The stove plays a supporting role
In my restaurant kitchens, we have grills fired up all year-round, ready to cook steaks, seafood, poultry, and vegetables to perfection. We treat our grills as one of many key appliances. And, for any given dish or meal a guest might order, we may make use of our grills just like we do our ovens or stoves, and the food in any given dish or meal we serve might employ the grill in collaboration with those other appliances.

Grilling can work the same way at home. Too often, I think, when people grill they feel as if they have to move the entire cooking operation outdoors. But if you treat your outdoor grill (or, if you live in an apartment or the weather isn't cooperating, your countertop electric grill, stovetop ridged grill pan, or broiler) as just another of the appliances you have at your service rather than as the only one you're supposed to use, a great new world of creative options can open up to you.

While the grill is heating up, for example, you can make terrific side dishes with your stovetop or oven. You can simmer sauces on a burner, or make quick salsas in a blender or processor. By strategizing a grilled meal in this way, you'll easily avoid the too-simplistic approach to outdoor cooking that winds up with you and your guests facing a steak, fish fillet, or chicken breast all alone on a plate.

Take my recipe for Grilled Chile-Marinated Steak with Oven-Baked Potato "Quesadilla" as just one example of letting your indoor stove and other appliances play creative supporting roles to your outdoor grill. In this case, your blender first helps you make the marinade for the steak and a tangy sour cream sauce. Then, while the grill heats up, the stovetop and oven start cooking my unusual take on a Mexican quesadilla, in which wafer-thin layers of potato replace the usual flour tortillas. Finally, the grill itself gets in on the action, cooking the marinated steak while the quesadilla finishes baking.

To tell you the truth, explaining the recipe, even in that brief way, makes it sound more complicated than it really is. The marinating steak, the tomato-jalapeno salsa, and the sour cream sauce are all done easily in advance. While the grill heats up, all you have to do is start preparing the "quesadilla." Grilling the steak itself is the quickest, easiest part of all. (You can double the recipe's quantities, by the way, to serve 4.)

Yet, when all these elements are finally arranged together on serving plates, the result is nothing short of spectacular. And it all happens by letting your indoor appliances play a role in your outdoor cooking.

GRILLED CHILE-MARINATED STEAK WITH OVEN-BAKED POTATO "QUESADILLA"

Serves 2

CHILE-MARINATED STEAK:

2 ounces dried ancho chiles

1/2 cup peeled garlic cloves

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

3 organic green onions, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

Juice of 1 lime

1 8-ounce New York steak

SALSA: