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Posts Tagged ‘big green egg’

A few weeks ago, I snagged an Amazon Local deal for a local butcher in the shopping center right across from our neighborhood. It was a good deal, and I knew it wouldn’t be hard to find some fresh meat that we would enjoy eating. The expiration date was quickly approaching, so Bart and I swung by on Thursday to pick something out in anticipation of cooking it over the weekend.
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Thanksgiving may be a distant memory now, but that didn’t stop the Taylors from preparing a Thanksgiving-style feast for our friends on Friday evening.
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I confess that I’m not 100% into the Christmas spirit yet. This is probably due to being gone over Thanksgiving, then traveling to a conference, and now having the house a bit disheveled from a somewhat messy DIY project. However, we’re two weeks away from the big day, and I’ve slowly been ramping up with my holiday traditions to get in the mood.

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September ushers in my favorite two months of the year. The crispness and change of Fall is topped off by the awesomeness of my birthday in October. The last few years, I haven’t loved fall as much due to dreading the cold of winter, but it seems silly to me to continue to ruin a lovely time of year by thinking about the future instead of enjoying the present. If anything, I should enjoy fall even more this year, as winter isn’t (theoretically) as harsh in the Middle Atlantic as it is in Colorado. (In truth, the cutting wind and cloudiness of a humid, eastern winter is more depressing than the crisp sunny days punctuated by feet of snow out west…but let’s try to remain optimistic here ;))

As with August, I couldn’t really come up with a good monthly challenge for September, so I guess I’ll just take it as it comes and ponder a worthy goal for October. I had proposed striving for purchasing a house as a goal for last month, but, as you know, that didn’t exactly work out. Maybe this month will be a winner?

Bart and I unofficially closed out summer and ushered in September with a pretty laid back three-day weekend. We did some chores, looked at a couple of houses, did a little shopping, went to church, and relaxed. We did the obligatory grilling for Labor Day, but I put a little twist on it by making pesto stuffed chicken breast. I just made up the pesto recipe as I went along: I used basil, spinach, asiago cheese, olive oil, and garlic as my base, and I added a little diced tomato to top it off.

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I cut some slits in two larger breasts and stuffed them with the mixture and closed with toothpicks. That worked alright, but I imagine there’s a better way to do it. I did get a little leakage, which is probably inevitable.

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Bart did a great job of cooking them up on the Big Green Egg, and I tossed together some potato salad for a side. I’m not a typical potato salad kind of person, so my version is really just boiled, diced potatoes with vinaigrette dressing. I even incorporated one finely diced celery stalk for a little crunch (I’m not a celery person, so that’s totally going out on a limb for me). So our Labor Day cook-out-with-a-twist turned out yummy and was a nice way to close out the long weekend.

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One of my ongoing culinary quests is to find the perfect corn chowder. I try a new recipe every once in a while, and I have finally found a couple that I really like. Coincidentally, one of these happens to be Pat’s Chicken Corn Chowder featured in her cookbook!

Pat’s Chicken Corn Chowder

From “A Pinch of This, A Smidgen of That,” by Patricia Rains
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 strips bacon, cut in small pieces
  • 2 cups cubed potatoes (Pat likes red potatoes; I had yellow this time)
  • 2 cups diced cooked chicken (leftover grilled/broiled breast works great)
  • One 8 oz. can cream style yellow corn
  • One 8 oz. can white whole kernel corn, extra crispy
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup chopped yellow or sweet onion
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups of half and half or light cream
  • Chopped parsley for garnish, optional

Assemble your ingredients and chop up those veggies. For the chicken, as recommended by Pat, I used one large chicken breast that Bart grilled on the Big Green Egg a couple of days ago. It supplied the added benefit of already having some seasoning and charcoal flavor, making this soup even yummier. Note that I used frozen corn instead of canned whole kernel corn, and I also used milk instead of cream/half and half, since that’s what I had on hand.

Chicken corn chowder ingredients

Chicken corn chowder ingredients

Use oil to lightly grease the bottom of a Dutch oven to prevent bacon from sticking (it’s okay if it sticks a little, because it leaves drippings for your veggies and chicken to cook and pick up the flavor). Cut the bacon into small pieces. Here’s a tip I learned on a cooking show: try dicing your bacon partially frozen; the fat really never freezes solid, but it is easier to cut when it’s firm and less squishy.

Dice up the bacon....frozen is easier!

Dice up the bacon….frozen is easier!

Heat on medium-high heat until the bacon sizzles, then fry until crisp. Keep stirred so it doesn’t burn. I chose to drain the fat two or three times during cooking so it wasn’t drowning.

Fry diced bacon, stirring frequently

Fry diced bacon, stirring frequently.

Remove bacon to paper towels to drain; cool and use these “bits” later for garnish. Or for an extra flavorful chowder, add them back to the soup near the end of cooking.

Sauté onions and celery in bacon drippings in the Dutch oven until tender (about 8 to 10 minutes). Add diced chicken and seasonings (Salt, garlic powder, and pepper) and stir frequently to cook through. Add potatoes, chicken broth, whole corn, cream corn, light cream (or half and half), and bring to a boil.

Add remainder of ingredients.

Add remainder of ingredients.

Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. When potatoes are tender, you can add the bacon back to the mixture, or save it for a garnish (I did the latter). Serve warm, and garnish each serving with parsley and crumbled bacon bits. I couldn’t resist adding a bit of grated colby-jack as a finish. Of course, you should wash it all down with some iced tea.

I remembered to take a picture this time!

The finished product; I remembered this time!

The finished product; I remembered this time!

Beautiful and delicious. Bart and I enJOYed this for dinner last night, and I’ll have some yummy leftovers for lunch at work today.

Pat’s Chicken Corn Chowder

From “A Pinch of This, A Smidgen of That,” by Patricia Rains
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 strips bacon, cut in small pieces
  • 2 cups cubed potatoes (Pat likes red potatoes; I had yellow this time)
  • 2 cups diced cooked chicken (leftover grilled/broiled breast works great)
  • One 8 oz. can cream style yellow corn
  • One 8 oz. can white whole kernel corn, extra crispy
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup chopped yellow or sweet onion
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups of half and half or light cream
  • Chopped parsley for garnish, optional

Use oil to lightly grease the bottom of a Dutch oven to prevent bacon from sticking (it’s okay if it sticks a little, because it leaves drippings for your veggies and chicken to cook and pick up the flavor). Cut the bacon into small pieces. Heat on medium-high heat until the bacon sizzles. Fry until crisp. Keep stirred so it doesn’t burn. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain; cool and use these “bits” later for garnish or for an extra flavorful chowder, add them back to the soup near the end of cooking.

Sauté onions and celery in bacon drippings in the Dutch oven until tender (about 8 to 10 minutes). Add diced chicken and seasonings (Salt, garlic powder, and pepper) and stir frequently to cook through. Add potatoes, chicken broth, whole corn, cream corn, light cream (or half and half), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. When potatoes are tender, you can add the bacon back to the mixture, or save it for a garnish. Serve warm. Garnish each serving with parsley and crumbled bacon bits. Serves 8.

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Where have I been, you ask? Well, I’m not talking about being physically gone on vacation, like we were to New England a week ago. For the last month or so, my usual verve for cooking and experimenting in the kitchen has been totally out to lunch. This is evidenced by the lack of yummy food pics I’ve shared with you recently. It seemed that coming up with even the most basic ideas for dinner was an impossible chore, and I lacked any motivation for the few inspirations I had for meals or projects. Thankfully, easy ground beef meals, scrambled eggs, and tasty burnt meat on the Big Green Egg with halfheartedly steamed broccoli have saved the day on more than one occasion. But as far as preparing varied, tasty, and healthy meals for us, I have felt lacking for a while.

However, there were some glimmers of hope before we left for New England, and ever since we’ve returned I can say that I’m also back in the kitchen with at least a small helping of my usual culinary energy. I’ve actually had plenty of dinner ideas in the past week and also the verve to tackle them after getting home from work.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally made an Alton Brown recipe I’d been eying out of a Food Network magazine: quiche-filled crêpe cups. The recipe was somewhat involved–I had to whip up a batch of crêpes first, which isn’t trivial, then cook some bacon, which also takes time, and finally whip up eggs and bake them, which wasn’t hard but took a while–so it was no wonder I’d been putting it off. But I finally couldn’t resist trying to recreate a little taste of Paris at home (I was just reminiscing and missing Paris this morning…le sigh). They tasted yummy and looked very snazzy.

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This weekend, Bart and I made attempt #3 at grilling a pizza in the BGE. You would think that carbs and cheese is a home run no matter what, but historically we haven’t had luck with pizza at home even in the oven. Soggy, bready pizza crust has usually been the culprit; we’ve never really been pleased with the dough recipes we’ve tried. But we’d heard that pizza on the Egg is phenomenal, so we had to try it.

The first attempt on the BGE was sort of a long fly ball that the center fielder caught on the warning track…just almost awesome, but not quite. I already had a pizza stone, requisite for the Egg, so we started off strong there. I used the generic recipe from my bread machine cookbook. It’s really convenient to dump all the ingredients in the machine and let it do all the work, but I think it kneads the dough for way too long, making the texture a little too tough. We successfully assembled the pizza on an inverted baking sheet and got it on the pizza stone, but removing it was almost a disaster. The baking sheet wasn’t thin enough to slip under it, and despite the pizza stone, the crust was still soft and floppy. Evidently, we didn’t preheat it for long enough beforehand to achieve a solid, crispy foundation. Fortunately, we didn’t lose more than a few square inches of pizza into the fire–it could have been much worse.

The second attempt was like a routine ground-out to the short stop who threw you out five whole steps before you reached first. Not even close. We did purchase a pizza peel, which definitely aided in getting the pizza on. We also tried preheating the stone in the grill for longer, but we still didn’t get a crispy crust, and even with the peel, getting a limp pizza off the grill was challenging. Plus, I think that dough rose for too long before we cooked it, resulting in a soft, bready, and almost tasteless crust. It was very disappointing.

Being burned twice on the pizza made us a little hesitant on a successive attempt, but after scouring the internet for recipes and tips, we finally felt ready to tackle it with a new dough and a new strategy. I made the dough in the mixer, which didn’t over knead it and make it tough. It looked beautiful…just the right texture and springiness when I formed the crust. We got the stone roaring hot for 30 minutes before we added the pizza, resulting it a perfectly browned crust and downright easy transfer back onto the peel.

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It’s just beautiful! The crust had crunch and integrity and didn’t flop at all, and the toppings were perfectly browned. Our only comment was that we might prefer a slightly thinner crust, but as far as taste we were finally satisfied. Maybe attempt number four will produce The Perfect Pizza!

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When we moved from Colorado to DC, we got rid of quite a bit of our stuff. We didn’t completely sell everything, but we parted with some junk we’d been accumulated and said goodbye to some stuff that had served us well but was too bulky to warrant taking up the space in our moving truck. Among these items was our gas grill–we enjoyed it every summer (and many winters!) since we got married, but we didn’t know if it could survive the move. We donated it to a college student from our church, who didn’t waste any time cooking up some delicious grub on it with his roommates. That left us with a gaping hole in our cooking routine when summer finally rolled around.

We thought about waiting until we bought a house to get a grill, but that didn’t last long. We missed the deliciousness of burnt meat too much. So we set out to purchase something that could fill our gap. We considered getting the cheapest little gas camp stove you could get at Lowe’s as an intermediate solution, but once you added in the requisite tank to go with it, you were still in the double digits with something you were going to be replacing within a year. We weren’t really interested in some stainless steel monstrosity that was even bulkier and harder to handle than the one we parted ways with, especially given their hefty price tag. We considered charcoal, tastier and more authentic but a little more effort. Then we started kicking around the idea of getting something a little…different.

Bart’s sister and her husband Shawn got a Big Green Egg cooker a year or so ago. I’d never heard of it before, but they were absolutely crazy about it. In fact, when we went down there for Christmas, Shawn cooked an entire turkey on it for us, and it was incredibly delicious. The Big Green Egg, or BGE for short, is a uniquely shaped, distinctively green ceramic cooker that’s a combination of charcoal grill, oven, and smoker.

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Our Big Green Egg

It has quite the cult following, with tons of info and tips all over the internet for delicious recipes to try. Coming so highly recommended from family and random strangers on the internet as well as being so versatile, and given that the things last nearly forever, we ultimately decided it would be an investment into all our future meat burning needs. So, about a month ago we ponied up for one.

Since then, we’ve tackled a wide range of culinary projects on our Egg. We’ve grilled burgers, chicken quarters, whole chickens, pineapples, pizza, and even a meatloaf (that was dinner tonight…don’t knock it till you try it!). Everything has been quite delicious. The learning curve for lighting the lump charcoal and getting the temperature steady takes a little patience but isn’t awful. We haven’t attempted a true smoke yet, but it’s definitely on our horizon.

The BGE isn’t exactly cheap, but given how long it lasts, it’s a good investment. It is, unfortunately, also a money pit of possible accessories and cool toys. One day, probably when we move, Bart will build a stand for it; for now, it’s up on cinder blocks like a ’73 Pontiac. Then there are gloves, tongs, covers, skewers, temperature control servos–you now, the usual barbeque stuff–to tempt you. I told Bart that it just means he’ll have an endless list of stocking stuffer ideas for family members for many Christmases. In the meantime, we are keeping our gratuitous purchases to a minimum and only replacing what we really need for grilling.

So far, the BGE has been a fun item for the summer evenings. The only problem is that it has been raining here in DC every. Single. Day. Half the time Bart is out in the rain trying to get dinner off the grill onto a plate. Nevertheless, we’ve enjoyed it so far, and we look forward to playing around with it more and even having friends over to share a deliciously charred meal with us someday.

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