On these summer days I like to do simple cooking on the charcoal or gas grill as opposed to hours-long endeavors such as pulled pork, barbecued chicken or brisket. I love it all because, in my mind, there’s no better taste than what charcoal and hickory chips give to a piece of pork or beef – same goes for chicken and ribs.
But in the heat of July when barbecue is a must, what’s a cook to do? It means hours of standing somewhere between the blazing sun above you and the flames below you, sweat pouring down your neck and clothes sopping. Not worth it in my book.
So I turn to simple things that can be done in minutes or with no attention at all. These are also some of my very favorite dishes to eat, and they have that wonderful charcoal-grilled taste and texture. I say save the brisket and slow-smoked pork for fall, winter and spring, when the days are cool and you can enjoy the outdoors. But in July and August the best places to be are in a house, pool or cool movie theater.
Along with the following entrées, you may want to try grilling fresh corn, peppers and squash on a charcoal or gas grill.
Buy corn in its shucks. Pull back the shucks, leaving them attached and remove the silks. Then slather the corn with softened butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Gently pull the shucks back over the corn and tie the ends together with string. Place on a grill for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally. For more of a grilled look, remove the shucks after cooking and put the corn back over the flames for a few minutes to slightly brown the kernels.
Buy some tri-colored bell peppers, a zucchini, a yellow squash and a bunch of green onions. Cut the peppers and squash in strips and place all in a metal, serrated barbecue grill basket, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper and set on a hot grill for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have that roasted look.
If your grill is large, you can do corn and the basket of vegetables all at the same time. It is best to cover the grill to keep in smoke and flavor. While a gas grill is easy to use and has the taste benefit of cooking over a flame, a charcoal grill, especially when soaked hickory chips are placed on top of charcoal, gives maximum flavor.
Love artichokes? Parboil or steam several, cut them in half lengthwise and scrape out the chokes. Brush them in extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and garlic powder and grill on both sides until tender and browned. Serve one-half artichoke per person.
Grilled Pork Tenderloins
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup Worcestershire
2 teaspoons freshly grated
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary,
chopped fine, plus extra
leaves for sprinkling
6-8 pork tenderloins
Mix together olive oil, Worcestershire, black pepper and 3 tablespoons rosemary. Place tenderloins in a flat container and pour mixture over. Cover and marinate for several hours in the refrigerator.
Shortly before serving, heat a charcoal or gas grill to hot. When ready, sprinkle tenderloins with salt and place on grill directly over fire and cook until done or slightly pink on the inside, about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the fire. Brush with marinade occasionally and turn frequently to brown all sides. Use a meat thermometer, if desired.
Place meat on a platter and sprinkle with more fresh rosemary. Slice on an angle to serve.
Serves 8 to 10
2 pounds large shrimp
1 pound bacon
Skewers or toothpicks
Peel and devein shrimp. Cut bacon strips in thirds. Wrap each shrimp in a piece of bacon and secure on 6 skewers, or individually with a couple of toothpicks. If some shrimp are small, wrap 2 to a piece of bacon.
Heat a charcoal or gas grill to hot. If using charcoal, coals should be red and white. Place shrimp directly over and within 6 to 8 inches of coals. Grill, turning, until bacon has crisped – about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
1 or more whole chickens
Empty beer cans for each chicken
Liquid crab boil
Heat a charcoal grill to hot. If cooking several chickens, use a small bag of charcoal; if 1 chicken, half a small bag. When white-hot, spread coals in a thin layer. For maximum flavor, sprinkle coals with wet hickory chips, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes. Close all but one or two small vents at the top of the grill.
Sprinkle chickens generously with Creole seasoning inside and out.
For each chicken, mix together 1/3-cup beer, 1 teaspoon liquid smoke and 1 teaspoon liquid crab boil. Pour into empty beer can.
Place chickens on top of beer cans, legs down so that the can enters the large cavity of the chicken.
Be careful to balance the chicken so that it won’t turn over during cooking. Place directly over coals, close cover and grill for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Do not open the grill during cooking.
Serves 4 per chicken