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Really big cooking trends don’t emerge all that often. But one of the biggest I’ve seen in years is chefs cooking with live fire. Some people mock the idea of this as a “new” phenomenon, since its roots are as old as the Paleo diet’s. Those taking my side cite popularizer Francis Mallmann, the Argentinean chef and author of the book Seven Fires, and his dozens of evangelists as evidence of the trend. In this issue, we teach you everything you need to know about cooking with live fire, from nestling eggplant right in the embers to slow-roasting pork shoulder.

Though I want to learn all about live fire, I am also still in need of a quick fix for my too-predictable weekend-entertaining routine, centered around a not-so-large, not-so-new gas grill. So I turned to Grace Parisi in our Test Kitchen; she’s a genius at creating fast, flavorful, surprising recipes. Grace came to my office with a notepad and an open mind. She nodded sagely, like a grilling therapist, as I gave her a ridiculous number of factors to consider: short prep time, short cook time, must feed a crowd (kids and adults), can call for both bad supermarket ingredients and good farmers’ market ones. I currently have half a pig in the freezer, so I wanted pork on the menu. And since the only thing I seem able to grow is herbs, I needed to use those in abundance. I also asked for a baking recipe I could tackle with my kids, Sylvie and William. The greatest challenge: Everything needed a simple, clever twist that would impress guests.

“That sounds fun!” Grace said, graciously. Then out tumbled her list of wonderful suggestions, from which I picked the three that follow. The sausage burger is a brilliant reinvention of the mixed grill that I do all the time. The chicken uses the herbs that taunt me from the garden, saying, “Betcha don’t know what to do with us.” And the dessert combines two favorites, monkey bread and Southern biscuits. These recipes definitely meet my entertaining needs—yours, too, I hope.

Grilling With Grace Recipes

Five-Herb Grilled Chicken

Grace Parisi’s dish is perfect for me: It basically requires making a pesto from the herbs in my extremely modest garden. The pesto does double duty: some of it marinates the chicken, the rest flavors an aioli to serve alongside.

Sausage Burgers

Since I buy half a pig from my friend Chris every year, I always have ground pork and pork sausage in my freezer. Grace puts the two together to make a juicy burger that’s seasoned all the way through with the sausage spices. Plus, her sweet-spicy Sriracha-honey-mustard sauce takes less than five minutes to make.

Skillet Monkey Bread Biscuits

Grace knows how much I love monkey bread, but I don’t always like kneading or waiting for dough to rise. This dough comes together almost instantly, and it’s easy to roll out. By baking the cardamom-sugared biscuits close together in a skillet, I get the monkey-bread effect without the fuss.

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Published June 2013
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