It’s barbecue season, and everyone is looking for new ways and helpful tips to get grilling.
Chicken is the ideal candidate.
Why? Chicken is light, it easily picks up the marinade of your choice, and it cooks quickly. But this recipe is not for your everyday grilled chicken. This is spicy Jamaican-style jerk chicken.
“Jerk” refers both to a unique blend of seasonings and to a method of slow cooking. It is said to have been invented by Jamaica’s Maroons, slaves who escaped from Spanish-owned plantations when the British took over and established free communities in Jamaica’s mountainous interior.
Jerk seasoning consists of a base blend of scallions, thyme, allspice (known as pimento in Jamaica), Scotch bonnet chilies, salt and, not infrequently, cinnamon or nutmeg. This may look like an awful lot of ingredients to slice and dice, but that’s not the case. Toss them all into a blender, pulverize everything to a paste, then you’re good to go.
The skin is left on the chicken to prevent it from drying out while it’s being grilled, so when you marinate the chicken be sure to put the spice paste under the skin as well as on top of it. If you want to cut calories, you’re welcome to discard the skin after you’re done grilling. The meat itself will be plenty spicy.
Serve it with watermelon salsa to balance the heat of the chilies. All by itself, of course, ripe watermelon is one of the top reasons to love summer. But they happen to be plenty healthy, too. They’re full of water, which makes them an excellent hot weather thirst-quencher, and they’re a great source of lycopene, vitamin C and beta-carotene.
If you’re looking for new and delicious ways to feed a crowd, try a center-cut salmon fillet.
All salmon grills up wonderfully, but center-cut fillets are particularly great when feeding larger groups. Because these fillets tend to have a uniform thickness, they cook up evenly (and are harder to overcook). And that means all your guests can eat at the same time.
When buying salmon fillets, opt for skin-on. Like chicken, the skin adds flavor and protects the delicate fish during grilling. The skin also gives you a nifty way to remove the fish from the grill with no fear of sticking. Start by having your fishmonger cut the skin from the fillet, then place the fillet back on the skin before wrapping it.
When ready to cook, you simply set the skin on the grill, then place the salmon on top of it. Then just cook as directed and remove from the grill (lifting it off the skin) using a spatula.
Because salmon is a more “meaty” fish, it can stand up to a world of flavors, including bourbon, which is the key ingredient in a simple maple-bourbon glaze. It has only three main ingredients, so each of those ingredients must be of the best quality.
Need more inspiration? Here are a few of the many new grilling cookbooks out there, as culled by Susan Selasky of the Detroit Free Press:
• “Smoke & Spice: Cooking With Smoke, the Real Way to Barbecue” by Cheryl and Bill Jamison (Harvard Common Press, $24.95, 502 pages)
This is the updated version of the Jamisons’ 1994 grilling tome. The barbecue masters and James Beard Cookbook award winners completely revised their book to include new recipes and full color photographs. There are more than 450 recipes from all barbecue regions of the U.S. The book is divided into sections on beef, pork and poultry. The Jamisons also cover the craft of true barbecue, offering tips on using smoke and cooking foods low and slow.
Best tip: Have an area for cutting, prepping and keeping supplies and sauces at hand when cooking outdoors.
• “Weber’s Big Book of Burgers: The Ultimate Guide to Grilling Backyard Classics” by Jamie Purviance (Sunset, $21.95, 256 pages)
The thrust of this book is burgers – but not just plain old beef burgers. Weber grilling guru Jaime Purviance covers just about anything that can be shaped into a patty and served on a bun or a variety of breads and rolls. There are recipes for beef burgers, chicken and turkey burgers, shrimp burgers and an array of veggie burgers.
Best tip: Don’t crowd food on the grill. “All food cooks a little better on a grill with a little space around,” Purviance writes.
• “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room: Southern Recipes From the Winningest Woman in Barbecue” by Melissa Cookston (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $22.99, 192 pages)
Pitmaster and restaurateur Melissa Cookston writes that her “barbecue and cooking are about building layered tastes that unite on flavored effect.” Cookston also includes her competition recipes, plenty of tips, stories from the barbecue competition circuit and even a recipe for cooking a whole hog. Peppered throughout are recipes for injection sauces, glazes, seasonings and rubs.
Best tip: “Sauces should complement the meat, not overpower it, and certainly never conflict with it,” Cookston writes.