I wish I could say that my absence is due to the fact that I was called away to perform a functionality audit of a top secret facility housing dinosaurs, but that’s just not the case. Anyway, I’m back!
One thing that I miss here at my new digs is easy access to a grill. I love grilling. The food is incredibly varied, and I do believe there is something satisfying about the nature of cooking food over flame. It’s very caveman. I also love that there are no dishes to clean, and how in the summer, it keep excess heat from inside your home. I grew up grilling year round, and it would always confuse when people thought it was odd that I was out grilling chicken or steak while it was snowing. You just have to be a little more vigilant in how you rest the meat, but otherwise it’s no different than cooking on the 4th of July. To be honest, when I moved to my first apartment after college, I was kind of stumped on how to do a simple preparation of chicken without a grill.
Anyway, here in Houston, I am not allowed to have a grill on my apartment’s deck. Some fire code nonsense. There are several charcoal grills scattered around the complex however, so I’ve been using those. Now, I’m sure there are plenty of grill aficionados out there that will disagree with me on this, but I have to say: charcoal is stupid.
I don’t like charcoal. I don’t like the time it takes to prepare it, I don’t like maintaining the fire, and I dislike the lack of control. Gas/propane is so much easier, and quite frankly, I see no difference in the taste. Now, if we are talking barbecue (which I learned in college here in Texas is something VERY different from grilling), I see the logic of charcoal (sort of). But at that point, you are cooking with the smoke, not from the heat of the combustible fuel, but I digress. Some people out there will say that it’s just because I lack the skill to prepare and maintain a multi level fire, and that charcoal is just as good or better than gas for all things grilling. Perhaps I do lack the skill. Or perhaps I just want to be able to walk outside, turn some knobs and hit a button, and be rewarded with controllable heat that I don’t have to shovel around like a 19th century stoker. But in any case, I’m dealing with it, although as you can tell from the rant above, not exactly gracefully.
This is my grilling kit. I throw everything I can into a big Tupperware container to make it easier to haul things to the grill. At any given time, it has charcoal, newspaper, chimney starter (not pictured) and lighter inside. And then there is enough room to throw in any meal-specific items like tongs, spatula, the food itself (little Tupperware containers are your friends) and, of course, beer. Beer just tastes better with flame nearby.
Here’s my chimney starter. Great invention. If you are forced to grill with charcoal, I’d recommend coughing up the $20 to get one. It makes the process a lot easier. Basically you fill the thing with charcoal (I like the natural lump charcoal because I think it starts faster and lacks the chemical tang of Kingsford, although I must admit I smile every time I smell said tang in the air at the beginning of summer), stuff newspaper in the bottom cavity (it works better if you spritz the newspaper with cooking oil – Thanks Alton Brown!), and light the newspaper. You should have usable heat in about 15 minutes.
Shake out the coals and arrange as you see fit. Be careful not to burn yourself. I’ve singed off more hair than I care to remember.
I did one of my Costco runs today to restock my freeze. I get a bunch of steak, chicken, pork and whatever else looks good, and then I spend an hour or so cleaning and prepping all of it. It’s a pain to trim the fat off 5-10 steaks, and then 4 pork tenderloin, and then a dozen lamb chops, and then blah blah blah… but it’s worth it. All I have to do is grab the item out of the freezer, put it in the fridge, and 24-36 hours I have a thawed piece ready for cooking that I don’t have to bother with trimming or portioning on a weeknight.
Anyway, I picked up some pork loin chops. These are pretty lean, and they have a reputation for drying out quickly, so I decided to go for a quick brine to try to infuse some more moisture. To be honest, the amount of time they were in the brine (about 90 minutes) is probably not enough to really give them an infusion, but alas, I failed to plan appropriately. It’s been a long week. Here’s what went into it
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup watered down bourbon (this can be found the morning after you’ve had friends over when you didn’t feel like cleaning up the night before)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
I’d recommend upping all the spices (but not the salt). It imparted some flavor, but it needed a good deal more. Mix it all up in a container big enough to hold it and the meat you plan to brine. Add the meat, and let brine for 1-24 hours.
For the cooking, I went 5 minutes per side over direct heat on the grill, then 5 minutes on indirect heat, and then a 5 minute rest for 20 minutes totally. I would give you a low-med-high setting for the heat but alas, charcoal doesn’t come with settings.
The pork was nice and juicy, but as I mentioned before, needed more assertive flavors. It probably would have benefitted from some more acidic components as well. I’ll know for next time.
I hope to be updating a bit more frequently, and to hopefully guilt myself into writing another post, tune in tomorrow for a grilled dessert!