Serious grillers know little limitation when it comes to cooking over an open flame. Just ask Roger Mooking, who travels the world uncovering the secrets of this spirited breed of chef as host of the Cooking Channel's "Man Fire Food." This season, which is set to debut next month, culinary adventures await from East to West, including California's Death Valley, where a steel worker has developed a talent for building BBQ grills in the shape of 30-by-20 foot dragons -- flames shooting from the mouth and all, Mooking explains.
Back at home, Mooking says he's something of a pitmaster himself. "I’m one of those wacky people who have their BBQ going in the middle of winter," Mooking told The Huffington Post. "I move my propane BBQ right to the back door of the patio," he says.
For the rest of us, Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial signal to light 'er up, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you do so, Mooking says.
"The really common mistake people make is wanting to cook really fast on a grill," according to Mooking. "They build a really big fire or they crank up the BBQ to high and they put the meat or whatever they’re cooking right over the hottest part," he says, adding that constantly moving the food around or flipping it too often is what leaves many grilled items burnt on the outside before they've had a chance to cook throughly on the inside. "Embrace the smoke," he suggests. "Most things do better with a little long, slow cooking over indirect heat."
Case in point: The salt-crusted white fish that Mooking says is one of his favorite alternatives to traditional BBQ fare.
"Get a wood plank, mix up a little salt, water or egg whites -- just enough to make a paste -- and then take a whole fish, say, snapper, fill the inside with some thyme, season it well with salt and pepper, a little bit of star anise, a little bit of lime, sliced up, and parsley," he describes for how to cook it. "Stuff the cavity and put that on top of the plank. Completely encase it in salt, making sure that there are no spaces on the wood plank, and place it over indirect heat on your grill. Let that go for about half an hour.
"The inside is going to set up that salt and form like a cement," he continues. "Bang it with the back of a spoon. When it cracks open you have this perfectly steamed fish on the inside. It’s really moist and tender, and perfectly seasoned."
To his summer cooking repertoire, Mooking adds apples that are tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and spicy chiles like jalapenos, and then grilled for 15 minutes over medium to high heat.
Here are five more of his favorite grilled dishes to try this Memorial Day and beyond, plus a sampling of Mooking's other love -- party-playlist-worthy music -- which he says he's been dabbling in for years. (And by dabbling he means picking up the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy for his membership in the soul trio, Bass Is Base.)
The follow-up to his debut album, "Soul Food," is set for release July 2. Season 2 of "Man Fire Food" premieres Monday, June 3rd at 9:30pm ET.
Marinade: Seeds of 1 large papaya 1 clove garlic, minced Zest and juice of 1 lime Zest and juice of 1 lemon 1/4 cup canned coconut cream, skimmed from the top of the can* 2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro leaves 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts Papaya BBQ Sauce: 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1 sweet onion, finely diced 3/4 cup sugar 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, seeded, deveined and quartered Zest and juice of 2 limes Zest and juice of 1 lemon 1 cup water 1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar 5 cups large diced papaya 2 teaspoons kosher salt Chicken 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more as needed 4 marinated boneless, skinless chicken breasts (as per marinade recipe above) 1/4 cup Papaya BBQ Sauce, recipe follows 1/4 cup Spiced Cashew Nuts, coarsely chopped, recipe follows 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish, optional *Cook's Note: Reserve the rest of the coconut cream for the Coconut Rice recipe, if serving. For the marinade: In a bowl, combine the papaya seeds, garlic, lime zest, lime juice, lemon zest, lemon juice, coconut cream, cilantro, and ginger, and mix thoroughly. Add the chicken breasts to the bowl, and toss to coat in the marinade. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to marinate for a minimum of 1 hour or up to 24 hours. For the BBQ sauce: Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat, and add in the onion. Cook, until the onions are translucent, stirring continuously to ensure the pieces do not brown. Sprinkle the sugar, scotch bonnet, lime zest, and lemon zest over the onions, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Pour in the lime juice, lemon juice, water and vinegar. Bring the ingredients to a boil. Add in the diced papaya, and adjust the seasonings with the salt, if desired. Bring the mixture to a boil again, reduce the heat, and allow the mixture to simmer for 15 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, and let the mixture cool slightly. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender, and puree the sauce until smooth. Transfer the BBQ sauce to a bowl, and set aside. For the chicken: Heat and a grill over medium-high heat and lightly grease the grate with oil. Remove the chicken from the marinade, and lay the breasts on the hot grill. Discard the marinade. Baste each chicken breast with 2 tablespoons Papaya BBQ Sauce, and continue grilling, turning once and basting occasionally with the remaining sauce, until the meat is cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and garnish the chicken with the chopped Spiced Cashew Nuts and cilantro leaves, if using. Recipe courtesy Roger Mooking
Tahini Grilled Salmon: Vegetable oil, for grilling 1/4 cup soy sauce 1/4 cup tahini One 20-ounce salmon fillet, cut into 5-ounce portions, skin removed and reserved Crispy Salmon Skin: Reserved salmon skin Salt and freshly ground black pepper Sauteed Spinach: 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 clove garlic, minced 1 shallot, minced 1 bunch spinach, stems removed and washed Salt and freshly ground black pepper Beets with Sesame Seeds: 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 2 tablespoons salt 2 tablespoons sugar 3 large beets 1 cup sesame seeds Eggplant Puree: 2 large eggplants, cut in half lengthwise, flesh scored 1/3 cup tahini 2 tablespoons olive oil Tahini Sauce: 1/2 cup sour cream 1/3 cup milk 1/4 cup tahini 1 tablespoon honey 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil Juice of 1/2 lemon Salt For the tahini grilled salmon: Preheat the grill to medium and lightly oil the grates. Mix the soy sauce and tahini in a bowl. Brush the salmon on both sides with the tahini soy sauce and place on the grill. Cook the salmon for about 3 minutes on each side and remove from the grill. For the crispy salmon skin: Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Sprinkle the salmon skin with salt and pepper and place on the grill skin-side down. Once the skin begins to bubble, flip and grill until the salmon skin is completely crisp. Remove the salmon skin from the grill, place on a paper towel, cut in half and set aside. For the sauteed spinach: Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and shallots and saute until tender. Add the spinach and toss to incorporate until the spinach has wilted. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. For the beets with sesame seeds: Place the red wine vinegar, salt, sugar and beets in a pot filled with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the beets from the liquid and cool slightly. Wearing gloves, remove the skins of the beets and cut into bite-size pieces. Before serving, place the beets on a plate and sprinkle with sesame seeds. For the eggplant puree: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place the eggplant skin-side up on the prepared tray and roast until the eggplant has caramelized and cooked, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and scoop the flesh into a food processor. Add the tahini and olive oil and puree until smooth. For the tahini sauce: Place the sour cream, milk, tahini, honey, sesame oil, lemon juice and salt to taste in a bowl and stir to incorporate. Cover and place in the fridge until serving. To assemble: Spoon the eggplant puree in the center of a plate. Place the sauteed spinach on top of the puree. Place the tahini grilled salmon over the sauteed spinach. Drizzle the tahini sauce around the center of the dish. Scatter the beets with sesame seeds around the plate. Garnish with the crispy salmon skin. Recipe courtesy Roger Mooking
Shrimp and Pork Filling: 1 teaspoon vegetable oil 12 ounces ground pork 1 shallot, diced 1 clove garlic, diced 1 green chile, chopped 2 tablespoons ground cumin 2 teaspoon smoked paprika 15 (21/25 count) shrimp, shelled, deveined and coarsely chopped 1/2 cup canned water chestnuts, rinsed, drained and diced Pinch sugar 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro stems Zest and juice of 1 lime Salt Tomato Salsa: 3 plum tomatoes, diced 2 green onions, chopped Juice of 1/2 lime 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves picked and stems chopped Pinch sugar Salt Creamed Avocado: 2 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and chopped Juice of 2 1/2 limes 1/4 bunch green onion, chopped 2 tablespoons sugar 1/4 cup sour cream Salt Assembling Shrimp and Pork Tacos: 8 soft tortilla shells, warmed over grill or in microwave for 30 seconds Fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish Salt For the shrimp and pork filling: In a cast iron pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Place the pork in the pan and saute until brown and caramelized. Once the pork has browned, add the shallots, garlic, and chiles, cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cumin and smoked paprika and stir. Add the shrimp and stir. Once the shrimp has turned pink, add the water chestnuts and stir. Add the sugar, cilantro stems, lime zest and juice, remove from heat. For the tomato salsa: Put the tomatoes and green onions in a small bowl. Add the lime juice, cilantro leaves and stems and mix. Season the salsa with sugar and salt. For the creamed avocado: Put the avocados in a bowl, add the lime juice and chopped green onion. Add the sugar and sour cream. Mash until the mixture is incorporated. Season with salt. To assemble the shrimp and pork tacos: Place the tortilla shells on a plate. Divide the pork and shrimp filling among the tortilla shells. Spoon the filling in the center of the taco. Spoon the creamed avocado and tomato salsa over the tortilla shells. Garnish with cilantro. Recipe courtesy Roger Mooking
Black Eyed Peas with Rice 1 teaspoon vegetable oil 1 reserved red onion core, finely diced 3 cloves garlic, minced Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 1/4 cups parboiled (long grain) rice 2 1/4 cups water 1 (15-ounce) can black eyed peas, rinsed and drained Bunch fresh mint, stemmed Tamarind Sauce 1 teaspoon coriander seeds 1/2 cinnamon stick 2 (7-ounce) packages tamarind paste* 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk Juice of 1 grapefruit 1 1/2 cups water 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 tablespoon smashed fresh ginger Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper *Can be found at specialty Asian markets Marinade 1 shallot, diced 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper 1 (2-pound) boned lamb leg, silver skin removed and diced into 1-inch cubes Lamb Kebabs 1 medium red onion, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes* Bunch fresh mint Kosher salt Black Eyed Peas and Rice, recipe follows Special Equipment: wooden skewers, soaked in water *Cook's Note: Reserve the inner core of the red onion for the Black Eyed Peas and Rice recipe For the tamarind sauce: Put the coriander seeds and cinnamon stick into a saucepan and toast over medium heat for 1 minute. Stir in the tamarind, coconut milk, grapefruit juice, water, sugar, ginger, salt, and pepper to taste, breaking up the tamarind with a spoon. Bring the ingredients to a boil, and then reduce the mixture to a simmer. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Strain the sauce into a bowl, and adjust the seasonings with salt, and black pepper, to taste. For the marinade: Combine the shallot, ginger, garlic, oil, and black pepper in a bowl, and mix. Add the lamb pieces to the mixture and toss to coat evenly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 24 hours. For the kebabs: Preheat a grill to medium-high and lightly oil the grates. Assemble the kebabs by threading 1 piece of red onion onto a wooden skewer that has been soaked in water, followed by 1 piece of lamb through the same skewer, so the meat is resting on the red onion. Skewer the mint stems and leaves, wrapping them around the red onion and the lamb. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Grill the kebabs until the lamb is medium-rare, approximately 10 to 12 minutes, turning frequently. Transfer the kebabs to a serving platter and serve with the Tamarind Sauce and the Black Eyed Peas and Rice. Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook until the onion is translucent. Season the mixture with salt, and pepper, to taste. Add the rice, stirring to coat the grains in the oil. Pour in the water, and stir to separate the rice. Bring the ingredients to a boil, and at this point, reduce the heat to a simmer, and place a lid over the pot. Cook the rice until tender, about 15 minutes. Add the black eyed peas to the pot 5 minutes before the end of the cooking process. Transfer the finished dish to a bowl, let it cool slightly, and garnish with the mint. Recipe courtesy Roger Mooking
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the grates 1/3 cup butter, melted 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns, coarsely ground 3 tablespoons brown sugar 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 3/4-inch thick rounds (about 2 pounds) Kosher salt Preheat a grill to medium-high and lightly oil the grates. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a small pot, melt the butter with the garlic and Sichuan peppercorns over low heat. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Sprinkle over the brown sugar, and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, stir and remove from the heat. Toss the sweet potatoes in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and season with salt, to taste. Grill the sweet potato slices on both sides, achieving grill marks. Transfer the grilled rounds to a baking dish and spoon the garlic butter mixture over the sweet potatoes. Roast the potatoes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are tender and cooked through. Recipe courtesy Roger Mooking