By Matthew Nolot
Executive Chef, Fort Wayne
In my opinion, nothing is as exciting as a “license” to fool around with a live fire. Adding a wonderful smoky sear to your dinner can turn what could be a chore into the most pleasurable parts of the day. You may be a novice or actually have earned your ph.G (Doctorate of Grilling), but the basics of grilling haven’t really changed all that much since the day some really smart cave-guy or cave-gal first introduced a dinosaur leg to a fire pit. All you really need is a fire, some food to cook and something to lay the food on so it doesn’t fall into the fire. I also add lots of seasonings. Try eating French fries without salt and you’ll know what I am talking about.
As you know from eating in restaurants and reading all those beautiful cookbooks that artfully decorate the shelves of your local book store, different chefs and cookbook authors have different relationships to cooking. Their food and ideas originate in different places and they emphasize different aspects of both preparing and eating food.
Some chefs swear by technique, cutting vegetables precisely, cooking a reduction sauce to that perfect consistency, painfully laboring over artistically dramatic plate presentations. For other chefs, it’s all about the quality of the raw ingredients; the juiciest, ripest tomatoes, the highest quality organic beef, anchovies imported from France, the stinkiest cave-ripened brie you have ever smelled, swordfish so fresh it is still warm from the tropical waters from which it was just plucked. To others, it’s all about the flavor and aroma. Taste and texture are their biggest considerations.
I believe all in all of these factors. But the main question I’ll be asking after grilling out is “Was it fun?” Because in my mind that’s the most crucial part of any food experience.
That’s why I love to cook and eat so much. It is a blast. It makes me smile. It makes me laugh and I love hanging out with people, whether cooking or eating, for work or pleasure. It’s a wonderful quality of life activity. Invite 10 people to your house for a cookout and something magical will happen: you will end the evening with 10 new friends. What other activity can achieve that?
I know that this approach to life, cooking, eating, cooking some more and eating some more doesn’t light everybody’s fire, but for me having fun is the key to life. Grilling swordfish steaks and drinking a lot of beer right from the can, peeling the biggest jumbo shrimp you’ve ever seen marinated in lime, garlic and chile powder while downing your favorite tequila. These are recipes for fun, recipes for life. You can’t pay for these experiences–you have to live them.
Grilling out in your back yard should be a release, not a chore, which means it should be approached in a laid back, light-hearted direction. The fun is in the cooking and the eating, not the perfection of the craft. If you burn the food, scrape it off. If it’s too burnt, order a pizza for delivery. At least you got to enjoy the outdoors and hopefully made some new friends. Just don’t be afraid to try again next time.
Grilled Spicy Very Rare Strip Steak Salad
Serves 4 as entrees
2 – 16oz New York Strip Steaks
½ cup minced jalapenos, yes, seeds and all
4 ounces of olive oil
4 ounces of fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon of honey
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small head of green cabbage, cored and split in half
2 Tablespoons of sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3 ounces olive oil
3 ounces rice wine vinegar
3 ounces soy sauce
¼ cup cilantro leaves
¼ cup mint leaves, rough chopped
1 cup roasted peanuts
1 cup of julienned red peppers
Combine the strip steaks, jalapenos, olive oil, lime juice, Dijon mustard, honey and salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and allow to marinate at least four hours.
Rub each cabbage half with the sesame oil, salt and pepper and grill over high heat just to achieve marks on both sides. Remove cabbage from heat and julienne. Toss the grilled cabbage with the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Remove the strip steaks from the marinade and grill over a very high temperature until charred on all sides about one minute per side. Remove meat from grill, allow to rest for 5 minutes and slice into thin strips and pile on top of the cabbage salad.