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Kings of the Coals

May 21, 1997|CHARLES PERRY

Monday is Memorial Day, that time of year when, according to tradition, people start barbecuing again.

Actually, many of us--maybe most of us--have been grilling since February, if we ever stopped at all. But tradition is tradition.

And a holiday is a holiday, so let's do it right. If we've got the whole weekend off, let's not just grill chicken and burgers; we've got all summer for that. Make it steaks and chops, the kings of backyard barbecue.

The main secret to great barbecued steaks and chops is all too simple: You have to buy the expensive cuts. Cheaper steaks and chops are fine for sauteing, but they may come out tough and dry on the barbecue. As James Beard and Helen Evans Brown put it in "The Complete Book of Outdoor Cookery," "If you need to pinch the pennies, don't have chops."

In the case of pork, even the best chops require careful handling to avoid dryness. Sear the chops on both sides over the hotter part of the coals if you like, but do most of the cooking on a cooler part of the grill. The best way is to put on the barbecue lid and let the chops cook mostly by indirect heat.

Most grill gurus say to salt the meat lightly before putting it on the fire, but there is also an intensely vocal anti-salting party. The more elaborate route, of course, is to marinate.

And then there is the whole world of garnishes and side dishes. But remember--they're just the jesters and counselors and courtesans. The steak (or chop) is the king.

CURRIED YOGURT-MARINATED CHOPS

This traditional Indian marinade is good on any meat. Serve the pork chops with mango chutney or peach preserves. The recipe was developed by Charles Perry.

1 cup yogurt

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced ginger root

1 tablespoon oil

2 tablespoons curry powder

1 teaspoon poppy seeds, optional

4 large loin pork chops, 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick

Mix yogurt, garlic, ginger, oil, curry powder and poppy seeds if desired. Marinate chops overnight.

Remove from refrigerator 2 hours before cooking. Sear 1 minute on each side in hottest part of barbecue, then move to cooler part, cover grill and cook until chops are pale pink in center when cut, 12 to 15 minutes.

4 servings. Each serving:

276 calories; 92 mg sodium; 55 mg cholesterol; 21 grams fat; 6 grams carbohydrates; 16 grams protein; 0.04 gram fiber.

ONION JUICE STEAK

This simple but effective marinade gives a good oniony smell to the meat. Charles Perry adapted it from a Persian marinade for lamb that uses saffron instead of thyme.

1 onion

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, leaves only

1 (1/2-pound) New York strip steak

Puree onion on grater or in food processor (leave windows open because of fumes). Press through cheesecloth or fine strainer. Mix thyme into juice. Seal steak and marinade in plastic bag and marinate overnight in refrigerator.

1 serving.

255 calories; 102 mg sodium; 104 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 37 grams protein; 0.73 gram fiber.

HORSERADISH GARLIC BUTTER

If you're grilling high-quality aged beef, you probably don't want to obscure the flavor of the meat with a heavy sauce. A flavored butter, like this one developed by Mayi Brady in The Times Test Kitchen, can be just the thing to add a little zip to a simple grilled steak.

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened

2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon mild paprika

2 teaspoons minced chives

Pinch white pepper

Combine butter, horseradish, garlic, paprika, chives and pepper in small bowl and stir until well mixed. On wax paper, shape into roll about 1 inch in diameter. Refrigerate until ready to use. Slice and place on hot steak to melt.

4 to 6 servings. Each of 6 servings:

71 calories; 83 mg sodium; 21 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.09 gram fiber.

PARMESAN-PARSLEY BUTTER

This butter, developed by Mayi Brady in The Times Test Kitchen from an idea by Charles Perry, is surprisingly good. Use high-quality Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano.

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley

Combine butter, cheese and parsley in small bowl and stir until well mixed. On wax paper, shape into roll about 1 inch in diameter. Refrigerate until ready to use. Slice and place on hot steak to melt.

8 servings. Each serving:

116 calories; 174 mg sodium; 33 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 0 carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.01 gram fiber.

BALSAMIC EGGPLANT RELISH

This puree, developed by Charles Perry, combines the dark, meaty flavors of balsamic vinegar and fried eggplant.

1 eggplant

Salt

1/4 cup oil

2 to 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, or more to taste

Peel eggplant and slice 1/4-inch thick. Salt slices and let rest 1/2 hour. Rinse and pat dry. Heat oil in large skillet and fry eggplant slices on both sides until brown.

Drain on paper towels, then press between fresh paper towels to remove as much oil as possible. Puree and mix with balsamic vinegar. Serve on or beside steak.

6 to 8 servings. Each of 6 servings:

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