by Chris the Food Guy
Hey folks, I’m back for another round of Freaks & Foodies. I hope you enjoyed my first article last month and made some of the tasty dishes I suggested.
This month I am continuing with the summertime eats theme and want to talk about two noble practices:
grilling and barbecuing.
by Chris the Food Guy
Hey folks, I’m back for another round of Freaks & Foodies. I hope you enjoyed my first article last month and made some of the tasty dishes I suggested. This month I am continuing with the summertime eats theme and want to talk about two noble practices: grilling and barbecuing.
I would bet the most people don’t know there is a difference between grilling and barbecue (BBQ). Both involve heaps of meat and hot coals, but that is where the similarities end. BBQ is cooking meat over a long length of time over indirect heat at low temperature. Indirect heat means that you do not place the meat directly over the coals, and you want to keep the temperature around 180 – 195 degrees Farenheit inside the cooking chamber. The meat then cooks over a matter of hours until it is tender and juicy. I could do and entire article on BBQ, and I most definitely will, but this time I am going to concentrate on the art of grilling.
Charcoal adds that woody, caramelized, smoke-infused flavor, and that is the best part of outdoor cooking.
Grilling is kind of the opposite of BBQ. Get those coals up to a high heat, slap that meat right on the fire and cook it for a short period of time. Grilling is what most people think of when you say to them. Grilling is great for burgers, hot dogs, brats, and of course steak. You can grill veggies and even fruit for a tasty side dish for the meat. Today I will share a few tips for the perfect steak on the grill, the best grilled corn you’ll ever have, and a new discovery for me – grilled watermelon.
Let’s talk about the grill. There are those who use gas grills and those who use charcoal. To me, it’s not truly grilling if you are using a gas grill. Charcoal adds that woody, caramelized, smoke-infused flavor, and that is the best part of outdoor cooking. I use the Cowboy brand, which is all natural wood charcoal that burns really nice. I also highly recommend purchasing a “chimney style” charcoal starter, which makes getting the coals going much easier. Once your coals have been started and the charcoal begins to get nice and ashy grey on the edges, place the cooking grill over the coals, allow it to nice and hot, then clean it with a wire brush.
Now it’s time to cook. Grilling is all about timing, so we will start with the item that takes the longest – the corn. Here’s a simple and delicious recipe:
1 grill, coals ready
6 ears of farm fresh sweet yellow corn
garlic powder to taste
salt and pepper to taste
crushed red pepper to taste
Trim the silk from the corn but leave the husks. Place the corn to the side of the coals and close the lid of the grill. Cook for about 15 minutes, turning once to allow for even cooking. Test the corn for doneness by gently squeezing it. Once it is slightly tender through the husk you are ready to season.
Peel the husks back and remove any excess silk, leaving the husks folded back over the stalk. Lightly coat each ear of corn with garlic powder, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Fold the husks back over the corn and place back on the grill away from the coals. The husk will bake the flavors into the corn while you cook the rest of your meal.
Just before your meat is done, peel the husk back again and put the corn on the grill directly over the coals. Cook until the kernels just start to brown. Turn as needed for even browning. Coat with butter and serve.
Yield: 6 servings.
Side note – I heard a variation on this recipe on NPR’s “Splendid Table” recently, Drippy Mexican Sweet Corn. The name alone makes me want to try it. Here’s the link: http://www.publicradio.org/columns/splendid-table/recipes/side_sweetcorn.html
Now for the meat:
1 nice, hot grill
1 steak – cut of your choice – 16 -20 oz.
coarse sea salt
Prep time: 20 – 25 minutes
Cook time: 8 – 10 minutes for medium rare
Today I have chosen to use a cut of meat known as the New York Strip. This is a thick, well-marbled cut of meat, about 1 ¾” to 2” thick, usually around 16 – 20 oz. in weight. Don’t trim that fat – it’s what gives the meat that rich, beef flavor. Try and get local grass-fed beef if you can; the flavor and texture of the meat is so beyond that of grocery store grain-fed beef.
The best way to prepare a steak is very simple. Take the steak out of the refrigerator about 20 – 25 minutes before you are ready to throw it on the grill, sprinkle both sides with course sea salt and allow it to sit on the counter and get to room temperature.
I like my steak cooked medium rare, so I am going to place the steak directly over the coals for about 4 – 5 minutes per side (cooking time will vary with thickness of steak, you can test for doneness by touch.) After the 2 minute mark, use grill tongs and turn the steak 90 degrees. Never use a fork! Piercing the meat will allow all the juices to escape and we don’t want that.
Turning the steak gives those nice diamond grill marks on the meat. After 3 additional minutes, flip the steak and repeat the process on the other side. It helps to move the steak to a cooler part of the grill for the last 3 – 4 minutes for finishing; this will prevent overcooking.
Check for doneness by pressing on the steak with your finger or tongs. For rare to medium rare, the meat should be tender and soft and tougher for medium well to well-done meat. Do not cut or slice meat to check for doneness – again, we don’t want to let the juices escape the meat. Once the steak has reached desired doneness, remove it from the heat and let it stand for 6 – 10 minutes. This is the key to finishing the steak properly. Allowing the meat to rest before serving lets the juices settle down and complete the cooking process internally.
Yield: 1 to 2 servings.
Grilled Watermelon – yes, you read that correctly. I just learned about this a few weeks ago and can’t get enough of it.
1 mini seedless watermelon, cut into 1 ½” thick rounds
1 bunch fresh mint, coarsely chopped
1 bunch of fresh basil coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon Balsamic reduction – see below
course sea salt
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 6 minutes
Cut a round or two from the watermelon and remove the rind, keeping the watermelon disk intact. Pat melon dry with a paper towel. Lightly coat the melon with olive oil and place on a hot grill. Grill until grill marks are nice and brown, roughly 3 minutes, then turn over and do the other side another 3 minutes.
Remove from grill and drizzle a small amount of balsamic reduction over the melon, garnish with mint, basil and small amount of sea salt. Cut each round into 6 wedges and serve as a side dish or as a salad.
Yield: 6 -12 servings.
Balsamic Reduction, courtesy of COOK, a oui chef journal
Whatever amount of vinegar you decide to reduce, you will end up with about less than a quarter of the original amount in syrup. I am basing this recipe on a 3 cup reduction.
3 cups balsamic vinegar
Place the vinegar in a heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot. Heat on low, so that you have a light simmer. Reduce until syrupy, or to desired consistency, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
To test the consistency, I like to take a spoon and drizzle a few drops onto a cool plate, or better yet, take a dry pastry brush and brush some glaze onto the same plate. I’ll then run my finger right over the cooled glaze to see how sticky it is. If the consistency is too thick, add a little water to the glaze, stir it up, and test again. If its too thin, return the pot to the heat. Whatever happens, don’t let it burn…
Once cooled, it can be stored at room temperature. If for some reason it is stored in the fridge where it will harden quite a bit, just place it in its container into a hot water bath or microwave for a few seconds, this will soften it up quickly.
TIP: Cooking time will vary, according to the size of the pot. Surface area makes a difference.
TIP #2: If vinegar is reduced too far for your use without being burnt, a little water can be added to thin it out again. The easiest way to do this is while the reduction is warmed over the stove.
NOTE: This technique can also be used for wine reductions and other vinegars, although the yield and cooking times may vary according to the natural sugar content.
Well I hope you enjoyed this installment of Freaks & Foodies. Sometimes simple is best when it comes to cooking. Next time we will talk BBQ and PORK, the two reasons I live. Dry rubs and sauces, sweet and spicy – we will touch on it all.
Until then, eat well and enjoy.