There’s nothing better than a barbecue in weather like this. Monday was so hot; I couldn’t endure the thought of cooking in my kitchen. Frankly, I could barely endure the thought of even entering my kitchen, let alone turning things on. I have no A/C and just turning on the stove would have put me over the edge of sanity.
Luckily, my lovely father had the foresight last year to buy me a barbecue as a birthday present. (Life changes so quickly- the year before that I was asking for pretty clothes and frivolous jewellery for my birthday. Last year I asked for a barbecue and HomeSense gift certificates.) ANYWAY. Now I do have a barbecue, and quite a nice little outdoor room on my balcony (thanks to my wonderful mum). What’s a girl to do on such a hot day? Being a woman of the new millennium, I barbecued!
I considered it to be an homage to my pops for Father’s Day. I picked up some lovely steaks, got a nice bottle of red, and purchased some really nice blue cheese for a topping. Now, had I been true to a Saturday night at my dad’s house, I would also have done sautéed sliced mushrooms, “Morton’s Style” (and I probably would have spent substantially more money on the meat). But I am not my father; I am still myself, so I decided that surf and turf would be more up my alley. I always keep frozen uncooked shrimp in my freezer. You would be crazy not to- shrimp spices up any meal and the frozen variety cooks in about three minutes. (Think about all the options of, “Oh, I just threw this shrimp alfredo/rice wraps/scampi together…”) Do not EVER re-cook precooked shrimp from a package. They will become the toughest little buggers you’ll ever eat and you’ll hate shrimp and it will be ruined for life. So, just buy the uncooked and everything will be fine.
Moving right along. The barbecue was once the sole domain of MAN. Men did the barbecuing, they drank beers and generally discussed manly topics whilst grilling various slabs of meat to charred perfection. Not so anymore my friends! Oh no, us women-folk have joined in the grilling and do a fine job, if I do say so myself. (I’m still waiting for a “Girl Meets Grill” cooking show… Food Network could leave the 1950s and get the women out of the kitchen and to the barbecue, in my opinion.)
But this isn’t a blog about my views on foodie television; it’s a recipe blog, so here we go. The menu is grilled steak, green beans with shrimp and garlic, and a mixed salad. It was quite delicious, although I was slightly concerned the man I fed it to didn’t have enough to eat. If you were feeding the carb-eating sort, I’d throw in some potatoes or some other form of starch.
|Shrimp with garlic, butter, Old Bay and green beans|
Lighting the barbecue was my only slight issue. Luckily my neighbours were outside to observe this, and were ready with 911 had I had some ill-fated turn with the gas tank. Since I am of course convinced that I can do EVERYTHING myself, I knew the barbecue lighter and I would meet in the middle at some point and there would be flame. And I was right about that. Once I got my barbecue lit, I clearly cracked an ale in true man-fashion. I let the barbecue heat up while I went inside to prep the steaks and shrimp. The steaks were an easy prep- salt, pepper, and some great steak seasoning. My personal preference (also my father’s) is Barberian’s, a great steak place in Toronto. It’s a secret recipe, but you can find the info here. The shrimp was only slightly more complicated. In my grilling basket, I put the shrimp, green beans, some freshly minced garlic, a dollop of butter, salt and pepper, and finally some Old Bay. Old Bay is amazing, and according to my mother you can put it on “anything from the sea,” which is exactly what I do. The shrimps and steak are so easy, not to mention the delightfully easy clean up that comes from cooking, you have to wonder if it counts as cooking at all!
In the meantime, I’ll tell you a little about salads. Salads are perhaps the easiest thing in the world to make. In university, my roommates and I really pushed the limits of salads and included just about anything we had lying around. We went through balsamic vinegar like it was water.
On to salad construction: Put lots of veg, fruit, cheese and/or nuts in a bowl, throw a little dressing on it, and you’ve got yourself a salad. As for dressings, they’re as easy as pie (and pie is actually not easy at all, but salad dressing is). The main formula for a good dressing is one part acid, three parts oil. Add a scoop of Dijon mustard to help them emulsify, and you have yourself a vinaigrette of the gods. For example, for your acid you can do any kind of vinegar- balsamic and red wine work particularly well. Stir in some extra-virgin olive oil and then a little mustard, and that’s about it. You could also use lemon juice as your acid if you want something lighter. Want an Asian feel? Do a little rice vinegar with soy sauce, olive oil and a splash of sesame oil (only a splash! Not too much because it can be bitter). You get the idea. Add a little seasoning at the end and taste it before you put it on the salad. It’s so easy that I’m convinced my dog could make salad dressing.
The barbecue is definitely hot now. Throw on the grilling basket with the shrimps and beans it, and the steaks. I happen to like my steak very rare- a little chilly in the centre works just fine for me. Of course, not everyone has predatory leanings like I do, so generally cooking it to medium-rare is ideal. (This man who joined me for dinner tried to order it medium well, but I flat out refused. You can eat a leather boot instead.) To cook your steak to the ideal wellness without slicing it open to check the inside, (we’re not amateurs here) touch it. Medium-rare will feel like the soft part of your hand, right below your thumb, if you touched the middle finger to the thumb. This is hard to explain, but you can see pictures here. My steak got taken off the grill after about three minutes/side, but my friend’s stayed on for five minutes/side. Then let them rest; don’t just tear into the meat immediately like Fred Flintstone. Letting them rest allows the juices to re-distribute and will obviously make the meat more flavourful and moist.
|Surf 'n' Turf|
The shrimp took about seven minutes to cook in total; I just tossed it around in the grilling pan until the shrimp turned pink. As SOON as they turn pink, take them off the heat because they are done and any longer on the grill means they’ll become tough. (Yuck) Throw it on a plate and you’ve got supper in less than 20 minutes, start to finish! I topped my steak with some blue cheese, and sautéed mushrooms or onions would be great too. I feel like the combination of red wine, rare steak and blue cheese in my mouth may be a transcendental experience that brings me closer to the heavens, and I can see how King Henry VIII and Elvis found it so easy to overindulge.