Take a look at our slideshow of Labor Day recipes.
As soon as the warm weather finally deigns to make an appearance in Connecticut, The One and I uncover Brunhilde, our Weber Summit grill, with a flourish not unlike that of a svelte Spanish bullfighter. The One stands back and lets me check for any mouse families that may have taken up residence during the winter. (There was one unfortunate year when he found two trembling baby mice, their mini-marble eyes pleading, and the ungodly sound that came out of him—the lovechild of the piercing shriek of a six-year-old schoolgirl and a cheap smoke detector—sent me flying. I wheeled the grill to the back of our yard, relocated the mouse family, and gave them a supply of nuts that would carry them through the season. Since then, it is I and only I who conducts the annual Lifting of the Lid Ceremony.)
But I digress.
What I’ve noticed lo these past 18 years is our cavemanish-tossing-of-meat-onto-flame season comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Or rather, comes in like a steer and goes out like a lamb. Once Brunhilde is disrobed, exfoliated, and polished, we descend upon her with trays of hamburgers, and…wait for it…hot dogs. Yes, hot dogs. And not just any hot dogs. Ball Park Franks, because they plump when you cook ’em. We’ve craved the taste of grilled beef and questionable meat all winter, and it takes us a few weeks to satiate ourselves.
Then around the beginning of August malaise sets in. How many burgers (cheesed or naked), hot dogs (plebeian or gourmet), racks of ribs, trays of grilled vegetables—especially zucchini—can you take? That’s when we start to look around for the different, the unusual, the utterly fantabulous.
Once freed of our burger and dog lust, we dig into lamb chops and the thickest steaks; turn to the sea for shrimp, fish, and clams (yes, clams); grill every fruit possible (tip: don’t even consider blueberries); and even dessert. All of this is thanks to Jamie Purviance, who gave me a good-natured drubbing followed by an eye-opening education in all things grilling last summer.
What we’ve assembled here are some of our best, albeit rather unconventional, recipes to help you cap off your summer with a wee bit of élan—and, if done right, a heaping helping of bragging rights. We’re not suggesting you pass on the burgers and beer, all we’re saying is give lamb a chance.