Up in My Grill

Baby, it’s hot outside. Really. Swelteringly hot, and not likely to cool down anytime in the near future.

Of course, nothing’s better to beat the heat than a frosty, exotic adult beverage. And if you’re us (that is, Kim and David, not the royal “we”), once you create the perfect, frosty, exotic beverage, then you have to plan a whole meal around it, so ::sigh::…let the culinary hijinks begin…

We’ll start with drinks – always my preference. I’ve been on a fresh ginger kick lately, most likely due to recent encounters with the stellar Moscow Mule offered by our favorite restaurant, 4th and Swift.

Dude, they even make their own ginger beer. Mad props to Sean and his team.

David has a rampant mint plant threatening to take over the corner of the yard and block the driveway, so truly in the spirit of helping-around-the-house, I thought I’d create a drink combining freshly harvested mint leaves AND grated ginger. Yay. David came back from the store with a white rum and some big, fat blueberries and limes, and we were off to Boat Drink Heaven. Excuse me while I do my Buffet dance.

Blueberry Ginger Mojito

Blueberry Ginger Mojitos
Makes 1 drink

    5-6 fresh blueberries
    5-6 fresh mint leaves
    1 lime cut into wedges
    1 ounce ginger mint simple syrup (see recipe below)
    2 ounces white rum
    1 ounce ginger beer or ginger ale

Ginger Mint Simple Syrup
(makes several drinks!)

    1/2 cup grated fresh ginger
    1 cup sugar
    10 -15 mint leaves

Messy but delicious!

Directions
Begin by making the ginger simple syrup. Peel and grate the ginger, then add along with the sugar, mint and cold water to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain and cool in the refrigerator when done.

Make the mojito. Add blueberries, lime wedges and fresh mint leaves to a glass. Muddle with a wooden spoon so the blueberries are broken and the mint and lime release their juices and flavor. Fill glass with ice. Add simple syrup and rum, and top off with ginger beer. Garnish with a fresh blueberry and a sprig of mint.

Because I’m not the neatest person in the universe, the post-mixology countertop looked like…oh, let’s say the remnants of a third world sugar refinery, a sugar refinery that had been repeatedly pummeled by a small but exuberant tornado. Hey, the results were outstanding, though and totally worth scratching hardened sugar off of the countertops with my fingernails. Icy-cold, with intense berry and mint flavors and a kick of ginger. Thank-you-ma’am-may-I-have-another?

Never one to shirk in the face of aperitifs, David fired up the grill and produced this incredibly tantalizing dinner (and no, I’m not sure exactly how he manages to do it, but I’m overwhelmingly grateful):

Grilled Pork Chops with Rosemary Butter
Ahead of time prepare a rosemary compound butter with 1 stick unsalted butter and 2-3 Tbls fresh chopped rosemary.
(Note from Kim: I think you let the butter sit out and soften and then just mash it all up together)

Chops on the Grill

    2″ to 2 1/2″ bone in pork chops
    1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
    dash of worcestershire
    Kosher Salt
    Crushed Black Peppercorns

Sit out until room temperature
Coat chops with 1/2 tsp olive oil
Sprinkle liberally with Kosher salt & course black peppercorns
Add a drop of worcestershire onto each chop
Sprinkle with dill (about 1/2 tsp each chop)
Let sit covered on counter
Have ready a sprig of fresh rosemary for each chop off to the side

Light charcoal in chimney starter. When coals are white pour into grill in an even pile along back of grill. Add olive wood or oak wood chips. Close grill cover to allow head to build up. When wood chips become smoldering and a full bed of coals has formed, grill is ready.

Before putting chops on grill heat a large cast iron skillet on cooktop over high heat. When at peak temperature sear chops on all sides about :30 to :45 sec each side. Remove, let rest 5 min

Put chops on grill grate arranging around the edge of the coal mound but not directly on top. Add sprig of fresh rosemary to each chop, close lid.

Cook on grill for approx 15-20 min or until internal temp reads 130F-135F on and instant read thermometer. Just before removing chops from grill move them to upper rack, add a dollop of the rosemary compound butter to each (about 1/2 tsp on each). Close lid to let butter melt.

When butter is melted, remove chops from grill and let rest under tented foil for 5-10min then serve. (Note: keep an eye on the temperature to gauge when to add compound butter. You don’t want them going over 130-135 internal temp at the finish)

Grilled Pork Chop Perfection!

David’s not much on cooked vegetables, for some reason (perhaps he was terrorized by an asparagus as a child?), so we always try to include a salad of some sort with our dinners. We love mango and baby spinach leaves, so he whipped up this super simple yet incredibly delectable plate.

Mango Salad Prep Steps: Note how much neater Mango Salad Prep is than Blueberry Ginger Mojito Prep::sigh::

Mango Pear Salad

    2 cups of baby spinach leaves (destemmed)
    2 roma tomatoes
    2-4 fresh basil leaves
    1 whole mango
    1 whole bosc pear
    1/2 cup shaved almonds
    1/4 cup dried cranberries
    olive oil
    red wine vinegar
    Kosher salt
    black pepper

Peel skin of mango and cut into slices (thin fingers) – 4-5 slices for each plate. Cut pear into slices (skin on) – 3 for each plate
Dice tomatoes into med-small pieces, place into small bowl, chop basil leaves and mix with tomatoes – sprinkle with Kosher salt and set aside. Mix 1-2 Tbls olive oil with 1/4 tsp red wine vinegar – shake together set aside – this is the dressing

In large mixing bowl place baby spinach, tomato-basil mixture, dressing and toss. Serve onto plates, arranging mango and pear fingers over the spinach, sprinkle on the shaved almonds and cranberries and top with freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Mango Pear Salad


Mmmm. Crazy delicious.

David’s contempt for the common vegetable does not extend to the potato, however; so he added some excellent mashed spuds to the plate.

Garlicky Mashed Potatoes

    3 cloves garlic, peeled
    1/8 cup olive oil
    3 baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
    1/4 cup milk
    1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1 tablespoons butter
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Place garlic cloves in a small baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, cover, and bake 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add potatoes, and cook until tender but firm. Drain, and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Place roasted garlic, milk, Parmesan cheese, and butter into the bowl with the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Beat to desired consistency with an electric mixer.

Enjoying a fabulous dinner and drinks on the porch!

Yet another spectacular evening with my rockstar-chef-boyfriend. I am a lucky girl, indeed.

I promise, we’re planning a party soon, and I’m sure you’ll all be invited (umm hummm…don’t stop. Believing…), but in the meantime, hope you enjoy the recipes! Happy summer grilling, and to all of you dads out there, especially mine (card is in the mail!)a very happy Father’s Day!

Mama-Rama, BBQ and Derby Day

A couple of weeks ago, we did the big pilgrimage to Augusta to see David’s parents for Mother’s Day. Although he’s been to Birmingham on several occasions to meet my folks, I had yet to meet his; and to be honest, although I was really excited to finally meet them, I was a little nervous, too. Not that I had any concerns about them being awesome – his mom and I were already FB friends, so I’d interacted with her a lot to this point and found her to be incredibly sharp, funny and sweet. My biggest worry was in making a good impression on them, after all, I hadn’t met anyone’s parents since oh, say, the Reagan administration, so my parental etiquette skills had to have some serious rust. David is very close to his family, so I felt there was a lot riding on this.

Me and Max!

Of course, my fears were groundless (or they covered well), and because they were so truly warm and welcoming, I got over my angst pretty fast and had a marvelous time.

We arrived around 5 p.m. that Saturday, just in time for the TV airing of the Kentucky Derby. David’s parents were quick to get into the spirit, grabbing an assortment of hats (de rigeur for Derby watching) while I mixed up some Mint Juleps for the guys.

We had a blast watching the Derby (yay, Animal Kingdom! Congrats on your win!), but even more fun trying on the Strohman’s vast collection of chapeaus and head gear and taking a bunch of goofy pics. Wow, did I ever luck out! My boyfriend is not only wonderful, but his parents are fantastic as well; and hey, they like to dress up too! Truly, a match made in heaven (or somewhere in a tropical climate with boat drinks, since I hear heaven may be booked up after this weekend.)

Kentucky Derby Hat Fest


Mint Julep

    1 scant ounce minted simple syrup
    2 cups crushed ice
    2 ounces bourbon (such as Woodford Reserve)
    Fresh mint sprig, for garnish

Mint Julep

To highball glass or silver Julep cup, add minted simple syrup, then 1 cup crushed ice, bourbon, and splash of water. Add enough of remaining ice to almost fill glass. Stir well and garnish with mint sprig.

Naturally, David had a special dinner planned for us; so after the races, he got to work on the grill, building the coals and whipping up all the ingredients for his famous Grilled Leg of Lamb with Chimichurri, something he learned to make during his many travels to Buenos Aires. I’m not a big lamb fan, as a rule, but there was so much hype around this, I put on my big girl pants and braved up for yet another culinary adventure.

Grilled Leg of Lamb

    4-6 lb leg of lamb – boned and butter flied
    kosher salt
    black pepper
    olive oil
    red wine vinegar
    2-3 med garlic cloves

Let lamb come to room temperature. Open flat with inside facing up.
Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt. Let stand until meat absorbs salt and
it begins to ‘sweat’. Drizzle with olive oil (enough to cover surface with
a thin layer of oil). Liberally coat with course cracked pepper corns.
Drizzle with 1 Tbls red wine vinegar. Thinly slice garlic cloves and add to
lamb spread evenly.

Roll up leg of lamb and tie with kitchen string. Sprinkle out side of lamb
with kosher salt. Let stand at room temp until coals are ready on grill

Light charcoal in chimney starter. When coals are white pour into grill in
an even pile along back of grill. Add olive wood or oak wood chips. Close
grill cover to allow head to build up. When wood chips become smoldering
and a full bed of coals has formed, grill ready. Place leg of lamb on rack
over and near parallel with coals but not directly on top of entire mound.
Partially close grill lid so it remains half open. Let lamb slow roast for
30-40 min. Turn over and let roast for additional 30-40 min or until
internal temp reads 130 degrees.

Remove lamb from grill and let rest for 10-15 before slicing. Slice and
serve. Drizzle with chimichurri sauce if desired

Finessing the flames


Chimichurri
1/4 C hot water
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/13 C loosely packed flat-leaf parsley
2/3 C loosely packed cilantro
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (about 2 TBLS)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 C red wine vinegar
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

Can make the chimichurri up to 3 days in advance.
Combine hot water, oregano and salt in small bowl; let stand 5 min to soften
oregano. Pulse parsley, cilantro, garlic and red pepper flakes in food
processor until coarsely chopped, about 10 1-sec pulses. Add water mixture
and vinegar to med bowl and slowly whisk in oil until incorporated and
mixture is emulsified. Cover and let stand in room temp for at least an
hour before serving. If preparing in advance refrigerate and bring to room
temp before using.

Chimichurri

Wow, the lamb was spectacular! None of the gamey taste I always associate with lamb, and perfectly cooked with a nice char on the edges, contrasting perfectly with the cool, vinegary chimichurri sauce. Delicious. Will definitely be on my request list for future grilling (Note to David: Lamb is noms).

After dinner, the Strohmans entertained me with several original productions (read: family flicks) featuring David as a teen-aged movie star, which were, of course, not only massively enjoyable to watch (heh), but gave me some wicked amo for future boyfriend mental abuse. I even got to meet one of his sisters, Vicky, who came by the next morning with her family for Mother’s Day breakfast. What a bunch of really gorgeous, incredibly well-mannered kids! We sat out on the patio enjoying the sun, while the young’uns dashed around chasing bugs and playing with Max, the Golden Retriever, who kept jumping in the pool to attack the cleaning robot. Pretty funny stuff, but you’d probably have had to have been there. David and I even managed to cut out for a few minutes and walk down to the neighborhood lake, before heading back to the house to pack up.

Me and David at the Lake


When 4 p.m. rolled around, I was truly sad to leave. The Strohmans were so incredibly kind and hospitable, and I had such a great time, but we both had busy Mondays and needed to get back to town. I definitely look forward to visiting again! (and of course, I’ll bring my hat collection next time–Woot!)