Maximizing the Grill
It is hot out there. This week our highs are in the mid to upper 90s, with no clouds or rain in sight for relief. When we saw what the weather was going to be like this week, we made some plans to try to keep cool with our dinners this week. Who wants to slave over a hot stove or oven after being in an out of a car whose internal temperature is probably way over 100 degrees? Not me.
Here’s what we did.
Firstly, I asked the husband if he was willing to grill in Sunday evening. This was kind of a rhetorical question because, unless it is raining, or we have other plans, he almost always grills every Sunday during the spring, summer, and fall (I am working on extending this into the winter). Still, I asked nicely because one should never make assumptions and I don’t want him to feel he is taken for granted. He said yes.
Then, I pulled out Vietnamese Home Cooking, turned to the chapter on grilling, and picked three recipes. Yes. I said three. I figured, as long as those coals were hot, we were going to grill as much food as possible so that we could have enough for multiple meals.
The first recipe I picked was Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Lemongrass Marinade. This was super easy. The hardest part was finding the lemongrass. None of the regular grocery stores had it, so we ended up making a trek down to the asian store 30 minutes away. It was worth it. The meat was juicy and flavorful.
Next, we had Grilled Five-Spice Chicken. This one was a tad on the salty side. Next time, I will cut back on the fish sauce. One half cup for 1.5 pounds of chicken was a bit much. Or maybe I should just have put more chicken in the bag. Anyway, it was still tasty, especially when mixed with some rice to temper the saltiness.
While at the asian store, the husband saw some nice looking fish and decided that he wanted to try grilling fish, which he has never done before. If you have never been to an asian store, I urge you to go. They really have the best selection and prices when it comes to fish and seafood. He chose to get two mackerel and two yellowfin tunas. We got all four of those fish for about $12. Really, you can’t beat that anywhere.
The fish turned out to be easy to grill and beautiful, too. We will most certainly be doing grilled fish again. We did overcook them just a tad. It was our first time doing fish on the grill and we had a fear of undercooking and making everyone sick. Next time, we will be less anxious and take them off a couple minutes sooner.
So, here is a look at out Sunday night dinner table. We have 4 thick pork chops, 1.5 pounds chicken, 4 fish, grilled corn on the cob, and rice. Yeah, I know, we were a little thin on veg, but we were a bit preoccupied by all the proteins. We made up for it the next day.
The great thing about grilled meats is that they taste great cold, especially in a salad kind of thing. On Monday, with the leftovers, we had Vietnamese Vermicelli (Bun) Bowls.
This is basically a bowl of cold rice noodles with a variety of grilled meats, some chopped herbs and lettuce, lightly picked veg, and a nice sauce made from fish sauce and lime juice. It was beautiful and refreshing, and, best of all, required minimal cooking.
The next day, we still had some leftover meats, so I tried my hand at making summer rolls.
These have almost the same ingredients as Bun bowls, but they are wrapped in rice paper. They were much easier to make than I anticipated and made me wonder why I hadn’t tried them before. Instead of the traditional shrimp, I used some leftover fish, and, while good, we all did miss the shrimp. Well, except for the older son who does not like shrimp.
I did not make the peanut sauce recipe in the book since I was missing an ingredient or two, but made a recipe from The Best International Recipe published by the Cook’s Illustrated people.
So far, our Sunday grill-a-thon has given us three dinners and two lunches for four people. We still have some left which we will probably eat simply with some rice and a stir fried veggie. I highly recommend this method of summer meal making. It maximizes your grilling time and minimizes the time you spend slaving over a hot stove during the week. Vietnamese food is wonderful summer food with lots of fresh textures and flavors, but you could also do this with Mexican or American. Any grilled meats would be good in sandwiches, tacos, burritos, salads, pastas, etc. There are endless possibilities.