Grilling already has its steaks, slabs and skewers. With summer coming, maybe it’s time to slap another “s” down on that sizzlin’ hot grate – as in “stuffed.”
Stuffing can mean extra prep work, not something most people will naturally want to deal with on a lazy, hazy summer day. But it’s all worth it to Ted Reader, a Toronto chef, barbecuing expert and product developer, who has a number of stuffed recipes in his latest book, “Gastro Grilling” (Pintail, $25, 384 pages).
“The No. 1 reason is to add fun to your food, to change it up,” Reader says in making a case for stuffing. “You can grill burgers, hot dogs, steaks and chicken breasts, and that’s great. But there’s so much more you can do to make these things better.”
Stuffing can add flavor and moisture to foods, particularly leaner cuts of meat, says Jamie Purviance, an El Dorado Hills-based chef and author of several grilling cookbooks. (The most recent? “Weber’s Big Book of Burgers,” Oxmoor, $21.95, 256 pages.)
“I think about pork and poultry and sometimes beef,” Purviance says, when asked what he tends to stuff. “A flank steak works well, but it takes a bit of handiwork with a knife. Butterflying something, rolling it up and tying it is not necessarily for beginners.”
Reader agrees. Stuffing before grilling allows “a little bit of showing off,” he says, “but it also requires some expertise.”
Some ingredients may need to be precooked. You’ll have to cut a pocket in thicker cuts of meat to hold the filling, and tie or skewer the pocket shut so the stuffing won’t fall out.
Thinner, pliable pieces of meat, chicken or fish can be spread with a filling and rolled, but you still need to tie that roll closed.
Check out these tips from Reader and Purviance on how to making grilling stuffed foods trouble-free:
Variations on stuffing recipe at right
Prep time: 30 minutes
Makes about 8 cups
Ted Reader, author of “Gastro Grilling,” uses this filling to stuff whole chickens, chicken breasts, pork loin or tenderloins, or turkey. Follow your usual cooking method for each meat, making sure the meat and stuffing cook through. “My stuffing recipe can easily be modified to work with a variety of meats and seafoods and to give you a whole new twist on stuffing,” he writes in an email. His variations below follow this basic recipe. (Leftover stuffing? No worries, writes Reader: “I will often wrap it tightly in foil and heat it on the grill separately. Everyone loves stuffing.”)
1/2 loaf day-old sourdough bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 41/2 cups)
6 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely diced dried apricots
1 tablespoon each, chopped: fresh parsley, fresh sage
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup apple juice or broth
Place bread cubes on a baking sheet; transfer to a 200-degree oven to dry slightly, 30 minutes. (For chicken breasts and other small cuts, use coarse breadcrumbs, about 3 cups.)
Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until rendered and almost crisp, 8-10 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Remove all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat from skillet; save extra bacon fat for another use.
Add the butter to the pan; when the butter begins to bubble, stir in the celery, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, 2-3 minutes. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes. Add the reserved bacon, plus the apricots and herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper; gently mix.
Drizzle with apple juice, starting with 1/4 cup and adding more if required. Mix again. The stuffing mixture should be quite moist but not runny, enough to soften the bread and bind all ingredients together.
Per 1/2 cup serving: 85 calories; 4 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 10 mg cholesterol; 9 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; 115 mg sodium; 1 g fiber.