Joe Carroll and going Neanderthal

View from grilling deck

View from grilling deck, Casa Stewarti

Monday:                              Grilled Sausage, Pepper and Onion Sandwiches, Green Salad

Grilled Sausage

Tuesday:                              Hershey, PA – annual not-for-profit Nursing Home conference
Wednesday:                       Hershey

Patty Melt

Thursday:                            Joe Carroll’s Patty Melt with Sausage

Herbed Goat cheese

Friday:                                  Belgian Endive with herbed goat cheese,
Swordfish Steaks with Wine Bottle Sauce and Red Rice

Caesar salad with bacon and blue cheese

Saturday:                             Cheese, pickles / Caesar Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese
Sunday:                                Ricotta and Crudités / Seafood Mixed Grill / Boiled Corn on the Cob

In Pittsburgh, the monsoons have stopped and the grilling season has finally begun.  Last week we had a string of fine days.  The trees and shrubs had grown to a jungle lushness, and the early mornings of sunlight through the trees and  dew on the grass and birds singing could only be matched by the pleasures of building a fire at the end of the day and cooking over it.

Fire does something to a man.  There were times, on the grilling deck, when I imagined myself a Neanderthal, grilling aurochs steaks while pawing at the cave-women in the vicinity.  Of course, I was also sipping a very dry martini, which makes pawing somewhat difficult, but has the power to enhance the appeal of every bearskin-clad Ursula and Bertha  grunting from the cave.  Okay – back to earth with an earnest plea regarding grilling.

Joe Carroll is my mentor in all things cooked over an open fire (along with Frances Mallman and Steve Reichlen).  Last week was pretty much all Carroll recipes right through my perfect Father’s Day.  Billy brought me a bottle of gin and some grilling gear.  Andrew sent along some electronics I’ve been lusting after.  Dustin Johnson won the U. S. Open just across the river at Oakmont.  Lebron James and the Cavaliers from Cleveland, with an improbable and spectacular comeback, finally brought a championship to that much beleaguered city, overjoying, among others, the young Hoby Hannas.  And my brother Greg and I were toasted and gifted by our children at a wonderful  fish-roast on Sunday night.

I hate to be pushy,* but I must insist that you get a grill basket** immediately, then lay in some fish and lemons and herbs, and grill the whole lot over charcoal.  There is nothing as satisfying as putting together this lots-of-moving-parts but simple dinner which puts you, alpha Neanderthal that you are, at the center of your family.  This meal is so simple that you can’t foul it up (unless you drink a second martini), and you will feel triumphant as a cave-man returning from a successful Mastodon hunt when you place the dramatic result before your tribe.  I’ve tossed in an ‘Extra’ from low-country cooking (Larry and Lezlie Mayfield gave me a cookbook titled, “taste of the low country,” during our recent trip to Charleston and this recipe is a near exact copy, though spicier, of one of my favorite dishes from the trip).

*Not strictly true – I like to be pushy from time to time.  In fact, the only thing that restrains me from telling everybody what they should be doing all of the time is social convention and the fear of being lynched by an enraged mob of family and friends.  But, hey – this is for their own good and they should be grateful.

**Grill basket – this is an open-work metal basket with sides and an open-work lid that can be clamped so that the food thus secured can be flipped over without losing any of it.  They sell them everywhere but in Uzbekistan – so you have no excuse.

Mixed Seafood Grill


(from Feed the Fire by Joe Carroll)

We grill a lot of fish – not just shrimp or oysters, but whole fish, salmon and swordfish and even delicate fillets (though that takes some careful oiling and spatula work) – but this is the mother of all grilled fish recipes.

Supplies:    (for 3-4 servings – we doubled the amounts for 6)

2 pounds of a mixture of shrimp, mussels, scallops and firm fish fillets (we used halibut).  Cut the fish fillets into 2 inch pieces
Mix herb sprigs like tarragon, parsley and chives – a handful
Bunch of scallions (cleaned, remove any dirty outer layers but leave roots attached)
1 Lemon, thinly sliced
½ lemon for juicing
¼ cup olive oil and a bit more for drizzling
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
Crusty bread, for serving


Clean shrimp (leave tails on)
Clean the mussels, then wrap them in a wet dish towel and re-refrigerate.
Slice 1 lemon thinly
Assemble handful of herbs and sprigs


Start a charcoal fire (you need a medium hot fire for this recipe)

Toss the seafood with the olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl

Open a grill basket and place it on the grill and scatter the seafood over the bottom of basket.

Layer the lemon slices on top of the seafood and scatter the herbs over the top.  Drizzle with olive oil – you’ll get some flare up, but it will die down quickly and you have a handle to lift the basket if need be.

Grill for 4 minutes, then flip the basket over and squeeze the lemon half over the seafood.

Continue cooking until seafood is opaque and cooked through (about 4 minutes).  The mussels will have opened as well.

Empty the basket onto a platter, drizzle with a little more oil and scatter some chopped parsley over it.  Serve with good, crusty bread for sopping up the juices.

Note:  If you don’t have a martini handy, a good quality rosé wine, lightly chilled, would be perfect with this meal.

EXTRA                                                                   Red Rice

(from taste of the low country – courtesy of Lezlie and Larry Mayfield)

Supplies:        (Serves 8)

2 cups uncooked rice
Canola oil
1 red onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 tablespoons blackening or Cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 ½ cups water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ cup tomato juice
2 bay leaves
1 bunch scallions, thinly slice
Salt and pepper


Dice onions and pepper
Slice scallions
Measure out other ingredients


Heat a large saucepan over medium.  Add canola oil to cover the pan.
When the oil is hot, add onion and cook until translucent.
Add green pepper and rice and blackening seasoning and sauté until fragrant, 2 or 3 minutes.
Add garlic to pan and sauté about 1 minute
Add water, sugar, tomato paste, tomato juice and bay leaves and stir until incorporated.
Bring mixture to a simmer and cook, covered, until rice is cooked and liquid has been absorbed (15-20 minutes).
Stir in scallions, correct seasoning and serve.








3 thoughts on “Joe Carroll and going Neanderthal

  1. Hilda and Julie – thanks for the comments. Julie, you can borrow my lid. I could live on that grill deck at this time of year

  2. Good morning Bill,
    Love the view from grilling deck and feel very fortunate to know it well. 😏
    Love all of the pics and recepies too.
    I am going out to buy a grill basket this week and hope the Mister will enjoy this beautiful dish as much as I will. Cheers🐇

  3. Hi Bill, I loved this blog! I want to try the mixed fish grill. I have a grill basket but it does not have a lid! Not as fancy as yours!! Will the fish hold up if I have to flip them all my self? I guess I could try to be a professional and do the omelet toss, but I’m really not that skilled. What would you recommend ? Julie

    Sent from my iPad


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