Sunday, June 10, 2007

Cedar Plank Tilapia

We bought some cedar planks at the Carrboro Farmer's Market with the intent to grill some type of fish. I was somewhat familiar with the concept of grilling trout but since tilapia was on super special at the Teeter, the choice was made for us. I'll have to admit I was more than a bit skeptical about the impact the cedar would have on the taste. I've grilled with hickory chips before and always love the taste charcoal grilling gives -but always felt that these were more nuances than the main show.

We marinated the tilapia fillets in Scott's Barbeque sauce (Scott's is good for more than just pork and chicken) for a couple hours prior to grilling. I thought that with a sauce that powerful, we'd barely be able to tell the difference between plank grilling or normal grilling. Boy, was I wrong. The tilapia just soaked up the cedar smokiness and served as a wonderful compliment to the marinade.

The following are the instructions --

Soak the cedar plank well - ideally at least a few hours, but the longer the better. Set up the grill for direct grilling on medium-high. When ready to cook, place the plank on the hot grate and leave it until there is a smell of smoke, about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the plank over and place the fish on top. Cover the grill and cook until the fish is cooked through, reaching an internal temperature of 135 degrees. Check the plank occasionally - if the edges start to catch fire, mist with water, or move the plank to a cooler part of the grill. Cooking time will probably be about 20-25 minutes.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Grilled stuffed chicken breasts

It's not really a big secret - but we eat a lot of chicken. To prevent chicken fatigue, sometimes it's necessary to kick things up a notch and take the old-school grilled chicken breast to a new level. With some sage advice from my grilling mentor Steven Raichlen - we tweaked his basic recipe just a bit with some really tasty results.

3 -4 large chicken breasts
7-8 large basil leaves or equivalent
5-6 pieces of sun dried tomatoes
1 chunk of asiago cheese

1 cup olive oil
juice from 1 lemon
2-3 crushed garlic cloves

Trim the "tenderloins" and any fat off the chicken breasts and cut each breast in half. Place each half flat on a cutting board and, using the palm of one hand to hold the breast flat, cut a deep horizontal pocket in the side with a slender knife. Make the pocket as large as you can without piercing the top or bottom of the breast. As for the stuffing, we chose to use asiago cheese, fresh lemon basil leaves, and sun-dried tomatoes - but pretty much anything within reason would work. Insert the stuffing into the pocket and seal the breast with toothpicks. Lay the breasts in a flat pan and cover with the marinade, flipping a couple times to coat both sides. We marinated for 20-30 minutes, but the real flavor comes from the stuffing. Grilling time is basically the same as for normal chicken breasts - probably 10 minutes or so on medium high.

This is a really easy, quick way to spice up the usual chicken breast routine and also provides a way to show off some fancy grill marks on the outside and an impressive cross section of flavors on the inside. This is something we'll definitely be doing again.