Grilled Picnics Offer the Opportunity to Create New Sensations
If you're thinking of summertime, warm weather, and outdoor activities, you're probably thinking about planning a picnic. There's something special about sharing food in the great outdoors with family and friends that gives you plenty of reasons to smile.
It's easy to imagine some juicy grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and barbecued chicken creating some summer excitement for you and your guests. The traditional favorites are certainly delicious, but shouldn't your grilled food stand out from the host of picnics going on this year?
There is certainly some creative room to cook old grilled favorites in new ways, or even to try something completely different. These are our thoughts on new ways to grill up great-tasting summertime dishes.
Reinventing Sauces for the Grill
Barbeque sauces, glazes, and marinades are a popular component of many grilled main dishes. There are tons of recipes designed to add more flavor to whatever you're cooking on the grill. If you're a veteran of grilled dishes at picnics, you've probably even tried your own sauces on occasion or found a few favorites at the store. Still, this could be the time to rethink those traditional sauces.
Begin your journey to culinary creativity by experimenting with a wide range of ingredients. Don't limit yourself to things you've been using for years. It's both convenient and customary automatically to pull out some ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, vinegar, or honey, but what else is at home to make a great sauce for grilled food?
Your first look could be in the fruit bin. You've got limes, oranges, apples, lemons, and even things like strawberries, blueberries, kiwis, and watermelon to choose from. Now, take a look in the vegetable bin. Grab some fresh cucumber, bell peppers, celery, onion, and tomatoes, or even avocados.
Turn to your pantry and take out some orange marmalade, maple syrup, raisins, dried cranberries, red wine vinegar, apple jelly, tarragon vinegar, and all the dressings you can find, including French, Thousand Island, Ranch, and Green Goddess. Oh, and don't forget the spice rack, either. Nothing is off limits here – anything you can think of can help create the next great classic.
Now it's time to smash, simmer, or grate ingredients together you might never have used in the same sauce before. Combine contrasting flavors for a new approach – add savory to sweet, smooth with tangy, crunchy and creamy in the same breath. This is the way you make a unique sauce you can call your own.
Now, brush, marinade, or glaze the sauce onto whatever you are grilling. Is this the time for a fruity white sauce on your grilled meat, a tomato-based hot sauce on fish, or some savory herbed sauce on fruit? Just put it on the grill and see what happens. Your completely new dish may be just the thing to perk up and surprise your guests' taste buds. Isn't that part of what makes grilling fun?
A New Twist on a Main Dish
Perhaps you're used to the idea of just throwing a steak on the grill and hoping for the best. Maybe it's time to experiment with other ideas, like grilling a full roast, for instance.
If you setup and prepare well, a beef or pork roast will do fine on the grill, either on a rotisserie or in a rack. Imagine the surprise your family and guests will experience when they taste a tender and juicy roast that didn't come out of the oven.
Why not try grilling a whole chicken instead of the usual selection of breasts, wings, and legs? A whole chicken will retain its natural juices better and you can “butterfly” the chicken by cutting out the backbone and pushing it down flat to save on cooking time.
Fish is another grilled picnic favorite. You'll need a fish that's firm and solid that grills well and doesn't dry out or fall apart while cooking. Salmon is a perfect choice, but there are many other types of fish that will do just as well. Fish grills best when you don't need to flip it over, so investing in a grilling basket means you can flip the basket instead of the fish itself.
Other types of seafood like shrimp, lobster, and scallops are great for picnics, too. You can grill shrimp and lobster in the shell to prevent them from overcooking. Find a grill tray with smaller slots to keep things like shrimp and scallops from falling through. For a different flavor each time, marinate the seafood in a variety of flavors before you take it to the grill.
Is the taste of a juicy grilled burger too powerful to ignore? It's OK, there's still many ways to introduce variety into your grilled picnic. Just remember, beef isn't the only burger in town! Ground pork, chicken, and turkey make great substitutes for those looking for a different kind of burger this year. Even salmon and crab meat make great grilled patties.
Go beyond conventional recipes by marinating your ground fish or meat with anything from soy sauce, steak sauce, lemon juice, red wine, Worcestershire sauce, or balsamic vinegar. Stuff or top that burger with a wide variety of flavorful cheeses, nuts, salsa, or hot and mild peppers.
Don't just throw a raw onion on top, caramelize onions on top of the grill over low heat or in a cast iron skillet. There's a surprising sweetness to them that will delight you and your guests.
Sometimes, simple serving ideas come from rethinking the way you prepare main dishes at a grilling picnic. Bring along shish-kabobs and you won't even need to bring plates! The bite-size pieces are easy to cook, serve, and eat at picnics. Alternate slices of poultry, seafood, and meat with chunks of sweet onions, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, grape tomatoes, or mushrooms. For a tropical twist, include some pineapple or other citrus chunks with seafood or chicken for a taste that inspires thoughts of an island paradise.
Grilled Desserts? Absolutely!
Popsicles and watermelon are fine for ordinary picnics, but the grill is sitting there, all fired up and ready to go. Why not put together some scrumptious desserts while you're still in the mood for grilled goodies?
Sure, toasted marshmallows are a reliable favorite, but don't let your imagination stop there. Put together some 'S'mores' using classic ingredients like toasted marshmallows, graham crackers, and a chocolate bar. Or, create unique varieties using toasted marshmallows with things like peanut butter cups, white chocolate, flaked coconut, or oatmeal cookies as possible ingredients.
It's fun thinking up new dessert possibilities with a grill on hand. Take that watermelon you brought and cut it into one inch thick pieces. Grill quickly on both sides until grill marks show, then put on a plate and drizzle a tiny bit of balsamic vinaigrette over each one. The sweet and salty combination is a grilled picnic delight you've got to try for yourself.
Other dessert classics like pound cake with fruit compote or a bunch of berries tossed together in a grilling basket can be grilled until just lightly charred. Make banana boats by wrapping the fruit in foil filled with chocolate chips and mini marshmallows.
Grill some apple slices and top with syrup made from raisins and brown sugar. Grill some pineapple rings, either by themselves or as a delicious topping for pound cake or angel food with a drizzle of chocolate.
It's plain to see you can grill just about anything at your next picnic. Even if you choose to serve sandwiches, you can grill those too. So, think beyond hotdogs and hamburgers. Use your imagination to grill anything you can cook at home.