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GRILL for all Seasons; Barbecuers take their act indoors with the sizzling stove-top pan

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Don't let the fall weather put a chill on your grill. With a stove-top pan, you now can turn out juicy, seared meats, fish and vegetables all year long right in your own kitchen.

No more dashing outside in the dark with a flashlight to check on dinner. No more standing on the deck with an umbrella while your meal sputters and fizzles. No more trying to coax stubborn briquettes to glow in bone-chilling temperatures.

With the twist of a knob, you can heat up a grill pan on the stove and enjoy the charred, caramelized flavors of the outdoors any time. Sure, there are all kinds of fancy, electric versions on the market, but this simple ridged pan makes grilling a cinch.

Just ask the pan's proponents, who have all the zeal of missionaries in search of converts.

"I love it, love it," says Carol Larsen of Towson, who has used a grill pan for about three years. "I like the convenience of it and the presentation of the food. It's low-fat and tasty."

One of her favorite preparations is to marinate chicken breasts in Italian dressing and toss them on the sizzling pan, where they become golden and succulent. She also uses the pan for vegetables, especially portobello mushrooms, while she cooks the rest of the meal in the oven.

Larsen, a saleswoman at Williams-Sonoma in Cross Keys, says the store sells quite a few pans. "It's a terrific extra pan," she says. "It makes a great gift. I've given many."

Grill pans are available in a variety of prices. Two popular nonstick pans by All-Clad and Calphalon often can be found at area stores for about $70. They're also offered in a cook's wares catalog, 800-915-9788, for similar prices.

Larsen says the flavor of foods prepared on a grill pan doesn't taste exactly the same as foods cooked on an outdoor grill, but "you do get the browning and flavor from the grill marks."

With a standard kitchen fan, excessive smoke usually is not a problem when using a grill pan because most dishes cook fairly quickly, many in 10 minutes or less.

Michele Urvater, author of "Monday to Friday Chicken" (Workman, 1998), compares cooking with a grill pan to grilling with a hibachi. "People are so used to their Weber and cooking over hardwood that grilling without a top tastes different," she says. "I love the flavor [the grill pan] imparts to food."

In her cookbook, Urvater includes recipes for such dishes as Indoor Grilled Chicken Breasts with Mango-Avocado Salsa and Grilled Chicken Over Red Cabbage. As a New York City apartment dweller, she says she appreciates the opportunity to grill indoors.

"I always envied my friends' access to an outdoor grill," she says in her book. "My envy subsided with the advent of the stove-top grill pan."

The pans, which have been available for a few years, usually are round or square. But it doesn't seem to matter which one you use. They both cook food the same, Urvater says.

"People get attached to their tools," she says with a laugh, explaining why some cooks may say they prefer one shape over the other.

For those who do have back yards, Urvater says the pan comes in handy "when you don't have the energy to fire up the grill," and it's also an ideal cooking implement for singles who don't want to fuss with a grill.

"Everybody likes grilled food, but there are women who are intimidated about standing over a fire," says Jamee Ruth, who has written "grillpan cookbook" (Chronicle, 1999). "I'm finding people who thought they could not cook [but] who can cook now with a grill pan."

Her recipes, such as Beef Kebabs With Asian Marinade and Orange-Soy Glazed Salmon With Haricots Verts and Red Onions, are not intimidating. Several dishes, including Cajun Shrimp and Andouilette Sausage Skewers, call for only a few ingredients.

"I'm holding your hand while you learn to cook. You can make dinner in one pan," Ruth says. "This is a real trend that's catching on. It sounds like a fad, but it works. I shock myself with it."

Grilled Steaks With Red-Wine Mushroom Sauce

Serves 4

2 garlic cloves, minced or crushed

1 cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar

1 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

4 New York strip or strip loin steaks (about 1 3/4 pounds total), cut 3/4 - to 1-inch thick

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 scallions, coarsely chopped

3/4 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

In a shallow, nonmetallic dish large enough to hold the steaks in a single layer, combine half the garlic, the wine, soy sauce, vinegar, thyme and pepper. Place the steaks in the marinade and turn to coat completely. Cover the dish with plastic wrap. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours, turning the steaks occasionally.

Prepare the grill according to the manufacturer's instructions. Spray the grill with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic, the scallions and mushrooms, and cook until the scallions are limp and the mushrooms start to give up their liquid, 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, until the flour is absorbed, about 30 seconds.

Remove the steaks from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Stir the reserved marinade into the skillet and cook, stirring, until the mixture has come to a boil and thickened slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer while the steaks are grilling.

Grill the steaks in hot grill pan for 3 to 4 minutes on each side for rare, 4 to 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare, 5 to 7 minutes on each side for well-done, or until desired doneness. Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes before serving with the red wine-mushroom sauce.

-- "Indoor Grilling" (Time-Life Books, 1997)

Swordfish With Lemon, Tomato and Basil Sauce

Serves 4

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

4 swordfish steaks (about 2 pounds total), cut 1/2 -inch thick

4 medium tomatoes, 1 coarsely chopped and 3 thinly sliced

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Prepare the grill according to the manufacturer's instructions. Spray the grill with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, stir together the mustard, lemon juice, oil, Parmesan, basil, salt and pepper.

Place the swordfish steaks on hot grill and brush them lightly with some of the basil basting sauce. Grill the steaks for 5 minutes, or until opaque on top.

Meanwhile, add the chopped tomato and the parsley to the remaining basting sauce.

Turn the swordfish steaks and spoon the basting sauce over them. Grill for 2 minutes, or until the flesh is opaque when tested with the tip of a knife.

Arrange the sliced tomatoes on a platter and top them with the swordfish steaks.

Spoon any remaining sauce over the steaks and serve immediately.

-- "Indoor Grilling" (Time-Life Books, 1997)

Eggplant Parmesan

Serves 2 as a side dish, 4 as an

appetizer

1 medium eggplant, about 1 1/2 pounds, top trimmed

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup light olive oil

1/2 cup fresh or prepared tomato sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cut the eggplant into 1/4 -inch-thick slices. Arrange the slices in a single layer on paper towels. Sprinkle the eggplant with half of the salt and let stand for 1 hour. In a small bowl, combine the dried herbs, pepper and remaining salt.

Preheat a grill pan over medium heat until very hot. Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels and transfer to a cutting board. Brush one side of the eggplant with olive oil and season with half of the herb mixture. Transfer to the hot grill pan seasoned side down. Brush the other side with olive oil and season with the remaining herb mixture. Cook for 5 minutes and turn. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the tomato sauce onto each slice of eggplant and top with the cheeses. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until the cheese has almost melted. Serve immediately.

-- "grillpan cookbook" (Chronicle, 1999) by Jamee Ruth

Beef Kebobs With Asian Marinade

Serves 2 as a main

course

MARINADE:

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon crushed garlic

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

OTHER INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces boneless beefsteak, cut into 1-inch cubes

6 large button mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered

1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

wooden skewers, soaked in water for 15 minutes

To make marinade: In a baking dish, stir together the sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger and pepper flakes.

Add the beef, mushrooms and bell peppers to the marinade, and turn to coat all the ingredients evenly.

Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours. Thread each skewer, alternating pieces of beef, mushrooms and bell peppers.

Preheat a grill pan over medium heat until very hot. Cook the skewers for 4 minutes, turn and cook 4 minutes more. Serve immediately.

-- "grillpan cookbook" (Chronicle, 1999) by Jamee Ruth

Indoor Grilled Chicken Breasts

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 whole chicken breasts, halved (2 1/2 to 3 pounds total)

vegetable oil for the grill

Mango-Avocado Salsa (see recipe)

Combine the olive oil with the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Rub this into and under the chicken skin.

Lightly oil a 12-inch stove-top grill pan and heat over high heat until it is very hot, 1 to 2 minutes. Grill the chicken over medium-high heat until just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with Mango-Avocado Salsa.

-- "Monday to Friday Chicken" (Workman, 1998) by Michele Urvater

Mango-Avocado Salsa

2 mangoes

1 Haas avocado

1 lime

1 lemon

small bunch of chives

salt to taste

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

Peel, pit and cut mangoes and avocado into 1/2 -inch chunks; combine them in a mixing bowl. Halve the lime and juice it over the mangoes and avocado. Remove the skin and pith from the lemon. Cut between the membranes to loosen the segments, and cut the segments into fine dice.

Add the lemon segments to the bowl and squeeze whatever juice is left in the membranes into the bowl. Finely cut chives and add them to the bowl.

Toss the ingredients to thoroughly combine, and season with salt to taste and dried red pepper flakes. Refrigerate, covered, until serving time.

-- "Monday to Friday Chicken" (Workman, 1998) by Michele Urvater

Grill-Pan Cooking Tips

* Thin and relatively tender foods are best suited to indoor grilling. Foods that are no more than 2 inches thick work best.

* When using bamboo skewers, immerse them in water for at least 30 minutes before threading food on them.

* Preheat the pan according to manufacturer's instructions before cooking.

* Spraying or brushing the pan lightly with vegetable oil will ensure browning and searing.

* Use a paper towel to pat excess moisture off food before grilling to promote browning and searing.

* Baste with glazes or marinades only in the last 4 to 5 minutes of cooking. If brushed on at the beginning of cooking, sugary sauces may cause undesirable burning.

* Burned-on food residue can ruin the taste of the best ingredients, so be sure to clean the pan thoroughly after each use, following manufacturer's instructions.

-- From "Indoor Grilling" (Time-Life Books, 1997)

Pub Date: 10/06/99

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