By Bill Daley, Tribune Newspapers
May 23, 2012
Wrapping foods into tidy packets for the grill is a contradiction, right? Wisps of smoke and flicks of flame are supposed to be what makes grilling so flavorful and special.
These days, though, the grill is increasingly serving as an outdoor stove where a far wider range of fare than steaks, burgers and hot dogs is being prepared. Some food items are too delicate to withstand the searing heat of a grill while others are too small to sit easily on the rack without special grilling accessories. Wrapping them in aluminum foil, thin sheets of cedar "paper" or even husks and leaves offers protection while concentrating flavors and fragrance.
And, just right for Memorial Day partying, cooking food in packages on the grill means no-mess entertaining. Prepare the food ahead of time, wrap, cook, toss the empty wrappings when done.
"The real reason for wrapping things up is, it is a great way to get flavors to infuse into the food you're cooking," says Jennifer Chandler, the Memphis, Tenn.-based chef and author of "Simply Grilling: 105 Recipes for Quick and Casual Grilling" (Thomas Nelson, $24.99). Take sliced lemons, onions and fresh herbs. Throw these aromatics on the grill and they risk falling through the grate, she says, while wrapping them with the meat or fish means cooking together and an exchange of flavors.
Even the wrap itself can lend a taste element, according to Judith Fertig of Overland Park, Kan., co-author of "The Gardener & the Grill: The Bounty of the Garden Meets the Sizzle of the Grill."
"A corn husk can give a slight sweetness. Wrap food in a banana leaf and it will make the food taste slightly like black olives," she says. Even a Swiss chard or kale leaf, brushed with a little olive oil, can be pressed into service.
Whatever you choose, wrap neatly — pretend you're wrapping a package, Chandler says, so edges stay closed — and you are ready to grill.
Wrapping do's and don'ts
Don't overstuff: Sort foods by shape and similar cooking times otherwise "it's almost impossible to get everything cooked properly. Less is more,'' says Jamie Purviance, author of "Weber's Smoke: A Guide to Smoke Cooking for Everyone and Any Grill" (Oxmoor, $21.95).
Husks and skins: Corn husks, fresh or dried (soak before grilling) are just one option. Purviance recommends cooking onions in their skins, nestling the bulbs among the coals. If using husks or a banana leaf, Fertig recommends standing close by with a spray bottle of water to douse any flare-ups.
Alternative soaks: Corn husks, leaves and wood papers should all be soaked pre-grilling to reduce the chance of burning. While water works, Chandler recommends experimenting with other liquids, including juice and wine, to infuse the food with another layer of flavor.
Grilled fiesta shrimp
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Note: Adapted from "Cooking Light Way to Cook: Grilling" (Oxmoor, $24.95).
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled, deveined
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
1/2 cup shredded Mexican-blend or cheddar cheese
1/2 cup each: corn kernels, diced red bell pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed, drained
1. Prepare grill for medium heat. Arrange shrimp in the center of a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Drizzle oil over shrimp; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning. Toss to coat; top with cheese, corn, peppers, cilantro and beans; sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning. Fold opposite ends of foil together; crimp to seal.
2. Place foil packet on grill rack; cover. Cook until shrimp are done, 15 minutes. Serve over rice.
Per serving: 272 calories, 9 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 240 mg cholesterol, 16 g carbohydrates, 36 g protein, 834 mg sodium, 4 g fiber.
Cedar-wrapped mahi-mahi with mango, red peppers
Prep: 15 minutes
Marinate: 10 minutes
Cook: 8 minutes
Note: This recipe is adapted from "Simply Grilling" by Jennifer Chandler. It calls for cedar grilling papers (available at Amazon, among other sources), which must be soaked in liquid for at least 10 minutes before using. Aluminum foil can be subbed but won't impart the smoky flavor of cedar.
1/4 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 mahi-mahi fillets, 4 to 6 ounces each, cut in 1-inch-thick slices
4 cedar papers
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 mangoes, pitted, peeled, thinly sliced
1/4 cup each, thinly sliced: red bell peppers, red onions
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1. Whisk juices and oil in a bowl until combined. Place fish in a single layer in a shallow dish . Pour the marinade over the fish. Marinate, 10 minutes.
2. Place the cedar papers on a work surface. Remove the fish from the marinade; shake off the excess, discarding marinade. Divide the fish among the cedar papers, placing them parallel to the grain. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with mangoes, peppers, onions and jalapeno. Fold the edges of each paper over the fish; tie with cotton string.
3. Lightly brush grill grates with oil. Place the packets directly on the grill over medium-high heat. Close the lid; cook, turning once, until medium, 4-5 minutes per side. To serve, place packets on plates, allowing guests to unwrap.
Per serving: 205 calories, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 107 mg cholesterol, 19 g carbohydrates, 28 g protein, 426 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.