Last week, the Wall St. Journal’s Tastings column by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher features a list of pinot noirs they recommend for Thanksgiving dinner.
While they personally say they prefer a great aged Cabernet Sauvignon with their turkey, many folks prefer the lighter Pinot Noir. They note that “Pinot Noir, at its best, has elegant, sometimes earthy tastes that would pair well with Thanksgiving dinner without adding yet another big, challenging taste to the table.”
We love our Weber – an early model of the Performa. A while back we had this fancy indirect heating gas grill – but it just didn’t provide much flavor for BBQing so we gave it away and bought the Weber over 10 years ago. It’s been our regular fire ever since – IMHO nothing beats a hot charcoal fire for the best flavor.
On one of our morning walks last week, Chris Gulker started talking about his new Weber Performa BBQ and how he had cooked a pair of very tasty thick cut pork chops on it last weekend. Naturally, my ears perked up – pork chops are an old favorite but mostly pan fried with some sauerkraut, not BBQed.
Taking Chris’ excellent results to heart, we tried our own version on the Weber tonight. The result was superb – just great – and simple. I was cooking two thick cut chops – about 1.7 lbs of meat that we had picked up at a local butcher yesterday (priced at $5.99-$6.29 a pound in our neighborhood).
I lit the charcoal with some newspapers in a chimney – we’ve been using a new Trader Joe’s hardwood charcoal that is a high heat version and very flavorful. After about 20 minutes in the chimney, it was ready to spead across half of the bottom of our Weber. I let it sit for another 10-15 minutes – and it gets very hot – almost full scale (>550 degrees) on the Performa’s built-in thermometer. Then, it’s time to sear the chops.
I seared them about 2 minutes on each side directly over the hottest part of the fire. After that, I moved them over to the indirect heat side of the Weber and cooked them for another 6 minutes without turning. By that time, the internal temperature was about 135 degrees. I removed them from the fire, covered them with foil and let them sit another 6-8 minutes during which the internal temperature continued to rise to over 145 degrees. At that point, they were ready to serve.
We cooked some sauerkraut with bacon and BBQ sauce in a skillet on the stove and served that with the chops along with some more of that tasty BBQ sauce. What a treat! – a very nice and relatively low cost Sunday BBQ. Served with a little summer rose wine, it was just delicious!
We’ve got a wonderful local Penzey’s Spices store here in Menlo Park that opened about six months ago. Yesterday afternoon, while the rest of the family was shopping nearby, I browsed Penzey’s – with nothing particular in mind.
While looking around, I picked up one of their Early Summer 2009 catalogs and noticed the rib recipe inside the back cover. While I love to eat ribs, I’ve never really made them – for some unknown reason! I guess my perception was that they took a long time to cook and, in particular, on a BBQ you always had to worry about overcooking them, etc. Too much hassle.
The Penzey’s recipe, Teddi’s Grandpop’s Ribs, looked super simple to prepare – right up their with my other super simple recipe for slow roasted pork shoulder. Both of these recipes involve just seasoning the pork and putting it into the oven – for several hours. No fussing around worrying about how they’re doing, etc.
For the ribs, I used Penzey’s Galena Street Rib and Chicken Rub (great stuff!) and seasoned thoroughly one rack of baby back ribs from Trader Joe’s with the rub. Put the rack into a pre-heated oven at 220 degrees and you’re basically done. I did turn them twice – once at the two hour point and again at the three hour point. The rack was ready to eat at the four and a half hour point – and the ribs were delicious. A little BBQ sauce on the side and you’re good to go!
To accompany the ribs, I made Ridge Ever’s recipe for Bacon and Corn Chowder – a much more involved recipe but with a very delicious result! This wasn’t the best meal for a diet – but it sure was good!
Yesterday, we had a big family get together at our house – and grilled three tri-tip roasts on our Weber BBQ as one of the main courses. Roasting tri-tip in the oven is super easy – see my Lazy-S Oven Roasted Tri-Tip recipe) but it was a beautiful late Spring day and just called out for firing up the Weber and grilling instead.
For the meat, I picked up two plain tri-tips from our local meat market (Bianchini’s Market in Portola Valley) along with one of their dark, marinated versions (they sell four different tri-tip marinated versions – tough choice!) In total there was about 6 lbs of tri-tip.
For the fire, I used the local Lazzari Mesquite Charcoal – not the usual briquettes. The Lazzari is very chunky stuff – with pieces of charcoal of all sizes – and it adds great smoky flavor to the meats! I used the chimney starter to get it going and then added a couple of large chunks to the fire once I had emptied it out of the chimney starter.
The key to grilling tri-tip on the Weber is to have the coals only on one side of the grill – with the other side completely devoid of any coals. This provides a super-hot source of direct heat for searing the tri-tips and then a large area of indirect heat for finishing the grilling.
Once you’ve spread the charcoal over half of the grill, sear the roasts about 5-7 minutes on both sides. Then move them to the indirect heat area and let them cook over the indirect heat with the Weber top closed for another 20 or so minutes. Then, check the meat temperature with a meat thermometer – I removed ours yesterday at about 130 degrees – turned out just perfect for medium rare beef.
Importantly, wrap the tri-tips in foil and let them sit for another 15 minutes to allow the meat juices to reintegrate into the roast. Then slice thinly, across the grain, and serve. We had small buns for yesterday’s event – allowing mini sandwiches to be made – or not if you just wanted to taste the tri-tip by itself!
This afternoon, with family company coming, we needed to put something quick together for Saturday supper – and, as it turned out, we had a package of ground turkey in the fridge.
We also had a package of Trader Joe’s “Fire Roasted Vegetables with Balsamic Butter Sauce” in the freezer. (These veggies are also our favorite as a base for a quick chicken and rice stir-fry!)
So, we tried a new variation on Elise’s Mom’s ground turkey recipe – using these ingredients we had on hand – along with an 8 oz can of Muir Glen Tomato Sauce that was in our pantry. The result was great – in about 20 mins – with a bit more liquid/sauce than in Elise’s original recipe. We served it over a package of Trader Joe’s brown rice – so easy to cook in 3 mins in the microwave. Very tasty indeed!
1 package Trader Joe’s Fire Roasted Vegetables with Balsamic Butter Sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
1 package ground turkey (we used 1.25 lb Foster Farms from Safeway)
1 tsp chipotle chili pepper
1 Tbsp dried Italian parsley
1 Tbsp dried cilantro
1 8 oz can of Muir Glen tomato sauce
1 packet Trader Joe’s Microwave Brown Rice
Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the Fire Roasted Vegetables and cook until softened – about 5 minutes.
Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Add the ground turkey to the skillet in small “chunks”, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chipotle chili powder. Add the Italian parsley and cilantro.
Cook the ground turkey until it is browned on one side, then turn over to cook on the other side. Add the tomato sauce.
When the turkey is cooked through (3-4 minutes), add back the vegetables and warm mixture. If serving with rice, cook the rice in the microwave for 3 mins.
To serve, spoon the rice into bowls and cover with the turkey/vegetable mixture.
Out of a can, a couple of my favorite soups are barley-based – either chicken or beef with barley, I’m not picky! Good flavor, good fiber – and there’s something about barley that “beefs” up a soup in terms of chunkiness and flavor.
Recently, I came across this recipe in the New York Times for Barley Soup With Mushrooms and Kale – which I made in a modified form for dinner Monday evening last week – it was delicious!
Kale wasn’t easy to find – and being a regular Trader Joe’s shopper I had noticed they carry a small box of “microgreens” – so I substituted those for the kale.
Trader Joe’s also sells a dried mushroom medley (which includes some porcini mushrooms) which I used to replace the dried porchini’s ($1.99 for the medley vs $5.99 for the pure dried porcinis!) I also had a cup of beef broth left over so it went into the soup along with a quart of chicken broth instead of just chicken broth. Otherwise, I pretty much followed the rest of the recipe.
1 package Trader Joe’s Dried Mushroom Medley (0.88 oz package)
2 cups boiling water
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, as needed
1 large onion, chopped
1 package Trader Joe’s sliced cremini mushrooms
2 tsp Trader Joes’ crushed garlic
Kosher salt, to taste
3/4 cup pearl barley
1 1/2 quarts organic chicken stock
A bouquet garni made with a few sprigs each thyme and parsley, and a bay leaf and a Parmesan rind
1 package Trader Joe’s Microgreens
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Place the dried mushrooms in a Pyrex measuring cup. Pour on two cups boiling water. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. Strain the water and the mushrooms out of the bowl.
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until just tender, about five minutes, then add the sliced cremini mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are beginning to soften, about three minutes. Add the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Continue to cook for about five minutes, until the mixture is juicy and fragrant.
Add the reconstituted dried mushrooms, the barley, the mushroom soaking liquid, and the stock or water. Salt to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes.
Add the microgreens into the soup and continue to simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes. The barley should be tender and the broth aromatic. Remove the bouquet garni, taste and adjust salt, add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and serve.
This is a perfect recipe for a lazy Sunday afternoon! The short ribs need about 3 hours to cook – so start around 2 PM and you’ll be ready for a great dinner about 5:30 or 6 PM. Have a bottle of good Zinfandel handy – it’s a perfect match to this dish!
The inspiration for this recipe came from Giada De Laurentiis – but I made a bunch of modifications – basically to make it simpler and easier. I really don’t like recipes that use amounts that result in wasting portions of ingredients you buy in standard size packages. So, I adjusted – and simplified using some Trader Joe’s items – and the result was great!
3 Tbs olive oil
3 oz chopped pancetta (Columbus Salame package – available at Draeger’s)
2-1/2 lbs short ribs
1/4 cup flour
1 package Trader Joe’s Mirepoix (combination of chopped carrots, onions, and celery)
2 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (prefer Muir Glen organic)
1 small can tomato paste (prefer Muir Glen organic)
1 Tbs Herbs de Provence
1 quart Trader Joe’s Organic Beef Broth
3/4 cup red wine
1 pound flat pasta – fettucine, tagliatelle (if you can find it), etc.
Season the short ribs with flour, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook the pancetta until golden brown – about four minutes. Remove using a slotted spoon and set aside.
Brown the short ribs in the same pot – on all sides. Remove and set aside.
Add the Mirepoix to the pot. Add the garlic and parsley. Cook for 5-7 minutes until vegetables have softened a bit.
Add the diced tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir.
Add the Herbs de Provence, beef broth, and wine. Add back the pancetta and the short ribs. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Remove the lid and simmer for another 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Remove the short ribs and bones from the pot. Discard the bones. Shred the meat and return it to the pot. Season to taste.
Cook the pasta (8-10 minutes in boiling, salted water for dried pasta).
Drain pasta, combine into pot with meat and sauce. Stir.
Serve in bowls – optionally add 1 tsp shaved dark chocolate (we tried this – it was too much – we’d skip the dark chocolate!). Serve with a good Zinfandel!
For some weird reason, earlier this week I happened across an old Cooks Illustrated article about Slow-Roasted Beef (link works for those with subscriptions to their online edition).
Perhaps because of the current state of the economy or who knows why, I found the recipe particularly interesting – as it described a cooking technique for cheap beef roast cuts (eye-round, etc.) that made these normally tough roast cuts of beef turn out tender and delicious.
This post goes in the “notes to self” category. We have a Williams-Sonoma Cooking Probe Digital Thermometer – and lost the manual eons ago. This thermometer was apparently actually made by Polder and private labelled to Williams-Sonoma.
Anyway, it’s the one with the 3 foot long cord to a probe that goes in the oven and into the meat. The problem I have with it is the somewhat arcane user interface it has for setting a different alarm temperature than the various defaults it comes pre-programmed with for the various types of meat. So, here’s how you do it!
Using the Meat button, scroll to the UI page. Hold down the Memory button until the Alert temperature starts blinking. Then, using the up/down (+/-) keys, set the temperature you want for the alert. Hit the Memory button again to store the new value, turn on the Alert switch, and you’re now set.