In Portugal’s fishing villages, eating sardines is a ritual. “Typically the fisherman goes out in the morning with his son,” says Portugal-born chef Manuel Azevedo, who now lives in Sonoma, California, where he owns a contemporary Portuguese restaurant, LaSalette. “They net sardines while his wife gets the charcoal going, and that’ll be their lunch – eat it standing up and toss the bones to a cat.” Whole fresh sardines, seared on the embers, have grown from a traditional Portuguese staple to worldwide-status food, especially on upscale Mediterranean menus around the U.S. Chalk it up, in part, to omega-3 mania: Sardines are loaded with the heart-healthy fatty acids and are very low in mercury. But it’s the intense flavor that makes the lowly sardine the perfect grilling fish. “Halibut, by contrast, is too delicate,” says Mediterranean specialist Craig Stoll, executive chef at Delfina in San Francisco. “But sardines? The grilled flavors and the fish enhance one another instead of fighting.”
Ingredients • Sardines (about 3 per person) • olive oil • salt • lemon
Step One Buy ultrafresh fish. Fresh sardines are seasonal – look for them in the summer months – and powerfully flavored, so freshness is paramount. Less fresh sardines should be gutted before grilling.
Step Two Place them in a grill basket. The one modern-day upgrade that can only enhance the experience is a nonstick fish-grilling basket (charbroil.com). Toss whole sardines in olive oil while your grill gets nice and hot, then lay them side by side in the grilling basket, as many as will fit in a single layer without crowding. Set the basket on the hottest part of the grill. After 2 minutes, turn it over and let them cook for another 2 minutes.
Step Three Serve whole. Sprinkle liberally with salt and squeeze a fresh lemon to finish. Add an empty bowl for carcasses. Pick up a whole sardine, holding the head in one hand and the tail in the other, and eat like a tiny corn on the cob.
“Kalbi is the king of Korean barbecue,” says Edward Lee, whose Korean-influenced cooking got him into the final five on Top Chef: Texas. He’s talking about the signature dish of Korean barbecue: quick-seared Korean-cut short ribs marinated with intense Asian flavors. “I don’t care where you’re from, I’ve never met anybody that didn’t like kalbi,” Lee says. Unlike the United States, where beef has long been plentiful and where barbecue grew up as a country-backroads tradition, South Korea’s mountainous terrain has very little natural pasture. Red meat has always been a luxury of the ruling classes there and, to this day, the rituals and traditions of Korean barbecue revolve around the indoor, royal formality of a bygone age. In Seoul barbecue restaurants, outdoor fire pits generate a constant supply of fresh embers, which are then brought inside. Every party gets an elegant kettle full of embers with a grill grate on top, set on the table right alongside raw meats for custom-cooking throughout the meal.
Good luck getting a permit for that in the U.S. But, Lee says, plenty of Korean-American families still celebrate birthdays and graduations at Korean barbecue restaurants with grills built right into the tabletops. “You go with all your relatives and order pounds and pounds of kalbi, and you don’t talk. There’s no conversation – you just eat until Dad passes out.” For the home cook, a backyard Weber works fine, as long as you find the right cut of rib and make a marinade with that distinct sweet-and-sour kick. “The soul of a great kalbi is that trinity of salt, sugar, and smoke,” Lee says. “Every Korean believes their recipe is right and everyone else is a complete moron.” Lee recommends going with the kalbi recipe that he, personally, loves above all others – his mother’s. Then it’s about the part all Koreans agree on: getting that grill as hot as humanly possible, slapping down each piece of kalbi just long enough to char a sweet-and-salty crust onto each side, and settling down to feast.
For the ribs: • 5 lbs Korean-cut beef short ribs.
For the marinade: • 1 cup soy sauce • 1/4 cup white sugar • 1/4 cup • brown sugar • 1/4 cup mirin or rice cooking wine • 1/3 cup sesame oil • 1 small onion, quartered • 6 cloves garlic • 1 small knob ginger, grated • 3 scallions, chopped • 2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
Step One Find the right ribs. Korean-cut short ribs get sliced across – not with – the line of the rib bones. You can find them in any Asian market and most Whole Foods, or you can ask any good butcher to cut short ribs crosswise into what’s known as flanken. “You’re talking about a pretty thin slice, maybe 3/8 of an inch,” says Lee.
Step Two Marinate the meat. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a food processor or blender. (“The marinade keeps,” says Lee. “Make it a day in advance to save time later.”) One hour before you’re ready to cook, layer the short ribs in a baking pan and pour on the marinade, making sure to coat every rib. Do not refrigerate – this way the ribs will have time to reach room temp before cooking.
Step Three Give it a hot sear. Get your grill as hot as possible, ideally with charcoal or hardwood. “You want that meat to sizzle so the outside chars – but leave it only a minute on each side,” Lee says. “You really have to watch it – it can overcook in seconds. Kalbi is meant to be charred outside but still a touch rare in the middle.”
Essential Sides: Ssam Lettuce Wraps, Rice, and Kimchi Traditionally, kalbi is served with white rice and a dab of Korean chili paste called gochujang (available in most Asian markets), all wrapped inside a large leaf of red lettuce – a style called ssam. But no Korean BBQ meal is complete without a side of kimchi, heavily spiced fermented vegetables, invented ages ago by Korean farmers to preserve their harvest during the cold months. It’s fairly easy to make your own, but a reliable brand is Sinto Gourmet, sold in Whole Foods and specialty grocery stores.
Argentine Asado Steak
Argentina’s entire beef industry is built around natural grasslands so lush and so vast Argentine gauchos never have to bother with the feedlots that have become a staple of most American cattle farms. Wild grass on the open range creates superlean meat with pronounced flavor. Since corn-fed American cattle produce a beef so marbled with saturated fat and so buttery-soft and mild-tasting, our grilling has gravitated toward a blast of initial heat that provides a crunchy texture and charred flavor on the outside while leaving the inside juicy and tender. But the gauchos figured out long ago that their grass-fed beef calls for the opposite treatment. They start by brushing embers out of the wood fire, one by one, over to a nearby grill. “This way, the heat remains gentle and even, with no direct flame or smoke to pollute the flavor,” says Argentine rancher J.P. Thieriot. “Too much smoke particulate can make the outside greasy.”
Everywhere from the family barbecues known as asados to top Buenos Aires steakhouses, Argentines follow the gaucho example of gently cooking their steaks to what we’d call medium-well and the Argentines call a punto. “In American restaurants if you ask for that, you’re considered a heathen,” says Thieriot. “But if there’s really, really good meat, that point of cooking” – when reached in that style, through gentle heat – “brings out the highest expression of the beef.” Most amazing of all, to any patriotic American steak lover steeped in our own great traditions, this heretical Argentine approach actually works, transforming even the leanest of grass-fed meat into a thing of tender, soul-satisfying beauty.
Ingredients • 10–12 oz free-range grass-fed beef per person • sea salt, preferably coarse
Step One Find the right beef. “Grass-fed is the way to go, because the flavor of the meat is right there,” says Stacey Sosa, owner of Estancia 460, an Argentine steakhouse in New York City. For authenticity, track down Argentine beef through distributors like Estancia (no relation to the restaurant). But American grass-fed beef also makes a fine choice, and most Whole Foods and good butchers now carry at least one brand. As for cut, Argentines prefer thin, intensely flavored hanger steak and so-called flap meat, but grass-fed versions of these are tricky to find. Instead, go with relatively well-marbled cuts like New York strip or ribeye.
Step Two Use hardwood charcoal. While the true asado tradition calls for an open wood fire suited to a sturdy backyard or campground firepit, the technique is easily replicated on a normal grill using hardwood lump charcoal. Let it ash over completely before you start cooking and establish a medium-heat fire – you should be able to hold your hand one inch off the grill bars for 2.5 seconds, no longer.
Step Three Cook it gently. Don’t add salt at first – it draws moisture out of the meat, which is fine with heavily marbled U.S. beef but not with lean grass-fed. Instead, place the steak over the grill for about 3 minutes to let that side brown, then turn it and salt the browned side. Three minutes later, turn it again and salt the newly browned side. Continue rotating the steak every few minutes for about 12 minutes total cooking time. Keep a squirt bottle full of water to control any flare-ups, making sure that no direct flame or smoke touches the meat. The steak is done apunto when its interior reaches 150°.
Step Four Let it rest. Once it’s off the grill, let the steak rest fully 15 minutes before carving. This is important with any good steak, but it’s critical with a huge cut of superlean grass-fed meat taken beyond medium done. Cut through that steak too early, and all its precious juices will pour out.
Essential Sides: Chimichurri Ingredients • 1 cup water • 1 tbsp coarse salt • 1 head garlic, separated and peeled • 1 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves • 1 cup fresh oregano leaves • 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Simmer water and salt in a small pan, stir to dissolve the salt, and then remove pan from heat. Finely mince all other dry ingredients and combine in a bowl. Whisk in the vinegar, then the olive oil, then the salted water. Transfer to a jar, close with a tight lid, shake to combine, and refrigerate. Chimichurri is best prepared one day in advance and will keep for up to three weeks.
Porter Road Meats
For all your summer needs, Porter Road can help you supply your next BBQ or gathering. Porter Road puts together meats that are pasture-raised, hormone free, and have no antibiotics, and you can get them delivered right to your home. Whether it’s beef, pork, steak, lamb, chicken, and other cuts of meat, you can order straight to your house for your July 4 and summer gatherings. You can also get a wide range of different meats and picks for July 4 and the rest of the summer including Flap Steak, which is great for when you’re cooking for a large group, as well as a Denver Steak, which gives you a versatile steak cut to cook up. Check out more of their best sellers here.