Barbecuing has lost much of its seasonality but there's something about Memorial Day that triggers a rush to the grill.
I cook on a gas grill, and before the food goes on the grill, I often toss in a few chunks of wood (not wood charcoal), which imparts a wonderful smoky flavor. Last fall, however, Chez Panisse's Alice Waters came to visit from Berkeley, and she showed me a new way to convert my gas grill into a great source of wood-burning heat.
First, the grill is heated (covered) to the maximum for about 30 minutes (be sure the grill racks are removed so they're easy to handle). Then the gas coals are blanketed with mesquite without soaking the mesquite first. Close the cover again and let the wood burn until it's white with heat. Once the mesquite is as hot as it can get, turn off the grill and cook over the mesquite alone.
This method of cooking is especially effective for foods that cook quickly. Consider the garlicky meat-and-potato brochettes for this mesquite method. Marinated tenderloin and cooked new potatoes are threaded on a skewer with onion pieces. The meat weighs in at about four ounces a portion but with the potatoes, the meal is more than generous. It cooks in a matter of minutes. The grilled puff bread with rosemary and pepper also cooks swiftly to smoky perfection.
The potatoes must be precooked until nearly done before grilling, because the meat cooks so quickly.
GARLICKY MEAT AND POTATOES EN BROCHETTE 6 small oval new potatoes 1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, well trimmed, cut into 1 1/4-inch cubes 1 sweet onion, cut into sixths 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 3 large cloves garlic, minced 2/3 cup parsley leaves, minced Freshly ground pepper 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Boil potatoes in large pot with water to cover until nearly tender, about 12 minutes. Drain. When cool, split lengthwise. Put potatoes in bowl with pork and onion.
Heat oil until warm. Add mustard and stir well. Add mixture to meat and potatoes. Toss well to coat pieces. Add garlic, parsley, pepper to taste and salt. Toss well to combine. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Let come to room temperature before cooking.
Divide ingredients into 4 portions. Thread skewers in repeating pattern with meat, few onion pieces and potato in that order, ending with potato, leaving some space between ingredients to ensure thorough cooking. Season surface to taste with salt and pepper.
Grill skewers on hot barbecue, turning as necessary, about 6 minutes total for medium-rare. Makes 4 servings.
Each serving contains about: 340 calories; 411 mg sodium; 53 mg cholesterol; 20 grams fat; 18 grams carbohydrates; 20 grams protein; 0.64 gram fiber.
Cooking takes no more than two minutes on a hot grill and is best done after the meat is off the grill and standing. Stay by the grill--the bread can easily burn over a hot fire. In this recipe, I use commercially available frozen bread dough, but it's even better to make your own .
GRILLED ROSEMARY PUFF BREAD WITH CRACKED PEPPER 1 pound prepared frozen bread dough, thawed Extra-virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon minced rosemary Kosher salt Freshly ground coarse pepper
Divide dough into quarters on floured board. Roll each into 5-inch diameter rounds. Line baking sheet with foil. Lightly grease foil. Arrange rounds in single layer on prepared baking sheet. Oil 1 piece of plastic wrap, then drape loosely over rounds. Bread can be cooked in 1 hour, left at room temperature or refrigerated as long as overnight. Let stand at room temperature until slightly risen and puffed.
When ready to cook, heat 2 tablespoons oil on stove top or in microwave oven. Lightly brush tops of rounds with 1/2 of oil. Flip rounds onto hot grill (use foil to help, splitting into fourths as needed for easier handling). Remove foil. Brush oil onto tops of rounds. Close cover. Cook about 1 minute until bread is browned on bottom. Use spatula to flip over. Brush any remaining oil on browned tops. Sprinkle with rosemary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Close cover and cook until undersides are browned, about 1 minute. Remove from grill. Use kitchen shears to cut into quarters. Arrange on dinner plate with brochette and tomato. Serve warm with more olive oil, if desired, for dipping. Makers 4 servings.
Each serving contains about: 360 calories; 724 mg sodium; trace cholesterol; 65 grams fat; 56 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams protein; 0.01 gram fiber.