Brined and Grilled Shrimp

Grilled shrimp that have been brined
Grilled shrimp that have been brined

     A few weeks ago, I caught an old episode of Good Eats entitled Crustacean Nation (look for the video embedded at the end of the post). This episode focused on shrimp cocktail, but what really caught my attention was the brine. We’ve brined chicken and turkey and pork chops, why not shrimp? The idea sat in the back of my mind and I knew that one day I was going to give it a try and see what I thought (but of course we were going to grill our shrimp rather than putting it under a broiler like Alton did).

This has nothing to do with the shrimp, but I thought all the colors of the veggies looked pretty good.
This has nothing to do with the shrimp, but I thought all the colors of the veggies looked pretty good.

     Unlike brining a chicken or turkey, shrimp do not need to brine for long. In fact, 20 -25 minutes are plenty of time for shrimp. With such a quick brining time, you really do not need to plan ahead of time in order to do this. Come home from work, whip up your brine and toss your shrimp in and let them brine while starting your grill or prepping your side dishes.

Veggies tossed with some olive oil, salt and pepper and a little bit of cajun season go directly on a grill preheated to 500-550F
Veggies tossed with some olive oil, salt and pepper and a little bit of Cajun season go directly on a grill preheated to 500-550F

     Now why would you want to brine your shrimp before cooking it, you may ask. Brining can improve the flavor and texture of your meat as well as help keep it from drying out when you cook it.

     One more thing before we get started…shells. I’ve always taken the shells off my shrimp before grilling them…or cooking them any other way, unless of course we are doing a boil. Then we leave the shells on. But Alton cooked his with the shells on. He claimed that the shells were both a good protectorant and flavor enhancer. Not only that, when you leave the shells on, it keeps the shrimp from curling up in tight knots. I always figured, if you left the shell on, you wouldn’t be able to season the shrimp, but maybe with the brine? I was willing to give it a shot.

     As usual, I can’t stick to a recipe to save my hide. I was planning of following his method step by step (except for grilling the shrimp instead of boiling it), but as I started to boil the water and get the salt and sugar out, it occurred to me…why not add some Zatarain’s Boil seasoning to the brine? I figured it would add more flavor to the shrimp, give it that shrimp boil flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups of ice
  • 1/4 cup Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Zatarain’s Extra Spicy Crawfish, Shrimp and Crab Boil (not the liquid one, the solid one)
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • 32 shell on 21-25 count shrimp
  • cocktail sauce
Shrimp on the grill at 550+
Shrimp on the grill at 550+

Directions

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, you may opt to clean the shrimp. Using a pair of scissors or a serrated knife, make an incision down the backside of the shrimp, following the intestinal track. Eviscerate shrimp and rinse under cool water leaving shells intact.
  3. Once your water has come to a boil, pour it into a large bowl and add sugar, salt, boil seasonings and 2 cups of ice. Once the mixture has cooled, add shrimp and allow to brine for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Preheat your grill to high (mine was at 550F when the veggies came off and when the shrimp went on, I removed the top vent and opened the bottom vent all the way)
  5. After 25 minutes, drain the brine and rinse the shrimp 2 or 3 times. Dry the shrimp thoroughly and skewer the shrimp. I like to use two skewers as it keeps the shrimp from spinning when you go to flip them.
  6. Rub the shrimp with olive oil and season with Old Bay Seasoning
  7. Place your shrimp on the grill. It should take about 2 minutes per side, depending on how hot your grill is. Keep an eye on your shrimp as it cooks quickly and is easy to over cook.
  8. Remove shrimp from grill when done and eat immediately or if you are doing shrimp cocktail like Alton Brown, place in the freezer for 5 minutes to stop the cooking process and then move into the refrigerator until you are ready to eat.
Grilled shrimp served up on a bed of rice pilaf with a side of veggies.
Grilled shrimp served up on a bed of rice pilaf with a side of veggies.

     I’m convinced!! Brining is definitely the way to go. The shrimp were plump and juicy. They had a firm texture. The brining carried the flavors inside the shell and into the shrimp. I’m not real sure adding the Old Bay Seasoning to the outside did anything unless you like licking your fingers (which I admit I did a few times). I might skip that part in the future. From now on, when  we grill shrimp, we are definitely going to brine and leave the shells on.

    And now, if you are interested, here is the episode of Good Eats that inspired this meal.

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Buffalo Turkey Sliders

Buffalo Turkey Burgers
Buffalo Turkey Burgers

     If you have spent anytime around here, you’ve probably figured out my love for wings and buffalo wings in particular. What’s not to like about them? Spicy hot with a lil twang from the vinegar and cooled off by a dip in either Ranch or Bleu Cheese. Yup, definitely gotta be one of my favorite things to eat.

     I think it might have been Thursday night, I was watching something and they were talking about meatballs and all the different kinds. How just about every culture has some form of meatball, be it beef or chicken or lamb or others. And how they are all seasoned differently. The gears in my brain got to spinning and I started thinking of a buffalo chicken meatball. And wouldn’t it be great to serve it as a slider?

     I got up Friday morning and the thought of a buffalo chicken meatball slider was still in my head. Doing some research online showed that I was not the only person who had thought of this genius idea. Plenty of people had done them before (Well, at least the meatball part. Not everybody took it and made a slider out of it.) From people like Rachel Ray to Martha Stuart to Guy Fieri, not to mention plenty of bloggers. So armed with a few recipes, I sat down to come up with my own version.

Turkey meatballs ready for the grill
Turkey meatballs ready for the grill

     Ok, ok…by this point you are probably wondering why the post has turkey in it and I keep talking about Buffalo chicken. Even the best of plans often get derailed. It seems to happen to me at the grocery store. I walk in armed with a list of things I need to get only to find out they are out of or don’t carry an ingredient. Does this happen to you? Doesn’t it just piss you off really irritate you? The store didn’t have any ground chicken. Not only did they not have ground chicken, they didn’t have boneless chicken thighs. I should mention I put off going to the grocery store till the last minute. Sure, I can debone a thigh. And I could put it through my grinder or mince it in a food processor. It just didn’t seem like it was worth the trouble to grind up one pound of chicken, not to mention the time it would take. So instead, a package of 85/15 ground turkey jumped into my cart.

Onto the Egg using a raised grate at 400F.
Onto the Egg using a raised grate at 400F.

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground turkey, 85/15 (or chicken if you can find it, not leaner than 85%)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup bread crumbs

Buffalo sauce (same one I use on my Buffalo Chicken Wings)

  • 1/2 cup Frank’s sauce (or other hot sauce, I just don’t like Tabasco, too vinegary IMHO)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 lemon squeezed

Bleu Cheese Sauce

  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup crumbled bleu cheese
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper to taste
Off the grill
Off the grill

Directions

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the bleu cheese sauce, taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Place sauce in fridge to cool while cooking the meatballs.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add the ground turkey, egg, bread crumbs, salt and pepper and red pepper. Grate (yes, that is not a typo) 3/4 to 1/2 an onion into the mixture (grating it releases moisture that will help keep the meatballs moist and will give it that onion flavor without the crunch). Using a garlic press, add the two garlic cloves. Mix until just combined.
  3. If you decide to make sliders, form the mixture into 8 meatballs. These will be just large enough for slider buns. If just making meatballs as an appetizer, form them into bite sized meatballs.
  4. Place the meatballs into the refrigerator to set up for about 30 minutes. While waiting, preheat your grill or oven to 400F. If using a BGE or other Kamado style grill, you will want to set it up for a direct cook with a raised grate around the felt line. For other grills, you will want  a direct and indirect area in case you need to move meatballs due to flare ups.
  5. After 30 minutes, place your meatballs on the grill. Slider sized ones will take about 20 minutes to cook, rotating halfway through to ensure even cooking. Smaller, bite sized meatballs will take less time. The meatballs are ready when they reach 165F. (If you like your buns toasted, it would be a good idea to toss them on when the meatballs are almost done. It will only take a few minutes per side)
  6. While meatballs are cooking, add the ingredients for the Buffalo sauce to a skillet and allow to simmer.
  7. When meatballs are done, place them in the skillet and coat with Buffalo sauce.
  8. Build your sliders with the Buffalo turkey meatballs and top with plenty of bleu cheese sauce.
Buffalo turkey meatball sliders
Buffalo turkey meatball sliders

     I was really quite surprised with these. I almost tossed the whole idea when I couldn’t find ground chicken at the store. I was worried that the turkey would be bland and dry, but I forged ahead anyway and they came out quite good. They weren’t bland or dry. My brother joined me for dinner and even though he skipped the Buffalo sauce (He doesn’t like it. Sometimes I’m not sure we are related), he said they were very tasty and juicy. Yeah, they didn’t have the crispy skin of a chicken wing (nor the mess) but all the flavors were still there.  A great alternative to wings. I’m really thinking they might make it on to the Superbowl menu (or we’ll bring them along with us if we go to somebody’s house).

Served with a side of 'maters and mozzarella cheese.
Served with a side of ‘maters and mozzarella cheese.

     There is only one thing I think I would do differently with this recipe next time. I think I would take some of the Buffalo sauce and add it to the meatball mixture before forming them to bring more of the Buffalo flavor through out. I thought of doing it originally, but I had my brother to think about. Other than that, I was quite pleased.

Chicken Pot Pie Take II

Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken Pot Pie

     I’ve been meaning to do a chicken pot pie again for quite a while. We did one a long time ago (I just checked and turns out the last Chicken Pot Pie we did was on Jan 16, 2012, just one day shy of a year ago. What are the odds that we would randomly do one almost a year later? Really? I promise you that wasn’t planned.)

Sauteing onions and celery
Sauteing onions and celery

     I don’t know what I was thinking when I did that post. I didn’t have a recipe and I’m sure it wasn’t helpful to anybody. I thought about deleting it many times. I was kind of embarrassed I even did it. I was still new to blogging, and was a bit obsessed with writing posts and seeing how many people I could get to visit my blog every day.  These days I’m not so obsessed anymore…at least I don’t think. I no longer care about how many people visit my site or if its growing every month. Don’t get me wrong, I do love all of you guys that come and visit and am so thankful you are out there. I’m just no longer obsessed with growth. I want to give you good posts that can instruct and/or inspire you. I’d rather do quality over quantity and if I don’t write a post every other day, oh well. I think if I do that, it’ll grow on its own…or it won’t. Either way, I’m ok with that. So for that reason, I keep that old chicken pot pie recipe up there to remind me of where I was and how far I’ve come since then and to keep me writing quality posts. I think I’ve rambled enough. Sorry ’bout that.

Adding the leftover chicken thighs that were cooked on the BGE a few days before.
Adding the leftover chicken thighs that were cooked on the BGE a few days before.

      This chicken pot pie recipe comes from Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, and can be found all over the net under pot pie or chicken pot pie or leftover turkey pot pie. It can also be found in her book “The Pioneer Woman Cooks”. Of course, we’re not real good at following recipes here at Griffin’s Grub and usually end up tweaking it to suit our own needs.

Adding chicken broth
Adding chicken broth

Ingredients

(this is for our modified version, if you want her original recipe, it should only take a couple of seconds searching on Google)

  • 2 pie crusts (she calls for using her Perfect Pie Crust recipe (and only 1) and I would like to try that one day, but sometimes life gets in the way and time gets the best of you. We used pre-bought pir crusts. Still came out great, but I hang my head in shame)
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 2 cups of leftover chicken, diced (this took about 3 medium sized chicken thighs)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • splash of white wine (optional)
  • 3/4 cups of heavy cream
  • 1 cup of frozen mixed veggies (we used a blend of peas, corn, carrots and green beans)
  • fresh thyme, chopped
  • Season-All and salt and pepper to taste
Adding the pot pie filling
Adding the pot pie filling

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven (or Big Green Egg if you feel like braving the cold weather, we didn’t) to 400F
  2. Melt butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook until translucent.
  3. Add chicken and allow to cook for a few minutes.
  4. Sprinkle flour over mixture and allow to cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. While continuing to stir, add in chicken broth, a splash of white wine and heavy cream.
  6. Add in a cup of frozen veggies.
  7. Bring to a slow boil and allow mixture to cook and thicken for a few minutes.
  8. Add in fresh thyme, season-all and salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Line a 9″ pie pan with one pie crust (The Pioneer Woman only topped her pot pie with a pie crust, we like crust on the top and bottom of our pot pies. Use one or two, depending on what your family likes)
  10. Pour the mixture into the pie pan.
  11. Place the second crust on top of the pot pie mixture and press the crust into the side of the dish. Cut slits in the top of the crust. (if you have to trim the edges of the crust, you can make a design with it and add it to the top. Mrs. G is responsible for those flower petals)
  12. Bake for 30 or 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. (You may need to protect the edges of the pie part way through with a pie crust shield or aluminum foil to keep from burning)
  13. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Into the oven pre-heated to 400F
Into the oven pre-heated to 400F

     I really wanted to try and bake this on the Big Green Egg, but it was kind of cold last night and I’m just now getting over being sick. I didn’t figure it was worth the risk of relapsing. Do you forgive me? Just this one time? I promise I’ll do the next one on the Egg.

Ready to eat
That piece of corn jumped out and tried to attack me! It was only due to my cat-like reflexes that I was able to deflect it! Sorry for the messiness.

     This came out soooo good! So creamy and savory. The hint of smoke from the chicken that was cooked on the BGE. The flaky, buttery crust. Mmmm…so good! And to think I have some leftover for lunch! I’m super excited about that. The only complaint, and it was our fault because we couldn’t wait any longer, is that it was a bit to liquid-ey (I don’t think that’s a word, but I don’t care). We were so hungry and it smelt so good, that we couldn’t wait ten minutes. Had we waited, I think it would have cooled more and thickened up. So that was our bad. Otherwise, the flavors were spot on.

Things I’d Do Different

  • I’d like to try it with home-made crust some day. I think it would be even better, but store-bought works in a pinch.
  • Get some ramekins and make individual pot pies. I don’t like big pot pies because they’re hard to get out of the pie pan in one nice, neat slice and then the filling starts spilling out everywhere. Just a big mess. I’d like to try individual ones.
  • Get a pie crust shield. I hate trying to make one out of aluminum. There must be a trick I’m missing.
  • Cook it on the Big Green Egg.

 

2012 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for my blog. Some very interesting stuff (well, its interesting to me, probably not anybody else). I really like the world map that’s included. If you let the pointer hover over a country, it will tell you how many people from that country looked at my site! Who knew there were so many people spanning the globe? Thanks for everybody who visited. We’ll do our best to make 2013 even better!

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 93,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Pulled Beef Nachos

     Do you remember a while back when we smoked some chuck roasts to make pulled beef? We didn’t eat all that pulled beef by ourselves. No, some of it got vacuum sealed and frozen for a later date. Last night was one of those later dates. What do you do when you are sitting on a mountain of pulled beef and your wife goes out of town? Make Nachos!!

Pulled Beef Nachos
Pulled Beef Nachos

Ingredients

  • Tortilla Chips
  • Pulled Beef
  • Refried Beans
  • Cheese, any kind will do here, I used a mixture of cheddar and Mexican blend
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Jalapenos
  • Sour Cream and guacamole if desired
Assembling the nachos
Assembling the nachos

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Warm up refried beans (makes it easier to spread on chips)
  3. Lay chips out flat on a plate or baking sheet. Spread on refried beans, top with gobs of cheese and pulled beef.
  4. Bake in oven 5-10 minutes or until cheese melts
  5. Top with pico de gallo, jalapenos, sour cream and guacamole.
Pulled Beef Nachos
Pulled Beef Nachos

     One of the reasons we have a vacuum sealer is just for this reason. We smoke large quantities of meat (doesn’t take any extra charcoal or time) and then freeze them for quick meals later down the road. Or, for when Mrs. G goes out of town and I don’t feel like cooking just for myself. Pull a bag out of the freezer the night before and allow to defrost in the fridge. The next night, you can heat the bag in a gently boiling pot of water or nuke it in the microwave and you’ve got yourself a quick and easy meal. No muss, no fuss.