This Labor Day weekend just might be the last time you can fire up the Weber this year. Use these recipes and tips to end the outdoor cooking season on a deliciously high note.
Every man hits the same inevitable plateau: You’ve got burgers and dogs down; you’re rock solid searing a rib eye; and you’re a backyard Da Vinci with that barbecue brush. But you’re over that limited repertoire, and you’re just not sure how to elevate your grilling beyond the obvious. Well, consider this: Every great American chef keeps a hot grill raging inside his restaurant kitchen. Chefs depend on grills because direct flame has a unique power to put a fierce sear on almost any food, adding char and wood-smoke flavor, along with crunchy caramelized textures that are impossible to duplicate with conventional burners.
Your own backyard grill plays other roles, of course — a reason to get outside, a place to gather and drink — but all that stuff gets even better when you learn to approach the grill as a versatile culinary tool instead of a dedicated barbecue appliance. Plus, the techniques you pick up while grilling things like whole fish, suckling pig, and peaches transcend specific recipes and will make you a true master of the open flame.
by Daniel Duane
WHOLE STRIPED BASS, GULF COAST STYLE
CHEF: Chris Hastings, owner of the Hot and Hot Fish Club, in Birmingham, Alabama
Chris Hastings grew up vacationing on the South Carolina coast — helping Mom and Dad dig for oysters and clams, netting wild shrimp, and surf-casting for grouper. His free time still tends toward hunting, fishing, and grilling, so he knows better than anybody that fish fillets challenge even a veteran grillmaster: Fish flesh clings to the grate, and all that heat, smoke, and flame dry out a pricey piece of seafood. The solution? Grill the whole thing. Like chicken or beef, fish tastes best cooked on the bone: When you leave the creature intact, you keep all the moisture inside. Plus, a whole fish can easily feed a big crowd and makes for a terrific presentation.
1 whole striped bass (2–3 pounds), gutted, scaled, and fins trimmed off
8 large sprigs of fresh basil, coarsely chopped
2 lemons, sliced thin
Salt and pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
1. An hour before cooking, take the fish out of the refrigerator to let it reach room temperature. Salt and pepper the interior of the fish, then put basil and lemon inside, and tie twine around to close it up.
2. Start the grill; clean and oil the grate. Right before cooking, salt and pepper the outside of the bass. (Doing this too early draws moisture from the skin, causing it to stick to the grill.) Drizzle olive oil into one hand, and rub over the fish.
3. Place the fish over medium-hot embers, and don’t move it for 5–7 minutes. (The skin will stick at first, so fussing with it too soon will tear it.) Watch for flare-ups; if you see any, knock them down with water from a squirt bottle.
4. Carefully probe the underside of the fish with a spatula to make sure the skin isn’t sticking. Then, with a spatula in each hand, carefully flip the fish over. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a metal skewer into the thickest part of the bass; hold for 5 seconds, then touch it to your lip. If it’s slightly warm, the fish is done.
5. Remove basil and lemon; set on a platter. Make a light cut along the length of the fish, from gills to tail fin. With your knife, lift meat away from the middle out. Once the top flesh is removed, wriggle and pull the backbone away from the rest of the flesh left on the platter.
BETTER THAN BBQ SAUCE: CHIMICHURRI
This chimichurri comes from Argentina’s most famous chef, Francis Mallmann, author of Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way. It takes minutes to make, keeps for weeks, and goes great on everything from roast chicken to scrambled eggs. Make it one day in advance, to let the flavors develop.
INGREDIENTS: 1 cup water • 1 tbsp coarse salt • 12 peeled garlic cloves • 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley •1 cup fresh oreg- ano leaves • 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes •1/4 cup red wine vinegar • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. Simmer water in a small pot, add salt, stir to dissolve, and remove from heat.
2. Mince garlic, parsley, and oregano. Stir in a bowl with red pepper, vinegar, olive oil, and water-salt mixture.