Grilling can be an enjoyable, quick and easy way to make a great supper without heating up the kitchen. And you don’t need expensive ingredients or the finest steaks, if you know how to make those simple grilled chicken or pork or sausage or fish dishes taste special. Here are two ways to add flavor:
Compound Butters. A compound butter is just regular butter that has been combined with chopped herbs, citrus, cheeses, or spices. Here’s how to make it: Bring two sticks of butter just to room temperature. Finely chop the ingredients you’ll be adding to the butter, (about 3 or 4 tablespoons), and mix them into the butter with a spatula or electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Place the flavored butter on a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap, roll the butter into a smooth log shape, about 2 inches in diameter, and tie the edges of the paper with string so the butter stays in the log shape. Chill until very firm. Then slice into ¼ or ½ inch-thick slices with a sharp knife and place the butter directly on top of the grilled meat or poultry or fish as soon as it’s removed from the grill to platter or plate.
Some flavor suggestions:
Finely crumbled blue cheese, finely chopped walnuts, chopped chives and freshly ground black pepper (great on steak!)
Orange or lemon zest, chopped tarragon and thyme (for fish)
Minced garlic, finely chopped rosemary, chopped flat-leaf parsley (for pork).
Minced jalapeños, chili powder, cumin, and chopped sun-dried tomatoes (goes well with burgers, or steaks)
Finely chopped seeded tomatoes, finely shredded mozzarella, finely chopped Kalamata olives (for chicken)
There aren’t any rules: just think of what you’re grilling, and what flavors might go well with that, or which herbs are fresh, seasonal and readily available. Chop those flavoring items up and combine them with butter, roll into a log, chill and slice, and then melt an amazing buttery taste on your hot-off-the-grill dinner!
Chimichurri sauce: This is a delicious and easy-to-prepare classic South American marinade and sauce. You’ll need a food chopper or processor or blender (or a good knife).
Finely mince 4 garlic cloves. Then add the following into the processor or blender:
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, with the thickest part of the stems removed
¼ cup red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pulse until finely chopped, and then add in about ½ to ¾ cup vegetable oil (olive oil is usually not the oil of choice), just until combined. If you’re not using a food processor or blender, just finely chop the garlic and parsley and then stir them into the rest of the ingredients. The sauce will not be smooth like a purée, but easy-to-spoon, with bits of garlic and parsley and pepper flakes floating in beautifully infused oil and vinegar. If possible, let this sit at room temperature for about 2 hours. Stir before using, and stir occasionally if you’re using this as a condiment.
There are as many Chimichurri recipes as there are people, it seems. There are long discussions (and bitter arguments!) online about whether to use flat-leaf or curly-leaf parsley, how much garlic to use, and whether someone should be disowned for not adding fresh oregano into the mix. So the bottom line is, however you make this sauce, someone somewhere will disagree with how you made it. I say: it’s delicious, so make it and enjoy it and enjoy your Chimichurri steaks while the fight rages, right? You can tailor the sauce to your preferences, of course. Use less garlic, use more crushed red pepper flakes, add a hot red pepper, or add in some cilantro with the parsley (even though several countries may claim that their governments will collapse and thousands of years of tradition will be ruined, at the mere thought of such horror!)
But ultimately, you’ll have a beautiful, glistening green sauce that is perfect for use as a marinade, and for serving as a sauce or condiment with grilled steaks, bratwursts, sausages, chicken or fish. It’s a delicious pizza sauce (with toppings like grilled chicken and Monterey jack cheese), or it can be spread on a sandwich. Or, just dip thick slices of grilled bread into it.