Good to Grill

BY Laura Rectenwald

Stroll anywhere during the summer and you’ll catch the sweet aroma of barbecue smoke drifting into the air from backyards at the beach to downtown. And though the remembrances of barbecues past bring the comfort and familiarity of our fathers’ grills to mind the food we cook today is ever changing. Burgers and dogs are yesterday’s news. A new era of grilling is upon us and some lively local grillers help us point out that there’s much more to this ancient art than just lighter fluid flames and meat.

Far East Grilled Lobster with Mango Chutney

Lara Yunaska of Harbor Island has been inventing unique dishes for as long as she can remember. “It’s a great way to use my creative side ” Lara says. “I’m always wondering what I can do next; what flavors will work together to make a dish not only unique but satisfying.” In the fall Lara will be able to explore her creative culinary side more officially when she attends the acclaimed French Culinary Institute in New York City.

Grilled Lobster (serves 4)

4 lobster tails
4 ears of corn (soaked in water for 1 hour)
2 avocados
1 mango
4 medium-sized tomatoes
½ red onion
1 tablespoon cilantro
2 limes
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 pinch of ground saffron
1 stick of butter (softened)
1 pinch of cayenne pepper

1. Turn grill to medium-high heat.

2. Leaving the husks on the corn clean corn of all silks and rub 1 tablespoon of butter on each ear of corn then pull husks back over.

3. Split shells of lobster down their undersides but leave shells on and rub lightly with olive oil.

4. Place lobster tails and corn on grill and cook for 8-10 minutes.

5. Remove shells from lobster tails and top with remaining curry butter. Serve with the corn and mango chutney.

Mango Chutney

1. Dice red onion and place in ice water.

2. Dice avocados mango and tomatoes into equal size pieces.

3. Squeeze ½ of a lime over all ingredients and toss together.

4. Finely chop cilantro and fold into tomatoes and mango mixture adding the diced red onion.

5. Season mixture with salt and pepper.

6. Mix butter salt cayenne pepper curry powder and the zest of one lime together in a bowl and mash with a fork until well combined.

lamb paillard with cucumber salad

Tripp Engell the executive chef at Brasserie du Soleil in Lumina Station is home grown and has returned after much travel and study. He graduated from Johnson and Wales in Charleston worked at Café Atlantic in Charleston — alongside world-renowned chef Jimmy Sneed — then worked in both Boston and New York City where he was a chef at the internationally acclaimed four-star seafood restaurant Le Bernardin.

The grilling masterpiece he shares with us is a dish he first served to his fellow employees last summer. Needless to say it’s high on the “Can you make that again for us please?” list. “This recipe can be used with chicken beef veal or even fish ” Tripp says although trying it with lamb will knock your socks off.

Lamb Paillard (serves 4)

1 piece lamb top round
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 sprigs of rosemary
3 garlic cloves degermed
½ tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Trim excess fat and tissue from the lamb round and slice into four equal parts.

2. Place lamb portions on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. Pound with a mallet until ¼-inch thick. Set aside.

3. Gently heat the extra virgin olive oil with garlic black pepper and the rosemary until garlic has softened. Decant and let cool.

4. When infused oil is cool combine with lamb portions in a large vacuum seal bag and seal.

5. Let the lamb marinate in the vacuum seal bag for two hours in the refrigerator.

6. Remove lamb from marinade. Pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Turn grill to high heat and grill until medium rare (very quickly).

7. Place on four warm plates and top with chilled cucumber salad. For extra flair garnish with coriander shoots.

Cucumber Salad

4 small Kirby cucumbers
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 ½ tablespoons mint julienne
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 small pinch minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced preserved lemon peel (optional)
3 ½ tablespoons crème fraiche (or sour cream)
1 tablespoon lemon oil
1 small pinch piment d’Espelette (or cayenne pepper)
1 small pinch ground cumin
8 cherry tomatoes halved
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Wash and slice the cucumbers ¼-inch thick.

2. Mix cucumbers with other salad ingredients and chill overnight to combine flavors.

caribbean jerk chicken with jícama slaw

Scott Swanson executive chef at Circa 1922 in downtown Wilmington knows a thing or two about grilling. Like Tripp Engell he studied at Johnson and Wales in Charleston and before he became executive chef at Circa 1922 he worked as a chef at Boca Bay. In his free time outside the restaurant he loves to grill in his backyard for friends acquaintances or “anyone willing to lend a taste bud.” We talked him into lending us this great recipe inspired by world flavors and a love of spices.

Caribbean Jerk Chicken (serves 6)

6 leg quarters
3 stalks lemongrass
9 Kaffir lime leaves
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 bunches cilantro
1 can (5.5 ounces) pineapple juice
6 shallots
Juice of two limes
1 ounce molasses
6 cloves of garlic
2 poblano peppers
4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

1. Purée all ingredients in a food processor.

2. Combine with chicken and marinate for one hour.

3. After chicken is done marinating turn grill to low heat and cook chicken for 30-45 minutes (chicken should reach 155 degrees).

4. About 15 minutes prior to the chicken being done turn the grill to high heat to char the outside of chicken.

Jícama Slaw Dressing

3 egg yolks
Juice of 2 limes
Zest of one lime
1 ounce honey
2 tablespoons fresh ginger minced
12 ounces of extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients well and drizzle in 12 ounces of extra virgin olive oil to make dressing.

Jícama Slaw

2 pieces of jícama julienned
1 carrot julienned
1 bunch of green onion finely chopped
1 bunch of cilantro roughly chopped

1. Combine all ingredients to make slaw.

2. Pour dressing over dry ingredients evenly toss lightly and serve.

grilled eggplant with basil and stuffed vidalia onion

When they aren’t walking the Loop or taking in a beautiful sunset on their porch daily activities they both enjoy Wrightsville residents Johnnie and Carol Smith love to grill for their family and friends. And who wouldn’t want to party at their house? Only feet from the water the Smiths try to enjoy every aspect of beach living keeping kayaks water floats and of course shovels and buckets for their grandchildren at easy access. After a long day of playing outside everyone dashes upstairs to see what Johnnie and Carol have put together on the grill. Their grilled eggplant is easy and healthy and the seasoned veggies are sure to please just about anyone.

Grilled Eggplant with Fresh Basil (serves 4)

1 large eggplant
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic finely minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Slice eggplant ½-inch thick.

2. Turn grill on high heat.

3. In a bowl combine olive oil balsamic vinegar garlic basil salt and pepper. With a grill brush brush both sides of the eggplant slices with the mixture.

4. Grill for 15 minutes or until browned flipping over slices once halfway through grilling.

Stuffed Vidalia Onion (serves 4)

4 large Vidalia onions
4 tablespoons butter
4 bouillon cubes
2 cloves garlic finely minced

1. Carve out center of onion.

2. Place butter in the opening first and follow with a bouillon cube and garlic.

3. Wrap onion in aluminum foil and grill at high heat for about 20 minutes depending on the size of the onion or until it can be easily pierced with a fork.

north carolina black and blue wild-caught shrimp salad

Robert Newton executive chef at The Oceanic Restaurant on Wrightsville Beach – and self-proclaimed master griller – explains that the great thing about this recipe is that everyone can help out. “You can have the women make the salad while the men cook the shrimp. Or the other way around ” Newton says laughing. What’s also great about this recipe is that it can be tailored for every season. The salad makes it a perfect option for a hot summer evening while in the winter steak can be substituted and the salad made optional. “The flavors work well with different seafoods and meats ” Newton says. “When you mix those artichokes with the eggs and hit that Cajun flavor that’s when you really get the essence of this recipe.”


4 dozen large fresh wild-caught North Carolina shrimp peeled and deveined
4 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 large head of romaine lettuce (outer leaves discarded)
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 5-ounce bags baby greens
4 hard-boiled eggs chilled and sliced in half lengthwise
4 large Roma tomatoes cut into thick slices
2 large red onions cut into rings
1 10-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts thawed and cut in half lengthwise
4 lemons cut into wedges
1½ cups Italian vinaigrette dressing

Salad Procedure:

1. Prepare salad on a chilled large round plate.

2. Fan the romaine leaves around the outer edge of plate.

3. Place fresh lettuce mix on top of Romaine leaves.

4. Spread baby greens atop the lettuce mix.

5. Surround lettuce with egg tomatoes red onion rings artichoke hearts and lemon garnish.

Grilled Shrimp Procedure:

1. Rub shrimp with spice and place on hot grill.

2. Remove shrimp from grill and carefully sprinkle blue cheese crumbles evenly over the top.

3. Place shrimp on a sheet of foil and place them back on the grill long enough for the blue cheese to melt and turn a golden brown.

4. Remove the shrimp from the grill and place atop the lettuce in the center of the plate.

5. Garnish salad with a slice of lemon-dill butter toast and a side of Italian vinaigrette dressing.

Be cool about grilling safety

To make sure your summer cookouts go smoothly Wrightsville Beach Fire Chief Frank Smith offered to share some tips on grilling safety and fire prevention.

Constantly monitor your grill. The best way to keep your cookouts safe is to nip any possible fires in the bud as soon as you spot them. Of course you can only do that if you’re there — but it’s worth it. Keeping an eye on your grill can save you from property damage and possible injury.

Keep your grill a safe distance from any combustible materials. Lots of things can burn that we bet you haven’t even thought about — siding for instance is often combustible as are the eaves of some houses. For this reason it’s best to keep your grill at least three feet from the side of your house and out from under the eaves altogether. This last tip is particularly important — fires can go through the eaves of a house and into the attic starting fires there!

Grilling out on the balconies of multiple occupancy buildings is prohibited by the NC Fire Prevention Code. We know you like to grill out — but if you live in a condominium or apartment complex think carefully about where you’re going to do it.

Dispose of your coals properly! Coals from a charcoal grill can stay hot for eight to 10 hours — long after you’ve finished grilling and headed to bed for the night. Douse the coals completely in cold water or dispose of them in a closed metal container to make sure you can rest easy.

The grill stays hot long after you stop cooking. Keep small children away even when the party’s over — still-hot grills are a frequent cause of summer injuries for parents and kids alike. — Emily Russell