Autumn is the one time of year the weather is nice in most parts of the country at the same time. In the warm southern and southwest regions, people who have been kept inside by the blazing summer temperatures start to enjoy the outdoors more. In the northern regions, the nights start to get crisp but the daytime temperatures are very pleasant. And pleasant weather means an ideal time for grilling and barbecue.
1. We all tend to have a few recipes that are our favorites to prepare on the grill, the dishes we know are going to turn out nearly perfect every time. The old reliables. But part of the fun of grilling is experimenting, finding new dishes, flavors and cooking techniques to use with the grill or the smoker unit.
2. A new take on an old favorite. Is steak your favorite meat to grill? Well, steak is incredibly versatile. You could try making spicy southwest steak, by adding a chile powder such as chipotle to the normal salt, pepper, and garlic you put on the steak before grilling. Adding a few tablespoons of ground coffee beans gives you the classic “cowboy” steak. Have you ever added brown sugar to the spice mix you use? Try it. You’ll find it gives the steak a unique glaze, and it is one of the secrets expensive steakhouses employ.
3. And now for something completely different. Don’t limit yourself to the old standards: steaks, chops, burgers, ribs. Grilled fish is delicious, and is good for you as well. Buy whole fish like trout, insert thin lemon slices into the cavity, and cook them on a low, smoky heat. If you have a smoker unit, you’ll be surprised all the great food you can prepare–duck, goose, game birds, turkey, and chicken are all tasty candidates. You can even make your own smoked ham or smoked sausage.
4. Check out the liquor cabinet for ideas. Beer, brandy, red wine, bourbon, rum, even tequila can add tremendous flavor to a marinade or a sauce. Beer can be used to make a zesty marinade for shrimp. There are great tequila based marinades for grilled chicken. Bourbon and rum can be used to create your own signature BBQ sauce. An easy to make mushroom and red wine sauce or brandy can turn your backyard barbeque into one rivaling the high-end steakhouses.
5. Take a culinary vacation in the backyard. Maybe the cost and hassle of international travel these days has kept you from visiting those places you’ve always dreamed of. There’s no reason you can’t enjoy those countries’ cuisine. How about grilling some delicious, tender rib-eye steaks and preparing several different dipping sauces for your guests to sample, maybe Asian teriyaki-style; a South American “Gaucho” sauce with lime juice, roasted peppers, red onions and cilantro; and a Caribbean “jerk”-style sauce. Sort of like one of those “five countries in one and a half days” tour packages you see advertised on TV.
Don’t be afraid to expand you grilling repertoire. And keep a record of your grilling experiments, the variations you tried on recipes you use. Write down what worked so well you would like to try it again. You may find out your family has a high tolerance for spicier foods, so you may want to enhance the recipes with additional chiles. You might find a grilled shrimp recipe that works equally well with scallops. Who knows, you might come up with a totally unique recipe that ends up in a cooking magazine.