It's been warm in these parts lately. In weather like this, by evening the indoors is stiflingly hot, while the outdoors is just staring to cool down. So, it makes sense that we'd be driven outdoors. Perhaps it makes less sense that, after escaping the heat indoors, I'd build a blazing hot fire over which to cook.
Life is full of mysteries.
Anyway, while I'm working on the promised post about what non-scientists can do to improve commuications with scientists, I'm curious to find out who else runs to the grill, and how you do it. If you want to consider this a meme, you should also consider yourself tagged!
Gas or charcoal?
I'm a charcoal griller. (Real hardwood charcoal, not those compressed briquettes.) I prefer mesquite charcoal if I can get it. Smoky = tasty.
Charcoal chimney starter to get the fire lit. Grill wok for cooking stuff that would fall through the grate and into the fire. Loaf pans and aluminum foil so foods that have achieved the right surface doneness can also achieve doneness in the middle.
Childhood grilling memories?
The smell of lighter fluid (which I never use). Gramp Pete's chicken (which I never make -- vegetarian now). Roasting marshmallows over the coal (which we don't do -- vegetarian).
You're firing up the grill. What must you cook?
Peppers, because grilled peppers .... mmm! Also, whatever kind of mushroom we have in the fridge (often a few kinds).
Special occasion griiling?
Sourdough flatbread. Figs (served with crumbled blue cheese). Halloumi (if I can get my hands on any).
Grill now, eat later?
Eggplant (for baba ganouj, etc.). Red peppers (to marinate with red wine vinegar and garlic).
Most requested dish or recipe?
Grilled marinated tofu. Sweet potatoes with Korean barbeque sauce.
The thing that almost never works as well as it should?
Tandoori cauliflower. Five years ago Uncle Fishy made a fabulous cauliflower with tandoori marinate on the grill -- crisp-tended, fully flavored, with a lovely crust to it. Since then, I've been trying to reproduce it. Making the marinate in the blender leaves it too runny to cling properly. Last time I almost got it -- when blending the spices I only used part of the yogurt, and I used a cheese-style yogurt, which is a lot thicker. But the crust wasn't quite right.
Meat. Stuff on skewers (which is the point of the grill wok -- life is too short to spend it poking your hands with bamboo skewers). Tomatoes (we like them better raw). Spuds or sweet potatoes that haven't been parboiled first.
Grilling a whole menu over appropriate stages of the fire without having to rebuild partway through. Not burning my thumb with the lighter when starting the fire.
On the lookout for?
Longer tongs. Tasty ways to grill cabbage and other green vegetables. Good grillable desserts.
So, what's cooking?
Kind of grill: Gypsy grill (the small rectangular thing). It is hard to find in the USA, so the simplest metal grill I can find.
Gas or charcoal: Small pieces of regular coal (not briquetted) - also hard to find around here, so I cuss and curse and get briquettes in the end. Gas is a big no-no.
Lighter fluid (pure distilled "spiritus"!) if I am in a hurry (which is, like, never), otherwise newspapers for starting the fire with wooden matches - no lighters!
Indispensible tools: Short and long tongs, fork, and a piece of cardboard to fan the flames are the only neccessary tools. Also a table, a chair, some plates, a couple of bottles of good local or homebrewed beer (13%) and a few shotglasses of slivowitz. Homemade bread to help with sampling the food. Fresh salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, hot peppers, onions, and such - no lettuce).
A piece of pigback/bacon to thoroughly clean and grease the grill beforehand, so nothing sticks to it. It is delicious in the end, when it is itself grilled.
The whole process is very elaborate and takes a while.
What Must You Cook: Pljeskavice (Serbian-style hamburgers with lots of onions, garlic and black pepper mixed into the beef-pork mix meat), small spicy sausages, something skewered (usually pieces of baby-beef or veal, sometimes pork, slices of onion, green bell peppers, mushrooms and bacon), and young corn (shucked before grilling, so the surface of the kernels gets all brown and crispy). Recently I diversified into chicken and steak as well for the non-Serbs (i.e., everyone else but me) in the family.
NEVER have to rest in the middle of the proceedings - I learned the art from my father, the renowned grillmaster.
That's it. I do not do exotic stuff.
What's your beef with marshmallows? (Pun intentional.)
Marshmallows are made with gelatin, which is obtained by boiling animal skin, connective tissues, and bones (and ergo, isn't very vegetarian).
There exist marshmallows that are made with seaweed-derived gelatinous substances, but these are hard to find, kind of pricy, and much more vulnerable to humidity than your standard Stay-Puft marshmallows. So generally, we just do without.
May I suggest that, IF anyone is going to use "Spiritus" (which in Europe is alcohol) for kickstarting the BBQ regardless of common sense, you use a syringe with a needle?
Fill the syringe from the spiritus bottle in the kitchen, so the bottle doesn't have to leave the house, possibly ending up near the BBQ.
The chemistry and physics of exploding spiritus bottles are well documented, as well as the numerous burn victims and deaths that keep on happening because people simply pour spiritus from the bottle onto the fire.
I did this once myself, and survived miraculously by applying all my scientific intuition at lightning speed and by sheer luck, because the bottle was almost full. Had I applied mentioned intuition beforehand, no disaster would have been pending.
Yes, I use the syringe. My father used to just pour out of the bottle. But he would return the bottle back to the shed BEFORE lighting the grill.
Howabout some grilled pineapple for a dessert? I'm not a big pineapple fan but I love it grilled. And like most things in life it's good dipped in chocolate.
>Gas or Wood?
During the summer, electric. During a total fire ban, it is illegal to use wood or gas, as they constitute a bushfire hazard.
Bananas grilled until black all over, then split lengthwise and bits of chocolate pushed in to melt. Mmm.
Mmmm, grilled pineapples. I like them best over vanilla ice cream. Pineapple is one of the few fruits that don't go well with chocolate, IMO.
Okay, here are the real answers:
Fire: Mesquite charcoal, hickory wood chunks and chips, apple, pecan and pear wood chips for long smoking, always with the 22 inch Weber.
Tools: the grate with openable wings to add more coal/wood and an aluminum pie pan filled with water next to the wood to keep things nice and moist.
Grilling memories: lighter fluid? I barely remember. I think the electic coil stuck in the mound of kingsford was how I recall it.
What must I cook: If nothing else, large shrimp (head and shell intact) skewered on rosemary springs just to keep the rosemary bush in check.
Special Occasion: filet's with large, freshly found golden chanterelles cooked whole beside the steaks.
Grill now eat later: Bacon! I have a belly curing right now. In about a week I'll give it three hours of pear wood.
Most requested: Slow smoked pork shoulder, pulled for sandwiches and seasoned with a vinegar sauce.
Things that never work: Everything works. Oh, except the time we tried lobster in a frigid New England winter. The shells blackened before the meat was warmed at all. Also, I've stopped grilling corn.
Never grill: I've never kept figs around long enough for them to get any further from my mouth than my hand.
Challenges: Catching enough trout prior to having people over.
On the lookout for: I might break down and get a thermometer.