Friday, July 31, 2009

Steven Raichlen's Coconut-Grilled Pineapple

Today I am going to blog about 0ne of Steven Raichlen's Dessert recipes. Just a reminder, I am going to be cooking each and every recipe in Steven Raichlen's HOW TO GRILL book. It is a means to an end of my goal of getting better, It is forcing me to challenge myself with new and different items to cook, and it is my personal tribute (rip-off) of the "Julie & Julia Project". This recipe wrapped up the evening of my Italian meal I have already discussed. Grilled pineapple is a staple of mine. I make it fairly often. But, I wanted to try it Stephen's way; and this one worked perfectly!... so, on to the recipe.

Coconut-Grilled Pineapple
The recipe is on page 427
basic introductory instructions with several photos starting on page 424.

I do not want to step on any one's toes, and do not want to publish someones recipe without permission. If you are interested, contact your local library and they will have this book, or better yet, add it to your library and buy the book if you want the details.

I do want to post some details about the recipe that I either liked, chose to do differently from Steven's and what I learned.

First, I did make a few exactly like Stephen suggests in his book. They were terrific. I always liked to add just a bit more, and sprinkled some shredded coconut on the pineapple once I had flipped them. Nothing wrong with Stephen's, but I thought the extra little bit I added made a better final product.

I did use a real whole pineapple. It worked terrific, and tasted very fresh. This is a dessert I will continue to make again and again. Always a crowd pleaser.

On a scale of 1 to 5, this gets a 4. I really liked it, but definitely add the shredded coconut for extra texture and taste.

So far, Stephen has given me 4 highly rated recipes and only 1 that I would not make again. So far, very very good.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Recipe #9 - Sides - Grilled Garlic Pepper Potato Dominoes

Last night was date night. Mrs. My Year on the Grill is planning a very long weekend, taking Thursday off work for a Doctor appointment, and Friday off for a mental health sick day (a desperately needed day of playing hooky to improve her mental health). To start the weekend off, I thought I would work on something special for her.

I was inspired by (I stole this idea from) another of my daily blog reads, Steamy Kitchen. A few days ago, Steamy published a photo and recipe that looked beautiful. Click here. I spent a few days pondering the photo, and wanted to give it a try; Grillin style.

My wife is a garlic lover, so I knew I was going to use garlic. I had a red bell pepper and a green sweet pepper in the drawer, and wanted to add color to the dish. I plopped some garlic, about a third of the red pepper and one sweet pepper (tops, bottom and seeds removed) into my handy dandy mini chopper.

I ground them up as fine as the chopper would.

I then cut the potatoes up as Steamy described in her post. My manual slide slicer cuts a little thicker than hers does, so my photos will not match as well, but since I was going to cook these on the grill, thicker would work better. I added a teaspoon of Olive Oil, and coated the potato slices as well as I could with the goop.

I then took a wooden skewer (soaked in oil for about an hour to make sliding easier) and arranged in a row.
I made a little boat of tin foil, poured some butter over the potatoes, and started cooking over an indirect medium heat. With the lid closed, this setup cooks like an oven. After about 45 minutes, added a bit of Provolone cheese on the top, and allowed that to melt while I grilled a steak and fresh Corn on the cob.

The potatoes were pretty very unique looking and very well received. Best of all, the garlic and peppers toasted nicely, the smoke from the grill added a layer of taste and these were a big hit.

The weather was beautiful, and the meal was a success. The potatoes were pretty. We enjoyed a bottle of wine and stayed out on our deck for hours. Eventually, our neighbors brought some beer over and we missed the Tonight Show again. Not sure who Conan had on, but I would bet we had more fun!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Recipe #8 - BBQ Sauce - Pomegranate Carolina Sweet

I am in awe of food bloggers.

I have been playing around with my blog for a month. I use it as a means to an end. An announced set of goals are easier to meet when results are measured. I use my blog as a way to measure my progress from burgers and dogs on a grill to someone that is not afraid of anything on a grill. I have miles and miles to go, but I can envision that day of whole hog BBQ and rotisserie whole lamb.

But I digress, I am watching a few food bloggers. I am getting a feel for the people who are committed and the ones that are simply toying. I love the idea of Tuesdays with Dorie (and am planning on playing along at one point, probably over the cooler months when the grill is less active). Whisk: A Food Blog is amazing. The knowledge she lays out is amazing. The type of cooking she tackles does not translate to my grilling goal much, but the basic cooking knowledge she discusses certainly has made me a better cook. I have one favorite grilling blog, The Grilling Fools that I have stolen many great ideas from. Love them!

That is all to preface this post, yesterday, Retorte (another favorite) posted a blog asking for advice on what to do with some freebies she received. I spent 7 seconds being very jealous, and wondering how I can get on the freebie bandwagon (are you listening George Killian's Irish red Beer?) ... Well, maybe a bit more than 7 seconds, but I am digressing again.

Retorte had received some coupons for free POM Pomegranate Juice. This reminded me of a very early experiment that I did for my wife. Her current passion was Pomegranate Martinis. I wanted to pair a course with her drink, and used POM as a base for a marinade for a couple racks of ribs. The pairing worked well, and one day soon, I may repeat so I can blog about them. But, (and finally, I am getting to the point of the blog) Retorte got me thinking about what I would do if Pom dropped in my lap.

I am still sitting on a few pounds of Pulled Pork from a few days ago. I have enjoyed sandwiches, entertained the neighbors and created my soon to be legendary Redneck Cake. Now it is time to work on something for Mrs. MYotG (My Year on the Grill). She is a big fan of Pomegranate juice. So, I have been pondering starting to work on creating my own BBQ sauce, so today I decided to experiment with a Pomegranate based sauce.

I wanted to use just what was in the house, and avoid a trip to the store. So I started with this...

1 Cup Cranberry Pomegranate Juice
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Woody's Cookin' Sauce Base
1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tablespoon Chili Powder

I got all of these ingredients to a soft boil. It was pretty runny, so I reduced for about 45 minutes til I got a nice thick BBQ sauce consistency. This was my first attempt at creating my own sauce. Making a BBQ sauce is not difficult, provides lots of satisfaction. But it also makes your kitchen smell marvelous.

OK, if I was going to the store for fresh ingredients, I would have gotten a bottle of Pom, instead of using the bastardised Cran-Pom juice that I had in the fridge. But for the experiment, the juice I had on hand worked fine. the taste of the juice very much came through. I use Woody's Sauce as a base. Many people will use ketchup, but Woody's works better. It is a thickening sauce.

I WILL be making this again. Next time, I will add some very finely minced garlic, onions and a small amount of chipotle peppers. I want this to stay a sweet sauce, so I will not over power the sweet, but layering some heat will add to the total.

But, this was a sauce I made for my wife (I prefer a bit more heat... OK, a lot more heat). She likes a sweet sauce, and I am always looking for that combination that we both like. when she got home, we reheated the leftover pork, added the sauce and ...


Oh yeah, a Martini was planned to cap her evening!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Recipe #7 - Main Course - Redneck Cake

Greetings and I am in Pulled Pork Heaven. Yesterday I asked for hints about what to do with 10 plus pounds of left over pulled pork. I am certainly going to freeze a bit. But also, I started considering the possibilities. In my on going efforts to clean out my pantry, I took a look. As part of a fundraiser for her school, my niece sold me several packages of beer bread mix. Not sure what happened to the old band candy i used to have to sell, but fortunately, she sold beer bread mix. I conveniently always have a spare bottle of George Killian's Irish Red Beer (or twelve) in the fridge. I started thinking of the possibilities. In checking my cheese drawer, I found half a package of excellent provolone cheese that I had used for the Pork Chop Calzones from a few days ago. A little effort later, and I have the perfect left over Pulled Pork recipe.

Recipe is fairly easy, Make a beer bread, instead of baking in a loaf pan, spread out in a large casserole dish. Obviously, with the thinner layer of bread, cut the baking time down a few minutes. Keep an eye on it during the last 10 minutes so that it does not get over done.

Layer about an inch of the left over pulled pork, heated up in skillet (or microwave...purists be danged)
cover with about 1/2 bottle of a good Carolina Sweet BBQ sauce. I had about that much left of some very good, readily available in your grocery store, Sticky Fingers Carolina Sweet.
finally, add a generous sprinkling of thinly cut provolone cheese.
I put this under the broiler for about 3 minutes to melt the cheese.

And there you go. It is just as good as it sounds!
It is a cake made for the redneck in all of us...

Beer ...Good
Beer Bread...Good
Pulled Pork...Good
Sweet Carolina BBQ sauce...Good
Provolone Cheese...Good

Finished product...Redneck Cake...GREAT

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pulled Pork and Sweet Corn

It was a good day on the smoker. Have to be honest, I knew the limitations of my former smoker (an offset barrel), and I have never attempted a Smoked Pork Butt (Shoulder) before. Whenever I made one, I simply put it in a roaster and set the temp and forgot it. But, as I posted a month ago, I recently upgraded to a wonderful GOOD-ONE Smoker. As expected, it was very easy and worth the effort.

I started at about 6 PM, with 20 pounds of meat. Here's a theme you may start to recognize, the Butt was on sale, and it cost less than a dollar a pound. What a deal! The smoker got to temp easy. The purists among you may shudder, but I chose to inject the meat. I had a jar of Cajun Injector, Creole Butter in the pantry. It worked great, and I honestly can not imagine making this without the injector. i am not a competitive smoker, just a guy in his back yard that likes to serve his efforts to his friends. Injecting the meat takes a lot of the risks out of cooking this product. Just to make the purists shudder more, I happily used the Texas crutch to finish the cooking process. I am not filled with pride, but the morning after, I certainly am full of great tasting pork.

The rub I used is a hybrid. I am all into cleaning out my pantry of those half empty jars and creating a once in a life time combination. I had about 3 ounces of a local Kansas city favorite, Rub Me Tender Rib Rub about. Certainly not enough for a good rubbing on it's own, so I added about 6 ounces of ground coffee, and I added the entire 4 ounces of Cajun Shake spice seasonings that came with the Cajun Injector as a freebie. This worked GREAT!

The Good One Smoker worked great. It held the temp perfectly. I added a bit more coal at each 2 hour break, resisted the urge to take a peak, and settled in for a night of on line poker with adding coal scheduled every 2 hours. At 2 AM, I went to bed with a full glass of milk (I am old). the full glass worked it's way through my system to my bladder in about 5 hours. I rushed down to the smoker and was thrilled that the temp had only dropped from 225 to 215 in that time. I easily got it back to temperature of 225. Adding a small bit of new coal each 2 hours, the temp was maintained for the entire 18 hour process very nicely. Something that is nearly impossible (considering the amount of effort I am willing to do) on my old offset cooker.

Moist tender, amazing (in all humility)

Don't you wish you were here for Sunday dinner... What could make it better?

How about smoked stuffed Banana Peppers and

Smoked Sweet corn with some Garlic parsley Butter!

Our neighbors came over for some pulled pork sandwiches, but I still have about 15 pounds of leftovers...

What do you all do with Pulled Pork the next day???

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Steven Raichlen's Grilled Pork Chops "Calzones"

Today I am going to blog about 0ne of Steven Reichlen's MEAT (finally) recipes, that I combined into an Italian evening when paired with the "grilled Antipasto" that I blogged about yesterday. Just a reminder, I am going to be cooking each and every recipe in Steven Raichlen's HOW TO GRILL book. It is a means to an end of my goal of getting better, It is forcing me to challenge myself with new and different items to cook, and it is my personal tribute (rip-off) of the "Julie & Julia Project". Well, finally after three posts about grilling from the book, I have a meat recipe to talk about. And this one worked perfectly!... so, on to the recipes.

Grilled Pork Chops "Calzones"
The recipe is on page 134
basic introductory instructions with several photos starting on page 131.

I do not want to step on any one's toes, and do not want to publish someones recipe without permission. If you are interested, contact your local library and they will have this book, or better yet, add it to your library and buy the book if you want the details.

I do want to post some details about the recipe that I either liked, chose to do differently from Steven's and what I learned.

First off, the universe converged into a perfect storm of beauty for this one. I have not informed Mrs. My Year on the Grill of my plans to cook everything in the book. I am sure she would not be encouraging of the rotisserie whole lamb or the whole pig roast, so I am going to break it to her slowly. BUT, I did hand her the book, and offered her the chance to pick a recipe. Last year, we enjoyed a quickie vacation in New Orleans, and dined out at one of Emeril's properties, NOLA. My wife really enjoyed a cheese stuffed pork chop there, and I have been looking for the recipe ever since. This one was not it, but The little lady picked it anyway. But, in addition to pleasing my wife, when I got to my favorite meat provider, I found the extra thick, butterfly pork chops on sale. These cost me less than a dollar each!

The recipe is very easy, especially with the chops already butterflied. As you probably know, a calzone is a pastry stuffed with meats cheeses and sauce. These were stuffed with pepperoni, ham and provolone cheese. I used an excellent cheese that, even though small amounts were used, filled the chops with flavor. It was a very good recipe.

Only procedural problem I had was the recipe calling for toothpicks soaked in oil to make their removal easier. Well, they did not remove easily. I had to warn the guests that they were there, and to be careful as they cut into them. One fully thing, Herme (one of my guests) commented upon her first taste that it, "tastes like a calzone". So I guess Stephen named it well.

The recipe does call for two bay leaves inside the stuffing, plus a sage leave on the outside. That seems a bit much to me, but the chops certainly tasted fine. Just hated to spend the money on two spices when I saved on the chops and envisioned these less expensive. But, I made the commitment to cook as written.

So, my bottom line question for this recipe... Would I make it again? If yes, would I imagine changes to make it better?

I would certainly make these again. I thank that I would add a tomato gravy to the chops to finish off the Italian calzone tastes. Possibly add it as it cooks the last 5 minutes or so. As written I think the tomatoes would add something tot he recipe.

On a scale of 1 to 5, this gets a 4. I really liked it, but some type of liquid at the end would have added an extra layer of taste.

So far, Stephen has given me 3 highly rated recipes and only 1 that I would not make again. So far, very very good.

Didn't these plump up nicely!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Steven Raichlen's Garlic Grilled Tomatoes and Grilled Pepper Salad

Today I am going to blog about TWO of Steven Reichlen's recipes, that I combined into an impromptu "grilled Antipasto" that I served my guests while I was grilling the vegetable and main course. Just a reminder, I am going to be cooking each and every recipe in Steven Raichlen's HOW TO GRILL book. It is a means to an end of my goal of getting better, It is forcing me to challenge myself with new and different items to cook, and it is my personal tribute (rip-off) of the "Julie & Julia Project". These two recipes are similar. They combined well with a fresh Mozzarella slice and slices of pepperoni and Genoa sausage I had. The combination was a nice plate to serve while I was cooking the main course... so, on to the recipes.

Garlic Grilled Tomatoes
The recipe is on page 395
basic introductory instructions with several photos starting on page 393.


Grilled Pepper Salad
The recipe is on page 385
basic introductory instructions with several photos starting on page 383.

I do not want to step on any one's toes, and do not want to publish someones recipe without permission. If you are interested, contact your local library and they will have this book, or better yet, add it to your library and buy the book if you want the details.

I do want to post some details about the recipe that I either liked, chose to do differently from Steven's and what I learned.

First, I am sorry I do not have a photo of the Pepper ingredients. I took one, but it did not turn out. To continue... The Pepper salad was the most time consuming, as the ingredient list is fairly long, involves toasted pine nuts and a balsamic dressing with lemon, fresh parsley and garlic. The tomato dressing was simpler.

I followed both recipes exactly. Each worked as advertised in their own way. Each flavored their respective main course well. But, it was a bit redundant to make separate glazes for both the peppers and the tomatoes for my plan to combine the products into one serving. In the future, I will prepare the dressing for the Pepper Salad only. It was by far the best, and probably the best balsamic dressing I have ever had. The pine nuts went well on both the peppers and the tomatoes. It just made a terrific smelling (the lemon and garlic combined with the vinegar very nicely), look (the dark glaze of the balsamic cooked nicely into both the peppers and the tomatoes) and the added texture of the pine nuts helped also.

I can not recommend the Pepper Salad more. The tomatoes were... OK. Actually, my guests all raved about them. Personally, I was wishing I had just served the tomatoes raw with the dressing heated and added to the tops. I thought a lot of the flavor of the tomatoes was lost in the cooking.

Here's a shot of the cooking process right before I pulled them off the grill. I also made some bacon wrapped asparagus bundles for the meal which I will talk about someday (vegetables, wrapped in fat, sprinkled with sugar... It comes from a misspent youth).

Like I said, I combined the tomatoes and peppers with a slice of mozzarella, and also had a plate of cold cuts. The spirit of presenting an Antipasto dish is a traditional Italian signal that the meal has started. It gives your guests something to enjoy while the grill master is cooking the main course.

So, my bottom line question for these two recipes... Would I make it again? If yes, would I imagine changes to make it better?

For the tomatoes, I would have to say the cooking process actually hurt the tomatoes. I got no complaints from my guests, but personally, I wish I had served them raw.

But the pepper salad was perfect. I would make them again and again. I will use the balsamic glaze often. These I will add to my repertoire happily.

On a scale of 1 to 5, the Pepper salad gets a 5 and the Grilled Tomatoes gets only a 2.

So far, Stephen has given me 2 highly rated recipes and only 1 that I would not make again. So far, so good.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Steven Raichlen's Grilled Garlic Parsley Cheese Bread

OK, as promised, today i am going to start posting my experiences cooking each and every recipe in Steven Raichlen's HOW TO GRILL book. I am only a few recipes into the project, but I could not possibly recommend this book highly enough. The recipes are clear and the instructions could not be easier to follow. There will be many more challenging days to come, but I will start with the very first item I had ready on my table during party #3 (already blogged about here).Grilled Garlic Parsley Cheese Bread
The recipe is on page 420
basic introductory instructions with several photos starting on page 418.

I do not want to step on any one's toes, and do not want to publish someone's recipe without permission. If you are interested, contact your local library and they will have this book, or better yet, add it to your library and buy the book if you want the details.

I do want to post some details about the recipe that I either liked, chose to do differently from Steven's and what I learned.

Again, this is incredibly easy, with only a few ingredients. I am going to be lose a few of the expert cooker blog readers when I admit that this was my first experience buying quality herbs and greens instead of using the dry McCormick brand type seasonings. Not just for the bread, but the rest of the meal called for fresh Thyme, Basil, Bay Leaves and Sage (as well as the Parsley in this item). My kitchen never smelled so fresh and clean as when I was preparing these herbs. I am making a commitment to quality ingredients for this experiment. At least in the smell of the kitchen, the fresh parsley made a huge difference. The great smell sure made me feel like I was creating something special.

The only procedure I changed was in the cooking process. Steven's instructions calls for the butter/garlic/herb spread (goop) to go on both sides of the bread. I took a small license with the procedure and followed a method that works best for me. I pre heated the grill on high, and got the grill very hot. Just prior to putting the bread on the grill, I turn the fire as low as possible. I then take a can of spray Canola oil and spray the each side of the bread. I put the bread on and watch carefully as they brown. It only takes 2 or 3 minutes for the bread to toast. The hot grill will leave those beautiful grill lines on each side. Once the bread gets to your liking crispness wise, I turn off the burners on the grill. With the fire off, I have time to flip all of the bread, and then I apply the butter goop. Once everything is well coated, I relight the gas and cook the bottoms to match the tops. The butter goop melts nicely into the toast and is ready to be served in just another couple of minutes.
By saving more of the goop for just the one side, I believe that the bread has much more taste. If you cook the goop on the bottom side also (as Steven instructs), a lot of the butter will melt off into the flame, causing flair up and increasing the risk of burning the toast. This was the only thing I changed, not saying his way is not efficient, and will not give good results... Just saying I thought about it, tried a test piece and was happier with my results.

I had these ready in a basket as my guests arrived. I put them in a basket with a warming stone in the bottom, wrapped them in a towel, and they were warm to serve as the antipasto was ready to be served (will talk about them tomorrow).

Here's my bottom line questions for any recipe I try. Would I make it again? If yes, would I imagine changes to make it better?

Easy answer. With the changes in method that I discussed earlier, I would certainly make these again and again. I plan to make these often. I can not imagine a way to make these taste better.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Party #3 - Recipe #6 - Appetizers- Garlic Chili Parmigiana Crisps

It was a very successful night. It also had dramatic issues, ended up spending a little time with next door neighbors (talked more with them last night than I have in 10 years), worked on a new recipe and I ended up drunk. Who could ask for anything more! I invited Tom and Lucia, as well as Jim and Herme from the neighborhood. Inadvertently, I caused a bit of a stink with Tom and Lucia. She accepted, without knowing her husband had made plans to entertain her that evening with his cooking. Tom is going through some tough times right now, and I think it was just one more thing. It ended up just Lucia, with Tom a no show. Jim and Herme are always game for some fun and they popped in on schedule. I do hope all blows over. I enjoy Tom's company, and feel friendly competitive. As a reminder, Tom is my neighbor who enjoys competitive Barbecue, has won his share of awards, and is very very good. He makes me better.

That was the drama, the picture above shows the beginning of the drunk... Herme travels for her job. She returned from Mexico and brought me a little gift. A premium bottle of sipping tequila. So, we did sip and sip and sip and sip. That first sip is always a little rough. The fifth one is always fabulous.

But, this is not a blog about drinking, it is a food blog. So, let's talk about the food. This was the beginning of my tribute/rip off of the Julia/Julie project. Most of the evening was recipes from Steven Raichlen's book, "How to Grill". With a goal of reproducing every recipe in the book, I got a nice start.

Grilled garlic Parsley Cheese Bread
Garlic Grilled Tomatoes
Grilled Pepper Salad
Grilled Pork Chop "Calzones"
and Coconut Grilled Pineapple to top off the night

I intend to blog each of these recipes separately over the next few days, but today I want to talk about something of my own creation.

I like to have an appetizer ready when people arrive. Gives them something to snack on while I am working. I wanted to experiment with a setting on my grill that I had never used. So, during the afternoon prior to my prep time for the actual meal, I whipped up a dozen of these gems.

Garlic Chili Parmesan Crisps

I first found these at a now closed restaurant on one of our Riverboat Gambling Casinos in town. They are incredibly simple, and horribly addictive. They taste great. When I first tried these, it was simply melted Parmesan cheese. In one of my very first Internet searches, I found the recipe. Generously oil a pan, plop a clump of cheese down and broil til golden brown. When they cool, they turn into this crispy little wonder. I make these a couple times a year. Usually, I just grab a tub of the pre grated stuff (not the powdery stuff, the thick grated stuff). But, with the understanding that I am trying to do better and produce quality meals, for this night, I bought a fresher, higher quality piece of cheese and grated it myself. Now, it is time to make it my own. Grilled garlic and grilled peppers are an easy addition. I am not saying I am the first to put these together, but I am saying that I have never seen a recipe like this, pondered the process and ingredient list through, experimented and can call this my own.

1 package of Parmigiana Cheese
1 diced Poblano Pepper (chosen for it's bright color and taste. Maybe at Christmas time I would use a red and green combination of peppers).
3 diced cloves of garlic

I used a silicone flexible baking sheet. These are great, already non-stickand make the process very easy.
To do these on the grill, I set the temp on a side burner to high, leaving the burners directly under the sheet off completly. These are easy to burn, so slowly cooking gives better results. On the opposit side of the grill, I have a searing burner. I wanted to teste this as a place to put a smoker pouch to add wood taste to my grilled items. It worked great.

OK, simple enough, just take a handful of cheese, add a teaspoon each of the grated garlic and peppers and let them cook. It took about 15 minutes for the edges to start to brown nicely. When I cook these on the broiler, they brown more evenly. But they came out nicely this way.

Allow them to cool on the baking sheet for another 15 minutes. They peal right off, slick as snot on a doorknob. Even though the sheet is not oiled, the crisps themselves have a lot of oil in them. put them on a napkin to soak some of the oil up.

These were crowd pleasers

Following the dinner, we migrated to the firepit. the weather was perfect, the beer and tequila were flowing. After an hour or so, we were joined by the nice couple next door and enjoyed a couple hours of frivolity. A very successful night!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Anyone spend their summers at camp...

Announcements, announcements, announcements.
What a terrible death to die,
What a terrible death to die,
What a terrible death, to be talked to death.
What a terrible death to die.

Announcements, announcements, announcements.
A horrible way to die, a horrible way to die,
A horrible way to start the day,
A horrible way to die.

Announcements, announcements, announcements.
Could it be that I am jumping on the "Julie & Julia Project" bandwagon. Yes. But, a good idea is a good idea. As I stated in my Mission Statements, one of goals is to get better as a cook. I looked about for a cooking curriculum based around a grill. The internet is filled with terrific how to videos, recipes and tips. There are books after books filled with the same. But, I was unable to find a single source that took a willing griller from beginner to accomplished. But, there is a book that comes close.

PBS's grilling guru, Steven Raichlen has a terrific book called, "How to Grill". I hesitate to call it a cookbook, as it is very much more. Instead of a single finished product photo and the basic recipe, there are several step by step how-to photos, well defined instructions and tips for each recipe.

So, in the spirit of Julie & Julia, I am going to commit myself to cooking each of the 150 plus recipes in Steven's book. Not within a year, but at the least, weekly. I will grill the items as written. I will also try some of the recipes with my own twist (remember, I am working towards 365 recipes in a year that I can call my own. Taking one of Steven's recipes, and adding or changing an ingredient or a technique... not for the sake of changing, but because I honestly believe that these changes make the recipe more to my tastes; fits into that goal. It also fits into the spirit of Steven's book, as he encourages experimentation.

It will be challenging. Many of the foods I have tried and can perform well now. Grilled pizza, smoked ribs and salmon are already on my list of accomplishments. Many of the foods I am happy to try but never have. Cooking foods like leg of lamb, rotisserie duck and lobster tails will certainly add to my skill set. But there are also foods I would never dream of cooking because I have no desire, grilled oysters and eggplant never appeal to me, but I will give them a go and see what happens.

And won't it be fun to cook a whole hog. I may hide that chapter from my wife til I get a bit further in the book.

Today is going to be a perfect day for grilling. Temps in the low 80's, no humidity and I have all day to plan. I have invited my neighbor guinea pigs to taste test my experiments. I am going to knock off 4 of the 150 recipes in one night...

Grilled Pork Chops "Calzones"
Grilled Pepper Salad
Grilled Garlic Cheese Bread
and Coconut Grilled Pineapple

Wish me luck

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mission Statement part 2

Well, yesterday was a washout... Literally. I had big grilling plans, but the weather was not cooperative. So, a party has been put off til Wednesday.

Since I don't have any grilling items to blog about, I want to add a bit to my mission statement from yesterday. As I said, I have looked over quite a few blogs from other cooks. I am starting to get a hand of things that I like.

Mostly, I like an active blog. Take a look at the column to the right, and you will see a great many blogs. The top of the lists are the ones that have posted the most recent. The bottom are rarely posting, or potentially dead blogs. So, I will do my best to post a bit more often. Not saying every day, but certainly a couple of times a week.

I like blogs that have photos. Not just stock photos (like the lightning shot), but photos of whatever project being blogged about, as well as photos of people's life's. So, again, not necessarily every blog will have photos, but as many as I can will.

I like blogs that show the writer's personality. I can certainly do that.

I like blogs that have a progression that I can follow. I am numbering my recipes (with a goal of 365 original), I am numbering my parties, with a goal of 52... get it, 365 recipes, 52 parties, title of the blog is "My Year in the Grill").

And finally, I want to have a measurable means to achieving my end goal. Not just the numbers, but the goal of getting better. One thing I do not care for are blogs from self proclaimed experts. Especially experts that don't have the credentials. If they are that good, write a book, get published, go on TV. Blogs are the home world of the worker bees; not the queens.

Towards that end, I have a plan that I will announce in my next posting that will force me to challenge myself. Along the way, I am going to eat good, play well with others and get better.

follow along

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mission Statement or why another blog

Ok, it's time. I have nearly a score of posts under my belt. I have spent a great deal of time checking other blogger's sites, and I believe I have something unique to contribute. So, it's time to explain a little about who I am, and what i hope to achieve with this blog.

I am a uniquely retired 52 year old male. I was fortunate enough to be self employed for my entire adult life. I have been lots of places, done lots of things, and enjoyed myself immensely. I have seen Paris in the springtime, London at Christmastime and New York in June. I have been privileged to dine at some of the most famous restaurants in the world, with food cooked by celebrity chefs (or at least the recipes passed from celebrity chefs to their cooks). I am/was a great eater. I love food.

But, now I live in the suburbs of Kansas City. I settled down for the love of a good woman, and life is better than i dreamed possible. We own (the bank actually owns a little less than half, but we are the majority stock holders) a lovely home. We have two cats; Chang (hers) and Eng (mine). And best of all, Mrs. Year on the Grill is truly my best friend.

This blog is an extension of a decision my wife and I made a couple of years ago. Let's set the stage...

We would dine out a couple of times a week. Kansas City has a few GREAT steakhouses. There are a couple of fine dining establishments that serve as good a meal as I have had anywhere. We are known for world famous BBQ joints, and there is no shortage of terrific chef owned restaurants that really love to show off interesting food in very pleasing ways. The quality of KC's dining out options has nothing to do with my plans.

Mrs. YotG (Year on the Grill) and I were enjoying one of KC's best little Jewell's, Pierpont's at Union Station. A fabulous meal, a terrific bar, superb wine list, well trained wait staff in an historical beautiful setting, Pierpont's has it all. We stayed for nearly 3 hours, it was a very memorable night. Then the bill came; $240. I do not want to seem like one of those buyer's remorse guys. I knew when I was ordering how much the bill was going to be, it just got me thinking...

That's quite a bit of money. I wonder if I could do that. I was always a bit of a special event cook. I can follow a recipe, make a little presentation and impress when we entertained. But dining out at the right places left me with the impression that they knew better than I. But why can't I do that. Hell, I can do that (yes, I am quoting the song from "A Chorus Line". From here on out, grab your copy of the soundtrack and play it in the background).

With that basic thought, our life took a big turn. Instead of eaters, we would becoming cookers. Instead of being entertained, we would entertain. We started simple enough. We took a couple simple cooking classes. New Orleans Cajun, cake decorating, smoking BBQ and grilling classes were offered at various locations and we took advantage of them. We also payed a great deal of attention when we did eat out. Ingredient lists and cooking methods became much more important on menus. We started working on the idea that, I can do that.

We ate out much less. Instead of twice a week, we averaged twice a month. We started entertaining in our home more. We began to save money towards a better entertainment setting. two years ago, we had a 10 X 8 concrete slab off a wooden staircase and two chairs in our back yard. We now have a 12 foot circle of brick patio that holds a pergola and dining table for 8 under it, another 10 foot circle of bricks for a firepit with seating for 4 (and comfortable room for 8 if you bring the chairs from the table over). I also have a bricked patio area for my smoker with room to set up a workstation table in front. There is now landscaping around the area and it really looks nice. We are slowly becoming the party area for our small circle of friends in the neighborhood. And just wait til next year when I start work on my outdoor kitchen, complete with running water, electricity and bar...daring to dream.

So, now I have the basic goal, I can do that. I have the setting, and the equipment. It is time to get better. That is the purpose of the blog. I am going to try to get better. I love to grill and entertain outdoors. That is going to be the emphasis of the blog, the foods that I grill. I will list some published recipes (with the proper acknowledgements), but I am also going to work on recipes I can call my own. I plan to explain the recipes that I tweek to my liking. A good example of that, one that I am particularly proud of is my Guinness Baked Bean recipe . Certainly, I took a very good recipe to begin with, and made it my own. I titled the blog, "My Year on the Grill", because my basic goal is to come up with 365 recipes that I can call my own. I am also planning to host 52 different parties with those recipes. My blog will show the journey of fulfilling those two goals. I am a little more than 1% of the way, so you will have plenty of time to enjoy my blog.

Well, that's it. I CAN DO THAT, and I need to get better are now my published goals. 365 recipes that I can call my own, and 52 parties. I have looked over several blogs on the net, and have not found anything exactly like what I am trying to do. I see many terrific BBQ and Smoking blogs. But most are geared towards competitive BBQ events (something I have little desire to do), or are glorified advertising magazines. I can get something from them, but they are not my goals. There are some really amazing cooking blogs with long histories and are very helpful. But these are mostly involved in cooking in an indoor kitchen, or specializing in single courses like dessert or breads. Mine will be aimed at back yard cooks and weekend hosts.

So, anyone want to comment, feel free. Anyone have a suggestion, please comment. To anyone who is in the state I was in 2 years ago... an eater, instead of a cooker; someone entertained as opposed to an entertaining person... follow along and maybe we can inspire each other. It's a journey.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Recipe #5 - Sides - Killians Beer Baked Beans

OK, been awhile since I posted a recipe. This is one of my best, and will become a staple if you are a smoker. There is a huge advantage to smoking beans while smoking your meat... Moisture.

A smoker naturally draws moisture out of your meat. Much like Arizona, it is a dry heat (so's a blow torch up your ass, but that is a story for another post). By placing the beans in the smoker, the vapors will help to keep your meat moist. So, these go in during the first 4 hours of your cooking session. My first smoker was an offset design. The firebox was set on one side of the cooker. The heat flowed from left to right, and the temperature difference was about 30 degrees from one side to the other. Additionally, the first 6 inches of cooking space right next to the firebox was ALWAYS to hot to smoke meat. BUT, putting the beans right next to the firebox, in that first few inches, got the beans to cooking, dispersed the heat better AND added moisture. In addition to a great side dish, this is a dish that will make your smoked meat better. A win win win!

The basic recipe comes from a cooking class I took at the Culinary Center of Kansas City, taught by Richard McPeake. It is included in his book, Backyard BBQ - The Art of Smokology. I changed a few items (including adding the beer), but my basic bean recipe owes a great deal to Richard's recipe.

About once a month, I will smoke brisket. I try to smoke 2. 1 to enjoy that day ( day). The other, I freeze to use in other dishes (Brisket Chile and this bean recipe for a couple examples). I like to use at least one of the end pieces as the scrap meat. It contains an extra amount of the rub than if I use inside slices. This rub flavors the beans better than adding chili powder, liquid smoke, garlic, etc. You can certainly add the scraps from the meat you are cooking that day, just prior to serving. But, cooking the beans for a few hours with the scraps in will add a layer of flavor.

OK, Ingredient list...

1/2 pound of smoked meat scraps, well spiced already with spicy rub,
1 large white onion, finely chopped
1 medium size red onion, small diced (about 1/4 inch square) ... save these to add just prior to serving
6 ounces tomato paste
1/3 cup Brown sugar
1/3 cup Brown Sugar ... save to add just prior to serving
1/3 cup Molasses
1/3 cup Sorghum Syrup
1 TB Dry Mustard
1/4 cup White Vinegar
1-27 ounce can BUSH'S brand Country Style BBQ Beans
1-16 ounce can BUSH'S brand Pinto Beans
1-16 ounce can BUSH'S brand Great Northern Beans
1 bottle of Killians Irish red Beer

Place all the ingredients in a heavy baking pan, stir well to blend ingredients. Add a bottle of Killians if using an offset smoker, or just 1/2 bottle if using a bottom heat source cooker to the top without mixing. Place in cooker and allow to cook along with the meat. If you are not using pre cooked scraps, and planing to add the scraps of the meat you are cooking, add a TB of Chili Powder, and a TB of the rub that you are putting on the meat. I like to cook ribs on a rack over the beans, allowing some of the flavoring from the ribs to drip into the beans.

Just prior to serving, add the red onions and stir. Then sprinkle the remaining brown sugar over the top.

Lots of ingredients, but well worth the extra effort.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Chicken Wings and an Epiphany

Today was Chicken Wing day on the grill. A big success. Actually, I am trying to clean the freezer out of stuff that has been in the way for awhile. The Mrs. and I bought a bag of frozen chicken wings about a year ago as a "just in case" item to have if we are surprised by guests. Ordinarily, I avoid the frozen food aisle when I want to cook wings, and buy as fresh as I can. But it never hurts to have just in case items about ... you know, just in case.

But, a year is probably too long to have things in the freezer, so time to use them up. I was still pretty pleased with myself from yesterday's experiment with the flight of steak marinades, that I decided to repeat with another flight of flavorings. My bag contained 24 wing parts, I divided them up into 4 batches of 6 parts each. I put these parts into 4 ziplock bags and marinated.

I repeated a couple of the sauces from yesterday. The successful Garlic Power and Raspberry Chipotle were used, as well as a couple more bottles of different BBQ sauces. I had a little Stubb's Mesquite left, and was happy to empty the bottle. I also have some Sticky Fingers Carolina Sweet and use that for my fourth. I added about 1/2 cup of sauce to each bag and rubbed them in well. I let these sit for about 2 hours in the fridge hoping that the flavor would invade the meat.

OK, cooking time. Wings are simple to cook on a grill. Start with a hot grill, place the wings at a slight angle so the pretty grill marks are formed. Immediately, drop the heat to medium, and cook away. While you should never walk away from a grill while it is cooking, it is especially true for wings. The meat is very thin, and the line between undercooked, just right, too well done and burnt is not very long. Unlike a steak, where you really should only flip once, wings should be flipped several times during the cooking process.

But, this is not a how to cook wings blog, it is a flavoring experiment blog. So, how did the tastes differ?

Surprisingly enough, not a great deal. the wings were certainly flavored. I could tell the difference between the Raspberry Chipotle and the rest fairly easy. The Chipotle certainly leaves an after taste that I love. Lots of flavor, and just a little spicy. Even my resident, "be careful and don't make it too hot" wife enjoyed these alot. The other 3 sauces tasted remarkably similar. All accented the meat, flavor was there, but the extra flavor was very slight. I purposly chose to NOT brush on any sauce during the cooking process; something I generally do. I wanted to see what the marinade alone does.

I found out, and I found out something about my tastes...

I enjoy the tastes of flavor enhanced meat. I do not enjoy sauced meat nearly as much.

Let me give you a couple examples... i have friends who enjoy going to trivia night at a chain restaurant called Buffalo Wild Wings. The company is terrific, the game is fun, the beer is cold. But, the wings are awful. The menu lists 15 or 29 different sauces, ranging from sweet to painfully hot. 2 minutes before the wings are served, a "chef" coats the order in whatever sauce has been requested. They always arrive over sauced, and are just awful. I guess the theory is to offer enough choices that no one has a right to complain; as you will certainly get the wings arriving in the taste requested. But the meat is soulless.

A more complicated example is my neighbor Tom. He is also a bit of a foodie, a competitive BBQ veteran with several winning titles under his belt, with a specialty in sausage. We have a history in the neighborhood of enjoying each others cooking. Our annual chili cookoff is something to behold.

Tom is defiantly influenced by Kansas City Bar-B-Que. He makes his own sauces, experiments with them and has his favorites. The Mrs. and I enjoyed 4th of July at his place for some terrific ribs and sausage from his smoker. They were terrific, and I ate myself bloated full. But... he chose a sauce that over powered the meat. It was sweet, to the point of being almost candy sweet. Good, but honestly, let's taste the pork, and not the sauce. Back to the point of this post, he also does a great round of wings. He spends a lot of time selecting the plumpest and freshest. He has a terrific sauce with just the right amount of spices. They are terrific, but... Again, a very powerful sauce.

Well, to each his own, but the point of this blog is for me to journey into my food knowledge, appreciation and abilities. So, for me, I will flavor the meat, but will let the flavor only accent the meat.

Just my opinion

But, to each

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Flight of Marinades

In my ongoing quest to be better, I hit on an idea I have been wanting to try. OK, here's the story. For Christmas each year, I send my sainted Mother a box of Omaha Steaks as a gift. She married my father's best friend a few years ago (it's a lovely story, not a vulgar one...Mom was a widow, Dad's best friend was a widower, and she is as happy as I can ever remember her). He moved her to Arizona. During one of my visits, she commented that she had trouble finding good meat... bing bang boom, each year they get a care package of meat. Anyone who has ever order's anything from Omaha Steaks knows, once you are on their list, you get a lot of sale fliers in the mail. Some of the sales are very good, since we have a brick and mortar storefront close; we usually have several boxes of goodies in the freezer. They come sealed, defrost very quickly in warm water and are just the thing in a pinch. Well, a couple nights ago, my wife phoned early in the day that we might be having guests over. I took 4 of the fillets out of the freezer to thaw. Unfortunately, a couple hours later, she called and our company was not going to materialise. With 4 thawed steaks, I had a couple choices... Invite someone else or run a food experiment. I chose to experiment.

I always seem to have several partially opened jars of sauces, mixers, flavorings, etc in the fridge. Ordinarily, I use one extra flavoring per night. I decided I was going to flavor each steak differently. A "FLIGHT" of marinades if you will. SO, here's where I started. I wrapped each of the fillets in bacon, put them in individual ziplock bags and started adding sauces. First up came from a large jar of BOSCOLI FAMILY ITALIAN OLIVE SALAD. I discovered this gem on a trip to New Orleans. Click their website link for a great recipe for a New Orleans style Muffuletta sandwich. Well worth the effort. This jar of leftovers was large and has been in my way for months. There was not enough left in the jar for two sandwiches, and I just did not have it in my heart to make a single sandwich and cheat my wife of this treat. So, I figured, Olive oil, spiced olives ... Maybe this would make a tasty marinade. I poured the remaining @1/2 cup into one of the bag'o'meat, rubbed it into the meat a little, and sealed the bag and put into the refrigerator.

Next I used one of my favorite new finds. This little bottle of flavor came from a sale rack at my grocery store. The bottle was still sealed, but the label and foil covering was slightly damaged. Bought my first bottle for a buck. I love a deal. ALLEGRO VINTAGE RASPBERRY CHIPOTLE MARINADE is now a staple in my pantry. I have used this several times. Best thing I made so far was a grilled meatloaf using this sauce. One day soon, I will post that recipe. Another very simple recipe to use this sauce is to brush a little on a pineapple slice as you grill it ... Incredible. But, back to the task at hand; repeat the process of pour @ 1/2 cup into another bag'o'meat, rub a little, seal and refrigerate.

Marinade #3 was a gift from a friend. She has enjoyed several evening of grilling or smoking. For Christmas last year, she passed on a jar of her childhood memories. She lovingly told me of her days in Texas and her sainted father rubbing his meat with Woody's Cook-in Sauce. Texas is the home of fabulous BBQ, and some of the best pitmasters on the planet. I am sure it is also the home of some terrific local sauces. Woody's however is based in Nevada. Nothing wrong with that. I wonder if I will ever crush her memories of this local Texas gem she mailed during her visit to the childhood home. But again, I am digressing. This is a concentrate sauce, and at some point, I will use the remaining sauce to create something unique. But for this experiment, I used another 1/2 cup into the bag, rub, seal and refrigerate.

Last up is another of my favorites. I discovered this gem when I took a cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking. If you ever get to New Orleans (an amazing bargain for foodies, some of the best cooking you will ever get at half the prices of NYC, Vegas, Paris and even Kansas City fancy restaurants), this cooking class is a must do activity. The staff teaches local history, makes you laugh, serves you lunch ... and along the way, you will learn how to cook several New Orleans dishes. I took 3 different cooking classes during my several trips to the Big easy. these guys were the best (although next trip, I am going to take the three day class held in one of the antebellum mansions in the bayou). But again, I am digressing. This sauce, Cajun Power Garlic Sauce was on the table ready to be poured on whatever you like. As advertised, heavy Cajun Garlic taste. It is perfect to spice up the Artichoke Soup and Jambalaya you learn to cook at the class. I also love this on a burger. I long ago used up the bottle I bought in 'Nawleans, and have taken advantage of the shipping services of their home page. I have never seen this on a shelf in Kansas city, so it takes a little effort to make sure a bottle is always in my pantry. But again, for the purpose of this blog, I repeated the process, and was ready for the flight of marinades tasting.

I refrigerated over night. I grilled each to about medium. I prefer medium rare, and my wife likes more well done, so I compromise. I am working on my finger push technique of telling how well done meat is, and I came very close with these. Basic steak cooking technique is to sear each side on a high heat or flame, then indirect cook for three minutes each side. Perfect steak each time.

Here's the results...

The Olive spread was a bust. Very little extra flavor was added. Some of the olives stayed on the meat, and crusted nicely. But most of the olives fell through the grates, as expected. The extra oil certainly made the meat tender, but as far as extra flavor ... almost none.

The Raspberry Chipotle sauce was a huge hit for me. It was my favorite of the 4. Lots of extra flavor, certainly unique. It does overpower the taste of the meat, but for something different, I loved it. There is equal sweet taste of the raspberry flavoring, but also the spicy flavor of the Chipotle peppers. It left a little spicy after taste that I enjoyed, but was just a bit too much for the Mrs.

Woody's added flavor, while letting the meat taste come through. Both of us liked this very much, with it being my wife's favorite. I would not hesitate to use this again for true meat lovers. Added flavor while letting the meat speak for itself.

Finally, the Cajun Garlic sauce was a very close second for my wife, and an even closer third for me. Woody's left a more traditional BBQ meat taste accent, while the Garlic sauce left a more specialized single accent. very garlicky. Very flavorful.

A fun experiment, I may try this sometime with a small dinner party. My neighbors and friends are getting used to my experiments.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Much like matching wine to the right food

Much like pairing the perfect wine, yesterday I paired the perfect food for the perfect night...

Grilled FRESH corn on the cob, grilled brats and root beer floats.

weather in the mid 70's, no humidity, just me and Mrs. My Year on the Grill...

And half of our cats...This is Chang (our other one is Eng)