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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A New Twist on a Burger

While I look outside the window today to gray skies, howling wind, and snow, it is hard to believe that it was sunny and in the 80's over the weekend.  But, Mother Nature is fickle in Western Pennsylvania in the springtime.  But, I made the most of the nice weather and grilled up some burgers.

These were burgers with a twist though.  Nothing over the top, but different none the less.  We usually go for a plain burger around here.  Maybe the occasional onion soup mix burger.  But, I decided to add some of our brisket rub to the mix this time around.  So, to one pound of ground round, I added one tablespoon of Oakridge Black Ops Brisket rub.

So, burger in the bowl with the rub.  Mix well, but not too much so that you end up with a grainy burger after cooking.

1/4 pound portions in my magical burger press.

Back in the fridge to firm up.  Go outside to fabulous weather to fire up the grill.

Red hot grill, then toss the burgers on and go inside to get my cheese.  Oh, by the way, do you think they like cheese?

Flipped the burgers after about three minutes, then added the cheese and closed the lid.

Three minutes later.  Perfect medium!

Add thin sliced sweet onion and tomato, dill chips, a thin schmear of mayo and a dollop of Heinz Balsamic Vinegar ketchup.  Served with a cold IPA and I was in heaven.

The brisket rub really kicked this up a notch.  You could make these burgers with any beef rub that you like.  I suggest you give it a try.

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Still Looking for that Perfect Rib

If you have been reading this blog, you know that we have had issues with our rib scores over the years.  Our baseline experiment to improve those scores was to cook for six hours, without any foil, to see how tender the meat on the bone was.  I was close, but not 100% there.  So for this cook, I cooked ribs, unfoiled, for seven hours at a lower heat of 225 F to see how they turned out.  Here is what we found.

First, we took some St. Louis spares, rubbed both sides with mustard, and sprinkled our rub/sugar mix liberally on both sides of the rack.  Then, I let them come to room temperature on the counter while I brought the smoker to a temperature of 225 F.

Once the smoker reached 225 F, I placed both racks on the top shelf in the middle.  For smoke flavor, I placed a mixture of apple, hickory, and pecan into the ash pan. Then I shut the door and walked away.  After three hours or so, I rotated the racks left to right for even cooking.  Does it really help?  Who knows, but it makes me feel useful during the down time.

At the six hour mark, I brushed on a thin layer of my BBQ sauce.  Then, after 30 minutes, I touched up my sauce with another thin application.  At the seven hour mark I brought the racks inside to rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

Look at that shiny glaze?  Almost too beautiful to slice.  Well, taste is a component, so we sliced and dug in to try.

As you can see, more often than not I seem to get my ribs from pigs with bad posture or curvature of the spine.  Very bad for a turn in box.  As for the tenderness, I would say that after seven hours, these bones were just a bit over done.  They were right on the line of being fall off the bone.  So, I would have to say that after six and a half hours at 225 F on a smoker, you will produce a rib that is acceptable to a KCBS judge for tenderness.  Stay tuned for another method that just might be better.

Thanks for stopping by,


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Smoked Rack of Lamb with a Dirty Martini Marinade

One of the highlights of our "Too Cute to Eat" extravaganza while Hope was away was a beautiful rack of lamb that I picked up at Dave's Country Meats.  Dave's lamb is outstanding and locally sourced.  The perfect canvas to try out an outside the box marinade.

Dirty Martini Marinade

1/2 cup of vodka
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup of brine from the olive jar
1/4 cup of olives
4 cloves of garlic, skin removed
1 tsp of rubbed thyme
1 tsp of rosemary
1/2 tsp of lemon zest
Juice of a lemon

I put off of this in my stick blender food processor attachment and blended until combined.

The marinade went into a plastic bag with the rack of lamb, then into the refrigerator for 24 hours of happy time.

The next day, I brought my smoker to 375 F.  While the smoker was coming to temperature, I removed the lamb from the plastic bag and let it sit on the counter to come to room temperature.  I was going to re-season with more spice, but I made an executive decision and decided to use the spice from the marinade instead and pressed it onto the meat as a paste.  The smell was outstanding.  I could not wait on the finished product.

I placed some pecan wood in the ash pan of the smoker.  Once I started seeing that thin, blue smoke from the stack, I put my rack of lamb on the top rack of the smoker and walked away.

I started checking the internal temperature of the lamb after 30 minutes.  I was shooting for a nice rare, about 135 F.  After 45 minutes, I was at 137 F for an internal temperature.  So, I removed from the smoker, wrapped in foil, and let rest for 15 minutes.

Then, I sliced.

Oh yeah...  Crispy on the outside.  Perfect rare on the inside.  The flavor was outstanding.  Not a hint of vodka.  The meat was juicy, tender, and none of that slightly gamey taste you can get with lamb.  The spices melded perfectly with the meat.  My only mistake was not trimming up the fat cap.  It was a bit too thick.  I will trim it up the next time.

I served with some crispy roast potatoes and flash sautéed asparagus.

I think this marinade would pair well with pork and maybe even beef.  I'll give it a try and let you know.

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Get that Pizza out of the Oven and onto the Grill

Yesterday was a pretty nice day around here.  Sun peeking through the clouds and occasional spring showers.  The most important thing about the day was that it was in the 60's.  All day at work I was thinking about what I could cook on the grill.  I was also in the need of some pizza.  So, I decided to combine the two and grill some pizza.  So, on the way home, I picked up some stem tomatoes and odds and ends from the olive bar and ran home to prepare my creation.

First, Hope made a batch of our pizza dough in the bread machine:

Pizza Dough

3 1/4 cups AP flour
1 tbsp yeast
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 cups warm water

Put it all in a bread machine, yeast on the bottom,  and let it sit through one raise cycle.  Then pull out of the bread maker and cover with a clean towel for 15 minutes.

When handling the dough, spray your hands with cooking spray.  You'll thank me later...

While the dough was rising, I took four cloves of garlic and crushed them up into some olive oil.  I also added salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, and basil.  I would use this as the white garlic base for my pizza.

Then, I diced up my olives and marinaded mushrooms, sliced my tomatoes, and thinly sliced my fresh mozzarella ball as well.  Once the dough was done it was time to get cooking.  

I spread my chimney of lit briquettes off to one side of the grill and slid my cooking grates into place.  Then, I put my baking stone on the bottom grate away from the coals.  If you use a baking stone on your grill, place it on while the grill is heating up.  If you put a cold stone on a hot grill you are prone to cracking it and that is not good.  Once everything was nice and hot, I brought my pizza skin outside and placed it on the stone.

After about two minutes on the stone, the crust was rigid enough to slide onto the grate above the coals.  

Be sure to pop the bubbles on your dough as it cooks.  It will promote a nice, flat, crispy crust.  After five minutes on direct heat, I removed from the grill and brought inside to add my toppings.  I flipped the crust over so the topping would be placed on the browned side.  Just a quick note here.  Five minutes on direct heat would normally scorch a pizza crust.  But, I am trying to get rid of some coconut shell charcoal.  The bag says it burns hotter and cleaner.  Guess what?  It is not true.  Once I get back to my normal Stubbs briquette, I will report back with proper cook times.  

I brushed my crust with the olive oil/spice mix, then topped with thinly sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes sliced razor thin, and my diced olives and tomatoes.

Then, I took my pizza masterpiece to the grill and placed on direct heat.  

That is Hope's pizza on the right.  She topped hers with the olive oil, tomato, mozzarella, and thinly sliced Eye of Round.

Once on the grill, I closed the lid.  After five minutes, I came back and rearranged the pizzas so either did not spend too much time on direct heat.  Then, I closed the lid and came back after five more minutes, pulled the pizzas, and brought them inside for slicing.

I topped mine with some fresh grated Parmesan cheese and pepper flakes.

The crust was outstanding.  Thin, crisp, with a bit of char.  Not too much different from a oven baked pie.  Yet, it was different in subtle flavors and textures that you can't get from a baking sheet in the oven.  I can't wait until it warms up and we can get fresh veggies to use for future pizza nights.  We will be making this again.

Thanks for stopping by,