By Sheridan Lane, Director, Culinary Program and Operations, Lincoln Land Community College
If you read fellow Epicuriosity contributor Jay Kitterman’s article at the beginning of June on different styles of grills, perhaps you took the plunge to update yours, or maybe you have a grill or two that you already really love. Whatever the case, there is no time like the 4th of July to fire it up for a great outdoor occasion.
Hopefully the torrential downpours will move on, and we can enjoy the backyard festivities before the fireworks. At our house, we are going to have hassle-free fun this holiday weekend that still packs a flavorful punch! Here is my holiday tip: if you plan to be grilling for a group (maybe for several lunches/dinners), consider using a very simple seasoning rather than an intricate rub for whatever you have planned for the grate. You might be thinking, BORING, but hear me out.
Today’s culture of American individualism is alive and well especially when it comes to what we eat: Great Aunt Zola wants you to hold the spice, but your favorite college friend, Freddy, can’t get enough heat. Little Suzy refuses to eat anything with pepper (that she can see), and cousin Becky thinks the more garlic, the better. What is a grill master to do when faced with trying to please the masses and still enjoy the 4th?
Why not pass the Liberty Torch to the BBQ and free up your grilled work of art to be just as preferential – anyway they want to make it. I know what you are thinking – that sounds like a lot of work, but to the contrary. Use a simple seasoning that guarantees a good flavor but that doesn’t scream Carolina BBQ nor Santa Maria Steak. Below are a few ready-to-go seasonings that are staples in our house and can be very versatile. The first two are tried and true on everything, and the third and fourth are better on pork and chicken. When it comes to steak, equal parts kosher salt and pepper keep the flavor simple and delicious.
- Lawry’s Garlic Salt
- Badia Adobo Seasoning
- Fords Gourmet Foods Bone Suckin’ All Purpose Rub
- Plowboys Yardbird Rub
Then, grill a large batch of any and all proteins and/or hearty vegetables with that simple seasoning and enjoy it different ways by changing out the sauces and the sides, or just serve a selection of sauces (which can be made in advance) and allow guests to customize their own creations and add a punch of flavor. The sauces below are packed with flavor and are delicious on everything from veggies to fish and kebobs to Cornish hens.
For example, toss Lawry’s Garlic salt and olive oil on the chicken thighs, asparagus stalks, zucchini and the shrimp (separately) before grilling. Skewer larger shrimp (16-20 count) for easy turning as they and the asparagus will cook in about two minutes per side; the boneless chicken thighs and medium sized zucchini halved lengthwise take approximately eight minutes on medium high heat. When the shrimp and chicken are fully cooked and the zucchini and asparagus are al dente, remove from the grill. Today, toss the shrimp and zucchini in the Cilantro Avocado Sauce and serve in a simple quesadilla. Then save the chicken thighs and asparagus to toss with salsa Genovese and tortellinis for tonight’s post pool day filler.
If you are grilling steaks for a large group, use kosher salt and pepper and then serve with the Tiger Bite for those than like it spicy or chimichurri for those that like a garlicky kick! Most importantly, have and safe and happy 4th of July liberated from your guests’ independent tastes.
Avocado Cilantro Sauce
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 bundle of cilantro, including stems (about 2 cups, loosely packed)
- 1 jalapeño mostly seeded
- 1/4 cup of roasted, salted pepitas (pistachios work too)
- 1 lime, juiced
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup of water
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
- 2 ripe avocados pitted
In a food processor or blender, combine the garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, pumpkin seeds, lime juice, olive oil, water, salt and pulse a few times to break down. Add the flesh of the avocados and pulse again until combined, but not completely pureed. You’re going for a consistency that’s thinner than guacamole but thicker than salad dressing. If it looks too thick, taste, and add lime juice or water to thin. Taste for seasoning, set aside in the fridge. Sauce will keep about 3 to 5 days.
- 1/2 pound green olives, pitted
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon minced capers, rinsed before mincing
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 3 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
PREPARATION: Pulse the olives, herbs, zest and capers in a food processor until well chopped. Add olive oil while food processor is running until sauce is nearly pureed. Will keep 2-3 days in the refrigerator.
Tiger Bite Sauce
- 1½ cups cherry tomatoes
- 1 tsp. grapeseed or other high temperature vegetable oil
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 Thai chiles, finely chopped
- ½ cup finely chopped cilantro
- 1Tbsp. fish sauce
- 1Tbsp. oyster sauce
Toast Sichuan peppercorns, coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a dry, small skillet over medium heat, tossing often, until spices are very fragrant and slightly darkened in color, about three minutes. When cool, grind in spice mill. Toss tomatoes with oil in a medium bowl; season with salt. Broil tomatoes in a single layer on rack, turning occasionally, until lightly charred all over and beginning to burst, about five minutes. In a food processor, pulse shallot, garlic, chiles and a pinch of salt until blended. Add ground spices, fish and oyster sauces and cilantro and pulse until very finely chopped. Add mix to crushed & blistered tomatoes and let stand.
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 tsp red pepper flake (or less)
- 3–4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or finely chopped
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more
- 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
- ½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp. finely chopped oregano
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1-2 limes
In a food processor, lightly pulse oil, shallot, garlic, vinegar and herbs. Add lime juice, red pepper flake and kosher salt to taste.