As American as baseball, the Fourth of July and burgers on the grill

in Nonfiction by

Along with millions of our fellow Americans across the length and breadth of this great nation, Grill Daddy celebrates his Fourth of July by tuning in to a baseball game on the radio and throwing some meat on the grill. But this year, he’s doing it Nolan Ryan coverwith Nolan Ryan, Hall of Fame pitcher, cattle rancher, and author of The Nolan Ryan Beef & Barbecue Cookbook: Recipes From a Texas Kitchen.

Ryan, of course, is the former flame-throwing hurler who spent his illustrious career pitching for the New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, and Texas Rangers. In this book, he rounds up his favorite recipes for cooking beef—lots of beef—over the open flame of the Nolan Ryan Speed Checkbackyard grill. “In deciding to write this cookbook, I wanted to share my love for Texas barbecue,” Ryan writes in the book’s introduction. “Our goal is to liberate any chef to make good choices based on personal preferences, what’s in the pantry, what’s within the budget, and who is on the guest list for brunch, lunch, or dinner.”

So if you love beef…well, you’ve come to the right place, cowpoke. Featured in the book is an all-star line-up of beef-centric recipes including Grilled T-Bone with Tequila-Chipotle Butter Sauce, Rib-Eye with Sriracha-Soy Marinade, Grilled Texas Strip Steak, and Chilled Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Cream of Horseradish. They’re joined by such dishes as Tuscan Roast Beef, Beer-Braised Country Ribs, Barbacoa Brisket, and Cowboy Steak with Poblano Pepper Sauce. Heck, even the Cobb Salad has sirloin strips in it.

Citris Avacado salad
Citrus-infused Avocado Salad

If you want to celebrate a beef-less Fourth of July, though, don’t worry—one of baseball’s all-time great power pitchers can still throw you a change-up now and then. The book includes a collection of meatless dishes, including Lone Star Pecan Apple Salad, Citrus-infused Avocado Salad with Tortilla Chips, Feta & Tomato Salad with Greek Vinaigrette, and a traditional Green Bean Casserole. Ruth Ryan even comes out of the bullpen to help her husband with her Chilled Asparagus & Mozzarella Platter, and for dessert, her Special Occasion Carrot Cake.

But for Independence Day, we stuck with our home-field favorites: burgers and dogs. We tried out Nolan Ryan’s Grilled American Burger (recipe below) and the Texas Ranger Dog with Bacon, Pico de Gallo, Green Relish, and Sautéed Onions. These are both amazing variations on the traditional backyard grill classics, each one exploding with flavors that out-dazzle any fireworks display. The burger is a savory miracle on a bun, while the hot dog, wrapped in two crispy, sizzling slices of bacon and smothered with sautéed onions, is a decadent delight. They satiated everyone from my pickiest eater to my most voracious diner, the latter of whom called the pico de gallo “stick-your-face-in-it good.”

While he may have gone to Cooperstown on the strength of seven no-hitters and a big-league best 5,714 strikeouts, Nolan Ryan is a Hall of Famer in my home thanks to his Beef & Barbecue Cookbook. Step up to the plate on this Fourth of July with one of these great recipes, and you’re guaranteed to knock it out of the park!

NOLAN RYAN’S GRILLED AMERICAN BURGER

Ingredients

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 4 pounds ground chuck (80/20 meat-to-fat ratio)
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup Montreal steak seasoning
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 8 hamburger buns, toasted

1)     Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

2)     Cook the bacon on a baking sheet until crisp, about 15 minutes. Drain off the fat and pat the bacon dry with paper towels. Chop the bacon into very small (1/16-inch pieces).

3)     In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, cheese, chopped bacon, seasoning, and eggs with a large serving fork and spatula. Finish mixing with your hands, but do not overmix.

4)     Form the mixture into 8 patties and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. The patties should be no more than ¾ of an inch thick, or they will take too long to cook. Refrigerate the patties for 30 minutes to allow the seasoning to flavor the meat.

5)     Preheat the grill or a grill pan to medium-high. If using a grill, lightly oil the grill grates.

6)     Cook the patties (in batches, if necessary) for 5 minutes per side, or until done to your liking.

7)     Serve the patties on toasted buns.

DRINK RECOMMENDATIONS

sunlight cream ale
Sunlight Cream Ale

As we’ve been telling you all summer, a delicious glass of wine is perfectly appropriate with a grilled meal and this week is no exception. For hamburgers and hot dogs, a red Zinfandel, perhaps from California, would work best. Its rich, fruity flavor would stand up particularly well to the bold flavors of the burgers and dogs featured in this week’s column.

2011-05-31-RedRocketBeer
RedRocket Ale

But if it’s the Fourth of July we’re talking about, perhaps a made-in-America ice-cold beer might be more appropriate for your cookout. If that’s where your tastes lie, you might try a cream ale, such as Sunlight or Katie’s, with your hot dog. Your hamburger could be washed down with an American amber ale. Some of the best ones are Lucky 13 and Red Rocket.

Of course, the most important ingredient to a successful meal is the company you share it with, so be sure to enjoy your Fourth of July cookout with your favorite family and friends. Here’s to a wonderful meal!

Grill Daddy is a pro with tongs who has been cooking up summertime feasts for family and friends for more than 20 years. The Big Chill is our libations expert. An international wine importer and expert by day, by night he helps friends, such as you, get their chill on—big time.

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