Bacon Cheese Patty Melts

Bacon Cheese Patty Melt

     Last week, my buddy Dyal made some Bacon Cheese Patty Melts on The Barbecue Bible Forum and they looked so good I knew that I was going to have to make one for myself. I like hamburger buns as much as the next guy, but sometimes I like my burgers on some grilled, toasted bread.

Fresh ground beef

     Do you like bacon? Do you like burgers? Do you like bacon on your burger? How about bacon IN your burger? I picked up 3 lbs of chuck to grind, some for these burgers and some just to have later on. When I was cubing up the chuck prior to grinding, I really wasn’t liking the fat content of this particular chuck. For burgers, I like to have about 20% fat and this wasn’t cutting it. How could I up the fat percentage? How about throwing some bacon in while the chuck was being ground up? This being the first time trying it, I only added in 5 strips of bacon. The meat got a double grind through the 3/8″ plate, with some Dizzy Pig Cow Lick and some Cluck and Squeal Beef Specific Rub mixed in after the first grind for some extra flavor.

Onion Patty

   For these burgers, we used 1 lb of meat to shape 4 patties extra thin. In hindsight, that was way more that we should have, but if you have a big appetite, knock yourself out. Mrs. G likes grilled onions on her burger and decided to press the onion right into her patties prior to grilling.

On to the Egg

     The patties went on to the Egg for a direct grill at 450F.

Halfway done

     Since we formed these patties pretty thin, I knew they were going to grill up pretty fast. I flipped them after 3 minutes.

Mrs. G’s burger

     A few minutes later, and the patties were done. At this point, Mrs. G was able to assemble her burger, but I had a few more steps to go. I started by warming up a pan and toasting lightly toasting two slices of bread on one side so it would hold up to the juiciness of the burger and wouldn’t get soggy. I then buttered the other side of the slices of bread, assembled my burger (with the toasted side on the inside of the burger) and grilled it just like you would do a grilled cheese sandwich.

Patty Melt with some tots

     The burgers came out really good and how could they not with beef, bacon and cheese? I think the addition of the bacon added in the necessary fat to keep them from drying out while cooking, but didn’t really add any additional flavor that I could taste, although with the toast, two slices of cheese, bacon and the condiments, it might just have been masked. Taking the time to toast the inside of the bread really helped them from becoming soggy and I recommend you don’t skip that step. I think the only thing I would change next time is to make the patties smaller. A half pound of beef (pre-cooked weight) is really more than I need to be eating. And maybe just use one slice of cheese, instead of two. Sometimes its ok to be a little bad, though. 😉

How can you beat a good ole patty melt?
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Slashed Chicken Quarters

Slashed Chicken Thighs

     The other week, I was at my brother’s house for dinner. As he was cooking, I noticed his copy of Weber’s Way to Grill that I got him for his birthday last year. It looked like it hadn’t even been opened! So I started paging through it, seeing if anything would catch my eye and decided to borrow it from him. Don’t worry, Michael, I’m almost done with it. You can have it back next time I see you.

     One thing that really piqued my interest was the recipe for Provencal Marinated Chicken Legs. OK….really the recipe did not interest me that much, but rather their illustrations of how to prep whole chicken legs. Cutting an opening between the drumstick and the thigh to expose that innermost meat and speed up the cooking time. I’d never heard of that before. And making slashes on the outside of the leg and thigh to allow the marinade to penetrate deeper? New to me as well, but it made sense. And with leg quarters running (no pun intended) about $0.99 a lb here, I felt this was something I could experiment with and not feel bad it if didn’t work out.

Chicken getting ready to take a swim in some marinade

     Digging around the pantry, I found this chicken marinade from Stubb’s. I don’t remember when I picked this up, but it sounded like a plan to me. The chicken got “slashed” yesterday morning and went into a Zip-lock bag around 6:00am right before I headed out the door to work. Yeah, I know, I get up way too early for work. I figured it would get about an 11 hour marinade, although the bottle says 2-6 hours.

Slashed Chicken Quarters going on the Egg

     I set up the Egg for a direct cook at 375F, using my Grill Extender to raise the cooking height further up and away from the coals to prevent it from burning (this is how I do most of my cooks with chicken). If you are using another type of grill, I would suggest cooking the chicken indirect or having two zones where you can move the chicken away from your heat source if it begins to have flare ups from the drippings. For smoke, I went with apple wood chips as I think it offers a more delicate flavor than some of the other woods like mesquite or hickory that can easily over power chicken.

Close up view of the slashes I made. Looks like Wolverine or Freddy got hold of my chicken.

     The marinade from the chicken was reserved and used to marinade the chicken throughout the cook. I know some people feel a little uneasy and squeamish about that, but I boiled the marinade for 5 minutes before using. Food borne bacteria die at or below 165 and a boil is way hotter than that, so I feel like it is a safe practice. And I haven’t gotten sick or died from it yet. The chicken took around 45 minutes to cook and was pulled around 170.

Chicken’s done

     Seeing as how my spatchcock chickens generally take about an hour to cook, I figured the slashes might have sped up the cooking process by about 15 minutes. Not really enough to consider a big difference.

Plated up with some corn

     The chicken came out pretty good. It was moist and flavorful. Maybe the slashes didn’t speed up the cooking much, but they really did make a difference with the marinade. Which makes sense. The more surface area exposed, the more flavor you are going to get with each bite. The marinade itself, it wasn’t mind blowing or stellar. It was average in my book. It did give the chicken a hint of sweetness, but I really wasn’t picking up on the citrus it claimed. Now that I’m looking at the bottle, I think what I couldn’t put my finger on was the sesame it claims.

     Would I do it again? Maybe, if the price was right. Come to think of it, I think I picked up the marinade because I had a coupon. I guess I’d pick it up again if I had another one.

     As for the slashes, if you can get past the fact that it looked like Wolverine got ahold of you chicken before it was tossed on the grill, it’s not a bad trick to have up your sleeve. More flavor per bite. But if you are into aesthetics, this might not be the way for you to go.

Brats in a Sauerkraut Beer Bath

Brats served with sauerkraut on a bolillo bun

     Before we get started today, let me preface this post by saying I am not from Wisconsin (as if y’all didn’t know that by now) and I’d be hard pressed to find Sheboygan on a map anywhere (ok, out of curiosity I just looked it up and I can now find it on a map).  Why bring this up? Seems like Sheboygan is the Brat Capital and from what I’ve read they have very strong opinions about brats, how they should be cooked, what kind of condiments should be used and even what kind of buns they should be served on. They take pride in their brats, much the same way as the Carolinas feel about pulled pork, St. Louis feels about ribs, California feels about tri-tip and us Texans feel about brisket (and every other thing we barbecue because we do it better in Texas 😉 ). And I can respect that….but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m gonna do it their way just to avoid making somebody mad. I’m actually expecting (and kind of looking forward to) somebody from Wisconsin chiming in and pointing out how I screwed up and how they should never be done this way. So all that being said, let’s get on with the food.

Start with a 10″ CI Skillet or a disposable foil pan

     Seems like there are 3 main camps on the proper method to grill brats (BTW, when I say brats I mean the raw, uncooked brats. No self respecting person from Wisconsin would buy pre-cooked brats and neither will this Texan).

  1. Grill the brats directly over a medium heat until browned and cooked through. Serve up immediately.
  2. Grill the brats directly over a medium heat until browned and cooked through and then hold them in a bath of beer, onions and butter until ready to serve.
  3. Simmer (not boil) the brats in a beer and onion bath for about 20 minutes. Then, grill the brats until browned and cooked through. Serve immediately or return to a bath until ready to serve.

     I’ll let you argue amongst yourselves over the correct way to do it and the pros and cons of each. Whichever way you choose, be careful and make sure to never pierce the casing of the brats or allow the casing to burst from too much heat. This will cause the juices to leak out and you will be left with a dried out sausage and nobody wants that.

Brats in a sauerkraut bock bath

     And here, more than likely,  is where I will catch flack from anybody out there from Wisconsin. I ditched the whole bath of beer, onions and butter and replaced it with sauerkraut, my own blend of spices and a bottle of Shiner Bock (had to throw in a little Texas flavor). Why sauerkraut? Because I think it goes well with brats and I don’t care if some people may frown on that. I’m in Texas and I’m gonna do things my own way! So take that!

My blend of spices

Ingredients

  • 1 package of uncooked brats (most likely you will find Johnsonville Brats)
  • 1 32 oz Vlassic Old Fashioned Sauerkraut
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper seeds
  • 1/8 tsp thyme
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/8 tsp celery seed
  • 1 Shiner Bock (or other dark beer)
  • 1 package of buns, most likely you will not be able to find the Sheboygan hard roll outside of Wisconsin, so look for something like a hoagie roll or a bollilo that will hold up to the brats and condiments. Try to stay away from hot dog buns.
Onto the Egg at 400F direct, or a grill heated to medium

Directions

  1. Grind up spices in a spice grinder (or coffee grinder)
  2. Mix spices, sauerkraut and beer in a CI skillet or aluminum foil pan
  3. Place brats in sauerkraut beer bath and place onto a grill heated to medium. I went 400F on my Egg. Allow to simmer, not boil, for about 20-30 minutes. You want to see steam coming off the mixture, but not a boil.
  4. Remove brats from bath and grill direct for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often to prevent casings from splitting, until browned and sausages reach 160F (the brats will carry over to 165 at this point).
  5. Serve immediately or return to sauerkraut beer bath to hold until ready to serve.

Flipped after about 10 minutes

     What kind of condiments should you serve on your brats? That is a whole ‘nother can of worms that could cause those folks in Wisconsin to start a riot or go into seizures. So go ahead and top it however you like. Me…I like them with sauerkraut and a nice spicy brown mustard. If you like ketchup, go ahead and add that and watch a Wisconsinite’s blood begin to boil, but you didn’t hear that here. 😉

Holding in the sauerkraut beer bath

    So was this a true method to cook brats? Probably not (and do I care? Probably not). Was it easier? Maybe a bit. I didn’t have to worry about charring the brats or having the skin burst while they were cooking in the bath (I actually went inside and watched tv). It was a bit more time consuming than grilling them directly, but that just gave me time to drink another beer. Did the sauerkraut beer bath impart any flavor to the brats? Not that I could detect, but hey….I had to cook the sauerkraut anyway, so why not do them together?  I was able to cook the brats all the way through and get them nice and brown with some grill marks without one of them bursting and losing precious juices, which was good.

Ok, ok….so I wasn’t really drinking a beer. It was a bourbon and coke so sue me.

     I’ve always been in the camp that just grills the brats directly. I tried the beer bath method a hundred or so years ago, but I find the simplest way to do brats is grilling them directly. I have just never understood the idea of boiling sausages (or hot dogs or gasp….ribs) unless you were looking for pork flavored water. But I do think the brats added a bit of pork flavor to the kraut and since it was going back on the brats in the end, why not? So I do think this method does have some benefits. Will I do it again? Probably. Always? Probably not.

Brat with sauerkraut and spicy mustard

     So pick a method and grill some brats. Or try all three and see which one works best for you. All I know is that it sure did get me in the mood for our upcoming trip to Germany next month. Can’t wait to try some authentic German food and I’m looking forward to their sausages and beer. And more beer. And then some more after that with another sausage. Prost!

 

Heath Chocolate Chip Cookies

Heath Chocolate Chip Cookies

     Who likes chocolate chip cookies? Who likes Heath bars? Ok….maybe not as many people on the Heath bars. They seem like the overlooked treat of the candy bar world, but I think they are GREATNESS. So the other day when I was at the store and spotted Heath Bits ‘O Brickle Toffee Bites near the chocolate chips, I knew they were coming home with me and going into some cookies…..along with a bunch of other stuff. Go to the store to get charcoal and come home with a full load of groceries…..anybody else have this problem? Or is it just me? Anyway….back to those cookies.

On to the Egg at 400F indirect. Don’t worry…..I’ll get to the oven directions in a minute.

Fast forward to yesterday, and I’m digging through my pile of notes, scraps of recipes and mismatched recipe cards looking for a cookie recipe that I can use these in (somebody should really come in and organize my recipes. And the rest of my office while they are at it). I found an old ratty, battered up recipe that is older than who knows what for chocolate chip cookies that I think came from my mom. Chocolate chip cookies? Heath? Sure that’ll work great.

Starting to melt

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks butter, softened (1 cup)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup Heath Bits ‘O Brickle Toffee Bites
Baking away

Directions

  1. Set up Big Green Egg at 400F, place setter legs down (or preheat oven to 375)
  2. Using a stand mixer, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract until creamy.
  3. Add eggs and continue to mix until mixed in.
  4. In another bowl, mix flour, salt and baking soda. Gradually add to stand mixer.
  5. Add chocolate chips and Heath and mix until well blended
  6. Spoon onto ungreased cookie sheets making each cookie about 1 tbsp
  7. Bake on the Egg for about 12 minutes (9 to 11 for oven)
  8. Cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes and then allow to completely cool on wire racks
  9. Enjoy with a cold glass of milk
Ready to come off the Egg

    So why bake it on the Egg? Besides the illogical reason of because you can, you aren’t heating up your kitchen, which nobody wants to do in this heat we are having. Or maybe because you are going to fire up the Egg anyway to cook dinner, so why not just light it earlier. But my favorite reason is, it gives Mrs. G and me a reason to sit outside together, catch up on our days without the distractions of TV or computers, maybe read a book and watch our furry four-legged boys run around the yard, keeping it squirrel free. The downside of baking these on the egg? I could manage about 8 cookies on a cookie sheet. This recipe made about 3 dozen cookies last night. You do the math on how many batches that was. Would have been much faster to do multiple batches in that square thing in the kitchen, but where’s the fun in that?

Only a small portion of the cookies that we made

What would I change?

  • Honestly, not much. If anything, I would probably increase the amount of Heath that I put in the cookies. I’m not that sure if by adding more. I might need to decrease the amount of chocolate chips or not. That’s something you can probably play around with to fit your individual tastes.
What are you looking at? Go get a cold glass of milk and enjoy

Note – Don’t worry if your first batch doesn’t quite come out right. Or if it takes a lot longer than 12 minutes. I know last night my first batch took over 15 minutes to cook. I remember growing up, watching my Mom make cookies (and the same thing with waffles or pancakes) and the first batch never quite comes out right. Same thing happens with me. I don’t know whether that is some universal law of physics, or maybe just a family curse. Just laugh it off and move onto that second batch. 😉

 

 

Fire Roasted Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi and Stuffed Crab

     I woke up Sunday morning thinking about seafood. Mussels to be exact. Those black shells glistening in a simmering bath of white wine and butter. I’m not really sure why….I wasn’t hungry…but never the less, I wanted seafood. And then later during the day, it changed from mussels to little neck clams due to something we were watching on TV (there’s a slight possibility I may watch too many food shows on TV).

     Recipe in hand, I head to Central Market to procure the necessary items to conjure up this fabulous looking dish….only to discover that they have no little neck clams….or any clams for that matter. Ok, Ok, I can deal with this. I was kind of afraid this might happen, so I pull out my back up recipe for mussels that I had printed out. Always good to come prepared.  Only to discover that they were out of mussels, too!! What are the odds? Ok….quick….need another option quick as the people in line start to mumble and groan and discussions of a lynching were beginning for this person who was taking way too long and holding them up (at least that’s what it seemed like they were doing in my mind). That’s when I remembered Chris over at NibbleMeThis posting for Shrimp Scampi  last week. Quick glance….they have shrimp and it’s not priced badly. Oh…and throw in two of those stuffed crabs just for fun. Done and out the door. Time to head home and whip up some dinner for Mrs. G and myself.

Got to love one skillet meals

     I’m just going to go ahead and repost the ingredients and directions exactly as Chris did it (you really should go and check out his Nibble Me This , though. He’s got a great story on shrimp scampi, not to mention his pictures are way better than mine and his site is filled with wonderful recipes)

Fire Roasted Shrimp Scampi
serves:  4 appetizers or 2 entrees 
 
Ingredients
  • 20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 3/4 lb of 26-30 ct shrimp)
  • 1/4 cup coarse chopped garlic
  • 6 Tbsp butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • black pepper
  • 1 lemon halve
  • Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat a charcoal grill to 450f set up for indirect grilling.
  2. Divide the shrimp into 4 au gratin dishes (or other oven safe ceramic dishes).  Add the butter, garlic, and wine.  Season each dish with a pinch of fresh ground black pepper.
  3. Roast the shrimp in the grill with the lid closed until they turn pink, about 7 minutes.
  4. Remove and sqeeze the lemon* halve over the dishes to give each just a splash.  Season each dish with a pinch or two of salt.  Garnish with a little parsley if you like. 
  5. Serve with crispy toasted garlic bread.

Notes

  • I like to grill my lemon cut side down over direct heat for 1 or 2 minutes at the end for a flavor boost.
Shrimp and crab cooking away on the BGE

     I did change thing a bit from Chris’s recipe. I set up my Egg indirect at 400F (not 450F) with the placesetter legs down and the grate on top of that. The reason behind this was I was told to bake the crab at 350F in the oven for around 15 minutes. I figured the crab would be fine at a little higher temp and the shrimp would do well at a lower temp (although they might take a bit longer) so I split the difference at 400F. I also don’t have those cool, little au gratin dishes that Chris used so I improvised and pulled out my trusty cast iron skillet.

About halfway though, just realized that Mrs. G took the tails off

     The shrimp took around 10 minutes to cook, stirring a few times to ensure that they were cooking evenly.

Plated up

   

Chris was right. “The garlicky aroma, the velvety butter sauce, and fresh Florida shrimp made me a happy dude.” I was one happy dude, even though these were Texas Shrimp from the Gulf. I quickly devoured mine and used the bread to erase any trace that their might have been a sauce in the bowl. This stuff was amazing. Better than any I had ever ordered from a restaurant. I don’t even care that scampi is not a true Italian dish and that it was created right here in America. Who cares? This stuff was just plain good. I just wish that I had remembered to check and see if there was any pasta in the pantry before I ran off to the store. It would have been nice to serve it on a steaming bed of linguini or cappellini. Maybe next time.

     I’m not real sure what the guy behind the counter was thinking about the crab. 15 minutes at 400 didn’t get them done, they were still cold inside. It took way over 20 minutes to finish them (but that was ok as we had the shrimp to make us happy while we waited. And the bread to soak up the sauce).  As for the crab itself….meh. Didn’t really have a lot of flavor. There was plenty of crab in it and not just breading. As for whoever separated the crab meat, that guy must have been on something. I swear I got a bit of shell in every bite I took. I think I’ll pass on these next time and just eat more of the yummy shrimp scampi.

Things I would do differently (and there isn’t much):

  • Find those cool little au gratin dishes that Chris used or even those really small cast iron skillets
  • Cook it at 450 (like Chris suggested) instead of 400
  • Chop the garlic a little more fine (that would be my fault, not Chris’s)
  • Possible reduce the amount of garlic. 1/4 cup is quite a bit unless you really like garlic
  • Serve on capellini or linguini, but that’s just a suggestion