by Linda Viertel
July 4th is the unofficial holiday when Weber grills, electric and coal smokers, and barbecues of all dimensions become the preferred cooking method for summer dining.
Who doesn’t love that smoky aroma wafting through the air while a perfectly grilled steak, hamburger, pork chop or fish fillet is sizzling away? This summer, take time to purchase sustainably produced meats, poultry and seafood from our farmers’ markets or other local purveyors. Irvington’s Geordanes Neighborhood Market carries grass fed beef, free range chickens and fresh ground meat, as does Campbell Meats Butchery and Charcuterie in Dobbs Ferry. You will taste the difference: believe me.
Pork chops – the other white meat – are most flavorful and succulent when brined for a short time before grilling. They can then be coated with an herb rub of your choosing to complement whatever vegetables or salads you may be serving. In fact, when a variety of produce is at its flavor height this summer, you can slowly grill olive oil-basted slices of eggplant, zucchini, scallions, onions, or whatever is at its seasonal peak, alongside your main selection, and you will have a meal fit for the gods. Grill the vegetables first, push them off to the side of the grill where there are no coals beneath, and they’ll stay nice and hot while you cook your meat or fish. (When barbecuing chicken- see below, which takes longer, you can keep the grilled vegetables warm in a 200 degree oven so they don’t overcook.)
(Note: brines can be flavored however you wish – Spanish style with sherry vinegar, Mexican style with chili, lime zest and fresh oregano, Chinese style with 5-spice powder, French-style with lemon and tarragon. Then, match your rub to the brine by adding the same herb and spice flavorings to your rubs. Feel free to substitute flavors and experiment with fresh thyme, oregano or tarragon.)
Spicy Szechuan Chicken
- 3 Tblsp. Chinese rice wine
- or dry sherry
- 3 Tblsp. hoisin sauce
- 2 Tblsp. oyster sauce
- 2 Tblsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 Tblsp. sesame oil
- 1 Tblsp. Asian chili sauce
- 2 Tblsp. sugar
- 1 Tblsp. finely minced garlic
- 1 Tblsp. finely minced ginger
- 2 whole green onions
- (scallions) minced
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Combine all marinade ingredients and mix well. Pour over washed and dried chicken thighs and coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.
To Grill: Heat coals; when ash covered, brush rack with flavorless cooking oil, then lay chicken skin side up in center of rack. Turn every minute or so until the skin begins to crisp up. Then move the chicken to the half of the grill with no coals underneath, and cover. Grill chicken for about 20 minutes, skin side up. Brush chicken once or twice with remaining marinade as it cooks. Make sure skin side is well crisped. To serve, pile chicken thighs on heated platter and top with fresh cilantro sprigs.
Hot Smoked Salmon Fillet
1 or 2 whole salmon fillets ( appr. 3- 4 pounds each) boned, skin attached
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 ½ cups salt
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns (whole)
- 12 cups water
Mix all curing solution ingredients in a 13 gallon (tall kitchen) garbage bag to dissolve both the salt and brown sugar (can be done by hand). Then place fillet(s) in solution for 6 hours, making sure to tie the bag tightly. Place bag with salmon in a large, sided roasting pan for easier carrying to the fridge for the 6 hour curing.
Remove fillet(s) from curing solution, rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place on a rack to air dry for 1 hour. Use needle-nose pliers, if necessary, to pull out any small bones along the spine area. Place fillet(s) on cheese cloth, skin-side down on the cloth, for easier placement on the grill and removal.
If you have a smoker, build a low fire that will keep the smoking chamber at about 200-225 degrees. If you are doing this on a Weber-type grill, build a small fire on one side of the kettle and place the salmon on the other side, so it does not cook over direct heat. Add a handful of wood chips (fruitwood is best – don’t use mesquite) and begin the smoking process.
Smoke for one hour to one hour 15 minutes. Add a handful of wood chips every 15 minutes, and baste the salmon while you’re doing it. After an hour, test the thickest part of the fish to see if it’s (barely) done. When it is, take it off the grill by gripping the cheese cloths with some garden gloves and remove it to a platter.
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1 ½ Tblsp. soy sauce
- ¼ tsp. ground ginger
Mix ingredients and ingredients together thoroughly.
Serve warm on a platter and surrounded by plentiful sprigs of fresh dill and lemon wedges.
This salmon, whether served cold or warm, goes perfectly with the following cucumber sauce:
- 2 large cucumbers, peeled and seeded
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 Tblsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 Tblsp. lemon juice
- ½ tsp. coarse salt
- ¼ tsp. fresh ground pepper
- ½ cup snipped fresh dill
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives
Grate cucumbers into a bowl (or put through the grating disc in a Cuisinart). Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate until serving – can be made several hours ahead.
Grilled, Brined Fresh Herb-Coated Pork Chops
- Brown Sugar and Molasses Flavored Brine
- 3 ½ cups water
- 3 Tblsp. kosher salt
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 Tblsp. unsulphured molasses
- 1 cup ice cubes
- 4 bone-in 1¼- 1½ inch thick rib chops or boneless chops (they cook faster but don’t allow you to chew on the rib bone) appr. 3 pounds total
Pour water into large bowl, stir in salt until dissolved. Stir in brown sugar and molasses until dissolved. Add ice cubes, and stir to chill. Add chops, cover and refrigerate for 4-6 hours. Remove chops and pat dry with paper towels before covering with rub.
Fennel Seed and Fresh Herb Rub
- 1 Tblsp. crushed fennel seeds
- 1 Tblsp. chopped garlic
- 1 Tblsp. chopped fresh sage
- 1 Tblsp. chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 Tblsp. olive oil
Place all ingredients in a Cuisinart and pulse to blend mixture. Or, chop all very fine and mix in bowl. Coat each brined chop generously on both sides with the rub.
To Grill: build a charcoal fire but spread the coals on only half the grill. Heat to medium high. Lay chops directly over hot coals. If flaming occurs, move chops to area without coals. Sear chops for 1 ½ minutes on each side. Then transfer to area without coals, cover grill and continue cooking for 8-10 minutes more. The chops are done when firm to the touch and an instant-read thermometer reads 140 degrees. Transfer to warm platter and let rest 5 minutes so that juices are reabsorbed before serving.