Mastering The Grill to Transform your Meals.

May 18, 2016
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May 26, 2016

Logs burning in an outdoor campfire

There’s a short window of time in the Northeast when the weather is fine enough for anyone with even a sliver of garden, roof or deck space to want to be outside as much as possible. That’s when I move much of my nightly cooking out of the house and into the garden, turning my grill into one of the best kamado grills you’ve ever set your eyes on.

And by this we don’t mean just grilling the usual roster of meats, fish and vegetables until they are flame-licked and charred. We do that, too. But we also take things one step further. With the help of a cast-iron skillet, a roasting pan and a rimmed baking sheet, you’re able to cook things on your grill that you would, in less delightful weather, happily roast in the oven — everything from cornbread to sliced peaches to roast chicken.

Moving the chicken to the grill solves these problems. On the grill, splatter doesn’t matter, and smoke is actually a good thing, seasoning the chicken without setting off the smoke detector.

It’s the best of both worlds, with all of the burnished appeal of roast chicken, augmented by a hit of smoke from the grill. And you get to tend to it under the open sky.

Cherry tomatoes on the grill become condensed and wonderfully sweet, picking up a smoky flavor.

A byproduct of a splayed-chicken recipe is that after the bird is cooked, you end up with a pan full of meaty, rich chicken drippings, in which you can caramelize garlic to serve alongside the bird.

You can achieve this on the grill, too. Since the bird is cooked in a skillet, the juices and rendering fat accumulate in the pan instead of disappearing through the grill grate into the fire.

In this recipe, use the drippings to quickly sauté spinach spiked with garlic, anchovies and fresh dill, then pile those velvety greens on top of ricotta-smeared crostini. But you can stick with garlic and ramps if you’d rather, or choose any other hardy green to sauté — kale, chard, mustard and the like.

One of the key factors in being able to use your grill like an oven is using indirect heat. For avid grillers, it’s a standard technique. You create two heat zones — a hot side of the grill and a cooler side. This allows you to cook larger, denser ingredients or slower-cooking things (like baked goods) over the unlit but still plenty hot side of the grill without scorching. If a sear is required, the pan can be slid over to the lit side for a fast and furious blast of heat.

But you can also use direct heat if you’ve got quicker cooking ingredients that will finish in minutes. Just plop your skillet or any other flame-proof pan onto your grill directly over the fire, cover the grill and use it for small items that would otherwise fall through the grates.

Cherry tomatoes work beautifully. Glossed with olive oil, seasoned with salt and surrounded by herbs, they become condensed and wonderfully sweet, picking up a smoky flavor and turning mahogany brown in spots. Toss them with pasta or a grain salad, stir them into a salsa or serve them as a side dish. Asparagus is another option, and you don’t have to worry about keeping the spears perpendicular to the grill grates, lest the skinny ones fall through.

Then for dessert, try grill-roasting sliced peaches. Toss them with butter and a little raw sugar, spread them out on a rimmed sheet pan, put the pan on the grill and let the peaches turn caramelized and syrupy — and perfect to spoon over ice cream.

Then eat it outside, under the stars.

Source:, 05-25-2016


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