Maple Brined, Apple Wood Smoked Turkey Breast on the Big Green Egg

It was really hot today.  And by hot, I mean 100+ degrees F outside.  In fact, it’s supposed to be in the high 100s  and mid-70s at night for the next five days.  That’s a whole lot of ridiculousness.  Yuck.  So my goal for the next week is to not use the kitchen.  At all.  Okay, so that’s a slight exaggeration.  I’d like to not turn on the stove or oven.  The PG&E bill is already going to be out of control.  I’m scared.  But I digress.

So to continue on with smoking some more meat, I threw on a maple-brined turkey breast while my brisket was also smoking.  Uhm.  Oh.  Holy.  Chopsticks.  Why haven’t I ever smoked a turkey breast, let alone a turkey before?!  The smell and taste of the smoked turkey was intoxicating.  It was just pure deliciousness.  I am now a firm believer that turkey should never be consumed unless smoked.  Tomorrow, sandwiches.  Thanksgiving, here we come!

Maple Brined, Apple Wood Smoked Turkey Breast on the Big Green Egg

1 (4 pound) turkey breast, bone-in
6 bay leaves, rinsed
6 sprigs thyme, rinsed
6 sage leaves, rinsed and slightly bruised
1 carrot, diced
1 small to medium white onion, diced
1 cup good quality maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 head garlic, 1/4 inch cut off from the top
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns, slightly crushed
Applewood chips, soaked for at least 30 minutes

Place turkey breast in a large stock pot, and add just enough water to cover. Place all ingredients into the stock pot, and stir until well incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 to 24 hours.

Heat the Big Green Egg (or smoker of your choice) until it reaches a stable temperature of 225 degrees F. Add the wood chips when the coals are hot. Place a disposable drip pan underneath the turkey. Cook the turkey, skin side up, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F (about 1 hour per pound).

Remove from the smoker, wrap with foil, and place in an empty ice chest to allow the juices to redistribute.

Slice and serve.

Smoked Brisket on the Big Green Egg

It’s been a while since I’ve fired up the Big Green Egg, and not to mention, my blog.  I have no excuses.  Just pure laziness.  Oh, actually, I do have one excuse.  I’ve been cheating on my blog with my newly upgraded and sexy ukulele.   She’s a beautiful, solid koa wood concert ukulele, made in Hawai’i.  She is definitely bright and sassy!  We’ve been playing The Muppet’s Rainbow Connection together.  I wonder what we’ll play next?

I finally got the creative itch to cook something on the Big Green Egg.  My original goal was to smoke a brisket on July 4th, but I just never got around to buying the brisket.  This time I wasn’t going to let laziness or my ukulele get in the way.  I bought an insane amount of meat yesterday in preparation for grilling and smoking today.  Today was a good day.

Smoked Brisket

For dry rub:
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon cumin

7-8 pound brisket, fat cap trimmed to 1/4 inch
Wood chips, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

Remove the brisket from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature, about one hour. Pat the brisket dry with a paper towel. Rub the dry rub over the brisket until well coated. Set aside.

Heat the Big Green Egg (or smoker of your choice) until it reaches a stable temperature of 225 degrees F. Add the wood chips when the coals are hot. Place a disposable drip pan underneath the brisket. Cook the brisket, fat side up, until the internal temperature is 150 degrees F (about 1 hour and 15 minutes per pound). Baste the brisket with a few sprays of apple juice after 3 hours on the smoker to keep it moist.

Remove from the smoker, and wrap tightly with foil. Cook at the same temperature until internal temperature is 185 degrees F (about 3 to 4 hours).

Once the brisket is done, put the brisket in an insulated ice chest lined with aluminum foil. Close it for at least one hour for the juices to redistribute. The meat will hold its heat for hours in the chest, and the brisket will become even more tender. I do not suggest leaving the brisket in the cooler for more than 3 hours to prevent bacteria growth.

When ready to eat, slice against the grain and serve.

Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chop… it’s porky goodness!

It was 99 degrees F outside today, and it’s only the middle of May.  Mother Nature, you are being cruel to us.  I love when you are around the 70s to mid-80s, because that’s what you are during the months of April and May.  In fact, that’s my favorite time of the year here.  So what gives?  Is this a taste of what is to come this summer?  Please be kind.  I can’t bear sizzling temperatures near/over 110 degrees F.

I couldn’t bear to cook in the house today.  We cooked in yesterday, although it was 93 degrees F outside, our house seemed like a sauna.  I suppose we could have turned on the air conditioner, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that because it is only May.  But I digress.  It was the perfect to take the cooking outdoors, and I’ll take any excuse to play, I mean, cook on my Big Green Egg.

Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chop (adapted from Viet World Kitchen)

4 pork chops, bone-in, about 1 inch thick
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons garlic
3 tablespoons shallot
1 1/2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil

Using a mini food processor, pulse the sugar, garlic, shallot, and lemongrass to a mince-like texture. Add the pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce, and oil, and process to combine well.

Place the pork chops in a large zip-lock bag, and pour the marinade to coat. Squish the marinade around to coat the pork chops evenly. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, up to 24 hours. Allow the pork chops to rest at room temperature, about 30-45 minutes, before grilling.

Preheat the Big Green Egg (or any grill) to 550 degrees F (or medium-high heat). Grill the pork chops over direct high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, about 4 minutes. Flip, and cook for an additional Place the chops on the grill rack of your Big Green Egg. Sear the chops for about 4 minutes, flip, and cook for an additional 4 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F. Remove from the grill, and let the pork chops rest for 5 minutes.

My favorite way to eat these delicious pork chops is over steamed white rice with a fried egg, and nuoc cham dipping sauce.  Yum.

Makes 4 servings.

Smoked Trout on the Big Green Egg

The smoking adventures on the Big Green Egg continues… this time with trout.  I wanted to venture out with another type of fish since I’ve smoked salmon [we're a big fan of smoked salmon] every weekend since I purchased the Big Green Egg, which was almost four weeks ago.

I bought four whole trouts yesterday, excited to cure and smoke it.  But when I got home, I didn’t realize that the pin bones and spine were still intact.  Ugh.  I felt almost immediately overwhelmed by the idea of removing the bones.  I YouTubed some videos on how to filet trout, and got right in.  [YouTube always comes in handy for situations like this!]  Luckily, the sweet filet knife I recently got came in handy for this daunting task.  It took some time and hacking at the fish before I got the hang of deboning and fileting fish.  Needless to say, I finished without cutting myself [unfortunately, I accidentally cut myself often in the kitchen... it's a combination of clumsiness + hurriedness], throwing swear words left and right,  or giving up , but all four fileted fish looked pretty hacked up.

The final score:
Me 4
Trout 0

Smoked Trout on the Big Green Egg

3 pounds trout, about 3 to 5 ounces each, skin on, pin bones and spine removed, and fileted
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon black pepper
6 garlic cloves, finely minced

In a small mixing bowl, combine the all the ingredients above and mix thoroughly. Liberally pack the trout filets with the brown sugar mixture. Place in a shallow glass baking dish, and cover tightly with saran wrap, and refrigerate for two hours.

Rinse the trout under cold water to remove the brine. Dry the salmon with a paper towel, and allow it to dry in the refrigerator, uncovered. It should dry for a couple of hours up to 24 hours to develop the pellicle (shiny skin) on the surface of the fish. [I allowed mine to dry in the refrigerator for 12 hours.]

Fire up your smoker per the manufacturer’s instructions and your favorite wood chips [I used alder; hickory or mesquite would be too potent for seafood] to around 180 to 220 degrees F. Smoke for about 3 hours. Remove from smoker, allow to cool, and enjoy it with some creme fraiche, cream cheese, on a salad, or pick at it like we did :)

Smoked Spatchcock Cilantro-Garlic Chicken (now that’s a mouthful!)

I smoked all day today.  I woke up and went straight to the backyard to smoke.  I was jonesing, so much so that I woke up at 7 a.m. today, when I should’ve slept in on a Saturday morning.  I hope my neighbors didn’t mind my early morning smoking habit.  My hair, clothes, and skin smells of smoke.  I’m amazed that my lungs were able to take that much in, as if I were still in my early 20s.  It even kicked up some of my allergies.  I can’t wait to shower and scrub this smell off.  The problem, though, is that I’m addicted.  I love smoking… food, that is.

Smoked Spatchcock Cilantro-Garlic Chicken

1 (3 lb) whole chicken, spine removed
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and finely chopped
4 jalapenos, sliced
12 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt

Place spatchcock chicken in a large glass bowl, breast side down, filled with water. Add the cilantro, garlic cloves, and sea salt. Carefully “stir” the water to mix all the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

1/2 bunch cilantro, rinsed and finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine all the ingredients into a paste in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Rub the cilantro paste underneath the skin and the entire exterior of the chicken. Set aside.

Heat the smoker per the manufacturer’s instructions to 250 degrees F. If you are using a BGE, place a drip pan on the inverted plate setter. Place the chicken in the smoker, and smoke [I used applewood] until the breast reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F and the thighs reach 175 degrees F, or when the juices run clear, about 3-4 hours. Remove the chicken from the smoker, and allow it to rest for 15 minutes tented with foil.

My First Attempt at Smoking Salmon on My New Big Green Egg

My birthday present to myself was a new Big Green Egg, something that I had been fantasizing and longing for, for the last year and a half.  The Big Green Egg is a kamado cooker, or simply a ceramic all-in-one cooker that can smoke, grill (and sear at really high temperatures), and bake.  You can even recreate a “wood-fired” pizza oven-like effect on this thing because it retains heat so well!

My partner has been a little less enthusiastic about the cooker.  It has been tough trying to convince my partner the idea of buying a semi-expensive the BGE, especially when we have a lot of house projects that we’d like to accomplish… replacing the carpets with laminate flooring, updating our bathrooms and kitchen, and redesigning our backyard to be more low-water maintenance.  And not to mention, my much anticipated hospital bill, which I still haven’t received from my recent hospitalization in February.  So I understand her concerns for spending money on the BGE when we have so much more to do.  I’ve mentioned the BGE to her more frequently these last couple of weeks than I ever had before.  I even tried to entice her by showing her videos on YouTube and explaining to her how it can even bake.  Whatever I did [I think it was the ability to bake on the BGE that sold her] to convince her worked because she was driving me to the only retailer that sells BGEs on my birthday!

After watching the instructional DVD, and perusing through the numerous BGE forums for the do’s and don’ts, I finally mustered up the courage to “break it in” so-to-speak.  I guess you can say I was slightly intimidated by the cooker.  I don’t really know why the BGE was so intimidating, or if it was just me being scared of change and stepping out of my comfort zone of the gas grill.  But after much debate with myself on which recipe to try first, I settled on smoking salmon.  It would be the perfect recipe to try as it would give me the opportunity to smoke something [something that I had always wanted to do], and to play around with the temperature control [which is supposedly really easy according to the BGE manufacturer, but I didn't think it was that easy].

The salmon came out beautifully after three hours of smoking.  I flaked a little piece for my partner to try, and well, let’s just say that she is a new BGE convert :)

Smoked Salmon

1.5 pound slab of fresh salmon filet, with skin on
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup kosher or sea salt (non-iodized)
6 garlic cloves, finely minced

In a small mixing bowl, combine the all the ingredients above and mix thoroughly. Liberally pack the salmon filet with the brown sugar mixture. Place in a shallow glass baking dish, and cover tightly with saran wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Rinse the salmon under cold water to remove the brine. Dry the salmon with a paper towel, and allow it to dry in the refrigerator, uncovered. It should dry for a couple of hours to develop the pellicle (shiny skin) on the surface of the fish.

Fire up your smoker per the manufacturer’s instructions and you favorite wood chips [I used alder; hickory or mesquite would be too potent for seafood] to around 180 to 220 degrees F. The salmon will be ready when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Remove it from the heat and devour it right away, or vacuum seal it so that you have it on hand for a while.  The latter may be difficult because you might finish it before you even get to package it away.

Grilled Salmon Burgers with Cream Cheese and Pickled Red Onion

I was craving lox and bagels schmeared with cream cheese, capers, and pickled red onions from this food stand at the SF Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, but I was also craving a salmon burger.  So I thought I’d combine the two into one and created a salmon burger with cream cheese.  It was the perfect compromise :)

Grilled Salmon Burgers with Cream Cheese and Pickled Red Onion (pickled red onion adapted from Rick Bayless’ Authentic Mexican)

1 1/2 pounds fresh wild salmon, skinned
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 large tomato, sliced
1/2 cup cream cheese
2 tablespoons capers
4 crusty, hamburger buns, lightly toasted
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat outdoor grill to medium high heat. [You can also cook this indoors on a skillet.]

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese and capers. Mix thoroughly, and set aside.

Blanch sliced red onions in a small saucepan of boiling water (enough to cover the onions) for about 30 seconds, and drain in a colander.

Return them to the saucepan, and add the cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and just enough cold water to cover the onions.  Bring to a boil over high heat and simmer the onions for 1 minute.

Transfer the onions and brine to a glass jar and chill.  The onions will turn pink and will get crisp as they cool.  This can be stored in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.  [This process can be done a few days ahead if pressed for time.]

Finely chop the salmon into 1/4-inch dices and place into a medium size mixing bowl. Add to it the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly to combine. Form 4 patties, and drizzle each with extra virgin olive oil. Flip and repeat. [I prefer the chunkier texture of salmon. Conversely, you could also cut the salmon into large chunks and throw it into a food processor and pulse to a coarse grind meat.]

Cook the burgers for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes or 4 to 5 minutes on each side, for medium or well-done, respectively.

Arrange the burgers with sliced tomatoes, pickled red onions, and caper-cream cheese slathered onto your favorite hamburger bun.

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