Become a Great Outdoor Chef
About three summers ago, I discovered that grilling outdoors is a great way to cook in the summertime. During that time, my husband bought us a nice little grill for the back yard because he had a taste for char broiled hamburgers. Before that, I had only tried grilling once when I was a child along side of my mother, who was definitely an outdoor chef. Mom grilled outdoors all year around. I have a fond memory of my mother outside bundled up in her hooded coat, while snowflakes were gently falling and covering the backyard. She was making our Sunday dinner and it was one of my favorites, barbeque pork chops. They were absolutely succulent. As a kid, I wondered why mom would cook outside in the snow, after all, I didn’t see any of our neighbors out back in the snow lighting up charcoal and mesquite wood. As an adult the answer is obvious. The food is delicious! I think that was my mother’s motivation, however, I have discovered that the food is healthier for you, grilling is fairly quick, unlike oven baking and you can save on energy bills.
During the winter months, I cook a lot of potted meals such as: Chili, spaghetti with chunky meat sauce, and Brice. Brice is an original dish that my children made famous. Brice is a combination of ground beef, black beans and rice seasoned to perfection with Mexican herbs and spices. The children liked it so much that they started singing the ingredients when they wanted it for dinner. During the summer months, however, I noticed that I get more creative when I’m making a meal. Instead of all the soups, sauces and gravy that make successful meals in the wintertime, my recipes are built with a selection of tender, marinated, grilled meat and lots of crisp vegetables. One of my favorite meals to make is marinated steak and chicken breast with broccoli salad and sweet, buttery corn on the cob.
It’s really easy to marinate your meat. All I do is get a bowl and mix minced garlic, extra virgin olive oil, basil, oregano, or unsalted Italian seasoning, cayenne pepper, sea salt and apple cider vinegar. Then I put my steak and chicken into the bowl, cover it and put it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. While I’m waiting for my meat to marinate, I combine fresh broccoli florets, red and green peppers, sweet grape tomatoes, and chick peas with a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, Italian seasoning, sea salt, cayenne pepper, apple cider vinegar, mozzarella chunks and feta cheese crumbles. I just toss it around a bit and cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature.
The key to great outdoor grilling is the fire (unless you’re using an infrared grill). I am selective about what I will burn to make fire because the essence of what you burn becomes a part of the flavor of your food. With that in mind you may not want to make a fire with newspaper and leaves. I use a simple of combination of charcoal and mesquite wood. Prepare your wood by soaking it in water for 30 minutes before using it. Light your charcoals to the proportion of cooking you’re going to do. For instance, if you’re going to grill a pack of hotdogs, and half a dozen burgers, you won’t need to make a towering inferno to cook with. Just use a couple of hand full’s of charcoal. Once the charcoals have been lit and start to turn white then add your mesquite wood. You’ll know that you have a good fire when you smell a pleasant aroma of burning wood as opposed to the smell of a forest fire. When making my marinated steak and chicken, I line my grill with heavy duty aluminum foil, poke holes in it and I all set. Be attentive to your food. Once you put your meat on the grill, you can close the lid but don’t go anywhere until you are more experienced. You’ll be able to tell if you should turn your food over because the top of the food will look steamed but not completely cooked. When this happens, you should find that the bottom of the food has a wonderfully, browned grill texture on it. After your meat is cooked on both sides you just have to use your fork to see if it is prepared to your liking on the inside.
Experience will help you to get your outdoor cooking down to a science. Just enjoy what you’re doing and I guarantee that you and your family will be pleased. My family is pleased. I have reached rock star status as the official outdoor chef.