May 21, 2014

Memorial Day food: Put the grill in top gear

It’s barbecue season, and everyone is looking for new ways and helpful tips to get grilling.

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.


Grilled jerk chicken breasts with watermelon salsa

Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes (45 minutes active), plus 24 hours marinating

Serves 8


For the marinade:

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

8 scallions, white and green parts, coarsely chopped

1 to 2 (to taste) Scotch bonnet chilies, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 1/2 tablespoons ground allspice

1 1/2 tablespoons Colman’s Mustard (English-style mustard)

2 bay leaves

2 large cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons dried thyme

4 chicken breast halves (4 pounds total) on the bone with the skin, each chicken breast half cut in half

For the salsa:

2 cups diced seedless watermelon

1 cup diced seedless cucumber

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot

1/4 cup finely shredded fresh mint

3 tablespoons lime juice

2 teaspoons packed brown sugar



In a blender, combine 4 tablespoons of the oil, the scallions, chilies, soy sauce, lime juice, allspice, mustard, bay leaves, garlic, salt, sugar and thyme. Blend until the mixture forms a fine paste. Transfer the mixture to a re-sealable plastic bag. Add the chicken and turn it to coat well on all sides. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 2 days.

When ready to cook, heat the grill to medium.

To make the salsa, in a medium bowl, combine the watermelon, cucumber, shallot, mint, lime juice and sugar. Season with salt, then set aside.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the marinade. Using an oil-soaked paper towel held with tongs, oil the grill grates. Add the chicken, skin side down, and grill for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the pieces of chicken, then grill for another 10 to 15 minutes, or just cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate, cover with foil and let rest 5 minutes. Serve each portion topped with some of the salsa.

Per serving: 380 calories; 180 calories from fat (47 percent total calories); 20 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 115 mg cholesterol; 9 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 39 g protein; 650 mg sodium.


Grilled oysters with miso black beans and chili garlic

Start to finish: 15 minutes, plus shucking time

Makes 3 dozen oysters

This recipe is from Hung Huynh, the chef at Catch Miami in Miami Beach and winner of the third season of Bravo’s “Top Chef.” He topped the oysters with a sauce that was deeply savory and had just a bit of heat from jalapeños.


3 tablespoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

2 tablespoons chopped canned black beans

2 teaspoons dark miso

2 tablespoons minced red onion

1 tablespoon minced Peppadew peppers

1 tablespoon minced jalapeño peppers

1 tablespoon sliced scallions

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

3 tablespoons oyster sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 cup sake

1/4 cup water, plus 1 tablespoon, divided

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 dozen oysters


In a small skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until lightly smoking. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the ginger, then saute for another minute. Add the black beans, miso, red onion, Peppadews, jalapeños, scallions and cilantro. Saute for 1 minute, then stir in the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, sake, 1/4 cup of water and orange juice. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 2 minutes.

In a small glass, stir together the cornstarch and remaining 1 tablespoon of water. Stir into the sauce and cook, stirring, for another minute. The sauce will be very thick and chunky. Set aside.

Heat the grill to high.

Shuck the oysters, pouring off any extra juice and leaving the oyster in the bottom half of the shell. Top each oyster with 1 teaspoon of the sauce. Set the oysters directly on the grill grates and cook for about 30 seconds, or until just barely heated. Use tongs to carefully transfer the oysters (the shells will be hot) to a platter. Serve immediately.

Per oyster: 25 calories; 10 calories from fat (40 percent of total calories); 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 5 mg cholesterol; 2 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 1 g protein; 160 mg sodium.


Maple-bourbon glazed salmon fillet

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Serves 4

Want to feed more people? Buy a larger fillet. A 4-pound fillet will take roughly 30 minutes on the grill, and will feed eight people. Recipe from The Associated Press.


One 2-pound center-cut salmon fillet (about 1 inch thick), skin separated, then replaced (see above)

Olive oil

Salt and ground white or black pepper

1/4 cup maple syrup

Juice and zest of 1/2 small orange

2 tablespoons bourbon


Heat the grill to medium and prepare it for indirect cooking. On a charcoal grill, this entails banking the coals to one side and cooking on the cooler side. On a gas grill, then means turning off one side (or the center burner) and cooking over the cooler section.

Check for and remove any small bones in the salmon. Brush the salmon on all sides with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Lay the fish, skin-side down, directly on the cooking grate on the cooler side of the grill. Cook the salmon until opaque, but still moist, 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the maple syrup, orange zest and juice, the bourbon and a pinch of salt. Brush the glaze over the salmon during the final 10 minutes. Do not turn the salmon during cooking.

To transfer the fish to a serving platter, slide a wide spatula between the flesh and the skin. Lift the salmon off the grill, leaving the skin behind. Cover the salmon with foil to keep warm.

Slide the skin over to the hot side of the grill, then close the lid. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and the salmon oils are bubbling. Remove the skin from the grill and serve on the side as you would a chip.

Per serving: 530 calories; 250 calories from fat (47 percent of total calories); 28 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 135 mg cholesterol; 16 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 14 g sugar; 45 g protein; 380 mg sodium.


Simply elegant beef tenderloin

Serves 6 or more

Few main dishes dazzle guests like beef tenderloin. This is an easy but elegant version, flavored simply with garlic, salt, and pepper and then polished to perfection with a quick sear and a slow smoke. Recipe from “Smoke & Spice” by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.


1 whole head of garlic

1 tablespoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil

One 2-pound beef tenderloin

1 to 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

1⁄2 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 1⁄2 cups beef stock

3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil


Break the garlic head apart into individual cloves, but don’t peel them. Place them in a cast-iron or other heavy skillet and dry-roast over medium heat until soft and brown, 6 to 8 minutes, shaking or stirring as needed to color evenly. Peel the garlic (a quick task once roasted) and transfer to a small bowl. Using the back of a large fork, mash the garlic lightly. Add the salt and oil and continue mashing until you have a rough puree.

If you plan to baste the beef tenderloin, reserve 1 teaspoon of the garlic paste. Rub the beef with the remaining paste, massaging it into every little crevice, then combine the two peppers and pat them over the surface. Wrap tightly in plastic and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

If you are using the mop, combine the reserved 1 teaspoon garlic paste with the beef stock and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a saucepan and warm over low heat.

Prepare the smoker for barbecuing, bringing the temperature to 200 to 220 degrees.

In a heavy skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over high heat. Sear the tenderloin on all sides, about 30 seconds per side and each end.

Transfer the tenderloin to the smoker and cook for 11⁄2 to 13⁄4 hours, mopping every 20 minutes in a wood-burning pit, or as appropriate for your style of smoker.

Start checking the internal temperature after 1 hour of cooking. The meat is ready when the internal temperature reaches 120 to 125 degrees.

Be careful not to overcook, since tenderloin is best rare to medium-rare. Let the tenderloin rest for 10 minutes before carving, during which the meat temperature will rise by 5 to 10 degrees. Slice the tenderloin and serve.


Smoky corn on the cob

Serves 6 as a side

Putting bacon in the husk adds resonant flavor to slow-smoked corn. Instead of wrapping the corn in bacon, try slathering the corn in extra-virgin olive oil, pumpkin seed oil, or garlic-flavored oil. Recipe from “Smoke & Spice” by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.


6 ears of corn, with husks

Kosher salt or coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 slices bacon

Old-fashioned high-cholesterol great-tasting Southern sauce (see recipe below) or opt for melted butter


Pull back the corn husks just enough to remove the silks. Place the corn in a large bowl and cover it with cold water. Soak the corn for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Drain the core.

Prepare the smoker for barbecuing, bringing the temperature to 200 to 220 degrees.

Salt and pepper the corn and wrap a piece of bacon around each ear. Rearrange the husks in their original position. Tear 1 or 2 husks into strips and use them to tie around the top of the ears to hold the husks in place.

Place the corn in the smoker and cook until tender, 1 to 11⁄4 hours. Remove corn from the smoker and discard the husks and bacon. Serve hot, with a sauce or butter if you like.


Cowpoke pintos

Serves 6 to 8

Meanwhile, down on the ranch, they wouldn’t eat a navy bean even if Dolly Parton baked it. If you prefer your beans borracho (drunken), replace the soft drink with beer. Recipe from “Smoke & Spice” by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.


1 pound dried pinto beans, soaked overnight in water to cover

8 cups (2 quarts) water

12 ounces Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper, or beer

One 14.5-ounce can whole tomatoes, undrained

2 medium onions, chopped

3 slices bacon, preferably a smoky slab variety, chopped

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon ground cumin

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 to 4 fresh serranos or jalapeños, chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt, or more to taste

1 cup sliced barbecued sausage (optional)


Once the beans have soaked overnight, drain them well.

In a Dutch oven or stockpot, combine all of the ingredients except the salt and sausage. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat and then reduce to a simmer. Cook slowly, stirring up from the bottom occasionally, for at least 2 to 3 hours, depending on your batch of beans. Add more water if the beans begin to seem dry. Stir in the salt and the sausage, if you are using it, in the last 30 minutes of cooking. The beans should still hold their shape but be soft and just a little soupy.

Serve the beans in bowls with a bit of the cooking liquid. The beans reheat especially well.


Old-fashioned high-cholesterol great-tasting Southern sauce

Makes about 2 cups


6 tablespoons bacon drippings

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup white vinegar

Juice of 2 lemons

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt


In a saucepan, melt the bacon drippings and butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until quite soft, about 5 minutes. Mix in the remaining ingredients, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Use the sauce war. It keeps, refrigerated, for at least a week.

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