Ten Best: Things to grill

by Amy Kingsley

Hot dog It’s July 4th, so you might be eyeing this paper more with the notion of using it to start a bonfire than with any intention of actually reading it. But if fire is part of your holiday plans, if, in particular, you plan to use fire to cook anything, please pause for a moment to consider our recommendations. Hot dogs are a July 4th classic, and with good cause: Fire is kind to processed meat. I would suggest that you limit your tube steaks to those made from turkeys, pigs or cows – grilled tofu dogs taste like industrial byproduct.

Shrimp On vacation in Port Aransas, Texas, my boyfriend and I revolted against the mediocre, pricey tourist fare available in restaurants by buying a pound of shrimp to cook ourselves on the motel grill. We soaked the skewers in a coffee pot, rubbed the shrimp with Creole spices, fired up mesquite coals and devoured the entire pound. The trick with shrimp is not to overcook, just one or two minutes per side should do.

Cabrito (kid goat) Americans don’t each much goat, which is a shame because the meat is among the healthiest – it has less saturated fat that chicken – and tastiest, with a flavor hovering somewhere between lamb and beef. Fortunately, islanders and Mexicans do eat goat, and here in the Triad, we have a growing number of business that cater to our immigrant population. Goat meat is pricey, and may be difficult to find. I would suggest checking a carniceria or a Halal market.

Steak Technique is secondary when it comes to steak. The best predictors of good steak flavor are the quality and type of cut. Prime is best, though hard to find, followed by choice and select. Cuts like the T-bone, New York strip and sirloin grill up nice, as do cuts from the tenderloin section, which are indeed tender but with a milder flavor. The marinating debate has raged for ages, with purists preferring to season only with pepper, and experimentalists dabbling in anything from teriyaki to vinegar and citrus juice.

Fish Thick tuna and swordfish steaks hold up better on the grill than most of their thinner, flakier cousins. Salmon is another good candidate for grilling. If you must barbecue a whitefish with a tendency to flake, we suggest using foil so as not to lose half your meal to smoldering coals.

Asparagus Of all the vegetables thrown on the grill, asparagus is my favorite. Simply douse with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, even add some lemon juice if you want. Grilling turns the classy summer vegetable into irresistible finger food. Of course, there is the matter of asparagus pee, which celebratory drinking will hasten along.

Roasted corn If asparagus is my favorite grilled vegetable, then roasted corn is a close second. I don’t think a barbecue has gone by in my life where a couple ears of corn were not tossed onto the grill alongside everything else. If you leave it in the husk, the corn takes a while to cook. You’ve usually forgotten about it by the time it comes off the grill, making it an unexpected treat.

Kalua pig Kalua is the traditional underground slow-cooking method showcased during Hawaiian luaus. In its oldest form, the method consisted of digging a very deep hole – generally about six feet – and lining it with hot rocks and banana leaves. A salted pig was dropped into the makeshift oven and covered with more leaves and soil. After steaming all day, the pig was removed and served alongside traditional accompaniments like poi (taro paste).

Pineapple Peel and slice a fresh pineapple and toss it on the grill; the fire caramelizes its natural sugars, muting the sourness and bringing out the tropical fruit’s richest notes. Alone it makes a fine palate cleanser for what is usually a heavy meal. Segments of pineapple can also be strung on a kabob, alternated with meat and vegetables. The fruit needs no spice or oil, but peeling and coring can be a task.

Pizza My older sister introduced me to grilled pizzas, which are pretty easy to make. The hardest part is making the dough, which involves yeast and a fair amount of kneading. Then cut up toppings and grate cheese, allowing guest to assemble their own pizzas. Throw the dough on the grill, after the coals have burned down to a glow, and after a few minutes brush the top with olive oil. Flip the crust, brush on more oil, then allow visitors to arrange their own toppings. Cover for a few minutes, and then serve, the resulting pizzas taste more rustic than those prepared in a brick oven.