Grilled Lamb Chops

Roasted potatoes and cippilini onion, candied carrots, lamb chops.

6:30pm — dark, but we have a light on the wall by the door.
Note the swell clip-on battery powered LED light.
Wind — none
Air Temperature — 41°F
Green Egg Temperature — 600°F
Time to Fire Up — 50 minutes
Grill time — 6 minutes

Lamb chops are only great, grilled with a good sear. No reason not to grill.  I’m only outside to a) light the fire, b) check the fire, c) close the lid and open vents, d) put on the chops, e) I can see temperature gage from inside, f) turn the chops, g) close the vents and take off the chops.
The EGG is one step from our back door.    (note: EGG picture taken at 4pm)

Can o’ Soup (NOT)

It was a cold, gray Veterans Day in Reno — OK, mid-50’s is SF weather — but gray in Reno seems especially gray as most days are so bright and sunny-warm looking. A hot can o’ soup seemed appropriate for my lunch (C is already into her cold yogurt).

Actually, a POM jar of Rancho Gordo Yellow Eye beans has been front and center in the refrigerator for a few days, those would be good with tomatoes. I found a can of Raley’s Petite Diced tomatoes in the pantry and asked Carol if she had a use for the bulk sausage she bought the other day.

“Nothing special,” she said. So there’s that. I drained the beans and tomatoes into a small bowl to catch the juices.

Probably should chop an onion to sauté as a base course, but I hate to chop a whole onion for a little lunch, maybe a shallot. We didn’t have a shallot, but did have a cippilini onion; even better. I rough sliced that across the grain and started it going in olive oil and a bit of butter. After five or six minutes, I squeezed some fingerfuls of sausage out of the tube and into the sauté pan and stirred it around until all the pink was gone.

onion in the pan with some olive oil and a bit of butter

added sausage to the pan

Added the beans and tomatoes together and stirred around and added some pinches of salt and pepper. Needed liquid, so I added back about half of the bean/tomato juices, got it bubbling and let that go on for a few minutes.

added beans and tomatoes

looks like lunch

Tasted. Good.

I can’t seem to do a straight out of the can lunch, and a cold lunch on such a day as today just doesn’t appeal to me. For me, a lot of the joy of eating comes in finding some things to put together.

Bean Stew (YUM)


and a lagniappe of Drunken Steak

On the EGG, the big ol’ steak is the yin to the halibut yang… or is it the other way? No matter.

We don’t eat much steak anymore. What you can get outside of a steakhouse is generally low grade, not marbled, and just tough and tasteless. That said… I find it hard to pass up a porterhouse when I see a good looking one in the meat case.

porterhouse on the cow

So, how to cook a perfect porterhouse on the EGG?

Build the fire the same way. as for all things EGG.

I generally do a Cooks Illustrated recipe for marinade called “Drunken Steak,” [below] but this time was in a bourbon mood, so I looked up a recipe on line from the Certified Angus Beef folks. Their recipe made 1 1/2 cups and went in the refrigerator for 8 hours. Too much and too long for my taste. I like to marinate on a plate. If the meat’s any good, an hour to add a little flavor is just fine.

So I got out a rimmed plate big enough to hold the steak and

measured 1 ounce each of bourbon and soy sauce. Added 1 Tbsp of brown sugar and a little bit of Worcestershire Sauce, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and a few grinds of black pepper. I swirled that around with the back of a fork and carefully laid the steak in the mix on the plate — this is often where I splatter marinade all over me and my counter. Turn the steak a couple times while the fire gets going.

porterhouse marinating

About 20 minutes BC (before cooking) I checked the fire, cleaned my cast iron grill grate and put it over the fire.

At cooktime, I closed the top and took the top vent clean off, patted the steak dry and slathered with some oil and put the puppy on the grill. Closed the top and started timer.

steak and fire

top vent clean off

What we want is 2 minutes at 500 – 600 degrees, flip and two more minutes. Shut all vents and flip at 1 minute intervals until the internal temperature hits 115°F — about 2 flips. Remove the steak to a cutting board and let it rest. Oh baby, that is one fine looking steak.

porterhouse cooks

porterhouse done, steak-flipper at its side

For flipping, I used my new steak flipper I bought at the Silver Legacy Wings Cook-off on Virginia Street, July 6. Brian said it was way overpriced, and I agree, but it’s a handsome devil, perfect for flipping steaks and I also use it to pick up my grill grates and lift the insides in and out of my egg poacher. A multi-tasker.

We served the steak with Carol’s cold tomato soup, kind of like a Gazpacho.


So, here’s the Drunken Steak story from March 2010 in SF…

Just a Steak
Carol’s brother, Alan, called about 6:15. “Yo Alan, what’s up?”

“You cookin’ dinner?”


“What’s for dinner?”

“Drunken Steak. A beautiful boneless New York Strip.”

“What’s a Drunken Steak? You gonna grill it?”

“It’s marinated in a cup of light rum, half-cup of soy sauce, some brown sugar, chopped garlic, ginger, scallion… that’s about it… then dry it and grill it. It’s a beautiful evening for grilling.”

“Sounds good, I’ll have to try it sometime. Is the Mrs. home yet?”

“Just walked in the door. Heeeerrrrrre’s Carol.”

I went on to light the fire and get to grilling. I threw on a sliced potato, as well, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. When I returned, Carol had set the table, opened a nice bottle of 2006 Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre and made a salad of sliced Cherokee Purple tomato and fresh mozzarella.

“Why are you taking a picture of that? It’s just a steak.”

“Never know when I might need a picture of a steak.”

“Well, I’m hungry and you’re holding up dinner.”

“Besides, its not ‘just a steak.’ Its a grass fed, Marin Sun Farms boneless New York steak… and the first grilled steak of the year.”

“You grilled a flank steak when Tom was here.”

“OK, the first grilled steak of the Spring, in the twilight, not the dark… warm, not cold out. Besides I grilled this lovely asparagus, definitely the first grilled asparagus of the year.”

Dinner was served.

“This is really good steak,” said Carol.

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Sauce (again)

I had not intended to spend this afternoon making roasted tomato sauce; but here it goes.

When I posted my most recent eats story (Grilled Whole Salmon) I got a couple of nice comments on Roasted Heirloom Tomato Sauce written way back in July 2011. (Hey, heirloom tomatoes are in season this time every year.) We brought many jars of similar sauce when we moved from San Francisco to Reno, but they’re all gone now. (YUM)

That was on my mind when shopping at the Farmer’s Market. The heirloom tomatoes didn’t look very good, but I got enough of those and some Early Girls to maybe make a test sauce. It turns out a couple of the heirlooms went bad by Monday and I was a bit shy of a full dish, so I went out and got a sleeve of Kumato at Scolari’s. (Eric introduced us to this amazing hybrid tomato on his recent visit.)

tomatoes — including a couple Kumato — fit their roasting dish

During all this unplanned thinking and motion, I decided to make the sauce on the Big Green Egg (EGG). Perfect for roasting: 40 minutes at 400 degrees. And not only that… I can throw in a barrel stave smoker stick.

So, here’s what I did…
As soon as I decided on the EGG, and before my trip to the store, I got out a wine barrel stave smoker stick and put it in a baking dish to soak.

I got out the roasting dish I would use and put my tomatoes in to see what fit. I had about 4 pounds and they fit nicely. Knowing they fit, I washed and cored the tomatoes.

Light the charcoal fire in the EGG.

Meanwhile, add to the tomatoes in the roasting dish:

15 pitted Mediterranean-style black olives
15 pitted green olives
1 clove garlic, minced
15 basil leaves, torn in shreds
Leaves from 3 to 4 sprigs thyme
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds

Drizzle the vegetables with 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon and 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar.

When the fire is ready, throw in the soaked barrel stave, place the Platesetter in the EGG, legs up and place the porcelain rack on the Platesetter legs. Put your roasting dish of tomatoes and stuff on the rack. Close the EGG and open all vents. Bring to a temperature of 400°F and roast until the tomatoes are soft, and collapsing, about 40 minutes.

ready to go in the EGG with the Platesetter in position, porcelain grate sitting on its upturned legs

NOTE: This arrangement of EGG equipment acts as a convection oven, the Platesetter shielding your dish from direct heat while allowing heat — and smoke in this case — to constantly circulate inside the EGG.

tomatoes bubbly and collapsed

tomatoes rest — note that the smoke has coated the roasting dish… that’s a bitch to get off… next time maybe a disposable roasting pan would work.

When the tomatoes are ready, let them rest a few minutes while you heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a wide skillet [green Le Creuset] over medium heat and sauté 1/4 cup minced shallots until translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes.

transfer tomatoes to pot

Add the entire tomato mixture and 1 1/2 cups dry white wine. Season with about 1 1/2 tsp salt & pepper mix. Bring to a low simmer and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes are thickened and the flavors blended, about 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool somewhat. Run the sauce through your food mill, using the disk with small holes to remove the tomato seeds and bits of skin. Add salt and pepper to taste.

tomatoes become tomato sauce in the food mill

pot is empty, food mill is used and sauce is sauce

Georgianna Brennan Note from original recipe: This sauce has a slightly caramelized flavor, with a hint of tartness from the olives. Its color depends upon the tomatoes you choose, although I usually prepare this with a mixture of the biggest, juiciest heirlooms from my garden, and the resulting color is a shade of darkish yellow.

second batch of tomatoes… this time about 6 pounds, all heirloom

Cooked again 9.14 — 6 pounds heirloom tomatoes from that “CA Peaches and melons place” at farmers market. When I put the tomatoes on the stove to reduce. I still had plenty of fire in the EGG, so meanwhile I grilled Steelhead Trout with the leftover fire. That was good. [The trout didn’t experience direct heat, but rather roasted in the “convection oven arrangement”]. It was dark by now, but I still had fire, so I put the pot back in the EGG to further reduce the sauce. Took longer than a Ken Burns doc, but came out looking great. Took off EGG. Stuck in fridge about midnight. Next morning, warmed and put through food mill. Yield, about 7 cups sauce.
NOTES: With this batch, I used mostly red wine and some white, used LO grilled red onions instead of shallots.

ATE a test batch of sauce on Somen noodles for lunch. DIS is good.

Tons Of Tomatoes? Ferment'm!

Tons Of Tomatoes

It is early September in Maine. Our garden has peaked and is now overflowing like a bucket set beneath a drip which can’t fill fast enough early on, then suddenly becomes overwhelming. Above is the third mass tomato harvest from our garden, most of which are about to be canned in quart jars which will bring our total this summer to over 50 jars of tomatoes…so far!

We eat tomatoes with every meal these days, mostly sliced fresh with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and olive oil. It is an embarrassment of riches in many ways, and I hesitate before I describe this menu feature as “monotonous” because I know that in a few weeks I will pine for the flavor of homegrown sun-ripened heirloom tomatoes…so I won’t.

Still, WHAT TO DO with the steady spill of this wonderful but terribly temporal torrent??? The answer should have been obvious to me, someone who makes their living fermenting food, but it wasn’t until Alison came home from seeing Mr. Fermentation himself — Sandor Katz — speak at our local food Co-op and mentioned that Katz had described a new idea that had just been brought to him: fermenting fresh tomatoes to make an a tasty and shelf-stable conserva paste that from them in an ancient and time-tested manner.

All I needed was that one word — conserva — plus The Google to find out how I could do this.
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Grilled Whole Salmon

A few days ago, Brian brought over a whole salmon, wild caught he said, sans head and tail. I didn’t weigh it, but I’d say about 2 pounds.

My recipe for Grilled Whole Fish — gleaned from Cook’s Illustrated and the Big Green Egg Cookbook is pretty simple and straightforward.

Set the EGG for direct cooking with the porcelain coated grid and preheat to 350°F.

Rinse the fish under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Slash the skin on both sides of the fish, coat the fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Stuff the cavity with something flavorful. I had a leek cleaned and split lengthwise and 3 tender stalks of celery. If I had fresh herbs I’d stuff those in there.

Place the salmon on the grill so it can easily be rolled over its back to the other side.

fish on grill, placed to be easy to roll over

here’s the salmon rolled over

This fish is pretty thick, so grill for 8 minutes on the first side, roll over. Grill for another 8 minutes, roll over. Take its temperature… you want 135-140°F. Roll over at 8 more minutes if necessary. Grill until the internal temperature is proper.

Remove to a cutting board or platter and rest.

here’s that salmon on a platter


And then, and then… we were in Raley’s on Sunday and saw a bunch of pretty big whole fish in the fish case. “Are those salmon?” I asked.

The fish lady said, “Wild caught Sockeye Salmon.”

“How much,” I asked, “they look like about 3 pounds each.”

“That’s about right,” she said. “They’re $16 a pound today… but come back tomorrow on Five-Dollar-Monday and they’ll be $5 a pound.” I promised her I would do just that.
Our week looked pretty crowded around dinnertime, so I grilled it Monday evening.

my 3 pound salmon fresh home from the store

my wild caught sockeye salmon cut into two pieces… I’ll freeze the short piece for another time, cook the long piece

our salmon on the EGG with accouterment

Any time I light the EGG, I look around and think about whatever else might cook at the same time. Some summer favorites: Romano Beans steamed for 4 or 5 minutes before going on the grill; a peach, split in half and seed removed — this can be eaten with ice cream or creme fraiche for dessert, eaten with the meal or saved for breakfast; a smallish Haas Avocado, cut in half and seed removed.

here’s our Monday dinner. the avocado — the skin slipped off — is nestled into a corn and tomato stew

and here is my Tuesday morning breakfast — Carol eats more conventional things

There is that peach half, a couple hunks of salmon and half of a roasted beet atop a roasted red bell pepper (from a jar). That’s just a good way to start the day.


Rhythm of the EGG



My Big Green Egg (EGG) can be seen from the walkway passing by our rear courtyard. When I’m out cooking, passersby often kibitz… “What’s for dinner? What kind of BBQ is that? Do you like it?” and so on. Some recognize it and it’s “I’ve been meaning to get one of those.” To that I say, “Well… go for it!”




I brought my little ol’ Webber Q gas grill from San Francisco. Didn’t get much kibitzing about that.


One of the many reasons for moving from San Francisco to Reno was the Big Green Egg. Carol’s brother Mark (and Jannie) cooked for us several times on their EGG at their home in Jackson, Ohio. They made us promise to get an EGG when we had room for one — not a hard promise to make… or realize.

The first few times cooking on the EGG I was not patient — Tim Carter, of Carter Bros. ACE Hardware warned me of this when he assembled my EGG. By now, I have developed a nice and easy routine, as I will demonstrate. It doesn’t matter if you’re cooking a steak for five or six minutes or a rack of ribs for three hours, the first steps are the same, and they take one hour. We usually eat dinner about 7pm, so for anything but a “low and slow” meal, that means I light the fire a little before 6pm.

this picture was taken after a “low and slow” fire, so there’s not much charcoal left


Sometime during the afternoon, I walk out and open up the EGG, remove the grate and stir the extinguished charcoal from the last meal. The ashes fall into the ash area under the fire pit and I form the charcoal around the edges, so the new charcoal will fill the center and top.

A note on charcoal. I was instructed to use only natural lump charcoal. This is made from 100% hardwood, burns hot and clean, and there are no by-products. At the end of cooking, the fire is extinguished by closing the dampers and cutting off the air supply. I’ve found the Big Green Egg brand of charcoal the best. I’ve tried other brands that are less expensive, but they’re not as good. Besides, we’re talking about 50 cents a pound difference, and I add about a pound per fire.

I light the fire with SAFE-LITE Fire Starter Squares, blocks of compressed sawdust coated with natural paraffin wax.

The fire will be ready in an hour, so now I’ll continue my prep.

today I’m grilling a yellow tomato, a peach, a leftover baked potato, a thick piece of halibut – skin on – and Romano beans

The halibut is marinating in equal parts of soy sauce, white wine and lime juice. The fruits and vegetables have been tossed with olive oil, the beans were steamed for 5 minutes beforehand.

Plenty of time to relax now, have a glass of Scotch, some cheese and crackers and watch some Giants on the TV.

The wait is over and the food is on the grill.

The temperature is holding at about 350. I set the timer for the halibut at six minutes a side. I’ll take off the vegetables when they are ready… they will hold.

meanwhile, this is what I’m looking at beyond the EGG

food cooks, about to be turned

vegetables are done, they’ll go into a warm oven

I mentioned the halibut is thick… took almost 15 minutes to reach 135°F, but it turned out nice and juicy. Too bad I wasn’t artful about cutting it for the plate.

halibut, potato, Romano beans, tomato… peach for dessert

The EGG and the live fire and the time and the outdoors bring a rhythm and pleasure to such a meal.



Perfect Summer Supper

It’s hot in Reno right now. Not unbearable, but the temperature on our car thermometer said 102°F when we went for our haircut and ran some errands around 3pm. At the same time the temperature on our shaded front porch never got above 86°F. But — good for us — the temps dip to the low 60s after the sun goes down.

“What’s for dinner?” meant something cool, not hot. We had pâté left from what we took to a party and plenty of fruits and vegetables, mostly from one or another of the farmers markets that we frequent — on our side of town, there is one on Wednesday evening, Thursday midday, Thursday evening, and the big one on Saturday Morning.

On this evening, I was charged with making up a salad. During Sunday as we watched some World Cup, Natasza made a fantastic salad… I learn from her as salads and small plates are practically the national foods of Kyiv and Ukraine as we experienced on our visit there in 2010.

a meal at the dacha outside Kyiv

the other end of the table

Assemble on the fly…

I took out the shallow wooden bowl and put in 3 Tbsp of XV Olive Oil, 1 Tbsp of Raspberry Vinegar and swirled them around with a fork.

Peeled a peach, cut around its equator then a few medium wedges, put those in the bowl.
Peeled and chopped half an avocado, put that in the bowl and tossed.
Halved and pitted six Bing Cherries, put those in the bowl and tossed.
Cut about 8 small cubes of fresh curd cheese,
Quartered and thin sliced one largish radish
Quartered and thin sliced one smallish turnip
Cut some watermelon into smallish dice
Thin sliced across one small head of endive

Put those vegetables in the bowl, seasoned with salt and pepper and folded all together.

ready to serve ourselves

The bowl of salad above center…

On the plate, left of the bowl:

“Country pâté” — Provencal pork from Wedge
“City pâté” — Goose and Duck Liver mousse from Wedge

sliced cornichons
Raye’s Old World Gourmet Mustard
Raye’s Down East Schooner Mustard

my plates… oops, I already ate some Country Pate

On the next hot day when you don’t want to cook, just take what you have, assemble in some manner, and enjoy.



I recently saw the movie, Chef…

Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) suddenly quits his job at a prominent Los Angeles restaurant after refusing to compromise his creative integrity for its controlling owner (Dustin Hoffman), he is left to figure out what’s next. Finding himself in Miami, he teams up with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), his friend (John Leguizamo) and his son (Emjay Anthony) to launch a food truck. [rotten tomatoes]

the chef (El Jefe) and Percy on the road

MY TAKE: Nice to be entertained with a fun story about chefs, critics and food. The characters are well drawn — there are times of pathos and disappointment and times of great fun and accomplishment… hard work and passion win in the end. Food porn abounds — chopping, slicing, roasting, tasting, presenting of food food food… The chef beautifully does a step-by-step cooking of a perfect grilled cheese sandwich at home for his son.

On a Saturday with Carol at Mah Jongg, I was compelled to make my own grilled cheese sandwich. I remembered a three-cheese grilled cheese sandwich using Cowgirl Creamery cheeses from a sunny summer day at the Hog Island Oyster Bar in San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Marketplace hard on the bay.

I have three good cheeses right here at home — not the same ones used at Hog Island, but they will go well together — and I have bread — not a dense country bread, but Oroweat Whole Grain, 12 Grain Bread… bread nonetheless — and I have butter and a skillet.

I don’t make grilled cheese sandwiches often because I’m a little cloudy on the technique. Chef Carl in the movie starts by browning two half-sandwiches then eases them together with a deft spatula move. I had always built a whole sandwich, browned it on one side then turned it to finish on the other. The turning was not always excellently accomplished.

So, here is my illustrated adventure…


three cheeses: blue, brie and havarti’ pickles and olives on the side; the fabulous Oroweat bread

These ingredients are from Raley’s… I normally get my cheese — cut from wheels — from Wedge, Reno’s premier cheese shop.

bread and cheese browning in skillet

I buttered both slices of bread, placed the cheese on the un-buttered side, and transferred the bread to the hot skillet.

here’s my sandwich just about finished

My spatula move in easing the sandwich halves together was not as deft as that of the Chef.

my sandwich served by me to me…

Not so pretty, but oh my, it was goooood, and gracious plenty for lunch. YUM

Every Grain Of Rice

My new favorite cookbook is Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop. After she has meticulously and faithfully researched and documented two historically significant cuisines in China (Sichuanese, and Hunanese) in previous books, and then researched deep into many other Chinese regional cuisines, Dunlop now brings together some of the best recipes from all of her work while at the same time modifying them (sometimes slightly, sometimes radically) to make them easier for Western cooks to approach and prepare, as well as to bend them further towards a vegetarian ideal while keeping them as delicious (if not more so!) as their origins.

This is really important because for our own health, as well as for the health of our planet, we cannot continue to get a majority of our protein from whole slabs of meat. Not only are we better off eating less meat per dish, but if we no longer demand quantity of meat from our meat growers, they will be able to focus on quality of both the meat’s life as well as it’s flavor. Because of the scarcity of meat across most of Chinese history, most Chinese cuisines use meat only for flavor — protein is provided for in many other ways, primarily through the soy bean.

As a meat grower, and a meat eater, I would never suggest that we stop eating meat altogether, because I believe that our biological make up benefits from digesting a wide spectrum of foods, animal flesh (and eggs and milk) included. But *wide spectrum* means that livestock products normally ought to contribute only a portion of our daily protein intake (the USDA recommends 46 grams for women, 56 for men — that’s about two ounces A DAY). Meat for flavor, or as one of many components of a dish, easily accomplishes this goal, and Fuchsia gives us tasty and easy ways to prepare dishes in which we can do follow this thoughtful path.
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