The Thrill of the Grill

Gourmet Girl - June 23, 2015

A few recipes from top Santa Fe chefs to spark your summer grilling...

“Grilling, broiling, barbecuing – whatever you want to call it – is an art, not just a matter of building a fire and throwing on a piece of meat as a sacrifice to the gods of the stomach.”  James Beard

Summer came in with a blast this year, a full-on heat blast. With temps in the high 90s, no one wants to even think about turning on the oven, let alone cooking in a hot kitchen. This is when the outdoor grill becomes indispensable, whether you have a fancy custom gas grill with a built-in rotisserie, digital thermometer and smoker or a classic charcoal grill like Weber's that you've been using for years.

The merits of grilling with gas versus charcoal are still under debate, but gas does burn cleaner than charcoal, which releases more carbon monoxide as well as soot. But many people prefer the smoky flavor of foods grilled with charco. If you do opt for charcoal, nix the lighter fluid as it's toxic and dangerous and use a chimney starter instead, which works like a charm every time.

Today's grillmeister has an arsenal of tools to work with, from add-ons like apple, cherry and other fruit wood to hickory, pecan and mesquite, the go-to wood for barbecue, which all enhance the flavor of the food you're grilling. To add more flavor and tenderize the meat, you have an endless choice of marinades, sauces glazes, wet and dry rubs. If you're cooking kebabs, swap out the metal or bamboo skewers for fragrant sprigs of rosemary and lemongrass sticks . And wrap tender fish filets in leaves—banana, grape, bamboo or fig, for example—for added flavor and to prevent the filets from falling apart and sticking to the grill.

Be sure to use quality meat purchased from a butcher or a rancher at your local farmers' market, and don't buy anything wrapped in plastic as it traps in moisture. And wild-caught seafood is a healthier choice than farm-raised.

Now that you're prepped with some grilling basics, here area few favorite recipes from revered Santa Fe chefs to light up your life, and your grill's life, too.

Joan Gilchrist, owner of Andiamo!

One of my favorite meals, roasted chicken, potatoes and grilled vegetables, is also incredibly easy and affords the opportunity to have a meal ready for you when you get home from an event. The procedure is for a whole bird, and the best part is that you can use the grill to do most of the work for you. Planning makes the convenience work, but you can schedule the work when you have time, which reduces the stress that sometimes comes along with pulling together a complete meal.

If you had a kid's sport game to attend, you could put on the meal before you left, and have dinner on the table 10 minutes after you return home. Sometimes that is much better than a stop at fast food or for prepared food…and often it is much faster!

1. Buy a whole bird a day or two ahead of when you plan to cook it. The better the bird eats, the better it will taste, and birds are meant to eat bugs and fresh ground covers.

2.  Rinse, pat dry and season bird (salt, pepper, herbs under skin, as you choose).  Be sure to plenty o salt.  If you can’t taste the salt or have to salt it later, you didn’t salt it enough.  The salt breaks down meat fibers, making a more tender chicken.  24 hours is required for the seasoning to properly penetrate.

3. Place bird in large Ziplock bag and place in fridge.  Wrap your potatoes in individually in foil and poke with fork on each side.

4.  Turn on the grill.  

a.  The 1-hour chicken is a 500º version.  For a three-burner grill, turn on the two outside burners to high and place chicken on inside burner, which remains off. Place potatoes behind chicken or on the upper rack, if you have one.  

b. The slow cook, 2-to 3-hour version, is a 275º version.  The two outside burners are set to low.  Place chicken on center burner with potatoes behind or on the upper rack, if you have one.

The chicken is done when an incision below the drumstick yields no significant blood.  An overcooked chicken has dry breast meat, so a lot of moisture with a little red in the leg is a good sign.

That leaves just your vegetable.  While the grill is hot, use it to grill asparagus, sliced squash, onion, etc.  Toss them in olive oil and salt before grilling.  Easier is to make a salad with lettuces you bought cleaned or cleaned ahead.

John Conlon of the new Oasis Cafe in Eldorado's La Tienda

I hate recipes that require specialized ingredients and an extra trip to the store to make. This is a “use what you have” recipe and improvisation will probably only make it better. It's an easy and refreshing meal that is a nice change from your typical summer barbeque.

Quick and Easy Greek Style Souvlaki on the Grill (Serves 4)
1 pound boneless chicken thighs, pork loin, beef steaks (such as tree tip or sirloin) or lamb chops cut into 1 ½ inch chunk
½ bottle store bought Italian dressing or homemade vinaigrette (whatever you have in the fridge)
2 cloves garlic finely chopped or pressed
1 cup yogurt or sour cream or ½ cup of each
½ cucumber peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or 1 tablespoon vinegar)
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon dill or 1 tbs chopped fresh dill
Dash of honey
Salt, to taste
4 pieces pita bread
4 skewers
1 dressed salad

Skewer the meat chunks on the 4 skewers and place in a shallow glass pan or plate.

Pour the salad dressing into a bowl. Add 1 clove minced garlic, oregano, rosemary and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Stir well and pour over the meat skewers. Cover and refrigerate for a ½ hour or longer, if you have the time.

Mix yogurt, cucumber, dill, remaining clove of minced garlic and lemon juice. Add salt to taste and if it's too tart, mix in a dash of honey. Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to serve.

Grill skewers on a hot grill for about 8 minutes, turning every 3 minutes or so. Remove and cover with foil until ready to serve.

Warm the pita on the grill for about 20 seconds a side. Don't let it get crispy or hard. Wrap all four pieces tightly in foil until ready to serve.

Place warm pita on a plate. Remove souvlaki from skewers and place on pita. Top with a bit of the dressed salad (or some greens, tomatoes cucumbers and onions) and spoon the yogurt sauce over the top. Serve the rest of the salad on the side.

Louis Moskow, owner of 315 Restaurant & Wine Bar
This tuna recipe offers s fabulous way to cook outside if your grill has a burner. Otherwise the risotto is cooked on the stove top and held and finished on the grill. The pipérade sauce performs two functions as a sauce and a vegetable and is best served at the peak of pepper season in Santa Fe.

Grilled Tuna With Saffron Risotto And Piperade Sauce (Serves 6)
6 5-ounce fresh tuna steaks
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped herbs
2 ounces olive oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 ounces olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
12 ounces quality risotto
1 tablespoon saffron
1 lemon, cut in half for squeezing
1 cup white wine
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 ounces spring peas
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 ounces olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 onion, sliced
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 roasted red pepper, sliced
1green or yellow pepper,roasted and sliced
1 cup white wine
30 black olives, pitted and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place tuna steaks in bowl and marinade with garlic, herbs and oil.

For the risotto, heat a heavy gauge medium pot over medium heat. Add oil, onions and garlic and sauté until onions turn translucent. Add risotto and stir to coat rice with oil. Squeeze lemon juice over saffron and add to rice. Add wine and stir. Add chicken stock in 2 stages stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper.

For the sauce, heat a heavy gauge medium pot over medium heat. Add oil, onions and garlic and sauté until onions turn translucent. Add tomatoes and peppers and sauté. Stir in white wine and simmer. Add herbs, olives and salt and pepper.

Season tuna with salt and pepper and grill over high heat for two minutes on each side. Plate the tuna next to risotto, topped with pipérade and serve.

Grilled Veal flank with Pea Flan and Wild Mushroom Fricasse Flank (Serves 15)
This veal flank is perfect for a crowd. It's served with morels, making it a great dish in the spring with the peas. We'll be serving this at 315 next week, but because morel season is coming to end, we'll probably switch over to porcini and maybe trade the peas out for fava beans.

2 ounces garlic, chopped
1/2 cup herbs de Provence
1/2 cup olive oil
Dash Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

5 pounds veal flank

Combine garlic, herbs, olive oil and Worcestershire sauce as a marinade, and marinate veal for at least 3 hours. Season with salt and pepper. Grill veal over high heat to medium rare or desired doneness. Slice on a bias against the grain. 

Pea flan:
2 cups fresh peas, blanched
1 quart cream
10 eggs
Pinch nutmeg
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring the peas and the cream to a boil for 1 1/2 minutes. Puree all ingredients in a blender till smooth. Pour mixture in a buttered ramekin and bake in a water bathe until firm and set, not souffléd.

Wild Mushroom Fricasse:
2 ounces butter
1 shallot, minced
2 pounds mixed wild mushrooms
3 ounces sherry
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, chopped
1 cup demi glace
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat a heavy gauge sauté pan over high hea,  add butter then shallots and mushrooms. Sauté until mushrooms begin to caramelize. Deglaze with sherry. When the alcohol evaporates ad the herbs and demi glace and reduce to adjust consistency and flavor.

Pea Shoot Salad:
2 pounds pea shoots
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground blck pepper, to taste

Cut the pea shoots away from any tough stems. Dress with lemon and olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the dish, arrange pea flan at the top of the plate. Fan the veal below the flan. Sauce the meat and scatter the mushrooms on the plate. Top with the pea shoot salad.

Katherine Kagel owner of Cafe Pasqual's
This is a family recipe that feeds a crowd and makes the best leftovers too. It's simple, and simply delicious!  

Grilled Mustard Slathered Butterflied Leg of Lamb (Serves 6-12 depending on size of lamb leg)
1 leg of lamb, deboned and butterflied
1 jar Dijon mustard
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 packages pita bread - cut pitas in half to create "pockets"
2 teaspoons ground sumac (to taste)
1 large container plain Greek yogurt
2 cucumbers, deseeded and grated
2-3 large ripe tomatoes, diced

4 hours before grilling: slather the lamb with the mustard and salt and refrigerate.  Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before grilling to take the chill off the meat.  

Preheat grill. Grill lamb to medium rare, let the lamb rest for 15 minutes before slicing against the grain into thin slices . Serve with pita bread, fill the pockets with lamb and greek yogurt spiced with the  ground sumac, grated deseeded cucumber and chopped ripe diced tomato.

***For Santa Fe's premiere selection of the best grills, follow this link to see our friends at The Firebird!***