As seen in Monterey County The Herald
Posted: 07/13/2011 01:55:14 AM PDT
Updated: 07/13/2011 08:55:04 AM PDT
Todd Fisher: Summertime Celebrations And Libations
It is obviously easier to get together with friends and family and celebrate life during the summer months. No school schedules (for those of us with kids), longer days, warmer weather so we can be outside, which means your house does not get trashed and there is room outside for everyone to have their space (you know, every party has a pooper).
I think it also has to do with the ease of outdoor entertaining, an umbrella, a table and chairs, maybe a hurricane lamp or two, Taterware plates and a grill. Life is just easier outside — if you keep the dog off the table, bugs out of your hair and food and the wind decides to oblige.
I mentioned the grill earlier, and most of us do not fully utilize our grill. We have a method that has worked for us and we stick with it. Nothing wrong with playing it safe. I understand that there are those of you out there who need to play in your comfort zone, however, the only way to get comfy cozy with anything new is to try it, and experiment a little. And when it comes to entertaining, a little lively rock ‘n’ roll in the background and a fruity libation thrust into someone’s hand can cover a multitude of errors should they arise. Following are a few grilling tips that have worked for me over the years, followed by a fruity concoction or two.
When grilling, whether over wood, charcoal or gas, it is critical that you have a clean grill. I always burn off, clean and oil my grill after using it. This ensures that at the beginning of each grilling opportunity the grill is seasoned and ready to receive the next item. This goes for the space under the grill itself, too: You cannot expect your grill to work at optimum when you build a fire on top of old ashes and suffocate the fire.
Temperature dictates technique. For direct grilling, that is, over higher, more intense heat, arrange coals by using long-handled tongs to spread them evenly in a single layer. Extend them about 1 inch beyond the area of the food. This is best for steaks, tri-tip, prawns and fish fillets.
For indirect grilling, that is, using your grill more like an oven, you need a disposable drip pan large enough to cover the surface below the food. (Buy a few disposable foil pans and keep them around). Place the drip pan in the center of the firebox. Use long-handled tongs to arrange the coals around the pan. This technique is great for the holiday turkey, larger roasts, chicken on the bone, that kind of thing. What I like about this technique is you can use the area over the coals to do some direct grilling to create some char, then finish in the center over the indirect heat for perfect barbecued chicken. When you use this technique you will find you may need to add a few coals to each side every hour or so, to keep that ovenlike performance.
You need to be able to judge how much heat is coming from your grill, because not all foods are cooked at the same temperature. Hold your hand, palm side down, where your food will cook, and at the same height as the food that will be grilled. Count by saying, “one thousand-one, one thousand-two” for each second you can hold your hand there. The number of seconds before you must take your hand away from the grill dictates your temp: Two seconds, grill temperature high; three seconds, grill temperature medium-high; four seconds, grill temperature medium; five seconds, grill temperature medium-low; six seconds, grill temperature low.
When it comes to marinades, remember, less is more. Marinating is important when you are using a less-tender cut of meat such as skirt steak or thicker pieces of meat such as tri-trip where surface seasoning is not enough. A combination of chopped garlic, brown sugar, cola, black pepper, cracked fennel seeds and a touch of olive oil is a simple and perfect marinate for both steaks, chicken and even salmon.
Glazes are a different thing all together. They should be sweet, spicy, tangy and expressive, and applied within the last 10-15 minutes of your cooking time to ensure the sugars do not burn too much.
Dry rubbing is another technique that I love; think chile powder, cayenne, paprika, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, garlic powder. Liberally rubbed on to a pork loin or ribeye … one second, I’m drooling! During the summer we grill everything, especially garden-fresh veggies sch as zucchini, bell peppers, red onions, asparagus, eggplant, etc. Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper and grill over medium-high until lightly charred yet still vibrant and crisp. At that point I drizzle everything with a mixture of balsamic, chopped garlic and basil, throw the lid on and let a little smoky love happen. Yeah!
Summertime screams sangria, at least for me. Sangria is a mixture of red wine, fruit juices, fruit and liqueurs. I like to use rum in my version. The name comes from the blood-red color of the cocktail, however there is a white or “blanco” style as well. Also known as truth serum, the following recipe has been known to generate lively “conversation,” some of which has come the day after, if you know what I mean.
2 bottles Tempranillo, Criansa or other Spanish red wine
8 oz. rum
2 oranges, sliced
2 limes, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
8 oz. pineapple juice
3 T. sugar
Steps: Mix well, refrigerate at least two hours, and serve chilled. Pace yourself, it goes down easy!
Smashing Grape Sangria
12 seedless red grapes
12 seedless green grapes
2 bottles white wine (Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio or Sauvingon Blanc)
¼ cup sugar
1 cup light rum (8 oz.)
16 oz. white grape juice
28 oz. carbonated water, chilled
Steps: In a large pitcher or bowl squish the grapes, cracking the skin and releasing their juice. Do not pulverize. Chill one orange and one lemon for garnish. Squeeze juice from the second orange and lemon into the pitcher, add wine, sugar and rum. Stir to dissolve sugar; chill. Just before serving, divide mixture into two pitchers or pour into punch bowl. Cut chilled orange into wedges. Slice chilled lemon into rounds.
Slowly add chilled carbonated water. You can use 7-Up or other similar soda to add a sweeter finish to this refreshing, adult punch!