A Summer Grilling Guide
You've got the fire; now make your food dance. Here, 10 ways to get your grill on:
Go cowpooling. That is, go in with a group to buy a cow, then divide up the cuts. Alyssa Denny, market manager at Hollygrove Market & Farm, drives our cowpool:
• Half a cow yields about 150 pounds of meat.
• Typical cuts include T-bone and sirloin steaks, chuck roast, stew meat, rib-eyes, short ribs and ground meat, though you can also ask them to set aside organs and bones.
• The cuts come to you butchered and wrapped.
• Cost is about $7/pound, or about $1,050 for half a cow (pastured and grass-fed).
• Consider investing in a chest freezer To place your order, contact Hollygrove Market or their supplier, Two Run Farm —either way, your beef will be delivered to Hollygrove for convenient pickup.
• Can't commit? Once a month, Hollygrove orders half a cow and sells different cuts in 10-pound "picnic packs" at their Saturday and Tuesday markets.
For your steaks, a water bath. Cooking steaks sous-vide (in a vacuum-sealed bag, under exact temperatures) will give you perfectly cooked beef, every time. That's how they do it at Rare Cuts for their sought-after private dinners (helmed by Chef Gason Nelson). Rare Cuts founder Henry Albert gives us pointers:
• When cooking steaks sous-vide, "you don't need to wait for the meat come to room temperature first," says Henry. Season your steak (sea salt, freshground black pepper), then vacuum seal and drop it in the water bath for an hour (for steaks on the rare side, that water's heated to 131 F).
• Then to get that beautiful char, slap steaks on the grill (for medium-rare, about two minutes each side).
• Finally, be sure to re-season your steaks — just more salt and pepper, Henry says. (My Rare Cuts filet came out sweetly seared, and buttery pink in the center.)
Build your own. A commercial-grade immersion circulator starts around $750, but local blogger Keith Clendaniel (he and wife Lindsay write "A Couple Bites") built his own for $150. Want to do it too?
• You're basically building an immersion heater, which circulates heat to maintain water at a precise temperature, and attaching it to a heat-proof container.
• Keith uses a five-gallon food bin he bought from Caire Restaurant Supply; simply clip the immersion heater to a larger container to cook bigger cuts, he says.
• Get a link to the step-by-steps and see how his London broil came out, here: www.acouplebites.com/journal/2011/10/20/sous-vide-tinkering-inthe-kitchen
• His next project: pastrami, which Keith will cook sous-vide after a three-day brine. "The nice thing is that sous-vide is like crock pot cooking; you set it and forget it," he says.
The best blend for your burger. Ask your butcher for a custom blend of beef (even better, grind it yourself) to customize your patty's texture, and keep the taste balanced between rich and grassy:
• The key here is fat content: you'll want a cross between leaner cuts (sirloin, brisket) and fattier parts, like oxtail, short rib and chuck (and I'd stay away altogether from hanger steak and flat meat, which can get grainy when they're ground).
• As a point of reference, the legendary MVB burger (now on the Liberty's Kitchen menu) uses an equal blend of chuck and brisket, while the Natural Burgers at Cowbell are mostly ground chuck (grass-fed and organic, and sometimes blended with ground rib-eye or skirt steak).
What to drink. Smoke 'N Mirrors is a smoked variation of the margarita that's complex, refreshing, and pairs well with whatever's on your grill:
Written by Michael Glassberg, courtesy of the Hotel Monteleone.
• Rim half a rocks glass with salt.
• Muddle 1 tablespoon cilantro leaves with 0.75 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice.
• add 1.5 oz. Cazadores Reposado tequila.
• 0.75 oz. Cointreau.
• 0.5 oz. Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal.
• .5 ounces agave nectar.
• 0.25 oz. Aperol.
• Shake together, finely strain over fresh ice into prepped rocks glass, and garnish with a slice of cucumber.
The trick to grass-fed beef. Pastured cows are lean because they exercise while roaming the field; they also have a clean, mineral-fresh taste. With grass-fed steaks, "it's really important not to overcook it, or it'll be tough," says Hollygrove Market's Alyssa Denny. She suggests searing them a minute on each side over high heat, then shutting off the stove and covering them to finish.
How dry-aging works. Upscale steakhouses and butcher shops rely on dry-aged beef, a tenderizing method that keeps beef in a near-freezing meat locker (at Rare Cuts, they dry-age their beef onsite, up to 50 days). While the meat loses moisture, its taste becomes more robust and nuttier. "It's the purists' way of aging beef, but it's more expensive because of the [weight] loss involved, not because it's better than wet-aging," says Henry Albert of Rare Cuts, which offers wet-aged beef, too.
Grilling your own pizza pie. Grilling is the closest you'll get to the bubble-crisp, chewy and delicately smoked crust of pizza that's baked in a wood-fired brick oven. What you need to know:
• Prep the grill by creating two zones— move all the coals to one side.
• If you're using vegetables as a topping, grill them first (likewise, pre-cook anything raw). We like the Charcoal Companion grill basket - it's nonstick, and a tight fit keeps all your veggies in place. www.cooking.com
• Roll out your pizza dough, brush one side with olive oil, and put that side down on the flame.
• When the bottom is set, flip it over, move it to the cooler side of the grill, and apply toppings: cheese first, then cured meats and grilled veggies, then your tomato sauce.
• Move the pizza back over the hot side of the grill to finish melting the cheese. Pull it off the heat and finish with herbs.
• Turn your grill into a pizza oven with a stainless steel insert that you set directly on your kettle grill and cover, then slide in the pizza stone. The KettlePizza delivers even, consistent heat, so you get the same blistered crust and gooey toppings. $130 for basic kit includes pizza pan and built-in thermometer. www.kettlepizza.com.
• Bright-colored and industrial, these hot rod pizza cutters are custom made, and there's a wait list: www.frankieflood. com.
Chicken tips. Turn your grill top into a rotisserie by retrofitting your Weber with a rotisserie ring, which holds a spit, motor and a handle ($150, www.weber.com), or get a set of Rib- O-Wheel rotating trays, which fits on most grills ($99, www.bbqguys.com) The key to good rotisserie chicken is finding one that's a uniform size - while standard chickens are breast-heavy, go for a fresh heritage bird: "They're allowed to grow longer, which makes them more proportioned," says Rare Cuts' Henry Albert. His shop sells free-range, heritage breed birds whole, in multi-cut griller packs, and in a distinctive breast cut with drumstick attached - all the easier to flip over on a grill.
Get a highly accurate and fast reading from the Thermapen meat thermometer (which also comes in a dozen bright colors). $89, www.thermoworks.com.
A great sauce.
The Ultimate Barbecue Sauce, courtesy of Old New Orleans Rum.
• In a large pan or stockpot, sauté half a chopped onion with 6 cloves of chopped garlic in a 1/4 cup New Orleans Amber Rum for 10 minutes or until most of the rum evaporates.
• Stir in 2 cups ketchup, 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 3/4 cup molasses, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 cup tomato paste, 1 tablespoon hot sauce .
• Simmer for 20 minutes.
Makes about 3 cups.