I love the smell of smoke: fireplaces, barbecues, dragons, anything that produces smoke gets my immediate attention and an obvious comment. “Smells like winter,” or “Smells like summer,” or “Smells like slaying season.” And as much as I love eating things cooked over an open flame, I do very little cooking over an open flame myself. It’s such a dad thing that I leave it to him, which means my grilled food is limited to meat and vegetables. This isn’t a bad thing, but little did I know everything could be grilled. Seriously, everything.
Every Sunday during the summer my family tries to get together for dinner and some form of entertainment. My sister and I are such an awesome Cranium team that it’s simply too demoralizing for the rest of my family to play. Emotions run high in the Thomas household, and bruised egos, wine, and giant dodecahedron shaped dice are a less than sportsmanlike combination. So it’s apples to apples now! My dad is the only person frustrated by a game based entirely on subjective inside jokes and obscure knowledge of another person’s humor, so, too bad if the winning card isironic, dad, we’re still playing. Note: best moment of the night was when he put down “Joan of Arc” for “eccentric”, and lost to “Cher.” In the midst of arguing his case he claimed to “know” Joan of Arc, which we all assumed meant personally, and teased him for the rest of the night for knowing a 15th century saint.
JANE’S SHRIMP ON THE BARBIE
My mom’s shrimp share their origins with my childhood birthday cakes, sausage rolls, and a few other Aussie treats, which all derive from the same tome: The Australian Women’s Weekly. Stacks of paperback cookbooks from the early 80s protrude from her cupboards, filled with ugly photography and lots of mayonnaise. And yet, with a little tweaking they produce delicious and unexpected results. These shrimp are a little sweet, a little spicy, and have that “what is this flavor?” factor. They’re perfect on their own or tossed in a salad. Enjoy!
3 pounds fresh medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of honey
2 tablespoons chili sauce (not hot sauce)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 large shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely sliced green onions
1/4 teaspoon ground Chinese five spice
Combine all of the ingredients, adding the prawns last, and marinate in the fridge for one to two hours. Put the prawns onto wooden skewers, about 4 to a skewer. I submerge my skewers into water while the prawns are marinating so they don’t burn on the grill. On a medium-high grill, cook the prawns until just firm, about 1 minute per side. Brush the prawns with the marinade as they cook. I usually serve about 2 skewers per person. Enjoy!
GRILLED CORN WITH HONEY, LIME + ANCHO CHILI BUTTER
Grilled sweet corn is one of the staples of summer, and the slightly sweet and spicy butter only brings out its delicious and delicate flavor. Enjoy!
10 ears of white corn
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
12 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
2 1/2 teaspoons lime zest
2 teaspoons honey
Mix the butter, zest, ancho chili powder, and honey together. Salt to taste and put butter into butter dishes. I decorated mine with an extra pinch of ancho chili powder and lime zest. Set aside or refrigerate. Set your grill to high and drizzle olive oil evenly over the corn, rolling the ears to cover all sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until each side has a little color, about 2-3 minutes a side. Serve hot and butter with the back of a fork (it works better than a knife) and enjoy!
BARBEQUED CHICKEN WITH HOMEMADE BBQ SAUCE
INGREDIENTS (BBQ SAUCE)
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon of barbeque rub (recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer until dark, thick, and richly flavored, for 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a clean jar and store in your refrigerator.
INGREDIENTS (BBQ RUB)
This makes a ton of rub
1/4 cup salt
2 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
3 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
1 fryer chicken, broken down into 6 pieces (breast, wings, thighs + legs)
vegetable oil, for the grill
I am starting with a rub. This is so simple, it’s just salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, cumin and fennel seed, but the flavors pack a punch. Mix these up, and it’s ready to go.
Give the chicken a rub thoroughly with a tablespoon or two of the BBQ Rub and transfer to a plate. Take to grill. I’m heating my grill to medium – it’s okay to go slow with chicken, especially because as a meat, it’s more delicate than red meat and will dry out quicker. There’s no need to blast it, in fact, I think that’s how most people overcook meat on the grill.
Brush the grill with oil and immediately add the chicken, skin side down. Grill breast halves, thighs, and drumsticks, skin side down, over direct heat for 10 minutes to get nice, deep sears. Flip, move to indirect heat, and grill, covered, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thighs registers 165 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes.
Grill wings over direct heat, flipping often, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. At the last second, brush the chicken with the BBQ sauce, flip, and brush the other side. Transfer chicken as cooked to bowl with BBQ Sauce and turn to coat. Cover with foil. Enjoy!
GRILLED VEGETABLE SALAD
1 large red onion (or 2 small), sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 zucchini, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 red bell pepper, sliced in half
1/2 bunch asparagus
1 ear of corn
salt and pepper
8 ounces mesclun greens
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon shallot
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper
Heat the grill on high. Coat all of the vegetables in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pop on the grill and cook until they get nice and marked (about 2 minutes per side) and flip. Then, take the vegetables off heat and chop them up into 1/2 inch pieces (slice the corn kernels off the cob). In a large bowl, mix together the vegetables and lettuce, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of vinaigrette or serve on the side for people to dress themselves.
GRILLED PEACHES WITH LEMON MASCARPONE + TOASTED ALMONDS
I’ve seen grilled peaches rolling around magazines before, but I’ve always been kind of “meh” about them. I don’t know, it just never really got me going. I’d just rather have a cobbler. But this summer, just like the smoke of flaming grills, change was in the air. I bit into a ripe yellow peach at the farmers market and in that moment I knew: “This could be grilled!” I went home and immediately cranked up the grill. I threw on the peaches and before I knew it, I had all kinds of ungrillables grilling away. The smoke imparts a savory earthiness to everything laid near it. Served with lemon mascarpone and toasted almonds, these peaches are the perfect balance of brightness, nuttiness, and bursting juiciness. They’re the ultimate dessert for a balmy summer night. Enjoy!
4 ripe, delicious yellow peaches, halved and pitted
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup salted butter
1/2 cup blanched almonds, pulverized in the food processor
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
4 ounces creme fraiche
2 ounces heavy cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon honey, if necessary
Heat your grill up to high. Blend the sugar and butter together to form a paste and smear it on over the faces of the peaches. You will probably have some left over that you can eat with a spoon.
I whipped together the mascarpone, creme fraiche, lemon zest, and lemon juice until combined. Add the heavy cream and whip a few times to incorporate. Taste, and if you would like, add the honey.
Now, Grill the peaches. I would do no more than three at a time, because they cook quickly, about 30 seconds or less. You simply want dark grill marks. Set the cooked peaches aside face up. Eat hot off the grill with the mascarpone mixture on the side, plus a sprinkling of almonds and lemon zest. You can also enjoy these peaches cold, or with ice cream.