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Raichlen's Indoor! Grillingby Steven Raichlen
Q So why did a guy who's spent nearly a decade celebrating the glory of smoke and fire that is barbecue decide to write a book on indoor grilling?
A The short answer is easy. Because my editor, Suzanne Rafer, asked me to. Suzanne is an apartment dweller in Manhattan. Like millions of Americans, she lives in a major metropolitan area, where condominium regulations, municipal fire codes, or a simple lack of space make grilling outdoors illegal or impossible.
But apartment living isn't the only reason a book on grilling indoors makes sense.
Elsewhere in the country, arcic winter temperatures or grill-burying snowfall render wintertime grilling unfeasible, or at least unpleasant—although many diehard 'que heads don't let a little rain, snow, sleet, hail, or ice deter them from their appointed rounds at the grill.
Yet steaks still need to be grilled, salmon requires smoking, and chickens beg to be spit-roasted—even if you can't cook outdoors. Almost from the dawn of civilization, human ingenuity has contrived to bring the techniques of out-door live-fire cooking indoors.
Which brings me to the third reason I wrote this book: because indoor grilling belongs to a barbecue tradition that began with our earliest cave-dwelling ancestors. If it's likely that the first barbecue was accidental (a forest fire cooked a bison on the hoof and some prehistoric man or woman tasted and liked it), it's equally likely that the first deliberate act of grilling probably took place indoors. After all, archeologists have discovered Paleolithic cave sites containing the remains of flame-charred animal bones and cooking pits.
The ancient Greeks and Romans certainly grilled indoors. The hearth was literally and spiritually the focal point of the home. Indeed, our word focus comes from the Latin word for hearth. For that matter, so does the word for a popular Italian bread once cooked on the hearth—foccacia.
In medieval Europe, the fireplace served as the cooking center for the household. Capons and pullets were roasted on rotisseries in front of the fire. Some of these rotisseries were hand-cranked by scullions; others were powered by clockworks; and one particularly ingenious model—illustrated in an illuminated manuscript—used a small dog on a treadmill to turn the spit.
You may think of indoor grilling as being the province of newfangled gadgets, like the George Foreman contact grill, VillaWare panini machine, Showtime rotisserie, or Camerons stove-top smoker. These are, in fact, the latest manifestations of a spirit of indoor grill ingenuity that began the moment the first hominid roasted a haunch of meat in a fire pit in a cave.
Which brings me to the final reason I wrote this book—because it affords indoor and outdoor grillers alike an opportunity to expand our grilling horizons. There are some dishes you can make on an indoor grill that are difficult, if not impossible, outdoors. The short list would include panini and Cuban sandwiches, spit-roasted onions and artichokes, saganaki (Greek grilled cheese made in a grill pan), shad roe, and sugar-and-cinnamon-crusted banana "tostones" for dessert.
Surveys have shown that most people tend to grill the same three or four dishes over and over. If you're strictly an indoor griller, I hope this book wil help you expand your repertory and give you some bold new ideas for using your contact grill, grill pan, built-in grill, freestanding grill, fireplace, countertop rotisserie, and stove-top smoker. If you grill both indoors and outdoors—or even solely outdoors, I hope the book will still give you some fresh ideas.
As with all my books, I learned a lot, had fun, and ate well while writing it. I hope it will make you a better griller—whether you cook indoors, outdoors, or both.
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