OK, so it’s a little chilly—put on a sweater and keep the thrill of the grill going a little longer.
By Hal Rubenstein
One of the late Tony Bennett’s best loved songs was “If I Ruled the World.” With music by Leslie Bricusse and lyrics by Cyril Ornadel the song was originally from their musical Pickwick Papers (based on the Charles Dickens novel). The show flopped on Broadway, but Bennett rescues and transforms the ballad into a soaring, romantic ode to wishful thinking.
I always adored Bennett’s voice. His first hit, “Because of You,” and its eponymous album was one of my parents’ favorite records (cut on a 78rpm breakable shellac disk that we played on a Victrola). I met Bennett just once at a dinner party, but after that, he sent me an autographed Christmas card every year. His last concert with Lady Gaga at Radio City Music Hall before succumbing to Alzheimer’s was both heartwarming and heartbreaking to watch. Except I take issue with the first edict Bennett’s raspy baritone proposes had he become our global sovereign. “If I ruled the world, every day would be the first day of spring.”
On the morning of March 20, this year’s vernal equinox, it was 21 degrees in Hudson. Forget it, Tony. I’m sorry you’re gone but couldn’t be more relieved you didn’t fish your wish, especially since, if it was up to me, it’d be summer all year round. So, what am I doing living in the Berkshire foothills? Well, that’s a whole different article, but, except for an obsessive love of knitwear, I’m less than thrilled that sunset is now closer to 7 than 8:30pm, that you may still sit in the sun occasionally until that brisk fall wind forces you to keep a hoodie close by and that the heartless powers that be will soon take away the frozen Negroni machine at The Rivertown Lodge. (I’ve begged for its permanence. Should I start a petition?) And worst of all, it makes it more of a challenge to cook out on the back deck on the grill.
I’d be happy to eat every meal off a grill. While, come winter, I never hesitate to invest three hours braising brisket, rolling matzoh balls or simmering Bolognese in a Le Creuset Dutch oven, grilled meats, poultry, seafood and veggies just taste lighter and fresher, even seem healthier when savored right off those open flames. I know I’m not alone in my gustatorial ardor, which means others out there are bemoaning the fact that our time is running short.
Consequently, I’m offering recipes, some I’ve been preparing for years, some I’ve adapted from restaurants reviewed in past issues of The Mountains, that I love but will also have you manning the grill for the shortest time possible, so you won’t have to juggle tongs and a flashlight to read the meat thermometer. But keep that hoodie handy, just in case.
ASIAN STYLE RIBS
(A more glazed and spicier version of the rack of ribs at The Daily Planet, Fall 2022)
4 racks of baby back or St. Louis style pork ribs (14 lbs.)
1½ cups hoisin sauce
1 cup soy sauce
½ cup rice vinegar
4 tbsp sesame oil
¼cup chili garlic sauce
¼ cup fish sauce
1 cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup chipotle molasses
1 cup Stonewall Farms red pepper jelly
Juice & zest of two lemons
8 cloves of garlic, minced
3-inch piece of ginger, peeled & thinly sliced
1. Thoroughly combine all ingredients, either whisked, food processed or use blender.
2. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator at least 8, up to 24 hours.
3. Heat over to 275°, while allowing ribs to come to room temperature.
4. Bake ribs for 2 hours, turning ribs every half hour.
5. Char on hot grill, 10 mins or less per side.
6. Let meat rest for 5 mins. Slice and serve.
SPATCHCOCKED CHICKEN WITH HONEY, CHILE, & LEMON
(Adapted from Clare de Boer, chef/owner Stissing House, Spring 2023)
2 free range chickens (4 lbs. each)
4 tbsp sea salt
2/3 cup honey
4 tsp dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, smashed.
2 tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp black pepper
A spatchcocked chicken is a butterflied one. It’s just a cooler word for chicken with the backbone removed.
1. One day before serving, either ask your butcher to do it, or turn the bird, breast side down, and using sharp poultry shears, cut from one end of the chicken to the other along either side of the spine. If you feel unsure of the process, there are multiple YouTube videos on how to do it. Sharp shears make all the difference.
2. Turn the chicken over. With one palm on top of the other, press down on the center of the breast until the bird lies flat.
3. Make 3 3-inch slits in each breast, and 3 more in each leg. The slits should go down to the bone. Rub sea salt liberally all over the chicken.
4. In a bowl, mix the juice of 5 lemons, both oranges, the honey, oregano and red pepper flakes. Take the last lemon and slice it into 24 half-moon slices. Fold all the slices into each slit made in the chickens, rind on the outside. Pour 2/3 cup of this marinade into one large Ziploc bag, or 1/3 cup in two smaller bags. Place seasoned chickens in bag or bags, completely coat the chickens in the marinade and refrigerate overnight.
5. When ready to cook, take chickens and remaining marinade out of the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.
6. Chef de Boer recommends grilling chicken on low heat for almost an hour. However, on a medium heat (450°) grill cook, initially breast side down, for 30 mins. Turning twice, basting each time.
7. Internal temperature should be 165°
8. Remove chicken from grill, let it rest for 10 minutes, then cut each bird into 8 pieces (breasts cut in half). Pour remaining marinade over the plated chicken. Serve with a lemon wedge.
MEXICAN CORN SALAD
6 ears fresh corn, husked
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
1 small red onion, sliced thin
½ fennel bulb, halved and sliced thin
½ cup slivered almonds
¼ cup chopped mint
¼ cup chopped parsley
3 tbsp lime zest
3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ cup sherry vinegar
½ cup EV olive oil
¼ tsp chipotle chili powder
2 tsp garlic, minced
Juice of one lemon
1. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil on stove.
2. Boil corn for 5 mins.
3. Take out of pot, pat dry, brush with olive oil.
4. Place directly onto hot grill until kernels begin to char, about 10 mins.
5. When corn can be touched but still warm, strip kernels and place in large bowl.
6. Add tomatoes, onions, fennel, olives, jalapeños, mint & parsley.
7. Toss well, and briefly cover with plastic wrap.
8. In a small bowl, whisk oil, vinegar, Dijon, garlic, lime juice & zest, chili powder, lemon, salt & pepper.
9. Pour over salad. Toss well.
10. Serve at room temperature.
GRILLED SWORDFISH IN ORANGE & BASIL with GRILLED PEPPER & EGGPLANT SALAD
2 swordfish steaks, 1 in. thick
Maldon salt (for garnish)
¼ cup blood orange olive oil (available from saratogaoliveoil.com)
¼ cup orange juice
3 tbsp chopped basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
¼ tsp kosher salt
1. Wisk all basting ingredients together.
2. Brush room temperature steaks with half of basting sauce.
3. Place steaks on grill. Close lid.
4. Cook 4 minutes a side, basting again when turned.
5. Plate steaks. Pour remaining sauce over swordfish.
6. Garnish lightly with Maldon salt.
7. Serve with grilled salad on the side.
GRILLED PEPPER AND EGGPLANT SALAD
1 Asian eggplant, sliced lengthwise
1 red pepper, seeded and quartered
1 orange pepper, seeded and quartered
1 small red onion, quartered
1 tbsp EV olive oil, more for brushing
Kosher salt & ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chopped oregano
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 oz of goat cheese, crumbled
1. Brush vegetables with olive oil, season with salt & pepper to taste.
2. Place in grill pan.
3. Grill 4 minutes per side.
4. Remove from grill, wait 2 minutes, cut into smaller pieces.
5. Place cut vegetables in bowl. Toss with lemon juice, garlic, oregano and 1 tbsp olive oil.
6. Top with goat cheese & serve alongside swordfish.
1½ cups Campari
1½ cups sweet vermouth
1½ cups gin
1½ cups fresh orange juice
1. Mix, place in container, and put in freezer for 8 hours (it won’t freeze).
2. Place contents in blender with 4 cups of ice.
3. Blend until smooth.
4. Serve immediately—all year round.