I cannot believe that Labor Day is here already. Where did the summer go? Doesn’t it seem like we were just planning for the Fourth of July? Well, I’m going to celebrate this weekend in style. Who’s with me?
I like to take advantage of the grill once I have it fired up and always make a combination of foods so my guests have choices. Some of my favorites are chicken, steak, and sausages. If you have children you can add hamburgers or hot dogs to the menu or substitute them for something else.
This weekend I will be hosting a lot of people and want a widely varied menu. The chicken is great for those with lighter appetites and anyone watching their weight, but I also want something really substantial for the big eaters. When I have a large crowd individual steaks are a lot more trouble to cook than a single piece of meat. You can choose anything from a beef tenderloin to chateaubriand or London Broil, but for this weekend I think I’m going to make a succulent flank steak. And while I’m at it, I’ll throw a few sausages on the fire too. They are excellent as is or The Artist will love them with pasta the next day!
Flank steak is great for a crowd and a marinade gives the meat more flavor as well as keeping it juicy and tender. I love the blend of Asian flavors in the recipe below, but the simplest marinade of all is regular Italian salad dressing! Place your meats in a plastic bag, pour in some dressing or other marinade and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. That’s it – the easiest and tastiest food you’ve ever barbecued!
When cooking any meats, never use a fork to move or turn the food. The punctures allow the juices to run out. You want to keep the juices in! Always use tongs. I keep 3 or 4 on hand and use one when I’m working with raw meats, and either wash them or use another set of tongs once the food is cooked. This helps reduce the chances of cross contamination of raw foods.
I hosted a ladies luncheon recently and served the Grilled Lemon-Thyme Chicken. It was a perfect entrée, simple to make with a really fresh flavor from the thyme, and all the ladies wanted the recipe. I started the chicken on the grill and then finished it in the oven at a low temperature which helps avoid over cooking. This is one way to have most of the work done before people arrive, and the chicken finishes cooking gently, keeping it extremely moist and tender.
If you are doing this several hours ahead, wrap the chicken tightly in foil and refrigerate. About 45 minutes before your guests are arriving, pop it in a 200°F oven and let it reheat and finish cooking while you do your final chores.
Grilled fruits and vegetables are excellent paired with meats. My favorites are pineapple, onions and peaches or nectarines. Halve or cut into thick slices, brush both sides with vegetable oil and grill until lightly browned. Watch out, they can burn easily because of the natural sugars. If you want to grill corn on the cob shuck the corn, discarding the husks and silks. Place the raw corn directly on the oiled grill and cook for a few minutes or until lightly charred. I cut mine off the cob and serve it in a bowl with melted butter.
You can serve the meats and chicken as is or you can make my Root Beer BBQ sauce and brush it on at the end of cooking. If you are using a sauce, cook meat nearly all the way through on direct heat then move to the cooler side of the grill, mop with sauce, and finish cooking 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Serve the extra sauce on the side for your guests to add more if they like.
Enjoy this final weekend of the summer – do cannonballs in the pool, catch fireflies, and enjoy your friends and family. Have a wonderful time my friends!!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
To have your foods all done about the same time, start by cooking the sausages over the hot part of the grill for about 2 minutes per side until they have grill marks and have picked up some of the smoky flavor. Remove and place in a 200°F oven to finish cooking and keep warm. Cook the chicken next and when almost done, add to the oven. Finish with the steak. Once done, while it is resting, cook the corn and fruit on the grill and pull the sausages and chicken out of oven. By the time the corn is done, the steak will have rested and everything will be ready to serve. Party time!
- Juice of 3 lemons
- 1 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp coarse salt
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 chickens, backs removed and quartered
- 2 peeled and smashed garlic cloves
- Fresh thyme sprigs, plus extra for garnish
- Lemon slices, for garnish
- Combine lemon juice, pepper, salt and oil in jar with a tight lid. Shake vigorously just before using. Place chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag with the marinade, garlic, and thyme sprigs. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours, turning occasionally.
- When ready to cook, bring chicken to room temperature. Prepare grill for a medium-hot fire on one side. Remove chicken from marinade and pat off excess oil. Discard marinade.
- Grill chicken on the oiled rack set 5 to 6 inches over hot, ash covered coals until just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. If you want to add BBQ sauce, cook chicken for 3 minutes per side, move to the cooler side of the grill, mop with sauce, and then cook for another minute or two on each side. Hold in a warm oven until ready to serve.
- 2 to 2-1/2 lb flank steak
- 4 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp peeled and minced or grated fresh ginger or 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp sugar, optional
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Score the meat across the grain (helps create a tender steak). To do this, make thin cuts opposite the way the grain runs in the meat. Do this on both sides and place in a large zip-top plastic bag. Combine remaining ingredients in a jar and shake to blend. Pour over the steak and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
- Near the end of the marinating time, start a charcoal fire, with most of the coals stacked on one side. This creates two heat zones, allowing you to better control the cooking. Start on the hot side of the grill and move to the cooler side for gentler cooking.
- Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Grill or broil the steak about 4 inches from the coals for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until nicely browned. Move the meat to a cooler part of the grill and cook for another 2 minutes per side or until done to your desired temperature (removing the meat at 135°F will give you medium-rare). Remember that the carry-over cooking will continue and the final temperature will be about 5-degrees higher than when you take it off the heat.
- Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, tented with foil, before cutting into thin slices, across the grain, using a sharp carving knife.
- Yield: 4 to 8 servings
Grilled Italian Sausages
Buy the highest quality sausages you can afford – it makes a huge difference. If the sausages are already cooked, all you have to do is heat them on the grill. If they are uncooked, you need to make sure they cook all the way through and you can do this without cutting into them! Press on them when they are raw and note how squishy they feel. The longer they cook, the firmer they will feel. You should take them off the heat when they’ve browned lightly and are still somewhat pliant when pressed with tongs. Keep them warm in a low oven while the rest of the food finishes cooking.
Serve on grilled Hoagie rolls with sautéed or grilled onions and bell peppers for a traditional Italian treat!
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