Cross One Off The Bucket List

I’ll admit it….I have a bucket list of food. Some of it are fancy places I would like to go like The French Laundry or Jean Georges or WD-50. Some are simpler places like Snow’s BBQ in Texas or Katz Deli (I’ve never been to NYC) or Drago’s in NOLA for their grilled oysters (we missed it last time). Some of it’s just food that I want to try, not necessarily from any one place, like a real Philly cheese steak or lobster mac ‘n cheese or a Chicago deep dish pizza. Heck, I even have a folder of food saved on my computer of things I want to cook someday.

Well, with Mrs. G out-of-town this week, I was able to cook somethin’ this past Friday that I know she would not be interested in, nor probably allow me to cook. Something I saw awhile back on TV, although I’m not sure who came up with the idea originally. Something that I doubt I will ever cook again, but at least I can say I had one and cross it off my list…..a grilled cheese burger! I don’t know about you, but growing up I could have lived on grilled cheese. And they weren’t any fancy kind of grilled cheese, just regular bread and plain ole American cheese. Loved ’em, couldn’t get enough of them. And what kid doesn’t like a burger? So it only makes sense to combine the two, right?

I fired up my Egg, as I was going to be doing this all outside, and threw in a CI skillet to begin to pre-heat.

Making the grilled cheese first

 Trying to plan ahead, I cooked one grilled cheese first, before throwing the burger on thinking the second grilled cheese would be done be done at the same time.

Burger and second grilled cheese going

 This burger came from the batch of meat I ground up a few days before but had frozen for a later use. Starting to smell good and I was getting hungry by this point.

Plated up

 All I can say is WOW! This was one big honking, tasty burger. The grilled cheese used as buns added a unique texture to the burger and the fresh ground meat in the pattty was wonderful. Looking back, I don’t think that this burger needed two slices of cheese per grilled cheese (for a total of 4!) and I might have made the patty a tad too big. In fact, I was only able to eat half of it before throwing in the towel. While tasty, I’m not sure I would ever make this burger again, but at least now I can cross it off my list. Wonder what I should try and make next? (Don’t worry Mrs. G and Mom, I’m already planning on having a salad for dinner tonight. )

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Kasewurst – My First Attempt @ Making Sausage

This weekend, I tried my hand at making my first batch of sausage. I decided to make Kasewurst, a cheese sausage that has many variations throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The original recipe I had for this was supposed to resemble a cured Bratwurst with the addition of cheese cubes and is similar to one from Switzerland that uses Emmenthaler or Swiss cheese.  Except I didn’t quite follow the directions. Fist, I omitted the cure opting to make it a fresh sausage and second I decided to use a sharp cheddar cheese instead. So was it still a Kasewurst? Or just a cheese sausage? I don’t really know, but I can tell you it was some mighty good stuff.

I will apologize right up front about the pictures. Mrs. G is still in NYC and she took the good camera, so I was stuck using an older one that I am not that familiar with. On top of that, I just didn’t get many pictures of the whole sausage making part. Sorry about that. I’ll try to take more next time.

 

Kasewurst - about halfway done making the sausage and this is what we had already

 

Kasewurst (or Cheese Sausage)

  • 5 lbs of pork butt
  • 10 oz cheese ( I used Cracker Barrell Sharp Cheddar)
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper, finely ground
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 12 Tbsp milk
  • 1 cup powdered milk
  • * 1 tsp crushed red chilli pepper*
  • * 1/4 tsp cayenne*
  • * 1/4 tsp ancho chilli powder*

* optional ingredients depending on your heat tolerance

  1. Prepare 5 lbs of pork butt by deboning and cutting into 1 inch cubes. Place the meat into the freezer for 30 minutes to chill but not freeze. At this time, it would be a good idea to place the metal parts of the meat grinder into the freezer as well.
  2. While the meat is chilling, cut the cheese into 1/4 inch cubes and then refrigerate.
  3. After 30 minutes, grind the meat with a medium plate.
  4. Mix the seasonings, milk and powdered milk in a mixing bowl.
  5. Blend the meat and the seasonings well by kneading for about 3 minutes.
  6. Add in the cheese cubes to the paste and knead until they are distributed evenly. Refrigerate for up to 12 hours. At this point, it might be a good idea to take some of the sausage and fry it up on a skillet to check seasonings and adjust as necessary.
  7. Prepare hogs casings according to the package.
  8. Stuff the hog casings and twist the sausage rope into links.
  9. Grill sausage within 24 hours or freeze as this sausage is not cured. Make sure to heat until you reach 155-160 and allow carryover to 165.

 

Grilling up some sausage for quality control purposes

 

 I feel like at this point I should give a mention to my friend and teammate from Three Sheets BBQ (eventually we’ll get that all organized and start competing) Big Matt who came over and helped with the sausage stuffing. Neither of us have ever made sausage, but we quickly came to realize with my grinder/stuffer, it is definitely a two-man operation. We had a few blowouts in the beginning, but we soon hit our groove and cranked out that 5 lbs of sausage pretty quickly. Most of it was bagged and frozen, but we felt like we should grill up a few for quality control purposes. I lit the Egg and then threw the sausages on as it reached about 200F, so that they would slowly come up to temperature as the grill continued creeping up to 350F.

Sliced

 Keep an eye on the sausage as it cooks. You don’t want the skin to burst and lose all the juices, so you might need to flip and move it around the grill. I ended up adding my extra rack to lift it a little higher away from the flames to prevent this.

Bad picture, I tried 4x but couldn't get a picture to come out that wasn't blurry.

 I thought the sausage turned out amazing and I’m not sure I will ever buy sausage from a store again. Ok, maybe I will, but it won’t be as good as this. It had a nice snap from the hog casings. It had a nice bit of heat from the red pepper, ancho and cayenne, but it was not overpowering and the cheese complimented it nicely. I thought I might be biased about it since I made it, but Big Matt said it was probably one of the best sausages he had ever had and it had convinced him to go out and buy a grinder/stuffer so that he could start making his own as well. If that doesn’t speak volumes about the sausage, I don’t know what would.

At first, I was worried about making my own sausage. I thought it would be difficult and that I would probably screw it up. But thanks to plenty of research on the web, people’s advice like Mr. Holloway on Green Eggers and Kevin P on The Smoke Ring and Warren R. Anderson’s “Mastering the Craft of Making Sausage”, we made it through the first batch and it turned out to be pretty easy and quite a bit of fun. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m excited to make my next batch. What to try next? Maybe a Bratwurst or a Kielbasa….The possibilities are endless….

 

 

 

Pesto-Crusted Salmon

Pesto-crusted Planked Salmon

 Mrs. G and I love salmon, but sometimes we get bored with it and want to shake it up a little bit. We were discussing what to do with it, when Mrs. G suggested pesto-crusted salmon. I had never had it before and had some doubts, but she said she had and it was good, so full steam ahead.

I’m not going to go into how we cooked the salmon, we’ve covered that already. And I wish I could share some great pesto recipe with you. I know they aren’t difficult to make, but let’s be honest, by the time I got to the grocery store, I was already tired and I wanted to relax and spend some time with my wife that night and the prepared stuff at the store looked good and wasn’t that expensive. Hey, we can’t have everything home-made all the time, can we?

About Halfway Done

 We served up the salmon with some roasted garlic and olive oil couscous and a side salad. Even though I was skeptical about the pesto on salmon, I have to admit it was really tasty and will become a new item in our rotation. It won’t replace regular ole salmon, but when we want to change things up a bit, I’ll do it again. And maybe next time I will actually make the pesto from scratch…..

Dinner is served

 And yes, for those of you wondering, my wife is still in New York. This dinner was actually cooked last Friday, I just never got around to posting it.

First Attempt @ Home Ground Hamburgers

Home Ground Hamburgers

 I’ve been dying to use my meat grinder ever since I got it for Christmas, but things have been busy around here and I just haven’t had the time. When Mrs. G told me yesterday that she wanted a burger for dinner, I knew it was on! Time to break out the grinder and get to grinding!

Kitchener Grinder

 This is the meat grinder I got. I do believe it was purchased at Northern Tools, but I may be wrong. Not the biggest and fastest or most powerful, but for my needs, I figure it will work just fine. (and it did!)

So why would a person want to grind their own meat? There are many good reasons. You have no idea what you are getting when you buy store-bought ground chuck. Was the meat from a lower grade animal? Was it old or sub par? How much fat is in there? And what cuts went into it? By grinding your own meat, you can select the cuts of beef you use and the grade. You can also make sure that it is done in a safe manner and that there is no bacteria present. You can determine how much fat you use. And you can add your own seasoning and grind them with the meat.

4.42 lbs of beefy goodness

For my first attempt at grinding my own burgers, I was going to go simple and just use chuck. I selected a nice 3.34 lb roast and was about to head up to the register to make my purchase, when a nice skirt steak caught my eye. I guess I’m not good at keeping things simple as that 1.08 lb skirt steak jumped into my basket. Not sure how it would affect the flavor, but figured why not?

I went home and cut up my meat into about 1″ cubes so that it would fit down the neck of the grinder with ease. I was then going to simply season it with salt and pepper, but once again, I couldn’t leave well enough alone and some garlic powder, onion powder and Dizzy Pig Cow Lick made it onto the meat before I put it into the freezer for 30 minutes (along with the blades and internal parts of the grinder).

Reading up on grinding meat, I learned that heat is your enemy and you want to do everything you can to keep the process cool. You want to put your meat into the freezer for about 30 minutes before grinding it, because if it gets warm, the fat starts to melt and will not grind well. Freezing the parts of the grinder also help keep the fat and meat from warming up and melting. Not to mention, keeping the meat cool helps prevent the growth of bacteria. So after about 30 minutes, I was ready to start grinding.

It is not easy to take a picture with one hand while trying to grind meat with the other. Can you believe I got this on the first shot?

 After I finished grinding up the meat, I weighed it out and divided it up into about 10.5 oz packages (two 1/3lb patties per package) and froze them for burgers later on down the road, while leaving enough out to make two burgers for dinner.

Burgers on the Egg at 500F

 I don’t usually make my patties so thin and wide across (who am I kidding? I don’t usually make the patties, that usually Mrs. G’s job), but when I got home I realized that the artisanal buns I got were kinda big. I fired up the Egg to 500F and cooked them for about 4 minutes a side and dinner was ready to be served.

Ready to eat

 I fixed up my burger with bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, white American cheese, mustard, mayo and ketchup (yup, I do all three and I don’t really care what you think) and served it up with some tots. Love me the tots.

All in all, this was a great cook. I finally got to break out the grinder and it was a lot easier to use than I feared (now I can’t wait to try my hand at some sausage). Although the burger was pretty tasty, the 75% chuck to 25% skirt steak may not have been the best combo for the perfect burger. I can’t wait to try my hand at grinding in some other cuts and see what I can come up with. Maybe brisket, or short ribs or even ox tail next time…..

Chipotle Chicken Wings and Pulled Pork Quesadillas

 Saturday, the #3 Baylor Bears faced off against #5 Missouri and I thought it would be a great excuse to have some friends over to cook out with and drink a few beers. Earlier in the week, I had found a recipe for chipotle chicken and I thought it would make some nice wings. Digging around in the freezer, I also found some pulled pork that I had vacuum sealed and decided it would make some nice quesadillas to go along with it.

Chipotle Chicken Wings

Chipotle Chicken

  • 1 (7 oz) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice of 4 limes
  • 2 to 3 cups of mayonnaise
  • 2 whole chickens, cut into pieces (or 21 thighs, or 3 lbs chicken wings, that is what I used, but you could probably do more)
  • 1 lime cut into wedges

In a food processor, combine the chipotles with adobo sauce, white onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice and mayonnaise. Add a pinch of salt and blend until smooth. Transfer to a large glass or stainless steel bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings. If it is too spicy, add more mayonnaise.

Add the chicken pieces, turn to coat, then cover and marinate in the fridge for 2-4 hours, turning occasionally.

Halfway Done

Set up your Egg or grill for 400F for an indirect cook. Initially, I began this cook with just a raised grate, but soon realized all the marinade dripping off was causing it to smoke like crazy and would immediately burst into flames whenever the lid was open. Because of this reason, I inserted the placesetter legs up, wrapped it in foil (I would advise doing something to catch the drippings), and then placed the grate and grate extender on top of that. Cook the chicken until it registers 165 with a meat thermometer.

Done

 These wings really had quite a bite to them, so if you aren’t a big fan of heat, omit the jalapeno or use more mayo to cut that heat. We served them up with some home-made ranch, celery and carrots to help cut the kick as well. The apple wood that I chose to use went well them. I will say that if you like crispy skin on your wings, then these might not be for you as the marinade prevents the skin from actually crisping up, but it does a wonderful job of keeping the meat moist and prevents it from drying out.

On to the pulled pork quesadillas. Started off sauteeing up some onions and red and yellow bell peppers. (Yeah most people would go with green peppers, but I can’t stand them and I’m the one cooking, so I omitted them)

Sauteeing Veggies

 Put all the ingredients out so that people could build their own. There was also goat cheese, but it didn’t make the picture.

Toppings

Building mine up.

 Quesadillas are a quick cook. You want to melt the cheese and just toast the tortilla a bit.

On the Egg

 Not the greatest shot, but they were quite tasty. It was a nice change of pace to use the pulled pork in quesadillas rather than the traditional way of a bun and coleslaw.