I once prepared the food for friends of mine who were married at Sand Harbor. The wedding, as with most events, went off without a hitch for the partygoers, even with the usual unforeseen circumstances, one of which included gusty winds.
I thought about a lot of different things I needed to account for because I was going to grill food for 150 people. For example, I used two grills: one gas and the other charcoal to cook tri-tip, chicken breasts, asparagus, portabella mushrooms, zucchini and yellow squash. I used the gas grill to cook the tri-tip while the charcoal was getting hot enough to cook on. There was easily more than a 100-degree difference between one end of the gas grill and the other due to the wind. It was easy to go from a hot spot to a cooler spot to slow down the cooking but finding that sweet spot was a challenge.
It is simple, but you will see it really does give a great flavor.
The charcoal grill was even worse. There were times when the wind was dead calm, but that certainly wasn’t the norm for the day. It would go from no wind to gusts and then to a steady, constant stream of wind. The coals would be smoking hot and then the wind would cover them with ash; the temperature would drop drastically.
Deciding what order in which to cook things also posed a dilemma. I had two hot boxes but the lower three shelves of one were unusable because of previous damage to the rack system. This meant that something had to go from the grill straight to the buffet. The tri-tip takes the longest to cook, so I started with that. I needed three shelves for the mashed potatoes, which I made just before going to Sand Harbor. That left the veggies and the chicken.
Did I mention I also had to make a few fruit, cheese and cracker trays and a vegetable and dip tray an hour before dinner? That also affected what I had going on the grill because I couldn’t set up the platters too soon or they would dry, crack and wither. My attention was divided.
What it came down to was the veggies had to be cooked first and put into the box. Why? Because it takes a whole lot of veggies to feed 150 people and I had to cut them a little thinner than I would have liked. The wind really cooled off the grill tremendously and the thicker vegetables would take too long to cook. I could also keep pans of veggies hot over the coals, but if I tried doing that with the chicken it would dry out and get tough.
For a while, I had both grills covered with veggies praying the wind would stay at the same speed so either hot or cold, the temperature would remain, I hoped, constant. I did luck out; it remained windy so the grill was as low to the coals as I could get it and just cool enough, so it gave me time to set up platters without worrying too much about burning anything.
By the time I started the chicken, the wind was starting to die down ever so slightly, so I had to raise one side of the grill a little higher off the coals for a hot side and a cooler side. With that setup, I could slow grill the chicken, so it was juicy and ready for the buffet line.
This brings us to the marinade I used: lemon honey. It is simple, but, if you try it, you will see it really does give a great flavor.
Lemon Honey Chicken
6 chicken breasts, skinned
4-6 oz. frozen lemonade (no water added)
¼ C honey
2 T Dijon
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 rosemary twigs, leaves removed and chopped
Salt & pepper
4 oz. vegetable oil
Combine everything except the oil and mix well. Taste and add a little more honey or lemonade salt and pepper as needed. Wisk the oil in and let the chicken marinade at least 8 hours or overnight before grilling.