I've always had a grill. Something about cooking outside, I guess. Perhaps it's the fact that no one really questions the cook having a beverage in hand while cooking. Maybe it's cooking over an open flame. Maybe it's an escape. Perhaps it's a return to the primal drive of man. ( I'm not too sure about the last one, but grilling certainly is fun.)
I've had a grill as long as I can remember. At different times I've also had electric smokers and other contraptions as well. With many of the traditional gas grills I've been quite frustrated that, even with regular cleaning, after a seemingly short time the grill's interior essentially disintegrates meaning replacing the grill or curse your way through repairing. I generally opted for a new grill, after all, I like getting a new grill.
Whenever I looked for grills, I always secretly wished for a Big Green Egg, but only recently did an Egg become reality on the deck.
For those of you who are not familiar, the Big Green Egg (BGE hereafter) is a ceramic, lump charcoal miracle of modern science. With a system of dampers the air-flow is controlled thus allowing temperatures to be set to within several degrees. It is this feature that allows the BGE to be used for low and slow all the way up to high heat, direct grilling (in excess of 700 degrees). It can be used as a smoker, it's self-cleaning and takes up little space. In short, it's amazing.
So I bought one.
I'll never go back to any other type of grill. The BGE is simple to use, won't fall apart, is easy to start and is the most versatile grill you'll find. With but a few accessories you'll be cooking pulled pork that will make you look like a pit master, grilling steaks like you've never had, amazing people with grilled turkey, dropping jaws with wood fired pizza and raising eyebrows when you talk about the mac n' cheese and corn bread you cooked on the grill. (Yes, pretty much anything you want to cook, you can cook on the BGE.) In fact if you're sitting here thinking, "I bet you can't cook _______ on that green grill." Well, you would be wrong. If you can cook it, you can cook it better on the BGE.
Another thing that is nice about the BGE is that BGE owners not only love them, but they love to talk about them and what they cook. There are forums galore to help everyone from the novice to the seasoned expert.
If you're in the market for a grill, check out the BGE. It cost a bit more, but it's worth every cent. Also check back from time to time, as I'll be posting my recipes from the BGE. Feel free to email with any questions.
I may be about to step into a viper pit. I'm going to talk about barbecue. People are fierce in their allegiances in regard to this culinary delight and I acknowledge this.
Memphis, Kansas City, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina or some other region. You’ll have no problem finding those who will swear on about anything you like, that the barbecue from their region is the best.
I’m not here to come anywhere near deciding, or even commenting, on where it may be better. What I’m going to do is talk about a recipe that works for me. Feel free to use a little or a lot of this recipe. (I’ve been a bit more narrative on this one as I believe good barbecue is as much art as it is preparation.)
7-10 lb pork shoulder (Boston Butt)
Apple Cider Vinegar
The real beauty to pork shoulder barbecue is the simplicity behind the dish. Barbecued Pork Shoulder, or pulled pork, as it is commonly called starts with a large cut of bone-in pork and other than some minimal spices, the real focus is the taste of the meat that comes from spending so much time over low heat.
Trim the fat as you see fit. Pork shoulder is a wealth of fat and some cooks like to trim. Me, I generally don’t. Trimmed or untrimmed, before you start cooking, you need to prepare the pork. I use a dry rub.
I, like many barbecue cooks, have my own special blend of spices that make up my rub and I’m not quite ready to share it in total, but there are several things I’ve found that impart a noticeable flavor. I love a bit of cinnamon in the rub. Also I have found several smoke flavored salts that are nice.
Apply your rub and let the pork rest overnight (at least 12 hours) in the refrigerator.
Take the pork out 45 minutes before you put it over heat. Some will inject seasoning before putting the pork on the grill
While the pork is awaiting the grill, ready the grill. I cook over gas on indirect heat; however, you can also use charcoal. Just remember the key to great pulled pork barbecue is what barbecue chefs call “Low and Slow.” This means that you can’t decide at noon you want to have barbecue at 5:00 for dinner. Patience it not only suggested, it is critical. If you have a question about whether the meat has been on heat for a sufficient time, wait another 15 minutes before you remove the meat from the heat.
You need to add some smoke to the equation, particularly early on in the cooking process. I use wood chips which can be a bit of a challenge on the gas grill. I use a cast iron smoke box placed directly on the burner guard. Soak the chips for at least half an hour in a cup of the apple cider vinegar then apply them to a hot smoke box. Give them a few minutes and they’ll be smoking. Literally.
Once the grill is ready – after the meat has rested and the smoke is rolling – place the meat on the grill off the heat. To achieve the indirect heat, I use a 4 burner grill and light only the outer two burners (remember to place the smoke box over one of the operational burners) and place the pork shoulder in the middle.
Close the grill and adjust the heat to between 250 and 300F.
Check back about every hour and turn the pork shoulder.
Then wait. Then wait some more.
I find that using my grill it takes about an hour per pound, but this will depend on your grill.
Use an instant read thermometer and cook until the internal temp is around 200. At this point the meat should be close to falling off the bone and the outside should have a lovely charred appearance. This is called the “bark.”
Take the shoulder off the heat, cover it and let it rest an hour. I cover with foil and place in a cool oven. The pork will cool so you can pull it and softens the bark so you can enjoy it as well.
After it’s cooled, take it out and pull it. After having cooked like this the barbecue will literally fall apart. Pull/shred the pork. You’ll also want to season it. I like to splash apple cider vinegar over the pork and I also have a spice blend I use. Again, I’m not quite ready to share this, but experiment and see what you like to bring out the flavor. Keep in mind the pork will be quite tasty, so you don’t need a lot added to it.
That’s it. Serve and enjoy.
As to barbecue sauce, I rarely use any, but I’ll be posting a couple of different recipes – one simple, one a bit more complicated, but both quite tasty.
Thanks and check back soon!
*Experiment and have fun!
In The Trust two characters visit a local eating establishment that is, or was, known in Charleston as a place to get a “Meat and Three.” You get meat and three vegetables. Think comfort food. Think fried chicken, meat loaf, hamburger steak, cabbage, mashed potatoes or mac & cheese. The next few recipes are my versions of meat and threes.
I believe every cook should be able to whip up a high calorie, high fat, high quality, delicious, mouth watering mac & cheese. This is my version of just that. Beauty of it is you can vary with different cheeses (as I have here) or keep it traditional. Experiment and have fun! This recipe feeds approximately 8-10 so adjust accordingly.
3 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Flour
2 Cups Whole Milk
½ Teaspoon of White Pepper
1lb Pasta (experiment you don’t have to use elbow noodles)
2 Cups of Mozzarella Cheese
1 Cup Smoked Gouda Cheese
1 Cup + ½ Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese
½ Cup + ¼ Cup White Cheddar Cheese
¼ Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
Cook the Pasta.
In heavily salted water cook the pasta al dente. Note – with the salted water and salt in the cheese, be careful on adding extra salt. Set aside covered when done.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Grate all cheeses setting aside the extra cheddars.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Add the flour and combine.
When combined, slowly whisk in the milk. Stir constantly to avoid scalding. When mixture starts to bubble, begin adding all cheeses except reserved cheddar. Reduce heat to low and stir to combine cheeses. Add Worcestershire and white pepper. Stir.
Combine the pasta and cheese sauce in the pasta pot and stir till pasta is covered. Pour mixture into lightly greased 9x13 pan.
In 350° oven bake for 30-45 minutes or until the mixture starts to bubble around sides. Remove from oven and evenly cover with the extra cheddar. Return to the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted.
Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.
If you replace ½ cup of the milk with heavy cream – WOW!!! If there are other cheeses you like, have at it. Try goat cheese and rosemary. Yum!
Varying the pasta is also a nice twist.
You can make it a bit less unhealthy by using lower fat ingredients, but what’s the fun in that?
For those that like some spice, you can add a teaspoon of Tabasco or other hot sauce to kick it up when you add the white pepper.
As an interesting twist make crumbs of Cheetos in a food processor. Combine ½ cup of Cheeto crumbs with the extra cheddar at the end of baking for a pleasant crust. This works nice with potato chips too!
There’s a scene in The Trust where the heroine prepares a meal for the main character. For reasons that presently escape me, I didn’t mention the dish by name or ingredient in the book. I’ll fix that now.
I’ve always been a fan of rustic food, this one being an example. Neat thing about this recipe is you can adapt it in a variety of ways. Change the sauce around, add your choice of meat or paste. Endless pastabilities! The true beauty is the rustic nature and the depth of the flavors from the homemade sauce, the blended cheeses and the sweetness of the onions.
2 large sweet onions
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup of homemade marinara sauce (recipe below)
2 Egg Whites
½ cup cottage cheese or ricotta
12 oz of your favorite pasta (If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll make gnocchi or ravioli, though sometimes I cut a corner and use store bought).
4-6 slices of provolone cheese
1-1½ cups of shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Fresh Whole Milk Mozzarella
Salt and Pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
After coarsely chopping the Onion, caramelize in a heavy 2-quart oven safe sauce pan over very low heat until brown, soft and sweet. Do not burn. Start with pan covered. Remove cover last 20 minutes to reduce the liquid from onions.
Cook the Pasta in heavily salted water. Time pasta to finish as Onions are caramelized.
When Onions are caramelized, leave in pan and place a layer of the sliced provolone on top of onions. Layer pasta over cheese.
Mix the Marinara sauce with the cottage or ricotta and fold in egg whites. Spoon sauce over pasta and place pan into a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or until Marinara is set. Slice the whole milk mozzarella and place on top of marinara and return to 350 degree oven for 5 minutes. Remove and cover with shredded mozzarella. Cook until cheese is melted and starts to brown.
Feel free to vary or modify. Sometimes rather than the marinara/cottage cheese/egg mixture, I’ll use pesto sauce or perhaps a creamy vodka sauce. Sky is the limit. Add meat of your choice with the pasta layer if you want.
Experiment with the cheese between the Onions and the Pasta. Smoked cheeses make it pop!
I serve this with warm Italian bread and a luscious Chianti or Pinot Noir.
Homemade Marinara Sauce
I love great tasting Marinara Sauce, but some of the store bought gourmet sauces can be a bit on the pricey side. This sauce is amazingly easy to make and the ingredients are quite affordable.
28 oz can of diced tomatoes (I like San Marzano)
3 cloves of garlic – chopped – add or subtract based on your love of garlic
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¾ cup Fresh Basil or 3 Tbsp Fresh Basil Paste (I like Gourmet Garden)
1 Tsp Brown Sugar
Salt and Pepper
Add generous amount of Oil to large 12 inch sauté pan over medium heat. Add chopped Garlic to hot oil and sauté until soft. About 2 minutes. Do not burn the Garlic.
Add the entire can of Italian Tomatoes and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Add the chopped Basil or Basil paste. Let simmer over low heat for 3 minutes. Add Brown Sugar and stir. Salt and Pepper to taste.
Strain the sauce to remove all tomatoes, Garlic and Basil. Discard. Return smooth Tomato Sauce to heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened.
Set aside for recipe use or keep up to a week in the refrigerator.
All measurements are approximations. Blend by adding or subtracting until you have a flavor you enjoy!
½ Tbsp Kosher Salt
¼ Tbsp fresh ground black pepper
½ Tbsp Sweet Paprika
1/8 tsp Garlic Powder (not garlic salt)
¼ tsp Ground Cayenne Pepper
¼ tsp Dried Thyme
¼ tsp Dried Oregano
¼ tsp Ground Ginger
1/8 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Dried Marjoram
Mix all of the ingredients together and store in a sealed container. Should keep for several months, but I find that I use it much faster than that.
One of the dishes from The Trust is Cedar Plank Salmon and Asparagus Risotto – a dish I concocted after finding the pantry sort of limited one Sunday evening.
You’ll need a cedar plank (available online). You’ll also need to season your cedar. Not too difficult. Pour some vegetable oil on the plank, rub it in with a paper towel and then after it soaks in, hit it with some salt and pepper. I serve this dish with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc.
1 ½ pound Salmon filets – skin and bones removed
1 cup of Risotto (Arborio) Rice
1 Medium to Large Sweet Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
¼ Cup of Dry White Wine
1 Quart of Chicken Broth/Stock
Asparagus (as much or as little as you like – maybe 1/3 cup)
1 Large Lemon
½ cup Smoked Gouda or Gruyere Cheese Grated
Salt and Pepper
For the Salmon
Cut the Salmon filets into four (4) six (6) ounce portions. Place them evenly on a seasoned cedar plank (see above). I have a spice blend I use (recipe here). If you don’t have a spice or herb blend you like, use a little salt and pepper, but you don’t need to do too much seasoning as the cedar will take care of this for you.
Once on the cedar plank and seasoned, place the Salmon in the refrigerator until it goes in the oven. Preheat your Oven to 350 Degrees. When you have about half the Chicken Stock remaining (see below), place the Salmon in the oven. Salmon cooks for about 15 minutes at 350. It should flake easily and be opaque when done. Don’t worry about the cedar in the oven, it won’t burn, but will smell wonderful!
For the Risotto
Chop the asparagus into ¼ inch pieces. Set aside.
Grate the cheese. Set aside.
Chop the Onion and place in medium saucepan over very low heat with a tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover and let cook until caramelized stirring occasionally. This will take some time, but the wait is worth it. Cook until the onions are soft and completely caramelized and sweet to the taste. Set aside in separate bowl.
Chop Garlic Cloves and sauté in same saucepan from Onions over medium heat with a tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil until the Garlic starts to soften. Add the Risotto and stir constantly so as to avoid burning the rice. Continue to cook for approximately 3 minutes. Add the Dry White Wine. After the steam clears, add the Chicken Stock perhaps ½ cup at a time. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally. Continue to add Chicken Stock whenever you are able to see the bottom of the saucepan as you stir.
After perhaps 20-25 minutes (it could be more or less time depending on the heat of your stove) the Risotto should become tender you may need a bit more Chicken Stock, perhaps less, but cook until Risotto is of your preferred consistency. Add the Caramelized Onion.
Add the cheese and stir until melted. Add the Asparagus and stir. Add the juice of half a lemon and stir. Add Salt (remember the cheese has a good bit of salt in it!) and Pepper to taste. Reduce heat to very low and let sit 5 minutes.
Serve Hot with the Cedar Plank Salmon and Enjoy!
So folks like to finish with a ¼ cup of Heavy Cream. So like to drizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil on the Risotto before serving.
A Taste of The Trust
I write. I also cook. My writing is original, but the cooking, well, only sort of. I love to take a dish and recreate it – give it my own unique flair.