After a long cold winter, it’s finally time to bring out the grill and get ready for springtime cooking. If your grill is anything like mine, it will need a little cleaning and seasoning before you fire it up. I leave mine covered throughout the rainy season in northern California, but mold and rust can often occur from the moisture. (At home, I have a gas grill, which I like for convenience, but I actually prefer the flavor of charcoal or hardwood). If your grill looks rusty and moldy from storage, it’s a good idea to remove the grates and scrub them with a wire brush and hot soapy water and then rinse thoroughly with clean water.
For gas grills, make sure the tank is turned off and disconnect the gas. Look for any cracks, holes or rusted out areas in the gas line and burner tubes – if you find any major damage, you may need to replace these parts. Use canned air to blow out any spider webs or dust that may have accumulated during the winter months. Also, remove the drip bars located over the burners and wash them with hot soapy water. Brush the burners with a wire brush to remove any residue.
After cleaning, the grill needs to be brought up to temperature and dried out. Once the grill is hot, take a clean cloth soaked in vegetable oil and carefully wipe down the grates. This will help remove any remaining residue.
Now you just need to decide what’s for dinner. This year I’m starting off with grilled salmon and asparagus – paired with Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay for me and our Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Noir for my wife (recently voted Best of Class in the Pinot Noir Under $20.00 category in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition).
To help extend the life of your grill, remember to always clean the grill after cooking. Use a wire brush to remove any leftover food and carefully wipe down the grates with a clean cloth soaked in vegetable oil.
Grilled Salmon Filet with Asparagus and Béarnaise Aioli
This simple Béarnaise Aioli is a great accompaniment for seared salmon. The versatility of the dish makes it a wonderful pairing with Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
- 8 (6 oz.) salmon filets, skin and bones removed
- 40 asparagus spears
- 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
- Preheat grill to high heat and brush with oil.
- Separately, rub salmon and asparagus spears liberally with olive oil and season with salt.
- Place salmon on grill serving-side down and cook approximately 5 minutes before flipping over. (Most types of fish cook uniformly at ten minutes per inch of thickness. Salmon should be slightly rare in the middle to allow the wonderful richness of the Omega-3 fats to come through).
- Grill asparagus for 2 minutes on each side or until tender.
To serve: Place 5 spears of asparagus in the center of each plate. Top with béarnaise aioli and salmon.
For the Béarnaise Aioli (yields 1½ cups):
- 8 black peppercorns, crushed
- 14 sprigs fresh tarragon (6 whole sprigs + 8 sprigs chopped)
- 2 shallots, minced
- ¼ C. tarragon vinegar
- ¼ C. Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay
- 2 egg yolks
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 C. rice oil
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 8 sprigs chervil
- Kosher salt
- Tabasco sauce
- Tie the peppercorns and 6 sprigs of tarragon in cheesecloth.
- In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, simmer with the shallots, vinegar and wine until the liquid has been reduced by about 90%.
- Allow the béarnaise reduction to cool.
- Place egg yolks in the bowl of a food processor. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and rice oil until it becomes thick. (If you don’t feel comfortable using raw egg yolks or would like to save a little time, 1¼ cups mayonnaise may be substituted for the egg yolk and oil mixture).
- Remove mixture from food processor, place in a bowl and fold in the lemon juice, béarnaise reduction, chopped tarragon and chervil.
- Season to taste with salt and Tabasco. Refrigerate until ready to use or up to 4 days.