Barton Seaver turns up the heat

Barton Seaver  Credit: Katie Stoops
Barton Seaver
Credit: Katie Stoops

Move over hamburger, you’re no longer the most important thing on the grill.

Acclaimed D.C. chef and National Geographic Fellow Barton Seaver emphasizes the use of seasonal vegetables and the importance of heat in his new book “Where There’s Smoke.”

“The heat, with its smoky, sexy undertones, becomes an ingredient itself,” he says.

Seaver uses smoke as a baseline component to add richness and depth to food.

“Grilling is perceived as primitive and a masculine way of cooking,” he says. “There’s incredible nuance to grilling and to using heat. We have to learn how to read heat and control it.”

A common mistake often made when barbecuing is to put all the coal in the middle of the grill. Seaver recommends distributing the coal all over for better control of the fire and temperature.

For Seaver, grilling is also a way to coax more interest in vegetables.

“In America, we love crunch and texture in food, and we can get that through veggies,” he says.

Grilling season coincides with the time most vegetables are at their peak.

“Every vegetable can be grilled,” says the chef. “If you burn your broccoli, that’s good. It just adds more flavor.”

Where There's Smoke

Recipe:

Seaver was honored as a “Seafood Champion” by the Seafood Choices Alliance in 2008 and works to create a sustainable relationship between dining and the ocean.

Grilled Spanish Mackerel with Orange-Tarragon Salsa

Reprinted with permission from Where There’s Smoke © 2013 by Barton Seaver, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Photography by Katie Stoops
Reprinted with permission from Where There’s Smoke © 2013 by Barton Seaver, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Photography by Katie Stoops

When cooking mackerel on the grill, it is best to leave the skin on to prevent the flesh from drying out. I like to peel it off before serving, but that is up to you.

• 2 oranges
• 1/2 red onion or 2 shallots, finely diced
• Leaves from 6 sprigs fresh tarragon, chopped
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• Pinch of kosher salt
• One 1¼ -pound skin-on mackerel fillet, soaked in Fish Brine
• Freshly ground black pepper
To make the salsa, peel the oranges and cut them into segments; cut each segment into thirds and combine these with the onion, tarragon, and olive oil in a small bowl. Season with the salt and toss well. Remove the fillet from the brine and pat it dry. Season the fish with coarsely ground pepper. Mackerel has enough fat that it will not need to be oiled before grilling if your grates are well seasoned. Place the fillet, skin side down, on the grill away from the coals of a small fire and add a few fruitwood chips to the fire. Cover the grill and cook for about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish and the heat of the fire. The fish is cooked when it is no longer opaque, has turned an even beige color, and the flesh flakes under gentle pressure. Transfer it to a platter. Spoon the salsa over the fish and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Fish brine

Fish deserve some salty foreplay just as much as pork and poultry. Every type of seafood is different in terms of density of the flesh, so different brine times are needed for different fish.

• 2 cups warm water
• 1 tablespoon kosher salt
• 1 tablespoon sugar

Mix all the ingredients and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Submerge the fish in the brine, weighting it down with a plate if need be, and brine according to these guidelines:

• Trout, shrimp, sardines, and other delicate seafood: 15 minutes
• Bass, barramundi, sablefish, and other flaky fillets: 20 minutes
• Halibut, mahimahi, bluefish, and other flaky, meaty fillets: 30 minutes
• Salmon, mackerel, Arctic char, and other meaty, full-flavored fish: 35 minutes
• Amberjack, cobia, swordfish, and other dense, steak-like fish: 40 minutes

Makes enough to brine fillets for 4 people; for whole fish, double the recipe

Follow Mary Ann Georgantopoulos on Twitter @marygeorgant


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