By Aimee Blume
Backyard fire pits have become very popular — and if you have one, there’s no reason not to cook on it. We’re having a blast with ours and just purchased some very large and heavy-duty hot-dog roasting forks.
But why stick with hot dogs and marshmallows when it comes to toasting forks?
If you get some nice sturdy ones, you can cook nearly anything you’d grill right over the fire pit or campfire. A whole meal for one person can fit on one toasting fork.
You can use the prongs as skewers for shish kebab. Stack pieces of sausage, chunks of beef or chicken with cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, chunks of pepper — anything you’d put on a kebab — and toast it right over the embers, no grill or grate necessary.
Larger items, such as chicken breasts and even strip steaks, can be speared crosswise so both tongs penetrate the food. Then it can be turned over the heat with no danger of it spinning or slipping off the fork.
If you want to do “hot dogs,” try a really interesting variety, such as smoked sausages or imported Polish kielbasa, or fat knockwurst or mettwurst.
Start with the longest-cooking items, such as chicken legs or stuffed chicken breasts. After they have cooked for a few moments, add quicker-cooking items such as strip steak or shrimp, parboiled carrots, precooked potatoes or fresh sausage, and continue to cook, then finish up with quick-cooking goodies such as corn on the cob or buttered wedges of fresh cabbage.
For added interest, brush ingredients with seasoned butter while grilling or (of course) wrap with bacon.
Using a grilling fork means you can make minute adjustments to the heat your food is receiving; move it up or down for more- or less-intense heat. If food is blackening before it’s cooked in the center, raise the fork higher above the flames. If the food is staying cold and nothing is happening, lower the fork.
Adjust the fork from side to side to let thicker portions of food cook over the hottest part of the fire while the thinner ends stay cooler and don’t dry out, or rotate it to gives the outer tips a bit of time in the hot spot.
A full-meal-loaded fork can be heavy. Take the old fisherman’s trick of sticking a forked stick into the ground at the edge of the fire for propping up the fork, then set back and enjoy a nice summer beverage while keeping an eye on your dinner.
(Aimee Blume writes for The Evansville Courier & Press in Indiana.)
Whole glazed carrots
4 large carrots, peeled
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
Freshly ground black pepper
Putting it together:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and cook carrots until barely tender. Drain.
Place carrots crosswise on large grilling fork and cook well above flames.
In a small bowl, mix the butter, honey, fresh sage, pepper and salt to taste. When the carrots are lightly brown and tender, brush with the glaze, turning often and repeating, until the carrots are caramelized and very tender.
Cajun butterd corn
8 medium ears sweet corn
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
Putting it together:
Clean corn and begin cooking on grill or fork over the fire. Cook just until kernels begin to brown in places.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter. Stir in the Cajun seasoning, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne; cook and stir for 1 minute. Combine cornstarch and broth until smooth; gradually whisk into butter mixture. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Drain corn; serve with seasoned butter mixture
Nutritional Analysis: 1 ear of corn with 1-1/2 teaspoons seasoned butter equals 105 calories, 4 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 8 mg cholesterol, 63 mg sodium, 18 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 3 g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1 starch, 1/2 fat.
— Adapted from Taste of Home
Cajun stuffed chicken breasts
2 fresh Andouille-style sausages, removed from casings, or about 8 ounces fresh uncased sausage (substitute fresh chorizo if you like)
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, large enough to spear both ends on the tongs of your grilling fork
2 tablespoons butter or oil
Cajun seasoning and salt to taste
Putting it together:
In a large frying pan, fry the sausage and onion together, crumbling the sausage. Drain well and add parsley.
Take the chicken breasts and, starting from the most narrow end, cut a pocket into the flesh. The opening should be on the narrow end only. Stuff the breasts with equal amounts of chorizo-onion mixture. This works best if the stuffing is still warm when you put it in the chicken. Make sure to cook immediately. If not cooking immediately, chill filling and chicken well.
Thread chicken onto grilling forks, using one tine to skewer shut the opening. Brush with butter or oil and sprinkle liberally with Cajun seasoning, and cook over the flames, until the chicken is firm when pressed and both chicken meat and stuffing have reached 165 on a meat thermometer.