Published: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 20, 2013 at 3:13 p.m.
Cooking over fire lures everyone into the backyard every summer with the tantalizing aroma of smoke.
No matter what's on the grate — fruit or vegetables, pork or chicken — the high heat can be counted on to provide a crusty texture, smoky flavor and juicy interior.
And it takes mere minutes for most grilled ingredients to reach perfection, so the cook can quit early and enjoy the feast with the guests.
“I don't have the patience for cooking,” said Lee Kaufman of Santa Rosa, who attended a recent grilling class at Santa Rosa's Sur La Table store. “That's why I like to grill. ... It adds so much flavor to the meat.”
The grill is not that hard to master. All you need is some fuel, a clean, well-oiled grate and a few handy tools, like tongs, a grill basket, and a wire brush to scrape the grate.
In the grilling class, Sur La Table Chef/Instructor Les Goodman underscored the versatility of the grill by demonstrating how to prepare an easy four-course meal, with every bite boasting seared grill marks and delicious caramelization.
The pork chops were cooked on a Weber grill with an automatic propane starter and mesquite lump charcoal, a nice compromise to get both the convenience of gas and the flavor of charcoal. The rest of the meal was seared on a large, cast-iron grill pan, known as a plancha in Spain, which can be used over an open grill fire or on a stovetop.
“Some restaurants will use the grill pan and griddle if they don't have a grill,” said Goodman, who earned his grilling chops while working at the meat station at Alizé at the Palms in Los Vegas. “It's great for cooking eggs and pancakes, too.”
The easy, all-American dinner menu, perfect for a Memorial Day gathering of friends and family, started off with a grilled prosciutto and fontina bruschetta.
“You want to use a bread with good structure to it,” Goodman said.
For the appetizer, a loaf of Costeaux Bakery Ciabatta was sliced, brushed with lemon olive oil, then toasted on the grill pan with raised ridges, which provided the requisite grill marks.
To add an undertone of sweetness, the bread was slathered with mostarda, a condiment made by blending apricot jam with whole-grain mustard.
Then the students topped the bread with grated Fontina cheese, grilled it under a lid to melt the cheese, and garnished it with some prosciutto, a handful of arugula and sliced apricots.
A bold balance of acidity and spice also infused the side dish, a Grilled Broccolini Salad with Raisins, Pine Nuts and Lemon.
For the salad, the long-stemmed broccolini (a hybrid between broccoli and Chinese broccoli) was tossed in a vinaigrette and grilled until lighted charred.
Raisins plumped in dry sherry and sherry vinegar, toasted pine nuts and a lemony dressing with red pepper flakes rounded out this tasty side dish.
For the main course, Goodman showed the class how to marinate some bone-in pork chops with sparkling apple cider, then prepare an apple-bourbon glaze to brush over the pork chops and apple slices while they cooked.
Because fruit is made up primarily of water and sugar, it often tastes better when cooked on the grill. The heat concentrates the flavors by reducing the water and caramelizing the natural sugars.
While hard fruits like apples, pears and pineapples hold their shape and texture, softer fruits like peaches, nectarines and plums can also be grilled, as long as you are careful not to overcook them.
For dessert, Goodman demonstrated how to grill a fresh scone, then top it with grilled strawberries and whipped cream, for a nice twist on the all-American strawberry shortcake.
“The scone has more moisture to it, so there is more body to the cake,” he said. “You could also use an olive-oil cake.”
To grill the ripe berries, simply hull them and brush the grill pan with oil, then lightly char on all sides.
Here are some other grilling tips from Goodman:
Let your meat sit out at least a half hour before grilling.
Always dry your meat before grilling.
Cooking time is always an estimate. You can check if it's time to turn the meat by gently lifting it up. If it sticks to the grate, it's not finished caramelizing, so let it cook some more.
If you're looking for medium doneness, pull the meat off at medium rare. It will continue to cook as it rests. If the meat is still underdone, you can always finish it in a 250-degree oven.
The following Easy Dinners from the Grill recipes are from Sur La Table.
Grilled Prosciutto and Fontina Bruschetta with Fruit Mustard
Makes 4 appetizer servings
1 loaf ciabatta bread, sliced into ½-inch slices
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
3 tablespoons apricot preserves
6 slices prosciutto
4 ounces Fontina, grated
1 small bunch baby arugula, washed and dried
2 apricots or any stone fruit, pitted and sliced
2 tablespoons lemon infused olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat your grill to medium high heat.
Using a brush, coat the cut side of the sliced ciabatta with olive oil and grill bread, cut side down until lightly charred, about 1-2 minutes.
In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the mustard and the preserves until well combined. Spread the fruit mustard over the grilled side of the ciabatta. Top with enough grated cheese to coat the top of the bread. Place back on the grill, and close the lid until the cheese starts to melt, about 1-2 minutes.
While the cheese is melting, combine the arugula and the sliced stone fruit in a medium bowl. Drizzle the salad with lemon-olive oil and toss to coat. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the bread to a cutting board and arrange 3 slices of prosciutto on the top. Slice the bread into 3 pieces, and transfer to a serving late. Arrange the arugula and fruit on top of the bruschetta.
Grilled Pork Chops with Apple-Bourbon Glaze
Makes 4 servings
45- to 6-ounce) bone-in pork chops, 1-inch thck
4 cups sparkling apple cider, divided
½ cup honey
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
¾ cup bourbon
Vegetable or canola oil, for brushing grill grates
2 large, green apples, cored and quartered
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
To marinate pork: Evenly arrange pork chops on the bottom of a large baking dish. Pour 2 cups of sparkling apple cider over the pork or enough to cover, and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
To prepare glaze: In a medium saucepan, add remaining apple cider, honey, cider vinegar and brown sugar and place over a medium heat. Bring the liquid to a low simmer; stir frequently, until the mixture reduces to 2/3 cup, about 15 minutes.
Place bourbon in a separate small saucepan, place over a medium heat and simmer until alcohol smell is no longer emitting, about 8 minutes. Stir into the apple cider glaze and cool slightly. Remove pork chops from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature, about 15-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare a medium-high charcoal fire, preheat a gas grill to medium-high, or heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush grill grates with a thin layer of vegetable oil.
Using a silicone pastry brush, evenly coat all sides of pork chops with glaze. Place pork chops onto the gril and cook until grill marks appear, about 3 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn the chops a quarter-turn wtihout flipping and grill an additional 203 minutes to craete a pattern of crossed grill marks.
Flip chops and cook until a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the chop reaches an internal temperature of 135 degrees, about 4 to 6 minutes longer. Transfer chops to a large plate, and tent with foil to keep warm. Allow chops to rest for at least 5 minutes.
Brush cut sides of apple with melted butter. Place apples, cut sides down, on grill and cook until light golden brown and beginning to caramelize, about 3 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn apples. Brush with bourbon glaze, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Flip apples once more, brush with bourbon glaze, and cook until just tender, another 2 minutes.
To serve: Place chops on a large serving platter and top with the grilled and basted apples. Drizzle with some of the remaining bourbon glaze, and serve.
Grilled Strawberry Shortcake
Makes 8 servings
For the shortcakes:
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1¾ ounces) sugar
2 ½teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup (8 ounces) chilled, heavy whipping cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (or 2 tablespoons turbinado or raw sugar, for more crunch)
3 pints ripe strawberries, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons canola oil, for brushing grill, divided
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
For whipped cream:
1½ cups heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ lemon, zested
To prepare shortcakes: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and position an oven rack in the center. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or a thin silicone mat. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of the food processor and process for 10 seconds to blend well. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse 5 times at 1-second intervals, or until the butter is cut into medium pieces. Add the cream and pulse another 20 times, or until the dough holds together in small, thick clumps. Use a spatula to scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently squeeze the clumps together until they form a cohesive dough.
Pat the dough into a circle 7 inches in diameter and about 1-inch thck. Use a chef's knife to cut the dough into 8 equal wedges and transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.
Brush the tops with a thin coating of the lightly beaten egg. Sprinkle evenly with the sugar. Bake the scones for 14 to 16 minutes, until firm to the touch and golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes.
Prepare a very hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to high.
To prepare the berries: Hull the berries with the tip of a paring knife. Using a silcone pastry brush, brush the grill plates with 1 tablespoon of oil and arrange strawberries. Using tongs, turn the berries once until grill marks appear, about 3 minutes. Transfer the strawberries to a cutting board and slice in half. Transfer berries to a small bowl, and toss with granulated sugar.
To whip cream: Place the cream, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest in the bowl of the stand mixer. Whip until the mixture holds soft peaks.
To assemble: Using a paring knife, split the shortcakes in half. Brush the grill plates with remaining canola oil. Place the shortcakes on the grill, cut side down, and grill until lightly charred, about 3 minutes. Transfer the bottom of the shortcake to a plate, spoon a generous serving of strawberries and top with whipped cream. Place the top of the shortcake on top, and repeat with the others.
You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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