To really get an outdoor celebration going, few activities beat firing up the ol’ grill. You know this in your heart, but are you feeling torn between enjoying a summer barbecue and making sure your wedding day stays special? You’re not alone. Many people look askance at barbecue weddings, calling them too informal. Your wedding, however, is your chance to prove that a barbecue grill can rise to any occasion. Assign a few of your best friends to the “catering team” and get ready to start smelling some delicious smoke.
Fruit-Stuffed Grilled Poultry
You’re serving an important feast, so why not take some inspiration from the kings and queens of old? You can stuff any bird as long as you buy it whole, but the more exotic the bird, the bigger the impact you can make on your party. Look for duck, quail, and even goose to grace your grill.
Clean the bird and pierce its skin all over with a fork. Generously stuff it with a mixture of bread stuffing, celery, seedless tangerine segments, diced apples, and the dried fruits of your choice. Currants, cranberries, plums, apricots, and cherries are decadent in any combination. Add walnuts, chopped almonds, or any nuts you like. Rub the outside of the bird in a currant-citrus glaze (currant jelly with a splash of orange juice and spicy mustard) to keep it moist.
Wrap the bird in foil and barbecue it for three to four hours, depending on the heat of your grill. You may want to set a pan underneath (on top of the coals) to keep the drippings from dampening the fire. Your poultry feast is sure to garner a few “oohs” when you unwrap your masterpiece and begin to slice.
Grilled Gourmet Pizza
Does each of your guests seem to have a different dietary need? Instead of trying to plan a single meal around all of the fad diets and food allergies, set up a station where people can request their own pizza. The grill is the perfect place for this, since it allows for social interaction while the food is being prepared.
Set up a buffet of toppings (everything from goat cheese and marinated zucchini to classic sausage and black olives) so guests can create exactly the mini pizza they desire. Don’t forget crowd pleasers like fresh thyme, basil, and rosemary.
Prepare a large stack of personal-pizza dough ahead of time, unless your griller just happens to be a champion dough-tosser as well. You can buy these ready-made if you don’t feel like measuring out your own yeast and kneading flour the night before your wedding.
The perfect personal pizza size is a crust that can be held in one flat hand, so roll dough to a diameter of five or six inches. It can be as thin or thick as you like–a few centimeters is standard. Coat the dough rounds lightly with olive oil and keep them refrigerated.
As guests come up to request their pizzas, throw the dough onto the grill. Cook them for about three to five minutes, depending on the thickness of the crust and the amount of desired crispiness. Flip the crusts and add all of the toppings to the side that’s now facing up. Put them back on the grill for another few minutes, until they look like a perfect pizza.
Banana Leaf Fish
Nothing dresses up a ho-hum grilled fish like wrapping it in banana leaves. With the simple addition of a broad green leaf, your barbecue is suddenly exotic and colorful. Use a combination of white and pink fish (trout and salmon work well) to add visual interest.
You can find frozen banana leaves at most Latin or Asian markets, or if you’re lucky enough to live in a warm climate, you may be able to borrow a few leaves from a neighbor’s tree.
If you’re using frozen banana leaves, defrost them first by soaking them in warm water and gently unfolding them so they lie flat. When wrapped around the fish, the large leaves will hold in the flavor and moisture so the fish cooks in its own juices, leaving it tender and tasty.
If you’re using fresh fish, you won’t have to dress it up very much. Let the flavor speak for itself. Add only simple ingredients, like sea salt and some diced fresh ginger and garlic, over the top of the fish before you wrap it. You also may want to include a sprinkling of olive oil, soy sauce, or orange and lime juice for added flavor.
Secure the leaf completely around the fish by wrapping it with wet twine–this rustic approach will also add to the visual appeal of your fish when you take it off the grill.
As you cook the fish, prepare the pièce de résistance: grilled lemon slices. If the lemon is cut into very, very thin slices, it can be dropped directly onto the grill. After a few minutes (five to ten, depending on the heat of your grill), the slices will have transformed into something akin to lemon candy.
Fish cooks quickly on a barbecue, so check it after six minutes or so. You may want to flip the leaf-package to cook the fish evenly on both sides. Serve each portion topped with the barbecued lemon slices. Your guests will enjoy savoring the entire treat, candied lemon peel and all.
Gourmet Barbecue Sauce
While the quality of what you’re grilling is going to make or break your meal, the true soul of the feast lies in the barbecue sauce. From sweet to spicy, from clear to thick, and from ruby red to dark brown, barbecue sauce can only be defined by one axis: how many fingers are licked clean.
For your wedding feast, make multiple sauces so your guests can have fun sampling all the options. Below are some ideas for the adventurous griller, each yielding around four cups of sauce. If you decide you want to “go the whole hog,” multiply the recipe by as much as your party can take.
Mix one cup of mustard with a half cup of balsamic vinegar and a half cup of brown sugar. Spoon in a tablespoon each of lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and butter. Add a dash of garlic and spicy pepper. Simmer it for a half hour, or until you can’t stand salivating any longer. The spicy bite of the mustard goes especially well with light meats like pork or poultry.
Be careful not to sample the ingredients too much while making this sauce–you’ll want to remember each and every compliment you get when you serve it. Mix a cup of bourbon with two cups of ketchup and a few heaping teaspoons of tomato paste. Add a half cup of brown sugar, a half cup of minced fresh garlic and onion, and a third of a cup of apple cider vinegar.
Season it with salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and smoke flavor. This sauce tastes especially great on red meat and substantial veggie options like portabella mushrooms and eggplant. You’ll probably want to make it a few days ahead of time, as the flavors just get better with time.
Concoct a sauce base first: two heaping tablespoons each of tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, ketchup, and soy sauce. Add a tablespoon each of fresh minced garlic, onion, and ginger. Stir in a third of a cup of apple cider vinegar and a generous splash of dark rum. You may also want to stir in a few tablespoons of molasses. From there, you can add any fruit you want.
Blend guava paste, rhubarb, pineapple, applesauce, blackberry jam, or fresh apricots for a sweet, tangy taste that will compliment grilled fish perfectly.
Once you’ve made a few barbecue sauces, you’ll start wondering things like, “What will happen if I replace the brown sugar with maple syrup?” and “Can I substitute mayonnaise for ketchup to create a creamy sauce?” The answer is always yes, if you do your experimenting in small batches.
Test and perfect your ideas in miniature first to avoid wasting large amounts of ingredients. Have fun with substitutions like honey, smoked hot peppers, soda pop, coffee, fresh herbs, lime juice, fruit jam, brandy, plum sauce and oyster sauce. Don’t forget to write down every amount of every ingredient so you can duplicate it in bulk later!
Enjoy Your Barbecue!
Unlike conventional catering, which leaves guests isolated from the process of preparing the food, a barbecued meal happens right under everyone’s nose. The smells of the cooking food circulate among the party and get people excited about the feast to come. From a casual backyard reception to a warm evening reception in a formal garden, your barbecue grill can dress up as fashionably as you can.
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.