Contributed by Katy Morris
Local chef and well-known foods educator, Cecily Gans, has shared her top tips for becoming a grilling guru just in time for Father’s Day. Why now? Because we know some dads out there that may agree that a well cooked, moist BBQ chicken on the grill is better than a tie…
Here’s what Cecily shared with us:
Know Your Grill. It may sound simple, but this is my number one tip. How does it run? What are its hot spots? If you know it tends to heat up faster than others, you’ll get better results and will be able to adjust your timing and recipe accordingly.
Always Pre-heat. Even for low temperature grilling. Getting the grates hot before placing the items on them is essential for those great grill marks.
Don’t Over Do It. Grilling adds flavor; that’s exactly what those wonderful char marks are! When it comes to chicken, keep in mind that once you get those marks, even if you haven’t cooked it all the way through, it’s best to take it off the grill and stick it in the oven at a low temp (325°) to finish it the rest of the way in order to retain more moisture. You can even add a bit of broth or wine to the pan to make it even juicier as it cooks the rest of the way through and you’ll still get that great grill taste.
Marinades are a MUST. Or at the very least, toss some nice salt, freshly ground pepper, and a touch of garlic together and you are good to go. Most vinaigrette-type dressings make great marinades because they balance sweetness with acidity, herbs and spices, but they are also super easy to make on your own. One of my favorite combos is a little bit of olive oil, fresh lime juice, mint, cilantro and either Mojito or Margarita base for a fantastic grilled chicken dish with a twist.
Plan Ahead. Grilling can be done fairly quickly, but be sure to marinate or season several hours in advance. For meats or tofu, I’d recommend marinating overnight so that the flavors really get absorbed. When it comes to veggies, the “meatier” ones like squash, mushrooms, and eggplant are especially good with a nice, generous heaping of marinade for added flavor. Quick tip: with peppers, try using gloves or a pastry brush so you can get every nook and cranny.
Never Underestimate the Power of a Fresh Herb. These can make all the difference in the taste of your grilled foods. Find your favorite olive oil, a little acid (citrus, wine, vinegar, even tomato), add some salt, pepper, fresh garlic, a blend of fresh herbs (one of my favorite combos is mint, parsley, and chives, especially in the summer) and put it in a blender. Easy!
Come Equipped. I’m not saying you have to do over do it with BBQ tools, but when it comes to things like veggies, fish, and tofu, I’d highly recommend getting a fish spatula. They look like an elongated spatual but are slightly curved and have flexible heads, which makes it easy to transfer delicate fish fillets or grilled tomatoes and keeps them in tact. There are also great grilling baskets and other tools that really help make grilling foolproof (and might make a great Father’s Day gifts).
Shop Local For Inspiration. I didn’t really need to tell you that, did I? As a huge supporter of farmers’ markets, local and seasonal foods, I recommend visiting your local farmers’ market for inspiration – the best tasting veggies (and even some fruits) for grilling are going to be the ones you find there. What’s better than a strawberry, corn or a tomato in season, right? The same applies for every vegetable out there.
Cecily was kind enough to give us not one, but two great grilling recipes this time.
Scroll down to see recipe for Grilled Chicken with Baby Leeks and Smokey Molasses BBQ Glaze. Looking for a side dish that is hearty enough to satisfy vegetarians, too? Keep scrolling to see Cecily’s colorful recipe for Grilled Corn and Chopped Vegetable Salad.
About Cecily Gans:
Cecily Gans is a chef and foods educator, certified holistic health counselor and executive chef/owner of The Main Course Catering in Fairfield, CT. She has been teaching Culinary Arts at Staples High School in Westport, CT for almost 15 years and developed the curriculum for the program. She has contributed several tantalizing recipes for us at KLM over the years, like Quinoa & Kale Salad, Roasted Cod with Caramelized Leeks over Pureed Gold Potatoes, and Super Green Pesto. We couldn’t be more appreciative of her expertise, yet again!