Tag Archives: big green egg

Pineapple Glazed Bacon Wrapped Smoked Meatloaf

We have done meatloaf before, as a bacon wrapped pesto meatloaf, but I wanted to do something different to take it over the top. I had recently come up with a pineapple BBQ sauce that we were using on chicken, but I thought “why not on meatloaf?”

The other thing I hadn’t tried with meatloaf yet, although I’ve been doing it for burgers and tacos for a while now, was to grind the meat myself. I got the idea from the excellent blog post at Griffin’s Grub, and will really never go back to buying pre-ground meat! The flavor, the control of the final product… it’s really a no brainer.

For this meatloaf, we used three different meats: sirloin, chuck, and pork tenderloin.

02_sirloin_tips03_chuck_rounds04_pork_tenderloin

You may have noticed the mass of each of these selections is roughly 1.3 kg… In this case I was making three total meatloaf loaves¬†for a company lunch, but the ingredients list below is for just a single meatloaf. I mean, don’t let me stop you… go ahead and make a bunch of them! Invite some friends over, get some extra beer, and freaking enjoy!

05_ground_sirloin

It’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to buy pre-ground meat, when you can see this little batch of ground sirloin tips… the color, the texture, it’s all so gorgeous! Since I don’t have a dedicated meat grinder, I just do the work in my food processor (a 9-cup Kitchen Aid) and it works out just fine. In fact, for this meatloaf, the only kitchen gadget I needed was the food processor… it literally did just about everything! And you’d think grinding and then building nine pounds of meat into lovely loaves would leave a mess, but since it was all done in the Kitchen Aid, clean up was actually the fastest part of this endeavor! (No, I don’t work for them… ūüôā )

So, once the meat was all ground up, I started making the sauce. My plan was to have the sauce simmering away as I added the other items to the batches of meat. As it turned out, it took the sauce longer to reduce than I thought, but it all worked out in the end. If I were to do it again (oh, and I will!) I’d start the sauce before even grinding the meat.

06_sauce_ingredients

The sauce is pretty simple, if you think about it. What you want is a nice complexity, with a blend of sensations, without any one of them overpowering another. To achieve that, it’s important to use various sources of sweet, sour, and spice.

In our case, the base is pineapple juice. It’s an awesome base, because it already has sweet and acidic components! We layer it with apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire, and lemon; brown sugar, molasses, and ketchup; then chipotle (en adobo) and mustard.

Tasting this sauce… oh my! It starts off nice and sweet, with the fruity pineapple, and it fades into a kick from the mustard, then the heat from the chipotle. Lots of action!

07_half_volume

You have to make sure to reduce this by half, otherwise the sauce will be too runny.

How do you know when it’s been reduced by half? That question bugs me every time! Generally, I would just watch the sides of the pot or pan and “guess” when I thought it had reduced sufficiently. Then, while making this batch of meatloaf, I hit on an idea… I’m sure someone has done this before, but I don’t know who, so I can’t credit them. I just use a bamboo skewer and dip it into the sauce before starting it to boil. Make a mark at that point. Measure halfway down the stick from the first mark, and make a second mark. When the sauce is at the height of the second mark, it’s volume has been reduced by half. So freaking simple, I don’t know why it took me this long to think of it! Obviously, this only works with straight sided pots (because “half way” won’t always mean “half volume” for, say, sloped sides).

In this case, it took about 45 minutes of gentle simmering to reduce my sauce by half.

As the sauce cooked, I added the other items to the batches of meat: onions, chipotle, bread crumbs, milk, eggs… the usual suspects. The final step for “prep night” was assembly…

09_bacon_sheet

10_the_loaf

11_ready_to_smoke

Yeah… I’m getting hungry all over again just pasting these pictures into this post! I laid out the bacon on some heavy foil, overlapping them for a span of 12 inches. Do it however is easiest, but just leave two or three slices to place on top, as shown.

The whole process of making these loaves took a few hours, mostly because I didn’t time things well with the sauce.

All that was left to do was pop them in the frigidaire over night, and the next day, fire up the Egg and go for it!

12_packed_on_Egg

13_finished

As you can see, the three of them barely fit on our large Big Green Egg, but I made it work. And finally, we had the finished product!

What I did was, after the three loaves reached about 140-150F internal (measured with a little temp probe to be sure, but at 200F it took about three hours), I removed them from the Egg. Then, one by one, I applied more sauce as a glaze and returned each one, by itself, to the Egg for another 15 minutes at 350F. This firmed up the glaze, finished cooking the top-most bacon, and gave it all a lovely warm glow! When each came off the Egg, I just wrapped it in foil to rest.

Meatloaf Ingredients
1 pound chuck steak (I used eye rounds)
1 pound sirloin tips
1 pound pork tenderloin
1 pound bacon
1 c bread crumbs (or for gluten free meatloaf, use regular oatmeal)
1/2 c whole milk
2 eggs
1 red onion
2 chipotle en adobo
crushed red pepper
kosher salt
pepper
1/2 c pineapple bbq sauce

Sauce Ingredients (makes just over 2 cups)
2 c pineapple juice
1 chipotle en adobo plus 1 T of the adobo sauce
3/4 c ketchup
3 T apple cider vinegar
3 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T dark brown sugar
2 T molasses
2 T mustard
1 T rum
1 T lemon juice (about half a lemon)

Execution
Make the sauce first. Mix all the ingredients, bring to boil, and simmer until volume reduces by half.

Grind the meat in a grinder or food processor, one pound at a time, for about 10 pulses if using a food processor. In the same processor bowl, chop the onion and chipotle on low speed for about five seconds. Beat the eggs. Except for the bacon and crushed red pepper, mix all ingredients together.

Lay long sheet of heavy duty foil on counter and layer the bacon on the surface, covering a 12 inch span. Reserve 2-3 slices bacon. Dump meat mixture onto bacon “sheet” and form meat into roughly 12″ x 4″ loaf. Pull up edges of bacon around sides of loaf. Top with remaining strips of bacon. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper. Wrap in foil.

When ready to smoke, poke a few holes in the bottom of the foil (to allow grease to drain). Get smoker to 300F, set up for indirect cooking. Roll foil back to create a shallow “baking pan” with the meatloaf. Add flavored wood chips, if desired, to fire box of smoker. The addition of the wood chips and the meatloaf will lower the temperature, which is why we start it at 300.

Stabilize the temperature around 200F, and let it smoke for a few hours. Once the internal temperature reaches 140-150F, baste with more sauce. Raise smoker temperature to between 300-400F and cook another 15 minutes to let the glaze firm up.

Finally, once the internal temperature is near 160F, remove meatloaf from smoker, wrap in foil, and let rest for 10-20 minutes. Slice, and enjoy!

08b_working_recipe

 

Pork Tenderloin, Three Ways

Our office likes to celebrate with food, and the holidays are one of the best excuses to do so early and often! For our office pot-luck holiday buffet, I decided that in addition to the turkey (which a friend did on her rotisserie, and it was awesome!), I would grill up some pork tenderloin on the Egg. Why tenderloin? Well, because we hadn’t done that, yet!

I had recently made apricot glazed pork chops for the wife and daughter, to positive reviews, so I knew that I wanted to do something with apricots for these tenderloins. I had also had some baklava at our local bakery, and that got me thinking in a Greek sort of manner. Finally, earlier in the month I had made a mushroom gravy for some steaks we had at home, so I knew I wanted something with mushrooms, too! Well, Pork Tenderloin Three Ways was born!

This resulted in six tenderloins (each about 1 pound), with two each of the three stuffings I decided to make:

  1. Apricot – Gruyere
  2. Spinach – Feta – Sun dried tomato
  3. Wild Mushroom – Bacon – Shallot

Along the way, I also had to learn to butterfly pork tenderloin, and substitute a small glass for a tenderizing hammer… Clearly, I need more kitchen gadgets!

After¬†butterflying the tenderloin, I “hammered” it flat and added one of the¬†stuffings (in this case, the spinach – feta – sun dried tomato). Then, wrapped it all up and closed it with toothpicks.

Prepped pork, with start of stuffing

Prepped pork, with start of stuffing

Add the feta...

Add the feta…

Wrap it all up!

Wrap it all up!

Ingredients
Apricot – Gruyere
Big handful of dried apricots, sliced
1/2 cup local honey
Shot of coffee brandy (or substitute)
1/2 cup of Gruyere cheese, cubed

Spinach – Feta – Sun dried Tomato
Big handful of fresh spinach, roughly cut.
1/2 package of Feta cheese (about 1/2 cup, or 3oz), crumbled
Handful of sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
Oil
Garlic, sliced
Crushed red pepper (to taste – I used about 2 t)

Wild Mushroom – Bacon – Shallot
Mix of wild mushrooms, about 1.5 cups, chopped
1/2 pound bacon
6 shallots, sliced round
4 cloves garlic, smashed and diced
1 sprig rosemary
Two pinches salt
Lots of black pepper

Preparation
For the Apricot – Gruyere, I put about a cup of water in a small pot and added the apricots. Got it to boil, then reduced heat (but kept boiling). Boiled down to 1/2 volume. Added another cup of water. Continued to boil down until roughly 1/2 cup liquid was remaining. Added the honey. Continued to boil another few minutes, then added the brandy. Cooked until thick. You can add the cheese to the mix at this point, or wait until you’re assembling the pork.

For the Spinach – Feta – Sun dried tomato, I¬†got a skillet hot, added the oil. Added garlic, crushed red pepper, and sun dried tomatoes. Let a slight char form on the tomatoes. Added spinach all at once, and continued heating until spinach lost some volume, but was still bright green (i.e., don’t cook it until it shrivels into nothing). Removed from heat. At this point you can stir in the feta if you want, or just add it later when you prepare the pork roll.

Finally, for the Wild Mushroom РBacon РShallot, I got a skillet hot, and added bacon. Cooked until medium crisp, and reserved 2 T of the grease in the skillet. Chopped the bacon, and set it aside. In the same skillet, added reserved grease, got it hot again, and added shallots and garlic. Sauted until just softening. Added salt and the mushrooms. Sauted until mushrooms shrank a little. Added lots of freshly ground black pepper, along with the bacon. Heated it all through.

on_egg

sliced_spinach

Spinach – Feta – Sun dried tomato

sliced_apricot

Apricot – Gruyere

Execution
Alright, time to bring in the Egg! I got the Egg up to 400F, set for direct heat. I brushed each tenderloin with olive oil, and did the same to the grill.

The plan was to get the tenderloin onto the grill by 11:15, grill them for about 30 minutes, then have them rest another 10 minutes before slicing, and then serving at noon.

Oddly enough, it actually worked out that way!

Just before I added the tenderloin to the Egg, I tossed on a handful of apple wood chips. As the tenderloin grilled, I turned them every 5 minutes or so, for a total of about 35 minutes. I used a remote thermometer, and was going for an internal temperature of 140F. Once they hit that (after 35 minutes), I pulled them off and let them rest.

Finally, we sliced and enjoyed!

Personally, my favorite was the Spinach – Feta – Sun dried tomato… The tomatoes were so concentratedly sweet, with the touch of crushed red pepper and smooth feta cheese… Sakes alive!

All in all, a great time on the Egg, and when you added in all the other pot-luck items, it was a real feast!

Brined, Smoked Turkey

We decided an office Thanksgiving celebration was in order. Several things helped us reach this conclusion… 1) it’s near Thanksgiving, 2) we like getting the whole office together for a meal, 3) we really like getting together for a Big Green Egg meal, and 4) we had never tried a turkey on the Egg. Case closed – it was time for a turkey on the Egg that would feed everyone and make us all happy! Crazy expectations, ho!

Having never smoked a turkey on the Egg, I did a bit of research on the interwebs and googletubes, and decided that I would brine the turkey first, then estimate about 20 minutes per pound at 300F, but pull it off early if we hit 160F internal. I decided not to use any flavored chips, because I didn’t want to overpower the brine or the¬†aromatics¬†I was going to add.

We got our turkey, a 24 pound Butterball, and set to work. First up was to just let the turkey sit in the refrigerator for a couple of days. It wasn’t quite enough… when we opened it up to prep for the brine dunk, the bird was still pretty well frozen. So, what’s a Mainer to do? I had my friend reach his hand into the frozen bird and wrestle out the giblets and neck! Of course, we were running cold water over it the whole time to aid in the extraction… It was quite the show of suction noises and gushing water. Hey, thanks, Derek!

The plan was to let the bird sit in the brine for about 36-48 hours, which we did do.

Ingredients
For the brine (4 gallons):
2 c kosher salt
2 c brown sugar
2 T dried rosemary (or 6-8 sprigs fresh rosemary)
2 sweet onions, quartered
Rind of 2 oranges
8 cloves garlic, smashed but otherwise whole

For the aromatics:
4 lemons, quartered
8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
8-10 sprigs fresh sage
2 sweet onions, quartered
8 cloves garlic, smashed
1 red potato, cubed

Preparation
Mix all the brining ingredients in a large bowl. Add a gallon of water and dissolve as much as possible. Pour into large plastic bag (large enough to hold the turkey plus liquid… we used clear plastic liner bags and tied off the excess) or a plastic tub (if using this option, use one that is a tight fit for the turkey to ensure full coverage by the liquid). Pour another gallon of water into the bowl and dissolve any remaining salt & sugar, then add to the bag. Add remaining two gallons of water to bag, then lift the turkey into the bag. Tie it off so that the turkey is fully surrounded by liquid. Then, swish it around a bunch to finish mixing.

We then set the bag into a large plastic tub, filled the tub with clear water, covered it, and set it out in our un-heated entry way. Thanks to a vent, the entry way would not get below freezing (it’s November in Maine… so cold is an issue at night), and it also wouldn’t get too warm during the day. The bird thus sat for roughly 40 hours.

Execution
The day of the feast, I arrived at the office at 0200 (that’s 2 a.m. for you civilians) and prepared the aromatics, removed the turkey from the brine and rinsed it off, and got the Big Green Egg firebox started. I fashioned some grill handles out of heavy duty electric fence wire (donated from our horses… I did ask permission, but ignored all the nays), set the turkey on it, then stuffed that puppy with the aromatics. Stuffed both in the large cavity, and up front under the breasts. I also decided to cut up some extra potatoes, and put them in the drip pan along with apple juice.

Just for grins, I squeezed some lemon juice onto the turkey.

Once the Egg had stabilized (all vents open) at 350F, I put the bird on, at 0330. The temperature dipped to about 250, then slowly started to climb. At that point, I cut the vents to about 50% each, and monitored the temperature about every 30 minutes, keeping it between 250 and 350F. My plan was to let it smoke until about 1130, then let it rest 20 minutes before carving… serving at noon.

Eh, that’s sort of how it worked out!

Keep in mind, it’s November in Maine… the overnight temperature was under 20F… and that meant that the Egg had to consume more fuel to maintain its 300F average temperature. I should have known this, but when I filled the firebox I was a little groggy from lack of sleep… so at about 0930, we ran out of fuel! Fortunately, the¬†aforementioned Derek was in the office, too, and as I lifted the turkey out of the Egg, he tossed in more charcoal onto the remaining embers. Also fortunately, we caught it in time for there to be embers, and they started the new charcoal up quickly. In the meantime, we had our turkey covered in foil in the kitchen… hoping for the best.

Even with the interruption in cook time, we hit our desired internal temperature (160 in the breast, 175 in the thigh) early, by 1115. So, off it came, and I just let it rest a full half hour before starting to carve.

All the while, the hustle and bustle of the rest of the office was going on as other folks brought in some fantastic sides and deserts! We also had a bit of a grill vs grill thing going… another friend had brought in her small Traeger smoker to put some smokey goodness into a ham (the ham was pre-cooked, so just needed some flavor). It was a great day!

For carving, I wanted everyone to get a bit of all the good parts, so I pulled it all apart and sliced up the breast so there was a bit of skin down to a bit of tenderloin in every serving. I left the drumsticks and wings whole, but sliced up the thighs for lovely dark meat.

Well, then the best part… the eating! I have never, ever had turkey that was this smooth, this moist, and this absolutely delicious! And I’ve eaten a lot of turkey in my days… but the brine and the Egg really just did a fabulous job.

In a way, I felt bad… lots of comments were of the form, “Well, thanks, now you’ve ruined my own Thanksgiving, because I know the turkey won’t be this good!” Sorry, guys! But my plan for my own turkey, since I don’t have an Egg at home, is to still use the brine process… I think that did the majority of the work, tenderizing and moisturizing the bird. So, we’ll still have an oven roasted (rather than smoked) turkey, but it will be brined, and I bet it will be almost as good as what we all got to experience the other day.

A Journey of “Meat and Three”

We’ve been playing with our Big Green Egg pretty hard. Many of the results have landed on this blog. But, with all that bar-b-que, we had never done any ribs! I know! What the frack were we thinking? Well, it just so happened that we needed to do another Big Green Egg event at work… and a solid food blog I follow (Griffin’s Grub) had literally just posted a whole thing on baby back ribs. The cards had been played, I could not deny it any longer!

So what’s all this about a “meat and three” then?

The ribs on the Egg, with my home-made spacers.

The phrase “meat and three” was unknown to me, until I traveled to our corporate office in Nashville. It is simple: choose a meat, choose three sides, order a sweet tea (iced tea with plenty of sugar, maybe some lemon), and enjoy. The beauty of it is that when a place offers three or four good meats (generally a brisket, ribs, sausage, and chicken) and five or six awesome sides (typically mac & cheese, bbq beans, fried okra, fried string beans, corn bread, etc.), then the possible combinations are just fantastic!

Heck, just for grins, here’s the statistics… Assume a place has four meats, and six sides. One may be tempted to use the simple rules of combinations to figure out how many variations on choosing side dishes we could have – and this would be a “6 choose 3” problem:

(6 * 5 * 4) / (3 * 2 * 1) = 20 different combinations.

However, that is only allowing us one of each side! Sometimes, you just need two helpings of potato salad and some fried okra! Removing the restriction of “only one of each” means we have to account for additional possibilities. We do this by adding 6 and 3, then subtracting 1. So, it becomes an “8 choose 3” problem:

(8 * 7 * 6) / (3 * 2 * 1) = 56 different combinations of sides!

Since we can only choose one meat per meal, that one is easy… there are 4 ways of picking a meat. So, in total:

4 * 56 = 224 different meals possible!

Statistics are pretty cool… but, back to the story at hand. Having purchased 15 pounds of quality baby back ribs, and having done my research, I knew I would need some way of keeping them “on end” in the smoker – there is just not enough room to have them all lay flat. I didn’t have time for a lot of engineering, so the morning of the cook, I just grabbed some fence wire (we have horses, and an electric fence that’s about 1/3 mile in perimeter) and a pair of needle nose pliers. I figured I’d just fashion something once I got there and could “touch and feel” a solution.

A little Geary’s Autumn Ale and some butter to tenderize!

The night before, I had prepped the ribs. Rubbed with brown mustard, then with a combination of Jamaican jerk seasoning and Stubbs BBQ rub (equal amounts of each), then wrapped in plastic and set in the fridge.

Now, it was 5am, and I was at the office, taking out the ribs to get closer to room temperature, and setting up my plan. I cut up a bunch of wire, and bent them into little triangles with loops on the ends to catch the grill. I had the grill off the Egg, on a table, to do the work. It seemed pretty solid, so I added the ribs, and set it aside.

Once the Egg was up to temperature (250F), I dropped in a foil packet of mesquite chips, set the heat diffuser in place (a big aluminum pan that also acts as a drip pan), and lowered the entire grill/hanger/rib assembly into place! Buttoned it up and started the waiting game.

Per recommendation, I let them smoke for 2.5 hours. Then, I pulled the entire grill/hanger/rib assembly out of the Egg, and began Phase 2… tenderizing. This involved putting three thin pats of butter on each rib rack, setting it on foil, and pouring on a little beer (Geary’s Autumn Ale, brewed in Portland, Maine), then wrapping it up in more foil. Back on the Egg for another 45 minutes, still at 250F.

Finally, Phase 3… crisping. Pulled everything out again, removed all the foil, and set the ribs on the Egg one last time, with a handful of fresh mesquite chips on the coals, for a final smoke. I let it go another 1.5 hours, but I don’t think it was quite enough. The meat was “done” but the surface didn’t crackle… Next time, I will do a high temperature “finish” in the final hour… let the Egg get up to 500F, then close it up completely and let it slowly cool. That technique worked really well with some pulled pork, and it may give me the effect I was missing. After letting the ribs rest for a half hour, we cut them into two-rib segments and started the feast!

Well, that’s the “meat” portion… what about the “three”? Fortunately, my co-workers rescued me. We had mac & cheese, cornbread, and Caesar salad ready to go by lunchtime, and a bonus of a chocolate zucchini cake! All in all, it made a wicked yummy lunch.

A plate of “meat and three” with sauce.

[Photo credits: Wanda Clowater]

Onion glazed smoked rib eye roast

Is there any doubt that food binds a community together? Whether it’s Christmas dinner or a 4th of July picnic, our best dining is generally part of an ecosystem of relationships… our relationships to one another, and to the food, in preparation, presentation, and ingestation. Although I work for a relatively large company, our “branch” location in the metropolis of Skowhegan, Maine, is a close-knit group. There are roughly 30 of us there. We all know each other well. We’re friends and family. We know each others’ kids.

So when we found out that a friend and coworker was coming back to our campus for a visit, well, it was time to eat!

I wanted to reprise my smoked paprika chicken, as I had tweaked the recipe a bit to give them more kick. Check, that’s on the menu. However, some of the folks wanted a reprise of the Great Brisket Experiment of 2012. That involved an overnight stay at the office (our Big Green Egg is courtesy of our friends at our corporate location in Nashville), and lots of mistakes! Well, why not? One of the blokes got his hands on 15 pounds of rib eye roast… let’s get that again… 15 pounds of rib eye roast! And I, I took the road traveled by the freaking butcher! The thing was beautiful… and was delivered Wednesday morning for a Thursday lunch.

Okay, so letting it be suspended in mid-air to age for a week was out… I decided to go with a variation on a wet rub I’d used before… based mostly on sweet Vidalia onions, which I thought would stand in nice contrast to the now spicy paprika chicken. Why not a simple dry rub? Well, because I wasn’t in the mood for that.

Lunch had to be served at 1pm. I wanted the roast to rest for 45 minutes prior. I wanted to “reverse sear” the roast for 30 minutes before that… and so on. I had to determine when it need to go on the BGE. I knew I wanted to smoke it between 220F and 250F for at least several hours, but to answer the question of when to put it on, I had to turn to Isaac Newton and his Law of Cooling. I’m going to write a whole separate post about that, because I love math… and I got to combine differential calculus with rib eye roast! How much more perfect could applied mathematics really be?

Well, here’s what I did:

Gorilla in the mist

Preparation
Make onion glaze. Cut hash marks in fatty side of the roast. Rub glaze all over that roast. I mean, all over. Yeah, there. Ooh, there too! Turn roast fatty side down, cover and sit it in fridge overnight. Remove from fridge 2-3 hours before smoking.

Ingredients (for onion glaze)
2 Vidalia onions, cut into rough chunks
1 c dark brown sugar
1/4 c Worcestershire sauce
4 T fresh ground black pepper
2 T kosher salt
1 T crushed red pepper flakes

Execution
Put all ingredients into blender. Slowly pulse until you can run it on blend or puree, or whatever setting you like. I like to leave it a little chunky. Glaze is done.

So, on the Big Green Egg, I filled up the fire box and got it all going. Got it hovering at 300F, then threw on two big hand-fulls of mesquite wood chips. Immediately put down the drain pan (which also acted as an indirect heat diffuser) and the grill, then added the roast, and closed up the Egg. This was at 06:30. I had been in the office since 04:00, doing work while waiting for the roast to come up from 38F internal after all night in the fridge! Then began the “it’s been 30 minutes… time to check the Egg” process. Only a few adjustments were needed.

At 11:45, I pulled the roast off the Egg, got it up to 500F, added more mesquite, and put the roast back on. The smoke billowing from the chimney just made me feel happy… and at this point in the morning, I smelled entirely of smoke! I closed all the vents, and just let it stew in smokey goodness for another half hour, at which point I removed it from the Egg and brought it inside.

Once inside, it went right onto a cooling rack (a rack is important to not steam the bottom of the roast, thus opening passages for the loss of juices) over a tray, and it sat uncovered for 15 minutes. It was now 12:30… right on schedule! For the remaining 30 minutes, the roast sat under a foil tent… and once everyone started to arrive, well, we just had to cut into it, didn’t we?

Yeah.

[Photo credits: Derek Price (me and the Egg), and Wanda Clowater (the sliced roast)].

Bacon Wrapped Pesto Meatloaf

Meatloaf. Just the word itself makes my tongue tingle. Meatloaf and gravy on mashed potatoes. Meatloaf and crisp sweet corn. Meatloaf sandwiches…

Oh, yes, meatloaf sandwiches! Are you kidding me? A nice thick slice of yesterdays meatloaf, cold from the icebox, placed gently on lightly toasted sunflower seed bread… [Oh, yes!] with a slathering of creamy mayo and a slice of sharp cheddar cheese [Oh, yes, yes!] The juxtaposition of warm, crispy, nutty toast and the cool, beefy, succulent meatloaf… [Oh, god, yes!]

<ahem>. On to the actual topic…

So the strategy here is to create a moist, flavorful meatloaf. For the longest time, I thought of meatloaf as just a loaf-sized hamburger. Such a philosophy makes passable meatloaf… but it was always crumbly and dry the next day – thus, terrible for left-over sandwiches. My thinking has evolved to consider the meatloaf its own little ecosystem, with its own specific needs, and certainly not just an over-sized burger. We borrow ideas from casseroles and lasagnas, and some from the world of burgers, to build a yummy meatloaf that tastes great hot over mashed potatoes, and tastes fantastic cold the next day in a sandwich.

Ingredients
1 pound ground beef (I use 80/20)
1 pound ground pork (I use 80/20)
1 pound thick-sliced bacon
3/4 c commercial pesto
3/4 c crushed bread crumbs (the best are from stale French bread)
1/2 c whole milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 chipotle en adobo
1 T of the adobo sauce
1/2 T crushed red pepper

Preparation
You don’t want the meatloaf to sit in the juicy run-off… that results in boiled meatloaf, not baked or smoked meatloaf. You’ll want a pan large enough to catch the run-off (I use a baking sheet with 1/2″ sides), and a rack of some sort (I use a cooling rack) to fit in the pan. Then, cover the rack with parchment paper, and poke some holes in the parchment paper. This lets the juices run into the pan, from which you can collect them after the meatloaf is done to make gravy. When I smoke the meatloaf, I just put the meatloaf in an aluminum baking dish that I’ve poked holes in the bottom.

Set the oven to 375F, or the smoker to 250F. In the oven, you’ll need between 60-90 minutes of cook time, and in the smoker, about 3-4 hours.

Oh, and if you’ve never smoked a meatloaf, do so! If makes vastly superior meatloaf!

Execution
Except for the bacon and crushed red pepper, mix all ingredients in a large bowl, combining well. Place the mixture on your prepared cooking surface and form into loaf. Wrap with the bacon. Sometimes it’s easier to lay the bacon down first, then make the loaf, then pull the bacon up. Use whatever method works best for you. Sprinkle the crushed red pepper over the surface of the bacon, and spread evenly with your hands – work it in!

My cook times are, as above, 60-90 minutes in the oven, or 3-4 hours on the Big Green Egg. Regardless of cooking method, you want the internal temperature of the meatloaf to be 160F. After removing from cooker, let it rest under a foil tent for 10 minutes.

Enjoy, but in moderation… you want to save some for cold leftover sandwiches!

Big Green Egg smoked meatloaf

Here is a Big Green Egg smoked version of the bacon wrapped pesto meatloaf… yeah, a meatloaf with a smoke ring. Sweet! [Photo credit: Derek Price].

Applewood Smoked Chicken Thighs

So, our corporate office was super sweet to us and bought us a Big Green Egg last year. It took a little while for us to start using it (Mainers are traditionalists, if nothing else), but once we did it caught on in a big, green, eggy way!

Although my personal favorite work on the BGE was one of my first efforts, over-night smoked brisket, a very close second is this (relatively) fast and (very) easy strategy for chicken. The base recipe is from fellow BGE enthusiast Kevin Jett, and I tweaked it a bit for simplicity (because Mainers like simplicity, too).

First, choice of chicken… I love the thighs. They are juicy, flavorful, cook up quickly, and you can get them boneless. There really isn’t a down-side! So, use thighs. Don’t like thighs? Well, make up grilled leeks or something.

Obviously, this strategy is going to be BGE-specific, but you can use any smoker/grill, or even your kitchen oven. There’s about 15 minutes of prep, and an hour of cooking, but if you’re using wood chips (I recommend applewood) you’ll want to pre-soak them for a couple of hours.

 Ingredients
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 T smoked paprika
1 T Mrs. Dash (regular)
2 t kosher salt
olive oil
honey

Preparation
Pre-soak applewood chips for a couple hours.
Get BGE up to 350F (for ours, this means the smoker lid is on, but wide open, and the lower vent is 80% open), prepared for indirect heat. Once it’s up to temperature, before applying the heat diffuser, toss in a handful of applewood chips.
Toss chicken in enough olive oil to lightly coat.

Execution
Mix the dry ingredients, and sprinkle over chicken in large bowl. Massage and work the spices into the meat.

Set chicken on smoker, and cook for about one hour (until internal temperature reaches 165F), turning at about 45 minutes. In final five minutes, brush a little honey onto each thigh.

Image

Excellent when served with grilled zucchini and corn on the cob! (Photo credit: Wanda Clowater).