I have noticed two things with respect to cooking: like anything else, you get better at it with practice, and you become more willing to expand your horizons both in terms of what you attempt to cook and what you’re willing to eat. In particular, I have noticed that grilling is getting easier and easier. The meals I cook I’m cooking more effectively, and more by “feel” than ever before. I’m also more willing to try interesting/complicated recipes, and they are coming out even better than I would have hoped.
Here’s a perfect example; I recently cooked grilled chicken with a spicy strawberry and Hershey’s chocolate barbecue sauce. Chili Pepper Magazine had an article in this month’s issue entitled “Heat Meets Sweet in Hershey,” which chronicled the culinary efforts of chef Ken Gladysz at the Hershey Hotel in Pennsylvania. The article was accompanied to the by several very interesting recipes that involved the use of Hershey’s chocolate. I selected the grilled chicken because of the combination of strawberry and chocolate in the barbecue sauce. Not only did it sound fascinating, it also appeared to be an unusual recipe that I would also be able to convince my children to eat!
Given that I wanted my kids to enjoy this meal as well, I went a little light on the Fresno chiles, so the barbecue sauce is likely even more sweet than the recipe called for. Nevertheless, the combination of the chili peppers, garlic, tomatoes, strawberries, and chocolate (in addition to the other ingredients) came out tasting fantastic. Not only that, the sauce was not particularly hard to make. One mistake I frequently made in my early years of grilling was to put the barbecue sauce onto the meat too soon. Given the amount of sugar in barbecue sauce (particularly this version!) I waited Until the chicken was just about finished cooking. I used bone-in chicken breast, allowed to reach room temperature prior to cooking, and brushed with a generous amount of olive oil prior to being placed on the grill. I used medium-direct heat, which allowed the chicken to cook evenly without taking too long. I basted at the chicken with a bit of the barbecue sauce and allowed it to cook for one more minute before serving. Believe me, there was plenty of extra sauce to add at your discretion.
Need this meal and particularly appealing visually was the black bean succotash, whose recipe was included in the same section of the magazine. The succotash included garlic, onion, lima beans, black beans, various bell peppers (I used green, red, orange, and yellow for effect), and fresh cilantro. Fresh cilantro wins me over every time! The succotash is cooked just long enough to make the vegetables tender, and then the chicken is served on top to create a very appealing plate. A few shavings of the pepper can be added to the top of the chicken for even more color.
The chicken was perfect for this particular sauce, as it allowed the sauce to dominate. The tomatoes, strawberries, and chocolate combined surprisingly well, that were not so sweet as to be overbearing. To drink, we had a bottle of Grand Pacific's Starliner White (2005), which complemented the sweet barbecue sauce rather nicely. Overall, an excellent meal, especially in the summer (and f