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August 13, 2012

The Grilling Fool: Dad's Birthday Dinner

So, as usual in our family, whoever has a birthday gets to choose what they want for dinner. Years ago, we would go out for dinner. Sometimes, my Mom would want some seafood. Dad might want steak or something of the like. When I was young, my choice was pizza (being in the Chicago area, that shouldn't be a shock). But as the years went by, we decided to do whatever meal ourselves. Think about this. We know EXACTLY where the items are from (since we have to go out and buy them). We make it to our liking (and if it get messed up, that's on us, which has never happened in our case). This past weekend was no exception and Dad got his choice of meal. So now, as we go forward, you can observe the blow by blow of this fantastic dinner we got to enjoy.

This was the meat of the matter is below- one filet mignon, about 8 oz and cooked medium/medium-rare. I did this with the direct grilling method. Times will vary by the temperature of the grill. I had my grill to a 1,1000...2,1000 count (my hand over the grill to measure the coal's heat levels. I went about 8-10 minutes for each side. I turned these only once. My Mom decided to marinate them with a certain marinade (which was good) but I also added a few tricks to it. First, I embraced my inner-Bridget Lancaster while I cooked this. First, I let the meat come to room temperature, which makes for easier cooking for about 30 minutes. After that, I patted the meat dry with a paper towel. And then seasoned them. It's really a matter of choice what you season it with, especially with a cut like this one. So I decide to take some of the meal's flavors and added them to the meat and I did it in this order- black pepper (if it's fine coarse, do it here), then some Spanish paprika, oregano and finally Kosher salt. I used to Kosher salt on the gristle as well so it would char and easily come off. This was one of the 4 steaks we did. The other pieces had a bit more of a crust to it.  

Now if you take nothing from this post, take this and run with it. I can testify how WOWED I was once I got to eat them. I am a bigger fan of white asparagus, since it's not as bitter as its green sibling. Now this was also too easy. I cut off the lower 1-1/2" to 2" of the asparagus since you really can't cook (or for that matter eat) it. How easy was it? You take the oil of your choice (I used canola since that's what we had) + salt + pepper= that's it!!!! Take a veggie grill basket and grill for about 10 minutes. I tried this on a hunch and it turned out MUCH better than I even expected. Below is the success story. I had the perfect texture of crunch and softness. It also had a nice bite from the pepper. Yes, it tasted as good as it looks!! Look below if you have any questions. For the record, I didn't grill the green beans this time around. For those who had kids, you may consider trying this to get them to eat a vegetable. The asparagus I managed to get were shipped in from Peru.

This is the incredible cheese and garlic potatoes, made by my Mom. That's the beauty of potatoes au gratin. It gives you so much leeway on how you want to season them. I wasn't home when she did this but if history repeated itself (which I think it did), take the potatoes au gratin recipe of your choosing and add some garlic. This dish really complimented the entire meal. I think Mom used Velveeta and parm-reggiano cheese (this time around), also mixing the potatoes and cheese with egg. Bottom line- use what cheese you want but I would suggest using a cheese that melts easily. You could also do a contradiction like Swiss or Provolone with cheddar, colby or an old reliable for many, Velveeta. If you really want to step it up, chop some tomato, onion, bell peppers with some duck fat- done!!! Bake time was about 90 minutes. Here's the payoff (and what was left) shown below. I'm glad I paid attention to when she makes this.

So now the dinner is done. I still had a pretty nice fire going (as I was doing bbq-ing a ham as well; that turned out pretty well but there was some fine tuning I want to do before sharing). They had a package of chicken thighs just asking to be grilled. My folks knew I had been on the grill for some time and didn't want to keep me from my evening. My Dad basically said that all I need to do is guide what he needed to do to prep the chicken. I said I didn't mind staying, which is what I did. Now, I made one mistake and it wasn't something I couldn't recover from. I took some coals from my ham fire and used them to cook the chicken (using a kettle grill). Now with poultry, it's a bit different because unlike meat, there's a bit more at stake if chicken isn't cooked to its proper internal temperature (my thermometer suggests 190 degrees Fahrenheit or 87.5 degrees Celsius). Depending on how hot your fire is, that will determine the cook time. This wasn't part of Dad's birthday dinner. This was more ad lb than anything else. As I said before. it would be a shame to let a good fire go to waste.  

As I said, I did make a mistake. I didn't make the fire hot enough when I transferred coals. It's not a deal breaker since my Dad and I caught it in time. So we took some new coals, placed hot coals over them and the day was saved. The onion I also threw on the grill. I left the skin on the onion and placed them on top of the grill (I didn't use a basket for this you can if you wish). The cook time was about 25-30 minutes to grill the entire onion. I'm using the onion for other things (e.g., a topping on a sandwich, mix them with some guacamole I had in the fridge, use in a salad of some sort, etc). This also depends on how hot your fire is. The point is to make sure the onion is somewhat soft to the touch, unless you're going to use them in something like a soup, where you can cook them as you would garlic.

Guilty as charged. I was the Grilling Fool this weekend. It was a ton of fun to do though. Sure it was some work involved but the reward is worth the work. Always remember a couple of things while bbq-ing. First, is patience. Once you get this "P" word I just used, bbq-ing will be MUCH more fun to do. If you're going to cook this way, you will need to block off time to do it right. Just concentrate on what you're cooking. Don't rush it and while I'm at it, DO NOT USE LIGHTER FLUID!!! None!!! You will destroy not only the food you made but that smell stays in the grill. 5 hours of grill time and a bunch of good food as my payoff. Not to mention my Dad was very happy with the meal sealed the deal for me. Another successful grilling venture for me. I always look forward to doing this. Now for those of you who might be generous in nature and want to see my grilling to a new level, below is my dream grill/smoker. Below is "The Marshall" from Good Ones Grill and Smokers. Send one my way if you want to waste $2500. Trust me, it will get PLENTY of use!!! OK. It never hurts to put it out there though I doubt there will be any takers.

Photo taken Internet site.  Good-One Grill is the creator of this grill and photo belongs to them.

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