Cooking outdoors doesn’t have to be a solely sunny-weather activity. Many backyard chefs enjoy grilling and cooking over an open fire all year round.
One of the well-heeled secrets of winter grilling is to cook comfort foods that don’t require constant flipping. A hearty soup, stew or chili cooked in a cast-iron dutch oven over an open fire is a delicious, feed-your-bones meal that can be thrown together in a pinch. Here are a few ideas to inspire you to fire up your grill or fire pit again.
The towns of Brunswick, Georgia and Brunswick Virginia both claim the origin rights to Brunswick stew, a sturdy and delicious tomato-based meal made of barbecued meat, and vegetables. Smoked BBQ meats go well in these recipes, but feel free to toss whatever you have left over in the pot. Mixing BBQ Chicken with pulled pork is all fair game when it comes to making a Brunswick stew. The best part is this stew is highly customizable. Virginians like to thicken their stew with potatoes while Georgians put peas in theirs. Although the controversy between the two areas’ stew recipes has led to many cook-off competitions, magazine articles and even a piece in the New York Times, you can go your own way with your Brunswick stew. It seems like the only real requirement is grilled meat. The rest is up to you.
Using ground meat or barbecued brisket as a base for your chili will be the first step to a scrumptious dish. The second step is to smoke the meat in your grill’s smoker. Add it to the chili that is already simmering either inside the house on the stovetop or on the grill grate in a cast iron dutch oven. Corn, onions, scallions, and bacon can go in the mix with your preferred type of beans. The smoked flavor adds so much depth and character to the chili, you’ll not want to go back to using regularly-cooked meat again.
Grilled Pumpkin Soup
If you want to put in the effort for fresh pumpkin, i.e. taking out all the seeds and stringy fiber parts in the middle, then grilling it for soup isn’t much more effort. Place the pumpkin, rind side on the grill grate, in the smoker. Smoke it for an hour then increase the grill temperature to at least 300°F to properly cook the pumpkin the rest of the way. In a saucepan on the grill or inside, prepare the other soup ingredients according to your favorite recipe (or try this one). The smoked pumpkin will make a winter soup you’ll want to make into a tradition that goes beyond the Halloween season.
Smoked Cream of Mushroom Soup
You don’t need meat to have a hearty meal. Smoking mushrooms and other vegetable ingredients leads to a cream of mushroom soup that is out of this world. The good part is vegetables take to smoking a lot more quickly than meat, often requiring around 30 minutes to complete the smoking process. Check out this recipe for simple instructions on how to grill the veggies. Experiment with substituting the heavy cream with silken tofu or even pureed white beans for a vegan option.
The mild weather is a real opportunity to fight off the cabin fever that can often come with too many icy days and nights. The warmth of the grill plus the chill in the air can lead to a refreshing cooking experience. And at the end you have a wonderful winter soup that will warm you from your head to your toes.