Sunday, December 14, 2014

What's on the Grill #310: Grilled Spinach, Goat Cheese, & Pancetta Rolled Chicken

If you grill, I know you probably have the same aversion as I do to boneless skinless chicken breasts. I find them boring, bland, and mostly uninteresting. In fact, I would probably be more pleased if I grilled one of my BBQ gloves for dinner. My irritation for these things knows no end.

Knowing this, you can about picture my reaction when Zoë suggested we grill chicken breasts for dinner.  After my head was finished spinning, and my eyeballs returned to their sockets, I reminded her of my disdain. Of course, while I was quick to dismiss, she prodded me to make them interesting.  

“How about adding spinach and goat cheese,” she suggested. My brain, and most importantly, my stomach, started to churn. “I think we need some pancetta, too,” I added. We were on to something. It doesn’t usually happen this way.

In no time flat, I had one of the better boneless skinless chicken breasts to grace my grill. It was a surprising and momentous occasion.

Grilled Spinach, Pancetta, & Goat Cheese Chicken Rolls

Grilled Spinach, Goat Cheese, & Pancetta Rolled Chicken
by Another Pint Please

3 chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
3 ounces of goat cheese
6 slices of pancetta
3 cups of spinach, chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil
butcher twine
plastic wrap

Blanch the spinach by placing it in a large pot of boiling water. Allow to cook for one minute, then transfer to a colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

The key to grilling chicken breasts, no matter the recipe, is to beat them into a thin uniform thickness. A plump breast may look nice, but when grilled it will cook unevenly. A little mallet time fixes this problem.

Place a chicken breast, smooth side down, on a large piece of plastic wrap.

Chicken Breast

Remove the tenderloin and either discard or save for another use.

Tenderloin Removal

Place another piece of plastic wrap over the chicken and pound with a mallet.  Try to get the chicken to a uniform thickness around 1/4 to 1/2 inch.

Pounding Chicken

Place the beaten breasts onto a tray and season both sides with salt and pepper.

Seasoning Chicken

Starting at one end of the chicken, add the pancetta.

Adding Pancetta

Smear the goat cheese across the pancetta.

Adding Goat Cheese

Add the spinach.

Spinach, Goat Chees, & Pancetta

Tightly roll the chicken breasts by starting at the end with the stuffing.

Rolling Chicken

Rolling this way helps keep the stuffing within the chicken.

Rolling Chicken

Secure each breast with two pieces of butcher twine. 

Tying a knot

Be sure to keep the twine taught.

Tying a knot

Lightly brush the rolled chicken breasts with olive oil.

Rolled Chicken

Prepare the grill for indirect medium heat.

Grill the breasts over direct medium heat for 2 minutes a side, for a total of 8 minutes.

Grilled Spinach, Pancetta, & Goat Cheese Chicken Rolls

Transfer to indirect heat and continue to grill another 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 F with an instant read thermometer.

Grilled Spinach, Pancetta, & Goat Cheese Chicken Rolls

Remove from the grill and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.

Grilled Spinach, Pancetta, & Goat Cheese Chicken Rolls

We served the chicken over creamed kale.  It was all simply superb.

Grilled Spinach, Pancetta, & Goat Cheese Chicken Rolls

The goat cheese and pancetta make the dish, as every bite was rich and delicious.  Maybe I shouldn’t give chicken breasts such a hard time, with the right “friends" and approach, it can be pretty damn good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Relatively Wordless Wednesday

In preparation for the holidays, it was determined I needed a “little” help.

Lil Mike for the Holidays

Here is the story behind Lil Mike. I’m not completely surprised he is 4 1/2 years old.  He’s holding an iPhone 3GS.  He needs to upgrade.

The holidays mean family, friends, gifts, happiness, and most importantly, awesome beer.

Old Fezziwig Ale

Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig is one of my all time favorites. As photography tends to go, it’s not always the glass, but the composition.  While I was trying to set up this shot, I ended up capturing this shot with my iPhone.  

Christmas can now be officially celebrated! #OldFezziwig #SamAdamsBeer

Upon review, I love the in your face character of the latter.  The Fezziwig was great in both pictures, but I think it tasted even better from my phone.

Happy Wednesday.

Note: My friends at Samuel Adams were kind enough to supply me with the photographed holiday cheer.  The opinions and expressed undying love are my own.

Monday, December 01, 2014

What's on the Grill #309: Grilled Beef Wellington

Deciding “What’s on the Grill” every weekend is not always an easy process.  There are always things I have to grill, depending upon what I’m working on, but oddly enough, putting a dinner menu together can sometimes be a challenge.  Well, most weekends.  

With Thanksgiving over and Christmas not but a few weeks away, the holidays and entertaining are front and center.  While we were not entertaining this weekend, I suppose it’s the spirit which led us directly to the idea of having Beef Wellington.  I say “us,” as Zoë claims it was her idea, based on some English Christmas memories she had floating around.  I said it was mine as I had just read Pat LaFreida’s excellent cookbook, Meat, and recalled his great Wellington recipe.

While we may ever agree on our chicken and egg predicament, we did come to terms with dinner.  It was excellent.  

Beef Wellington takes some effort, but it is truly not that complicated.  While it is traditionally prepared in the oven, I never let that stop me from adapting it for the grill.  I prefer my beef outdoors.

Grilled Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington with Mushroom Cream Sauce
Adapted from Meat by Pat LaFreida and transformed to the grill by me

Mushrooms - Duxelles

2 T olive oil
2 T unsalted butter
1 pound mixed mushrooms (I used cremini, shiitake, and portobellos) stems discarded, finely chopped
2 diced medium sized shallots
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 t fresh ground black pepper
1 heaping T minced fresh sage leaves


2 beef filet mignons (about 4 ounces each - mine, as you will see, was a little too big)
2 t kosher salt
1/2 t fresh ground black pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (1/2 box)
1 (8-inch) flour tortilla
1 large egg, lightly beaten


1 cup heavy cream

In a large cast iron skillet, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat on a side burner or stove top.  Add the mushrooms and cook until wilted and slightly brown, 12-15 minutes.  Add the shallots, salt, and pepper.


Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the shallots are softened, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sage.  Set aside and allow to come to room temperature. 

The Grill

Grilling Beef Wellington requires a two zone medium-high heat fire (425-450 F).  For simplicity, and most notably the use of the cast iron griddle, I used my Weber Gourmet BBQ System grate.  More on this later.

Ready the grill by placing a chimney of lit coals, in a semi-circle, around the outside of one half the grill.  

Season the beef with salt and pepper and sear both sides, directly over the coals, for 30 seconds each.  Remove from the grill and allow to cool.

Initial Sear

Take the puff pastry out of the freezer and set on the counter.

One issue with Beef Wellingtons is when the meat and duxelles create a soggy puff pastry. Funny enough, this was the exact complaint on a lister call-in on this week’s podcast of America’s Test Kitchen. You want crisp golden brown pastry, not soggy mush. To prevent this, LaFreida uses tortillas. It’s a brilliant safeguard.

Fold each tortilla into quarters.

Tortilla PrepTortilla Prep

Tortilla PrepTortilla Prep

Either unfold the tortilla and make 2 1/2 inch rounds in each quadrant, or power through and do them all at once. I do not have a biscuit cutter, so I found a glass with the same diameter. With a little bit of steady pressure, it worked great.

On two of the tortillas, use a knife to make a small “x” in the center.

Tortilla Prep

Dust a work surface with flour and unfold the puff pastry. Make two 6-inch rounds and two 3 1/2-inch rounds.

Phylo Prep

If you don’t have the tools, find a similar size glass and bowl.

Phylo Prep

On the two small puff pastry rounds, use a knife to make a small “x” in the center.

Place the large puff pastry rounds on  parchment paper and place a non-vented tortilla round in the center of each.

Spoon a tablespoon of mushrooms on to the tortilla round.  Spread the mushrooms so it covers just the tortilla.

Adding the Duxelles

Place a filet on top of the mushrooms.

Adding the Filet

Note: While Zoe’s smaller filet was more appropriately sized, my larger cut was a little too…big.  In hindsight, I should have made my puff pastry rounds a little larger.  Lesson learned.  When making Beef Wellingtons, size does matter.

Place another tablespoon of mushrooms on top of the filets and then add the vented tortilla round.

Top with tortilla

Place the 3 1/2-inch puff pastry round on top of the tortilla round.  

Bringing up the pastry

Then, with wet fingers, lift the puff pastry up the sides of the filets and seal with the top round.  Use your fingers to crimp the two pieces together.

Sealed and Ready

Place the Wellingtons in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Back to the Grill

Add another half chimney of lit charcoal to the existing coals in the grill.  

The final step of Beef Wellington is “the bake,” which means we will be grilling indirect.  As I mentioned before, I opted to use the GBS griddle.  The griddle is a great conductor of heat and a solid surface.  Since we are grilling puff pastry, I felt the griddle provides better results than placing the pastry directly on the grates.  Don’t have the GBS griddle, a large cast iron skillet will work….but the griddle, and its low lip, is really well suited for this task.

Make two collars out of aluminum foil that are about 2 inches wide.  Place the collars around the Wellingtons to add support during the initial cook.

With the grill at medium-high heat (425-450 F - the higher heat is necessary for the puff pastry to set up), place the Wellingtons and their foil collars in the center of the grill.

Lower the lid and allow to cook for approximately 10 minutes.

Initial Set

Raise the lid, remove the foil collars, and brush the Wellingtons with the egg wash.

Egg Wash

Lower the lid and continue to grill.  For medium rare, figure another 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the Wellington is 125-130 F.

Grilled Beef Wellington

Remove from the grill and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes.

Grilled Beef Wellington

To make the sauce, place the remaining mushrooms in a cast iron skillet.  Cook for several minutes over medium heat, then add the cream and cook for another 5 minutes or until the cream begins to reduce.


Grilled Beef Wellington

Yes, my filet was a little large, which is why one of the Wellington’s suffered a blowout.  None to worry, while I may have gotten a C in presentation, I ate the whole thing, and there is nothing average about that.

Medium Rare