Lifestyle

“EGGstraordinary:” Ceramic cooker fills all your outdoor smoking and grilling needs

The idea may be 3,000 years old, but the “Big Green Egg” is happening now when it comes to being the perfect smoker and grill. The rebirth of this ancient oriental Kamado cooker has taken the grilling world by storm. It seems that everyone who owns this American-made ceramic lined barbecue is all fired up and enthusiastic about how well it cooks.

When the Kamado Charcoal Grill began to show up in the marketplace a few decades ago, people who used it found it could hold low and slow temperature. It was perfect for smoking foods that required this type of long cooking. The ceramic shell holds the heat, thus virtually eliminating temperature spikes. The excellent ventilation allows for great temperature control with charcoal, lump and hardwood.

I asked chef and restaurant owner Dan Thiessen, of 0/8 Seafood Grill and Twisted Cork Wine Bar in the Bellevue Hyatt Regency, why he loves his Big Green Egg.

“It’s the best barbecue that I have ever owned,” he said. “You get incredible flavor from this grill and it doesn’t allow the flavor to escape like a traditional charcoal or gas grill. The tight lid keeps the flavors around the product being cooked.”

He also noted that the Big Green Egg has very versatile cooking temperatures, from 180 to 1,800 degrees! “Last weekend, I braised a whole beef brisket on there for eight hours,” said Thiessen. “I slowly added in wood chips for that smoked flavor as I wanted to make some smoked beef sandwiches.” It sounds like Thiessen believes the Big Green Egg is worth its weight in gold — or, should I say charcoal?

Some outdoor chefs tout this modern ceramic cooker as the most unique barbecue product. It is known to have unmatched flexibility and capabilities that surpass all other conventional cookers combined. It’s not only a smoker and a grill, but an oven where you can cook literally any food year round, from appetizers and entrees to desserts.

Some of the benefits of using the Big Green Egg are that it lights fast and it’s ready to cook in 10 minutes with no lighter fluid. Because the ceramic walls retain heat, there are no hot spots. It’s also fuel efficient, with need to add more charcoal while cooking; unburned charcoal can be reused. It’s also safe around children as the surface stays cooler than most other grills.

Thiessen said he loves to grill at home when he’s not at his restaurant, and shared some of his favorite fish recipes from 0/8 Seafood Grill and Twisted Cork Wine Bar. Do enjoy!

DAN THIESSEN’S GRILLED KING SALMON WITH ROASTED FINGERLING POTATOES, FENNEL-WATERCRESS SALAD, BALSAMIC SYRUP

Recipe yields 4 portions. Also on Thiessenas menu at 0/8 Seafood Grill. Can be grilled on conventional grills, too.

4 8-ounce pieces of king salmon (I used 6 ounce.)

1 ounce canola oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Brush salmon with oil; season with salt and pepper. Place on hot grill and rotate after 4 minutes. Turn over and cook to 130 degrees internal temperature. Check for desired doneness.

ROASTED FINGERLING POTATOES

1 pound fingerling potatoes

2 ounces canola oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon shallot, minced

Cut potatoes in half and toss with remaining ingredients. Place on sheet pan in oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until soft. Serve with grilled salmon.

FENNEL-WATERCRESS SALAD

1 fennel bulb, sliced thin

2 cups watercress

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Toss ingredients together in a mixing bowl and place on top of cooked salmon.

BALSAMIC SYRUP

1 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoon brown sugar

Combine ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and allow to slowly simmer, reducing to a syrup consistency. Drizzle around the finished plate.

DAN THIESSEN’S GRILLED HALIBUT, ORZO SALAD, ASPARAGUS AND STRAWBERRY VINAIGRETTE

Yield 4 portions.

4 8-ounce pieces of fresh halibut (Again, I used 6-ounce pieces)

1 ounce canola oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Brush halibut with oil, season with salt and pepper. Place on hot grill and rotate after 4 minutes. Turn over and cook to 130 degrees internal temperature. Serve with orzo salad and grilled asparagus.

ORZO SALAD

8 ounces orzo, cooked

1 cup asparagus pieces, blanched

4 ounces strawberry vinaigrette

1/2 cup watercress

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Combine all ingredients well in mixing bowl.

ASPARAGUS

1 pound fresh asparagus, blanched

2 ounces canola oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper, ground

Toss asparagus with oil and seasoning and grill for 4 minutes.

STRAWBERRY VINAIGRETTE

1/2 cup fresh strawberries

2 ounces raspberry vinegar

6 ounces canola oil

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon honey

Combine berries, vinegar, garlic and honey in a blender. Blend until smooth. Slowly add oil until emulsified and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

DAN THIESSEN’S GRILLED TUNA, STICKY RICE, GRILLED SALAD ONIONS, MARINATED TOMATOES WITH A SOY-MISO VINAIGRETTE

Yields 4 portions. You can find this dish on the 0/8 Seafood Grillas menu.

4 8-ounce pieces of fresh Ahi tuna (can choose smaller portion)

1 ounce canola oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Brush tuna with oil; season with salt, pepper and sesame seeds. Place on hot grill and rotate after 3 minutes. Turn and cook to 110 degrees internal temperature.

SALAD ONIONS

6 Walla Walla salad onion, blanched

1 ounces canola oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper, ground

Toss onions with seasoning and grill on both sides for 3 minutes.

MARINATED TOMATOES

2 Roma tomatoes

2 vine-ripened yellow tomatoes

2 ounces. soy-miso vinaigrette

Cut tomatoes into quarters and remove seeds. Slice into1/4 inch strips and toss with vinaigrette and let marinate for 1 hour before serving.

SOY-MISO VINAIGRETTE

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup miso paste

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon minced ginger

2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon minced chives

11/2 cups canola oil

Combine all ingredients into a blender except the canola oil. Blend until smooth. Slowly add the oil to blended base until completely emulsified. Plate the grilled tuna with sticky rice and add grilled onions surround with marinated tomatoes.

GRILLED PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM BRUSCHETTA

The key to this recipe is to grill the mushrooms with the gill-like undersides facing up. This allows the mushrooms to retain their juices. To serve, flip the mushrooms onto the bread so their juices seep down into the toast. Makes 8 large slices in your favorite grill.

4 Portobello mushrooms, large (about 11/3 pounds) stemmed

6 tablespoons. extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

Table salt and ground black pepper

1 loaf country bread (approximately a 12-inch-by-5-inch loaf), sliced crosswise into 1-inch thick pieces, ends removed

1 large garlic clove, peeled

Light grill. Place mushrooms caps on a large baking sheet. Mix 31/2 tablespoons oil, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Brush oil mixture over both sides of the mushrooms.

Grill mushrooms, gill-side up over the medium hot fire until caps are cooked through and grill-marked, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, grill bread until golden brown on both sides. Place toast slices on large platter. Rub garlic over tops, then brush with remaining 21/2 tablespoons of oil.

Halve grilled mushroom; place one half, gill side down, over each slice of toast. Serve immediately.

BILLY JOEL’S MARINATED SKIRT STEAK

Serves 4. I often refer to the cookbook, “Star Palate” written by Tami Agassi and Kathy Casey. This celebrity Cookbook for a Cure is a collection of treasured recipes from some of the most noted and beloved celebrities. It’s one book with great recipes such a Billy Joel’s Marinated Skirt Steak, perfect for the summer barbecue. The promotion of “Star Palate” is to create awareness of breast and ovarian cancer and to raise funds to fight for a cure. Another way is to get involved in The 13th annual Summer Run, on July 22 at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. Check out www.ontherunevnts.com/swedish/home.htm for more information, or call 215-6700.

1 flank or skirt steak, about 13/4 l pounds

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoons Asian sesame oil

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup teriyaki sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix oils, garlic, lime juice and teriyaki sauce in a heavy zip-top plastic bag. Add steak to marinade. Move steak around in the bag to coat. Close the bag, pressing out air. Let steak marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours.

Heat grill until very hot. Remove steak from marinade and season with salt and pepper. Grill on each side for 2 to 4 minutes, or until cooked to desired doneness. Normally this steak is served rare to medium-rare, but you can also cook it to medium. Remove from the grill, allow to rest and then slice thin. Can serve with fresh lime squeezed over the top.

CHRIS EVERT’S TROPICAL CHICKEN SALAD

I had some leftover barbecued skinless chicken breast and wanted another dinner, so I found this recipe in the “Star Palate” cookbook from the tennis pro, Chris Evert. Serves 4.

11/4 pounds cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced, about 4 cups

1 cup diced fresh pineapple

3 stalks celery, thinly sliced

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

1/4 cup coarsely chopped dry-roasted unsalted peanuts

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

3 tablespoons chutney, such a Major Grey’s

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 teaspoons curry powder

3/4 cup light mayonnaise

Shredded or chopped romaine lettuce

Pineapple leaves for garnish, optional

Mix all ingredients together well. Serve on a bed of romaine or your favorite crisp lettuce. Garnish with pineapple leaves if desired.

GRILLED SALMON FILLETS WITH SKIN ON COOKED IN THE “BIG GREEN EGG”

Pick out salmon fillets with skin on, 4 to 5 ounces per serving. This is a great way to cook marinated salmon in the Big Green Egg.

4 salmon fillets, skin on, 4 to 5 ounces each.

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Barbecue dry rub such as Saltyas, Tom Douglasa or homemade to taste

Combine soy sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, oil and garlic. Stir to dissolve sugar. Pour into a zipper-top plastic bag and add salmon.

Marinate in the refrigerator for 3 to 6 hours.

After marinating, allow the salmon to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling and then pat dry with a paper towel.

Mix together the butter and maple syrup and brush over entire surface of the salmon. Sprinkle with a liberal amount of barbecue dry rub.

Set the Egg up for direct cooking at 350 degrees, place the salmon on a fish grid and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Salmon is done when the knife inserted in the fillet slides in easily with no resistance and flesh is no longer opaque.

Remove salmon; brush on any remaining maple syrup/butter mixture using a clean brush and wrap in foil for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

HINTS FOR MAKING THE PERFECT BURGER

Buy the right meat. Choose ground chuck with at least 15 percent fat; if you can’t, then choose lean rather than extra lean.

Season gently; the more you mix the meat, the tougher the burger.

Form patties with wet hands. This allows the meat to come together more quickly with less handling.

Make patties thinner in the center. When burgers cook, they contract in on themselves. If the center is thinner, then the outside edges will become more evenly shaped.

Keep the meat cold. If the meat isn’t going directly onto the grill, then refrigerate. Cold helps to lock in the flavor-carrying fats in the meat.

Clean and oil the grill. If you don’t want your burgers sticking to the grill, then wipe the grate clean using oil and cooking spray and a wadded paper towel.

Use a steady, high temperature. For gas grills, preheat the grill to medium high and keep the lid down while cooking. For a charcoal grill, spread the coals evenly and heat up for 30 minutes or until they are covered with gray ash. Leave the lid off while cooking. On the Big Green Egg, follow enclosed directions.

Only flip once! Don’t flip too early, or your burgers will stick. For medium-rare burgers, 3 minutes per side; for medium, 4 minutes per side; for well-done, 5 minutes per side.

Don’t press on the burgers. Anytime you apply pressure, it allows the juices to seep out.

Let burgers rest. Take them off the grill and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. This locks in the all the flavorful juices.

Happy grilling!

Eileen Mintz can be reached by phone at 232-1984 or by e-mail at eileenmintz@comcast.net.

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