A Time to Grill
Simple Recipes for Slow Southern Summers
Photo Courtesy of Eugenia Uhl
It’s a paradox that prime grilling season occurs during some of the hottest months of the year in Louisiana. The following recipes are designed to take advantage of the grill but without requiring you to spend a long time baking in the humidity. The recipe calls for beef short ribs cut across the ribs, commonly called "flanken-style." If you can't find that cut, feel free to substitute something else. Skirt or flank steak will also work, but depending on the thickness, you may want to increase both the time the meat spends in the marinade and the cooking time. This meal serves two, and you will have sauce left over.
Grilled Beef Short Ribs with Roasted Tomato-Chile Sauce
This dish is an amalgam of Korean and Mexican cuisines. That
may seem an incongruous pairing, but the tomato sauce works exceptionally well with the Korean-style marinade.
For the beef:
3 pounds beef short ribs,
cut flanken-style, about a quarter-inch thick
1 to 2 tablespoons sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
For the marinade:
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine or mirin
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 to 3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 green onions, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced kiwi (optional)
Mix the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl until the sugar dissolves. Add the meat to a zip-top bag, stir in the marinade, and remove as much air as possible before closing the bag. Massage the marinade into the meat so that every piece is completely covered, and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to four. Enzymes in the kiwi will tenderize the meat, so if you are using it, try not to let the meat marinate for more than two hours.
While the meat marinates, make the sauce.
Roasted Tomato-Chile Sauce
1 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes
4 to 5 whole unpeeled garlic cloves
1 tablespoon neutral oil
(such as grapeseed or canola)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large dried mulato or 3 large ancho chiles
1 dried chipotle chile (or a canned chipotle in adobo sauce)
1/4 cup red wine
1 to 2 tablespoons molasses
(or kecap manis or similar thick, sweet soy sauce)
Sugar and/or lime juice (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Slice the tomatoes in half, and add them to a roasting pan large enough to hold them snugly in one layer. Add the garlic cloves and oil, tossing to coat. Season with the salt, and then roast for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, tear the dried chiles into pieces, removing the seeds and internal membranes if you want to keep the heat down. Be careful when handling the chiles, as the chipotle in particular will be very spicy. Soak the chiles in a little hot water while the tomatoes roast.
After 15 minutes, remove the tomatoes from the oven and the chiles from the water, reserving the soaking liquid. Add the chiles, wine and molasses to the pan, pressing down on the tomatoes to break them up a bit and release some of their liquid. Stir the pan, and then return it to the oven for an additional 45 minutes to an hour. Check the pan periodically, adding a little of the chile’s soaking liquid if the mixture dries out.
Remove the tomatoes from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes, and then put the entire contents of the roasting pan through a food mill or a sieve. The sauce should be dark-red and the consistency of thick marinara sauce. If it is too thin, reduce it a bit in a saucepan on low heat. Taste to adjust seasonings; if the sauce is too spicy, add a little sugar to temper it. You may also add a little lime juice if it needs more acid.
Light your grill. Remove the meat from the marinade, and wipe off excess liquid. Grill the meat on a hot fire for a few minutes per side. It will cook quickly, so keep an eye on it to avoid excessive charring.
This dish is easy and results in a slightly sweet, slightly sticky rice that works very well with spicy foods. The optional garnish of chopped cilantro gives it some color and a good bit of flavor.
1 6-ounce can coconut milk (not sweetened)
Approximately 1 1/2 cups water
1 cup long-grain rice, such as jasmine or “popcorn” rice
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Shake the can of coconut milk thoroughly, and add it to a measuring cup that holds at least 2 cups. Add enough water to give you 2 cups of liquid. Add the salt to the thinned coconut milk, and bring it to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. Add the rice, stir once, put the lid on the pot, and reduce the heat so that the rice just simmers. Let it cook for 20 minutes, and then check to see if the rice is done. If so, replace the lid and let it sit for at least 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro when serving.
Cold Spinach Salad
The chilled spinach salad, also influenced by Korean cuisine, is great for a hot day. The slightly nutty flavor imparted by the sesame oil adds yet another flavor component to the plate.
1 pound spinach, large stems removed, chopped, or baby spinach
1 teaspoon neutral oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add enough salt to give it the salinity of seawater. Have a large bowl of ice and water ready. Blanch the spinach for 30 seconds, and then drain and quickly cool the spinach in the ice water. Drain again, and dry in a kitchen towel.
Heat the canola or other neutral oil in a small frying pan, and then cook the garlic and chile flakes until fragrant and the garlic takes just a bit of color. Add the garlic, chile flakes and oil to a bowl, and then add the soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir to combine, and mix with the spinach. Chill until ready to serve.
Grilled Macerated Pineapple
Ending the meal with this grilled pineapple that’s picked up the flavors of rum and vanilla is damn near perfect.
1/2 cup dark rum
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
Peel the pineapple, and cut it lengthwise into long rectangular strips, leaving the core. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and scrape the seeds into a bowl. Add the rum and sugar, and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Macerate the pineapple in the rum mixture for at least an hour, and then grill it on all four sides. Serve over ice cream.
The cocktail recipe is the creation of a friend, with a slight variation. Pomegranate liqueur, tequila, lime juice and a little sweetness combine to make a very refreshing cocktail.
2 ounces Pama pomegranate liqueur
2 ounces tequila
Juice of 1/2 lime, plus a lime wedge to garnish
1/4 teaspoon powdered sugar
Mix the Pama, tequila, lime juice and sugar in a tall glass, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Fill the glass three-quarters full of ice, and then top with club soda. Garnish with the lime wedge.