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Fighting fire with fire

GABRIELLE DEVENISHgarfield county correspondent

There is a whole culture of fire-worshippers who come out every last Monday of May to stand before their burning altars. They bring their sacrifices of meat, fish and even vegetables and give them over to the flames, smoke and sweet aromas swirling to the sky. Many will imbibe the traditional brew.It is a truly special day. Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of grilling season. And May is National Barbecue Month.Men, and some women, gather around their gas grills, Webers or Hibachis and cook steaks, burgers and ribs, salmon and shrimp, or corn on the cob. Popping open a beer, spatula in hand, it is maybe the only time men will don an apron (a manly one, of course) and take over the cooking. (But don’t buy into the stereotype; many women can compete with the best of the male grillers.)The types of tong wielders are diverse. Skill levels vary, from the no-such-thing-as-too-much-lighter-fluid variety (the ones who call burned burgers “blackened”), to seasoned veterans with monster-sized grills and professional-grade tools (who would never let an inferior piece of meat come in contact with their precious grill). Barbecue grilling also varies by region. North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, Kansas City, Memphis and Kentucky all have their unique styles. Each region has its own type of meat, sauce, and preparation.And then there’s the charcoal-versus-gas debate, and the devout Weber followers. Chef Mike Schlicher, of Rivers Restaurant in Glenwood Springs, says he’s “a charcoal man,” but uses gas at the restaurant because it’s easier.Still, he said, “If I’m at home, I’d much rather crank up the ol’ Weber. It has a more natural taste, and it’s what I remember as a kid.”For some, grilling is a competitive sport, and a lifestyle. There are websites and competitions devoted to grilling and barbecuing as well. On the Weber website, one guy with six Weber grills wrote a haiku about them. A Michigan woman even wrote to express joy over keeping her Weber in her divorce settlement. “It has been MUCH more faithful than my ex-husband!” she wrote.Yes, many are devoted to their grills, including Schlicher.”Grilling season is my favorite season, though I will grill year-round,” Schlicher said. “I’ll even climb over the ice and snow if I know it’s going to be worth it. But Memorial Day is really the kickoff of grilling season – just watch the meat prices rise – and then it ends with the Labor Day finale. You try to get out there as many times as you can in between.”So here’s to you, all you grill masters and burger flippers, you lovers of the flame. Grilling season is upon us and it’s time to show your stuff.Just don’t get too close to the flames.

Spicy barbecued shrimp skewers14 cup vegetable or olive oil 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 tablespoon fresh thyme 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced 1 teaspoon paprika 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon light brown sugar or honey 1 teaspoon ground cumin 12 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

12 teaspoon cayenne pepper 12 teaspoon red pepper flakes 1 lime, juiced 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled Black bean relish, recipe followsIn a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the shrimp and the relish; mix well to combine. Add the shrimp to the seasoning paste, and toss to thoroughly coat. Let sit in the seasoning mixture while you prepare the grill. Prepare a grill and thread the shrimp onto 4 or 6 skewers. Place shrimp skewers on the grill and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, or until the shrimp turn pink and are lightly charred on both sides.Serve the shrimp with black bean relish. Black bean relish 4 cups cooked black beans, drained, rinsed

2 cups cooked corn kernels, cut from the cob 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped 1 teaspoon minced garlic 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely minced 12 bunch scallions (green onions), minced 14 cup chopped cilantro leaves 2 limes, juiced 12 cup extra-virgin olive oil Salt and freshly ground black pepperIn a large bowl combine all of the ingredients and stir to mix well. Season the black bean relish with salt and pepper, and set aside at least 12 hour before serving with the shrimp. Finish the black bean relish with the chopped cilantro.- Emeril Lagasse, “The Essence of Emeril”


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