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.
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
- 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
- In a zip-close bag or non-reactive dish, pour Italian dressing over steaks; place in refrigerator for 30 minutes to 6-8 hours.
- Prepare charcoal or gas grill; cook steaks as desired (the ones on the photo are medium).
- Allow cooked meat to sit for 5 minutes while you prepare the plates.
- 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).
- Slice steaks thinly against the grain and top salads.