Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chicken Fajitas

As I mentioned before, MBH and I try to eat as healthy as possible when we are cooking for ourselves at home and, because of this, I feel almost obligated to pick up a package of chicken breasts from whatever store I happen to be shopping in.  There is now no question as to how the breasts will be cooked, the challenge is thinking up creative ways to to prepare the breasts as to not get bored.  On this occasion I went into it with no plans an decided to go sans marinade or any seasoning and just throw the breasts on.  I am glad I did because these breasts turned in to some fantastic fajitas.


The grill was setup at 400º for direct cooking.  The breasts were flipped after 15 minutes and done after 30.

I always cut the largest breast to check for doneness.
(In this case it looks like I was a little cut happy.)
 I grabbed a package of pre-cut frozen veggies because we were feeling lazy and under a time crunch.  I sauteed them on the stove with garlic and an onion and added the egged chicken after slicing it thin.   I then added taco seasoning and water and let the mixture simmer.  Using some tortillas and the normal fixins I made some pretty tasty chicken fajitas.

These things were really good and very simple.  The next time I would use the fajita seasoning instead of the taco seasoning and I would serve them with this fire roasted salsa recipe I just learned about. NOM!

Add a little cheese, salsa, and sour cream and welcome to flavor country.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Wangs

FFIL has mastered the art of chicken wings and he is infamous among my friends as the wing-man (He would probably make a good wing-man in both meanings of the phrase).  As I still consider myself a newbie in the eggin/grillin world, I aspire to become as mastered in wing making as FFIL.  The first step in this long journey was my very first wing cook.  On my previous trip to BHFM I grabbed a package of untrimmed chicken wings and headed home to do some research.  In my reading I learned of a wing rack tool that makes wing cooking very simple (simplicity is what I need to be competitive with FFIL).  The wings hang in the rack by placing the tip under the middle bar preventing the need to flip the wings throughout the cook (I'll take a picture of the setup next time I do wings).  I grabbed two of these bad boys from Ace hardware so that I could make the wings for MBH's surprise party and not have to keep an eye on them every 20 minutes.

I lightly rubbed the wings with DP Raging River rub and placed the wings into the egg.  Prep was simple.

I cooked the wings indirect for an hour and twenty minutes.  I only used one of the racks for the test run (I would have brought the other back if it did not meet expectations) so I had three wings sitting on the grid that I flipped every 20 minutes.  Not having to flip the wings at all is going to be great.

After pulling the wings off, I lightly tossed them in Frank's wing sauce and served.  The wings were delicious and even had some leftover the next day. Next time I will try to do some drumsticks with the wings to mix it up.  I will also use both racks instead of having wings laying on the grid needing to be flipped.  Simple and delicious.  I will do these again soon.

This picture makes me want to make more wings.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Atomic Buffalo Turds: ABTs

Atomic Buffalo Turds (ABTs) are a staple appetizer for Big Green Egg users everywhere. The recipe for ABTs actually comes with every BGE sold in the owner's manual/cookbook. I have been wanting to cook these for a while and never had a good reason to, but as described in my previous post, we threw a surprise party for MBH and it was the perfect venue for me to give ABTs a shot. Upon placing them on the egg, @iheartthehulk immediately dubbed them spicy rat toes after the popular appetizer at the local restaurant Six Feet Under. Spicy rat toes are very spicy jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese and shrimp wrapped in bacon.  I tried to keep mine a little less spicy for the masses and I didn't have any shrimp handy so I used sausage (after having both, I think I prefer mine unless I have plenty of cold beer handy to put out the fire).

In preparation for the cook I picked up about 24 fresh jalapenos of various sizes from the BHFM, 2 packages of cream cheese and a roll of spicy sausage from Publix, and on my most recent Sams trip I picked up a large package of thick cut bacon.

I cut the stems off of the jalapenos and halved them.  I cleaned out all of the seeds and interior junk and threw the halves into ice water to cool the heat off for some of the weaker party attendees.

Halfing and de-seeding the 'penos.
 The next step was browning the sausage in a pan with olive oil until sufficiently cooked.

Browning the sausage.
 Next, I added the sausage and a package and a half of softened cream cheese to a mixing bowl.  I mixed the two together until the mixture looked like a giant dirty snowball.  After letting the jalapenos soak for about 45 minutes I pulled them out of the ice water and stuffed them with the sausage mixture.  I wrapped each half in bacon and used a toothpick to secure it to the pepper.

I still had the grill setup from the indirect cooking I used for the ribs and I opened the vents to get the grill up closer to 350º.  I placed as many ABTs over the plate setter as possible with a few stragglers over the edge getting direct heat.  After about 15 minutes, I flipped the ABTs and let them go for another 15 minutes.  Upon checking them, the ABTs near the edge that were getting direct heat were done and I pulled them off.  The ABTs toward the center were less done so I moved them out towards the edges for another 20 minutes before pulling them off.

These things were delicious.  They went very quickly and I got a ton of compliments.  They had the perfect amount of heat and the bacon was done perfectly (I noticed that the bacon on the ABTs that came off earlier was a little less done but this was not the case on later ABTs, nice-n-crispy).  Next time I would use the grill extender to do two levels of ABTs toward the center of the grill for the first 30 minutes before transferring them to the edges to get more direct heat.  I would also consider using regular cut bacon instead of thick cut so that the interior bacon gets done more quickly

I failed to take any finished pictures of the ABTs prior to them being consumed in all of the madness but here is a picture I borrowed from the Internet to give you an idea of what they looked like completed.

Likeness of what I made except I used single jalapeno halves instead of two halves as pictured.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Surprise Party: Spare Ribs v2

So MBH's birthday was this past Wednesday and her sister and I planned a nice little surprise party for her the Saturday before.  All of our planning was very last minute (the invites went out Thursday for the Saturday party) but it all came together really well.  I knew I wanted to cook for the party so my first item on the agenda was to come up with a cover story so that I could start cooking early in the day without MBH getting suspicious.  I came up with a nice little story about a friend from out of town coming to dinner with us and my desire to show off my eggin' skills by doing some ribs and some appetizers.  MBH quickly bought into this and I think it helped that her favorite cook to date was the first batch of spares I did. 

Once the story  was covered it was time to decide what appetizers to make for the 20 or so people that said they could make it.  I had been dying to do Atomic Buffalo Turds (ABT's - I did not come up with this name, this is an egghead term) and wings but those will be saved for a separate posts as I would like to describe each process in detail.  In this post I will focus on the ribs.

I picked up the ribs and beer from Sams so that I could get 3 slabs without MBH complaining about the quantity (my planned argument was that the price was right at Sams so I had to get them there and I could not help that they come 3 slabs to a pack, in the end she could have cared less).  I took them home to prep for the party day.

I recently made a trip to an Ace Hardware near my office that sells Dizzy Pig rubs (DP).  I had heard about DP rubs from the egghead forums.  The forum members constantly rave about the DP rubs so I had to get some.  I picked up a bottle of DP Raging River and DP Raising the Steaks that I mentioned in a previous steak post. For this cook I used the Raging River rub for one slab of ribs, the Grill Mates applewood rub for the second slab, and a combination of the two rubs for the third slab.  After rubbing, I placed the ribs in saran wrap and into the fridge for the night.

I started the ribs around 11am on Saturday with grill set up for indirect at 225º.  I used a combination of Jack Daniel's wood chips and a hickory wood chunk for smoke.  I cooked the ribs on the Lambda rack over a drip pan for 3 hours as can bee seen below.  After the initial 3 hours, I pulled the ribs off and wrapped them in foil with some apple juice for an additional hour.  One final hour of unwrapped cooking to firm the ribs up completed the process and the ribs were again foiled and placed in a cooler to rest and stay warm.  The method detailed above was described in my previous rib post and is call the 3-1-1 method for the amount of time the ribs are in each phase of the cook.

A beautiful shot of the ribs just after placing them on the grill.
These were some of the meatiest ribs I have ever had.  I recently read about people trimming the excess meat and cooking it separately as it is hard to get the ribs to stand in the Lambda rack.  I decided not to trim them and instead shove them into the rack as best I could (as you can see above, there is meat everywhere!).  Since we had so many people, I sliced the ribs individually and put them out. Because of the amount of food I made and others brought, only 2 of the 3 slabs were eaten and I pulled the leftovers out for a party we had a week later.  The ribs were delicious and tender. I was very happy and I think the guests agreed.  I had a hard time differentiating which slabs had which rub after I had cut the ribs but both were very good. I think these ribs were better than the first batch and would get my ribs from Sams next time around.

Some of the leftover ribs cut up. They were still delicious after re-heating.
(A little bit of FFIL's famous Brunswick stew can be spotted in the upper right corner, so good.) 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Redemption: Tuna Steaks v2

So over the past few weeks my most commented on post by people in passing is the tuna steak post.  Everyone is determined to tell me how badly I cooked them the first time around and I was the first to point that fact out.  Since that post, I have been dying to get some redemption by doing another tuna steak cook so I jumped at the opportunity when MBH mentioned it.  I swung by BHFM and grabbed a two pack of t-steaks since the individuals I got last time were too big for both of us. 

MBH put together a nice marinade from a recipe by Bobby Flay and we let the fishies swim for about 30 minutes. 

I got the egg to 500º after a brief spike of up to 800º to test the new charcoal I am using (more on that to come in a product review post).  I placed the tuna near the center of the grate where the coals were the hottest.  I cooked them for 90 seconds per side and pulled them off to rest.

The tuna will continue to cook a bit while resting.
These bad boys were perfect.  I dipped mine in soy sauce and enjoyed the heck out of it. They had the nice red/pink medium rare color I was looking for and the flavor from the marinade made them pop. 

Served with some spaghetti squash, these things were perfect.
Eat your heart out haters!

We enjoyed the fish with a nice, cheap Tempranillo/Shiraz mix
cleverly named Tempra Tantrum.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SUBSCRIBE to Stokin' n Smokin'

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Steak Night: Ribeyes

On a recent trip to the BHFM with an empty stomach (grocery shopping on an empty stomach is never a good idea) I went with a small list but left with far more than I needed.  My goal: to pick up some ground beef for burgers.  The result: I went a little crazy getting a little bit of this and that.  Part of my this and that were some yummy looking ribeyes that were selling for $5.99/lb.  BARGAIN!  The steaks were thin but had some great looking marbling and would be perfect for a little steak night with MBH.

Yes that says $5.15 for both steaks!

To prep the steaks I used the "hot-tub technique" I had read about during one of my various adventures on the internetz.  The technique involves soaking the steaks in a bath of hot water to bring the internal temperature of the steaks up so that a nice quick sear will get the steaks to the perfect internal temp.  I put the steaks in a Ziploc bag and soaked them for about 45mins while I got the grill prepped.  As can be seen below, the "hot tub" got the internal temp of the steaks up to near 95º while I was shooting for an internal temperature of 127º after the sear for medium rare (here is a very nice temperature chart for various types of meat).  After the "hot tub", I added some spicy montreal steak rub to the ribeyes and they were ready for the grill.


Internal temp after "hot tub."

I simply brought the grill up to 650º and cooked the steaks for 90 seconds per side.

Lava! I love when the flames are shooting out of the top of the egg.

The steaks were delicious.  The fatty nature of the ribeyes make them very tasty.  The steaks were thin but were the perfect amount for MBH and I.  I will attempt to do a nice thick ribeye in the future.  MBH complained that hers was too fatty but what does she know (hers did have a nice big piece of fat holding it together).  In all, it was a nice, simple, delicious meal.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dinner for 1: Feta and Green Onion Stuffed Burgers

Sorry for the lack of posts recently.  I have been on vacation which really hampers my cooking and my ability to post.  No need to worry though, I have 3 cooks planned in the next 3 days and no vacation on the horizon so brace yourself for a barrage of posts over the next week. Back to today's post.

I rarely fire up the egg to cook for myself.  MBH is always on travel for work so I'm home alone a lot and cannot justify cooking on the BGE for just one mouth.  However, after returning from vacation this past weekend, I decided that I NEEDED to cook even if it was just for me.  So I swung by BHFM to grab some ground beef for burgers and some buns and ended up going a little crazy.  That will be explained in future posts.

To keep with the recent theme of stuffing foods, I decided to put some deliciousness inside these burgers and out.  I wanted to stuff the burgers with feta (can you tell I like feta?) and green onions and smother them in some sauteed onions.  So I began prepping.

I sliced the green onions small for stuffing and the white onion large for sauteing.  I put the beef in a bowl and mixed in Worcestershire, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  I formed the base of the patties and indented the centers.  I added the feta and green onions before forming small tops for the patties and reforming.  I threw the onions in a pan with some olive oil to saute while I egged.

The raws.

Use your finger to indent the center of the burgers to
prevent them from shrinking while cooking
I took the grill up to 650º and threw the burgers on for 4 minutes per side.  I even got to use my handy grill extender for the first time to grill the buns for the last minute.  I added the grilled onions to the top and plated with a nice Greek salad.

Using the grill extender I could toast the buns away
from the fire while the burgers finished.
The guidelines I was following said 3 minutes per side but I knew that was not enough for these thick burgers and upped it to 4 minutes per side which got them done perfectly.  I was able to eat one of these burgers and the rest went into the fridge for leftovers. I like this high heat quick cooking but I am itching for another lo-n-slo.  Looking forward to one this weekend, stay tuned.
Sick grill lines brah.
Perfectly done and full of flavor.
Doesn't look as good as it tasted.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Stuff It!: Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts

MBH and I try to eat as well as possible whenever possible (ignore that Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Pork Loin a few weeks back).  Whenever we cook at home we look to make lean, heart-healthy meals that are not too complicated.  For some reason every time we make a plan to do this I default to chicken breasts or fish.  Luckily this time around I had a package of 6 SAM's chicken breasts which equates to 15 Publix chicken breasts.  So MBH and I decided to cook the whole package and use the leftovers for lunches.  We decided to stuff a few with feta and spinach while the remainder were grilled with either Frank's buffalo sauce or Williamson Bros. BBQ sauce.

For the stuffed breasts MBH provided these instructions:

1. Cook down fresh spinach (or defrost frozen chopped) and cook with 1-2 cloves garlic.
2. Use tenderizer and place chicken breasts in plastic wrap and flatten to approx 1/4 inch thickness.
3. Fill with spinach mixture and cheese of choice (feta, gorgonzola, etc).
4. Roll and close using tooth picks

Next time I would consider putting some grilled onions inside or on top of the chicken.

As for the other breasts, I just covered in their respective sauce and let them marinate for about an hour until the grill was ready.

Few of the stuffed breasts ready to go.

I locked in the grill at 350º with a direct heat setup.  I added a few well soaked hickory chips and placed the grate in.  I set the stuffed breasts in the middle of the grill and the other breasts toward the outside.  I let them go 8 minutes and then flipped and rotated the outter breasts to the center.  I let them go for 8 more minutes and pulled off the smaller breasts.  I let the larger ones go for 3 more minutes on the hottest part of the egg and pulled them off.

The chicken was perfect.  The breasts were moist and juicy.  I was concerned about the mixtures of the smoke flavor and the flavors of the spinach and feta but they worked well together.  I would definitely make this again.  The other flavored breasts were heated up for lunches and remained moist and flavorful even when microwaved.  I am still working on finishing the last few breasts this week and I am officially sick of chicken breasts.

The plate for of delicious I pulled off the grill.


Greek salad I made with one of the buffalo chicken breasts.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Restaurant Review: Drago's Seafood, New Orleans

Drago's Seafood Restaurant has long been one of my favorite restaurants in the country.  I grew up in New Orleans and the original location in Fat City (in Metairie) was a staple of our special occasion dining.  The restaurant has now expanded to a prime location in the Hilton Riverwalk Downtown.  This is the location I most recently dined in.

MBH and I decided we wanted to do our bachelor/bachelorette weekend in the city we both love.  We brought about 25 people with us from all over the country to celebrate and decided to do a nice large group dinner on Friday night at Drago's.  The restaurant was very accommodating and sat us relatively quickly in 3 large group tables.  I was impressed.

When seated we quickly ordered the food that put Drago's on the culinary map, charbroiled oysters.  The oysters are shucked and left on the half-shell.  A butter sauce, garlic, Parmesan, and other deliciousness is applied to the oyster before it it thrown on a very hot grill.  The grill uses the hot flare-ups to cook the oyster.  The oysters are plated and then covered in more sauce and served with crunchy french bread.  The bread is perfect for eating the oysters with and dipping in the extra sauce. NOM! After a few dozen of these things you are guaranteed to be swimming in butter and contract a nasty case of the itis.

This brings me to why I would write about this place on a BGE blog.  Well, before this particular trip and actually one of the first times we cooked on FFIL's BGE, we discussed attempting to recreate Drago's charbroiled oysters.  We decided that many factors will have to fall into place to make this happen.  First, we would need access to some good oysters which are hard to come by in Atlanta. Second, this cook would require a special occasion (this is no Tuesday night cook).  And third, we would have to dedicate ourselves to a thorough cleaning of whichever egg we used for the cook as this would make a huge mess.  However, it is still in our pocket and on my todo list.  I even have the recipe shared by Drago Cvitanovich himself here.

Back to our meal, on this particular trip we also indulged in the Crab Meat Au Gratin which is nearly a meal in itself.  It is of course lump crab meat served au gratin style with tortilla chips.  It is absolutely amazing and if not for the charbroiled oysters this could have been the star of the meal. 

As we planned to embark on a night of debauchery, we decided to keep it light on this trip.  Everything was amazing and I enjoy this place every time I go.  The food is so good and rich that we can only go to Drago's once every other trip to NOLA (at least that is what we tell ourselves).  FFIL and I will be attempting the charbroiled oysters on the egg as soon as we can and we can only hope they are half as good as Drago's.

Drago's Seafood Restaurant (Hilton New Orleans Riverside) on Urbanspoon