Getting all fired up for Winter Grilling

If my grill wasn’t covered with snow—if I’d had the foresight to have kept it dug out this winter—man, would I be eating good tonight.

For too many of us who love grilling (and I plead guilty to being in this category), winter is the time when our favorite method of cooking goes into hibernation. But that doesn’t have to be so. What if the delectable bouquets of our favorite grilled foods could mingle with the unique aromas of wintertime?

One volume that could help make this aromatic and gastronomic feat come to life through the frigid winter months is Tom Heinzle’s Winter Grilling (Whitecap, 2014), a cookbook that shows us how to grill some unique winter dishes accompanied by mouth-watering seasonal sides. Got a hankering for venison or hare? Here’s how to grill them up alongside pumpkin, turnips or sweet chestnuts. (Don’t worry, traditionalists—there are recipes for chicken, beef, pork and fish as well.) And the book has you covered from appetizers (such as bacon-wrapped cheese cubes) all the way through dessert (grilled figs and chocolate nut cupcakes with apples).

Heinzle is an award-winning Austrian grillmaster, so many of these recipes have a decidedly European taste (in fact, the recipe below calls for “speck”—an Italian dry-cured, lightly smoked ham. If you can’t find it, you can substitute pancetta or slab bacon). But one of the joys of grilling—as in all of cooking—is adapting recipes to suit individual tastes and local food availability.

There are a number of helpful hints to keep in mind when winter grilling, many of which are included in the book. For example, gas grills use significantly more gas in the winter than they do in the summer. To cut down on the gas consumption, it helps to keep your grill in a sunny, wind-protected spot. NEVER grill in the garage for safety reasons. And during this season of snow, ice, slush and mud, always be extra certain that your grill is positioned on a secure surface.

So go ahead—dig out that grill and fire it up. Not only will you impress the neighbors (who will all salivate at the aroma of freshly grilled food), but you’ll have a unique and sumptuous dinner to enjoy on a cold winter’s night.

Barbary Duck Breast with Creamed Cabbage

For the marinade:Duck Breast with Creamed Cabbage

  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon

Ingredients:

  • marinade
  • 1 small duck breast
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 head cabbage
  • 1/4 cup speck
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cups whipping cream

Combine soy sauce, ginger, honey, and cinnamon to make the marinade. Score the fat layer of the duck breasts in a diamond pattern, taking care not to cut into the meat. Season the meat on all sides with the paprikas, salt and pepper. Place the breasts fat side down on the grill and, using indirect heat, cook at 175 degrees for about 45 minutes. Turn meat, brush fat side with the marinade, and grill over direct heat with the lid closed at about 350 degrees for ten minutes.

Finely slice cabbage. In a cast-iron pot, fry speck and onion until browned. Add cabbage and deglaze with cream. Cook for about ten minutes, then season to taste with salt and smoked paprika. Thinly slice duck breast and serve on creamed cabbage.

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Michael Ruscoe is a writer, teacher, and musician living in Southern Connecticut. He is the author of the novel, "From the Stray Cat Files: You’ll Do Anything," the anthology, "Baseball: A Treasury of Art and Literature," and numerous educational texts. An instructor at Southern Connecticut State University, Ruscoe is also lead singer and songwriter for the indie band Save the Androids! In his spare time he earns karma for his next life by ardently following the New York Mets. The proud father of two children, Ruscoe also cares for and supports a pair of goldfish, who, in all honesty, are not very good conversationalists.