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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Posted by Nat Tarbox. 0 comments

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Recipe: Italian Stuffed Chicken

Straight from our Memorial Day madness comes our recipe for Italian Stuffed Chicken. This is a great recipe to try when you want to mix it up a little while pleasing everyone.

Stuffed chicken

Ingredients:
• 4 Thick cut chicken breasts
• 1 Cup lite Italian dressing
• 6 oz. fresh spinach
• 2 Cloves chopped garlic
• 4 Tbsp. ricotta cheese
• 4 Tbsp. shredded parmesan cheese
• 4 Tbsp. shredded mozarella cheese
• Ground pepper
• 4 tsp. Mrs. Dash seasoning blend
• Toothpicks
• Mesquite or hickory woodchips (optional)

Prep:
Start preparing the chicken by washing the chicken breasts and placing them in a marinade of the Italian dressing up to five hours in advance of grilling. About a half hour before lighting the coals you should soak two handfuls of the woodchips in water.

When you are getting ready to cook, take the chicken out of the marinade and place them on a plate. On a cutting board, take each chicken breast and cut into the meat sideways creating a pocket. Chop the garlic cloves into small pieces. In a medium frying pan, cover surface with olive oil and add garlic and spinach. Sautee spinach for two to three minutes until spinach has shrunk and cooked through.

Remove frying pan from heat and set spinach aside on small plate or dish. Stuff each chicken breast with a tablespoon of spinach, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and mozarella cheese. Adjust measurements to fit your specific chicken breasts. When chicken is stuffed, pin the stuffed pocket shut with a toothpick and lightly season the top of the chicken with the pepper and Mrs. Dash.

Grilling:
Place to chicken breasts on the back of the grill to cook with indirect heat. Drop handful of woodchips onto coals and cover the grill. Grill meat for about twenty minutes flipping the chicken periodically. Applying the leftover marinade to the meat throughout the grilling process can help keep your chicken moist and emphasize the Italian flavor. When internal temperature has reached approximately 170 degrees F, remove chicken from grill and serve. Also remember to take out the damn toothpicks.

Serves 4.

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Posted by Matt. 0 comments

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day Session #3 - Epilogue

At last... Game day. Going into Monday, the grilling plan was far from certain. I would be quarterbacking the event, but when I woke up the menu and the guest list was still to be determined. Knowing there would most likely be a holiday rush, I headed to SUPER Stop & Shop at 8:30 AM so I could get first dibs at the meat and produce.

Stop & Shop did not disappoint. I walked into the store and was immediately greeted by a produce worker piling up fresh corn on the cob. My previous corn selection was second rate so I was inclined to serve up some grilled asparagus. But when I saw the corn I had to do it, especially given the occasion. I had toyed with the idea of doing a stuffed chicken and the racks of beautiful thick cut Purdue chicken breasts sealed the deal. After browsing the rest of the produce section, I decided to stuff the chicken with spinach and a blend of mozzarella, ricotta and Parmesan cheeses.

Happy Memorial Day

In addition to Nat and Cassie, I anticipated cooking for an additional five people including my roommate Mariel. I had to bring backup. To help feed the masses I picked up a huge package of beautiful chicken wings and a bottle of Ah So Sauce, a neon pink Chinese style barbecue sauce that immediately puts your chicken wings on steroids. Finally I grabbed some hamburger meat so I could pad every ones appetite and ensure that everyone got some of the good stuff.

Upon my return from the store I started the prep work. First, I seasoned the chicken breasts and placed them in a marinade of Italian dressing. I coated the chicken wings in the Ah So sauce and put everything in the fridge. Once the main players started arriving, I sauteed the spinach in a skillet with some olive oil and chopped garlic. Once the spinach cooked through, I slit each chicken breast laterally and stuffed the spinach and cheese in the newly created pocket. After each piece of chicken was stuffed I pinned it shut with a toothpick and sprinkled the top with breadcrumbs.

With the coals started and the food prepped, Cassie began addressing our new glaring problem: We forgot to buy beer. While this may not seem like a formidable solution to the rest of the earth, this is an enormous obstacle to those of us living in backwards ass Massachusetts. We had already failed at a disastrous multi-town search for an open liquor store, so Cassie took my formidable collection of miscellaneous hard alcohol and proceeded to create some delicious summertime drinks.

I bet you didn't know jean shorts were back

I placed the chicken breasts on the back of the grill to let them cook slowly. Hamburgers were placed over the coals to cook through quickly as my guests were growing impatient. I wanted to boost the chickens flavor as much as possible so I began adding hickory wood chips that I had soaked earlier. The chicken cooked through perfectly and the blend of cheeses kept the meat incredibly moist. When the stuffed chicken breasts were off the grill I piled on the chicken wings and started boiling the corn. I applied several new coats of Ah So sauce while the wings cooked through.

Stuffed chicken

The results of our grilling efforts were top notch. Both the stuffed chicken and the Chinese chicken wings provided an interesting twist to the menu and we successfully accommodated the thirteen total guests who came to enjoy our grilling madness. Cassie provided the most impressive after dinner treat with a home made thatched crust cherry pie that was a flat out show-stopper. With the help of some great appetizers, Frisbee, Nat's iPod and the Nintendo Wii, we went the distance and capped our memorial day weekend with a truly epic grilling session.

Cherry pie

Thanks to Alyson Dusseault for letting us use the awesome Polaroids she took.

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Posted by Matt. 0 comments

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day Session #1

As we headed into a glorious Memorial Day weekend Nat and I decided this was a prime opportunity to really get our grilling back on track. Waking up early Saturday morning, I though steaks would be a great place to start as we hadn't really done steaks to their fullest in some time. Well, it turned out that Nat had some steaks that had been marinading since 1987... This was a good sign of things to come.

We headed to the SUPER Stop & Shop around noon to gather further equipment. Bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers were the logical opening act as they cook fairly quickly and the spicy flavor fits nicely with a summer style cookout. For sides we went with chopped BBQ vegetables and boiled corn on the cobb. During our trek Nat stumbled across some glorious hickory wood chips, a prize we had been searching for in previous grilling sessions. Finally, we capped it off with a rack of fresh pork ribs which would take the hickory smoke perfectly.

Upon our return, first step was to prep all the food. With the steak marinading in the fridge, Nat mixed together a spicy rub for the pork ribs made with paprika, ground peppercorn, cayenne red pepper, sea salt and Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle seasoning blend. We chopped onion, potato, red pepper and green pepper into 1.5 inch pieces which we slathered in Jack Daniels original BBQ sauce and wrapped shut with tin foil. Lastly, we took the hickory woodchips and soaked them in water until it was time to start the insanity.

Matt tends the coals

We started the coals with about a gallon and a half of lighter fluid because A) I left the bag of charcoal outside for a week so the coals were damp from a rainstorm and B) someone in charge of my apartment building threw out my coal chimney stack because they couldn't identify the rusted mass for what it was. Once the fire finally started going we added the soaked hickory chips and placed an aluminum tray of Sierra Nevada ale next to the coals to flavor the food above.

The spread

We decided to slow cook the ribs so we could maximize the sun and get as much smokey flavor as possible. The bag of BBQ vegetables was placed on direct heat so we could get as much indirect surface area as possible for the jalapenos and the steak. Once everything was in place we covered the grill and me, Nat and my brother Kevin proceeded to make good use of Nat's new frisbee.

Success

The results of our grilling session were better than we could have ever anticipated. The jalapeno poppers were incredibly spicy, as Nat said he left the seeds in the jalapeno slices. We took Nat's marinaded steak off the grill at the absolute perfect moment and the BBQ vegetables were chock full o' flavor. After devouring the main event, we force-fed ourselves the slow cooked ribs and corn on the cobb. It's easy to forget the impact that wood chips can have on a meal and this grilling session was a helpful reminder. The bar has definitely been raised.

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Posted by Matt. 1 comments

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Wildcard Weekend

Heading into NFL wildcard weekend we were required by law to break out the trusty Weber 18.5 and get our grill on. As luck would have it, my legendary grandma, who perfected the art of clogging my arteries when I was in college, sent me a large care package from Omaha Steaks. It being a saturday and having no real responsibilities, Nat and I decided to devote the bulk of the afternoon to perfecting our feast.

After some careful deliberation prior to gameday, Nat and I agreed that we needed to incorporate smoking back into our routine. The last time we had successfully tracked down wood chips for smoking was August, during prime time grilling season. Since then our pitiful search attempts have yielded nothing. But today we made wood chips our holy grail.

The morning of gameday we drew up our battle plan and took an inventory. Nat would secure ribs, jalepenos to make our classic bacon wrapped poppers, and charcoal. After speaking with some woman at the Watertown Target who spoke Spanglish, I was informed that they did sell woodchips. My mission was to get the woodchips, disposable plates and deliver the care package of Sirloin.

As the day unraveled with were met with numerous unforseen challenges. Upon my arrival at Target I immediately noticed that there was not a single mesquite chip to be found. While securing the plates, Nat called me from the field to report that Star Market was completely out of charcoal and jalapenos. I grabbed some charcoal and headed to his house to do some damage control and begin preparations for the grilling.

When I arrived we discussed the wood chip predicament. We had an abundance of time before we had to being the actual slow cooking process for the ribs so Nat suggested we try another store. Home Depot informed him that they had mesquite chips for sale at reasonable prices. Admittedly, I was reluctant to make the trek. Every Masshole with a drivers license was on the road on this day and going to Home Depot involved driving through Brighton. Driving through Brighton on Saturday afternoon is the equivalent of driving my '96 Nissan through the Korean DMZ. Nat would hear none of it. We made the trek and secured the woodchips in record time.

With all equipment secured (with the exception of the Jalapenos) we proceeded to slow cook the ribs. With the slow cook process we could not utilize the Match Lite charcoal that had become a comfortable crutch for our deep freeze grilling. The temperature for the afternoon was hovering around 27 degrees which made the slow cook process particularly challenging. We cooked the ribs with indirect heat for approximately two and a half hours replacing coals periodically. We applied a handful of the soaked mesquite chips directly to the coals about every 45 minutes for sustained smoke saturation. Once the ribs were complete, we cooked the sirloin steaks over direct heat keeping a very close eye not to char the outside. Cassie was placed in charge of putting the stuffed bake potatoes in the oven.

The last of the steaks were being pulled from the fire as the first guests were arriving. The ribs were incredible and the smoking definitely paid off. The highlight of the feast, to our surprise, were the stuffed baked potatoes from Omaha. Our 8 man tag team finished off every last bit of food we had prepared and the Patriots delivered an incredible thrashing to the Jaguars.

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Posted by Matt Collins. 2 comments