Don't believe the commercials and sitcoms, with their depictions of dopey, bumbling dads. Most dads are can-do guys. Even those of us who aren't adept at using power tools can be expected to squish a spider when called upon to do so - or at least usher it outside - without being squeamish.
As can-do guys, we don't expect champagne brunch on the day set aside to honor our fatherly deeds, though many of us secretly wouldn't mind the champagne. Instead, we require fire and raw meat to place over fire — and a cold beverage to sip while we tend to fire and meat. For we have the skill to transform those two (or three) elements into a delicious meal that will not only feed our spouses and children, but will reinforce our can-do standing as providers of sustenance and, more importantly, impressive flavor.
At least, that's how it's supposed to work. The problem: spouses/children can be a finicky bunch in terms of being impressed by flavor, or even sustenance. As a can-do dad and long-time grillmaster, I've had a perfectly-grilled, brown throughout cheeseburger handed back to me by a niece because it wasn't a dried-out hockey puck patty of the ilk she was accustomed to. We can't have beef filet steaks because my wife won't touch any red meat that displays a hint of pink, and I refuse to ruin such an expensive cut of meat. And all my fancy grill recipes wilt under the stern gaze of my son, whose resolute demands for a hot dog overcome even my most insistent cries of "but it's kid-friendly!"
Methods for dealing with diverse food demands vary. Some can-do dads dutifully ignore nutritionists and heroically allow McDonald's to do the burger-flipping. But those of us who yearn for that me-time in front of the grill as well as the accolades that come from family members who truly enjoy a home-cooked meal have another card to play: customization.
Put simply, give the people what they want. Unless it's fast food. So rather than steaks or burgers, give your family members input by grilling pizza or steak tacos.
Note that if using charcoal or a gas grill, all food will taste better when some soaked wood chips are thrown on the fire or smoker box just before cooking. Or better yet, cook over burning wood.
Here's how I do grilled pizza.
- Prepare the grill: We're cooking indirect, here, so light a layer of coals covering just half of the bottom of the grill. We'll actually be cooking over the cool side.
- Gather ingredients: Rather than making dough, I start with store-bought pita bread or naan. Brush both sides with olive oil and place over the hot side of the grill. After a minute or so, just when the bottom is turning brown, flip it over to the cool side. The browned side of the pita is now your work surface. Cover it with sauce, pepperoni or pre-cooked sausage and shredded mozzarella cheese for a more traditional pizza of the variety preferred by my son. My wife is a fan of Caprese salads, so I forgo tomato sauce, and add shredded basil, chopped fresh tomato and fresh mozzarella.
- Cook: Cover the grill, but keep an eye on your pizzas to make sure they're not burning. Because you're not waiting for meat to cook through, as soon as the cheese is melted, you can pull them off and serve them up.
Here's how I do steak tacos.
- Marinate a flank or skirt steak in Worcestershire sauce, lime juice and chili powder for a couple of hours.
- Cook it directly on the grill until it's done. Even if you're serving people like my wife, who won't touch beef that's not thoroughly brown, it's okay to pull the steak when it's still pink inside - you'll see why below. At the same time, grill veggies your family wants to put on the tacos.
- Pull the steak and let it rest on a plate for a few minutes.
- Cut the steak against the grain into thin slices. Chop the grilled veggies. Combine them with avocado for a delicious smoky guacamole.
- Brush corn tortillas (unless your family prefers flour tortillas) with any accumulated juice from the plate where the steak was resting, warm them on the grill for a few seconds, place them in a bowl and cover them with a towel to retain heat.
- Put a bit of oil in a small frying pan, and warm it, either on the grill or on a stove. Place the meat, which will have cooled off by then, into the pan and cook to the specifications of your family's tastes.
- Make tacos and enjoy.