Friday, May 3, 2013

Apéritif Friday - The Sides to Ribeyes

I've already discussed how we love a good steak around here, but we abstain during the winter months because there's just nothing better than cooking it over a charcoal fire or the wood fire pit at the cabin. So when warm weather rolls around, it quickly reassumes it's position in our monthly rotation. For our April edition of the grilled ribeye, we opted for a dry aged version over the Big Green Egg, and quite frankly, may never go back.

Spring is in the air, kind of, so my mind obsesses over spring vegetables. My mouth waters with images of tender asparagus, green peas, morel mushrooms, colorful leeks and any other early season vegetable that wants to get married in a pan. I stocked up on several items with the intention of making a potpourri of spring color to lay next to our charbroiled steaks.

Also - in California, on Brother Bear's night to cook for the family, my sister-in-law Kelly made some killer stuffed mushrooms. I simply had to try these on the grill, so they starred as a hearty appetizer to whet our appetites for the main event.

But as always - let's rid ourselves of the primary obligation, shall we? With the warmer weather I itched for something refreshing, cool, minty and peppy. A mojito, I thought, would fit the bill. And a bit of reggae on Muse.
I quickly looked up a recipe thinking I would have to make simple syrup, which annoyed me. Because, a.) I just don't think sugar belongs in a cocktail, and b.) I didn't want to take the time to boil water. So I was happy to find a recipe that called for powdered sugar (a small amount, at that!) versus making the syrup. Ingredients for the mojito include white rum, mint leaves, powdered sugar, limes and club soda.
I took 2 teaspoons of confectioners sugar and muddled it with the juice of two limes and eight mint leaves. Not having a muddler, I just used our gravy ladle. I smooshed it all around until it looked...
 ...muddy. Muddly. Muddled. Whatever. I deemed it ready. I added four ounces of vodka and four ounces of club soda. Because the two ounce, single serve option would be gone in 2.678 seconds, and I needed my apéritif to last at least 4 seconds.
How ridiculous does this look in my Ball Jar? About as goofy as the bloody marys I served in these suckers at a party recently. So I poured it into the Ball's cousin - the ever loving Mason Jar.
Much better. Mr. Mason was clearly the optimal size for my drink. Verdict?


I don't know if it's because my limes aren't picked fresh or if powdered sugar has a funky taste or what, but I didn't looooovvvvveee it. I do like this drink when I order it out (rarely), so I'll try again sometime with a blasted simple sugar syrup (maybe). But don't get me wrong - I had no issue sipping this down in the hot sun on the patio while Mr. Musky cooked mushrooms and steak. Speaking of which...
The Stuffed Mushroom. Ingredients include mushroom caps (save the stems and innards for your spring vegetable mix!), about a cup of grated, aged provolone, a garlic clove, one shallot, parsley, 1/2 lb of blended spicy and mild italian sausage (for the pansy palates in my house), worcestershire sauce and Marsala cooking wine (don't be like me - get yourself a better quality Marsala). Oh - and some leftover roasted red pepper sauce I made the day before for something else. The red pepper sauce is optional, but I loved it in this. It is simply a jar of roasted red peppers, drained, pureed with a splash of wine and chicken stock in the blender, then heated over the stove with a pat of butter. It's great on grilled scallops, pasta, in stuffed mushrooms, on a sandwich as a spread, with chicken, as a dip, drunk with a get the idea.

I started by cleaning out the mushrooms with my oddly looking, purplish hands,
then combined the rest of the ingredients in a bowl with a splash of Marsala and a couple of dashes of Worcestershire. I microplaned the garlic and shallot...
...and chopped the parsley and stirred it all to combine.
The stuffed mushrooms went into a handy aluminum grill pan. We go through tons of these in the summer months. I splashed more Marsala over the top and all around them,
and Mr. Musky roasted them on the grill for about 30-35 minutes. I topped them with a bit more roasted red pepper sauce and another sprinkling of cheese.
Yum. A solid, hefty snack to tide the appetite over until the star performer of the night is ready. While Mr. Musky jacked up the heat on the Green Egg for the steaks, I prepared our Spring Vegetable Mix.
You'll need broccolette (a cross between broccoli and Chinese Kale with a mild asparagus flavor - so good, if you see it, buy it), the mushroom caps and insides, yellow squash, fresh peas, radishes, orange pepper, garlic, shallot, chives, dill, parsley, butter, olive oil, chicken stock, lemon and because I'm an airhead and didn't include it in the picture, white wine and some of that yummy roasted red pepper sauce.

OR - any spring vegetable and herb combination you like. This one is hard to screw up.

I started by boiling the peas in water for about 7-8 minutes, or until they were rather al dente. Done, but still firm to the bite.
I blanched the Broccolette for a minute in the same pot of boiling water, then plunged it into an ice bath. I love blanching vegetables. The color transformation makes me smile and feel all Susie Homemaker.
I sauteed the orange pepper, shallot, radishes and garlic over medium heat in a tablespoon each of olive oil and butter until softened, then added the rest of the vegetables, careful to not over cook. I wanted to ensure that the broccolette and peas maintained their texture, so I sauteed them all together for about 3 minutes. Since it was out, being consumed and tastes delicious, I added some white wine and reduced it. Then I added 1/2 to 3/4 cup of vegetable stock.
This next part may sound weird, but trust me. When I take this much time to prepare vegetables vs. dumping a frozen bag into a microwave-safe dish and calling it a day, I want it to be extra special. So I Sauce it Up.
I blended a tablespoon of cornstarch with about 1/4 cup or chicken stock until smooth, and added it to the dish, stirring it until blended. Then I added a squeeze of lemon, some zest of the lemon, and about a tablespoon each of the chives, dill and parsley. I seasoned the dish with some salt and pepper, and of course, tasted it.

Mmmmmmmmm. This was exactly what I was looking for to pair with our steaks. The flavors exploded in my mouth, with hints of the herbs perfectly complementing the tastes and textures of springtime. Fresh, clean, colorful, and the feeling that you're eating a multivitamin on a plate. It tastes great and looks beautiful. I turned off the heat, and we ended up eating this at room temperature, which we decided was just as good (if not better!) than hot.

Back outside...
 ...the BGE was ready for action. Watching Mr. Musky cook these suckers on on this device is particularly entertaining, but I keep my distance.
 For obvious reasons. Look! Singed arm hairs!
The lengths my cute carnivore will go to for a yummy Friday Night Feast.
Enjoy the grilling season, people! More to come on outdoor dining in the coming months. And if any of you have a killer mojito recipe, please send them my way.


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