Here on Long Island, visions of blue skies, green grass and juicy burgers get us through the chill of winter. The smell of a grill, the sip of a refreshing cocktail—these are the simple pleasures we live for when the weather warms. And as such, the ones that deserved to be elevated to meet the highest of expectations. This summer, raise the standard barbecue to what this sacred season merits. Leave tired, frozen beef patties behind and follow these recipes, tips and tricks from some of Long Island’s most talented chefs. From classic brisket to reinvented burgers, finfish skewers and homemade ice cream, these are the shortcuts for curating the best barbecue in town.
Claws Seafood Market, Crab Shack & Clam Bar
When it comes to protein, quality is king. With seafood, it’s doubly important, which is why Claws Seafood Market is a boon for aficionados. Chemical, preservative and additive-free seafood from around the world fill fishmonger Frank Palermo’s cases in his St. James and Sayville restaurants, where the kitchens—and reputation—excel in the raw.
Their lobster rolls rank among the best on the Island. And their steamed-off-the-bone tuna melts and freshly made soups have their own legions of fans. For the barbecue, Palermo offers a simpler way to impress—no cracking, filleting or other fussy techniques required.
“Meaty fish are great on the grill,” he said. “I love using mako shark. It’s like the tofu of seafood. It picks up the flavor of marinades and spices so easily. Texturally, local swordfish or marlin, spearfish and Hawaiian opah or wahoo are also excellent options. You can also grill salmon; use a cedar plank for best results.”
4 long wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes to prevent burning
1 cup teriyaki sauce
¼ cup pineapple juice (optional)
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced (optional)
1–2 cloves fresh garlic, minced (optional)
12 or 16 1½ inch cubes of fresh trimmed and skinned mako
1 red onion
1 cup cubed fresh pineapple
Mix teriyaki sauce with optional flavor enhancing ingredients through mako. Toss the fish in this mixture and marinate for 15 minutes.
Thread three to four cubes of fish onto each skewer, alternating with chunks of red onion and fresh pineapple.
Grill on high heat for five to six minutes for “the most tender and flavorful fish ever.”
“Perfect Pear” Sliders
Off the Block Kitchen & Meats
On the eastern outskirts of Sayville, the scent of hand-cut fries and roasting meats emanates from a lone industrial-chic building. Within is a pristine market of organic, prime, grass-fed and specialty meats and a casual dining area filled with locals sinking their teeth into upscale, comfort food-inspired sandwiches by day and rotating specials or cooked-to-order steaks by night.
At the helm stands Stephen Rizzo, who marries glamorous gastronomy with salt-of-the-earth butchery. One example is the restaurant’s weekly burger special, dreamed up, ground up and mixed up every Tuesday. The wildly inventive burgers (think: a nacho black bean burger with chipotle-cheddar cheese sauce) are crowd pleasers.
“We first think about which protein would be best to use that day: beef, chicken, sausage pork, even vegetables. We then think about cheese. Cheeses that are earthy, moldy, buttery or strong work well with beef. Examples would be Gorgonzola, cheddar or smoked gouda. Ones that work great with poultry are sharp, sweet, salty and tangy, such as Parmesan or Swiss.”
24oz high quality ground chuck
Salt and pepper to taste
8 slices of applewood smoked bacon
8oz Gorgonzola cheese
8oz port-poached sliced Bosc pear
8oz baby arugula
1 tbsp port wine reduction
8 hearty, sturdy slider buns, such as brioche, wheat, multigrain or pretzel
Shape meat into eight equal-sized three-ounce patties. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and dimple the centers for even cooking.
Prepare the bacon and set aside. Grill the burger patties and toast the buns as desired.
When the beef is cooked, remove and let rest momentarily. Set one on the heel of each bun and top with one halved slice of bacon per burger and one ounce each of the remaining ingredients. Drizzle the port wine reduction over the toppings, cap with the top half of the bun and serve.
Smoke Shack Blues
Another fine-dining mastermind taking a “down home” approach is chef Jonathan Levine of Smoke Shack Blues in Port Jefferson. Levine’s résumé includes accolade-studded leadership stints at some of Las Vegas and New York City’s best-known restaurants as well as the local WAVE Seafood Kitchen. His first solo venture takes on the best of America’s famous barbecue regions and brings them together in a collection he calls “urban style.”
His low and slow smoked chicken, pulled pork and dry-rubbed ribs keep customers coming back, but it’s the rosy-ringed, succulent brisket that puts this pit on the map. With his recipe and tips for preparation, it’ll be your barbecue the clan will be clamoring for.
“Being mindful of good air flow is key to good smoked barbecue,” Levine said. “The goal is to cook with moving hot air from burning wood, not stale warm air from smoldering wood, a.k.a. ‘dirty smoke.’ Weather can also affect your smoking. Hot, cold, rainy and windy days all offer factors that need to be controlled in order to spike and hold the needed temperature. And of course, don’t forget about adding a pan of water to the barbecue.”
12 pieces of seasoned white oak (8 months or longer)
12+ lbs of Angus beef brisket, trimmed to ¼ inch thick
2 cups brown mustard
1 cup Guinness beer
1 cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup each salt and pepper, mixed
Start the fire four hours before cooking should begin.
Mix brown mustard, beer and vinegar. Rub the brisket with this dredge and then dust with the salt and pepper blend. Wrap in plastic and allow it to come to room temperature, roughly two hours.
By this time, the temperature in the smoker should be at 275 degrees. Place the meat in the smoker until the desired “bark” is confirmed—at least six hours.
Wrap brisket in butcher paper and replace in the smoker until a 203-degree internal temperature is reached.
Remove, let rest for one hour and cut against the grain to serve.
The Front Porch
Cork and Kerry
Every shindig needs a signature cocktail. Who better to ask for one than the beverage director of the speakeasies Cork and Kerry of Floral Park and Rockville Centre? Doug Brickel describes this summer favorite as, “refreshing and crisp from both the light, fragrant cucumber flavor of the vodka and sun-soaked watermelon.”
Brickel’s beverage program focuses on using genuine ingredients and this cocktail is no exception. “Freshly squeezed lime juice gives a nice edge and balances the drink gently on the tart side. As for the watermelon juice, the best process—outside of using a masticating juicer—is to blend chunks of the melon until liquid, then fine-strain through cheesecloth. I’d recommend making these as close as you can to when you plan to serve them; watermelon juice can get funky within twelve hours,” Brickel said.
1 750ml bottle Crop Organic cucumber vodka
24oz fresh strained watermelon juice
6oz fresh strained lime juice
9oz Triple Sec or dry Curaçao
1 bottle lemon-lime soda to taste
Add ice to a punch bowl or beverage dispenser.
Pour alcohols and juices over ice and stir with a ladle.
Serve or dispense into tall glasses filled ¾ of the way with ice. Top with a splash of cold lemon-lime soda.
Garnish with watermelon and enjoy with a tall straw.
Vanilla Bean Crème Anglaise Ice Cream
From the Culinary Institute of America to an ice cream truck, chef Erica Belk offers no ordinary meal on wheels. Her and partner Stephanie’s homemade ice cream sandwiches—served between slices of whimsically bread-shaped soft cookies—have made their food truck a farmer’s market favorite in Rockville Centre and Seaford and a wedding party darling.
Imagination and the eschewing of extracts and imitation ingredients in favor of fresh, quality components are the keys to their ice cream’s luscious flavor and texture. Patience for the multi-day process and a watchful eye are yet others as Belk cautioned, “Remember to freeze your ice cream bowl at least 24 hours prior. And don’t overheat your ice cream base or walk away from the stove when making it…you need to whisk, whisk, whisk!”
She also advised to resist over-churning. “A common misconception is that you’ll get that familiar ‘hard’ texture right out of the machine, but it should actually be soft when you transfer it into containers. It’ll turn into butter if you churn too much to try to get it to harden.”
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar, divided in half
9 large egg yolks
½ pod fresh vanilla bean, scraped
Mix-in ideas (optional):
Rainbow sprinkles and crushed cake doughnuts for “Funfetti”
Crushed Oreos for cookies and cream
Crushed peanut butter/chocolate candies and grape jelly for PBJ
Combine milk, cream, vanilla and ½ cup of sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring periodically to avoid burning. Then remove from heat.
While the cream mix heats, whisk together remaining sugar and egg yolks until fluffy and pale yellow. Temper a small ladleful of the cream mixture into the egg yolk to reduce the risk of scrambling the eggs.
Return the saucepan to the stove over low heat and slowly add the egg mixture into the pot, whisking continuously until well blended.
Switch to a wooden spoon and continue mixing until it reaches 170 degrees and the consistency is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.
Fill the frozen ice cream machine bowl up to ¾ full with chilled crème anglaise base from the day before. Prepare according to manufacturer’s instructions, churning 15 to 20 minutes until thickened.
Place ¼ of the mix-ins in airtight storage containers. Add remaining mix-ins to the machine and let spin for one minute before taking the ice cream out and hand mixing until ingredients are evenly distributed but not melted. Scoop into the containers.
Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the ice cream, close the containers and freeze for at least three hours.