Everyman Cooks

Indirect Heat – or Roasting on the Grill

Indirect heat, that is heat that is not directly under the bits you’re grilling, is a great way to grill large pieces of meat such as roast pork, beef, or even a whole chicken.  I am a huge fan of this cooking method because it results in wonderfully cooked meat that is juicy and tasty with just the right hint of charcoal.  Also, you can add good quality chunks of wood to the fire to give your food that smoked flavor without spending an entire day toiling around with a smoker.

As with any good charcoal grill session, I start by building my fire in a charcoal chimney.  This ignition method ensures that my food doesn’t taste of petroleum when it’s all said and done.  I also start the wood for this recipe in this chimney.

The basic workings are that you crumple up two sheets of news paper and stuff them in the bottom of the chimney.  Then you stack charcoal on top of the grate that holds the charcoal and fill the chimney.  Finally, you light the paper and set the chimney on the grill.  When you have flames coming out the top, your ready to dump the chimney.  You are going to want to use a good pair of insulated gloves to handle the chimney — even though it has a heat-resistant handle, it does tend to get pretty hot.

In order to keep the coals to the side of the chicken, I use some special trays to hold my coals.   These are available from a number of places and also from Weber’s website.  They are inexpensive and do a great job keeping the heat on the sides of the grill instead of directly under the cooking surface.

Place the bird in the center of the cooking rack and roast with the lid on for about an hour — always check the bird’s temperature with a meat thermometer.  It should register 160 F when it is done.  Also, the juices should run clear.

If you’ve added hardwood to the fire, you will end up with a bird that has a lot of flavor as well as a beautiful golden brown color.   As with all meat coming off the grill, you should let it cool for about 5 minutes before you slice into it.  This will make slicing the meat easier and will also ensure that juices are redistributed throughout the meat.

Prior to cooking this bird, I used a spice rub on the inside as well as the outside.

Spice Rub

1 tbsp. kosher salt
1/2 tbsp. black pepper
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tbsp. garlic powder


Roasted Beats

In his novel, Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robins opens the book with high praise for the beet.

THE BEET IS THE MOST INTENSE of vegetables.

The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.

I was always a bit afraid of beets when I was growing up.  Probably because they were pickled and cut into slices, served cold as a half assed garnish on a plate of otherwise delicious food at the local diner.  At least that’s how I remember beets.

My perspective changed a few years ago, when beets started arriving in droves in my CSA share.  I felt compelled to find a way to like them.  I didn’t want to simply dump them right into the compost.  That would be a waste and some kind of antithesis to the whole notion of the CSA.

So I started playing around with beets.  My favorite way to prepare them is to roast them. Beets have a lot of sugar (you’ll even find beet sugar listed as an ingredient on all kinds of things if you look) and so they are great for roasting because the sugar will caramelize.

You can prepare this recipe in a roasting pan, or in foil on the grill.  It is ridiculously easy but it produces a mighty tasty side dish that goes well with beef or pork in particular.

Roasted Beets

1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper 
3 medium-sized beets, peeled and quartered
1 tbsp. olive oil

If your beets still have the greens in tact, remove them and save them for another side – they are edible and they taste great.   Peel the beets and quarter them.  Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss to coat all sides of the beets.

For indoor, oven roasting, pre-heat the oven to 425 F.  Place the beets in a baking dish and roast uncovered for approximately 45 minutes.

On the grill, you have two options, you can place the beets in a foil wrap and roast on a hot grill for about 45 minutes, or you can place them directly on the grill and roast them at a lower temperature.  If you place them directly on the grill, you will need to attend to them frequently to prevent burning.


Memories of Spring Break — Chicken Jambalaya

In my senior year of college, I took a road trip for spring break down to Baton Rouge, LA to visit a friend who was in graduate school at LSU with a fraternity brother named Rick.  John (our friend at LSU) was very keen on showing us the local culture and we went to New Orleans for a night where we were introduced to Po Boys and Jambalaya.  John also hosted a crawfish boil in his tiny two-bedroom apartment.  We drank Abita beer and sucked the heads of crawfish until we were nearly ill.  It was a great time.

All too soon after that trip, I found myself graduated and living in Baltimore, MD.  One weekend I got a hankering for some of those Creole and Cajun tastes that I remembered from my trip to Louisiana.  I was pretty poor in those days, making less than twenty thousand dollars a year; going out for dinner was pretty much not an option.  I turned to the cookbooks we had in the house looking for a recipe.  I was surprised to find that the Joy of Cooking left me hanging.  I found one in the last cookbook I looked at which I expected to be the least likely to have a recipe.  It was the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.

Admittedly, the recipe was not really a good representation of the dish, but it got me started.  Over the years, I’ve developed the following recipe and technique through trial and error.  My jambalaya does not include shrimp, but you could easily add them near the end of the cooking time.

Continue Reading… »


Spicy Turkey Burgers

I was never a big fan of turkey burgers until I tried changing up the recipe.  My big complaint about turkey burgers has always been that they tend to be dry and they are a poor substitution for real hamburgers.  A few years ago, I stumbled upon a recipe in a Weight Watchers cookbook that called for adding vegetables to turkey burgers to keep them moist.  I was skeptical, but after making them according to the recipe I was pleasantly surprised.

I like to tweak recipes.  I often make minor variations to recipes that I find based upon what I actually have in the cupboards and fridge.  That’s how I came to this recipe.

Spicy Turkey Burgers

1 lb ground turkey breast
1 small zucchini or yellow summer squash (grated)
1 small jalapeno (seeded and diced)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper (freshly ground)

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix with your hands (yes cooking involves getting dirty and yes your hands are a tool that you can and should use — just make sure they are clean).  Form the mixture into patties in a size of your choosing (6 – 8 oz are a good size).  Grill the patties on a hot grill until cooked through.  If desired, add a slice of your favorite cheese.

Serve on a roll with condiments of our choosing.  I like to server these with sautéed onions and one of my “special sauces.”

Special Sauce

1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp horseradish
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Variations

I sometimes add 1 tbsp chili powder to this recipe for a slightly different kick.  I also sometimes dice onions instead of using squash.  For an “Italian” flavor, I use oregano and basil instead of cumin and jalapeno, and for an “Indian” flavor, I use curry powder.

Don’t be afraid to mix it up.  The key to this recipe is to add veggies to the meat to keep it moist and to be adventurous.

Enjoy.


Inspiration for this blog

Sometimes inspiration comes at the strangest times in life.  Sometimes, it just hits you like a brick in the face.  That’s what happened tonight as I was watching “Jamie at Home” on the Cooking Chanel.  I realized that I needed to start writing down my recipes for my son who is about to turn 3 years old.  Out of this realization came the inspiration for this site “The Everyman Cooks.”

Let me start with a few facts.  I’m soon to turn 38 years old.  I have spent the past 13 years working in the information technology arena.  I am married and a father.  I leave the house around 6:00 AM, fight traffic for 40 miles and work an eight-hour day with an hour for lunch.  This puts be back on the road around 4:00 PM, which if I’m lucky gets me home at about 5:00 PM.  Just in time to start dinner so that we can eat at a sane hour.

That’s right, I come home after 12 hours away from the house and cook dinner, almost every night.  No this does not make me super human.  I realize there a lots of other people out there who do the same thing every day, most of them are women.  I believe firmly that its time for more men to get off their seats and into the kitchen.

I’ve been on a quest of sorts, to figure out what I really want to do with my life.  It has become clear to me that one of the things that I truly love is food and sharing food.  For me, cooking is inspirational.  I truly love to cook and have been doing so since I was old enough to boil water and not burn the house down.  I started cooking with my mom who cooked dinner every night for the family.  At first it was simply opening a can or two, maybe filling a pan with water to boil.  Then I learned how to use a knife and cut up vegetables.  Eventually I started lighting the charcoal grill, and finally I was grilling the meat while Mom finished the sides.

In college, I hated living in the dorms primarily because I didn’t have a stove.  I was stuck eating either the food at the dining halls, or with what could be produced in a microwave or with a hot-shot (a water boiling contraption).  I longed to go home so that I could actually cook.  In my second year, I moved off campus and into my fraternity house.  We were a small house (less than 20 members) and everyone had at least one job.  One of mine was cooking dinner three nights a week on a budget of $2.00 a plate.  My buddy and I put out dinner five nights a week for 14 guys on that budget and they were “square” meals.  During college I also worked in several restaurants where I learned a lot about cooking under pressure.

You might be asking yourself, how did a guy who loves cooking so much end up in IT? That is a long story, but the important part of it is that my experiences working in restaurants in college taught me a number of things.  First and foremost, restaurant work is grueling hard work.  Secondly, the hours suck.  I did not want to be working nights and weekends for the rest of my life.  So, I never considered restaurant work as a potential career choice.

My soul-searching has led me to a few other conclusions. It is very important to me that I somehow have an impact on society.  Somehow I need to improve people’s lives.  I am also driven to be creative.  Cooking provides me with a natural outlet for creativity.

So, as I sat here tonight and watched Jamie Oliver prepare a wonderful meal that I knew I could have conjured up on my own, it occurred to me that I might just be able to accomplish three goals in one place with this blog.

Hopefully, I can explore my creativity, inspire others and transmit useful information about my primary passion in life.  That passion is food.

Enjoy.