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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cooking 4 Guys : The Grill

Guys need one thing above everything else to cook, Fire. Whether it's a wood burning stove, a charcoal grill, or a gas grill, it all starts as fire. Although there are plenty of tools to use when grilling, from that kit of a spatula, tongs, and other items in it's own case, to the fork with a thermometer in it, to your favorite apron with it's appropriate saying, all we need is a blade, a pointy object, fire, and food (preferably meat). Grab a stick, poke it through a hot dog or sausage, hold it over the fire and occasionally turn it get the right amount of brown and black, and we are happy. To test if the grill is hot enough we use our hand, hold it over the heat, and if you can keep it there for 5 seconds, it's not hot enough. If you have to move it after 2 or 3, get cooking. To clean the grill, we heat the grill and then use a wire brush like the one in our tool kit to clean rust and gunk for things. We grill things we wouldn't otherwise eat, and make them tasty morsels of culinary delight.

Another process using the grill is smoking. You can do this a couple of ways, one is to have a separate smoking chamber and connect it to the chamber where the food is. The smoke is allowed to surround and infuse taste into the food. This is usually a longer process, from all day, to days and weeks to make items like smoked ham and smoked turkey, or even preserving it like jerky. Another way is a more direct approach, with the multiple area cooking. You have a hot side and a cool side of the grill. A Weber kettle is great for this because is has lid that can be rotated so you can direct the smoke over your food to give it that flavor you want. Usually you start this type of smoking by first searing the meat, or other food, giving it the desired grill marks, on the hot side of the grill. Then you move it to the cool side of the grill, and add your soaked wood on the hot side, either directly or in a foil pouch with holes punched into it, allowing it to create the smoke and the taste you want. A third, cheating method, is to steam or boil the food in a mixture of water and liquid smoke. This infuses the flavor into the meat, and is even part of how some say to cook tougher cuts of meat or especially ribs.

Something else you can do on a grill is a variation of the tortilla pizza I mentioned in an earlier post. Take a tortilla, spray it with some sort of cooking spray, place it on the grill for a couple of minutes. When it gets some grill marks, flip it over and put your toppings on it. Close the lid for about 5 minutes and then check it out to see if it's done. This is great for those leftovers at the end of the night, slices of tomato, onions, peppers, and cheese. If you have a pizza stone, even better, place it on the grill to heat up for long enough and you have the crisp crust with a smokey taste.

Many side dishes can also be cooked in the grill, grilled corn to baked potato are 2 that come to mind. For corn, I have seen variations on 2 methods, both start with opening it, pealing back the husks, and removing the silk. The first method is to soak the corn and close the husk back around it and place it on the grill until the outer leaves start to singe and turn black. You then peal the husk and eat. The second is to remove the husk, or even peal it back and tie it as a handle, and then soak it and place it direct on the grill. Place the husk on a cool spot or hanging over the edge of the grill, and you can use it to hold your ear of corn as you enjoy it. One variation on that last method of cooking corn, I saw on a TV show with Rick Bayless, a cook who would travel through Mexico, to the markets, and peasant areas, to learn the everyday cooking of the regions and states of Mexico. The variation is more the condiments added to the corn when done. Combine the two methods of cooking corn I first stated, soaking the corn, and cooking it in the husk, letting it stand until it cools a bit, peal back the husk and butter the corn lightly and place it on the grill to get the marks and smoky taste. Combine some Mexican crema, or sour cream with a little bit of milk or cream to thin it out. Use the crema instead of butter, and then coat with grated queso anejo or parmesan cheese, or some other dried grated cheese, and then coat with powdered chili. The recipe for this is located at on Rick Bayless' Frontera web site.

Potatoes are even easier, even if they take longer. This is great with charcoal as the potatoes start to cook while you wait for them to heat to grill the other items.This method is also good for cooking whole large onions, or other root vegetables. Take your potatoes, soak them for a bit with some water then pat them dry, wrap them in foil. Poke some wholes in the foil and into the potatoes to let the steam out and to let it bake as it finishes. Start the charcoals, and place the foil wrapped potatoes and stick them directly into the coals. As you prepare the coals for cooking you can turn the potatoes to get cooked evenly, finally moving them to the edge of the fire while you place the grill on top and cook the rest of the meal. Remove them from the fire when it gets to the firmness you like, unwrap and butter and season to taste.


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