By Samantha Schwalm
The sun is shining and the weather is slowly getting warmer. This can only mean that it is time to start grilling and mix up a festive cocktail (or two)! There are two main forms of grilling: direct heat and indirect heat. Indirect heat, or smoking as it is more commonly known, is designed to slowly cook larger pieces of meat such as pork shoulders, brisket and whole chickens. I will be writing more about smoking in the future, and focusing this article on the more traditional high heat or fire-based grilling.
Steaks are probably the most common meat people think of when they are grilling. The two most popular cuts of steak, are probably the Sirloin and NY Strip. Both cuts have wonderful marbling which is a key source of flavor when grilling. However, any butcher can tell you there are several different kinds of cuts, such as flat iron, t-bone, or porterhouse, all of which come in various price ranges. Skirt steak, a cheaper cut of meat, is great for fajitas. Flank steak is also a wonderful cut for grilling. It can be marinated in a honey soy sauce over night, or grilled simply with salt and pepper and topped with a chimichurri sauce. In my opinion, the best drink pairing is a full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon wine. But if wine is not your thing then I would recommend a straight up martini with a couple blue cheese-stuffed olives.
Margaritas are a wonderful addition to the second most popular grilling meat of choice, chicken. Traditional margaritas are always a crowd pleaser. But with the chicken’s marinade, you can try some more fun flavors, which can spice up any occasion. For example, if the marinade is made with jalapeño, lime, and cilantro, go for a fruitier taste like a peach or strawberry margarita. On the other hand, if you use peaches and balsamic vinegar as the base for the marinade, you can try a cucumber margarita–one of my favorites. It is surprisingly refreshing, especially on a hot summer’s night. Nervous to make your own? Mercadito makes one of the best margaritas in town! You can even order the perfect drink right to your door through services like Cocktail Courier (which was started by some great Chicago boys).
In the mood for a California Chardonnay, a French White Burgundy or maybe your “go to” cocktail, vodka, club soda with a splash of lime juice and a lemon wedge? Then fish is what should be on the grilling menu. Thicker meatier fish like swordfish can be simply brushed with a marinade of Goudon’s mustard and lemon juice and placed directly onto the grill. Lighter fish, like Lake Superior White Fish, should be placed in grilling baskets or on a cedar plank. These can be found at almost any kitchen supply store, grill store, and even online. Brush the fish with a little mayonnaise, add lemon slices and dill. Grill for 15 to 20 minutes until the fish is flaky, then serve.
One of the trendier things to make on the grill these days is pizza. There are two ways to grill pizza. The first is to simply place the oiled dough directly onto the grill. This takes a hot grill and an experienced griller as it is easy to burn crust and undercook the toppings. I find the best way to avoid that is to grill the dough, take it off, place toppings on the side you grilled, and place the uncooked side back on the grill until the cheese has melted. The second is to place the pizza on a pizza stone to cook. This will cook similar to your oven, but with a unique grilled flavor. Ice cold beer and pizza have been a staple of the American palette for the last century. For as many unique style pizzas that are being created, so too are unique craft beers being made locally in your area. So find a lager, IPA or summer wheat beer and grill up a pizza.
No matter what, you can never go wrong when you’re grilling as long as great friends and a cold drink are by your side!
Celery salt for garnish
2.5 oz Tequila
1 oz lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz cucumber juice
Cucumber slice for garnish
Dip rim of glass into a little water. Next, dip it in celery salt. Then, combine Tequila, lime juice, simple syrup, and cucumber juice in a shaker. Shake and pour over the ice. Garnish with a cucumber slice and enjoy!
Basic Moscow Mule Recipe:
1.5 oz. Vodka
0.75 oz. Fresh lime juice
Fill a copper mug or highball glass over ice. Top with ginger beer. Stir. Garnish with a lime wedge.