It’s not often that we Washingtonians get a swath of summer weather in mid-April. The weeks following April Fool’s are normally scored by the collective signs of Seattleites frustrated by the simultaneous temptation of longer days and rising temperatures (Yay! Jeans and t-shirts!) literally overshadowed by a blanket of rain clouds. So you can imagine our elation last week when the drizzle of early April yielded to a series of sunny, bluebird days. As my fellow denizens emerged from their hollows, blinking and rubbing their eyes at that evil glowing orb, I gleefully popped a cold one and freed my beautiful, copper-colored Weber Genesis from her winter prison with a single dramatic swoosh of black polyester.
Genesis. The beginning of all things good.
Last July, I buffered the content of my summer school Sophomore English course with a week-long Biblical allusions unit. When I asked my students to analyze references to the Bible in popular culture, many of them drew the conclusion that the creative use of such allusions was effective as a marketing technique, but often presumptuous given the nature of the product.
In this case, that’s an assertion that I can’t possibly agree with.
As we wait for my brother-in-law, Grant, his girlfriend (out favorite self-proclaimed “out-law”), Martha, and their faithful German Shepherd, Ilsa, I take the time to begin preparing the food. I plan to pair my carne asada (and pollo asado) with a pot of spicy chipotle spanish rice, grilled veggies, tortillas, and sweet agave cilantro sauce of my own design.
Knowing the meat needs to marinate for a few hours, I set myself to making the sauce – essentially a mojo verde (recipe below) – just as the guests roll in. A few chops, rips and smashes, followed by a minute or two of violent blending yield a chunky green mixture both acidic, and piercingly effervescent, that leaves wisps of jalapeno, cilantro and raw garlic as I distribute it evenly between the ziploc bags of chicken and skirt steak.
The rice goes in next, since my stove-top version (an ever-so-slightly modified version of this food.com recipe) needs to cook slow and low so the rice gets nice an fluffy, and the flavors have a chance meld.
The break in prep gives us time to set up the patio furniture, and while the table I made last year is build to seat eight (ten in a pinch), we find ourselves crowded near the grill, pouring Wanderlust IPA from a sweating growler, and laughing as we toss a tennis ball for the dogs, and enjoy the waning radiance of the afternoon sun.
It’s Sunday afternoons like these that validate my obsessive attention to detail in recipe creation, beer selection, and quite frankly, grill-maintenance. Heads turn at the sound of the Genesis’ igniter, a delicious click-hiss-pop signaling impending gustational delights. Half a pint later, choice cuts of the beasts of the land have begun to sizzle lazily under the closed lid, and I return to the kitchen for a few beats to dress veggies and puree sauce ingredients, before stepping back to the grill.
Minutes later, the resting meat is being guarded by our (hopefully) faithful four-legged friends, and the grates are home to chili-sprinkled zucchini spears and sweet grilling onions.
Returning to the kitchen for the last time, I almost wish that I had an old steel triangle hanging just outside the back door, which I could symbolically jangle to summon friends and loved-ones to the proffered nosh. Moments later, as I return to the table, arms laden with food, I’m struck by the insufferable silliness of this notion at the sight of my wife and guests, already seated and waiting. I can’t help but glance quickly at the grill, flash a knowing smile, and spread the tempting meal before my hungry loved-ones.
Genesis. The beginning of all things good.
Brian’s Mojo Verde (Carne Asada and/or Pollo Asado marinade):
Note: This recipe was designed to make A LOT of food. Seriously, I used it to marinate approximately 7 lbs of meat.
Prep: 10-20 minutes
Waiting: 1-2 hours
Cooking: 10-20 minutes (based on desired doneness)
Post-cooking Wait Time: 5-10 minutes
- 1 bulb of garlic, peeled and cloves crushed
- 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, rough chopped
- 2 1/2 fresh jalapenos, rough chopped (seeded for a less spicy version)
- 1 cup of fresh lime juice (about 6 limes)
- 1 cup of fresh orange juice
- 1/3 cup of white vinegar
- 2 tbs blue agave syrup (or honey, if you don’t have agave)
- 1 tsp kosher salt (plus more for the initial seasoning)
- 1 tsp group pepper (plus more for the initial seasoning)
Meats and other stuff:
- 4 lbs skirt steak, trimmed
- 3 lbs chicken breasts, sliced thin or butterflied
- Guacamole and/or Salsa
- Spanish Rice
- Grilled veggies
- Big Ziploc bags
- Good friends
Begin by preparing all of the ingredients as listed above. Pat the meat dry with a paper towel, and season it all with salt and pepper, and maybe a little chili powder and cumin for some added spice. Make the call, it’s your food.
Place all of the marinade ingredients in a blender or food processor, and puree it all down until it’s pourable, but maybe still a little chunky.
Score the meat (run your knife lightly across it to make a shallow slice), place the steak and chicken in separate bags, and divide the marinade between them, making sure it’s all thoroughly covered.
Squeeze the air out of the bags, seal them up, and let them sit in the fridge for an hour or two. Technically you could let them sit for up to six or eight hours, but the longer you let it go, the more the acid in the mojo tends to “cook” the meat, which gives it a mealy, overdone texture when you finally grill it up.
To cook: Heat the grill to high.
Pour yourself a delicious beer, like the aforementioned Wanderlust, a smoothly malted and heavily hopped, yet delectably drinkable full-bodied IPA from Two Beers Brewing Co.
Skirt steak is easy to grill, which makes it a great choice for this recipe. Grill the steak over high heat for the 3-5 minutes on each side, turning it only once. Five minutes on each side should give you a nice, medium cook, which is usually an appealing level of doneness for most dinner guests.
Chicken is even easier, especially if you’ve thin-sliced it. These little beauties should take about 3-4 minutes per side over high heat, but the nice thing about chicken is you can monitor the cook by the distinct color of the meat. When it’s white all the way through, it’s done. Simple.
Remove the meat from the heat, and let it rest for at least five full minutes before slicing it, in quarter inch strips, against the grain.Though this rule doesn’t really apply for chicken, steak sliced with the grain will be much tougher and chewier than steak sliced the correct way.
Your final step: enjoy your meal, hopefully in the company of friends, family or other appreciative guests!