Saturday, May 11, 2013

Chillin' & Grillin'

Finally!  The nice weather has come to Ruston!  I thought the winter here would never end, but the skies cleared, the rain has stopped (for now), and the temperatures have risen.  Nice weather compels us to spend time on the front porch, have a few (or several) brews and other tasty libations, perhaps smoke a cigar, and fire up the grill for a fantastic meal.

Green Tea Beer is delicious!
Last weekend we enjoyed a growler of Tieton Cider Works Apricot Cider and a growler of Port Townsend Yoda's Green Tea Golden Ale from our new favorite beer and hotdog place, The Red Hot (TRH) in Tacoma.

First of all I must say that I am absolutely in love with this cider and have been very sad that it has not come back to TRH.  However, I am crossing my fingers and would gladly fill all four of our growlers with it when it does come back.  It's so light and fruity and crisp and very refreshing.  The thought of apricot kind of threw me off, but Dale had a pint at TRH and I gave it a try.  Delicious!

Dale, enjoying a stogie
I had the green tea beer and I must admit that the flavor kind of had me on the edge of liking it and not liking it.  Dale liked it so we filled up and took some home.  It sat in the fridge for a bit and we were told that the tap had blown when they filled our growler which left a small bit of head-space in the neck.  Whatever happened, when we cracked that baby open, poured, and sipped...what a nice beer this was!  Surprisingly, after drinking 128oz. of brew together (that's a half gallon each), neither Dale or I complained of any type of alcohol aftereffects that strong brew can bring on, and we were feeling preeety fine if you know what I mean.  We've decided unanimously that it must have been the green tea in the beer that protected us from the evils of hangovers! We'll be taking home more of this when it come back to TRH! ;)

I've always taken pride in my cooking skills and I have to admit that I may be better while I'm sporting a strong buzz!  Grilling is simple but not everyone possesses the knack of doing it really well.  I learned my grill skills from my days of working as a night cook at a little supper club in Minnesota when I was 19 years old.  Unless you like chewing on over-done, dry, and (heaven forbid) even burnt meat, you have to understand the "feel and timing" to get that perfectly cooked steak.  Be it bloody, rare, medium rare, medium, medium well-done, well-done, or shoe leather (my brother, Dean insists on this) nearly anyone can grill to anyone's preference.

Diane's Steak Grilling Method 

My method is using a gas grill and cooking steaks to medium rare; a pretty pink nearly all the way through and just a titch cool in temperature.  This is the only way I'll eat steak, but I could post how to do other doneness, but then I would have to eat over-done meat and that makes me sad.  I'll feed it to Dale!

No less than 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick (up to 2 inches if you like, usually a fillet minon cut can be this thick) of your favorite quality cut of beef; any weight you desire as the thickness is really the key; my preference is rib-eye and Dale likes NY stripe; my steak weighed in at nearly 2lbs! 
Coarse salt (I always use Kosher) 
Fresh ground black pepper

First of all, and I think this is key, take out your steaks to reach room temperature (or at least warm up if you have the phobia of getting sick from meat sitting out on your counter).  I keep them wrapped and put them out for about an hour.  Usually this is the time when I'm prepping all of the other stuff for the grill feast like grilled corn on the cob and prosciutto wrapped asparagus spears.  This also puts a spotlight on the importance of prepping each item of your meal.  You don't want your steaks sitting on the grill "keeping warm" while you are trying to throw the other stuff together.  Letting your steak warm up will give you more control of the cooking than using one straight from the cold.

When we use our gas grill (we have a double grill, but a nice large single grill is nice for a meal like this) I preheat the grill on high (and preheated the other for the asparagus).  Not only does this burn of any old stuff (come on, who really keeps their grill sparkling clean after each use??) but it gets the grates rocket hot, and you want that!  So preheat the grill for about 15 minutes or so.  I threw the corn on at this time and went out and turned it every so often, then I took it off the grate and put it on the higher grate to keep it warm but away from the fire.

Fancy grill marks aren't just for eating out!
Be sure your steaks are dry and if they aren't, take some paper towel and give them a good pat down on both sides.  Excess moisture on the outside can impede achieving a good sear and that restaurant quality look of cross-cross grill marks if you should choose.  I always choose to mark my meat 'cuz it makes it just a wee bit more tastier in my brain.

Liberally salt and pepper both sides of the steak to taste.  That's it for me.  No fancy marinade, rubs, season mixes, etc.  I just like plain salt and pepper, but I also don't use any sauce.  If it's a tasty cut of meat, who needs all of that stuff to mask the flavor?

With the grill on high, slap them babies onto the grill!  I love this part because it's quite dramatic and I enjoy the sizzle and flare ups! I let my steaks in the picture sear for about a minute or so but you can take a peek underneath to see if the searing is nice and brown. Using tongs, lift up and rotate the steak 45 degrees or so and set back down onto the grill.  Turn your heat down to medium and shut the lid at this time.
I cooked these steaks for about 3 to 4 minutes more and then I turned them over.  You can put grill marks on the other side, but you don't have to unless you serve the thing balancing on it's edge.  Wouldn't that be something?  Any hoo, cook the other side for about 3-5 minutes.  Really, it's hard to put time to this because combined with time, I cook steaks by the feel of the steak as well.  What I mean by feel is that I will use my tongs to press down (now you're not smashing your steak like I see so many do and they squeeze all the juice out!!  Shame on you!!) to get a feel of the "give" of the meat.  Check out this clever method using your hand to get a very general idea for the feel of each doneness. 

Medium rare was perfect for this thick-cut rib-eye
Once I've felt satisfied with the doneness (I will turn over if I feel the need to test the doneness as well, and you can just take a peek inside by cutting in to see, but do this on the side without your awesome pro-grill-marks!) I pull off the steaks and put them on a plate and then loosely cover (tent) with foil and then let sit for about 5 minutes.

Letting your steak rest is very important and I never skip this step.  You can cook the steak just slightly less if it's a thinner cut and during the resting period it will continue to cook.  This is the time I throw on the asparagus which take about 5 minutes on the other high heat grill.  Keep reading for my corn on the cob and asparagus on the grill methods.

Diane's Corn-on-the-cob Grilling Method 

Fresh cobs of sweet corn, husked and all the silk removed
Kosher salt 
Fresh ground black pepper
Can of non-stick, non flavored cooking spray
Heavy aluminum foil

I have cooked corn in the husks before, but I prefer cooking them in foil. Also, I don't usually eat butter on my ears of sweet corn so I prepare them using a non-stick cooking spray like Pam, but you can use butter in lieu.  Or, use butter-flavored cooking spray if you'd like.

Spray each cob with the cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper, or you can use your favorite seasoning salt or Cajun seasoning is what I like too.  Tightly wrap each sprayed and seasoned cob with foil and place on the grill.  I usually cook the corn when I'm preheating the grill on high, turning them every 5 minutes or so and taking them off after about 10-15 minutes.  Just be careful not to burn your corn.  I love slightly charred corn, so I cook mine longer.

You can remove your cooked corn, but keep it wrapped and it will stay piping hot.  I just put mine on the upper rack of the grill away from the flames.  When you are ready to eat, just unwrap and enjoy! 

Diane's Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus Grilling Method

A lovely bunch of fresh asparagus
1 package of quality Prosciutto (usually found in the specialty food area of most grocery stores; you know, near the fancy cheeses like the brie or goat cheese)

Clean and prepare the asparagus.  I usually just snap the bottom off where it breaks the easiest.  I don't like the woody ends, but if you like the whole thing you don't have to do this.  Take three or four spears and wrap a piece of Prosciutto tightly around the middle; securing your spears into a neat bundle.  Repeat until all Prosciutto and asparagus is used.  You can season with black pepper but don't use salt.  Prosciutto is a very salty cured type of ham.

I have this clever "pan" that I picked up a few years ago.  It's made for the grill but it's non-stick and has small holes to keep food from falling and perishing in flames below.  I put this pan on the grill during preheat and when I was ready to cook the asparagus while the steaks were resting, this pan was searing hot.  Use a non-stick cooking spray and carefully spray the whole surface of the pan.  Remember that you're spraying aerosol near an open flame so try not to blow yourself up! ;)

Place the bundles on the pan and turn occasionally.  The Prosciutto will start to brown and the asparagus will turn bright green.  I don't like over cooked asparagus so I removed it when the ham was well browned. Serve immediately.

Dale gave no complaints about his meal!
Of course because my steak was so ginormous, I couldn't eat it all, but I love leftovers nearly as I love the actual meal!  Dale finished his steak like the good boy he is, and we gobbled up all of the corn and all of the green stuff.  It was sooooo delicious that I'm getting hungry by just writing about it! 

So, with this wonderful weather, or even if you don't have wonderful weather, don't be afraid to fire up your gas grill and cook up your perfect steaks today!

It doesn't get any better than this!

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