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Frills for the Grill

Grilling
by John Raven, Ph.B.

Winter is slowly admitting defeat and slinking back to its home around the North Pole. Time to get out the grills and smokers and begin to eat well again. I know that everyone stored put away their smoking/grilling equipment spotlessly clean last Fall, so we won't have to go on about Spring clean up.

How about we get a little fancy with our grills? Everyone has a special occasion that calls for something fancy on the table.

Chicken Cordon Bleu from the Grill

For four servings, you will need:
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs or 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (I prefer the thighs for their better flavor)
  • 8 thin slices of cooked ham (4 if using the breasts)
  • 8 slices Swiss cheese. (4 if using the breasts)
  • 1 recipe of white wine sauce (see below)
Wash the chicken in cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Pound the chicken as flat as you can between two sheets of plastic wrap or waxed paper. You can use a rolling pin if you don't have a meat hammer. Season the chicken lightly with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Lay a slice of ham on the chicken. Then a slice of cheese on the ham. Roll into a compact roll using toothpicks to secure.

Grill the rolls, turning frequently until done. Place in an ovenproof serving dish, remove the toothpicks, and put a whole slice of cheese on each of the breasts (half slice on each of the thighs). Pop into a 350F oven until the cheese melts, just a couple of minutes. Ladle on a portion of the white wine sauce. Sprinkle with just a tad of chopped parsley.

White Wine Sauce

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
Melt the butter in a skillet and add the bouillon. When the bouillon browns just a little add the wine and bring to a simmer. Let simmer 6 or 7 minutes; this will cook out the alcohol. Mix the cornstarch in the cream and add to the simmering wine. Stir until it thickens. Serve your chicken cordon bleu with a fresh garden salad, tiny red potatoes and green beans.

If white wine sauce is a little too fancy for you, glaze the rolls with some jalapeño jelly for a Southwestern slant. Simply melt the jelly in a small saucepan over low heat. If you want to get extra, extra fancy, you can marinate the chicken for about two hours before assembling the rolls.

Herb Chicken Marinade

  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon, each, fresh rosemary and fresh basil
Pour the olive oil slowly into the vinegar, while whisking to beat the band, to get them to combine. Add the herbs and spices and whisk some more. Coat the chicken well with the marinade and let set two hours before grilling.

Pork Chops: The other white meat

Pork chops from the grill are a real treat. Barring a real disaster, they always come out tender and juicy. The price of pork has remained reasonable, while the price of beef has gone up just about as fast as gasoline prices. Pork, properly trimmed, contains no more or even less of that bad old fat than marbled beef, so don't let that scare you.

The standard pork chops with the bone attached are the pig's equivalent of the cow's T-bone steak. Cut from the loin, they are the most tender part of the pig. For fancy occasions, though, I like the boneless loin chops. They are cut thicker than the standard chops and will require a little more cooking time. The standard chops are usually cut just a little over a quarter inch thick. These will grill real quick, so you have to pay attention to keep from overcooking them. They should be done in about ten minutes over a hot bed of coals, five minutes per side. The fancy chops, three-quarters to an inch thick, should be ready in thirty minutes or less.

There is no accurate way to estimate cooking times on the grill as no two fires put out the same amount of heat. The best way to determine if your chop is done is to make a small slit in the thickest part with a sharp knife. When the center is no longer pink, it's done. Helpful Hint: No matter what you are grilling, put on one extra piece to use for the testing. That way your chops won't come to the table with scars on them.

Country-Style Ribs

Here in Central Texas, "country-style ribs" are very popular. Actually, they are not ribs at all, but are cut from pork shoulder roast. Often they are the least expensive cut in the meat case. Country-style ribs are usually a little over an inch thick. They lend themselves more to a smoking process than pure grilling. I sear them over the coals and then move them to a cooler part of the grill, close the lid and let them absorb some smoke. In my opinion, the best way to season these is the simplest -- salt and fresh-ground black pepper. Then finish them with your favorite sauce.

Pork chop seasonings

Chops lend themselves to a variety of seasonings. For a real authentic Southwestern grilled pork chop, mix equal portions of chili powder and mild (not hot) paprika. Use enough good olive oil in the powders to make a paste about the consistency of thick cream. Paint the mix on the chops before they go on the grill. You don't need to add more as the chops grill. The aroma is fantastic.

Pineapple and pork chops go together very well.

Hawaiian Pork Chops

  • 1 or more cans of pineapple rings, depending on how many chops you are grilling (1 ring per chop).
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (omit if the pineapple rings are sweetened)
Measure out one cup of juice from the canned pineapple rings. Add the Worchester and the hot sauce, and simmer a few minutes in non-reactive saucepan. Season the chops with salt and fresh-ground black pepper. Baste with the juice mix as they cook.

While the chops grill, grill the pineapple rings until they start to brown. Serve the chops with a pineapple ring on top.

There we have a little something special for those spring garden parties you like so well. Tie that napkin around your neck and enjoy yourself.

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