The endless journey
Every day is a great day for grilling
Grilled and grilling, but not grill; that’s what we use to enjoy the former. They are words we hear often. Grilled meats and fish, grilled veggies, even wood-fired breads and pizza (yum). Mesquite smoked garlic infused free range organic pleased to be on your plate wild caught grilled fowl… Yeah, grilling stuff has become real popular.
But what comes to mind when you hear or read grilling? Many of us remember Dad, libation in-hand, charring dinner on his lighter-fluid scented Weber kettle bonfire. Or Uncle Bill at the annual July 4th turning and burning and pounding each hamburger, hot dog and sausage like a crazed, sweating but smiling BBQ pit conductor with long, gleaming, industrial grade tools for grabbing, poking, prodding and skewering. We kept our distance, only to approach apprehensively with bun topped paper plates when Big Bill yelled, “Come and get em!” Always, alas, too late for flavor.
Well, friends, those were the old days. There’s a new grill master in town and it’s you, me and anyone that enjoys the pleasures of good food cooked outdoors. The unique flavors, relaxing process and slight romance that grilling provides pleases nearly everyone, and now is the time to broaden your après meal skills.
It’s a state of mind really. Grilling can be what we need it to be – quick and fuss-free with a click and poof-begun magic flame, or a bit slower over a charcoal or wood-fueled fire whose glowing embers remind us just a little of camp fires, warmth and good times. Most nights I’m somewhere south of magic flames. Many evenings find me moving from garage to patio to kitchen and deck creating my fire, plating our food, popping a cork or bottle cap and tending our simmering meal as my body and brain relax. It’s a year-round ritual I look forward to from dawn to dusk.
This lick your chops series will offer food, wine and spirits, grilling methods and materials designed for enhanced, hands-on delicious meals cooked over your choice of an open fire in our wide open air.
Good food. The fire is very important, but your food and how it’s prepared is king and queen. To that end Lititz and Lancaster County is blessed with fresh everything from just picked, plump and ripe fruit and vegetables to farm raised artisanal meats, gourmet sausage, poultry and wild fowl. Fresh fish and food from afar is a short drive or walk away. Our meal choices are limited only to our imaginations.
And a great accompaniment and compliment to the mood of grilling and grilled foods, especially when shared with friends and family, is wine, beer and refreshing spirits. I spent many years in the hospitality and beverage business. One lesson I learned is to drink what you enjoy, not what you’re supposed to drink. This column of succulent seared snippets will include drink pairing suggestions for your grilled meals, but in the end, the only steadfast rule is to down the drink you most desire.
Which is best – real wood fires, additive-free wood-only charcoal, mass produced uniformed charcoal, smokers or gas? When using gas, are the new-fangled infrared and flavorizer bars better than old-fashioned another-world lava rocks? For most of us, convenience plays a major role in our choice of fuel, but boy do wood charcoal fired meals taste great! Luckily for me and perhaps for you there are more grills today than ever before that provide grilling with both – gas one day, charcoal the next. And smoking foods for tasty results; sounds easy but it isn’t. Experience-driven equipment and fuel recommendations will be forthcoming.
The same goes for foods that grill better than others. I love rainbow trout, but unless prepared over tempered heat gently encapsulated in a grill basket, trout filets quickly become trout chips. On the flipside, have you grilled salads, pizza or pasta? Delicious. And I’ll show you how. Which chicken and pork pieces and parts are best to grill, and which meats hold up to heat better than others? Can you tell how rare or not that sizzling steak is without slicing it open through flavor releasing surgery? You will learn this conversation-inducing impressive skewer-less skill.
So sit back and imagine that perfect grilled meal prepared with a refreshed air of gastronomic zeal. It may include pork or potatoes or hamburgers or steak, perhaps something caught on a string or a stake, even ran-down in a pen or scooped with a net, let’s just hope it wasn’t a feathered fowl pet. We pull from gardens and pick from trees, yet whatever your pleasure keep reading my friends for we’re about to begin our journey together as we enter an entirely new grilling endeavor!
Wayne has been grilling for 30 years, often 150 days annually. An Upstate N.Y. guy who isn’t afraid of rain, cold and snow, he can be found in foul-weather gear on his deck and patio, often shovel and hat in-hand, sending smoke signals to fellow enthusiasts. Long-term wine and spirits and restaurant careers round-out his food and drink passions.