Thursday, June 05, 2008

A Spectacle

I am having a tough time deciding which view is more beautiful. Is it the view of Boston Harbor’s outer islands, as seen from the top of Spectacle Island...

...or is it the view of a fully loaded grill, stacked with potatoes, marinated skirt steak and chicken breast, and an odd pork sausage or two?

I just don’t know. I can’t decide.

The beginning of every grilling season marks the beginning of sailing season for me. each one is a thing of beauty on its own, certainly, but combine the two and you have the foundation of the most perfect day possible.

Here is how that perfect day goes: Sail to an uninhabited island. Marinate meats in sealed bags on the sunny deck of a rocking sailboat. Breathe in the salty air, smear on the sunscreen, chug Coronas one after another, and feel like a total badass for sailing to an ISLAND for a cookout.

Start the prep work on the boat, so that when you alight on land, all you have to do is start up the grill, pop open more beer, and toss the food on the flames. Make the best grill-top potatoes you will ever have (thanks for the idea, Melissa!) - Make vertical slits in a medium sized baking potato, bring careful not to slice all the way to the bottom. Stuff thin slices of onion in the slits, toss some slices on top. Salt and pepper generously, top with a hefty slice of butter (1/2 tbsp should be fine), wrap tightly in foil and drop onto a hot grill. Flip a couple of times and check to see if they are done (by seeing if a knife passes through the potato easily) after about 20 minutes. The onions melt into the potato almost as if they were never there. The bottom of the potato becomes caramelized and crisp, the rest steams to a perfect flaky doneness.

Oh and the corn. Repeatedly slather freshly shucked corn with salted butter while on the grill, keep it on till it’s charred black all over, and it will turn out so sweet and so perfect.

Toast crusty bread with butter till crisp, grill the sausages, cook the skirt steak minimally, just still done on both sides (leaving it medium-done on the inside), grill the chicken, and have the best cookout/pig-out, eat till it hurts. And to make the Coronas a little more special? Squeeze in lime juice, a heavy shot of hot sauce (not Tabasco, though! It’s too vinegary for this), a pinch of salt, and enjoy an instant Michelada. Awesome.

We did all those things. After we had about a six-pack of beer and three tons of food per person, we went on a walk around Spectacle Island, and sat in a gazebo on one of the highest points. It may have been all the beer or the good food or the perfect weather and lovely company, but that day, that moment, summer began for me and so many worries of the last months and years began to fade. Looks like there is life after grad school.

View from the Spectacle Island pier, where we set up the gas grill the park ranger provided (for a modest fee, including docking our boat).

Marinated* skirt steak
count on ½ pound of skirt steak per person

Place steaks in a zip lock back with:
- juice of a couple limes
- handfuls (proportions of each don’t really matter) of green onion, sage, marjoram, cilantro, or whatever other herbs you happen to have on hand
- a finely chopped fresh jalapeno
- a handful of thinly-sliced white onion
- red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
- a glug of light-colored beer if there is not enough liquid to carry all the flavors into the meat

1) Marinate at room temperature for a couple of hours, or until you are a) too hungry to wait any longer or b) have reached the island of your choice.
2) Grill until deep grill marks appear on both sides, remove to a plate. Skirt steak is thin and really easy to overcook, so try your hardest not to. Unless you like your meat well-done… in which case I really don’t understand you.

* The same exact marinade worked wonderfully for chicken, making really tender and almost creamy chicken, with a hint of lime and herbage.


Sugar - The Girl Behind the Flash said...

I love beautiful scenery, lovely natural landscapes, yada yada yada... My vote is for the goodies on the grill!

mehdi said...

Hi Anna,

That looks like a great way to join both wonderful things you enjoy. By the way, does that mean that there is no life for me in the next 3-4 years, till I finish grad school?!

Enjoy the post grad schools days!!!

One Food Guy said...

Oooh, tough choice. Did you go to Spectacle Island knowing there would be a gas grill for you to "borrow" from one of the Park Rangers or was that just a lucky find?

What a nice day!

Anna said...

Hi Sugar! My vote is on the food as well. Always pick the food, screw nature. Not a nature lover here.

Mehdi - Relaxation is a short 3-4 years away, it's true! Grad school has a funny way of weighing on your mind.

One Food Guy - We actually thought it would be a charcoal grill. We came prepared with charcoal. Turns out they have gas grills at Spectacle. A lot of the islands have grilling stations set up, but most are pretty rudimentary. It was a great day!

Lissa said...

clearly I need to find a way to somehow copyright the potato packets (completely stolen from josh and jennifer anyways) such that i must be there to enjoy them with you! glad you had a great day. just beautiful. looking forward to more summery pictures here as I hide in the house trying to follow in your gloried PhD footsteps myself :)

Catherine said...

Oh - do I have a recipe for you....

Grilled Tuna rolled in Sesame seeds over greens with a soy wasabi vinaigrette...awesome when its served deliciously raw over a bed of greens....

And if you get out of the harbor...brining your corn in sea water before you throw it on the grill is one of my absolute favorite things...

Oh thank goodness summer is finally here!!!!

Millie said...

the answer depends on how hungry you are!

leena! said...

What? There is life after grad school???? Nobody old me that!

Its good to see you can still breathe after all that dissertation craziness. I am still trying to learn how! Another great post, Anna. Yet another reason I want to be your friend.

Anna said...

Lissa - Push through! You are so close to done. Yaaay! Almost done.

Catherine - Oooh throw the corn in salt water. That's great. What does the brining do? Does it make it really juicy? Oh I can't wait to try it.

Millie - Well, that's easy. I am always hungry!

Leena - Yes. Friends. We must be friends. What is our time schedule for making that happen? I will hopefully be in Chicago in the next few months! Will keep you posted.

JoAnne said...

Hi.. I was wondering how big the grills are and what the fee was to use one?? Thanks JoAnne!

Anna said...

Hi JoAnne - So sorry for the slow reply, and thank you for coming by! The grills were pretty big - full size propane grills with one of those nice shelves above the mail grilling surface for toasting buns, etc. We paid $20 for our docking fee and grill rental. I don't know how much the grill alone costs. It's well worth it though, once the weather improves. Enjoy!

Linda Mooney said...

Could you please let me know what size grill you were able to rent?