Thursday, June 29, 2017

Special company for dinner

My usual routine in the morning, after taking care of the dogs, is to sit with my coffee and watch Fox and Friends on TV.  Not this morning.  I left the TV off.  The dogs were at my feet playing with chew toys.  I wanted to think about last night and the wonderful time I had with Sandy and Larry, long time friends that I haven't seen in decades. . . yes!  decades!

I smoked a brisket for dinner in my Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker.  They loved it. 

I know Sandy from my Rainbow Girl days and we went to the same high school.  When she met Larry, a dashing Navy Officer at Pensacola Naval Air Station, I could feel the chemistry between the two and knew Larry was "the one."  I was right on target.  I was in their wedding 49 years ago!

It was great fun to talk about the old days, share pictures from back then, and catch up on our lives today.

They invited me to have breakfast with them this morning at their hotel.  As we said our goodbyes, I said, "Sandy, don't wait another 50 years to get together again!"

Throughout a lifetime, there are joys, sorrows, and challenges big and small. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have friendships that span so many years.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

New ways with veggies

Like most people, I try to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in my diet, without getting bored with the same things over and over.  So I'm constantly scouring the internet, magazines, and my own huge collection of cookbooks to find fresh ideas.

Here is an idea I ran across recently that I really like.

Begin with 4 cups of vegetables cut into bite size pieces.  You can use one vegetable or a variety. . . I like variety!

Bring a saucepan to full boil and pour the vegetables in for 30 seconds to a minute and a half, depending on how crisp you want them.  Remove from the boiling water and place in a colander and run cold water over them.

Now choose one of the following marinades to pour over your vegetables  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

To prepare either of these marinades, combine ingredients and place in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 strips orange zest
2 sprigs fresh oregano
salt and pepper

This would make an excellent picnic dish and goes well by itself or with meat from the grill!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Did this really happen?

Everyone knows how much I enjoy using my grills and smoker. 

The times I spend preparing food on the grills or the smoker are among the most pleasant moments in my life.

This incident happened last week and I am just now able to talk about it.  I had just placed a steak rubbed down with a fantastic rub on the grill, closed the lid, and checked my watch to time the cooking.  In less than a minute or two, fire erupted on the outside of the grill near where the propane gas hose connects to the grill.  I don't remember the next few seconds - which seemed like hours.  The next I remember, I was turning the valve off on the gas tank, my heart pounding.  The fire slowly got smaller and then went out.  I ran several yards away thinking the tank may explode.  It didn't.

This has never happened to me before.  I only use Weber grills (charcoal or gas - Weber is the best!) 

I have used this grill many times with never any trouble with its operation.

Later, when I disconnected the hose from the grill, it wasn't tightened all the way.  You can bet from now on, I will make sure it is tightened securely.  That may have been the cause.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Getting started in smoking meat

A couple of people who follow me on facebook and see my blog have asked me recently about how to get started.  "It seems so complicated, but you really like it!"

Well, that is exactly what I said for years before I took the plunge and tried my luck with it!

I am no expert.  What I've learned is from internet and cookbook research and the old fashioned "trial and error" method.

Here are just a few basics to get you started.

First, you need a smoker!  After scouring internet sites, I decided on the Weber Smoky Mountain smoker.  I went with the 18.5 inch (their middle one) size.  I found that many professionals use this one.  It is easy to use and even I, a mechanically challenged woman, easily assembled it on my living room floor with my two Labs watching closely from the couch.

Okay, one deep dark secret. . . After it was assembled, I was scared to use it!  I was still in the "this-is-too-difficult" mindset.  It sat in my living room for a week.  Well, okay, two weeks.

My first venture was a whole chicken.  That is the one I recommend for beginners.  It is totally idiot proof!

I made a simple brine of water, brown sugar and kosher salt, enough to cover the entire chicken, and put it in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day, I took it out of the brine, rinsed it well and dried it with paper towels.  After that, I rubbed it very generously with a rub.  There are plenty of store bought rubs and recipes for homemade - I've used a variety of both and they are all good.

The instructions tell you to let this sit at room temperature for 45 minutes or so.  Following the instructions with my smoker, I set up the smoker.  I use the minion method for charcoal.  What this means is, place cold charcoal in the base of the smoker and cover this with a chimney full of lighted charcoal when it turns white.  On top of this sprinkle a handful or so of soaked wood chips (I tend to use either hickory or apple chips for chicken).  The water pan goes over the charcoal.  Finish putting the smoker together and place your prepared chicken on the grate.  Adjust the bottom vents to maintain a temperature of about 220 to 225.  You may have to adjust the vents several times during the cooking.  Always leave the vent in the dome shaped lid open.

This is the hard part!  Sit back in a comfy lawn chair with a glass of wine.  Enjoy the warm sunny day while you watch the puffy white clouds go by in the sky.

Take notes of what you did for the first few smokes you do for reference.  After that, you will be an old pro and won't need to do that.  I find if you are using wood chips, you probably need to replenish them about every hour or so.  If you use wood chunks, they usually last the entire smoke and they don't need to be soaked.

A whole chicken is ready anywhere from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours.  Using a meat thermometer, check for doneness.  It should be 165 degrees.  Truthfully, though, after you've done a few, you learn to tell when it's done by looking at it!

I recommend getting a couple or more good cookbooks by such authors as Steven Raichlen, Jeff Phillips, and others.  These have been excellent resources for me.

So, go ahead.  Just do it!  Soon you will be enjoying the most wonderful tasting smoked meat you could ever imagine!