Give Dad an ignitable corn cob for Father's Day.
Why, you ask, would Dad want one? Because it would make him feel like a '90s kind of guy. A guy who is concerned about the environment. A guy who wants to build a good fire for the barbecue.
I know. I'm a dad and I worry about these things.
I read about coated cobs and wanted some, so I quickly called the outfit that makes, or at least repackages, the corn cobs, Griffo Grill in Quincy, Ill. These cobs of Illinois -- feed corn dipped in food-grade paraffin -- are called Cob Lites and are being sold in food stores as fire starters for charcoal briquettes.
I talked with Gwen Hinkamper, a Griffo sales manager, who answered all my cob questions.
Questions such as why corn cobs?
There were two answers to this query. Answer No. 1 was that corn cobs burn. Moreover, they burn without eating the earth's ++ ozone layer. Other charcoal starters, I was told, like those you can squirt from cans, are petroleum-based and attack the ozone.
The second answer was that Illinois has a lot of corn cobs sitting in fields. Or used to. Since April truckers have been hauling once-idle cobs into Quincy, where the cobs are being coated with paraffin.
That led to another question: Why coat cobs with paraffin?. The answer was that it makes them burn better. Cobs covered with paraffin burn much hotter than cobs that are naked. That is what I was told. A hot cob is desirable because it is more likely than a cool cob to ignite any nearby charcoal briquettes.
Then I got down to the core question: How much does a coated cob cost? Five dollars a bag. In Quincy, Ms. Hinkamper opened a one-pound container and counted out 34 cobs. The average is about 30 cobs per pound, she said. These cobs, she said, could light about 15-20 fires.
The recommended cob-use ratio varies depending on how you light your fires, she said. If you put the cobs in the bottom of a metal chimney starter filled with charcoal, then you use only one or two cobs. But, she said, if you just pile the briquettes around the cobs, then you'll need three cobs to get the fire going.
I thanked her and went down the Williams Sonoma store in the Gallery and bought a one-pound bag of cobs for $5. It was a Father's Day present to myself at roughly 17 cents a cob.
Then I had to figure out what I was going to cook over these cob-fired coals. I found these promising recipes in a new book, "Grilling, Smoking and Barbecuing" (Lyons & Burford Publishers, by A. D. Livingston, a fellow from Headland, Ala., who has written for Sports Afield magazine.
Lazy Boy grilled bass Serves two.
2 bass fillets (allow 1 fillet per person)
1 large onion
salt to taste
Using bass that weigh about 2 1/2 pounds, make fillets by running a sharp knife behind the dorsal fin and cutting along the backbone toward the tail. Make the same cut on the reverse side. Do not skin or scale fish.
Peel the onion, cut it into chunks and squeeze the juice from it in a garlic press. Mix equal parts onion juice and oil in a pan and warm.
Put the fish, skin-side down, on the grill. Baste. Cover grill with lid, or cover fish with tent made of foil.
Baste again after 5 minutes; do not turn.
Cover again and cook for 3 more minutes. Baste again, sprinkle lightly with salt and check for doneness by pulling fish with fork. If it flakes, it is ready.
Using pancake spatula, remove fish from grill and place directly onto serving platter.
bTC T-bone Rosemary Serves four
4 T-bone steaks, trimmed
salt and pepper
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Mix a marinade with the olive oil, black pepper, parsley, rosemary and garlic.
Place steaks in glass container and pour marinade over them. Marinate for at least 1 hour.
Grill over hot fire for 4 to 5 minutes a side. Turn the steak and brush marinade on browned side.
Sprinkle lightly with salt before serving.