Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Grill Love

The torrential wind and rain storm finally let up enough for me to brave the grill on Valentine's Day night. I fired up my infrared grill and put some love on for dinner. That's right, heart burgers.

I noticed that my Charbroil Kansas City Rub had a deep reddish orange color, so I mixed it in for flavor and color. Sure, maybe I overdid the heart theme, but it was fun for the kids. (Eric and I are both a little under the weather, so between coughing fits, we decided on a date night next week).

I realized that it's been a few months since I used the gas grill, and I should have seasoned it first with some oil. My burgers stuck a bit, but I managed fine with a little muscle.

Granted, I was out there in the stormy dark, with the flashlight, wiping rain from my serving plate, and picking up various objects that blew over in the yard while the burgers cooked, but it's a good reminder to re-season your grill when time has passed, and seasonally. A grill cover can keep out the rain, but freezing temperatures and severe winter weather mean you have to give your grill some extra love.

Grill love.

Seasoning your grill is simple.

1. After cleaning your grill grates, soak a paper towel in cooking oil and rub grill grates thoroughly.
2. Turn on your burners to high and close the lid. Let the oil "burn on" for about 10-15 minutes.
3. Turn burners off and let the grill cool completely, with the lid on.

If it is a brand new grill, you should do this 2 or 3 times before cooking. For the very first time, I do the above without oil. This way you burn off any chemical residue left on the grill parts first before seasoning it with oil.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day Breakfast

Admittedly, I had something else in mind for my second V-day post. Something grilled. Between the windstorms, typical Seattle downpours, having to work longer than expected on Sunday, and a sick husband, life got in the way.

This breakfast made one of my two kids happy. The other decided he didn't like hearts. Or raisins. He's not sure he likes the whole Valentine's Day thing. At school today, he has to bring a "friendship" valentine to a secret name he drew. He was hoping for a different name, that of his very first crush. How do I explain that sometimes we do things to make some else happy?

I've tried everything I could think of this weekend, including having him pretend he's someone else. He's not buying it, and really, I don't blame him. If it's not from the heart, what is the point?

This is hardly a recipe. You know how to make French toast. I cut out the bread by cutting around a heart candy box. You may use a heart cookie cutter, but you'd miss having to eat the chocolates in the box first. I used Dave's Killer Bread Robust Raisin bread for the toast, and sticky foam to make the heart wand.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine's Day Menu #1: Smoked Rack of Lamb with Wilted Pea Shoots & Blueberry Sauce

Handmade gifts are always more meaningful to me. It's easy to go out and drop some quick cash on a gift, but making something is from the heart and paid for in currency far more precious than money: time.

The same goes for cooking. Eric and I avoid the traditional "go-out" dates like Valentine's Day, Friday night, and brunch (though I do drag him to brunch about once a year). We're even encouraging people to stay home at Smokin' Pete's. Granted, we would prefer that they pick up a Love Combo at our restaurant.

Nothing says I love you like a homemade meal. Especially one that takes time to prepare, like barbecue. Hey! There's an idea. Need some suggestions? I thought you'd never ask. You know your love one's tastes best, so cook his or her favorites, but here is one of two Valentine's Day meals I'll post this weekend.

Grilled and Smoked Rack of Lamb with Pea Shoots & Blueberry Sauce
This one will impress your love. Make it a weekend event and go shopping together at a farmer's market this weekend. If you're interested, read my post about American vs. New Zealand Lamb. I don't know why, but it has always been one of my top read posts.

1 full rack of lamb, uncut
1/2 cup olive oil

3 T Kosher salt and 1 T black pepper
3 T dried mustard
3 T ground oregano

The Greens
2 small bunches pea shoot greens. Find these flavorful greens at farmer's markets. Substitute any hearty green if you can't find them.
Half of a fresh lemon
Salt to taste
Shaved Parmesan

The Sauce
1/2 cup fancy blueberry preserves (with lots of whole blueberries in it)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Fresh cracked pepper
Garnish with fresh golden raspberries (optional)
Serve with roasted fingerling potatoes or other potato dish.

1. Make a charcoal fire in half of your grill. I used a kettle Weber.

2. While coals are getting hot, rub lamb rack first with olive oil, then with spice mixture. Let sit out while you get the grill ready.

3. Once coals are red hot, rake to one side, single layer, get grill grate hot. Put whole rack on grill to sear, bone side first, for 3-5 minutes. Flip and sear fat side. Put lid on to minimize flare ups, but keep vents open.

4. Move rack to indirect side. Add a few wood chunks to fire. Close lid, half shut the vents, and cook to medium rare.

5. While meat is cooking, saute cleaned pea shoots. Make sure you've removed the woodier stems. Pea shoots are full of flavor, but can be touch. Saute in a hot pan with olive oil. Salt. Squeeze lemon after greens have wilted. Turn to low and cover for 10 minutes. Serve with shaved Parmesan.

6. Pull lamb when internal meat temperature (be sure to insert into the meaty middle) reads 135 degrees. It will raise to 140 degrees while it rests.

7. While it rests, make a quick sauce of blueberry preserves and balsamic vinegar. Boil down (reduce) for 5 minutes. Add pepper.

8. Cut the lamb and place over the greens. Drizzle the sauce and garnish, if desired, with fresh golden raspberries.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I Heart Barbecue

Just sayin'...I'm working on a V-Day post, but in the meantime, feel free to share this little picture with your barbecue friends.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Two-Parter Apricot Glazed Baby Back Ribs

It's time for some meat, y'all! Enough of my waxing and waning about the New Year. It's a barbecue blog dammit so today I've smoked up some baby backs.

What is different or interesting about these ribs? Why post about them, as opposed to others? In every post I try to use a recipe to teach a technique. It's what I do in the book, so it is what I continue to do here on the blog.

These ribs were smoked with a dry rub the day before. I pulled them to chill in the fridge when they were technically cooked, but needed another hour plus to tender up.

The next day, I put them back on the smoker, indirect heat, for 30-40 minutes, then glazed them once hot and left them for another 40 minutes or so.

This is a great way to prep ribs for a party, or to have ribs on hand for a weekday dinner. Smoke them on the weekend while you are doing house projects, chill, then reheat and add sauce for dinner on Tuesday. I actually think the spice and smoke sink in to the meat better this way.

The rub: Use any simple spice rub you have on hand. I grabbed kosher salt, cumin, chili powder, and a small amount of paprika and tossed my racks in them. Last month I reviewed Charbroil's Basic Rub, and liked it for it's simplicity. If you are going for "wet" or glazed ribs, the rub doesn't need to stand alone, and you don't need a lot of competing flavors with the sauce.

The meat: I used baby back ribs, but spares really do well with this technique. When making ribs for a party, you can easily misjudge how long spare ribs need, and have the rest of the food timing thrown off. By smoking them a day ahead, you have more control of the end time.

I'll be honest...I didn't take off the membrane. I usually do, but the first one was so thin, it kept tearing. I was in a rush to get them in the rub and to make it on time for pick up at my son's pre-school. Know what? It didn't matter.

The equipment: I used my Big Green Egg! She's a beaut, especially on these rainy, colder months. Eggatha keeps her heat like a champ. I only smoked two racks, so no other equipment (rib rack, indirect plate, drip pan) was needed. I made a small charcoal fire in one spot, and place my racks indirect from the fire.

The wood: Cherry wood trimmings from my yard, of course.

The glaze: Now here is where you really can mix it up. I use 50% preserves with 50% barbecue sauce, store bought, or home spun. Heat it up and whisk together. The owner of Ole Ray's Apple Cinnamon Barbeque Sauce sent me a case of his sauce once after he read that I recommended it in Woman's World Magazine. It was a sweet gesture, but I get so many bottles of sauce here and there, my fridge has little else. I wanted to move some of the product, so I used it in my glaze. His sauce is a sweeter, molasses-y sauce that works well in a glaze.

The result: Tender, flavorful ribs...by 6pm on a Tuesday.