Shared cooking duties: He grills; she does the rest

Gerry Doll works on searing a beef tenderloin outdoors on his Kamado style grill. The thick ceramic grill is able to keep grilling foods even during cold wintery days. |  Judy Buchenot~For Sun-Times Media
Gerry Doll slowly turns the tenderloin so that it sears on all sides. Then he removes the meat while the grill cools to a lower roasting temperature to finish off the beef.  |  Judy Buchenot~For Sun-Times Media
Joan Doll places a thermometer in a seared tenderloin. The thermometer has a remote to allow the temperature of the food cooking outdoors on a grill to be monitored from indoors.  |  Judy Buchenot~For Sun-Times Media

A sure sign of a strong marriage is when a couple can complement each other’s talents and create something special. Joan and Gerry Doll have found that combination.

The Naperville couple has perfected a go-to meal that is tasty enough to be memorable yet easy enough to be fun. When company is coming or they want a special evening together, a juicy cut of marinated beef tenderloin, rich and creamy horseradish scalloped potatoes, and tender, oven-roasted broccoli is often the chosen combination.

Joan, 46, handles the kitchen creations and gladly acknowledges that Gerry, 49, is the grilling guru.

“I learned to cook to overcome an Irish childhood full of boiled everything,” Gerry jokes.

His mother got him his first kettle grill when he was a teen, and before long, Gerry mastered the flavor-enhancing skill of searing meat followed by careful grilling over indirect heat.

For years, Gerry seared and roasted on aging grills that were ready to expel their last broil. Finally, Joan decided it was time for an upgrade, and after major research, Gerry lit a fire in a Big, Green Egg.

“It is really not a grill as much as a cult,” he says of the ceramic Kamado-style grill and its devoted users.

The thick ceramic walls allow temperatures to reach 800 degrees, a perfect searing environment. Two vents can then be opened to lower temperatures.

“I have never had a grill hold the temperature as steady as this one,” says Gerry, who grills even on sub-zero, snowy days. “Only natural lump charcoal can be used in the grill, and I never need to add more charcoal. One load does it all.”

He also has had success with smoking meats on the grill.

Gerry enjoys cooking outdoors in many different settings. He is an avid fisherman who travels to Canada’s North Woods every summer to fish and enjoy daily shore lunches.

“It is the epitome of outdoor cooking,” he says.

After a morning of fishing, Gerry and his fellow fisherman pull up to shore, start a roaring fire to heat a 24-inch cast iron skillet, and start onions and potatoes cooking in sizzling oil. Meanwhile, the freshly caught walleye are filleted to go into the skillet when the potatoes and onions are done.

Brogan, his 12-year-old son went fishing with his dad last summer and attests to the flavor of the fresh catch. “The fish go from swimmin’ to floppin’ to eatin’ and are so good.”

Joan is content to stay home during her husband’s annual fishing adventure. She appreciates his grilling talent, and he appreciates her ability to cook everything else. The couple will celebrate 17 years of marriage Saturday, Feb. 8.

Joan recalls their unlikely first meeting.

“My girlfriend and I ended up at this dive bar, and I was not happy to be there,” she recalls.

But then a dapper young man walked in the door wearing a suit, which placed him above all the other patrons. She made a point of meeting him, and by the end of the evening, Joan had managed to pencil in a lunch date in his day planner.

“The funny thing is that my girlfriend also met her husband-to-be that night in that bar also,” Joan says.

With an anniversary so close to Valentine’s Day, they always remember to celebrate their marriage. They offer their favorite recipes for other couples to try as a Valentine’s treat together or with friends and family.

Marinated Beef Tenderloin

1 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup pineapple juice

1/2 cup vinegar

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

3 to 5 pounds beef tenderloin roast or six to eight tenderloin filets

Combine first six ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil to dissolve sugar. Allow to cool. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use. Place beef tenderloin into cooled marinade and marinate several hours or overnight in the refrigerator. 

When ready to cook, heat grill to high. Sear beef on all sides. Remove beef and allow grill to cool to about 350 degrees. Return meat to grill and insert meat thermometer. Grill meat until internal temperature of 125 degrees is reached for medium rare — about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from grill and tent with foil. Allow to sit 10 minutes before slicing. Meat will continue to cook off the grill so be sure to take it off the grill before desired final temperature is reached. Slice and serve.

Horseradish Scalloped Potatoes

3-1/2 cups heavy cream

2 garlic cloves, minced

1-3/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

6 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh horseradish root

2-1/2 pounds Idaho potatoes

1/2 large tart apple (Granny Smith)

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium bowl, combine the cream, garlic, salt and pepper. Gradually stir in horseradish adjusting amount to taste. Spray a 13-by-9-inch glass pan with cooking spray. Peel and thinly slice the potatoes. Peel, core, halve and thinly slice the apple. Arrange apple and potato in the pan. Pour cream mixture over the top. The dish can be prepared up to this point and allowed to sit out for up to two hours. Do not refrigerate. 

When ready to cook, bake at 350 degrees in the upper third of the oven for 30 minutes or until mixture is bubbling. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top and bake an additional 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender and cheese is browned. Remove from oven and cover loosely with foil. Let stand in a warm place for 10 to 30 minutes to allow dish to set. Cut into eight squares and serve.

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