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Stuff(ed) on the grill: Savory fillings enliven the usual suspects

Pork loin with Chef Ted Reader's Mediterranean stuffing makes a great summer recipe.
Pork loin with Chef Ted Reader's Mediterranean stuffing makes a great summer recipe.

Grilling already has got its steaks, slabs and skewers. With summer coming, maybe it’s time to slap another “s” down on that sizzlin’ hot grate: as in “stuffed.”

Stuffing can mean extra prep work. But it’s all worth it to Ted Reader, a Toronto chef, barbecuing expert and product developer, who has a number of stuffed recipes in his latest book, “Gastro Grilling” (Pintail, $25).

“The No. 1 reason is to add fun to your food, to change it up,” Reader says in making a case for stuffing. “You can grill burgers, hot dogs, steaks and chicken breasts, and that’s great. But there’s so much more you can do to make these things better.”

Stuffing can add flavor and moisture to foods, particularly leaner cuts of meat, says Jamie Purviance, an El Dorado Hills, California-based chef and author of several grilling cookbooks. (The most recent? “Weber’s Big Book of Burgers,” Oxmoor, $21.95, published in April.)

“I think about pork and poultry and sometimes beef,” Purviance says, when asked what he tends to stuff. “A flank steak works well, but it takes a bit of handiwork with a knife. Butterflying something, rolling it up and tying it is not necessarily for beginners.”

Some ingredients may need to be precooked. You’ll have to cut a pocket in thicker cuts of meat to hold the filling, and tie or skewer the pocket shut so the stuffing won’t fall out. Thinner, pliable pieces of meat, chicken or fish can be spread with a filling and rolled, but you still need to tie that roll closed.

Check out these tips from Reader and Purviance on how to making grilling stuffed foods trouble-free:

• Freeze cheeses and butters before incorporating into the stuffing to help prevent leaking. It will take longer for them to melt during cooking.

• Use a moderately high grilling temperature, about 350 degrees. Do what Purviance calls the “sear and slide”: Sear the stuffed meat over direct heat to brown it, then slide it away from the heat source to finish cooking with indirect heat.

• Precook certain stuffing ingredients, like raw meat or mushrooms, to speed up overall cooking time.

• Tie stuffed meat tightly and firmly to keep stuffing from falling out.

• Appearances count. Your stuffed meat should look attractive, with no stuffing oozing out. Aim for firm, not floppy, the guys say.

• Don’t place just-stuffed meat on the grill. Wrap it up and refrigerate for up to one hour.

• Worried the stuffing still might fall out? Reader recommends you wrap the meat in aluminum foil and begin cooking on the grill. Unwrap after the initial sear and continue grilling.

• Let the stuffed meat rest before slicing.

Bacon stuffing

Prep: 30 minutes

Makes: about 8 cups

Ted Reader, author of “Gastro Grilling,” uses this filling to stuff whole chickens, chicken breasts, pork loin or tenderloins or turkey. Follow your usual cooking method for each meat, making sure the meat and stuffing cook through.

∏ loaf day-old sourdough bread, cut into ∏-inch cubes (about 4∏ cups)

6 slices bacon, coarsely chopped

∏ stick (1⁄4 cup) butter

2 ribs celery, finely diced

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1⁄4 cup finely diced dried apricots

1 tablespoon each, chopped: fresh parsley, fresh sage

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1⁄4 to ∏ cup apple juice or broth

Place bread cubes on a baking sheet; transfer to a 200-degree oven to dry slightly, 30 minutes. (For chicken breasts and other small cuts, use coarse breadcrumbs, about 3 cups.)

Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until rendered and almost crisp, 8-10 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Remove all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat from skillet; save extra bacon fat for another use.

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