Grilled Chicken with Pasta Bake

Sunday Dinner – 9 December 2018

Grilled Chicken with Pasta Bake

This week we grilled chicken on the Genesis and Claudia made a nice pasta bake with Ricotta. Wine was a Calavaras County cuvée from F. Stephen Millier.

We have some white meat and some dark meat fans in the group, and it’s taken me awhile to learn how to cook the leg quarters properly. This time, they turned out perfect. I seasoned them with coarse salt, black pepper, Herbs du Provence, garlic and onion powder, and a little MSG. The grill was set up with the outer burners on medium and the center burner off. The chicken went on the cooler part, in the middle, skin side down at first for about twenty minutes. Then I flipped them and let them cook another twenty minutes indirect. This allows the fat underneath the skin to render. Once the internal temperature was around 170 °F I turned the middle burner on as well, and finished them skin side down over direct heat. This crisped up the skin nicely and brought the temp up to 185 in the thigh. I put the breasts on over direct medium heat (one of the outside burners) as the leg quarters were finishing. The legs came off first to rest, so that we could serve everything as soon as the breasts were done (they cooked about twenty minutes total).

The pasta bake was made with Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmigiana, with a red sauce on top. Claudia also made a fresh green salad and steamed some broccoli and cauliflower with garlic. Aunt Pat brought cookies and ice cream for dessert.

Another Long Cook

Sunday Dinner – 16 September 2018

This is the first time we’ve repeated a main course for Sunday Dinner in 2018. We had a six pound Boston Butt in the freezer, and the weather was favorable, so it was hard to resist the long cook.

I was up at around 6:30 AM to set up the Weber Kettle and start the coals. I’d rubbed the pork shoulder Saturday Evening with my usual seasonings, and set up the Kettle as usual with a drip pan full of water between ten unlit briquettes on each side. I added several lit coals and some wood chunks before placing the pork on the grate. After about three hours, I wrapped the pork in foil to get it through the stall, and eventually moved it over to the Genesis Gas Grill to finish. After about six and a half hours total, the internal temp was 203 degrees F. We let it rest for about another hour before shredding.

I’d made pasta salad on Friday evening, and Claudia made a delicious green salad, plus some truly amazing green beans with onions and bacon for sides. The wine was from F. Stephen Millier (a Lodi Shiraz which paired perfectly with the barbecue). Claudia also made brownies for dessert.

We’re missing Aunt Pat while she spends some time with family out west. It was another lovely Sunday with Grammy and Grampy, though. It’s such a blessing to be able to be in their company each week.

Pork Chops and Hasselback Bakers

Sunday Dinner -12 August 2018

Pork Chops Hasselback Potaotes

This was a simple, delicious meal. We had some pork chops in the freezer, so I decided to use one of my favorite brines for pork from Vrobel. We were out of Bourbon, so I used dark rum in the brine, and also omitted the glaze.

For the Hasselback Potatoes, we used bakers. I made slits in them 1/8th inch apart, sprayed them with olive oil, and sprinkled with onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. They went into a pan on the grill over indirect heat for 30 minutes, then got hit with olive oil again, roasted another 20 minutes, then I put them over direct heat for another 15. I’d put some cloves of garlic in olive oil in the bottom of the pan as well.

The pork chops were on for maybe twenty-five minutes total over direct heat. Claudia cooked some corn that had been put away last year, and made a nice fresh green salad. She also baked a banana cake from scratch earlier in the day for dessert.

Grilled Veggie Sandwiches

Sunday Dinner – 5 August 2018

This week we grilled a bunch of veggies and made sandwiches.

Neither of us can remember precisely when, or why, we started making this particular meal, but we know that it goes back at least a decade to when we were living in Mattoon, Illinois. It’s basically a huge mess of vegetables, grilled in batches and put between bread with cheese and returned to the grill to get gooey.

We included eggplant, Portabello Mushrooms, zucchini, red and orange peppers, red onions and tomato slices. These were all seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and Herbs de Provence, and grilled with liberal spritzes of olive oil. Once they were grilled, Claudia and Aunt Pat assembled them with Provolone slices between the halves of three loaves of Italian Bread, and wrapped them in aluminum foil, and then we put them back out on the Weber Genesis to warm through. Datsa Sanguige!

Prepping Sandwiches

We also grilled some halved nectarines for a few minutes, then topped them with Mascarpone, Balsamic Vinegar and honey before taking them out to finish.

Aunt Pat also brought a delicious lemon meringue pie for dessert.

We served a couple of bottles of rosé (once from Lodi and one from France) with the meal. Mrs. Noe and I aren’t huge fanatics for blush wines, but I do like them every now and then in hot weather (which was certainly a feature of this weekend).

Grilled Pizza

Sunday Dinner – 15 July 2018

This week we made pizza for Sunday Dinner. We finally have the process pretty well down.

I made a quick, no cook sauce from two cans of tomato sauce, one can of tomato paste, some oregano, basil, garlic, sugar, paprika, salt and pepper. We followed our usual process otherwise, as described in these earlier posts.

Easy Foolproof Grilled Pizza

How to Make Pizza on the Grill

After I par cooked the crusts, Claudia topped one with three cheese blend, another with veggies and another with fresh basil and mozzarella. Then they went back out to the plancha on the Weber Genesis to finish.

The crust this time was the best yet – a perfect combination of crunchy on the outside with a little dense chew inside.

Flavors of Palestine

Sunday Dinner – 10 June 2018

Palestinian Food

This week’s Sunday Dinner was a classic from the Middle East, Maqloubeh.

The passing of Anthony Bourdain prompted feelings of sorrow, followed by a binge of Parts Unknown. One of the first episodes I revisited was his trip to Jerusalem, which also included a segment in Gaza with his Palestinian host, Laila El-Haddad. He was treated to Maqloubeh, a dish of rice, spices and other delicious goodies.

“Maqloubeh” is the Arabic word for “upturned” or “upside-down.” Although family recipes vary greatly, the main ingredients seem to be long-grain rice, eggplant, cauliflower, onions, garlic and lamb (or sometimes chicken). I reviewed seven or eight recipes online, and tried to get to the essence of the dish.

While we were cooking the main course, Claudia served some roasted red-pepper hummus that she’d made earlier, along with crudités and pita chips. I’ll try to goad her into adding the hummus recipe here at some point, but it is basically chick peas, fresh lemon juice, tahini, garlic, a roasted red pepper and some other seasonings. If you’ve only ever had store bought hummus, you are missing out. She also roasted some chick peas with spices in the oven on a cookie sheet. Those were super tasty and surprisingly crunchy.

We had a lot of help from Aunt Pat in the kitchen this week, as usual. The prep work on these dishes was pretty time consuming, so it was great to have another capable pair of hands at the cutting board all afternoon.

مقلوبة

Maqloubeh Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Pieces
  • 2 Eggplants, Cut Into Cubes
  • 2 Cauliflower, Quartered Then Pulled Into Florets
  • 2 Yellow Onions, Rough Chopped
  • Several Cloves of Garlic, Smashed
  • 2 Tomatoes, Sliced
  • 2 Cups Basmati Rice
  • Toasted Almonds
  • Yogurt with Mint and Seasoned Salt

Seasonings:

  • Coarse Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Cardamom
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Turmeric
  • Garlic Powder

Although the ingredients are usually either fried or roasted, I decided to cook them on the Weber Genesis. After seasoning 4 leg quarters, they went on the indirect side of the grill for 40 minutes, then were moved directly over the burner for another ten minutes to finish. Internal temperature was between 175° and 185° F when I took them off. The boneless, skinless chicken breasts got the same treatment, except for a shorter length of time (and more time over direct heat) until they registered 165° F. We covered them with a tent of foil until time to serve.

The eggplant and cauliflower pieces received the same seasoning, and were grilled with a little olive oil on a veggie sheet for a bit, just to soften them up and get a little charred flavor into them.

We hit a 6 quart pan with olive oil spray, and Claudia placed a layer of tomato slices on the bottom. At this point, the traditional version of the dish would get a layer of meat, but we had so many vegetables that we decided at the last minute to keep the chicken out and serve it alongside. We added some of the grilled cauliflower and eggplant, and some onions and garlic that Claudia had sautéed. Then a cup of brown Basmati rice, the rest of the veggies, and one more cup of rice went into the pot, and finally 4 1/2 cups of stock with a little Turmeric mixed in. We covered it and boiled it for ten minutes and then simmered for another thirty.

I was nervous when it came time to invert the pot.

Mqloubeh

As you can see from the photo, it did collapse a bit on one side. Next time I’ll do my best to leave it sit awhile longer once inverted before removing the pot. I think I would also heat the stock before adding it to the pot next time, to give the boil a head start. Otherwise, there isn’t a single thing I would plan to change.

I toasted some almond slices in a dry skillet, and sprinkled them over the top. We served the Maqloubeh and chicken with some Greek Yogurt (I’d stirred in some dried mint at my friend Mazen’s suggestion, along with a little Lawry’s). It was a delicious combination. Claudia also made a traditional Arab salad to go with.

سلطة خيار الطماطم

Cucumber Tomato Salad

  • 3 cucumbers, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • grape tomatoes, cut into halves
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • several cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons crushed dried mint
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1-2 lemons
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mazen suggested that we add thyme to the salad, but it slipped my mind, so we’ll have to try that next time. This was one of the most vibrant, fresh-tasting salads I’ve ever eaten. Just delightful.

We served a couple bottles of my favorite bargain wine, Yellow Tail Shiraz, with the meal. It was a perfect compliment.

بسبوسة

Basbousa

When we were planning the meal, Claudia asked “what’s for dessert?” This is something I always seem to neglect. After a little research we settled on Basbousa, which is a yellow cake made from Semolina flour. She used this recipe for the cake, and topped it with a cinnamon simple syrup and coconut shreds as described here. It turned out just lovely as well.

Basbousa

The music stream for the day was a traditional Arabic and Andalusian station from Pandora, which added a special dimension to our gathering.

We eat to live, we eat to remember, but we also eat to learn. One of the things that has always impressed me about Bourdain is the way he seemed to foster such deep connections with people wherever he traveled. He wasn’t just a journalist conducting an interview. He was a friend, sharing a meal and some conversation.

We see our own Sunday Dinners as opportunities to celebrate cultures, times and places that we likely might not consider or examine otherwise. It was particularly nice to approximate and experience the aromas and tastes of a Palestinian kitchen this week. We’d not delved much into the food of the Eastern Mediterranean. Now that we have, I’ll be anxious now to find other dishes typical of the region.

Long live Palestine.

Mai Tai—Roa Ae!

Sunday Dinner – 3 June 2018

Our neighborhood grocer had pork loins on sale, so this week’s Sunday Dinner was a Trader Vic’s inspired faux Polynesian feast.

Char Siu Plated

I began preparations on Saturday with the marinade for the pork. The Char Siu recipe comes from an old Trader Vic’s cookbook, and consists of equal parts brown sugar, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and ketchup. That all went in to a ziplock bag with the pork loins.

The sides for this meal came from Rebecca Crum’s Ezra Pound Cake site. I put together the Hawaiian Macaroni Salad on Saturday evening before we left for Mass.

I still hadn’t decided on the vegetable side until Sunday morning. Finally went with an Asian-flavored slaw, based loosely on Rebecca’s recipe. It was a package of slaw shreds, some chopped roasted peanuts, and this dressing.

Asian Slaw Dressing

  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • sesame seeds
  • 1/2 Tablespoon powdered ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce

Sunday morning at 9 AM maybe wasn’t the best time to perfect a Mai Tai recipe, but adversity builds character. After a couple of failed attempts (too strong, too sour) here’s the final concoction.

Mai Tai
Mai Tai

  • 1 oz Bacardi Gold
  • 1 oz Myer’s Dark Rum
  • 1 oz Orange Curaćao
  • 1 oz Crème de Almond
  • 1 oz Rose’s Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz Grenadine
  • Juice of 1/2 Lime

Shook the heck out of that with crushed ice, decanted into a tumbler with cubes, and garnished with an orange wedge, a pineapple chunk and a cocktail cherry.


The appetizer recipe came from a site that, sadly, is no longer online. It’s a healthier, vegetarian version of Trader Vic’s Rumaki (chicken livers and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon, smothered with brown sugar). The water chestnuts are still there for the crunch, the smoky bacon flavor comes from liquid smoke in the mushroom marinade, and pineapple chunks add some sweetness.

Veggie RumakiVeggie Rumaki

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 4 T white vinegar
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/4 t powdered ginger

Pour some of the marinade over 2 cans of water chestnuts.

Add a teaspoon of liquid smoke to the remainder, and pour it over a pound of white mushrooms cut into bite sized pieces.

Let these sit in the fridge for a couple hours, then skewer them with chunks of pineapple, and cook them on the grill or in a 450°F oven for about 15 minutes. We served these while the rest of the meal was cooking


I cooked the pork loins on the Weber Kettle, over direct heat with some Hickory wood. I made another rookie mistake this week, pulling the loins off when they “looked done” instead of checking the internal temperature. So they had to go back out for another five minutes over high heat. They probably cooked for 25 minutes total. The last step was to sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the top.

I also roasted some baby carrots and scallions on the Genesis gas grill while the pork was cooking.

Carrots and Scallions

The pork can be served with mustard and sweet sour sauce on a King’s Hawaiian roll as a slider.

Char Siu Slider

We had a nice bottle of Stephen Millier California Zin with the meal. I managed to sneak in a Shiner Bock or two during the afternoon as well. It’s the Cowboy Way.

For dessert, Mrs. Noe baked an Angel Food Cake, and cut it into pieces for dipping in a simple orange/chocolate fondue, along with pieces of apple, banana and strawberries. Had I not been an idiot and forgotten about the pineapple chunks we had left, we would have dipped them too.

Music for the afternoon was courtesy of Jason Croft’s Bachelor Pad Radio. I’ve been listening to his show on Friday nights for decades now, and it always delights.

Overall, it was a satisfying meal and a lot of fun. The only thing that needs work is the macaroni salad. It just didn’t have much zing. I added some soy sauce, ginger and Bacos to try to kick it up a bit, but it was still a little bland. Maybe need to add some more vinegar next time, or some cheese shreds or something. Tarragon, maybe.

Until next week, Aloha ʻOe!

Cowboy With Shiner

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.

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.

Paella

Sunday Dinner – 25 February 2018

paellaSanta brought me a paella pan for Christmas this year, and we’d been waiting for decent weather to give it a try. Although it’s still fairly cold here (in the mid 40s) the forecast for Sunday was clear so we figured it was as good a time as any. I seasoned the pan well on Saturday in anticipation.

I worked from another BTE recipe.

The broth started with a sauté of five cloves of pressed garlic in a little olive oil. After a minute or so, I added 3 tablespoons of tomato paste and a teaspoon and a half of paprika. Once that started to thicken and darken, in went a bottle of clam juice, 2/3 cup of sherry and 4 cups of chicken broth to boil for a bit.

Claudia had picked up some boneless and skinless chicken thighs from Aldi. They got seasoned with garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper, and then grilled for about 7 minutes, and reserved.

Next, I got the pan good and hot on the Weber Genesis (all three main burners on high) and sautéed a chopped onion in a little olive oil. Then came a jar of roasted red peppers. After five or ten minutes, it was time to add the rice. There was no Bomba or Arborrio to be found here, so I used a medium grain rice from the Hispanic foods aisle at Jewel, pouring three cups over the onions and peppers, then mixing things together well, coating the rice with oil, and spreading it out evenly over the pan. The chicken pieces went around the perimeter, and the juices from the plate, plus the broth, went on top. Dollops of chorizo went on as well, and this cooked, with the grill cover down and the burners on medium, for maybe 15 minutes.

We used shrimp that had already been cooked, so they were added late in the process, along with a bag of frozen peas. I’d coated the shrimp with olive oil and seasoned with paprika, garlic, pepper and salt. From this point on, it was really just a matter of rotating the pan a quarter turn every five minutes or so to make sure things cooked evenly. Toward the end, I scraped a spoonful or two from the edge to check for seasoning and doneness.

We covered the pan with foil to rest a bit at table while enjoying a nice tossed salad, some toasted baguette slices, thin slices of Manchego cheese, olives and some small grilled red and yellow peppers that had been tossed with sherry and olive oil.

Claudia’s parents and Aunt Pat joined us again this week. Pat had eaten paella once while traveling with her daughter in Spain, and hadn’t been impressed, but she loved this batch. I honestly think that it was beginner’s luck that it turned out at all. My guess is that the main trick is to not stir the rice once you’ve added the cooking liquid. All of the ingredients were done properly, and there was a good socarrat on the bottom of the pan, which, similar to Persian tadig, is a hallmark of the dish.

We enjoyed the last bottle of Cariñena Garnacha that was in the cellar, with Pandora’s Flamenco channel streaming all afternoon to help the mood.

Claudia tried her hand at flan for the very first time as well, and it was exceptional. She used this recipe from The Spruce adding chocolate dipped espresso beans for garnish.

This meal is definitely a keeper. The only things I might change would be to use more onion, maybe add some whole garlic cloves, and perhaps add some clams (and more chorizo) to the paella. I didn’t keep precise notes on timing, so I hope we’ll be able to replicate the dish this summer. It would easily serve a dozen or more, so a party may be in order.

Cedar Planked Salmon

sunday-dinner-salmon-potatoes-asparagus

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.

cedar-planked-salmon-on-the-grill

We don’t have this meal often enough.

Jack Daniels Pork Chops With Apples

jack-daniels-pork-chops-apples

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

plated-sunday-dinner-farsi-chicken-corn-rice

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

squash-onion-grill

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

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.

Rotisserie Chicken on the Genesis

rotisserie-chicken-genesis

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.