Quick and easy for hot days
Photographed and styled EUGENIA UHL
My problem with Fourth of July cooking is the heat.
We once had a Fourth of July party before upgrading our central air conditioning, and I remember guests who would not put on bathing suits walking around red-cheeked and sweating profusely, even in the house. That is what a crowd will do in a New Orleans summer when the air conditioning becomes stressed. Lord help us if it went out altogether. My poor husband was barbecuing chicken, pork, hamburgers and hot dogs until he was nearly barbecued himself.
That may have been our last big Fourth of July party. Better to go watch fireworks somewhere in the evening breezes and save the big parties for cooler months.
We do often barbecue on the Fourth, however, but like to make it short and easy. Preferred recipes are beer can chicken or grilled salmon. The chicken takes little over an hour with no attention, and the salmon is put on the grill minutes before chow time.
Not heating up the kitchen is important, too, so we also use the grill for roasted vegetables, a delicious and easy side for any barbecued meat.
The beer can chicken, also called drunken chicken, requires the same cooking time no matter how many chickens you smoke. If you have a big grill, just line ’em up side-by-side, and they’ll be ready in an hour and 20 minutes. The only change is additional charcoal and wet hickory to cover the grill base. This, of course, requires a large grill with a cover for several chickens, but a single chicken or two can be done on a small Weber-style covered grill.
Salmon is wonderful with a smoky taste, and the key is to not overcook it. It must be barely done to taste “juicy,” as a waiter once described it on a cruise ship. I don’t know of a better way to describe it, and I don’t even like salmon if it’s not “juicy.” Far too many people overcook salmon, even in some restaurants, and I have to have a major conversation with the waiter before I’ll ever order salmon when dining out. I don’t have many quirks in restaurants, but that’s definitely one. (I do understand that some people prefer it dry. On second thought, I don’t understand it.)
I have picked my favorite roasting veggies for the recipe attached, but there are many others just as good. Try broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, sweet potatoes or carrots. Do not overcook these little gems either. The full “juicy” taste of the vegetable is important, and a little crunch doesn’t hurt either.
1 side fresh salmon, about 2 ½ to 3 pounds
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh rosemary leaves, about 2 Tablespoons chopped, and some
whole rosemary stems
Juice of 1 lemon
4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Lemon slices for garnish
Salmon can be grilled on either a charcoal grill or gas grill over medium heat. Grill should be scraped and oiled. Place grill about 5 inches over the heat source.
Prepare the salmon by sprinkling salt and pepper over both sides, pressing the seasonings into the flesh.
Combine 2 Tablespoons rosemary, lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl for basting fish.
About half an hour before you want to serve, brush one side of fish with olive oil mixture and place that side over a medium-hot grill. Baste the upper side. Cook for 5 minutes. Turn, baste again and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, depending on size. Check center of the thickest part with a knife and remove from heat while the inside is pink and shiny. Place on a platter and garnish with rosemary stems and lemon slices.
Beer Can Chicken
Hickory chips and charcoal
Salt, freshly ground black pepper,
Creole seasoning, garlic powder
6 ounces beer, divided
2 teaspoons crab boil, divided
2 teaspoons liquid smoke, divided
Soak two handfuls of hickory chips in water for 30 minutes.
Light a charcoal grill with a cover using enough charcoal to spread evenly under both chickens. Heat until the coals are white hot.
Meanwhile, rinse and clean chickens and pat dry. Sprinkle heavily with seasonings inside and out.
Using 2 empty beer cans and a funnel, pour into each can 3-ounces beer, 1 teaspoon crab boil and 1 teaspoon liquid smoke.
Back at the grill, spread hot coals directly under the area where the chickens will be placed. Position the grill about 5 inches above the coals, and place beer cans on the grill over the coals. Put the chickens on top of the cans so that the cans are inserted under and into the large cavities of the chickens, legs down and towards the front. Chickens should be sitting straight up.
Close grill and don’t open for 1 hour and 20 minutes. When done, remove from grill, let chickens set for 10 minutes. Cut into pieces, slice breasts and serve on a platter.
Serves 6 to 8
Note: There are tools you can buy to hold the beer cans and brace the chickens into position. They make it easier but are not necessary. Make sure the chickens are stable before closing the lid.
1 pound asparagus
1 pound Brussels sprouts
3 cobs corn
1 or 2 red bell peppers
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil, about
Rinse all vegetables. Snap off hard ends of asparagus and cut stems into 3-inch pieces. Cut Brussels sprouts into halves and snap corn into halves. Remove stem, seeds and white parts of pepper, and cut into strips. Place vegetables in a bowl and sprinkle with seasonings and olive oil, tossing until all are covered.
Place vegetables in a grill basket or two, and roast over a medium-hot grill, charcoal or gas, turning occasionally, until vegetables are done but still crisp and browning slightly, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately or reheat to serve hot.