The GrillDome





A few years back I read an article in a cooking magazine about a new grill/smoker. I was intrigued by the description of this ceramic cooker that could sear steak at high temperatures and smoke meat when the two vents were adjusted to a lower temperature. So I ordered one for my husband for his birthday. What arrived ( on a wooden pallet on a big truck ) is called the GrillDome. It is a large ceramic egg-shaped cooker that uses natural hardwood charcoal and has a temperature range of 200 to 700 F. There are two vents: one is at the base of the cooker and the other at the top, somewhat like a chimney. By opening and closing these vents you can control the temperature and the amount of smoke that passes over the grill grates. You can cook just about anything you can imagine, from the usual barbecue items to pizza to smoked fish and sausage. Andy constructed a table to the hold the “Dome” and we started to experiment with various foodstuffs. The results were really good. It does take some time to get the charcoal started, but once it’s hot, you are good to go. The ceramic walls hold the heat and moisture and the food has that particularly distinctive flavor and aroma that one only gets from cooking over charcoal. Our favorite GrillDome dish to date is the slow-smoked brisket that I recreated from a recipe in the 2009 Saveur magazine special Texas issue. We revisited the brisket meal this past week with excellent results. It is a full day’s event to cook this meal, but if you want to entertain a group of people who appreciate good barbecue, this is the way to do it. I decided to go ahead with the barbecue theme and served side dishes that I associate with this Texas style dish. Included here are the recipes for the spicy baked beans and corn bread you see pictured with the brisket. And you don’t need a GrillDome to cook the brisket. Any kettle style grill with a cover and an accurate thermometer will work. You simply build your fire on one side of the grill and cook the meat on the other side using the indirect heat of the fire. Give it a try; it may become your family’s favorite barbecue meal too.

Slow-Smoked Brisket (Saveur Magazine volume number 121)

Make a spice rub for the meat by combining:
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons mustard powder
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Rub a 5 pound brisket with the spice rub. Wrap and refrigerate overnight. Build a fire in your grill with hardwood charcoal. Let it burn down to ashy coals. If you are working with a kettle grill, put your coals over half of the bottom grate and nestle in 3 wood chunks. I used hickory for my smoke but mesquite is the preferred wood for Texas barbecue. Place the lid on the grill and let the wood smoke develop. Adjust the vents to achieve a temperature of 225 to 250F. Place a foil pan half full of water on the side of the grill opposite the coals. Place the top grate over the coals and the pan and lay the brisket directly over the water bath. The GrillDome has an elevated grill that fits atop the main grate that allows for indirect cooking, as you can see from the photos.
Slow cook the brisket for 4-5 hours, replenishing the fire as needed to maintain the 225-250F cooking temperature. Test the brisket temperature with an instant read thermometer after four hours. If it is 160F, remove it from the grill. I now remove the foil pan of water from the grill, empty the water and place the brisket in the pan. You could also place the meat on a sheet of heavy duty foil. Pour over 3/4 cup of warm lager beer and seal the foil packet or cover the pan with foil wrap and seal it well. Return the foil wrapped brisket to the grill and continue cooking at the same temperature range until the meat is 190F, about 2 more hours. Let the wrapped brisket rest on the cooled, uncovered grill for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. Arrange the brisket fat side up on a cutting board and carve across the grain into thin slices. Moisten with some of the cooking juices from the foil pack.

Spicy Red-Eye Baked Beans (adapted from Fine Cooking, volume 93)
serves 8 to 10
1 lb. dried pinto beans
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder (this is spicy, so be judicious. You can always add more later)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
freshly ground black pepper
6 cups low sodium beef broth
1 meaty smoked ham hock ( I used a chunk of slab bacon)
1 cup brewed coffee
1/3 cup mild molasses
1/3 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional, I used Crown Royal whiskey)
kosher salt

Sort through the beans, rinse them, and cover them by 2 inches with cold water in a large bowl. Cover and let soak overnight. With the rack positioned in the center of the oven, preheat to 300F. Melt the butter in 5 to 6 quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chile powders, cumin, allspice and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring, until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the broth and the ham hock or slab bacon. Stir to combine. Add the beans and bring just to a simmer. Cover and bake until the beans are easy to bite into but still a little mealy in texture, 45 to 60 minutes. Stir in the coffee, molasses, ketchup, Worcestershire and oregano. Bake, uncovered, until the beans are fully tender, 30 to 60 minutes more. At this point the beans will be very soupy. If you have time it is a good idea to cool and refrigerate them for a few hours, overnight if possible. Before you do this, remove the oregano stems and the meat. If you have used a ham hock, remove the skin, cut the meat off the bone and chop it. If you opted for the slab bacon, dice into about 1/2 inch pieces. Add the meat back to the beans. If you don’t have time for the refrigeration step, set the pot of beans on the stovetop, uncovered, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer until the sauce is reduced to the consistency of thin gravy. Stir occasionally so the bottom doesn’t burn. This will take about 40 to 60 minutes. At the end stir in the bourbon (or good rye whiskey) and adjust the seasoning with kosher salt and pepper.

Buttermilk Corn Bread ( adapted from “Bread” by Beth Hensperger)
one 9 inch bread; 6 to 8 servings
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup fresh corn kernels ( cut from a large cob of corn)
1/2 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400F. Generously grease a 9 inch cake pan (at least 2 inches deep) or a 9 inch springform pan. Place the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and butter. Add the liquid ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients and combine quickly and lightly, adding the corn and jalapeno as soon as the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure you do not miss any of the flour mixture, but try not to overmix. Pour the batter into your prepared pan, smooth the top and place in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until golden around the edges and a cake tester comes out clean. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

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