The RV Chronicles — Johnny Cash, a teen flautist and Adam’s Little Astrodome (Recipe: Grilled Chuck Steak Salad)

There’s nothing like grilling to the sounds of Willie Nelson, the Foo Fighters and Johnny Cash. Throw in a little Roy Orbison and a 16-year-old flute player practicing Coldplay’s Clocks from the rear bedroom of an RV, and you have yourself a true cooking soundtrack.

Adam's Little Astrodome. And yes, that's cheap beer. When in Rome, or an RV park...

Adam’s Little Astrodome.  And yes, that’s cheap beer. When in Paris, Houston or an RV park…

The flautist (and piccolo player) is my baby girl. Alexandra decided to make the trip with me and live in the confines of the Jimmy Rockford (my name for our RV) until … whenever. I’m proud of her. She’s gone from marching in one of Texas’ most awarded military style high school marching bands to a sideways marching corps band. Her old band director treated the young musicians like U.S. Marine recruits. All I know about the new director came from my wife.

‘He’s nothing like a regular band director,’ Catherine announced to me when she was down this past week to help us get settled. ‘He’s actually nice!’

All of the appeal of the new band director aside, I have a nice new friend myself. I’m calling it Adam’s Little Astrodome. It’s my grill — a $7 clearance special at a camping store.

The last time I cooked on a dome grill like this was … never. But I couldn’t refuse the price and the fact that my bride has forbidden me from cooking with charcoal at our Chestnut Lane estate. She likes charcoal and all, but tired of our 6 o’clock dinners happening at 10 because of my bad ‘charcoal should be ready’ timing.

As it goes, my first dance with Adam’s Little Astrodome produced similar complaints from Baby Girl.

‘Dad … Dad … When’s dinner?’ she asked as I paced the floor of our four-foot kitchen.

‘Soon,’ I responded. ‘Before midnight. I promise.’

What can I say? Catherine was right. I had to finish off dinner in a frying skillet, just so my daughter could eat before low tide. But just you wait! Next time Bloody Mary Morning or Wheels is on the cooking soundtrack, I expect some nice crisscross grill marks … and dinner at a reasonable hour.


I sort of went back to my cooking roots with our first grilled meal along the Texas coast: Marinated grilled chuck steaks served over Butter Lettuce. The marinade? A $2 bottle of Italian dressing. When living in tight confines, one of the keys to successful cooking is stocking ingredients that are multi-purpose. Italian dressing — since it’s essentially oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and sweet peppers — is the quintessential basic marinade. As for the chuck steaks, I’ve always considered them among the most underrated cuts at the market. They have plenty of marbling and a rich flavor. Plus, they fall under the ‘your meat serving should be about the size of your palm’ philosophy.

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Grilled Chuck Steak Salad

Grilled Chuck Steak Salad — Simple. Healthy. Delicious.

Grilled Chuck Steak Salad — Simple. Healthy. Delicious.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Grilled Chuck Steak Salad
No secret ingredients here. Bottled Italian dressing and a few chuck steaks are all it takes to transform a simple salad into a delicious healthy meal.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
  • 4 - Chuck steaks (about 1 lb. total)
  • 4 cups - Butter or other lettuce
  • ¾ cup - Grape tomatoes, halved
  • ¾ cup - Bottled Italian dressing
  • ½ cup - Sharp Cheddar, shredded
  • Salad dressing of your choice, for topping the finished product
  1. In a zip-close bag or non-reactive dish, pour Italian dressing over steaks; place in refrigerator for 30 minutes to 6-8 hours.
  2. Prepare charcoal or gas grill; cook steaks as desired (the ones on the photo are medium).
  3. Allow cooked meat to sit for 5 minutes while you prepare the plates.
Preparing the plates
  1. Divide lettuce among four plates; top with cheese, tomatoes and dressing of your choice. (No worries. Your favorite dressing won't clash with the marinated-grilled steak).
  2. Slice steaks thinly against the grain and top salads.
  3. Enjoy!



  1. Catherine says:

    As a QVC shopper I hear the word quintessential used on just about every product they push! Honestly NOT EVERTHING is quintessential!!! BUT you are right about italian dressing.

    BTW your meat looks good 😉 <3

    • adamjholland says:

      I use quintessential sparingly, as you know. Sometimes I like the word textbook instead. I knew when I cut into this that you’d like it. Can’t wait to cook for you again. 🙂

  2. We love our ‘astrodome’! My honey puts the coals on around 5:30 in order to eat around 7:30 which usually works. We are picky about the doneness of meat though – no bleeding for us. We also added a rectangular grill to our equipment which works well when we’re grilling veggies too. Glad you have company on your adventure!

    • adamjholland says:

      Thanks, Connie. I’m way out of practice when it comes to cooking on coals. I might just add a rectangular grill soon enough. My next goal is to have a small table so that I can break out the propane stove to do outside frying. I’ll keep y’all in the know. 😉

  3. Looks delicious! I love the cheap grills because I only like charcoal when we cook out – unless I’m using the electric smoker………I love it best but you have to put the meat on the night before practically! Looks like you and the daughter are settling in just fine – you’ll have your old house sold in no time and next thing you know will be house hunting in between Texas Ranger games and University of Texas Games….and because I’m from North of the Red River you KNOW how hard it was for me to casually write UT anything! 🙂

    • adamjholland says:

      Thank you, Kelli. I’m not much of a Longhorns fan (unless they play any team in the SEC — or Oklahoma), and my Texas Rangers are a couple hundred miles up the road. The Astros are close by though, and so are the Sugarland Skeeters (an independent league team). I can travel a little while and also catch some minor league ball in Round Rock. So, there’s plenty more baseball around than where I came from. — In the mean time, I’ll be looking forward to the Friday Night Lights with the La Porte Bulldogs as my home team (and my daughter marching sideways with her flute at halftime).

  4. Yay Alexandra – she’s a trooper! My daughter would be asking you where the hell room service is and why they’re so late. (Love my little preciousness, no matter what). That chuck steak, Adam, is lacking absolutely nothing. Good job on the road.

    • adamjholland says:

      Oh, don’t think I haven’t gotten an earful about the whole room service thing. And thank you for your kind words about my meat.

  5. Janet Anderson says:

    Don’t you know the trick of starting your coals in a chimney?
    We started doing this before the chimney was invented, using 3-lb coffee cans with wedges cut out around the bottom with

    Remember when coffee came in actual cans and was good to the last drop?

    • adamjholland says:

      Indeed I do (and I did). I’m a chimney user from way back. The problem was … I forgot that I wasn’t cooking in a Dutch oven.

  6. Another great looking meal Adam – pinned. And I dearly love that little dome grill. But of course, orange is my favorite color.

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