Discussing which features you might want in a barbecue, a friend of mine stated a ceramic grill is the only way to go.
This friend must have spent as much money on barbecues as the total gross domestic product of a small emerging nation, so you have to believe him.
Side burners are OK, a thermometer is OK and even if it had a CD player that would be great … but a ceramic grill is the must-have.
Metal grills will eventually rust and your food will taste as if your kid made it in shop class.
This same buddy, Steve, unequivocally stated, and I quote, “Chicken is the ONLY thing to barbecue … unless, of course, you have halibut.” Having recently returned from a trip to Thailand, his current favourite recipe is Chicken Satay.
Satay is just meat on a skewer, but we can spice it up a little with fairly common kitchen ingredients. It is easy to make and, as a bonus, you can buy locally raised meat birds. Otherwise, store-bought will still get the job done.
To begin, cut a pound of chicken tenderloin or breasts into long thin strips and weave them onto skewers.
The key to the Thai taste is the marinade: Mince up two cloves of garlic, a stalk of lemon grass and a seeded jalapeño pepper.
Add a pinch of sugar, a pinch of turmeric, a double pinch of ground coriander and a dash of black pepper.
Pound the whole lot into a paste using a mortar and pestle. If you just so happen not to have a mortar and pestle (I know I couldn’t find one), use a glass bowl and the back of a wooden spoon.
Stir in ¾ cup of coconut milk, three tablespoons of fish or soy sauce and two tablespoons of lime juice.
Generally speaking, fresh cilantro is used as a garnish but if you love cilantro, mix it in with the marinade and the flavour will really develop.
Pour the marinade over the prepared skewers, cover and place the dish in the fridge for 20 minutes; turn them over once or twice.
In the meantime, as always, clean your barbecue grill and coat it with a little vegetable or olive oil to prevent your meat from sticking.
With the heat on high, cook the satay sticks for one to two minutes per side depending on how thick or thin the chicken has been sliced.
On the subject of skewers, there are basically two ways you can go: bamboo or metal.
Bamboo skewers must be soaked overnight and have a tendency to ignite, which may or may not add to the ambiance of the evening but are always a great addition to year-end hockey parties.
Metal skewers, on the other hand, will not burn but they must be cleaned after each use. My buddy Steve had designer metal skewers made especially for lamb, but that’s another story.
One last hint for any unruly chicken bits: use two skewers beside each other through the pieces so that when you flip them over they do not just spin around. This system will work on any meat, fish or vegetable that gaily spins on its skewer, causing it to overcook on one side.
And remember: buy locally when in season.