Grilling in the great outdoors
Updated 11:56 am, Monday, July 10, 2017
Now that we’re firmly into the season of eating, entertaining and cooking outdoors, we had a lot of summertime questions for our colleague from the Hearst magazine division, Maile Carpenter, editor in chief of Food Network Magazine.
Q: What do you like to grill?
Maile Carpenter: Every year when we put together our grilling issues, I realize that I don’t get creative enough in my own backyard. I grill the meat and only the meat, and it’s usually one of three things: skirt steak (with the marinade from Alton Brown’s marinade skirt steak recipe on foodnetwork.com), burgers (I love Pat LaFrieda’s ground beef blend; it’s so great, it needs nothing but salt) or chicken thighs. I should really mix things up and make a foil-packet dinner sometime (we have a bunch of options in our July-August issue), or grill some romaine for a salad, or some peaches and pound cake slices for dessert. So my big grilling tip for this summer would be: Grill something — anything — new!
Q: Picnics can be fun, but they can be a hassle or, can we say it, boring. What would you take on a picnic?
MC: Picnics are so much more fun when you can snack your way through a spread of food, rather than just eat a sandwich. I usually make my own crostini and pesto for a cheese-and-cracker platter, then I buy a bunch of cheese, some hummus or other spreads, and some deli meat. I also bring a couple of substantial salads, like a chicken salad (homemade-ish, using rotisserie chicken), a corn-tomato-mozzarella salad and some kind of simple grain or orzo salad. That’s usually enough to keep everyone happy. I love homemade desserts, but they don’t always travel well for a picnic, and when you’re out in the sun, a cookie or piece of cake isn’t so appealing. I just bring watermelon and berries and hope there’s an ice cream truck nearby.
Q: We heard you have a favorite lobster shack in Chester. What is it and why do you love it?
MC: I am by no means a Connecticut lobster roll expert, but I love the ones at Cedar Lake Snack Shack in Chester. My cousins live in Chester and my sister has a house there, so on many summer weekends we all get together at the lake and treat ourselves to lobster rolls and fries for lunch. (The kids get burgers, thank goodness; they’re so much cheaper.) The lobster roll is nothing fancy, but it’s perfect: big chunks of meat warmed up in a pan full of butter and then stuffed into a top-split bun.
Q: When it’s too hot to cook, what do you like to make?
MC: When it’s crazy hot, I refuse to turn on the oven. You can do this meal using nothing but the microwave: Heat up one or two of those 90-second microwavable packets of farro or barley, then steam a bag of haricots verts (thin green beans) in the microwave according to the package directions and chop into bite-size pieces. Toss the grains with lots of good olive oil, lemon juice, chopped fresh chives, crumbled feta and the cooked green beans. Then top all of that with shredded rotisserie chicken. Done and done.
Q: When it comes to enjoying ice cream, are you a cone, dish or sundae kind of gal?
MC: I am fully committed to the wafer cone (not to be confused with the waffle cone, which gets so much more love). Wafer cones, also called cake cones, are those weird cardboard-like ones that always get soggy by the time you get to the bottom. I love the bizarre texture, but the real upside is that they’re flat on the bottom, so you can put them down. What other cone does that? I keep them on hand year-round, along with a decent supply of ice cream flavors — usually eight or so different pints. It’s a pretty good party trick when the kids’ friends come over.
Maile Carpenter calls New York City and Old Lyme home.