Spring tips for grilling season

The goslings are in the creek. The fish are spawning. The daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips are up. The tomato seedlings are getting ready for transplant. The radishes and lettuces are sprouting.  I’d say the sun was out, but that may be stretching the truth a bit in Erie. And the Golden Snowglobe contest is finally over.

Spring is here. Erie won.

My non-competitive nature could give a hoot about the latter. I’m ecstatic about the former.

I’m a spring kind of gal. I was born in the spring. I’m like a plant. I thrive on sun, water, and warmth. If I never wear another pair of jeans, turtleneck, or sweater again, I will be a happy camper. That’s because I’m a dress and skort kind of gal. Goes with spring, summer, and even parts of fall.

I’m also a grill kind a gal. Give me fire and I’m a happy cooker. I cook with both the Big Green Egg (charcoal) and a gas grill. Depends on my mood. And tastes.

I have lots of toys for winter cooking. Each year I add another (or two). In the fall I added the InstaPot. Makes a mean broth, mushroom risotto, beans, and more. Sous vide cooking (hot water bath) was also a hit. Makes an awesome poached chicken and salmon. Both devices require little attending (the sous vide even works off an app on my phone).

Yet nothing gives me more cooking joy than fire – whether it be for fish, steak, chicken, pork, lamb, or even vegetables. I make a really mean grilled ratatouille. And pizza. And cobblers.

Each year I’m honored Karen Duran asks me to be a judge for Duran’s Down Home Days Cast Iron Cookoff at the Waterford Fair Grounds – May 19 and 20. The teams cook over an open fire in various categories over the two days – vegetable, dessert, protein, etc – using secret ingredients they find out on cooking day. The competitors are amazingly creative in their use of the secret ingredient (some coming up with 3 variations on one plate) and their dedication. One year it snowed.

5  tips for cooking protein over an open fire:

  1. Pound your chicken breasts so they are uniformly thick, about 3/4 of an inch.
  2. Brine your chicken, turkey, or pork. The night before, fill a zip baggie with 1/3 cup kosher salt and 1/4 cup sugar in 2 quarts  water (Serious Eats). You can add seasonings like lemon, rosemary, thyme, peppercorns. Add your chicken or pork (this works for about 2 pounds) for at least 30 minutes, or overnight. Remove from brine and pat dry about a half hour before cooking. Brush with a neutral oil. You can add a rub at this point.
  3.  For steaks, I like to  dry brine/r. You can read more about it here and  here.I rub the steaks with salt and pepper (or seasoned salt and pepper).  Place on a rack on a baking sheet (or a plate) uncovered in the refrigerator the night before cooking (ideally 24 to 72 hours). Alton Brown wraps his in paper towels and does this 4 days before cooking. I rarely think that far ahead. Remove from fridge 30 to 60 minutes before grilling.
  4. For fish steaks (tuna, swordfish, salmon steaks), make sure it is well oiled. I like a semi-neutral-flavored oil like sunflower/olive oil blend. Or use canola oil. Do not use extra-virgin olive oil because that is not for grilling. I do not use “vegetable” oil because that is soy based and I’m sensitive to soy. For traditional oven-baked fish, I will also use the grill (keeps the smell outside and adds a little extra flavor.) Just cook it on a sheet of heavy-foil with the edges folded or crimped up to keep the juices from running out.
  5. Use a timer. Yes. I use a timer and I’ve been doing this for nearly 4 decades. Cooking times depend on thickness and the protein. In general, I flip after 5 minutes. I then cook another 3 to 5 more minutes. A thermometer will be your best bet for telling the doneness of chicken (technically 165 degrees), but if you take a knife point to the middle of a chicken breast and insert about 1/4 inch – see if the juices run clear. That’s a good sign.

I’m a huge fan of an espresso rubbed grilled steak – sliced – and then served on top of a salad. It’s a sure taste of spring. You can buy the rub – or make this one from Ina Garten.

You can find as many different recipes for grilled steak as there are for grilling it. I’m a big fan of direct heat, high, on both sides. You do need to be mindful because if you are cooking a ribeye or New York strip with a nice fat ratio, you might get grill flare ups. Best to stand by so your steak isn’t cooked beyond repair.

3 tips for steaks

  1. Don’t poke when grilling. Or squish. Or squash.
  2. Flip once.
  3. Don’t cut until the steak has rested for 5 minutes. This allows the meat to settle, relax, and retain those lovely juices.
Print Recipe
Grilled Steak Salad with Espresso Rub
Follow this recipe to grill steak. Then slice thin over your favorite greens, along with some cherry tomatoes, sliced red onion, cucumber. Blue cheese crumbles are also an option. A drizzle with balsamic vinegar and some olive oil completes the salad. A loaf of fresh bread rounds out your meal.
Instructions
  1. Sprinkle kosher salt on both sides of each steak. Not so much that is is encrusted. Think at least 1 teaspoon - remember kosher or sea salt, not table salt. Grind fresh pepper on both sides. Place on a rack over a plate or pan lined with foil. Put in refrigerator 24 to 72 hours before cooking. Do not cover.
  2. Remove steaks from refrigerator about an hour before cooking. Brush steaks with canola oil (or any neutral oil) on both sides. Rub each steak with about 1 tablespoon of the espresso rub. All to sit at room temperature while you prepare your grill.
  3. Over high heat, grill steaks on one side for about 5 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes for medium-rare (an internal temperature of 135 degrees F), 5 to 7 minutes for medium (140 degrees F) or 8 to 10 minutes for medium-well (150 degrees F).
  4. Remove from grill. Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing thin.
  5. In the meantime. Place a mound of greens in the middle of each plate. Arrange cucumber, tomato, onion slices around the outer edge of the greens. Top with sliced steak, pouring any additional juices on top.
  6. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles if desired.
  7. Enjoy!
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Thankful for a “Renegade”

The sun is shining and for that I am most thankful today.

I am thankful every day just to waking up and greet the morning. I am thankful that I see my daughter every morning (except those when she doesn’t come out from under the covers until afternoon). I am thankful for walking the dog with my mum on the shores of Lake Erie. I am less thankful when it is snowing or in the driving freezing rain – but it sure beats the alternative of not being able to go out in the snow or freezing rain.

The list could go on and on – dad, brothers, sister, nieces, nephews, friends, Coffee Club Divas, Heidi Parr Kerner … but you have your own list. And we don’t have all year.

So thank you for reading this.

And I would like to introduce you to someone else I am thankful for. Her name is Tammy Lyn Fox, and she helped guide me toward creating Meadballs. Tammy has her own catering business, Taste of Zion, and a vision to create a community kitchen where all the little foodies around town could start their businesses.

In the meantime, she has launched a Kickstarter campaign for Renegade Butters, which are outstandingly delicious compound butters.

Here is an outtake from her Kickstarter:

“My name is Tammy Lyn Fox and I’m a reckless renegade. A renegade goes against the grain, breaks out of the box, and blazes a new trail. Renegade Butters rebel against the plain butter experience and gives you something that is at once both very old and very new — Beurre Composé, the compound butter.”

She has both sweet and savory butters – her garlic Parmesan is divine, as is the Mediterranean, which has sweet peppers, Kalamata olives, herbs, and feta cheese. You can spread it on bread, or toss with pasta, or just eat it out of the jar.

Just kidding. Sort of.

You can read more about Tammy’s Renegade Butters project at Kickstarter.    You can also check out her Facebook page.

If you are a Meadballs customer, you will be sampling some of her products after the Thanksgiving break. Since I started making breads, I will include samples of her butters for you to taste.

I hope you enjoy your holiday. See you in December.

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Cranberry Apple Ginger Relish/Chutney
I love this yummy fresh cranberry relish/chutney. It is just the right balance of sweet, spicy, tart, and the balsamic adds just that mystery. I use it on top of yogurt in the morning with granola. But with the turkey is good too!
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients, including orange juice and zest, in a nonreactive saucepan (I use an enamel pan with a blue interior; if you use one that is white, you may need to bleach afterward).
  2. Cook over medium-low heat for 18-20 minutes, until the fruit is tender and the liquid has thickened. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Remove cinnamon stick.
  3. Best chilled. Can be kept in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.
Recipe Notes
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Moms, Movies, and Dinner

The holiday break gave my daughter and I some time together on the couch. Agreeing what to watch together was a lot easier when she was 4, instead of 14. Then we watched Disney movies. Although by the time that period was over, I was pretty much princess-ed out.

Nicole and me in Florida. Nicole is a master packer now.

Now we negotiate between teen romances, rom coms, and more romance. I’m not much for romance films, so it’s a struggle to find something we can watch together. Finally we settled on “Bad Moms.” I don’t need Hollywood to remind me I might be a bad mom (on a somewhat frequent basis), but it beat boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy and girl get back together. At least there’s some grain of  truth in a movie called “Bad Moms.”

Except there wasn’t. This was about a bunch of over-achieving moms who make some modifications to their lives – like telling their teen kids to make their own breakfast – and then live happily ever after  … with the widowed hunk with the adorable daughter. In a beautiful house. In a lovely school district filled with moms doing their kids’ science projects. And sending their kid to school with well-balanced lunches.

Oh, and they got drunk a couple of times – but only when the kids were safely in the care of others.

My daughter kept asking me why I wasn’t laughing. And all I could think was this movie was either written by a man or by a woman with nannies.

Because not once did any of these women open the refrigerator and see … NOTHING but condiments for dinner, a container of blueberry yogurt, and expired milk. Never did they have to announce it was an upside-down day – and serve pancakes for dinner made with the yogurt – and feel proud that yogurt counts as a protein, dairy and some fruit.

Never did any of these women have the principal call and say your daughter had shown her knickers to a group of boys on the school bus. And if she did it again … (But Mom, “they asked what kind of underpants I had on.”)

And none of these moms gave their kid Benadryl in the hopes they would fall asleep on a 3-hour airplane ride as a 2-year-old. Of course, this has the opposite effect when your kid as ADHD (see below).

None of these women didn’t realize their child was ADHD until the child’s uncle suggested you might want to get her tested … and then you find out she is both ADHD and on the autism spectrum … at age 12.

None of these women looked at their child and said, “Honey, I don’t know where mommy is going to live, but it’s all going to be OK” when going through a divorce.

And none of these women ever let their own kid pack her bag for spring break, and then get to grandma’s house in Florida and realize that:

  1. Nothing matches.
  2. Nothing fits.

But I have. And I’m sure a lot of other mothers have too – although maybe not the underpants thing. Although I was really happy she had some on because there was a time when she liked to go commando.

Now that she’s a teen, she’s more than happy to have me serve her pancakes for dinner, especially if they made with Nutella. But I’ve been working on bad mom thing and now try to keep at least a head of unwilted lettuce in the fridge (OK, not always successfully) so I can at least attempt to serve a salad.

Sometimes it’s a salad made with chicken tenders that I keep stashed in the freezer. But steak salad may be served up even faster if you have some sirloin on hand and slice it before cooking. By slicing it, you cut the cooking time down to about 5 minutes. If you have dressing on hand and a loaf of bread, you can rock and roll in about 15 minutes.

As for movies, may I suggest “Harry Potter.” his mom is a saint.

XOXOXO

marnie

Marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

 

Print Recipe
Steak Salad
Course Main Dish, Salad
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Course Main Dish, Salad
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Instructions
  1. Slice the sirloin steak into 1/4-inch strips. Place in bowl or in a zip-top baggie with the seasoned salt and the vinegar. Stir or shake to cover. Set aside.
  2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread butter on both sides of sliced baguette and place in oven for about 7-10 minutes. Remove from oven when butter is melted and bread is just beginning to toast.
  3. Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion. Cook for about 8-minutes until soft and brown. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from pan and set aside.
  4. Add walnuts to pan and toast over medium heat. Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. Add steak to pan over medium-high heat - depending on size of pan you may need to cook in 2 batches. Cook until seared on all sides. This should only take about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat. (Repeat if you are doing this in batches).
  6. Slice romaine n half lengthwise, Then cut each half into about 1/2 inch slices. Heap lettuce on 2 plates.
  7. Arrange sliced tomatoes and walnuts around the outside of the plate.
  8. Top each lettuce mound with half of the steak; half of the onions; and then sprinkle with blue cheese (if desired).
  9. Drizzle with dressing and any remaining steak juices from the pan. Arrange bread on the plate. Serve.
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