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Monday, 16 June 2014 21:05

Get Your Grill On!

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Grill season is in full swing and high time to bring on your favorite bbq mojo. Grilling and barbequing bring out the passionate side of cooking from the novice to the expert.

Whatever is the essence of a true bbq to someone living in the Carolinas is completely different to a Texan bbq. And then there’s California, a place where even the simplest culinary concepts get tipped upside down and colored with a completely different culinary flair.

So, what’s the big difference between grilling and barbequing anyway? Well, to the purist, grilling is what we commonly do on our barbeque grills (or on our Forman Grills inside on rainy days). High heat, lean cuts of meat, smaller portions so that the meat (seafood, poultry, or veggies) cook quickly. Flavorings are bold and in your face and you can boast of a healthier cooking style.

On the other hand, the barbeque, strictly speaking (for the purist) is not cooking over high heat but rather over lower heat (generally 225-325 degrees) for longer periods of time (several hours as opposed to just a few minutes that grilling takes). The true barbeque typically employs fattier cuts of meats and more often than not, thicker cuts of meats. This ‘low and slow’ approach allows for a succulent and flavorful finished product without drying out. Flavors are intense, but mellowed in the longer cooking times.

Flavorings are an essential component to either the barbeque or the grill. The purist tends toward using as little as possible seasoning to let the smokiness marry perfectly to the juicy wonderfulness of the meats. Sometimes simple is the route to go. Salt, pepper and garlic for red meats and sugar, salt and paprika for poultry. However, here on the West Coast we tend to opt for more combinations to flavors, especially when grilling leaner foods. Here we fluctuate between dry rubs of all varieties to savory marinades that can accommodate all manner of international flavor directions. In the Pacific Northwest we typically cook salmon, shrimp, your favorite veggie combination, or even chicken and beef on wood planks. Yup, cedar planks (available in most grocery stores or outdoor supply stores-camping gear types) with very little seasoning. There is a wonderful but subtle flavoring from being cooked on the wood alone. Just accompany that with a topping of your favorite salsa or spread and you are all set. Here in California we add soaked wood chips and or dried grape vines to the fire for a real, bold, in-your-face kind of smokiness. Dry rubs are a favorite and vary from the typical cumin-chili and garlic combinations to those that offer a little different twist. Try a combination of salt, pepper, garlic and coffee for something a little different. Or for a quick and easy marinade, try using a favorite salad dressing as your marinade. A couple of favorites that come to mind are balsamic vinaigrette with your filet mignon or flank steak or Italian dressing for chicken or seafood with fresh herbs of your choice (Walden Farms salad dressings are preferred). Simply put everything in a freezer bag and allow for the flavors to mingle and tenderize. Be careful though – whenever using any ingredient with any acidity in your marinades (citrus juices and vinegars) the acids will not only help flavor your grilled items, they will tenderize and ultimately cook the meats! Red meats are more resilient and benefit from longer marinating times while chicken can break down more quickly and turn unpleasantly soft. Seafood, if left in an acidic marinade for too long will actually cook! Ever hear of ceviche? That marvelous dish is actually raw seafood combinations that are heavily flavored with citrus juices, herbs and peppers and the marinating process (under refrigeration) actually cooks the fish without heat! This is commonly found in cuisines south of our border down through South America and is also found in many Indonesian cuisines.

So, this is the season to mix and match cooking techniques, marinades and dry rubs, wood chips and planks for your culinary delight. As we go through the season I’ll share a ton of recipe favorites in our Recipes of the Week, available at all clinics, our Monthly Publication/Newsletter, and in weekly blogs.

Bon Appetit!

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