The unofficial opening of grilling season begins with the three-day weekend that begins in three days.
Seasons cycle in and out, each bringing pros and cons.
Unfortunately, in Oklahoma the cons often leave a more lasting impression than the pros. Spring, as we in Oklahoma are well aware, is also tornado season.
This time last year, we were just beginning to pick up the pieces from a series of deadly storms. That job isn’t close to finished. I said last year that the day would come when we’d be able to grill with a smile again. I have faith that if we’re not there yet, we’re much closer than we were a year ago. If we proceed with requisite caution and unbridled creativity, we not only can recreate past cookouts we hold sacred in our hearts but spawn new cookouts so inspired that folks would be speaking in tongues if their mouths weren’t full.
For inspiration, I invited three top local chefs to join me at the first Open Flame at American Propane, 7401 Broadway Extension, and the results were heavenly.
For four years, we’ve partnered with American Propane to demonstrate how far an outdoor kitchen can be stretched to offer beautiful delicious foods using the simplest and most exotic ingredients. Of course, it’s important to remember safety, and I’ve got several safety tips for summer grilling at the Food Dude blog.
For the first Open Flame of the year, I gave the chefs unobstructed access to the offerings of our newest sponsor, Homeland grocery stores. The chefs were asked to simply make something using a variety of proteins. In the end, we covered chicken, fish, pork and beef.
But before the chefs could share their culinary expressions, Homeland’s registered dietitian Alyson Dykstra served a Sweet Veggie Onion Salad with Margarita Dressing. It was the kind of light, bright palate opener I needed to introduce a bold and rich Curried Chicken Wing. I kept the recipe simple, adapting all the flavors of my mother’s famous Chicken Curry with a few surprises, butter and a whole lot of wings crisped on a hot grill and finished with a low and slow nap on the smoker. We woke up those wings with this left-cross to the palate infused with curried tomato sauce and a hint of habanero, mango and lemon juice. Served with curry-scented yogurt sauce, the party at American Propane was barely getting started.
Next up was chef Jeffrey Holloway, who reset the dinner with a light and cheerful mahi-mahi taco. Holloway mans the stove at the newest concepts recently unveiled by the company that bears his family name: Holloway Restaurant Group. That group has long been known for Cafe 501, Boulevard Steakhouse and The Martini Lounge, but late last year introduced Park House and Ice House in the Myriad Botanical Gardens. Holloway attended the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, Calif., to hone his skills, and his simple, delicious mahi-mahi tacos exhibited restraint and precision rarely seen in young chefs.
Chef Kathryn Mathis is chef/partner at Big Truck Tacos, Mutt’s Amazing Hot Dogs and Back Door BBQ. For this event, she drew inspiration for the menu she is writing for her newest concept, Pizzeria Gusto. She is partnering with Chris Lower, who is her partner on the aforementioned concepts, and Shaun Fiaccone of Picasso Cafe in the Paseo Arts District. For the event, Mathis did a play on the classic porchetta, using pork butt roast instead of pork belly. It’s not unprecedented to use a shoulder roast like Boston pork butt, but Mathis said she chose the cut because it’s more accessible in stores.
The result was a rich, savory, addictive dish balanced with cheese and served on tiny, soft rolls that was impossble not to crave a little bit more with each bite.
The final chef on display that night was Jonas Favela, who recently came to Boulevard Steakhouse by way of The Metro Wine Bar and Bistro and The Ranch Steakhouse before that. He recently replaced retiring chef Jimmy Stepney, who served Boulevard with expertise and aplomb since it opened in 1998. Favela’s chimichurri-marinated flank steak was the perfect end to the perfect cookout. On hand to offer a few wine samples that night was Clayton Bahr of Premium Brands Liquor, and he said it was “the best flank steak I’ve ever had.”
A cut such as flank steak generally takes the kind of beef wisdom and know-how a chef like Favela possesses. Flank rose in popularity as heart-disease awareness grew and various health organization recommended choosing leaner cuts of beef. It’s a common cut used for stir-fries or braises. For grilling, flank lacks the marbling necessary to impart big flavor, so Favela used inspiration from one of the world’s most beef-loving countries, Argentina. His chimichurri was sublime, and the three-potato salad from Grandma Jones was good enough to provoke one diner to claim she could eat her weight in it.
The next Open Flame under the cabana at American Propane will be June 12. That night will be our first “Grilling Around the World” theme, focusing on Asian flavors. The event starts at 6 p.m. For tickets, call American Propane at 843-6868.
Sweet Veggie Onion Salad
with margarita Dressing
1 large red onion cut into wedges (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 cup water chestnuts
1 cup frozen edamame, shelled
1 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
Margarita Dressing (see below)
2 quarts assorted salad greens
1/2 bunch fresh chives
•Saute onions in oil gently over medium heat for 6 minutes or until crisp-tender. Combine onions, corn, edamame and bell pepper in bowl. Pour Margarita Dressing over and toss lightly. Chill until ready to serve. Top with whole chives. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
•Combine 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 teaspoons honey mustard and 2 teaspoons sugar. Whisk until emulsified.
Source: Adapted for Homeland by the National Onion Association
Grilled Mahi-Mahi Tacos with Citrus Relish
Makes 8 Tacos
12 ounces mahi-mahi
8 corn or flour tortillas
10 green onions
2 cup pineapple, diced
Juice of 1 orange, 1 lemon and 1 lime
2 red onion, sliced
1/2 cup minced chives
1 cup olive oil, divided
1/2 cup minced cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
•Over a medium-high flame, grill the red onions.
•In a mixing bowl, combine the onions with diced pineapple, citrus juices, 1/3 cup of olive oil, salt, pepper, chives and cilantro.
•Light one side of a two-sided grill or heat one-half of a single grill.
•Toss the green onions with salt, pepper and 1/3 cup of olive oil.
•Grill green onions over direct heat until they just begin to wilt, then transfer to indirect heat.
•Season fish with salt and pepper and one-third of the olive oil. Grill to order, 3 to 5 minutes on either side. Remove from heat and allow to rest.
•Grill tortillas over direct heat a few seconds. Transfer to indirect heat.
•Once finished with tortillas, carve the mahi-mahi into 1/2-inch slices.
•Top warm tortillas with fish and salsa. Serve with onions on the side.
SOURCE: Jeffrey Holloway, Park House restaurant
Chimichurri Flank Steak
with Grandma Jones Potato Salad
Serves 4 to 6
2 pounds flank steak
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch parsley
10 cloves garlic
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
10 green onions
4 jalapeno, stems removed
3/4 cup olive oil
2 to 3 tablespoons roasted garlic pepper, made by Lawry’s and Weber
•For the chimichurri marinade, combine all ingredients except beef and roasted garlic pepper in a blender and pulse until smooth.
•Clean silver skin and trim fat on flank steaks and generously cover all sides of the steaks with the chimichurri. Marinate for at least 12 hours.
•Before grilling, wipe off excess chimichurri and season with roasted garlic pepper.
•Sear both sides of the steak over a medum-high grill 1 to 2 minutes. Lower flame to medium heat and grill direct heat to desired doneness, 3 to 5 minutes for mid-rare and 15 to 20 minutes for well-done, flipping one more time at the midpoint.
•Slice against the grain and serve with potato salad.
3 Idaho potatoes, peeled, 3/4-inch diced
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled, 3/4-inch diced
1/2 cup chopped crisp bacon
1/2 cup sliced green onion
1/2 small red onion, slivered
1 tablespoon Dijon or Creole mustard
1 cup real mayonnaise
•In salted water, separately cook the potatoes until done, about 10 minutes. Drain potatoes and place on cookie sheet to chill in fridge. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl big enough to mix. Fold everything together, being careful not to smash up potatoes.
SOURCE: Jonas Favela, Boulevard Steakhouse
Curried Chicken Wings with Yogurt Sauce
3 pounds whole chicken wings
1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1 can Mexican tomato sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons Indian curry
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons butter
•Melt the butter over medium heat and add remaining sauce ingredients. Bring to a low boil, then simmer at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
•Prepare a standard grill to high heat and a smoker to 200 degrees with pecan wood.
•In a large mixing bowl, combine wings, oil and salt and pepper to taste. Toss wings until all our thoroughly coated.
•Grill 2 to 3 minutes and transfer to a smoker. If you don’t have a smoker, simply grill the wings on one half of the grill over high heat, then transfer them to the other side over no flame. Lower the remaining flame to low and sprinkle with soaked pecan chunks or chips. Close lid and make sure heat remains no higher than 250 degrees for about 15 minutes.
•Transfer the finished wings to a large mixing bowl and cover in tomato-curry sauce. Combine thoroughly and serve with yogurt sauce and pita bread.
1 cup Greek yogurt, drained
5 green onions minced,
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 ripe mango, peeled and seeded
1 habanero chile
2 ounces queso freso or feta cheese, crumbled
•Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl.
SOURCE: DAVE CATHEY
•For more Open Flame recipes, go to NewsOK.com.
•For tips for grilling safely, go to http://NewsOK.com/blogs/food-dude.