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Thrilling Grilling and Other Secrets to Spice up Your Entertaining

by  Wanda Hennig on June 30, 2011
Thrilling Grilling and Other Secrets to Spice up Your Entertaining

What's your relationship with your kitchen? Do you know that variety is the spice of life when it comes to great grilling? Read on for video grilling lessons and recipes from UK celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Ainsley Harriott and US Weber grill king Jamie Purviance.

Kitchen Confidential

For years I have practiced serial monogamy. With kitchens.

I like my own kitchen. I steer clear of other people's kitchens. I believe if you absorb yourself in cooking, same as with other absorptions, you get on intimate terms.

And let's face it, a relationship with a kitchen is by nature intimate. And multifaceted.

I can go to the kitchen to feel warm. I can get excited anticipating what I'm going to get up to in there and there are a few more sensual places. The aromas, the flavors, the textures, and the flutterings of desire to satisfy a craving, conjure up tempting fantasy fare, deliciously overindulging or whatever.

OK. You get my drift.

Right now, I'm house sitting for a friend. His kitchen is on the other side of the world from my kitchen, which is far enough away to be out of sight and pretty much out of mind.

Last Saturday night I invited 11 people — plus me makes 12 — for dinner. The experience highlighted the challenges of kitchen philandering.

I had little time to cook so decided to keep things simple. For the main, I would grill large tiger prawns in the oven, heads off and deveined but otherwise intact. (Great to have an excuse to peel and eat them with the fingers and chew on the flavors caught in the shells and legs before tossing them into disposal bowls). I would grill the prawns quickly in olive oil, with lashings of crushed garlic, delicately sea-salted to intensify the garlic's edge. I wanted the prawns black-tinged on the outside and just done and oh-so-tender on the inside.

I would fold them into pasta, which would be al dente, along with a cilantro pesto I'd prepare in advance. I planned to stir the pesto, with a tinge of chili, into onions, garlic, and a few threads of olive oil–macerated Zanzibar saffron, which would simmer gently until. At the right time, I'd add just enough cream and, for fun, a hefty tot of Grand Marnier. I called into service an old boyfriend, handy with a knife, to chop up a rather splendid salad of rocket, heirloom tomatoes, red and orange peppers, shallots, some great Cypriot feta and anchovy-stuffed olives.

It was also his job, with his old watch, to monitor the cooking time of the pasta.


Three Strikes and You're ...

First, I did not know that the stove's griller had some idiosyncrasies. It did not blacken the prawns.

Then I saw why the ex-boyfriend is the ex. He forgot to time the pasta, so it was not al dente.

And next — things happen in threes, don't they? — came the real disaster.

With 11 people ordered to seat themselves around the outdoor table and to drink wine and wait hungrily, I poured the pasta into the colander to drain. I held the colander by its handle, which before my eyes detached itself from the colander, which in turn dropped slowly into the sink, tipping the pasta, which began disappearing into the gaping mouth of the garbage disposer.

I watched, rooted in stunned disbelief, as the scene took on a life of its own.

You know how someone can put a piece of spaghetti in his mouth and suck and it disappears? It was like the disposer was sucking. Sucking — or inhaling — all my overcooked spaghetti. Down into its dubious nether regions.

It flashed through my mind that while the pasta wasn't going into a good place to save it from, I did not have time to start all over.

For some reason the words "coitus interruptus" popped into my head. I knew had to do something — anything — to interrupt the slide. To rescue the pasta. To save the guests from an unwanted fate; in this case, inebriated starvation.

"Leave the kitchen," I barked when a friend came to pop a loaf of olive bread into the oven. She looked alarmed and scuttled back to her place at the table.

The surging, disappearing mass was too hot to handle, which I desperately tried to do. So I set to work with tongs and implements to get back what I could, knowing that I could not delve too deep. Because God alone knows what people put down their garbage disposers and I didn't want to be responsible for death-by-botulism or suchlike. The thought of which — inappropriately, but seeing we're in confession mode — turned my mind to my friend Ian, now deceased, who more than once said that if his wife found him in bed with another woman, he'd say "I'm not!"

That's another story. But suffice to say, my father said never fess up to kitchen blunders because you distract people from their enjoyment of the food. So I didn't. And dinner went on into the early hours. And everybody complimented the chef. And all survived the night. And we're going to do it over again. Same kitchen, new colander, continuing the dalliance, when my friend returns.


Variety is the Spice of Grilling

While kitchen monogamy might make good sense for practical reasons, when it comes to grilling, variety is the spice of life. Virtually everything is grillable, which offers abundant options for experimentation and wild abandon.

Sure, if you want to grill big meat, do it. And there are few things better than a Kansas or Southern barbecue.

But, you know, my first barbecue after arriving in the United States was — wait for it — tofu. It was a Zen party. (Not a hen party, or there would have been champagne.) At the Zen party, the outdoor grill was laden with big white chunks that had been marinating in some unholy brew. Once browned, the tofu was served on rolls with tomato, lettuce and mayo, just like regular hamburgers. And they were pretty good. Although I wasn't tempted to repeat it at home for friends.

So what do the grilling experts say? The beauty of the internet is that we can invite them home to show us how.

Visit the YouTube Grill with Weber channel and watch grill king Jamie Purviance, who happens to be an erstwhile.

Also on video, see UK celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott — who wisely says, "A passion for food is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give their children" — prepare and cook barbecued tandoori tikka prawns.

And don't miss the delicious and delightful Jamie Oliver channel on YouTube. If my meal has given you a taste for grilled prawns, be inspired watching Oliver cook prawns on the barbecue.

Want to skip the videos? Then check out these three Jamie Oliver recipes:

Oliver's grilled mushroom risotto.

Oliver's grilled vegetable recipes.

And Oliver's recipe for grilled fillet steak with creamy white beans and leaks.

Go grill!

Wanda Hennig

Wanda Hennig

California–based Wanda Hennig is an award-winning food and travel writer, a blogger and a life coach. full bio

Website: www.wandahennig.com

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