Category Archives: Grilling

Grill Something Different for Labor Day: Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Looking for something different to grill this Labor Day weekend?  Borrow a recipe from the Caribbean and try some Jamaican Jerk Chicken, loaded with tons of spicy, sweet and bright flavors.  Inspired from our stop in Jamaica earlier this summer (lunch after the zip line), I broadened my horizons and tried making Jerk Chicken at home. Thankfully the task was made much easier by a timely article in Cooks Illustrated magazine (July/August 2012) with a well-tested recipe. In the article they explain their trial and errors in getting the flavors just right, include some science behind the food, and share grilling techniques to make the chicken succulent and moist.  As usual, they were spot on with flavors and techniques; you can read the abbreviated article here. We’ve made this recipe numerous times since and always get great results with juicy, flavorful chicken. Even though it may sound spicy, don’t skimp on the habanero peppers because they add a wonderful flavor punch without the extreme heat. To round out the meal, we added jasmine rice with black beans and some watermelon slices.

This menagerie of spices is what makes the jerk chicken so flavorful – 17 ingredients in all, but the blender does the work for you. The chicken and spice paste are added to a Ziploc bag where they marinate from 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours which is what we prefer because the flavors penetrate all through the meat. I modified the recipe for two people with one large chicken breast, 2 thighs and 1 drumstick – all bone-in and with skin on. Their recipe also calls for smoking the chicken using a foil packet with spices and wood chips, an easy way to add delicious smoke flavor, but we never seem to remember this part. With or without this step, the recipe is still delicious and easy to put together.

If you want more visuals, Cooks Illustrated created a video for this recipe that quickly steps you through making the marinade and grilling with indirect heat, the secret for juicy chicken – including how to make that simple tin foil smoker packet.

Did you know?  
In closing, here are some Labor Day tidbits from the U.S. Department of Labor’s website: 
“The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union.”

“In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.”

“The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.”

Whatever plans you may have for Labor Day, celebrate your day as an American worker.  And make sure you enjoy some scrumptious food with loved ones and friends!

Eat well and share the love!

Jamaican Jerk Chicken (print recipe)
Recipe: Adapted from Cooks Illustrated magazine, July/August 2012 issue, page 8
Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies, 4 pieces of chicken

2 lbs. chicken (bone-in, skin on), about 1 breast, 2 thighs, 1 drumstick
2 teaspoons whole allspice berries
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
2 habanero chiles, cut into thirds (stems & seeds removed, discard)
6 scallions, cut into large dice (remove & discard ends)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime zest (about 2 limes)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried yellow mustard
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons dried basil
¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Add the chicken pieces to a gallon Ziploc or freezer bag; place the bag in a large, shallow bowl.

Marinade: Add the whole allspice berries, coriander seeds and peppercorns to the blender and replace the lid. Pulse on highest speed (“ice” if available) until coarsely ground.
: You can also use your mortar & pestle or spice grinder to grind these spices, transfer spices to the blender.

To the blender, add the remaining ingredients and process until a smooth paste forms. Transfer the mixture to the bag with chicken, seal well, making sure all the air is removed. From the outside of the bag, massage the paste into both sides of the chicken pieces. Store the bag of marinated chicken in the bowl and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, up to 24 hours.

Grill (using gas grill): Turn all burners to high, cover and heat grill until hot, 15 to 25 minutes. Turn primary burner to medium and turn off all other burner(s).

Clean and oil cooking grate. Place chicken, with marinade clinging and skin side up, as far away as possible, with thighs closest to fire and breast furthest away. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Move chicken, skin side down, to hotter side of grill; cook until browned and skin renders, 3 to 6 minutes. Using tongs, flip chicken pieces and cook until browned on second side and breast register 160 degrees and thighs/drumsticks register 175 degrees, 5 to 12 minutes longer.

Transfer chicken to serving platter, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with lime wedges.

  • Don’t forget the gloves when working with habanero chiles

An exhibit at the Denver Art Museum


Jack Daniels & the Other White Meat

We absolutely love the simplicity of this recipe for Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce.  With just three ingredients, the marinade for the tenderloin has big flavors of bourbon and soy sauce with some sugar for good measure; they all get happy together and soak overnight.  The unusual flavor combination is delectable, and the outside of the tenderloin gets a sweet, crispy crust when grilled.  The meat stays tender and juicy, and has subtle flavors from the marinade.  When you pair it with the creamy mustard sauce, which only takes about ten minutes to make, it’s an unforgettable dinner.  Our friend Chris shared the recipe with us a long time ago, and it’s still a favorite go-to, especially for company.  I give her credit for this recipe but it is adapted from the California Heritage Cookbook from the Junior League of Pasadena (1976).

There is also a funny story about the mustard sauce.  A long while ago I was hospitalized due to some complications (no, that’s not the funny part).  David was ragged from the stress, Mom had flown out to help and they were back at the house making this for dinner.  He knew the marinade recipe by heart and had just pulled the tenderloin off the grill when they both realized the mustard sauce wasn’t made yet.  In a panic, he called the phone in my hospital room to ask where the recipe was.  Despite my morphine stupor, I somehow knew – with clarity – exactly where to find the scribbled recipe.  It’s all about the food for me! 

Now back to the mustard sauce ingredients – it is full of delicious flavors but isn’t tart as the name might suggest; the cream that is added at the end rounds out any tartness.  The flavors are rich and bright from dry mustard, stone ground mustard, sugar, salt, rice wine vinegar, egg yolks and half & half.   The directions call for a double boiler to cook the sauce but I don’t have one.  I use two of my sauce pans, one large and one smaller that sits just on top (see picture); the trick is to make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the top pan, for an indirect and gentle heat source.  As for the side dish, I’ll either make some jasmine rice or roasted vegetables (cauliflower – as shown in main picture – or potatoes, or carrots).

This is one of our top five favorite recipes and I am happy to share it with you.  May you enjoy it as much as we have!

Eat well and share the love!

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Adapted from: California Heritage Cookbook from the Pasadena Junior League (1976)
Serves two foodies

Marinade for Pork Tenderloin
½ cup bourbon/whiskey (I use Jack Daniels)
½ cup soy sauce (low-salt)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 pork tenderloin, 3/4 to 1 pound weight
Mustard Sauce (makes about 1 cup)
1½ teaspoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons stone ground mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
½ cup half & half

Marinade & Pork Tenderloin:
Add the bourbon, soy sauce and sugar to a large ziploc bag and mix together; gently squeeze bag until most of the sugar is dissolved.  Add the tenderloin, turn bag over a few times to coat meat completely and place bag on a plate in case it leaks.  Refrigerate overnight (or a minimum of 8 hours), turning bag over a few times.

Mustard Sauce:
In a double boiler pan, add a few inches of water to the bottom pan, cover with the top sauce pan and heat to a light rolling boil over medium heat.  Add all the ingredients, except the half & half, to the top sauce pan and cook, whisking constantly, until thick – about 3 minutes.  Slowly add the half & half and continue whisking until sauce thickens, about 5 or 6 minutes.  Transfer to a glass bowl and refrigerate until needed; sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, stored in a sealed container.  Serve at room temperature.

Barbecue the tenderloin on medium-low heat for 30 to 40 minutes until no longer pink in the center (finished internal temp of 160 degrees F). Drizzle marinade over tenderloin while cooking; do not re-use marinade with cooked pork. 

When tenderloin is done, transfer to a cutting board, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for five minutes.  

To serve, slice pork into ½” slices, arrange on a platter and serve mustard sauce on the side.

  • Don’t have a double boiler pan?  Just use two of your saucepans.  Select a large and medium sauce pan, making sure the top pan sits just inside the rim of bottom pan. 

Birthday Dinners for Melissa!

Eating at home and having someone else cook for me (all weekend!) is the best thing I could ask for, or be surprised with.  I just celebrated my birthday and had a glorious weekend with some incredible food; I ate very well and loved every bite of it.  On my birthday, we had dinner downtown at one of my favorite local restaurants – Mizuna.  My all-time “most thought about” appetizer is their lobster macaroni and cheese – it is heaven on a plate with silky rich, buttery and cheesy flavors that coat your mouth.  There is just enough lobster to enjoy a bit with almost every bite (we share one serving).  It’s one not to miss, ever.  Later, we strolled through the flower-packed Botanical Gardens where I got my flower fix; if only my backyard could look like that.  I received some beautiful birthday cards that touched my heart, along with some fun and thoughtful birthday gifts.  Thanks to all my family and friends for the love.  The next day, David made me a scrumptious breakfast and grilled up a memorable dinner later that evening.  For dinner, we enjoyed grilled marinated hanger steaks, grilled lobster tails, sautéed mushrooms and wilted spinach with caramelized shallots.  Thanks to my honey for cooking me such delicious food and for keeping the kitchen clean all weekend!

For an afternoon snack, we had roasted shrimp with a quick homemade cocktail sauce.  The shrimp is so easy to do in the oven, with my favorite technique of roasting.  Sure you could grill them but it was easier for me to use the oven.  I like the wild-caught, Key West pink shrimp (16 to 20 count per bag) available frozen at my local grocery store.  I prefer shrimp cocktails without the fuss of a shell so before roasting, I remove the shells and de-vein the shrimp.  They get tossed with some olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and then cooked in a 425 degree F oven until dark pink and slightly firm to the touch.  For extra flavor, we added lemon slices and some smashed garlic to the pan.  The cocktail sauce is super easy to make with ketchup (my favorite is organic because of the pure flavor and sweetness), horseradish sauce (David’s homemade), Worcestershire sauce, anchovy paste, capers, lemon zest, salt and pepper.  It has a nice sweet, hot and rich flavor that pairs well with the sweet shrimp.

As for those flowers, I never get tired of looking at them.  Especially when they are attached to food!  At the Botanic Gardens, we stopped by the eye-catching vegetable garden and found these happy chives – the flowers are edible too.  We snuck a bite of the chive and they taste so much better when fresh, with a light onion/scallion flavor.

Thanks for joining me on my blog journey.  I have had a blast so far.  Cheers to many more food adventures!  (Below: One of my favorite wines and perfect with steak – Petite Petit by Michael & David Winery.  I never lose my wine glass with this one!)    Eat well and share the love!

Memorial Day BBQ: Buttermilk & Sage Brined Chicken

This Memorial Day weekend many grills will be fired up and friends will gather.  I love simple recipes for the grill that make you look like a grilling star.  In the past I shied away from grilling chicken because it was a challenge to keep the white meat from drying out.  The heavens shone down when I discovered the brining method.  The brine mixture makes the meat tender, juicy and flavorful, and makes the chicken almost foolproof on the grill.  I like using chicken with the bone in (because it has more flavor) and with the skin on to help keep the meat moist.  I know it’s not good for you to eat the skin but I can’t resist it when it becomes a crispy, sweet piece of goodness from basting with the barbecue sauce – just like candy!

There are many variations of how to make a brine mixture – after several trial and errors, I have created my own version of buttermilk and sage brine.  Most brines use lots of salt to tenderize the meat but I chose the buttermilk because it does the same thing without as much sodium.  All you’ll need is a large glass bowl, some buttermilk, fresh sage sprigs, garlic cloves, salt and some pepper.  The chicken gets marinated overnight in the brine mixture, which imparts a wonderful depth of flavor to the meat.  If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand not to worry – you can make it yourself: for every one cup of milk (use 1% fat or higher) add 1 tablespoon of vinegar, stir and let sit for five minutes and you have buttermilk.  For the vinegar, I prefer apple cider vinegar but you can use any white vinegar you have on hand.

Believe it or not, I don’t make my own barbecue sauce!  I found a store-bought brand that we love and have just stuck with it.   Maybe I’ll be inspired to make my own for ribs in July….At any rate, if you have a favorite homemade recipe then use that, or your favorite store-bought brand.  One tip for grilling: be sure to remember to oil your grill before you put the chicken on!  I forgot to do that for this photo shoot and had chicken pieces stuck to the grill; thankfully I was able to recover from that one.  The barbecue sauce goes on after you turn the chicken the first time; the chicken is hot and absorbs the flavors.  Each time I turn the chicken, it gets basted.  When the chicken is done it has a delicious, caramelized sweet coating on it.

What to serve with your barbecued chicken?  We have so many to choose from: potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, grilled vegetables or grilled corn on the cob (see my earlier post for a great recipe to grill in the husks).   And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite – dessert!  Need an idea?  Check out my post from last week for Strawberry Mint Granita with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream – it’s easy to make but decadent and rich. 

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend and if you can, please take a moment to remember those who lost their lives while serving and protecting our country.

Eat well and share the love!

Buttermilk & Sage Brined BBQ Chicken
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two   
Serves two foodies
Prep Time: 1 day (brining)       Cooking Time: 20 to 25 minutes

Buttermilk & Sage Brine:
3 ½ cups buttermilk
3 sprigs of fresh sage
3 large garlic cloves, skins removed and cloves smashed
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse-grind freshly cracked pepper
Bone-in chicken with the skin on: 3 legs, 3 thighs, one breast cut in half
1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce

Buttermilk & Sage Brine:
Add the buttermilk, sage (lightly bang the leaves with the back of a knife to release the oils), smashed garlic cloves, salt and pepper to a glass bowl and stir well to dissolve the salt.  Add the chicken pieces, cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Grill the chicken:
Heat grill to low heat and season with oil or cooking spray when hot.  Remove the chicken from the brine mixture and transfer to a large platter or 13x 9 glass dish.  Season the chicken with pepper and place on hot grill, skin side down.  After chicken is turned over, liberally brush grilled side with barbecue sauce and continue process each time chicken is turned.  Grill for about 20 to 25 minutes, turning often, until no longer pink in the center and juices run clear then meat is pierced.  Transfer to a clean serving platter.

Serve hot with grilled corn in the husk and a potato salad or coleslaw on the side.

  • No buttermilk on hand?  Use 3 1/2 cups regular milk (1% fat or higher) and add 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (or any white vinegar), stir together and let sit for five minutes.

Memorial Day: Grilled Corn with Honey Jalapeño Butter

One of my favorite ways to enjoy corn on the cob is to grill it with the husks on.  This technique has been around for a long while and is nothing new, but it deserves to be resurrected.  The husks act like a steamer and impart a slightly nutty and smoky flavor to this classic summertime vegetable.  And when the corn is ready to eat, the husks do double duty as a handle.   Succulent grilled corn with a sweet and spicy butter is just the ticket for a Memorial Day Weekend Barbecue because it’s easy to make and such a treat to eat. 

The trick to grilling corn with the husks on is to soak them (husk and all) in water for a few hours before grilling.  Just like soaking wooden grilling skewers, the water helps keep the husks from burning too quickly.  I use my large Rondeau pot to soak the corn cobs – if they float just put a heavy plate on top.  Before grilling the corn, I remove all the silk (the thin strands between the husk and corn) so you don’t have to fuss with it when the corn is hot.  Most of the silk comes out in large pieces but there always seems to be stragglers.  Here’s a clever trick I learned in the catering world to remove them: dampen a clean kitchen towel and run it down the cob – it works wonders to capture those little guys.  The corn gets a light brushing of the honey jalapeño butter and then the husks are pulled back up to cover the corn and tied with strips made from a few husk leaves.  They get grilled over a low heat for about 30 minutes, turning every few minutes.

With corn on the cob, you must have butter (lots of it, please!).  I like to change it up and make a sweet and spicy butter to flavor the corn kernels.  It is super easy to make and only takes five minutes to whip together, including melting the butter.  I decided to make one of my favorites, honey jalapeño butter: unsalted butter, wildflower honey, jalapeño, lime zest, salt and pepper.  This butter would also be great on shrimp, on biscuits or to flavor bread for homemade croutons.   I love a spicy kick with the sweetness of the corn – another favorite is to slather the hot corn with butter, add some salt and pepper and a few dashes of a hot wings buffalo sauce.  Fabulous! 

Look for my post later this week when I share my recipe for brined barbecued chicken to round out the Memorial Day weekend meal.

Grilled Corn in the Husks with Honey Jalapeño Butter
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two    
Serves two foodies (4 corn on the cob)
Prep Time: 2 1/2 hours (soaking and de-silking)
Cooking Time: 30 to 35 minutes

Honey Jalapeño Butter
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ teaspoon honey
Half of a jalapeño, finely diced
1/8 teaspoon lime zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper

Corn in the Husk:
4 corn on the cob
Large pot of cold water (to soak the corn on
the cob before grilling)

Honey Jalapeño Butter:
Add the melted butter to a small bowl along the remaining ingredients and stir together until well-combined.  Let sit for 30 minutes or more to allow flavors to blend.  (Butter mixture can be made up to one day ahead, store covered in refrigerator.)

Corn in the Husk:
Soak corn in water (completely submerged) with the husks on for two hours.  Before grilling, remove the silk strands: Grasp the top of the corn with both hands using your thumbs and two fingertips, and pull either side of the husk down gently in two pieces to expose the whole cob.  Remove the silk strands with your hands and discard. Use a damp, clean kitchen towel to remove any remaining silk strands by grasping the top of the cop and dragging the towel down, from the top to the bottom.  Season with a light brushing of honey jalapeño butter and carefully pull the husks back up over the corn cob.  Secure with a few strips of husks (take off a few long husk leaves and cut lengthwise into strips with knife or kitchen shears) to prepare for grilling.

Heat grill to low heat and grill corn for 30 to 35 minutes, until outside husk leaves are a bit charred and corn is tender.  Turn corn every few minutes. 

To serve, peel the husks down, keeping the leaves intact at the bottom.  Brush liberally with honey jalapeño butter, season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper and serve hot.