fter a seemingly endless winter, summer is finally here-the sun is shining, the weather is warm, fish are jumpin' and the outfits are fly! But surely you didn't wait all this time for grilling season just to cook your standard weenies and ground rounds. Busting out your grill should be a grand occasion, a ceremony that deserves an opening celebration-and, if done right, worship.
First thing you should know is grills perform best with an audience. So call your friends and get them to call their friends' friends and get crazy with your cookout. With some assistance from Chef Godwin Ihentuge of Yum Village in Detroit, you'll be playing with fire like a pro.
Chef Ihentuge founded his Yum Village Table D' Hote concept on the idea that good cuisine shouldn't wait for a good location.
On the last Thursday of the month, Yum Village hosts a different chef and dining concept at Eastern Market's Shed 5 with an opportunity for patrons to rate their experience in real time. Follow his tips for a sure way to dominate your fire and wow your guests.
Lighting your grill fire
When you finally get a good grill fire going, it can be one of those primitive moments where you want to shout to the heavens: "Behold-fire!" But starting a fire is the easy part. It's how you make it that's going to matter when it comes tasting time.
I would recommend getting one of those rapid-fire chimney charcoal starters. That way, you won't have to use lighter fluid on the charcoal; that affects the flavor of the food, especially with fruits and vegetables. Even in the meat, you can taste the lighter fluid.
Find a rapid-fire chimney charcoal starter at your local Home Depot.
Where the wild things are
From rabbit to ribs, the best thing you can do to your red and wild meats is braise them before grilling, says Detroit Chef Ihentuge.
Braising is an awesome way to make sure you have a good solid piece of meat that's not overcooked-and still well done without being "well done." You can put your ribs in a slow cooker with a chocolate stout (go local with Atwater) and continue to add to it or keep it on a slow cook. After a bit, you can take it off, pop it on the grill and then finish it off. The meat will be mostly cooked from the braising process, but the grill adds crunch.
There's the Rub
A versatile rub goes a long way.
"You would use one table spoon of each and mix together in a large bowl," says Chef Ihentuge. "The list is long but no different from what your finest kitchens are doing. Less is more. But in this case I say more spice."
- Cayenne pepper
- Garlic powder
- Crushed Bay Leaves
- Dried Thyme
- Dried Rosemary
- Dried Coriander
- Olive Oil would be about 1 / 2 cup
- Smoked Paprika
- Lemon Juice 1 / 2 cup
Ground Nut Paste (if no allergies are concerned. Blended ground nuts mixed with olive oil and sugar.)
Rub on meats days before grilling or few hours before grilling.
Best barbecue sauces
Barbecue is only as good as the sauce it's coated in, and these three Michigan-made brands can easily transform that 'cue from good to great.
Not a fan of spice? This sweet and savory Straight Up sauce goes with pretty much everything. Use it as a marinade or drizzle it on top of your favorite grilled grub. For those who crave the flame, give the Habanero Flare flavor a try.
Louisiana-style sauce made right here in Detroit. With tangy, spicy and sweet notes, this brand prides itself on cooking with love and soul. If you're looking to kick it up a notch, try the chipotle flavor for added heat.
Blending the sweet flavor of cherries with tangy spices, this sauce is delectably complex. If you fancy something with more punch, crack open a jar of their spicy version.
Classic barbecue food
Standard hot dogs and burger patties on the grill are called "classics" for a reason. But Ihentuge says the only way to do the classics is to make them your own.
"One of my favorites is just stuffing the dog. You can get fancy with it and fill one of those squeeze bottles with cheese. You can even do crab-stuffed hot dogs."
- Cook the hot dogs through.
- Split them and add some fillings.
Run out of the red stuff? Don't stop your party by running to the store. Get creative with this simple ketchup recipe, courtesy of Chef Ihentuge.
- Add tomatoe paste (enough to get about 40 ounces or 50 ounces)
- ½ cup water
- ⅔ cup white sugar
- ¾ cup apple cider vinegar
- teaspoon of chipotle powder
- pinch of salt
Blend it all together and you are back in business!
Seafood on the grill
Ihentuge says the best way to prepare seafood is to dress it up like a margarita-salts, limes, lemons, mints and zest.
Take a big Ziploc bag with little lemon juice, bay leaves and toss it around in there. (This goes for shrimp, whole crab and lobster tails.)
Instead of the boiled taste, it would be a smoked taste. Keep it on for 45 minutes to one hour. My preferred grill, over the crab, is the lobster-because you can access the meat and, from there, flavor it a little bit differently. So you are not confined to just your lemon and butter. Add some thyme, rosemary, a little cayenne; put some smoked pepper in there to really give it a nice island taste."
Red snapper is a good fish. Just cut it open, put a little thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and little bit of lemon or lime inside. Brush with sesame oil and pop it on there. It comes out nice and flakey and retains the flavor. I would definitely go for the whole fish. It's better with the bones. You don't have to worry about retaining that flavor.
There's one rule for smoking fish-smoke it whole or don't smoke it at all.
A good mezcal is a best friend to any backyard BBQ: It's a fantastic addition to margaritas-and your seafood meats will drink it up on the grill. "You need a type of alcohol that's going to make its signature statement on the flavor," says Ihentuge. "I would say a good mezcal is perfect. Garnish with lime and it would definitely make the fire jump, but when you bite into it you will have a distinct savory flavor."
Eggplant: Grilled eggplant is a tasty side that takes about 10-15 minutes to cook, but stuffing it elevates the dish to another level. "Stuff it with veggies. Succotash, onions, green peppers some corn, tomatoes and okra-when you put that inside of the eggplant, it fills it out, because the grilled eggplant is smokey. It's got a nice texture very similar to the portobello mushroom but a lot richer."
Asparagus: This one's a fast crowd pleaser; no foil required. Finish with lemon juice, olive oil and maybe some cheese. You want to still maintain some firmness to it."
Kale: It cooks best when it's up-close and personal with the grill for a quick char. "Grilled kale is a good one because you can season it with some simple sea salt, and then you can toss with a coconut cream or just some light coconut milk. So you've got a nice strong rich flavor from the grill and it's complemented with the coconut."
Paco Potato Skin Tacos: For your hippie pals, it's important to have a decent vegetarian option that passes as a main course. "Essentially what you would do is bake the potato, cut it open, gut the insides, then put everything that you would want to put into a taco inside this potato skin. Ideally you would want a baker potato, because those are thicker. Then just put that on the grill. Finish these with some extra fire by adding your favorite hot sauce."
Avocado: Pit the avocado. Lay it on some foil. Add an egg and choose your toppings. "Put everything that you would want with the egg in there, maybe like cilantro, diced tomatoes, onions, peppers and such, and close the grill. Then you can literally just eat it out of its shell. Bust that out to impress the guests."
The best desserts for a barbecue are the ones you don't have to leave the grill to make. Go simple with some paletas ice pops on the grill for a quick char that will give you a nice sweet and salty flavor.
Ice cream sandwich
"I would suggest grabbing artisan bread, sourdough and pretzel is a good start," says Chef Ihentuge. "Place on grill to gain warmth and get the grill marks. After that, remove from grill, place two scoops of vanilla bean between the slices. Lightly press down and cut to shape into a square or triangle."
To make it extra special use some form of peanut butter and jelly or almond butter and jelly. This turns a lunch time favorite into a grill worthy dessert!
Grilled mango is one of the sweetest secrets of barbecue. The key is in the right type of ripeness: Not too soggy with some firmness, Ihentuge says. Just cut long strips and put those on the grill.
Mary Ann's Soda is all about the fizz-mixed up with the booze. Derek John, founder of this new Detroit pop maker, pours us a refreshing barbecue beverage.
- 3 parts Jack Daniel's Honey Whiskey
- 2 parts Mary Ann's Soda Cranberry Syrup
- Mary Ann's Soda Sparkling Soda
Garnish with a lemon slice and you're ready to go!
Mary Ann's Soda offers four soda flavors and seven syrups, with blood orange and strawberry debuting this summer. Check out MaryAnnsSoda.com for more delicious cocktail recipes.