Kitchen Shrink: Grill, Daddy, Grill

Catharine Kaufman
(File photo)

Perhaps the recent excavation of prehistoric roasting pits in eastern Europe unearthing charred remains of woolly mammoth bones and crude culinary implements provides early evidence of the celebration of the macho male’s primal grilling prowess, which included his bravado skills for hunting, lighting fires, and carving massive meats. Ahh, barbecue shindigs have evolved to a high-tech art and science that elevates the sport and ratchets up the fun factor. Growing up, grilling styles were wild and reckless. I would watch in horror as my dad hosted a Father’s Day backyard barbecue, dousing high-octane lighter fluid over the hibachi grate, coating the meats with the toxic and unpalatable liquid, singeing his eyebrows in the process. Today there are new rules and tools for the grilling game, so let’s kick off Dad’s Day with a primer on the latest guy gizmos that make great, safe gifts for the modern-day barbecuing dad.

Knock on Woods

The centuries-old art of plank grilling over open flames uses natural wood slabs as cooking surfaces to infuse fish, fowl, and meat of all manners with smoky aromatics while sealing in flavorful juices for moist and tender offerings. Planking now provides a greater variety of hardwood choices in more impressive dimensions than the past. Hunt down chunky, untreated raw planks at least 12 inches long and 6 inches wide. Here’s the line-up, so pick your plank wisely:

 Alder, a favorite choice for Nor’westers, imparts a sweet essence to poultry, game fowl, and vegan options, along with a candied smokiness to salmon and other oily fish;

 Perky Cedar, whether white or red varieties, jazzes up meats, fish, fowl, pork, and vegetables with a campfire smokiness;

 Cherry wood tames gamey meats such as, venison, bison, and wild boar with a fruity tang, and nicely complements strong-flavored fish and variety of vegetables;

 Hickory and Pecan are southern sweethearts that give a deep, robust bacony zip to pork and beef;

 Mild-mannered Maple infuses delicate notes to pork, gamey poultry, and seafood;

 The mighty Oak is distinct yet not overpowering for flavoring a variety of gamey meats;

 Walnut wood is pungent and slightly bitter that best takes on red meats;

 Choose Mesquite for a big, bold southwest oomph to heartier cuts of beef.

The plank must also be properly prepped to prevent charring of the wood and food. Submerged and soaked in a tub of water, (wine, fruit juice, or a savory broth for an extra layer of flavor) for a few hours will do the trick. Before it hits the grill slather with a high flash point oil. If the plank has maintained its integrity after grilling, it could probably be salvaged for another use.

` For a quick and dirty flavor infusion, dad can toss aromatic wood chips into the coals, along with rosemary sprigs and assorted citrus to dial up the fare.

Well Done

Dr. Dad should take food’s temperature with a state-of-the-art culinary thermometer to not only check for desired doneness, but also ensure that certain proteins, especially fish, fowl, and pork are cooked thoroughly to prevent foodborne illnesses. If a competent veterinarian can revive it, put it back on the grill. Beef, veal, and lamb should reach an internal temperature of 145° F (medium rare), 155° F (medium), or 160° F (medium well); scaled fish and pork should register at least 145° F, but the latter also needs a short nap before serving, while poultry is safe at 165° F. The top-rated thermometers have an array of features including, well-lit digital screens, waterproof cases and probes, wide temperature ranges, Bluetooth connectivity, remote range monitoring, doneness settings that sound an alert when cooked to perfection, and instant read accuracy.

Let there be Light

If dad’s a creature of the night, he can now safely grill past dusk with a cordless contraption that clamps onto the barbecue hood, illuminating the grilling surface with LED lights combined with a fan drawing pesky smoke away from his face. Pair with tongs featuring built-in LED bulbs, and glow-in-the-dark, heat-resistant grilling gloves for added safety.

Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room

Tuck a neat little, cast-iron smoker box filled with choice of wood in the corner of the grill to impart that lovely smoky aroma to a variety of foods without any burning, charring, or splintering. While wrapping large cuts of meat in thick barbecue butcher paper is an easy alternative to smoking meats.

Basket Case

Stainless steel or copper grill baskets in various shapes and sizes, some outfitted with covers and handles are ideal for foods either too fragile or difficult to flip, or that might slip through the grate like flaky fish, shrimps, fruit chunks, or vegetables.

End Game

Finally, make dad’s clean-up a breeze with a motorized, steam-powered grill brush like a Roomba robot for the barbecue.

Recipe: Enjoy this classic grilled steak that’s a lot easier to marinate than woolly mammoth. Happy Dad’s Day!

BBQ Prime New York Steak

Tart Cherry Roquefort Butter

New York steak
New York steak
(Courtesy, Chef Bernard Guillas

Serves 4

Roquefort Butter

 1/3-cup butter, softened

 1/3-cup Roquefort blue cheese, crumbled

 ¼-cup dried tart cherries, chopped

 2-tablespoons dark rum

To taste: sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Add all ingredients to large mixing bowl. Beat with wooden spoon until smooth. Transfer mixture to piping bag without tip. Pipe onto large sheet of wax paper, forming 6-inch-long log. Roll wax paper to wrap butter. Freeze until solid. Slice into 6 medallions.

New York Steak

 4 12-ounce prime grade New York steaks

 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

To taste: sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

** high heat grapeseed oil spray

Preheat grill to high. Coat grates lightly with oil spray. Brush steaks with oil on both sides. Season with salt and pepper. Grill 3 minutes on one side. Flip. Cook additional 3 minutes. Continue cooking until internal temperature reaches 130°F for medium rare or until desired doneness. Rest for 5 minutes. Transfer to serving platter. Top with Roquefort butter.

Courtesy, Chef Bernard Guillas