Tag Archives: Dinner

Anniversary Dinner

I’m LONG overdue for a food post here, and even this meal was a week ago this evening.

For those who have been following long enough, AND actually reading (RARE), you’ll recall that last weekend was my 2 year anniversary. Thankfully, it was SLIGHTLY less hectic than the actual day.

We had family over and I cooked a big meal for everyone. MOST of it turned out too.

First was homemade Tex-Mex guacamole with tortilla chips as an appetizer:

The main course was Ribeye steaks, slow smoked on the Rec-Tec and then reverse seared on the Weber charcoal grill:

There’s some (turkey) bacon on the top rack that was going to be chopped up and added to the steamed green beans but…

It’s hard to see from the pic, but some of the green beans were bad and turned brown while steaming. So, the beans went into the trash and the bacon got saved for later.

Luckily I had another vegetable in the works at the same time, a combination dish really. I took zucchini and yellow summer squash, sliced them into rounds, seasoned them with a little salt, pepper, garlic, oregano and rosemary, then topped them with Parmigiano Reggiano.

I’ve said it many times but it bears repeating; Parmigiano Reggiano is WORLDS better then plain old Parm cheese and Infinitely better than the gunk in the green can.

The basic recipe i found online just said to go with the cheese only but I knew a light bit of seasoning would help also. Once you throw the cheese on, just bake at 425 (or 218 degees C) until the cheese turns golden. Oh yes, cut the veggies 1/4 inch or .635 cm thickness. The summer squash turns out a little watery, but everybody loved both:

I also had some sliced baby potatoes for a carb:

Oh and if you’re wondering how those steaks turned out:

That’s as close to I got to a picture of a fully plated meal. It kept saying “Eat Me”, so I put down the phone and did. 😀

BUT… Then There was Dessert:

And this was a bear. The core of the dessert was individual sized, double chocolate mini bundt cakes. It took 3 tries to get cakes that would come out of the molds properly, and I had to thicken the batter almost to the point of being brownies:

BUT, we weren’t done there, nooooo. Next I took some Godiva chocolate, and melted it into a ganash, topped the cakes with Mayfield Cookies and Cream ice cream, and then drizzled the ganash all over them:

We ate good, and I think I’m turning my in-laws off the local restaurants with the quality of my cooking, lol.

Unconventional St Patty’s Day Dinner

I showed the corned beef I smoked for this meal in a recent post. Being a contrarian, I had to do something different with it for dinner. We had a long day that day, and after getting stabbed, I didn’t feel like an ornate meal. Truth? They’ll take away my (part) Irish Card, BUT, I’ve always hated the “throw it all in a pot and boil it” thing for corned beef and cabbage on Saint Patrick’s Day. It takes all the flavor right out of everything.

So what DID I end up doing??

Corned beef sandwiches with coleslaw and Havarti cheese on pretzel rolls with fries.

Viola: Corned beef, cabbage and carrots (in the slaw) and potatoes (fries). Untraditionally traditional. 😀

…For A Hamburger Today.

Five points if you got where that half-quote comes from 🙂

So here’s Silk’s latest culinary creation; a gourmet hamburger:

What makes it gourmet you ask?

1: Kobe Beef smoked and seasoned to perfection

2: Turkey Bacon – Also slow smoked

3: Homemade guacamole

4: Smoked Cheddar Cheese

5: Fresh Veggies

6: A Toasted Bun.

Super-Tasty and tonight we’re using the leftover Guac (vacuum packed to keep from turning brown) for Taco… Thursdays. O_o 😀

How About Another Round of Tri-Tip?

OK so actually, Tri-Tip is sirloin, not round, LOL. I’m past due for another cooking post however, and I finally managed to find a tri-tip out here. That alone took an act of God. I had no idea when I moved that Tennessee was full of BBQ Philistines who didn’t know what Tri-Tip was, LOL.

These also came pre-marinated, which I didn’t care for, but it was a case of beggars can’t be choosers.

Meat Buying Tip: Do NOT buy the dry pre-seasoned meats from the local grocery store (or Costco). They use the old, nearly expired pieces to make those, and let the spices piled on them cover up that the meat is turning color. Pre-packaged marinade cuts of meat tend to be lower quality as well.

Anyhow, I managed to turn this one into a solid success:

Add in some side dishes and we had a great meal:

One problem with marinading meats shows in the slices above. It’s clearly tender, but the marinade blocked much of the smoke flavor from getting into the meat. The smoke ring is faint, and not very deep.

New Year’s Eve Dinner

We stayed home for New Year’s Eve this year. Avoided the crowds, the drunk drivers and the police sobriety checkpoints. Besides, the big screen provides a better view of the NYC fireworks than camping in Times Square would, LOL.

I made grilled chicken for dinner tonight. I have the usual pictures also, but I wanted to give a couple of tips for any charcoal grilling newcomers.

First is a piece of equipment that I consider essential. I was and still am one of those people who couldn’t get a traditional charcoal fire going to save my life. Then I discovered this:

It’s called a charcoal chimney. Stuff the bottom section with newspaper, junk mail sales ads or similar paper (crumpled up) then flip it over and fill the top portion with charcoal. Put the chimney on the lower rack for charcoal in your grill and light the paper. 15 minutes later you’ve got perfect coals for cooking over. Empty the chimney’s coals onto the rack, put the grilling rack on the grill and you’re ready to go. This thing really is flawless. You also avoid the need for any lighter fluid and the nasty aftertaste that it can add to food.

Here’s the end result there by the way:

Yes, it was dark out when I started. It gets dark crazy early here this time of year. The glowing charcoal at night made for a neat picture though. 🙂

Now the next thing I want to mention is how to avoid flare ups on a charcoal grill. Flare ups happen when fat melts from the heat and drips down onto the charcoal. The way around that is indirect heat. You arrange the coals along two sides:

And then put your food along the middle so that it’s not directly above the hot charcoal:

yeah, my iPhone’s flash finally decided to work, LOL.

Yes, the food is a bit too close together. Ideally you want it spaced out a little more so that it gets more uniform heat all around the individual pieces of food. By the way, indirect heat has two other advantages; you lose a bit less moisture, and it’s slower than direct heat. That gives you time to finish that side dish that’s taking longer than you thought, LOL.

So back to the chicken. It all got my usual Salt Pepper and Garlic treatment, then half got some lemon pepper seasoning and the other half got some chipotle pepper seasoning.

After grilling, add in some Au Gratten potatoes and steamed veggies and you have a nice relaxing meal at home to enjoy:

There Was So Much at Steak…

Nope, not a misspelling of steak. It’s time for my also promised nearly 3 pound (1.3 kg) tomahawk cut ribeye steak cook. 😀

As the picture hints at, the cut got it’s name from the bone being left in and the size of the cut. It bears a passing similarity to tomahawk.

As usual, it was salt, pepper and garlic for the seasoning, and then onto the smoker:

Notice I did go lighter than with the ribs yesterday also. A good steak should be seasoned lightly to let it’s own flavor shine through. Those ribs were a bit over seasoned also to be honest.

Since a good steak should also have a nice sear or grill marks on it also, I do something fairly unique here. Pellet grills and other smokers almost never put good grill marks on meat. So what I do id cook the meat to an internal temperature of about 95 degrees (35 degrees C).

Cooked slow and low, by the time it reaches that internal temperature, the meat has a nice,moderate level of smoke flavor. From there, it goes onto the Weber charcoal grill.

One thing I should mention here… If you’re going to BBQ with charcoal on a kettle like this… You ideally want the charcoal on two sides and a clear space in the middle where you can place your food. This prevents flare ups of the fire and the food getting burnt or cooked unevenly. I got in a hurry here and was sloppy with the charcoal.

Getting back to the actual cook, it stays there long enough to get to a nice 135 degree (57 degrees C) internal temperature. That’s just long enough to get it a perfect medium rare and put a nice surface sear on it for extra flavor:

This particular steak is a good example of learning to trust your instincts also. My thermometer lied and said it was still raw. When I pulled it though, here’s what we got:

That’s right on the high side of “medium” in terms of how cooked it is, which means it had an internal temperature of 140 to 145 degrees (62 degrees C). Still very edible, but not quite as tender as it could have been.

Cultivating that instinct takes work. You have to regularly make a mental note of how long items cook each time you do them, and their appearance as well.

Here’s a finished dinner plate, with the green beans and bacon now mixed with the Marsala sauteed mushrooms, some biscuits, and the raspberry yogurt fruit salad from Friday.

Cooking Tip: Meat Shopping

I’m going to change gears here a little.  EARLY on in the blog here, I made it known that cooking is one of my other loves. 🙂  Anything from near competition level Southern BBQ to baking cakes and cheesecakes.  Am I world class?  No, not quite, but I’m darned good.

Apologies to any non-carnivores here, but since I run into the problem of finding fresh cuts of meat, I thought I’d share some info for readers.

First, let’s address the obvious question; what does it matter?  High end steak houses age their steaks a long time, right?  Yes, they do.  It’s a special process that is different from just leaving food to sit in a store or home refrigerator though.  The final part of that process also involves scraping and trimming mold off the surface of the meat also.  Some folks are OK with that, but the idea of eating meat that used to be covered with mold is gross to me.  What the dry aging process also does is take moisture out of the meat to concentrate the flavor of the remaining meat and juices.  You’re taking the steak part way to jerky for the sake of flavor.

I’m getting a bit off topic though.  My point is it’s a different deal getting an ages steak at a restaurant and having something sit around in the store forever.  I will quickly add that if you’ve ever had freshly butchered meat, there’s a world of difference between that and store bought or aged meat.

Hopefully the stores in your area are better than the ones in my city, but using food coloring or nitrogen to make meat look fresh longer is getting to be a very common trick as grocery stores try to stretch profits.  You can potentially end up with something that looks good on the surface, but is brown and starting to rot inside.

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The above picture was meat I was going to cut up for fajitas…  Until I saw the brown in the middle.  What you have there is food coloring, probably injected as well as surface dunked.  Hence the weird ring of brown

Food coloring is easy to spot.  When you’re inspecting the meat, does it look to be a natural color of red?  That meat above was borderline on looking right color-wise.  One of the most blatant examples I personally found though was this:

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No, you’re not seeing things, that $18 a pound filet Mignon IS indeed fire engine red…  Even the fat!  So are the beef kabobs next to them.  Talk about food colored to death.  That’s the meat counter at Sprouts; a supposedly upscale grocer that prides itself on fresh and natural.  Lesson for the day; even “high end” grocery stores can try to pull a fast one on you.

Food coloring is getting to be out of favor though.  There’s a new technique used by grocers and meat distributors; spraying the meat with nitrogen gas.

Contrary to how that may initially sound, it’s not inherently a bad thing.  Nitrogen will slow the natural oxidation of the meat, which is a big part of what makes it spoil.  It’s similar to the reasons athletes and body builders use nitrogen based supplements and some places put nitrogen in car tires instead of air.

The problem comes when grocery stores ignore and refresh the pull dates because the meat still looks good on the surface.  Nitrogen won’t penetrate all the way through the meat so the center decays while the surface looks good.  Since the nitrogen is also rarely applied to every square inch of the meat, careful examination can turn up brown spots before you buy:

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Now, note that is a USDA Prime cut of Brisket, which is the highest quality available.  More there in a bit.  This Brisket was also being sold by Costco, which used to pride itself on high quality and doing right by it’s members.  Does that big stripe of brown look quality to you?  It’s an indication that there’s more brown under the surface though.

So how do you find good meat if it’s all treated with Nitrogen?  It still comes back to color.  Nitrogen chases the oxygen out of the tissue and fluids, and oxygen is what gives meat it’s red color when it’s fresh.  SO, when it’s still early after it’s treatment, the meat will have a bit more of a pinkish color but still look fresh.  After it’s sat a while, the meat will get permeated by oxygen again, and turn more of it’s natural color:

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THAT is probably a good tri-tip.  It’s red, the color is even and where the color varies, it’s more of a pinkish color like the bottom center.

What you want to look for and avoid is this:

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See how it looks red at first glance, but the steak that’s second from the top is showing brown in the left 2/3 of it?  The steak right below that one is faintly showing some brown also.  A discerning eye can save you some heartache and even more stomach ache.

If you have any doubts about the quality of the meat when you get it home and open it, cut a small slit in it and look inside.  Yes, you may lose a bit of juices when you cook but it’s better than eating iffy meat.  Better safe than sorry.

To be fair, meat like those Sam’s Club steaks above may not be far enough gone to present a health risk, particularly if you have a reasonably strong system.  With steaks costing $10 a pound though, don’t you deserve to get reasonable value and the most flavor for your money?

One last thing.  I mentioned above I’d talk about the differences between the USDA’s grades of meat.  This won’t apply outside the U.S. but many other places have similar systems.  A quick internet search can turn up info for you

In the US, we have three grades of meat:

Prime is the highest grade, and is the the most tender with the best marbling of fat.  It’s also the most expensive.  Typically it’s only found at better quality restaurants.  Real butcher shops and a few places like Costco and Sam’s Club will also have it usually.

Choice is the mid grade of meat.  This is what most grocery stores and low to mid quality restaurants typically carry.  While not quite as tender as prime and not having quite as even a level of marbling of fat, it’s still a good quality of meat, especially in the hands of a good chef.

Select is the lowest grade of meat.  It’s edible but won’t be as tender as the other grades, and will have less of more uneven fat marbling, meaning a higher potential for it to be dry after cooking.