Wicked Good Grilling

Grilling season officially begins with Memorial Day weekend.

by: Marianne R. Stanton

Whether the weather is warm and sunny or blowing a gale and raining, this is the weekend when everyone breaks their grills out of winter storage and fires them up.

Growing up, grilling meant loading up the Weber with hamburger patties and hot dogs. And on Nantucket, we didn’t say we were going to grill, we said we were “having a cookout.” Those words, spoken by our parents, always got us excited, for there is nothing that tastes better after a day outside than the flavor of a grilled burger, charred on the outside, pink and juicy inside, enrobed in melted cheese. Throw one of those babies onto a seeded Pepperidge Farm bun and the culinary experience for a kid was akin to fivestar dining for an adult. For some, that experience remains the pinnacle of summer dining.

All-American Double Bison Cheeseburger from “Wicked Good Burgers”

Today, however, many of us have gone gourmet, and are quite specific about the equipment we use – gas grill, smoker or the classic Weber kettle grill – and what we put in it to create flavor, heat and smoke. Marine Home Center opened up a new grill center this spring on the site of its former flower shop, and carries a variety of wood chips to flavor your grilling. The folks behind the counter are happy to give advice to help you pick out just what you need.

We also take far more care with what we are cooking, searching out proper techniques for creating just the right amount of char on the outside while keeping the meat juicy and flavorful. One of my favorite resources for summer grilling is “Wicked Good Burgers,” a volume that debuted last year by Boston chef Andy Husbands with Chris Hart and Andrea Pyenson, and is a companion book to his 2012 cookbook “Wicked Good Barbecue.” Before opening his Boston restaurant Tremont 647, Husbands was the sous-chef at Chris Schlesinger’s East Coast Grill, which during his tenure was the standard for first-rate barbecue in the Boston/Cambridge area.

“Wicked Good Burgers” provides nearly two dozen recipes for burgers, from standard ground beef to tuna to bison, vegetarian black bean and many more. For the person dedicated to crafting the best burger possible, this book gives you techniques for creating a home-ground blend of beef and the techniques required to do so.

Proper grilling techniques are essential to good grilling, but almost as important are the toppings. This cookbook gives you recipes for everything from homemade mayonnaise, mustard made with Jack D’Or beer and a creamy garlic mustard, bread and butter pickles, a pepper mixture with jalapenos and pineapple called Red Hots, which we’ve shared here, and a recipe based on the green chili KrACK Sauce developed by island chef Seth Raynor for his Corazon del Mar. There’s also a killer recipe for a three-bean salad here that goes with just about anything.

“Wicked Good Burgers” is a fun read with lots of inspiration for summer cookouts, barbecues, grill-fests or whatever you want to call them, and a great Father’s Day gift for the dad who likes nothing more than spending part of his weekend manning the grill with a pair of tongs and spatula at the ready.

Two other books I swear by for summer cooking are Bobby Flay’s “Boy Meets Grill,” and “The Thrill of the Grill,” by John Willoughby and Schlesinger.

“The Thrill of the Grill” was first published in 1990, but the recipes and degrees of deliciousness it exhibits are timeless. I turn to this book frequently for side dishes like tidewater coleslaw or those that incorporate tropical flavors that are celebrated in the green mango, coconut and hot chili pepper salad. Additionally, there are sections that are born of the Deep South
and its penchant for barbecue and soul food. Boiled collard greens with salt pork and deep-fried cheddar grits are quintessential Southern dishes well-represented here.

One of my favorite salads, both for color and flavor, revolves around sweet potatoes. When most people think of sweet potatoes, they think of Thanksgiving dinners with candied sweets or mashed. Roasted sweet potatoes, however, are great cold in a salad, dressed with some lime juice, a little olive oil and tossed with some scallions and cilantro for a clean, sweet, bright taste.

Grilled corn is another summer staple, and Schlesinger tells you just how to do it right on the grill. Grill some corn for a corn and black bean salad with avocado, or when local farm corn is in come August, grill it for eating right off the cob.

Flay’s “Boy Meets Grill” is a book I’ve given to my brother-in-law, my husband and colleagues. The recipes are creative, without being weird, and not too complicated either. In fact, it has some of the best recipes for grilling fish and shellfish that I’ve found in any of my cookbooks. Ginger-marinated shrimp with toasted sesame seed vinaigrette and pineapple-glazed sea scallops with soy-miso vinaigrette and pineapple relish are two of my favorites. But Flay also has some tasty side dishes and desserts, and I’ve included the potato salad with smoked salmon and dill here for you to try. My favorite dessert in the book is the mangococonut macadamia crisp, but the upside-down lemon blueberry cake comes in a close second. ///

Marianne R. Stanton is editor and publisher of Nantucket Today and The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821. A 13th-generation Nantucketer, she writes frequently about food and travel.

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