Memorial Day Grilling Tips From Chef Govind Armstrong
While chef Govind Armstrong is busy this Memorial Day in the kitchen of his 2 1/2-month-old restaurant Willie Jane on Abbot Kinney in Venice, scores of Angelenos will be firing up the grill. To get ready for the second-biggest BBQ holiday of the year -- July 4 is the biggest -- Armstrong, who also runs the restaurant Post & Beam in Baldwin Hills, offers his advice on how to grill the perfect burger, whip up a tasty marinade and clean those dirty grates. June 1 is the grand opening of Willie Jane's 4,000-square-foot garden, and on Saturdays Armstrong plans to serve a selection of grilled items on the patio. Turn the page...
Squid Ink: What would you barbecue on Memorial Day, if you had the day off?
Govind Armstrong: Whole sirloin cap. It's relatively inexpensive and easy to get at most butcher shops. It's slightly leaner. The flavor is unparalleled when it comes to many of the other common cuts; it's one of those perfect meats to grill. I don't grill at too high of a heat -- my grilling is closer to a hybrid of grilling and smoking. It's not a race.
My favorite thing to grill is probably soft shell crabs, because they're so delicious. Little bit of salt, pepper, oil -- that's it. Toss in a little bit of garlic. Then, when they come off, a squeeze of roasted or crushed lemon and more olive oil.
SI: What else would you throw on the grill?
GA: Corn is available at the farmers market -- the white corn that we've been getting at Post & Beam is super sweet and sugary. It really has a beautiful texture to it as well. I roast it in the husk, with just a little bit of salt, pepper, butter and maybe some thyme. Baby summer squash started up a little earlier this year -- they're delicious.
SI: What do you put in your marinade for vegetables?
GA: It's generally pretty simple. A drizzle of good olive oil, touch of salt, cracked black pepper, splash of red chili flake and a little bit of vinegar, depending on where that vegetable is going in the meal. If it's going into a grilled vegetable salad, I might do just a few drops of aged balsamic, or if they're on their own, I might do something with a cider or sherry vinegar. Toss the vegetables in a bowl and just drizzle everything right on top, and toss it around a little bit. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then throw it on the grill. Baby squash are so young and tender you don't really need to do a lot to them.
SI: And what about your marinade for meat?
GA: Normally, for the whole sirloin cap, I do dry rub. My pantry is pretty stocked with a lot of different dried spices, mostly whole. I take a few types of pepper -- black, white and pink peppercorn -- a little bit of coriander and paprika. I bring it all together, maybe some mustard seed, but it depends on what else is going with it. If it's going to be the focal point, or if it's going with a funky potato salad, you sort of want to mirror or pick up some of the flavors that you have going on in the other dishes.
SI: Do you grill fruit?
GA: I saw early watermelon popping up that looked pretty decent. I put it right on the grill with a little bit of salt and pepper, a sprinkling of sumac; grill it, dice it and toss with a little bit of arugula, shaved fennel, touch of feta cheese. It makes for an interesting little side salad.
SI: Since most people will be grilling burgers, what are your tips for the perfect burger?