Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

Adapted from Bon Appetit’s Classic Caesar Salad

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

     I like to think that I am in the camp of cook once, eat twice. Or three times. Sometimes four. Quite often, we’ll cook a big batch of food on Sundays and use it to make weeknight dinner prep a little quicker. The other night, I was really wanting some chicken thighs. I figured if I was going to fire up the Egg to cook a few chicken thighs, why not use up all the available real estate and fill it up? I figured I could find something to do with the extra chicken, even if it just became lunches during the week. It does make prep easier, but it is also cheaper to buy the larger packs of meat. Cook it all and save it for later, or vacuum seal it and freeze it for later.

Using all the available real estate. I could have fir a few more on there, but the package only contained nine.
Using all the available real estate. I could have fit a few more on there, but the package only contained nine.

     I decided that my first use of leftover chicken would be Grilled Chicken Caesar Salads. A quick, easy and healthy weeknight dinner for sure. We’ve done these in the past and really enjoyed them, but I realized I hadn’t shared them with you guys. You can take the easy route and opt to use bottled Caesar dressing, but you really should try to make the dressing by yourself just once. It’s really worth it. I guarantee. And you probably have all the ingredients on hand. Well…probably not the anchovies, but they are like $3 a tin and there is enough to make two batches.

If you are going through all the trouble, make some home-made croutons as well. It only takes 10-15 minutes.
If you are going through all the trouble, make some home-made croutons as well. It only takes 10-15 minutes.

     I’m not sure what recipe Mrs. G has used for the dressing in the past and when I asked her about it, she couldn’t remember either. So I asked around on a few forums and took Kristi’s advice from Necessary Indulgences to use the one from Bon Appetit. Well…as much as I can follow directions anyway. It got a few tweaks.

Ingredients

  • 6 anchovy fillets packed in oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 2 egg yolks *
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (about one large lemon)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
  • 4 Tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cups of fresh bread cut into 1″ pieces (we used French bread)
  • Romaine lettuce (if serving as a side, figure 1 head pre 2 people, if as a main dish 1 head per person)
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and cayenne
  • 2 cups of precooked chicken, breast or thigh meat (about two chicken thighs); shrimp would also make a great substitution
Romaine lettuce grilled direct at about 450F.
Romaine lettuce grilled direct at about 450F.

Directions

For the croutons

  1. Preh-heat your oven to 375F
  2. Tear your bread into 1″ cubes. Toss the bread with about 3 Tbsp of olive oil on a baking sheet. Season with Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and a touch of cayenne.
  3. Bake for 10-15 minutes, tossing occasionally, until golden brown.

For the dressing

  1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Gently lower in two eggs and allow to cook for 1 minute. Remove eggs from boiling water, rinse with cold water and  allow to cool (this is called coddling an egg)
  2. Chop together 6 anchovies and one clove of garlic.
  3. Add a pinch of Kosher salt and using the side of a knife blade mash into a paste. Scrape into a medium bowl.
  4. Whisk in two egg yolks, 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice and 1 tsp of Dijon mustard.
  5. Slowly whisk in 2 Tbsp of olive oil, then 1/2 cup of canola or vegetable oil. Whisk until dressing is thick and glossy.
  6. Whisk in 4 Tbsp of freshly, finely grated Parmesan cheese.
  7. Season with Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper if needed.
  8. Pour the dressing into a mason jar so that you can easily shake it up right before serving. Can be stored in the fridge up to one week.

For the Lettuce

  1. Set up your grill for a direct cook and preheat to 450F.
  2. Slice the romaine lettuce in half. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Cook the lettuce cut side down for about 2 minutes or until lightly charred.
  4. Roll the lettuce 1/3 and cook for an additional minute, then roll another 1/3 and cook for one more minute (since the outside is kind of rounded, it will need to be rolled to get all sides)
  5. Remove the lettuce from the grill and either prepare your salad immediately, allow to cool at room temperatures or even chill slightly.
Romain cooling off at room temperature
Romain cooling off at room temperature

     You can either prepare your salad immediately after it comes off the grill, allow it to cool a bit or even chill it slightly in the fridge. We like to let ours cool a bit on the counter before building our salads. Take the romaine lettuce and slice off the bottom (sediment collects here as the lettuce grows and is hard to clean off while it is whole). Arrange the lettuce on a plate and top with chicken and croutons. Drizzle on the dressing and then shave Parmesan cheese on top.

Who knew a salad could look so good?
Who knew a salad could look so good?

     What a quick and tasty weeknight meal this was. You may scoff at the idea of grilling lettuce, but have you ever done it? The smoky flavor adds another level of depth to the romaine lettuce. Topping it off with home made croutons and grilled chicken elevates it even more. Bottled Caesar dressing? Please. One taste of this simple and easy to prepare dressing and you will never buy it again. The citrus flavor from the lemon. The hint of brine from the anchovies. Like taking in a breath of ocean air. I’m not afraid to admit that I took a hunk of bread and wiped the bowl clean after transferring the dressing to a mason jar. Yes, it was that good. I think this will be going into our rotation much more often now.

** The Center for Disease Control says “Consumption of raw or undercooked eggs should be avoided, especially by young children, elderly persons, and persons with weakened immune systems or debilitating illness.” Pregnant women are also advised not to eat raw eggs or foods containing raw eggs. If you choose to use raw eggs, make sure to buy pasteurized eggs and coddle them for one minute. You may also use 1 Tbsp of mayonnaise to replace one egg yolk in most recipes. In the case of this recipe, use 2 Tbsp. This is a recommended substitution, but I have not tried it. **

Italian Meatloaf

Italian Meatloaf cooked on the BGE
Italian Meatloaf cooked on the BGE

     Mrs. G has been off in Atlanta doing her work thing for the past 8 days. On one of our last conversations, she asked if I would cook up some home cooked food for her return and who could blame her? I like eating out now and again just like everybody else. But 8 days in a row, three meals a day? That can get a little old quick. The only question was what to cook for her?

     When I think of home cooked meals, one of the first things that pops into my head is meatloaf. I’ve been wanting to take ordinary meatloaf and put a little bit of a spin on it for a while now and I figured this would be the perfect time to try my hand at making an Italian Meatloaf. I scoured the ole interweb looking for ideas, took a few from here and a few from there and came up with our own version.

All the palyers into the bowl to be mixed up.
All the players into the bowl to be mixed up.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of ground beef (80/20. You don’t want to go leaner unless you like dry meatloaf. 20% fat is key.)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup of parsley, chopped fine
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup of Italian breadcrumbs
  • about 15 oz of marinara sauce, 1/2 cup for the meatloaf + 1/4 cup to glaze the top*
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano (drained)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tsp each of Italian seasoning, oregano, basil, salt and fresh ground black pepper

* You can use your own home made marinara if you have the time and/or inclination. For this recipe, we used Giovanni Rana Marinara sauce. Generally, we would use Buitoni if we weren’t making it from scratch, but the store was out. *

Directions

  1. Set up your grill for an indirect cook and preheat to 400. For how to set up your grill, see the section on Setting Up Your Grill at the bottom. If using an oven, preheat to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix until uniform. Don’t overmix as it will make the meatloaf dry.
  3. Measure out two sheets of aluminum foil about the size of a cookie sheet and lay on a cookie sheet. Take a knife and poke small holes in the aluminum foil to allow the grease to drip out. (The purpose of the aluminum foil is to allow easy transfer onto and off of the grill. You can skip this step if so desired.)
  4. Remove the meatloaf mixture from the bowl and handform into a loaf shape on the aluminum foil. Refrigerate for 30 minutes prior to cooking to help the loaf hold its shape.
  5. Place the meatloaf on the grill and cook until the internal temperature reaches 150 . If desired, add wood chips at this time per your grills instructions (We opted for orange wood just because I happened to find them at the store for the first time and wanted to give them a shot). Go easy on the wood, however, as ground beef will absorb the smoke like a sponge.
  6. Once the meatloaf has reached 150, glaze the top with about 1/4 cup of the reserved marinara sauce and continue to cook.
  7. Once the meatloaf has reached 160, remove from the grill and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Italian Meatloaf on the Big Green Egg
Italian Meatloaf on the Big Green Egg

Total cooking time should be around an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, but remember, you want to cook to temp not time. Use the time as a rough guideline, but going by temp will ensure that you don’t end up with a dry, overcooked hunk o’ beef.

Finished
Finished

Resting your meatloaf is just as important as resting a steak or brisket. Let it sit and cool off a bit and allow the aromas to perfume your house. Take a load off and enjoy a nice, refreshing glass of your beverage of choice or use this time to put the finishing touches on your side dishes.

Plated up with a side of pasta.
Plated up with a side of pasta.

     I was torn on whether to serve this meatloaf with the traditional side of mashed potatoes or go with pasta. I really wanted mashed potatoes, but offered the choice, Mrs. G choose pasta. No big shocker there, and since she had been out of town for over a week, we cooked some linguini we had laying around and used the last of the marinara sauce to top it off. I’ll just have to get my mashed potato fix later this week.

     For some reason, it never dawned on me until Mrs. G took a bite and said, “This tastes like one giant meatball! In meatloaf form!” I mulled over her statement for a few seconds and had to agree with her. It has all the ingredients you would typically find in a meatball, but in a loaf instead. I was really pleased with how it turned out. The flavor was phenomenal and the meatloaf was juicy, tender and moist.

     If I had the time and inclination, next time I might make my own marinara sauce to add into the meatloaf and to glaze the top at the end, but you will be pleased using a store bought version that you enjoy. Sometimes, you just have to take those short cuts in life.

Setting Up Your Grill

My set up on the Egg for this cook was to use the Adjustable Rig from The Ceramic Grill Store with the oval ceramic stone (wrapped in foil for easy cleanup) on the bottom level and the oval grid on the third level. If you do not have the AR, I recommend using the plate setter legs up (wrapped in foil for easy cleanup) and the original grate resting on top of that. For a charcoal grill, bank the coals on one side and cook the meat loaf indirectly on the other side with no coals. For a two burner gas grill, light the grill on one side and cook on the other unlit side. For three burner or more, light the outer burners and leave the center off. Cook the meatloaf in the center above the unlit burners.

When the Cat’s Away…

…the mice will play. Or in this case, when Mrs. G is outta town, I often get bored and have to find ways to entertain myself. There’s only so many movies I can watch that she won’t watch (ie Sci-fi, comic book based movies like Wolverine or nerdy moveis). One way I’ve found to entertain myself is to brew beer. I’m no expert at this, it’s only my third batch, but it has been fun so far.

Boiling the wort.
Boiling the wort.

Being an amateur, I haven’t graduated up to brewing with malted grain or all-grain. Like I said, this is only my third batch, so I’m keeping it simple and using the canned hopped malt concentrate. You have to start somewhere, right?

This is the one I chose this time. Cooper's Dark Ale.
This is the one I chose for this batch. Cooper’s Dark Ale.

     It’s advertised as:

Rich mahogany colour and a creamy head. Roasted malt aromas with a hint of chocolate, generous mouthfeel dominated by roasted malt flavours, sufficient hop bitterness to give balance and a dry finish. A favourite amongst dark beer drinkers.

     We’ll see how it turns out in a month or so.

Chilling the wort.
Chilling the wort in a sink full of ice water.

     I didn’t get anymore pictures of the whole process as its kind of hands on and honestly I wasn’t thinking about it. I will report that I checked on it this morning and the yeasties are doing their job, eating the sugars and producing carbon dioxide, which you can tell by checking to see if your airlock is bubbling. I’ll keep you posted on some other steps down the road and how it ends up turning out.

     I will say that if you like to cook (especially if you like baking and using precise measurements, temperatures and yeast) and you like beer, than you will enjoy making your own beer. Yeah, it’s a labor of love and takes a lot of time and patience (mostly waiting for the next step which could be weeks down the road), but when you hand somebody a cold one, they take a sip and say “That’s really good. You made that?” it will bring a smile to you face and it makes it all worthwhile.

 

If you are a bit apprehensive about where to start, try looking up homebrew + your city and I can almost guarantee you will find a store that can walk you through what you need and how to do it. Most places will be more than happy to share their knowledge and get you started as they have a passion for beer and want to share it. If you find a place that isn’t friendly or not eager to help, go someplace else. In my experience, that is not a problem. The problem is more likely getting these people to stop talking about a subject they are so passionate about. If you are in the DFW metroplex, I can not recommend Homebrew Headquarters  in Richardson enough. These guys are super friendly and super knowledgeable. Heck, they even threw in a 12 pack of empty bottles the first time I went in and got started. I just had to wash them and get the labels off…

A Few Projects We’re Working On

We don’t have any new recipes to share with you today, but I thought I would give you an update on some of the things we are working on right now and some of the projects we will be taking on this year.

Often touted as the Bible when it comes to Charcuterie
Often touted as the Bible when it comes to Charcuterie

     A while back, and I don’t even know how long ago, I got a copy of Michael Ruhlman and Brian Poleyn’s Charcuterie. I had every intention to dive right in and make some home made bacon and Canadian bacon. You know what they say about the best of intentions? I pulled it off the bookshelf, dusted it off and have now committed myself to finally attempting some of those recipes.

Just about 5lbs of raw pork belly
Just about 5lbs of raw pork belly

     At some point, I must have mentioned to my brother, the other Mr. G, that I didn’t know where to find pork belly. He told me to try an Asian market. Later on, he brought me right around 5 lbs of pork belly which got dumped into the freezer and lost.

While I wish it was one solid slab, I'll work with tehe4 smaller ones I have now.
While I wish it was one solid slab, I’ll work with the 4 smaller ones I have now.

     Getting into Charcuterie was one of my New Year’s Resolutions. From what I have heard, store bought bacon does not even compare to the stuff you can make at home. It does require curing the meat for around 7 days with a basic cure of Kosher salt, sugar and Cure #1.

Ingredients for the Basic Cure
Ingredients for the Basic Cure

I’m thinking that since I am doing smaller slabs instead of one big slab and since there will be more surface area, the cure won’t take the full seven days. I’m hoping to pull it Saturday, rinse it, rest it overnight and cold smoke it on Sunday. We’ll see how that goes…

A Book Review!!
A Book Review!!

     The other thing I need to get underway is a book review of Sausage! by Johan Akerberg and Jesper Lindberg. The nice folks at Skyhorse Publishing contacted me back in November and offered me the opportunity to review this new book. Unfortunately, the holidays got in the way, but now that things are returning to normal, I’m looking forward to diving into it. They gave me permission to reprint two or three of their recipes, so I’ll be scouring the book looking for the ones that most appeal to me and I’ll share them with you. The pictures are very appealing so it might be hard to pick, but I’m leaning towards one of their pork sausages, a duck sausage (if I can find some duck) and possibly a seafood sausage.  They have one they call Moules de Mer, crab and lobster sausage with moules mariniere (a bowl of mussels) and French fries. I know Mrs. G will be a fan of that one.

Moules de Mer - I know Mrs. G is going to love this one.
Moules de Mer – I know Mrs. G is going to love this one.

     The authors have also included quick and simple recipes for sides (such as sauerkrauts, pickled red onions or German potato salads to name a few) and home made condiments (mustards, ketchups, curry sauces and more) to go along with each sausage. I am really excited to get started on some of these right away.

The Flame Boss
The Flame Boss

     Don’t think we’ve forgotten about the Flame Boss. We’ve used it a few times here and there and so far our initial impressions have been really postitive, but we are going to really put it through its paces now. Expect a thorough review of how it performs and what we like and/or don’t like about it.

     Along with dabbling in some Charcuterie and stuffing some sausages, we will strive to bring you new and fresh recipes this year including grilled foods, smoked foods and even some prepared solely in the kitchen. And we’ve got a few reviews that will be coming up early in the year of some new products that I am excited to try out. So that’s what we’ve got planned. As always, we love hearing from each and every one of you, whether it’s you sharing your opinions with us, offering us suggestions or asking questions. If you have any ideas or recipes that you would like us to try, feel free to tell us about them. If you have a recipe that you would like to share with us and possible see here on the blog, send it our way. We love interacting with you, so make sure to leave us a comment. Here’s to a bigger and better New Year in 2014!

 

Disclaimer: Michael Ruhlman and Brian Poleyn’s Charcuterie was purchased with our own hard earned dollars. We have had no contact with either of them or their publishers and have received no monetary compensation from them. The publishers of  Sausage! and the makers of  Flame Boss contacted us and sent us their products free of charge. There has been and will not be any monetary compensation from them for reviewing their products. We have always been and will continue to be a non-profit blog, doing it for the love of it and not in the pursuit of money.

Baked Potato Soup

Baked Potato Soup
Baked Potato Soup

     Well, 2013 is in the records and 2014 is well underway. Sorry for our lack of activity lately. If you’ve been paying attention, it’s been about a month since we’ve done a post. I’m sure you’ll forgive me. Holidays can be quite a busy time and we spent quite a bit of it out of town. Almost a whole week at the ranch with no internet connection which was quite nice, truth be told.

     If you’ve noticed, we’re not one of those blogs that puts out a new recipe every day. Or a set number per week. Or even on some kind of schedule. This isn’t out job, it’s just a hobby. We’re not looking to quit our jobs and go pro. Or get paid. Or write a book. We just do it for the fun of it. And if that means we get in a slump and don’t feel like cooking, or go back and revisit old classics for a while and have nothing new post, so be it. I’m just explaining why sometimes you’ll see long breaks here between posts. More power to those who can crank out recipes on a set schedule, but for me, I’m just going to take my time and only post quality recipes that we firmly believe in. Either that we’ve tried time and time again, tweaked to get just right or sometimes lucked out and nailed on the first try. Anyhow, enough rambling on.

Nothing like a bowl of soup to warm the soul.
Nothing like a bowl of soup to warm the soul.

     There are tons of recipes out there for Baked Potato Soup, but I thought I would go ahead and share ours along with a few tricks we like to use.

Ingredients

  • 4 large baking potatoes
  • 10-12 slices of thick cut bacon
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 6 cups 2% milk
  • 2 cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • Coarse Kosher salt and WHITE pepper
  • light sour cream
  • 3-4 green onions, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Wash the potatoes and then pierce each potato a few times on each side with a fork. Rub with olive oil or canola oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Place the potatoes directly on the middle rack of the oven. Cook for about one hour or until the internal temperature has reached 200F. Remove from oven, set aside and allow to cool.
  3. Slice the bacon into lardons or thin strips. Cook the bacon in a large cast iron skillet (shouldn’t bacon always be cooked in cast iron?) or a large pot over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon but reserve the drippings. If you used a CI skillet, bonus points to you, but now you need to transfer the drippings to a large pot.
  4. Add the flour to the drippings and stir until combined, cooking for about 1 minute. While continuously whisking, slowly stir in the milk. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes until thickened while stirring occasionally.
  5. Slice open the potatoes and using a spoon, scoop out the pulp and add it to the pot. Mash the potatoes to your desired consistency. Some people like it more chunky than others, I’ll let you decide how creamy or chunky you want yours.
  6. Stir in a little over half of the bacon (leaving the rest for garnish), one cup of the cheese and season with salt and white pepper. We find that 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of white pepper was just about right for us, but adjust to your own palette. Stir until the cheese has melted and remove from heat.
  7. Ladle the baked potato soup into bowls and garnish with the remaining bacon, cheese and chopped green onions.
Serve with warm, thick crusty bread.
Serve with warm, thick crusty bread.

     This is one pretty darn tasty baked potato soup, if I do say so myself. You have all the flavors of a baked potato. Bacon. Cheese. Green onions. Sour cream. But in a soup form. What’s not to like? I hear some people can be picky about the consistency of their baked potato soup. Some like it chunky, some like it creamy. My only advice is you are in control of that. So if you like it creamy, mash until your heart’s content. Or use an immersion blender if you have one. More in the chunky camp, don’t mash it quite as much. You control your own destiny…or at least this soup.

     I know what you are probably thinking, “What’s with all the soups and stuff lately? Where’s all the grilled or smoked food?” Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe partially because I got sick early this year and the new lab we moved into is freezing, but for some reason, I have not been able to get warm lately and the thought of going outside and freezing my rear off has not been that appealing.  Maybe I’ve just been “grilled out” lately and besides cooking old standbys, I just haven’t come up with anything interesting to cook on the Egg lately. Or maybe its just that with it being winter and it getting dark so early and our poor patio lighting, I just haven’t felt like cooking outside in the dark. I will promise to do my best to grill something blog worthy this week on the Egg…if the weather cooperates. And I get over this nasty cold I have…

Tips

  1. Line the rack below your potatoes to catch the oil dripping off the potatoes for easier cleanup.
  2. Freeze bacon for 15 minutes to make slicing into lardons easier.
  3. Use white pepper instead of black pepper. It’s just an aesthetic thing, but who wants to see black flecks in their white soup?
  4. Save the skins to make potato skins later as an appetizer. They can be frozen for later as well. 4 potatoes will result in 16 potato skins.
  5. For the perfect baked potato, cook until the IT temp is 212F. For this soup, 200F will be fine.