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Born to Grill A Greek Tradition

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From time to time, we feature guest blogs from friends and family of Barbecuebible.com. So it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to Greek cooking and grilling expert, Diane Kochilas. If youve read Barbecue Bible or Planet Barbecue, know my enthusiasm for Greek grilling. Diane and I have another connectionthe producer of her PBS TV show, My Greek Table is none other than Matt Cohen, producer of Project Fire!

This week, Diane writes about one of the worlds oldest grilling traditionsGreek. I certainly learned something, and I hope you will too. As for the recipe, Grilled Leeks with Prunesleeks are loaded with flavor this time of year. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. For more information on Diane, visit her website. Steven Raichlen


In Greece, they say you can learn to cook but youre born to grill, so esteemed are the simple foods cooked to perfection over charcoal and wood. Grilling has a special, almost primordial, place in Greek food lore, from mythic and ancient pagan celebrations to the holiday known as Tsiknopempti, or Smoky Thursday, when tradition dictates that one feasts on an array of smoky, grilled meats, the last such time to do so before the start of Lent and the abstention of all animal products.

Greek grilling techniques are deceptively simple. It takes zen focus to grill a whole fish to that point where the skin is charred but the flesh succulent, or to get squid or octopus off the grill at the perfect moment, before they turn rubbery (octopus needs to be boiled first). To cut and season meats such as lamb or pork, for grilled kebabs of varying size, or as chops, or in chunks to fit onto a rotisseried skewer takes well-honed instinct and discipline, knowing how large pieces need to be so that they stay juicy, especially since Greeks like their meats well-done, and knowing just how much of the simple trinity of coarse salt, oregano and pepper are needed to bring out that uniquely Greek umami flavor.

Grilling in the Greek tradition is less a home-cooks bailiwick and more the dominion of pros, typically men. Barbecuing at home usually means working with rather primitive grills, sometimes nothing more than a huge, old, discarded water heater, shaped like a giant cylinder and cut in half lengthwise then outfitted with a rack. The coals go into the belly and the rack sits about eight inches from the heat source, unadjustable. Youve got to have a great sense of awareness to cook well on such a contraption. Other home grills are the ones often found in the gardens of Greek country homes, built into a stone wall, sans covering. Fish, souvlaki (aka kebabs), biftekia (Greek burgers), breads, and seasonal garden veggies are often what people like to cook on summer nights.

There is, of course, the entire chapter of spit-roasting whole animals and offal sausages (called kokkoretsi), which is something we Greeks do at Easter and for an occasional special-occasion family feast. The tradition is more prevalent on the mainland than on the islands, and nowadays what was once the tortuous task of turning the rotisserie by hand for hours as the animal slowly roasts, has been alleviated by the advent of motorized handles.

In the grill world that is Greek, one could arguably include Greeces most iconic street food, gyro, the upright rotisserie of thinly layered meats, that are piled into pita rounds, slathered with tzatziki, and garnished with onions, tomatoes and fries before being wrapped. The art here is not as much in the grilling as it is in the layering and seasoning of thin slabs of meat, typically pork or chicken, which nowadays are commercially prepared but once relied on the mastery of gyro specialists who understood how to layer and press and season and get the fat in all the right places to make for tender, meltingly good slices that peeled off the turning cone.

In at least one place, Crete, there is a completely different outdoor grilling tradition. It is called antikristo (an-dee-kree-STOH) and requires a fencelike circular grill onto which large, flat pieces of meat are attached, around charcoal and flames in the center. The grill doesnt rotate; instead, the grillmeister carefully monitors the progress of each piece, turning it as needed and basting it with that magic quartet of olive oil, salt, oregano and lemon juice.

Another regional delight is the spit-roasted whole suckling pig, gourounopoula, that is a specialty of the Peloponnese. Indeed, on Sundays in many places around the region, you find it on roadside stands and sold to daytrippers by the chunk, wrapped in parchment to go, as they make their way home back to Athens. Here, too, the seasoning is a basic salt-pepper-oregano trio. Greeks like to keep it simple no matter what theyre grilling, the better for the delicious flavors of meat and seafood to shine forth unadulterated.

Grilling is arguably the oldest culinary art form in Greece, the vehicle of heroes feasts and ancient rituals. There are still tools used today that have remained the same over the centuries: the satz, for example, a sheet of metal, basically a freeform griddle, was the tool of choice for ancient, often itinerant, cooks all throughout the Mediterranean and the Fertile Crescent. Its not much different from the hotplate used on indoor grills in todays ultramodern kitchens. Greek island cooks still use something called a fou-fou, which is basically a miniature clay or ceramic grill, with a docked tray on top where the food sits, and a space just beneath where a small fire burns that cooks the food on hand. Until a generation or two ago, it was the utensil most home cooks used to grill fish. My favorite Greek grilling accoutrement is a slightly more modern, long-handled, cage-like contraption meant especially for whole fish, to keep it intact over the grill and to facilitate turning it without causing it to fall apart.

Sexy grills and barbecues are relatively new to Greece. For most people, whether at home or in professional restaurant setting indeed, there are restaurants called Psistaries, which serve nothing but grilled meats and a few side dishes the art of grilling is a matter of turning out delicious, succulent, if well-done, cuts of meat with very few seasonings on fairly primitive equipment. Maybe that proves the wisdom of the adage that you can learn to cook but that youre born to grill. You either have the touch or you dont!

My great love when it comes to grilling Greek-style is a self-imposed one, less tradition and more a reflection of the way I like to eat. I love the promise that Greeces vast array of vegetables provides. From zucchini in summer to winter squashes in colder weather, to leeks, onions and scallions, to eggplant for various uses, including stuffed, and tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, and even cabbage, Greeces formidable vegetable traditions are for me the stuff of a cooks dream. I marinate vegetables in olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and dried herbs or spicy ground peppers; love to use ouzo and mastiha liqueur as an ingredient for marinades; find pleasure in soaking vegetables in sweet wine such as mavrodafni or dry, tannic reds like a good northern Greek xynomavro; and esteem the chewy texture of grilled leeks with sweet-savory sauces of raisins, prunes and petimezi (grape molasses), Greek honey or balsamic. For me, its the vegetable world that holds the most promise on the grill, for here one can combine primordial instinct with health-conscious options that fit beautifully within the tenets of the Mediterranean Diet.

Diane Kochilass Grilled Leeks with Shaved Sheeps Milk Cheese and Prunes

Grilled Leeks with Shaved Sheeps Milk Cheese and Prunes

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More from Diane Kochilas

My Greek TableMy Greek Table

Inspired by her travels and family gatherings, the recipes and stories Diane Kochilas shares in My Greek Table celebrate the variety of food and the culture of Greece. Her Mediterranean meals cover a diverse range of appetizers, main courses, and desserts to create raucously happy feasts, just like the ones Diane enjoys with her family when they sit down at her table.

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Grilling Recipes

Quadzilla Burger Recipe (Japanese Quadruple Grilled Cheeseburger)

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Quadzilla Burger Recipe - Quadruple Grilled Cheeseburger

This quadruple grilled cheeseburger (thats right, quadruple) is a beast of legend, its no wonder they call it the Quadzilla! Fire up your grills and prepare your tastebuds, this ones gonna be WILD.

Quadzilla Burger Recipe Quadruple Grilled Cheeseburger!

What is The Quadzilla?

The Quadzilla is obviously named after Godzilla, the giant Japanese dinosaur-like monster that shoots laser out of its mouth a perfect comparison for this four-patty cheeseburger.

But the comparison goes beyond its size. Many of the ingredients are either Japanese or Japanese-inspired. Some might be harder to source locally, but are available on online marketplaces like Amazon. More common substitutes will be listed wherever possible.

Japanese Burger Sauce

  • 1/4 Cup Japanese Mayo/Regular Mayo
  • 3-4 Tbsp Okonomi sauce/Chipotle BBQ sauce

Simply mix the two in a small cup. Adjust how much Okonomi sauce you put in it you want the savory of the mayo to be present, while the sweet and spicy tones of the Okonomi shine through.

Sweet Onion Topping

  • Sweet onion
  • Shichimi Togarashi seasoning

Use a cast iron skillet on a hot grill, or do this on your kitchen top. Chop the sweet onion up, and let it cook in some vegetable oil over medium heat. Once it starts getting translucent/yellow, mix in some of the Togarashi seasoning.

Grilling 4 Patties

  • Burger buns
  • Crisped up bacon
  • 80/20 ground beef (4 ounces per patty)
  • Japanese Worcestershire Sauce

Onto the actual grilling! Fire up your pit, prepping it for direct cooking. If you have a flat top, set that up, because its going to make your life a lot easier with the thin burger patties.

Give the buns a quick, light toast.

And now, the actual patties of the quadruple grilled cheeseburger. You want to make 4 of them, so they are going to be fairly thin. Make four 4-ounce meatballs, and use a patty smasher to get them down to about 1/4th-1/8th of an inch.

Place the chopped up crispy bacon under one of the patties, so the bacon pieces become embedded to the meat.

Once all 4 patties are cooking, give their top sides a light coating of japanese Worcestershire sauce. This is going to act as the salt element, and add a ton of flavor to the patties.

Flip the patties when ready, and add one slice of cheese to all of them except for the one with the bacon. You can add different cheeses (provolone, american cheese, cheddar-jack, etc.)

Assembling the Quadruple Grilled Cheeseburger

Its time to stack these babies! Place all four patties on the bottom bun, with the bacon patty on top. Then throw on some of the onion topping, and finish the whole thing off with some Japanese BBQ sauce.

Enjoy!

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Grilling Recipes

Home for the Holidays: Smoked Mushroom Bread Pudding

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You might know it as stuffing. Or strata. But in my household, this savory union of bread, mushrooms, celery, and fresh sage is known as bread pudding. It meets all the holiday requirements while adding a flavor distinctly its ownyou guessed itfragrant wood smoke.

While most recipes for stuffing start with bread, this one calls for day-old briochea French butter and egg-enriched bread. Youll want a firm, not soft-squishy loaf. Weve found challah makes a good substitute. If you can find neither brioche nor challah at your local bakery, use whatever good bread you can find. (Youll need about a pound.)

There are lots of options for the mushrooms: morels, chanterelles, boletus, shiitakes, black trumpets, hen-of-the-woods, maitake, and king mushroomsnot to mention the more commonplace button mushrooms, cremini, and portobellos.

For unabashed richness, I add cream and eggs. And for complexity, theres optional Cognac or brandy.

You can swap chopped pecans for peeled roasted chestnuts if you wish, the latter taking cues from crooner Bing Crosby: Chestnuts roasting on an open fire Using a sharp knife, cut Xs into the rounded side of each chestnut so they can release steam, then place in a grill basket or disposable aluminum pan. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes over a medium fire (about 400 degrees), shaking the basket or pan every few minutes so the chestnuts dont scorch. Let cool before peeling.

Smoked Mushroom Bread Pudding

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If you tend to think of bread pudding as a dessert, try my Smoked Chocolate Bread Pudding. Find the recipe here.

Get Ready for the Holidays:

What are you cooking up for the holidays? Tell us about it in the comments or by sharing it with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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Grilling Recipes

Cast Iron Pork Tenderloin with Apple Kale Chutney

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Yall know Im a big fan of cooking in cast iron, as it can easily go from your stovetop to your oven, as well as be used on your grill. This Smithfield Roasted Garlic & Cracked Black Pepper Marinated Fresh Pork Tenderloin with Apple Kale Chutney is a stellar recipe made in cast iron that can be cooked in one skillet in less than 30 minutes!

Another added bonus is that this dish is actually kid friendly the apple kale chutney is sweet and buttery with the addition of craisins and candied walnuts, so you can sneak the kale in alongside the apples for the perfect sweet, crunchy, buttery bite that pairs well with the Roasted Garlic & Cracked Black Pepper flavor of the pork tenderloin.

The Smithfield Marinated Fresh Pork Tenderloin is already conveniently pre-seasoned, so all you have to do is sear the tenderloin in butter on both sides, stir the chutney ingredients together in the same pan, and then transfer the cast iron pan into a preheated oven to let the pork roast until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees, which should take 30 minutes or less.

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Cast Iron Pork Tenderloin with Apple Kale Chutney


  • Author: Robyn

Description

This Smithfield Roasted Garlic and Cracked Black Pepper Pork Tenderloin paired with Apple Kale Chutney is a one dish meal! It can be made in a cast iron pan that goes from stove top to oven to dinner table in less than 30 minutes. Plus, it is kid friendly! Your kids wont even know Ive snuck a veggie in because the buttery sweet apple kale chutney mixes apples, kale, craisins and candied walnuts for the perfect pork pairing that makes for a sweet, savory and crunchy bite. I dare you to have just one serving!


Ingredients

  • 1 Smithfield Roasted Garlic & Cracked Black Pepper Marinated Fresh Pork Tenderloin
  • cup butter
  • 3 cups chopped kale, stems removed
  • 2 cups chopped apple (approximately 2 large apples)
  • 1 dash cinnamon
  • 1 dash ginger
  • cup craisins or sweetened dried cranberries (golden raisins can be substituted too)
  • cup candied walnuts

Instructions

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Heat your cast iron to medium-high heat and melt the butter. Sear the pork tenderloin on one side until browned, about two minutes, and then flip and brown the other side. Add the kale, apples and craisins, and stir to combine.

Transfer your cast iron pan to the oven and let the pork tenderloin roast until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Remove the cast iron from the oven and add the walnuts to the apple kale chutney. Slice the pork and serve with the chutney. Prepared to be surprised how quickly your kids will eat their veggies with this sweet and savory dish!


Notes

Note: This post is made in partnership with my friends over at Smithfield. Sponsored posts help keep this blog going!

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cast iron pork tenderloin with apple kale chutney

Smithfield Marinated Fresh Pork is my go-to during the holiday season and beyond whether Im entertaining friends and family, or just looking for a quick and easy weeknight meal, Smithfield has always got me covered with their assortment of pork cuts and flavors.

You can find the Marinated Fresh Pork products at local grocery stores including Walmart, Publix, ShopRite, Food Lion, Harris Teeter, Albertsons and Safeway. For more recipe inspiration and product information, make sure to check out Smithfield.com.

Whats your favorite way to cook in cast iron? What are your tips for getting dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes to avoid your kids getting hangry? Leave me a comment below and dont forget to tag me on instagram using @grillgirlrobyn #grillgirlrobyn if you make this!

This is a partnered post with my friends at Smithfield (see notes in recipe section).

Need some pork inspiration? Check out this stuffed pork chop recipe!

Gorgonzola Thyme Stuffed Pork Chops with Bourbon Grilled Apples

The post Cast Iron Pork Tenderloin with Apple Kale Chutney appeared first on GrillGirl.

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