Sizzling Sauces

Time for outdoor chefs to get back to basting as cookout season opens

May 26, 1999|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,sun food editor

Ready to hit the sauce this weekend? The barbecue kind, that is.

Toppings -- such as Sherry Vinegar-Brown Sugar Barbecue Baste, Caramelized Garlic Olive Oil and Brown Sugar and Mustard Glaze -- are sure to make your Memorial Day cookout glow. In no time at all, you can toss together a few simple ingredients, hunt down the basting brush and hover by the grill with an air of authority for the unofficial start of barbecue season.

"A lot of people are into grilling in this area," says Suzanne Guy, merchandising director at Eddie's of Roland Park. "And people are becoming more aware of flavor."

These days, grill sauces get boosts from a variety of herbs, spices and fruits. Rosemary, sesame, lemon grass, passion fruit, mango, garlic and ginger are popular, Guy says.

"The Asian influence is still a major thing," she adds.

Michael A. Gettier, owner of M. Gettier's Orchard Inn in Towson, favors a basic lemon-basil vinaigrette or pesto when grilling on his own time. "The simplest is olive oil, lemon, garlic and a fresh herb," he says. "We Weber a lot at home. It keeps the heat out of the kitchen -- and the smell -- and the cleanup is easier."

The French-trained chef also likes to grill veal chops, chicken and lamb fillets, which he calls a "forgotten" cut, with just a little salt, pepper and oil for taste, he says.

George Hirsch, chef and author of "Know Your Fire" (HPBooks, 1999), which was written with Marie Bianco, leans toward in-season fruit purees to add pizazz to grilled chicken and seafood.

"In the summer, we eat lighter," says Hirsch, who also is host of a public television cooking show bearing the same name as his book. "Sauces should also be light."

He recommends combining a cup of chopped fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries or peaches with a cup of similar preserves and simmering the mixture for 4 to 5 minutes. Add a dash of citrus juice and the sauce is ready. For a smoother texture, the mixture can be pressed through a strainer.

Bobby Flay of Food Network fame features dozens of recipes for jazzing up grilled foods in his newest book, "Bobby Flay's Boy Meets Grill" (Hyperion, 1999), written with Joan Schwartz. He puts together tempting combos like chili-citrus, mint-apricot, yogurt-cilantro and mustard-molasses.

"When you add different glazes and sauces, you're creating taste sensations we don't get every day," Flay says. "They enhance the flavor of things we think are ordinary, like chicken or chops."

Many sauces start out as marinades, which can put even more kick into grilled dishes. If you're concerned about safety, though, discard the marinade and use a fresh sauce, Guy says.

Lisa Lachenmayr, nutrition and food-safety educator for the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service, says any liquid in which raw meat or poultry has been soaked should be thrown out. She suggests saving half of the marinade before adding the uncooked food and using the reserved liquid as the basting sauce.

Basting times differ, although flexibility reigns. "If you want a nice crust or coating, brush as you go along," Guy advises.

Hirsch says he often uses basting sauces at the end of grilling to finish the food, especially if a sugary sauce will char the meat too quickly if applied earlier.

Whether you use a charcoal grill or a gas model also is a personal preference, grillmeisters say.

"It's a running debate with people. Real men use charcoal," Guy says with a laugh. "There is the convenience of a gas grill, but everyone still wants the flavor of a charcoal grill."

For Gettier, who uses a commercial grill in his restaurant, charcoal is the way to go. Cooking on a gas grill gives food a different taste, he says.

"It defeats the purpose since it tends to steam a lot of things," Gettier says. "The heat is not enough to justify the word 'grill.' "

Hirsch uses both, he says, adding that you can prepare more sophisticated meals on gas because you can control the heat and many have a side burner for keeping sauces warm.

But you don't really need a fancy, deluxe grill with all the bells and whistles. Any kind will do when it comes to cooking outdoors, Hirsch says.

After all, backyard grilling is usually a casual affair, involving tossing a steak or chicken on the rack, painting on a sauce and savoring the tantalizing aroma.

"You come back to basics whether you're using a $100 grill or a $5,000 one," Hirsch says.

Shrimp With Lemon and Rosemary

Serves 4

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, leaving tail on

2 lemons, sliced thin

8 fresh rosemary stems (each at least 8 inches long), or skewers and 1 tablespoon dried rosemary

4 tablespoons Caramelized Garlic Olive Oil (see recipe)

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat grill to high.

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