The Modified Look
Well, it was one of those evenings where you waddle in through the front door tired and foot sore. It had been a long day afield, and all you want to do is procure a manly beverage and plant your prostate on your favorite man chair and watch some Clint Eastwood. But you can’t. Turns out your wife has had plans for you all day to grill her up some big, juicy cheeseburgers, patron to the pit.
“But darling”, you croak, “I haven’t but one ounce of energy, just let me tarry here in my chair a few hours more!”
Then she gives you a modified version of “the look”. Every man knows the look, but this one is slightly different. It’s the usual, you-better-obey kind of look, but then it’s modified somehow with a droopy, puppy dog face sort of thing going on, and it is all but impenetrable. And so you shrug your shoulders, pull your boots back on, and set off to work again. This, after all, is the life we pit masters have signed up for. And you got to take it in stride.
“Oh, can you make some ice cream too?” my wife said, batting her eyelashes.
Turns out her supper plans for me were borderline extravagant for a run of the mill weekday night. And before I knew it I had the ice cream maker sitting out at the pit with me, churning away in the dark. That accompanied by the soft, wispy plumes of smoke coming off the charcoal chimney, well, I started to get into my little ambiance there, dug out in the snow. I don’t think I have ever made homemade ice cream on a January evening in Minnesota before, but when your wife says she wants a chocolate shake with her cheeseburger, well a fellow ought to oblige if he can, right? And I could. So I did.
On the note of ice cream, and just to share with you guys, here is our secret ice cream recipe honed through the ages.
Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
1/2 gallon whole milk
2 cups sugar
1 carton of egg beaters
splash of vanilla extract
Yeah, it’s complicated stuff! Not really, but it surely is delicious, and would make a fine compliment to our cheeseburgers tonight. A brilliant stroke, really. But it gets even better. Two words…French Fries!
My bride had recently acquired one of these doodleboppers. A little french fry making technology sure to up our game, giving your normal, boring french fry, the crinkled edge often coveted by french fry connoisseurs, such as yours truly. Never used one of these before, but it seemed to do the trick. These spuds were then lowered into a bubbling vat of peanut oil, and deep fried there until golden brown. If you haven’t made your own homemade french fries before, you’re missing out people. And they are not that hard to do either. Anyways, back out to the pit.
The burgers sizzled away like burgers do. And I loitered out there some, I must admit. The night wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be, and the companionship of the coals seemed particularly abiding this eve. Their orange glow, set in a field of frozen white seemed “just right”. And for while at least, I was glad I got up off the couch and made supper like I was told. This was nice. Good to be manning the faithful kettle grill again. Feels like it’s been a while. Near the end of the cook, I flipped the burgers over direct heat for a bit to form a modicum of crust, purely for textural appeal. I knew the fries were nearing their end game too, and the ice cream was ready. The culmination of an wintry evening’s efforts were soon at hand. It was just about time to head inside to our home diner.
The Home Diner Experience
My bride and I are creatures of nostalgia, in particular the 1950’s. Which is odd, because neither one of us even existed in the 50’s. Or the 60’s. Even so, we are smitten for the past. So much so, in point of fact, that we re-created this little 50’s style diner nook just inside the patio door. Purely for fun of it, of course. As much as I like to eat in my man chair by the TV, I knew it would be nostalgic blasphemy not to ingest this meal, “proper like” in the diner. And thus to this end, we did.
Toasted kaiser rolls, fresh tomato slices, lettuce, mayo, ketchup, hark, the works people! Sided with a lovely bouquet of homemade crinkle cut french fries, and a tall, homemade chocolate shake. Glory be! If eating a burger at home gets any better than this, I haven’t heard of it! A top notch culinary experience. And to think, I just wanted to sit on the couch and watch Clint Eastwood. Mercifully, my wife saw the better in me, and she was pleased. Come to think of it, so was I. Amen.
“I do not know what it is about women and cheese, but I wager a good block of it will catalyst even the most apathetic of them into action.” -Me
Evening was soon to draw across the Pond-Side Pit, as I henceforth gathered my plunder in the soft, waning light. A glorious light of which is fleeting this time of year, for the supper that which teases the hollow rumble of my belly. I soldier on. I bank some fiery coals to the back of the old kettle grill, setting it up for a quiet spot of indirect cooking. Poker in hand, and shamelessly doting over the orange-glowing rubble, like they were precious gem stones in a cauldron of enameled coated steel. It’s March, on the 45th Parallel, and the breeze is as cool as it is sweet, summoning the best flannel shirts your closet has to offer. Indeed, I had mine on as I tended the fire, enjoying it’s radiant heat on my hands. Admiring the comradeship of the coals, whilst I waited on my lovely bride to shred the cheese.
She openly volunteered to shred up some Parmesan cheese for our supper tonight. I do not know what it is about women and cheese, but I wager a good block of it will catalyst even the most apathetic of them into action. Women love cheese. Leastwise mine does. And so she shredded me a large quantity of it, like a crazed beaver to Cottonwood tree. Swiftly earthing a pile of cheesy goodness into a modest, porcelain bowl. That and an equal part bread crumbs too, these for to play the supporting cast in tonight’s grilling ensemble. Parmesan Crusted Grilled Chicken Breasts, patron to the pit, of course.
What we did is this. We rolled the bone-in chicken breasts in a warm, slippery bath of melted butter, and after saying a quick prayer, liberally packed on a delightful preponderance of that cheese/bread crumb mixture we just talked about. Pack it on thick, people, and don’t be shy. If you want to give your woman what she wants, well this is it! Well, this is it this side of an empty wallet coming out of a jewelry store anyhow.
Kind of looks like coconut chicken, but it isn’t. This is where you must wield your meat with the authority and delicateness of a brain surgeon. Your dear chicken is in it’s most fragile state right now, so be mindful young pit jockeys, not to knock off that which you have so fiercely labored for. Place your lovely proteins with a gentle hand opposite the hot coals. Place the lid on next, and dutifully step aside. We didn’t use any smoke wood this time. The crusty cheese to come will do all the talking here.
It doesn’t take long before you lift the lid and see something like this going on. A beautifully textured crust – the highly edible marriage of Parmesan cheese fused with lightly toasted bread crumbs. This at last to usher these lowly chicken breasts unto their utmost culinary ideal. Glory!
Of course when confronted with nicely crusted proteins, such as these, I cannot help but to tarry pit-side in a bevy of my own thoughts. Here we have two ingredients, that which make up this crust. Two entities. That of Parmesan cheese, and the other of plain old bread crumbs. The Parmesan cheese is like my wife perhaps – white, and silky, and very good. Very forgiving. Gets better with time. And better, by and far, than I deserve. And I am not unlike the lowly bread crumbs here, even whiter still, and if left to my own devices, will likely only make a big mess of things. But here is where the analogy gets interesting, and far better for me. When married together on the charcoal grill of life, the cheese adapts like good cheese does, and works it’s way amid every nook and hollow presented thee by the flaky bread crumbs. In time, the cheese holds the humble bread crumbs together, even, and gives them support and reason and flavor. The bread crumbs thus toast to perfection, coming of age, if you will, and the two together form the most beautiful Parmesan crusted chicken you’d ever want to lay thine eyes upon.
It’s weird what comes to your brain whilst puttering over your pit. It’s all about relationships, my wife keeps telling me. Relationships. Maybe this is what women want. Just to love and be loved – together. Seems reasonable, I guess. And sure seems to be the case with my chicken tonight, I can tell you that. And in the pale light, I plated up said chicken, plunked the old kettle lid back in place, turned heel, and made way from whence I came. To my sweetheart residing warmly inside. Amen.
One Patron’s Foray Into The Fine Art of Hardware Store Dining
It was the last of autumn, and the days they were falling short. All the leaves had fallen, sunbeams in scant supply, and the tweety birds and retired folk had gone south now, to tarry under balmy skies, and big umbrellas. The hardy residents that which remained, however, here in Minnesota, could be found battening down their homes; cleaning gutters, mulching leaves and stacking firewood. Prepping their nests for what wintry tempests may brew. This increased activity on the home front is surely sparked by the seasonal folds, and likewise may I say the same about my dinner tonight. A nice spot of hot, savory soup sounded good all day, chicken and wild rice to be exact, and when I got home, I aimed to do something about it.
Oddly enough, my sojourn into soup today started many hours previous, flannel clad, in a local big box store which rhymes roughly with “my nards“. Anyways, I was strolling through the manlier sections of the real estate there, fondling saber saws and cold chisels, you know how it goes, when I came upon a small grocery section, recessed deep in the bowels of the store. It was lovely to the eyes, I must admit, like a gastronomic island oasis in a sea of hardware. I paused as any man would, in the shadow of a veritable wall of beef jerky – meat spanning a fathom wide off both my anatomical port and starboard, and rising higher than I could reach. Glory be, but I had stumbled upon a worthy den! I moseyed thus over to a wall of assorted nuts, all neatly canned and priced to sell. Every nut you could think of. In every size and shape. And I might have lingered there too, had I not first been wooed by the soup.
The soup was in an semi-attractive yellow package I guess, but the price was even more handsome still. I do not know why, but men folk are sometimes drawn to these things. I think because it looks easy. Or barring that, it must be the pretty pictures. At any rate, Shore Lunch Creamy Wild Rice it was called, and it even looked creamy, so I tossed it in my cart. I knew with a supplement of chicken quarters I had back home, and a hand full of mesquite wood chips, I could do something worthy with this humble offering, patron to the pit. And that’s just what we did.
So under a gray November sky, we did up the soup as per it’s instructions, but of course we did it on the faithful Weber Kettle, for poetic reasons you see. Real men don’t need stoves! Placing the pot over direct heat, stirring often, it’s heady aromas soon melded with the cool, Autumn air. Along side, we lightly seasoned some chicken quarters in garlic salt, and grilled them up as well, opposite the hot coals. And lastly, we tossed some mesquite wood onto the coals for that signature scent and added touch only found in outdoor cooking. There by, and for a good while, we let it simmer and smoke whilst the November breeze rustled through the old oak tree. It was good times, as the season’s first snow flakes fluttered down about thee.
When the chicken was bronzed and savory to eat, and the soup had thickened up, we brought it all inside. Shredded the chicken and stirred it lovingly into the soup, bringing a smokey tinted affair to the meal. And it was good. Darn good I must say. My bride mistakenly assumed even, that I had slaved the afternoon away, preparing the dish from scratch. Now I suppose I could have let the myth perpetuate itself, with my chest stuck out in sad deception- but I couldn’t. I eventually had to fess up that tonight’s rations were procured from but a humble yellow bag that I found at the hardware store. And if she didn’t mind beef jerky and nuts for dessert, I had that covered too! Amen.
Mesquite Smoked Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. Sometimes you’d be surprised where your next meal will come from. Then again, all is possible patron to the pit. Grill on, people!
Nothing is quite so fine on a brisk Autumn’s eve, than the primal sizzle of two, portly New York Strip steaks over a beautiful bed of coals. By golly it sets a man straight it does, this the protein-rich pacifier that is called steak. We love it. In point of fact, if you ever want to shut a man up, slap a steak in front of him, and watch how he instantly transforms, suckling up to the beast in kind affection, whilst the rest of his worldly cares are at once erased. Oh it’s true. Reminiscent of those Hollywood scenarios, where felons or good guys alike are on the run, chased by ravaging canines, darting through city streets and over back yard fences. Then they stop, hark, they have a raw steak in their knapsack don’t you know, of which they promptly toss in the path of their fanged pursuer. And in a flip of a heart beat, the drooling beast has a moral dilemma on his hands, of which and of course, he promptly caves to.
Over direct heat, I flipped the two strip steaks, both lightly seasoned in garlic and onion salt. Gray clouds rolled nonchalantly overhead whilst the tweety birds swooped in and out of the thickets. Now the New York Strip is the same cut as the Kansas City Strip. I know, you weren’t wondering that, but it is. But to you folks over seas, you’ll probably recognize the cut as a club steak. And if you’re really off the bell curve, like in Australia, you’ll just call it a boneless sirloin and be done with it altogether. Who ever is in charge of meat nomenclature has way too much authority, and fun. Regardless of what you call it tho, it is harvested from the short loin, which is a pleasantly abiding muscle of real estate, not only for the cow, but our supper plates as well. The short loin is kind of a lazy muscle, you see, and doesn’t do much work, and there fore is particularly tender. A fact which also makes it particularly suited for it’s inevitable destiny with our pits. Lazy meat is good for something after all.
After a fashion, I tossed some hickory wood on the coals for to infuse some of that smokey goodness into the steaks, and tucked them in-direct for a little bit, just because. Then placed the lid on and let it do its thing whilst I did mine. I never grow weary of this portion of a cook out. That hallowed parcel of time in which it is acceptable, nay, proper even, to take up residence in my favorite man chair, and while away a few minutes doing nothing at all. Kind of like a short loin, go figure. Often times my bride will slide open the patio door and see me sitting there , shrouded in clouds of smoke, contemplating the curvature of my belly. Tho she does not completely understand it, she knows I am in my own space, and politely sidles off, closing the door behind her.
Whence our steaks were of acceptable firmness to the tong, I plated-up and sided the beautiful cuts with some garlic mashed potatoes and a lovely vegetable melody for to please the little lady.
“Lets eat this like a man tonight” I bellowed.
“Hows that?” she countered “Sans utensils?”
“Well no, on the couch of course“, I yammered”In front of the TV!”
We promptly inhaled our plunder like an alligator to a bull frog dipped in gravy. Or something like that. Or at least one of us did. And whilst the pretty pictures flashed on the TV, and the steaks settled into our guts, I found great contentment indeed, and heavy eye lids, in the primal glow of post-gorging. My bride glanced my way and it seems I was chin-down, contemplating my belly again. She sweetly removed a plop of mash potatoes off my chest, trying not to squelch my steak-induce mojo. She knew, as surely as she knew anything, that her man was pacified. That he was content indeed. And that a big steak, perfectly grilled, may have played a part in it. Amen.
New York Strip Steak hot off the grill. Oh buddy! Next time you need to pacify your man, considerable the venerable strip steak. It works. Side effects may include protracted belly contemplation.
We are men, and we eat meat. Not that that we require meat every day or anything, but when we do, we want it to be worthy of the wages that beset our colon, not to mention our pocket book. When the day has ebbed long, evening shadows breaking, and we waddle through the kitchen door, pekid and of trembling legs from a day’s long labor, are we not secretly hoping for a big, thick, and decidedly juicy steak, plopped on a platter, juices oozing, sided with a plentiful allotment of potatoes? You’re darn right we are. We are men! We will never turn down a steak, so long as as our doctor is not in the room. Even women get this way from time to time, deliriously entombed in the heady thralls of meat lust. And we are not to analyze why, but instead to procure a succulent T-Bone or the like in short fashion. Yes indeed, there are some days in a pit keeper’s life menu where he must at once, and savagely so maybe, abandon all fanciful marinades and intricate rubs, and get down to the primal business of just putting meat to flame, and worry of nothing else. On days like this, and your body will tell you when, nothing quite so hits the spot better, than a big steak, and a lovely side of potatoes. That is all we need. Man fuel at its most basic. And hunger shall be our spice.
With meager fanfare, let us then lay meat to flame, and declare that it is good. An appetizer of chicken wings to start, just because. Then a thick T-Bone perfectly seared ought to do, surrounded in love by a starchy congregation of potatoes. Spuds rubbed first in olive oil, and seasoned lightly with a little salt, and a little pepper. Placed in kindly order over direct heat. And the steak, oh that beloved cut of beef that we have longed for so long, of all the things we cook on the pit here, this one holds a special place. I shall not regale you with a litany of promising spice and marinade, because in point of fact, there are none. Not for steak. Oh people do, and have a dear old time I know. But of all the meats in the grilling arts, I think I like to keep steak the simplest. Just a dash of garlic and and a touch of onion salt, and nothing more, seared in smokey perfection over a hardwood fire. Dang! Good meat will do the talking, by and far, if we would just get out of its way.
You could get a whole lot fancier, but nothing will hit the spot more keenly, nor lobby for a man’s fuel so feverishly, than fire grilled T-bone steak and potatoes. We are men you see. And if this is all we had, it would be alright. Amen.
Gentlemen. A few blogs back we showed you how to impress a woman by baking her bread on the grill. Women chimed in from all across the blogosphere, and were impressed left and right, and a good thing had been done. Women began at least, to foster a modicum of hope for us. But the ladies in our life are worth more than a mere loaf of tenderly grilled bread. They’re worth some dessert too. Thus it is time now for the encore, if you will. Time to take our efforts to the next level. It’s time to make some caramel rolls on the grill, because if that don’t astound the female species, nothing will. Come with us won’t you, and we will show you just how to do it.
First thing you’ll need to do if you haven’t already is to go back and read our article, How To Impress a Woman: Bread! You’ll need to use the Master Recipe found there for the dough. Yes, the exact same dough you use to bake bread can also be used for the most delicious, home-made, caramel rolls you’ll likely ever ingest. So you’ll need to make yourself up a batch of that dough, if you wish to try this amazing treat.
Whence the dough is made, grab a grape fruit sized chunk of it and plop it on a pan. Next, you’ll need to roll it out to a 1/4 inch thick. I couldn’t find my roller, but discovered a Quaker Oats oatmeal can rolls pretty nice instead. It’s all good. Anyways, then you’ll need to spread the filling out over the top of the dough. Here is how to make that filling.
- 4 Tbsp of butter
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
Cream all this together in your Kitchen Aid or what have you, and plop it over your rolled out dough. Don’t worry about how pretty it looks. Whence that is complete, go ahead a roll it up into a shapely log resembling your fondest burrito, and then let it sit and think about its life whilst you tend to key goodness factor – the caramel topping.
- 6 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
Cream together all this stuff too, and spread it over the bottom of a pie tin or the like. You can sprinkle some pecans over it here too if you have any on hand.
Next thing on the docket is to slice up your burrito, cutting cross sections every two inches or so, and place them in your pan directly over the topping you spread out there. The hardest part of this project is done now. If you made it this far, you can accomplish this masterpiece. Now it’s time to motion for the pit, back into our element. Where the pine-scented breezes mingle with the aromatic virtues of burning charcoal, and the banter of the flirting Chickadee.
Put your precious cargo on opposite the hot coals. Indirect is your mantra here. Abide by it, and be well. This is no dish to screw around with. We tossed on a few pieces of peach wood at this point, that had been soaking in water for an hour or so. This project requires a delicate smoke, a wee bit, just enough to let you know these rolls hail from the smokey realm, but not so much that it over-powers the whole thing. Treat the smoke as a spice, not an ingredient. The light smoke and the caramel produce an unlikely yet worthy bond, that will set these rolls apart from any other. Yet another privilege of a pit cook. Put on the lid, and assume your standard pit master position – in your man chair, lovely beverage in hand, and wait for the awe-inspiring aromas to hit you.
Whilst its baking, because your working a pit with varied temperatures running through it, you will want to lift the lid and check in on it from time to time, rotating 180 degrees at least once, and otherwise follow your pit master instincts for even baking. And like most baking projects, you’re looking for a golden brown crust to form, of which you should see in about 30 – 40 minutes. Keep checking in on it, be diligent, re-assuring it that you love it, and care about it’s well-being. Part of impressing a woman is being thoughtful and considerate you see. Best to practice on your caramel roll first if you have to.
Whence a golden brown crust becomes the standard on your rolls, and it looks akin to something you think you’d like to eat, go ahead and proceed to the fun part – inverting it on a plate. Keep the inverted pan on top of it for a bit, tarry there, letting the piping hot caramel ooze and dribble of its own free will, where ever it so pleases, thus soaking into and over your rolls in a fashion suitable for the prestigious likes of Betty Crocker and your favorite grand mother. Folks will smell something good at this point and jockey nearer to thee. Look them in the eyes, pausing for effect, and remove the inverted lid, and proceed at once to astound the nearest woman. And maybe even yourself too.
We are men. And we are moved by meat. Don’t ask us why. We don’t know. Difficult perhaps to articulate, but easy to appreciate, whence our incisors have pierced the hallowed surface of that perfectly seared steak. Ah yes, steak. A good one will settle a restless man’s soul, and in turn draw him closer to thee, and unto his meatiest ideal. Hark, the world and it’s cares fairly ebb to a faint hush, and the pendulum of the sun at once holds stalwart in the sky, when at last we lay big meat to flame, and simply cook it there amid the rising smoke. Oh how we favor a good steak, abiding in it’s juices, sizzling quietly over a beautiful bed of coals. It moves us.
It was one of those vintage winter afternoons, under skies of sleet and falling snow, where the call of the grill was at it’s most primal. It’s most basic, I should wager. Nothing fancy today, as fancy would only ruin it. Nay, when bridled in the heady thralls of meat lust, let there just be meat on flame, and let hunger be our spice. The rest will sort itself out, by and by. For today, as in days past, we are smitten for the rib eye. The bone-in succulent sort known to send grown men into slobbering fits of idiocy. Plunk one of these down on a man’s plate, and plop a potato along side it, and he is at once and for all the world, a contented species. Gobbling quietly by himself, with no apparent no need for conversation. Like a pacifier to a new born, for a time anyways, he will require little else. Indeed, for a few fleeting minutes, and maybe even more than that, all the world is right. For let it be said, nothing is quite so efficient at setting a man straight, than grilled meat on the bone, and a fashionable side of potatoes.
So next time your looking for something simple off the grill, or have a restless man on your hands, well, ain’t too many things better suited for both, than a perfectly grilled Rib Eye, and the space in time to devour it.