Anyone can throw a burger or a hot dog on a grill, but some of us get bored easily. That might explain the popularity of some of the, uh, unique recipes we give you in this story.
Or maybe it's the recipes' sheer craziness that appeals -- or the desire to be in the limelight.
"Grilling or barbecuing is the most theatrical way of cooking," said Steve Raichlen on the phone the other day from Martha's Vineyard. Raichlen is a guru of outdoor cooking. He appears on television often and is the author of innumerable books on the subject, including the best-selling "Barbecue Bible" and the most recent "Raichlen on Ribs" (Workman.)
He also took a slightly sexist attitude when we asked him why offbeat recipes are so popular: "Grilling and outdoor cooking is still mostly practiced by men," he said. "And when you combine the male personality with alcohol and fire -- that leads to creativity, and wackiness."
Then he proceeded to give examples about just how nutty people can get.
"There's Trash Can Turkey, for example. Drive a stake into the ground, impale the whole turkey upright on it and than take a (brand new) trash can and put it over the turkey. Pour a shovel full of hot ashes on top of the trash can and another shovel of ashes around the sides."
"I first encountered that at a Boy Scout Jamboree," Raichlen explained. (Why are we not surprised?)
And then, of course, there's the infamous Beer Can Chicken, which Raichlen says he first encountered at the Memphis in May festival -- that's the Super Bowl of barbecue, by the way.
"I just brought it into the mainstream on "Good Morning America," he said, and also in newspaper stories and in a book called "Beer Can Chicken and 74 Offbeat Recipes for the Grill."
"I hear it originated in Texas, or maybe Louisiana, in 1995 or somewhere where some guys were probably drinking a little too much beer."
But there's a reason why the recipe was so popular, he said: "The steaming beer keeps the chicken moist." You can also adapt this recipe to a soda pop can.
An appealing recipe is Chicken Cooked Under a Brick, often cooked in Italy under the name Pollo al Mattone.
This really isn't a gimmick -- it's very trendy now, but it goes back a ways. It's said that the Etruscans originated the idea, using stones instead of bricks, the advantage being that the bird has total contact with the source of heat thus producing a thoroughly cooked, very juicy treat.
The Grilled Pineapple is a knock 'em dead recipe; the Grilled Fried Fish produces a fried effect but it's easier (and better) for you.
Male or female -- have a Happy Fourth.
>Chicken Under a Brick
1 whole chicken (about 3 pounds)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 teaspoons rosemary leaves, crushed
2 basil leaves, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place chicken on cutting board, breast side up with open cavity facing you. Using poultry shears or kitchen shears, cut through the entire length of the breast area. Press down chicken with both hands so it is hinged and flat.
Mix olive oil, garlic, rosemary, basil, salt and pepper to make a marinade. Place marinade in a flat glass pan or in a plastic bag. Add flattened chicken: refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. (Wash cutting board and shears thoroughly.)
If necessary, rinse bricks before using. Wrap in 2 layers of foil. Preheat grill 5 minutes over medium heat. Remove chicken from marinade. Discard marinade. Place chicken skin down on preheated grill. Place brick atop chicken.
Close lid and grill chicken about 40 minutes or until cooked through, turning halfway. Remove bricks very carefully with oven mitts, turn chicken with tongs and replace brick. Makes 2 to 4 servings.
1 large pineapple, peeled (leafy top attached)
1/3 cup orange flavored liqueur (like Grand Marnier)
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon lightly crushed peppercorns, pink if possible
Pinch kosher salt
Combine liqueur, sugar, honey, pepper and salt in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mixture becomes a syrup. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature
Wrap the leafy top of the pineapple tightly in plastic wrap; place in plastic food bag and pour the syrup into the bag; extract as much air as possible and seal the bag. Refrigerate overnight.
Prepare the grill. If using a gas grill heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, start the charcoal or briquettes and when they are ready, distribute them evenly for direct heat. Oil the grate.
Discard marinade and plastic wrap from the top of the pineapple. Grill the whole pineapple for about 30 minutes, turning often, until the fruit is cooked through and the outside has caramelized. Slice and serve warm. Makes about 6 servings.
>Soda Can Chicken
1 large whole chicken
3 tablespoons your favorite dry rub
1 can soda pop, not too sweet (12-ounces)
Clean chicken inside and out; discard fat in the body cavity. Rinse; blot dry. Sprinkle one tablespoon of rub inside the body and neck cavities and rub another tablespoon over the skin.
Set the grill up for indirect grilling using medium heat.
Pop the tab on the soda can. Using a church key opener, make 6 or 7 holes in the top of the can. Pour out the top inch of the soda, then spoon the remaining dry rub through the holes in the can.
Oil the grill grate. Stand the chicken in the center of the hot grate, spreading out the legs to insert the soda can. Form a sort of tripod to support the bird. Cover the grill and cook until chicken is very tender, about 2 hours. (If using charcoal, you may have to replace it during the cooking period.)
Using tongs, lift the bird to a cutting board or platter, holding a large metal spatula under the soda can for support. (Wear mitts.)
Let stand for 5 minutes before carving the meat off the upright carcass. Toss the can along with the carcass. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Note: This recipe was adapted from the infamous Beer Can Chicken Recipe. Feel free to use beer or alcohol-free beer instead of the pop if you wish.
>Grilled Fried Fish
4 fish fillets, your choice
2 cups instant mashed potato flakes
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Combine butter, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic in a small dish and dip fish fillets in this mixture. Roll fillets in the potato flakes to coat them well. Wrap each fillet in a square of foil and place on preheated medium hot grill. Grill for 6 minutes, turning once. Carefully remove and open packets and serve. Makes 4 servings.