Recipe Review

Smoky Ranch, Rosemary Lamb: Paula Disbrowe’s Modern Spin on Texas Grilling

published May 29, 2019
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Credit: Jessica Pages/Kitchn

One of the coolest things about grilling is its ability to create big (charred, caramelized, complex) flavors fast — one of the many reasons that for me, back-porch entertaining begins with a chimney of charcoal. Particularly now, on the brink of summer, when everyone in Austin wants to be outside savoring the cool evenings and intoxicating aroma of jasmine, honeysuckle, and a crackling fire that promises dinner.

I speak from experience: The process of developing my last two cookbooks (Any Night Grilling, for Food52 and, most recently, Thank You for Smoking) gave me the lucky charge of firing up dinner (and cocktails and dessert and everything in between) several nights a week for the last couple of years.

Credit: Jessica Pages/Kitchn

My Approach to Grilling This Summer: Think of Smoke as a Seasoning

You might think of my approach to grilling as the opposite of low-and-slow barbecue. As much as I love the deep, satisfying results of that method, who has time to babysit a hunk of meat for 12 to 18 hours? Instead, the recipes in Thank You for Smoking deploy smoke as a seasoning. Meaning I rely on two-zone, indirect cooking, a hot fire, and a smoke source (hardwood chips, chunks, or a log) to perfume everything from oats to lentils to pecans with a whiff of wood smoke in 20 to 30 minutes.

More often than not, fragrant, colorful vegetables that catch my eye at the market inspire my menu. And I love how the heat of the grill caramelizes their natural sweetness or adds a layer of charred, smoky flavor. Fresh kale leaves yield and crisp quickly over the fire — I love puréeing them into a creamy, ranch-style dip that’s delicious with crudité and grilled toasts.

Credit: Jessica Pages/Kitchn

Young carrots (I don’t bother peeling them) that need little more than a quick spin over the heat are delicious with smoked quinoa and sweet and smoky charred Meyer lemon vinaigrette (to make the salad heartier, I often add chickpeas).

These vibrant and satisfying dishes can stand alone as a meal (just add cheese and grilled toasts drizzled with your best olive oil) or work beautifully alongside rosemary lamb kebabs. I raid my backyard herb garden for longer, sturdy sprigs of rosemary that serve as flavor-enhancing skewers (the heat releases the herb’s natural essential oils and perfume the meat with flavor). You can serve the grilled meat in flatbread with a slather of smoky eggplant purée, made with coal-roasted eggplant that I’ve cooked on the embers the night before (because you know I was grilling then, too).

Credit: Jessica Pages/Kitchn

All this meal needs to round out the table is a couple of varieties of cheese, some cold, crisp wine (white or pink would be my choice), some marinated olives and, because we’re in Texas, a toe-tapping soundtrack of troubadours.

Paula Disbrowe’s Modern Texas Grilling Menu

Credit: Courtesy of Ten Speed Press

Find the Book: Thank You for Smoking by Paula Disbrowe