Archive | December, 2011

Act II or “How to Reheat the Meat without Eating Shoe Leather”

28 Dec

Tonight was leftover night in the Smitty household. We had a variety of leftovers from all the weekend cooking and it was getting time to eat ’em up or toss ’em out. I am loathe to discard a fine piece of meat like tenderloin, or rib eye or strip loin or – well, you get the idea. The question is: “How do you reheat a leftover piece of steak without turning the meat into shoe leather?” Now, I am under no illusions that a reheated piece of steak – no matter how good it was 5 minutes after it came off of the grill – is going to be as good the second time around. Sure, there are lots of things to do in order to use up the meat – chop or shred for street tacos, enchiladas or omelets, toss into a beef stew – that kind of thing. However, the memory of what the meat tasted like when it was cooked brings me back to trying to restore the meat to as close its original state as possible on the belief that if it was awesome when it was cooked, it could still be pretty good darn good the second time around.

The problem is finding the method of reheating the meat that doesn’t dry it out, toughen it up, turn it gray or otherwise spoil all hope of a credible Act II. I’ve tried microwaving, wrapping in foil and putting it in the oven, reheating it on the stove top in fluid, all to no avail.

I recently was reading about a steak house in Las Vegas – StripSteak – I believe, that poaches its steaks in clarified butter and holds them – sous vide style – at a temperature just below the desired finishing temperature, and then quickly sears the steaks on a screaming hot grill just before serving. That sounded interesting – and I’ve got to try it some time.

I’ve also stumbled upon a pizza reheating technique that involves a black cast iron skillet, a stove burner and the oven broiler.

Tonight, thinking about how to best reheat a nice piece of beef tenderloin, I stumbled upon something of a combination of these two methods and draws upon many restaurants way of cooking steaks in the first place.

I cut two medallions of beef tenderloin – about an inch and a quarter thick or 3 ounces each. The tenderloin originally was cooked to about 125 degrees which, when the carryover cooking effect was taken into account, ended up in medium rare tenderloin roasts, so the meat was nice and red throughout.

I rubbed both sides of each medallion with EVOO, kosher salt and black pepper. I heated a Lodge cast iron grill pan to a medium-high heat on the gas burner of the stove and then put each medallion into the grill pan for about 2 minutes a side. In the meantime, the oven was heated to about 300 degrees. After 4 minutes or so, the cast iron grill pan went into the oven for another 4 minutes. After pulling the grill pan out of the oven, the medallions were removed to a plate and rested for another two minutes.

The result was filet mignon that was medium – only slightly more cooked than originally – well-seasoned from the EVOO, salt and pepper, and – while not quite as delicious as when the roast was originally cooked – still much better than just about anything served in anything but the finest steak houses.

All-in-all, mission accomplished! Leftovers used in a tasty and delicious way; refrigerator cleaned out for the upcoming weekend’s cooking and material for another Smitty’s Que Crew post ready to go!

Next leftover night, we’ll talk about leftover chicken – its a bird of a different feather altogether!

PS – if you’re with me until the end of this post, you may be wondering “Where are the pictures? The videos? The visual aids?” Fair enough. This blogging thing is new to me and I’m still working on getting into the habit. Unfortunately, I don’t have very good lighting where I do most of my evening cooking and evening is when I do most of my cooking. I will try over the next several weeks to include photographs in my posts. After all, as is the slogan on one of the BBQ sites I frequent “if there are no pictures, it didn’t happen.” Rest assured, it all happens and I will try to do a better job of including the visual proof!



27 Dec



27 Dec

After taking things easy the past couple days, I was ready to get back to the grill tonight. I had planned to just heat up some of the leftover tenderloin from this past weekend using one of the grills in the Grill Garden instead of the stovetop and oven. That, however, all changed yesterday when we attended our friends, the Rawls, annual day after Christmas brunch.

When we got to our friends’ house, I saw that my buddy Jack was on the back deck shucking oysters in the 40+ degree weather. I said my hellos, headed to the deck and grabbed a glove and oyster knife. We had a routine, we would shuck the ones that opened easily, and the ones that didn’t we tossed onto a warm grill and waited for the heat to do the job for us. The oyster-eating guests would rotate from the den to the deck to grab an oyster or two, hit ’em with a shot of Tabasco sauce and knock ’em back.

I was talking to Jack about my favorite way to eat oysters – which is any way – but in particular, grilled on the half-shell over a charcoal fire. Jack made my day when he said “I bought a case of oysters and there’s no way we’ll eat them all today – I’ll send some home with you.” SCORE!

When we left the party, Jack had sat a sack full of oysters in the shell by our vehicle. I raced home and got them on ice and started anticipating!

Tonight, I started the preparations. I couldn’t find the paint can opener I improvised as an oyster knife the last time I had oysters in the shell, so I decided I would let the heat open the shells for me. I got the fire started in the Red Weber 1992 Model Performer (chosen because it has the largest grill grate of any of my grills except the Primo, and is easy to set up for a two level fire), and grabbed about three tablespoons of butter, some Worcestershire sauce, rock salt and a couple of bar towels.

The set up was to dump the lit coals in my usual configuration – two level fire – one side of the grate hot, one empty. I soaked the bar towels in water and wrapped the oysters in the towels and put the towels and oysters over the cool side of the grill. After about 7 minutes, the oysters were looking ready to open but they weren’t quite there and it was getting close to dinner time. I sat the oysters over direct heat for a couple of minutes and they started to crack. I worked the shells open with a knife blade and sat each one, on the half-shell, on a bed of rock salt in a rimmed baking sheet. Then I put the butter in a small pan over the coals and let the butter melt. The butter melted and was poured over the oysters, followed quickly by a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce, then each oyster was topped with grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese. Each oyster went back over the coals and the lid went on the Performer for about 4 minutes, until the liquid was bubbling and the cheese was melted.

I put the oysters back on their rock salt bed and brought them in for dinner. While the girls finished setting the table, I quickly toasted a slice of Italian bread and grabbed a bottle of Peter Luger’s Original Steak Sauce and headed to the table. I picked the Peter Lugers over Tabasco or Tiger sauce because, while it is marketed as a steak sauce, it has a dash of horseradish in it and is generally a sweet sauce. That would give me competing and complimentary flavors of the salty, briny oysters, the sharp Parmesan Reggiano, the smooth butter and the rich Worcestershire sauce. One oyster told me I had NAILED IT! All of the flavors came together perfectly and I had to stop myself from scarfing down the dozen or so oysters too quickly, making myself take the time to savor each and every one, using the chewy, crisp toasted Italian bread to mop up every drop of the juices left in each oyster shell.

The tenderloin? Well, if you can believe it about tenderloin, it was relegated to the role of “also served” at tonight’s dinner!

The Sabor Latio Crowd’s Annual Christmas Party

24 Dec

Every other Friday night of the year, you can find anywhere from 4 to 14 of us at Manuel and Linda’s Sabor Latino restaurant in Homewood, Alabama enjoying cold and frozen adult beverages, chips and salsa, cheese dip and great Peruvian and Mexican food – but mostly enjoying the end of the week with our friends and families. It is a tradition that has carried on for – who knows – maybe 8 years – and counting. We all look forward all week to “Sabor Night” and, since Melissa and I started getting into cooking, that is really the only night of the week we regularly eat out.

One night a year, however, we leave the restaurant with Manuel, Linda, their daughter Lilly and her husband Gustavo, and we hold the Sabor Latio Crowd’s Christmas Party. The location varies, of course, as does the menu, but the crowd is the same, and usually includes the entire crowd, all the kids and special guests (like my mother-in-law and neighbors).

This year, the party was out our house. Melissa and I decided we would do beef tenderloin, baked cheese grits and strawberry, feta and spinach salad, along with her Red Velvet Cheesecake. Our Bourbon n Que Tailgate Crew “Bourbon Slushies” formed the centerpiece for the libations.

Melissa handled the indoor chores while I prepped the tenderloins, cleaned off the patio and laid the pinion wood in the firepit for the traditional “men standing around an open fire” part of the evening.

For the tenderloin, I decided to do a combination cook of sear and smoke-roast. Here is the set up:

The set up consisted of the Weber Q320 and the Traeger Texas Grill. I heated the Q320 up to about 500 degrees – I had seasoned the new cast iron grates last weekend – and got the Traeger Texas Grill rollin’ in pecan pellet smoke at about 300 degrees.

The tenderloin was trimmed, “tied” with silicon bands for shape, and then seasoned with canola oil, salt, pepper, and “The Slabs.Com Wow Up Your Cow” rub.  Here’s the “before” picture:

I seared the tenderloins on the Q300 for about 10 minutes, rotating each roast slightly every two minutes or so, taking advantage of the cast iron grates to give me some great grill marks and caramelization. I should mention that Assistant Pit Master Andy Cook came over to help with the cooking and provided excellent conversation during the process. In addition to the conversation, we enjoyed a couple of beverages, which could be the reason there are no “after” pictures of the tenderloins! However, after the sear and after about an hour on the Traeger, my Thermapen was reading about 125 so it was time to pull the meat and let it rest. We tucked the roast, loosely tented with some foil, in the microwave to rest until it was time to slice. I sliced the roasts just as the first guests arrived and found them a perfect medium rare, with a spicy crust all the way around. We sliced them thin for eating with yeast rolls, dressed with chipotle mustard or garlic and herb mayonnaise. Mostly, however, I just grabbed a slice every time I walked past the table!

Other members of the crowd contributed other wonderful homemade treats and by the time all the food and drink were consumed, and the firepit had burned down, the kids had watched “A Christmas Story” for the 112th time, it was time to declare the annual Sabor Latino Crowd’s Christmas Party an overwhelming success. A Merry Christmas to all – may you have a quiet, cozy, comfortable and peaceful Christmas.

Dual Cooking Methods – Grill/Roasting

21 Dec

As I’ve accumulated an “abundance” of grills and smokers, I’ve learned that sometimes, I get a lot of mileage out of combining cooking methods and sometimes using more than one cooker for a single cook. I’ve flash fried chicken to give it a nice, brown, crispy crust, then finished cooking the chicken on a grill. I’ve combined grilling – searing meat at a very high temperature – with roasting the meat on another cooker at a moderate temperature.  Combining two methods in one cook can yield some wonderful food and I like because I get to use more than one of my cookers at a time!

Today, I came across this blog post by Michael Ruhlman.  Mr. Ruhlman is one of the food authorities I have come to respect as I’ve started the explore the world of food. I have his book “Ratios” and wholeheartedly recommend it as a kitchen staple. I’m hopeful that his newer book “Twenty” soon finds its way to my reading shelf.

Although most of my posts here will describe my own techniques and methods, this is one where I couldn’t have said it better.

That being said, I recommend this article:

I will be using this technique on Friday with two nice whole beef tenderloins and my Vermont Castings Gas Grill and my Traeger Texas Grill. I’ll let you know how the meat turns out!

Letter to a Fellow Griller…

19 Dec

I hang out a lot on The Virtual Weber Bullet forum sponsored by Chris Allingham. Chris does a wonderful job of providing a place for Weber grill lovers to share ideas, recipes, tips and techniques. A new member over there asked a question earlier in the day. The question was, essentially “I have a Big Green Egg. I bought a Weber Performer for another location and would like to know to ‘translate’ between the two.” Since I have Weber Performers and kettles as well as Big Green Eggs, a Primo XL Oval and a Kamado Joe, I decided to pass along a few thoughts. I thought I would share those thoughts there, too, for anybody who might have a ceramic as well as a kettle grill. Here is my response:

Welcome John! I’m a bi-lingual griller, too. I have Performers, Kettles, Genesis and Q’s. I have a Kamado Joe, 2 Eggs and a Primo XL Oval.

I’ll try to help. There are somethings the BGE is just always going to do well – low and slow, grilling at nuclear temperatures, and pizzas for starters.

That being said, the Weber Kettles are very flexible and give the cook an opportunity to set up two or even three zone fires for cooking foods at different grate temperatures or, something I do a LOT, cooking reverse sear or sear and hold where one half of the charcoal grate is filled with charcoal and the other half is empty – giving you a “roasting” zone for reverse sear or sear and hold cooking that is so valuable when cooking larger steaks and roasts, or even bone-in chicken breasts.

I generally use briquettes for my Weber cooking, although I sometimes will sprinkle in some smaller bits of lump that I’ve pulled out of one of the ceramics after a cook.

You’ll want to do some experimenting with the vent controls. I generally open the bottom vent all the way and control the heat with the top vent. Some people may differ, but its just easier for me to see how open or closed the top vent is. I know, I can mark the bottom vent settings on the ash basket holder, but that’s just the way I do it. I do use the lower vent if I am going to be cooking lower/slower on the Weber, such as when I am using my rotisserie on one of the Kettles ( I have a kettle that I just keep the rotisserie on all the time).

Otherwise, the skills you already have transfer back and forth pretty well: direct versus indirect cooking, fire control and timing when to remove the meat from the grill.

Another thing the Weber does that can be good is cool down faster than the Egg! If I want to cover one of my ceramics back up up after a cook, I have to wait until the next morning. The Performer will cool down in about 45 minutes after you shut down all of the vents.

You also are going to like the gas assist charcoal lighting. I use a weed burner or lighter cubes for the ceramics and use a chimney for the kettles and my non-gas assist 1992 Performer, but when I use my 1992 Model gas assist model at the lake, it is a nice way to light the coals.

You are a lucky man to have a BGE and a Performer. The only problem I have is the opportunity to cook enough meals to get around to cooking on all the grills enough to keep them all happy!


A Family Favorite – Shrimp Burgers

18 Dec

Missy suggested shrimp burgers for dinner tonight so I quickly abandoned my grilled smoke roasted pork loin in favor of what has become a family favorite in our house. 

Our shrimp burger recipe is from this past summer’s Cook’s Illustrated Summer Grilling periodical cookbook. The recipe in the magazine is well-stained from ingredients being spilled and dripped over the page each time we treat ourselves to these tasty seafood treats.

It’s simple enough: 1.5 pounds of raw, de-veined and peeled shrimp, a slice’s-worth of bread crumbs, quarter cup of mayonnaise, some lemon zest, a scallion, salt, pepper, cayenne, some parsley and you’re all set. Process the shrimp in a food processor or 8 or 9 pulses, until there are some chunks about the size of the tip of your little finger, but the shrimp is mostly chopped to a fine chop. The shrimp will be stickey – that’s good, because the burgers have to hold together on the grill and they’re going to need some help. Transfer the shrimp to a large bowl and in another bowl, combine the mayo, salt, pepper, cayenne, parsley and scallions. MIx the mayo mixture to an even paste and spoon it over the shrimp then add in the bread crumbs. Mix it all together and then make 4 even-sized shrimp burgers. The bread crumbs and mayo help hold the shrimp together as does making sure the burgers sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before grilling. 

I decided to cook some roasted asparagus along with the shrimp burgers. Melanie and I like asparagus: Meredith and Melissa do not, but I decided to cook some for Melanie and me anyway.

After the burgers were made and resting in the refrigerator, I fired up the Primo XL Oval, using the divided firebox with the coals on the left and the right side empty. While the shrimp were firming up and getting ready for the grill and the Primo was coming up to temp, I cleaned up from the preparation of the shrimp burgers and poured a little olive oil over the asparagus spears along with some salt, pepper and Cavender’s Greek Seasoning – our all-around favorite, go-to seasoning in our house.

The Primo, even with the split firebox and one side of the firebox empty of coals, didn’t take long to come up to 500 degrees. I slid the asparagus – on a small, rimmed baking sheet – onto the cool side of the grill. This was the beginning of a grilling mistake that turned into the unexpected treat of the night.

I waited a bit before putting the shrimp burgers on the grill so they would finish cooking about the same time as the oven-roasted Yukon Gold fries that Missy was cooking to go along with the burgers. After a while, I opened the Primo, tossed the asparagus spears around a bit and put the shrimp burgers on the hot side of the grill (which was, naturally, rock solid at 500 degrees), then shut the lid and closed the bottom vent to about half-open and closed the top vent by about the same amount. I relaxed with a diet coke and waited about 6 minutes and flipped the burgers.

Well, “flip” is something of a misnomer since it is not a flip in the quick and easy sense that a hamburger generally is flipped. I have to take great care that the burger doesn’t come apart when turning it. I’ve devised a two-handed technique that involves not one, but two fish spatulas. The technique involves getting a spatula under the burger, then putting the second spatula on top of the burger with the other hand, and then rotating the burger, resting between the spatulas, so that the burger is resting on top of what was the top spatula, which by now is the bottom spatula. The burger is then gently slid off of the spatula onto the grill.

When I completed the delicate flip, I noticed that the asparagus had been a bit “over-roasted” and was charred on the bottom and a little crispy. I took the baking sheet off of the grill and considered tossing the asparagus, but then I decided to pick up one of the spears and try it and to my complete surprise, it tasted great! The asparagus was crisp, almost like it had been fried, and had a smoky char to it that was very appealing. I snacked three of the spears right there by the grill! 

In a few more minutes, the shrimp burgers had hit 160 on my Thermapen so I spatula-ed the burgers off the grill and onto a platter and it was dinner time.

I like my shrimp burgers on a seeded bun with sliced purple onion, sliced tomato and a remoulade  sauce spread on the bun and served with french fries.  The burgers went fast and everybody wanted more. So we ended up with a successful cook of a family favorite on the newest member of the Grill Garden, and discovered a new tasty treat to boot.