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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summer off?

    Well, summer is here and in full swing. I have not completely caught up to the realization that summer is here, however, with my classes being over until September, I am finding that I do not seem to have enough to keep me busy throughout the day.
    Oh, I know, I can hear it now, "not enough to do? really?"
    But it is not that I don't have things TO do, just not enough of what I WANT to do. There is a difference, you know.
    One thing that takes a beating in the summer is cooking--or at least cooking in my kitchen. I live in an old, VERY old, farmhouse, that has no ventilation in the kitchen other than a few windows and a ceiling fan. No exhaust fan at all. It makes for a quite toasty kitchen when the temperature outside is over 80 degrees, and you are running the oven at 350 degrees, or higher. The kitchen heats up very quickly and does not like to cool off. So to avoid working inside an oven, I tend to use my gas grill and  side burner for the side dishes; I have found even just boiling macaroni or potatoes for salads in the kitchen rings the temperature up to unbearable levels. My grill also has an oven in it...yes, my husband likes his cooking toys, as well, but the oven is rather small so most of my cookware do not fit inside the oven (he should have done a little more research before he invested in this particular grill--or he should get us a set of smaller roasting pans to fit). Of course, I could probably use those foil things you can pick up in the grocery store, but until this minute I had not thought of that option. Hmmm. I will have to reassess my position.
    Well, for the purpose of this post, let's forget I thought of that and tackle some things I do on the grill to fight overheating the inside kitchen.
     I make just about anything on the grill that I can make in the oven, except I have not tried cakes just yet, but the wheels are turning, so maybe before the summer is over I will attempt some of those on the grill, not in the oven part. Hmmm. Grilled cake? I am going to have to do some research or rethink my position on that as well.
    One technique I use quite often is indirect heat cooking on the grill. I light all four of the burners, close the top, and bring the grill up to about 325 degrees. Then I shut off the two left side burners, lower the other two, and place my roast or chicken or whatever, over the two burners that are off, usually in a roasting pan. Close the top of the grill and let it roast. The temperature will go down somewhat and that's okay. Depending on what you are cooking, and the preferred "doneness" of the food, it can take an hour to three hours to cook, but remember, "low and slow" makes for delicious moist meats.
    I make an eye of round beef roast in a roasting pan, usually about 5 lbs. and it can take about an hour and half to two hours, but ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS use an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature of your meat--especially foul--undercooked chicken and turkey makes for many sick family members. And always use the USDA recommended guidelines for internal temperatures which you can find here: USDA Kitchen Companion. This guide covers all the food safety issues we all should be aware of to keep our friends and family safe so be sure to check it out and save a copy to your computer so you can have it handy whenever you need it.
    I found it beneficial to read the entire guide because sometimes you don't know you don't know something, so reading all the available information before you need it helps avoid problems later. And if you remember you read something about a food safety issue, having a copy on your PC alleviates the hassle of having to search the internet for it in the middle of preparing something. That's my tip for today, I guess.
     I use the same indirect cooking technique for chicken, in a roasting pan, or a loin of pork, or pork tenderloin. With the chicken I finish it on direct heat with barbeque sauce, to crisp it up, but the primary cooking is over direct heat.
    And I use a dry rub for just about everything. My newest love is smoked paprika. It smells like barbeque all by itself, and I realize that that must be the "secret" ingredient in all those prepared barbeque mixes...ha..I knew sooner or later I'd find what gives things that BBQ aroma! Now I can mix up my own mixes and still get that BBQ flavor that I like.
    I mix about a cup of  brown sugar with  2 tablespoons smoked paprika, 1 tablespoon granulated garlic, and 2 tablespoons of Emeril's Essence ®, or instead of the essence stuff I just grab a few pinches of this and that. If I am doing fish I add grated lemon peel. Just rub a few tablespoons of the rub into the surface of the meat (or sprinkle over fish), add no liquid or salt. Lightly oil the grill if you are putting the meat directly on the grate, or lightly grease the pan just to keep things from sticking.
   How about you? You have a great rub recipe you'd like to share? Love to hear from you!

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