I really give my grill a good workout this time of year. But I haven’t always had a love affair with my grill.
I recall a very important dinner party involving sea scallops. My parents had flown in from Texas and some good friends were joining us. After that not so successful grilling experience, I thought about a separation from my grill. I considered buying a new grill that would be superior, with greater firepower and more features to my liking. Instead, I stuck it out with my old grill. I learned to master the piece of equipment that, at times, confounded me. I have also mastered grilling sea scallops perfectly.
Now that I’m a bona fide “grill master”, I concentrate on other elements that go along with entertaining outdoors for friends and family. There’s nothing that compliments those grilling masterpieces more than a beautiful and comfortable outdoor space.
Here’s a checklist of some of the things I use whenever I grill:
- Full tank of propane
- Grill that has been cleaned and oiled
- Sturdy grill brush
- Great pair of tongs
- Bottle of grapeseed oil
- Finishing salt
I have a gas grill, so I always check to make sure that my propane tank isn’t empty. That may seem obvious, but I have made a few last minute runs for new tanks before! I always make sure to season my grill grates to create a non-stick grilling experience. To do that, I heat up my grill till it’s good and hot. I take a wad of paper towels, grip them with a pair of sturdy tongs, dip the paper towels into a small bowl (about ¼ cup) of vegetable or grapeseed oil and then rub the oil soaked paper towels along the hot grill grates. The more often you do this, the better seasoned your grates will become.
A sturdy grill brush to clean your grill grates before each use is necessary. Also essential is a sturdy spatula that will come in handy when flipping juicy burgers. A fish spatula will seriously make turning filets of fish or even a whole fish much easier to accomplish.
I use grapeseed oil for my food when grilling because it has a high smoke and burn point of 420 degrees. The smoke point is when oil begins to smoke and burn, which in turn affects the flavor of whatever you’re frying, sautéing or grilling.
After finishing up whatever I’ve just grilled, no matter if it’s meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and even fruits, I finish it off with a tiny sprinkling of a good sea salt. I really like Maldon Sea Salt, which we carry at The Chopping Block. It’s a flaked salt that has a clean taste and because it’s flaked, it gives a bit of a crunch to your finished food.
An outdoor deck space is just as important to me as the grill and its tools. Guests will enjoy a lush and plush back deck, with lots of seating, an outdoor table, great outdoor lighting, some candles, hanging plants, soft pillows, and comfy cushions. Do I sound more like an interior decorator then a chef? I think there’s a little bit of decorator in all of us chefs. After all, we create beauty on the plate and appreciate the same for our surroundings.
I’ve done some pretty awesome things on my grill over the years, but the best part is continuing to experiment and discover new aspects and intricacies of my grill.
Here are some of my favorite and noteworthy dishes I’ve mastered on the grill:
Peaches grilled with brown sugar, cinnamon and fresh vanilla bean and brushed melted butter. Top with fresh thyme, Black Isot Pepper and drizzle with agave syrup. This was not only a tasty dessert, but was also a pretty darn good looking dessert. I suggest serving it topped with a scoop of your favorite ice cream.
Last night, I grilled some sea scallops and laid them on a pool of roasted tomatillo sauce and topped them with a mango and avocado relish and fresh lime zest. I served this with grilled zucchini, spiced with a sprinkling of ground ancho chile and cinnamon.
Another favorites dishes is grilled Italian sausage and mini cheddar burgers topped with grilled onions and tomato. To please my doctor, there was no bun for the burger. The burger and sausage were complimented by grilled asparagus, wrapped in prosciutto, grilled striped white and purple eggplant brushed with garlic grapeseed oil and fresh thyme. Lastly, there was roasted corn with poblano pepper butter, crumbled cotija cheese and a tiny sprinkling of smoky paprika.
I hope some of these food ideas inspire you to grill and some of my back porch decorating ideas entice you to chill. You know what else helps with that grilling and chilling thing? Enjoying a glass of your favorite cold beverage. Cheers to your glass of wine, lemonade, or easy summery cocktail: take your favorite summer fruit, put it in a blender with some water, a bit of sugar and turn it into a refreshing fruit water.
Our outdoor grilling patio at Lincoln Square is another great place to grill and chill. Check out some of these upcoming classes: