You would think if you’re dining on dishes from “Weber’s Ultimate Grilling” by
James Beard Award nominee Jamie Purviance, your favorite would be the steak. You would be wrong. As mouthwatering and craveable as that steak was, the most popular dish by far at a recent launch of this cookbook, hosted by Melissa’s Produce, was the grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Chard and Feta. Good thing Melissa’s is so generous with their buffet. We all made a beeline for seconds!
“Weber’s Ultimate Grilling” is the 17th cookbook for Purviance, who developed his love of grilling when traveling through Southeast Asia. “A lot of folks there have just outdoor kitchens,” he said. “I love being around fire.”
With 125 recipes, from the usual suspects—meat, chicken, fish and veggies—to rubs, marinades, sauces, appetizers, even desserts, this classroom-in-a-cookbook allows even beginners to easily reproduce these flavorful recipes, what Purviance calls “flavor bombs.” Detailed photographs accompany each recipe—10 for the stuffed Portobellos alone—with over 800 in the book. The cookbook’s subtitle: “A Step-by-Step Guide to Barbecue Genius” says it all. Purviance takes you by the hand and shows you what each step looks like. As Weber’s master griller for over 20 years, he has proved himself a master teacher as well, peppering his demonstration with valuable tips as he prepared several dishes from Melissa’s menu. Here are just a few:
“A common mistake is filling up the grill,” he cautioned. “Give yourself room. I like to have a little bit of indirect area, keeping at least 25 percent empty. You don’t need a traffic jam on the grill. Another common mistake is using direct heat for everything. Indirect heat is so valuable, for example, when grilling a whole chicken.” The Chicken Adobo we sampled that day uses both direct and indirect heat. “Match the heat to the meat. News alert—a chicken breast is not a piece of steak. Use a thermometer. They have these grill probes now that work with your phone, so you don’t even have to lift the lid. You can just check your phone.
“Preheat the grill for at least 10 to 15 minutes,” he advised. “Then if you’re using indirect heat, turn off the burner on one side or move the charcoal.”
One revelation for me was that barbecue sauce should be applied in the last 15 to 20 minutes’ cooking time. “And don’t use too much,” he said. “The meat is the star. My pet peeve is putting it on like toothpaste. But season like you mean it. Salt is the most important ingredient in cooking. People underdo it.”
We learned that we can grill the entire meal, even dessert, like the Grilled Pineapple with Blackberry Sauce featured here that we sampled that day. “Use this recipe in summertime when blackberries are at their sweetest,” writes Purviance. “Using precut fresh pineapple means this recipe comes together quickly. Place the skewered cubes over direct heat, with the exposed ends of the bamboo wrapped in aluminum foil to prevent the wood from burning.”
Did you know you can grill a pie? “For the Summer Berry Crostata, place a pizza stone in the middle of the grill and use that to bake,” he suggested. “You don’t have to go back to the kitchen for dessert.” Charcoal? Gas? It’s a matter of flavor. “Personally I’m not a fan of lighter fluid,” he quipped. “I know a lot of people who think if it doesn’t taste like petroleum it’s not barbecue. I am a charcoal guy. I was drawn into it because of the charcoal.”
Here’s another important tip: “Keep a lid on it. A lid keeps the weather out, maintains the proper temperature, and speeds up the overall cooking time. It takes longer without it, and you lose moisture. A lid traps the smoke and prevent flare-ups.”
Most of us are probably guilty of this one: flipping too soon. “Don’t fiddle so much, especially with fish. In order for fish to come cleanly off the grate and form a crust, let it go a little longer than you think, 70 percent on the first side and 30 percent for the second side. Wiggle it. If it’s not releasing, close the lid and leave it.”
Using the right tool can be a game changer. For example, “A cookie sheet with holes allows for the flavor of the smokiness to come through. Grilling sturdy greens like chard is easy when you have a perforated pan to keep them from falling between the grate bars.”
Purviance’s passion for grilling came through in person as it does in his book. “My backyard is my haven,” he said. “I’m eight years old again and they’re making hamburgers, and life is good.”
- Portobello Mushrooms with Chard and Feta
Yield: 4 Servings
4 large Portobello mushrooms, each 3 to 4 ounces, stem and gills removed
- Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing, plus 1 tablespoon
- 1 very large bunch Swiss chard, 12 to 14 ounces, rinsed
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
- ½ cup coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese (about 2 ounces)
- ¼ cup plus 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 small scallions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg, or several fresh grindings whole nutmeg
- 1/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- Ground black pepper
- Prepare grill for direct cooking over high heat (450° to 550°F).
- Brush large perforated grill pan with oil. Stack wet chard leaves in prepared pan. Grill over direct heat, with lid closed, until greens begin to wilt, 5 to 6 minutes, turning once or twice. Remove from grill. Cut off stems and discard. Twist leaves to wring out excess moisture. Coarsely chop greens. You should have a generous 1 cup.
- In medium bowl mix together chopped greens, feta, mozzarella, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, mayonnaise, scallions, garlic, and nutmeg.
- In small bowl mix together panko, remaining 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Stir 1 tablespoon of panko mixture into greens filling. Season filling to taste with pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon).
- Divide greens filling evenly among mushrooms, then pat to fill to edges. Sprinkle remaining panko mixture evenly over filling. Place mushrooms on same grill pan. Grill over direct high heat with lid closed until cheese melts and topping is deep brown, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to plates and serve.
Grilled Pineapple with Blackberry Sauce
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 12 ounces fresh blackberries (about 2 2/3 cups), plus a handful more for garnish (optional)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon water or rum
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons raw shelled pistachios (optional)
- 4 peeled, fresh pineapple slices, each 1 inch thick and cored
- Canola oil
- 4 large fresh mint leaves, very thinly sliced (optional)
- In food processor combine berries, sugar, water and lemon juice and purée until smooth. Do not over-process or you’ll break up the tiny seeds, which can be bitter. Using a rubber spatula, force the purée through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Discard seeds. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- If using the pistachios, in small skillet over medium-high heat, stir pistachios until lightly toasted, 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer to cutting board, let cool, and then chop finely. Prepare grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F).
- Cut each pineapple slice into six equal chunks and thread them onto 4 skewers, dividing them evenly and making sure the flat side of each chunk faces out for optimal grill marks. Brush pineapple chunks lightly with oil.
- If using bamboo skewers, cut 8 small pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Wrap each piece around the ends of skewers so they don’t burn while grilling. Brush cooking grates clean.
Place skewers over direct medium heat and grill, with lid closed, until pineapple is well grill-marked and warm, 5 to 10 minutes, turning a couple of times to mark both sides. Remove from grill. Serve skewers with blackberry sauce. Top with whole blackberries, if using, and sprinkle with mint and pistachios, if using. Serve right away.
SOURCE: “Weber’s Ultimate Grilling” by Jamie Purviance (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26.99)
JLIFE FOOD EDITOR JUDY BART KANCIGOR is the author of “Cooking Jewish” (Workman) and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook” (an e-book short from Workman), a columnist and feature writer for the Orange County Register and other publications and can be found on the web at