eggplant rollatini

The only thing I can remember cooking for the last several years that turned out so badly that not only did I refuse to eat it, but even Dave did, is grilled eggplant. I don’t remember what went wrong – cook time too long? cook temp too low? too high? salt, don’t salt, cut thicker cut thinner, I don’t know – but the resulting mush of eggplant goo is all too vivid still.

I hadn’t eaten eggplant since. I’ve seen recipes in which every other component sounded like something I would enjoy, but as soon as I spotted that nefarious eggplant in the ingredient list, I scrolled right on past. I knew I’d have to try eggplant again someday. But I wasn’t ready then.

Now I am. Cheese and tomato sauce is never a bad way to ease into an ingredient. Each grilled slice of eggplant is rolled with a slice of cheese, then topped with a quick marinara sauce and heated until the flavors meld and the cheese softens. For me, they were too messy to serve as a hand-held hors d’œuvre, but instead made for a very nice plated first course. That’s right, a recipe with eggplant was very nice. I’m one step closer toward liking eggplant again.

One year ago: Pasta with Baked Ricotta and Sweet Tomato Sauce
Two years ago: Vegetarian Chili
Three years ago: Salmon Pesto Pasta

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Eggplant Rollatini (adapted from Cara’s Cravings)

I just stick a pair of kitchen shears into the can of tomatoes and chop away a bit. It’s coarser than a puree, but still just fine for sauce. If you want it smoother, puree the tomatoes in the food processor.

We grilled the eggplant; I haven’t personally tried the roasting technique recommended in the original Gourmet recipe.

4 small Italian eggplants or 2 regular eggplants
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, chopped, undrained
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
16 thin slices provolone cheese
½ ounce (¼ cup) finely grated parmesan cheese

1. Peel 2 opposite long sides of each eggplant. Cut each eggplant lengthwise (to form long skinny ovals) into 1/4-inch slices. Sprinkle both sides of the slices with kosher salt; set aside for 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until it flows like water when the pan is tilted; add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 8-12 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in the basil.

3. Prepare a grill for direct-heat cooking over moderate heat (or line a large baking sheet with foil and heat the oven to 450 degrees). Brush any remaining salt crystals from the eggplant; pat the slices dry and spray both sides with nonstick spray. Grill the eggplant, turning once, until tender, about 4 minutes total (or bake for 20 minutes, turning once). Transfer to a work surface.

4. Top each slice of eggplant with a slice of cheese; starting at a short end, roll the eggplant and cheese into a spiral and seal with a toothpick. Repeat with the remaining eggplant and cheese. Arrange the eggplant spirals in a shallow baking pan and top with the sauce; bake until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.

whiskey compound butter

I love grilled steaks – who doesn’t? – but I do miss the fond left behind on the pan when you pan-fry steaks. Nothing beats the sauce you can make by adding some alcohol, herbs, and cream to the scraped up bits of meat left on the pan. The grilling equivalent is compound butters, and I won’t say no to those either.

I also don’t say no to whiskey – at least when it’s mixed with butter to top my steak. Between the shallots, alcohol, and herbs, this compound butter has nearly everything my favorite pan sauces do. And unlike a pan sauce, which requires some last minute frenzy, a compound butter can be made hours (days! weeks! months!) in advance. Most importantly, it’s accompanying a beautiful charcoal-grilled steak.

One year ago: Twice-Baked Potato Cups
Two years ago: Banana and Peanut Butter Stuffed French Toast

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Whiskey Compound Butter
(adapted from epicurious.com)

Makes enough to top 6-8 steaks

1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon whiskey or bourbon
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon minced parsley
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon sea salt
black pepper to taste

Combine the shallot and whiskey; let rest for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, add the remaining ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix well. On a 12-by-8 inch square of wax paper, drop butter in spoonfuls to form a log. Roll butter in wax paper and smooth out to form a round log. Refrigerate until hard and easy to slice into round, coin-shaped pieces, at least three hours. Serve with grilled steak.

grilled corn salad

It’s green chile season! My sister recently told me that, for her, fall in New Mexico means green chiles roasting, the state fair, and the Balloon Fiesta. Fall isn’t so bad out here, even without rolling hills of trees that turn brown, red, pink, maroon, orange, yellow. I will miss the crisp air, pumpkins, apples, and chill days of fall on the East coast, but when I was out there, I missed green chile. So I win either way.

The only problem is that I tend to get into a hoarding pattern with my annual green chile supply. I buy them every fall when they come into season, roast them, and freeze them to last until the following September. And then, aside from the occasional huevos rancheros, I mostly ignore them, because what if I run out? This is a mindset I’m determined to get out of. Not only is that not the kind of life I want to lead, but, as Jen warns, they seem to get hotter as they’re frozen for longer periods.

This corn salad doesn’t even call for green chile, but I had some leftover from the previous day’s burgers, so I went ahead and added them. They’ve been in the freezer for about a year, and maybe that’s why the dish ended up so, um, kind of painful to eat, actually. The heat was somewhat dulled by the dairy in the recipe, and once I smooshed the corn into a tortilla with some flank steak, it was downright edible. Not that the corn even needed extra flavor, what with having been grilled and mixed with chili powder, cilantro, lime juice and salty cotija. But I need to use up some of these chiles in my freezer to make room for the new crop!

One year ago: Pickled Coleslaw
Two years ago: Sausage and Red Pepper Hash

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Grilled Corn Salad (from Bobby Flay via Savory Spicy Sweet)

I used a not-nonstick skillet on the stove instead of a cast iron pan on the grill, and I substituted greek yogurt for the crème fraiche. And I added an ounce or two of very spicy diced Hatch green chiles, plus some diced red pepper and red onion.

8 ears fresh corn, silks removed, husk on, soaked in cold water 30 minutes
canola oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup creme fraiche
2 limes, juiced and 1 zested
1 tablespoons ancho chili powder
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
¼ cup grated cotija cheese

1. Heat grill to high. Grill corn until charred on all sides, 10 or so minutes. Take off the grill and remove the kernels with a sharp knife. While you are cutting the corn, put a cast iron skillet on the grill to heat.

2. Add the corn and the remaining ingredients to the hot pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until creamy and heated through. Serve.

beer-marinated flank steak

Generally, I’m not a fan of making marinades. I enjoy the flavor, but something about chopping and measuring ingredients just to put them in a bag with some meat for a few hours isn’t satisfying for me. I like the part of cooking that involves heat, when things get soft or crisp, turn golden brown, intensify in flavor. I like the part of cooking that involves eating. The first step of marinating doesn’t include any of the fun stuff.

At least, in this recipe, it involves beer. And very little chopping and not much measuring. This is my kind of marinade.

It tastes like my kind of marinade too. While the beer in the recipe caught my eye first, it was the Worcestershire sauce that reeled me in, because I love the stuff. The combination of the two made for a flank steak that was not just great-tasting, but was a beautiful burnished brown on the outside with the perfect amount of pink inside. My first time cooking flank steak was a definite success, which in retrospect, should have been obvious from the beginning, because beer makes everything better, even making marinades.

One year ago: Quick Baking Powder Pizza Crust
Two years ago: Mashed Potatoes with Kale

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Beer-Marinated Flank Steak (from Bon Appetit via Apple a Day)

Serves 6

2 1⅓-pound flank steaks
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Coarse kosher salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1¼ cups thinly sliced green onions (about 6)
1 12-ounce bottle dark beer
½ cup Worcestershire sauce

1. Using sharp knife, lightly score flank steaks about ⅛ inch deep on both sides in a crisscross pattern at ½-inch intervals. Place steaks in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Sprinkle steaks on both sides with oregano and cumin and generous amount of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle olive oil over both sides of steaks, rubbing oil and spices into meat. Add green onions, beer, and Worcestershire sauce, turning steaks several times to coat both sides. Cover and chill at least 3 hours, turning occasionally. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.)

2. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush grill rack lightly with oil. Grill steaks to desired doneness, 3 to 4 minutes total per side for medium-rare, turning steaks ¼ turn after 1½ minutes to form crisscross grill marks, if desired. Transfer steaks to cutting board; let rest 5 minutes. Thinly slice steaks across grain. Transfer to platter and serve.

yogurt-marinated lamb kebabs

I actually made this back in February, but I figured most of the world was covered in snow in February and thus, not doing much grilling. Haha, suckers, grilling season lasts year round in the desert!

Well, year round unless there’s an extra dose of heat in the summer, in which case you’re huddled inside cozied up with your air conditioner. The spring isn’t so good either, because you have to dodge the shingles that the wind blows off the neighbor’s roof. And when it does rain in the summer, it tends to be right at dinner time. So maybe the desert isn’t any better for grilling than anywhere else.

But the heat, rain, and wind are worth it, because you get meals like this. You just can’t do this with a broiler. The lamb is so tender and flavorful, tzatziki makes everything better, and pita cooked right on the grill is becoming one of my favorite things ever. Forget perfect grilling weather – this meal is worth grilling in the snow for.

One year ago: Experiments with chocolate chip cookies
Two years ago: Comparison of three white cake recipes

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Yogurt-Marinated Lamb Kebabs (from Ina Garten via Smitten Kitchen)

1 pound plain yogurt (regular or lowfat)
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for brushing grill
1 teaspoon lemon zest
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
5 tablespoons fresh whole rosemary leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds top round lamb
1 red onion

1. Combine the yogurt, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a large, non-reactive bowl. Cut the lamb in 1½-inch cubes and add it to the yogurt, making sure it is covered with the marinade. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for up to two days.

2. Prepare a medium-hot grill. Cut the red onion into 8 pieces and separate each piece into three or four sections. Loosely thread three or four pieces of lamb onto skewers alternately with sections of onion. Sprinkle both sides of the lamb cubes with salt and pepper. Place the skewers on the hot grill and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, turning two or three times, until the lamb is medium-rare. Serve with grilled pitas and tzatziki.

Tzatziki (adapted more liberally from Ina Garten and Smitten Kitchen)

1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
14 ounces Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1½ teaspoons minced garlic
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Place the cucumber in a strainer set over a medium bowl and add the salt. Set aside for at least 15 minutes to drain. Transfer the cucumber to a clean kitchen towel and squeeze dry.

2. Combine the cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, vinegar, dill, garlic, and pepper.

grilled potato and vegetable salad

Last year I said, “You know what always makes me twitchy? Hearing people talk about how they just have sooo many zucchini or tomatoes or whatever from their garden.”

Squeeeee!!!! And now I am one of those people! I am I am I am I am!!!

Okay, sort of. I have hundreds of tomatoes growing, but they won’t. turn. red. Aaargh! I only had enough green beans for one meal, but it looks like there will be a steady supply of jalapenos and chile peppers starting soon. I wouldn’t say that I get more zucchini than I know what to do with – my single plant offers about one squash per week (after being suitably sexed up of course), which is just right for us.

And it’s just right in this dish. When I’m cooking something on the grill, it always makes more sense to me to make the whole meal on the grill. It can be difficult to find interesting grilled side dishes though. I had made grilled potatoes and grilled vegetables many times before, but mixing the two together and adding dressing to make a salad was more fun than eating them separately. It’s a perfect side for so many meat dishes, and it’s the perfect way to use my one zucchini per week.

One year ago: Tortellini Soup with Carrots, Peas, and Leeks
Two years ago: Summer Rolls

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Grilled Potato and Vegetable Salad (adapted from Bon Apetit via epicurious)

Serves 4 to 6

You can also try microwaving the oiled potatoes in a covered bowl for a few minutes before grilling, if you’re concerned about the centers cooking all the way through. Sometimes I do this; sometimes I don’t.

2 pounds asparagus, red onions, mushrooms, summer squash, and/or red peppers
8 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, sliced ½-inch thick
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon fresh herbs (such as parsley, chives, and/or basil)
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Prepare the vegetables – trim the asparagus; cut the onions into ½-inch slices, keeping the rings together; leave the mushrooms whole; cut the squash on a bias into half-inch slices; cut the bottom and top off the peppers and cut the middle section in half length-wise. Season the vegetables and potatoes with salt and pepper and brush with olive oil.

2. Whisk the lemon juice, shallot, herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the extra virgin olive oil.

3. Prepare a grill to medium heat. Lay the vegetables in a single layer on the rack and grill until browned and tender, about 8 minutes per side for potatoes, 6 minutes per side for peppers and onions, 4 minutes per side for mushrooms and squash.

4. Chop the cooked vegetables and potatoes into ½-inch cubes; place them in a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

tacos al pastor

I try not to be picky. I like to call myself ‘particular’ – about the quality of ingredients and the care put into the preparation of a dish; Dave calls it persnickety. But eliminating whole categories of food from my diet because of a random childhood prejudice seems like a perfect way to cheat myself out of great food; not to mention how annoying pickiness is to the people around you. I’ve known people who wouldn’t eat hot liquids, eggs, anything with vinegar, seafood, mushrooms, you name it. I will eat pretty much anything – even green peppers, if I have to.

But there are some things I have trouble with (even besides green peppers), and fruit with meat is one of them. Those chicken salads with grapes in them don’t sound appetizing at all, and other than the occasional strawberry and spinach salad, fruit with lettuce doesn’t tempt me. But pineapple with pork is a combination I can hardly get enough of, especially when the pineapple is prepared to its maximum potential – grilled.

There is one thing to beware of when it comes to pineapple and meat though. Pineapple makes meat mushy. It has an enzyme in it that doesn’t just tenderize meat, it nearly dissolves it. The original recipe recommended marinating the pork for up to a day, but I, and the epicurious reviewers, knew better. I left the pineapple out of the marinade until we started heating up the grill. It was perfect, resulting in pork so tender it reminded me of dark chicken meat, but without even a hint of mush.

With a smorsgasbord of toppings, each bite of taco hit every flavor note: sweet pineapple-marinated pork, spicy salsa, tart onions, creamy avocado, all combined on corn tortillas, because everything is better on a tortilla – even meat and fruit mixtures.

One year ago: Crockpot Chicken Broth
Two years ago: Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

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Tacos al Pastor
(adapted slightly from Bon Apetit via epicurious)

I can never get corn tortillas to be soft and malleable enough to fold into tacos without deep-frying them. Heating them on the grill made them soft enough to fold, but they were too chewy. Maybe if I wrapped them in foil and heated them in the grill? Or brushed them with oil before heating them? Enlighten me.

1 pineapple, peeled, cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick rounds
1 large onion, halved
½ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
¼ cup guajillo chile powder
3 garlic cloves, halved
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large or 2 small chipotle chiles and 1 to 2 teaspoons adobo from canned chipotle chiles in adobo
2½-to 3-pounds boneless pork loin, cut into ½-inch slices

Garnishes:
½ red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice from 1-2 limes
½ cup minced cilantro
Smoky Two-Chile Salsa (recipe follows)
1 avocado, sliced, mashed (with salt and lime juice), or diced
corn tortillas
lime wedges

1. Coarsely chop 2 pineapple slices, removing core; thoroughly puree in a blender. Pour the pineapple juice into a storage container and chill until ready to use. Cover and chill the remaining pineapple.

2. Coarsely chop half the onion; place chopped onion in blender. Add the orange juice, vinegar, chile powder, garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, and chipotle chiles; puree marinade until smooth. Place the sliced pork in a large resealable plastic bag. Add the marinade and the seal the bag, releasing excess air. Chill at least 4 hours and up to 1 day. About half an hour before the grill is ready, add the reserved pineapple juice to the marinating meat.

3. Mix the onion and lime juice; set aside. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro.

4. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill the pineapple slices until warm and slightly charred, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Grill the pork, with some marinade still clinging to it, until it’s slightly charred and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Grill some onion until charred. Transfer the pineapple and pork to a work surface; chop pineapple into ½-inch cubes, discarding cores. Chop (or shred) the pork. Transfer the pork and pineapple to a platter or serving bowl; toss to combine. Grill the tortillas until warm and slightly charred, about 10 seconds per side.

5. Serve the pork and pineapple with the pickled onion mixture, Smoky Two-Chile Salsa, avocado, warm tortillas, and lime wedges.

Smoky Two-Chile Salsa

8 large dried guajillo chiles or New Mexico chiles, stemmed, seeded, coarsely torn
2 cups hot water
½ medium onion, halved lengthwise through core end
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon adobo from canned chipotles in adobo
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice from 1 lime
coarse kosher salt

1. Place the torn chiles in a bowl. Add the hot water and soak for at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain the chiles, reserving the soaking liquid.

2. Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic to the dry skillet; cook until browned in spots, about 6 minutes for garlic and 10 minutes for onion. (I grilled the onion instead of browning it in a skillet, which I recommend as long as you have time to make the salsa right before serving.) Trim the core from the onion; place the onion and garlic in a blender. Add the drained chiles, 1 cup soaking liquid, 1 chipotle chile, 1 teaspoon adobo, cilantro, and lime juice; puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, seasoning to taste with coarse salt.

garlic-mustard glazed skewers

My parents went to Bolivia, Hungary, Hawaii, New Zealand, Romania, Costa Rica, China, Panama, and Peru, and all I got was these lousy spices. Okay, actually, they’re pretty nice spices, especially the saffron (and three mystery spices) my mom just brought back from the Istanbul spice market. Besides, when your parents go on 2-3 international trips per year, you don’t need a cheap T-shirt from each place. Spices, tea, and the occasional funky hat for Dave are perfect.

And it was a good thing I had a random set of spices from various foreign countries, because I was out of my normal paprika supply, and it would have been very very sad to miss out on this recipe. My gosh, this was good. Mustardy, garlicky, vinegary, herby – so many complimentary flavors.

Even better, I stumbled upon this weird grilled potato and vegetable salad to go with it that I was expecting to be just edible, and what do you know, it ended up being fantastic.  In all, another Saturday night dinner that knocked my socks off. That’s happened more and more since we got the grill, and I am not complaining one bit.

One year ago: Seafood Lasagna
Two years ago: Vanilla Ice Cream

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Garlic-Mustard Glaze (adapted from Bobby Flay via Smitten Kitchen)

Makes about ¾ cup of glaze, or enough to cover and baste 2 pounds of meat

I used pork, but Deb used chicken (I think) and Bobby Flay uses beef tenderloin. Just be sure you choose a cut that is appropriate for fast cooking. Your cooking time will depend on the type of meat you use.

¼ cup whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons Spanish paprika
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds meat, cubed

1. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients except the meat. Reserve ¼ cup of the glaze; add the meat to the remaining glaze, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours before using.

2. Prepare a medium-hot fire. Grill the meat, turning three times and brushing with the reserved glaze, for 4 to 8 minutes, until golden brown, slightly charred, and cooked to your desired level of doneness. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes before serving.

jamaican jerk chicken

Sometimes (most times) I get cranky after going to the grocery store here. It isn’t a bad little store, but it just doesn’t have the selection I had in Philadelphia. I’m spoiled. I miss good seafood and more cheese options than I know what to do with and organic produce and looseleaf tea.

One thing I do have available now, in my southern New Mexican town, is good tortillas, half an aisle dedicated to salsa, dependably perfect avocados, and a selection of fresh chiles. (Okay, so here’s another reason why I get cranky at the grocery store. They were out of Scotch Bonnets, and I had to go to Walmart, and I hate going to multiple stores, and I hate Walmart. Stop being out of stuff, grocery store.)

Not that jerk sauce has many chiles in it – when you’re talking about Scotch bonnets, you’ll only be needing a couple, even if they are tiny. They pack a powerful heat punch, and when combined with all sorts of other flavorful ingredients – rum, malt vinegar, onions, garlic thyme fall spices sugar pepper – they make one heck of a flavorful sauce.

The combination of ingredients was new for me, so I was excited. And I think that’s something I need to keep in mind when I get frustrated about how I don’t have the variety of food choices I used to – that even if I can’t find some ingredients and I can’t make some dishes as a result, there are still an infinite amount of great meals I can make by mixing up the food I can find in different ways. Jerk chicken is a perfect example of a dish that uses readily available ingredients to make something that is not only restaurant-quality good, but is interesting and fun as well.

One year ago: Mushroom Salad
Two years ago: Pigs in a Blanket

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Jamaican Jerk Chicken (from Bon Apetit, but really epicurious)

8 servings

3 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons water
½ cup malt vinegar
10 green onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 Scotch bonnet chiles or habanero chiles with seeds, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 teaspoons ground allspice
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons soy sauce
about 6 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts
½ cup fresh lime juice

1. Boil rum and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan for 3 minutes.

2. Transfer the rum mixture to a blender; add the vinegar, green onions, garlic, thyme, chiles, oil, spices, salt, pepper, and sugar; blend until almost smooth. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the jerk seasoning to a small bowl; mix in the ketchup and soy sauce to make the sauce. (Jerk seasoning and sauce can be made 1 day ahead; cover separately and refrigerate.)

3. Arrange the chicken in a large roasting pan or baking dish. Pour the lime juice over the chicken; turn to coat. Spoon the jerk seasoning over the chicken and rub it into the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, turning occasionally. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

4. Prepare a two-level grill (more coals on one side than the other). Remove the chicken from the jerk seasoning marinade; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, skin side down, on the hot side of the grill; grill for about 2 minutes, until seared. Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill and continue to cook, turning occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the breasts measure 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer and the legs and thighs read 165 degrees. Serve with the jerk sauce.

I was excited to find plantains when I made this, so maybe I should stop complaining about my grocery store. I sliced and grilled them, unpeeled. They were fantastic dipped in the jerk sauce – kind of like dipping French fries in ketchup, only more…more everything.  More good.

turkey burgers

Working full-time sure is…time-consuming, isn’t it? I haven’t figured out yet what has to give. (First choice – chores!) Cooking, blogging, photography, gardening, exercising…sleeping. It’s hard to balance everything. It’s possible that I should cut down on meals that require grinding your own meat, huh?

Well, I would consider that, except that these burgers were so perfect. I made beef burgers a week later (also with home-ground meat – stop the insanity!), and I enjoyed the turkey burgers so much more. And I love beef, so it wasn’t a prejudice.

But once you add good buns and your various toppings, the turkey burgers don’t taste significantly different from beef burgers. These have about half the fat of good beef burgers, so that’s another advantage, although what I mostly care about is that I thought their texture was smoother and more cohesive, and their taste was at least as good.

Grinding your own meat isn’t as hard as it might sound, and you almost definitely have the equipment. All you have to do is cut your meat into chunks, freeze it until it’s firm, and process it in the food processor. Then you mix in a few tasty additions, sear them up in a pan and enjoy a perfect burger. Make some extra to freeze, just in case Future You has a rough day at work and needs an easy meal.

One year ago: Croissants (Tartine)
Two years ago: Franks and Beans

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Turkey Burgers (not really adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

Cooks Illustrated recommends 6 ounce burgers; I prefer mine significantly smaller. If you do too, don’t forget to reduce the cooking time.

2 pounds skin-on, bone-in turkey thighs or 1½ pounds skinless, boneless thighs
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

1. If using skin-on, bone-in turkey thighs, remove the meat from from the skin and bones. Cut the thighs into 1-inch chunks and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze until somewhat firm, about 30 minutes.

2. Working in 3 batches, place the semifrozen turkey chunks in a food processor fitted with the steel blade; pulse until the largest pieces are no bigger than 1/8-inch, twelve to fourteen 1-second pulses.

3. Transfer the ground meat to a medium bowl. Stir in the salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard until blended and divide the meat into 4 portions. Lightly toss one portion from hand to hand to form a ball, then lightly flatten the ball with your fingertips into a 1-inch-thick patty. Repeat with the remaining portions.

4. Heat a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron or stainless steel with an aluminum core) over medium heat until very hot, 4 to 5 minutes. Swirl the oil in the pan to coat the bottom. Add the burgers and cook over medium heat without moving them until the bottom of each is dark brown and crusted, about 5 minutes. Turn the burgers over; continue to cook until the bottom is light brown but not yet crusted, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Reduce the heat to low, position the cover slightly ajar on the pan to allow steam to escape, and continue to cook 5 to 6 minutes longer, or until the center is completely opaque yet still juicy or an instant-read thermometer inserted from the side of the burger into the center registers 160 degrees. Remove from the pan and serve immediately. (Alternatively, grill the burgers over a medium-low fire (you can hold your hand about 5 inches above the grill surface for 5 seconds) until dark spotty brown on the bottom, 7 to 9 minutes. Turn the burgers over; continue grilling 7 to 9 minutes longer.)