We're in the kitchen at Pulqueria, a local hot spot for authentic Mexican cuisine, a cozy nook on Doyers Street in Chinatown. Chef Coby Farrow has his tool kit in hand and fire's up the grill. And that's the first tip. "You want the grill to be hot to make sure that things cook evenly and cook through. But not the 'flames shooting up' hot. That's dangerous and usually tends to give your meat that taste of butane if you're using a gas grill."
He's prepared some basic options (not counting hot dogs and burgers since that's pretty much par for the course): a New York strip steak, shrimp, and chicken on the bone. "With the steak, you only want to season when you're ready to cook. And you can't go wrong with salt and pepper." He's using a coarse ground of both, sprinkles generously (on both sides) and pats it into the meat. "The key is to get the meat to room temperature. If its too cold it'll stick when it gets to the grill. If its too warm, you may be in danger of a bacteria situation."
And speaking of sticking, oiling the grill is a must. Chef Coby uses canola oil, soaking a towel in it and using tongs to spread it easily across the grill's surface. "You may have to re-apply based on how long you'll be at the grill because it'll burn off as you go. But start with a generous coating to make sure that you're not fighting to flip when the time comes."
Now for those famous hash marks. "You have to think of your grill like a clock," continues Coby. "You'll place the meat at ten o'clock and then at two o'clock and then do the same on the other side when you flip. You have to resist the urge to move it around too much. Let the grill do its thing and you'll be way happier with the result." The New York strip is a basic butcher cut, a few minutes at each angle on each side to achieve his preferred medium rare but there's no shame in getting the marks on the grill and finishing things off in the oven for a medium to medium-well. But regardless of your choice, you can't forget one thing: "You have to let the meat rest. Whenever there's blood still moving in the meat, letting it rest allows all the juices the flow back in. That way you get a juicy bite instead of a ton of fluid oozing out onto your plate. That's where all the flavor is so you don't want to lose that."
Next to the shrimp. You don't want to marinate for too long, probably 24-hours at maximum. He recommends a citrus base "OJ, lemon or lime juice" and a mix of spices. The shrimp cooks a lot quicker and he tops it with a chimichurri, a mix of fresh herbs and olive oil that you can blend or whisk down and let sit overnight. "It's something that anyone can make and its present in a lot of cultures. Plus it goes great over chicken, fish or pork too so you'll get a lot of uses out of it."
The chicken starts with the same citrus base and the final topping but there's two options for how to cook it well. "Some people choose to par-cook the chicken first, poaching it in spices before heading to the grill. But you can also grill first and finish in the oven. Again, don't get anxious and try to move it too often. Just control your heat level and let the grill do what it does best."
And trust us, we did the taste test. This is a sure way to impress this Fourth of July weekend! Enjoy!
If you're in the city check out Pulqueria and connect with Chef Coby here.