If you’ve ever eaten at The Fat Radish on New York City’s Lower East Side, then you know executive chef Nicholas Wilber (pictured below) knows his way around a grill, cooking up everything from super-fresh veggie fare to a particularly decadent hamburger (served with duck fat fries and house pickles) on a nightly basis.
So we could think of no one better to consult with when it came time to plan our 4th of July BBQ. Here, Wilber demystifies the stressful corn “shuck” and discloses his favorite super-spicy burger topping.
1. Speed Up Your Shuck. “I love grilling vegetables in the summer—obviously, if you know The Fat Radish,” says Wilber. “Corn on the grill is amazing, but shucking and getting all the silk off is a pain. If you peel off about half the layer of husk and soak your corn in salted water for 30 minutes and then grill, the water keeps the husk from catching on fire as well as seasoning the corn”
2. When in Doubt, Char. “Corn grilled or even baked this way gets an amazing light husky flavor, almost a light smoke. The stringy silk adheres to the husk and comes off with ease. I use the same method with English peas in the shell, soaking them, then grilling, to get a nice char on the outside.”
3. Experiment with Seasonings. Wilber likes to serve grilled veggies like “edamame, with a little chili oil and a touch of mint salt. A nice backyard pre-BBQ drinking snack.”
4. Pass the Chilis. “I grew up in southwestern Colorado, and when it comes to my ideal burger topping, nothing is better than Hatch green chili,” Wilber shares. “Grown in New Mexico, this green chili has an amazing flavor and comes in a variety of heat levels—from the appropriately named ‘sandia’ meaning watermelon, which is the mildest to the ‘lumbre salvaje,’ meaning wildfire. You can guess the heat. Every fall after the harvest you can find stands outside grocery stores and at farmers markets roasting these peppers, filling the air with an amazing aroma.” If you can’t get to the Southwest, in the fall you can find them online at hatch-green-chile.com.
5. Stick to What You Like. When it comes to Wilber’s favorite way to eat a burger, he stays true to the classics. “Some cheddar cheese, tomato, maybe even a little avocado, and I’m good to go!”