Debby Maugans, food writer based in Asheville, North Carolina, and author of Small Batch Baking, Small Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers and Farmer and Chef Asheville.
Bottom Line: Caramelized fruits add a sweet complexity to beef, pork and chicken on the grill
Firing up the grill? Be sure to make your steak, chicken and other meats memorable by also grilling fruit! Grilling caramelizes fruits’ natural sugars, adding complex sweetness that complements the savory, salty flavors of grilled meats—while brightening plates with beautiful colors.
Start with these three recipes…
The sweetness of pineapple and the tangy taste of marinated pork are quite different. But when you grill them, the smoky caramelized flavors that emerge meld the flavors beautifully. Marinate the pork for at least an hour beforehand—and you could even prep the day before and refrigerate overnight.
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 (1-pound) piece boneless pork loin
1 fresh pineapple, trimmed, core removed, cut into 14 slices (about ¾-inch-thick)
Combine the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, brown sugar, thyme and the salt and pepper in a resealable plastic bag. Seal the bag, and shake to blend the
ingredients. Measure out six tablespoons of marinade, and reserve the rest for the pineapple. Place the pork in the bag with the marinade. Seal the bag, and turn to coat with marinade. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
Prepare the grill for indirect medium-high heat. Brush the pineapple slices with two tablespoons of the reserved marinade. Place the pork on the grill over indirect heat, cover and grill for 20 minutes. Baste the pork with some of the remaining reserved mixture, then turn and baste again. Arrange the pineapple slices over direct heat.
Cover and grill, basting the pork occasionally, until it is cooked through and a thermometer inserted in the center of pork registers 145°F—about 20 minutes more. Grill the pineapple until it’s well-marked, turning once, about 15 minutes.
Transfer the pork to a cutting board, and let stand 10 minutes before slicing and serving with the pineapple slices. Makes four servings.
“Flat iron” steak has an unusually rich beef flavor that is both tamed and complemented by the juicy, sweet watermelon. It’s perfect for grilling—flat and rectangular so that it cooks evenly. It needs to be marinated, though, or it can be tough, so plan for at least six hours of marinating in the fridge. Note: You can substitute flank steak or skirt steak—just cook a minute or two less than the instructions below call for.
1⁄3 cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely minced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 pound flat iron steak
2 (¾-to-1-inch-thick) slices watermelon. (Round “baby” watermelons, with their dense flesh and seeds, work great on the grill.)
4 cups watercress or arugula
¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
16 cherry or grape tomatoes
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese, optional
Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, garlic, salt and freshly ground pepper in a small bowl, and whisk to blend. Place the steak in a sealable plastic bag, pour in half the dressing and seal the bag. Turn the meat in the bag to coat, and refrigerate at least six hours or up to overnight, turning the bag occasionally. Reserve the remaining dressing. (Cover and refrigerate it overnight).
Prepare the grill for direct medium-high heat. Brush the watermelon slices with about one tablespoon of the reserved dressing. Place the watermelon and steak directly over the coals on a lightly oiled grill rack. Grill the watermelon slices until well-marked, about two minutes on each side. Grill the steak until desired degree of doneness, about 10 minutes for medium, turning once. Transfer the steak to a cutting board, and let stand 10 minutes.
Cut each slice of watermelon into four triangles. Thinly slice the steak against the grain.
To serve, arrange the watercress or arugula and steak slices on serving plates. Whisk the reserved dressing, and drizzle it over the steak and watercress. Place two wedges of watermelon on each plate, arrange onion slices and tomatoes on each plate, and sprinkle with feta cheese if desired. Makes four servings.
The golden caramelized sweet juices of the peaches add fresh summery flavor to the grilled chicken. Note: While any skewers will work for grilling, you’ll get best results with parallel skewers—there’s one handle but two skewers. They make food easier to turn over.
3 Tablespoons sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
3 Tablespoons avocado oil or extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons minced shallots
½ teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 (4-ounce) chicken breast halves
2 large, ripe peaches
4 cups mixed greens or spinach
¼ cup chopped, unsalted, roasted almonds
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese, blue cheese or, if preferred, any mild soft cheese
Combine the sherry vinegar, avocado oil, shallots, curry powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl, and whisk to blend.
Pound each half chicken breast to an even thickness between pieces of waxed paper. Whisk the vinaigrette, measure out two tablespoons, drizzle it over the chicken and spread evenly. Preheat the grill for direct medium-high heat.
Cut the peaches in half, remove the pits, then cut each half into four wedges. Thread the peach slices on two parallel skewers for easier grilling. Whisk the vinaigrette again, measure out one tablespoon and brush or otherwise spread it on the peach slices.
Place the chicken and peach slices on the grill rack. Grill the peach slices until well-marked on each side, about one minute per side. Grill the chicken until cooked through, about five or six minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, and let stand five minutes before slicing.
Arrange the greens, chicken and peaches on serving plates. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette, and sprinkle with almonds and cheese. Makes four servings.
These recipes call for direct and indirect heat. Here’s how to do it…
Charcoal grill: Evenly distribute hot, ash-colored coals in an even layer, sides touching, on the charcoal grate. (If you want high heat, add an additional layer of hot coals.) Position the cooking grate over the coals, and lightly brush vegetable oil on the cooking grate just before adding food.
Gas grill: Set all burners to the heat level directed in the recipe. Lightly brush vegetable oil on the cooking grate just before adding food.
Charcoal grill: Arrange hot, ash-colored coals on one half of the charcoal grate, piling them in an even layer. Position the cooking grate over the coals, brush vegetable oil on the grate just before adding food, and place food over the half with no coals underneath.
Gas grill: Set burners to the heat level in the recipe. Brush vegetable oil on the cooking grate, and turn off two or more burners before placing food. Keep these burners turned off.