Posts Tagged 'Grilling'

Niman Ranch Burgers

After years of rental housing, moving, and making do with a grill pan, I have to say that I love my real deal Weber grill.  This is the second summer we’ve had it, and I’m determined to become just as good of a cook outside as I try to be inside.  I’ve had some success, for sure, but the one meal that keeps throwing me for a loop is burgers.

Burgers!  You’d think they’d be the simplest thing.  I had an absolute disaster with them last year…  When I cook on the stove, I usually try to buy the leanest ground beef I can find to avoid having to drain it.  On the grill, super lean beef is a bad idea.  Like it or not, fat provides flavor; we ended up with dried out, tasteless little pucks.

This year, I accepted that I was going to have to use beef with a higher fat content in order to get better results.  I found a tasty-looking recipe – Ina Garten’s Niman Ranch Burgers – and decided to give them a whirl.  (Full disclosure: I did not seek out Niman Ranch beef specifically, so I suppose these are just “burgers.”  I did use 80/20 beef as recommended, though.)

Prior to starting the burgers, I heated my grill to medium-high.  In a large bowl, I combined 2 pounds of 80% lean beef, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of coarse salt, and 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.  I gently mixed the ingredients with a fork (overmixing will toughen the meat).  I recently acquired a burger press – I figured that uniform patties would help me get to uniform cooking – so I used that to create six 1/3-pound patties.

Once the grill was ready to go, I oiled the grates to prevent the burgers from sticking.  The recipe said to cook the burgers for 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare.  We are definitely medium to medium-well hamburger eaters, though, so I decided to give mine 5 minutes on each side.  (I’ll probably drop this to 4:30 or 4:45 on each side next time.)  Once the burgers were done, I served them on toasted rolls (I used mini Kaisers from Target, which are so not mini!) with caramelized onions.

Niman Ranch Burgers

I overcooked the burgers slightly, so they weren’t amazing, but they were strides ahead of last year’s disaster.  The olive oil and the higher fat content of the meat kept the burgers moist, and the seasoning combination was simple but so good. This is a great “basic burger” recipe that I fully intend to try again, next time with ground chuck (a tip from my dad) and slightly shorter cooking times.

TIPS:  The burger press took a little getting used to.  I initially had a hard time getting the patties out of the press, but running a butter knife around the edges before inverting the press over a plate helped a lot.  If you are going to freeze any of your patties (I froze half), be sure to freeze them on wax paper or some other surface that will easily release them once they’re frozen.  I must have mentally checked out when I went to freeze mine because I put them directly on a plate to flash freeze them before putting them into freezer bags.  Getting them off of that plate took a little bit of thawing and quite a bit of coaxing.

Recipe link: Niman Ranch Burgers


Orange-and-Thyme Grilled Shrimp

I wasn’t even planning to blog this meal.  The colors of the shrimp when I took them off the grill Monday night were so beautiful, though, that I couldn’t resist snapping a few quick shots.  Plus, the shrimp were so easy and delicious…  How could I not share? 🙂

First, I did make a couple of minor substitutions based on what I had.  The recipe called for 1 pound of large tail-on shrimp, “large” meaning about 24 shrimp per pound.  My grocery store had tiger shrimp (16 – 20 per pound) or “medium” shrimp (31 – 40 per pound, if I remember correctly), but not “large” shrimp.  I decided to go big with the tiger shrimp.  The recipe also called for 8-inch skewers, which I *used* to have.  I decided to combine two servings per skewer and go with the 12-inch skewers I had on hand.

To prevent the skewers from catching fire on the grill, I soaked them in water while I marinated the shrimp.  (Always soak them for at least 30 minutes.)

For the shrimp marinade, I combined 1 teaspoon of orange zest, 1/4 cup of fresh orange juice, 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a large zip-top bag.  I added the shrimp (1 pound, peeled and deveined but tails left on), tossed everything to coat, and marinated the shrimp until I was ready to assemble the skewers.  (I marinated for about 2 hours; 30 minutes is the minimum and 8 hours is the maximum.)

While the shrimp marinated, I made the dipping sauce.  In a small bowl, I combined 1/3 cup of light mayonnaise, 1/2 teaspoon of orange zest, 1/4 cup of fresh orange juice, and 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme.  I seasoned the mixture with salt and pepper to taste and then set it aside.

I set our grill burners to medium and oiled the grates.  While the grill heated, I threaded the marinated shrimp onto four skewers.  Shrimp cook very quickly (and they get rubbery if they’re overcooked), so I cooked them until they were just opaque – 2 minutes on the first side and about 90 seconds on the second side.  I served the shrimp with the dipping sauce.

Orange-and-Thyme Grilled Shrimp

Aren’t they just beautiful?  I couldn’t get over the pinks in the tails, the oranges and yellows in the shrimp (from the marinade), and the gorgeous dark charred spots.  The taste measured up as well…  There was so much flavor in the shrimp from the marinade that we didn’t even really need the dipping sauce.  Since the shrimp can be assembled and cooked in 10 minutes or less if you marinate ahead of time, this makes a terrific weeknight meal *or* a great option for entertaining with minimal time spent in the kitchen.

TIPS:  The key to assembling shrimp skewers is to make sure you pierce the shrimp through the top and bottom of its “curve”; this prevents the shrimp from spinning on the grill when you turn the skewers.

Recipe link: Orange-and-Thyme Grilled Shrimp

Grilled Steak with Tomatoes and Scallions (aka The First Thing I Ever Legitimately Grilled)

We *finally* got a grill.  (Thanks for the housewarming gift, Mom and Dad!)  After letting it sit on the deck for a couple of weeks looking pretty and brand new, Dr. O and I decided to get down and dirty with it (after lining the drip pan with heavy-duty foil, of course).

We never, ever, ever eat steak – probably because we never owned a real grill and I tend to torch steak in the grill pan – so I thought a perfect first project would be Grilled Steak with Tomatoes and Scallions from the June 2009 issue of Everyday Food.  It’s a good first recipe because it calls for flatiron steak, which is a nice, inexpensive cut of meat.

First, we prepped the grill.  (I say “we” because Dr. O wanted us to grill together, though we agreed that I was the “captain” and he was the “first mate” because I was the one with steak and a plan.)  We heated the grill to high, oiled the grates, and waited for the temperature to get to about 450F.  Meanwhile, I cut an 18-ounce piece of flatiron steak into three 6-ounce steaks and seasoned the steaks on both sides with salt and pepper.  I also washed a pint of cherry tomatoes and one bunch of scallions; I used my kitchen shears to cut the scallions into 2-inch lengths.

When the grill was ready, we grilled the steaks for 4 minutes on each side (with the lid closed, of course).  After they were cooked to our liking, we placed the steaks on a clean plate and tented them with foil to rest.  During the resting time, we placed a double layer of foil over the grill grates and put the cherry tomatoes and scallions on top.  We drizzled them with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, closed the lid, and grilled them until they were tender and lightly charred (about 7 minutes).

When the tomatoes and scallions were done, I placed them in a bowl, tossed them with 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and seasoned them with salt and pepper.  I topped the steaks with the tomato-scallion mixture and served an orzo and zucchini salad on the side.

Grilled Steak with Tomatoes and Scallions

Drumroll, please…  The steaks turned out!  The two thicker steaks were perfectly medium, though the thinner steak ended up a bit overdone.  All in all, I’d say it was a success.  My cherry tomatoes didn’t burst (as they apparently did in the Everyday Food test kitchen, based on the recipe photos), but they were charred and warm.  The scallions caramelized a bit too, which I *loved*.  I feel like a champion griller! 🙂

TIPS:  Check out the original recipe if you want to make this recipe for more than two people.  I cut the tomato-scallion mixture in half and made three steaks instead of four since it was just Dr. O and me.  And yes, he did eat two steaks.

Recipe link: Grilled Steak with Tomatoes and Scallions

Rosemary Beef Skewers with Horseradish Dipping Sauce

I don’t know why I’m surprised, but it’s actually getting a bit nippy here in Denver.  Last week, it was just cool in the evenings…  Today, I felt like I needed a jacket all day long.  Dr. O and I are so messed up with our seasons since it was spring in Australia and it’s basically summer in Texas until November.  It’s time to trade in the shorts, I’m afraid.

Since it’s getting a bit chilly for outdoor grilling and the heat from the broiler might actually be *welcome* in the kitchen at this point, I thought I would post Rosemary Beef Skewers with Horseradish Dipping Sauce from the March 2008 issue of Everyday Food.  It’s quick, easy, and flavorful, and it would be a great match with a bit of roasted butternut or acorn squash.

First, I soaked eight 6-inch wooden skewers in water for 10 minutes (longer is fine) to make sure they could withstand the heat of the broiler.  During the “soak time,” I preheated the broiler, lined a rimmed baking sheet with foil, and started making the garlic-rosemary mixture for the meat.

On a cutting board, I chopped 2 cloves of garlic and 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves.  I sprinkled the mixture with a bit of coarse salt and then pressed the blade of the knife back and forth across it to make a paste.  (I don’t think my technique was very good…  Just do what feels right until you have something paste-like.)  I transferred the paste to a medium bowl and stirred in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.

Next, I cut 1 1/2 pounds of trimmed flatiron steak into twenty-four 1 1/2-inch chunks.  I added the steak to the bowl and tossed to coat it with the garlic-rosemary mixture.  I threaded 3 chunks of beef on each soaked skewer and placed them on the prepared baking sheet.

The recipe said to broil the skewers (without turning) 4 – 6 minutes for medium-rare meat; Dr. O and I like our steak closer to medium, so I went with 7 minutes.  While the meat was broiling, I threw together the horseradish dipping sauce, which was just 1/2 cup of reduced-fat sour cream, 1 tablespoon of prepared white horseradish (drained), and salt and pepper to taste.  I served the sauce alongside the skewers.

If you’re craving red meat, this is a great weeknight meal.  I absolutely loved the way the garlic-rosemary paste flavored the steak.  I have to admit that I wasn’t so crazy about the *cut* of meat; the flatiron steak was a bit chewy for my taste.  It’s pretty lean and reasonably priced (and it’s actually kind of hip right now, if steak can be hip!), so I’d be willing to give it another shot, though.  Even if you don’t try this particular recipe, I would strongly recommend trying the garlic-rosemary paste on any old steak you plan to cook.  It’s amazing!

TIPS: Don’t be afraid to ask your butcher for flatiron steak if you don’t see it on display.  Central Market didn’t have any in the case, but the butcher was happy to cut some for me.

Recipe link: Rosemary Beef Skewers with Horseradish Dipping Sauce

Tomatoes Stuffed with Grilled Corn Salad

I need to sneak this one in before prime grilling season comes to an end… I can’t believe summer is almost over! The tomatoes and corn at Central Market are so beautiful right now that I just had to find a way to work them into my menu for the week. Tomatoes Stuffed with Grilled Corn Salad from the July/August 2006 issue of Everyday Food seemed like a tasty way to go.

The first part of this recipe involves grilling corn in its husk. Knowing now what I didn’t know then, I can’t say I recommend doing this indoors with a grill pan. If you have an outdoor grill, though, fire it up!

First, I had to prepare 3 ears of corn for grilling. I pulled back the corn husks, leaving them attached at the base of the ears. I removed and discarded the corn silk, pulled the husks back over the corn, and then soaked the ears in a large bowl of cold water for 10 minutes. (This helps to ensure that the husks won’t ignite on the grill.)

While the corn soaked, I cut off and discarded the top third of 4 beefsteak tomatoes. Using a paring knife, I cut around the walls of the tomatoes to loosen the flesh. I gently scooped out and discarded the seeds. Next, I used a melon baller to scoop out the tomato interiors, leaving the wall intact. I coarsely chopped the interiors and transferred them to a large bowl.

After brushing it with olive oil, I heated my grill pan over high heat. I drained the corn and arranged the ears in the grill pan. I covered the pan with a skillet lid and cooked the corn, turning occasionally with tongs, until the husks were slightly charred and the corn was tender (15 minutes). This kicks up quite a bit of smoke indoors, which is why I recommend doing this step outside if you can. Meanwhile, I cooked three slices of bacon in a skillet and then set them aside to cool.

When the corn was ready to go, I removed it from the grill pan. Using a kitchen towel, I held the base of the hot corn, peeled back the husks, and used a sharp knife to cut the corn kernels from the cob. I added the corn to the bowl of tomatoes.

Finally, I added 1/2 cup of chopped scallions, 1/2 cup of crumbled soft goat cheese (minus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling), 1 tablespoon of white-wine vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the corn and tomatoes. I seasoned with salt and pepper and tossed the mixture gently to combine. I spooned the corn salad back into the hollowed tomatoes (I had more salad than would fit in the tomatoes), sprinkled them with the remaining goat cheese, and then crumbled the cooked bacon over the top to serve.

I thought the tomatoes and salad were just delicious, but this recipe is definitely for goat cheese lovers only. If you’re not a goat cheese fan, I think feta or Gorgonzola would be good substitutions. The bacon is listed as an optional ingredient in the original recipe, but I think it added depth to the flavor of the dish. I wouldn’t go without it!

TIPS: Next time, I’m going to put the chopped tomato flesh in a colander to drain while the corn grills. I ended up with a lot of moisture, which (in combination with the heat from the corn) basically caused the goat cheese to melt and form a sauce. I’d rather have things a bit chunkier.

Also, I recently discovered that Central Market sells applewood-smoked bacon by the slice at the meat counter. I loved the convenience of being able to buy just the amount I needed. If you’re like us and you struggle to finish an entire package, you might check your local store to see if bacon by the slice is an option.

Recipe link: Tomatoes Stuffed with Grilled Corn Salad

Caribbean Shrimp Kebabs

Dr. O is out of town for a few days on business, so I thought his absence would be a great opportunity to do another “cooking for one” series. Today’s recipe – Caribbean Shrimp Kebabs from the July/August 2004 issue of Everyday Food – was actually written for 4 servings. I just cut the ingredients in half and split the skewers between dinner the first day and lunch the second day. Use the original recipe (via the recipe link at the bottom of the post) if you’d like to cook with the normal ingredient amounts.

First, I soaked eight 6-inch wooden skewers in water for 15 minutes to ensure they wouldn’t burn in my grill pan. While the skewers soaked, I cut 1 red bell pepper into 1 1/2-inch pieces. I also made Cilantro Dipping Sauce to go with the kebabs. In the small bowl of my food processor (a blender would work fine as well), I combined 1/4 cup of firmly packed cilantro leaves, 2 tablespoons of reduced-fat mayonnaise, 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon of dark rum, and 1/4 teaspoon of curry powder. I processed the mixture until it was smooth and then seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.

When the skewers had finished soaking, I assembled 4 kebabs (using 2 skewers each – they were parallel and about an inch apart to really secure the shrimp), alternating 3 shrimp with 2 pieces of bell pepper (1/2 pound of shrimp and 1 bell pepper total). The original recipe said to thread 4 shrimp and 3 pieces of pepper for each kebab, but my shrimp were pretty large. I put the kebabs in a shallow plastic container and set them aside.

To make the marinade, I combined 1 tablespoon of dark rum, 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon of curry powder, 1/8 teaspoon of ground allspice, and 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. I spooned the marinade over the skewers and turned them to coat. I let them stand for 5 minutes (I heated my grill pan to medium-high during the wait) and then sprinkled them with salt.

This recipe was meant to be cooked on a standard grill, so I had to improvise a bit. The original recipe said to heat the grill to high, place the skewers on the grill, cover the grill, and then cook the shrimp for 2 – 3 minutes on each side. I tend to burn things whenever my grill pan is over high heat, which is why I went with medium-high heat. Also, my grill pan doesn’t have a lid or cover, so I had to plunk my largest skillet lid over the top. I cooked the kebabs, covered, until the shrimp were opaque and the peppers were charred (3 minutes per side). I served the kebabs drizzled with the cilantro sauce.

These kebabs were so, SO good. I was a bit worried that the rum in the marinade would be overpowering (I used nice, dark Bacardi 8 ) but the flavor of the shrimp was incredible. The cilantro sauce was very fresh tasting (love the lime!) and creamy – the dish just wouldn’t have been the same without it. I’ll admit that the kebabs were a bit messy to disassemble… Using two skewers per kebab really anchored the shrimp well! The upside is that if you did cook these on a regular grill, you wouldn’t have to worry about losing any yummy shrimp between the grates.

I enjoyed this so much I almost felt bad for leaving Dr. O out… I can’t wait to share this one with him!

TIPS: I have lots of tips on this one! If the “two skewers per kebab” concept isn’t really making sense, click on the recipe link below to see Everyday Food‘s picture of the kebabs. Avoid marinating the shrimp for more than 5 minutes – they’ll get tough. Perhaps most importantly, don’t let the night you try this recipe be the night you let the dishes sit until tomorrow morning… Curry stains. Your dishes would probably be fine, but white plastic would never be the same.

Recipe link: Caribbean Shrimp Kebabs and Cilantro Dipping Sauce

Buttermilk and Herb Marinated Chicken

Is anyone out there in a chicken breast rut? Buttermilk and Herb Marinated Chicken from the July/August 2008 issue of Everyday Food is an easy way to dress up that chicken a bit before it hits the grill or the skillet.

To make the marinade, I combined 1 cup of low-fat buttermilk, 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a large, shallow bowl. I added 4 chicken breasts (about 6 ounces each) to the marinade, turned them to coat, and placed the dish in the refrigerator for 1 hour. (You can marinate the chicken anywhere from 30 minutes at room temperature to overnight in the refrigerator.)

I still don’t have a grill (maybe that will change after the move?), so I used my grill pan for this one. I set the heat halfway between medium and medium-high and brushed the pan with some olive oil. I removed the chicken from the marinade, shook off the excess, and grilled the chicken breasts for 6 minutes per side. Once my thermometer fork confirmed that the meat had reached 165F, I removed the chicken from the pan, tented it with foil, and served it after 5 minutes of resting time.

This didn’t stand up to Central Market’s marinated chicken breast, but it was still pretty good. I just love the taste and fragrance of rosemary, and the buttermilk helped keep the meat nice and moist. If you marinate the chicken the night before, this is a great way to add a little something special to a quick and easy weeknight meal.

TIPS: The 5 minutes of resting time are essential for juicy meat. Don’t skip the step!

Recipe link: Buttermilk and Herb Marinated Chicken

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