The Joys of Outdoor Cooking
When I lived in the States, I had a nice gas grill. In the late spring, summer and fall, we’d cook and eat outside more often than not, but when we moved to France we moved to an apartment. That meant no grill. I suppose I could buy one and just put it in the parking lot when I want to use it, but that seems like 1) a pain in the ass and 2) not really the same experience. We also have some neighbors who are a little picky about what people do and don’t do in the building, and it’s just easier not to bother them.
So when we went to visit a friend’s beach house last weekend, I was thrilled that we’d be cooking our lunch on a large, chimney grill. I’ve never used one before, and this was an excellent opportunity to get my grill on. And luckily, our friends brought three nice size pieces of meat: one rib-eye (entrecote) and two thick NY strip steaks (faux filet).
Our friend built the fire, and he threw in a couple of things that caught my eye. First, he threw in some fresh pine branches. Pine is very common in the region, but I had never thought to use it in a wood grill. The second was a few branches of fresh laurel, i.e. bay leaves. I had always believed that you can’t eat bay leaves, and it’s best to just let them steep in soup or sauce. So I was surprised when we burned them. However, it turns out that it’s not true that bay leaves are toxic. Besides, we didn’t directly ingest them, only added a few branches to the fire.
And what a difference these two woods made (don’t ask me what the other wood was–it was set up before we got there by someone else in our friends’ family). The meat turned out smoky, rich and just heavenly. I’m typically not a fan of NY strip, as I find it a little less flavorful and tougher than rib eye. Unfortunately, because the rib eye was far thinner than the NY strips, it cooked faster and served first. With a hungry crowd and my duties tending to the grill, I didn’t get a chance to taste it!
Earlier in the day, I had made a quick carrot and beet salad, which worked well to brighten up the meat with the vibrant acidity of lemon and herbiness of dill and rosemary used in the dressing.
I don’t really have a recipe for the grilled meat, though, as the majority of the flavor for this meal comes from the method of cooking more than anything. But, if you want a delicious steak, the method is simple:
- Generously salt & pepper the steak on both sides.
- Slather with olive oil.
- Grill for approximately 5 minutes on each side (7-8 if your steak is thicker).
- Let it rest for approximately 5 minutes, that is if you can manage to keep your hands off it–good luck with that!
I do, however, have a recipe for my carrot and beet salad. It’s quite simple and refreshing. Perfect for when the weather’s warm and you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
Carrot and Beet Salad
- Two medium-sized carrots
- Two medium-sized fresh beets (not ones that have already been cooked)
- Zest of one lemon
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- About 2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
- Peel and dice carrots and beets.
- Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.
As always, if you try this recipe or have a cool outdoor grilling picture, tag #eatfrenchclub on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.