In May, thousands of grilling enthusiasts gathered in Chicago's Lincoln Park for two days of grilling demonstrations, tastings, and more at the first-ever Better Homes and Gardens and Weber Chill and Grill Festival.
Grilling pro Rusty Hamlin taught festival goers how to make three different appetizers on the grill. Get the scoop on the following slides.
To make his zesty steak appetizer, Rusty starts with the corn salad. He brushes ears of corn (husks and silks removed) with olive oil and seasons them with salt and pepper before placing them on the grill. "I like to get a little char flavor on the corn, so I grill it out of the husk," he says. After grilling, Rusty cuts the corn from the cobs and combines it with the other salad ingredients.
The thick New York strip steaks are seasoned with salt, pepper, and blackening seasoning before Rusty grills the meat to medium doneness. "One of my rules of cooking meat is to always preseason, and then taste it when it's done and add additional seasoning if needed," Rusty says. "You can add more, but you can't take it away."
Top crispy hoe-cakes with a slice of blackened steak and a little of the corn salad and aioli for a colorful presentation.
Pulling from his Louisiana roots, Rusty makes a shrimp and crab salad spiced with lemon and hot sauce for his second appetizer.
To start, plump shrimp are threaded onto skewers and seasoned with salt and pepper. The shrimp cook quickly and are ready once they are opaque.
Rusty quickly chops the cooked shrimp once it comes off the grill. All of his other salad ingredients are prepped, including the crab. "I always try to use local ingredients when we are on tour," he says. "Use local crab if you can get it."
Rusty uses cucumber rounds to serve the salad, but he says crackers work just as well. To make the job quick and easy, he uses a small ice cream scoop to portion out the salad. A few chives on top, and it's ready to serve.
The name of Rusty's third appetizer comes from the surprising mix of ingredients -- kiwifruits and avocados -- that's served over grilled flatbread.
To start, Rusty cooks this Italian bacon in a cast-iron skillet. "If you don't want pancetta, a nice smoky bacon will work," he says. "Or you can make a vegetarian version and leave the meat out altogether."
Stir chopped red pepper and cilantro into the mashed avocados. "If you don't like cilantro, add oregano or chives instead," Rusty says.
Meanwhile, Rusty puts the flatbread on the grill to toast and take on a hint of smoky flavor. "Keep the bread on for a while; you want it to be nice and crispy," he says
To serve the crostad, Rusty tops the guacamole with diced kiwifruit and red pepper. You could also use slices of avocado and kiwi strips he says. A drizzle of balsamic glaze adds the final touch of color and flavor.