We who live in Texas have a few good reasons to be considered lucky: there is no state income tax, there is a rich cultural history, and you can grill pretty much year round. Of course the downside to all of this is Rick Perry. But I digress. Let's focus on the latter reason.
If grilling is the second most popular religion in Texas then it is second only to football. As I said, we can grill pretty much all year. When the weather is hot we grill because we don't want to heat up the house. When it is mild we grill because we want to enjoy the wonderful weather. When it is cold we grill because we can. In Texas we will grill just about anything.
I did a lunch time class the other day and focused on grilling. The menu: grilled Caesar salad with chipotle dressing, grilled peppers and tortilla strips; grilled steak and onions with Chimayo red chile sauce; grilled banana bread pudding.
I prefer to use charcoal grills because I can get more intense heat and feel like I can control it better. If you use a gas grill be sure and preheat it for at least 30 minutes before you start to cook on it. Either way you go the grill has to be super hot.
I like to use a chimney starter to get my grill going. This allows me to not use lighter fluid. Even when lighter fluid burns off I can still kind of taste it on the food. Barf. When you light the coals make sure that there is a thin layer of white ash coating them. This means that the coals are fully burning and that you will get maximum heat. Also, when using charcoal, be aware of your "hot spots" and how they move around (when using a gas grill you will get hot spots but they don't move so it is easier to find them). To find the hot spots simply hold your hand about 4 inches over the grill and move your hand in a circular motion. You will feel the hottest spots and the cooler spots. You can use the coolest spots to let food finish cooking once it has been seared enough. Just remember, on a charcoal grill hot spots will move as the charcoal burns.
Before cooking scrape any debris off the grill and season it by wiping and oil soaked rag on it. Do this while the grill is hot and be sure to hold the rag with tongs so that you don't burn your arm off. When you place any food on the grill be sure that you oil the food and not the grill. This method will give you the best results when trying to avoid food sticking to the grill. Finally, try not to mess with the food too much when you put it on the grill; only turn it when you need to. Remember that grilling is not rocket science. Most of you are probably pretty good at it, anyway. Just pay close attention to your food and you will be o.k.
And one last thing. There is a difference between Barbecue and grilling. Barbecue is made by smoking meat for relatively long periods of time over low heat and with lots of smoke. Grilling is done by taking meat, or pretty much anything else, and cooking it over very high heat for a short period of time. I sometimes hear people say, "Let's put some steaks on the barbecue tonight." Huh?
2 Romaine Hearts, split lengthwise
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 poblano Pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1” strips
¼ cup Queso Cotija Cheese, crumbled
1 recipe Southwestern Caesar Dressing
Fried Tortilla Strips for Garnish
Heat a charcoal or gas grill until it is very hot. Brush the romaine hearts with EVOO, salt, and pepper. Quickly grill the lettuce until it is just charred on both sides, about 30 seconds to1 minute per side (more or less depending on your heat). Lay each lettuce on a plate and spoon some of the dressing over the middle. Sprinkle the cotija cheese around the dressing, top with poblano strips and the fried tortilla strips.
For the dressing:
1 Garlic Clove, peeled
4 Anchovy Fillets
2 canned Chipotle Peppers
1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
1 cup Parmegiano-Reggiano Cheese, grated
½ cup Lime Juice
1 ½ cups EVOO
Salt and Pepper to taste
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade, put the garlic, anchovies, chipotles, mustard, egg, cheese, and lime juice. Purée until the mixture is very smooth. With the motor running add the EVOO in a slow, steady stream. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.