First off, I want to thank everyone who attended the grilling demos last week at POOLCORP’s Retail Summit at the Hyatt Regency in Dallas, TX. The weather was definitely not ideal for an outdoor grilling demo due to temperatures dipping below 40 degrees and a wind chill that made it feel a-heck-of-a lot colder. Weather aside, it was nice to be back in Dallas – it’s the city where I began my culinary career. I had my first food business there and went to cooking school at El Centro College - it was nice to be back.
Also, special thanks to Rich Ruzza from POOLCORP and the Bull Outdoor Products sales and marketing team for inviting me along to grill up simple, tasty and unique recipes to use for in-store grilling demonstrations. Demonstrating how a grill works plays right into my message – grilling is a lifestyle – it’s a multi-sensory experience that is interactive, fun and, hopefully tasty. The more clearly a retailer can convey that message will translate into sales – plus there’s the added bonus of receiving a tasty bite! After the summit, Rich wrote “We have never sold islands and racks like that at previous summits…” The proof is on the grill!
The key of demonstrating a recipe, especially if you don’t do it very often, is simplicity. It should be interactive. The audience needs to be engaged in what you do and the last thing you want is to get distracted by a question and forget about the food sitting over the fire. With that in mind, I created three fairly different recipes with only a few ingredients that could be prepped the day before and still have a couple things to do once the food hit the grill. First up Charred Pineapple and Scallion Salsa, followed by Cajun Shrimp and Andouille Skewers, and finally a classic Red Wine Skirt Steak with Black Olive Vinaigrette.
Each of the following recipes will be more than enough for thirty to forty-ish bites or small samples.
Charred Pineapple and Scallion Salsa
Grilling the pineapple really intensifies the flavor by caramelizing the sugars in the fruit.
Makes about 4 cups
1 medium pineapple
1 bunch scallions
2 Fresno or red jalapeno chilies
4 cloves garlic, left unpeeled
Vegetable, canola, or grapeseed oil
2 medium limes
1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Blue corn chips, for serving
Additional equipment (add-on sale): grilling grid
PREP: Remove the top and tail of the pineapple and then cut away the peel. Cut down the sides along the core to remove the core; cut lengthwise into 1- to 2-inch strips. Top and tail (trim) the scallions. Place the cut pineapple, scallions, chilies, and garlic on a platter or baking sheet and drizzle with a little oil.
DEMO: Set up grill and grid for direct cooking over medium-high heat. Brush and oil the grates and the grid before cooking. Place the pineapple directly on the grates at a 45 degree angle. Toss the scallions, chilies, and garlic onto the grate. When the pineapple has nice dark grill marks and releases easily from the grill, it is ready to turn; cook on all four sides. The scallions, chilies, and garlic are ready when they start to blister and are deeply browned.
Pop the garlic out of the husks, finely chop and add to a medium mixing bowl. Cut the stem off the chilies, cut in half and remove some or all of the the seeds and membrane depending on your heat tolerance; then finally chop and add to the bowl. Chop the scallions and pineapple in 1/4-inch dice and add to the bowl and give it a good stir. Squeeze in of the limes and add the cilantro, give it a stir and taste. Adjust to taste with more lime juice, salt and pepper.
Cajun Shrimp and Andouille Skewers
Andouille is a spicy, heavily smoked, pork sausage and is a specialty of Cajun cooking. If you are making this at home, use larger shrimp and thicker slices of sausage. This would be excellent served over soft, cheesy grits!
At home: makes 6 to 8 servings
1 1/2 pounds medium peeled and deveined shrimp with tails
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
zest from one lemon
4 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
2 teaspoons BULL Cajun Rub or your favorite Cajun seasoning
2 teaspoons Tabasco
1 teaspoon dried thyme
12 to 16 ounces fully-cooked Andouille sausages
PREP: Place shrimp in a large resealable bag. Add the remaining ingredients except the sausage. Seal and shake well to make sure all the ingredients have combined and the shrimp are coated. Crack the seal on the bag and squeeze out the air and then reseal the bag. Marinate the shrimp in the refrigerator for 2 to 6 hours.
Remove shrimp from marinade and discard the marinade; set aside. Slice the sausages the same thickness of the shrimp. Alternate shrimp and sausages onto the skewers.
DEMO: Set up grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat. Brush and oil the grate before cooking. Lay out skewers across the grill. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side until the the shrimp tails have turned pink and the shrimp is opaque (cooking time will be longer if using larger shrimp). Remove and serve immediately or at room temperature.
Red Wine Marinated Flank Steak with Black Olive Vinaigrette
Truly a classic beef marinade – what could be better than beef and red wine?! While you’re grilling the beef, you should have plenty of time to whip up this black olive based vinaigrette.
At home: makes 6 to 8 servings
For the steak:
3 pounds trimmed flank steak
1 bottle red wine (I used Merlot)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 spring fresh rosemary
4 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, plus more for seasoning meat
Freshly ground black pepper
For the vinaigrette:
1/2 black olives
1 clove garlic
1 heaping teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly chopped parsley, for garnish
PREP: Place steaks in a large resealable plastic bag; add the wine and the vinegar. Crumple and twist the rosemary springs and then add to the bag along with the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Marinate in the refrigerator 4 hours to overnight.
DEMO: Remove steaks from marinade and hour before grilling; discard the marinade.
Set up grill for direct cooking over high heat. Brush and oil grates before grilling.
Pat dry flank steaks well with paper towels and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place steaks on the grill at a 45 degree angle for 4 to 6 minutes per side. When finished cooking, transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Meanwhile, add olives, garlic, mustard and vinegar to a blender or food processor; pulse until a paste is formed. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil until combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Note: add the salt a little at a time to help take the ease the sharpness of the vinegar.
Slice steaks thinly on the bias (at a 45 degree angle to the meat) for nice wide slices. Remember to always slice across the grain of the meat. Drizzle sliced meat with the black olive vinaigrette and sprinkle with a little chopped parsley.
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Cheers and Happy Grilling (or demo-ing)!