Chef Chris Schlesinger's Brain Waves
Where He Was: Fluke fishing with Steve Johnson
What He Discovered: A new cooking technique for Fluke
If he had his way, Chris would spend half of his time fishing and hanging out on the beach. So, when he gets a play day from the restaurant world he makes the best of it. One recent fluke fishing trip off the New England coast with his great friend, Steve Johnson, inspired a great cooking discovery. Catching the fish was only part of the adventure - they decided to go against the grain and grill the fluke whole. Fluke is generally deboned and cooked any which way but grilled. These guys questioned, 'Why not grill it whole like a Dover Sole?' The dish is now called Grilled Fluke Johnson and is served on the East Coast Grill's menu.
Where He Was: On a trip to Istanbul
What He Discovered: An idea for a new restaurant
Chris went to Istanbul with a Turkish friend, Insan Gurdal and his wife Valerie, owners of Fromaggio’s Kitchen, a cheese store in Cambridge, MA. Chris checked out traditional Turkish cooking, and being a big open fire griller by trade, Chris set his sights on the equipment. The Turks use special equipment to grill their famous sisi (shish) kebabs that are unlike the grills used in the States. He got hooked and got to thinking seriously about opening a sisi (shish) kebab restaurant back home some time in the future.
Chris has built open fire grills in his restaurants, so he knows who to call for such an undertaking. (This kind of equipment is not made by Weber). He’s planning on doing a test run of the equipment at his house... In the end, Chris found a new toy and a new restaurant idea, which goes to show how traveling feeds the mind.
Where He Was: Traveling in Costa Rica
What He Discovered: A different method for non-stick grilling
In Costa Rica, Central America, local fishermen pour fresh salt water on the grate of the grill before lighting it up. The salt turns the grate sheet white with the heat of the flames and makes for great non-stick grilling. Chris uses a well-oiled kitchen rag on his grill, but has tried this technique at home and has proven that it works just as well far away from the beaches of Costa Rica.
Where He Was: At a State Agriculture Meeting
What He Discovered: A revolutionary raw bar
Chris has mastered the art of the classic seafood and shellfish raw bar in his restaurants. When at his state’s agriculture meeting, he enjoyed an Heirloom tomato tasting. Chris’s mind went from a rustic tomato tasting on a shoestring to a much more jazzed up tomato raw bar with different toppings…a selection of olive oils, balsamic vinegar, herbs, cheese, olives, breads, herb pastes, spices… you name it! It’s great for a cocktail party as an hors d’oeuvre.
Where He Was: His backyard
What He Discovered: The best grill ever
(This is coming from a grill master with 45 years of experience).
Chris’s personal recommendation is to buy a Weber Ranch Kettle (No, he doesn’t work for Weber, but he’s ready and waiting for an offer). "This grill will change your life," he exclaims! It’s 37 1/2 inches in diameter, it’s about two times as big as the largest typical home grill, and it’s on four legs. When grilling, it’s all about size… the cook has to have room to maneuver what he’s grilling, he cautions. The usual home grill is even too small for four people.
Everyone is into the fancy ones, Chris says, but this one is the most versatile, best-built piece of equipment he’s used in all of his 45 years of grilling.
Seven more reasons why Chris cooks with Weber’s Ranch Kettle:
- Its size allows you to build a wood fire in it.
- Barbecuing and smoking are both options.
- You can grill big pieces of meat like whole turkey or ham (even one of each).
- Different items can be cooked over really hot fire and partial heat at the same time.
- "Hobo" packs on the coals work like a charm. (See Chris’s note)
- It performs better than any of the most expensive grills and looks like a spaceship on wheels to boot!
- It’s an ideal wedding present.
Chris’s note: Hobo packs (for those of you who weren’t in the boy or girl scouts) are traditionally a mixture of ground beef, carrots, onions and ketchup wrapped in foil and cooked directly on the coals of a barbecue. Chris puts veggies and potatoes in there too. They get very hot, indirect heat so you don’t have to worry about burning.