Lamb Sliders with Garlic Aioli

Lamb Sliders

     Ahh…Spring is in the air. The smell of fresh cut grass. People planting flowers. trimming hedges and in general sprucing up their yards. For most, this is the beginning of grilling season. People are dragging their gas or charcoal grills out of the shed or the garage (or maybe just that corner of the yard its been hidden in all winter), cleaning them off and prepping them for another season of use. Maybe realizing that their ole friend won’t make it another season and rush off to one of those big box stores to get a replacement. For us here at Casa de Griffin, it’s just another day. We do this all year and laugh feel bad for those who only grill or ‘cue during the nice months. How can you possible go that long without good ‘cue? I’ll never be able to understand, but then again I might just be a little crazy.

     Last week I was at the grocery store, procuring some much needed item or ingredient which now escapes my mind. Whenever I go to the store, I always have to walk by the meat section. Just to see if they are having any deals or if anything looks really good. And I ALWAYS have to walk by the very end of that section. You know…the part where they put the meat that is marked down for a fast sale before it has to be tossed? Granted, most of the time I wouldn’t buy, let alone touch what is in that section. But….but I have found some pretty sweet deals there and if the meat hasn’t started to turn a nasty brownish color, what’s the big deal? I’ve scored some nice rib-eyes and some pork loins there before. Heck, one time I found a prime rib! On this particular day, they had a few packages of ground lamb that were in a cryovac package….still nice and pink….and there was still 4 days till the sell by date. Marked down over 50%! Not sure what I was going to do with lamb, but it was coming home with me!

     Originally I had thought about maybe doing a meatloaf with 1/3 beef, 1/3 pork and 1/3 lamb. Until my wife pointed out that its a 1/3 veal, not lamb, if you are going to do it that way. Oops! And then it struck me….Lamb Sliders!! Why not? It could work and I was sure there was some recipe out there that I could copy adapt to suit our palates.

Making the Garlic Aioli

     One of the recipes I found had a garlic aioli that went along with the sliders.

Garlic Aioli

  • 1 cup mayonnaise (we used a light mayo)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely mined
  • 1 tsp hot sauce (we prefer Franks, but use whatever you like)
  • ½ tsp freshly ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
    Adding Franks

     

     Mix together the ingredients and adjust to taste. You may like more or less heat or garlic. That’s up to you. I suggest making the aioli at least and hour ahead of time and placing in the fridge so the ingredients can mingle and get happy. Mine was done about 3 hours ahead of time.

     Now on to the sliders themselves. We used two recipes and cobbled together our own based on the ingredients we had on hand. At this point, neither of us felt like going to the store, so we worked with what we had.

Lamb Sliders

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • ¼ yellow onion diced (this was a lot of onion; you might want to cut back)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • ½ tbsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground coriander
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

     Mix the ingredients together, handling the meat as little as possible. Shape into 6 patties and then place in the fridge for a minimum of 5 minutes. This gives the sliders a chance to set and helps to prevent them from crumbling apart on the grill. Speaking of grill, you want to preheat your grill to a medium/medium high temperature. On our Egg, I was aiming for 400F. Once your grill is preheated, and the grates have been scrubbed clean, place the sliders on the grill.

Lamb Sliders going onto a 400F Preheated Grill

       If you enjoy a bit of smokey flavor (and who doesn’t with a burger? Otherwise you might as well cook it inside….gasp!), you can add some wood chips to your coals. I would not advise going with a strong wood like mesquite, hickory or pecan. Instead, choose a fruit tree wood. We went with apple, but I’m sure cherry would work as well. You want to add a bit of smoke flavor, but not overpower the lamb. 

    

Halfway (about 4 minutes)

 Our sliders took about 8 minutes to cook, flipping halfway through (but make sure you are cooking to temp, not time, We were shotting for 160F, not sure if that is the correct temp for lamb, but sounded right to me). Please, fight the temptation to over flip your burgers, they only need to be flipped once, and Please, Please, Please NEVER EVER push down on your patties with a spatula!! This only forces out the juicy goodness from inside the patty. You don’t want a dried out burger, do you?

 

Adding Buns

     If you like your buns toasted, throw them on the grill when your burgers are about done. One to two minutes should about do it.

 

Finished

     Aside from the garlic aioli, we topped our sliders as we normally would a burger. Some lettuce, tomato and onion. Mrs. G opted for some provolone cheese, but I kept mine simple. As for sides…nothing says gourmet like some tater tots, right? (my wife thinks I have a strange thing about tater tot. She maybe right, but who doesn’ t like tots?)

 

Dinner is served!

     We thought the lamb was a nice change from regular ole beef sliders. It wasn’t gamey at all. The onions (which I would cut down on next time) helped to keep the sliders juicy, and the mustard, while not offering up a lot of flavor, helped bind the meat together. Next time I would like to add some fresh mint or oregano to it (maybe even some parsley) as these seem to be some of the more traditional ingredients when lamb is involved. I would also cut down on the garlic. Between the 3 cloves in the aioli and the 3 in the sliders, we had no fear of vampires attacking us in our sleep, and garlic is supposed to help you sleep better. But you wouldn’t want to be kissing anybody who hadn’t also been eating these sliders. If you are still on the fence about whether or not to try lamb, I would suggest you do.

     Hope you enjoyed and would love to hear any comments or experiences you may have had with lamb. It’s still new to us.

Just a Simple Steak Dinner

Everything tastes better with a kiss of fire

Hey! It’s me! I’m still alive. Hope you weren’t getting worried about the lack of posts. I’m a little bit embarrassed that it has been almost 2 weeks since I’ve posted anything. That’s kind of a long time for us, but I do have some excellent good reasons.

  1. For starters, my allergies (I’m guessing its allergies, I’ve never really had any problems with allergies since I was a kid) have been killing me. I’ve felt just down right crappy not feeling good. They say its going to be a horrible year, at least in Texas, for those suffering with allergies.
  2. Some of my recent cooks just have not been photo worthy, or the photos didn’t come out well enough to bother with.
  3. Some of the stuff we’ve been putting out is just good ole regular food and not worth posting about.
  4. We’ve been having battery issues. For some reason, the rechargeable batteries would not hold a charge or take a charge at all. I think I figured this one out. Turns out it was the charger, not the batteries, so we’re good to go.
  5. And the most important….I’ve just been kind of Burned Out on the whole cooking thing. What with the blog itself, four separate barbecue forums I’m on, FoodBuzz, searching out new recipes and keeping track of my favorite bloggers, I just didn’t feel like cooking at the end of the day. The best advice I got was from the guys on The Barbecue Bible. “If you are feeling burned out, quit cooking. Forcing yourself to cook will only make it worse” So that is what I did. Luckily, I have an understanding wife. She cooked some dinners, we ordered some take out, we went out to eat and I just tried to stay away from cooking. Well, I’m feeling the urge to cook again, so get ready for some new things coming your way.

So back on topic….I was rooting around the freezer Monday looking for something to cook this week, when I came across some long forgotten steaks. That sounded like a good idea so I set them out to thaw. It wasn’t until later on that I remembered why I had forgotten them….they aren’t the best quality steaks. One day when I was coming home from the grocery store, a young man helped me carry my groceries from the Jeep to the front door. Kind of an odd thing to do….and then he proceeded to try to sell me some frozen steaks out of the back of his food truck. I kept telling him that what he wanted was too much and I wasn’t interested, and he kept dropping the price. It finally got to an outrageously low price, so what the hell? I bought a few “rib-eyes” and “strip” steaks. At least that’s what he claims they were. To this day, I’m not sure what cuts of beef they are, as they do not really resemble what he claimed. They say “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” and they are right. My other piece of advice, don’t buy frozen meat off the back of a truck. Not that the steaks are/were horrible, I just enjoy better quality.

To season these up, we decided to go with a rub out of Montana. Now, most of our steaks don’t get fancy rubs, salt and pepper works for most, especially if they are good quality. But this steak needed a bit of extra help. I have an Aunt in Wyoming and either she gave me the rub, or my parents brought it back last time they went to visit. Sorry, my memory is a little hazy, it’s still early in the morning as I write this.

Deep-pit Seasoning

I’ll have to look into what is in it when I get home, but I do remember salt and pepper, garlic, some type of herbs (you can see the green in it), lemon peel and tumeric. It’s a pretty flavorful rub. I rubbed the “strip” steak (still not sure it was a strip) with the seasoning and allowed it to sit out and come to room temperature as I got the Egg ready to go. I was aiming for a temp of about 550F.

Steak on

One thing I’ve been trying to work on is my photography when flames are involved. It’s a lot harder than it looks to capture fire, while still keeping the meat and everything else in focus. I still don’t have it down perfect, but I like to think I am getting better at it.

From above

I like this next one because you can see in the bottom left some of the hickory chunks I threw in to give it a bit more smoke flavor.

Hickory wood for extra flavor

The steak cooked for about 8 minutes, 4 minutes per side at roughly 575-600F, and while they came out a little more done than I normally like (I blame it on the quality of the meat), it was still juicy and very tender and the rub complimented it nicely giving it just a hint of herbs and lemon. We served it up with a salad and some scalloped potatoes.

Beef....it's what's for dinner

You would think with all the pictures I took trying to get the flame right, I might have taken more of the final product….well I did, but by that time the light was changing outside and the was giving the kitchen a funny color and no matter what light combinations in the kitchen I tried, they just weren’t coming out right. So they all got deleted.

It feels good to be cooking again and posting about it. I think I’m finally coming out of my slump. I already know what’s for dinner tonight….Lamb Sliders. Now I just need to find a good recipe…..

Some Pizza Pies in Honor of Pi Day

     Yesterday was Pi Day. No, not that kind of pie. Pi. As in 22/7. As in 3.142857 and so on. Guess a bunch of nerds (I can call them that cuz I am one 😉 ) got together and decided March 14 (3/14) would be the perfect day to celebrate it. So in order to honor it in our own little way, we made some pizza pies since we aren’t into baking or desserts really. You can believe that, or you can just go ahead and believe pizza was already on the menu.

     Me, I’m pretty traditional when it comes to pizza. Give me pepperoni and I’m a happy guy. Make it all meat and I’ll be your best friend. So I just kept it simple last night. The dough we picked up from Tom Thumb (aka Safeway or Randall’s in some party of the country) since I had a doctor’s appointment after work and didn’t have time to make it from scratch. The sauce was Buitoni’s Marinara Sauce that can be found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.

Pepperoni

     That’s not nearly enough cheese, is it?

More Cheese!

     My lovely wife, Mrs. G, gets a bit more creative when it comes to pizza. She likes to have those vegetable things on hers. Mushrooms are a must. Last night, she went with an Alfredo sauce, some chicken, mushrooms and artichoke hearts.

Mrs. G's Pizza

     The pizza’s went on to a 550F stabilized Egg with the placesetter legs down, 3 little green feet as spacers and then the BGE pizza stone.

     Mrs. G’s pizza took about 16 minutes to cook.

Done after 16 minutes

     Mine took about 10 as I rolled out my crust a little thinner and had less toppings. I somehow didn’t manage to get a picture of mine inside, the last picture I have is right before I pulled it off the Egg.

Pepperoni is done

     Even before we got the Egg, grilled pizza has been one of our favorite cooks. It’s way better than delivery and it has that taste of being fired in a wood burning oven. It just can’t be beat. Think I’ll go eat one of those remaining slices now.  Ciao!

Szechuan Shrimp

     Mrs. G and I used to have a tradition. On Sunday nights, we would order Chinese food. OK…not the greatest tradition, but it was our thing. I’d ask her what she wanted for dinner and she would reply “I don’t know”, then she ask me and I’d say the same thing. Then we’d discuss whether we even felt like cooking and were we going to have to go to the store to get something. And in the end, we’d just call up our favorite Chinese place and the food would be at our house in 15 minutes. That’s right….15 minutes! I’m not kidding, they were super fast. I can’t even begin to think how many times we ordered from that place. But now we have our own wok and have started to make our own Chinese food. It might now always be traditional, and it’s not as easy as picking up a phone, but it sure is fun.

The Raws

      We’ve been doing quite a bit of stir fry ever since we got our wok a few weeks back. It’s a very healthy cook with all of the vegetables and lean meats that are used. And it’s also pretty easy once you get the hang of it (not to mention much cheaper than ordering out).

Mise En Place

     Last night we decided to do a Szechuan Shrimp stir fry using what we already had in the fridge. We had some carrots, red bell peppers, red and green onions and some shrimp. I don’t believe snow peas are traditionally included in Szechuan, but we had them and Mrs. G and I both like them, so why not? I got the Egg ready to go and stabilized at 600F last night. Hotter than we’ve been going (and to tell you the truth, I think it was a bit too hot. Think we’ll back it down to 500-550F next time)

First Batch of Veggies

     First in were the red bell peppers as they seem to take the longest to cook. About a minute later, we added the onions. The carrots went in after another minute. To that we added a few splashes of Szechuan Spicy Stir Fry Sauce. (I have found some recipes to make this sauce at home, and some day I will, but I’m still having some trouble locating all the ingredients. I guess its time to hit up an Asian market.)

Shrimp and Rice Noodles into the mix

     After allowing the veggies to stir fry for a few minutes, we added in the shrimp and rice noodles (that had been pre-prepared according to directions on the box) along with a few more splashes of the Szechuan Sauce. Continue moving the shrimp and veggies around until the shrimp begin to turn a pink color.

Ready to Grub

     The shrimp was garnished with some of the tips of the green onions and some sesame seeds and was served up with some egg rolls and some Kirin Ichiban to wash it all down.

     So was it as easy as ordering Chinese? No, but we got to spend time together outside on the patio in shorts and flip-flops no less while the dogs got to run around. And it sure was cheaper, not to mention healthier (at least I think it was). I’m sure our days of ordering aren’t over, but sometimes its more enjoyable to do it yourself.

Sliders with Home Ground Beef

     It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything here. Eleven days to be exact, and for us, that’s quite unusual. But we were out of town for a while watching Mrs. G’s sister getting married. And before that, I gotta admit I was just feeling a little bit burned out on cooking. Just couldn’t get motivated to cook anything. I’m sure you all know the feeling. You should make something for dinner, maybe something healthy or maybe something fun or special, but you just can’t seem to get your butt in gear. Sometimes you just need a break. Although I don’t think I’m totally over my burnout, last night the wife and I agreed that burgers sounded good.

Frying up some patties
Frying up some patties

     Bet you’re shocked that I’m not doing these on my Egg. I could blame it on being out of charcoal and forgetting to get some more at the store (but I didn’t forget the charcoal). I could blame it on mowing the yard yesterday and having a serious allergy attack, but I won’t. I could say that sometimes Mrs. G wants a skillet burger as the outside caramelizes and develops a nice crust, but the truth is I was being lazy and it just seemed much easier to do it inside on the stove.

Melting the Cheese

     To make these burgers, I went to the freezer and pulled out some beef that I ground up back in January and had frozen for a later occasion. Details on that can be found HERE. After thawing them out, Mrs. G seasoned them up with some Worchestire sauce and some Dizzy Pig Raising the Steaks Rub. Each patty weighed about 3.5oz pre-cooked (just in case you curious, most fast food burgers are 4oz, In-And-Out is 2.) Then we placed them back in the fridge to chill out. I’ve found that hamburgers tend to hold together better if you cook them from fridge temperature versus room temperature.  After spending a few minutes on a medium-high skillet, the patties were flipped, topped with some white Anmerican cheese and then a lid was placed on top to help the cheese melt. While I was cooking the patties, Mrs. G toasted the buns a bit under the broiler (See? We can use a stove and an oven just like regular folks 🙂 )

Half the sliders ready for topping

     Just because I was still feeling lazy, we opted for some paper plates. Doesn’t make the greatest presentation, but sometimes lazy trumps all. Served up with some tater chips as I forgot to pre-heat the oven for some tater tots and we were too hungry to wait.

Ready to grub

     Not the most fancy meal in the world, but sometimes you get a craving for a good burger and it can’t be ignored. Think I’m finally getting over my burnout, gonna fire up the Egg tonight. Maybe some stir-fry? Maybe some kind of seafood? You’ll just have to wait and see.

BTW….sorry for the picture quality. The battery for our good camera died over the weekend and didn’t charge in time, so we had to rely on our back-up. Really need to get a backup battery for that camera.