Friday, May 30, 2008

101 Things to Cook on Your Grill (Not Including Burgers)

My love of BBQ was professed in the last thread. Smoking over charcoal and wood is one of my favorite things in the world. But I never would have discovered that if it weren't for grilling.

Just to be clear, I am one of those people that makes a distinction between "grilling" and "barbeque." Barbeque involves charcoal and smoke, and typically takes longer than a couple hours to achieve good results. Grilling on the other hand may involve charcoal, but it also may included propane, natural gas, butane, a George Foreman device (acceptable only if grilling indoors) and can usually be completed in under an hour.

Grilling is what most of us do an long weekends, when we toss some frozen burger patties on the "Q" (herafter referred to as the GRILL). Many swear by steaks, some hot dogs (including brats, smokies, kilbasa, etc.) and the adventurous few, chicken. All are excellent uses of your grill, and I encourage you to keep with them. But I am amazed at how many backyard chefs stop their repetoire at just a couple items. A grill is simply a heat source, just like any other heat source, suitable for saute-ing, roasting, and yes, even baking.

A favourite recipe from our grill is pizza. A simple dough rolled into a thin crust and grilled makes one of the best pizzas I've ever produced at home. The Cook's Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Cooking has one of the best recipes for the dough. The toppings are up to you. But keep in mind, we're talking thin crust here, and minimal cooking time since you don't want to burn the crust. We like grilled veggies, basil and fresh basil ... or smoked chicken, grilled onions and smoked gouda.

A couple pizza-grilling tips:
  1. Make extra dough, roll it into portion sizes and freeze them for later use.
  2. Grill the dough on one side first, the flip it and add the toppings to the grilled side. This gives you a little extra "melting" time for the cheese.
  3. Use a pot lid to cover the pizza while you're heating the toppings. It helps to concentrate the heat.

Monday, May 19, 2008

One Out Of Six Ain't Bad.

So you've seen the Grill-Zebo, now it's time to see what all the fuss is about.

The Sunday of every May long weekend, J and I host what we call "The Luau." Our intent was to have a Hawaiian themed party ... grass skirts, pineapple and grilled Spam ... that sort of thing. It has since evolved into the "Luau and Pigfest" as the grilled Spam has been replaced with pulled pork and ribs. We keep the Luau-themed decorations, but the food is definitely Southern USA Bee-Bee-Q.

To say a lot of prep goes into this gathering is an understatement. Invites went out about 8 weeks ahead, the menu (what little of it I don't have pre-planned) was sorted out about 2 weeks ahead, and we started cooking the week before. The baked beans (shown above) for example, were cooked on Thursday. The smoking aspect of the party actually started on Saturday afternoon with chicken. 2I brined 20 thighs for 3 or 4 hours and then smoked for about 3. I used oak as my smoking wood this year and was really happy with the results. The chicken was really buttery and tasted quite similar to smoked cod.

The butts (2 of them about 8 lbs each) started at 10pm Saturday night. They were slathered in mustard and then given a liberal dose of "Bob's" rub. This much butt takes time to smoke, thus the late start. I average between 12 and 14 hours depending on the weather (warm this year!) so a late start is needed if I'm going to finish the butts and have enough time for the ribs. The trick to the overnight smoke is getting the temperature stabilized early, so you only have to make a quick check at 3am (and sneak a shot of bourbon).

Once the butts are smoking, and before bed times, I prepped the smokers and the ribs for a 9am start. My eldest son has helped with this in the past, but since he's now working, it was time for another generation of smokers to get his start. R was a good student, and soon we had 8 racks of ribs trimmed into St. Louis style ribs. We trimmed the sternum sections put them in to marinade overnight.

It's a bit of a trick to fit that many ribs into two Weber bullets. Rather than using a rib rack (think desktop file holder), I like to coil the ribs and use a skewer to pin them together. This makes them a little tricky to sauce later on, but for a larger group I can fit many more ribs into the Bullet this way. A coat of mustard and some "Bombay" rub, and the rib were put in the smokers for 7 hours.

The only prep left is shredding the butts. My son M claimed that duty this year. Something about shoving your hands into piles of smokey pork appeals to him. I'm very proud!

The Luau has become a labour of love. Partly because of the amount of work that goes into it ... J and I go non-stop for about 3 days. In addition, J shops for it year 'round and without her the Luau just wouldn't happen. But probably the biggest "issue" with the Luau has been the weather. This was the first year out of 6 that it didn't rain. The great food, friends and weather made all the work completely worth it.

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