Simple Art of Cooking: Chill It and Grill It, Labor Day Style!

Plate of barbecued ribs
Beer ribs. Photo credit: Vico Images/Polara Studios/Michael Shay/FogStock/Thinkstock

As a cooking teacher, do-ahead cooking is what I always stress in my recipes. With Labor Day weekend winding up one of the busiest summers in memory, I’ve developed recipes that will fit the bill if you’re at the grill this holiday weekend.

For partners who enjoy cooking together, I’ve drawn on a classic Italian chicken with salad topping—chicken paillards (pounded cutlets) are marinated then briefly grilled while a partner attends to the do-ahead for the salad. For true carnivores, beef ribs, which usually take hours to cook, are dry rubbed, roasted several hours ahead then grilled when grill time comes. Local peaches have been fabulous, so be sure to halve some slightly ripened fruit and place it cut-side down on the grill for a few minutes to caramelize as embers slowly fade away. Have a happy!

This do-ahead short rib recipe is roasted ahead and grilled before serving. Can be served at room temperature.

Serves 6

Spice Rub
1 1/2 tablespoons each kosher salt and packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons each freshly ground pepper,ground cumin, garlic powder, smoked Spanish paprika
3/4 teaspoon ground fennel
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Short ribs
5 to 6 pounds bone-in beef shortribs, with about 1” of meat on top of the ribs; about 3” in length, trimmed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Mustard Glaze
3 tablespoons each Dijon mustard, packed brown sugar and red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 300°F.

1. Place spice rub ingredients in a bowl and stir to mix. Measure 2 teaspoons dry rub mixture and reserve for the glaze. Dry rub remaining mixture over each rib and set aside, bone side down in an ovenproof, shallow roasting pan. (Can refrigerate, covered, for several hours or overnight). When ready to roast ribs, sprinkle with red wine vinegar, place in a preheated oven and cover tightly with foil, shiny-side down. Roast ribs for 1 1/2 hours or until the thickest part registers 165°.

2. To prepare charcoal remove top grate and fill a chimney starter with charcoal and paper and ignite. When coals are partially covered with ash, pour over one-third of the grill and place foil pan adjacent to coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

3. To prepare gas grill, turn all burners on high. Cover and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on medium and turn off other burners. Adjust primary burner as needed to maintain grill temperature of 275 to 300°.

4. Place ribs bone side down on cooler side of grill. Brush the ribs with 1/4 cup mustard glaze, cover and cook about 20 to 25 minutes or until ribs register 180° on instant read thermometer. Transfer ribs to a platter and loosely tent with foil. Let rest at least 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Paillards are simply butterflied chicken cutlets for this quick and easy teamwork recipe—at the grill or at the salad station.

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken cutlets, trimmed and butterflied

For the marinade
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
8 to 10 fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds freshly ground pepper

For the salad
1 head red or green
leaf lettuce, washed and spin dried
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

For the vinaigrette
1 large shallot finely chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt

1. Rinse and pat chicken breasts dry with paper towel. Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl whisking in the oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Place chicken in the marinade, and refrigerate.

2. Wash and dry greens, roll up in paper towel to absorb excess moisture and refrigerate in zip lock bags up to one day ahead. Slice onion and soak in cold water for 20 minutes, or so, to soften their bite. Drain, dry and refrigerate in suitable container until ready to use. For the vinaigrette, combine shallots, vinegar, lemon juice and salt to taste in a mixing bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil and taste to adjust seasoning as necessary. Reserve.

3. Preheat a gas grill to medium or a grill with ashen hot coals. When hot, grill chicken breasts about 3 minutes on each side, turning once until golden brown and springy to the touch (160°F).

4. Meanwhile, tear salad greens into large bite-sized pieces in a salad bowl and add the onion and cherry tomatoes. Add vinaigrette and toss to coat evenly. Place chicken breasts on warm plates. Arrange the salad over the top and serve at once. 

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