Ah the holidays of summer! Each is and should be seen with very particular focus. That is, view them as a day to cook, eat, read, enjoy each other and little else!
Memorial is the first of these, of course, and we used it as a chance to do a nice Surf & Turf dinner.
For the Surf, we went with some fresh caught gulf shrimp, which I marinated in citrus, chipotle chile, salt and pepper, a very straightforward preparation as we always do here.
The dominant sub-theme to this post is food safety, so let’s talk about handling proteins. We paired some nice T bone steaks with the shrimp. I pulled the steaks out just long enough to apply the rub, and then put them back in the fridge right away. Shrimp came out for thawing in very cold, running water, (Which gets it done as quickly as possible), deveining, (Which you must be conscientious about!), marinating, and then also went straight back into the fridge. NEVER leave proteins out in room temperature long enough for them to get into the Food Temperature Danger Zone! I’ll add that these shrimp were stated to be ‘Cleaned with tail on,’ and there’s a lesson to be learned there. They were lovely shrimp, sweet and tasty and smelling good right out of the package, but very few of them were actually clean – Moral of the story, check and correct, don’t assume! Post marinade and immediately before cooking, I hit the shrimp with some melted butter and more fresh squeezed citrus.
Steaks got a nice simple rub with a bit of olive oil to make sure everything sticks nicely.
Fresh sweet corn got butter, salt and pepper of course!
Onward to GrillLand!
The real story here isn’t the Memorial Day meal, it’s the aftermath! Yes, once again I am harping on leftovers, because that is the real deal when it comes to creativity. You’ve probably heard the term ‘Garde Manger’ before, right? Know what it means? Literally, it’s ‘Keep to Eat,’ AKA, the art of creative use of leftovers.
In a restaurant, just as in your own home, wasting food is not only wrong, it’s a waste of money as well! If you follow what we do here and subscribe to the concept of using the best ingredients you can find and afford, then you certainly can’t abide by allowing leftovers to go to waste, right? Granted, a next day turkey or steak sandwich is great, but what about letting great ingredients speak again in something a bit more creative than that? It’s easy, and fast and fun to remake a meal into something equally wonderful yet completely different, so let’s Garde Manger this Memorial Day feast!
M and I love Tex Mex, and we live in the heart of that country. It inflects our cooking more often than any other style, not because it’s local, but because we love it that much. As such, we decided to let these wonderful leftovers find a new voice as beautiful, fresh tacos.
First, we prepped our steak to become taco meat and it couldn’t be a simpler process. I cut the meat down into bite sized pieces. Note that the steak is fairly rare, which is how we like it when we grilled it. I’ll cook accordingly to assure a nice medium-well condition when reheated, which gets the food quickly to a ready-to-eat internal temperature of 165º F. In this case, I braised the beef in a nice bottle of Shiner Bock, with no other seasoning added. That nice rub we cooked into the steak will incorporate with the simmering beer to make a wonderful complex taste!
Meanwhile, M does up some fresh veggies for taco garnish; nice crips lettuce, cilantro, jalapenos, tomato and a 50%-50% mix of radish and sweet onion fits the bill just so.
Now, let’s address that wonderful sweet corn. Here’s another food that will go bad pretty quickly and, more to the point, I’d bet 90% of it gets thrown out after the Big Meal. Thanks be that sweet corn makes some of the finest salsa there is! We went with a nice sweet corn pico de gallo here, simply cutting the corn from the cobs and adding that to diced onion, cilantro, tomato and jalapeno, with fresh citrus juice and a dash of salt and pepper. The taste is out of this world and the corn adds a great textural pop as well.
We topped all this great stuff of with warm, fresh flour tortillas, light and tasty!
And there ya go! Maybe 20 minutes work in the kitchen, and you’ve taken a traditional grilled meal and twisted it 180 degrees into something unique and incredibly tasty. More to the point, being creative with leftovers means you got your money’s worth and then some!
A final note/reminder on safe leftover use. With every meal, you need to keep food out of the temperate danger zone. Cold means under 40º F and hot means over 140º F, period! Under or over those temperature constraints means you’re safe. In the middle for any significant length of time just plain ain’t good. Reheating hot stuff means an internal temperature of 165º F, which will kill the vast majority of nasties we don’t want to consume. Proper handling also means getting foods up or down to safe temperature ranges quickly. If you’ve made soup, and have some left over you’re gonna cool, you want it below 40º F fast, as in a matter of minutes, no more. Use an ice bath to cool quickly and a reliable thermometer to confirm you’re there!
Always keep in mind what you have to work with, and plan your preparations based on avoiding spoilage. Proteins often go bad first, so use them first. If you’re cooking with leftovers the next day, freshness shouldn’t be a problem, assuming you’ve stored things properly. If you’ve made a wonderful dish, side, etc that will store well as is, then properly contain it, freeze it and use it as you see fit. Keeping freshness in mind at all times will help you create great dishes and keep everyone safe as well.