Lookbacks to 2020, the year in grilling

Some delicious tomahawk steak with my mother. As you can tell we like it pretty rare!

Even if in the last year I only had one catering gig, I did not feel as though I got left behind in developing my cooking skills. At the beginning of quarantine, like many, I dived straight into my cooking. After learning how to make several new pasta dishes from scratch (aglio e olio w/ shrimp being my favorite), and a few week attempts at making meringues my rolling boil of a cooking attempt died down to meek simmer. The reason being is that I suddenly found myself only able to worm into pants with elastic. But I found one haven out of one piece of bad news that 2020 brought: my oven in Pennsylvania stopped working…

The old-fashioned breakfast sausage (AKA country sausage) with the new-fashioned romanesca (fractal-formed cousin of the quotidian broccoli)

So armed with only a grill, I endeavored to make many of the meals my girlfriend and I shared. Our favorite staple quickly became thick sliced zucchini ‘steak’ and pork chops. And of course steaks and normal vegetables were easy choices. But in order to make what was a collection of what felt like side dishes into a full meal was going to take more effort. I tried grilling bacon for example, but I found it looked much prettier in photographs than it tasted. But the first difficult grill challenge I took on was to grill a whole chicken.

As I have had a huge amount of experience roasting chicken through the years, I spatchcocked the bird, rubbed one of my typical spice mixtures on it (salt, pepper, cumin, paprika and garlic) and through the bird onto the hot section of the grill face down for an initial char. After leaving for a few short minutes, flipping it onto its back to sear the back. Then to finish it up, put it on the upper racks to slow cook in indirect heat.

I really need to be better at photographing food, because this looked 3 times as delicious in person!

But the real achievement last year was baking in the grill. As you would expect the primary issue with doing this would be managing heat control. This was not so easy due to cold weather and hard wind conditions. Regardless, I found the trick was heavily greasing the cast iron skillet, and applying indirect heat. The recipe was just a typical blueberry peach cobbler recipe in which I substituted frozen fruits for the more typical fresh fruit ingredients.

Pre-heat the grill to the temperature the recipe specifies for, and set it so that the temperature is as close to steady-state as possible (without tweaking, won’t gain or lose heat but stay as the specified temperature). Now pop the cast iron with the cobbler and topping on the grill altogether. Resist the urge to open and check on it too often. In about 20 minutes into cook time, rotate the pan 1/3 rotation to assure even doneness (this is where you get to sneak your peak in). Repeat this step in another 20 minutes, etc. and cook until top is appropriately browned.

My favorite part of the whole experience: watching it bubble on the grill as I could smell all of those wonderful cobbler smells. #bubblebubbletoil&trouble

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