Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Getting Up in Yr Grill

With the warm weather in full effect, an old man's fancy often turns to some sorta BBQing/grilling sort of deal-io. And honestly, there's not a lot of great ways to involve leftovers in such fare BUT there are some neat tricks to make the work easier and guarantee great results.

You'll probably be doing this on a weekend, so you wanna amp up the aspect of PARTY from the git go, so I'd recommend you add soundtrack right from the outset and I think that The Beach Boys' Today and Summer Days & Summer Nights is pretty reet. Lotta folks ballyhoo Pet Sounds but actually Brian Wilson already turned the corner from catchy but disposable surf pop into more sophisticated composing and ambitious (Phil Spector influenced) production on these two releases which preceded Pet Sounds PS these two albums had been re-issued on a single disc at one point and that's VERY MUCH RECOMMENDED.

ANYWAY - we're not big on salt, processed foods,etc. and this is our version of backyard cuisine:

*start with steaks - pick a cut where the budget vs. quality ratio is acceptable to yr pocketbook and tastebuds
Mrs. W. says that an average REASONABLE serving should be about the size of the palm of your hand
thickness can vary from 3/4" to 1 1/2" but if yr width is palm sized, these directions will work fine; if width is significantly larger, you'll have to adjust cooking time
fatty cuts ain't so good for yr cholesterol but are yummy; lean cuts clearly are somewhat healthier and have a more uniform texture
you start by covering your steaks in beer - I think dark beer adds an interesting hint of sweetness; we copped this concept from some pirated Outback recipe; they use Guiness, we use Yuengling - and let it marinate 4 hours or so. Do NOT marinate overnight! We did this by accident once and all the blood leached out and the steaks wound up tasting kinda bland
when you're ready to throw 'em on the grill, remove 'em from marinade, pat dry and you might dry-rub 'em. I use a Cajun Prime Rib rub taken from Paul Prudhomme: mix up 6 tsp salt, 6 tsp white pepper, 6 tsp ground fennel seeds, 5 tsp black pepper, 2 1/2 tsp dry mustard, 2 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper. This makes a nice sized batch that will last a number of grilling sessions. The beer tenderizes the meat nicely. If you DO get an especially gnarly cut you can also whack it with a meat tenderizing mallet (a couple bucks at most grocery stores)- I'd beat up both sides but WITHOUT flattening and spreading out the meat as you'd do with prepping for Southern Fried Steak.

About a half hour before you're ready to start grilling:
take a sweet potato for each person, prick multiple times on two sides; heat uncovered in microwave 7 minutes, flip over, giving 'em a squeeze to see if they're getting squishy - if they ARE, then nuke another 3 minutes, if NOT squishy, give em five; renuke further to get em squeezeable. DEFINITELY PUT EM ON A PLATE, coz they will ooze sticky juices; then put aside
take fresh corn on the cob and either:
nuke all you're going to grill for 7 minutes IN THE HUSK or
clean the corn, wrap the stack up in plastic (I kinda like using a plastic grocery that you fill and then tie up tight) and nuke the same amount of time
the difference is, when you wanna clean the corn - which crisp husk or soggy husk

When you're ready to start grilling, put the steaks, corn and potatoes all on at once,
for well done steaks you cook em 10 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other
for rare, you cook 'em 5 minutes on both sides

Remove steaks, turn all the vegetables. Eat steaks, savoring 'em at a leisurely pace.

Remove corn, turn potatoes. Eat corn -- which should be roasted, slightly charred, yet tender. Eat 'em up.

Remove potatoes - which are definitely going to be charred on the outside and creamy on the inside.

The idea here is that you're kinda recreating a restaurant eating experience and eating each course in turn, yakking, taking in libations and getting to appreciate each dish on its own terms rather than addressing a whole plate of varied foods all at once - which is cool but essentially a different experience. The actual WORK involved runs to the minutes. The amount of time the ritual is stretched out over should run a couple hours at least even without coffee and dessert tacked on the end.

So, this isn't actually garbage/i.e. leftovers but -- a couple pieces of meat, a can of beer, a couple yams, a couple ears of corn and something to grill on (our grill of choice is some little Weber kettle I lifted out of someone's garbage), a little strategic prep and you got yrself a fine Summer partay!

P.S. while we're talking lazy-boy cop-outs -- try mixing a shot of tecquila into a tumbler of pink lemonade or limeade -- I think you'll be shocked at how acceptable this tastes for something so effortless. And frankly such juicifications made from frozen store brand versions work pretty damned good. I KNOW gourmand snobs will turn up their noses...I'm glad you got the time and money to spare - but 'round here we got plenty weeding to do and pipes to be replaced in the basement!

Summer Means Fun-k

Sorry for the got in the way. But everything led to happy endings.

Gotta admit that warm weather leads me want to head out as much as possible and the prospect of standing in a hot kitchen is not especially motivating so I've been just going with my standard recipes by and large and making a point to utilize leftovers strategically - with the least processing possible but still with an eye towards maximizing the quality of results. So, some basics here:

with chicken, turkey and fish (main dead beast et 'round here)
*if they're Southern fried/battered, ALWAYS heat up in a toaster oven at 350* (or regular oven if you don't mind burning up the watts for such a small job) and leave unwrapped so the breading crisps up - mebbe 20 minutes. The downside to this is that it dries things out a bit - ergo 20 minute cooking time
*if NOT battered, best to wrap in aluminum foil to keep moisture in - in which case I'd cook a full 30 minutes
NEVER REHEAT IN A MICROWAVE - it almost always does something weird to the texture
*I tend to save French fries for various reasons - I've used them in soups, either by themselves or mixed in with beans; when the cooking's done you wanna puree them to create a creamy base (without having to use dairy); I recent chopped up a handful and threw that into a pot of borscht, AFTER things were cooked coz if you cooked 'em with the raw vegetables - they'd be mush, which is not the point of borscht (I gotta say I was conferring with a Polish friend and she agrees that this stuff would be termed goulash by Pollacks)

I recent experimenting reheating fries and found that if you defrost 'em, lay em out in a single layer (don't add oil as they've already been deep fried and still contain oil), and sprinkle 'em with something savory like Tony Chachere's Cajun seasoning or Sittin' Bayou Cajun seasoning (a present from my niece Anna), or yr own concoction (equal parts paprika, garlic powder and half as much salt should do - or add an equal part cayenne if ya likes the heat), and heat at 350* in toaster oven for 30 minutes they come out pretty damned reet -- NOT like fresh out of the fryer but good on their own terms.

serve some of the above with baby spinach, chopped green pepper, sliced tomato - yr eatin' pretty with little or no effort.

There's really no prep time, so it's silly to recommend music to cook with, but while yr chowin' you could well listen to SOUTHEAST SOUNDS' B Street.