If Henry James was right and ‘summer afternoon’ is the most beautiful phrase in the English language, the most beautiful letters have to be BBQ. As the temperatures continue to rise and, with them, the hemlines of sundresses everywhere, so too does our excitement for backyard barbecues — for friends and family gathered around picnic tables surrounded by the sweet, smoky smell of the grill.
To add to the beauty of such a scene — and, yes, to its overall deliciousness—we’ve gathered some tips from the chefs of hot Hamptons restaurants Tutto Il Giorno, Bay Kitchen Bar and LT Burger on how to prepare the perfect backyard barbecue.
First up is a tip for tenderizing freshly grilled octopus from Southampton’s Tutto Il Giorno. The popular Neapolitan Italian restaurant (with outposts in Sag Harbor and Tribeca, too) offers guests elevated, authentic Italian cuisine with a focus on fresh, local ingredients. The secret to their take on grilled octopus, an Italian summer delicacy? “It’s an old Italian wives tale, but adding a wine cork to the stock certainly works in helping to ensure a tender octopus,” says executive chef Maurizio Marfoglia. He also makes sure to never add acidity such as vinegar, wine or lemon to the stock, and lets the octopus cool off in its own water before grilling. This gives the octopus a burst of added flavor and ensures that it maintains the perfect texture.
Our next two tips are for anyone who believes — as we do — that nothing says barbecue quite like a burger. Bay Kitchen Bar’s got your back. Overlooking the marina at Three Mile Harbor and famous for its refreshing cocktails and freshly caught sea-to-table cuisine, Bay Kitchen Bar is famous, too, for its signature burger.
“Ask your butcher to blend dry-aged sirloin into your ground beef for a more flavorful and juicy patty,” says chef-restaurateur Eric Miller. If the blend is good, he recommends minimal seasoning. “When you start with a great meat blend, you only need to season with some Amagansett Sea Salt, fresh cracked black pepper and a little good extra-virgin olive oil.”
Another tip to help elevate you to King or Queen of the Grill? Source your fruits and vegetables locally. “Great farms and farmers markets, like Round Swamp Farm, surround us. Strawberries are in season now, which are great to add to cocktails, salads and desserts. Using the same ingredient in more than one course ties the meal together nicely. Also lettuces, chard, kale and asparagus from Satur Farms on the North Fork,” says Miller.
And finally, from the team behind the mouthwatering burgers, fried pickles and signature milkshakes at LT Burger in Sag Harbor, is this tip from chef-owner Laurent Tourondel.
To make your burger juicier, he says, “Dunk the patty in cold water for about 30 seconds before grilling. Your guests will definitely enjoy more.” Tourondel also grills vegetables and fruits using the same method. “You can grill just about anything, so impress your guests with a variety of grilled vegetables and fruits, like eggplant, asparagus, corn and pineapple! The possibilities are endless.”
And so, too, is our hunger—which is why we’re not finished with you yet.
No round-up would be complete without a recipe! Enjoy this one—for the ultimate Backyard BBQ Octopus—from Bay Kitchen Bar’s Eric Miller (with wine pairing by Adam Miller).
Backyard BBQ Octopus from Bay Kitchen Bar
For the octopus
2 to 3 pound clean baby octopus from you local fishmonger, make sure beak is removed
1⁄2 cup celery, chopped
1⁄2 cup onion, chopped
juice of 4 fresh-squeezed lemons
1 tsp sea salt, plus additional to taste
1 tsp ground black pepper, plus additional to taste
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
Bunch of arugula, rinsed well
For the dressing
1/2 cup heirloom tomatoes, diced
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and diced
3 Tbs EVOO
1 Tbs juice of fresh-squeezed lemon
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 Tbs fresh basil, parsley and chervil, chopped
- Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot
- Add 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon crushed black pepper and 1 teaspoon Old Bayseasoning
- Add chopped celery and onion with the juice of 3 fresh lemons (reserve 1 lemon’s juicefor later)
- Immerse the octopus in very lightly boiling water, just a simmer is very important
- Cook for about 45 minutes or until you can pass a toothpick through the octopus withvery little resistance
- Remove and set aside to cool, dispose of cooking liquid
- Once cooled, fire up your wood burning or charcoal grill and wait for charcoal to begin toform
- In the meantime, cut the legs free from the head, slice the head into big chunks andplace in a large mixing bowl
- Marinate the octopus in a little EVOO with sea salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper
- Place on hot grill and cook until octopus pieces are slightly crispy on both sides while avoiding flare ups (about 2 to 3 minutes)
- Remove and place on a platter over fresh arugula
- Mix all dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl
- Spoon dressing over grilled octopus, and finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon, salt andpepper to taste
- Pair with a Rosé from Wölffer Estate and Enjoy!
Yields: 4-6 appetizer portions
Tutto Il Giorno is at 56 Nugent Street, Southampton (631.377.3611), and 6 Bay Street, Sag Harbor (631.725.7009). Bay Kitchen Bar is at 39 Gann Road, East Hampton (631.329.3663). LT Burger is at 62 Main Street, Sag Harbor (631.899.4646).