Traditional Texas Food
Articles about Texas' most famous foods
by John Raven, Ph.B.
Odds & Ends from the Grillby John Raven, Ph. B.
Now that Fall is here, it's time to crank up the grill again. We're going to pull some stuff out of the bottom of our files and try and link them together.
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Grill MaintenanceFirst off, if you didn't keep your grill real clean over the summer months, you can get it clean with some commercial oven cleaner. Works real good on the grease and soot. Just be sure you read all the instructions and understand what you are doing. Oven cleaner is pretty potent stuff.
To keep your grill from getting crusty, either spray it with some non-stick stuff or brush it with vegetable oil before using it. (The oven cleaner will also work on your cast iron, if it isn't too crusty).
Something else you should know. If you line your charcoal pan with heavy-duty foil it will make clean-up so much easier and extend the life of your grill considerably. When leftover, half-burned charcoal gets damp, it forms an acid that will consume your grill in short order. Keep it clean. If the outside of your grill is getting rusty, you can get some high-temperature paint that will have it looking like new. Again, read the instructions.
Raven's Pineapple HamOne of my better grilled dishes is pineapple flavored ham. I take a four- or five-pound canned ham and slice it into slices that are a little less than one-half inch thick. Then I take canned pineapple slices and reassemble the ham with a pineapple slice between each ham slice. You set the ham on the grill for cooking. You might have to use a few toothpicks to keep things together. The juice from the pineapple is reserved and made into a basting sauce. I add some brown sugar, Worchestershire sauce, black pepper and a few drops of hot sauce. You can experiment and get your own recipe.
The ham is already cooked, so you are just getting some smoke flavor in it and heating it all the way through. An hour or two should do. Baste the ham whenever you think it needs it.
Sweet potatoes go good with pineapple ham. Peel your sweet potatoes and slice into half-inch thick slices. For seasoning, you want some butter, sugar (white or brown), a touch of salt and some spice -- either cinnamon or allspice. A couple of mini marshmallows might go good in there too. Wrap each potato tightly in heavy-duty foil for the grill. The sweet potatoes will take a while to cook. Turn them on the grill about every fifteen minutes to distribute the heat. When they go soft, they are done.
White potatoes can be cooked like the sweet potatoes. I like to insert a thin slice of onion between the potato slices and put some butter and cheese on top. Season with salt and black pepper. Again, when the potato feels soft, it's done.
Vegetables from the GrillNearly any vegetable can be prepared on the grill. The biggest problem is they take a little longer to cook for their size. You can speed the process by parboiling your vegetables until they are nearly done. Brush the vegetable with a good oil and season them before putting them on the grill. You can thread a variety of vegetables on skewers to make them easier to manage on the grill. One of my favorites is grilled tomatoes. The small cherry type tomatoes can be grilled whole. Larger tomatoes can be cut in half and placed in a foil cup to keep them from dripping. Brush the tomatoes with oil and season with basil and salt and pepper or whatever you think would be good.
You can cook a variety of flat breads on the grill. Look up my flour tortilla recipe in my recent bread article (see The Staff of Life, September, 1998)and try them on the grill. Just be sure your grill is greased to prevent sticking.
For snacks and appetizers, cold cuts from the grill are hard to beat. Our family favorite is summer sausage. Slice the sausage in half-inch thick slices and daub liberally with a good, hot BBQ sauce.
Dessert from the GrillFor dessert from the grill, you might want to try baking apples. Core the apples and then fill the cavity with a mixture of raisins and brown sugar seasoned with cinnamon and lemon juice. You would need to make a foil cup to keep the stuffing in the apple. Bananas in foil would be good, too. Don't use overripe bananas, they will get too mushy. Either leave your banana whole or slice it. Add what you think would be good. I like some pineapple chunks, brown sugar and a dab of butter on mine. Some orange slices or other tropical fruits would go good, too.
Grilling is not an exact science. You try this and then you try that. You learn from every experiment. I encourage all my readers to experiment. Who knows, you might come up with a recipe that will win you some big bucks in a cooking contest.
A friend of mine came up with a recipe for rabbit glazed with raisin sauce. It was delicious and won him a prize at the local competition. Last I heard, he was working on a cranberry glaze for grilling.
Food from the grill is not meant to be bland. It needs to sizzle and have a tang to it. The addition of hot pepper sauce to any baste or glaze really brings the flavor to life. You don't have to use so much of it that it bites back. You just want that subtle bite. Tabasco sauce is the benchmark for hot pepper sauces. I really prefer any Louisiana-type sauce made with cayenne peppers.
Okay, time for you to get the grill out, clean it up and get to cooking Texas Cooking Style. Don't forget to experiment. The dog will take care of your failures.
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