Category Archives: Plank

Smoked Cod Tacos

Cold and raining?! Ain’t got no time for that. It’s taco night.

A little crapola weather can't keep me down

A little crapola weather can’t keep me down

It doesn’t have to be a Friday in Lent to enjoy fish at the end of the work week.

Fish tacos are quick and easy. Clean flavors, loaded with lean protein, and widely-appealing.

I put a couple cod filets from Schnuck’s on a water-soaked cedar plank, and gave each a sprinkle of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and a light dusting of Old El Paso Taco Seasoning Mix.

Alaskan Cod makes good tacos

Alaskan Cod makes good tacos

By “light dusting” I really meant light dusting. That taco mix can be overpowering, and I want to taste the fish and the smoke. The taco mix is really meant to be a complement to the taco theme of the meal.

Instead of quickly cooking the fish by using the plank to steam and smoke the fish, I am going to let the cedar plank provide a clean platform for cooking and only some moderate smokiness. I have in the past put planked fish over semi-direct heat and let the plank char. Not this time.

How are smoked jalapenos? I guess I'll find out.

How are smoked jalapenos? I guess I’ll find out.

Instead, I offset the fish to completely indirect cooking and put a few chunks of dry mesquite wood on the coals.

After about 45 minutes, the fish was done and looked pretty amazing.

Smoke color looks great!

Smoke color looks great!

For service, I warmed some flour tortillas and made small 5 bite tacos out of the fish, along with some black beans, taco cheese, cilantro, light sour cream, and some amazingly awesome Frontera tomatillo salsa. Finish with 1/8 lime drizzled over the plate.

To warm but not toast the tortillas, I just tossed some foil over the fire and quickly flipped them around until each was ready. I just stacked them up and wrapped the pile in that same foil until service.

They taste as good as they look

They taste as good as they look

These were spectacular and the entire thing took less than an hour from start to mouth. The rich smokiness of the wood melded with the flaky fish. Cod can be oily and dry, but these morsels were far from it. Amazingly delicious.

Next time, I’ll pass on the black beans because their flavor rose up a little more than I wanted to interrupt the fish. One decent-sized filet made three heaping tacos.

Simple, easy, tasty: Three things that make this dish a winner.

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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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2012 Schlafly World Pork Steak Championships

One of the best days of the year for an amateur St. Louis BBQer was yesterday at the Pavilion in Chesterfield’s Central Park: the Annual Schlafly World Pork Steak Championships. I have been practicing for a few weeks on an entree and my pork steaks, and my partner, Mike, has been working on an appetizer. We’ve done this together for four years now and it’s always a blast, despite the fact that we always get too drunk and finish near last.

We got the tent set up around 8:30 or so. Say hello to everyone, Mike! Be sure to look as silly as possible.

Hi, everybody!

Easily one of the coolest CPAs I know…

Mike brought his fancy Weber 22.5″ and I brought the Big Blue smoker.

Where the magic happens

Appetizer due at 2:00pm, entree due at 2:30pm, and pork steaks due at 3:00pm.

Planned Menu:

Appetizer – Balsamic marinaded chicken kebabs, paired with a porter beer

Entree – Smoked steelhead trout BLT paninis, paired with an IPA

Pork Steaks – Smoked for about 2 hours at 200 degrees after a dredging in a mustard/beer/brown sugar paste, followed by a brief sear on each side

Competitor Meeting at 9:30am:

No foreign objects allowed, as in no kebab skewers. Also, you can garnish as much as you want, contrary to what the rules said. Also, beer sales are at 12:00 noon, and apparently you could have brought your own package beer after all. Mike was totally bent out of shape by all of this.

Appetizer: (Sorry, but I didn’t get any photos of this)

With some input from my wife, Mike changed things on the fly to lettuce wraps with the chicken and some grilled veggies. He also changed the beer pairing from a dark beer to a summer lager.

Mike toasted peanuts in a foil pouch, grilled some bok choy (Chinese cabbage) and bell peppers, and grilled his chicken as usual. It was all chopped up and tossed in some large leaf lettuce with peanut sauce and dry asian slaw.

Frankly, the appetizer was delicious. We all liked it, but apparently the judges didn’t find it top ten worthy. It was probably Mike’s best effort to date. Good work.

Entree:

I generally followed the recipe from a few practice sessions ago when we first tried the smoked steelhead trout BLT paninis. Both huge filets were generously covered on the non-skin side with Lawry’s seasoned salt and coarse black pepper.

Simply seasoned fish

Due to some grill space issues, one of the cedar planks had to be put on the Weber 22″ over indirect heat and the other had to go on the smoker where the pork steaks (discussed later) were already in the midst of a hickory wood smoke.

Smoked steelhead trout, skin ready to come off

As entree assembly time approached, only the fish on the smoker grate was ready to go. The one on the Weber was underdone. This would turn out to be a critical piece of fortune.

After about 30-40 minutes of cooking, the skin peeled right off in one piece and the fish was ready for a little more cooking.

Skinned fish filet

The BLTs were assembled with the pre-cooked thick-cut maple bacon, some real mayonnaise, arugula, and vine ripened tomatoes, all on white ciabatta bread rolls.

Set up and ready for fish

After putting generous, massive pieces of fish on each sandwich, I put the assembled sandwiches on the smoker and used a paver brick wrapped in foil as a panini press.

While the sandwiches finished, we tried the remaining filet. Much to our surprise, the flavor was much richer and buttery than it had been in the past. Something about the two wood smoking and the drum smoker as opposed to the Weber improved the fish dramatically.

Then, after each side of the sandwich got a pressing, we pulled them and cut each in half. Six individual servings were required.

Paninied sandwiches

They looked good. They tasted amazing. I felt pretty good about my chances. If nothing else, I made something delicious and was getting excited to make some sandwiches for the group once the other filet finished on the Weber.

I needed to pair it with a beer. What better to go with something sweet and smoky and full of fish than an IPA? I selected the Goose Island IPA as my pairing.

BLT w/ Fish

I turned it in and was pleased… despite the pork steak fiasco. Read on.

Pork Steaks:

The plan was to replicate my prior successes at making pork steaks by dredging them through some paste/mud of mustard, beer, brown sugar, pepper, spice, paprika, etc.

Dredge paste ready to go

Each of the pork steaks, and the only gave us three this year, was liberally coated.

Pork steaks in their spicy mud bath

Rubber gloves for food safety. After all, the county health inspector is around.

Safety first. Pork hands are not good.

The witches’ brew of hickory smoke billowed from Big Blue. The time for pork steaks is at hand.

Catastrophe coming…

The pork steaks met the smoke about 2 hours before turn in time. We were busy getting the appetizer and entree prepared and they are a low-maintenance dish. Little did I realize that the temperature was climbing, rapidly and dangerously.

Big Blue usually sits at 200 degrees, barely going over 225. Today, however, it rose to 300 then 350. When I finally realized it was at 350, I knew I was screwed.

Oh crap

In the part trial runs, these things were ready for a flip and continued smoke at an hour. After two hours, they were super tender, hyper-moist, and very flavorful. My plan was to give them a brief sear to get some BBQish crispiness on the outside, at about 2 minutes per side or less, after the smoking was over. No point now.

What a nightmare. I was quite dejected, a feeling that passed later for reasons you will read. Eventually, as explained below, I figured out why this happened. Basically this was the low part of the day.

I cut six slices from the least awful pork steak and turned them in with zero expectations of success. The other two were inedible. Time for a shitload of beers and some contemplation how this freak accident happened.

Awards Ceremony:

Whilst we waited for them to announce the awards, we hit the craft beer tent pretty hard.

Beer tent. What a nice way to spend a 95 degree day.

Mike caught up on his summer reading.

Scandalous! Fabulous! OMFG S&M!

They announced the appetizer winners without mentioning us. Damned shame, but better luck next year.

As a quick aside, my expectations were low. While we were prepping our pork steaks, the guy next to us came over and let us try some of his Tri-Tip that he turned in as his entree. Holy MFing Shit, it was amazing. Juicy, flavorful, perfectly cooked. If this is what I am up against, then I’m screwed.

Much to my pleasant surprise, I was announced as the Third Place winner in the entree category!

Third Place is better than nothing!

It was my first BBQ trophy that didn’t involve something that’s apparently unethical, like parboiling pork ribs.

Obviously we were thrilled!

Hooray

Oh, and I didn’t place in the pork steaks. They sucked. I knew they sucked when I made them and turned them in. I seriously messed up, as explained below. Whatever. I was happy to win something for the entree.

Epilogue:

Not to ruin the story, but I was already dead in the water with respect to the pork steaks and I didn’t know it, before ever showing up that morning.

The night before the competition, I thoroughly cleaned out Big Blue. For weeks, I had been practicing with a lining of BBQ drippings, ash, coal, etc. all cemented to the bottom and lower walls of the smoker. It had been performing consistently and in a manner that I could control and predict. I don’t know why I cleaned it out; I just did.

During the competition, the temperature spiked uncontrollably a few times. It went up to 350 out of nowhere and stayed hot. Even after dousing the fire and closing the baffles, it jumped to 400. Two of the three pork steaks dried out and the third was a mediocre shadow of my previous practice successes. A total fiasco that left me puzzled until I had a eureka moment in the middle of the night last night. Dammit. Live and learn.

Still, a great time and a good finish.

Mike was annoyed about the change in the package liquor rules. According to the original entry form, we would be disqualified if we had outside package beer or liquor. Tons of people had outside package beer and liquor, but not us. I mentioned to Mike that every prior year we had gotten blasted and someone had burnt themselves (usually Mike) and we had turned in sub-par food. This year we stayed bright, drank tons of water, and turned in some wonderful food. He begrudgingly agreed.

Now would be a good time for a beer. This one was awesome:

Matilda by Goose Island, my celebratory beer (among many)

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Smoked Steelhead Trout BLTs

Despite the excellence of the BBQ Cuban Sandwiches, the time constraints and grill space of a one day BBQ competition cause me to lean against an all day pork shoulder smoke and towards something less labor-intensive and time-consuming. Fish sandwiches were a hit the last time we tried them, and the total cook time is relatively low.

For these sandwiches, I am going to improve on my prior errors. The walleye and char were both fairly thin fish filets and I want a lot of meat on the sandwiches. What do I find waiting for me at Sam’s Club but this huge, beautiful filet of Steelhead Trout?

Seasoned Steelhead Trout

For pre-BBQ seasoning, I just put on some Lawry’s salt and coarse black pepper. Simple, easy.

I made a few slices in the skin and rested the filet on a wood soaked cedar plank, with the skin side up over semi-direct heat. The Weber 22″ was set up for indirect cooking, but I put the plank over the center of the grill.

Cedar, do your magic

Right across the aisle at Sam’s were some soft whole wheat ciabatta rolls, and further down the meat section I stumbled across thick cut maple bacon. It was all assembled along with a huge heirloom tomato, a fistful of arugula, and some Miracle Whip.

Ready for the tastyfish

One of the sandwiches was tomato-less, with a sub of pepper jack cheese, for my picky wife. Special orders don’t upset us.

After 20 minutes or so, the trout skin was crisping right off of the filet. I peeled the whole thing off with minimal effort. It made some wonderful fish skin bacon for the dog.

Fish skin is a doggie delicacy

Another ten minutes on the grill and a few beers later, and I married the fish onto the sandwiches. Of the three rolls, the wifey one and a normal one went on the grill for some time under a panini brick, whilst the third was cut and served un-paninied for comparison’s sake.

Soon-to-be patent pending panini brick

Though this may hurt my chances at an international patent on the invention, the panini brick is just a bunch of aluminum foil wrapped around a paver stone or red brick. Here you can see the red brick model, soon available for purchase through the future e-commerce section of this site.

How were the results?

Non-paninied sandwich

I would gladly pay money for the non-panini version of this sandwich. The fish was plentiful and moist, full of flavor. Steelhead trout has a salmon flavor, as the color indicates, but it is milder, with a flesh very willing to accept the smokiness of the cedar plank. The maple bacon was a good call, giving crispiness and some sweetness. For ciabatta bread, it was soft and complementary, as opposed to dominating.

The panini version was consumed pre-photograph, so you will just have to take my word for it that it was also delicious. The bread was crispier and the flavors melded a little better. Some people won’t like warm Miracle Whip or having their cold sandwich veggies warmed up.

Both versions were wonderful, and the entire process took an hour (not counting the bacon that I cooked and trimmed earlier in the day). For a BBQ competition, this is a time-effective, flavorful recipe that will almost certainly be a distinct selection over the other entrants in the BBQ entree category.

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BBQ Walleye & Bacon Sliders / BBQ Salmon Cousin BLT Hoagie

Fish on a cedar plank… hard to go wrong with that. Strong flavor, moist fish, easy to make. Why mess with something that’s not broken?

For our BBQ pork steak competition, my team not only needs to come up with an appetizer paired with craft beer in addition to some epic pork steaks, but we also need to put together a winning entree paired with a(nother) craft beer. How about fish sandwiches two ways?

First, let’s start with a hard-to-miss Tastyfish: Walleye.

Yummy

I skinned then cut the large walleye filet into seven little square chunks, about 1.5″ squares, and positioned them on their own wood soaked cedar plank. The plan is to put these on some split and toasted King’s Hawaiian mini buns along with some provolone cheese, dill pickles, and crispy bacon to make fish sliders.

Second, I wanted some salmon on a BLT-type of sandwich. I found some vine-ripened tomatoes in late April (probably from Central or South America), swapped out arugula for the deplorable iceberg lettuce, and used the rest of the crispy bacon. My goal is to get all of this stacked up on a toasted sourdough mini-loaf from Schnuck’s and smear on a heapin’ helpin’ of Miracle Whip. Who’s on board with this?

Except… salmon isn’t my thing. It’s usually too fishy for me, even on a cedar plank. The guy at Bob’s Seafood in U. City recommended [name of fish that I forgot]. A quick plug for Bob’s, who gave me nothing in consideration for this plug: They are (1) incredibly helpful, (2) have a massive selection, vastly superior to any local grocer, (3) gave my kid a balloon for no reason other than the fact that she was with me in the seafood market, and (4) gave me some free lemons because I was going to make some fish that night. Go there. Be wowed.

I’m really annoyed that I didn’t write down the name of the fish. It is salmon-colored and apparently in the same family, but it is a little milder. It is farm raised, though I prefer wild, but whatever. Salmon cousin went on the wood soaked cedar plank skin side up (easier to scrape the skin off after a smoke), with a few slices in the skin and the free lemon sliced on top.

[Updated May 4th at 9:30am – It was Arctic Char. I called the guy at Bob’s Seafood.]

Smoking: Bad for you in cigarettes, great in fish

After about 30 minutes of indirect heat and cedar smoke, things look great and smell even better. I toasted all of the bread, sliced up the tomatoes, and chopped up some bacon and cheese. Sando time:

Full of good protein… plus a bunch of bacon

The sliders turned out really good, but could have been so much better. Next time I will melt the cheese on the grill, possibly with the bacon between the cheese and the fish. As good as they were, it’s rough having unmelted cheese on a slider. I frickin’ love walleye, too, so having missed an opportunity to make something epic is annoying. Plus, eat them fast. They will cool off quickly.

The salmon cousin  arctic char BLT, though, was amazing.

You knew bacon would have to be a part of this dish

With this sandwich, you get it all: rich, flavorful, flaky, smoky fish, a hearty slice of tomato with the complement of crisp arugula, the zing of Miracle Whip, and of course the crisp crunch of some bacon, all on a fresh, toasty sourdough hoagie bun. This sandwich was devoured by the taste testers. I would do nothing different.

As for beer pairings, we were running the full gamut at the BBQ. Schlafly mixer, Dr. Funky Bunch’s Brown Ale homebrew, Boddington’s, Schlafly Summer Helles, Bud Select, Newcastle. Jeez. I guess I would pick a refreshing beer, like the Schlafly Kölsh.

Next week’s entree trial (hold onto your hats for this one): Smoked Pork Shoulder Cuban Panini

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BBQ Mahi-Mahi Sandwiches

Eight years ago this June, my wonderful wife and I got married. We took a flight the next day to Miami and drove three hours to Key West, Florida for an amazing week-long honeymoon. While there, we stayed at the Pier House and ate dinner at their excellent restaurant. Pier House, incidentally, makes the best Bloody Marys that I’ve ever had. Ever.

During a walk around the island, we came across a bar that was only accessible by walking on the docks past the many boats that were moored. It smelled great, had a wonderful atmosphere, and we saw some wild chickens running around on the chat rock floor of the outdoor dining area. Some 100 year old Dominican guy was hand-rolling cigars while his grandson peddled them to patrons. We had discovered Schooner Wharf Bar.

Later in the week, we would have dinner there before a booze cruise. Unfortunately for my new wife, she boozed in advance of the booze cruise and was a wreck by the time the sunset boat ride was over. Oh well, you only live once.

On the Booze Cruise... plenty of booze in

The Schooner Wharf waiter recommended Kalik, a mediocre, thin beer. Being so watery, it was quite refreshing. Among the many specialty items, the waiter recommended Dolphin. Yes, he said dolphin.

Now, my knowledge of protected animals is not strong, but my initial inkling was correct: You cannot kill and eat dolphin in the US. Still, I was down for chowing on some Flipper. The waiter corrected me, as he probably has corrected at least one idiot tourist per hour. Dolphin fish is another term for Mahi-mahi.

Coryphanea hippurus

I checked out their menu and it sounded appetizing.

Menu Item of Choice

It was more delicious than we could imagine. Not sure what was in the sauce or how they got it to cook so nicely, but it was exquisite. We came back several more times for this sandwich and some Bahamian beers.

Why not try to replicate or at least come close to this honeymoon experience? I think I’ll pass on the Kalik, though.

I’ve got some really nice Mahi-mahi filets from Bob’s Seafood in U. City, MO. They will get a healthy dose of cracked pepper and salt, followed by a place on a wood soaked, Pam-coated, cedar wood plank. This is set over medium direct coals on the Weber 22″ grill.

Alongside the fish, I made a foil pouch for the chopped mushrooms and sweet onions, with some butter to help cook. I can toast some buns on the side, and we have cheddar cheese ready to go. I prefer the flavor and texture of cheddar over the oiliness of American.

BBQed toppings

Now for this mango sauce. I remember it being a mango aioli. I have a pretty good idea what I want to do, but to get some input from the internet, I did a quick Google search. Who would have guessed that Mango Aioli is also the name of some techno DJ from Germany. He’s an, um … distinguished-looking gentleman.

Aioli is really just a mix of olive oil, egg, garlic, spices, and other stuff. If I can get some mango preserves or jelly and mix in some mayonnaise, dill, pepper, olive oil, etc., perhaps something appetizing can be made. Most unfortunately, my lovely wife’s trip to the store did not result in any mango preserves. Instead, I was given some mango salsa. We were also out of olive oil and garlic. I tried to make something out of mayo, the salsa, some dill, lemon juice, hot sauce, etc. It was utterly deplorable. I guess I can do without the sauce.

Each side of the fish got some salt and coarse cracked pepper. I added some sprigs of dill and oregano for a little extra flavor. It all went on a water-soaked cedar plank.

Ready for the grill

The fish is cooking nicely. I let the cheese melt over the fish, right on the plank. What a wonderful combination of smells from this BBQ.

Tastyfish

A huge slice of cheese went right over each piece of fish for a few minutes to finish. Once it was all done, I toasted each bun half for about 60 seconds total.

Cheesy fish, burnt-assed aluminum pouch

Sandwich time.

Mahi-mahi sando

I’m pleased to report that these did not need any mango sauce. I have to wonder what enhancement could have been made by adding them, but the sandwiches were delicious. The cheese and the fish both picked up some great smokiness, while the mahi-mahi itself remained flavorful and flaky. Salt and pepper were enough for seasoning, though I suspect that Schooner Wharf put on some kind of jerk seasons.

What an amazing dish. We stuffed ourselves while having some Schlafly Summer Helles Lager. I didn’t miss the Kalik at all, or the mango sauce. I did keep a small dollop of tartar sauce on the side, but didn’t use much at all.

Amazingly, the last filet, after being wrapped up into a sandwich, held wonderfully overnight in the fridge and made an excellent lunch.

To complete our honeymoon experience, in lieu of a booze cruise on a 200 year old wooden clipper ship, my wife and I chugged some beers and went on a Forest Park paddleboat ride around the lagoons that surround Art Hill. Okay, not really, but that would have been cool.

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Cedar Plank BBQ Rainbow Trout

After multiple requests, I’m going to give healthy BBQing a shot. It’s surprisingly simple, and sadly low on pork fat. If you have a cholesterol and/or diabetes problem, cooking fish on the BBQ is a great solution.

As much as I enjoy fishing, it’s a little early in the season. Sam’s Club has some nice fresh whole rainbow trout that will suit my needs.

Heeeeeere fishy fishy fishy fishy

I typically spend my summer fishing season casting a line out in a futile attempt to catch something worth eating or mounting. Instead, I usually just drink a bunch of canned beers and sweat like a dog in an aluminum boat. Once in a while, I pull out a pathetic fiddler catfish or something that looks like it could be great for live bait. Having caught nothing for days, a tiny fish is exciting.

Pathetic mud catfish

Anyway, back to the BBQ. Of the three fish, I will let my older two kiddos chop the head and tail off of one each, then watch me try to debone and butterfly them. It’s good to see where your food comes from.

One will be BBQed whole. The whole fish get cleaned off and then stuffed for smoking on the cedar plank. Inside Mr. Fish will go some peeled garlic and some sprigs of oregano, rosemary, and dill.

Tummy ache

The outside of the skin gets about four diagonal slits and a few lemon slices.

Not helping the tummy ache

The other two trout were decapitated, then I took off the tail, the fins, and made two filets from each fish, leaving the skin on. I put the four filets on the cedar plank, skin side down. The flesh got some salt, coarse black pepper, and a semi-random assorting of lemon slices and herbs.

Having never done this before, I hacked the hell out of a couple filets. I didn’t lose too much meat, though. It just looks like an uncoordinated idiot with a knife got a hold of the fish.

Two fish halves

I fed this to my son's evil goblin twin living in the attic

In addition to the rainbow trout, the kids like the Schnuck’s-prepared Parmesan breadcrumb encrusted Tilapia, so we had three planks going on one grill.

Lots of seafood

Crowded grill space

Just in case our guests weren’t interested in fish, we threw on a couple steaks: ribeye and strip, each with some salt and coarse pepper, cooked medium rare.

Steak: It's what's for dinner... if you don't care for fish

What an exhausting fiasco cooking all this food. Time for some beer. How about the Schlafly Helles Style Summer Lager?

Helles, hell yes

It’s a refreshing session beer with a light fruity aroma and aftertaste. The crisp, airy flavor goes well with BBQing, yard work, fishing, or just eating BBQed fish. Pick some up.

During all of this, I noticed that the betta fish became agitated, perhaps a little nervous.

Spiderman Ironman Simpson II is getting a little edgy at the sight of his cousins' slaughter

Checking in on the grill, things are going well. The grill has a very different smell as opposed to the usual pork / beef aromas. The light fish and herb smell is a nice change of pace. It simply looks amazing as the cedar plank does its magic.

Double rainbow (trout)!

Beautiful in death

In all, the BBQed meats paired up with some cold beers, red wine, roasted asparagus, foil-wrapped corn, and a vinaigrette salad.

The fruits of my labor

Comparing the two rainbow trout methods, each was distinct. The filets on the plank had a much richer cedar smoke flavor, as opposed to the whole fish, which had a milder herb flavor. Obviously this was due to the exposed flesh of the filets whereas the whole fish’s flesh was fairly well protected from the smoke. I found the textures to be very similar, as each was very moist and enjoyable.

Seeing that you can just buy deboned, pre-cut filets at the grocery store and get a savory BBQ experience, I may just go that route in the future. The presentation isn’t quite as cool as the whole fish, but the preparation would be much easier going forward.

Following this massive feast, we finished with a turtle cake. Yes.

Does the gluttony not end?

I’m tempted to try this technique with some sea bass and mahi mahi. It’s incredibly easy, very flavorful, and exceptionally healthy. Don’t expect much more healthy stuff from this blog anytime soon, though.

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Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

I’ve made this BBQ recipe with great success in the past. If you prep everything in advance, the BBQ process is quite easy. It’s really simple.

Make a “bed” of bacon. I used a 9″ x 13″ glass pan and lined up the bacon so that they slightly overlapped each other.

Bed of bacon

I cored an apple and sliced it, followed by a generous helping of gorgonzola cheese.

Who will sleep in this bed?

Mr. Tenderloin followed. I repeated the layering of apple and gorgonzola cheese.

Someone needs to be tucked in

After it’s wrapped up in bacon, I let it sit in the fridge overnight. It doesn’t necessarily need to rest overnight. I was just prepping a day in advance. Once it’s grill time, I put it on a wood soaked cedar plank over indirect heat in the Weber 22″. (At this point I would normally brush the outside of the entire thing with some olive oil, but I forgot to do it this time.)

Bacon mattress, cedar plank box spring, apple pillows

I let it smoke on the plank, with some of my leftover soaked hickory wood. It sat for two hours.

Two hours later...

Things have gone well. The cheese has not escaped, though the bacon is a little blackened.

Looks great sliced up

This is a seriously easy BBQ recipe and technique. The bacon fat seals in a lot of the moisture and the sliced apples supplement what would be lost. The plank prevents the bottom from burning and provides an amazing smoky flavor. You can omit the gorgonzola (as my kids prefer) if that’s not your thing. Good luck!

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