Forget the golf balls, fishing tackle and the ever popular necktie - what Dad really wants for Father's Day is a standout homecooked meal, lovingly prepared on the grill.
Don't be intimidated to take over the grilling for the day. It's not because it's dangerous that many dads keep families away from the grill - it's because it's fun!
For successful cooking on a barbecue follow these three simple rules:
1) Keep the grill clean. Get in the habit of scraping the remains off the grill when you finish cooking- before it gets baked on the grill. You need a wire brush to scrape it well.
2) Keep it hot. Preheat your grill; gas grills will take about 15 minutes to preheat, charcoal will take about 30 minutes to be ready for cooking. Most grilling is done over high heat. To test grill temperature, hold your hand about four inches above the grate and see how long you can keep it there. If you can hold your hand over the heat and count to six before you have to pull your hand back the heat is 'medium' temperature; if you can hold it over the grill and count to four, the heat is 'medium-high' and when you can't hold it over the grill for longer than a count of two, it is 'hot.'
3) Keep it oiled. Pour olive oil on paper toweling and wipe the grill liberally. Hold onto the toweling with tongs to protect yourself from the heat.
There are different methods for cooking on a grill, suited for different foods. You can cook by direct grilling, indirect grilling, smoking, spit roasting and roasting in the embers.
Direct grilling is the most common way to cook on the barbecue and is used for cooking tender, small or thin foods, like steaks, chops, chicken or fish fillets, vegetable and breads. Food is placed directly over the fire, where it will cook quickly.
With indirect grilling, food is placed next to the heat source, and covered with a lid, turning the barbecue into an oven. Pork shoulders, briskets, whole turkeys and chickens, including the famous beer can chicken, are cooked using this method, which we will explore next issue.
Smoking, using wood chips, is an indirect grilling method. It is another slow method of cooking and naturally imparts a smokey flavor to the food.
Spit roasting or rotisserie method relies on a slow rotation of cylindrical-shaped foods, such as rib roasts, whole chickens, pork roasts.
Roasting in the embers is exactly what it sounds like: The food is placed directly on the embers or buried in the coals. This is a wonderful method for roasting onions, beets, corn on the cob, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
How do you tell if the meat is done? Call upon all your senses to determine if the food is cooked to your liking. Obviously you will be able to see, smell and hear that your food is nearing completion. Next you will want to check how the food feels.
You have a handy reference guide to 'doneness' in your own two hands. Completely relax your left hand and poke the fleshy area between your thumb and forefinger with your right forefinger. That soft springiness is what 'rare' meat feels like. Now, make a tight fist with your left hand and poke the area again. That tight flesh is what 'well done' meat feels like. Experiment with tensing and relaxing your fist until you can recognize medium and medium rare.
To test your meat for doneness, poke it with your finger. Please, please, please don't cut into it to see if it is done. You will just let the delicious juices pour out of the meat and end up with a dried-out, less- than-lovely food product. Use the poke method.
After you take it off the grill, allow the meat to rest for five minutes before you cut into it to let those succulent juices redistribute through the meat.
Experiment with different cuts of meat, fish, vegetables and fruit. Pizza grilled on the barbecue is really a treat, as is grilled pound cake topped with grilled peaches or pineapple. Remember there are no mistakes in the kitchen (or on the barbecue), just interesting variations. Be inventive and I bet Dad will be willing to share the grill with you again.
Here is a perfect starter for any barbecue and can be vegetarian with a simple substitution of tofu sausage. Both are simple enough in preparation for even the youngest children to help prepare for Dad's feast.
Happy Father's Day, gents!
BBQ U Bratwurst and Pepper Jack Grilled Mushrooms
Makes 16 mushrooms, enough to serve 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a side dish
16 large mushroom caps, wiped clean with a damp cloth
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cooked bratwurst or smoked sausage, cut into thin slices*
2 ounces thinly sliced pepper jack cheese, cut into thin slivers
1 jalapeno chili, seeded and cut into thin slivers
2 cloves garlic, cut into thin slivers
16 tiny sprigs cilantro
Set up the grill for indirect cooking and preheat to high (400 degrees).
Using a spoon or melon baller, remove the stems from the mushroom caps, leaving the caps whole. (Reserve stems for another purpose.) Generously brush the mushroom caps on all sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then place the mushroom caps in a foil-drip aluminum pan designed for the barbecue.
Place a few slivers of bratwurst, cheese, jalapeno, and garlic in each mushroom cap. Add a sprig of cilantro and drizzle each cap with a little more olive oil. The mushrooms can be prepared several hours ahead to this stage.
Place the pan with the mushrooms to the center of the grill away from the fire. Cover the grill. Cook the mushrooms until browned and tender and the filling is browned and sizzling. Transfer mushrooms to a platter and serve.
Adapted from The Barbecue Bible Web site, barbecuebible.com