Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Fine Art of Grilling

When spring finally arrives, our noses can pick up the smell of a barbecue from a mile away. It reminds us of the warm, sunny days ahead and lazy evenings enjoyed in the backyard with friends and family. With some creativity and planning, you can cook just about everything you serve up at your next barbecue, from the first course to the last,right from your grill.

Start with the appetizers. Cut baguettes into 3/4 inch slices, brush with olive oil and grill until slightly crisp. Serve with chilled bruschetta. Pair this refreshing dish with grilled shrimp. Clean some large shrimp, shelled and deveined, and place them on a metal skewer, alternating with chunks of pineapple. Place on the grill, brush the shrimp with sweet chili garlic sauce, turning frequently until the shrimp is cooked through. Serve immediately with your bruschetta while your guests watch you begin the next course.

Next grill your salad. That’s right, salad on the grill. Use romaine hearts cut in half, leaving the end on so it stays together. Brush with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Grill 1 to 2 minutes on the cut side on high heat. Serve whole or chop into a salad bowl.

One of the biggest challenges everyone seems to have is cooking a good steak on the grill. Too often they end up dry and lifeless. Most importantly, you need to start with a good piece of meat and a grill that has controllable heat. If you are using charcoal, arrange the coals so one side of your grill is much hotter than the other. Use high heat initially because you want nice grill marks on your finished product and to sear the outside of the meat, holding in the moisture. Season no more than 15 minutes before placing it on the grill, as salt pulls out the moisture and can dry out your entree. Also, bringing the steak close to room temperature before grilling helps it cook faster and more evenly. Be consistent and cook each side about the same amount of time. Watch the edges as you cook. You can see as the product cooks through. To ensure you have a medium to medium-rare steak, insert a thermometer and remove the steak when in reaches 125 to 130 degrees. Here’s a little trick to help you gauge how well-cooked your steak is just like the chefs do: Touch your thumb and your index finger together in the “OK” sign, and then press the fleshly part of your palm right below the thumb with your other hand. Feel how soft that is? That is the way a rare steak feels when you press it. Now touch your other fingers to your thumb, one at a time. As you move from your index finger to your pinky, the pad of your thumb will get progressively more firm. This is similar to how a steak feels: medium-rare (middle finger), to medium (ring finger) to well-done (pinky). Try it. Before serving your steak, let it rest for about 10 minutes after you remove it from the grill so the moisture will redistribute throughout the meat. Set a bit of butter to melt on top. Yum!

 Once your steaks are cooked, start your vegetables. Brush all with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. On the sliced zucchini, sprinkle with garlic salt; for the large mushroom slices, add Calgary steak seasoning; with asparagus, use lemon pepper; onion rings are great with cajun seasoning; and yellow squash with cinnamon sugar is delicious. Grill for about 5 minutes on each side on lower heat. Arrange them on a tray for guests to help themselves.

My husband recently dazzled everyone at our party by grilling the peaches. He cut them in quarters and grilled them for about 5 minutes. Then he placed them still warm on vanilla ice cream. They were incredible and so unexpected. It is a great way to end a fine summer evening.

So, as you can see, you can serve one grilled course or grill all four. Either way you will enjoy a wonderful outdoor dining experience on a fine Minnesota evening.

-Christine Schiltz
Owner & Catering Director
Lake Elmo Inn Event Center