The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

Catch Up

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Often in the past when I’ve neglected my blog it has been because work has taken me away from my hobby. This past month has been the opposite “problem”: In the past month I have used the grill or smoker 19 times to make a total of 16 items. So I haven’t been writing about grilling & smoking because I have been too busy grilling and smoking. This entry will sum up the last month or so in general terms.

As mentioned this has been a very active time on the grill and smoker for me. In the past in a months time even in the middle of the summer I might grill or smoke twice on the weekends and once or twice during the week. So perhaps a dozen cooks in the peak of the summer season. Here we are in March and I‘ve grilled 19 times and made 16 new items. This was taking a weekend off from grilling too when I had to get some work out. I’ve even grilled twice on a weekday.

Several things have come together to mark this prolific period. I’ve been working at home more quite a bit and not out in the field. Not commuting in and out of Boston gives me four hours back out of every day. Even if I put in a couple hours of overtime I still have 2 hours to cook something. The second item is my recent discovery that my gas grill can seemingly cook all through the winter. For more on this refer to my 2009 & 2008 blog entries. Prior to this Winter I would do big roasts on the grill that took several hours to indirect cook, or I would use the smoker which took 45 minutes to heat up and a minimum of one hour to cook something. Now that I know can use the gas grill for direct cooking even in cold weather that is a whole new ball game. I can fire up the gas grill and at worst it take 20 minutes not 15 to heat up. This means quick cooks are possible year round. For some of the paninis I’ve made the prep can be done in this same warmup time. The last thing has been a couple new cookbooks that have had recipes that looked so tempting I could hardly wait to get back from the store to try them.


This book has a wide range of recipes that are simply but elegant.

With my extra at home time, I’ve found that I could make a early morning run when the supermarket opens, do my shopping quickly in a peaceful empty store and get home and still have an hour or so before it is time to start work. I can visit my local butcher shop during the weekdays instead of having to wait for the weekends. At the end of the day I can even work a little longer but still have time to make a quick meal and get it in by 7:30. This was my arrival time when commuting from Boston, so even with a quick meal I was eating around 8:30. Or I can knock off at 5:30 and still have time for 2 hours of prep and cooking. I can also now have the time to make marinades or rubs and start items in the morning and flip them during the day as needed and be ready to go at the end of the day.

I’ve already written about my exciting discovery that I can direct grill year round with this gas grill. This is huge, two advantages the gas grill has are quick warm up times and steady temps. I can also now cook whatever I want whenever I want, which makes it easier to grill something. People used to know they could ask me about the weather. They knew I was watching it to see if I could get a cook in. These days I’ve really stopped watching the weather before planning a cook. I know the grill is up to all but the most extreme weather. I have to continue my testing next winter when the temps drop below the high single digits, but how often does it get colder than that? Plus I can use the smoker. No longer am I looking at the weather first. I am now just saying I want to grill or smoke on a particular day and then looking at the weather that day to see how it might impact the cook. Is it cold or windy enough that I need to start early. But the weather has come close to becoming a non-issue.

The last item that made this period so prolific, was a couple of new cookbooks I’ve picked up. Williams-Sonoma has regular classes both free one hour ones and longer classes they charge for. They can be very worthwhile and I’ve picked up some good tips at them. I always like seeing something demonstrated by a real person as opposed to getting it out of a book. Unlike FoodTV which has become BAM, fashion and fluff these classes are focussed and being live you get to ask questions. This past month I took two classes on Sundays: one on techniques for prepping and cooking chicken and one on selecting, using and maintaining knives. The knife skills class in particular was well worth the time. The chicken class was marred by the poor performance of the instructor whose mind was elsewhere that day and it showed. But it was free so it is hard to complain too much. After the class I roamed the store and each time left with a cookbook. The first one I grabbed was the
Williams-Sonona The Essentals of Grilling cookbook. This one has recipes from around the world the look elegant, but are actually quite simple to make. A few years ago I might have been more scared by these recipes, but now they seem quite easy. Unlike How to Grill, which spells things out step by step, this book does assume a little bit of knowledge. So not the first book to get when you are starting out, but it won’t take long before you can use this one. The weekend after I bought this cookbook I made 3 different meals from it. and they were all great. I’ll post links to the picture pages using the recipes from this book below.


The panini as a comfort food book.

The next book I purchased after attending the knife skills class was
Panini by Melanie Bernard. The second I picked it up I knew it was a keeper. This book has panini recipes that take classic comfort foods and make them into a panini. Plus it gives straightforward recipes for classic sandwiches such as the Rueben or the Cuban. I liked this book so much I couldn’t even wait for the next weekend to make something from it. I bought it on a Sunday and made a panini the next Monday for lunch and another for supper. In 8 days I have had 6 panini grilling sessions using 4 different recipes. The first two factor I mentioned played a big part in this. I was home and had the extra time to do this and even though it has been unseasonably cold the weather has not been a factor. One nice thing about grilled paninis is they can be a short prep of 10 or 15 minutes and a 10 minute cook. So you can do them almost any time. The Italian panini and the Crocque-Monsieur were more time consuming but these were some of the best sandwiches I’ve had. One other item I picked up along with the cookbook was a Wusthoff panini knife. It was a coincidence that I got a panini knife and a panini cookbook. They showed the panini knife in the cooking class and I spotted the panini book when I was walking over to the knife case. The panini knife is a medium long serrated knife with an offset handle that makes it easy to slice all the way through bread without your knuckles dragging on the sidewalk. In the class they also used this knife on some soft veggies with hard skins. The serrated blade is great for this as well.


After the initial mixing and while the meat was still cold , I should have quit while I was ahead and put it on the skewers.

So that is what I have been up to these last few, and I am glad that my absence has been because I am too busy cooking and not too busy working. Although in the what goes around comes around department the next few months could be overly busy with work. But I’ll cross that bridge when I fall off it - in this economy too busy is not a bad place to be.

LINKS TO PICTURE PAGES FROM Essentials of Grilling
  STUFFED FLANK STEAK Beef Picture Entry

:   CROQUE-MONISEUR Panini Picture Entry
  CUBANO PANINI Panini Picture Entry
  REUBEN Panini Picture Entry


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