Thursday, August 02, 2007

Seasoned Skewers

On a trip up to Maine to see my parents this past weekend we celebrated my upcoming birthday a little early. True to past form, bbq equipment played a heavy theme this year. Rather then one round up of the fun new grilling widgets, I thought I would examine one at a time. First up, the interesting Seasoned Skewers: naturally flavored wooden skewers for infusing flavor and aroma into kabobs.

Seasoned Skewers

The box came with three different flavors: citrus rosemary, garlic herb and mexican fiesta. For tonight's trial we were making kabobs out of chicken jalapeno sausages, mushrooms and peppers, and I chose the garlic herb skewers to go with it. My assumption was that the flavor wouldn't be able to compete very well with the flavored chicken sausage, and that the peppers have so little contact area with the skewer that there wouldn't be much transfer to those either. The mushrooms however have a nice neutral flavor, absorbent flesh and abundant contact area. The next time I experiment with these skewers I plan on using a more neutral ingredient combination such as some slightly seasoned chicken or shrimp.

Kabobs

The skewers come with a small recipe book and some nice packaging. The aroma after opening the vacume sealed plastic pouce that each flavor comes in was quite strong but appealing. The skewers are wide and flat, presumably to help transfer the flavor via more surface area. The instructions said to let the kabobs sit for 15 minutes before grilling, so I went out and lit up ol' Smokey Joe.

Smokey Joe

The chicken sausage comes precooked, so we're really just heating things up and adding some nice grill color. Because of this I let the veggies, particularly the sensitive mushrooms, define how long the kabobs stayed on the grill. We were having some corn too so I let that cook by itself for awhile before adding the kabobs. Total cooking time was roughly 20m, probably only half of that actually involving the kabobs. I'm not going to embed the photo here because some people might find it incredibly gross, but while the grill was working its magic Cassie and I observed an enormous, lepoard spotted slug emerge from a hole in the pavement. If that sounds like something you'd be interested in seeing a good macro photo of, click here and here.

Corn n Kabobs

When we took the food off the grill the aroma garlic herb aroma was noticeable and pleasent. It didn't seem artificial as I had assumed it would. When we sat down to eat my expectations regarding how the ingredients would react to the flavor was pretty accurate. The strong hot pepper flavor of the sausage dominated, the peppers didn't have much flavor to them, and the mushrooms were strongly flavored. What I hadn't counted on was the actual aroma that the skewers delivered to the kabobs. Even the sausage had a deliciously interesting aroma to it. I'm looking forward to trying the other two flavors, and hopefully tailoring some more interesting combo recipes to their specific qualities. Overall I would say that despite appearing to be slightly gimmicky on first pass, these skewers can really add some aromatic presence to the proper kabob ingredients.

Chicken Sausage Kabobs

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Fantastic Filet

For our final cookout in Provincetown, Cassie pick up a mutual favorite: thick cut filet mignon. I haven't cooked steaks in some time, and I was looking forward to applying some recently acquired knowledge around cooking fast and building up a crust. Its hard to throw off the "low and slow" mantra of the BBQ, but when it comes to steak cooking as fast as possible is the key to victory.

Burned


Cooking steaks indoors during the past winter, I had been working on the technique of pan searing with butter to build up a delicious crust and lock in as much flavor as possible. Working with this I whipped together some butter with cracked pepper and rubbed the outside of the steak with this. When the coals had just died down and were still glowing I put on the steak to cook for about 4 minutes per side. The butter and intense heat performed as expected, and the filet was deliciously crusted on the outside and incredibly flavorful on the inside. This was sort of a last minute unplanned cookout, and it ended up providing us with a main dish that certainly rivaled the careful preparation that went in the 4th of July ribs (could it have been the 7/7/07 luck?!)

Delicious Filet

Sadly missing form this photographic documentation is the delicious potato salad Cassie made, and some leftover kabobs form the Fourth.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fourth of July Beach Cookout

Grilling on the beach was something I'd really been looking forward to doing this year, and it did not disappoint. Around 5pm the wind started to pick up a little and cleared away all the sun bathers, so we though it would be a good time to light the coals. It was slightly challenging getting coals started in direct wind without the charcoal chimney I normally use. Once the flame caught I put the lid back on leaving a 2 inch game over the side with the coals banked. This in conjunction with the side air vents on the Smokey Joe Gold seemed to keep things burning.

Take that, offshore winds!

I wanted to let the ribs smoke for at least an hour, using the apple wood chips I had found in the local hardware store. To tide us over, I made some kabobs with fresh pineapple, onion, peppers and shrimp. These cooked real fast, and kept us entertained while some more of that delicious corn we had on sunday was streaming. One thing I noticed was that the shrimp readily absorbed the smokey flavor and also dried out rather quickly. I'm not sure if this was because they were on the small size for grilling, or if it was because they had been pre-cooked when we bought them. Either way, I'm going to have to delve into shrimp grilling a little bit more and try to crack this. The fresh pineapple was delicious as usual.

I guess thats the cool thing to do now?


The ribs cooked for just about an hour and a half, with the rub forming a delicious looking crust. I brushed them down with some Sweet Baby Ray's honey bbq sauce and let that caramalize for another 15 minutes. Just as we were getting ready to take them off a few drops of rain sizzled on the grill lid. As we got the ribs inside it just started to pick up so we dodged a bullet and enjoyed our meal while watching the storm go by.

Ribs and Corn

Delicious Ribs

Please note Cassie's delicious home made sangria in the above photo. The ribs were delicious, with just enough of a smoke ring around the inside to convince myself that one can take a serious stab at doing actual barbecue on a grill, even a small one like the Smokey Joe.

//update: the Flickr photo group Bar-B-Qued Ribs asked for me to submit that photo to them! Super cool, check out all the food porn they've collected.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Prepping for the Fourth

We are really looking forward to having a nice cookout on the beach for the Fourth of July. Today we took a walk down to the market and picked up some supplies needed with the following menu in mind:
• Babyback ribs, to fulfill my mission discussed previously
• Shrimp and pineapple kabobs
• Fresh corn
• Homemade sangria (Cassie's specialty)

The kabobs are intended to be a quick-cookin snack to keep us happy around the grill while the ribs can slow cook their way to deliciousness. I followed the trimming and prepping instructions from amazingribs.com to prep the ribs, and also cut the rack in half so it would fit on the Smokey Joe without a problem:

Trimmed Ribs

I found a pre-made pork rub at the store, not ideal but better then buying all the spices and other ingredients for a homemade rub in bulk and then leaving them at the beach house to never be used again. It went on pretty well so I have good expectations for it.

Rubs!

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