Archive | April, 2012

“EPIC (Shrimp Burger) FAIL!”

28 Apr

Coming off of the week’s “Massive Butt Cook” – chronicled here earlier in the week – I was ready to get a grill fired up tonight. We had some buns left over from the BBQ sharing and I had a hankerin’ for some good hamburgers. When I suggested hamburgers for tonight’s dinner, Melissa countered with Shrimp Burgers. It was a good idea. After all, Meredith likes Shrimp Burgers and and Melissa eats shrimp as part of her vegetarian regime. Shrimp Burgers are healthier for us than the 80/20 Ground Chuck hamburgers that I prefer, and there is a saying I’ve heard somewhere that goes something like “Happy Wife! Happy Life!” So, Shrimp Burgers it was.

Now, here’s the problem: shrimp do not particularly like to be formed into patties! They require some cajoling, some binding and some luck to stay together on the grill. Whereas 80/20 ground chuck pretty much hangs in there for the duration of the cookeration, Shrimp Burgers are always a bit of a mystery. I have a basic recipe from Cook’s Illustrated Summer Grilling special edition from a couple of years ago, and on the surface, it seems simple: 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp, bread crumbs, 1/4 cup mayo, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon zest, scallions, some parsley if its available. Toss the shrimp into the food processor, roughly chop, then transfer to a bowl, blend in other ingredients and form into patties. Yeah, so simple. And yet….

I knew I was in trouble when I formed up the patties and they didn’t stick to my hand like they normally do. Instead they were a bit moist – well, wet actually. I was hoping that they would “set up” a bit in the freezer before they went onto the grill, but I should have tossed them all back into the bowl, added some more bread crumbs and started over, but noooooooo…… that would have made too much sense.

Instead, I fired up the Kamado Joe – damn good cooker it is – and got the temp to 400 degrees, where I wanted it. The squash, zucchini and onion skewers went on and off the grill nicely, charring up on the edges just like they should. Seasoned with salt, pepper and Cavender’s Greek seasoning, they had a nice, satisfying spicy taste and a little carmelization and char to boot.

Then it was time for the shrimp burgers. I was able to get them onto my grill grate without any incident thanks, it appears, to the patties being about half frozen from hanging out in the freezer for about half an hour. So far so good. A little pause for some refreshment, and it was time to flip.

And the trouble began. The first patty I tried to flip started to fall apart as I picked it up. It was just too damned moist. I got it flipped and then waited a bit before trying to flip the others. The flip of those patties did NOT go well. While I was able to get them turned over without the patties coming completely apart, the “burgers” now looked more like “loose meat sandwich filling.” At this point, I probably should have cut my losses, shut down the Kamado Joe and loaded the family into the Smith Family Truckster and headed off to the nearest Mexican establishment, but no….we went forward.

The “patties” were eaten, and when the bun was topped with the “filling” (formerly known as shimp patties) along with a Pepper Place fresh tomato slice, some leaf lettuce, a slice of purple onion, and a dash of mayo, prepared horseradish and Alecia’s Tomato Chutney (my redneck version of tomato chutney aioli), they were indeed tasty.

However, the effort was, due to the disastrous nature of the “patties,” an epic fail” – as the current vernacular calls a calamity of the scale of this cook. I do like Shrimp Burgers, but the next time they are on the menu at our house, Melissa will have to do the honors of making the patties. I will man the grill.

As it stands now, I can’t let the weekend grilling end on that note. Tomorrow night will indeed involve firing up the Kamado Joe and cooking something that I can pull off successfully…..maybe those nice 80/20 ground chuck burgers will get cooked this weekend after all!

Massive Butt Cook

24 Apr

As usual, I am way behind on the updates, but am going to try to chronicle a butt cook I am doing tonight for a friend’s church dinner tomorrow night.

After a trip to Sam’s this afternoon to pick up a case of butts (five packages of 2 butts each) weighing in at about 72 lbs, plus two more two-packs for a total of 14 butts weighing in at about 100 lbs, the preparations got started in earnest around 9:30. Here is the first post, which was originally sent as an email to The Professor and a couple of the intended beneficiaries of the butt cook:

Gentlemen – as followers of BBQ, Esq., and being aware of a mammoth butt cook this evening, I wanted to let you know that as of 10:15, all butts have been rubbed and are on their respective smokers.

The final count was 14 butts – about 100 pounds total. 10 of the butts fit on the Traeger and 4 on the WSM.

When I came upstairs, the Traeger was humming along at about 225 on Pecan pellets and the WSM was climbing through 190, assisted by the BBQ Guru Digi-Q DX automatic temperature control device, on its way to 225, fueled with good old Kingsford and flavored with some cherry, apple and pecan wood. Both smokers will hang there over night, with a temperature check to coincide with my nightly “nature call” (BBQ is such a good old man’s sport for this reason), and when the butts reach 160 degrees internal temperature – which I estimate to be about 6 – 7 a.m., they will be wrapped in a double layer of heavy duty foil, a little rub and a splash of liquid added to the foil, and the temps will be bumped to about 275. I estimate that the butts will finish at around 198 degrees between 10 a.m. and noon. They will then be transferred to a cooler, wrapped in towels, and held for pick up by my “customer” about 2:45. EXCEPT that two lucky butts will be reserved for the Smith Family and two special friends (Sorry CPS, you’re family and would have a share except that you are headed west).

We are hoping for a slightly sweet, smoky finish with plenty of moisture and a noticeable but not tough nor chewy crust.

More updates later in the evening.

11:00 p.m update. I usually don’t check my cookers so soon after starting a cook, but I really want to get some sleep and I wanted to know that all was well. The Traeger and the WSM were humming right along at temperature, with a wisp of blue smoke coming from the WSM. The Traeger doesn’t produce much noticeable smoke after the pellets get going, but the smoke taste and smoke ring are there nevertheless.  The butts on the Traeger are going to need rotating at the early morning check to keep the outside edges from getting done too fast. No problem there. So, 11:00 p.m. and all is well. The BBQ, Esq. is off for a few hours of smokey dreams.

1:15 a.m. – Butt check. Temps are holding steady on both the Traeger and the WSM. Butts look pretty much like they’re supposed to after about 3 hours.  Checked fuel in the Traeger. Going back to bed.

5:35 a.m. – I really like automatic temperature controllers! They let me do overnight cooks without worrying about smoker temperatures – not that I worry much about temperatures on the Traeger or the WSM anyway (or the Kamado Joe or Primo XL Oval for that mattter), but still, I sleep better knowing that the technology is doing its job.  Got up and checked the butts this morning and they look great. I did get to the Traeger just in time since it was almost out of pellets. I refilled the hopper and now Traeger is happy again and let out a nice little puff of smoke from the smokestack to let me know. I haven’t checked the butt temps yet this morning because the Thermapen was upstairs and the cookers are downstairs, but judging from the looks of the butts, they are definitely ready to go into foil to finish. Butt first…… coffee…..

7:00 a.m. –  When I took the Thermapen down to the smokers, I found that thee of the butts were just north of 195 degrees internal – they all were on the Traeger and on the “hotter” end of the cooker. They were foiled an slipped into a cooler to hold for a while until the others finish. The biggest butts were on the WSM and they were still in the stall, being in the 160 range. No real surprise there because of their size. All of the butts were wrapped and the 11 that still had some cooking to do were returned to their cookers and the cooker temperatures were bumped to 250.

I will check the butts every 30 minutes or so and as the butts finish, they will go into the cooler. When all are finished, I will put the Traeger into “smoke” mode, which runs about 165 degrees, and hold the butts until my “customer” picks them up after lunch.

Final Update: The butts all finished in due course this morning. As they finished up, they were placed in a cooler and covered with a blanket. The last two to come off of the WSM were designated as mine. I pulled them about 1:30 this afternoon and they were good butts to say the least. Lots of moisture, good bark, very tender (these were pulled at about 200 degrees so they probably finished about 205-210, but they didn’t get mushy). I splashed in some vinegar and pepper sauce just to add a little spice and they were done.

First review was from my friend JST. A self-described picky eater, he gave it his seal of approval. Results in from the church also were good, so we’re calling it a success!

14 Butts – biggest cook to date!

So far so good – with only some minor min-cook adjusting.

Quick Week Night Dinner…..

16 Apr

Nothing fancy. Just a basic dinner of boneless, skinless chicken breasts marinaded in Dale’s Seasoning and grilled on the Weber Genesis Silver B. Simple but a great dinner with Mrs. BBQ, Esq.’s cast iron skillet fried onions and yellow squash. Leftovers will make great marinated chicken and cheese sandwiches tomorrow for lunch, a la’ Billy’s Bar and Tavern.

Dinner: Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

Marinade: Dale’s Seasoning

Grill: Weber Genesis Silver B

Temperature: 450

Cook Time: 10 – 14 minutes, depending on the thickness of each breast fillet (cooked to 160 degree internal)

Result: Good chicken from the Piggly Wiggly. Dale’s Seasoning adds a nice deep flavor after only a short marinade.

Beef from “Happy Cows”

14 Apr

Those of you who know the BBQ, Esq. family know that Mrs. BBQ, Esq., is a seafood eating vegetarian. Her journey from carnivore to vegetarian began not for reasons of health, but rather, out of her concern for animal welfare. She heard, or saw, one of the expose’ pieces about the very worst practices in beef processing and decided she could not support an industry that treated animals in the way described in the report. We have had many discussions about the meat and poultry processing industries and we have largely agreed to disagree, but earlier this year, I conceded that I would attempt to locate a supplier of pasture raised, grass fed (and possibly grain finished), anti-biotic free beef, what I dubbed as beef from “happy cows.”

She is not crazy about the final journey any animal makes from “happy cow” to medium rare rib-eye, but she feels better knowing that my rib-eye was not raised in warehouse like conditions in which SOME commercially raised beef may be produced. I’m not taking on the whole commercial beef industry thing, and I’m not getting political or anything. I just want to eat a good steak and make Mrs. BBQ, Esq. feel a bit better about what I eat.

Well, the path to Happy Cows was not as easy as it might sound. Despite seeing many beef cattle roaming many pastures as I drive around the State of Alabama, figuring out how to get one of those frolicking bovines onto one of my grills proved to be rather difficult. I searched the CSA sites and Googled “pasture raised” and “grass fed” cattle.

Finally, I found http://www.freshfully.com – a virtual CSA promoting Alabama meat, seafood and produce and emphasizing sustainably-raised and organically farmed products.

I purchased a small quantity of beef – a couple of rib eyes and t-bones – from an Alabama farmer. The beef wasn’t cheap, but I had prepared myself for that and was willing to pay more than the going rate for commercially produced beef (which is high enough these days in and of itself). Today I went to pick up the beef and to say I was disappointed was a bit of an understatement. The rib-eyes were about 8 oz each and were thin. The t-bones were not available so the farmer substituted a package of strip steaks that were quite thin (I’m contemplating how I am going to cook those) and tossed in a dozen farm fresh eggs to even up the deal. I am guessing that the eggs might be the best part of the acquisition.

Leaving the farmer’s market, I saw a sign for “Holmestead Beef,” “Holmesgrown in Perry County, Alabama by J. Cooper Holmes.” I decided to see if the beef Cooper and his wife had for sale was more visually appealing that what I had purchased earlier. Turns out, it was! I ended up purchasing a pack of two, inch and half thick bone-in rib-eyes. For the record, on my patio, an inch and a half is the appropriate thickness for a rib-eye steak. Much more pleased with this purchase – and with the personable Mr. and Mrs. Cooper – I headed home, contemplating how to respectfully prepare these nice looking steaks.

I thawed the steaks and decided that, because they were grass-fed, with less of the visible marbling that we all are accustomed to in rib-eyes, I would use a little bit of briny-like Dale’s Marinade and then dry that off and season with Greek seasoning – one of my favorite steak seasonings.

I decided to cook on one of the Weber Kettle grills on the patio using good old-fashioned Kingsford charcoal. I opted for the kettle instead of one of the ceramic cookers and natural lump because Mrs. BBQ, Esq., had pressure washed the patio and the grills had not yet been restored to their usual locations. Still, there is nothing disgraceful about a Weber One-Touch Gold mounted in a table and Kingsford charcoal. Adding a couple of chunks of Pecan for flavor, I lit a chimney of charcoal and when ready, spread it out over half of the charcoal grate for two-zone cooking.

Because the steaks were cut to an appropriate thickness, I decided to do a reverse sear cook. I cut the top and bottom vents down to about one-half to get the temperature to stabilize at about 350. I put the rib-eyes on the cool side of the grill, closed the lid – and had a Jim Beam. I like the reverse sear technique because it yields wonderful results on appropriately thick steaks and because it allows ample time for a beverage, or perhaps two, while the meat is roasting on the cool side of the grill.

After about 20 minutes – or one beverage – the steaks were just topping 100 degrees. I removed the steaks to a platter and let them rest, opened the bottom vent on the Weber and let the temperature come back up to well over 400 degrees as the oxygen hit the briquettes.

When the coals were once again glowing red and the fire was hot, I seared the steaks over the hot coals for maybe two minutes a side, or until it “felt right” and a peek at the steak showed that the surface of the steaks was nicely charred to a deep mahogany (but not black) color. The meat temperature when I took the steaks off the grill was just barely over 120 degrees.

I usually will take thick steaks to 125 degrees internal temperature, figuring the internal temperature will continue to rise by between 5 and 10 degrees after they go to the platter. Because this was grass-fed beef, I wanted to get them off the grill a bit sooner so they would finish at a lower temperature than conventional beef. My theory was that the lower fat content would require a lower finish temperature to keep the beef from being dry and chewy.

The rest was pretty close to 10 minutes while I finished up some par -cooked red potato wedges on the grill and cooked a fillet of Scamp Grouper from my favorite fish monger (The Snapper Grabber) for Mrs. BBQ, Esq.

So, what was the verdict? I also cooked a nice Certified Angus Beef (“CAB”) USDA Choice Chuck-Eye steak as a “control steak” to compare to the grass-fed, pasture-raised steak. The rib-eye turned out amazing! The steak was a perfect medium-rare degree of doneness from one side to the other, with absolutely no bands of gray or brown at the edges of the steak. The flavor was different from the CAB control steak. The grass-fed steak had a more intense taste, with overtones that could be described as “nutty.” The tenderness was on a par with the CAB steak and the Greek seasoning worked just as well on the Holmestead Beef rib-eye as on the CAB steak. The combination of the cooking method, seasoning and the meat itself made this one of the best steak dinners of the year!

To be sure, the texture and flavor profile is different than that of a USDA Prime or Certified Angus Beef Rib-Eye, but it is no worse, just different. I won’t go to these steaks exclusively – I couldn’t afford to do that and eat as much beef as I do and I’m not thrilled with the possibility of eating less beef – but I suspect that I will order a nice steak or two from the Holmes family to pick up at Pepper Place a couple times or so a month and will look forward to and enjoy each of those steaks!

Here is a picture of the finished product. The Holmestead steak is on the left; the CAB “control” steak is on the right. There is a second Holmestead steak under the first one – that will be lunch tomorrow!

Schedule Update

14 Apr

I had planned on trying to do about 2 blog post a week, but I’ve been a bit lax on the posting lately. I’ve been getting some good material and saving it but haven’t had the time to do decent write ups.

To fulfill the original purpose of my little blog, I’m going to do quick and dirty postings of each outdoor cook I do and other topics I find interesting and then try to do a longer, more thorough post about once a week.

Sorry for the delay in anything new if you are a reading follower of this little diary. I’ll try to get something decent up for you to ready very soon.