Couple takes to cooking outside, all year round
For our Cook "couple" of the week, John Harty and Sue Ascher from Riverwoods, it's all about the Green Egg. Three of them to be exact (small, medium and large.) John and Sue have been cooking together for 14 years, but it was about 6 years ago, after John watched an episode of "Pit Masters," that he decided to get a Green Egg and their cooking style changed dramatically.
"It's basically a ceramic barbecue," explains John, "but it's more than just a smoker. It uses organic lump coal and does slow cooking. It uses indirect heating, like a convection oven." John and Sue cook breakfast, lunch and dinner on their Green Eggs -- all year round.
"It's the only cooking equipment we need to use. I was out there last night with an umbrella," John shrugs. "Once the prep work is done, and the grill is going, it's more of an adventure at that point. You just have to be patient and wait for the temperature, and then you just leave it alone."
"It's not flawless," cautions Sue, "you do have to monitor it, but the more you use it, the more you trust it." The Green Egg has a computerized monitor that will notify the cook when temperature changes, or cooking time is up.
"The result is delicious, tender meat -- pork shoulders, brisket, legs of lamb -- cooked perfectly every time," John said.
"It sounds like we're cavemen here," Sue laughs, "but we do healthy cooking -- fish, vegetables, chicken. We cook everything on the Egg."
John and Sue do use their kitchen for the prep work.
"The prep work is what we enjoy doing together -- the chopping and mixing. Sue does her thing -- she creates the flavorings and seasonings -- and I do mine, and then the two wheels collide," explains John. Sue laughs, "Well, maybe it's more of mesh together." He agrees, laughing, "That sounds better." The couple enjoys making spice rubs and marinades for their dishes.
"We're constantly changing them, constantly reworking them. It's all about personal experimentation, very specific to someone's tastes," Sue said.
John's area of expertise is the grill, er Green Egg.
"The goal with a Green Egg is cooking without opening it. Every time you open the Egg, a burst of air will change the temperature. So initially the whole process is an unknown, learning times and temperatures and crossing your fingers." One nice thing is that there is no use of chemicals to start the grill, and lump coal is reusable.
John and Sue share their recipe for rack of lamb with us today. It uses a blend of lemon, marjoram, sage, garlic and rosemary rubbed into the lamb with delicious results. If you don't happen to own a Green Egg, use your oven and stick to the temperature requirements, including the meat temperature recommendations.
The proof must be in the pudding, or should we say, the meat, because the use of Green Eggs among John's family and friends is increasing.
"A lot of people are turned away because of how expensive they are, but the results are worth it. Everyone thinks it's just a smoker, but it's so much more than that. I've had my first one for six years, and it just gets better -- like a seasoned wok."
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