Australian seafood skewers, soft shell crab, and my first video

Yesterday I did a Facebook poll asking: what should I do for Memorial Day weekend? The overwhelming response was seafood, and quite a few indicated the soft shell crabs were hitting the market.

So I decided not only to do soft shell crabs, but also Australian seafood skewers, and corn on the cob.

Then I decided now is the perfect time for the first video from The Grilling Man.

Let me know what you think!



TGM Mac and Cheese: no messing around

Mac and Cheese is a totally under-appreciated and overlooked art form. So for the first time, The Grilling Man is straying from grill-focused recipes and bringing you a gem: TGM Mac and Cheese, which will bring you happiness, fulfillment, and peace (or at least the feeling of contentment only possible after consuming loads of fat).

First off, some notes on Mac and Cheese:

  1. Mac and Cheese is a BAKED product first and foremost. It is not to be made by mixing a bunch of crappy goop together that originated in powdered form.
  2. Mac and Cheese is a BLANK CANVAS the same way an omelet is. You have the base but what you add to it is what truly makes it.
  3. Mac and Cheese, with the right ingredients and balance, is no more unhealthy than many dishes … they key, as always, is balance and quantity.
  4. Mac and Cheese might well be the ultimate food pairing wine for many reasons (which we’ll cover later).

Let’s talk “Mac” first. Macaroni is part of the name mainly because it’s easy to say and fits well for marketing. But also because it’s the right shape. We don’t say “spaghetti and cheese” or “linguini and cheese” for a reason: the tubular shape of the macaroni pasta makes for more sauce surface space for the dish (which, in the end, means more flavor). But any pasta shape can be used as long as it has significant surface area, and actually I don’t like macaroni because the tube tends to be too small. Give me ziti or rotini anytime.

Let’s talk “Cheese” next. Quality cheese is not only important here, but essential. A good Mac and Cheese dish is REDUCTIVE, meaning you’re adding ingredients and cooking/boiling off their volume. Thus, start with crap cheese and you have a crap dish. Start with good cheese and end with a good dish. Reductive dishes amplify positives and negatives, so don’t skimp.

Lastly, let’s talk about the word in the middle: “and”. I don’t view this word as a simple conjunction. I view it as an ingredient. The magical power of ‘and’ opens up the world. It allows ANYTHING to the party. More on that in a bit.


Core TGM Mac and Cheese recipe. Note: this is a big batch because I believe in having leftovers. Adjust as you see fit.


  • 2/3 of a loaf white bread
  • 1 pound butter (you won’t use it all, don’t worry. But who the hell buys 2/3 of a pound of butter?)
  • 5 or 6 pounds good dried Italian pasta. Don’t buy the crap from New Jersey. It tastes like New Jersey.
  • Some kosher salt, or some truffle salt, or both.
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons dry mustard (Penzey’s brand preferred)
  • 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper plus more for flavor
  • 1/2 gallon organic whole milk
  • 1 pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 pound White Cheddar, shredded
  • 1/2 pound Sharp Cheddar, shredded
  • Six 9×13 aluminum baking pans

To start

  • In food processor, pulse bread and 6 tablespoons cold butter until granulated. Put in a ziplock bag and toss in the freezer right away (you don’t want the butter to get warm or melty)
  • Cook the pasta. Do it in several batches if needed. The key is this: undercook it just a TOUCH, drain, then put in a big pot in the sink. Run cold water over it for five minutes. You’re just trying to stop the cooking process instantly. Once chilled, drain again and put in the aluminum pans, which then go in the fridge. You’ll end up with six pans of cooked pasta ready to roll.

Prep filling ingredients

  • Get creative here. Bacon, crab, lobster, chorizo, mushrooms, steak, shrimp, beans, peppers, smoked fish, pulled pork, chicken, you name it. Keep it to two or three ingredients per pan, but have fun digging in your fridge. Sautee, boil, roast, or do whatever you need to do to these items, but in the end have them sitting out ready to grab.
  • Do the same prep for any herbs and spices you want to use. Chopped basil, fresh rosemary, hot sauce, you name it. Have it handy.
  • Turn the oven to 350 degrees.

The sauce

  • Start by making a basic roux. Melt 12-15 tablespoons butter in a stock pot on medium to high heat. When melted, a touch brown, and bubbly add some flour and whisk it up. Soon add more flour and whisk it. Add the cayenne and dry mustard (and some powdered garlic if you wish), and the rest of the flour. Keep it stirring, and pull the pot off the heat now and again if needed … control the heat by moving the pot instead of adjusting the temperature.
  • When blended, SLOWLY pour in some of the milk, continuing to whisk. Keep going as it absorbs together. You can pour and blend the whole half gallon into the roux over 2-3 minutes, whisking continuously. When done, keep whisking slowly until it boils. Bring the heat down to a simmer for ten minutes (whisking now and again … keep it moving!).
  • Turn off the heat. Grab all the shredded cheeses and add them in handfuls, whisking with each addition. Once all the cheese is added, turn heat to low (and again, keep whisking every now and then). Add some salt to taste.
  • Special note on cayenne pepper: the amazing James Beard in “Beard on Pasta” said it best: don’t be afraid of the spice. In a cheesy dish it has the effect of amplifying the flavor of the cheese rather than coming across as heat. So do the right thing and don’t avoid this ingredient.

The building

  • Grab the pans of pasta from the fridge. The pasta should be tacky to the touch by now. Add your filling ingredients (fewer varieties in a pan are better, but feel free to load it up on quantity) and toss around. Add a big ladle of cheese sauce (or even two ladles) to each pan and toss it around to mix the sauce with the pasta and filler.
  • Do this for each pan, using up the sauce. (If you happen to make way too much sauce, don’t worry … add some beer and make beer cheese soup!)
  • Remove the bread crumb mixture from the freezer and spread evenly over all pans. Feel free to shake some cayenne pepper or fresh ground black pepper on top.
  • Bake each dish for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. The top should get nicely toasted, and the pasta will absorb up much of the sauce (the last thing you want are goopy/wet cuts of baked pasta).
  • After removing from oven, allow to sit for 15 minutes then eat and enjoy or cover with foil and freeze for up to three months. This dish reheats beautifully in the microwave, so it’s ideal for office or school lunches.
The enjoying
  • Mac and Cheese begs for wines from the Southern Rhone valley and Piedmonte, Italy. Both regions make robust but juicy wines that complement the abundance of richness of these dishes.
  • Never throw away mac and cheese leftovers. There is nothing better for a naughty breakfast than this.
  • Don’t let the pans sit in the freezer for more than three months or so. The cream and cheese will separate and the dish will fall apart.
Let me know if you make this and send photos! I’m curious what ‘fillers’ you will come up with.

Valentine’s Day Grilling Man Style

When it comes time for Valentine’s Day, I stay far away from the restaurants. Why? Many restaurants jack up their prices just a bit for the night, knowing that it’s a full house. On top of that, there are many amateur eaters that go out that night and you hear things like “Do you have any A-1 sauce?” as the dry aged bone in rib eye (cooked well done) hits the table.

This year, I decided to do a Grilling Man Crawfish Boil and Barbie.

I found a box of frozen crawfish for sale at a local food mega-store in a down and out part of town. Oddly, I’ve never seen a box of crawfish for sale at the suburban or higher end shops. I don’t know why, because they are healthy and delicious (and also a bit of a pain in the ass when it come to fishing out the few bits of meat they contain).


Get your hands on some crawfish. For three of us, I used a four pound box and that seemed like a pretty good amount. Figure roughly a pound per person. If you can’t find crawfish in your area, you can mail order (both fresh and frozen) here, here, and believe it or not through Amazon here.

Get the biggest pot you have and fill it about 3/4 with water. Place on the stove and get it to boiling. Go outside and get a medium heat offset fire going on your charcoal grill (about 3/4 of a starter chimney).

Have at the ready (amounts are for four pounds crawfish, adjust as needed):

  • A big supply of Old Bay Seasoning. You’ll need about a cup in the end.
  • Four ears of sweet corn, each cut in half (end up with eight minis)
  • Four sweet onions, chopped in half
  • Four pounds red potatoes
  • Four to six links high quality and super yummy andouille sausage (my source is Kramarczuk’s – some of the best sausages in the country). Slice them into two inch sections and if you want to look cool slice them on the bias.
If you’re using cooked frozen crawfish: Add 3/4 of the Old Bay to the boiling water. Add the potatoes and cook for three minutes. Add the corn, onions, sausage, and crawfish and let them cook for another three minutes. Note this is not enough time to cook everything through and that’s intentional. Drain everything and place in a large aluminum pan. If you are starting with live crawfish, be sure to read about preparing them ahead of time and boil them in a separate pot until done, at which point add them to the corn-onion-sausage mix.In the aluminum pan, dust everything with the remaining Old Bay Seasoning.Here is where the grilling and bbq comes in: Bring the pan outside and place offset on the grill (i.e. not directly over the heat). Add one or two chunks of apple or mesquite to the coals, and put the lid back on your grill as best as possible (your pan may be too big and that’s okay, just balance the grill lid on the pan). The goal here is to get huge amounts of smoke infusion into the food, as well as finish the cooking process.

Keep the pan on the grill for about 15 minutes, building up smoke along with some heat to finish off the cooking process. (Note the pan itself is uncovered, but we use the lid of the grill to contain the heat and smoke.)

Stir every five minutes (but stir gently, trying to avoid breaking off the cute little legs of the crawdads).

Mrs. Grilling Man ready to enjoy a meal

When ready to serve it’s as simple as placing the pan on the table, and having lots of picks, forks, and paper towels nearby.  To do it right, be sure to put some Buckwheat Zydeco on the the playlist and crank the volume.

It’s a grand meal that works great for a crowd. Let me know what you think.

The perfect meat rub for grilling and barbecue

One of the many secrets top notch grilling and barbecue chefs have is the use of the “rub”, or the combination of dry spices added to meat just far enough ahead of cooking to impart some wicked flavor.

There are endless great rub recipes out there, including the legendary Mike Mills’ “Magic Dust” which has won him numerous barbecue awards.  Buy any book on grilling and barbecue and you’ll be inundated by hundreds of ideas for the ideal rub.

In March of 2003, I developed what I consider my ‘baseline’ rub, otherwise known as our “family rub” because my then seven year son, my wife, and I all enjoyed it equally.  It doesn’t have the big spike of heat of so many of today’s rubs, which I like because think about it — you want more heat?  Add more cayenne.  Simple as that.

One thing I like to do is write rub recipes in ‘parts’ rather than teaspoons or tablespoons.  It makes producing a huge batch far easier, and also allows for a faster process … just grab a spoon (or a quarter cup measuring cup!) out of your drawer and you’re ready to go.

Feel free to adjust to your own taste

2 parts    Kosher Salt
1 part      Spanish Paprika
1 part      Garlic Powder (not garlic salt!)
2 parts    Chili Powder
1/2 pt.     Cayenne
1 part      Brown Sugar
1 part      Onion Powder
1/2 pt.     Ground Mustard
1 part      Fresh Ground Pepper
1/2 pt.     Dried Oregano
1/2 pt.     Dried Sage

Mix well in bowl, incorporating all ingredients.  Stores well in a tight jar for up to two months.

Using the rub the right way
The thing about rubs is, honestly, they are overused.  They are often used heavily to cover defects in the quality of the meat, or applied too early and thus becomes too penetrative to the flavor.  The rub should, in the end, balance the flavors, not become the flavors.

Pork ribs: I like a fine dusting on the ribs 3-4 hours before starting to smoke them.  Anything more, and due to the salt it dries out the ribs and changes their flavors.

Steaks: If you dust the meat about an hour before cooking, you’ll be in good shape.

Beef roasts: This is where you can leave it on for a bit.  Dust the meat the night before cooking for good penetration.

This rub works well on everything: fish, lamb, popcorn, you name it.  At my house it’s always within reach and always enjoyed.  Let me know what you think.


Sous Vide at home (and how I cooked a 15 pound rib roast in a cooler)

In mid-December, this was my first experiment with sous vide at home, a rack of lamb.

Based on the utterly delicious success of the lamb, I awoke Christmas Eve morning and decided to do a fifteen pound rib roast in a cooler full of water!


The process of sous vide cooking has been all the rage for a number of years.  The top chefs in the land do it on a regular basis for several reasons, the two most important being temperature control and ultimate consistency.

To cook sous vide in a restaurant you need to do some major investing in equipment.  But luckily for us home home cooks, you probably already have all that you need.

First, Sous Vide 101: The whole idea is that the meat is cooked in a sealed plastic bag surrounded by water that is held at the final cooking temperature.  No juices are lost, and because of the sealed environment, any added spices or herbs are intensified in flavor.  From the edge of the meat all the way through the middle, the temperature will be constant.  In the case of beef, I like it just a hair above 120 degrees.

To cook a fifteen pound rib roast for Christmas Eve, I needed a large container (in this case a big cooler), a large bag with a watertight seal (in this case a turkey brining bag from the store), and time.  Lots of time.  Not knowing how long it would take, but also knowing that once it reached temperature I could hold it there, I planned on ten hours.

The larger the piece of meat, the larger the cooler has to be.  Simple physics — if you are going to keep the meat at a constant temperature, you need a significant amount of water around it.  For this Flintstones like roast, I used my biggest cooler (which you’ll see in the photos was still not THAT big).  Fill it with warm water (about 20 degrees warmer than you want to sous vide at) and let it warm up.

Throughout this process, temperature control is the most important factor.  To sous vide at home, you’ll need a digital thermometer that is accurate and has a long cord so you can immerse it into the water. A thermometer that allows you to program alarms (both minimum and maximum temps) is ideal.  My iGrill worked perfectly for this.

For the rib roast, I got a big turkey brining bag, covered the roast in sea salt, black pepper, garlic, and dried herbs (along with a bit of olive oil) and put it in. (I had dry aged the roast in my meat fridge for three days prior.)

Take the bag with the meat in it, unsealed, and slowly lower it into the water bath.  As you slowly drop it in, the bag will vacuum itself to the meat as the air is pushed out.  Get it down to the last two inches and seal up all but the last bit of the bag.  Drop it in further to get the last bit of air out, seal it up, and let it go.  It should sink.

When I did the rack of lamb in the cooler, I didn’t have to worry about temperature control.  After bringing the water to 123 degrees, the temp held steady for the hour of cooking (actually it held for about three hours!).  But with this big roast, I needed to keep a pot of water warm on the stove at all times.  I set my iGrill to alert when it got down to 120 degrees, at which time I scooped out about 6-7 cups of water and dumped in more from the stove (then picked up the roast bag to move the water around for even temperature distribution).  As you can imagine, I didn’t have the precise control of the pros but I was careful to rarely go over 130 degrees and never under 120.

For the first two hours, I had to do this water dance about every 20-30 minutes.  But after that only about every hour did I have to fuss – the roast was starting to “cook”.

My iGrill did a good job of tracking the temperature, and I made sure to move the probe around quite a bit to make sure I had even temps.


The first time you cook something sous vide you’ll be hesitant when you first take the meat out and touch it and look at it … we’re used to browned meat with well done little bits and the smell of smoke.  This roast was soft, limpy, lifeless, and ugly.  I stuck a probe into the middle and it read 125 degrees … it was done — perfectly.  Now came the really fun part.

If you’ve wanted to play with fire, here is your chance.  Get the grill as hot as you can with natural hardwood coals, coat the meat in some olive oil, and watch it go.  I had this roast on the grill for only about six minutes, just to char the outside a bit.

THERE IS NO REASON TO LET THIS MEAT REST because you are not letting juices settle back in and final temp to be hit.  It’s done, and it’s ready to go.  Slice it up and serve it.

The advantages of sous vide are many, but one of the best is allowing you to time a roast like this to any other side dishes that are coming out.  Because it can be held at temp for a long time, you can prep everything else until you’re ready to fire it up.

Another amazing sidenote: the most forgettable and bland meat in the world, boneless skinless chicken breasts, are absolutely PHENOMENAL when done sous vide.  Add a pat of butter, some thyme and rosemary, and drop them in a pot of 145 degree water for 30-45 minutes.


PS: Think of the implications this has for cooking while camping!  You can get your cooler all set, drop in some packets of meat, go for a hike for a couple hours and come back to a gourmet dinner with very little (or no) mess or fuss.

Grilled meatloaf

Tonight it’s a modified meatloaf recipe, done on the charcoal grill of course.


The results were fantastic. Pitch perfect spice, sweet, and savory. Here is the recipe:


Ingredients for the ‘meat mixture’

  • 3 pounds of ‘meatloaf blend’ from the store (beef, pork, and veal). Try to get a little more beef in the mixture than the others.
  • 3 small onions, nice and sweet varieties, chopped medium
  • 5 cloves of garlic, diced small
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce (I used this instead of Worcestershire sauce)
  • 4 teaspoons good coarse grained Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I like the Greek stuff because it’s unsweetened)
  • 1 sleeve of Saltine crackers (about 40 of them)
  • 1 cup chopped parsley leaves

Chop onions and garlic, and saute in a bit of olive oil until translucent. (Start the onions first, then after a couple minutes sprinkle the garlic on it. Try to not let the garlic go to the bottom of the pan and burn.) Once done (5-10 minutes) place in a bowl and cool in the fridge.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and add thyme, pepper, soy sauce, mustard, and yogurt. Whisk together and smell it — doesn’t it smell good?!

In a separate larger bowl, pull the three meats into little bits and mix together followed by hand blending all meats together. Pour egg mixture over the meat (use a rubber spatula to get it all out). Add sautéed onions and garlic. Mix and blend all together by hand (get your hands wet first and make sure you don’t try to answer your cell phone during this stage). Crush the saltine crackers, and add crackers and parsley. Mix further by hand. Place mixture in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Fire up the grill, offset heat. Take a sheet of heavy duty tinfoil and put in on an upside down baking sheet (you’ll learn why soon). Take the cool meat mixture out of the fridge and with wet hands free-form the loaves (or better yet use little tinfoil loaf pans and press the meat into shape, dumping it onto the tinfoil. That’s what I do). Find some good barbeque sauce and brush over the loaves, then cover in bacon.

On the grill, slide the tinfoil off the baking sheet (see, that’s why it’s upside down) and place opposite of the coals (off set grilling … really roasting). Curve up the edges of the tinfoil to catch most of the grease. Cover and let it be for 45-60 minutes.

You want the internal temp to end up around 150-155. Keep an eye on it while you enjoy a glass of wine or three.

If the grease is building up and you want to drain it, three things to keep in mind: 1) Easy to do by poking holes in the tinfoil. 2) You have a good chance of a grease file flaring up so don’t stand with your head right above the grill. 3) You’re going to have grease to clean up later but that’s relatively easy.

When internal temp reaches 155 slide it onto a baking sheet and bring inside. Tent loosely for 15-20 minutes while finishing side dish prep and drinking more wine.

Idea wine pairings with this dish include Cotes du Rhone (the Grenach/Syrah blends in general are incredible with meatloaf) because you want something medium bodied but with a little spice. Another good choice, on the more geeky side, is Zweigelt from Austria.

Pork Loin with bacon fat and pico

Long story here. We went to Mexico for a week of grilled fish and came back and craved some pico di gallo, so we made some. The onions were too strong so we didn’t eat it much all week. It sat in the fridge.

This morning we cooked a pound of bacon from Greg’s Meats (toward Rochester) and I took the leftover fat and dumped the pico into it, cooking it up a bit.

I spiraled out two big pork loins (buy one get one this week at Lunds) and spread the pico bacon fat and some fresh cilantro into them. Tied up, they will be on the grill, offset heat, for about an hour.

Good times!

A whole mess of kebabs

Tri tip steak is still one of the great bargains out there. Always keep some kebab sticks in the drawer for the next time you find yourself with a random pile of veggies and some good tender meat.

Here we’ve got eggplant, onion, red pepper, green pepper, and marinated tri-tip roast cubes on the coals. I forgot just how much I love these things, and we cooked enough for Angela to enjoy for lunch all week long.