Too often when cooking we neglect the poor side dishes on the plate. We’ll make a killer meat dish and then plop some mashed potatoes or steamed broccoli beside it and serve. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with steamed broccoli or mashed potatoes once in a while but it’s easy to let sides like that become an everyday thing.
Whether it’s from a lack of time, a fear of trying a new recipe, or just because we know this is what our kids will eat, we end up with the same sides night after night. So let’s say your family is picky and often want mashed potatoes. Why not use garlic butter instead of regular butter? Throw in some fresh chopped parsley? Toss in a little cheese? I don’t know about you guys but I go mental if I eat the same things too often.
I don’t have the time or space to list out dozens and dozens of zazzy side dishes but I’m going to give you some tips to switch things up and also include two BBQ sides I make that make any meal more betterer.
One of the first things to keep in mind is that you can spruce up a side dish without making your life more complicated. Your kids will only ever eat broccoli? Ok well instead of just steaming it and then adding salt, pepper and butter try whipping up a quick Asian dressing, or add a little cheese. We tend to eat a ton of asparagus at my place and when I start to get sick of it I throw a little dijon vinagrette together and toss it on. Or you could wrap a little proscuitto around them and grill it. Damn, I kind of want some of that right now.
Alright now before I actually do end up going on about forty side dishes let me share two of my favorites.
My Magic Mushrooms
1 8 ounce pack of sliced mushrooms (I usually go with either mini bella or button)
1 Minced shallot or red onion
1 Clove of garlic (minced)
1/2 Cup minced parsley
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Schloop of butter
Salt and pepper to taste
I think I may have shared a variation of this when I wrote about steak some time back but whatever, I’m not gonna go back and check. Researching myself just seems creepy and perverse. Besides I’m sure it’s still a little different.
One of the funnest things about BBQing is that if you’re half decent at it you can cook your entire meal outside all in one spot. For this dish, which really does go best alongside a steak or on top as I prefer it, you’ll need a pan that can take the heat of either coals or gas fire. Cheap pans will tend to warp or not distribute the heat well. The only pan I use on the grill is sexy, sexy cast iron. So get your pan warmed up on a medium heat, for coals that would mean just to the side of the coals and not right over them.
Once the pan is good to go add the olive oil and butter. Since mushrooms absorb so much of what they’re cooked in using both butter and oil
adds a nice silky, creaminess here. Also the butter won’t brown and burn so fast and the oil won’t get past it’s smoking point too quickly. That’s key on a grill since you can’t always control the heat precisely. Ok now add the mushrooms, onions and garlic and season. Let them cook until they soften making sure to stir frequently. Now add everything else except the parsley. Let it cook for another minute or so and remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. If you time this just right you should manage to get these done just when you’re removing the steaks from the grill.
Perfectly Phat Peppers
2 Bell peppers sliced (try using 2 colours)
1 Red onion sliced
1 Teaspoon fresh thyme (dry is fine too in a pinch but maybe use a little less)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
For this sexy concoction I use a BBQ wok, you know the one with all the holes in it? That kind. I line it with foil though. But Phatman isn’t that just like using a normal pan? Very astute question. Astute is a word right? Hang on, quick google check..YES! It is a word. So wisdomy am I. While it may seem like the same as using a pan I use this for 2 reasons: the first being that this is much thinner and will get the peppers real sizzly in a hurry. The second reason you’ve got wait for a bit before I can reveal it.
Alright now combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and, you know, mix. Now get that foil lined wok heated up real good and hot. Now pour in the pepper medley and stir frequently. When the peppers and onion are softening and look nearly done I perform what can only be described as a death defying act which I call The Second Reason For Using A BBQ Wok. With my bare hands I remove the foil. You need to be on the ball here because this sh*t is gonna flame up from the oil. I’m speaking from experience when I say that lighting yourself on fire can dampen the mood at almost any BBQ. Removing the foil near the end allows for you to get a little char action on the veggies. This is especially sexy on a coal grill. Blacken the peppers to your liking and BAZONG! They’re done! I am a tough manly man who likes to display my tough manly man-ness, ummmm not that way, so I like to remove the wok with my bare hands or betwixt my teeth. However, if you are like my lady or chicken kids (“Papa it burns usssss!!”) then use an oven mit I guess.
So there you’ve got a few sexy sides to get you started. How good are these? Let’s just say that since I’ve never shared these recipes with my lady these sides are pretty much what keeps her from leaving me and she asks for them often. So maybe don’t tell her I just publicized how to make them. I’d love to hear from you Phatsoes about any top notch sides you guys whip up. If you want more of these ideas let me know and I’ll gladly post another article and help you get plenty more action on the side.