August 16th, 2013

Cook Out On The Highway (AKA, Born To Be Broiled)

Engine block cooking of olden daysWhen it comes to kitchen techniques, I find few things weirder (or more awesomely fascinating) than unusual cooking methods. Perhaps the most practical is poaching salmon in the dishwasher. And I’m sure everyone has secret fantasies about taking a blow torch to a steak. Ever heard the saying, ‘It’s so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk?’ There’s actually a contest for that sort of thing in Arizona.

But for me, the holy grail has always been the idea of making an entire meal on your way from point A to point B. I’m not talking about cooking a dish in a crock pot while you’re out doing chores or assembling a sandwich roadside. What I’m referring to is the ultimate road food — a meal cooked on your engine block.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I love a good road trip. Who else would voluntarily get into a car with her mother for three weeks? Then do it again in a foreign country? And then again with her mother’s mother? And all summer, I make bi-weekly treks to a group beach house rental nearly three hours away. Given how much I love to eat — and dislike chain restaurants — it’s only natural that I became mesmerized by the idea of actually cooking en croute enroute.

As it turns out, there’s a long and storied tradition of cooking food under the hood, as demonstrated by countless articles and an entire book, Manifold Destiny, devoted to the subject. I was so excited to get my beef Wellington all wedged up in that grill … until I realized something. Not all engines are created equal.

With easy to find (and identify) parts, older cars were particularly suited for this sort of food prep. But now, most everything in a car is encased in plastic. So there I was, standing in front of my brand new VW Tiguan, my foil packet of dripping, juicy goodness in hand, staring under the hood like a deer in the headlights. Perplexed. Not quite sure what’s what. Scratching my head, tummy rumbling.

This article, based on the aforementioned book, offered good tips on what to do. The author suggests taking the car for a little spin, then sticking your hand under the hood to find hot spots. Then I got to the list of no-nos. One reads, “Give the accelerator linkage a WIDE berth.” What’s a freaking accelerator linkage? Another mentions not blocking the airflow. What airflow? At the end of the list — “Avoid foods with lots of liquid” – I gave up.

Sure, I was born to be wild, but I’m not fricking crazy. We’re talking a brand new car, here. That said, I may borrow my fiancé’s parents’ big old 1996 Grand Marquis to do the job (way to ingratiate yourself to your new in-laws, right?).

In the meantime, if I’m cooking anywhere near my car, it will be after I’ve read Sarah’s tailgating post (coming up next week — stay tuned!). Fun, easy — and with no risk of destroying anyone’s accelerator linkage.

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  1. […] idea, it seemed as farfetched as the concept of cooking on an engine block (clearly, we now know that’s possible!) So I did a little research and found there’s a lot more to cooking in a dishwasher than one […]