Everybody's been there. You've picked out the perfect piece of meat to grill for dinner, you have a six pack of beer in the fridge, and you find yourself paging through recipes for fussy salads and side dishes that require about 100 ingredients and almost as many cooking methods. But creating a complete, colorful meal doesn’t have to be so complicated, especially when there's a fire in your grill.
Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, the chefs and owners of Portland's Ox, know this all too well. In their book, Around the Fire, they exalt the beauty of gracefully balancing grilled vegetables with meats. They shared with us a recipe for juicy grilled maitake mushrooms that will go splendidly with everything from salmon to grilled halloumi cheese and gave us some invaluable advice on pairing vegetables perfectly with meats.
"We love grilled radicchio with steak because its bitter juiciness cuts the richness of steak and goes perfectly with one of our favorite steak accompaniments, blue cheese. We really enjoy grilling peppers to serve with steak, both sweet and spicy ones. The sweetness of peppers, in addition to their acidity, serves as a nice counterpoint to steak."
"We tend to grill green vegetables with poultry. In the winter, escarole, in spring, snap peas and asparagus, and in summer and fall, green beans and zucchini. They are usually mild flavored vegetables that go well with the bright and zesty flavorings that we love to serve with poultry, such as olives, capers, anchovies, and tangy cheeses such as chevre and feta."
"We enjoy grilling hearty root vegetables with pork, such as par-cooked and then skewered new potatoes, sunchokes, or sweet potatoes, because they pair well with the bold flavored sauces that we enjoy serving with pork, such as a dijon mustard sauce or bacon-sherry cream."
"We love to lightly grill onions with sausage because their mild yet pungent flavor stands up to the bold seasonings of sausage, and the juicy crunch offsets the sausages' fattiness."
"One of our favorite accompaniments to fish (and shellfish too!) is a grilled artichoke. In addition to the great texture and flavor of an artichoke cooked on the grill, it just happens that our favorite artichoke dipping sauces, such as a zesty mayo or some garlicky drawn butter, are also some of the best accompaniments to foods from the sea."
Grilled Maitake Mushrooms with Smoked Sea Salt and Green Onions
- 1 pound maitake mushrooms 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1⁄2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon smoked sea salt, homemade or store-bought
- 6 green onions, thinly sliced
- Prepare a grill to high heat and be sure to carefully oil the grate.
- Trying to keep the mushrooms intact and in large pieces, drizzle with 1⁄4 cup of the oil and season with the kosher salt and pepper. Transfer the mushrooms to the hottest area of the grill, stem side up. Cook until well charred, 3 to 4 minutes; flip and grill on the other side (the stem side). (You do not need to cook the stem fully in this step.)
- Transfer the mushrooms, and any small pieces that might have fallen off, into a metal pan, such as a small cast-iron skillet or cazuela that can handle high heat. Place the pan directly onto the coals or atop the hottest area of the grill. Add the water, cover the pan loosely with foil or a lid, and let steam until the stems are tender, about 3 minutes. Remove the lid and cook until the liquid in the pan is mostly reduced, about 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat.
- To serve, transfer the mushrooms to plates and drizzle with the juices from the pan. Immediately garnish with the smoked sea salt, green onions, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil.
Reprinted with permission from Around the Fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting from Ox Restaurant by Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, with Stacy Adimando, copyright © 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography credit: Evan Sung © 2016