Cedar Planked Salmon

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This week for Sunday Dinner we made the most of some beautiful CSA produce from Gray Farms.

I roasted some white and purple potatoes, and Mrs. Noe made a lovely vinaigrette with lots of incredibly delicious and pungent fresh basil. She made a nice green salad and I roasted asparagus and cooked salmon on cedar planks.

My process for potatoes on the grill is to cut them into relatively even sized pieces and soak them in water for awhile. After draining, into a bowl they go with a drizzle of olive oil plus some salt and pepper, and then into the microwave for about five minutes. At that point they’re ready for the heated plancha on the Genesis. This consistently turns out lovely potatoes – crunchy on the surface and creamy on the inside.

The asparagus simply roasted on a grill pan with oil and seasoning for twenty minutes or so.

I’d soaked two cedar planks for several hours, then got them starting right over the burners while the asparagus was cooking. When the planks started smoking and popping, they were turned over and the salmon placed on the scorched surface. We seasoned with dill, salt and pepper. They were done in under fifteen minutes.

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We don’t have this meal often enough.

Jack Daniels Pork Chops With Apples

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This week for Sunday Dinner I cooked Jamie Purviance’s recipe for pork chops and apples with whiskey and mustard glaze. I increased the glaze recipe by half, since we were serving five instead of four.

The tarragon added to finish the apples is something I would not have thought to do, and it was delicious.

I also made Hasselback Potatoes at my wife’s request, which is one of our favorite sides.

hasselback-potatoes

Farsi Chicken and Balal Corn

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Once upon a time, many years ago, I met a crazy man who gave me a great chicken recipe.

Richard had a Master’s Degree in English Literature, but had gone to work as an insurance agent. He was assigned to my employer’s accounts, so he sold me a life policy. He seemed perfectly normal. When we met for lunch so I could sign some papers, I casually mentioned that I was camping on the coming weekend, and foolishly mentioned the name of the campground.

That Friday evening, we were just lighting the campfire when he pulled into camp on a little Kawasaki 400, which he referred to as “the road iron.” He proceeded to drink heavily, eventually passing out in a lawn chair near the fire, but not before reciting long passages out of The Canterbury Tales from memory. Friends who arrived during the recitation were initially terrified, thinking that glossolalia had taken hold of him.

In any case, at some point he described this chicken recipe that became one of my favorites for the grill. First, the chicken pieces marinate in lemon juice for an hour or so, then they go into plain yoghurt overnight. When it’s time to cook, you wipe of the yoghurt, season simply with salt and pepper, and then grill as usual. This method produces tender, juicy chicken like no other I’ve ever tasted. It was my foolproof, go-to recipe for a decade or so, and everyone always loved it.

When my wife and I were first dating, I was so confident in the recipe that I bragged almost incessantly about it. “Some time I’ll have to grill the Farsi Chicken for you. It’s incredible. You’ll love it.” Unfortunately, after building up her expectations for weeks or months, when I finally cooked it for her I burned the chicken so badly that we may as well have just eaten the charcoal. I didn’t grill chicken of any sort for a long time afterwards, thinking that I was under some sort of jinx. The jinx was mysteriously broken when I learned to use a timer.

So for Sunday Dinner this week I made the Farsi Chicken again. Initially I looked for other Persian recipes as sides, settling on Balal corn and Tahdig rice. As it turned out, I decided that the rice was too much too attempt without a test run, and opted for another (non-Persian) rice recipe with savory mushrooms.

We also had some fennel from the CSA, and Claudia made an incredible salad with it and some mandarin oranges.

I still want to try the Tahdig at some point, and also the Persian method of dipping the roasting ears in salt water after grilling. We’d love to learn more about Persian cuisine in general too.

Before the meal I tipped my glass to Richard. I lost track of him long ago, but still imagine him burning up the backroads on the road iron, regaling and terrifying friends and strangers with recitations in Middle English and recipes from far off lands.

Ribs for Fathers Day 2016

plated-ribs-fathers-day-2016For Fathers Day this year I did another long cook. Our Jewel store had St. Louis Cut Spareribs on sale two racks for the price of one, so ribs it was.

I started the Weber Kettle early in the day, setting it up with ten unlit coals on each side of a foil pan filled about halfway with water. I added four or five lit coals to each side, along with some apple and hickory chunks. One bottom vent was wide open, one completely closed and one open about halfway. Top vent was wide open as well.

Once the temperature stabilized at around 250 F, I put the slabs on a rib rack over the drip pan. I’d seasoned them the night before with my usual rub recipe. From then on it was a matter of monitoring the temperature and spraying the ribs each hour with a mist of apple juice, cider vinegar and coffee. After three hours, I wrapped them in foil and moved them to the Genesis to finish.

kettle-smokingThere’s something magical and Zen-like about a long cook. The smell of the smoke and the sight of it wafting over the patio is an experience unto itself. It’s satisfying to know that you’ve acquired the skill necessary to maintain an even temperature over several hours of cooking, and the other fairly specific skills needed to turn out a perfect plate of ribs. The pace of the cook affords time for relaxation and proper anticipation of the delicious meal to come.

We’re in the Gray Farms CSA this year, and one of the cool things about it is that we get a lot of produce that we likely wouldn’t think to try otherwise. It’s like this lovely surprise package every week. This week, we had both turnips and collards, which neither of us had ever cooked before. We diced the turnips and roasted them on the plancha, and the collards we cooked in a Lodge cast iron Dutch Oven on the Genesis. I cooked up some onions and garlic in the pot for starters, then added the collards, a dried cayenne, some stock and a couple of smoked ham hocks and let them simmer for a long time.

These turned out really delicious and they’re something we’d definitely make again.

I also melted some Brie on a cedar plank with a little blackberry jam drizzled over the top for an appetizer.

It’s always a pleasure to cook for the folks on Sunday, but it was especially fun to do a full day of cooking for my wife’s dad on Fathers Day. Since my own father passed away when I was very young, I feel especially grateful to have a wonderful father-in-law in my life, and appreciate every chance we have to spend time with him.

Perfecting Eggplant Parmigiana

One of the things we like best about the Weber Genesis is the ability to cook a quick meal outdoors on a summer evening, and we delight in finding ways to adapt recipes that we would usually cook inside. Eggplant has turned out to be one of our favorite vegetables to  take to the gas grill. The charring and smoke add a depth of flavor to dishes like Eggplant Parmigiana without the mess and added fats of the traditional fried cooking method.

We’ve been refining this recipe for nearly three years now, and finally have it more or less perfect. The eggplant gets sliced into rounds about a quarter of an inch thick, salted on both sides and placed on a wire rack to sweat for an hour or so. This step is less about seasoning and more about drawing out some of the moisture and bitterness. We wipe off the salt, and then each slice gets a quick dip in some beaten egg before getting dredged in a mixture of seasoned Italian and Japanese breadcrumbs. The Panko crumbs add some additional crunch to the breading, which is important since we’re not frying.

Then the eggplant goes on the plancha on the pre-heated Genesis, after a little olive oil spray. It only takes a few minutes to get them nicely charred on the outside and fairly tender throughout. Then they go into a foil pan with cheese and sauce, and back out to the Genesis to finish cooking and warming through over indirect heat. We serve them with whatever pasta strikes our fancy.

The whole family agreed that this last batch we cooked was the most delicious we’d ever tasted.

Squash and Onions

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I managed to catch a wisp of smoke in this shot of yellow squash, zucchini and onions on the Genesis. We ate this over Penne Rigate. Quick, delicious and nutritious.

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

Rotisserie Chicken on the Genesis

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We usually light the Weber Kettle for rotisserie chicken, but last week I cooked one on the gas grill and it turned out perfect. I used a couple cups full of hickory chips, which helped. I took the bird off the spit after about an hour, and then put it on a foil pan to finish indirect.

Tagliarini Casserole and Grilled Mushroom Caps

I wanted to make an atomic age retro dinner this week, so it was casserole time.

Tagliarini is a sort of a smaller version of tagliatelle, and it’s the main ingredient in this casserole recipe from Eat Me Daily. I served it with an Italian steakhouse house salad and Portabella mushrooms with herbed cheese and pine nuts. The wine was a Spanish Temrparnillo.

I was a little nervous about the salad, since I’d never made a dressing with anchovies before. It turned out fine, and I’ll likely make it again. The Portabellas were delicious too, and it was worth the effort to remove the gills, something I’d not bothered with in the past. We used a really tasty garlic and herb cheese. I didn’t make it to the store for planks, so these were cooked on a veggie grill pan, and ended up a little messy since the cheese melted through the slits. Would definitely try them on the planks next time.

The casserole was hearty, but a little disappointing. Next time, we’ll include some additional seasoning, either herbs (maybe some oregano) or some sort of canned ingredient to spice things up. Perhaps a can of Campbell’s mushroom or tomato soup (staples of the 1950s casserole) would do the trick. Whatever we add, I’d like it to remain authentic to the low brow mid-century casserole tradition.

The weather was cool here, so I baked the casserole in the oven (to warm up the house) instead of on the Weber Genesis, and almost felt guilty.

Charred Eggplant with Curried Chickpeas

I ran across this recipe idea in The Wall Street Journal last week, and as it happened my wife had just brought home a couple eggplants.

I split the eggplants in two, lengthwise, scored the skins and put them on the grill over medium burners for 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally, after hitting them with a little olive oil spray and kosher salt. Also charred a red pepper at the same time.

Then I sautéed a chopped red onion and several cloves of garlic, diced the roasted pepper and added it. After a few minutes I poured in some white wine vinegar, then added the can of (drained) chickpeas and a tablespoon or so of curry powder. Once everything was combined and heated, I spooned it over the Eggplant halves, topped with a little chipped cilantro, hit it with olive oil and salt again, and then put it all back on the grill in a foil pan to finish. Mrs. Noe cooked the quinoa on the stovetop.

This turned out really delicious, and was a nice departure from our usual fare. It’s also prompted me to review an old cookbook titled Curries Without Worries that my wife gave me years ago and I’ve never cooked from. I think that a lot of the recipes seemed too intricate and intimidating when I was younger. Hoping that I’ve grown as a cook since then and can find some treasures in its pages.

Easy Foolproof Grilled Pizza

I’ve learned a lot since originally posting about how to make pizza on the grill. I think I finally have a foolproof process that can consistently turn out great pies.

One of the most labor intensive parts of the process, for me, has been rolling out and stretching the dough. This time around, I put each dough ball between two sheets of parchment paper and rolled it out with a french pin. For three crusts, this probably saved me half-an-hour’s work.

The second tricky part of my old process was getting the dough on to the grill. The double parchment made this easy too. I simply placed the dough, paper and all, on a preheated plancha (with the grill at about 500 F), thus avoiding the treacherous “commit and flip” ritual. After a minute or so, I used a spatula to flip the dough, and one sheet of the paper came right off. I sprayed the dough with olive oil at this point, and after another minute flipped again, removed the other paper and sprayed that side as well. Then it was a simple matter of turning the dough occasionally as it baked, until one side had been grilled for three to four minutes and the other side for two to three.

At that point, we topped the side that had been cooked longest, and put the pizza back on the plancha for another two or three minutes to finish. If we had been using toppings that required more thorough cooking (sausage or whatever) we would have par-cooked those in a pan ahead of time.

This process was a lot less hassle than what I was doing before, and it avoided the problem of the crusts getting a little too charred from being directly over the flames.

I used a cast iron plancha on the Weber Genesis, but if you’re cooking over charcoal, you could use any heavy pan or a pizza stone. Just be sure to get everything up to a high temperature before you start cooking.

Do you cook pizza outdoors? I’d love to hear about your recipes and process. Leave a note in the comments.

Walleye from Lake Erie

For several months now, my father-in-law has been casually asking “If I brought some Walleye over, would you fix it on the grill?” I’d always say that I would, but was more or less dreading it. I like walleye breaded and fried, but have never been nuts about the texture or flavor of it prepared otherwise. I’ve also had no experience cooking that sort of fish on the grill.

I do love my in-laws, though, and finding ways to delight them with a meal is always a pleasure. So I began looking for recipes and techniques that would turn out something satisfying.

The walleye arrived as bags of frozen fillets. I thawed several bags and put the fish into a bowl of salt water for awhile. After reviewing a bunch of recipes online, I decided that the best approach would be to season the walleye with my barbecue rub, hit it with some canola oil and bake it indirect on the Genesis in foil pans. I also sprinkled it with Herbs de Provence and lime juice toward the end of the cook (which was about 15 to 20 minutes).

It wasn’t bad. I think I got the cook time right. I’d be tempted next time to marinate the fillets in either citrus or some sort of strong brine overnight. I might also roll them in cornmeal or breadcrumbs.

Dad seem to enjoy them, and that’s the main thing. He was a fairly serious fisherman in his younger days, and I think he misses it. He also doesn’t grill anymore, and I think he misses that too. Claudia has told me of the times when he would have a smoker going for fish or game, just outside her bedroom window when she was a kid.

We served the fish with a delicious zucchini and yellow squash casserole that Claudia made, Wulff Salad, roasted cauliflower wedges that I did on the Genesis (with herbs, mustard powder and cheese), and some nice bread that I baked earlier in the day. The wine was an A to Z Pinto Gris, which was tasty, though a little sweet for my palate.

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.

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.

Weber Genesis Thirty Years On

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Weber’s Genesis gas grill series was launched in 1985, and its many innovative features changed the whole perception of what a gas barbecue was, what it could do, and how it should look.

There’s a wonderful, in-depth article on the Weber website about the creation of the Genesis, the problems they faced, and how they solved them to make one of the most revolutionary and iconic products of a generation.

Read the article: Class Of´85: The Creators Of The Genesis | Weber.com.

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