(photo courtesy Shari Forcht Gish)
Nothing seems better in summer than beaches and pools – and barbecues.
With warm weather all a round, there are sure to be plenty of barbecues this summer, whether they’re in the backyards for close family, several friends or large groups; during block parties or while in the park; or during street festivals and festivities at restaurants.
While there’s an urge to splurge to get the very best hot dogs, hamburgers and possibly steaks on the grill and have a great time doing it, barbecuing for many has become an art, if not an event that can be thoroughly enjoyed and controlled (all at once) to carry the day – and its enjoyment – well into the evening. And there are proprietors in your neighborhood who can help, if not advise, you on how to make that barbecue one of your best of the summer.
Shari Forcht Gish:
Marinate chicken cubes in:1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup honey, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds. Skewer with zucchini, onion, mushrooms, and a tomato!
Photos courtesy of the Merrick Girls Weekday Recipe facebook page.
DAY TIME, OR NIGHTTIME?
Dave Feldman, proprietor at Suburbia Meats in Merrick, said the time of day you have the barbecue can dictate the kinds of meats you will want to purchase for the barbecue. “You want to keep a barbecue as simple as you can,” he remarked, “make it flow.”
He said hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks and other denser meats can be used for a barbecue starting in the afternoon, so that there will be plenty of time to work off any feelings of fullness that could accompany consumption of larger quantities of provisions and other foods at the barbecue.
“If you’re having an evening barbecue, you may want to consider lighter meats, such as chicken or fish” because they are less dense, and won’t keep you feeling full too long into the night.
Regarding marinades for meats, he advises to marinade meats the day before a barbecue so that the flavoring is already in the meat. Slapping a marinade onto meats already on a grill guarantees the marinade will stick to the grill and flavor other meats that are put onto the grill as well, not always a good plan.
Mini Bacon Bombers. Hamburger meat stuffed with cheese. Shaped into a “bomb” and wrapped in bacon. Insert skewer. Smoke on grill until cooked and Apply barbecue sauce on it.
Chef Stephen Rosenbluth of Anchor Down on Bayberry Avenue in south Merrick told Your NewsMag he prefers ‘Dry rubs as marinades, because it will lock in the meat’s natural juices.” He says he uses dry rubs for ribs, pork, even chicken.
When using sauces or other marinades, he cites the varying flavors of marinades available. “Barbecue sauces come in tangy, sweet or spicy flavors,” so it’s up to the user to decide what he or she wants their barbecue to taste like.
CHARCOAL – OR GRILL?
Both Feldman and Rosenbluth say they prefer charcoal barbecue grilling to gas grilling, because a charcoal grill provides the opportunity to infuse more taste into a meat, especially when using a grill with a lid.
“I happen to like a smoky flavor on my barbecue meats and grilling them on a charcoal grill,” said Rosenbluth. Feldman says that a charcoal grill provides for a better flame and look to the meats. “Gas,” he said,” is easier, though.”
Tony Rubano, chef and owner of Pit Stop on Sunrise Highway in Merrick, agrees with Feldman. Rubano believes a gas grill is better because it provides a more evenly distributed heat. There is also more area on a gas grill to place leaner strips or cuts of meat to enable them to cook more slowly, he says.
One of my favorite dinners, healthy and simple. Grilled Bronzino stuffed with a mixture of lemon juice, panko, garlic, parsley, oregano, salt, pepperand olive oil along with a few thin slices of lemon. Side dishes are roastedkale from our garden and lemon roasted potatoes.
“With a gas grill you can have different temperatures, such as hot, warm and simmer in which to place various cuts of meats,” he said. A skirt steak, he said, may be thicker in the middle so the cook can cut off the smaller pieces and place them at a different temperature to cook more slowly. Otherwise, the smaller cut will be exposed to the high heat being used to cook the thicker portion of the steak, and may be ruined by burning or overcooking.
For Feldman, getting the timing right is everything to get the best-tasting meats. He suggests that when purchasing meats, ask the purveyor or butcher how long it might take to cook each piece of meat. There are butcher stores that provide scales that can calculate how long it will take a piece of meat to cook on a barbecue, based upon its weight.
However, Rosenbluth says that charcoal grills can offer different levels of heat for cooking smaller cuts as well. “It all depends on where you place the charcoal,” he said. If the charcoal is piled high in the middle, the outer fringes of the grill will not be exposed to the same heat, and salmon tails can be cooked in those areas without exposing them to higher heat required to cook the thicker, middle portion of the fish.
Rubano adds that the marbles of fat running through the smaller portions of the salmon will drip to provide for heat in cooking at the lower temperatures.
Speaking of fish, Feldman gave a nod to an example of more perfect method of using the even heat of a charcoal grill when smoking salmon. The simple approach involves heating coals of the cook’s choice, then placing mesquite or applewood chips over the red-hot coals, placing the grill over the coals, placing the salmon on the grill and then covering the grill.
Within 10 minutes there will be a sweat atop the salmon, what Feldman calls a milkiness, which will indicate the time to flip the salmon over. After another 10 minutes, the salmon will be ready to eat, will have cooked thoroughly through and will be infused with a fine smoky flavor.
Rosenbluth says he will use special flavored charcoals when he barbecues for private parties.
Rubano likes to marinade salmon in a marinade that comprises orange, sweet soy sauce and teriyaki, with additional condiments thrown in for tasty measure.
Grilled mini skewers of shrimp, beef and chicken on a bed of grilled veggiesand crunchy rice noodles for pizzazz! Use disposable aluminium pans for an easy clean up.
“The best tool a cook or a chef has is not the knife, or the spatula, but his or her own taste buds,” Rubano continued. When barbecuing scallops, he will sear them first and then wrap them in applewood bacon and – along with peppers, challots, onions or other vegetables – place them onto a skewer.
“But how will we know when the skewer is fully cooked?” Your NewsMag asked. “When you taste it” and can taste its firmness or not-so-firmness, he responded.
Because of a salmon’s variable thickness of being thicker in the middle than at the ends, when barbecuing Rubano said the fish can be cooked on the barbecue and then baked for a few minutes in an oven to get evenly cooked throughout. It’s the method chefs use regularly when grilling fish in restaurants.
Meanwhile, when grilling fish Rosenbluth’s rule-of thumb for most fishes that are ready for consumption is when the strong criss-cross grill patterns appear on the fish, for both sides. He advises that when using a charcoal grill open the vents on the lid, to reduce the heat for smaller portions on the grill. Or, “For a whole fish, open the vents and keep the fish at the periphery of the grill.”
Also, when cooking fish he will add a slight pat of oil to heat the flame, and add salt and pepper, rosemary and other condiments, saying there is no need to wrap the fish in aluminum foil to cook it.
Denise Rubinstein Grossman:
Chicken skewers: Marinade in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, ginger and cilantro. BBQ for about 10 minutes.
Rubano says he blanches (boils in water) any vegetables, such as broccoli, zucchini, eggplant, portabello mushrooms and similar for 30 seconds to “take the hardness out of them.” He then places the vegetables in a bowl, drizzles oil on them, adding salt and pepper, and condiments and spices according to the cook’s preferences, tosses them and then places them on the perimeter of the grill emanating the lowest heat to cook slowly.
“You want the veggies to char perhaps just a little bit,” he said.
Rosenbluth will put corn, zucchini and other vegetables right on the grill, also on the periphery, to cook them, adding salt and pepper and rosemary and other condiments to taste. “Some people will put there vegetables in aluminum foil.”
BBQ CHEFS TO GO
Both Suburbia Meats and the Pit Stop offer barbecue services for those needing “professional” touches to a barbecue outing.
Suburbia’s Mobile Chef service involves a chef coming to someone’s home and cooking for up to four hours for $100. Feldman says that after a customer signs up for the service, they are then asked about their preferences in meats, foul or fishes, or whether the customer will provide all the necessary foods themselves. “The mobile chef service is a complete service of providing all the necessary foods for the barbecue, or it can be just for cooking the food,” said Feldman.
Marie LaPlaca Salerno: BBQ Flank steak and veggies (peppers)
Take peppers and one red onion sautéed in a little bit of olive oil Kosher salt,
pepper and garlic powder. Sauté until soft but not mushy. In a liquid measuring cup add 1/3 cup of teriyaki sauce, 1/4 cup of water, 2 minced or pressed garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil and a teaspoon of sugar. Mix well. Add thinly sliced leftover flank steak to the sauté pan with the veggies. Pour marinade mixture over steak and veggies and cook for about 3 minutes on medium heat. Garnish with sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve on left over hamburger buns toasted on a grill pan.
On the day of the barbecue the chef will come out with all his cooking tools and implements, bringing all the foods necessary if requested, and begin cooking, said Feldman. “The chef will cook the foods to the customers’ liking and then serve the party-goers,” continued Feldman. The chef will then maintain the grill, offering up seconds and thirds to those who request it, and clean up the grill and immediate environs.
Meanwhile, The Pit Stop will employ more than one chef, according to the volume of people at the party. Rubano has barbecued at Central Park for a private company of more than 300 people, so he says he is ready and willing to go anyplace at any time for any volume of people.
In such settings, he may ask the customer if a theme is preferable, such as a Mexican barbecue that will use ingredients such as shirashi and parmesan cheese. He may provide potato salads using bacon, mayonnaise, celery and Dijon, or make cous-cous featuring cranberry, kinwa, orzo and roasted sliced almonds. The possibilities are large, he said.
Or, he may barbecue skewers with mahi-mahi, pineapple, tomato and peppers, with the mahi-mahi marinated in a cilantro marinade. The cost of the service is between $15 and $35 per person for four hours. Chefs will bring their own tools and utensils, and other tools as necessary, depending upon the size of the party and what foods are requested.
For the Mobile Chef, call Suburbia at 868-6550. For Pit Stop barbecue services call 223-7779. – DOUGLAS FINLAY