I just wanted to tell you about the meal we had last night. It was so good, I was practically licking my plate...and my kids' plates, too. We were invited to have dinner with Tim and Beth and family--apparently, after spending 8 days straight with us, three days without us was too much to handle. On the menu were some of my favorite summer things: Grilled bone-in chicken, grilled corn on the cob, steamed green beans, sauteed Vidalia onions, fresh salsa, and yellow corn tortilla chips. It may not sound fancy, and it wasn't, but there is something so wonderful about fresh August produce: it needs no fancy embellishments to be thoroughly enjoyable.
Chicken: Brining is very important when grilling chicken, I think. It keeps the chicken from drying out, and also seasons the meat all the way to the bone. A solution of 3/4 c. salt and 3/4 c. brown sugar dissolved in 1 gallon of water goes a long way in improving the flavor and texture of chicken. Submerge the pieces in the brine and chill for up to two hours before cooking. Normally, I sear the chicken over the high flames, then grill with indirect heat on a covered grill over a period of about 45 minutes, but last night, since we were grilling the corn, too, we par-cooked the chicken in a 425 degree oven. Also imperitave is not to let it exceed the temperature of doneness: 161 for white meat, and 180 for dark meat.
Corn on the cob: soak unhusked cobs in cool water for about 30 minutes before grilling, then go ahead and char the exterior over some medium coals. Perfection!
Green Beans: they're best if you can pick them from your garden and steam them immediately. In fact, next year, I will plant more bean plants so I can do this more often. Just make sure not to boil them--it takes away too many nutrients and too much flavor--and make sure they're still tender-crisp when you remove them from the heat. Then add a bit of butter, salt, and pepper, and throw in some toasted almods if you're feeling fancy.
Vidalia onions: I like using a cast iron or similarly heavy skillet over medium heat with a pat or two of butter and a sprinkling of kosher salt. I melt the butter, toss in the sliced onions, salt them to help draw out a bit of moisture, then sautee them until they're a pasta sort of al dente. I could eat these alone as a meal, they're that good.
Salsa: make it right before you eat it. I use my Salsa 101 recipe. The most important thing to achieve here is good balance--not too heavy on the tomatoes or anything else. You should be able to discern all of the individual flavors--tomato, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime (and kosher salt)--without being overwhelmed by any of them. Fresh salsa doesn't keep more than a few hours before if starts getting soupy, which is reason enough for me to load my chips up with great big scoops of it. Last night, Judah skipped the chips and just ate it like a salad. Three helpings' worth. We consumed 6 tomates, 5 jalapenos, 1/2 a large onion, and a cup of cilantro's worth of salsa last night...and enjoyed every drop. I even used my chicken to sop up the salsa juice. Heavenly.
What great meals have you had recently?