Food & Dining
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Whether you've just bought a shiny new grill or pulled an old one out of winter hibernation, step No. 1 before embracing grilling season is to clean and season it.
Grills are like cast-iron skillets; the more you use them, the better they cook. That's because food cooks on the grill, the fats and juices are instantly vaporized by the heating elements or charcoal briquettes. The vapor creates the smoke that flavors the food with that legendary grilled taste. The smoke that isn't absorbed by the food accumulates on the inside of the grill, and the grill gets "seasoned."
So let's start with cleaning. If you've had a grill for a while and use it a lot, you may notice the lid of the grill looks like peeling paint. It isn't. This is simply the accumulation of layers of smoke. Warm soapy water, a scrub brush and a little elbow grease will take the excess bits of black smoke off the inside of the grill lid with little trouble. And you'll only need to do this once a year.
Next, burn and scrape off any food bits stuck to the grates. Turn all the burners on high for a gas grill with the lid down. For a charcoal grill, burn a chimney starter of charcoal with the lid closed. Let the flames burn until any residue has turned into a white colored ash. Brush gently with either a brass bristle brush or my makeshift foil cleaning brush.
A brass bristle brush is soft enough to bend and not break off like steel brushes. They are the only kind that I would use. The harder, more brittle brushes can also damage the finish on your cooking grates.
If you don't have a grill brush or don't want to use one, try this. Crumble heavy-duty foil into a ball about the size of a tennis ball. Hold the ball in a pair of sturdy 12-inch locking chef tongs and brush away! Remember to use heavy-duty foil or the ball will disintegrate.
After you clean your grill, it's time to season it. My favorite and very effective method is to fill the cooking grate with uncooked fresh sausages such as bratwurst or Italian sausage, but any food with a medium to high fat content that will cook for at least 30 minutes is ideal.
I usually cook the sausages at a lower temperature than normal to suit this.
Grill the sausages slowly on low-medium heat until bubbling hot and very brown. Remove the sausages from the grill, then re-set the burners to high, letting the grill burn off the residue until it turns white, about 20 to 30 minutes. When you are done eating, clean the cooking grates by rubbing them with foil or a brush again.
Follow this checklist and grill maintenance will never be a big job
• Preheat the grill on high every time you use it.
• After pre-heating, use crumpled foil to loosen and clean away any gray ash or leftover residue on the cooking grates.
• After removing the food from the cooking grate, turn burners back to high and burn any stuck-on food off for 10 to 15 minutes.
• After each grilling session, use a brass-bristle grill brush or crumpled foil to loosen and clean residue on the cooking grate.
• Remove accumulated ashes from charcoal grills frequently.
• Clean the inner and the outer drip pan of a gas grill frequently
• Once a year, clean the inside of the grill with warm, soapy water.
• Always read the owner's manual before using a new gas or charcoal grill.
• Do not lean over a barbecue grill when igniting.
• When lighting a gas grill, the lid should always be open.
• Gas or charcoals grills should never be used indoors.
• Every time a refilled propane tank is reconnected to the barbecue, the hose connection should be checked for leaks.
• Always use heat-resistant barbecue mitts or gloves and long-handled tools.
• When done cooking, cover the charcoal grill and close all vents. Turn a gas grill off at the burners and the gas source.
Grilled Sausages With Fire-Roasted Peppers
Servings: 4. Start to finish: 45 minutes
Serve these basic sausages on a crusty bun with lots of brown German mustard and caramelized onions and you’ll be in love.
3 red or yellow bell peppers
4 uncooked sausages, such as bratwurst, beer brats, cheddar brats or Italian
4 hard rolls
Caramelized onions (optional)
Heat the grill to high.
While the grill is heating, set the bell peppers on the grill grates. Cook, turning occasionally, until the skin blackens and blisters all over. Remove the peppers from the grill and place each one in a lunch-size paper bag or an airtight container. Close the bags or container and let rest until cool to the touch.
Carefully rub off and discard the skin from the peppers, then cut out and discard the cores. Cut each pepper into strips, then set aside.
After the peppers are done, close the grill lid and wait for the grill to reach 550 F. Once the grill is at temperature, adjust one side to medium and the other to very low or off to allow for indirect grilling.
Prick each sausage with a toothpick in a few places to ensure that they won’t explode on the grill. Place the sausages directly on clean cooking grates on the cooler side of the grill. Cook, turning occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until browned, plump and sizzling.
Remove from grill, let sit three minutes. Serve on a bun with fire-roasted peppers, brown mustard and caramelized onions.
per serving: 600 calories; 340 calories from fat (57 percent of total calories); 38 g fat (13 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 85 mg cholesterol; 38 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 23 g protein; 1,220 mg sodium.
Mustard-Aioli-Grilled Potatoes With Fines Herbes
4 to 6 servings
Make ahead: The aioli needs to be refrigerated at least 30 minutes and up to a day. Adapted from “Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction.”
½ cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1 heaping tablespoon whole-grain mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
2½ pounds baby Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon
Whisk together the mayonnaise, garlic and mustards; season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover; refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to one day.
Put the potatoes in a pot, cover with cold water by 2 inches and add 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil over high heat; cook 15 to 20 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center of a potato meets some resistance. Drain; let cool slightly.
Prepare a medium-hot grill (350 F) for direct heat; you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about four to five seconds. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.
Toss the warm potatoes and aioli in a bowl to coat evenly. Grill uncovered until golden (a little char is appealing), about eight minutes.
Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with fresh herbs. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Per serving (based on 6, using low-fat mayo): 230 calories, 5 g protein, 36 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 280 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar
Spicy Salmon Burgers
Prep: 15 minutes. Chill: 1 hour. Cook: 4 minutes. Servings: 2 to 4 burgers.
Myron Mixon, billed as the “winningest man in competitive barbecue,” recommends chilling the salmon patties for one hour before grilling for easier handling. “Take special care not to overcook them: Juiciness is the key to a good salmon burger,” he notes.
1 pound skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon each: fresh lemon juice, Dijon mustard
¼ cup chopped green onions
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
½ cup prepared tartar sauce
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, optional
2 to 4 sesame seed rolls, split
Red onion slices
4 to 8 Bibb lettuce leaves
Place the salmon, egg, lemon juice and mustard in a food processor; pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer to a bowl; mix in the green onions, garlic, salt and pepper. Gently form two to four ½-inch-thick patties. Cover; refrigerate one to four hours.
Heat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high. Whisk together the tartar sauce, dill and lemon zest in a bowl.
Grill rolls until toasted; transfer to plates. Spread bottom halves generously with the sauce. Grill the salmon patties uncovered until the fish is cooked through, about two minutes per side. Place atop the sauce on the rolls. Top each with onion, 2 lettuce leaves and the top half of each roll.
Per serving (for 4 servings): 609 calories, 27 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 188 mg cholesterol, 57 g carbohydrates, 31 g protein, 832 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.
Bodacious Barbecued Chicken Breasts
Prep: 20 minutes. Marinate: 20 minutes. Cook: 15-22 minutes. Servings: 4
In “100 Grilling Recipes You Can’t Live Without,” Bill and Cheryl Jamison describe this dish as a “fool-proof version of the all-American backyard classic: juicy chicken coated in sauce with a few charred and chewy edges.” Their secret? Using boneless, skinless breasts pounded to an even thickness so all portions are cooked through at the same time.
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon chili powder
½ cup water
3 to 4 tablespoons bourbon
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 7 ounces each), pounded to
½ inch thick
½ cup Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt
Combine ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, butter, Worcestershire, mustard, onion powder, salt, pepper, chili powder and water in a medium saucepan; heat to a boil. Reduce heat to a bare simmer; cook, until thickened lightly, five to 10 minutes. Stir in the bourbon; simmer for two minutes. Remove from heat; set aside about half the sauce to serve with the chicken.
Place the chicken in a zipper-top plastic bag; pour the Worcestershire over it. Add the oil and salt; seal the bag. Toss back and forth to coat the chicken evenly. Let sit at room temperature, 20 to 30 minutes.
Fire up the grill, bringing the temperature to medium. (You can hold your hand over the grill for four to five seconds.)
Drain the chicken, discarding the marinade; blot any moisture on the surface with a paper towel.
Grill, uncovered, 10 to 12 minutes total. Turn three times, rotating the breasts a half turn each time for crisscross grill marks. After each side of the chicken has faced the fire once, begin brushing the sauce over the breasts. The chicken is ready when it is white throughout but still juicy and the sauce is a bit chewy and caramelized. If you wish, leave the chicken on the grill an extra minute or two to get a slightly crusty surface.
Serve the breasts whole or thickly sliced and mounded on a platter. Pass the reserved sauce on the side.
Per serving: 294 calories, 7 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 102 mg cholesterol, 20 g carbohydrates, 35 g protein, 707 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.