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How to grill meats: review of Stew Leonard's NAKED & Kalamazoo Cook:Out recipes

OK, the parades are over, the fireworks a glittery memory and for many, the kids are back to school. Surely summer is over.

Cook:Out Cookbook
Kalamazoo

Except that it’s not. Not for the calendar nor for that most beloved way to cook: grilling.

There’s plenty of time now for home chefs to hone their grilling skills; perhaps more so because the party of family and friends won’t be dancing around the BBQ, just waiting to eat.

If grilling has meant flipping burgers or turning frankfurters, think again.

This Examiner was able to source grilling and meat-selection tips (and let’s face it, grilling means meat) from two of the food world’s top experts: Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet and Stew Leonard, a four-chain gourmet supermarket in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Kalamazoo – the premier makers of American-made outdoor cooking grills (more on the crafted outdoor appliance models, shortly) has produced a truly outstanding cookbook, packed with more than 75 recipes including the classic grilling food favorites: burgers, ribs, steaks, and shrimp and some crazy new ones. All celebrate fresh, seasonal ingredients cooked in the great outdoors over an open fire.

The hard-cover, 11x9”cookbook Cook:Out is produced by Kalamazoo; written by Russ Faulk, the company’s Outdoor Gourmet Grillmaster. It sits nicely on the grill’s sideboard for easy reference.

Cook:Out’s cover features a tempting cut of meat: with its marquee, cross-hatched grill marks perfectly balanced, and a forkful of diced, red tomatoes and pea shoots for added drama and color, all poised on a white plate nestled on a yellow, country napkin.

The sub head says it all: Fresh Ingredients - Fresh Air- Fresh Flavors from the Grill.

Russ Faulk, the VP of Marketing and Product Development at Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, claims to be an avid cook, and recipe developer writing he’s created nearly 100 recipes for the Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet website. Many of the recipes in the cookbook are popular favorites collected from the company’s blog: GourmetPatio.com, the Outdoor Gourmet newsletter. In addition, there are new recipes, including a curious and tantalizing recipe for Grilled Red Grapes with Dark Chocolate Honey Sauce.

No less than Rick Bayless, celebrity chef lauds Faulk with a blurb featured on the book’s jacket – along with Steven Raichlen, author of Planet Barbecue and How to Grill and host of Primal Grill on PBS.

The book is filled with easy to make recipes, minimal ingredients and time needed, lots of pictures – every recipe shows a plated, cooked dish.

Cook:Out delivers tips and recipes in an easy to understand layout and language.

Readers will find Outdoor Cooking Techniques, Grill Basics, Food Temperature Chart, and Recipes for food categories that include:

  • Poultry
  • Beef and Lamb
  • Pork
  • Seafood
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Pizzas and Breads

A condensed grilling primer to help with recipe preparation:

Determine if you will be using gas, charcoal, or wood.

  • Hybrid cooking products are available that combine some or all of these elements
  • Direct Grilling is the most common outdoor cooking where food is placed directly on the grill grate
  • Indirect Grilling is placing the food next to the fire rather than over the flame. Used for food that that requires cooking time longer than 20 minutes.
  • Searing is a type of direct grilling using extreme heat (700 degrees)
  • Barbecue is low heat and long cooking times with the use of wood smoke. Food is kept away from fire using indirect grilling technique. Barbecue is not just the sauce!
  • Spit Roasting or Rotisserie is food roasted on spit basters in its own juices.
  • Smoking is done on a dedicated smoker which has a fire box offset from the smoking chamber where the food goes. If a smoker is not available, cooks can achieve a smoke flavor by keeping the hood closed as much as possible so that the smoke can permeate the food. Keeping the grilling hood closed as much as possible also seals in juices.
  • Cooking Pizzas on the grill requires a high quality pizza stone – (not to be confused with a Peel)

This Examiner met up with Kalamazoo and the Grillmaster again this year: Examiner: Cooking products, tablescapes: Trends & Designs launch at AD Home Design Show writing about their outdoor kitchens for the show review and mentioned them in the Examiner - Fire up Memorial Day Weekend menus: History of grilling & barbecue recipes post about the history of grilling herbs, and grilling recipes.

Subsequently, the company’s vice president communications contacted me to review the Kalamazoo cookbook.

Three standout grilling meat recipes from Cook:Out are highlighted in this review because at the same time this Examiner was “taste-driving” three cuts of meat from Stew Leonard’s NAKED line of branded meats and the two tasks merged like peanut butter and jelly or well, meat and grilling.

Rib Cap Steaks with Chimichurri

Serves: 4

Ingredients

For the chimichurri

• ½ ounce fresh oregano

• 1 ½ ounces fresh parsley

• ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

• ¼ cup sherry vinegar (I use BLiS 9 Maple Sherry Vinegar)

• 2 cloves garlic, chopped

• 2 pinches ground cayenne pepper

• ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

• ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

For the steaks

• 4 rib cap steaks, about 10 ounces each

• Extra virgin olive oil

• Fine sea salt

• Freshly-ground black pepper

Instructions

Prepare the chimichurri by combining all the ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth, then adjust the taste with more salt if needed. Refrigerate until it’s time to use it, but no more than 5 hours.

Remove the steaks from the refrigerator. Brush with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.

Prepare the grill for direct grilling over a hot fire, about 600°F. A charcoal fire is preferred.

Grill the steaks above the fire for roughly 9 minutes total, flipping once after about 5 minutes. For medium rare steaks, remove them from the grill when the internal temperature reads 125°F. Let rest for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

Rib cap steaks are best when sliced across the grain. You may wish to slice the steaks on the bias for your guests, fan them out, and top with a drizzle of chimichurri sauce.

The NAKED Ribeye had a lot of integrity. The meat stood up to the kicky pepper and cheese flavors; its juicy, tender meat was delicious.

Here is another good ribeye recipe to try:

Ribeye Steak with Gorgonzola-Jalapeño Butter

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 bone-in ribeye steaks, about 1 ½ inches thick

Extra virgin olive oil

Kosher Salt

For the Gorgonzola-Jalapeño Butter

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

¼ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Zest of ½ lemon

As many rings of thinly sliced Jalapeño peppers as desired

Directions:

Prepare the grill for direct grilling at about 500°F. A wood fire is preferred.

Rinse and dry the steaks. Brush them all over with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Combine the butter, cheese, lemon zest and Jalapeño in a small bowl.

Reserve.

Grill the steaks in the direct cooking zone to the desired doneness, turning once. A few minutes before removing the steaks fro the grill, top each with the reserved Gorgonzola- Jalapeño Butter.

For medium-rare this ribeye steak grilled at 500°F should require about 15 minutes total cooking time.

Cedar-Planked Bone-In Filets with Horseradish Crab Butter

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the Horseradish Crab Butter

• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

• 5 teaspoons prepared horseradish

• Leaves picked from 2 sprigs fresh thyme

• ½ teaspoon smoked Maldon sea salt

• ½ cup cooked lump crab meat (I used crab meat from a can)

• 1 pinch ground cayenne pepper

• 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

For the steaks

• 4 cedar planks, soaked for 4 hours

• 4 bone-in tenderloin filets, about 12 ounces each

• Extra virgin olive oil

• Fine sea salt

• Freshly-cracked black pepper

Instructions

Prepare the Horseradish Crab Butter by stirring together all of the ingredients. Spread into a line on one end of a sheet of wax paper. Use the wax paper to roll and compress into a cylinder. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Remove the steaks from the refrigerator.

Prepare the grill for direct grilling at about 600°F.

Brush the steaks with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.

Brown the steaks on the tops, bottoms and all sides over the hottest part of the fire. Remove them from the fire and brush with more olive oil. Transfer to the soaked cedar planks, and place the planks over the hot fire. After 15 minutes on the planks, turn the steaks over and top each one with a pat of Horseradish Crab Butter, reserving at least half of the butter to add later if necessary. Cook the steaks to 120°F internal temperature for medium rare, about 20 to 30 minutes total time on the planks. Keep the grill closed as much as possible during this time, but beware of the planks igniting.

Note, plank grilling is normally done in the indirect zone for a longer period at lower temperatures. Our cedar-planked filets are being cooked at high temperatures for more smoke and more flavor. Keep a squirt bottle of water handy to douse the flames around the edges of the planks.

Transfer the planks to heat-resistant platters or on top of additional, unused planks, and let the steaks rest for 3 minutes before serving.

The NAKED filets were the best of the tastings: tender, flavorful and a good mate to seasonings.

Skirt Steak and Grilled Vegetables (with Pumpkin Romesco)

Serves 6

The recipe was cooked without the pumpkin sauce – and it is still a great tasting recipe.

Ingredients

• 1 sugar pie pumpkin, 1 1/2 to 2 pounds, scrubbed clean

• Extra virgin olive oil

• 2 dried pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded

• Water

• 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds

• 6 roma tomatoes, cored

• 4 garlic cloves left in their papery skins

• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

• 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

• 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

• 1 red onion

• 1 zucchini squash, stemmed and halved lengthwise

• 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak

• Kosher salt

• 1 pound fettuccini or other pasta

Instructions

Prepare the grill for indirect cooking at 500°F.

Wash the pumpkin. Cut away and discard the stem. Quarter the remainder and scrape away all the seeds and pulp.

Place the pieces in the indirect cooking zone with the shell-sides down and roast with the hood closed until tender, about 40 minutes.

Preheat 2 small skillets in the indirect zone along with the pumpkin. While the pumpkin is roasting, heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the surface begins to ripple, add the pasilla chiles. Use a turner to press the chiles into the pan until they start smoking. Turn them over and repeat on the other side.

Transfer the chiles to a bowl of water. Put a small plate on top to keep them submerged. Soak for 10 minutes.

Use the same oil, pan and heat setting to toast the pumpkin seeds. Keep them moving constantly until golden brown, about five minutes. Remove from the skillet and reserve.

After 30 minutes roasting time, add the tomatoes to one skillet and the garlic to the other. Roast with the hood closed for the final 10 minutes.

When done roasting, remove the pumpkin pieces and the skillets from the grill.

Adjust the fire and prepare for direct grilling at 550°F.

Start 4 quarts of water boiling for the pasta.

Peel away and discard the outer shell from the pumpkin pieces. Cut the flesh into smaller pieces and transfer to a blender (or food processor). Remove and discard the skins from the tomatoes and garlic. Add the tomatoes and garlic to the blender. Add the chiles, reserving the water. Add the pumpkin seeds and 1/2 cup olive oil, plus the vinegar, paprika and 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Process until smooth. Reserve.

The sauce should stay warm until the rest of the entree is finished. Cut the onion into 8 wedges with all the layers still held together by the base of the onion. Brush the onion and zucchini with olive oil. Brush the steak as well, but do not go back to the vegetables with the same brush. Season all liberally with kosher salt.

The NAKED skirt steaks were the least desirable of the tastings: they were a bit tough, even after being marinated. They tasted good - not great - when first cooked. Usually a skirt steak is great for leftovers but the steaks didn't improve with an overnight…

How to Choose a Quality Cut of Meat to Grill

Stew Leonard’s Butcher and Meat Manager at the Newington, Connecticut store, Jamie Distefano provided the answers to this Examiner’s questions. Distefano knows his way around the butcher knife: he’s been with Stew Leonard’s for 23 years.

Originally, it was to have been a meeting with Stew Jr. and one of their key ranchers: Tom and his wife Michele Fanning, from North West Oklahoma. The three were set to talk on a variety of topics such as: summer grilling tips, how to order the best cuts from your butcher and the benefits of sourcing and buying antibiotic free, hormone free and preservative free as Stew’s proprietary line of NAKED branded meats. Scheduling ran amok and the “dish ran away with the spoon…”

Nevertheless, the information was secured and the report here and the accompanying homegrown images are chock a block with tips on how to select quality cuts for grilling.

What makes your beef different than other quality meats?

Stew Leonard’s NAKED beef is all-natural and contains no antibiotics, no growth hormones and 100% vegetarian fed.

What do you do to promote/teach your consumers about quality meats sold at your store?

We always have plenty of samples for our customers to try at Stew Leonard’s so that they can really taste the difference of our NAKED products. Plus, we take the time to educate our butchers and Team Members here at Stew’s about what makes our line of NAKED so special so that they can answer customers’ questions. We also try to educate our customers through signage and sales fliers.

What is a favorite meat – the most popular?

Porterhouse and filet are the most popular with our customers. People love the porterhouse because it has the strip and the filet steak in the same cut of meat but the filet is the most tender meat that you can buy.

What tips do you provide to consumers to look for when purchasing meat?

Look for the marbling, which is the fat grain within the meat itself. The more white marbling there is in the meat itself, the more flavorful it will be. I also recommend talking to your butcher! Ask questions about which cut is best for grilling or slow cooking, how many people you’re looking to feed, etc. We will also custom cut your steak for free right at our butcher counter.

What is your recommended method of cooking meat? BBQ? Pan Fry? Or?

Cooking meat on the grill is great because it gives the most flavor.

Is there seasonality to meats?

Yes. In the summer, people are looking for porterhouse or something to grill. In the winter, they are looking for meat to either put in the Crockpot/slow cooker or oven roast.

What is your favorite cut of meat?

Personally, I like the porterhouse…but a lot of our butchers would have answered that with rib eye. Rib eye tends to be more tender than a porterhouse or a strip steak but the porterhouse has more flavor because it is on the bone. But you can’t go wrong with a good cut of meat! All I use is salt and pepper to season it – that’s all you need. A good steak speaks for itself.

Outdoor Kitchens

Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet offers a full line of outdoor cooking products from grills, to pizza ovens, to refrigerators and smokers. They offer the highest quality construction and good design.

This Examiner is also a garden designer who creates outdoor rooms. And as an exterior designer, I see an increased opportunity to fulfill a homegrown, food-based lifestyle – a burgeoning trend toward sophisticated yet relaxed outdoor living. Kalamazoo’s crafted, full-service kitchens and cooking spaces elevate outdoor entertaining.

See Gywneth Paltrow's Hamptons outdoor kitchen . Paltrow writes, “My professional grade outdoor kitchen by Kalamazoo has given my house and my summer meals a real upgrade. Beautiful and multifunctional, it has become the heart of the house during the warmer months.”

Paltrow is a recognized cook, cookbook author, and advocate of all Homegrown. This Examiner experienced the sheer joy of sharing The Magic of East Hampton Library Authors Night with Paltrow in our author’s block of autograph tables. With her family there for support (pre “Conscious Uncoupling” from husband Chris Martin) Paltrow was looking gorgeous and working hard signing copies of her book, It's all Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great.

Also endorsing Kalamazoo products are popular chefs from Bayless to Wolfgang Puck who sing the praises of the Kalamazoo grills. Celebrity Chef Bayless goes so far as to be quoted, “Kalamazoo has changed the way I cook outdoors.”

The leaves haven’t even begun to turn color – so grilling privileges are granted to continue to earn a grill badge this season.

Get grilling before it’s really too late.