here are vegetables that cry out for the flames. And where we see vegetables, we sense an opportunity to add that specific umami quality that only meat can bring.
The asparagus spear is a lovely thing made even more so when wrapped in strips of bacon (sliced in half lengthwise first, then twisted around each piece of asparagus). This works in the oven, too, but the char from the grill brings that little something extra to this perfect match of meat and vegetable.
Another vegetable that begs for bacon is the jalepeno pepper. Slice the peppers in half, remove all the seeds and stuff them full of soft cheese, then wrap a strip of bacon around the parcel, hold it all together with a toothpick, and grill until the bacon is crisp.
Grilled corn on the cob is a summer staple. Mix things up with black truffle butter smeared all over a freshly-grilled piece of corn. The earthy truffle aroma, flecks of sweet burnt corn and smoky flavors are wonderful together.
Potatoes that are par-cooked ahead (but not too much!) can be finished on the grill in chunks or wedges. Slathered with duck fat, salt, pepper, the chopped herbs or spices of your choice--like rosemary, paprika or chile pepper—the wedges serve as fries (try duck fat mayonnaise or chipotle ketchup on the side) and the chunks can be whipped into a salad with crumbled bacon.
Large fresh mushrooms can be coated in duck fat or olive oil and grilled, but smaller fungi should be wrapped in a foil pouch so they don’t drop between the grates and burn. This en papillote method of cooking gently steams the mushrooms, so why not add a pat of truffle butter to mingle with the juices? For a taste sensation, try a bit of foie gras, either a cube or two of our flash frozen foie gras, or some medallion of foie gras with truffles tucked into the packet.
Fruit on the Fire
Don’t forget that summer fruits can also benefit from the lick of open flame. Chef Marcus Samuelsson showed us how to wrap quartered plums in bacon for a sweet and savory treat that will transform your thinking about the grill. And while you’re in the fruit aisle, there’s nothing like fresh figs halved and wrapped in bacon. Grilled, both of these fruits will make lovely side dishes that complement buffalo, venison, pork or duck well, but are so delicious you could serve them with anything. Or even alone as a savory dessert.
It’s amazing that lettuce doesn’t get grilled more often—a head of romaine is spectacular when brushed with a little oil, butter or duck fat and grilled on all sides until wilted. Serve with zesty vinaigrette and maybe some of those bacon-wrapped figs for an inspired take on the summer salad.
Small, flatbread pizzas are another way to express your love of meat and vegetables on the grill. We like ours with onions and shredded duck confit or duck bacon on top. A balsamic vinegar reduction adds zing to this combination. But shredded smoked duck or chicken breast would pair well with the blackened crust of the flatbread.
And when summer comes to its inevitable end, take some of these ideas back into the kitchen. Do not be ashamed of the grill pan—especially if it’s of the cast iron variety.