published Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Braly: Fire up the grill for dear old Dad

Unlike many dads, my father was never a huge grilling fan. Daddy was happy to fire up the grill and flip a few burgers when Momma had them on the menu, but that was it. So I don't know how I became such a huge grilling fan. We grill 12 months out of the year.

"People grill more now than they did in the '60s and '70s because of the increase in ownership of gas grills and the convenience of gas grills compared to starting a charcoal fire," said Mike Kempster, executive vice president and CMO of Weber, one of the nation's top grillmaking companies.

I think there's more to it than that. Men have become more comfortable and creative when it comes to cooking. It's no longer a woman's domain.

Though Weber reports 65 percent of grillers prefer gas grills, compared to 46 percent preferring charcoal, I go with the latter. There's nothing better than the flavor of a good steak seared over charcoal and hickory chips. You just can't get that same flavor with gas.

Gas grills do have a few advantages over charcoal. They are more economical, a heck of a lot easier to light up, and they heat up faster, so cooking can commence much sooner.

What will you be doing this Sunday with dad? According to the National Restaurant Association, the numbers dive from 75 million who dine out on Mother's Day to 50 million on Father's Day. That's a substantial sum. Many fathers may do their own cooking, preferring manning the grill to going out to eat.

This recipe from Weber's new cookbook, "Smoke," offers a delicious entree to consider. It recommends charcoal grilling.

Mesquite Skirt Steak With Salpicon Salad

Paste:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons pure chile powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon kosher salt

13/4 pounds skirt steak, 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick, trimmed of excess surface fat, cut into foot-long pieces

Salad:

1 pound very small red potatoes, scrubbed

2 ears fresh corn, husked

1 ripe avocado, diced

4 medium radishes, thinly sliced

2 scallions (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 canned chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Ground black pepper

1 large handful mesquite wood chips, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

Flour tortillas (6 inches), optional

In a small bowl, whisk the paste ingredients. Spread the paste on both sides of each steak. Set aside at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before cooking.

Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan, and add salted water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook the potatoes until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 20 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Cut each potato in half, transfer to a medium bowl, and refrigerate to cool.

Prepare a charcoal fire for high heat (450 F to 550 F). Brush the cooking grate clean. Cook the corn over direct high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the kernels are brown in spots all over, 8 to 10 minutes, turning often. Remove from the grill and set aside.

When the corn is cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cobs. Add to the bowl with the potatoes along with the avocado, radishes, scallions and cilantro.

In a small bowl, whisk the lime juice, chile pepper and garlic. Gradually whisk in the oil. Pour over the potato mixture, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate while cooking the steaks.

Drain and add the wood chips to the charcoal, and put the lid on the grill. When smoke appears, cook the steaks over direct high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until cooked to your desired doneness, 4 to 6 minutes for medium rare, turning once or twice (if flare-ups occur, move the steaks temporarily over indirect heat). Remove from the grill and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes.

Cut the steaks across the grain into 1/2-inch slices. Serve immediately with the salad and warm tortillas, if desired.

On the restaurant scene ... On my last visit to Sticky Fingers, I was intrigued by new additions to the menu. The house known for barbecue has added three seafood dishes: fried catfish with shrimp on the side, a fried shrimp platter and a fried shrimp salad. It all looked outrageously delicious. I wish I'd noticed the poster advertising the seafood choices before I ordered my main-dish Black and Blue Salad, but I plan to try one the next time I'm there.

Last week's column about black garlic brought a response from Susan Baker at Greenlife. Although I called Greenlife to see if they stocked black garlic and was told that the store did not, Baker told me Greenlife does carry it now. So good! Stop by and pick some up. It's excellent and very good for your health.

Email Anne Braly at abraly @timesfreepress.com.

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