Impress your guests with a tantalizing mixed-grill meal

Mixed grill

This article was originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

Given the diversity of delicious grillables available, it’s puzzling how unidimensional outdoor cooking has become in Cottage Land. Instead of “Love All, Serve All,” menu planning has narrowed toward an either/or proposition: steaks or chops. Ribs or salmon. Chicken or chicken.

Enter mixed grill, one of those “new” ideas that’s been around since fire was invented and some proto-dudes cooked songbirds and giant tree grubs at the same time. Yes, more food is always better, but mixed grill works because it’s a people pleaser: fussy palates will find something they like, and open-minded eaters will be impressed.

Many cultures have put a stamp on mixed grill, from the Brazilians and the Argentines (heavy on beef and all its parts) to the English, who give special prominence to gently grilled lamb kidneys. There are versions from South Asia (eaten with roti and chutney) to Jerusalem, where it’s called me’orav Yerushalmi in Hebrew and a 200 kg serving of spiced-up chicken hearts, livers, and spleens, along with some lamb bits, set a Guinness World Record.

Anything can be part of a mixed grill. Sausages are the traditional backbone, but all meats and seafood—and skewers of the same—are tasty possibilities. Different cooking times daunt some grillers, but the secret is to resist formality and the urge to serve everything at once, piping hot.

Instead, set out lots of salad and bread and wine, and let dinner happen in waves as each “grill” is ready. Or pile everything on a platter when it’s done and enjoy dinner at room temperature, which is equally delicious. Relax. Just don’t forget to talk and argue and enjoy the sunset.

It does help to get big cuts like chicken quarters or a whole pork tenderloin going first, then focus on short-order stuff— skewers, sausages, fish in foil. If your timing gets muddled, just carry on. People who want to show off could spin Cornish hens on a rotisserie or do back ribs in a smoker while they grill chorizo, marinated flank steak, and cilantro-lime shrimp skewers. But even a basic hibachi can handle bratwurst, chicken wings, lamb satay, and bacon-wrapped scallops. This is the ultimate in freestyle cooking, so don’t forget to experiment with some grilled polenta or lettuce or bitter greens with olive oil. Got some kielbasa in the fridge? Slice it up and throw it on a hot grate. Because that’s how we roll, mixed-grill style.