Archive for Wednesday, May 26, 1999


May 26, 1999


Although many cooks have already fired up their grills, a fact easily discernible from the smell of burning charcoal that has been hanging in the air for several weekends now, Memorial Day is something of an official kickoff for the barbecue season.

I'm always impressed by the variety of dishes that people prepare over the coals. While steaks, hamburgers and barbecued chicken are still the primary entrees that come off the grill, more cooks now experiment with marinades and sauces and cook vegetables alongside the meat.

This trend has been helped along in recent years by the appearance of a number of cookbooks, with such titles as "License to Grill" and "Born to Grill." The folks who ensconced the round-bottom grill in American culture almost 50 years ago also have released a book this season, "Weber's Art of the Grill: Recipes for Outdoor Living."

The flavor that a charcoal fire imparts to food can't be replicated under the oven broiler. This fact was recognized by the person who concocted that odd seasoning Liquid Smoke, in the hope that barbecue flavor could be bottled and sold.

For that matter, you also don't produce the same meal on a gas grill. This hasn't prevented plenty of cooks from adding the propane-powered grill to the list of essential appliances, however. Gas grill proponents like the control they have over the heat under their food and report that the flavor of the food, though not that of charcoal broiling, is distinct from anything prepared in the kitchen.

There are plenty of other reasons to move the cooking outside, regardless of what is supplying the heat. We barbecue a lot during the summer because using the oven heats up the house and, frankly, it's more pleasant to be cooking outside when the weather is nice. We also have less cleanup.

Even plain meat can be transformed on the grill using basic seasoning. When we buy it off the shelf, we go for McCormick's Grill Mates seasoning. The Monterey Steak flavor works particularly well for beef. For years we've used Walker's Wood Jamaican jerk seasoning for chicken and pork. It's packed with habaneros and should be used in moderation.

However, a basic marinade can be made from olive oil, pressed garlic and your choice of spices, such as rosemary or thyme, ground pepper and salt. The proportions are a matter of taste, but a quarter cup of olive oil is a good place to start.

A recipe made for the grill caught my eye in the June issue of Bon Appetit. The brine will add a bite to the flavor of these pork chops when they're grilled and will combine with the molasses barbecue sauce for a sweet-and-sour effect.

Grilled Pork Chops with Molasses Barbecue Sauce

4 cups water

1 cup (packed) brown sugar

1 small onion, thinly sliced

6 large garlic cloves, crushed

6 large fresh thyme sprigs

1 tablespoon coarse salt

2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper

8 8-ounce center-cut pork chops

2 tablespoons olive oil

To make the brine, combine the first seven ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cool completely.

Place the pork in a large glass baking dish. Pour the brine over. Cover; chill overnight.

Prepare the barbecue and bring to medium-high heat.

Drain the pork; pat dry. Brush the pork with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the meat about five minutes per side for medium. Place on plates and spoon the Molasses Barbecue Sauce, recipe follows, over the top.

Molasses Barbecue Sauce

3 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth

1 cup dry white wine

¤ cup apple cider vinegar

¤ cup mild-flavored (light) molasses

¤ cup chopped fresh tomato

3 tablespoons minced shallots

2 tablespoons chopped pitted dates

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

(packed) brown sugar

1 small onion, thinly sliced

6 large garlic cloves, crushed

6 large fresh thyme sprigs

1 tablespoon coarse salt

2 tabout 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This recipe can be made a day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to a simmer before serving.

-- When she's not writing about foods and gardening, Gwyn Mellinger is teaching journalism at Baker University. You can send e-mail to her at Her phone number is (785) 594-4554.

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