Grilled to perfection
The art of cooking your meat outside
Henri loves grilling. It’s so California. Sometimes I stand there in my apron, chef’s hat and barbecue mitt, sipping a martini and imagining I’m out on a sprawling deck overlooking the cool, misty Pacific. Major Hollywood celebs mingle nearby—in blazers and Bruno Magli loafers—talking about their latest films.
And with the passing of Memorial Day weekend, the grilling season has officially begun. But cooking outdoors is no excuse for mishandling hot meat. Overcook it, and it’s ruined. Fortunately, Henri has learned a simple trick for ensuring that his meat stays moist and tasty: Go both ways. Let the food cook both on the grate and in a pan atop the grate.
Perfectly grilled shrimp
The grilled-shrimp dilemma: Shelled and deveined, they cook so quickly that they often end up dry and rubbery; cooked with the shells on, they lose the seasonings—butter, garlic, herbs—once you peel them. I found the perfect solution in an issue of Cook’s Illustrated. Naturellement, Henri has modified the recipe slightly.
1 1/2 pounds extra-large (21-25 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails on)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 stick butter
4 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup fresh basil, minced
Wash the shrimp, pat dry with paper towels, and thread onto three or four skewers—flat metal ones work best—alternating the direction of the heads and tails. Brush both sides with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle one side with sugar.
Prepare your grill so that direct heat is coming from only one area. If you’re using charcoal, align them in a row along one side; if you’re using gas, use only one burner. Combine butter, lemon juice, herbs and spices in medium-size disposable aluminum pan, and place on grill over the flame. Stir as the butter melts. Move pan to other side of the grill.
Carefully brush grill with cooking oil and place skewers, sugared sides down, on the hot side of the grill and cook until lightly charred (three or four minutes, depending on how close your heat source is to the grill). Turn, and cook the other side until meat is slightly translucent (another one or two minutes). Then, using a fork, slide shrimp off of skewers into sauce pan, and stir them into lemon-butter mixture, moving pan back over to hot side of grill. Cook another 30 seconds or so. Transfer, with a slotted spoon, to a serving platter and serve with lemon wedges.
Perfectly grilled chicken
Cook the chicken in a pan on the grill before transferring it onto the grate. This keeps it wonderfully moist but allows it to get slightly crispy.
1 whole chicken, cut into parts and skinned (or 2 lbs. thighs, breasts, etc.)
2-3 bell peppers (red or green or combination), sliced
2-3 red onions, sliced
3 cups milk
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup fresh basil, minced
Salt and black pepper
Brush the inside of a large disposable aluminum pan with cooking oil (or use spray-on). Spread peppers and onions in pan and place chicken parts on top. Pour milk over chicken and sprinkle with garlic and basil. Season with salt and black pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes and then stir ingredients together so that peppers, onions and chicken are mixed evenly. Cook another 15 to 20 minutes, or until chicken is nearly done. Remove chicken from pan and grill over indirect heat another 10 to 15 minutes, or until done.
Note: While both of the above recipes go wonderfully with a chardonnay, sauvignon blanc or white Bordeaux, don’t make the mistake of assuming that chicken and seafood always call for white wine. Drink what tastes good to you, even, if you must, a cold beer, perhaps a Sierra Nevada Summerfest or Otra Vez.