Summer Grilling Surprises

By Bill Turner

Here are some great grilling ideas for the summer, some of which you may have never tried.

ARGENTINEAN FLANK STEAK

Let’s start with Argentinean flank steak, a relatively easy dish you can prepare in about 90 minutes. Flank steak is usually about 1½ lbs. and serves four. Adjust the recipe below depending on the number of people.

The first thing you want to do is marinate the steak. For each steak, you need:

  • ¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper

To prepare, coarsely chop the garlic and mix with the other ingredients. Put the flank steak in a gallon-size resealable bag. Pour the marinade into the bag with the meat and seal. Agitate and massage the meat so it is well covered. Leave for about 60 minutes at room temperature before grilling.

Marinade facts: Most marinades do not tenderize meats, so don’t listen to the tales of meat steeping for two and three days in exotic oils, vinegars and spices. Enzymes need to reach a temperature of about 140 degrees to tenderize, and if you marinate at room temperature for an extended period, you risk bacterial growth. Instead, marinades infuse flavors, but only on the surface of the meat; this doesn’t take long, only about 30 to 60 minutes.

Marinades help control heterocyclic amines or HCAs, those nasty cancer-causing compounds that can be produced when flame-grilling meats. A great marinade for this purpose is one that uses lemon juice. According to recent tests by the American Institute for cancer Research, immersion in an acid-based marinade for as little as 40 minutes decreased HCAs by 92 to 99 percent.

While the meat is resting, prepare the sauce, which is the key to this dish. The Argentineans have always made some wonderful herb-based sauces for grilled meats. This should not be surprising since they are the world masters in barbecues. One of their best is Chimichurri, a slightly spicy green sauce that is always – repeat always – found on the table in any good Argentinean restaurant and in every home.

Hopefully, you read the Cuisine section in the spring edition of At the Lake magazine and have started your own herb garden. For this sauce, you need:

  • 1 c. fresh parsley, loosely packed
  • 1 c. fresh cilantro, loosely packed
  • ¼   fresh oregano (preferably Mexican big leaf), or 2 T dry oregano
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp. cumin
  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • ½ tsp. each salt and pepper

To make the sauce, wash the herbs and drain in a colander. Remove large stems from parsley. Remove only the largest, most woody stems from the cilantro, since the stem of this herb is very tasty.

Put everything in a food processor or miniprep and blend well.

If necessary, add more olive oil until you have a runny paste; the ¼ cup is just an estimate. However, don’t let it get too thin and oily.

While it’s generally used on grilled beef, this sauce can be used on anything. Buy a French baguette and offer your guests an appetizer of Chimichurri on thin slices of bread. If you plan to do this, double the recipe since the demand for this appetizer will surprise you.

Herb facts: cumin and cilantro are not only important for flavor but have strong antibacterial agents. For this reason, they are used throughout the world in areas where hygiene is compromised. They not only taste good, they help make sure guests don’t have to make an early exit.

Used for over 5,000 years, cilantro is an incredible herb and is especially important in preparing meats since it is proven to protect against salmonella. According to the U.S. centers for Disease control, salmonella is responsible for most cases of and deaths resulting from food poisoning.

Now you are ready to grill the flank steak. Make sure the grill is hot (over 400 degrees) and allow about 6 minutes per side; the meat should be slightly pink on the inside. The key to fl ank steak is cutting the meat across the grain at a 45-degree angle. This cuts the tiny tendon fibers and makes the meat easier to eat. The slices should be no more than 3/8″ deep.

Serve each guest about three slices of steak with a dollop of Chimichurri sauce. Make sure you have more sauce for the table as everyone will ask for more.

SIX-PACK CHICKEN

Since summer seems to make guys think of beer, another interesting grilling idea is Six-Pack Chicken. This recipe is the perfect answer to that urge and creates some special fun – women get a chance to complain about the beer drinking and the men get to smile at each other and continue doing what they “darn well please,” while having good reason to do so. Let me explain.

This recipe is from my son-in-law, Andy. His methodology, handed down and proven over a number of generations, is very unique: The chicken is done when you finish your six-pack and only then. This tends to be about a three-hour process and you obviously need a six-pack available for each grill custodian. If anyone complains about the beer drinking, simply respond that you are following the recipe. After the troublemakers taste the final result, the earlier ire will melt into a soft-hearted glow as they realize that the cooks really know their stuff.

I suggest that you keep this recipe to yourself; it is so simple that it is almost silly. Instead, tell everyone that it is very complicated; after all, you have to marinate and massage the chicken, you have to keep the fire at a very precise temperature, and you’re constantly interrupting the beer drinking to turn the chicken.

Indirect grilling: The best way to do indirect grilling is with a large charcoal grill where you can put the briquettes on one side and the meat on the other side. This produces a relatively low heat, about 250-300 degrees, which is perfect. You can also do indirect grilling on a gas grill that has at least three burners. In this case, you light only one or two of the burners and put the meat over the unlit area.

For six people, you need:

  • 1 chicken, cut in pieces (every supermarket sells this)
  • 2 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 c. lemon juice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. salt and pepper
  • 1 six pack of beastly cold beer per person assisting in the process
  • ½ c. cilantro, chopped

One hour before you start to cook, make the marinade by whisking together the oil, lemon juice, egg, salt and pepper and cilantro. Put the chicken pieces into a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade into the bag.

Put the bag in the refrigerator. Turn the bag over after 30 minutes.

Prepare the grill for indirect cooking and put the chicken pieces on the grill away from the fire (see “Indirect grilling”).

Pour the marinade into a small saucepan and set by the grill.

Using a brush, baste the chicken every 15 minutes with the marinade, and turn the pieces every 30 minutes.

When you finish the six-pack, take the chicken off the grill, cover with foil and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

SMOKED BRISKET

A final thought for summer grilling is Smoked Brisket; this recipe is from my son in Atlanta who has devoted years to this very specialized sport. The key is the “rub” that is used to encrust the meat while it slowly roasts.

I like Southwestern rub, though you can search online for “smoked brisket recipes” and find many other options. Here’s what you need:

  • ¼ c. kosher or coarse salt
  • 1 tbsp. black pepper, ground
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. oregano leaves, dried
  • 2 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped fine

To prepare, mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Buy a 3-4 lb. flat cut or end-cut brisket that has been trimmed but still has a layer of fat on one side. (This is the way they usually come in a supermarket.) Wash the brisket with water and pat dry with paper towels. Apply the rub to all sides and place the brisket in a rectangular glass bowl. Set in the refrigerator for one hour to let the meat absorb the spices.

You can cook the brisket either in a smoker or on a gas or charcoal grill using the indirect method (see above). If you have a smoker, you know what to do. For those with a standard grill, you need some wood chips (usually available at the supermarket) and a small aluminum foil pan. Soak the wood chips in water for about an hour, drain and put them in the foil pan, then place over the heated area of the grill; the meat sits on the unheated portion of the grill.

You want to maintain a relatively low heat of about 250 degrees. The important thing is for the meat to reach an internal temperature of at least 185 degrees at the thickest point. This will take about three hours. Hopefully, you have an instant read thermometer. If not, get one. It is hard to grill without it.

When the brisket is done, let it rest for 15 minutes before cutting. Then cut very thin slices across the grain (similar to flank steak). This luscious, smoky meat can be served as finger food or, even better, as small sandwiches. I like to toast thin slices of baguette on the grill. Add a little mayo, one or two slices of brisket and prepare to go weak in the knees with pleasure.

We hope you enjoy these summer grilling surprises.

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