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Cooking For Twelve…

January 2012
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I got into grilling several years ago and found out that I was pretty good at it.  Nothing makes me happier than cooking a dinner for a bunch of friends – a good old-fashioned cookout.  We had one a few years back, an absolute feast, for some of my closest friends and it was incredible…so I figured I’d share everything.  We had Cajun Tilapia, Steak and Grilled Chicken along with my special potatoes, grilled asparagus and grilled pineapple.  All of which would make any health conscious recipe book (except the potatoes maybe).  I’m just giving the recipes first, I’ll give the order of which to cook, when, after the recipes.  The beauty of these recipes is how simple they are, and they’re all fabulous.

The Cajun Tilapia was the easiest:

Tilapia Filets and Cajun Seasoning (Emiril’s Bayou Blast).  Sprinkle the seasoning over the thawed filets.  You don’t want to coat them, but you want all of the real estate covered.  If you have frozen fish, thaw it by running them, in a plastic bag, under cold running water – if you use warm you’ll turn your fish into mush and it won’t grill well.  Grill for two minutes a side on medium to high heat with the grill lid open.  Flip them with a spatula.  Place the fish on a cookie sheet and place in the oven at 215 degrees F.

Grilled Chicken, one of my wife’s favorites:

I use boneless chicken breasts.  Sprinkle on McCormick’s Montreal Chicken Seasoning, but be careful not to over-season them, and slap them on the grill.  Unlike the Tilapia, too much seasoning will overpower the chicken – go for a middle ground here – you don’t want to coat the chicken, but you need to get some flavor in there.  Before you pull the chicken off, top it with some Mexican Blend cheese and let it melt, then a scoop of Garden Fresh Salsa.  Jack’s Special Medium is our favorite.  Place on a cookie sheet or plate and place in the oven.

Technical Note on Grilling Chicken:

Chicken is tough to get right on the grill.  Cook it too hard and you’ll be gnawing on dry rubber.  Too light and the result will be a lot of upset bellies.  Start out with the grill on high heat.  Place the chicken on the grill and cook with the lid down for four minutes.  With thongs (not a fork!!!), turn the chicken 90 degrees on the grill and turn the heat down to medium.  Close the lid.  After two minutes flip the chicken (you’ll have nice grill marks if you’ve done it right and the chicken will be browning slightly on that side).  Turn the heat down to low and close the lid.  After five minutes, take a look at the side you just cooked – the coloring should look just like the top, a little brown around the edges, nice dark grill marks…  If it doesn’t, you’ve got white chunks of congealed fat, it’s not done yet…close the lid and give it a couple of more minutes.  The trick with chicken and getting it right relies on three factors.  Time, hot spots on the grill and flame.  You don’t want the flame licking at the chicken, but you want it on the hot spots.  When timing this for the first attempt, if you’re new to, or not very good at, grilling it is wise to cut a piece open to make sure you’ve cooked it all the way through.  Start by wearing a watch and keeping time meticulously.  Follow the times above and cut the least cooked piece open – if the meat isn’t all white all the way through, it’s not done, you need to add two minutes to the bottom side at low heat.  If it’s white, but not juicy (when you cut the chicken you should see the juices run out), knock a minute off the first side and a minute off the second side next time.  If you get the timing right, you will become a legend with your friends and family.  Getting chicken to cook all the way through and stay juicy is not easy unless you watch your times.  Before long, you’ll be able to identify when it’s done by how it looks on the outside.  Grills vary by brand how hot they get and where, get to know your grill.

Steaks

Steaks are easy.  Marinade for 1/2 hour in a zip lock bag with some fresh pressed garlic and Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce.  Don’t buy off the shelf garlic – buy a press and press it yourself.

Cooking a steak is a lot like cooking chicken, but doesn’t take quite as long, depending on the cut.  You’re going for medium, no more…  I know, I know, I used to only eat it well done too but that was because I didn’t know any better.  For a thinner cut (3/4″ to 1″) figure four minutes a side – high on the first side, medium/low on the second.  For a thicker cut 1-1/2″ +, figure five to six.  The cheese and salsa topping works great on lower grade steaks too (my kids love it).  When they’re done, place them on a plate or cookie sheet and place in the oven at 215.

Asparagus

You’ll need:

  • Asparagus, a pound serves four
  • Pressed garlic (at least two large pieces per pound, I use three)
  • 1 Cup Olive Oil
  • Lemon

If you are not generally an asparagus fan, it’s because you haven’t had this…  Put your olive oil and pressed garlic in a cup and let sit for a half hour.  Wash your asparagus off, shake the extra water off and break the bottoms off according to the normal custom.  Place the asparagus on a cookie sheet and brush on the olive oil and garlic onto your asparagus.  You want to go a little heavy on the garlic because some will fall off in the grilling process and it tastes really good grilled.  Place the asparagus on the grill, perpendicular to the grate (so they don’t fall through).  Cook till they start showing a little brown/black (I like ’em black though they’re good browned).  Place them on a cookie sheet and drizzle with lemon juice and place in the oven at 215.  The fake lemon juice in a bottle will do, but there is no substitute for real lemons.

Grilled Pineapple

Slice a pineapple up and place the pieces on a grill – it’s that easy.  You’re going for grill marks and just a little brown around the edges.  When you’re done, serve dinner and when the oven is empty, place the pineapple in the oven to keep it warm (still at 215)

Now this is a lot of work, there’s no doubt about it, but the oven will save you because it keeps everything hot without drying it out – just don’t go over 215.

Here’s the order:  Potatoes, Asparagus, Fish, Chicken, Steak and Pineapple.

Cook the potatoes, Asparagus and Fish on their own.  Put the chicken on the grill and get it going, two minutes later put on the steak and they should be done at the same time.  Then cook the pineapple and you’re done.  If you have a wonderful wife handy, see if she’ll whip up a salad while you’re on the grill.

Total prep time is about 45 minutes.  Total cook time is 45 minutes to an hour.  Sitting down to that feast is priceless.

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1 Comment

  1. […] We also had a salad and my famous grilled asparagus (again, minimalist:  Olive oil, garlic, grill then douse with lemon juice (be liberal with the lemon juice, it’s better with a lot – the recipe is here.). […]

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