Although the name of this recipe sounds redundant. It’s not. This finger food is one part “mixed grill” and one part “grilled provolone.” Put the two together and you’ve got an outrageously rocking herbaceously spicy, cheesy, Cajun meets Italian meets Argentinian masterpiece, if I must say so myself. Now I’m not one to toot my own horn. Really, I’m not! But if you love the fab trio of andouille, shrimp and chicken (think jambalaya and gumbo), the smoky goodness of roasted poblano peppers and grilled onions, the tang and bite of an almost-chimichurri sauce and the pronounced flavor of a melted Italian provolone cheese (a variation of which is also made in Argentina), you’re gonna go crazy over this dish!
I’ve had this collaboration in my head for sometime now. The mixed grill half came by way of a memorable meal I had back at Commander’s Palace 1995ish. At that time, the amazing Jamie Shannon was at the helm. (Unfortunately, Chef Jamie’s life and his amazing career ended in 2001 when he lost his battle with cancer. He was only 40!) As the hubby (my then boyfriend) and I waited to be seated, Chef Jamie stuck his head around the corner to check in with the Maitre d. As our eyes met, he exuberantly said, “Welcome to Commander’s,” to which I replied, “Thanks Chef! What’s your best recommendation?” With a big, energetic smile, he suggested I “order something you wouldn’t make at home!” As I perused the menu with cocktail in hand (craft beer was not mainstream back them), I picked what appeared to be a complicated number composed of various types of meat and seafood. It was his Mixed Grill. Back then, I neither grilled nor had the budget to buy the quality and variety of proteins that plate promised. So I followed Chef Jamie’s advice and went for it. Again, one of my most memorable meals!
The grilled provolone is something I’ve always wanted to try. But I must say, I’ve taken the safe route by placing the cheese in a skillet as opposed to putting the round directly on the hot grill, as is traditionally done. The skillet thing works well in this recipe since the mixed grill items take longer to cook than the cheese does to melt. Plus, the cast iron skillet that I melt the cheese in is also used as my serving dish. It retains the heat especially well which keeps the cheese gooey longer. When the cheese starts to harden, I throw it on the stove over medium heat to soften it back up. Regarding the toppings, play around with them anyway you’d like. Because this is a Lenten Friday, you can easily swap out the andouille and chicken for crawfish (only fresh cooked not frozen) and crab. Or maybe even fried oysters!
To accentuate the roasted and smoky flavors of the mixed grill and in keeping with the barbecuey qualities of the provolone prep, I think either an IPA or a Cabernet would be your best beverage bets for this finger food. Right now, I’m loving on Green Flash West Coast IPA out of California. Bold grapefruit (my favorite) and lemon. A little pine. Cabernet-wise, I don’t have any personal recommendations. But Wine Spectator’s making plenty of noise over one Cougar Crest Dedication Six Columbia Valley 2009. This Cabernet blend is “focused, polished and rich in flavor.” And it’s only twenty bucks a bottle. Can’t argue with that!
Until next week …
Mixed Grill Grilled Provolone Recipe
1 pound provolone cheese, preferably in one whole round (or a half-round sliced horizontally into two pieces)
2 large poblano peppers
1 large onion, halved and sliced
1/2 pound andouille sausage, sliced lengthwise into thirds
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 pound small (41 count or smaller) shrimp, peeled
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
French bread, for serving
Preheat broiler. Place cheese in a medium cast iron skillet (or in a disposable aluminum pan); let sit at room temperature. Meanwhile, place poblanos on a baking sheet and broil, turning frequently, until skin is black and blistered on all sides. Transfer to a paper bag and seal or place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap; let sit for 5 minutes. Rub the skin off the poblanos with your fingers; core, seed and roughly chop. Put in a grill pan with onions; set aside. Place sausage, chicken and shrimp in separate, resealable plastic bags. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, oregano, thyme, salt and peppers. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil mixture into each plastic bag; marinate for 15 minutes. Pour remaining olive oil mixture over cheese. Prepare grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Place everything on grill. Grill shrimp and chicken until cooked through. Grill sausage until casings are crisp. Grill peppers and onions until onions are just tender and slightly charred. Grill cheese until fully melted. Slice sausage and chicken into bite-size pieces. Arrange on top of melted cheese along with shrimp, poblano peppers and onions. Serve immediately with French bread. Makes 8-10 appetizer servings.