On Ryan’s Plate: Getting Grilled
Hi friends! Have you missed hearing from my sassy, sarcastic, comedian of a husband?
You’re in luck. Ryan’s stepping in to talk about his grilling hits and misses this summer. Well, he’s stepping into talk about one hit. And many misses:
Take it away, Ryan!
For the past several years, I have really enjoyed grilling. It’s one of the few stereotypically “manly” activities that I can perform competently, and there’s nothing as relaxing as grilling with a beer on a summer evening. I actually bought my first grill from Anna, a few months before we started dating. I wanted a cheap grill, and I really wanted an excuse to go over to her house and flirt with her awkwardly (Me: “You’re really going to like my meat.”Anna: “Uh, yeah. You really should get going.”). In the years since, I’ve grilled all kinds of great meals – beer chicken, steak, kabobs, even pizzas. Grilling was always my go-to meal for entertaining, since it’s both simple and popular.
But this summer, I’ve been in a slump. I burned asparagus, undercooked tenderloin, and let an ear of corn roll right off the grill. I felt like Detroit Lions Running Back Mel Farr, whose notorious sophomore slump is common knowledge to anyone who Googles sports facts for blog posts, as I did just now. I don’t know the cause of my slump – inattention due to the presence of a toddler, laziness, and the fact that our old Brinkmann grill is on the brink of falling apart (slogan alert, Brinkmann!) On our rickety grill, you can keep any two of the three grates from falling into the fire, but not all three, so you have to choose wisely.
With the summer waning down, I decided I needed a big hit, so it was time to hit the books. I have a lot of grilling books around the house, but they serve more as décor and conversation pieces than instructional materials. But it was time to start studying. I turned to How to Grill, the comprehensive and helpful guide by Steven Raichlen, host of PBS’s Primal Grill and wearer of an impressive neckbeard. The book contains all kinds of great recipes, including simple instructions and step-by-step photos. The methods are simple, but Raichlen takes his grilling seriously, offering pro tips like how to turn your meat while it cook to create “attractive hatchmarks.”
I chose a stuffed chicken recipe. I’ve long harbored a secret fantasy about making stuffed chicken, and it provides a handy grilling cheat: because you have legitimate reason to cut through the meat at the beginning of the process, you can periodically check the doneness of the meat’s center, which is tough to do without cutting it open.
The chicken was stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, and basil from our garden. To keep the chicken together on the grill, Raichlen recommends pinning it together with oil-soaked toothpicks, which worked beautifully. The whole concoction was marinated in oil, salt, and pepper.
Once the meat was on the grill, I employed another grilling tip from Cooking Light, which recommends basting the top side of the meat right before you flip it over. As an added bonus for thrill seekers such as myself, this causes the oil to drip down onto the fire, sending flames up to singe your arm hairs. This creates the same pyrotechnic excitement as the 1991 Kurt Russell firehouse thriller Backdraft.
To complement the chicken, I added another Raichlen recipe, grilled tomatoes topped with sauteed garlic:
Overall, the meal turn out beautifully. It’s the summer’s first unqualified grilling success, which comes better late than never, right before Labor Day.
Any grilling tips from you master grillers out there?
Have a great Labor Day weekend!