Montana mountains and wheat fields
Growing up on our farm grilling outside consisted of cutting and whittling lilac bush sticks with a jack knife into sharp little spears, then stabbing a coarsely ground skin-on wiener and roasting it over a very large outdoor fire made up of sticks, grass clippings and pine cones raked up after the most recent thunderstorm. This attention to recycling detail made us fully compliant with Swedish farmer’s commandment–waste not want not.
After roasting your wiener, it was then time to spear a couple of nice sweet soft white fluffy marshmallows onto your stick, hold them over the fire until they lit up like the 4th of July with at least a four-inch bright orange flame, chase a younger sibling around the yard with your sugar-fueled torch until either the fire burned itself out or your mother got her hands on you. Then, you very meekly, without smirking, ate the charred remains of the marshmallow.
The simplicity of the wiener roast was the extent of our outdoor meat grilling for many generations. I suppose it wasn’t so much a lack of interest in protein dietary diversity preparation methods that had prevented an early introduction to marination and grilling of meat on the farm. I believe that this obvious missing link in the culinary evolution of animal muscle consumption techniques resulted not so much from a lack of interest in the subject matter, but moreover from a generalized adversity to further exposure to the daily elements of heat and humidity which would only be extended should external environment cooking methods be tried. In other words, we liked eating tasty meat, but were just too darn hot to cook outdoors after a long day spent baking in farm fields. (Can you tell I used to write wordy confusing at times nonsensical copy for politicians. LOL! )
The first grilled food I can remember tasting was during one of our annual trips to Great Falls, Montana to visit my Aunt Margie, Uncle Klynn, and cousins Debbie and Laurie. Their home was surrounded by neighbors, not fields, and there was a store closer to their house than the barn was to ours where you could buy Popsicles for a nickle. If you couldn’t walk the short distance to the store, there was a brightly colored van chiming the song, “Pop Goes the Weasel” that stopped and sold ice cream treats right in front of their house. I knew right then, that the big city held marvels such as I had never experienced on the farm.
Uncle Klynn was an accomplished architect and designed several major buildings in the state of Montana. He was also the first man I had ever seen wear short pants and open toed shoes…without socks! The man was a revolutionary. For no matter how high the heat or humidity on the farm, the men folk always wore long pants. They even wore long pants when we went fishing. In addition to being fashion forward, my Montana uncle was also the first adult male I had ever seen cook–he used a Weber grill in his backyard.
It was at Uncle Klynn’s home that I first tasted grilled meat. Grilled hamburgers were a revelation, but what remains foremost in my mind’s eye and taste buds was when he grilled chicken and once even a whole turkey. Not only did he grill the poultry, but all that deliciousness was basted with tangy sauces–none of which were white. What a shock it was to my young mind that there were more sauces in this world than Swedish white sauce, ketchup and mustard.
Montana’s snow capped mountains and Uncle Klynn’s poultry grilling expertise opened up a whole new world for me. The discovery of a land with endless vistas of striped golden wheat-filled plains abutting purple mountains majesty was just a little more exciting than discovering that were a variety of cooking sauces. From that time on poultry became so much more than something to feed, butcher, pluck, freeze, casserole, bake and fry. Chickens and turkeys could be turned into saucy barbecued masterpieces of culinary delight!
Lime Marinated Grilled Chicken with Mango Salsa
2 mangoes, peeled and diced into small cubes
½ red bell pepper, finely chopped
½ cup orange juice
juice of 2 limes
3 Tablespoons of minced fresh basil
salt and ground pepper to taste
In a medium-sized bowl add the diced mangos, bell peppers, lime and orange juices, salt and pepper and the basil. This mixture should be covered and refrigerated for 2-3 hours before serving.
2 Tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 Tablespoons frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
½ teaspoon salt
ground pepper to taste
1 chicken cut up for grilling, or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts.
Line the inside of a large mixing bowl with an unzipped, 1- gallon Ziplock bag. Next, added the marinade ingredients of salt, pepper, limeade and orange juice. Zip bag shut and mix ingredients together. Open bag and put in the chicken. Take out as much air out of the bag as possible without spilling the marinade and zip bag shut. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. (Always marinate chicken in the refrigerator to prevent food borne illness.)
Heat the grill and adjust the rack for proper cooking. Grill the chicken until brown and the juices run clear. (Do not under cook chicken, if you do, you are just sending an invitation to a nasty food borne illness to attend your barbecue.)
Serve chicken topped with the mango salsa, and sides of cold salads.
Wheat fields of Montana