Great Grilling

Local chefs Thierry Rautureau of Rover’s and Jason McClure of Sazerac share their secrets for summer barbecues

Story by Braiden Rex-Johnson
Photography by Alex Hayden

My memories of childhood barbecues are equal parts fear and dread. Though my father was a distinguished surgeon, when it came to household tasks he refused to read instruction manuals. A big box arrived at our suburban home one day and, after a long afternoon of sweaty brows and taking the Lord’s name in vain, my father emerged from the garage with a fire-engine-red barbecue.

Dad wheeled his new toy into the middle of the yard and fired it up. In the days before gas barbecue grills were ubiquitous, this required rolls of newspaper, charcoal briquettes and copious amounts of lighter fluid. If everything didn’t catch fire immediately, my father and ever-helpful little brother would simply add more fuel. My male relatives’ pyromaniac tendencies seemed like an invitation to disaster.

Whenever my father announced that it was a good night for a barbecue, I stood yards away. As an adult, I continued to keep my distance from barbecues and outdoor grills. And what I’ve noticed—as I stood back and watched—is that the popularity of grilling is, well, exploding.

I didn’t have to look far to find two avid grilling fans—and professional chefs—who were more than happy to share their passion for great grilling: Thierry Rautureau, owner and chef at Rover’s in Madison Valley, and Jason McClure, executive chef at the ever-sizzling Sazerac in downtown Seattle.

Rover’s Thierry Rautureau

The gregarious “Chef in the Hat,” Rautureau turns summer grilling into a family-and-friends affair but likes to keep things simple.

“My family loves to dine alfresco and we don’t limit grilling to July 4th or Bastille Day,” he says. “Meats, poultry, fish and vegetables are on our home barbecue almost nightly. Entertaining outdoors is one of the best things about living in the Pacific Northwest.”

Rautureau likes to create a summer mini-buffet by visiting the local farmers’ market, then grilling up his “finds.” One favorite meal is Grilled Pork Chops with Dijon Mustard, Asparagus and Walla Walla Sweets. The chef marinates the chops in the refrigerator overnight in a simple rub made of Dijon mustard, olive oil and black pepper. Thanks to the marinade, the chops stay tender and juicy. Rautureau pairs the pork with Walla Walla onions and fresh asparagus spears, marinated in olive oil and fresh thyme before grilling.

Sazerac’s Jason McClure

My second grilling expert, Jason McClure, teaches a grilling class as part of Sazerac’s “Little Bit of Lovin’” cooking-class series. His next class is scheduled for Saturday, August 19, at 2 p.m. Sazerac’s summer menu will feature grilled seasonal local foods such as house-made sausage and wild salmon.

McClure generously shared his recipe for Grilled Stone Fruit Brochettes with Buttermilk Ice Cream as well as some of his “Sazy” grilling tips. The chef says that grilling is more fun if you are organized and have everything you’ll need prepped before you start.

A few of McClure’s tips:

• Start with a hot, clean, well-lubricated grill. This prevents proteins from sticking.
• Dry spice rubs jazz up simple cuts of meat, seafood and poultry.
• Soaked wood chips or chunks, such as mesquite, hickory, alder, apple, oak, cherry or pecan, flavor foods with an earthy, smoky flavor.