Gourmet grilling—is there such a thing? On Saturday, the LP Supper Club decided to find out. The short answer is yes, you can create amazing dishes on the grill with a little creativity, and that means grilling everything from bread to dessert. Unfortunately, when we set out to create an upscale summer barbecue, we didn’t realize we’d end up Thanksgiving full. Our menu was inspired by Chef Francis Mallmann’s “Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way,” although we pulled dishes from other sources as well:
Springtime Fava Bean Salad With Poached Eggs (“Seven Fires” — Mr. SW)
BBQ Potato Gnocchi (Online — Mr. SW)
Grilled lamb (Bobby Flay’s “Grill It!”— Kevin)
Chickpea Veggie Burgers (Fine Cooking magazine — Elisha)
Chapa Bread (“Seven Fires” — Elisha)
Traditional Tzatziki (Food Network Web site — Elisha)
Roasted Red Pepper Tzatziki (Various cookbooks — Kevin)
Potato Dominoes (“Seven Fires” — The Sassy Writer)
Angel Food Cake With Mexican-Spiced Chocolate Sauce, Basil Strawberries, and Rum Whipped Cream (Cake by Alton Brown; other components by Michelle Burnstein — The Sassy Writer)
Mr. SW created a delicious appetizer. Using the Springtime Salad from “Seven Fires” as his base, he traded out the fava beans for peas and then grilled the peas, soy beans and cherry tomatoes in a cast-iron skillet on the charcoal grill. He also made bread in a dutch oven. When the bread was finished baking, he sliced it and grilled it to infuse a smoky flavor. That delightfully smoky bread piled high with the just softened vegetables was enhanced by Mr. SW’s perfectly poached eggs; the yolk ran down into the bread for a beautiful soft-to-crunchy texture. Hands down, this was the best dish of the night. If everyone who tried to go veggie ate food like this, I’m convinced a lot more people would give up meat. I also think I could have stopped eating after this dish. It’s wholesome enough for an entrée.
Kevin and I shared duties for the entrée by creating a gourmet carnie and veggie version of gyros. Kevin grilled lamb tenderloins marinated in olive oil, garlic, fresh oregano, salt and pepper from Bobby Flay’s “Grill It!” cookbook. The lamb was topped with a spinach salad with a mustard-honey vinaigrette. I created a chickpea vegetarian burger that was a cross between hummus and falafel. I have made a lot of veggie burgers in my time, and I get so frustrated when they fall apart on the grill. But this burger stayed together. That alone impressed me. However, the recipe was not that different from one I make from Heidi Swanson’s “Super Natural Cooking,” and I prefer Swanson’s recipe. (I missed the sprouts.) To me the flavor was a little flat, despite the great consistency. Mr. and Mrs. SW really enjoyed these burgers, however.
I also made chapa bread to serve as the pitas for the dish. Confession: The first time my mother-in-law suggested that I bake bread I looked at her like she was crazy. Why would I bother when it’s so cheap to buy it at the store? She bought me a bread machine anyway, and since that time I have been creating beautiful breads (I use the machine for the dough and then bake the bread in the oven) that are more delcious than I could have imagined. So, I love making bread now. Still, bread is not always easy; so many things can go wrong. But chapa bread is by far the simplest recipe I’ve followed. There are only 5 ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, olive oil and water. I ran the mixer with the dough hook for just 5 minutes. Then the dough rose for an hour and a half before being tossed on chapas (or cast iron skillets) to brown and puff up. When I pulled the first batch off the skillets, I thought the bread was somewhat doughy in the center, but the breads (much like other grilled foods) continued to cook. So, in the end, the bread was light and fluffy and so tasty dipped in tzatziki while we were waiting for the other food to cook. The bread was also perfect to hold the lamb and veggie burgers. The best part is that unlike other homemade breads, the chapa bread stayed soft for several days after the barbecue.
Because of some miscommunication, Kevin and I both created tzatziki, a traditional Greek yogurt sauce made with cucumbers. Mine was a version I make frequently (I downloaded this from the Food Network site) featuring yogurt, cucumber, red onion, lemon juice and lemon zest; Kevin’s was a roasted red pepper tzatziki that tasted a lot like harissa (which I love) only creamier and very spicy. He roasted the red pepper on the grill and made lemon confit (a recipe from “Seven Fires”), all of which went into this delicately balanced dip. I personally preferred the traditional tzatziki on my burger and the red pepper tzatziki poured over The Sassy Writer’s potato dominos. Kevin disagreed; he preferred it the opposite way. I guess we can chalk that up to the different flavor profiles of veggies and meat.
Let me tell you about these potato dominoes. So much fun to eat! I loved the thickness of the potatoes because they were crispy on the edges yet stayed soft and creamy in the middle. If you’re looking for a way to make baked potatoes festive, I definitely recommend this method. The potatoes reminded me a bit of pull-apart bread. You get sort of caught up in the action of pulling them apart and before you know it you’ve consumed an entire stack. To prepare these adorable stacks, The Sassy Writer first chopped off the sides and ends of a large baking potato to shape it into a brick. Then she carefully sliced the potato into squares. (I’d recommend a mandolin for consistency.) Seasoning was minimal, mostly clarified butter, because the potatoes didn’t need any help to be flavorful, but she did add some fresh rosemary. Kevin said this was his favorite dish.
The other side dish was Mr. SW’s BBQ potato gnocchi. We were all really excited about this dish because it used crushed barbecue potato chips, beer and cheddar cheese as the base. The dish was very good, but it definitely didn’t taste like we thought it would. The garam masala gave the dish a very sweet flavor so the gnocchi tasted more like sweet potato; it was also very heavy, especially paired with the rest of our menu. I would be willing to try this again in the winter.
For dessert, The Sassy Writer baked an angel food cake and then grilled slices of the cake. Next, The Sassy Writer whisked together chocolate chips, heavy cream, cinnamon and ancho-chile powder to create a subtly spiced chocolate sauce. When this sauce soaked into the angel food cake, it was heavenly! Next up were sliced macerated strawberries with fresh basil. The berries were by far my favorite part of the dessert. The combination of strawberries and basil was refreshing, especially after a heavy meal. The dessert was topped with a rum-infused whipped cream. (Check out The Sassy Writer’s blog for a photo of this dessert.)
So, the lesson here is that for a barbecue, less is always more. The heat (both on the grill and outside in general) makes food sit rather heavy. We should have scaled back on the amount of food and number of dishes. Our next meeting of the LP Supper Club is in July. We haven’t chosen a theme yet, but hopefully we’ll create lighter fare this go-round.
***I also want to commend Mr. SW for an incredible home brew. He made a chamomile citrus beer that was out of this world. I’m not much of a beer fan, so for me to say that, you know it’s good.