Saturday, May 16, 2009

Grillin' and Chillin'

This is inaugural weekend for grillin’ and chillin’ – igniting the grill monster, and chillin’ on the patio.

Our dog is especially fond of this annual launch – he knows more pats are in store – his tail in perpetual motion. He is less enthusiastic while I’m around the barbecue. Experience has taught him that something will go awry, so he cowers in his pen while I fume over the flames and flare-ups.

Yesterday I braised (in traditional kitchen fashion) some short ribs with parsnips, red onion, garlic, rosemary, beef stock and zinfandel. Yes, I tasted the zinfandel first; just to make sure it wasn’t spit-out vintage Thursday. Forgive me, for I have zinned.

The side I chose was grill-roasted vegetables with pine nut pesto. While I have an in-door grill, I heard the siren call of the season and decided to grill outside. The vegetables were cubed parsnips, carrots, brussels sprouts (try cubing those), butternut squash, and shallots, with a few thyme sprigs tossed in. Brussels sprouts is one of my anti-guy foods, but mixed in with other veggies is tolerable. I find parsnips pretty bland as well but pine nut pesto can salvage most anything.

Both recipes are from Food and Wine Magazine. I usually faithfully follow a first-timer recipe. Then I begin making changes. Next time - no parsnips in the short ribs recipe*. Maybe sweet potatoes instead – and in the roasted vegetable dish as well.

I like most root vegetables but parsnips, turnips and rutabagas have more subtle flavors – a bit too subtle for my taste. I’ll keep rutabagas in the mix because a veggie with such a great name must be consumed now and then.

The first dance with the grill monster went fairly well – it led, I followed.

Last season I made the mistake of buying some briquettes that were so chemically soaked that they ignited before I even reached for the match, soon spouting more flames than the Shrek dragon. They also threw off my timing. Thinking I needed about 30 minutes for the coals to be ready, I returned to the kitchen for other prep work. Wrong.

I haven’t decided how I will prepare the New York steaks tonight. I have fallen in love with simple technique using a cast iron skillet – searing them in canola oil on the stove, and finishing them (still skilleted) in the oven at 350 degrees for about two minutes per side, with some butter, garlic and thyme. Sea salt is preferred. Maybe tonight I’ll put the skillet on the grill monster. Live on the edge, I always say.

Sunday night I’m doing a whole chicken outside, not beer can, but something similar using white wine as the enema. Sorry – infusion.

PJ is mildly amused each barbecue season. She’s guessing that it will take another 10 years for me to earn my barbecue eagle badge. I have noted that she never ventures near the grill monster. She gets to chill, while I grill.

The good news is that I’m not so old that the singed arm and eyebrow hair won’t grow back.

*There is a reason that the Simon & Garfunkel hit was not entitled “Parsnips, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”.

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