Outdoor Grill with Friends

 

I have been playing flag football for quite some time and played the role of mother/cook to most of the players. It has been the most challenging task yet as an experimental cook. Aside from preparing/cooking part, the team is understandably always hungry so the challenge there is working under a budget while everyone is still satisfied. I never play it safe so even if there is a formula that worked before, each affair would offer something new and different. It does not have to be something fancy. It can be a spice, a sauce, a side dish or a dessert.

I have been fantasizing of pulling off an outdoor barbecue. I put it off because I thought it was something that needed a lot of preparation and I knew it would be stressful because I will be cooking most of the food on the spot. I have had my shared of overcooked and undercooked grilled items so I knew I was not only being paranoid. But then it was the team who decided to have that grand ihaw-ihaw and hell they wanted it in another venue. Instead of doing it in our backyard, we will have it in Circulo Verde where our team is having its 3rd season with a league. Since it was the team, I had to give in and I just had to give it to them and the hell I did.

I served isaw manok, isaw baboy, beef kebabs with onions and  chili beef and jalapenos in tortilla wraps. It was a rather short menu but I spiced it up with freshly made garlic sauce and also by bringing some kopi buns. Red, Ej, Frank and Rita also brought hotdogs and sausages so it was sweet.

Anyway, the outdoor grill was a success despite not having much time to prepare and money to spare. I heard raves even with my back turned and everything I heard was good. I’m proud because it’s no joke to grill in your backyard. Elsewhere gotta be very demanding. After that little stint, I had a lot of things going on inside my head about what would be good and what would be better. I started jotting them down and I ended up with around 8 posts that are all related to grilling. And so I thought that little category should have an introduction.  I love food; I love cooking; and of course I love my team!

kisses,

Ina

Items to be Grilled: Dessert (5)

Just about anything from the bakery can be bought, brought to the picnic grounds and heated once it’s time for dessert but let us not be cheats! There’s got to be something more creative than that but yeah go ahead. Most people would crave for something sweet after a heavy meal. It also makes the mood more festive. Desserts may be a little bit impractical to grill but if guests would have a blast with ems sweets then the host/cook may reconsider.

1. French toast – As long as the grill is clean and oiled, French toast can be yummy outdoors too! For starters you can bring confectioner’s sugar or maple syrup. If that is too plain then perhaps other flavored syrups? A notch higher and you can have chocolate or caramel sauce and lastly whipped cream, ice cream with nuts and cherries and what else can there possibly be?!

2. s’mores – delectable yet simple. Melted marshmallows on top of graham crackers topped with chocolate syrup/chocolate bits and a variety of nuts… surely you’ve tried it.

3.banana, sweet potato, turon – classic Filipino grill items for that sweet ending, don’t forget your brown sugar and if you want some twist to that bring langka, ripe mango, chocolate syrup, cinnamon and coconut shavings.

4.puto, bibingka, ensaymada – I’m actually thinking about items that you can heat and items you can top with a slice of cheese or salted egg. Are you following? Coconut shavings also sound rather exotic and inviting.

5.brownies – It’s chocolaty, nutty, sweet, bitter and hot. How can people ever resist?

Check out other items to be grilled and cheat sheets

Items to be Grilled: Breads (5)

Though I will die without rice and I can easily forget the existence of bread, I know that there are many people who will be lost without them so I dedicated a category just for that. Yes a post on its own is necessary because of the different breads there are and because of the different ways it can be done and ways it can be appreciated. It is an impossible feat to actually enumerate most of the breads there are but let me try?

1 – pandesal/pan/baguettes/croutons/garlic bread – These basic ones are quite versatile. You can use them for canapes, you can mix them with salads, pair them with pasta or put toppings of grilled meat/grilled cheese/grilled vegetables.

2 – ciabata and focacia – These sound lovely for Greek/Italian grilling affairs. Actually just grilling it and dipping it in oils or cheese or other sauces already sound gastronomic. Make gourmet sandwiches and grill it right there. Guests can even do their own if you choose to put up a sandwich making station. Don’t forget condiments!

3 – sesame buns/hotdog buns are best paired with burgers and hotdogs for an American backyard cookout. If you want a foot-long, enjoy! This will not be complete without chili&beans, onions&pickles, mustard&ketchup, jalapenos&cheeses and other mean mean matchups.

4 – tortilla/pita/naan – Oh exotic options for flavorful marinades with chili, turmeric, curries and cinnamon. What, you were thinking of using pandesal for that?!

5 – pizza – Do yourself a favor and get those instant crusts. You can even get a metal cover so that cheese will melt and vegetables will cook faster. Thick crusts I think are a bad idea so stick with thin ones.

 

*Check out other items to be grilled and cheat sheets

Items to be Grilled: Vegetables and Others (5)

Healthy, cooks fast and easy, vegetables would always have a place on the grill. They go well with other items or they can be mixed with salads and pastas for that char-grilled flavor that you can never replicate. Some simply oil the grill and put the skewered vegetables on top. Others would prefer to have basting sauces so that the veggie kebabs would be tastier. Again, basting sauces will dictate on the theme so prepare it beforehand. There are so many vegetables that are perfect for grilling but as I have to narrow it down to five, I would have to stick with categorizing them into themes.

  1. onions/tomatoes -classic items to be grilled!
  2. eggplant/capsicums/carrot/zucchini/onions/tomatoes -these are wonderful with salads most especially with Greek, Turkish, Italian flavors
  3. corn/potatoes – American barbecues can’t happen without baked potatoes and grilled corn
  4. pineapple/banana/sweet potatoes – this more of Brazilian-inspired barbecue, but it can also lean towards Filipino and Thai
  5. tofu/cheese/chili/mushrooms – Tofu has a good texture and can easily blend with other flavors. Cheeses are great for grilling but this may require bigger chunks or they may go to waste. Different kinds of chili will ultimately change your grilling experience. Start with something basic such as jalapeno then go on with green chili before trying out hotter ones.

*check out other items to be grilled and cheat sheets for grilling

Items to be Grilled: Meats (5)

When people talk about grilling, the first thing that they can think of is meats. and when people talk about meats, it is sinful! Here are variations of meats that you can grill as well as some ideas on what might be something different. Knowing all of your options would help you decide what would be best for the grill party you are planning.

  1. Beef/Lamb – Many people love steaks whether it’s the classic t-bone or porterhouse to the more adventurous brisket, rib eye, tenderloin and grilling is probably the best way to enjoy them. The truth is that it is quite easy to grill these but people shy away from them because they are scared of screwing it up. They have the right to especially when you think about how much these cost. For those who are willing to take the plunge, there are few things to remember 1) get them fresh 2) don’t make it salty 3) time it. Actually to be safe, don’t put anything salty on the meat and stick with spices. You can just add seasoning once it’s done. As for timing it, you can simply surf how long each side should be grilled. It’s different with every kind of meat. Lamb is a bit more tricky as it tastes terrible when it is undercooked and it becomes hard to chew when overcooked but again it is as simple as timing it or biting a piece off whenever you have to check.
  2. Pork – Pork is cheap and easy to cook. It can be sweetish such as with a barbecue sauce or it can be sour and salty with the Filipino classic, liempo. Actually it can also be done Mediterranean-style but competing against pork bbq and pork liempo, well it’s kinda clear what people would opt for. Whatever you choose, do not forget to prepare enough sauce for everyone.
  3. Chicken – Most people do not like the idea of grilling chicken because of the time it takes. It is so typical to undercook or overdo it so hosts would rather stick with items that are faster and simpler. However, if you do have the patience to time it and your guests are served with other food items while waiting for the chicken to be done, it’d be wonderful.
  4. Kebabs/Burger – This is the solution for those who are a little bit too scared to go for pork chops, slabs of beef, grilled chicken and etc. Smaller chunks and pieces usually mean cheaper. Secondly, you can cook it faster. And when you have kebabs you can have lamb, beef, pork, chicken, duck, turkey and all others you can think of. How is that for variety? The same goes for burgers. Buy ground pork, beef, lamb or chicken, mix some spices in and form it into mounds and you are good to go. Kebabs and burgers would demand more preparation time but surely you know that it’d be worth it.
  5. Hotdogs/Sausages/Cold cuts – If there is a way that you can go wrong with hotdogs and sausages then you have to give up the whole idea of grilling. Put it on a stick, put it on the grill and voila! Easy, fast and cheap but unfortunately guests wouldn’t be so impressed. But if you really think this is the only thing you can pull off, you can make it better with condiments/relishes/sliced vegetables or maybe do some magic with your marinade or baste. As for cold cuts, they are a notch or two higher but still cheap and easy to cook. The problem is that you would have to spend some time in folding and arranging them in skewers and even more impossible to keep them intact while grilling but if you do pull it off, it’d be grand. Mix and match varied cold cuts in one skewer. you can also choose to wrap them in asparagus/carrots/eggplants and etc if you are having a hard time. And don’t forget to oil the grill okay.

*check out other items to be grilled and cheat sheets

Items to be grilled: Main Categories (5)

This starts the posts related to grilling. It’s a rundown of food categories that you might consider when you are planning to have an outdoor barbecue. It’s just basically a list that would help you decide what would be best. I wrote some suggestions on how to choose and hopefully it would be less overwhelming to plan a barbecue after you are done with the series of “Items to be Grilled”

  1. Meats – beef, pork, chicken, kebabs, burgers, cold cuts
  2. Seafood – fish, squid, prawns, shells
  3. Vegetables – onion, tomato, eggplant, capsicums, corn, zucchini, chilis, potato, carrot
  4. Breads – pita, tortilla, pandesal, croissants, toast, ciabatta, focacia
  5. Desserts – french toast, ensaymada, brownies, sweet buns, sponge cakes, marshmallows, smores, choclits

Are you planning an outdoor cook out? If you are choosing items to be grilled, you have to consider a few things before you can get down to business. First, you must think about your budget as some viands are a lot more expensive than others. Then you have to think about your guest’s preferences. For instance, are they finicky eaters or are they the adventurous type? It would also depend on the time of the day. For example, are guests expecting to be served a full meal or just a little snack. Finally, your choice should be something that you can manage. Think about how short or how long you need to prepare the food. Apart from the marinade, the actual grilling time is another concern. Some foods are also more difficult to serve and eat so it would also depend on how comfortable guests would be with what you will serve. For instance, it may not be a good idea to serve fish or steaks if the guests are standing up.

If the level of difficulty is not an issue then just about any item can be grilled. It may be overwhelming but if you stuck with having a certain theme then it would not be so bad. For instance, is it a July 4 American barbecue, then you are probably gonna have some barbecue ribs, corn, baked potatoes and etc. If it’s aFilipino ihaw-ihaw then you can choose to grill liempo, eggplants and fish like tilapia and tanigue. For a Greek or a Mediterranean twist, kebabs, capsicums, onions and tomatoes will all be wonderful. It can be Thai-inspired, Chinese inspired, Japanese-inspired or Brazilian-inspired. It can also be somewhat of a gourmet cookout with lamb, duck, salmon and beef tenderloin with grilled garlic, onion, capsicum and slices of cheese and a medley of sauces.

Lovely isn’t it? Grill away!

Top 10 tools you need for ihaw-ihaw/barbecue

So you are ready with your grill and charcoal but what are the other grilling essentials that you would need for the outdoor ihaw-ihaw/barbecue to be a success? These tools would surely help in making sure the affair is headache-free.

  1. TONGS – The only way you can survive without this is if everything you have to grill is already skewered then you would only turn the sticks when it is time to grill the other side. without tongs, you will struggle with spoons, sticks and forks to turn what you are grilling
  2. CANDLE – Does not stink as gas does and lesser mess than newspaper when starting a fire for the coals. What you can do is cut a chunk of wax off so the wick is longer. The longer the wick, the bigger the fire, the faster the coal would catch it. You following?
  3. FAN – Of course you are free to use newspaper/cartons/plates and whatever it is that can work but a reliable fan will make it a lot easier for the one who will be grilling the viands.
  4. BASTING BRUSH – There is absolutely nothing else that you can replace a basting brush with. There’s no need for silicone ones or any of those expensive ones. You can even buy from a hardware store for all I care. But bring one. Sure you can pour the marinade over the meats or use a spoon but it wouldn’t be the same. Do your self a favor.
  5. NEWSPAPER – Use it to start the fire, wipe the grill, absorb spills, wrap sharp items, as a potholder and can you think of others? post it!
  6. SERVING PLATTER – before and after grilling, you would need something big enough to accommodate your viands. Sure you can improvise and use plastic ware lids or paper plates or just leave it on the side of the grill but come on, just remember to get a platter or two so you can serve the food well.
  7. BASTING SAUCE BOWL/CONTAINER/GLASS – this is where you will put the marinade that you will be brushing onto the meats to be grilled. Not having one will make you use bottle caps of ketchup/plastic cups/plates that would do but just not right, if you know what I mean. So you should get a wide-mouth glass bottle with cover and get a substantial amount of marinade ready. If you have different marinades, bring more.
  8. KNIFE – Mainly it is for peeling, cutting and making those slits on hotdogs. Secondly it’s to cut paper, plastic and lids if they won’t open. Lastly, you can use it to check if the food is just about done.
  9. FOIL – This can be used for grilling fish/burger/kebabs and yes it can be used to pack leftovers
  10. CHOPPING BOARD – If you brought fresh produce and plan to cut and skew everything there, you definitely need a chopping board. Otherwise, one of your plates will have so many scratches.

*part of a series

Items to be Grilled: Seafood (5)

The taste of seafood brings you to another place that people like the idea of having lots of ’em on their grill. They are not as sinful as beef and maybe they are not as expensive as steaks. It would be more complicated to keep these fresh than meats but it certainly does a lot to the feel of the barbecue affair.

  1. Prawns/Shrimps – The rich and slightly sweet taste of perfectly grilled prawns is just too good to be missed. This is my favorite so it’s hard not to be biased. Whether it is just plain/with garlic and chili/with vinegar and sugar, it is just oh-so-good to grill. However, it is not that friendly. Many will not be able to afford it and perhaps that is exactly the reason why it seems so special. Another concern is that someone would have to remove the shell which is very tedious for some. If it is before grilling then it would mean more work for the cook and if it is after grilling then it would mean the guests would have to remove the shell before they can enjoy eating it.
  2. Squid – It is not a wonder that squid is a favorite grill item because it tastes like the sea just as prawns/shrimps do but you can get it at a cheaper price. Compared to fish, it is not very messy to eat and it is usually more flavorful. If it is small enough you can have one or more in a skewer and if it is too big you can cut it into smaller pieces ala kebab or ala Thai street food. Again, the taste depends on the marinade so think about the theme and stick with it.
  3. Fish- Think tanigue (Spanish mackerel), Tilapia, lapu-lapu (grouper), hito (catfish), salmon, cream dory and the list goes on. Some simply rub salt onto the fish while others put some tomatoes, onions, gingers and other aromatic herbs. You can of course grill other kinds of fish but think twice about those that have bones because we don’t want guests having a hard time in eating what we serve. It can be a bit tricky to cook it thoroughly without burning it so you can also consider wrapping it in pechay leaves or other vegetables so that those are the ones that can be charred while grilling.
  4. Fillets (Fish) –  The other way to grill fish is wrapped in a foil. This can be done with salmon belly, salmon fillet, cream dory fillet, tuna fillet and others. Throw in a slice of citrus fruit, some butter, some spices and salt all you have to do is wait for it to flake and it’s ready.
  5. Shells – Most people will probably overlook this because they would rather eat it “kinilaw” or they would completely skip it. It is perfectly understandable because it requires so much work to put each shell on the grill and wait for each to pop open before serving it to guests who will only devour one in a blink of an eye. But it is also a medley of flavors so if guests are so into seafood, they would go gaga over grilled shells. You can prepare garlic&cheese or oil&lemon&chili so you can put those over them.  (Now I did not put lobster and crab because it just sounds so absurd for a laid back cookout!)

*check out other items to be grilled and cheat sheets for a grilling affair