Well, it's getting to be the 4th, and celebrating our national
independence around these parts means firing up the grill/pit to burn
some meat and filling up the cooler with the good stuff. This is
a favorite activity of mine, no excuse is actually needed.
But one of my amigos commandeered this holiday a long time ago, so we
go to his house for libations, food, and Americana music. He is good
on the grill/pit, but LOUSY on the sides. But this year he is trying
to impress a new female acquaintance of his, and wants to do something
besides beans/taters/slaw for sides.
(Although... come on... what is wrong with brisket, black beer, a pot
of beans and potato salad, Texas toast and a good cigar?)
These are sides I have made in one form or another for years at my
house for me and when friends and family come over. I typed all this
out for him, and have tuned it up my recipes a bit to make it easier
for the group to follow. As with any cook, these aren't all my
completely original recipes (except the warm dill potatoes) but
inspired by the thousands of meals I have eaten and probably the same
amount prepared at the pit for the last 35 years.
I hope you guys try some of these out. They are really popular around
here every time I fix them.
Long a favorite here in S. Texas, the Atomic Buffalo Turd (stuffed
jalapeño pepper) is a long time staple at barbecue get togethers.
Hollowed out jalapeños are stuffed with cheesy seafood dip, shrimp,
pulled pork, Monterrey Jack cheese, and all other kinds of "stuff".
Wrapped with thin bacon, (never thick - it won't cook right, so cheap
is good here) stabbed through with a toothpick to hold the bacon on
and then smoked until the bacon is done.
They have many kinds of holders to hold them upright so you can cut
off the cap, hollow them out, then stuff. It works a lot better than
halving them. Check out this page and scroll down:
Corn - especially at this time of year when corn is cheap, we cook
corn in the shuck on the grill, then when done peel back the shuck to
make a handle. Remove the silk, the brush with melted butter with
chili powder in it. Excellent...
Warm garlic/dill potato salad is always a favorite, and different from
the normal heavy, starchy, potato/pickle fare. Cook about 2 1/2 pounds
of the potatoes in foil on the pit, then allow to cool until just
warm. An hour before the potatoes are done, take a bowl and mix a
tablespoon (or two!) of warm butter with one cup of sour cream and 1/4
cup of milk, and 1/2 cup of Hellman's mayonnaise, and if you have some
good dill pickles, about two tablespoons of the brine. Add about 1/2
teaspoon each of salt and pepper, one tablespoon of dried dill, and
1/4 teaspoon of granulated garlic. Whisk all this together and set
aside. This needs to sit for about a half hour or so in the fridge.
When the potatoes are done (and just warm) , slightly mash them to
break them up and pour the mixture over them. The mixture should be
out of the fridge for about 15 minutes or so to keep it from being too
cold when you add it to the potatoes. This will keep the potatoes
from being gummy and starchy, as will mixing when the potatoes are
warm, not hot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let them sit for 15
minutes or so, then serve with crumbled bacon and dried parsley as
garnish. Serve immediately.
The potatoes will be excellent served cold as well as the second day I
can usually pick up a slightly smokey flavor to the salad.
Onions - cut medium sized (baseball) onions in half from end to end
(not across the middle). Pop out about a tablespoon's worth of the
inner most center. Fill this cavity with softened butter seasoned with
chili powder, salt and pepper. Cook indirectly until very soft, cavity
up. Serve with a fresh and generous grind of black pepper on the top,
and a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and parsley. Crumbled
bacon sends these over the top, but certainly isn't necessary.
Cabbage - cook very small head type (round, not leaf) cabbages
(softball sized) following the onion recipe. And of course, add
crumbled bacon to the finished product.
Green beans - buy a .99 disposable grill topper at the sporting goods
store, or punch a million holes in a foil pan from the inside out
(turkey or chicken roasting sizes are my favorites). Take fresh or
frozen green beans (partially thawed) and put them in a bowl. Coat
generously with olive oil, a drizzle of sesame oil (optional) and
kosher or sea salt.
Pour out your beans on the grid, and cook on the hot part of the grill
until done. For an extra treat, cut up (dice) one of the onion halves
from above and put some of the onions in the green beans. When I am on
my game I put sliced smoked almonds or freshly toasted sesame seeds on
as additional flavor. A little crumbled bacon on top makes this a
sure winner as well.
An easy salad - buy baby Chinese cabbage at the supermarket. The
heads should be about 8 - 10" long, no more. Cut the in half
lengthwise. Brush with garlic infused olive oil on both sides. Grill
face down. When the cabbage is just soft and you get some little
grill marks, flip it over. Brush more garlic oil on the open cabbage
face to run down inside the cabbage. Just a light brush will do,
don't overdo it. Cook on the grill with until soft and you have some
grill marks. Serve with a warm vinaigrette (store bought is fine,
just warm it) drizzled over the warm cabbage, and dress with spicy
croutons, black olive slices, grated Parmesan or a crumbled Feta
cheese (Feta is perfect), and my favorite add, grilled whole cherry
tomatoes brushed with the garlic oil.
Mushrooms - I like Portobellos on the grill the best. In looking for
Portobellos, try Sam's as the local stores around here keep them in
stock for restaurants. Brush off a Portobello mushroom to clean it,
never use water or rinse it off. Cut off the stem even with the gills.
Remove the gills with a teaspoon and brush out the inside well.
Lightly brush the mushroom inside and out with olive oil. Salt and
pepper (the oil makes the seasonings stick) to your preference. Put
small, clean and very dry cooked cocktail shrimp in the cavity where
you cleaned out the gills. Cover the shrimp with cream cheese based
seafood dip. Grill over direct flame with the stuffing up until the
mushroom softens and the dip is warm/hot. Obviously, this is something
you won't flip... since all the ingredients are cooked, you are only
trying to get them very warm and the mushroom soft. I garnish with a
couple of shakes of cayenne and plenty of parsley. For my significant
other, I use paprika instead of cayenne. These are a meal in
themselves and your friends will think you have been taking lessons.
I could go on...
My grills and pits are a passion.