As summer ends — indicated at least by the calendar if not the thermometer — the days of frequent outdoor grilling are numbered. But tea, beyond its iced form, can surely play a role in al fresco cooking in the form of a marinade/glaze for beautiful fresh fish (salmon or other moist-fleshed varieties) or poultry (dark meat here is best). Brew up some black tea (slightly more of the leaf per dose of water than you would ordinarily for a beverage). While the tea is still hot, add some fresh peeled ginger root, a smashed garlic clove or two, and a small amount of honey to sweeten slightly.  Bring to a boil and then remove from the heat. Sieve out any solids and let cool. Then place fish or chicken into a bowl. Pour ½ of the mixture over it. Then refrigerate for an hour or two, or up to overnight. The remaining half of the marinade should now be boiled to thin coating consistency. Do not burn. Now cover and refrigerate. (You may have to dilute with a bit of hot water to make it brushable just before using.) 

When ready to cook, set the gas grill on medium, leaving part of the grill unheated (if using charcoal briquets, surround the outer edge of the grill with the coals, leaving the center empty. Heat until coals are white hot). Remove the fish or chicken from the marinade. Discard this marinade. Grill the fish (I count 10 minutes for each inch of the filleted fish, measured at the thickest point). Chicken thighs are done at 165° F. when tested at the thickest point.  During grilling, you can move the fish or chicken off of direct heat to slow the cooking down and leave it there. Five minutes before you remove the protein from the grill baste it with some of the reserved marinade. Remove from the grill, sprinkle with some freshly snipped chives or scallion greens, thinly sliced. Serve with the remaining marinade, steamed rice, and a seasonal vegetable (green patty pan squash or shredded jicama are some of my favorites). If good fresh figs or stone fruit are still available at your local farmer’s market, by all means grill those with a brush of marinade as well. 

To recap: 

  • Quantities for the marinade are approximate and infinitely adjustable— use more or less ginger root or garlic as you like
  • Enough to marinate and glaze 2 dinner-sized servings of fish or chicken
  • 2 cups of strongly brewed black tea (Keemun or Yunnan varieties work well here)
  • 2 inches of peeled and thinly sliced fresh ginger root
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 T. honey (clover or other variety)

Bring all ingredients to a boil. Remove from heat, pour through a sieve, and set half of the liquid aside to use later. As noted above, half will be used as a marinade (poured over the protein in a bowl and covered) and the other half as a glaze which needs to be cooked again to reduce to thin-coating consistency. Cover and refrigerate the glaze as well.

Photo “Grilled Chicken…” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License to the photographer Brian Child and is being posted unaltered (source)