Kitchen Wisdom from Favorite Local Chefs
As much as summertime revolves around being out and about, there is sometimes nothing better than taking advantage of the extra daylight by entertaining with long nights at home. As you gear up for a luscious lunch, dinner party, or sweet night of drinks, dessert, and dancing, we consulted a handful of top chefs from around the Hamptons to share their know-how. With their help, your kitchen might well become everyone’s favorite restaurant.
Tips for Grilling a Whole Lobster
Chef Ed McFarland, Ed’s Lobster Bar
Known for its fanciful approach to everyone’s favorite shellfish, Ed’s Lobster Bar creatively fashions the buttery white flesh into meatballs in marinara, uses it to accessorize a spicy pizza, stews it into a comforting bisque, and whips it into salad that stands alongside brisket burgers in a Surf and Turf. Classic preparations – steamed, broiled, on a roll – are also on offer, but with head chef Ed McFarland’s help, you can grill up a lobster with finesse at home. Here are his top tips:
1. Split the lobster in half to expose the tail meat. This will enhance the grilled flavor of the meat. Cook covered and with the shell side down (never flip it over) on medium heat for 20 minutes for a 1.5-pound lobster.
2. Crack the claws to break the shells and expose the meat because they take longer to cook than the tail.
3. Keep the seasoning minimal, to light salt and pepper. Drizzle the tail with olive oil or melted butter to keep the meat moist.
4. If you are feeling adventurous, add toppings such as seasoned bread crumbs or crab meat stuffing after the lobster is finished cooking.
Tips Before You Play with Fire
Chef Jay Lipping, Baron’s Cove
1. The Cooker: The best cooker is any one you can learn to control. That means any dry smoker with a horizontal unit with a firebox at the end, water smoker, an electric/propane smoker, or even a simple grill, like the standard Webber kettle. Make sure you have an accurate thermometer.
2. The Charcoal: Use only all-natural briquettes or lump charcoal. These will burn for about 50 minutes; more coals must be added every hour to maintain the temperature.
3. The Smoke: Don’t worry about getting enough smoke; worry about getting too much smoke. Experiment with different combinations of wood, such as 70 percent oak and 30 percent fruit-and-nut woods. If using chips, soak them for 30 minutes in liquid, and then scatter them on the charcoals.
4. Lighting Up: Of all the ways to start a fire, the easiest is with an inexpensive metal chimney lighter. Just put newspaper in the bottom, fill with charcoal, and then light the paper. Once the coals catch, transfer to grill or smoker. Unlit coals will then catch when placed around burning coals.
5. The Setup: Cook meat indirectly, because when meat is cooked away from the heat source, it is infused with pure wood smoke, rather than with the smoke from the fat dripping directly on the coals. Place a drip pan under the meat to catch this fat. Any grill can be set up to cook indirectly.
6. While You’re At It: Open vents to raise heat, close to lower; add coal when temperature dips too low to adjust with vents. Replenish wood chips when adding coals. Don’t keep checking the meat; each time you do precious heat and smoke escape.
7. Be Patient: Once you put something on the grill, leave it alone until it’s time to turn it. If you flip, squish or move the meat too much, you’ll push out all of the juices, making it dry.
8. KeepALidOnIt: Every time you peek at the food while it’s cooking, you lose heat and smoke, which is what gives the meat its great flavor.
9. Keep an Eye On It: The only exception to the previous rule is when you’re cooking directly over high heat, in which case you should keep the lid off so you can closely monitor the meat.
10. Glaze Like An Artist: To keep sweet glazes from burning, don’t douse the meat all at once. Brush on a little bit at a time and let it caramelize, building layer upon layer.
11. Keep Grill Clean: A clean grill prevents sticking. It will also prevent a burnt taste from residue left on the grill.
Tips for Sides
Chef Andrea Correale, Elegant Affairs
1. July 4th is typically warm and in the height of summer. All sides should be room temp and made ahead of time. Then, the only thing left to do the day of will be the proteins which you can simply throw on the grill.
2. Make sure you have gluten free and vegan options available. Grilled Summer Veggies with Quinoa is a great choice.
3. Instead of putting out a leaf salad which will wilt quickly prepare a tomato salad or cucumber salad.
instead. After you dress them they can sit out for hours and keep their integrity.
4. Potato salad is a must. However, be adventurous and don’t serve the traditional kind. If you look online there are many amazing recipes and many are made without mayo, which will be welcomed by most.
5. Corn is another staple. Instead of regular corn on the cobb, try doing a corn black bean avocado salad or make Mexican street corn. This dish can be made hot or cold.
Tips for Sweet Treats
Chef Rachel Flately, The Honest Man Restaurant Group
1. Don’t do anything that can’t stand up to heat. While meringues, pavlovas and macarons are beautiful, they don’t do well when it’s humid and will get soggy.
2. Cream pies and custards are always delicious– just make sure you have enough room in the fridge to store them. Stay in-season, and before serving, top them with local fresh fruit and drizzle with lavender honey. Skip the powdered sugar; it will melt in the heat.
3. For a fun “à la minute” dessert, throw fresh peaches on the grill for a nice char and serve with biscuits, shortcake or angel food cake, whipped mascarpone cream and honey for a simple, delicious crowd-pleaser.
4. For a party centerpiece make a s’mores cake. Take a rich chocolate cake or brownie and cover with chocolate ganache. Then spread graham cracker crumbs across the ganache and dollop marshmallow fluff on top. Lightly toast the fluff with a torch, and everyone will think you’re a master baker.
5. For an easy dessert buffet, make a variety of bar cookies and cut them into different shapes and sizes. Fill small glasses with whipped cream (or mascarpone cream) and fresh seasonal fruit. Another option is to layer chocolate pudding in small glasses with crumbled chocolate wafers or caramel popcorn. The important thing to remember about a dessert buffet is variety: make sure you have a good combination of fruit and chocolate, crunchy and creamy, and easy-to-eat foods.