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Using a Shaker Basket

Using a Shaker Basket

A shaker basket is ideal for cooking foods like cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, and sliced zucchini and onions, which tend to fall through the grate. It also works well for grilling long vegetables, such as asparagus and whole green onions, which can easily slip into the fire. And its handy for cooking mussels, clams and especially shrimp. In addition, you can use a shaker basket to keep cooked foods warm on the grill.

Shrimp and Vegetables
Many foods require quick cooking over a medium-hot to hot fire. These include shrimp, sliced zucchini, eggplant and onions, and whole vegetables like mushrooms and asparagus. For the most effective grilling, preheat the basket on the hottest part of the grill before adding the food. (The basket tends to cool down after food is added.) You can either set the basket on the grill or, for more effective preheating, remove the handle from the basket and close the grill lid.

Arrange the food items in the preheated basket in a single layer so they will cook fast and evenly. Overfilling the basket can slow down the cooking process considerably.

When you are ready to turn the food over, remove the basket from the heat and use tongs for turning. Then return the basket to the heat. After you are comfortable handling the basket, you can shake it directly over the grill to turn and redistribute the food, although you will probably still need tongs to turn over a few stubborn items. (Even an experienced chef cant toss everything perfectly with a flick of the wrist!)

Shrimp: Prepare a hot fire in a grill and preheat the basket. In a bowl, toss the shrimp with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and place them in the basket in a single layer. Cook until the shrimp are pink and opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Sliced zucchini, eggplant and onions: Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill and preheat the basket. Cut the vegetables into slices 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. In a bowl, toss the vegetables with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and place them in the basket in a single layer. Cook, shaking the basket occasionally, until the vegetables are golden and tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Asparagus and whole green onions: Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill and preheat the basket. Brush the asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the vegetables in the basket in a single layer perpendicular to the handle. Cook, turning frequently, until the vegetables are golden and tender, 4 to 6 minutes for pencil-thin asparagus and green onions, 8 to 10 minutes for thick asparagus.

Whole button mushrooms and cherry tomatoes: Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill and preheat the basket. In a bowl, toss the vegetables with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and place them in the basket in a single layer. Cook, shaking the basket occasionally, until the vegetables are golden and tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Mussels, Clams and Oysters
Mussels and clams: Prepare a hot fire in a grill and place the mussels or clams in the basket. (You can fill the basket two-thirds to three-fourths of the way.) Place the basket on the hottest part of the grill, remove the handle from the basket, and cover the grill with the lid. Cook until the mussels or clams open, 6 to 8 minutes. Serve immediately with drawn butter and lemon. The shellfish will be juicy and tender with a subtle smoky flavor.

Oysters on the half shell: Prepare a hot fire in a grill and place the oysters in the basket in a single layer. Season oysters with a little lemon, freshly ground pepper and chives, or top with buttered, toasted bread crumbs. Place the basket on the hottest part of the grill, remove the handle from the basket and cook until the oysters are slightly firm to the touch, 3 to 5 minutes.

Keeping Cooked Foods Warm
To maximize grilling space, put already-grilled foods, such as chicken breasts, steaks, burgers and hot dogs, in the basket so theyll stay warm until you are ready to serve. The baskets steep sides allow for easy stacking. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on a cooler portion of the grill and set the basket on the foil. (The foil will help prevent the foods from cooking further.) Then continue grilling over the hotter spots.

When reheating cooked foods that need occasional tossing and stirring, such as sliced bell peppers and onions, potatoes or barbecued chicken wings, you can fill the basket one-half to two-thirds of the way.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.