Where there’s a grill there’s a way

  • Friday, May 30, 2014

For years as a working mother I’d spend spend nearly every weekend following my personal menu formula for the upcoming week: make one roast, one casserole and one crockpot recipe. Eat each twice, freezing any leftovers for lunches or a smorgasbord and fill in with an evening breakfast.

Now that we are empty nesters – except for four kids and six grands visiting frequently (thank God!), we’re much more casual. Sometimes we go out; sometimes I resort to a freezer or a plan-ahead meal. But at this time of the year my choice is that Jim cook something on the grill.

Now since I don’t cook outdoors, you may think this is ploy so I don’t have to produce the entree. You’re right. But, frankly, I don’t cook on the grill because I’m not good at it. Jim is. He’s one of those instinctual cooks who just knows how to season and how long to cook meats – and seafood – in in any venue, but particularly outdoors.

In fact, I think grilled food is so good I have no idea why anyone ever wanted to bring cooking indoors. Except, of course, if you don’t have a talented outdoor cook on hand.

Two of our favorites – and simplest of meals – are hotdogs and hamburgers. Even if we are alone I ask Jim to cook a whole tray full of each on the grill. We’ll have them twice during the week and/or more, as I freeze individual servings to microwave later. For hotdogs we always try to have a variety, of what we used to tell the kids were “tube steaks” and these morphed to include sausages, bratwursts stuffed with cheddar, kielbasa, smoked chicken varieties and turkey dogs.

This gives us enough choice to enjoy for ourselves or to have as a quick informal pickup dinner for family and friends.

But it’s the hamburgers that shine with Jim’s special touch. They are every bit as good as the burger I had during a memorable weekend visit to my college roommate’s home. This one was so delicious I’ve remembered it for six decades.

Her family raised Herfords and had a glorious country cookout once a year. That hamburger literally melted in the mouth. I expressed my pleasure out loud and was informed that I was eating ground tenderloin! (Judy’s parents did this only for their special guests for which I’ve always been grateful.)

As I made my way down the serving line to dress said blissful beef, the Ohio farmwife who was one of the cooks asked me if I’d like to top it off with a good strong “smeller.” That was perfect.

Onion is one of the secrets to Jim’s burger success, but it’s his basting sauce which really stars. I take about two pounds of ground sirloin and mix it with three large chopped Vidalia onions (we prefer that sweeter variety) and put the patties on my chef’s tray along with his requested accoutrements. These include both Worcestershire and Soy sauces mixed with what Jim calls “enough water, onion salt and pepper to bring out the flavor.” With his flavor balance talent, the end product is every bit as good as that one I’ve always referred to as the Buckeye Burger.

And any man who can make sirloin taste as good as tenderloin – and recreate a cherished memory at the same time – is surely a keeper!

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