Emily Van Eck
Grilling Is For Girls
Updated: May 2
Grilling is my favorite way to cook. For the longest time, I was "afraid" of the grill. I am embarrassed to admit this, because I completely think my trepidation was a product of our ladies in the kitchen, men on the grill cooking mentality. What the hell is that about anyway? Why must it be them? And we must stay indoors and man the crock pot? No thank you. So if you've never grilled before, and especially if you've watched others grilling and thought to yourself - "scary!" this post is for you.
I finally decided to try grilling a couple years ago - all thanks to my amazing mother, who grills all the time. I was overcome with joy and delicious, healthy food. And as a bonus, less mess in the kitchen and almost no clean up at the grill. I began grilling fish, veggies, steaks, and chicken (in order of descending frequency for your information) with fervor - and of course adding the starch on the side, like rice, corn, or potatoes.
Asparagus and thumbelina carrots with chimichurri - ready for the grill
But there is more. I was using a gas grill - aka the easy one. So when this grill bit the dust the following year, I was understandably devastated. I was not about to go out and buy a new gas grill. So I was left with nothing. Or so I thought...
After several months of boring meal after meal using the lady products in the kitchen, I decided it was time to get over yet another fear - the charcoal grill that was sitting right in my backyard. Duh.
OMG. I was AGAIN proved to be a weeny girl that was just assuming something was too "manly" for her. So let this be a lesson to you as it was for me, and not just a grill lesson - a life lesson. GRILLING IS FOR GIRLS. (well, for everyone, but that doesn't have alliteration).
Here's a quick how-to for grilled ruby trout, fennel, and carrots for one. I've made this recipe super simple, to let the ingredients shine. A perfect spring or summertime dinner, likely with leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
If you're not comfortable cooking fish, it's time to get over that. It's the quickest, simplest, healthiest, and most delicious of all proteins. A drizzle of oil, salt, and pepper is all you need. Bake a fillet at 350 for 10 minutes or so, or grill as follows. Get an instant-read thermometer - I like this one, and cook to 145 F.
It should be said - grilling animal products, especially the ones you have to cook for a long time like chicken and big cuts of beef and pork, can create heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) - carcinogens. It's best to grill meats that cook fast like fish. And don't let your meats get too much char on them. Using a marinade also cuts back on the PAHs and HCAs that are created. Since it is the fat dripping onto the coals or flame that creates the unwanted chemicals, choosing leaner cuts helps too. Luckily, the perfect blessings that are vegetables do not have this naughty side-effect.
1 rainbow trout fillet (or really any kind of fish - best with skin on for easy grilling)
1 fennel bulb
1 medium red onion
4-5 medium carrots or a bunch of thumbelinas
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper
1. Get the grill going.
If using a gas grill, turn it on to medium-high heat.
If using a charcoal grill, fill the small section of the bottom of the cylinder thing with a torn up paper bag, or other type of paper. Flip over and put a couple handfuls of charcoal in the top. Flip back over, so the paper is on the bottom and resting on the bottom rack of the grill. Using a long-reach lighter, light the paper in a few places around the bottom. The lit paper will light the charcoal. Once the charcoal has turned all or mostly grey, after about 10-15 minutes, carefully flip the cylinder over and spread out the charcoal on the rack. Then place the top rack on the grill and it's time. There's a better explanation here.
2. Prepare your ingredients.
Peel and mince the garlic clove. Zest and juice lemon into a small bowl or jar. Combine garlic, lemon, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in small bowl or jar. Stir or shake to combine.
Trim the fennel fronds and the ends of the fennel bulb, leaving enough to keep the bulb intact. Slice the fennel lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick slices.
Wash and trim the carrots. You can peel them or not, up to you. I leave my carrots skin-on if they're organic and peel them if they're not. Slice the carrots in half lengthwise.
Cut your onion in half, keeping both ends intact. Using the tip of the knife, slice the onion into wedges. Keeping the ends together helps keep the layers of the onion together and from falling through the grill. Put fennel, carrots, and onion on a plate and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper as desired.
Pat the fish dry with paper towels, rub both sides with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
3. Grill your dinner.
I use a grill box sometimes (pictured), but you don't really need one. Using tongs, place the carrots on the grill first. Grill for 3-5 minutes, then add fennel and onion. Grill another 5 minutes, then flip everything over. Add fish skin-side down and grill for 5 minutes, or until temperature reads 135 on instant-read meat thermometer. (I have come to depend heavily on these due to particularity in having my proteins cooked perfectly - safe and not overdone). Remove everything with tongs once it's browned to your liking.
4. Eat your dinner.
Place your dinner on a plate and drizzle everything with the lemon garlic dressing, saving some for tomorrow. Add shaved parmesan to the veggies if you like. Alternatively, make an herb sauce - like the chimichurri pictured above. Give me a couple weeks and I'll pop up a recipe for mine.