Grilled Butterflied Chicken, Thai Brinerated


Butterflied chicken is my second favorite way to grill chicken.
*After rotisserie grilling, of course.

I picked up this technique from Su-Mei Yu in Fine Cooking magazine; I've been using it for years, and I've played with her recipe a bit. I've made it more of a brinerade than a marinade, but the flavor profile of of garlic, cilantro stems and soy sauce is her idea.
*I love that I can use cilantro stems in the recipe. I feel like I get something for nothing, by using an ingredient that would normally be thrown away.

The other idea from Su-Mei Yu's article is intentionally making leftovers. Whenever I cook whole chicken, I always cook two chickens. We eat one for the main meal, and I have leftovers for later in the week. I'll be following this recipe with a couple of examples of how to use leftover chicken to make multiple meals.
*Meals that are fancier than just eating the leftovers as they are.  I love leftover chicken, but three days of it leaves me dreading that last drumstick.

Recipe: Grilled Butterflied Chicken, Thai Brinerated

Year One of DadCooksDinner

It's been a great first year. In honor of one of my favorite movies, I'm going to celebrate year one of DadCooksDinner with a set of Top Five lists.
*Yes, I'm a geek. If you haven't figured that out, you haven't been paying attention...

Top Five Moments in year one of DadCooksDinner
5. Memorial Day Weekend
*When you write a blog that is grilling and rotisserie centered, the opening of grilling season gets you a lot of readers. My average daily readers doubled on Memorial Day Weekend!

4. First question from a reader
*I got a question about my rotisserie baby back ribs. Holy cow - someone is actually reading!

3. Rotisserie Cornish Game Hens recipe tops google
*...and is still there, if you google "rotisserie cornish game hens". You get my most popular post, though the next post is gaining fast...

2. Winning the Taste of Akron Steak Cook Off:
*I think writing this blog for a year is what got me into the finals. Writing recipes for a year will teach you how to get them to make sense.
*I was linked to by some of my favorite food blogs, Casual Kitchen and The Kitchn
*My name was in my local paper, the Akron Beacon Journal
*I won $500 worth of wine, cheese, and Prime graded beef from West Point Market
*I was mentioned in Jane Snow's newsletter, twice! Which brings me to number one...

1. Email from Jane Snow telling me she loved my blog
*I've been a big fan of Jane's since I moved to Akron in 1998; she was the food writer in the local paper. She left the paper and started her own newsletter, which I can't recommend highly enough. She was the original source on a lot of the Akron ethnic markets that I write about from time to time, and I have always enjoyed her writing. In her email she encouraged me to keep writing about food! Me! I know that you couldn't stop me anymore, but it still meant a lot to hear it from her.


Top Five quotes that my (very patient) wife got tired of hearing:
5. Yes, we're having the steak again. I'm practicing for the cook-off!
4. I need a new (...cutting board...color of FiestaWare...All-Clad pot...) It will look better in the pictures.
3. Before we go, let me check my traffic on Google Analytics.
2. I'm sorry dinner's late; I had to take notes for the recipe.
1. Wait! I need to take a picture of that for the blog before we can eat it!


Top Five culinary heroes:
5. Pam Anderson
*How to Cook Without a Book - taught me that basic techniques are more important than recipes

4. Michael Ruhlman
*Beyond basic techniques, you need the Ratios that are behind all recipes

3. Rick Bayless
*There's nothing wrong with being obsessed about a food culture

2. Cooks Illustrated
*There's nothing wrong with being obsessive about perfecting and understanding recipes either (as long as you understand where they're going with their basic techniques).

1. Alton Brown
*My Hero! Food as an entry to science, politics, culture, art...and he ties it all together in an entertaining package that only lasts a half an hour. And forget good eats...it all tastes great!


Top Five pictures on the blog:


Top Five blogs that influenced DadCooksDinner:
All of these have influenced my writing style. I'm still trying to find my "voice", but thanks to their inspiration I'm making progress.

1. Joe Posnanski at joeposnanski.com
*Influenced isn't a strong enough term here. "Shamelessly stole his style of writing with footnotes in italics" is about right. When I grow up, I hope to have Joe's sense of humor and fun in my writing.

2. Carol Blymire at French Laundry at Home and Alinea at Home
*I was thinking about doing something online with food, but I thought I was too late to find an uncrowded topic. What Carol's blog made me see was it wasn't if you were too late, it was if you could write with your own voice. To me, the recipes she's working on are secondary. When I'm reading her blog, it feels like I'm sitting in her kitchen, shooting the breeze while she works on the recipe.

3. Michael Ruhlman at ruhlman.com
*This is more inspirational than anything else. Michael is my favorite food writer, and Donna's pictures on his blog are awe-inspiring. I know I need to improve my writing and photography, and this is where I go to see what the best of both are like. I know this blog is just a sideline to his books, but even his throwaway writing is great.

4. David Lebovitz at davidlebovitz.com
*David's another writer who's voice I admire. It feels like you're sitting in his tiny Parisian kitchen, chatting with him while he puts together another show-stopping dessert. And the photos! While Donna Turner Ruhlman makes art, David makes pictures that make me want to lick my computer monitor. I think I gain weight just looking at them.

5. Virtual Weber Bullet at virtualweberbullet.com
*This is where I got my start on cooking and the internet. The VWB Forum is where I cut my teeth on writing posts and recipes. I've drifted away from the barbecue-centric cooking featured here, but if you want to know how to barbecue ribs, brisket, or pork shoulder, you won't find a better site on the internet.

Top five things my kids want to eat (instead of the food I'm cooking for the blog):
5. Macaroni and Cheese from the blue box
4. Goldfish crackers
3. Mom's homemade Pizza
2. Chicken Nuggets
1. Hot Dogs

Thank you, everyone, for making this a fun year. I'm looking forward to seeing what the next year brings!

*Wait...I forgot Casual Kitchen and CheapHealthyGood should be on the blog list! Oh, and Judy Rodgers and Mark Bittman in the influences. And Steven Raichlen. And the kids would rather have Tortillas. But what gets bumped off the list? Oh, bother...

Questions? Comments? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Pickled Sorta Sour Cucumbers


My brother, Matt (the Doctor!) left these at our cottage this summer. I had a couple on a burger, and then fished a few out of the jar and ate them raw. Then I ate a few more. Then...well, long story short, by the time dinner was done, the pickles were all gone. And I was considering drinking some of the juice left in the jar.
*Thanks, Matt!

I received a bunch of pickling cucumbers from my CSA, and then I bought some more, to make a jumbo batch of pickles.  I put them in the crisper drawer in my refrigerator, and they sat.  I did all the other pickle recipes for Pickle Week first.  I found, much to my dismay, that cucumbers don't keep well.  By the time I got to them, all the pickles had turned bad. One batch was furry; the other was slimy. What I have since learned is cucumbers don't keep well; after 24 hours they start to deteriorate. Make your pickles as soon as you can!

This recipe is based on one from my hero, Alton Brown.
*Technically, it's from his evil twin brother, B.A.  On the "American Pickle" episode of Good Eats, Alton did a sweeter bread and butter style pickle, while B.A. did one very similar to this...

Recipe: Pickled Sorta Sour Cucumbers

Pickled Red Onions

Pickled red onions are the one homemade pickle that I have made in the past. They're a common Mexican side dish, and I've often made them to serve with grilled Mexican meals.  Also, I used this recipe to preserve all the small red onions that came out of our garden last year.
*That's something you'll hear me say a lot this week - pickling is a great way to use the bounty of your garden. We're getting overrun right now, and pickling is a great way to preserve produce for later in the year.

My brother-in-law Travis made some pickled red onions while he was at our summer cottage, and I had them a about a week later on a hamburger. After that, I was putting them on my sandwiches for the rest of the week - they make a great sandwich topping.
*Thanks, Travis!

This recipe is an based on one from David Lebovitz, who I've mentioned before - David is "our man in Paris". I trust his information on food in the City of Light more than any other source.
*Oh, and his recipes happen to be great as well.  Especially if you love chocolate or ice cream.

Recipe: Pickled Red Onions

Pickled Chile Peppers


Michael Symon and Michael Ruhlman are big names in food circles, but to those of us in Northeastern Ohio, they are hometown boys who made good.*  I was introduced to both of them years ago, when I read an article about Symon, written by Ruhlman, in a local Cleveland magazine. That article became part of Ruhlman's The Soul of a Chef, the best book about chefs that I've read.
*We're a little paranoid around here; whenever someone gets national recognition, their first move is out of Cleveland. When someone decides to stay, even after they're famous, they hold a special place in our hearts. See Kosar, Bernie.

I was excited to read that Ruhlman is co-writing Symon's first cookbook, Live to Cook. But almost as interesting was the beautiful picture of Symon's Pickled Chilli Peppers, taken by Ruhlman's wife, Donna. That picture looks like summer in a jar.
*I was a hobbyist photographer for a while, and I am just stunned by the pictures Donna takes for Ruhlman.com. They are some of the most beautiful shots I've ever seen.
*[Update 9.12.2009] Donna's online, and making her pictures available to bloggers!  Check her out at RuhlmanPhotography.com

I always have a jar of pickled jalapenos in my refrigerator*, so this recipe was an obvious one for me to try.
*In case of emergency, add pickled jalapenos.

Recipe: Pickled Chile Peppers

Pickled Dilly Beans

Here is the recipe that started me on my pickling kick: Dilly Beans. This recipe gives you a sweet and dill combination that goes well with the flavor of the beans. I brought my first batch to a friend's party as an appetizer.* Everyone loved them, but Diane couldn't keep away from them. We ate the whole quart jar of beans, and Diane ate at least half of them.
*Hi, Pam and Dave! Thanks again!


I saw this recipe in Cook's Country magazine, the less uptight, younger sibling of Cook's Illustrated. It is a good way to use up beans; as you can see in the pictures, I had a lot of beans to use up. I tripled the recipe, and made three quarts of dilly beans.*
*It's a week later, and we have a quart and a half left. Did I mention that Diane loves green beans?

Recipe: Pickled Dilly Beans

Basic Technique: Pickling Vegetables


Welcome to pickling week on DadCooksDinner!

I've been meaning to make some homemade pickles; I make pickled red onions from time to time, and I love them, but I've never really branched out into any other recipes.  Then our CSA announced "pick your own" green beans, with no limit.  Diane loves green beans, so she took he kids, and they came back with about five pounds worth.  Oh, and what about those pickle cucumbers I got in the CSA box?  And that gorgeous picture of Michael Symon's Pickled Chillis on Ruhlman.com?  I was off and running.

What I've found from this week is that pickling is a great way to save some of the bounty of your garden, CSA or farmer's market.  If you have an overload of a vegetable, look for a recipe.  You'll be glad you did.  And it's easy!

I'm doing this pickling mainly for flavor, not long term preserving.  These pickles will only last 2 to 3 months, and they have to be refrigerated.  I could have found recipes for canning the pickles as well, but I figured I'd take on one topic at a time.*
*And we eat the pickles so quickly that I don't think I need to can them; they're gone in weeks, not months.

Pickling was originally done using a salty brine to convert the sugar in vegetables into lactic acid, which would act as a preservative.  Sauerkraut is still made this way.  We're going to use a modern technique, which is to use vinegar as the acid, instead of waiting for the vegetables to produce their own.  This speeds up the process dramatically; you get pickles in hours or days, instead of weeks or months.

Basic Technique: Pickling Vegetables

Equipment:
  • A clean jar with a tight fitting lid (Canning jars or flip-top gasket jars are the usual choices.)
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups worth of vegetables - usually sliced thin
  • 2 Crushed cloves of Garlic (optional, but common)
  • 2 Sprigs of Fresh Herbs (optional, but common)
Pickling Liquid:
  • 1.5 cups water (sometimes less)
  • 1.5 cups vinegar (cider, white, sherry, red wine, white wine)
  • Sugar (2 tbsp to 1/2 cup, depending on sweetness you want)
  • Salt ( a pinch to 1 tbsp of table salt, depending on saltiness)
  • Spices ( 2 tbsp, usually involving dill, peppercorns, mustard seeds, but you can get creative here)

Directions:
1. Prep the vegetables: Cut the vegetables into the size of pickles you want, and put them in your jar.  If you're using crushed garlic or herb sprigs, put them in the jar with the vegetables.

2. Make the pickling liquid: Combine the Pickling Liquid ingredients in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes to open up the flavor of the spices.

3. Combine the liquid and the vegetables: Carefully pour the pickling liquid into the jar until the vegetables are covered.  (Optionally, pour pickling liquid through a fine mesh strainer first, to strain out the herbs and spices; your pickled vegetables will look less rustic that way.)
*I pour the pickling liquid from my sauce pan into my Pyrex 2-Quart Measuring Cup, and from there into the jar.  The spout on the measuring cup makes this much less messy.

4. Refrigerate: Let cool at room temperature, close the lid on the jar, and refrigerate.  It's best to refrigerate for at least one day, and preferably one week.  They will last, refrigerated, for up to 3 months.

Variations:
I'm going to do four variations on this technique this week:
1. Pickled Dilly Beans - Tuesday
2. Pickled Chile Peppers - Wednesday
3. Pickled Red Onions - Thursday
4. Pickled Sorta Sour Cucumbers - Friday

Notes:
*These recipes scale up very easily.  The amounts shown above are right for a quart jar packed with vegetables.  I usually make a little extra brine, just in case I spill some when I'm trying to pour.

*Speaking of pouring...I made a mess with my first try on the dilly beans.  I learned that it works better if I pour the pickling liquid from my sauce pan into my Pyrex 2-Quart Measuring Cup.*  It has a spout, which makes pouring the hot liquid into the canning jar much easier.
*I have a hard time calling it a measuring cup; it's bigger than most of the mixing bowls I own.

*I also learned to use Wide Mouth Jars if possible.  The Ball jars look beautiful, but since I'm not going to be canning, flip top jars are easier to work with.

*A Canning Funnel is a very useful tool when you're pickling vegetables, even if you're not canning; it helps when you're trying to get everything into the jar. 

*These pickles will keep for about 3 months; the vinegar acts as a pretty strong preservative.  Watch out for fur or fuzz growing on top of the liquid in the jar.  When you see that, it's time to throw them away.  To preserve them for as long as possible, start with clean jars, and remove the pickles from the container with clean utensils.  If you keep dipping your fingers in the pickling liquid, you're going to transfer bacteria, and it will eventually start to grow.
*If you go through these pickles as quickly as I do, it won't matter.  I brought a quart jar of the dilly beans to a party at a friend's house.   They were gone within a half an hour.

Reference:
Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking - The definitive source on food science. If you're a food geek like me, you'll refer to it to answer questions like "What is pickling, anyhow? What's really going on?"

Grilled Boneless Pork Loin Chops, Brined and Honey Glazed

In this part of the blog I'm supposed have a witty story, where I tell a few jokes.  I should explain why the recipe has some special meaning to me, and why it should have special meaning to you.

This is a recipe for grilled boneless pork loin chops.

And... after that, I've got nothing.

I've already told you about modern pork being bred so lean that almost all the taste is gone.  Pork loin is a bland, innocuous protein that is easily overcooked.  It shouldn't be cooked past medium or it dries out.

It doesn't even have a bone you can gnaw on when you're done with it.
I've told you how to season pork - you should brine it to get it some flavor and give it a bit of a cushion from overcooking.

What does that leave me with?

Boneless pork loin is boring.  But if you know that going in, you can help it out.  Use it as a neutral base to build on.  Give it a brine full of flavor, so it's seasoned all the way through.  Cook it carefully, so it doesn't dry out, but it does get a good sear.  Baste it with a honey glaze, so it gains an extra layer of seasoning at the end.  Layers of flavor are the key to a good pork loin chop.

Pork loin may be bland, but maybe...it just needs a little love.
*I may be a blockhead, but I can cook a good pork chop.

Recipe: Grilled Boneless Pork Loin Chops, Brined and Honey Glazed

Grilled Monster Zucchini



At work, there is a cardboard box with "please take me" written on it with magic marker.  In it is a big pile of vegetables.  There are tomatoes, some peppers, and then... next to the box are the zucchini.  These aren't your normal sized squash. These are Big zucchini. Monster zucchini. Zucchini the size of your forearm, if you're Arnold Schwarzenegger.*
*Think "Conan the Barbarian" era Arnold, not "Governator" era Arnold.

Whenever I see them, I think of Garrison Keillor's joke:
The only time the inhabitants of Lake Wobegon lock their cars is in the month of August.  It's so their neighbors won't fill their back seat with bags of zucchini.
They always look too good to pass up, so I take one home.  But what do you do with a 5 pound zucchini?  Why, you grill it, of course!*
*Or make zucchini bread. But that's another recipe.

Recipe: Grilled Monster Zucchini

Grilled Chicken Wings, Spicy Asian Glazed


As much as I like my grill-roasted chicken wings, the recipe doesn't make enough wings to serve more than a couple of people. Wings take up a lot of space on the grill, and the indirect cooking method uses up more of the precious space on my Weber kettle.
*I really need to get the recently released 26-inch Weber kettle, but that's another story. One about lust and grills, that ends in tears for my checkbook.

I decided to try cooking them with direct heat, so I could use my entire grill surface. What I found is that this is not a recipe for the easily distracted. You get good, crispy wings, but they have to be in almost constant motion. The hot spots and flare-ups you get on a charcoal grill are magnified by the large amount of chicken fat that will drip from the wings. If you lose focus for a minute, the result will be black, charred, and not very appetizing.*
*I had a few wings turn out like that, so I peeled the skin off before I tossed them with the sauce.

Why go through all this, when you can take the easy way out, and cook the wings with indirect heat? Because you can cook twice as many wings, and it takes one third of the time. Oh, and if you're the type of person who likes a little char on your wings, you get that as a bonus.

Recipe: Grilled Chicken Wings, Spicy Asian Glazed

Julia, Ruhlman and Pollan. Or, why I'm a cook.

I'm a cook. It's my passion, it's why I write this blog, and it's one of the things that gets me out of bed in the morning, instead of just pulling up the covers and hoping the world goes away.*
*My first cup of coffee is usually what gets me over that feeling.

I was horrified when I read Michael Pollan's article in the New York Times magazine last Sunday, which finished with a marketing expert saying that home cooking was doomed. We're all going to be getting prepared food from the grocery store in the future, and we'll look at cooking like we look at making our own clothes. [Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch, nytimes.com]

I was going to write a post on it immediately, but I couldn't get my thoughts organized enough. That is, until I read Michael Ruhlman's blog post on the same article:

Another segment of our culture who also recognized that we were losing something essential to our humanity learned to cook, out of books, from their moms or grandmothers, from other cooks. And more and more are learning every day.
...
the multitude of food bloggers out there, who are actually cooking and sharing their stories and photographs and their recipes and most of all their passion. We are not seeing the end of home cooking. I believe we have just begun to cook, and not a moment too soon.
[Julie and Julia, Foodie and Cook, Ruhlman.com]

I'm one of the "multitude of food bloggers" Michael mentions.  I've been inspired by other cooks and food bloggers, and I'm writing this blog because I just can't keep my enthusiasm for cooking to myself - I want to share it with anyone who will listen.

Pollan's article HURT when I read it. I feel like I'm part of the wave of people trying to reverse the tide he describes. Like me, they're cooking for themselves, and evangelizing to their friends and family about the pleasures of cooking. But Pollan's article just made it sound so...hopeless.  It seems like we're fighting against the tide, and the tide has only just started coming in.*
*Especially when Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma had such an impact on my evolution as a cook!

But...from where I stand, that's not what I'm seeing! Most of my freinds and family are now the same way I am. We're cooking at home much more than my parents did, or than we did, a decade ago. From where I stand, it looks like the tide is turning back towards home cooking, and has been for a while.*
*Note: my friends and family aren't quite as passionate about it as I am. But then, "insane" might be a better word to describe me than "passionate".

So, once again, Thank you, Michael Ruhlman!

**Ruhlman's distinction between Foodie and Cook is also a great one. I've been referring to myself as a cook for quite a while now, and I think I picked it up from his "Making of a Chef" book. I'm not a chef, and have no desire to be one, but cooking is one of my great joys in life.

Inspired by:
[Julie and Julia, Foodie and Cook, Ruhlman.com]
[Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch, nytimes.com]

Weber's On The Grill iPhone App



I just returned from a week's vacation at my family cottage in Madison, OH.  We had a great time, lounging around on the beach, splashing in the lake, sailing our Sunfish, and (of course, for me) cooking some meals on the grill.  I pack my backup Weber kettle into the trunk of the car, and bring it with me each year.
*What?  You don't have a backup Weber kettle?  But...but...how do you grill when you go on vacation?

The upside (and downside) to the cottage is that we're pretty much technology free - no TV or internet connection at all.  This is great for the kids, because it gives them time to detox from their TV and Wii.  The downside is that *I* have to detox from the internet.*
*Really, I can quit any time I want.  I use the internet, it doesn't use me.


My surfing was primarily about trying to find recipes on the internet, using my wife's iPhone and the spotty internet connection you can get on the shores of Lake Erie.  I can cook a lot of different things off the top of my head, but what do you do with 5 pounds of zucchini that Grandma bought at the farmer's stand, because it looked so good?  So, I spent a week looking for the one spot in the house where I could get a connection that would last.


When I get home, what is the first thing I read?  A post describing the answer to a week at the cottage with a shaky internet connection: Weber's On the Grill iPhone app.  [via: bbq.about.com]

It's a collection of 250 recipes from the various cookbooks that Jamie Purviance has written for Weber, including my personal favorite: Apple Brined Barbecued Turkey.

It also contains a section on basic grill techniques, and a few video guides.  My favorite section in the entire application is the "grill guide" - a list of how to cook just about anything on the grill, broken down by cut of meat (or vegetable).  You pick what you're cooking; they give you a quick summary of how long and at what temperature.  (For my example from earlier: zucchini, cut into 1/2" slices: cook for 3-5 minutes over direct, medium heat.)

It even has a countdown timer built into the application, so you can time your cooking with your iPhone.

Because of my focus on rotisserie cooking, I immediately checked their their "Using a Rotisserie" section in the grilling basics.  I was a bit disappointed.  There isn't much information there; a paragraph or two of text and a few pictures.  I went back and checked their cookbooks, and found basically the same information there. I was reminded of why I started writing the rotisserie recipes on this blog - I was looking for that missing information!  I don't consider this a deal breaker - the basic technique for rotisserie cooking is the same as the indirect grilling information they give you in other sections.

If you're looking for an easy way to carry around the grilling information that Weber packs into their cookbooks, and you have an iPhone (or iPod touch), this app is worth a look.  I think it's well worth the $4.99 price tag to have this information at your fingertips.

Weber's On the Grill demo page [weber.com]
Weber's On the Grill iPhone app download page [Apple.com]