Moving from Washington to Tennessee last year I was really looking forward to the Mid-south’s long seasons of sunshine and dry weather. I imagined laid-back meals cooked on our outdoor grill and eaten on the patio. I sifted through pictures of unique patios and pretty outdoor settings and pinned them to my boards on Pinterest.
Once the moving truck pulled away and we began to settle into our new home most of our projects seemed to focus on that end. Our first project was designed to transform the existing yard, a narrow strip beside the house and the main driveway that was paved with a long sloping second driveway and concrete patio just off the back door. Instead, we drew up plans for a terraced garden, patio and outdoor cooking space. After the second driveway was removed and boundaries and bones of the yard were in place, we hired a landscaping specialist to construct the patios, install the garden and pave an area designated for a BBQ grill.
Out With the Old
As soon as the designated stone pad was in place on the side of the house my husband began to shop for a new BBQ grill to fill the space. His old grill, a hideous-looking sixteen year old Ducane that was fueled by natural gas, was left behind in Washington. It was plumbed to the house and so old it did not seem reasonable, at the time, to have it converted to a new fuel source. Our mistake was to think that a similar grill would be easy to come by. Though we looked, we could not find another gas grill with ceramic charcoal briquettes for sale anywhere. What we did find for sale were Big Green Eggs and fellow customers who were passionate about cooking on them.
If you are as in the dark as I was a short time ago, a Big Green Egg is a kamado-style ceramic charcoal cooker. It reaches high temperatures which can be effectively stabilized and maintained by adjusting several air-flow controls while using a relatively small amount of natural charcoal. With the use of some pricey accessories, most especially a ceramic plate setter but not forgetting the functional cast iron grate, it can be used as a brick oven as well as a grill.
In With the New
Honestly, I have never used our BBQ grill. Prior to our move last year the general understanding at my house was that I do the indoor cooking and my husband takes care of the outdoor cooking. At times I have prepared Kebabs for picnic grilling or marinated meat to be cooked on the grill but I never do the actual outdoor cooking. As we looked for a new outdoor grill I attended to the process with only a mild interest and was frequently distracted by other items on display like outdoor furniture and gardening books.
Even from the bookshelf, however, I couldn’t help but overhear the change in tone when the men in the barbecue zone began to share tales about the Big Green Egg. Joy began to infuse their voices and the texture of legend began to frame their words. As I was drawn into the conversation I detected a twinkle in the eyes of other customers, grilling compatriots not paid salesmen, as they talked about methods of starting the charcoal, length of time they devoted to cooking a pork butt, or the latest gadget they used to light charcoal or time and check the internal temperature of what they put on the grill.
Then they touched on the subject of baking. They had baked pizzas on this grill and claimed there was no better way to cook them. They compared the Big Green Egg to a brick oven, then shared rumors that it was great for baking bread and biscuits too. They mentioned blogs and websites devoted to cooking on the Big Green Egg along with series of YouTube videos.
Discovering the Passion
As I pondered these claims over the next few weeks I have to admit that I was intrigued and far from disappointed when my husband suggested we buy a Big Green Egg rather than some infrared shiny aluminum gas grill. He told me he thought it was time to try something new. He suggested it might be fun for us to cook together in our newly renovated back yard garden and cultivate a few specialties beyond Grilled Salmon and Greek Feta Chicken. I agreed.
On a Wednesday The Egg was delivered. On Thursday we grilled chicken breasts and by Saturday morning took it up a notch and tested the brick oven theory. While still a little shaky in our skills to maintain a stable oven temperature (mostly due to an insuppressible desire to open the lid and see what is going on in there) we made a batch of our favorite Buttermilk Scones and put them on a baking stone in the Big Green Egg.
While they took a little longer to get done in the middle than in a conventional oven (again, most likely due to indiscreet peeking) the added time allowed for a little extra delicious browning. What emerged were some gorgeous scones, golden and crispy on the outside, soft and pillowy on the inside. The taste had a pleasing touch of smokiness from the barbecue that complemented the crispiness of the golden crust as well. Spread with butter and strawberry jam they were exceptionally delicious. I’d have to call this adventure a success! Now what will we cook next….
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons cream of tartar
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
Preheat grill (or oven) to 425 degrees.
Mix flour, 2 Tablespoons sugar, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt, in a large bowl. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles course meal. Stir in the buttermilk and egg.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Dough will be moist. Roll dough out into a circle 1½ inches thick. Transfer to a round baking stone. Cut into wedges. Brush top with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired.
Bake at 425F until golden brown, about 15 - 25 minutes (in the oven, I start checking at 15 minutes. On the Big Green Egg it has taken as long as 25 minutes.) Serve immediately with an assortment of jam, butter and honey, or fruit and cream.