Up in Smoke: First Issue
After an unbelievably hectic June and half of July (I was on the Barbecue Bus Tour for 5 continuous weeks!), I’m finally back home in Martha’s Vineyard. For a week, at least, which lately is a long time for me to be in one place during barbecue season. So my wife, Barbara, and I have been grilling lots of summery New England foods-especially lobster, swordfish, and corn.
If you’ve never had lobster on the grill, buy yourself a couple of live lobsters and try it. Nothing brings out the crustacean’s briny sweetness like the high, dry heat of the grill. You can grill a lobster whole in the shell or cut in half. We prefer the latter. Parboil a 1-1/2 pound lobster for 3 minutes, then cut it in half lengthwise with a large knife. We cut off the claws and place them on a hot grill for 3 minutes. Then we grill the lobster bodies cut side down for 3 minutes, then the cut side up for 6 to 8, basting the lobster meat with plenty of herb butter. (Melted salted butter with your favorite fresh herb finely chopped.) If you’ve never had lobster cooked this way, you’re in for a revelation.
The swordfish on Martha’s Vineyard has been magnificent this summer-thick meaty steaks glistening with ocean freshness. We ask our fishmonger to cut steaks 3/4 inch thick. This is the size I prefer-thick enough to keep the fish from drying out, but thin enough to cook quickly. The local swordfish has been so fresh, we season it with nothing more than coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a whisper of extra virgin olive oil. A simple salsa of diced tomatoes, raw corn, olives, and scallions turns grilled fish into a summer feast.
And corn! I advocate grilling it naked (the cobs, not the griller). Brush with olive or melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Or do as the Japanese do: brush with melted butter and soy sauce and sprinkle the corn with sesame seeds and pepper. Mexicans slather it with mayonnaise and grated cheese, while Indians baste it with butter and lime juice and season it with cayenne pepper! In short, everybody loves grilled corn, no matter what the seasonings.
So what are you grilling this summer? Join this discussion at the BBQ Board. And don’t forget to enter the Great American Barbecue Contest. You might just win a gleaming stainless steel Weber® Summit® Silver A gas grill.
Well, to judge from your emails and BBQ board postings, a lot of you are having fun with beer can chicken. Trust me, the bird will really fit under the grill lid provided you use a 12 ounce can and at least a 23 inch kettle grill. You should also know we had the process (cooking on aluminum cans) tested in a laboratory, so it is safe. Looking to cook with something other than beer? Cola, ice tea, and even cranberry juice work great.
Just about everyone reports that beer canning produces the most succulent, flavorful, tender chicken imaginable, with smoke-scented, crackling crispy skin. Try my Basic Beer-Can Chicken recipe for your first time out. If you’re a beer can chicken pro, try pushing the envelope with other birds, like quail, game hen, duck, even turkey.
Lemon Ginger Skirt Steak
Skirt steak is one of my favorite cuts of beef for grilling. It’s quick and easy to grill, intensely flavorful, and mercifully inexpensive. This recipe plays the Asian overtones of ginger and soy sauce against the Mediterranean scents of lemon and basil, so everyone comes out a winner.
Tip: Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest (the oil rich yellow peel of the lemon) in thin strips from the rind.
1-1/2 pounds skirt steaks
freshly ground black pepper and a little kosher salt
for the marinade:
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
4 strips lemon zest
4 fresh basil leaves, plus sprigs of basil for garnish
2 cloves garlic, rough chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sherry (cream or dry)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Place the skirt steaks in a non-reactive baking dish and season on both sides with pepper and salt. (Heavy on the pepper, light on the salt, as the soy sauce is salty, too.) Place the ingredients for the marinade in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour the marinade over the skirt steaks and marinate for 4 hours in the refrigerator, turning the steaks twice.
2. Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Brush and oil the grill grate. Drain the skirt steaks well and arrange on the grate. Grill the steaks until cooked to taste, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium rare. Serve at once, with lemon wedges for squeezing and basil sprigs for garnish.
GRILL GEAR: Mopping Up
They look really cool, and there’s nothing better for applying a thin sauce or a liquid flavoring agent to ribs or pork butts. Barbecue mops, which look like miniature floor mops, are available at most grill shops, cookware shops, and at an increasing number of supermarkets. (When pro pit bosses grill large quantities of meat, they use full-size floor mops–clean ones.)
For those of you who have enjoyed the grilled cheese recipes in Barbecue Bible and How to Grill (or have been meaning to try this), I just learned a great new trick from an Argentinean grill master to prevent the cheese from sticking to the grate. Dip it in flour first. (Be sure to shake off the excess.) You get gorgeous grilled cheese with a sizzling golden brown crust–without the sticking.
Another trick to prevent sticking in general–rub the hot grill grate with a cut onion.
Let’s hear your home remedies and tricks. Just post them under the Newsletter Feedback thread on the BBQ Board. I’ll review them and report on the best of the best in upcoming issues of Up in Smoke.
‘CUE HEAD Q AND A
I’d like to hear from you for the next newsletter. Tell me what you’re grilling and what some of your favorite recipes are in the books. Is there any dish or technique giving you trouble? Is there something you’d like to see that I haven’t covered to date? Either write to me at email@example.com, or post to the BBQ Board under Newsletter Feedback.