Friday, December 30, 2011

What's on the Grill #235: Reverse Sear Martini Filet

More often than not, I try not to repeat myself on posts.  However, the week before Christmas I was flipping through Weber's Charcoal Grilling cookbook and stumbled across the recipe for Martini Filets.  Trying to evaluate my "non-repeat" mantra, I checked the blog to see just how long ago I talked about this mouth watering dish.  Turns out it was just under 3 years ago…and to think I thought it seemed like just last winter.  Wow.

Since then, I've not only repeated the filets, but have added an additional variable: the "Reverse Sear".  It was February 2009 when I first documented my use of the process and have continued to employ it quite a bit.  For the true history of the reverse sear method, check out Steve Finney's Iron Pig BBQ site.  In short, reverse sear involves cooking meat indirectly (or in my cheating case on this occasion, the oven!) until it is close to finished temperature before searing directly over a hot fire.  The slow pre-cook allows the meat to rise to a uniform finished temperature before the outside flesh is caramelized through direct heat.

Reverse Sear is moderately in line with the process of Sous Vide, which has been pretty widely discussed (and hacked) over the last year.  Reverse Sear is also deployable for more than just steaks.  Chris at Nibble Me This has a great post on a Reverse Sear Prime Rib Roast.

I don't always use it, but for thick fillets, it is really a great way to ensure perfectly cooked meat every time.

Reverse Seared Filet Mignon Steaks with Martini Marinade
Adapted from Weber's Charcoal Grilling

2 T Gin
2 T Extra Olive Oil
1 T juice from jar of green olives
Grated zest of one lemon
1/4 t fresh ground pepper

4 filet mignon steaks
8 green olives with pimentos
4 toothpicks
salt & pepper
2 ounces blue cheese

Place all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.   Add the steaks of a plastic zip lock bag, pour in the marinade, seal and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Yank the steaks from the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes.

Reverse Sear.  As I mentioned above, the entire reverse sear can be done on the grill, or in my half-ass case, the oven.  I know I'm not one to let the weather bother me, but it was cold, rainy and windy and I just didn't have it in me.  I was already cooking veg and didn't want to fire up a second grill.

Heat in the pan

Season the steaks with salt and pepper and place into a cast-iron skillet.  With the oven heated at 250 degrees, cook the steaks until they reach an internal temperature of 125 degrees (an instant read thermometer is a must) and then pull them from the oven.

During this time, I ventured outside and prepped the Summit for direct high.

After the steaks rest a few minutes, transfer them to the hot grill grates and sear each side for about a minute each.


While the steaks were cooking, I added a mess of veg to the grillstone.  This has become a favorite way of mine for preparing grilled vegetables. It's easy and works really well for keeping cut up vegetables from falling into the abyss of the grill.

Veg on the Stone

With the filets finished, top with the crumbled blue cheese and speared olives.

Reverse Sear Martini Filet

Now, the most important part, the inside.

Crust, Pink, Crust

Although I've cooked my share of filets over direct heat, I must say nothing beats the reverse sear.  Filets are thick and can be finicky to get 100% right over a hot fire.  This is even more difficult when you are cooking for someone who likes their meat more on the "done" side of the scale.  I refuse to serve hockey pucks.

Although the "searing" isn't the same as dropping an uncooked piece of meat on a hot grate, the pros outweigh the cons.  I really can't recommend this process enough.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Operation: Draft Tower

Ever since I began kegging my homebrew, I started to dream of my own draft system.  Somehow, the mystique of home draft beer is destroyed when you have to tromp past the furnace, water softener and litter box to find it.  Or, so I've heard.

As I've pondered my own dispensing setup, I had several things to keep in mind.  First, as much as I wanted to convert a chest freezer, I was going to stick with my refrigerator.  Second, because I was going to use my existing refrigerator, the option of adding a kegerator under the bar was out too.  Had it been an option, this would have been the easiest way and probably, the most expensive too.  Third, I wanted three lines, as three is the max number of corny kegs or 1/6 barrels I can squeeze in the Frigidaire.  Also, three is greater than one line and that, is cool.

Oh, I forgot the most important part: wife approval.  Although I've been yammering about this for sometime, out of the blue Zoë decided I should just pull the trigger and make it happen.  Sometimes her ideas are just fantastic.

For great information on dispensing draft beer, I cannot recommend Micro Matic enough.  In fact, this page, on dispensing draft beer over 5 feet from the refrigerator, was my major reference.

My Plan

A 3 tap draft tower connected to my fridge via 2 inch PVC.  Per the MM page, I would run the three draft lines from the taps to the kegs inside the PVC.  The lines would be accompanied by a 1inch line which runs cold air from a blower inside the fridge.  Because of the distance to the taps, the blower is necessary to maintain a cool temperature on the beer lines and most importantly, temperature dependent good pours.  The cold air exits the 1inch tube at the top of the draft tower and returns to the fridge through the remaining void space in the PVC.  My fridge backs up to the wall directly behind my basement bar.  To make the connection to the fridge, all I need is two 90 degree turns.

Basic Equipment

6' 2 inch diameter PVC
2 - 2 inch PVC "street elbows"
2 inch hole saw
10' - 1inch vinyl tubing

Not so Basic Equipment

3 Tap Draft Tower - Although I love Micro Matic and have bought from them before, I ended up buying my tower from the Beverage Factory.  I was a little concerned about the height of the taller towers, as my optics are fairly low on the back wall.  Second, the price was excellent. 
36' 1/4" ID vinyl tubing - The pre-installed 5 foot beer lines were not long enough to make it all the way to my kegs.  To avoid dispensing problems, I needed to make my lines 12 feet each, which resulted in 36 total feet.
12 CFM Blower - Although Micro Matic sells it, I found the exact same blower for $47 less at Grainger.  Score.

First, the step I call "no going back".  I drilled a hole in the countertop.  Due to a pre-existing stud wall, my tower is slightly off center across the face of the bar countertop.  I'm fine with that, as I was not in the mood to re-build a wall.

No Going Back

With a new hole in the countertop, I needed to drill a hole through the back wall.

We have a hole

This was easier said than done.  I ended up making a second hole in the wall, as I found it difficult to completely make everything line up the first time.

After shooting through the cabinet backing and wall, I had access to the furnace room and the fridge.

The Next Left

In theory, the fridge will "never move", meaning my PVC line is permanent.  However, knowing my house, how I know my house, this is pretty much a pipe dream.  No pun intended.  If I am forced to move the fridge, I can pull apart the PVC from the fridge and move it where I need to.  In fact, I opted not to cement the PVC, just because I know at some point I'm going to be dissembling this thing for one reason or another.  To keep the PVC whole, I wrapped them in duct tape.

With the second 90 turn towards the fridge, I connected the last piece of PVC and then siliconed it to keep the fridge air-tight.  By far, the hardest part was running the beer and cooling lines.  Instead of purchasing the $50 worth of 1 inch cooling hose, I opted for 1 inch braided vinyl.  Although this was the cheap option, it was also, I think, the more difficult option.  Vinyl on vinyl isn't exactly smooth moving fun.  Think of skin on a waterless waterside.  Same thing, minus the human screams.  In the end, I thought about lubricating the lines, but wasn't sure if I wanted all of that goop in the PVC.  In hindsight, I should have.

Inside the Fridge

With all of the lines run, I neeed a little more to run the one line to the blower, so I scabbed on an addition piece of 1 inch vinyl.  The blower runs off a 110, so i had an additional hole drilled in the fridge to run my power source.  The cable is terminated into the blower itself.  Also, the blower is situated as far from the PVC as possible so that it picks up cold air and doesn't simply return the "warmed" air coming right out of the pipe.

To preserve some fridge space, I opted to mount my CO2 cylinder on the outside of the fridge.

External Cylinder

I used two barb fittings and a 4 inch nipple to connect the cylinder to the gas manifold.  Word of warning, be sure to use teflon tape or joint compound on your connections so that CO2 doesn't escape and drain your tank.  You know, cause I've heard it sucks and from looking at the picture above, it's obvious I took a stupid shortcut.

With everything connected, here are the three cornys crammed into the fridge.

Loaded for Action

And finally, the most important part, the finished tower.

The Tower

It's pretty amazing how the tower stays cool.  So far, the pours have been great, too.  I had one frustrating leak on the center tap that I had to dissemble everything to fix.   It was a huge pain in the ass and the one reason why I was initially against the draft tower and wanted wall mounts.  Thankfully, all is well now.

I've since replaced the stock black handles with my picture handles from my outdoor jockey tank. My plan is to aways have at least two home-brews on draft and one commercial craft beer. My Arrogant Bastard is just about out, so I'm making plans on its replacement and on procuring the official tap handle too.

This project has been a long time coming and although not super cheap, I'm sure it is money I will recoup one day through either enjoyment or a home sale.  I told Zoë, to the right buyer, this would easily push them into the "buy" column.  For now, I'm just going to enjoy my pours of draft beer and relish the fact I can do it and not have to worry if the cat is headed towards the litter box, too.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

-1 Beer to Christmas

It should come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog, I can't count.  You would think the time tested and fairly universally understood process of counting down to something would be foolproof.  As a child, I managed to put up the proper ornament on the advent calendar.  At NASA, engineers understand to get to blastoff, they have to successful navigate subtracting from the number 10. Better yet, millions of people across this country watch crosswalk signals indicate in sequential numerical order, the number of seconds left before remaining in said crosswalk exponentially increases the odds of meeting a car in less than stellar circumstances.  But, no.  For some reason I put beer into a countdown and everything falls apart.

Perhaps it was originally having 14 beers for a 12 day event.  Zoë still believes I did this with purpose, but I swear it was completely accidental and in reality, probably sheds some light as to why I botched the countdown in the first place.  More than likely, it involved counting down from a number that meant I had to use not only my fingers, but the toes of my right foot.  So, here it is the 13th beer in my 12 day countdown, St. Bernardus Christmas Ale.

Beer for Christmas

I was thankful to have my brother, Matt, around to share it with me.  This is a beer I look forward to every year, so it made it even more special to have it with him.

To my most excellent readers, thanks for hanging in there with me for the countdown.  I know it's not every year you can be involved in a countdown that goes into negative numbers.  For those of you who prefer the posts of grilled food, to those of beer, fear not, I have several things on their way.

For wherever you are in the world and for whatever you celebrate, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and more importantly, cheers!

Merry Christmas

Like your grill, may your holiday be hot and bright.  Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

1 Beers to Christmas

I've been on a Belgian kick recently, so it was with great pleasure the number 2 countdown spot was a collaboration with Ommengang and the Belgian farmstead Brasserie d ‘Achouffe.  I have high praise for Ommengang, which is a US brewery dedicated to solely brewing Belgian style ales.  The Brasserie d' Achouffe I am less familiar with.  I have, however, determined they are overrun by gnomes, which makes for an amusing collaboration name: Gnomegang.

2  Beers to Christmas

If I had two words to describe this beer, they would be smooth and smooth.  It poured with a typical large head and tasted of dark fruit, cherry and apple.  There was a pleasant spice that grew on the way to the finish.  Absolutely lovely.  The high ABV really wasn't readily apparent and in the end, I was left longing for more.  My kind of beer. Now just to make sure I don't have a gnome loose in the house.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2 Beers to Christmas

With my latest run of Christmas beers, I was completely expecting another dark, malty spicy brew.  Needless to say, as I opened Buckeye's Brewing Christmas Girl, I suffered a little cognitive dissonance as a belgian ale poured out.  I didn't read the label and it was a dark bottle.  Trust me, I've made worse mistakes.

2 Beers to Christmas

The nose had the unmistakable whiff of apples.  The beer was rather effervescent, with an almost champagne like quality, but none of the dryness.  Christmas Girl is billed as a Belgian style golden ale, with no spices.  Although I found this quite drinkable, I think it was a little lacking in the fact that it was neither belgian or golden ale enough for me.  An interesting experiment, although not sure it is one I'm going to re-visit.

Fingers crossed, I have one more to go.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

3 Beers to Christmas

Wow, I can't believe we are only 3 beers to Christmas.  As I've sipped my way though each night's selection, I get a little bit more excited towards the end.  No, not because St. Nick is almost nigh, but because Zoë tends to pick the "better looking" beers towards the end.  Now in full disclosure, this is also how she picks her favorite football teams, i.e. the "better looking" quarterback.  Lately it seems that the "hot" quarterbacks are doing well, so maybe she is on to something.  However, in the case of my beer countdown, I feel totally confident in her selections, as these are some great looking bottles.

3 Beers to Christmas

Tonight's drink du jour is Yule Smith's Holiday Ale. When I think "Christmas Beer", this is pretty much what I envision.  The nose was full of dark fruit.  The taste was sweet malt, with notes of apple, cherry and cocoa.  The finish was wonderfully hoppy.  This is a great cold night, lit tree, roaring fire, sipping beer.

If 3 is great. I can't wait to see how my next two beers look…or is taste?

Relatively Wordless Wednesday

The holidays mean more readably available prime meat and for this, I am quite thankful.  I know I have way too many pictures of grilled ribeyes, but frankly, I don't care.  It is by far my favorite thing to throw on the grill and thus, my favorite thing to photograph.  If you are a vegetarian, my apologizes.

My love, the ribeye

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

4 Beers to Christmas

Tonight's a real winner…and for two of my friends (Dave & Drew, I'm talking to you) a major ingredient that made St. Patrick's Day 2010 so memorable.  It's Bellhaven's Scottish Stout.

4 Beers to Christmas

This is a great stout.  It poured black, black, black.  The nose was roasted malt and raisins.  My first taste was a river of molasses, brown sugar and chocolate.  It was all good.  At 7% ABV, it's a fabulous wintertime sipping beer.  What a delight.

Monday, December 19, 2011

5 Beers to Christmas

It's collaboration time again, but this time between two breweries I'm only peripherally familiar with, Shmaltz Brewery (Behind He'Brew, The Chose Ale) in California and from Terrapin Brewery in Georgia.  Together they teamed up for Reunion Ale '11 - A Beer for Hope and I must say, I liked it a  lot.

5 Beers to Christmas

This was a dark Imperial Ale clocking in at 7.3% ABV.  It poured with a huge head.  The beer was brewed with cocoa and it was immediately evident in the nose.  My first taste hit all of the major beer notes, cocoa, vanilla and a finish of chili peppers.  This was definitely a big malty beer, with the hops only playing minor parts to the major ingredients.  Although the peppery spice was present, it was almost in the background as much as the hops.  I do like peppers in my beer, so perhaps I was expect more after recently enjoying the spicy rides of Stone's Smoked Porter and Left Hand Brewing's Fade to Black.  That being said, this was a great beer. I need to grab another bottle before they are gone for the year.  Let's hope this is a collaboration that continues.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

6 Beers to Christmas

Ahhh, gimmicky Santa beer time.  I've really had an on/off feel towards a lot of these "Santa/Holiday" beers.  Some are good and some suck.  In fact, if it wasn't for their Christmasy themed names/labels, they probably wouldn't sell a whole lot.

6 Beers to Christmas

Tonight's edition to the beer Santa line is Pickled Santa.  I would consider this a traditional english pub ale.  It has a rather full mouthfeel with just a hint of hops and also, just a hint of cinnamon.  For a holiday spiced ale, I think it's quite unremarkable. Santa may be pickled, but I'm not tickled.  On the other hand, for a standard "pub pint", I found it pretty good.  Funny what a name can do to expectations.

7 Beers to Christmas

I was really wanting to "fresh hop" a batch of brew this fall to commemorate my first hop harvest.  Sadly, it didn't happen.  Thankfully, I've got something Great Divide to hold me over till next year's harvest.

7 Beers to Christmas

As soon as I cracked the top, the scent of the hoppy, piney, grapefruity nose rolled out and hit me like a gut punch.  My first taste was another hop explosion.  This time the grassy character of the hops really popped out.  Although it was all hops, I felt the maltiness of the beer really played well as it carried the bitterness down my tongue like a luge ride.  A great beer.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What's on the Grill #234: Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I love goat cheese and as many know, I can't stand boneless, skinless chicken breasts (BSCBs).  So, bringing these two polar opposite foods together into one meal ought to make an "average" meal, or at least that's my thinking.

Actually, the process of stuffing, breading and indirect grilling BSCBs makes them much more exciting than direct grilled BSCBs.  So, in reality, this should be an above average meal, or at least it had better be.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 oz goat cheese
2 t unsalted butter
1 1/2 t minced chives
1 t minced parsley leaves
1/4 t minced thyme leaves
1/4 t fresh lemon juice
1/4 t minced garlic
1 cup flour
1 T Essence (ye ole Emeril's magic seasoning…you can make your own or buy some at the store)
1 large egg
2 t water
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Place a chicken breast down on a cutting board.  With a sharp knife, cut a slit, horizontal to the work surface, through the center of the breast.


Start about 3/4 of an inch down from one end and stop about the same distance at the other end.  You want your cut deep, but not all the way through the other side.


When done, you should have a "pocket".


In a bowl, mix together the goat cheese, butter, chives, parsley, thyme, lemon juice & garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stuff equal amounts of the goat cheese mixture into each of the four chicken breasts.  Once stuffed, seal the breast closed with your fingers, which by then, will be gummed up with goat cheese stuffing.

The Stuff

Prepare the breading station by placing the flour and essence in one bowl and the egg, beaten, with water, in another.

Individually, dredge the chicken with flour, then dip in the egg and then back again into the flour.  Shake off any excess.

Flour Bath

In a skillet over medium heat, add some oil and then brown both side of the breasts, cooking only about 2-3 minutes per side.  From there, place the chicken breasts on a grill at indirect medium and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the breast is cooked through.

On the Grill

This was really a pretty nice way of dealing with BSCBs. The herbed up goat cheese and grilling of the breasts made this a chicken meal I can willing return to.  In fact, served with risotto, it may be one I go back to sooner than later.  When you also consider how easy it was, I think I definitely have something in the above average category, even with those dreaded BSCBs.

Goat Cheese Stuffed & Grilled Chicken Breasts

Friday, December 16, 2011

8 Beers to Christmas

Tonight we are heading back to the UK, which is more than we can say for our holiday travels.  Some of my best memories are from spending Christmas on the Isle of Wight.  Although we are state side in '11, I'm thrilled my beer countdown can take me back across the pond.

8 Beers to Christmas

#8 is Black Sheep Brewery's Riggwelter Strong Yorkshire Ale.  Riggwelter is an amalgomation of words which refers to a sheep's inability to move from its back to its feet without help.  A great name for a strong ale and thankfully, a position I've never been in…or at least will admit to.

The nose was full of malt and dark fruit.  My initial taste was again, full malt and little hops with hits of brown sugar and toffee.  This was a great winter beer.  Much like my holidays on IOW, incredibly memorable!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

9 Beers to Christmas

For #9, we are heading to England.  It's Morocco Ale, from Daleside brewery, creators of the annual favorite, Old Leg Over.  I am certainly partial of beers from the United Kingdom, especially when you consider their history.  According to legend, Morocco Ale is based on a recipe over 300 years old and traces itself back to the roots of King Charles II.  All well and good, but how does it taste?


Actually, quite good.  The nose was pure raisin.  It poured with very little head retention.  My first taste immediately reminded me of Christmas Cake, which then yielded itself to more raisins, toffee and a malty finish.  There was almost no detectable hops.  This is a big malty beer and for my tastebuds, that is great.  The only thing missing was a pub with really low ceilings, old wooden chairs, a uneven stone floor and a roaring hot fire.  Oh, and more Morocco Ale.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

10 Beers to Christmas

Watch out, it's collaboration time, as it's the joint effort of three west coast breweries: The Bruery, Elysian & Stone.  Admittedly, I was pretty excited about La Citrueille Celeste de Citracado…which, translated, means The Heavenly Pumpkin of Citracado.  Citracado happens to be the name of the road Stone Brewing Company is located on in Escondido, CA.  I only know that because I still have it pinned on my iPhone and long to return sometime very soon, preferably when Anne is driving us and it's Beer & Cigar Dinner Night!

10 Beers to Christmas

Anyway, wow, what a crazy beer.  It poured a dark mahogany color with a head that disappeared about as fast as it appeared…kind of like in a "whack a mole" game.  The nose was fairly malty.  My first taste immediately reminded me of fresh bread, which then yielded to a spicy lemony hit which faded to a maple/spice note that hung on my lips.  It was good, but completely not what I was expecting.  I'm not really sure where the pumpkin and yams were, perhaps it was the bready/dough like taste.  Wherever it was, it certainly wasn't that typical pumpkin spice hit I think of with pumpkin beers.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

11 Beers to Christmas

I think this is the first beer I've had from RJ Rockers in South Carolina and wow, what a beer.  It's a spice laden pale ale.  In fact, it has so much spice, I think the hops are totally lost.  In the nose, I can pull out out cinnamon, nutmeg & clove and then, on the first taste, there they are again, the trifecta of holiday spices.  The finish tends to turn almost tart, which finally exists with a hint of pepper on my lips.

11 Beers to Christmas

First Snow clocks in at 6% ABV, and goes down like 3.2%.  I could definitely drink another, but truthfully, I think it's a kind of low contender in the world of holiday beers.  Then again, if I was opting for a really long session of spicy beers, this would completely fit the bill.

Monday, December 12, 2011

12 Beers to Christmas

Wow, it's hard to believe it is that time of year again and by that "time of year", I don't mean shopping or snow or caroling, I mean my annual Christmas beer countdown.  Four years ago, Zoe started the idea of getting me 12 different/new/good beers I could use as my own little beer advent calendar.

How many days to Christmas, you ask?  Well by my count, Stone, Founders, Samuel Smith's & Youngs…4, to be precise.

It is really is hard to believe this is my fourth year of "drinking down", but pictures don't tell a lie.  Here's a recap of 2009:

12 Beers to Christmas

Skip ahead to 2011 and Zoe has another great selection. First up, Abita's Christmas Ale.  Although I am familiar with Abita, this is the first time I have had their Christmas Ale.  My lack of experience doesn't matter, as they change the recipe every year.  It really is like Christmas.

Abita Christmas Ale

The 2011 poured a really warm reddish color with a one finger head.  My first sip was an immediate hit of roasted malt, with a little bit of carmel.  This was quirky followed by a peppery hoppy finish, which just seemed to linger the right amount of time.  This is definitely a strong ale and hopefully, a strong sign of beers to come!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Relatively Wordless Wednesday

My three friends, spud, sprout & pig:

Sprout, Spud & Pig