Blackened Tilapia

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I love Cajun food, particularly Blackened Redfish, but since I didn’t have any Redfish, I substituted Tilapia. I made these the same time as I made my Cedar Planked Lemon-Pepper Tilapia. As before, I had this bag of Tilapia just sitting in the freezer, so I figured I’d do something with it.

The raw materials…

I split the bag in half. I blackened 6 fillets and cedar planked the other 6.

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I used a variation of a recipe from Terry Thompson’s The New Cajun-Creole Cooking cookbook. Here is the recipe I used to “paint” the fillets.

Dry Ingredients “Wet Ingredients”
  • 1 tbsp. Paprika
  • 1.5 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. dried thyme
  • 6 Tilapia fillets
  • 2 cups butter melted
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed, never the stuff from the plastic lemons, EVER!)

I melted the butter in the microwave on low heat, then stirred in all the rest of the ingredients and allowed the mixture to cool. Once cool I painted each fillet on both sides with the mixture and let it marinate for about 3 hours.

Painting the fillets…

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While the fillets were marinating I started a full chimney of Kingsford briquettes. I used half of the lit coals to fill a Weber basket, and the rest I spread in a single layer to toast cedar plank for the other fish I cooked.

Lighting the coals…

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Laying ‘em down…

I let the cast iron griddle heat for about 15 minutes over the weber basket. You’ll know when your griddle/skillet is ready, because the cast iron will get a bit of a gray haze on it.

As soon as you put the fillets on they will produce prodigious amounts of smoke. They will sear and begin to cook immediately. Be careful that the spits and sputters from the fish and butter don’t burn you. You may be tempted to lift the fillets or move them. DON’T! You will touch this only once, when you flip it over. It took these about 3 minutes per side.

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The finished product…

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These tasted as good as they look. One fillet never made it in the house. I brought out a fork and plate and ate it there at the grill.

Lessons Learned/For next time…

The Tilapia was a little too tender for this recipe. A couple of fillets got mangled in the turning. In addition, the weather was cold that day so I had to watch the heat on the second round of fillets. I can’t wait to try this with some Redfish or Red Snapper next time!

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Cedar Planked Lemon-Pepper Tilapia

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I cooked these the same weekend I did the Smoke Roasted Round Roast. I had a bag of Tilapia that was taking up space in the freezer. Plus this fish cooks relatively fast. So I decided that I would blacken some, and then use up  my last cedar plank on these fillets.

A bit of courage…

This cook’s official sponsor was a Polish Mule. A great cocktail and easy to mix. 2 oz. Chopin Rye Vodka, juice of half a lime (freshly squeezed, not that green plastic grenade), two dashes of Angostura Bitters and 6 oz ginger beer over ice.

The funny thing about grilling in the middle of winter in Philly, when I take my drinks outside, they actually get colder!

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Step 1: Season…

These fillets got a simple dusting of equal parts kosher salt and ground black pepper. Nothing too complicated here, as the flavor is going to come from the wood and the lemons during the cook.

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Step 2: Gimme some heat…

I lit a full chimney of briquettes, filling one weber basket and then spreading the rest next to it. Below you see me toasting the cedar plank while cooking some blackened tilapia along side. It took about 5 minutes for the cedar plank to toast up nicely.

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Step 3: Laying on the fish…

After toasting the cedar plank, I flipped it, rubbed it with a bit of olive oil and laid the fillets on top. Then as you can see, I added 2 – 3 lemon slices on top of the fillets. Closed the lid and let it cook for about 10 minutes over a hot grill. The smell of the cedar and the blackening tilapia next to it, had my neighbor from down the street come down to see what I was cooking. That and it was 32 degrees outside!

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Step 4: Pulling the fish…

I ended up putting a third fillet on this plank, but the poor fillet never made it inside! He was sacrificed for the sake of cooking science.

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Results/Lessons Learned:

These fish came out very lemony. I guess this would work better with a fillet that had a more robust base flavor, like maybe Sword Fish or Sea Bass. One of the fillets was too lemony, the other two were great though. If I decide to plank these again in the future, I may just go for a spritz of lemon juice at the beginning and just be done with it.

But no worries I gave these a good home!

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Cherry Roasted Thighs and Brats

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It’s the first of the New Year and I had to create a bit of Summer. Right now it is 35 degrees, grey, and a bit dreary here in Philly. But that doesn’t have to stop me. Mind you, my wife and neighbors are sure I’m insane. Besides, its been a couple of months since I’ve been able to grill. Let’s see Hurricane Sandy, an unnamed storm, traveling to Detroit and Chicago for work,  a couple of bouts with some good chest colds, and voila!, There goes your time.

Official sponsor of today’s cook

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Winter in Philly…

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So as before, let’s get started with the players:

Dry ingredients for rub: Wet Ingredients:
3 tbsp Paprika
1 tsp Garlic salt
1 tsp Onion powder
t tsp Coarse black pepper
3 tbsp Brown sugar
Potato Rolls
Johnsonville Bratwurst
12 chicken thighs
2 tbsp EVOO

Since I only thought of barbequing this morning, I didn’t have time to brine the thighs, so I used this basic rub and let it sit for a couple of hours while I grilled some bratwurst and potato rolls. Also, I will do a complete slow and low cook without starting the chicken directly over the coals first. This way they get a chance to absorb as much of the cherry smoke as possible.

I rubbed the thighs with the EVOO first then liberally sprinkled and rubbed in the dry rub. The rub is very basic so go with as heavy as a hand you like.

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The temperature outside is a bit on the cold side, 35 degrees and about 10 mph wind. So I don’t have to worry about temps getting away from me at the beginning of today’s cook. I lit one full Weber chimney of coals that I split between a weber basket and the rest heaped against the other side of the kettle.

This allowed constant heat for the cast iron griddle for the onions, mushrooms, and green pepper, as seen below. I used a bit of smoked sea salt and dried porcini mushrooms while cooking the vegetables.

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After about 30 minutes:

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Best Potato Rolls in Philly!

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Toasting the potato rolls:

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PART II: Thighs

During the brats, the temperature of the kettle wavered between 350 and 300 degrees. About an hour into the cook I added 20 unlit briquettes on top of the burning coals and gave it ten minutes to catch. I poured out the basket onto the side as well as I wouldn’t be needing it for the chicken

At about 30 minutes later in I added in 15 additional unlit briquettes to ensure I had enough heat for the planned cook time of 1:45 minutes totals.

Final Pics of Thighs

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Thighs came off and were perfect. Meat fell off the bone. They went great with a 1:1 mix of Sweet Baby Ray’s and Srirachra Chili Sauce.

Crunchy Grilled Chicken Breasts

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Tell me these don’t look good, I dare you! Just kidding. Smile

It is possible to make crunchy and grilled chicken breast at the same time on the grill. This isn’t KFC styled crunchy but there’s a good bit of attitude in each bite of these. This cook is a variation of a recipe in  Bill and Cheryl Jamison’s Chicken on the Grill: 100 Surefire Ways to Grill Perfect Chicken Every Time

Today in NE Philly

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As you can see the sky was grey and drizzly, a dreary Sunday afternoon brewing up. Plus, the weather was under 60 degrees so you know what that means, Summer has officially left the building. Doesn’t mean I can’t grill though.

Today’s cast:

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Dry Ingredients Wet Ingredients (Basting blend)
  • 4 tbsp raw rice (ground to consistency of bread crumbs)
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (always homemade!)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter melted
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh herbs (Basil, Oregano, Marjoram, etc)
  • 5 cloves crushed garlic

Grinding the Rice

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At first I tried my tried and true Cuisinart food processor. But after a minute or so of pulsing this is what the rice looked like. I was not looking forward to digging out my marble mortar and pestle. So I got down my Oster blender. Here’s a shot of it grinding away. Look at that rice fly!

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Ground rice anyone? As you can see it is ground to about the texture of bread crumbs. The blender really made short work of the rice. If I had left it on for much longer I probably would have had rice flour.

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The resultant rub:

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It’s Hammer Time! I hate pounding chicken breasts. One tip I’ve found is to use a freezer bag for the chicken breasts and whack them while inside. The freezer bag is a lot easier to get chicken in and out of then Saran Wrap.

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…and Rubbin’ son, is Racing!

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I’ve given each breast a liberal coating of the rub. They will go in the fridge for 3 –4 hours as I get some other things done today.

4 Hours later…

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I’ve got my trusted Half-Moon Griddle on my Weber One-Touch-Gold. I only lit a 3/4 full chimney. Knowing how fast breasts cooks I didn’t need a full chimney today. Plus I wasn’t going to cook anything else after this. Underneath the griddle is a weber basket full of coals. The rest of the chimney was spread out halfway across the charcoal grate.

3 minutes per side…

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I cooked each breast three minutes per side. As soon as I flipped, I brushed on the basting marinade on top of the sizzling meat. As soon as 6 minutes had passed I moved the breasts off to the cool side of the grill as I cooked the other breasts.

Basting Beauties…

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Here you can see my phone playing double duty as a timer for the breasts.  I can get a bit anal about these things sometimes. The basil baste is in the center of the photo.

A group shot…

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Last of the chicken breasts going on the griddle. You can see some of the herbs on some of the other pieces. One of these breasts never made if off the grill and into the house. He sacrificed himself by jumping straight into my mouth!

The heat is on…

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Once all the breasts had their 6 minutes of fun, they went back over the hot coals for 3 more minutes. I basted and flipped after about a minute each side. The smell of the baste on top of the sizzling meat chased the Autumn away.

The Money Shot…

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The chicken came out great. The ground rice in the rub was a nice surprise. It gave the breasts a bit of a bite as you bit into them. Almost like coarse sea salt but without the salty taste. Next time I make this rub I make increase the amount of ground rice a bit. But overall I’m very satisfied with this outing.

White Barbeque Sauce

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at “White Barbeque Sauce” ever since I first saw it in featured in Jamie Purviance’s cookbook Charcoal Grilling: the Art of Cooking with Live Fire. The recipe is pretty straight forward. And of course I’ve modified it a bit. Here are the players:

The Dry The Wet
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • Large Yellow Onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup Miracle Whip Dressing
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed, rough chop basil
  • 1/4 cup Apple Cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. hot sauce

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Step 1: Here I’ve minced the garlic & onion until they were basically a paste. I ended up straining this mixture as there seemed to be a lot of liquid left over. Since I was going to be sautéing this mixture I didn’t want it too wet.

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Step 2: In this shot, I’ve melted the butter and have begun to cook the onion mixture. It took about 4 minutes. I cooked it until it was just starting to turn opaque; stirring occasionally.

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Step 3: Next I added in the white wine and cooked until half of the liquid evaporated out of the mixture. This took about five minutes at a good rate of simmer.

Step 4:  Remove from heat and let the onion/garlic/white wine mixture cool for about 5 minutes. During that time you can assemble the remaining ingredients

Step 5: One the mixture has cooled whisk in the remaining ingredients. My sauce had the consistency of lumpy ranch dressing. But man, did it taste better than any ranch dressing I’ve ever had. You could probably use this as a dip for other things besides a sauce for grilled chicken.

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Step 6: Cover and refrigerator for about 1 hour before serving. If grilling chicken, brush on the White BBQ sauce onto the pieces about 10 – 15 minutes before they are due to be pulled from the grill. I’ve included a shot of what the chicken will look like after cooking with the sauce in the pic below.

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Try it and let me know how it comes out.