Friday, June 10, 2011

Whole Foods Friday: Great Grilling

Whole Foods Friday is what I'm calling my new partnership with the local Whole Foods stores in Boulder County. Whole Foods lets me shop for what I need for any recipe I want to make, and I post the results here. Whole Foods also posts my recipes on their Boulder blog. It's a fun project.

The weather pushed me outdoors to the grill, so that was my goal when I went shopping. First on the agenda was meat, and I decided on some ribeye steaks. I knew that I wanted to cook them very simply, but also wanted something a little special to go with along with them.

I considered a compound butter or a bit of cheese, but I wasn't set on anything in particular. Then I spotted Urbani Truffle Thrills in the cheese section. I'd heard that Urbani was a reliable brand of truffle products, so I was intrigued. There was a white truffle version and a black truffle version. I opted for the white.

I cruised through the produce section for vegetables and picked up a few more supplies. I decided that my dinner deserved a special drink to go with it, so I went to the Whole Foods liquor store where I presented the staff with a challenge. I was grilling red meat, but red wine and I don't always get along. If I was buying a bottle, I wanted a white wine.

After a short consultation between staff members, I was led to the Sauvignon Blanc section where we discussed the options. I was asked if there was a particular price point I was after. I said no, but I was always looking for a good value. I was really pleased that the wine suggested was a mid-priced wine rather than one at the high end of the range.

A rather inexpensive wine was also in the running, but the ribeyes deserved something a little better. I figured I could come back for the more frugal choice for a different meal.

Meat Grilling Tips:

There are two schools of thought when it comes to grilling meat. One is to sear first and finish cooking on low heat. The other is to cook slowly first to the proper temperature, then crank up the heat and sear it last. I'm not going to weigh in on that controversy at the moment, since I haven't tried them both side-by-side. All I have to say is that I've grilled both ways and either way works.

There are a few things, however, that I think are important.

First, let the meat come up to room temperature before grilling. How long this will take depends on the thickness of the meat. If you don't have time for this pre-warming, you won't ruin the meat, but it's something I always try to do when possible.

Second, salt the meat before cooking. It seems to work best if you salt a little early rather than right before grilling. Fifteen minutes is sufficient. Some people like to salt the meat a day in advance. A good steak doesn't need much more than salt, and then some pepper, if you like it. The pepper doesn't need to go on early, but it's convenient to do the seasoning all at once so you're not running out to the grill with the pepper mill after the steaks are already on the fire.

Third, and particularly when you're cooking a thick cut of meat, use a meat thermometer. It's a little more difficult to control the temperature on a grill than when you're cooking on the stove or in the oven. Even if you're using a gas grill, setting the grill to medium doesn't mean much if there's fat dripping from the food and you have flare-ups adding to the heat.

Fourth, for a thick cut of meat, you might want to treat it a little bit like a roast. A thin steak can cook completely through on an open grill in a very short time. But a thicker cuts need the heat to penetrate to the center of the meat without overcooking the outside, just like a roast. The best way to accomplish that is to lower the heat and cover the grill and let the meat come up to temperature more slowly and gently.

Fifth, remove the meat before it reaches your target cooking temperature, and let it rest before cutting. The meat temperature will continue rising after you take it off the grill, so you need to account for that. Figure that the temperature will rise by at least another five degrees before it begins falling again. And just like a roast, you want to let the meat rest or risk having all the juices run out when you slice the meat. That's true whether you're slicing the steaks for serving, or whether you're serving whole steaks.

Resting time depends on the thickness of the meat, but figure anywhere from 5-15 minutes. Five minutes is a little short, but better than nothing. If you want to be very precise, wait until the temperature in the center of the meat stops rising and begins dropping.

Grilled Ribeye Dinner

2 ribeye steaks, about 1 1/2 inches thick
4 yellow squash
1 pound baby bella mushrooms
Balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Urbani Truffle Thrills
Salt and pepper, to taste

If you'll be using wooden skewers for the vegetables, soak them in warm water ahead of time. If you're using metal skewers, just have them handy. You don't need skewers, but it makes turning the vegetables much easier.

Bring the meat out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. If you didn't pre-salt the meat earlier, do so now. Add pepper to taste.

Clean the squash and mushrooms. Cut the squash into chunks approximately the same size as the mushrooms. Place the mushrooms and squash into a plastic bag (or you can use a bowl, if you prefer). Drizzle with just enough balsamic vinegar to coat the vegetables. (Note: this is not the time to break out your super-expensive balsamic. An inexpensive balsamic is just fine.) Add an equal amount of olive oil. You don't need to drown the vegetables - just coat them. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The longer you leave the vegetables marinating, the more flavor they will take on. Fifteen minutes is sufficient; a few hours will add much more flavor. You can let them sit overnight, but the vegetables will take on a more "pickled" flavor and texture.

If the vegetables are in a plastic bag, turn them over occasionally to make sure they're marinating evenly. If they're in a bowl, stir as needed. If you're marinating over night, put them in the refrigerator; otherwise you can leave them at room temperature. Before grilling, put the vegetables on skewers (if you're using them). Skewers aren't necessary, but it makes turning the vegetables much easier.

The nice thing about grilling on a large grill is that you can have hot zones and cooler zones. My gas grill has three burners, and it's not unusual for me to have one completely off and use that as a resting zone where food can stay warm without overcooking. On a small grill, you can still set up hot and warm zones, but you'll have less space and probably less temperature variation.

The nice thing about the vegetables I chose for this menu is that they can be served at any doneness, from briefly warmed to fully cooked. You can put them on at the last minute to get grill marks and just a little cooking, or you can leave them on the grill much longer to get fully cooked. It's up to you.

If you're opting for the high-heat-first cooking method, sear the steaks first on high heat, then move them to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking. Put the vegetable skewers on to get grill marks on both sides of the vegetables, turning as needed. Then move them to a cooler area (or, if you're using a gas grill, lower the temperature.)

If you have a remote temperature probe that is grill-safe, insert it into the center of one of your steaks. Close the grill and cook the meat to your desired temperature and the vegetables to your desired temperature. If the vegetables are cooking too quickly for your taste, you can remove them from the grill and put them back on to warm up just before serving.

If you want to try starting at a lower heat, the instructions are the opposite. Start everything at a lower temperature, cook until just done, then sear very quickly at high heat.

Don't wander too far from the grill - be ready to move the meat and vegetables if you get flare-up and hot spots, and move them around as needed for even cooking. Even thick steaks cook quickly, depending, of course, on your preferred doneness. It could be as little as 10 minutes, including searing time. Check the steaks early and remember that the temperature will continue to rise after you take them off the grill.

When the meat and vegetables are done remove them from the grill cover with foil, and let them rest before serving. Okay, the vegetables don't need to rest, but it's convenient to take them off the grill while you're working on other things away from the grill. Cover them with foil and they'll stay at serving temperature for quite a while.

The Truffle Thrills simply needs to be heated for serving. It's a complete sauce, with cream, mushrooms and truffles. Serve on the side or drizzle over the meat before serving.

And yes the white wine paired very nicely with the meat.


Tupper Cooks! said...

Great tips Donna- I'm enjoying this series. Looks like grilled veggies and steak are on the menu tomorrow at camp!

mia xara said...

Great! Now I have a craving for a midnight BBQ...haha..Thank you for posting all these tips,Donna!Just in time for BBQ season..XO

Eggies said...

Wow, I hope we have a time this coming weekend to have a BBQ picnic with my family.. Thanks for inspiring me.. :)

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