July Fourth begs for a magnificent grill party. It’s summer, it’s a great celebration of the nation’s birth and everyone is outdoors and in party mode. Why hold back on July Fourth? Why not grill everything? With a couple of days’ planning, you can really do something amazingly and deliciously different.
Here are four great ideas for the barbecue. There’s no reason why you can’t do all of the these dishes, although it does require that planning. You will have to consider how many people you’re cooking for, think about how large your grill is and make plans for placing all the dishes on the grill.
Getting organized for easy grilling
There’s something else many people forget when they grill, but it makes everything easier. Remember to set up a little work station next to the grill to put foods that are cooking too fast, spatulas, mitts and your drink. Even a crummy card table will do. When building your grill fire, remember to pile up the coals to one side of the grill so you also have a “cool” side to move food that is either cooking too fast or is flaring up.
Grilled pork chops are a popular dish in the summer in Greece. In this recipe, though, they are cut quite thin, so you might want to buy a whole loin and slice it yourself or seek out “thin-sliced pork chops,” which many supermarkets sell. In any case, it works with any thickness of chop.
The pork is marinated in garlic and oregano and then grilled until it is golden brown with black grid marks. Then sprinkle the whole oregano leaves on top. You can serve this with a grilled vegetable platter.
You may have heard of the pasta dish called penne all’arrabbiata, angry pasta, so-called because of the use of piquant chiles. This is chicken arrabbiata. It’s “angry” because it is highly spiced with cayenne pepper.
Getting spicy with ‘angry chicken’
This chicken gets grilled so if you use the breasts instead of the thighs it will cook quicker. You can leave the chicken skin on or remove it. Crispy skin is delicious, but trying to get the skin crispy on a grill is tricky because of flare-ups. You’ll have to grill by means of indirect heat, pushing the coals to one side.
Many people shy away from grilling whole fish for a variety of reasons. One way to make grilling fish easier is to place a rectangular cast iron griddle over a portion of the grilling grate and cook the fish on top.
If you do that, the griddle must be on the grill for at least 45 minutes to get sufficiently hot before cooking. I suggest several fish below, but it all depends on what’s locally available.
Finding the right fish for the grill
Parsley-stuffed grilled porgy and mackerel are two small-fish dishes ideal for a fast grill. You may not necessarily have these two fish available, so use whatever is the freshest whole fish of like size.
I like the contrast between the mild tasting white flesh of the porgies, also called scup, and the darker, denser meat of the mackerel. Because 50 percent of the weight of a whole fish is lost in the trimming these, 4 pounds of fish will yield 2 pounds or less of fillet.
But you can use any fish: The red fish in the photo is a Pacific fish called idiot fish, kinki fish, or shortspine thornyhead (Sebastolobus alascanus). It has delicious soft flesh.
Complementing with the right grilled sides
I think it’s always nice to have grilled vegetables with any grill party. Grilled red, green and yellow peppers make a very attractive presentation. Their flavor is a natural accompaniment to grilled meats. The charred skin of the peppers is peeled off before serving, leaving the smoky flavor. You don’t have to core or halve the peppers before grilling.
Grilled Pork Chops Oregano
Prep time: 4 hours
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Total time: 4 hours, 30 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh oregano and 2 tablespoons whole leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
14 to 16 pork chops (about 2 pounds), sliced 1/4-inch thick
1. Mix the olive oil, garlic, onion, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste in a 9-by-12-inch ceramic or glass baking pan. Dip both sides of the pork chops into this mixture and then leave to marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 4 hours, turning several times. Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator 15 minutes before grilling.
2. Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on medium high.
3. Remove the pork chops from the marinade and discard the marinade. Place the pork chops with any marinade ingredients adhering to them on the grill. Cook, turning only once, until golden brown with black grid marks, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the whole oregano leaves. Serve hot.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
1 small onion, chopped fine
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts (skinless, optional)
1. Prepare a hot charcoal fire to one side of the grill or preheat one side of a gas grill on high for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir together the onion, tomato paste, olive oil, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste until well blended.
3. Flatten the chicken thighs or breasts by pounding gently with the side of a heavy cleaver or a mallet between two sheets of wax paper. Coat the chicken with the tomato paste mixture.
4. Place the chicken on the cool side of the grill, and cook until the chicken is dark and springy to the touch, turning once, about 20 to 24 minutes (less time for breasts). Baste with any remaining sauce and serve.
Main photo: Grilled Pork Chops Oregano. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright