Regatta Week barbecue

Cynthia
Cynthia Stone
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To heck with this one-day-in-the-middle-of-the-week business. Let’s start the celebration this weekend with a fabulously festive barbecue.

Celebration Sausages

Steaks and ribs often push their poor cousins to the side of the grill, but sausages are a great choice for a summer get-together. You can serve them as is or on a bun with mustard and onions or sliced up in a pasta salad. They stay juicy even if you get sidetracked by the festivities and they reheat just fine. Best of all, they don’t cost an arm and a leg to feed a crowd.

Pass by the precooked varieties, but any hearty-flavoured link will taste great off the barbecue. The only sure way of cooking and not overcooking a sausage is a meat thermometer. You want to see 160 F before you serve them, so take them off the heat at about 155.

The technique is the same as cooking on the stove or in the oven — start at a low temperature until they are just about cooked through then turn up the heat to give their casings snap, colour and texture. On the barbecue that means starting on the cooler side for 12 to 15 minutes then moving them to the hottest part for the last few. Depending on the thickness allow 15 to 20 minutes in all.

The only thing left to talk about is what to serve on them or with them. Each of these recipes will top 12 sausages but halve or double as you see fit.

Peppers and Onions for Italian Sausages

4 large onions, sliced

1/4 cup olive oil

2 each red and green bell peppers, cut into strips

1 bulb garlic, separated into cloves, peeled and chopped

1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes

2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

Fry onions in oil in a large frying pan until slightly softened. Add peppers and garlic and cook until everything is tender and fragrant. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano and tomatoes and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in vinegar. Serve on top of sausages in big buns or slice sausages and stir into pepper mixture.

Chicago Dogs

4 ripe tomatoes, chopped

2 large onions, diced

4 cans pickled whole jalapeno peppers, drained and cut into large strips

4 large dill pickles, thickly sliced

mustard and green relish

2 tbsp. celery salt

Prepare regular large frankfurters or any mild flavoured sausages for this classic treatment. Put the links in sturdy buns and top with the condiments, ending with a sprinkle of celery salt.

Burgerpalooza

Now let’s go for that giant juicy burger. I would turn down most steaks for a properly cooked, generously dressed charred patty with plenty of cheese.

These you have to pay attention to because overcooked burgers are a travesty. The internal cooked temperature for ground beef is 160 F and unfortunately we are stuck with this rule unless you’re willing to take big health risks.

I have stretched hamburgers with everything from breadcrumbs to rolled oats. I have added chopped up onions and garlic, as well as beaten eggs and ketchup. What I have discovered in the last few years, however, is the best burger has absolutely nothing in it.

Allow 6 oz. of meat per burger and don’t buy extra-lean — it’s just too dry. Bring the meat to room temperature and pinch off enough for a patty. Gently form it, gathering the straggly bits around the edge, but don’t pack it tightly. Flatten uniformly but make an indentation in the middle so it doesn’t ball up when cooking. Sprinkle with about 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper, evenly divided between the top and bottom.

Brush both sides with vegetable oil. Grill or fry over high heat until each side is crusty and brown and the centre has come nearly up to temperature. Allow to rest a couple of minutes. Serve on toasted buns — ones that are the right size for your patties, please.

The toppings are where your imagination can run wild — I offer up suggestions only. The trick is resisting the temptation to throw on the kitchen sink.

Mushroom and Onion Burgers

2 lb. sliced fresh mushrooms, any varieties you like

2 tbsp. each butter and vegetable oil

2 large onions, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fry mushrooms in butter and oil in a large frying pan until they release their moisture and it evaporates. Add onions and cook together until everything is golden brown but not completely mushy. Stir in garlic, salt and pepper and fry another minute or two, until garlic is fragrant. Pile high on burgers and top, if you like, with slices of Swiss cheese.

BLT Burgers

12 slices good cheddar cheese

1 lb. bacon, fried not quite crisp but cooked

sliced tomatoes, crisp romaine lettuce leaves

When just about cooked, top each burger patty with a slice of cheese. When melted, place burger on bun. Top with bacon, lettuce and tomato. I like mustard and mayo on top of mine, but add whatever condiments you like.

Pickles, Lettuce and Thousand Island Dressed Burgers

1 cup mayonnaise, not salad dressing

1/4 cup ketchup

2 tsp. Dijon or other hot mustard

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup minced pickled jalapeno peppers (more or less to taste)

1 clove garlic, grated

12 slices good cheddar cheese

shredded lettuce and bread and butter pickles

Yes, these are rip-offs of that famous fast-food burger that we’ve all eaten, but they’re better. All you have to do is make your own dressing by combining the mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir in hot peppers and garlic and refrigerate until ready to use. Slather it on each burger generously and top with cheese, lettuce and pickles.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s,

NL, A1E 4N1.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Chicago

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