The food media spotlight seems to shine briefest on the genre I’ll call “grilling cookbooks,” for lack of a better designator. Top 10 lists delivered at year’s end rarely include a title from the annual summer batch, although enough of us grill year-round to warrant sustained interest.
I can understand why the sell is restrictive. Grilling cookbooks must spend considerable real estate laying out basics you either already know or aren’t motivated to learn (i.e., you don’t own a grill of your own): gas vs. charcoal, the outlay for equipment, which woods are best for smoking certain foods, how to start a fire and how to clean up after. Cooking temperatures vary almost from author to author. Recipe boxes must be checked — the burger, the bbq’ed bird, the ribs. And oh, the slaws.
Anything new to report? For that matter do we want new, or just improved? I’m saying yes to both, because the stack of 2019 titles on my desk is decidedly taller, broader in scope and more satisfyingly niche-y and nerdy than in seasons past. We’re being treated to stories of new pitmasters and the preparations that put them on the map (hello, Hot Pulled Oyster Mushrooms!). We can geek out on cold and hot smoking, with diagrams for DIY backyard pits. Heritage techniques are revamped for modern times. We can peruse recipes that are fuel-specific.
From that stack on my desk, I’ve pulled eight recipes that promise to enhance your summer eating. Here they are, in no particular order; the links go to our Recipe Finder, from whence you can scale and print. Yes sir, things are lookin’ up in this part of the cooking universe:
Grilled Pork Tenderloins With Tomato and Greens Ragu, pictured above. The dish reminds me how versatile and easy to cook this lean cut is. The tenderloins often come packaged in pairs these days, and you’ll use them both here. The sauce is light yet savory and makes it a good choice for serving a crowd.
Hot Pulled Oyster Mushrooms. This could be the vegan dish that makes everybody happy at the cookout. The mushrooms are treated to a dry rub and a vinegary sauce; smoking them twice ensures deep flavor and a lovely, enticing aroma.
Grilled Chicken Thighs With Pickled White Barbecue Sauce. If I had to pick a favorite in the group, this might be it. There’s no marinating, and the piquant sauce with comes together while the chicken is on the grill. One more feature of this recipe: It’s built for two!
Potato and Prosciutto Packets. Nothing’s simpler than foil-packet cooking on the grill, and this side dish infuses tender, yellow-fleshed spuds with the aromatics of herbs, cheese and those lovely, salt-cured wisps of Italian ham.
Spicy Thai Steaks a la Plancha. Here, you get a twofer — main and salad — that are marinated and dressed with the ingredients we know and love in Thai cuisine: ginger, fresh mint, lime juice, toasted sesame oil and more. Choose strip steaks that are not so thick (3/4 inch at most), and they’ll cook in under 10 minutes. (P.S.: It’s not all that spicy, so feel free to ramp up the ingredients to suit your tastes.)
Grilled Tofu With Ginger-Cilantro Sauce. We can see serving this lots of ways — appetizer, side, main course with a salad. The sauce has a little kick, thanks to jalapeño and a touch of fresh ginger. Make sure you start with an extra-firm tofu, and allow time to press out extra moisture.
Coca-Cola Smoked Beef Tenderloin. If you are up to the tasks of monitoring time and temperature (because overcooking an expensive piece of meat would be a cryin’ shame), this is a splurge worthy of sharing with your dearest carnivores. The marinade lends the subtlest sweetness and a rich mahogany color to the exterior. You should have enough left over for next-day sandwiches, which would be the envy of your lunchmates.
Squash and Rice Pudding. You’ll pop this in the oven, not on the grill. Bring this rich and savory baked side dish (or meatless main) to a gathering where lean meats and vegetables are being grilled, and we guarantee it will disappear. We liked it served warm or cold.
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