My in-laws (The Ps) are amazing cooks. No, really. Amazing cooks. Each of them has a few things they are well known for. GaGa is from southern Oklahoma so you just KNOW that the lady can cook up some chicken fried steak and King Ranch and, lord, can she bake. Grandaddy is well know for his “Killer Meatloaf” (which I hope he will allow me to share with you someday!). So we are always excited when they are cooking dinner.
Several years ago, when we visited them at their north Georgia mountain house for a weekend, they made a really great dinner of grilled maple pork chops, polenta and . . . grilled grapes. I know, I had you there for a minute, right? And then I lost you. Actually none of us were very sure about those darn grapes, but my in-laws always follow the recipe. They are precise measurers and timers of everything (something that does not come naturally to me I’m afraid). And the cooking magazine they had received had a whole article about this grilled pork chop menu (“Fabulous Fall Feast,” Cuisine at home No. 65, October 2007) They wanted to give it a shot and so they did the whole thing. Even the grilled grapes.
Well, the pork chops and polenta were terrific. Of course they were, The Ps were cooking. But those grapes were the star of the show. You think they are going to taste like hot, mushy fruit (ew!) but when you toss them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and put them on a raging hot grill, the natural sugars intensify. They are simultaneously sweet and savory. It’s just the best of EVERY world. They are hot, caramelly, smoky orbs of deliciousness.
This past week, after a few days and nights of heavy meals, I wanted something light and somewhat healthy. I had planned on oven roasting some chicken thighs and potatoes but didn’t really feel like heating up the house. So instead I gave the chicken a quick marinade, tossed the cut up potatoes with some olive oil in a foil packet and put everything on the grill.
And I had some grapes. I knew when I bought them that these grapes were perfect for grilling, and not all are. You need firm grapes. Red, seedless ones are usually best. They should pop when you bite into them. And they should be sweet but not TOO sweet or juicy. Toss the bunches of grapes (yep, you just leave them all stuck together) in a bowl with a generous pour of olive oil and make sure they get well coated. When everything else on the grill is done, put the grapes on there with salt and pepper. They only take a total of about five minutes to get a little char on each side (turn them a couple of times very carefully so as not to lose too many of them between the grates). It’s the perfect thing to do while your meat is resting. By the time you bring them in and plate everything up, they’ll be cool enough to eat. I cut little individual bunches with kitchen scissors so everyone has a tidy little cluster to decorate their plate.
You must try them. And you will thank me.
1 lb or so firm, seedless grapes, preferably red
1/4 – 1/3 C olive oil
1-2 T coarse kosher salt
1-2 t coarse ground black pepper
Preheat grill to medium high.
Leaving grapes in small bunches, coat thoroughly with olive oil in a bowl.
Place bunches on hot grill and generously salt and pepper. Turn every 1-2 minutes, adding additional salt and pepper to each side. Cook for 5-7 minutes until grapes have nice grill marks. Serve in whole bunches while hot.