Thursday, October 30, 2008

Perfect whole roasted chicken

I've struggled with this recipe because I've been trying so hard to get it right. I am a little defiant when it comes to sticking a beer can up the rump of the chicken. The biggest problem that I've had is the brine, and making sure that it's the right concentration of ingredients. Guess no more, here it is, adapted from a recipe in Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques.

Brine for grilling poultry, pork

Take a big Georgia cup (quart) of hot water, bring to a boil in a stockpot of some kind.
Add 1/2 cup of kosher salt, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
2 tbsp of ground pepper, red pepper flakes, and thyme
When it all dissolves, add three more quarts to make 1 gallon total.
Spatchcock and clean your chicken, add to the brine. Let it sit at room temperature for about 2 hours or so.
You don't need to drain it or dry it, just throw it on the grill.

The grill setup:

Inverted double decker grill with a 12 inch pizza pan and new high absorption roasting pans that I found at the grocery store(low profile, works GREAT as a drip pan). This is my new indirect setup.
Get your grill going at 400-450 (mostly open bottom, 1/4" slit on top), and throw the chicken on bone side down.
Wait till it reaches around 175 and flip.
Heat to around 195 with the probe on a bone. The bone side of the meat runs cooler and is more likely to be undercooked.


JW describes refrigerating the chicken uncovered to let it dry out before you grill it, and I'm sure that works. However, I found that the skin was pretty crispy as long as a I let it reach that higher temperature, and I didn't even have to squeeze any of the water out of it.

Be careful letting your temperature any higher when you're doing indirect, because your drip pan will catch on fire and go nuts.

Use your giblets and backbone to make home-made chicken stock. You can brown them with some veggies (mire poix carrots, two onions, and celery, thyme and black pepper) along with some water. Do not use the liver for this.

I've also screwed it up trying to cook it skin side down first without flipping, bone side down without flipping, etc. This has given me the best result.

Artificial sweetener, honey, brown sugar can be substituted in the brine, along with whatever else you might want to add. Be careful adding alcohol because it can screw up the moisture and flavor.

Grilled halibut with chimichurri over wilted spinach with grill-roasted garlic

There are a lot of recipe books that call for halibut during the fall and winter. It just so happens that during the fall, we got a little reprieve on the weather even after our first frost. You know what that means: break out the grill! Besides, I need something to take my mind off the upcoming UGA/FU game, #6 vs #8!


Since Goscar has been almost worthless when it comes to posting anything on here, I had to do some investigation of chimichurri on my own.
1/4 cup of finely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
juice of 1 lemon or lime
tbsp of red chili flakes
1 minced shallot
2 minced garlic cloves
1/4 to 1/3 cup of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all in a cereal-sized bowl and whisk together like you're making a vinaigrette (see previous post). Can be made ahead of time, use this to drizzle over your fish when you finish it.

Wilted spinach with fire roasted garlic

You'll kick yourself when you see how easy this one is. Use your chef's knife to cut the butt end off a whole head of garlic. With your grill up to around 400-450F, put this with a little drizzle of olive oil and a little pinch of salt in a piece of foil and throw it on the fire. Let it go around 15-20 minutes. Pretty much the same recipe for making confit. Please, someone, tell me the difference.

Grab a couple of handfuls of spinach and heat a medium skillet with olive oil over medium heat. Put it in the skillet and take it off when you see the green turn pretty intense. Do not brown, take it off sooner than later. Put about 8-10 cloves of garlic in the spinach. Tip: if you finish this part too early, stick it in the microwave for about 30 seconds to turn it back "on."

Grilled halibut

The fresher the fish, the less seasoning you need. Simply, kosher or sea salt, extra-virgin olive oil, and maybe a little fresh ground pepper. Grill at 400-450, it'll cook in about 10 minutes or so at that temperature. Do not overcook, it's easy. It gets really flaky, so you may benefit from having a fish spatula so it doesn't fall apart like mine did.

Pretty easy, remember that outside temperature doesn't affect the ability of the kamados to generate a good temperature, so keep on grillin'!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

One that failed (sort of)

I'm batching it! Yeah, the wife and monsters are out of town. Don't get me wrong, I miss them terribly, but it does give me a chance to take some risks with dinner that I otherwise may not have had.
I was shopping for groceries last night, and I was looking for a good meat that I rarely have. I found a pack of ground lamb, and I thought it would be a great idea. It was, but I managed to screw it up. But, that's one of the purposes of this "forum."
Here's the menu:

"Reduced" balsamic and herbes de Provence vinaigrette
Really, it's how you describe things that make them sound better than they are. It's not a reduced vinaigrette, I just didn't feel like adding mustard. I later found out by watching a Bobby Flay grilling show that the mustard is actually essential to help the oil and vinegar emulsify. I also cut a corner and failed to add shallot. I didn't have any, but I guess I could have added red onion which I had left over.

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp herbes de Provence (just get a bottle of them at the spice rack at the grocery store)
1/2 tsp salt (Kosher to taste)
High quality extra virgin olive oil.

This is a post about salad dressing as much as it is about anything. It's really easy, and it tastes really fresh. The ingredients are pretty simple, and you'll think twice about buying it again if you make it right. Here's the breakdown:
something acid
dijon mustard
salt and pepper, don't skimp
some other seasoning if you want
high quality olive oil (just check at your grocery store, and look online if you don't find what you want. Order it and wait a couple of days. It's worth it.)

figure about 3:1 oil to acid. Here's your chance to put what you want. It can be red wine, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, champagne vinegar, apple cider vinegar, fresh tomato pulp either green or red, etc.
When it comes to other seasoning, you can add whatever you want. Think about it. This can be bacon and bacon fat (ummm bacon), garlic, herbs of whatever you want, red pepper flakes, sherry reduction, parmesan cheese, it's up to you.
Dijon mustard, I think you should add, just don't add too much or it overpowers the dressing. It does help emulsify the dressing, so it's important. Remember chemistry?
Salt and pepper addition depend on what else you've added. If you've put bacon, then you don't need much. If you're making a cucumber and tomato salad, then I would recommend more, since I like them salty.
Now, add everything, then drizzle your oil into a medium sized bowl and whisk like crazy to create your emulsion. You'll know you're there when the whole thing starts to thicken. Taste it, season, and you're done. Isn't that easy?
So mine, I cheated and used balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, herbes de Provence, and emulsified with oil. It worked great but would have been better with some crusty bread (baguette). I put it over a small cucumber and a couple of sliced Roma tomatoes.

Provencal lamb burgers and sauteed fingerling potatoes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp of fresh thyme (do you have an herb garden yet?)
1 tsp of fresh rosemary, minced
salt, pepper

Combine all the ingredients and make a paste. The saltier the better. Combine with about 3/4 pound of ground lamb. Let them heat up to close to room temperature.
Sear over medium high. Not too hot, or else you'll have raw burgers. Not too low, or they'll be well done. Uggh.

4 fingerling potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
thyme, rosemary don't make them too green
salt, pepper
olive oil
Toss the potatoes, and cook over medium high heat about 10-12 minutes. If you must, drain on paper towels to cut some of the fat off of them. I think they're better if they're in a separate pan from the lamb burgers.

Why my dish sucked
I had the heat too high, and even though the crust on the burgers was great, they were a little underdone. You're choices then are to wrap in foil and let them rest for about 10-15 minutes, or put them back on the fire. I did the latter, and screwed them up because I let them overcook. There's a reason lamb must be rare to medium, because it otherwise tastes too gamey. So, the flavors were there, the cooking technique was wrong.
The potatoes, on the other hand, were just fine.

Do over
I would have cooked the lamb better, grilled them maybe, and then made true burgers out of them using grilled bread and Manchego cheese. Maybe even make an herb aioli (garlic mayonnaise) with some mint to bring another herb into it. Live and learn.
Sorry no pictures.

Wine pairing
Tiza Malbec, 2005

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Study Break; with QUAIL on the Grill

Well the Dawgs had won the Vandy game I was HAWNGRY;
Just so happened that I began a slow marinade for a few quail about 6 hours earlier.
These birds were from a cool morning hunt earlier this year ( SWGA).
I started with 5 handpicked quail in my marinade pan.
1. several heavy shakes of my favorite : coarsely ground black pepper
2. cover the bottom of the pan with my Uncle Tommy's favorite, " Zesty Italian Dressing"
3. 2-3 shakes of "Tony Chachere's Original"
4. bacon bits (I'll admit, these came from a bottle)
5.The best is next; I picked a handful of both: fresh rosemary and Lemon Balm from our Herb Garden (note: rosemary is easy to grow; try it in hamburgers finely ground)
6. Finally, using a tip from my Korean friend in Med. School I took one Kiwi thinly sliced and placed this all over the birds and allowed to marinate. The kiwi causes the meat to tenderize.
7. Grill time; about 7 minutes on each side at about 325-350 degrees with direct heat. (This all depended on how many times I took a peek).
As my friend from Arkansas says: "If you place a bit of this on your forehead your tongue will beat you to death. " I saved some for my wife to prove how well it turned out.
I finished the evening with my favorite cigar: a maduro wrapped La Flor-Dominica called "The Chisel"strong with much body and flavor, but very smooth with a great draw.

Love GOD
Grill often
Go Dawgs

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Krypton fanfare: not just for Dawgs?

I know that we don't own this song (fourth quarter, holding up your four fingers). It's from the original Superman movie. But I'll be damned if South Carolina's band didn't play it during their game against LSU during the fourth quarter. Aside from that, they also have hedges growing around their field. Pathetic just like the Cockaboose.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Destination 10: Clock Bar, Westin St. Francis

This place deserves a special mention because I thought it was such a cool little bar. The inside was really posh with nice decor, and the clientele was sort of upper end hip. We sat right where you see those dudes in the picture. They had a great scotch selection, and played some cool sushi techno music. Definitely a cool place to have a drink, especially if you're going to Michael Mina restaurant (27 points in Zagat's). Sorry, I didn't do that.

Destination 9: Sellers Markets.

This was a cool little lunch/breakfast place that I found next to the BART station as I was on my way out of town. I had a breakfast burrito with chorizo, egg, and sauteed potatoes. Hit the spot. No Z rating yet, but a lot of people had nice things to say about it on the website, and apparently they have good stuff for lunch or takeout.

Destination 8: Mixt greens.

A great lunch place, and the line out the door proved it. 23 points (right, for a salad joint?) from Z. It was one of these places that was tucked around the back of an office building. The concept is that whole restaurant is a huge mise en place of salad ingredients, check out the website to see everything they can put on there. The also have predesigned salads that each one of their 3-4 mixologists prepares and tosses with dressing in front of you.
I thought it was a perfect lunch place, and it gives one a great idea of how to prepare a good fresh tasting salad. The final point of this place was that they had free filtered water in pitchers as you walk into the place. Interestingly, they put sliced lemons and sliced/slitted cucumbers which gave the water a very fresh taste. Great idea!

Destination 7: Campton Place Restaurant

Whew. This was the high-end culinary highlight of the trip. 25 pts from Z, you could imagine that it was at least that. Ultimately, I thought the service, the wine, and the food were impeccable.

We sat right under that flower in the middle of the room. The restaurant is small with 25-30 seats. Let me make sure I get this straight to relay what we had, because it came and went so fast, it was hard to keep track. It started with an amuse bouche of small pastry puff with an herbal foam/emulsion that had an incredible texture. This was followed by a small appetizer soup of ginger ice cream in a fish consomme. This was one of the most incredible dishes we had all night. Very small, and we didn't even order it or the first one, it was just part of it. Appetizer was barely seared scallops with prosciutto chips. Awesome, delicate, salty. My entree was duck with seared foie gras and chantarelle mushrooms and roasted carrots. I don't have any pictures of these, but they were really great. Other appetizers and entrees enjoyed were roasted leg and rack of lamb, shitake mushroom soup, and seared ahi tuna. A pre-dessert was a lime sorbet with watermelon shaved ice. We finished with a cheese plate and some aperitifs. The wine selection was awesome, Crocker Starr cab, 2003. There was a tasting menu that went for 95 bucks a piece, and although we didn't do that (maybe we should have) we still came out about 125-150 a piece. Steep, but sometimes it's worth it. I wouldn't have thought of this place, but maybe I should have.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Destination 6: Ryoko's sushi bar.

This was one of the neatest little places I've ever been. So, I went by myself, and took a chance. But, when in San Francisco, I started thinking about what kind of food would I have the hardest time reproducing in the midwest or back east? Easily, the answer was sushi.

This place looked like DT's down under in Athens. A total dive, you had to go underground to find it. From the outside, it looked like nothing. Again, taking another chance, I sat down at the bar, and ordered (what else?) sake and asked for omakase.

I got abalone, Japanese mackerel, toro, unagi, and sea urchin. I don't think I've ever had this mackerel before, but it was incredible. But, so was the toro. Far better than the other place we went. Then I found out that they had two kinds of toro (chu and O, the latter being the fattier and more prized, as well as pricy), and I had gotten the less fatty of the two, chu-toro. I ordered one more of each, and two more mackerel. Pretty awesome food.

The other charms of the place were the decor (total 70's bar), the music (B-side 80's), and the wait staff who were these cute, young Japanese women who were the nicest people I've ever encountered at a sushi bar. I would definitely go back, but keep it a small group.

Destination 5: Hog Island Oyster Company

This place was the real deal. 24 points from Z, I went with a friend, sat in the back right-hand corner of the image above, and had a dozen mixed oysters. This is a company that farms their own oysters, and they also sell them and will ship. We had small sweetwater, blue point, and Kumamoto oysters. You don't need any sauce, slurp them right out of the shell, make sure you drink the liquor. This was accompanied by a west coast style clam chowder with the clam shells in the soup. It was a white fish broth, milk, potatoes, onions, some herbs and the clams. When the ingredients are that good, don't need to go crazy. They had pretty good beer, although at this point my body was a little upset with the previous night, so I had a pilsner which I enjoyed (OK I had two). Just a word about these west coast oysters: they're super sweet and briny, incredible if you ever get the chance. They're also smaller than you see than the ones back east. Can't miss. Just check carefully to make sure they're open, this is a great lunch destination. Bring your checkbook: dozen oysters, couple of beers, 2 orders of clam chowder, 80 bucks.

Destination 4: Sakana Japanese Sushi

Zagat unrated. We picked this one up off a recommendation from the concierge at the Marriott. Recommended for the different variety of fish that they carry. We had Japanese sea bream, which was pretty good. Their toro was slightly above averge, but not enough to give up anything important to you (see later). I found it to be a little stringier than it should have been, implying lower quality. We ordered omakase (chef's choice) with a couple of rounds of sake, which were actually pretty good. We got spicy tuna rolls (why would you do that?), sea urchin, freshwater eel, abalone, and sea bream. The sea urchin, if you've never had it, wow. Get ready for some scary texture. The cold sake was good, although I admit I don't know much about it. It was solid, but there are better.

Destination 3: the Metreon.

Shopping center right next to Moscone center North. There was Buckhorn's (a steak salad and sandwich place that was pretty tasty), Jillian's, a sports bar that was so-so, and Luna Azul burrito joint that wasn't too bad (chicken pesto burrito). The only reason I bring it up is because the food at the convention center should be pitched into a waste dump, and you have reasonable options right around the corner.

Destination 2: Waterfront restaurant

Waterfront Restaurant. 18 points in Zagat. We found that it had a great view of the bay, including the bay bridge. They had a very reasonable wine list with some nice varietals that might be a little hard to find outside of California. We had a nice Charbono (Summers 2006) and Syrah (Briarwood Reserve ?2003) for under 40 bucks each. Then, we ate the food. And disappointment ensued. Fortunately it was not that terribly expensive. I had a seabass that was horribly overcooked and underseasoned. The fish all came with dipping sauces. That should have been the dead giveaway that I was in for lower quality stuff. The view was 30 points, the food was about right, 18. I would only go here again for the view and maybe the well-priced wine. The other take-home message: try strange varietals, although I don't know how many from California ones are available back east or even in the midwest. Example: Briarwood Reserve Syrah is from a small winery with production of 1000-2000 cases a year, whereas Yellow Tail (don't do it!) is the most common imported wine in this country with production around 50,000 cases a year. The more boutique and obscure, the more popular now in California, so said the sommelier. They make a lot of it, so take their word for it.

San Francisco, a blurry culinary tour

Let me first say that San Francisco is one of the ultimate destinations for anyone that has even a remote interest in food and/or wine. The beauty of a city like this, similar to many of the great cities in the world, is the walkability to so many incredible places to eat and drink.

You could spend the rest of your life exploring this city, and another lifetime figuring out how to pay for some of it. That said, this post concentrates on places that were walking distance from my hotel, The Palace on Market and Montgomery. It's a great hotel, but for the money I think I would have liked one of the Westin hotels better, but what the heck.

The other thing that I did (and highly recommend) is I purchased an online subscription from Zagat's which was really spot on. Just remember, normal humans eat at places from 20-25. Anything much higher than that, and you need a second mortgage. Not that it might not be worth it on occasion.

Destination 1:

The 7/11 on Market street. Pack of crackers and a diet coke. What can I say, I got there late and I was tired. More to come.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The reason to watch ESPN Gameday

I mean, you might get a breakdown of the games of the day. I really couldn't care less who's hat Corso puts on. But if you look in the background, it's like a live YouTube (can I say that?). The signs are a weekly challenge to get stuff by the security guards and to be funny and fresh without being overly vulgar. And of course, there's always the obligatory Washington State University flag (Gameday has never been there, it's a running joke).
So today, they're broadcasting from Dallas at the Red River Shootout (as they almost always do) for the Texas/Oklahoma game. As they preview the UGA/Tennessee game, someone holds up a sign that says

"I had to walk to the fair because Phil Fulmer ate my car!"
The whole Weiner Mobile? I admit it's been a couple of years since I've seen it.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Like it or not, I really think that the voices of playoff baseball are Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Of course, I guess we're not really used to having teams like the (devil) Rays in there either. But this cast of characters that's calling the game for TBS is typical of what you know to be wrong with current sports broadcasting practice.

Of the three boobs they have calling the game, I've heard of one of them (Ron Darling), but I've never heard him call a game. Maybe he has been doing it all year. I wouldn't know, because I don't follow it that closely. And Craig Sager on the field looks like the Joker, with his purple blazer. He'd fit in just fine here in "the Middle." In fact, hearing him talk, I'd be willing to bet that he's from these parts. And I'd be right, as he's from Illinois. However, as luck would have it, his son is on the roster for you very own GEORGIA BULLDOGS (what?).

So is this what postseason sports are always going to be about? One of the things that made UGA football so interesting to me was the personalities involved, like Larry and Loran. Guys like that get shut out in the postseason. Skip Caray? Same, RIP.The other thing is that although the parks are different, there is a generic ball park experience. Someone on the team gets "Crazy Train," every now and again you hear "Charge!" someone sings God Bless America during the stretch (except at Wrigley), someone starts the wave, there is inevitably a beach ball, and the beer is too expensive. And now, Jon Bon Jovi is the official rock star of Major League Baseball.
There's the AT&T call to the bullpen, someone has a t-shirt shooter, that any of us normal people are never in range of, and some goofy mascot is trying to tease money away from you for an official picture. And if you're watching it on TV, unless it's your usual announcers that your used to during the regular season, you're doomed to some generic accent that acts like he has no idea who any of your players are, and calls everyone Tommy, Johnny, Timmy, Stevie, Petie, etc.
I guess Buckcarver got their start somewhere, like NFL on FOX. But I don't have to like it.
And just because I know you've been missing him from Baseball Tonight, there has been a Harold Reynolds sighting. TBS postgame, oh yeah.

Every year around this time...

Sorry, I had to include this posting from Blogging Pantsless. It makes more and better fun of Phil Fulmer than I ever could. This is a real trap game for us just like it always seems to be. Rest assured, UT will come ready to play, and we'd better be prepared, particularly on defense.
Do any of you have any idea who's going to be playing for us (besides Stafford and Southerland)?
Me neither. Please, God, please, beat the Vols!
Oh, and just in case you don't visit this website with any kind of regularity, I highly recommend Doug Gillett's Hey Jenny Slater, especially the insanity that's on there this week, such as the Chik-Fil-A Dramatic Theater Scenes from a Marriage. Wow.
Hey Tennessee, be ready, as I and my three favorite UGA fans move back down that way in a few months! Second to Tech, for me it's the UT game. Don't ask me why.

On Frites...

Love me some steak frites. Problem is that double frying at home on the stove top is a huge pain in the ass and makes a helluva mess. I've been working on a solution that actually is working better for me than double-frying...

1st: I use russet potatoes, peel, and slice 3/8 inch with the mandoline and toss in water to remove the excess starch. I let soak atleast an hour with one change of water.

2nd: For the first cooking, drain the potatoes, dry with kitchen towel and toss with a tablespoon of your frying oil in a microwave safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and vent the top. Microwave on ~60% power for 5 minutes. Stir potatoes, recover and repeat.

3rd: Heat oil in your favorite frying vessel to 375 degrees. Blot potatoes well with lots of paper towels. Working in relatively small batches (don't want the oil to cool below 300) toss a big handful of potatoes with about 1 tsp of sifted corn starch (saw this on Tyler's Ultimate) until well-coated. Drop in the oil and fry until GBD. Drain on cooling racks and salt liberally. Keep warm in 200 degree oven until ready to serve...will get soggy if you wait more than 30 minutes.

Comment: the corn starch trick was genius! I generally try to follow classic recipes but without industrial frying equipment the frites always end up soggy. Give this a try and let me know what you think.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Daddy and boys leavin' the softball field

Old habits die hard, don't they?
I'm just glad they let me have a respectable number to play with. DOG thinks I'm playing baseball instead of softball. I still have the fastest hands you ever saw!
Somebody the other day in the elevator saw my G on my lapel and asked me if that was for Green Bay. I grinned with anger and said "No." He then asked me if it stood for the "Gators." Before punching him, and letting him know that the count was 0-2, I told him that I went to UGA and was a die-hard fan, and that although the Alabama game was a disaster, I still thought we'd be right there at the end of it all. I wouldn't have said it if I didn't believe it. Who else are you gonna root for JW?

Classic tailgatin' pic of the week

Clemson game?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Seafood risotto, add a little: it's easier than you think

Seafood risotto with skallops, skrimp, and truffle sauce

This is an easy one. First, don't be scared of risotto if you are. Second, find yourself an Asian market that you can find good fish sauce and spices. Third, gotta find a good seafood monger that will do you right.

1 quart of chicken stock, 1 cup of risotto: the basis of the meal
6-8 good sized but not giant scallops
Dozen 16-20 shrimp, peeled, veined, tailed. Save the tails for something else.
Fish sauce, 1/4 cup
1/2 onion (yellow or white)
2 cloves garlic
Truffle oil (white or black, preferably black if you have it)
salt, pepper to taste

This is a two pot recipe. You cook and reduce a quart of chicken stock with the added fish sauce to simulate a shrimp stock. Clearly, a quart of shrimp stock will do in this case. Boil and simmer your stock, season to taste.
Sautee the shrimp, set aside.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high to smoke and soften your onions. Do not brown. Then, add minced or finely sliced garlic. Add the risotto and roast it a little bit (2-3 minutes). When you see a little brown, start adding the stock over medium to medium-high heat, simmering down the liquid until it's mostly gone but not almost gone. Repeat this, adding a cup or so at time of your stock until you're out. You should be left with a creamy risotto mixture.
Super high heat with butter/olive oil mix, sear the scallops. Remember, flip once, cook less after the flip and let 'em go until they're barely cooked. Usually 3-4 minutes.
Add the shrimp to the risotto, drizzle with truffle impregnated oil (more than you think you need), and set a couple or three scallops on top for presentation.
Wanna get fancy? Garnish with chives, green onion, or flat parsley. It's your dish, color it how you wish.
It ain't shrimp an' grits in Chawwlstin, but it's pretty doggone good.
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