Haute SpotThanks to Father’s Day and the official start of summer, there is no time better to hit the backyard BBQ than the month of June
Looking to crank up the heat on your own hot spot? Here are some pro grilling tips and techniques from some of the East End’s most notable chefs.
Probably best known to armchair foodies as guest judge on Top Chef All-Stars, Kerry Heffernan is an avid fisherman, conservationist and sustainable seafood advocate with ties to both the North and South Forks. With stints at Montrachet, Le Régence, Restaurant Bouley, Mondrian, One Fifth Avenue, 15 CPW, and Eleven Madison Park, he’s is also credited for working with restaurateur Danny Meyer in creating the original menu at Shake Shack. The busy chef is currently at Grand Banks, an historic cod fishing schooner moored at Pier 25 Manhattan and consultant to Seaworthy, a sustainable seafood restaurant in New Orleans.
Heffernan recommends grilling whole porgies “just caught in the Sound off Gardiner’s Island.” He’ll place them directly on the grill, without scaling, and with an herb bouquet from his own garden tied onto them.
For a well-seasoned grill rack, he advises using an old, oiled kitchen towel and vegetable scraps.
“I save and dry all my herb and garlic cuttings and onion tops from the garden to use at the end as flavoring,” he says. “Throw them on grill for three or four minutes before whatever you have comes off. “Even if it burns off, it’s a nice vegetable flavor.”
Honest Man’s Joe Realmuto—whose food imprint is beloved by patrons of Nick & Toni’s, Townline BBQ, Rowdy Hall and La Fondita—says that he likes to mix it up at his cookouts. It’s no surprise that the versatile chef uses varying types of grills and accessories for different kinds of food. Smoker baskets, Teflon mats and stone plates make frequent appearances, depending on whether he’s making meat, fish, vegetable or even pizza.
“Don’t be afraid to try different things on it besides burgers and dogs,” says Realmuto. “And know your grill’s hot spots and use the different temperature spots for different things. Sear on the hot spot, and cook chicken and cuts of meat that take longer to cook on the cooler spots, as well as vegetables.”
Philippe Corbet, the executive chef at Lulu Kitchen in Sag Harbor says that his favorites include whole fish, like red snapper, bronzini, and black bass rubbed with lemon oil and herbs de Provence. But his most unusual grilled dish?
“Ratatouille,” he says. “It was the best I ever made, because of its nice smoked flavor.”
Living on the East End, seafood is a recurring grill theme for home cooks and chefs alike. For chef James Carpenter from Claude’s at the Southampton Inn, his hands-down favorite is oysters.
“Shuck them, grill them, and add a little butter and fresh herbs,” he says.
Though he’s done his fare share with fish as well, Michael Rozzi at The 1770 House in East Hampton remembers one of his more notable grilled-up meals: a whole spit roast baby lamb grilled over local peach wood, he reports. The innovative chef rubbed and stuffed the lamb with North African spices and citrus, then pulled it and served it with homemade grilled pita and spiced yogurt.
His best tip for home cooks who like to entertain: a well-maintained grill that’s good and hot, and sets of metal skewers. “They make cooking for large groups easy and manageable,” he says. “I’ve skewered anything from shrimp to potatoes.”
Another important piece of equipment that should always be nearby is a nice cast-iron skillet, says Navy Beach partner Franklin Ferguson. It’s great for searing and grilling, and since it can be moved on and off the direct heat, it’s a tool that can double your cooking surface.
A good cast-iron dish he likes to make is Burnt Tomato Bruschetta. For this “light summer treat,” place halved tomatoes cut-side down in the pan once it’s piping hot. Then watch them “sizzle and dance,” he says. Once charred, remove them from the pan and mix in pine nuts, good olive oil, lemon, capers, avocado and grilled corn cut off the cob. Then combine the ingredients and place them on freshly grilled toast that’s been rubbed with raw garlic. Lastly, serve and enjoy.