Smoke and Salads

Under the spreading Wild Cherry Trees

Under the wild cherry trees, Casa Stewarti

“Of all the wonders of nature, a tree in the summer is perhaps the most remarkable, with the possible exception of a moose in spats singing ‘Embraceable you.”
-Woody Allen

Monday:                              Tomato and Potato Salad with Mustard Dressing (pictured with recipe, below)

Herbed Goat cheese

Brined pork chops

Tuesday:          Herbed Ricotta with crudités, Grilled Pork Chops with dressed Arugula

Fountainbleau Cheese
Wednesday:     Fountainebleau Cheese, Grilled Romaine Salad (Joe Carroll, p. 228)
Thursday:         Dunnings at Bill’s Bar and Burger

Grilled Swordfish

Friday:               Herbed Ricotta with crudités, Grilled Swordfish and grilled broccoli

Jamaican Gravy

Saturday:          Blue Cheese with apples and cucumbers, Grill-Smoked Chicken with Jamaican Gravy (Joe Carroll, p. 194), spicy grilled asparagus

Spinach Ricotta dip

Sunday:                                Baked Spinach and Ricotta with crostini, Butter-poached and Grilled Beef Tenderloin (Joe Carroll, p.183), Asparagus with Caesar dressing, Roasted fingerlings

As befits the first full week of summer, we alternated between grilling and making salads, as we drank wine, listened to the birds, pulled weeds, and cursed the rabbits and deer who are eating our flowers.  We ended each day with good dinners on the porch, looking into the woods.  We plan to keep up this happy domestic activity as long as the weather permits.  (And if you have not been grilling, eating salads and sitting on the porch or patio or balcony to enjoy the weather, get out there.  It’s best if you have outside lights.  Turn off the porch lights, sit in the dark looking at the trees and the shadowy undergrowth, sip Scotch and solve the problems of the world.  If you don’t have this kind of set-up, please come on over – bring a bottle.)

We were looking for lightness and flavor in our dinners (it’s hot in the ‘burgh) and we hit on two keepers – one obvious and one not-so-obvious.  ‘Smoke-grilled Chicken with Jamaican Gravy sounds delicious and tastes even better.  This is another Joe Carroll (Feeding the Fire) recipe – simple, requiring only that you concoct the ‘Jamaican Gravy’ prior to cooking (preferably at least one day prior – but we concocted in the afternoon before cooking and it was good).  The spicy grilled asparagus (see “Extra” – below) we had with it required only a mixture of olive oil, Franks’ Red Hot and parmesan* for a zingy coating.  The Fountainbleau Cheese is a revelation – we’ll share it next week.

*’Parmesan’ always means Parmigiano-Reggiano in this blog.  How you can buy some ersatz glop made of corn-oil and sawdust is beyond me.  Reform your ways.  I don’t want to have to tell you again.

We were casting about for an interesting salad when we came across “Tomato and Potato Salad with Mustard Dressing.”  It sounded a bit heavy but, hey, the great Jacques Pépin prepares this, so we had to try it.  It is not heavy, it is on beyond light (you might want to keep a lid on it so that it doesn’t float off into the atmosphere).  It is simply a great salad – as Jacques says:  “The assertive mustard dressing complements the creaminess of the potatoes and gives the proper acidity to the tomatoes – an excellent combination.”  But we’d had some wine and we just said – “hey, this is really good.”

Please send along your favorite grill and salad recipes – or let us know how you like some of these recipes.  This is the participatory part of the class, so wake up, stop passing notes to your buddies, pay attention, and for God’s sake, raise your hand occasionally.

 Smoke-grilled chicken with Jamaican Gravy

Grill-Smoked Chicken with Jamaican Gravy (Joe Carroll – Feed the Fire)

Make ahead – Jamaican Gravy.  We made this the day of and it was quite good.  By all means make it ahead of time, if you can.  It keeps for months at room temperature.

You’ll need 4 habanero peppers and 1.75 Cups each of soy sauce and distilled white vinegar and 3 tablespoons of allspice berries.  Wearing a pair of gloves – this is important, these peppers can be painful – quarter the habaneros and remove the seeds and ribs.  Clean an empty wine bottle and fill with the peppers and allspice berries, then the wet ingredients.  Cork the bottle or cover with you thumb and give it a good shake.  Note:   This ‘gravy’ is not as spicy as it might seem – the soy and the vinegar and the chicken together tone it down. Note – you cannot just pour this out of the bottle or the all-spice berries will escape.  Buy yourself one of those spouted corks and fit it into the bottle, or do what we did, put a strainer over the mouth of the bottle and invert over a bowl, pour out what you need and recork or stop the bottle.

Grill-Smoked Chicken  (for 4)

Supplies:

Chicken – 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 3 lbs.) – I would remove any large pieces of fat, they will cause flare-ups on the grill.  If you do burn the chicken skin, instead of just charring, it will still be good.
Kosher salt and black pepper

Wood Chip Packet
¼ cup wood chips – apple or cherry – soaked in water for at least 15 minutes and drained
3 tablespoons allspice berries
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried rosemary

(Put the chips in the middle a 1 foot square of foil, then sprinkle the allspice berries and herbs over the chips, cover with another piece of foil and fold to make a packet about 6 inches square.  Poke holes over the top of the packet, and place it directly on the coals.)

Cooking:

Prepare a medium-hot fire.  Oil the grill grate well.   (I usually do this after allowing the grate to heat over the coals and then scrapping it.)

Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper.  When the wood-chip packet begins to smoke, place the thighs, skin side down on the grate over the packet.  Turn every few minutes until charred and cooked through (instant-read should register 165 F) – about 15 minutes

Remove from grill, let rest for a minute or two, then drizzle with the Jamaican Gravy and serve (with more gravy on the side).

 Tomato and Potato Salad

Tomato and Potato Salad with Mustard Dressing

(J. Pépin, Heart and Soul in the Kitchen)

Supplies (serves 4)

1 lb. Tomatoes (I found some ripe Roma tomatoes and added some halved cherry tomatoes)
1 Potato (about 8 oz.)
2 cups baby arugula (or green of your choice)

For the Dressing:

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1/3 cup Extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup thinly sliced shallots
¼ cup sliced scallions

Cooking

2 hours before serving –  place the potato in a saucepan, add salt, cover with water.  Bring to a boil and boil gently until tender (about 35 minutes).  Let cool, then peel and cut into ¾ inch dice.

Cross-hatch the bottom of each tomato and scald in boiling water for 30 seconds then drain and peel.

Cut the tomatoes in half and press out the seeds and discard the core.  Cut tomatoes into ¾ inch dice.  You should have about 3 cups.

For the dressing:  Mix the ingredients together and toss gently with the potatoes in a bowl.   Add the tomatoes and mix gently.

To serve:  divide arugula or other greens among four plates and spoon the salad on top.

 Asparagus with spicy parmesan sauce

Extra                                                      Grilled Asparagus with Spicy Parmesan Sauce
(“The Splendid Table” web site)

Supplies:  Serves 4 as a side dish

1 lb. asparagus cleaned and trimmed
2.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Franks’ Red Hot or Tapatío (or other mild hot sauce)
1 tablespoon grated parmesan
Kosher salt

Cook:

Blanch asparagus in salted boiling water for 1 minute.
Coat asparagus with 1/2 tablespoon of the oil and cook on grill directly over medium coals until they char on all sides – about 4 minutes.  Remove to a serving platter.
Mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the hot sauce and the parmesan and pour over the asparagus and serve.