Spicy Mussels and Clams

Spicy Mussels and Clams

     Mussels are one of our favorites. Nothing like a steaming bowl of mussels swimming around in hot broth with a hunk of hot, crusty bread ready to sop up all that goodness. I must admit, I’d never had mussels before Mrs. G and I started dating. But once I did, I was hooked.

Mise en place, everything in place, ready to go

     This recipe is actually dedicated Grandma Griffin. While growing up, visiting Grandma and Grandpa was always a very special occasion. And one of the reasons was the food. Grandma COULD COOK! And she LOVED to. It might not have been fancy food, but it was good, ole classic Southern foods. Breakfast was always unbelievable. Biscuits and gravy? Check! Sausage and bacon? Yup, got that, too. Eggs? Any way you like them! Slices of ham. Grits. Toast. Pancakes. Everything you could possible want. I imagine she didn’t cook like that every morning, but when we were there, she rolled it all out for us. And don’t even get me started on the dinners…

Vegetables sauteeing along with bacon

     These days, Grandma isn’t doing too well. We went to visit her this weekend, to catch up and had a grand ole time. She was telling stories and we talked about food. Did we ever talk about food! She knows all kinds of tricks I’d never heard of. (Did you know that adding vinegar to pie crusts makes it tender and flaky? I didn’t, but then I’ve never made a pie crust.) Anyways, I digress. One of the things she wanted me to do was to look through her cookbooks and take any that I wanted. One that I took was “Blue Bonnet Cafe: Still Cookin’ 80th Anniversary Cookbook”. Looking through it, I spotted a recipe for Spicy Mussels and knew that this would be one of the first things I would try. And even though Grandma would probably never cook mussels (let alone this recipe) as I was cooking it, I couldn’t help but think of her, the food she so lovingly prepared for us and the times we shared and I couldn’t help but smile. I know she’s going to read this. Thank you for everything Grandma and I love you.

Deglazing the dutch oven with wine

Ingredients

(Serves 8 to 10 as an appetizer, or 4 as a main dish. We cut the recipe in half if these pictures to serve just the two of us)

  • 1 cup uncooked bacon, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped leeks, white part only
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp red curry paste
  • 4 lbs mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
  • 1 lb clams
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parsley for garnish
  • 1 lb of linguini (optional)
  • Crusty bread for dipping
Tomatoes and chicken broth added

Directions

  1. Cook bacon in a dutch oven at moderately high heat (350F on the Big Green Egg directly on the grate) until the fat is beginning to crisp.
  2. Add leaks, mushrooms and garlic and cook until just tender.
  3. Deglaze the dutch oven with the white wine and then add the tomatoes, chicken broth and red curry paste, stirring well to incorporate the ingredients.
  4. Add the clams (discarding any that are open or cracked). If cooking on a stove, cover the pot. If using a BGE, close the lid.

    Mussels and clams added to dutch oven
  5. After 3 or 4 minutes, add the mussels (discarding any that are open or cracked)
  6. Stir occasionally (every 3 -4 minutes) and continue cooking until all the mussels and clams have opened, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Turn off heat (or remove from BGE) and add butter and salt and pepper to taste.

    Remove from heat and add butter and salt and pepper to taste
  8. Serve with hot crusty bread to dunk in the broth. Maybe served over linguini, as seen here,  if desired.

    Tossed with linguini

     What an unbelievable good recipe! And so simple to prepare! If you closed your eyes, the taste and smell of the salt and brine from the mussels and clams would make you think you were sitting on patio overlooking the ocean, watching the sunset and enjoying a nice, peaceful meal. Although the original recipe did not call for pasta, we thought it made a nice addition. The broth…don’t get me started on the broth. It was outstanding. When I was done eating, I hovered over the stove, dunking piece after piece of bread into the pot, sopping up all that wonderful juice that was left over. One thing that we both thought it was missing, though, was the the spicy. Where was it? Maybe we got the wrong red curry paste? Maybe we didn’t add enough? I’m not sure, but a few dashes of Louisiana Hot Sauce fixed that up for me. Mrs. G has already asked when I’m going to fix this for her again.  That’s a winner in my book. 🙂

Spicy Mussels and Clams

Mediterranean Cheese Focaccia Bread

Mediterranean Cheese Focaccia Bread

We’re all guilty of it. We all like getting free samples at the store. C’mon….admit it. No? Maybe its just me. Last week, I was at Sam’s procuring some ribs to smoke for a cousin that was going to be spending the night at our house. After finding the ribs, I was wandering around, seeing what else I possible NEEDED, when I heard a man giving out samples. This guy had his shtick down. He was rhyming, he was rapping, he was joking, basically he knew how to draw a crowd in and sell. And what was he selling? Focaccia Bread. He had all kinds of flavors. There was a sun-dried tomato version, Mediterranean cheese version, cheese and jalapeno and one more. Sorry, can’t think of what it is now.

Mediterranean Cheese Focaccia

The focaccia breads were tasty. He was serving them up hot, they were light and fluffy and the flavors were…well, they were good, but not out of this world. Nothing really to write home about, but I was getting an idea. Why not take them and expand on them? Make them like a mini pizza and add extra toppings to them? They would be great for an appetizer or a quick dinner.

Out of the package

As you can see, they are already cooked and just need to be warmed up to be eaten. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for later use. They might work ok as a bread with a main entrée, but in no way would that be a dinner by itself.

Topped and ready to bake

Keeping with the Mediterranean theme, I opted to top mine with some mozzarella cheese, a bit of feta cheese and some olives. I heated up my Mini Egg to 450, allowed a pizza stone to warm up on it and then placed my focaccia bread on top of that.

Cooking away on the Mini Egg

I took a seat outside next to the Egg with a cold beverage in hand, relaxing, reading my Kindle, while the dogs played and enjoyed a bit of the evening. My plan was to cook the focaccia for about 8 to 10 minutes, like we cooked our pizzas the weekend before, but somewhere in that time, I began to smell something burning.

Whoops

Yeah…I screw things up. All the time. More than I would like to admit, just ask Mrs. G.  Guess I should have read the instructions on how to warm up the focaccia bread. Did you just go up and glance at the first picture of the packaged focaccia bread looking for instructions? If not, I’ll save you the time and go ahead and tell you. 400F for 2-3 minutes. Whoops. Good thing Mrs. G was having a night out with some of her co-workers. Since they were pretty cheap and there were about 6 per package, I decided to start again,this time following the instructions.

2nd attempt

 

     Sometimes it pays to read the directions and not think you know everything.

Much better result

Turned out pretty good for what should have been a 5-10 minute preparation and cook dinner. Much better than any frozen pizza you will ever find.  I think it would be a great teaser to fend off any hungry guests while grilling up your main entrée or a quick “I don’t feel like cooking” dinner. Think when we get through these ones, I might go and try the sun-dried tomato ones. And maybe next time, I’ll just stick them under the broiler to warm them up a bit and melt the cheese. The Egg really wasn’t needed, just wanted to play with my new toy.

Before you go, one last thing. The DAD’s Chili Throwdown is almost over and it’s coming down to the wire. While I may have started out strong, it’s now getting close. If you haven’t already gone over and voted, I would greatly appreciate it. While you are there, don’t forget to register to win a 6.5qt Cast Iron Dutch Oven that retails at over $150. It wouldn’t upset me one bit if you asked the love of your life, your kids, your friends, your yard guy or poolman or the checkout guy at the grocery store to go ahead and vote for me as well. I can use all the help I can get.

 

 

 

Flanken-Cut Beef Short Ribs

Flanken-cut Beef Short Ribs

     Last week, I had to go to Sam’s to pick up some ribs to cook for one of the Jawja cousins who was rolling through town and was going to be spending the night with us (that’s Georgia, for the rest of ya). While there, I was perusing the meat section, looking to see if anything looked good. Brisket looked good, but I didn’t have the time to smoke one of those, let alone enough mouths to feed it to. Short ribs looked good, and I thought about it. Mrs. G is always asking me to make her Braised Short Ribs in a Red Wine Sauce. And then right next to it was more short ribs, but cut differently…flanken-cut beef short ribs. I really didn’t know anything about this cut other than its used in Korean BBQ, bulgogi and kalbi, but always being up for a challenge (even if it was self-issued), they went into my basket. I figured it had been awhile since we’ve had my parents over for dinner and this would be a perfect Sunday night dinner to share with them.

Beef ribs marinating

Not sure what to do with them, I looked up a few things on the internet and asked on some bbq forums for a bit of advice. I was kind of shocked to see that the majority of the recipes had an Asian spin to them. It was really difficult to find anything that didn’t lean in that direction in some way. Figuring that was some kind of sign and that I should probably go that route, I opted to combine a few of the recipes and come up with my own.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 lbs of beef short ribs, cut flanken style
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 12oz beer
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Argentine beef rub or your favorite beef rub

 

Beff ribs on a 450F grill

 Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients (except beef rub) in a large, non-reactive bowl. Arrange beef ribs in a large container or zip lock bag and pour marinade over ribs. Place ribs in refrigerator and allow to marinate, turning occasionally. (I let mine marinate about 8 hours, but the longer you allow them to marinate the stronger the flavor will be)
  2. Remove ribs from refrigerator and drain the marinade. Pat the ribs dry and apply Argentine Rub (or other beef rub)
  3. Set up grill for direct cooking and preheat to 450 F or medium-high heat. You should be able to hold your hand 4 inches above the grate for about 2-3 seconds.
  4. Grill beef ribs for about 3-4 minutes and then flip and cook for an additional 2-3. Be very careful and keep a close eye on your grill. There will be quite a bit of fat dripping off and flareups will occur. Now is not the time to go and get a cold beverage, answer the phone or talk to guests. Focus on the meat, moving it to avoid flareups and to make sure all ribs cook evenly.
  5. Remove ribs from the grill when lightly charred on both sides and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Grilled Flanken-cut Beef Short Ribs

Talk about an amazing combination of flavors! The ribs had an intense beef flavor combined with an underlying sweet and salty flavor from the soy sauce and sugar. Extremely tender and the char from being cooked over lump charcoal took it just one step further. Nothing but silence for the first few minutes as my family began eating. You can’t ask for more than that. The ribs were served up with some roasted potatoes that Mrs. G whipped up along with a salad.

Cast Iron Pineapple Upside Down Cake cooked on the Egg

And since things have been so hectic for everybody lately and we totally missed celebrating my Dad’s B-Day, earlier in the day, I had whipped up a Pineapple Upside Down Cake (which is his favorite). He had never had my version cooked on the Egg and I think he was more than pleased with it. Time spent with family and good food….perfect way to end a crazy week.

Cast Iron Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Huevos de Tortugas

Huevos de Tortugas

     Huevos de Tortugas? What are those? you maybe asking yourself. Maybe your Spanish is a bit rusty. Or maybe for some reason, you thought it would be handy to take French when you were back in school (how’d that work out for you, BTW?) Huevos de tortugas is Spanish for turtle eggs. Maybe you remember our post on Turtle Eggs? Turtle Eggs are a simple yet delicious appetizer. Perfect for munching on while watching the game.

     This past weekend, while we were down at the Guadalupe, I thought I would make up a batch of turtle eggs for our friends Mr. and Mrs. O to try. Mrs. O was watching me form the eggs, when all of a sudden she exclaimed, “We should put some chorizo in them!” And that, my friends, is how Huevos de Tortugas came about.

The filling for our Huevos de Tortugas

     Unfortunately, we don’t have an exact recipe for you to follow in making these. Close, but not exact. We kind of just kept adding chorizo until it looked like there was enough. You might have to play around with it until you find out just how much chorizo you like.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Jimmy Dean Sage Breakfast Sausage, cut into 8-10 slices
  • San Miguel chorizo (or other Mexican chorizo if not available, but Mrs. O claims this one is the best)
  • 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese with chives
  • 1/2 cup shredded colby-jack cheese
  • 2 jalapeno chile, de-seeded and finely diced
  • Your favorite BBQ rub (divided)
Mrs. G forming the Huevos de Tortugas

Instructions

  1.  Preheat a charcoal grill set up for indirect heat to 350F.  Add a chunk or two of cherry, hickory or whatever smoking woods that you have on hand.
  2. Remove chorizo from casings and fry up in a skillet
  3. Mix the cream cheese, cheese, jalapeno, chorizo and 1/2 tsp of BBQ rub together.
  4. Place about 1 tsp of the cheese mixture on each slice of sausage.  Pull up the edges of the sausage and seal, forming it into a round, golf ball sized “egg”.  
  5. Season your “eggs” with the remaining 1 tsp of BBQ rub.
  6. Smoke the “eggs” until the sausage reaches 160F.
As Mr. O said, “If you can’t chill out here, you can’t chill out anywhere.” Just look at that view of the river.

     This was one of those weekends were there was no set agenda, didn’t have anything to do at any certain time. Football was on the TV and the beer were on ice. As such, I didn’t quite get a time for how long these took to cook. In the past, I’ve cooked these at 250F for about 90 minutes. This time I cooked them at 350F, so obviously they took less than that. Just cook to temp, not to time and you will be fine. You want the sausage to hit 160.

Just about done, bet you want to try one right now, don’t you?

     I’m only going to warn you once. Resist the temptation to take a bite of these immediately after they come off the grill. I know how hard it is, but that filling in the middle is going to be a molten hot lava of cheese and you will burn yourself. Give them a few minutes to cool off before diving in.

Molten Lava of Cheese

     If you are familiar with Turtle Eggs, you might notice that the filling in these look different. My guess is that the grease from the chorizo turned them orange. Not that that matters. What matters is the taste. We thought that these were even BETTER than Turtle Eggs. The chorizo just adds another dimension to it, another flavor profile. It takes Turtle Eggs and puts a Mexican twist on them. If you like Mexican food and you like chorizo, you are going to love these. You might never make Turtle Eggs again. This has gotten my brain spinning. I wonder what they would taste like with some Italian sausage, maybe change the cheese out and throw in some parsley. Do you have any ideas for putting a different spin on Turtle Eggs?

Fresh Bratwurst

Homemade Bratwurst

     Ever since I got my meat grinder, bratwurst has been on my “to-do” list. It’s one of those sausages that pretty much everybody is familiar with, usually sold under the name Johnsonville (although most grocery stores have their own brand, at least here in Dallas). After our trip to Germany back in August, I was even more motivated to try and make my own.

Grinding up the sausage

     After looking around the internet, searching out recipes and comparing them, I decided to try out Warren R. Anderson’s recipe from Mastering the Craft of Making Sausage. Since I have a copy of the book, I might as well try out their recipe first and see how it works out.

That’s about what 12 lbs of ground pork look like

     I’m not going to go into much detail about how to grind up your meat. I’ve covered all that before and if you would like to read more about it, you can refer back to my posts on Texas Hot Links or Kasewurst where we went into more detail on that topic.

Spices for the brats, bourbon for the cook.

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs of pork shoulder and 1 lb of lean veal (beef, chicken thighs or turkey thighs may be substituted), or 5 lbs of pork shoulder, cubed (2,270 g)
  • 5 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp ground mustard (packed in spoon)
  • 1.5 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 1 tsp sage (packed in spoon)
  • 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 4 eggs
  • hogs casings for stuffing
Mixing wet and dry ingredients together

Directions

  1. Grind the meats using a 3/16 inch or smaller plate. Refrigerate the ground meat for about 30 minutes.
  2. Whisk the dry milk and water together, then add the remaining ingredients, except for the meat, in a large mixing bowl. Refrigerate this seasoning mixture for about 15 minutes.
  3. Add the seasoning mixture to the ground meat and knead it until it is thoroughly mixed and uniform, about 3 minutes.
  4. At this point, I like to make a small patty and fry it up as a taste test. Adjust seasonings as needed.
  5. Freeze the meat and seasoning mixture while the sausage stuffer and hog casings are being prepared (about 30 minutes).
  6. Stuff the sausage paste into the hogs casings and twist into 6″ lengths.
  7. Refrigerate the links overnight in a covered container or zip-lock bag to permit the seasonings to be absorbed by the meat.
  8. Sausages that will not be eaten within two days should be frozen.
Adding wet ingredients to pork

     I have to apologize for not getting any pictures of us stuffing the casings. Our stuffer (a Kitchener #12) is pretty much a two person operation and we didn’t feel like stopping to take a picture once we got started. As you can see in the picture below, we got 3 bags of links, one large spiral (we didn’t twist it off into links, it was a bit overstuffed and we were afraid the casings would burst if we tried to twist it) and one package of uncased sausage (we ran out of hogs casings at the end, not sure what we are going to do with that bag).

Stuffed and ready to freeze for later

     Now that your sausage is all prepared, its time to cook some up and enjoy the fruits of your labor. There are many ways to cook fresh sausage, from pan frying it, cooking it in the oven, using a beer bath with onions, beer and butter, warming it up in sauerkraut to straight up grilling it. I’m not going to debate the proper way to cook them or which is the best method, but I will say that you want to cook them over a moderate heat. If you cook the brats too fast, you risk a blow out in the casings and all the juice and flavor will leak out leaving you with a dry, bland sausage. So cook the brats over a moderate heat source and cook until the internal temperature reaches 160F.

Onto the Egg at 350F with some applewood chips

     I decided to grill my bratwurst (I know, you didn’t see that coming, right?). I fired up my new Mini Egg (which is fast becoming my favorite grill) and got it stabilized at 350 F. I added some apple wood chips for just a hint of smoke.

Almost done

     You may notice that in the first grill shot, that the links are still connected (and that the one on the far right had a blow out on one end, just ignore that, not sure what happened there). In the second shot, the links have been severed. I like to keep the links connected until they are about halfway done, then cut the casings between them with a pair of kitchen shears. This allows you to move them around to better take advantage of any hot spots you may have on your grill and get them to cook evenly.

Almost done

     Not sure how long these brats took to cook….a few cold adult beverages for sure. Make sure to flip and rotate the sausages every once in a while in order to keep them from burning and prevent the casings splitting. The brats will be done when the internal temperature reaches 160F. Do NOT overcook them, or you will be left with dried out brats and that is not good eats. This is where a good, reliable thermometer comes in handy.

Done…allow to rest for a few minutes

     Once they are done, give them a few minutes to rest. They can be eaten whole, sliced up as a snack, eaten on a hot dog bun with a good quality mustard or served along with some sauerkraut. I’ll let you decide how you want to eat them.

Sliced and ready to eat

     Once again, and I can’t stress this enough, the key is to not let the skins burst or all the juices will leak out. Cook it over a moderate heat and cook it until it just reaches 160F and you will be rewarded with a juicy, flavorful bratwurst.

Mmmm…juiciness!!

     I was really pleased with this batch of bratwurst. It had a great flavor, was juicy and the hogs casing gave it a nice snap. It was a bit different from Wisconsin-style brats that most people are familiar with, however. It had a richer flavor and a finer texture as it had been ground finer, where as Wisconsin-style brats are chunkier and do not contain eggs or milk. I will admit that I had more ground pork then the recipe called for. I ended up using about 6 pounds where the recipe only called for 5, but I wasn’t sure what to do with the extra pound and didn’t want to let it go to waste. I can only imagine that if I had used 5 lbs, it would have had even more flavor. Next time we make it, I am also going to try harder to find a pound of veal as that would be more traditional. I tried, but just couldn’t find any while shopping for the rest of the ingredients.