For great flavor, give meat, poultry or fish a spin over the grill

August 17, 1994|By Jimmy Schmidt | Jimmy Schmidt,Knight-Ridder News Service

Although grilling gets most of summer's open-flame attention, its big brother, rotisserie cooking, produces the most juicy and flavorful results.

In rotisserie cooking, whole or larger pieces of meat or fish are enclosed in a wire frame or speared with a rod, then placed over an open fire to cook while constantly rotating.

Unlike grilling, which allows the juices to escape and burn in the fire, the rotation in rotisserie cooking means foods baste in their own juices while cooking.

Meats, poultry and fish are the most popular rotisserie items, although the technique will also work on some vegetables.

For meats, select larger cuts, such as a sirloin roast, that have some fat covering to keep the meat moist while cooking. Better cuts that are tender when cooked medium-rare or less are best. Avoid tougher, lesser cuts that only become tender when braised in liquids.

Beef sirloins, rib racks and rib eyes; lamb racks and loins; pork chop roasts and loins; and veal racks and loins are best for this technique.

Season the roasts with salt, pepper, ground spices and herbs on the exterior of the meat before and during cooking.

For poultry: Select whole birds for the best results, since the cut pieces let too much of the juices escape. Season the outer skin as well as the internal cavity.

Whole fish or large fillets are wonderful over the fire. Place them in a fish basket, cover with fresh herb stems and branches, then cook.

Whole, smaller-to-medium vegetables are also enclosed in a wire basket, seasoned and cooked. Dense vegetables may need to be parboiled.

Larger pieces of food can use generous doses of seasonings. Keep in mind that some of the seasonings will burn off during cooking.

Heat the grill with a good load of charcoal or wood. Set up the rotisserie equipment, keeping in mind it's going to be pretty hot when you start cooking. Leave the grill grate off so you can stoke the fire as necessary. Fire the grill to red hot for smaller, less dense fish and poultry; use a cooler setting for red meats.

Set up the food and let it spin. You can baste with marinades and seasonings, if you wish, but use them sparingly so as not to start a fire around your roast.

Save that juice! Place a small narrow pan under the food to capture the juices as they run off. Not only will this prevent flare-ups, it will make a beautiful au jus for the dish. If the juices begin to burn in the pan, add a splash of wine, beer or water.

The fire may not last until the meat is cooked, especially if the roast is fairly large. Keep the fire going by adding charcoal to the sides of the fire to ignite without drawing all the heat from the existing charcoal. As the fresh coals get hot, move them toward the center of the fire. Add about 25 percent fresh charcoal about every 45 minutes.

Check for doneness with an instant thermometer for the meats and poultry. Fish are best checked to feel resilient or by checking with a skewer. Allow the food to rest for a few minutes before cutting and serving.

Serve the rotisserie foods with roasted or rotisserie vegetables, or a green salad and a pasta or vegetable dish. The simple but wonderful flavors of the rotisserie go best with similar flavors.

Rotisserie of Pork Loin

With Rosemary and Garlic

Serves 4

1 pork loin, about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds trimmed, boneless weight

1 head of garlic, cloves separated, peeled and sliced

1 bunch fresh rosemary, leaves picked from stems, reserving stems and 4 sprigs for plate garnish

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup light vegetable or poultry stock

1 lemon, juiced

Heat grill with rotisserie equipment in place.

Place the pork loin on a cutting board. With the point of a sharp paring knife, make a small incision on a 30-degree angle into the surface of the pork to create a little pocket. Slide a slice of the garlic or few sprigs of the rosemary into the pocket. Repeat this procedure about every square inch, alternating garlic and rosemary, until the surface of the pork is covered.

Position the loin on a rotisserie skewer. Season the meat surface with salt and a very generous dose of black pepper.

Place the skewer on the rotisserie, position the reserved rosemary stems on the fire under the pork and begin cooking. Place a metal baking pan with the remaining garlic under the pork to collect the juices. Cook until an instant thermometer inserted reads 160 degrees (for medium doneness). Remove from the heat and allow to rest.

Remove the drip pan from the heat. Pour off fat and transfer garlic, drippings and juices into a small nonstick saucepan. Add the 1 cup of stock to the pan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat, cooking until reduced to coat the back the spoon, about 7 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cook again until reduced to coat, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste. (If you really enjoy rosemary, add 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary to the sauce at this point.)

To serve, slice the pork loin to yield 12 slices. Position the slices in the center of the serving plate. Spoon the sauce over the pork. Garnish with rosemary and serve.

Per serving: Calories, 326; percent of calories from fat, 53 percent; fat, 19 gm; protein, 35 gm; carbohydrate, 1 gm; cholesterol, 116 mg; sodium, 111 mg.

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