Fire in the sky today. Fire in the backyard, too.
People will celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks shows in the evening and barbecue shows during the afternoon.
It’s a day for steaks and skyrockets.
At my house, it’s prime time for potatoes. During fall, winter and spring, mashed potatoes are frequently on my weekend menus. But summer means barbecued potatoes on the gas grill. They’re sliced, spiced, sauced and scorched inside a couple of layers of aluminum foil.
Mashed potatoes are easy enough. This recipe is even simpler. And it comes with lots of options.
The first move is washing red or white potatoes — sometimes I use both — and slicing off any imperfections. I leave the skins on because they add nutrients and vitamins to the dish. And the baked skins give the barbecued spuds a little extra color, taste and texture.
I slice about a dozen potatoes into round, flat pieces. Then I cut up red and green bell peppers, onions and chives, and toss everything together. The mix goes into a long sheet of aluminum foil folded in half lengthwise (sometimes, I use two of these aluminum “envelopes”). Arrange the potatoes and vegetables, then you’re ready to dress them up.
Anything goes. Combination seasonings made by McCormick and Weber — with ground sugar, salt, pepper, paprika, parsley, garlic and onion — are up first. I give the potatoes about a 15-second sprinkle. Italian salad dressing or olive oil follow, and I drench the raw foods with the oil. I’ve got to have those oils; once heated, they really cook the potatoes.
Worcestershire sauce, barbecue sauce and steak sauce — whatever’s open in the refrigerator — are also invited. Sometimes, it’s half a bottle of beer. Other times, tomato sauce or a few jiggers of lemon juice. I splash on the more familiar summer condiments and occasionally add a few squirts of ketchup. Every food, with the possible exception of pancakes and ice cream, tastes better with ketchup.
Once the potatoes are sliced, seasoned and sauced, it’s time to wrap up the project. I usually have to grab another two or three sheets of foil, to ensure my potatoes keep their places. Some people might suggest heavy-duty foil, but because I’m generally double- or triple-wrapping anyway, I buy the less-expensive standard grade.
Cooking is really the easiest part of the process. Gas grills are preferred. Charcoal gives you a smoky taste for meat, poultry and seafood, but because the foiled potatoes and company are protected against the direct smoke and sizzle, charcoal is not the best choice here.
Once the grill is lit, slap the potatoes on. My barbecue pouches — sometimes I use two — look like long, silvery loaves of Italian bread. They just soak up the heat. You’ll need two metal turners to turn the pouches. I don’t really watch the clock on this recipe. Sometimes, my potatoes get 12 minutes a side, other times they get 20. Because the potatoes are baking inside a steamer, and are away from flames, they cook right through and rarely burn. The long cooking time also makes sure the potatoes are not going to disappoint me. I’d rather have a little overcooked than a lot raw.
The pouches will expand a little bit, inflated by all that heat. That’s one way you can tell they’re ready for the table. Another way is cheating, but I’ve done it before: use a steak knife to slice open the aluminum and see if the steamed-up potatoes are fork tender.
It’s smart to open these guys as soon as they’re off the grill. If you keep them wrapped up on the kitchen counter, they’re going to keep cooking. Best to slice them open, let cool for a minute or two, and serve them with other summer foods.
I’ve always cooked barbecued potatoes for dinner but will try them for breakfast later this summer. When I have guests visiting Saratoga Race Course, omelets, home fries, corned beef hash and sausage are part of the famous Saturday and Sunday morning big breakfast. Sorry, no coffee at my house.
Barbecued potatoes are also simple clean-ups. Cutting boards, knives, metal turners and a mixing bowl get the quick wash-and-dry treatment. The flame-broiled foil is rolled up and thrown away.