Shrimp Ceviche and Quesadillas

Shrimp Ceviche and Quesadillas

I’ll be honest. The only part of this dish that was done on the grill was the quesadillas, but I had to share the photo anyway.

I fixed this last Friday evening and it truly was delicious. Here are the ingredients.

Ceviche

  • About a Pound of Small Cooked Shrimp
  • 1/2 Cup of Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 1/2 Cup of Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 Red Onion, Finely Diced
  • 1 Cup of Chopped Fresh Seeded Tomatoes
  • 1 Serrano Chili, Seeded and Finely Diced
  • 2 Teaspoons of Salt
  • Dash of Ground Oregano
  • Chopped Cilantro
  • Diced Avocado

Just mix all of that together in a big glass bowl and let it cool in the refrigerator for an hour or so. Although ceviche is traditionally made with raw seafood, the taste and texture of the shrimp was just right, and the dish was perfectly balanced  bright, fresh-tasting, savory.

The quesadillas were dead easy too. I simply sandwiched some shredded Mexi-cheese between two flour tortillas and grilled the for a few minutes over low heat.

This is definitely a meal that we’ll keep in mind, particularly for warm weather when we want something light and tasty.

My Father Tending Grill in the Late 1950s

Roy Noe Tending Grill

My sister sent me several pictures after reading the earlier post about my father’s barbecue. Here’s a scanned detail from one of them, showing him actually working at the grill.

She remembered “many burger cookouts as well as sometimes fish” and noted that my mom was good about pulling a cookout together when company came.

Based on some of the other details in the full photo, I would suspect that this was taken in 1957 or 1958.

Bratwurst and Italian Sausage

brats-and-italian-sausages-on-the-grill

For Sunday Dinner this week it was an old standby, grilled sausages. The cooking method was simple. I grilled the sausages over direct medium heat for about eight minutes, and then put them over indirect with an appropriate bed of vegetables (grilled onions and peppers for the Italians, and sauerkraut for the brats) to finish cooking. I also put some Apple wood chips in the smoker pan.

We served this with a nice artichoke and pasta salad that my wife made, and some wilted spinach and black beans, a recipe that I found over on Another Pint Please.

The sausages were from a local market that is renowned for the quality of their products, Southside Meats in Momence, Illinois. The difference between these and typical supermarket fare makes the thirty-minute drive worthwhile. I didn’t sample the bratwurst, but the flavor and texture of the Italian Sausage was incredible.

Farsi Chicken on the Grill

farsi-chicken

This is an incredibly simple recipe that turns out delicious, succulent chicken.

1) Soak chicken pieces in fresh lemon juice for half-an-hour or so.

2) Blot the chicken dry and marinate overnight in plain yogurt.

3) Wipe off the chicken, season lightly with salt and pepper, grill until done.

That’s it.

Turkey on the Rotisserie

turkey-on-rotisserie

In preparation for this year’s Thanksgiving Dinner, I roasted a whole turkey on the rotisserie over the weekend. In some ways, this is one of the most challenging things to cook, since it’s difficult to get the dark meat done enough without overcooking the breast.

Overall, it turned out just “alright.” Having done a marvelous job with a turkey breast awhile back, and a series of awesome whole chickens, I expected this to be over-the-top delicious. It certainly wasn’t bad, especially for a first attempt, but there are several things I would do differently next time.

1) Use a fresh turkey. The frozen turkey I cooked was “pre-basted.” This sounds like it would be a good thing, but it’s actually not. The addition of a brine solution prior to freezing actually changes the texture and taste of the bird in a way that is inferior to proper dry brining. For Thanksgiving, I’ll look for a locally raised fresh turkey.

2) Take more care with the seasoning and brining. Because the turkey was pre-basted, I didn’t want to overdo my own seasoning, particularly the salt. I limited my efforts to a little kosher salt, black pepper and herbs de provence rubbed on the skin a couple hours prior to roasting. I also didn’t stuff the cavity, thinking that this was a “dry run” anyway, and the additional aromatics wouldn’t add much. Next time, I’ll take care to properly dry brine a fresh turkey the day before, and to add plenty of citrus, onions, garlic, etc. to the cavity before cooking. My wife usually works some olive oil under the skin just prior to putting the bird in the oven as well. Although the rotisserie helps to keep food moist through self-basting, we may try her trick as well.

3) Choose your smoke wisely. I’ve been on a Cherry wood kick lately, loving the subtly sweet flavor it added to pork ribs and beef roast. In the case of turkey, I think a bolder smoke flavor would have been nice. I’ll likely use Apple, Hickory, or a mixture of the two next time.

4) I need an ice pack. One of the tricks Mike Vrobel suggests when roasting turkey on the rotisserie is to put an ice pack on the breast while it comes to room temperature before going on the grill. This has the effect of increasing the cooking time for the white meat, and allowing the legs and thighs to get up to well done without overcooking the breast. It’s listed as an “optional” step in his instructions, but I’ll definitely use it next time. The breast turned out alright, but the dark meat could have cooked just a bit longer to achieve “fall off the bone” tenderness.

A friend of mine sensed my disappointment in describing the meal as “alright” and commented that every meal doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. I suppose that’s right, although as much time and effort as goes into this particular dish, I’ll want to get it perfect next time. I think the adjustments mentioned above will make it worthy of our Thanksgiving table.

Grilled Melanzane Alla Parmigiana

Eggplant Parm On The Grill

Served with pasta and red sauce, or simply as a side, eggplant has become one of our favorite grilled dishes.

Let’s Talk Turkey

For Christmas of 2012, my wife gave me a rotisserie attachment for my Weber Kettle Grill. I’d wanted one for a long time, though the $150 price tag seemed a little too extravagant. The notion of roasting food on a spit, like the honeymoon scene in It’s A Wonderful Life, has always seemed romantic to me, and once the rotisserie arrived I could hardly wait to fire up the coals and roast something amazing with it. There was one problem. I had absolutely no idea how to cook with it.

I mean, of course I knew that the spit goes through what you’re cooking and you turn the motor on and it spins – but I didn’t know anything else about the process or preparing food for the rotisserie, how to set up the grill, how long to cook things, etc.

Luckily, in addition to a book on rotisserie cooking that was also under our tree for me, I did a little online search and found Mike Vrobel’s book Rotisserie Grilling and his site, Dad Cooks Dinner. I’ve come to think of Mike as the authoritative source on the subject, and his are among the first resources I turn to when I am researching something I haven’t cooked before. His dry-brined rotisserie chicken was the very first thing I cooked on my kettle rotisserie, and it’s still one of my favorite dishes.

One of the next things I tried was a turkey breast, and it was so delicious that my wife decided I should be responsible for our Thanksgiving turkey this year. Since a whole turkey involves a lot of special setup and variables, we figured it would require a test run, so that’s what I’m doing this coming Sunday.

Vrobel’s step-by-step advice on the matter will obviously be the game plan for the day, beginning with his demonstration of how to truss and spit the bird. Since I’ve had good luck with chickens and with the turkey breast, I’m expecting the whole turkey to be wonderful, but there is one further thing I have to learn between now and Sunday – how to carve.

I know. One might expect that at 56 years of age a guy would know how to carve a turkey, but through the years we always seemed to travel to someone else’s home for Thanksgiving dinner, and over the last decade or so, my wife’s father was always with us to carve. Honestly, I’ve been a bit timid in the face of the pressure. So I never learned. In fact, even for more pedestrian fare, I tend to shove off the carving duties onto my wife. Lack of confidence is an awful thing.

Finally I am determined to do it despite my insecurities, and (thankfully) I ran across this video from the New York Times a few years ago, and happened to have logged the URL. They make it look simple.

Wish me luck!

Cherry Smoked Prime Rib

Rib Roast was on my short list to prepare on the Weber, and I finally got around to cooking one for dinner last Sunday. The approach was simple: rub the roast with salt, pepper and Herbs de Provence; cook in a pan over indirect heat on the kettle with some cherry wood chunks; and, make some us jus gravy from the drippings.

I had my butcher cut a three-rib USDA Choice roast (about 7 1/2 pounds). Yes, there was some measure of sticker shock involved.

I’d watched several videos and studied dozens of recipes and blog posts on how to cook the cut, briefly considering the rotisserie. In the end, though, I decided to stick to the basics, setting up the grill for indirect cooking with half a chimney of charcoal split between two baskets, a pan of water in the middle to help moderate the heat, and a few chunks of wood for flavor. Once I got the grill stable at around 350 F, I put the roast in the center of the grill, on top of some soup bones spread out in a foil pan. I took it out of the pan when the internal temp measured 125, and covered with a foil tent to rest and finish coming up to rare.

Now it was time to make the gravy. Again, it was about as basic as you’ll find. I removed the soup bones, cut some shallot into thin slices and added it to the pan (still on the grill), stirring up the drippings until the shallot got melty. Then I added some additional salt, pepper and herbs, a dash or two of Worcestershire Sauce, 2/3 cup of Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 1/3 cups of beef broth. I took this over to the gas grill and let it reduce over medium direct heat for awhile. I wouldn’t change anything about it.

The roast, on the other hand, was a little too rare for my taste. It had a wonderful flavor, and a nice crust, but the inside was just a bit chewy and red. If I ever cook this cut again, I’ll be tempted to take it up to 130. Although since I’m using an ancient analog meat thermometer, it’s possible that it was off a bit as well. I also think I would carve the roast a bit thinner next time, despite most recipes calling for half inch slices.

This wasn’t bad for a first attempt, and I wouldn’t change the overall approach next time. Maybe a little searing directly over the coals before placing the roast over indirect heat might have added something. In any case, it’ll be awhile before I feel like shelling out almost sixty bucks for a roast like this again – though it did serve five nicely, and there were leftovers for roast beef on our salads last night, plus a delicious soup made with the bones and unused broth.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

We’ve grilled several batches of stuffed peppers this Summer, but these were my favorites. I grilled the peppers for a bit to soften them up, then my wife stuffed them with a combination of quinoa and sauteed zucchini with other delightful veggies before we put them back on the grill to warm. I’m honestly not sure what all she put into them. I almost grilled them too long prior to stuffing, so we had to be careful not to tear the flesh before we were ready to serve them.

St. Louis Style Ribs

St. Louis Style Ribs

Messy to eat and a lot of work to cook, ribs are what many people think of first when you mention the word “barbecue.” The ability to turn out competition quality ribs is what separates the serious outdoor cook from the dabbler. It requires the use of a multitude of techniques, along with precision in timing and temperature control from start to finish during an all-day process. When done correctly, the result is a complex of flavors and texture that cannot be found in any other dish.

I have to admit that I have never been a huge fan of ribs. They’re like longhair music to me. I appreciate the artistry, but they’re just too much bother. I’d rather listen to light Chamber Music or Showtunes, and I’d rather eat pulled pork.

Still, the lure of developing the high-specific skills necessary to prepare the dish was too much for me, so I had to give them a try.

I won’t claim that they were the best ribs I’ve ever tasted, but they were certainly in the hunt. The meat came off the bone fairly easily, but it didn’t “fall off.” To me, this is the perfect doneness for ribs (although my wife would have preferred them more done). They were the rib equivalent of “al dente” pasta – tender and yielding to the tooth rather than overdone mush.

As to the flavor, that would be hard to top as well. As you can see from the photo above, there was a nice smoke penetration. They were well-seasoned (even unsauced), although I would use more rub next time and likely add some mustard before the rub to help create a denser bark.

We served these with a delicious cole slaw that my wife made, roasted garlic bread from Grammy, and some Texas Baked Beans that I made on the grill (my wife’s Aunt Nancy’s recipe).

What would I change? Not much. Other than the change with the rub mentioned above, I might leave them to braise a few minutes longer next time. I also might try my hand at making my own sauce.

I doubt that these ribs would win any medals, but I wouldn’t be ashamed to serve them to the champs. Not only that, the process itself was a pleasure. It’s hard to beat a cool, bright day spent with the sound of the Allman Brothers Band and the smell of Cherry wood drifting over the patio.

racks-of-ribs