Grill baby, grill.

When we first moved to Texas, we bought a new grill. In Colorado, Chris had an oldey-timey gas grill from Home Depot or Lowe’s or somewhere like that. It was one of the ones that looks all shiny and new and efficient when it’s sitting in the store grill aisle, and have all sorts of complicated accoutrements. But then 6 months after you get it home, it starts to fall apart and develop hot spots and the hinges on the flimsy lid get all wobbly and it becomes a big pile of regret that likes to house errant wasps.

The lesson we’ve learned, time and again, is that it’s better to get a very small Weber grill that has no bells and whistles, than to get seduced by the complicated grills with dome lights and side burners. Sure, it seems like a great idea to get that much grill for that little money, but you’ll be replacing it every two years, or you’ll sacrifice heat retention and reliability.

So when we moved, we said “no more fancified grills!” And we bought a Weber Spirit E-310. It has no side burner. But it retains heat like it’s made entirely from cast iron and feverishly oversexed teenage boys. It’s a rockstar.

When our puppy ate the cover, we worried our grill would get bleached out by the hot Texas sun. The grill is, two years later, still as black and shiny as Denzel Washington on a nude beach.

The only problem we’ve had with the grill so far, is that Chris heard a hissing noise from the propane connection. This was about six months into owning the grill. It lay fallow for well over a year before I finally called the mean, flannel-wearing service lady. She blamed it on my dog’s chewing and sent me a new connector gratis. My dog couldn’t get his giant, square head in that little area if he developed the power to melt himself, terminator-style. So my working theory is that it was one of the pack of roving chihuahuas that terrorize the neighborhood and spend all of their time barking, menacing, and being really ugly. Or possibly ants.

The point is that I now have a working grill again, and we are making hay while the sun shines at less than 100 degrees F. That’s only a few more weeks, for those of you keeping count. Yesterday it was 90 and muggy, and I almost offed myself. The only consolation is knowing that in Colorado it’s still snowing, so this may be the last summer I see for some time. No more worrying about whether or not I’ll be able to find denim shorts that are capable of encompassing my thighs without looking like sausage casings! (Answer: I have not found them yet)

And speaking of sausage in a slightly more appetizing way, we had some good ones last night.

But before I get to that, I have to give you the background meal from two days ago:

This was nothing new– warm, handmade burrata with quartered tomatoes, basil, and grilled garlic flatbread. The whole mess was drizzled with olive oil and a thick, sweet balsamic. Oh, and sprinkled liberally with crunchy fleur de sel. We each had one of these plates to ourselves, and that’s it. Nothing else. I challenge you to tell me that this isn’t enough of a dinner. Protein comes from cheese. Fruit/veg comes from tomatoes. Grain comes from grilled flatbread. Fin.

Eating warm cheese while watching the Biggest Loser = Priceless.

Here’s the recipe for grilled flatbread, btw, just so you have it on hand. It takes about 3 minutes to load this all into the breadmaker, or you can do it with a stand mixer in 10 minutes. Then it mixes/rises for an hour or so while you go to the gym. Then come home, preheat the grill, and whammo! You’ve got hot, grilled bread with dinner.

Grilled Flatbread

1.5 C warm water (110 F)
1 t active dry yeast
1 t sugar
3 C AP flour (more or less to make a soft, pliable, non-sticky dough)
1 C bread flour (you can use all AP if you don’t have bread)
1.5 t salt

garlic oil for brushing

-Layer into bread maker in this order and start on quick dough cycle. Or, layer into stand mixer and knead for 10 minutes, until pliable and elastic.

-Allow to rise for 1 hour or so (until doubled)

-Divide into equal sized balls and roll on dry surface to eliminate seams. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with a bit of flour to prevent sticking, and cover loosely. Rest for 10-15 minutes.

-Preheat grill to HOT. Meanwhile, roll each ball into a round that’s about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Like a pizza crust, kind of.

-Brush with garlic oil. Chris mashes up garlic cloves and some salt into a paste in his molcajete, then stirs in olive oil. You can buy premade garlic oil if you like.

-Place on grill and allow to sit until semi-charred grill marks appear on the side that’s in contact with the grill. Flip with tongs and allow the other side to get less-aggressively grill marked. A hot, hot grill surface is necessary for this. Think about 500 degrees.

-Brush again with garlic oil and pull to a parchment-lined tray. Sprinkle with a bit of coarse salt. Serve immediately with whatever the hell you want, because you can’t go wrong with these. mmmmmmm. Charred bread.

Chances are good that this recipe will make too much bread for you to use in one meal (unless you’re going whole-hog on the carbs, in which case…get ’em tiger). If you wish, you can tightly wrap half of the dough with saran wrap and stick it in the freezer. Then, when the time comes, you can pull it out of the freezer, unwrap it, cover it with a damp towel, and allow it to come to a warmish room temperature. It will rise while it thaws. Then use as you would normally.

“Normally,” in this instance, involved us grilling some WhoFo garlic-pepper sausages until they were almost done. Then, carefully, we wrapped rounds of rolled dough around the sausages, sealed them with some errant sausage fat, and grilled them on both sides. Grilled pigs in blankets. I high-fived myself for this idea.
Served them up with Beaver sweet-hot mustard, caramelized onions, and some hot and sour “slaw” that was basically just fresh, leftover green cabbage that I tossed with simmering apple cider vinegar, shredded granny smith, red pepper flakes, salt, dry mustard, and sugar. I turned the heat off of the vinegar and allowed the cabbage to sit in it for about 15 minutes. This wilted the cabbage and allowed the heat from the red pepper flakes to permeate without cooking the cabbage or dealing with the “cooked-cabbage smell.” Instant kraut/slaw.

I love when leftovers outdo themselves on their second go-round. And I love that this dough, which costs all of nothing to prepare, can become so many different things. Actually, given that the cabbage was half of the one we bought at the farmer’s market ($3), the sausages were on sale at WhoFo ($4), the dough was so cheap ($2), and the onions are in season right now ($.69), this whole meal cost us just over $6 to make. That’s $3 per person, plus leftovers. Less than a Big Mac meal, a ton more nutritious, and stratospherically more satisfying.

You’ll have to forgive me for counting pennies these last couple of posts. It’s just been grating on me lately that so many people have been bleating about how fast food is SO MUCH CHEAPER than eating well. No, it’s not. Unless you’re inner city in one of those places where you don’t have access to fresh food. In which case I understand that failures in the system force people to eat fast food just to stay full. But I guarantee that doesn’t apply to 98% of the people at my local McDonalds.

I don’t give two shits about teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony, but I’d sure like to get a decent meal in most of them.

8 thoughts on “Grill baby, grill.”

  1. Yet another titillating and inspiring post. But my coworkers feel that you could have improved it a wee bit by inserting a visual right after the lovely Denzel Washington imagery. Just for those who like to eat their cake while they are thinking about it.

  2. I think its very important that you've added in a few cost considerations… it really helps put things into perspective. Especially with all the grocery store commercials about saving $X hundred a year by eating all their pre-packaged, nutritioinally and taste-poor foods.

    But I think the hidden gem of the post was the molcajete ground garlic + olive oil = super awesome garlic oil. And not just becuase it was my (perfectly executed) task. It had an amazingly fresh flavor that really took the bread over the top.

    Perhaps I should start a blog called "How I take the spiteful chef's cooking over the top!" It would really just be posts about me adding garlic oil to everything.

  3. That looks delicious. We will be in the grill-buying market in a few months, so I appreciate the advice. Your meals look appropriate-sized, but they make me worry that I will eventually have to eat appropriate-sized portions. Sad day.

  4. I am not sure what I like better…that dinner with the plate of burrata or the image of Denzel Washington on the nude beach.

  5. Weber does make the best grills. I remember all of the cool stuff we did with our (charcoal) Weber kettle when I was growing up.

    *Sigh* I miss the days when I had a yard and could cook outside. I would take a 90 degree day for that.

    BTW, loved your fried chicken post too.

  6. Any time I make bread and the dough isn't fully risen in time for dinner (or lunch, or breakfast) I just make discs and cook them in a buttered skillet. It's the best thing in the world. Grilling is even better, but sometimes it feels like too much work. Also, the amount of butter must be reduced drastically, and that means that somewhere a puppy dies.

  7. Add a bottle of red wine. THEN it's enough for a dinner.

    You wanna know the saddest thing ever? I live in a top floor apartment in the city and I'M NOT ALLOWED TO GRILL. I'm quite certain the emotional scars will land me on Dr. Phil some day. lucky for us, my co-worker/besty/neighbor has a big green egg. I smell to pork a-smokin' and just mosey up there with a plate in hand and big round Charels Dickens puppy dog eyes

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