Monthly Archives: July 2012

Cedar Plank Fish Sandwiches on a Gas Grill

Ever since my nominal success at the Schlafly pork steak competition with making steelhead trout BLT paninis on a BBQ smoker, a few family members have asked to try them. I’ve obliged a couple of times, since I love fish sandwiches.

During the biennial in-laws’ trip to the beach, each individual sibling family takes a night to cook dinner for the whole extended crew. That’s 17 adults and 17 kiddos. We drew this past Sunday, and everyone wanted the fish sandwiches. Normally not an issue, but I’ve never done this on a gas grill. In fact, I’ve never smoked anything on a gas grill.

The only woman I’m pimping from now on is Sweet Lady Propane. And I’m tricking her out all over this town.

Not only is this a propane gas grill, but its a really crappily maintained one. Huge hot spots and some cold zones, along with a non-working igniter. Sweet.

In this peril, I reached out to someone who knows what the hell he is doing for a little free advice. I shot an email over to Scott, the proprietor of the Grillin Fools website. Scott is a far more experienced BBQer than me, and he happened to marry one of my college friends. His website is a learning tool for those thirsty for knowledge. My website, by contrast, is a chronicle of my journey from wild incompetence to (hopefully) proficiency.

For the protein, we found some huge salmon filets and a bunch of tilapia. In addition, why not thrown some Portobellos on the grill as well. I cleaned out the local Publix of all of their cedar planks.

The original Grillin’ Fool told me that cedar planks on the BBQ would work just fine, but it might not hurt to practice on a gas grill before the big event. He also suggested maple planks as a milder alternative to the cedar wood. Since I am adding maple bacon, I will stick with cedar for now, but a maple plank will definitely be in my future plans. He’s a fan of arugula and tomatoes on fish sandwiches, too. Many thanks to Scott, and you should check out his site when you get the opportunity.

Seasoned and ready to smoke

The only seasoning I put on the tilapia and Portobellos was coarse freshly cracked pepper and some sea salt. The house we rented had no olive oil or canola spray or anything, so I would rely on the soaked cedar smoke to keep this from all drying out.

Once on the grill, both knobs were turned down to low, and fingers were crossed.

Please don’t burn!

I noticed as the fish cooked that the cedar charred far more than on my ugly drum smoker, obviously due to the variance in proximity of the open flames to the wood. I do want some charring and the smoke associated with it, but I don’t want all of my food to burst into flames.

Now would be a good time for a beer. At the local liquor store, Kwiker Liquor, a sign prominently pointed out Grayton Beer Company as a local brew. Of course I bought a sixer each of the IPA and the Pale Ale.

IPAs go well with fish… in my limited experience

Both are solid beers, and I’m happy to sample and support a new craft brewery.

Back to the fish, it appears that nothing horrible has happened while I pounded beers.

No one ordered cedar plank sashimi. More smoke needed.

It also appears that the fish wasn’t really cooking that quickly, so I tinkered with the propane knobs. Eventually a good billow of smoke was coming from the grill vent.

Once the tilapia and mushrooms were cooked to my satisfaction, I put the planks on a cookie sheet, wrapped it in foil, and put it in the indoor oven to warm. The large amount of food and severely limited grill surface area meant I would be cooking in shifts. Up next, the salmon filets.

Smoking fish: Stage 2

In my (limited) experience, when you cook a huge filet of fish on a plank with the skin on, cook it with the skin up. After a little while it will peel or crisp right off. I coated the non-skin side with more cracked black pepper and sea salt, then put it all on the grill for a second stage of smoking.

Twenty minutes later, the skin came right off.

Skin bacon on the top shelf and no dog to share.

Once all of the fish had cooked, I assembled a series of sandwiches with some ciabatta bread. As usual, we had some huge sliced tomatoes, a few pounds of cooked maple bacon, mayo, arugula, pepper jack and Muenster cheeses. Some of the smarter family members came downstairs and made special orders.

About to be paninied

I found a walking path of 16″x16″ exceptionally heavy paver stones and wrapped one in aluminum foil. Panini press … presto.

The heaviest panini press I’ve ever lifted

While all this stuff is pressing, now would be a good time for some… fireworks. Not sure if they’re legal here in Florida, but there was a plethora of questionable fireworks retail establishments set up in trailers of varying levels of deplorability throughout Alabama. None was as epic as Crazy Bill’s.

Crazy Bill’s Fireworks, formerly Perfectly Sane William’s Candle Shop

I took that picture from a Burger King drive-thru. Burger King is usually off my menu, but it was the first place we could eat in over an hour and my kids were getting cranky and famished. I begged (BEGGED!) my wife to let me swing by Crazy Bill’s, but she declined. In the interest of marital bliss, I resigned to just taking the photo. Dammit.

Back to the task at hand, the delicious fish. I could only panini six sandwiches at a time and we only planned to make 20-24, with the littler kiddos having chicken nuggets. For a side, we all shared some Paula Deen macaroni and cheese (pro tip: not healthy).

The paver stone did it’s magic, and by magic I mean it provided a bunch of evenly distributed weight that created an improvised panini press on the grill.

Paninied sandwiches finishing up on the grill

Note the uneven burning / non-burning on some sandwich portions. You can thank the aforementioned crapola BBQ grill. This doesn’t happen on Big Blue.

We served them up family style, cutting each massive sandwich in half. Oddly enough, the Portobello sandwiches went very fast, and tilapia was a huge hit. The only leftovers were salmon sandwiches.

Ready for your belly

Even though the panini process combined with my Pile High sandwich assembly method left the sandwiches looking like a huge mess, the food was wildly well-received and I was flattered with the thanks. After spending seven or eight beer-filled hours on the beach, cooking this dinner was utterly exhausting. Who knew the Florida panhandle was as unbelievably hot and humid as St. Louis?

Despite the abomination of cooking on gas, things worked out well. I’m happy that I was able to be able to produce solid results on a foreign grill with an infrequently used fuel source for so many people. It was unnerving at times, but the end result of the family’s collective bellies being full of good food and beers was worth the stress and effort.

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Finding Simpson BBQ

One of my favorite blogs is Popehat. I check it daily, if not more often. The authors provide rather brilliant snarky insight on topics I find highly relevant, such as first amendment rights, frivolous lawsuits, bumptious legal threats, effluvia, and general asshattery.

Amongst the finer features of Popehat is the semi-regular Road to Popehat series, where the authors detail the absurd search terms that bring people to the site. Rather than try to mask my copying of their theme, why not simply replicate it as a genuine homage?

I present the Finding Simpson BBQ. These horrific search terms genuinely brought people to my humble blog.

fish smell bottom of BBQ” – Unless you have been cooking fish sans plank, you have a serious problem with your grill

a long time ago we’re back in history where all we had to drink was nothing but cup of tea” – Pre-beer technology? Horrible thought.

what porter to drink with brisket” – I like the way this guy thinks.

simpsons triva night kansas city” – I would make the 3.25 hour drive for this event.

why should i hate ku” – I think the real question is why should anyone NOT hate KU?

cookingwithhickorywood” – Typingwithnospaces..butyeshickoryisawesomeforcookingmeat.

scammers & scum” – This makes me smile inside.

ustro trademark scam” – again, this makes me smile.

where to get pork ribs in dc” – No idea. Ask my brother.

ku sucks” – True.

ku suks” – Uh, true?

can you smoke venison ribs” – Yes, and I aim to do so soon!

what does lawyer invoices look like” – Complex, vague, and expensive.

honey nut ichiros” – Mr. Suzuki… General Mills is on Line 1 with a marketing opportunity.

خوخ شجرة” – Uh…..

Beer” – YES!

parboiled pork ribs” – I’M SORRY, BBQ WORLD!

simmsop bbq” – Nope.

simpson bqq” – Not quite.

simpsons bbq” – Close.

simpson bbq” – That’s it. Good work, Mom.

Apologies to Ken & Patrick. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

Drink This Beer: Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat

Sitting here in the banks of the picturesque Gasconade River, casting my line out in a futile exercise, I am sipping on my breakfast: Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat



(Note: I am posting this from an iPhone, down by the river, so the formatting will be off.)

Seeing as how I am tasting the beer version of Fruity Pebbles instead of my usual river beer of PBR or Miller High Life, it’s a good thing it’s breakfast time. Seriously, this is a very sweet beer… probably too sweet for many wheat beer drinkers.

But, who can complain from this vantage?


One of the few rivers easy of the continental divide that flows south to north

So far today, I have caught two sticks, a rock, and this pathetic large mouth bass.


A trophy fish… in five years

I promise to rededicate myself to hard drinking an diligent fishing the rest of the day. In the meantime, my recommendation for Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat: Drink This Beer


Drink This Beer: Bell’s Oberon Ale

Happy 4th of July, America!

Well, being that I am self-employed and my family is out of town, it’s still a work day. That doesn’t mean we can’t spice things up and add some delicious Bell’s Oberon Ale.

Consume this beer!

I have a little experience with Bell’s beer. At a fantasy draft party in suburban Chicago a few years back, the host picked up a keg of Bell’s (not Oberon, though) and we floated the keg in three hours.

I love these little mini-kegs. The art on the keglet is pretty cool, too. I went to an art fair recently where some guy was selling light fixtures made out of mini-keg containers like this. Instead of shelling out $40 for one of these lights, I have changed enough electrical fixtures in my house that I have enough spare light fixture guts that I can readily build one of those for $0. Sorry, Mr. Starving Artist…

Beer me!

It pours very nicely and immediately I pick up on some orange / citrus aromas. There is a distinct amber haze in the beer, distinctive of a wheat ale (a Whale, right?). Looks great in the beer stein, though I know I should be using a tulip glass instead of the generic beer glass.

Drink me!

Yet another fabulous beer you can safely put into the Refreshing Beer category. I pick up on next to no hops, but plenty of richness. At a mild 5.8% ABV, this is a nice session beer that won’t cause too many problems… unless you crush the 1.32 gallons in one sitting. (Lawyerly Note: Don’t do that)

This is going to be a repeat purchase… possibly later this week. Crisp, refreshing, not overpowering, exceptionally drinkable, wonderful flavor and aroma… have I found the perfect beer?

Just another day at the office for me, though Bell’s helped me spruce things up on this Independence Day.

Oberon at work

George Washington drank applejack  all the time, so he can respect a working holiday full of fine brew.

My recommendation for July 4th and for Bell’s Oberon Ale: Drink This Beer

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