From Too Many Chefs -

September 10, 2004
Are you tired of the grill yet?

Who's cooking now?If you visit our pages frequently, you'll begin to get the impression that we are (or at least I am) obsessed with grilling. Well, speaking for myself, you have to allow for some ten years of being unable to use a grill being overcompensated for when we finally get one. In Chicago living in an apartment did not ever prevent me from being able to fire up a grill - at worst we would use a little hibachi grill on the balcony and at best we had my mother's second-hand Weber in the front yard of our coach house. However in Paris grilling in close proximity to your neighbor's living room is a faux pas of the greatest magnitude. The French are very fastidious about their cooking smells and much more inclined to put a door on the kitchen to keep them where they belong. (In fact, an open plan kitchen is known as a cuisine américaine in real estate agent lingo!) But for the last year we have been living in a high-rise multicultural hip corner of Paris and our neighbors are not the complaining type. And we dare to grill.

So lately the weather is truly beautiful and the grill is just sitting there on the terrace every night begging me to light it. And rather than bore you with another dozen individual postings on Things We Have Recently Grilled, I thought it would be better to give you a summary of some of the better dishes to come off the grill lately:

1) Corn on the cob. Now I'm from the Midwest and have pretty high standards for corn on the cob; one of my few gripes (though oft-repeated) about Paris is the lack of decent sweet corn. This year has been an exception, however: twice in the last week I have found decent ears of corn, reasonably fresh and - shock - even bearing a sticker declaring them to be non-genetically modified. I'm even thinking of picking up some more this weekend and freezing it to enjoy in the winter!

In the US, where corn is sold in the husk, I would normally soak the ears in a bucket of water and put them on the grill unhusked, so that they pick up the smoky flavour of the burned husk and steam nicely. I can't do that here because the ears are always sold half-husked. This week I discovered that if you boil the ears for ten minutes or so and then put them on the grill (fully husked) they turn out delicious - a few of the grains blackend by the flames of the grill only add to the taste. A delight. Even if you can grill your corn in the husk, I'd recommend trying it this way for a change!

2) Fish and bacon kebabs. I have tried this twice recently with different fish and both times it turned out lovely. I got the idea from the fact that fish filets are frequently sold in supermarkets here cut in long slivers about the length and width of bacon. Place one fish sliver on a piece of bacon and thread it on a wooden skewer. On the fish side of the kebab brush a little olive oil and sprinkle with dried sage. Cook the kebabs bacon-side down and only briefly on the fish side. I served these with a quick sauce made up of 1 Tbs mustard, 3 Tbs crème fraîche a dash of salt and a sprinkle of sage, heated in a small saucepan until thickened. The consensus of our guests: very tasty, even without the sauce!

3) Indian chicken. We usually have a jar or two of curry paste in the fridge - Tandoori or Balti or Rogan Josh. I like to mix it with a bit of low-fat yogurt and use it as a marinade. Because a skin-less chicken breast can lose all moisture very quickly on a grill, it's best to cut it in long, thin strips so that it will cook very quickly. Marinate the strips of chicken breast in the sauce, thread them on a skewer and grill. Serve with a spicy mango chutney or hot lime pickle. If any of your guests are English you will get rave reviews...

4) Grilled eggplant and zucchini slices. Slice the vegetables in disks about 3/4 cm (half an inch) thick and brush them with olive oil. I cut the zucchini on a diagonal as the ones sold here are usually quite skinny and this makes them a little larger. They still occasionally fall between the bars of the grill (sigh) but the ones that don't come out tasting delicious. Toss them still warm on a salad with Newman's Caesar Salad Dressing and a bit of freshly grated parmesan - heavenly!

5) A good steak. I recently rediscovered one of the joys of my childhood: a grilled steak, generously powdered with Lawry's salt and served with A1 Steak Sauce (check out the link for the hype on how it dates back to England's King George IV's chef). For those of you who have not been deprived of these two condiments for the last ten years this probably sounds pretty boring, but if you've been away from them long enough they suddenly seem like manna from heaven. I don't know what it was that led me to think of adding them to my shopping cart on a trip to the states a couple of years ago but now I am completely addicted again. My brother is bringing out a new shaker of Lawry's with him in two weeks, which is just as well as I'm nearly out! Serve with a backed potato cooked on the grill (cover with tin foil and put in a quiet corner of the grill for an hour) and a Caesar's salad. For years, this was my favourite Birthday Dinner, prepared to perfection by an ex-boyfriend's indulgent parents for me every year. (His mother's birthday was the day after mine so we invariably celebrated them together.)

So there you have a few of my favourite things. It's not a dozen, but I limited myself to the highlights. After all, you probably already had your fill of grilling in the July Is My Blog Burning? event!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at September 10, 2004 5:49 AM | TrackBack

There is nothing better than soaked corn in the husk thrown directly into a campfire or onto the coals. Mmmmmm...

My trick for boiling corn is to toss a bit of the light green husk in the water. It makes the ear taste a lot more "corny".

Posted by barrett on September 10, 2004 at 5:01 PM