.

We used two point cut briskets, over seven pounds together, along with five medium onions, 2 pounds of carrots, 2 1/2 pounds of red potatoes and two full heads of cabbage. The addition of malt vinegar, Guinness and lots of whole spices to the pot added something special, but what was most notable about the recipe was that the cabbage was cooked perfectly. Instead of the limp, slimy mess that usually comes out of the crock, this still had a little firmness to it, since it was added late in the cooking.

I also tried a new soda bread recipe from BTE this year. The other recipe I’ve always used includes caraway seeds and raisins, and is a little sweeter, almost like a thick scone. This one turned out to be a much better compliment to the meal, with a dense, fluffy crumb and nice crunchy crust.

Claudia also served three varieties of Irish cheeses with the meal. The wine was a very nice Matt Iaconis Cabernet Sauvignon from 2015. Some Guinness Stout, Smithwick’s Red Ale and Tullamore Dew were also consumed, and after dinner one round of Grasshoppers with mint chocolate ice cream for dessert. :)

Sláinte Mhaith!

Turkey on the Kettle

This is the third year that I’ve cooked our Thanksgiving turkey on the Weber Kettle. It was the first time that I’ve done it without using the rotisserie attachment, and it turned out beautifully.

We dry brined the bird Wednesday evening with a mixture of kosher salt, cracked black pepper, Turbinado sugar, garlic powder and Herbs de Provence. I stuffed the turkey with onions and Mandarin oranges, then sprayed it with olive oil before placing it on the preheated grill over a drip pan containing a bottle of inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon. Hickory and Cherry chunks provided the smoke.

I started it breast side down, and flipped it over about an hour into cooking. The grill was running more than 400 F to start, and eventually leveled off to around 300. For a 13 pound bird, I’d estimated that it would take around 2 1/2 hours at these temperatures, and that was right on the money. The lowest temp in the breast was around 160 when we brought the turkey in and covered it with a foil tent to rest.

I strained the pan drippings and used them to make a simple gravy, starting with a roux and adding seasonings and some stock.

We served the J. Lohr Cab Sauv with the meal, and it was delicious, but I think I’d go with a Pinot Noir next time.

Turkey Lohr

seven-oaks-cab-sauvWhen planning a wine pairing for Thanksgiving Dinner, I’ve always heard of the ABC rule: anything but Cabernet Sauvignon. This year, I’m breaking the rule.

The issue is that turkey is not thought to contain enough fat or flavor to balance against the tannins of the Cab Sauv. By smoking the turkey on the Weber kettle grill, we ought to have the flavor part of the equation covered. I also plan to make gravy from the drippings, which should add some richness at table.

The wine will be a 2010 Seven Oaks from J. Lohr, splash decanted to soften the tannins a bit, a trick I learned to tame Malbec that grips so hard it pulls your tonsils out.

We’ll report back later in the week.

Easter Dinner 2015

We had lovely weather on Easter Sunday this year, perfect for cooking on the Weber Genesis.

Mrs. Noe made a incredible twice baked potato casserole and her delicious Yorkshire Pudding popovers. She and her mom put together another beautiful salad with Wulff family vinaigrette, and I cooked a glazed ham and some asparagus on the patio.

Here’s the recipe for the glaze.

  • ½ cup stone-ground mustard
  • ¼ cup unsulphured dark molasses
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Since the ham was 14 pounds (instead of the ten in the recipe) I decided to double the ingredients for the glaze. We also didn’t have molasses, so I used honey. As it turns out, I mistakenly grabbed the 1/2 tablespoon measure instead of teaspoon, so got way too much cloves. To compensate, I added more mustard, some mustard powder, and then thinned the glaze with a little Schlitz. I also added some of the liquid from the pan drippings after the ham had been on the grill for an hour. As luck would have it, it made a delicious crust.

I scored the ham and put it in a foil drip pan over indirect heat in the middle of the Genesis. For the first 45 minutes or so, I had the temperature pretty hot (near 400 F). Finally got it under control at a steady 300 for the rest of the cook. I started basting with the glaze (and removing excess liquid from the drip pan) after the first hour, and then every hour thereafter. The entire cook took a little more than 3 1/2 hours, which was just a little quicker than I’d anticipated.

I cooked the asparagus on a Weber “Style” grill pan (the one with the slits cut into it), seasoning with olive oil spray, salt, cracked black pepper, lemon zest, and lemon juice at the end.

We served a nice Santa Rita Hills La Tapatia Pinot Noir with the meal.

The glaze was a Jamie Purviance recipe from “Weber’s Real Grilling” and the Weber iPad App. I think I might stick to the proper amount of cloves next time, but I liked how my happy accident turned out. I might be tempted to try it with the molasses just to see the difference.

It was a wonderful day, and a beautiful start to another spring season with the gas grill.