The day I got promoted from Garde Manger (salad/dessert station) to Grill, I was over the moon. It was 2004 or 2005 at The Olema Inn - now transformed into Sir & Star - and my chef Ed Vigil had really taken me under his wing, teaching an untrained rookie how to cook. He liked having me there because I was a college educated quick learner who was happy listening to NPR with him all day, and I liked it because - I was a line cook! Whether it was out of scheduling necessity or because I'd earned it, moving up to the new station opened up another world. I loved working the grill, keeping all of the temperatures straight, learning the hot spots, and generally feeling important. And then, a few months later, I decided to become a vegetarian.
I'm not sure if it was my hippy boyfriend at the time, or the Fairfax lifestyle I was living (kombucha was then a "new" product and I drank one daily) that made me do it, but working the grill was never the same. I went home absolutely reeking of porkchops and steaks every night. In some sick way I liked the powerful feeling of self control that it gave me. Sort of like the time I was on day four of the Master Cleanse and stabbed myself with an oyster shucker at work on the line. Self control or idiocy? The debate is open. Anyhow, all of this is a long winded way of saying that my relationship with grills has been long and complicated.
While my vegetarian period barely lasted a year, to this day, Nick and I do not eat a lot of meat. I never cook it at home, and we rarely go out, so that about sums it up. It's just not our thing. So grilling has never figured high in our repertoire - give me a 500 degree oven and a pile of vegetables and I'm a happy woman. But then last month when I got a craving to roast a whole fish, Nick said, "let's smoke it!". Now, when this man gets fixated on an idea it is a beautiful thing - shit gets done and it gets done right. We did a mini practice session one week, just the two of us, and then we had a group of friends over for the real deal the next weekend. I think it was the best dinner we've ever cooked.
Hot Smoked Mt Lassen Trout
stuffed with meyer lemon, fennel fronds & spring onions
Smoked New Potatoes
tarragon chive aioli
Chopped Salad of Snap Peas & Radishes
sheep feta, yogurt dressing, mint & basil
it's lasagne bread! This was inspired by the recent Saveur article on Sicily
sesame, umeboshi & rhubarb
I have now found my grill happy place. Nick tends the fire, I stuff fish, prep potatoes and hand them over. My hair still smells like a campfire at the end of the night. But damn that little Weber pumps out a fine meal. It seemed to make friends and small children happy too! With our kitchen remodel about to start, I have a feeling there will be a lot more of Lil' Smoky in our future. You and me, Grill, we're about to have a major reunion. I am ready.