Dad and me /

For Father’s Day, take a tip from Dad and grill

My dad is a master of the grill.

When I say that you might picture a funny-pages version of dad-as-griller, an only-on-weekends, back yard cook who humorously and consistently builds an unnecessarily huge fire, grills only the simplest of steaks, chops, and burgers, and serves them all just this side of incinerated. My dad, that is not.

Rather, he grills just about every night, turning out fabulous food time after time. If he’s having company, he might grill salmon, marinated with soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and herbs. He cooks it perfectly crisp-charred on the outside and tender-juicy on the inside. My husband requests it nearly every visit.

If he’s not having company, Dad might grill something simpler, maybe chicken or halved Cornish game hens and vegetables. Enjoying these meals, I learned – almost by osmosis but, of course, from Dad – one of the holy trinities of cooking: olive oil, salt, and pepper. Those three things will quickly and easily make pretty much anything taste great.

Dad perfected his methods with years of practice – from the little hibachi on the patio of his bachelor pad to the built-in gas grill at the house he designed. Along the way, there were kettle-style Webers and even a Farberware thing that sat on the kitchen countertop. Between visits to his home and, occasionally, living in it, I enjoyed not only the spoils, but some of my first cooking lessons, watching him prepare for and cook on the grill.

And so you can imagine my surprise a couple of years ago – on Father’s Day, in fact – when he confessed to not being particularly committed to grilling at all! I’d complemented him on his mastery and he demurred, saying “You realize, of course, I only grill every night because it’s so easy to clean up!”

Talk about your my-dad-is-only-human-after-all moments!

All this time, when I thought he was practicing, exercising, honing his skills, he was actually avoiding dirty pots and pans. The grilling prowess was a side benefit.

Actually, maybe that’s even more impressive.

All of which is a too-perfect reminder that while a dad will always be a hero in his daughter’s eyes, he’s also only human.

And, nothing beats grilling for easy clean-up.

To underscore the latter, I offer this recipe from my book, for Spice-Rubbed Pork Chops with Grilled Tomato Sauce, which would make a great Father’s Day entrée. It proves another thing I learned from Dad: almost everything tastes better with grill marks.

To underscore the former, I say here’s to my fabulous dad, a regular guy to most everyone but me.

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