Summer Mixed Grill: Savory and Sweet

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I don’t know where you are, but these days, it’s pretty darn hot here in New Jersey. And sticky – I think some days the weatherman can’t possibly be right that the humidity is ONLY 90 percent, because it feels like 90 bazillion! It seems just too hot to cook. Sure, there’s the crock pot, but after too many days in a row of that, my gang feels like they’re eating the same things over and over–it’s meat or veggies in sauce, no matter how you flavor it. Our grill has definitely been getting a workout. While it’s a flame to stand over, and outside in the heat, one big benefit to grilling is that with different marinades and sauces, it doesn’t feel like “the same old thing again.”

We have a gas grill. I know there are some people out there who will use nothing but charcoal. I like charcoal (and wood) fires, but when this crew wants to eat, they want to eat NOW. There’s no waiting for half an hour for the charcoal to get going. We actually have a natural gas grill – turn it on and cook, no propane tank to run empty! These recipes will work on either a gas OR charcoal grill, or in a wood campfire if you like (you may want a grill top for cooking your meat).

First are two marinades: one for red meat, one for lighter ones like chicken, pork, or seafood. (I’m told grilled shrimp are delicious. I’m allergic to all seafood and I like to breathe, so I’ll take my hubby’s word for it.) Each recipe is enough to marinate 1-2 pounds of meat.

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Bloody Mary Beef

16 oz. tomato juice (low sodium, if possible) or pureed tomato*
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped, OR 1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp dried chipotle pepper or regular/smoked paprika
1 tsp hot sauce

*If you use whole or crushed tomatoes, zap them in the blender until they are smooth and liquid-y. Add a teaspoon of salt if you are using fresh or no-sodium canned tomatoes.

And yes, I know, it sounds like a lot of heat with the pepper, but it’s not, I promise!

Citrus Marinade for Chicken, Pork, or Seafood

16 oz. citrus juices (one or combo of orange, lemon, lime, and/or grapefruit)
3 cloves fresh garlic or 1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp Kosher salt (1 1/2 TEASPOONS if using table salt)

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Mix all ingredients in a blender and pour in a zip-top bag. Add meat, seal, and squish the marinade around to coat the meat.

Put in the fridge. Marinate beef, chicken, and pork for approximately 30 minutes per pound.

Marinate fish and shell-on shrimp for about 10-15 min per pound. Do not marinate any longer than half an hour total in the citrus juices, or your grilled dinner will start to turn into ceviche – the acid will begin to “cook” the fish.

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Either discard marinade after removing the meat from it, or use it for a brushing sauce. If you want to do the latter, place it in a saucepan over medium heat, bring to a FULL ROLLING BOIL and boil for one minute. (You MUST bring it to a boil to kill any bacteria that the meat brought to the party. Nobody likes food poisoning – either make a new batch, or take a few minutes to boil the leftovers.) Taste it and see if it needs any adjusting – you might want to add a squeeze of fresh lemon (or other citrus) to “brighten” the flavor between boiling and using for a sauce.

Grill your meat until it reaches the “proper” internal temperature – see chart below. All are the recommended FDA times and include a 3 minute rest. I’ll be honest – I cheat a little. I always pull it off 10 degrees “early.” Cover it with a foil tent and allow it to rest 10-15 min before serving. This way, the juices have time to redistribute and you don’t have dry leather sitting in a puddle when you try to cut it. The foil helps keep the heat in, and the meat will coast its way to the “fully cooked” temperature. If you wait until it’s reached the target temperature and then pull it off and let it fully rest, it will be overcooked because of the carryover.

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Photo credit: USFDA

Serve the meat with foil-roasted potatoes. This is one that Luke makes for us year round – it’s easy enough for him and doesn’t require a whole lot of knife skill. In winter, we use dried herbs and roast the packet in the oven; in summer he gets a botany lesson in the garden so he can make the dish with fresh herbs.

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Foil Pack Potatoes

2-3 lbs. potatoes
1 medium onion, sliced
1/8 c. olive oil
garlic, oregano, rosemary, etc. – your choice
salt and pepper to taste

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Wash and cut potatoes into 1″ chunks. Place in bowl and add onion, oil, and herbs. Mix all ingredients.

 

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Spread pour them onto a piece of heavy duty foil. If you have a lot of people who like crispy edged potatoes, use a larger piece and spread them into a single layer; if some prefer them soft, you can pile them up.

Bring the long sides of the foil together and crimp. Secure the short ends.

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Place in or over a medium fire for 45-50 minutes. If you’re using a gas grill and need the real estate for the rest of your dinner, start the potatoes on the main level and then move them to the top rack while the rest of dinner cooks.

You can also cook veggies with the same method. Choose veggies that will cook at the same rate (don’t put carrots in with summer squash!) and prep into chunks. Cook in the coals for 20-40 minutes, depending on the veggie. Summer favorites here are squash and eggplant, which will be at the short end of time. I’ve also done sliced and whole onions – there is not much that caramelized onions can’t improve. They take 15 min for sliced, 25 for whole.

Since  you already have the fire going, just add chocolate! Here’s a recipe for “Banana Boats.” They’re a longtime favorite of mine from when I was a camp counselor. Pop these on when you take the food off the grill; while you are eating dinner they will cook and be warm and gooey when you’re ready for dessert.

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Banana Boats

For each person:

1 ripe banana, UNPEELED
2 Tbsp chocolate chips, 12 chocolate chunks, or 1/2 standard chocolate bar
10-12 miniature or 4 regular sized marshmallows

 

Leave the banana in the peel. That will help hold everything together. Cut off the stem end, and use the point of the knife to slice partway through the banana, leaving the bottom peel intact.

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Place the banana on a piece of aluminum foil about 3″ longer than the banana and 3 times as wide. The actual size will depend on how large your banana is. Regular foil is fine, but this is a great time to use the no-stick foil.

Gently slide chocolate pieces into the slit in the banana. If using a whole bar, break into pieces.

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Tuck the marshmallows into the banana, on top of the chocolate. If you’re using regular sized marshmallows, pinch them in half so they fit more easily.

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If you want to get really high-falutin’, sprinkle a little cinnamon on top. If you’re “roughing it,” just wrap the stuffed banana in foil and crimp the ends.

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If you have a charcoal or wood fire, place them in the coals for 10 minutes. If your fire is still burning hot, spread the coals out so the fire isn’t as intense, or rake a few coals to one side to create a cooler spot.

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If you have a gas grill going, place them on the grill, shut the lid, and turn the heat off.

Be careful removing from the heat – use a fire-safe mitt. Open the packets carefully (away from your face in case of steam!) and allow to cool for a minute or two before eating with a spoon (or your fingers — let it cool a little longer if you use them!).

I hope you’re enjoying your summer.  I’m off to get some ice cream to go with my banana boat…hopefully it doesn’t melt as quickly as I do!