Boy Meets Grill
I think we all know there was no world in which I didn’t use that pun eventually. Now that it’s over, we can all move on with our lives. So, welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophe, I’m your repentant punster Jon O’Guin, and today we’re covering 3 different grilled recipes, so I can’t waste much time. If you can waste even less, click HERE to jump to the actual recipes at the bottom. For the rest of us, let’s talk about a really cool dude.
The Raich Stuff
An old friend of mine, Jared Chastain, used to tell the group of improvisers he directed an important lesson: You can’t know everything about everything, but you should know something about most things. In his case, he was referencing the fact that the more things you know, the more jokes you can make that connect to unique individuals and interests. He framed this as ‘Try and know the Babe Ruths of every field’. Let me introduce you to one such man: Steven Raichlen.
Seen here, totally unable to see you. Honestly, he’s not currently watching you.
Steven Raichlen has 7 nationally recognized awards for barbecue. For comparison, that’s how many Oscars Schindler’s List has. He wrote a book called “The Barbecue Bible”, and no one questioned his credentials. He went up against an Iron Chef in an episode titled “Battle of the Barbecue GODS”, and won. He has had 3 separate PBS Shows about grilling, barbecuing, and smoking. The dude is Grill royalty, despite looking like the “cool” woodshop teacher at your middle school. So I use a LOT of his recipes and techniques.
Particularly, today we’re going to focus on one of his preferred things to point out: you can cook anything in a barbecue. His books have recipes from Beef Tongue to Grilled Ice Cream. This is a man who smokes his DRINKS. I decided to be a little less adventurous, and made a grilled cheese, with some grilled fruit sides.
Lie is such a strong word.
Some of you are no doubt wondering “Jon, you said you couldn’t waste much time, and then you spent a third of the note being a flambé fan-boy.” Well, firstly, shut up. Secondly, nice alliteration on the insult. And thirdly, shut up again. Yes, I did waste some time, alright, and the reasons for that are two-fold. Firstly, because all these recipes are really simple. Like “Put object A in sauce, cook a couple minutes, done.” That’s why I was comfortable doing 3 of them for this post. Secondly, well…my family’s grill is on our deck, which was made with untreated wood roughly 4 years before I was born. As such, it is…
A hellscape of mildew and neglect?
In desperate need of repair. That hole in the wood to the right? I made that a month ago by STANDING STILL on the wrong part of it. What I’m saying is that, even when you don’t know it, I’m risking my happiness and safety to make you all happy. I’m like a circus acrobat, except without the alcoholis-…without the creepy-…without the weird sme-…Without the grace and skill. Jesus, that’s upsetting. Then again, the only circus acrobat I know in real life was a shining Adonis of a man who was impressively chill in most situations, so I felt bad even trying to make jokes about them.
The point is that I need to psyche myself up to cook, and reciting trivia is one of my calming techniques, because I am a living Hollywood nerd stereotype. On to the food! But first, a clarifying point.
Linguistic Legerdemain, AKA Verbal Sleight of Hand
By which I don’t mean the sleight of hand performed by Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects, but something surprisingly close. I’ve talked a couple times about my love of linguistic precision and its abuses. I frequently use exact wording and implications to make jokes or mild deceptions. As such, I’m particularly proud of my line earlier about making a grilled cheese. Because vigilant readers will note I didn’t end that clause with “sandwich”. Because there’s no bread in this recipe. It’s just literally grilled cheese.
Delicious implied deceit.
Halloumi is a Cypriot cheese, meaning it comes from the island of Cyprus, much like, one assumes, Cyprus Hill. And like that no-longer-famous band, this shit is insane in the membrane. Due to complicated food science in how it’s made, the cheese ends up with densely packed proteins and low acid content, which give it a very high melting point. As such, it’s frequently grilled or fried. My recipe for it, from the BBC (I do like that I, an American, am using a British recipe to cook a Mediterranean cheese) is simple: Soak the cheese, cut it into strips, skewer, douse with olive oil and oregano, and grill.
The results are fantastic. There’s a crunch to the outer layer, and a woody salty taste. The only off-putting thing is that the cheese squeaks as you bite it, like fresh cheese curds. (This is because of the same densely packed proteins) I actually liked this more than the grilled fruits, which was shocking to many who know of my sweet tooth. Fun fact: the Cypriots often eat their Halloumi with watermelon. Which was convenient for me, because:
The other dish we made was Grilled Watermelon. I’d love to explain the hilarious misadventures of my mother and I buying a watermelon, finding it overripe, and our ensuing journey filled with portents and omens that we should make tacos for dinner while we tried to buy another one, from Tamale trucks passing us, to finding abandoned shopping baskets with only chimichangas in them, so I just did.
Now, in this recipe, I did make a fundamental error. Kids, always remember to check for the b in your measurements, so you don’t drop three TABLESPOONS of chili powder onto a recipe calling for 3 TEASPOONS.
In any case, this is possibly the most complicated recipe of the bunch: You make a sauce of crème fraiche (I used greek yogurt), lime zest, and cilantro. You make a dip of tequila, lemon juice and zest, and salt. And then you flop cut watermelon in the dip, sprinkle with chili powder, grill, and serve with sauce.
Chili powder looks a lot like dirt, in HD.
What? I didn’t say it was VERY complicated. Just the MOST. BY comparison, look at our final contestant.
Bananas in Pajamas! (Pajamas Not Provided. Presumably not edible)
This recipe is dead simple. Put coconut milk and brown sugar in a pan. Make a caramel sauce.
Take a picture of it. Or don’t, because, really, it’s not super visually interesting.
Take your bananas, peel them, and skewer them. Grill for 1-2 minutes a side. Then dip them in the sauce, and grill another 1-3 minutes a side. Serve with sauce.
That’s another one of the beauties of grilling: once you get the grill hot, it makes food faster than the dickens. A phrase few know started because of Charles Dickens’s fame as a track athlete at his boarding school.
Few know that, because it’s completely untrue.
The bananas are good though. How good? We ate them before I remembered to take a picture. What can I say? I’m a Babe Ruth of absentmindness.
NEXT TIME: JON STARTS A DICTIONARY. THAT’S…GOING TO BE “FUN”
1 pound Halloumi
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dried oregano
You’ll also need either wooden or metal skewers.
- Soak Halloumi in water for 2 hours. If using wooden skewers, soak at least 10 minutes. Preheat Grill to High.
- Cut Halloumi into 3/4” wide strips. (We used ½”, but the halloumi split a lot) Run onto Skewers. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with Oregano.
- Grill 2-3 minutes per side. Serve immediately.
4 slices watermelon, rinds removed
1 c greek yogurt, crème fraiche, or sour cream
1/3 c cilantro, chopped
Zest of 1 lime.
2 shots tequila
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp salt
3 TEASPOONS chili powder
- Mix yogurt, lime zest, and cilantro. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Preheat grill to High.
- Mix tequila, lemon juice and zest, and salt in a shallow dish. Toss Watermelon slices in tequila mixture. Sprinkle one side of watermelon with chili powder.
- Grill 2-3 minutes, with the chili powder side down. Serve hot with yogurt sauce.
Grilled Bananas with Coconut Caramel
1 c unsweetened coconut milk
½ c brown sugar.
Wood or metal skewers.
- Stir coconut milk and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and simmer 5 minutes until dark brown and flavorful. Let come to room temperature.
- Preheat Grill to high, soak wooden skewers if using for at least 10 minutes. Peel bananas.
- Skewer bananas, and grill 1-2 minutes per side, until slightly browned. Then dip in or baste with caramel, and grill additional 1-3 minutes a side, until dark brown and sizzling. Serve immediately.