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:
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.
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
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
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 – Bacon – Shallot, 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.
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!
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 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.
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.
[Photo credits: Wanda Clowater]