The Quest For The Ultimate Barbecue

By Matheu Cardoso           

Memorial Day is a time to remember the brave men and women who died to protect our freedom and way of life.  And what better way to honor that sacrifice than by spending the holiday with family and friends, having a barbecue and enjoying a sumptuous feast. 

Now, as you ponder the possible menu options that you will prepare for your guests, you may want to think about the last barbecue you attended.  Did you leave the barbecue feeling like you gained five pounds in just one sitting? Did your thoughts then turn to the next time you would visit the gym or how you might otherwise offset those extra calories?  Good eating from the grill does not necessarily translate to hot dogs and hamburgers with chips on the side.  That kind of eating will only create a house filled with guilty, overfed guests. 

Countries from all around the world have grilled meat as part of their cuisine.  Brazilians have churrascarias, Middle Eastern countries have kofta and the Far East has Korean and Japanese barbecue.  The difference between these countries and traditional American barbecue is that they complement the grilled meat with an astonishing array of healthy side dishes.  In fact, it would appear that the meat was one of the side dishes in a well-balanced cornicopeia of food.  To put this in perspective, there are two types of expressions that Brazilians use to describe how they feel just after a meal.  ‘Estou cheio’, which means ‘I’m stuffed’, has a negative connotation.  ‘Estou satisfeito’ means ‘I’m satisfied’ and reflects a positive feeling.  You want your guests to finish their meal feeling satisfied and not stuffed.

Because you have a three day weekend, it’s the perfect amount of time to get the groceries, marinate the meat and prepare the side dishes to please every guest and create a memorable Memorial’s Day.  Here is a sample menu that may give you some ideas on how to create your barbecue banquet.

Soy Honey Ginger Marinated Chicken

Notes:  Use chicken breast, thighs and legs.  Clean the chicken by removing the skin, rubbing salt and lemon on each piece and rinsing with cold water.  Pat dry with paper towel.  For the marinade, use low sodium soy sauce, honey, freshly grated ginger, fresh lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper.  Coat evenly and marinate overnight.  In the morning, stir the marinated chicken to recoat the top pieces.  Remove from refrigerator a few minutes prior to placing it on the grill.

Grilled Steak with Bordelaise Sauce

Notes:  Filet Mignon, New York Strip, T-Bone, Ribeye or Sirloin steak are all amazing coming straight off the grill.  Choose one or more cuts for your event.  Generously coat each side of the steak with salt and pepper.  It is best to make each steak ‘made to order’ since it is best served hot and cooked to individual preferences.  To up the ‘culinary ante’, prepare a Bordelaise sauce with red wine, shallots and fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary.  Heat and occasionally stir the sauce until it forms a demi-glace.  Remove from the heat and stir in some fresh parsley.  Sprinkle fresh thyme on the cooked steak and drizzle a spoonful of the rich Bordelaise on top. 

Spinach Salad with Grilled Chicken

Notes:  Place spinach leaves, grape tomatoes, and thinly sliced red bell peppers and carrots in a large mixing bowl.  Add the grilled chicken cut in slices from above.  Just before guests arrive, mix in a small amount of dressing made with good virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (so the salad is not left soggy after an hour).  Leave more dressing on the table for guests to help themselves.  For a sweeter twist, add chunks of just-ripened mango to the salad and add a little honey to the dressing.

Grilled Eggplant, Zucchini and Asparagus

Notes:  Choose vibrant colored vegetables at the store.  Cut eggplant and zucchini lengthwise.  Lightly brush the vegetables with olive oil mixed with salt and grill to desired doneness.  In addition to the eggplant, zucchini and asparagus, you could also pick up red ripe bell peppers and tomatoes.  When the tomatoes are soft and look like they are about to burst, take them off the grill and cut in half or quarters.  When the bell peppers are charred on all sides, place in a bowl for ten minutes.  Remove stem, seeds and outer skin and cut lengthwise.  Add a few minced garlic cloves, olive oil, salt and pepper for a delicious side.

White & Brown Long Grain Rice

Notes:  To please those who prefer brown rice over white and those who do not like the texture of brown rice, try a one to one mixture of the two.  As you heat up the water, add a spoonful of butter or margarine and a dash of salt.  Fluff the cooked rice with a fork before serving.

Strawberry, Melon and Mango Fruit Salad

Notes:  For a refreshing finish to the meal, cut strawberries, watermelon, honeydew and mango in tiny chunks.  Take a big ripe orange and also cut into small chunks adding the orange and its juice to the rest of the fruit and mix well.  Garnish with mint leaves and serve in glass dessert cups.  To satisfy guests with an even bigger sweet tooth, serve with a fruit sorbet in flavors such as mango, strawberry, pineapple or lime.

Wine & Hors D’oeuvres Commentary

Red wines such as Cabernet and Malbec pair well with grilled red meat.  Given the warm weather, some guests may prefer a crisp white wine such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.  You may also want to have a few bottles of ice cold amber or dark lager on hand.  For those who do not drink alcohol, you might offer refreshing spritzers made with an exotic fruit juice, such as Raspberry Lemonade, and sparkling mineral water.  While pouring themselves a drink, guests can graze on assorted olives and crudite while waiting for the main course.  If time permits, you might prepare baba ghanoush dip with the grilled eggplant and homemade pita bread for an appetizer.

‘It’s often overlooked, but Filet Mignon is still the best steak to grill’, according to Stryker, a devotee of the grilling arts.  ‘But unlike hamburgers, if you screw it up, it’s an expensive mistake.’  When asked how he and his family planned to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend, he replied ‘Well, Sapphire will be cutting, marinating and prepping for about four hours.  If I mess it up with my five minutes on the grill, I might be joining the other casualties of war this Memorial Day.’

Comments

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