A few years ago, at a Memorial Day cookout, I tried grilled chicken hearts. At first I was apprehensive. The small hearts threaded onto skewers did not look as appetizing as the burgers and sausages coming off of the grill. But I decided to give them a try.
Often we disregard foods that we may think of as strange or unappetizing, because they are not our cultural norm. If I didn’t grow up eating lobster, I would think it’s one of the most bizarre foods out there. What we think of as edible or tasty is usually a culturally conceived notion, what we grew up eating, or what was available to eat. I’ve always said if you are going to eat hot dogs or chicken nuggets, then you may as well try pigs ears and chicken feet.
In restaurants, there has been a recent reemergence of nose-to-tail eating and cooking, looking to use the whole animal instead of just the prime cuts. A cow can produce only so many tenderloins. Sometimes it is important to push our comfort level and try new things. The next time you grill, bypass the usual strip steaks, filets, burgers, and hot dogs and try something new.
Types of meat
Beef – Most of these tougher cuts of meat benefit from a good marinade and quick cooking time. Let the meat rest under tented foil for at least five minutes after it is grilled for the juices to redistribute. When serving, slice against the grain of the meat.
– Flank steak: marinate and grill over high heat.
– Skirt steak: cook over high heat for a short period of time.
– Hanger steak: remove silverskin and excess fat, marinate, and cook over high heat.
– Tri-tip: ideal for families that like meat cooked to different temperatures. The tapered tip will be more well done than the rest of the meat.
– Short ribs: Start in the oven and finish on the grill until a crisp bark forms on the outside, leaving the inside tender.
Chicken – Chicken under a brick: wrap a brick in foil. Remove the backbone of a whole chicken with a sharp knife or kitchen shears and season or marinade however you wish. Grill whole chicken skin side down with brick on top, then flip.
Or try beer-can chicken: Clean a whole chicken, rub lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper or your favorite rub. Place the bird on a half-full can of beer, standing upright. Grill over moderately high, indirect heat with the cover on, for approximately 1 and 1/4 hours, or until juices run clear.
Pork – Grill pork ribs low and slow. Try boneless spare ribs or throw on a whole rack of baby back ribs. Marinated pork tenderloin, chops, shoulder, and roasts also work well.
Lamb – Try marinated lamb tenderloin or grill a full rack of lamb, butterflied leg of lamb, or chops. For something new, try marinated lamb kidneys, skewered and grilled.
If you are in the mood for burgers, try using ground turkey, venison, elk, or bison.
Seafood – Fish and shrimp are great on the grill, but so are littlenecks, oysters, razor clams, and squid. Put clams and oysters directly on until they pop open. Make sure to carefully remove them so that their liquid doesn’t spill. Top with a combination of minced garlic, melted butter, salt, lemon, chopped parsley, and a pinch of cayenne. For squid, slice the bodies lengthwise and marinate with olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper. Put squid on parallel skewers to ease in turning, or cook bodies and tentacles whole. Cook until opaque and serve over a salad.
Veggie burgers – There are tons of possibilities. Start with brown rice, quinoa or cous cous, mixed with mashed beans, egg, vegetables, and seasonings.
Brussels sprouts – Blanch Brussels sprouts, and then toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Skewer or place directly on the grill.
Romaine, endive, or radicchio – Quarter or halve lettuce and brush with olive oil. Grill until leaves are slightly charred. Top with your favorite dressing and slice of grilled bread rubbed with garlic.
Pizza – Place rolled out dough directly onto a hot grill. After grill marks appear, flip with tongs and move to cooler side of the grill. Coat the cooked side with olive oil and your favorite toppings. Move to the hotter part of the grill and cover until cheese is melted and toppings are heated.
Corn – Peel back outer corn husks leaving them attached to the cob. Remove the silk from the corn, place outer husks back on the cob. Soak corn in water for 30 minutes. Grill until husks are charred and kernels are plump. Try serving with a basil lime compound butter: Soften butter, add lime zest, a squeeze of lime juice, salt, pepper, and chopped fresh basil. Roll up in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill until firm.
Fruit – Peaches, pineapple, and figs are all great. Use in salads, as a side, or for dessert. Or grill sliced citrus fruits. Lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits taste great. Squeeze into salad dressings, over fish or chicken, or use in drinks.
Wrap fruit or seafood in cured meats and then grill. The meat will create a crust and protect whatever is inside. Try prosciutto-wrapped pear slices or salami-wrapped shrimp.
Where to buy
Reliable Market in Oak Bluffs: You can find almost anything to grill here, including chicken hearts. The full service meat team can help with custom meat preparation and cutting. Try house-made sausage, fresh ground beef, or marinated meats. Marinades on both chicken and beef include lime and cilantro, teriyaki, and Reliable’s original marinade. Also try their marinated kebabs.
Stop & Shop in Vineyard Haven and Edgartown has a variety of meats for the grill. Store brand marinated meats include steak house, bourbon, teriyaki, mandarin, and lime and tequila.
Cronig’s Market in Vineyard Haven: Marinades range from honey garlic and lemon pepper to teriyaki and buffalo. Check out the meat counter for bacon cheddar burgers, boneless country-style pork ribs with BBQ rub, beef short ribs, and sausage-stuffed pork roast. In the meat aisle find ground bison, lamb patties, and Cornish hens.
Tisbury Farm Market in Vineyard Haven: A full line of marinated meats, from flank steak to pork shoulder, is available. Marinades include teriyaki and lemon pepper as well as the house signature marinade of garlic, onion, parsley, salt, and pepper. Try their house-made sausage or linguica, or pick up some pork belly or chicken hearts.
Edgartown Meat & Fish Market: Find a large selection of marinated steak tips, chicken, turkey, lamb, ribs, and wings as well as a variety of house-made specialty burgers. Marinades include cilantro lime, lemon pepper, maple bourbon, molasses BBQ, Jamaican jerk, and teriyaki. Seafood selections include cilantro lime salmon and lemon pepper shrimp.
Shiretown Meats in Edgartown: Visit father and son team David and Dan Vaughn for your meat grilling needs. “If it’s meat, you can find it here,” says David. “Any way you want them, we cut them.” House specialties include lemon-herbed chicken, sirloin tip pinwheels stuffed with cheese and spices, as well as tons of types of sausage including chicken, lamb, linguica, Italian, and English bangers.
In operation for more than 35 years, Shiretown Meats cuts and makes everything in house. For something different, David recommends marinated butterflied leg of lamb or marinated boneless duck breast. Or try split Cornish hens or quail. They also offer whole pigs, which can be ordered in advance. A grilling tip from David: “The most important thing with anything that you grill is to let it rest at least five to six minutes before you slice it.”
And lastly, there are several Vineyard farms that sell their own locally-raised meat. For a full list, see the Home Grown Farm Map in the May 16 issue of The Times.