The voices have started again. It happens annually. Starting as whisper then progressing to a deafening crescendo that awakens me from my winter food slumber. The steady diet of braises, stews and starches, that carried me through the chilly and damp off-season at the shore, have weighed heavily on my body, soul and palate. From the depths of a beef and burgundy burdened Dutch oven the simmering sauce whispers, “If you grill it they will come.” A Man needs his grill to be complete. Men love to grill. It is deeply encrypted in our DNA right alongside the belching and scratching genes. Give a man an open fire and a pair of tongs and he thinks he is an Iron Chef. It is a shame so many get it wrong. Grilling should never involve lighter fluid or the fire department. If a coroner’s inquest is required to identify your supper you are cremating not grilling.
Grilling is not all about high heat, red meat and syrupy sweet barbecue sauce. Down at the shore we know that seafood and the grill are a perfect union. Most fish and shellfish can be grilled successfully without long preparation or cooking times. Marinades for grilled fish serve a different purpose than for meat. There is no need to tenderize most fish. Overexposure of fish proteins to acidic marinades will actually toughen the product. Shellfish like shrimp and scallops are particularly vulnerable. The main function is to add flavor and fat so the product doesn’t stick to the grill.
The flavor of grilled foods is unique. Charcoal and wood add to that sensation. The aromas stimulate our senses with that mix of fire, smoke and caramelizing proteins. Most anything can be grilled with the right technique – even flaky fish like flounder or tilapia. The French have been cooking food in paper pouches for centuries providing moist flavorful food that steams and creates its own sauce. This technique doesn’t translate well to open grills but American grillers are an innovative bunch and have pragmatically adapted the technique with that icon of industrialization aluminum foil. The foil packet allows us to grill our food and create sauces at the same time.
The versatility of the grill is part of its charm. You can cook low and slow or fast and furious. Most of the flavor is provided by the fire itself. Before convection ovens and microwaves took over our kitchens and lives humanity grilled. As grilling season commences expand your grilling repertoire with seafood. You don’t need to buy special grill pans or baskets don’t turn to Williams and Sonoma. Turn to Reynolds. Listen to the voices. It is time to grill. Enjoy these recipes for Mojo Shrimp and Sweet Chili Fish in Foil.
- 2 lbs shrimp
- 3 heads garlic peeled
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 1/2 cups sour orange juice In a pinch, use two parts orange to one part lime juice
- 1 cup minced onion
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 bunch scallions chopped
- 1 cup Spanish olive oil
- Mix all ingredients in blender until smooth. (This is garlicky. If you are having a romantic evening or if you are a vampire, it is ok to back off on the garlic. Many Cubans have told me that my version needs more garlic.)
- Toss 2 lbs of peeled and deveined shrimp with just enough marinade to coat.
- Marinate 20 minutes then grill over medium heat.
- Serve with black beans and rice.
- Use reserved marinade as a dipping sauce.
- This marinade also works well with chicken wings.
Sweet Chili Fish in Foil
- 4 7×9 pieces aluminum foil
- 4 fish fillets one-half inch thick salmon, sword fish, even tilapia* will work
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 8 lime slices
- 4 cloves garlic
- ½ cup thai sweet chili sauce
- 2 tsps minced ginger
- 8 mint leaves
- Salt and pepper
- Lightly oil the shiny side of the foil.
- Place fillets skin side down.
- Arrange 2 lime slices and 2 mint leaves on top of each fillet.
- Whisk together remaining ingredients.
- Fold up sides and ends of foil then pour coconut milk mixture over shrimp. Foil to form tight seal.
- Place on grill over medium heat. Shut lid of grill.
- Drink beer/wine/cocktail check in 12-15 minutes. (With thinner fish, adjust the cooking time.)
- Serve with steamed jasmine rice or cous-cous.
Jon Davies is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University of Culinary Arts. His work as a chef has taken him to Aspen, Colorado; Cape May, NJ; and the odd private jet for culinary gigs for the rich and famous.