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Tandoori Chicken in a Charcoal BBQ

30 Nov

Earlier this fall I made some delicious tandoori-style chicken for an Indian-themed dinner party. This may be the best-tasting chicken I’ve cooked in a long time.

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I figured, I have a kamado-style ceramic-walled charcoal grill / smoker that can easily get up to 700 degrees F (which I’ve used to make pizza in the past)– there must be some way to use this as an approximation of a tandoor. I did some reading, and as often seems to be the case, there was an article by Kenji on Serious Eats on this very idea.

The keys seemed to be thigh meat (delicious, doesn’t dry out as easily if the temperature gets a bit high), heavy use of a thick yogurt-based marinade (continues to shield the surface and provide moisture), and fast cooking in a hot-on-all-sides grill/oven, above open fire that can give it some char.

For twelve people (as part of a feast with many other dishes), I made about 5 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

The marinade:

Grind these spices together:

  • A few spices toasted in a skillet for 1-2 minutes:
    • 4 T cumin
    • 4 T smoked paprika
    • 2 T “extra bold Indian coriander seed”
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 2 T achiote powder

Add:

  • 16 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 T ginger (microplaned)
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 4 cups yogurt
  • 1/2 cup(!) salt

The marination:

I slashed the surfaces of the chicken thighs deeply with a knife (to make it easier for marinade to penetrate), and marinating them in the fridge for about four hours:

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The tandoor:

I started a fire in the grill/smoker about an hour before cooking, to give it time to burn down the coals and heat up the entire chamber, I had the grill temperature stable around 600-650 degrees by the time I was ready to cook. The chicken did end up sticking a bit– I could have better-oiled the grill.

I pulled the chicken out of the fridge 15 minutes before cooking to let it warm up a bit, then put the skewers (still dripping with the thick yogurt sauce) on the grill and lowered the top so they’d cook from all sides…

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At this high temperature, they only took about 12 minutes to cook (I flipped them after 7 minutes, then checked the appearance and internal temperature a few times after that– looking for about 165 degrees for these thighs). Beautiful!

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With such a short cooking time, some of the tangy spiced yogurt was still moist on the outside of the chicken– different from what I’m used to in restaurants, but delicious– and the chicken thighs hadn’t dried out at all.

We served this with a pile of lemon wedges and fresh cilantro, alongside freshly-made garlic naan, saag paneer by H with homemade paneer, deep-friend pakoras, and multiple types of daal and homemade chutneys– a great evening eating outdoors with friends…

Pizza on a Charcoal BBQ

18 Nov

(quick notes, mostly jotted down to remember what worked well)

My third try in three years, and the most successful (I got the grill up to 700 degrees, which I’m sure helped):

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Grill setup: plenty of charcoal below, all air passages cleared of ash, and a pizza stone (porous side up for my glazed/porous stone) raised on two bricks to bring the pizza close to the hot lid of the ceramic grill. I let the charcoal burn for 90 minutes with the lid closed to get the entire grill up to 650-700 degrees (when I tried making a pizza earlier, it burned on the bottom before it fully cooked on the top– I think because the ceramic grill lid wasn’t hot enough– I could also try further raising the stone next time).

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The dough recipe is down at the bottom. After letting it rise overnight in the fridge, I pulled it out about an hour before the grill was ready and rolled out each crust on a floured board before transferring it to the peel (on a layer of coarse cornmeal), rubbing olive oil into it, sprinkling a little salt onto it, and then topping it.

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Each pizza only had to bake for 3 or maybe 4 minutes when the grill was at peak temperature (later in the evening the charcoal burned down and the grill dropped to 500-550 degrees– the pizzas still came out pretty well).

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We made 6 different pizzas in one evening for a small cocktail party with a group of friends– success!

Dough recipe (6 small pizzas, enough for 6-9 people):

  • 690g white* flour
  • 255g whole wheat flour
  • 21g sugar
  • 15g salt
  • 15g yeast
  • 690g lukewarm water
  • 48g olive oil

(*usually King Arthur bread flour, but this time I used a 50/50 mix of bread and all-purpose because I ran out of bread flour)

Mix all the dry ingredients except the yeast.

Make a small depression in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the yeast there.

Gradually pour the water/oil mixture into this depression, stirring in a small circle to dissolve the yeast and to gradually incorporate the flour into this.

Turn the (quite wet and sticky) dough out onto a floured countertop and knead a dozen times.

Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, let rise overnight in the fridge (take it out at least 15 minutes before making pizzas and divide it into 6 balls).

Grilled Pizza

28 Mar

Still working on getting a pizza stone hot enough and where exactly in the grill it and the fire should go, but these were good…

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Using my father’s some-whole-wheat-flour high-moisture-content long-rising dough recipe:

IMG_20170327_200102Butternut squash, red onion, buffalo mozzarella, gremolata:

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Tomato sauce, anchovies, bitter greens, salted olives, chili flakes:

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Pesto, ricotta, asparagus:IMG_20170327_205546

New Year’s Day chilaquiles and carnitas

2 Jan

The best part of having leftover pulled pork and salsa from New Year’s Eve dinner?

New Year’s Day carnitas chilaquiles (tortilla chips soaked in tomatillo salsa, topped with fatty pulled pork that’s been crisped under the broiler and mixed with a little orange juice, and a fried egg):

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BBQ pork tacos with smoked salsas

1 Jan

For a small New Year’s Eve party, a meal cooked primarily in the smoker (tacos with pulled pork, homemade tortillas, and salsas made from smoked tomatillos and pineapples):

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23-hour slow-smoked pork shoulder:

  • A roughly 7lb chunk of pork shoulder (a.k.a. pork butt) from Niman Ranch
  • Dry rubbed with copious amounts of salt and mustard, smoked paprika, and black pepper and let rest in the fridge for 4-5 hours
  • Smoked very low-and-slow at 215-225F for 23 hours over lump charcoal with some fist-sized chunks of apple and pecan wood for smoke, until the internal temperature was in the 195-200 range (for overnight smokes I have a ‘baby monitor’-style wireless temperature probe I rest on the bedside so an alarm will ring and wake me up if the pit temperature gets too high or low and I can adjust the airflow or add fuel)
  • No intermediate basting, mopping, foiling, etc– just keeping it simple
  • Wrapped in foil and let rest for 45 minutes
  • It was so tender I could pull off strands by hand, and with a nice ‘bark’ and smoke ring…

img_20161231_134805It didn’t even need any sauce– I just squeezed a few limes over it.

Smoked tomatillo salsa, a puree of both smoked and raw ingredients:

  • 8 large tomatillos, smoked/roasted at about 225F for two hours
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 whole jalapeno
  • 1/4 of a large white onion
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • Salt and minced cilantro to taste

I’ve tried a few ways of using smoked tomatillos and this is the highlight for me– I’ve even frozen excess in ice cube trays to save for later:

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Smoked pineapple salsa:

My friend judit turned me on to how well smoking treats pineapple– the low slow cook caramelizes it, and this sweetness helps balance the woody smoke.

I started by slicing two pineapples into discs and smoking / roasting them at 225F for two hours (at the same time as the tomatillos and pork– in the initial, smokier two hours). I pureed:

  • One of the pineapples
  • 4 cloves roasted garlic
  • juice of 1 lime

And then added for texture/contrast:

  • The other pineapple, somewhat coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 of a red onion, finely chopped
  • salt to taste

The meal turned out really well, if I may say so myself.

Plus, we had a lot of tomatillo salsa and pulled pork left over the next day for breakfast…

Reverse Seared Steak

18 Nov

After years of successfully cooking steak in a traditional way (salted a few hours ahead of time, then high heat on a grill or a skillet on the stovetop followed by a 5-10 minute rest), I gave the “reverse sear” technique a try.

The general idea is to bake / roast the steak at lower temperature until it’s almost done, then sear each side on a hot grill. The slower, lower-temperature approach should gradually and uniformly cook the meat, while the sear browns the outer layer for flavor which maintaining the juicy center (especially on a thick steak).

After trying this a few times, a simple weeknight compromise in the level of effort that works for me is to set up a grill for indirect cooking (fire on one side, steaks on the other) at around 275, roast the steaks with the lid closed until they’re at 115-120F internal temperature (20-40 minutes depending on thickness), take them out to rest while I open the vents and crank the grill up to high temperature (500F), then sear a minute or so on each side (final internal temp 125-130).

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The end result of the best attempt– beautifully done, tender, and delicious:img_8659img_8663

I wouldn’t say I’m a convert to *always* cooking it in this way, or am convinced it automatically makes a better steak– but it works well and does give a bit more latitude in the timing, where plus or minus 1 minute doesn’t rapidly take you past medium-rare.

In the future I’m curious to combine this with some fruit woods as a way to lightly smoke a steak, since it’s in the grill for longer than a traditional hot-seared steak.

Smoked Trout, Homemade Bagels

8 Aug

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I threw a little brunch for friends, with homemade bagels, salmon and trout I smoked over alder wood, gravlax cured by H, dry farmed early girl tomatoes (so good…), salted cucumbers, and other accoutrements.

For the bagels, I mostly used the tried and true recipe, though I tried retarding the dough (letting it rise slowly in a cold place overnight) in both a typical 40°F fridge and a special 55°F fridge I had set up with a temperature controller for fermenting experiments. The 40° dough rose less, but then swelled up when baked (see left bagels below– perhaps I didn’t boil them long enough this time?) They still tasted good, like bagels– but the dough retarded at 55° had an especially nice crackling crust around a chewy bagel. I’ll keep playing around with rising times and temperatures…

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For the trout and salmon I followed a four day “hot smoke” process based on the Russell Smallwood / Naked Whiz recipe. This produces savory, rich, cooked salmon and trout with a bit of a chewy crust– not a smoked cold/raw salmon like lox.

Wednesday evening I made a plain salt brine (I wanted to start with the basics this time before getting into spices, herbs, or sugar) and immersed a thick 2lb block of salmon and 2lbs of cleaned trout fillets (both skin-on) in it under weights overnight.

Thursday morning before work I rinsed the brine off both and set them out uncovered in a fridge to air dry for 36 hours, in the hope of developing more of a skin/pellicle when smoked.

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Friday night I fired up the kamado-style ceramic grill/smoker with lump charcoal and a few chunks of alder wood and stabilized it at the low temperature of 180°F (this took some effort and required sealing every spare crack of inlet space with foil to control the airflow). After one false start when I closed down the vents so much that I snuffed the fire, I got a steady slow burn going and popped in the salmon and trout. I let them smoke until 2AM (about 6 hours), which led to a heavily cured toothy smoked trout with a great skin, and a moderately cured salmon that was fully cooked but still moist in the middle (the salmon was much thicker to start– but I didn’t want to be getting up all night to check on it– maybe next time I’ll try a 12-hour smoke).

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I chilled the fish overnight, and Saturday morning they were ready to go for brunch. Mmm.

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There were plenty of smoked fish leftovers (though not as many as I expected making 5 lbs of fish for 9 people), and mixing it in to scrambled eggs with feta is my favorite leftover use so far…

I think the trout turned out amazingly good and have been snacking on it for days– I wouldn’t change anything. The salmon was also very good, but next time I want to try some more herbs and spices in the brine and perhaps a little sugar– and try smoking a part of it even longer to see if I can get a bit more of a dry “salmon jerky” crust outside the moist interior.