I got an early birthday present from my girlfriend, Becky, this week. A new grill! For the last 8 years I have been cooking on what is arguably the greatest charcoal grill ever made, The Weber Performer. But several winters back an 80-pound chunk of snow fell off the roof and bent my beloved grill. I had been limping along, making it work....but, alas, the time had come to move on.
So what grill does one get to replace the legendary Weber Performer? The answer is so simple....another Weber Performer! But when I got home and started playing with the grill, I saw that Weber had made a bunch of brilliant changes. First, the grill was taller, making it easier to work on. The plastic work table had been replaced with a larger steel table.
The front of the table now has a removable timer. The rack that used to hold the lid made the cover tilt over the work surface of the grill at a 45º angle, which made half of the grill inaccessible. Now that rack holds the lid at a 90º angle and the entire grill space is open. Everything I loved about the old performer is still there. Propane heat to light your charcoal. Under-the-table charcoal bin. One step cleaning of ashes. Etc.
But there were two, new improvements that blew me away. The first is the new, easy remove ash catcher. Before, you had to twist the handle to get 3 prongs to release. Then once cleaned, you had to get down on your knees to align the prongs to reattach it. Total pain in the ass. On the new grill, you just squeeze the handle and the ash catcher swings down and off. To reattach, you just squeeze the handle and swing it up into place. No need to get on your knees anymore! (at least not for your grill)
But here is my favorite new feature. It's what Weber calls their Gourmet BBQ system. The center of the grill comes out and there are a whole bucketload of accessories that can slide in there. Pizza stones. Woks. Beer-butt chicken holders. But my favorite is the cast iron searing rack. Nothing holds heat and sears like cast iron. You just center your charcoal in the grill and set the searing rack over them. And the pattern of the searing rack gives you perfect grill marks without having to rotate your meat!
So thanks to Becky for encouraging to move on to what is now, unquestionably, the world's greatest charcoal grill. As a small token of thanks I'm going to make her this Grilled Steak and Arugula Salad this week. This recipe serves four.
2 New York strip steaks, 12-16 oz each, 11/2 inches thick
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh cracked black peppercorns
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
8 ounces baby arugula
4 ounce chunk of Parmesan cheese
- Prepare a charcoal grill for direct cooking over high heat.
- Pat dry the steaks with paper towels. Brush the steaks lightly all over with the vegetable oil. Combine the kosher salt and cracked peppercorns on a plate and roll the filets on all sides in the mixture, pressing lightly to help the salt and pepper adhere. The steaks should be evenly coated with the mixture.
- Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.
- When the grill is ready, place the steaks on the grill. Cook them for 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Remove to a plate, cover tightly with foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing thickly.
- Toss the arugula in a large bowl with enough of the dressing to moisten; divide among 4 plates. Place several slices of steak on top of each salad. Shave the Parmesan onto each steak with a vegetable peeler, sprinkle with salt, and serve hot.
Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon