Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rotisserie Project

In between the holidays, work, cooking, and helping Brendan with his smoker rebuild, I've been working on my own little project. I converted an old charcoal grill into a rotisserie. I was reading Mario Batali's new book Italian Grill and there is a whole section on spit roasting. One of the recipes is for a turkey breast that was pounded out thin, stuffed with porchetta seasonings and ground sausage, rolled, then spit roasted. Reading that recipe was all it took for me...I would soon be doing some spit roasting (grilling.) One problem: I don't have a rotisserie. I could just go buy one, but that's boring; so I built one. At the moment I have 6 smoker/grills. So I figured I could take one of those and convert it into a rotisserie. I chose the Brinkman Grill King, it has a big area and was already down at my shop. Next thing I needed was the rotisserie. The grill is 36" long so most replacement spits won't do; I needed to buy a big one. I picked the stainless steel model from Jenn Air. It is over 40" long and will hold up to fifty pounds, perfect. I put that all together and was done...well, for a few days anyway. I got to thinking: everything I own is fueled by charcoal/wood. I don't even have a gas grill. I figured I would make this a propane rotisserie. So I went back out and got the largest burner they had and installed it in the grill. Right over the burner I installed a steel grate, that will be perfect to hold a disposable pan to catch any drippings from the meat while it cooks. I brought it home today and it is ready for some cooking. Whole chickens? Leg of lamb? Mario's turkey porchetta? Whatever I do, I'm sure I'll be taking a picture of it.

Here are some pics from the build:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday Night Food Porn

Christmas Leftovers: Sous Vide Prime Rib Sandwich

Christmas dinner was great. Among other things I cooked a 19 pound prime rib. To me one of the best things about a large piece of meat like that is the inevitable leftovers on the next day. My problem in the past with making a sliced beef sandwich is the reheat. Even in a low oven thinly sliced beef can over cook very quick. It can go from perfectly rare to well done in under a minute. Sometimes I will take the beef and just hit in a a frying pan to sear it up; it would still get over cooked but at least it would add some nice flavor. And there was always the option of a cold beef sandwich, the meat would still be nice and rare, but not everyone likes cold meat. So, how can I get a hot beef sandwich, but keep the meat rare? Yep, sous vide. I sliced the rest of my prime rib very thin and stored in some au jus overnight. Today for lunch I took it out of the fridge and put it into a large freezer bag. I got a sauce pan filled with water and brought it up to 120 degrees...you didn't think I was gonna breakout my immersion circulator for this did you? I kept the water between 120-122 degrees with very low to no heat. While the beef reheated I got some sub rolls and toasted them under the broiler. I sliced them, added some horseradish sauce, and some cheese, and put them back under the broiler. When the cheese was nice and melted I took them out and put the beef in the rolls and served.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

IOU Friday Night Food Porn

Homemade Chex Mix

Some in the Blogosphere feel that I owe them a Friday Night Food Porn pic. I apologize that a tree came crashing down, ripping the power lines from our house and leaving us without power for seven days. In the future I will try to be better prepared and think of my loyal readers instead of worrying about trivial things like freezing pipes, spoiled food, and a shivering dog. :)

In all seriousness I am happy that people actually like our food pics enough to be requesting more. This is some homemade Chex Mix that Kris just made for the holiday season. It's a staple in the Eastman family; she can't remember a Christmas without it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Night Food Porn

Shrimp Sautéed with Crispy Pancetta Topped with Essence of Shrimp Foam

In addition to reading a lot about sous vide cooking I've also been checking out stuff on molecular gastronomy. Lots of chefs cringe at the words molecular gastronomy but my view is this: all knowledge is good knowledge, you just have to decide what's good for you. I did a lot of reading about MG and most of it was way too scientific for me, but the idea of a foam made sense to me. Basically, get a flavorful liquid, introduce air into it, and make it stay that way. Making the liquid was easy: I simmered the shells from the shrimp with carrots, onion, and celery, strained and set aside while I cooked the shrimp. Getting air into the liquid was easy too: a stick blender on high. Getting the foam to stay a foam, that was the hard part. Most recipes tell you to use a foam canister with No2 charges, agar agar, or lecithin. I checked my pantry and I had none of those things. Since lecithin is mostly fat (it's found naturally in egg yolks) I figured I could substitute with butter. So, I hit the liquid with my stick blender, tossed in several pats of butter, and the next thing you know I had a foam. See, no chemicals, nothing scary, just the science of food.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 5

No power yet. The rest of my street has power but because the tree that fell in my yard ripped the power lines down from the pole, I still have no power. Someone was here today from the power company assessing the damage and he said that we were 'low priority' Cool! :) The good news is that I now have my big generator back from my sisters house. I have 5 generators at my disposal and I spread them out around the neighborhood. So, I took back my 5000 watt generator and hooked it up to the downed power lines...it's safer than it sounds. I'm able to power up my fridge, freezer, heat, some lights, TV, and the computer. We're not out of the woods yet, but getting close.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 4

We're still in the dark here at Lakeside. I'm just happy to have a generator to keep my heat and my freezer on. I'm also very happy that I have been cooking outside on my cast iron pan! Tonight's candlelight dinner: pan seared ham steaks. Sorry no pic. :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ice storm

Day three: still no power. It's been a long and cold weekend, but were making the best of it. Full report this week (hopefully).

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'm Such a Dork

It's not too often in life you get to see yourself doing something stupid. But this picture made that very possible for me. I was going to use this picture for a Try This Beer post this week. But with the obvious flawed photography and my dumb reflection in the glass, that post flew out the window.

So here's the scene:
I just opened the Trappist Westvleteren that Jed gave me. It found its way from Belgium into Jed's possession. He aged it for years in his refrigerator; long before he even met me. Over the years we became friends. Jed gives me the beer saying "if anyone would enjoy it the most, it would be you." I store it and wait for the perfect night...So the night gets here, it's cold and has the smell of snow in the air. I take out my favorite tulip glass, pour this beautiful, hard to get, beer that I've never had before, into the glass...and I take it's picture?? What a dork! The thing is I don't just take one picture, I take at least 10. Different positions, different angles, close ups, vertical shots; and all the while I should just be enjoying this gift, not worrying about a blog post! But, there I am, after the first smell and sip writing down notes. Then about half way through the beer it hits me: "...enjoy it the most..." So that's what I did. I put down the pen and paper, I didn't worry about my reflection in the glass, I sat outside on that cold night and sipped and savored this wonderful treasure.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Night Food Porn

Pan Seared Lamb Chop with Rosemary Salt

Well, I'm sure you saw this one coming; I did allude to cooking some lamb in my last post. Tuesday I went out and picked up a whole lamb loin with the intention of rubbing it, and cooking it on the grill. I went outside to get my grill fired up... but, then something happened: I walked by my cast iron skillet. I just can't stop using it. I have been cooking everything in this pan lately. Kris says that I am in love with it; I think she's right. So, I butchered the loin into seven beautiful chops, rubbed them aggressively with the rosemary salt and fresh cracked pepper. Got the skillet extremely hot on my outdoor propane burner and started searing the lamb chops. The instant they hit the pan an amazing aroma of rosemary wafted through the air. After about 3 minutes a side they took on a nice crust. I finished them off in a 350 degrees oven for about 5 more minutes. They were perfectly rare and had a beautiful fresh rosemary flavor.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Rosemary Salt

I love using fresh herbs from my garden when I cook. I get excited when the chives start to force their way up through the dirt in the early spring. Using fresh leaves of basil on a grilled tomato in the middle of summer tastes amazing. Having beautiful flat leaf parsley, thyme, and oregano late in the fall to use in soups is great. But after a couple of frosty nights our herbs start to die off. I have tried freezing them before they die, that does not work too well. I have tried drying them out in my oven, it was OK, not great. Nothing can replace fresh herbs from the garden, it's something I'll look forward to all winter.

One of the most hearty herbs is rosemary; it can survive into the winter. Yesterday I noticed our rosemary was in abundance, so I decided to harvest a bunch of it. I washed it and removed all the stems and sticks. I put the leaves into a food processor and pulsed a few times to get a rough chop. Then I added an equal amount of salt and processed until it all came together to a nice granulated texture.

I can guarantee there will be some grilled lamb in my very near future...