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Published May 11, 2010, 02:08 PM

Surf & Turf on the Grill, Expert Grilling is Easy with a Few Secrets from a Pro

By: Arlene Coco, CCP, Living North

When I was a kid growing up in Southern Louisiana, my mother grilled every Sunday without fail. Her technique to get all of her family together was to grill out. Sunday “dinner” was served promptly at noon to avoid cooking in the midday heat. After we all arrived and were accounted for, the feeding frenzy began.

The main entrees rarely changed, but the side dishes rotated with the garden’s bounty. Her fuel of choice was charcoal with the occasional wood chip to notch up the smoke flavor. She was a purist when it came to additives to enhance the meats. No rubs, marinades or mops (a thick

marinade or sauce “mopped” on the meat while cooking) ever adorned the squabs, sausages and shrimp that were frequent stars of the grill. She wanted only the natural smoke flavor to permeate the meats.

Unlike my mother, I rub, mop, sprinkle, marinate, brine (and anything else I can think of) my meats and seafood on the grill. I blame my preference to adulterations on my travels. Once you taste a real Satay in Malaysia hot off the grill, you never go back to the lackluster flavors you deemed previously acceptable. Like my mother, I always like to entertain with a

“Surf and Turf” mixed grill menu theme. Shrimp and salmon are a staple, as well as spicy turkey sausage and steak.

These cover most guests’ preferences and the spice combinations can be inspired by your favorite country.

Grilling seafood can be daunting for even the most experienced cook. The trick is to not over-marinate or overcook your seafood. Thirty minutes is all it takes for any seafood marinade to impart flavor. For cooking time I follow the Canadian fish cooking rule of 10 minutes per inch of thickness of fish.

To keep fish from sticking to your grill you have 2 options. If your fish still has its skin, lightly oil the grill and place the fish skin-side down. When the fish is cooked, simply slide the spatula in between the fish flesh and the skin and it will pull away easily, leaving the skin behind on the grill. If you have skinless fish, I recommend using a rack on the grill so you can cook the fish without having to turn it, if you cook it with the grill lid closed. The grilling tray is handy for small shellfish items like shrimp and scallops. If you try using aromatic additions like wood chips or vines from the local vineyard, choose them as you would herbs and spices.

My favorite cut of beef to cook on the grill is flank steak. Easy to

cook, thinly sliced, it can be used in countless dishes or starred on its

own and paired with a harmonizing sauce. I often concoct a paste made

with the fiery Asian chili garlic sauce, ginger, soy and fresh cilantro.

Slathered liberally on the meat, I let it marinate for 30 minutes or so on

the counter to warm up the meat before putting it on the grill. Because

the meat is sliced thinly, you only get a hint of the blazing charred crust, followed by the robust meat flavor.

Lamb chops are delicious on the grill. As the high fat content will

cause them to flare up, keep a water bottle or a beer handy to extinguish

any unruly flames. Once you master a few basic recipes, the flavor

possibilities are endless. Whether you use charcoal, gas or wood, just

remember where’s there’s smoke, there’s flavor.


Recipes:

Chili Garlic Flank Steak

Because flank steak is thin, the mop will permeate the meat completely. This steak makes a delicious topping for a cool salad lunch another day.

1 ½ pounds flank steak (1 whole steak)

For the mop:

2 tablespoons Sambal Oelek

(Ground fresh chili paste)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh

or jarred ginger

2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

Garnish:

2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Instructions:

Trim flank steak of excess fat and place on a plate. Mix mop ingredients and spread evenly on steak, covering both sides. Let stand on the counter for 30 minutes. Over medium heat, grill steak until desired doneness.

Let meat rest 10 minutes before cutting. Slice thin across the grain and drizzle sweet chili sauce and sesame oil. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves before serving.


Grilled Salmon Fillet with Pesto Slather

Serves 4

Use a store-bought pesto for a quick weeknight dinner on the grill.

4 Four to Six ounce salmon fillets,boneless with skin off

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup Pesto sauce (recipe follows)

Instructions:

Prepare a fire in the grill or turn grill on to medium heat. Rub the fish gently with oil, sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Arrange fish on the grill rack. Slather top of fish with 2 tablespoons of pesto. Grill with cover closed until opaque throughout, about 10 minutes.


Pesto Sauce

Makes Approximately 1 cup

3 cloves garlic

2 cups fresh basil leaves

3 tablespoons pine nuts (pignolia)

1 dash salt and pepper

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions:

Place garlic, basil, pine nuts, salt, pepper and cheese in food processor. Process until chopped and slowly add the olive oil a little at a time.

Mix until smooth.

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