My family never celebrates Father's Day in a restaurant or b surprising Dad with breakfast in bed; he is happiest tending the coals, fueling the fire and feeding his loyal subjects.
While Dad reigns as king of the grill, my crowning glory comes from slimming down the quintessential American barbecue.
Through the years his highness has collected a wide assortment of gifts for the grill: a wrap-around golfer's apron, a fish mitt, a burger basket and a chef's hat with pig ears emblazoned with "PIG OUT" across the front. And on Father's Day, that's what we did!
Before we knew the dangers of excess fat and cholesterol, we devoured chicken with the skin, coleslaw drenched in egg yolk ** laden mayonnaise and corn bread baked with heavy cream. Today we barbecue skinless chicken breasts, toss coleslaw with buttermilk dressing and make corn bread with low-fat milk.
Chicken grilled without the skin and bones cooks faster, about 3 to 4 minutes per side, reducing the risk of charring the outside before the inside is cooked. To enhance the smoky flavor, add some aromatic wood chips or chunks such as alder, hickory or mesquite to the fire. To prevent the chips from burning too quickly, soak them in water, wine or beer for 30 minutes. It takes 3 to 4 wood chunks, about 2 pints of chips, to flavor 8 chicken breasts; double that amount for larger amounts. Aromatic twigs and grapevine cuttings added to the fire will impart a lightly sweet, earth taste to the food.
Maybe everyone thinks his or her barbecue sauce is the bestbut mine really is. Three sweetners, two vinegars and lots of zippy seasonings make it extra special. Brush the sauce on when grilling the chicken or marinate it in the refrigerator for several hours for more intense flavor.
Most slaw recipes feature dressings with 1/2 cup of mayonnaise or more, close to 1,000 extra calories in fat alone. Buttermilk slaw uses less than 1 tablespoon of sour cream per person along with low-fat buttermilk to produce a creamy slaw at enormous savings of calories and fat. This delicious recipe comes from Sally Schneider's beautiful cookbook, "The Art of Low Calorie Cooking" (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 1990).
Custard-filled corn bread, a magical recipe that separates into layers of corn bread and custard as it bakes, is adapted from "The Breakfast Book" (Knopf, 1987), by Marion Cunningham. The original dish calls for whole milk in the batter and heavy cream poured over the top. I've substituted low-fat milk for both with excellent results. Although the bread may be refrigerated overnight, or even frozen, it is best made before serving.
So while Dad feels regal grilling perfectly succulent chicken, you can feel pretty imperial too, knowing your family's dining on a royal backyard feast with a fraction of the traditional fat.
Grilled chicken breasts
1 recipe maple barbecue sauce (recipe below)
1 or 2 boned and skinned chicken breasts per person
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare maple barbecue sauce. Rinse chicken, dry with paper towels and place on baking sheet covered with foil. Brush both sides with sauce and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Heat barbecue grill, positioning rack about 4 inches from heat and greasing it with vegetable oil. Place chicken on rack and grill 3 to 4 minutes per side, until browned and cooked through. If desired, brush with additional sauce before serving.
Maple barbecue sauce
Makes 3 1/2 cups.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped (1 cup)
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups ketchup
1/4 cup golden or dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup water
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
10 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 teaspoons A-1 sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
In a deep saucepan, heat oil; saute onion until soft. Add white vinegar and sugar; bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Stir in ketchup, brown sugar, maple syrup, water, wine vinegar and seasonings. Simmer uncovered stirring occasionally for 10 to 15 minutes. Use immediately or store in covered container in the refrigerator.
4 The sauce may be refrigerated for several weeks.
Custard-filled corn bread
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
3 cups low-fat milk, divided use
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place butter or margarine in 8- or 9-inch-square baking dish. Put in oven while mixing the batter.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs until frothy. Whisk in sugar, salt, 2 cups of the milk and vinegar. Add flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda, whisking until no lumps appear. Whisk in melted butter.
Pour batter into heated dish and pour remaining 1 cup milk into the center. Do not stir. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until lightly browned and pick inserted near center come out clean. Let set 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.