Most often, backyard barbecues are fired up to cook meat - burgers and steak, generally - and almost always used at dinnertime. It’s a shame that such a useful cooking tool rarely sees its full potential - outdoor grills provide high, direct heat that’s ideal for cooking much more than beef. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
Pizzas, veggies and fish are perfect candidates, and with the lid closed, the oven-like environment makes it possible to ‘bake’ side dishes and cobblers off to one side, using indirect heat. The fact that cooking outdoors doesn’t heat up the house makes me want to use it all times of the day - including the morning, on weekends when we linger over breakfast.
Brunch is a great way to get together with family and friends and reconnect with your bare feet in the grass - and if you cook the whole thing on the grill, no one will be stuck inside in the kitchen. For breakfast, try cooking French toast on the grill; throw some chicken or breakfast sausages or a couple of ham steaks alongside, and top it all with warm, juicy grilled fruit.
Grilled French Toast
All types of bread work here, but make sure it’s cut thick - sourdough, multigrain, challah and raisin bread are all delicious, or try cinnamon buns, cut in half crosswise. Whichever bread you choose, it should be at least a day old - fresh bread tends to make mushy French toast.
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
1 tsp. (5 mL) vanilla (optional)
4 thick slices day-old bread
In a shallow bowl, stir the eggs, milk and vanilla together with a fork. Brush the grill with oil and preheat it to medium-high.
Dip each slice of bread in the egg mixture, coating both sides well and letting it soak in. Pick up the slices and let the excess egg drip off; then place them in a baking dish to take them outside. Sprinkle them with cinnamon if you like.
Grill the French toast on both sides; about 2 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second, flipping as necessary. Close the lid to create an oven environment, which will help them cook through. Serve them right away with syrup and fresh fruit, or keep them warm on the top rack of the grill or in a 200°F oven while you cook the rest. Serves 4.
Cut peaches and mangoes in half or in wedges. Pit them and place cut-side down on the grill until softened and grill-marked. For smaller, more fragile fruits, make a pocket of foil: tear off a square of aluminum foil, pile halved strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or other soft fruit in the middle and sprinkle with sugar. Pull the sides of the foil up and fold over to enclose the fruit; fold over the ends tightly as well. Toss directly onto the grill and flip occasionally until heated through. Open carefully and pour the warm, syrupy fruit over ice cream, cake or French toast.
Julie is a food editor for ParentsCanada, a best-selling cookbook author, food writer, cooking instructor and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio. Watch for her cooking show, It’s Just Food, with co-host Ned Bell on Access TV and CLT stations across Canada. For more information, visit www.dinnerwithjulie.com.
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