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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

UP IN SMOKE SPECIAL EDITION: 
HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY
The feast day of St. Patrick, the legendary fifth century English missionary to Ireland, has become a convenient excuse for Americans to party.  No matter if they are of Irish descent or subscribe to the privations of Lent: Come March 17, it’s time to break out the brogue, the beer, and the beef—corned beef, that is.

So how did beef brisket—a chewy cut with strong ties to German transplants to Texas and Jewish immigrants, and with virtually no popularity in Ireland—come to be the iconic food of the American version of St. Paddy’s Day?

Here’s the answer: Irish immigrants to New York’s Lower East Side in the 1800s, unable to afford bacon and cabbage (the traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal in their homeland), substituted the beef brisket so popular with their equally poor Jewish neighbors.  But the Irish made it their own by brining it with salt—the term “corn” refers to the large particles of salt used—and other spices, and boiling it, usually with cabbage.

Well, this knowledge prompted me to rewrite my mantra: “If something tastes good baked, fried, or sautéed, it probably tastes better grilled.”  I figured something that tastes good boiled—as corned beef usually is—would also taste better grilled. (or more precisely smoked) Note to self: Add the word “boiled” to mantra. So I road-tested the theory last week by smoke-roasting corned beef brisket on the grill.

The challenge with any brisket, of course, is to cook it long enough to make it tender, without drying it out. The solution in this case is to cook it in an aluminum foil pan (to shield the meat on the bottom from the heat), draping the top of the corned beef with bacon, so the melting fat bastes the meat.

I think you’ll agree that the wood smoke adds a whole new dimension and depth of flavor to corned beef, while the low-slow smoking makes the meat tender enough to cut with the side of a fork.
Not incidentally, the leftovers—not that there were many—were turned into a soul-satisfying hash for a crew lunch the next day by by our fearless Nancy who was in Miami to test recipes for my next book, “Planet Barbecue. (Her cryptic recipe for hash is below.)

Barbecue for St. Patrick’s Day? Hey, it works for me.

BARBECUED CORNED BEEF

You can stay true to the Irish-American and barbecue themes by preparing Barbecued Cabbage as a side dish (the recipe is below), or smoke-roasted potatoes.

Recipe courtesy of Steven Raichlen
Method: Smoking
Serves: 6

1 4-pound corned beef, drained and scraped of excess whole spices
6 strips of bacon
Mustard and rye bread for serving (optional)

You’ll also need: aluminum foil drip pan, 6 cups hickory, oak, or other hardwood chips, soaked in water for 1 hour, then drained

1) Place the corned beef fat side up in an aluminum foil pan.    Drape the bacon strips over the top of the corned beef.

2) If using a smoker, light it according to the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to 250 degrees F.    Toss 1-1/2 cups wood chips on the coals.

3) If using a charcoal grill, set it up for indirect grilling using only half as much charcoal as you usually would (the equivalent of 6 to 8 nice lumps of charcoal per side).    Toss 1-1/2 cups wood chips on the coals.

4) Smoke the corned beef until very tender, 5 to 6 hours or as needed, replenishing the coals every hour and replenishing the wood chips every hour for the first 4 hours.    Try to maintain an even temperature of 250 degrees F.

5) Transfer the corned beef to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes, loosely tented with foil.    Thinly slice the corned across the grain and serve with mustard and rye bread, if desired.

Note from Nancy: If you want to turn the corned beef leftovers into hash, boil a couple of decent-sized potatoes until tender, then peel and dice.  Chop up the leftover corned beef until you have at least half as much as the potatoes—more if desired.  Combine in a mixing bowl.  Dice a small onion and a clove of garlic and sauté them in oil in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet over low heat until translucent.  Add to the potatoes and corned beef.  Toss the mixture with a bit of dry mustard (a half-teaspoon, or more to taste), a splash or two of Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, a bit of minced fresh parsley, and enough heavy cream to moisten the mixture.  Pack into your well-seasoned and oiled cast iron skillet.  Transfer the skillet to a preheated 350 degree F oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the bottom of the hash is attractively browned and crusty.  Top with a fried or poached egg, if desired.

BARBECUED CABBAGE

Source: How to Grill by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2001), pg. 360
Method: Indirect Grilling
Serves  6 to 8

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slivers
1 small onion, finely diced
1 medium green cabbage (about 2 pounds)
1/4 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
Coarse salt and black pepper

You’ll also need: 2 cups wood chips, soaked in cold water to cover, then drained.  Best of Barbecue Grill Ring (optional) or aluminum foil, crumpled into a 3-inch ring

1) Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon and onion and cook until just beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.  Drain the bacon and onion in a strainer over a bowl and reserve the drippings.

2) Core the cabbage by angling your knife about 3 inches down toward the center and cut in a circle that is about 3 inches in diameter.  The piece removed should look like a cone.  Discard this piece.  Dice the remaining butter.  Stir the barbecue sauce into the butter/bacon mixture.  Prop the cabbage upright on the grill ring or aluminum foil, cavity facing up.  Place the bacon and onion mixture in the cavity and top with the diced butter.  Using a basting brush, paint the outside of the cabbage with bacon drippings.  Season the cabbage with salt and pepper.

3) Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium.  If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and preheat on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium.

4) When ready to cook, place the cabbage on its ring in the center of the hot grate away from the heat.  If using a charcoal grill, toss all the wood chips on the coals.  Cover the grill.

5) Grill the cabbage until very tender (when done, it will be easy to pierce with a skewer), 1 to 1-1/2 hours.  If using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to add 12 fresh coals per side after 1 hour if the cabbage is not done.  To serve, peel off any dried-out or charred outside leaves and discard.  Cut the cabbage into wedges and serve.

Again, Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Super Bowl, XLIII

UP IN SMOKE SPECIAL EDITION:
SUPER BOWL, XLIII
On Sunday, February 1, the current Titans of the NFL—the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers—will clash on a modern-day Mount Olympus (in this case, Tampa Bay, Florida) for the forty-third time.   An astounding 100-million Americans will be glued to the event.   Chances are good some of these people will be watching from your living or family room, collectively rooting for an exciting game, an entertaining half-time show, chuckle-inducing commercials, and above all—great food.

Personally, who wins or loses matters less to me than who eats well: The only Titan I truly care about is Prometheus, who according to Greek mythology, gave man the gift of fire.  And I know he would be disappointed if your Game Day menu consisted of nothing but chips and pretzels—not when there are so many terrific grilling and barbecuing options.

Make Prometheus (and me) proud.

Below are recipes you’ll want to add to your Super Bowl Sunday repertoire.  We’ll assume, like all good winter warriors, you’ve been grilling all year, but if your grill happens to be buried under 12 inches of snow or outside temperatures are low enough to freeze your beer, it’s a good time to pull out Steven’s book, Raichlen’s Indoor Grilling with more than 270 grilling recipes created for indoors. The following recipes work well on indoor contact grills, grill pans, stove-top smokers, rotisseries, or even fireplaces. Kitchen not in line of sight of the 46-inch plasma screen? Now that’s a problem.

May your team win.

RAICHLEN’S RULES FOR WINTER GRILLING

1. Position your grill in a wind-protected outside area (wind really reduces your grill’s efficiency) that is well-ventilated. Never grill in a garage, under a porch overhang, or other enclosed area. Not only is the potential for a fire great, but deadly carbon monoxide can build up. Clear any accumulation of snow off the grill.2. If grilling with gas, check all lines and connections for leaks. In cold weather, parts become brittle or cracked. Make sure the control knobs are not frozen and turn freely.

3. Once you’ve started your gas grill or built your fire, preheat the grill for at least 20 minutes.

4. Line charcoal grills with heavy duty aluminum foil, shiny side up, to help retain and reflect heat; poke holes through the foil corresponding to the bottom vents.

5. Have plenty of extra fuel on hand. When charcoal grilling, I like to have a second kettle grill for lighting and holding live coals. Or have extra chimney starters at the ready on a heat-proof surface. (Not on your wooden deck!) Add coals every half hour, or as needed.

6. Heat escapes rapidly each time the grill lid is lifted; resist the urge to “peek.” A digital temperature probe can keep you apprised of what’s going on under the lid. Some charcoal grills come equipped with a built-in thermometer—very useful in the wintertime.

7. Allow extra time. Food will take longer to cook in cold weather—anywhere from 30 to 100 per cent longer.

8. Remember, winter days are short. If lighting around the grill is dim, supplement it with a Clip-On Grill Headlight or food-illuminating Lumatongs. At the very least, have a flashlight on hand.

9. Save the slow-cooked menus for friendlier grilling conditions. Select foods that can be cooked quickly—in 30 minutes or less— over direct heat. Steaks, chops, burgers, chicken breasts, shrimp, fish steaks or filets, kebabs, etc., are all good bets.

10. In my experience, smoking is very difficult to do in cold weather as many smokers are constructed of thin-gauge metal and do not retain heat well. You can smoke in a kettle grill if you maintain temperatures of 250 to 275 degrees by periodically adding fresh coals.

11. Gas grills with double-walled construction are better at holding in heat. Kamodo-type cookers, such as the Big Green Egg are extraordinarily heat-retentive, too.

12. My assistant, Nancy, has winter camping experience, and reports people unthinkingly touch hot surfaces when they themselves are cold. Don’t let your guard down. Don’t touch your hot grill without grilling gloves or other protection.

 

GRILLED BABY BACK RIBS WITH SWEET SOY GLAZE

Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: 4 to 8 as an appetizer 

I encountered these sweet and crusty ribs on Bali—part of a marathon trip to research recipes for my next book, Planet Barbecue, which will be published next year.   I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t love the sweet-soy glaze.  By the way,  if you’re grilling for a crowd, a rib rack will be exceedingly helpful…on Super Bowl Sunday and beyond. 

2 racks of baby back pork ribs (each 2 to 2-1/2 pounds)
1 onion, quartered
2 inches ginger, peeled, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices, and flattened with the side of a cleaver
2 cloves garlic, peeled and flattened with the side of a cleaver
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and flattened with the side of a cleaver

For the glaze:

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large shallot, minced

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

You’ll also need:  1-1/2 cups wood chips or chunks, soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained (optional); a rib rack (optional)

1. Place a rack of ribs meat side down on a work surface. Remove the thin, papery membrane from the back of the rack by inserting a slender implement, such as a butter knife or the tip of a meat thermometer, under it. Using a dishcloth, paper towel, or pliers to gain a secure grip, peel off the membrane. Repeat with remaining rack.

2. Cut the onion, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass into 1/2-inch pieces and puree in a food processor, adding enough water (about 1/4 cup) to make a thick but spreadable paste. Place the ribs on a baking sheet and spread the spice paste over them on both sides. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight.

3. Make the glaze: Place the soy sauce, molasses, sugar, ginger, garlic, shallot, and pepper in a heavy saucepan. Boil over high heat until thick and syrupy, 4 to 6 minutes, stirring often. The sauce can be made several hours ahead of time.

4. Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. Place a large drip pan in the center of the grill under the grate.

5. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the ribs bone-side down in the center of the grate over the drip pan and away from the heat. (If your grill has limited space, stand the racks of ribs upright in a rib rack.) If cooking on a charcoal grill and wood smoke is desired, toss half the wood chips on each mound of coals. Cover the grill and cook the ribs until tender, 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours, applying the glaze halfway through the cooking time. When the ribs are done, they’ll be handsomely browned and the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones about 1/4–inch.

6. Replenish the coals as needed. Reglaze the ribs a few minutes before serving; cook until the sauce is sizzling, 1 to 3 minutes per side.

7. Transfer the ribs to a large platter or cutting board.  Let the ribs rest for a few minutes, then cut the racks into individual ribs. Serve any remaining glaze, warmed, on the side.

BRACIOLE(SICILIAN-STYLE STUFFED BEEF ROLLS)

I first discovered braciole at a  butcher shop on Boston’s North End when I was the restaurant critic for Boston Magazine.  Though well-known to almost anyone of Italian extraction, braciole (pronounced “bra-zohl”) was a revelation to me.  Think of it as a hoagie wrapped in a steak.    Great served hot or cold.

Source: Adapted from Indoor Grilling by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2004)
Method: Direct grilling
Serves: 8 to 10 as an appetizer

1-1/2 to 2 pounds very thinly sliced (1/4-inch) round steak (some supermarkets sell meat labeled “braciole”; otherwise, ask your butcher to do this)
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
6 ounces thinly sliced Provolone cheese
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto or ham
2 ounces thinly sliced Italian salami
2 ounces thinly sliced pepperoni
1/2 cup Italian pickled hot peppers (optional), drained and finely chopped

You’ll also need: Butcher’s string, cut into 6-inch lengths

1. Cut the meat into rectangles approximately 4 inches by 5 inches.  (Avoid any sinewy spots.) Arrange on the work surface.  Season each piece on both sides with salt, pepper, and oregano.

2. On each piece of meat, arrange the slices of Provolone, prosciutto, salami, pepperoni, and the pickled hot peppers, if using, leaving the top inch of the piece of meat bare. Roll each piece of meat up tightly, starting opposite the bare side, and secure each meat roll by tying crosswise with two pieces of butcher’s string.  (Trim any loose ends of string.)  The braciole can be prepared to this stage several hours ahead and refrigerated, covered.

3.When ready to cook, set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium-high. Brush and oil the grill grate.

4. Cook the braciole until crusty and brown on the outside and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.   Transfer to a cutting board and let rest a few minutes.  Remove and discard the strings.  Serve the braciole whole, or (best) cut each crosswise on a sharp diagonal into 1/2–inch thick slices.  Arrange attractively on a platter.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Holiday Gift Guide for Barbecuers and Grillers

UP IN SMOKE
HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE
FOR BARBECUERS AND GRILLERS

Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber,

Thanksgiving may be receding in the rearview mirror, but the rest of the holiday season is gaining on us faster than a Tesla Roadster (the high-performance electric sports car).

So take a deep breath: In the coming days, not only must you come up with inspired gift ideas for the people on your “A” list, but in all likelihood, well-intentioned relatives and friends will be asking you what’s on your wish list.  (Besides the Tesla.)

This year, of course, Americans’ purchasing decisions will be heavily influenced by the weakened U.S. economy.  It’s been predicted that consumers will not only be spending less during the holiday season than they have in the past, but they’ll be seeking out more practical gifts–even making homemade gifts.

That’s good news for us. It’s hard to get more practical than barbecue.

As a genre, barbecuers and grillers have always been easy to please. Their needs are fairly basic: Fire, fuel, food, and friends.

With that in mind, Nancy Loseke, Features Editor of Up in Smoke, and I have compiled a holiday gift guide specifically for people who love live-fire cooking—people like us.

(Steven): I have long been a fan of Lodge Cast Iron, a Tennessee company that has been in the cookware business since 1896. I not only own several “Sportsman” hibachi-style grills—you’ve seen them on Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen—but I consider Lodge’s cast iron skillets a grilling necessity. You can cook anything from Yorkshire Pudding (see The Barbecue! Bible 10th Anniversary edition page 439) to smoked-roasted Blueberry Crumble (BBQ USA, page 715) in them. Recently, Lodge added individually portioned Mini-Servers to their line—great for entertaining at home. They come in four shapes: round, oval, rectangular, and divided rectangular.

(Nancy): Fewer hours of daylight (not to mention snow and numbing cold) can make winter grilling challenging. Believe me, I know: I live in Cleveland, and spent several wintry weeks testing recipes for Raichlen on Ribs.  Weber has incorporated grill lights into its most popular gas grills, and also manufactures a solar-powered unit that clips to the side of the work table.

For external grill lights, it’s hard to best Steven’s Best of Barbecue Grill Headlight and Lumatongs®.   The former clamps onto your work table and shines 10 LED bulbs under the grill hood onto your food. The latter was one of the first barbecue tools Steven ever designed. Lumatongs® feature spring-loaded tongs (the longest on the market) with twin halogen lamps built into one arm to illuminate whatever you’re cooking. Talk about a great gift for your favorite grill lover!

There’s nothing more disappointing than running out of gas in the middle of a grilling session.  GasWatch™ manufactures a UL-approved, easy-to-read gas level indicator for 20-pound tanks. Additional features include a built-in leak detector and an emergency flow limiter (in the event of a major leak).

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(Nancy): If you watch our shows, you know we’re always beating the drum for “killer” grill marks. The easiest way to achieve them is to grill on cast iron grates—available on some, but not all grills.   Enter our cast iron Tuscan Grill, which you lay directly on top of your stainless or porcelain grate. Preheat until it’s screamin’ hot, brush with oil, then grill. You’ll get grill marks worthy of a pro.

And since it’s December, we might point out that the 14- by 14-inch Tuscan Grill, which comes with attachable legs, was originally designed for use in your fireplace. Perfect when the weather outside is frightful or the power’s off. Or when you want to infuse your food with the primal scent of wood smoke. Priced well below comparable models.

(Steven): Based on our mail, it appears one of grillers’ biggest insecurities is knowing how to determine doneness. An instant-read thermometer is your best ally, and one of the finest on the market is the Thermapen™. This device digitally calculates temperature in as little as 4 seconds, and has a range of -58˚ to 572˚ F.  Even more appealing is a thin, needle-like probe that can infiltrate a thin piece of sole as readily as a jaw-stretching hamburger. The thin probe also minimizes juice loss.  The Thermapen™ is admittedly more expensive than most instant-read thermometers, but if one beautiful, expensive steak is saved from overcooking…  Well, you can do the math.

(Steven): It’s hard to improve upon the iconic Weber 22-1/2-inch kettle grill that was first sold in the 1950s and is beloved by millions of people the world over.  But this accessory proves you can teach an old dog new tricks: The 2290 Rotisserie enables you to spit-roast everything from boneless prime rib to whole pineapples.  And as an added bonus, the metal collar that supports the spit and heavy-duty motor is useful in its own right: It raises the lid of the grill by several inches—enough to accommodate a large turkey or a bevy of beer can chickens.

Food, we’ve read, is going to be a popular gift this year.  Here are some recommendations for companies we have personally done business with:

Are you all “turkeyed out”?  Seafood is a great alternative to all those heavy holiday foods, and it doesn’t get any better than Legal Sea Foods.  Fresh lobster, swordfish, tuna, Alaskan crab legs, and much, much more, are only a mouse click away.  All are superb when grilled.  Gift certificates are also available on the company’s website.

Melissa’s, based in Los Angeles, California, is one of the country’s top purveyors of specialty produce from around the world.  Their huge online store features a Grilling Basket filled with grill-worthy seasonal produce such as cipolline onions, portobello mushrooms, chayote squash, fennel, elephant garlic, Anaheim chile peppers, and other goodies.  Hardware includes a perforated vegetable grilling basket and a set of four circle kebabs.  Nancy has visited their facility, and pronounced it “first class”; they even have separate facilities for their organic business.

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Our next idea is shamelessly self-serving, but we like it anyway because everyone wins:  Give your family and friends gift certificates to the best steakhouse in town…which just happens to be at your house.  Buy prime steaks from the same supplier the pros use and we use on Primal Grill, Chicago-based Allen Brothers.  Consider their bone-in filets mignons, beautifully marbled center-cut rib steaks, or dry-aged bone-in ribeyes.

A “Steak Lover’s Grill Kit” will guarantee your success: an incomparable rub, steak sauce, beef smoking chips, and two button-type thermometers are included.

People who love live-fire cooking are always trying to improve their game or add new recipes to their repertoire.  I have never put Nancy, who has worked for me for several years, on the spot to name her favorite book from the Barbecue Bible series.  But she volunteered that she gives How to Grill to graduating seniors, newlyweds, and people who rarely venture beyond hamburgers or who really want to learn more about the art of grilling.  The more adventuresome, foodwise, get BBQ USA and/or The Barbecue! Bible.

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She likes to package them—along with a few goodies like Best of Barbecue rubs and sauces—in a galvanized ash can, and then runs a big ribbon from the bottom, through the handles, and over the lid.  This year, everyone on her gift list will be receiving the “Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen” DVD—three commercial-free hours of the first seven episodes of the show, along with additional footage.  And her brother—the one who continues to believe the last grilling session’s residue will season the next one (it will, but not in a good way)—will be getting The Ultimate Grill Brush.

Of course, homemade gifts—always appreciated, and never out of style—are a great alternative when times are tough.  And even when they’re not. As you might know, Steven has been been traveling extensively throughout the world this year, doing research for the next book, “Planet Barbecue.” Below are two recipes he collected while in Africa—a chutney and a rub that would make great gifts.

SOUTH AFRICAN FIG CHUTNEY

Makes eight 1-cup jars

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 pounds ripe tomatoes, or good-quality canned tomatoes
2 pounds fresh or dried figs, stemmed and chopped (see Note)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar, or more to taste
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup Coca-Cola
1 cup of water
Granulated sugar to taste (optional)

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until soft and translucent, 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking until the vegetables are lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes more.

2. Stir in the tomatoes, figs, vinegar, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, Coca-Cola, and 1 cup of water. Simmer the chutney until thick and jam-like, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon. You can start cooking the mixture at a higher heat to evaporate the excess liquid. As the mixture thickens, you’ll need to lower the heat to medium, then to low. Do not let the chutney burn.

3. The chutney should strike a nice balance between sweet and sour. Normally, the sugar in the figs and Coca-Cola is enough to sweeten the chutney, but you can always add a little granulated sugar if you feel you need it. Likewise, additional vinegar can be added for extra tartness. Remove the bay leaf and package in attractive jars.

Label, and include instructions for keeping (refrigerate) and serving (excellent with ham, pork, and poultry, especially duck, pheasant, and game hens).

PIRI PIRI RUB

For best results, be sure to use fresh spices.  This rub is inspired by the fiery chicken dishes based on the piri piri chile that you find in Angola, Mozambique, and Portugal.  To use, mix the Piri Piri rub with a little vegetable oil or olive oil, and slather it over chicken, lamb, or shrimp before grilling.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

1/3 cup paprika
2 to 5 tablespoons cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup ground cumin
1/4 cup ground coriander
3 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder

Combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk to mix; break up any lumps with your fingers. Package in attractive jars and give instructions for use. Will keep for about 6 months away from heat and light

From all of us—myself, Barbara, and Nancy, have a wonderful holiday season.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Barbecue University: An Insider’s View

UP IN SMOKE
BARBECUE UNIVERSITY:
AN INSIDER’S VIEW

Dear “Up in Smoke” Subscriber,

As far as I know, only one person has attended Barbecue University™ more times than I have: Barbara Raichlen, Steven’s wife.  She was there in 2001 when Steven founded the school, and has personally watched it evolve into one of the most popular culinary vacations in the country.

Hi.  I’m Nancy Loseke, Steven’s assistant and the Features Editor of Up in Smoke.  If you are one of the people who has written to me asking to be notified immediately if I tire of my position, I am advising you not to hold your breath or quit your day job.  I’ve got it good, and I know it.

One of the many perks of being the assistant to the world’s foremost authority on all things barbecue is nearly unlimited access to Barbecue University™, or as we call it, BBQ U.  Truthfully, I don’t know how many times I’ve “repeated” the class since I joined Steven’s organization in the Spring of 2005.  But I always learn something new and meet wonderful and interesting people, many of whom I’m still in touch with.  There’s nothing like great food and live-fire cooking to bring people together.

We’ve just announced dates for next year’s sessions of BBQ U—only two, as Steven is working on a new book and TV show—and if you’re motivated to further your barbecue education (and cultivate potential friends for life!), you may want to get in queue now as classes fill up fast. You can read all about BBQ U™ in the October issue of the Robb Report. Newly-minted grill masters and mistresses often sign up for the next session before the ink has dried on their BBQ U-issued diplomas.

Though a serial student of Barbecue University™ myself, the 2008 session was the best so far. It was magic. I can’t wait for 2009.

Within minutes of my Friday night arrival at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs last June, I was ensconced in a beautiful room in the historic hotel.  I went to sleep with the silhouette of the Rocky Mountains outside my west-facing windows.  The Broadmoor, incidentally, is an easy drive from the Denver International Airport—about 90 minutes—although you can also take a commuter flight directly to Colorado Springs.

Their first night on “campus,” incoming students are treated to a welcoming cocktail party and dinner featuring specialties from the Broadmoor’s more than dozen on-site restaurants.    Most people in attendance have been looking forward to the BBQ U experience for months, and their anticipation is at its zenith.    I especially enjoy hearing the stories of how people got here—how one woman tricked her husband into believing they were attending a financial conference, or how a daughter surprised her father with a trip just for the two of them.

(It goes without saying that reservations for Barbecue University™ make unforgettable holiday gifts.  And the 2009 schedule conveniently abuts Father’s Day!)

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There were no less than two dozen grills and smokers in the “burn area” at BBQ U, 2009.
Photo courtesy of Nancy Loseke.

I love the next morning, too, when the students breakfast on the mountain and first lay eyes on the “burn area” where the grills—some two dozen—are lined up, sexy as sports cars, the shiny stainless steel reflecting the blue skies and jaw-dropping scenery.  Some people linger around the fire pit, as mornings can be cool in the Rockies.  But most stake out their seats in the lecture area, jostling for front-row views.  At 9 a.m. sharp, the “professor” begins sharing the knowledge he’s accumulated about the world’s barbecuing and grilling traditions.

As you can imagine, it takes a considerable amount of manpower (and womanpower, I might personally add!) to set up all the grills and organize a field kitchen for the classes. But the genial staff, led by Food and Beverage Director Craig Reed, lived up to the Broadmoor’s can-do reputation.

The lessons take a practical turn once Steven starts demonstrating the food preparation—an ambitious eight or nine recipes each day. Teams are recruited to help, and soon, everyone has moved outside where the real live-fire action takes place. Meanwhile, the Broadmoor’s Executive Chef, Austrian Siegfried Eisenberg, prepares lunch for the class using the same recipes the students make in class. En masse, the class moves back inside to plate the dishes they’ve grilled or barbecued. Competition is fierce for the most attractive presentation. Steven summarizes the day’s lessons and fields questions.

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Broadmoor culinary student Katharine helps Steven illustrate the finer points of brisket.
Photo courtesy of Pat Hemenway.

Spirits are high when everyone sits down for lunch to trade grilling tricks and/or war stories, or make plans for the rest of the day.  (Afternoon naps are often mentioned, but the Broadmoor offers a large menu of recreational opportunities, including golf on one of its championship golf courses, tennis, spa services, art classes, horseback riding, etc.  Nearby are tourist attractions such as Garden of the Gods, the Air Force Academy, Pike’s Peak, a world-class zoo, quaint towns, and many other things.)

On Day 3 of BBQ U, students discover the test Steven’s been alluding to—an oral and written exam—is real. But to my knowledge, no one has ever flunked. Personalized diplomas validate the entire experience. And individual framed photos with Steven give attendees bragging rights when they return home.

As I said earlier, two sessions of Barbecue University™ have been scheduled for 2009: the first runs from June 11 – 14; the second takes place June 14 – 17. For reservations or more information, contact the Broadmoor: 1-800-634-7711.

Steven has already selected the recipes for Barbecue University™, 2009.  It’s a sensational list, folks, that highlights dishes from Steven’s travels on Planet Barbecue, including:

–a spectacular Colombian lomo al trapo (whole beef tenderloin wrapped in a cloth with salt and roasted in the embers)
–piri piri prawns
–leg of lamb provencale
–Indian grill breads with grilled cheese kebabs
–a spectacular whole hog spit-roasted Greek Island style.

In the meantime, here are two of my favorite recipes from the 2008 session:

GRILLED ENDIVES WITH ROQUEFORT AND WALNUTS

This is a terrific salad for Fall, one I have made several times and always to great reviews.  It would mesh well with a Thanksgiving menu.  (Scatter with sweetened dried cranberries, if desired.)

bbq3a.jpg
Lori puts the finishing touches on Grilled Endives with Roquefort and Walnuts at Barbecue University™, 2008.
Photo courtesy of Pat Hemenway.

Method: Direct grilling
Serves: 4

8 Belgian endives, trimmed and halved lengthwise (See Note)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup English walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (2 to 3 ounces) crumbled blue cheese, preferably Roquefort
1/4 cup curly parsley, finely minced

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.

Brush the endives with olive oil and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Arrange the endives on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side, turning with tongs.

Transfer the endives to a platter; arrange in two rows of eight pieces each down the length of the platter.  Sprinkle the walnuts, cheese, and parsley down the center of the platter.  Serve immediately.

Note: A mix of green and red endives (the latter is also called Treviso) makes an especially attractive presentation.

SPATCHCOCKED GAME HENS
COOKED UNDER A BRICK
WITH BASIL MARINADE

bbq4a.jpg
Spatchcocked game hens pay homage to the 2008 Olympic games.
From left, Jessica, Larry, Steven, Matt, and Chris.
Photo courtesy of Pat Hemenway.

Method: Direct grilling under a brick
Serves: 2 to 4
Advance Preparation: 2 hours for marinating the game hens

For the marinade:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup boiling water
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large bunch fresh basil, stemmed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 game hens (1 to 1-1/4 pound each)*

For serving:
Fresh basil sprigs
Lemon wedges
Cherry tomatoes

You’ll also need:
4 bricks completely wrapped with heavy-duty aluminum foil
A spray bottle of water to control flare-ups

Combine the oil, lemon juice, water, garlic, basil, salt and pepper in a blender and process to a smooth paste.  Refrigerate if not using immediately; it’s best the day it’s made.

For each hen, remove the packet of giblets (if any) from the body cavity and set aside for another use.  Remove and discard any excess fat just inside the body cavity of the game hen; rinse the bird, inside and out, under cold running water, then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels.  Place the bird, breast side down, on a cutting board.

Using poultry shears or a sharp knife, cut through the flesh and bone along both sides of the backbone.  Cut from the tail end to the head end and completely remove the backbone.

Open out the bird (like opening a book) by gently pulling the halves apart.  Using a sharp paring life, lightly score the top of the breastbone.  Run your thumbs along and under the sides of the breastbone and attached cartilage and pop them out.  Spread the bird out flat.

Turn the bird over.  Using a sharp knife, make a slit in the skin between the lower end of the breastbone and the leg, on each side, approximately 1/2 inch long (you’re trying to accommodate the end of the drumstick).  Stick the end of the drumstick on that side through the slit.

Put the spatchcocked hens into a nonreactive baking dish and pour the marinade over them, turning to coat completely.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, preferably for 1 hour.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.  When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate.  Arrange the game hens on the hot grate, all facing the same direction, at a 45 degree angle to the bars of the grate.  Place a brick on top of each.  Grill for 6 to 8 minutes per side; replace the bricks after turning.  The bricks make it more difficult to control spontaneous flare-ups, so have a spray bottle on hand and use it judiciously if the flames threaten to burn the hens.  The hens are done when an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh (but not reaching the bone) registers about 170 degrees F.

Transfer the hens to a platter; let rest for 3 minutes before serving.  Garnish with sprigs of fresh basil, lemon wedges, and cherry tomatoes.

*Game hens are available from www.dartagnan.com if you can’t find them locally.

We hope to see you in 2009!

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Three Strategies for Perfect Steaks

UP IN SMOKE
THREE STRATEGIES FOR PERFECT STEAKS

Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber:

Steak. For the world’s meat-eaters, there is probably no word more seductive (dare I say voluptuous?) than this one. The mere mention of steak triggers pleasurable associations: the audible sizzle, that crusty first bite, the rich, beefy flavor. In short, it’s pure carnivorous bliss. And often there’s some incarnation of potato—baked, mashed, or fried—loitering in our peripheral vision.

But let’s face it: steak can be an intimidating hunk of meat that brings out insecurities in even the most experienced grill jockeys. Overcook a burger, and you’ve only committed a grilling misdemeanor. Overcook a pricey porterhouse, and you’ve got a grilling felony on your record (with, incidentally, little chance of mercy from the court).

No wonder I’m often buttonholed at Barbecue University by anxious students who whisper, “Steven, just between you and me, how do I grill a perfect steak?”

Just in time for Labor Day—which ties with the Fourth of July as the largest beef-eating holiday after Memorial Day, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association—I’ll share with you my best steak tips and two recipes to help you mark the figural end of summer.  (But not, Up in Smoke reader, the end of the grilling season!)

The word “steak” derives from Saxon-Jute word steik,  meaning “meat on a stick.” In what is now Denmark, fifth-century cattlemen impaled their steaks on long sticks and cooked them over live fire. Beef was introduced to America by early Spanish and English explorers. Descendents of these seafaring bovines eventually formed the great herds that defined the American West in the 19th century; they shaped the “cowboy” culture and whet our country’s appetite for beef in general, steaks in particular.

Here are my three key and interdependent strategies for grilling compliment-worthy steaks.

1. BUY CAREFULLY.

The United States Department of Agriculture inspects the nation’s beef supply and grades it according to tenderness, texture, and “marbling,” a term that refers to the distribution of intramuscular fat.  (Remember this equation: Fat = Flavor.) There are eight USDA grades, but only two—“Prime” and “Choice”—are of interest to steak lovers.

Only about 2 per cent of U.S. beef is graded “Prime.” Most is exported or sold directly to restaurants, but it can be found at specialty meat markets or through high-end Internet purveyors like Allen Brothers or Lobel’s. “Choice” is the grade generally carried by supermarkets, and because the guidelines for classifying meat are fairly subjective, it can be as good as “Prime,” in some cases.  I often buy “Choice.”

(In-the-know beef eaters have also become aware, mostly in the last decade, of ultra-premium beef such as Japanese Kobe beef and its American counterpart, Wagyu—sometimes called “Kobe-style beef.”   These exceptionally well-marbled meats are also available through the above online butcher shops, but are extraordinarily expensive: A 1-lb. bone-in ribeye can cost more than $100…before shipping!)

I advise you to make good friends with your butcher, and have him or her notify you when they have especially nice steaks on hand.  Tender, generously-marbled cuts—I always prefer bone-in if that’s an option—are best suited to the high, dry heat of the grill.

Good candidates include:

T-bone – This is a happy marriage of a New York strip steak and beef tenderloin;
Porterhouse – Like a T-bone, this cut contains the bone joining the top loin and the tenderloin, but the tenderloin must be more than 1-1/4 inches in diameter;
New York strip – Sometimes known as a shell or club steak, this cut is taken from the top loin;
Rib steak – very beefy, but not as tender as the above. This same cut without the bone is known as a Delmonico steak;
Tenderloin – one of the tenderest cuts of beef, but the least flavorful. (Muscles that are used the least develop the least flavor.) Individual cuts from this muscle are known in restaurants as filet mignon, or if they are large enough to serve two or more, they are called Chateaubriand;
Sirloin – Adjacent to the short loin; moderately tender, but very beefy-tasting.

Other, more fibrous cuts that have become popular with grillers are flank steak, skirt steak (the traditional meat for fajitas), hanger steak, and flat-iron steak.

Here are two other terms steak lovers should know:

Wet Aging – Meat is vacuum-sealed in its own juices in plastic, such as Cryovac, and kept under controlled conditions until natural enzymes tenderize it from within and deepen its flavor;
Dry Aging – In an environment where temperature, circulation, and humidity are scrupulously controlled, meat is held for two to three weeks. Again, enzymes tenderize the meat and deepen the flavor, but because the raw meat’s exposed to air, dessicated parts have to be trimmed off; this makes dry-aged steaks more expensive as approximately 20 per cent of the meat goes to waste. Dry-aged steak is my hands-down favorite.

2. MICRO-MANAGE.

OK, it’s a bad thing to do at work, but it’s essential if you want to nail the perfect steak. Build a three-tiered fire (see How to Grill, page 14 for specific directions) and preheat one part to high—screaming high, actually— one part to medium-high. Leave one part unlit for a “safety zone” where you can move the steaks in case of flare-ups. If using a gas grill, preheat one section to high (600+ degrees F) and another section to medium-high (400 degrees F); keep one section unlit.

For the simplest preparation, season the steaks generously with kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Coarser grain salt crystals dissolve more slowly than fine table salt, so they hold up better during cooking. Steak pros all over the world use this trick. Some people argue salting the meat before cooking draws out its juices, but believe me, you won’t get much juice loss in the short time it takes to cook a medium-rare steak. I like the crust salt makes, and it is fabulous mingled with caramelized meat juices. In fact, I often season the meat both before and after grilling.

Of course, you could also coat soak the steak in a marinade for several hours before grilling. Be sure to dry it well before cooking and scrape off any solid bits—garlic or onions, for example—that tend to burn when the steak is seared. Or you could apply a dry rub to the meat, like Steven’s Best of Barbecue Steak Rub.

Before you bring the food to the grill out, check the heat again, using the “Mississippi” test.

Hold your hand about three inches over the grate and start counting “one Mississippi, two Mississippi.” After that, the heat should force you to snatch your hand away. If not, preheat a bit longer, lid closed.

Place the steaks (they should be refrigerated until the moment of grilling—there isn’t a respectable steak house around that leaves the meat out at room temperature) on the oiled grate, all lined up in the same direction. This might sound obsessive, but you’ll look and feel like a professional and the technique will help keep you organized. After 2 minutes, rotate each steak either 45 or 90 degrees; this creates an attractive crosshatch of grill marks.

Sear the steak until beads of blood appear on the surface, 1 to 2 minutes for a steak 1/2-inch thick, 3 to 5 minutes for one 1-inch thick, and 6 to 9 minutes for a thickness of 1-1/2 to 2 inches. (NOTE: For a steak over 1-1/2 inches thick, it is best to start it over high heat and then finish it over more moderate heat.) Turn the steak using tongs or a spatula. Never stab it with a fork, or the juices will escape.

Continue cooking the steaks on the other side, rotating after 2 minutes. To test for doneness, press the top with your index finger: A rare steak will be softly yielding; a medium steak will be firmer; a well-done steak will be quite firm. (For more explicit information, see page 30 in the new edition of the Barbecue Bible.) Alternatively, use an instant-read meat thermometer inserted through the side. For rare, cook to 125; for medium-rare, cook to 145 degrees F; cook to 160 degrees F for medium; for well-done, look for a thermometer reading of “UGH!”, which translates to anything over 165 degrees F. Never cut into a steak to gauge doneness. (You know who you are…)

3. LET IT REST.

If you really want to distinguish yourself as a grilled steak master, let the steaks rest for 2 to 3 minutes on warmed plates or a platter before you serve them, or carve them for serving. Only amateurs rush them from grill to table. The high heat drives the meat’s natural juices to the center, and a short rest allows the juices to redistribute themselves throughout the steak. This gives you time to tend to grill maintenance such as scraping the grill grate, shutting off the gas, closing the vents, etc., that is…unless your menu also includes a spectacular grilled dessert…and I hope it does! In which case you’ll probably want to readjust the heat.

There’s one last thing you can do to aspire to grilled steak perfection, and that’s to top the steak right after it comes off the grill with a splash of high quality olive oil—preferably a fresh one with some pepper on the finish—or a pat of butter, plain or mixed with fresh chopped herbs.

And if you like steak sauce? Well, we defy you to find a better condiment than Steven’s Best of Barbecue Ultimate Steak Sauce.

RED-EYE RIBEYES

Source: Recipe courtesy of Steven Raichlen
Method: Direct grilling
Serves: 4

For the rub:

2 tablespoons ground dark roast coffee
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon pure chile powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 ribeye steaks, at least 1-inch thick (8 to 10 ounces each)

You’ll also need:

Red-Eye Steak Sauce (recipe below) for serving (optional)

1-1/2 cups wood chips or chunks (optional), soaked for 1 hour in cold water to cover,
then drained

Make the rub: In a small bowl, combine the coffee, salt, chile powder, onion powder, garlic powder, coriander, black pepper, and cinnamon. Mix well.

Place the steaks on a platter and sprinkle on both sides with the rub. Let them sit for 15 to 20 minutes while you prepare the grill.

Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to high. If using a gas grill, add the wood chips (if using) to the smoker box before preheating. If using a charcoal grill, toss the wood chips on the coals. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the steaks on the hot grate and grill, turning with tongs, until cooked to taste, 4 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a warmed platter and let rest for 3 minutes.

Serve with Red-Eye Steak Sauce, if desired.

RED-EYE STEAK SAUCE

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced celery
1/2 cup brewed coffee
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the shallot, garlic, and celery and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, 3 minutes. Stir in the coffee, ketchup, tomato sauce, cream, soy sauce, bourbon, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, mustard, and liquid smoke and gradually bring to boil.

Reduce the heat slightly and simmer the sauce until thick and richly flavored, 8 to 10 minutes, whisking from time to time. Correct the seasoning, adding salt and pepper or any other ingredient to taste

STEAK FROM HELL: 
MESQUITE GRILLED STEAK WITH FIRE-CHARRED TOMATO SALSA

steakmell.jpg

This recipe comes from an unassuming steakhouse in Juarez, Mexico, called Mitla. Mitla’s steaks owe their extraordinary flavor to the fact that they’re cooked over blazing mesquite logs. You can approximate the flavor by tossing a couple cups of soaked mesquite chips on a backyard barbecue grill. The fire-charred salsa reinforces the smoky flavor of the beef.

Source: The Barbecue! Bible by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2008)
Method: Direct grilling
Serves: 4

2 to 4 chiles de arbol (4 give you a nice heat)
2 large ripe tomatoes
1/3 medium onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 T-bone steaks or sirloin steaks (each about 3/4-inch thick)
4 large or 8 small flour tortillas

You’ll also need:
2 cups mesquite wood chips, soaked in cold water to cover for 1 hour, then drained (optional)

Soak the chiles in a bowl of warm water until pliable, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, set each tomato directly on a gas stove burner and roast it over high heat until the skin is charred and blistered on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes in all. (Or do the tomatoes in a previous grilling session.) Transfer the tomatoes to a plate and let them cool.

Drain the chiles and remove the seeds if you prefer a milder salsa. Place the chiles in a blender with the cooled tomatoes and the onion, garlic, and cilantro, and process to a coarse paste. Add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the salsa to a serving bowl.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. If using a gas grill, add the wood chips (if using) to the smoker box before preheating.

When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss the wood chips on the coals. Brush and oil the grill grate. Salt the steaks generously on one side. Arrange the steaks on the oiled grate, salt side down, and grill, turning once with tongs, until cooked to taste, 2 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a platter and let rest for 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, arrange the tortillas on the grate and grill until soft and pliable, but not browned, about 20 seconds per side. Serve the steaks with the tortillas and the salsa on the side.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Behind the Scenes with Primal Grill

UP IN SMOKE
BEHIND THE SCENES WITH “PRIMAL GRILL”
 

Dear Up in Smoke Reader:

An e-mail circulated last week by Maryland Public Television contained some great news: “Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen” now airs in over 95 percent of households that are within signal reach of a PBS station.

That means almost anyone in the U.S. who has access to a television can tune in to Steven Raichlen’s dynamic new show, Primal Grill.   Talk about a cure for mid-summer grilling doldrums!  C’mon, folks…people are getting sick of hamburgers, hot dogs, and even pulled pork shoulder.   (Well, maybe not the latter.  And notice I didn’t mention steaks.  Steven’s “Tubac T-Bone,” a recipe he dedicated to the host of “Primal Grill,” the Tubac Golf Resort in Tubac, Arizona, is a recipe I never want to lose.)

We hope you’re already a fan.  If you haven’t seen the show yet, log onto www.primalgrill.org for more information and air times.   Then take the cyber trip just to see the wealth of printable recipes archived there.  We’ve reprinted two below, just to whet your appetite.  The Tubac T-bone recipe is there, too.

In the meantime, we thought you might enjoy a “behind-the-scenes” peek at what’s involved in producing a show like “The Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen.”  For the straight story, I interviewed two key players:

Matt Cohen, producer of “The Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen,” is the head of Resolution Pictures.  He’s a seasoned veteran of food shows, and has multiple “Emmys” and James Beard Foundation Awards to prove it;

Steven Schupak is the Senior Vice President of Content Enterprises for Maryland Public Television, the producing station and PBS sponsor of “The Primal Grill.”  (Note: MPT also presented four seasons of Steven’s popular show, “Barbecue University,” which still airs in some markets. Check local listings, or go to www.bbqu.net.)

I didn’t ask the obvious question: “Does the food get eaten?” I’ve been privileged enough to be on Steven’s sets before, and I can tell you, the answer is (strongly), “Yes.” In fact, a you’ve never seen eating until you’ve watched a TV crew devour an 18 pound Texas-style smoked brisket.

Yours in great grilling,

Nancy Loseke
Features Editor
Up in Smoke

[Back to top]

Matt, we know you work with Steven. Tell us about some other cooking shows you been associated with.

Matt Cohen: Well, there’s “Lidia’s Italy” with Lidia Bastianich.  And I followed Todd English to Japan for an episode of “Food Trip with Todd English.” We filmed segments on sushi and Kobe beef, and the show won a James Beard Award.  But I’ve done work for other networks, too—including “My Country, My Kitchen,” which aired on the Food Network in the 2001-2002 season.  I did it with Moroccan host-chef Rafih Benjelloun; it also won a Beard Award.

What were some of the challenges you and the crew faced on the set of “Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen”?

Matt Cohen: We were shooting on a tight schedule, right up until the day before Thanksgiving.  And of course, everyone wanted to get home for the holiday. Extending the shoot wasn’t an option.  Fortunately, the weather in Arizona cooperated, so we were lucky there. Usually, that is a factor on a multi-day shoot.  Adjusting for changing light is always tricky, though, when you’re shooting from sunrise to sunset.

Other challenges?   Hmmm…  Keeping the fires going in the grills and the smokers requires work and coordination.  The smoke on the set is a deterrent, but you still have to be conscious of flying insects as you don’t want them on camera or on the food.  Another thing: We didn’t have any running water on the set, which made things more difficult for the kitchen and prep crew, meaning water had to be hauled in in large containers.  And we had to keep an eye on the cows in the background! They always seemed to be curious about what it was we were doing.

Describe a typical day on the set for us, Matt.

Matt Cohen: Days started before sunrise.  The film crew would eat a buffet breakfast and talk about the day’s shooting schedule, then we’d head to the set, uncover the equipment, which we kept in tents, and set up.  Meanwhile, the prep kitchen, which was also in a tent, would have to have the food ready for the first segment of the day—usually something that could be direct-grilled quickly in real time.  Long-cooked dishes were generally saved for later.  We’d try to get at least one complete episode shot per day, but were there until nightfall sometimes.  Then you’d have a quick dinner, go to bed, and set the alarm for another early morning.

In the show, the cooking segments are interspersed with fireside interviews with Steven by someone off-camera. Why are these chats important to the show?

Matt Cohen: The idea is that the viewing audience doesn’t necessarily know Steven or the interesting back stories behind the dishes he prepares or the techniques that he demonstrates.  To some people, he might just be the guy who can show you how to achieve “killer grill marks.” But I wanted to illustrate the extraordinary historical and world dimension Steven brings to the food and to the show, to add a subtext to what he does. The chats became a way for people to get to know him better and to understand why he does what he does, and with such passion.

“Primal Grill” was taped in November. Does it really take 6 months to bring it to the air?

Matt Cohen: Yes, it does.  The real work begins once we’re back in the studio. We have to edit the content from three cameras that are not switched live on the set; this usually takes at least one week per episode. Then we have to add in music, graphics, background shots, rolling credits, and advertisements from the show’s sponsors. Closed captioning—where everything said is translated to text at the bottom of the screen—also takes time. Meanwhile, Maryland Public Television begins promoting the show to other stations in the American Public Television family. Once stations select “Primal Grill” for their spring/summer line-up, we have to set up a “feed” so they can download all 13 episodes. It’s quite a process from beginning to end.

Steven (Schupak), how does “Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen” differ from his long-running show, “Barbecue University,” also on PBS?

Steven Schupak: From my perspective, “Primal Grill” is the next logical step for Steven. The concept is the most important element, of course, and this series was based on Steven’s extensive research and travel around the world. This new series gets to the roots of barbecue, including flavors, aromas, equipment, techniques, and cooking styles.  It is a chance for his devoted followers—of which I am one—to easily recreate these recipes on their own grills, but to also understand and appreciate the origins of these dishes.  Plus, we had some really cool new grills.

What does the show mean for Maryland Public Television, and where does it fit in your line-up?

Steven Schupak: Maryland Public Television has a long history of cooking and how-to programs, including working with Julia Child in the 1970s.  “Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen” is a featured series in our current national line-up. The series was released just prior to Memorial Day, and we know it’s a hit.  Not only are 95 per cent of all public television stations carrying the series, but viewer response has been excellent.

On the set, Steven makes it look so simple. How many people are actually involved behind the scenes to make the show possible?

Steven Schupak: It’s a big group, more than 25 people. It starts with Steven, of course. His vision, his recipes. Behind him is the collective expertise of MPT, as well as Matt Cohen and his creative team at Resolution Pictures. Together, we shape the program content, design elements, graphic look and format into thirteen dynamic episodes. In addition, there are camera operators, lighting professionals, make-up people, photographers, audio people, food prep people, food coordinators,  fire-tenders, and even cattle wranglers in golf carts, who move the cows in and out of background shots!

Critical to the production was the gracious staff at the Tubac Golf Resort and Spa who took care of everyone’s needs, especially the young kitchen team that prepped all the food shown on camera.

Last, but not least, nothing in public TV happens without our sponsors.  We had a fabulous group of sponsors, including Weber, Reynolds Wrap, The Companion Group, and Workman Publishing.

How important are book sales through MPT?  What do the revenues from sales help to fund?

Steven Schupak: Book sales are essential to public television stations like MPT. We count on these sales to cover the costs of funding a big series like “Primal Grill.” (Go to www.primalgrill.org to buy some of Steven’s titles) Part of the proceeds help us market the series so people know it’s on!

We understand a DVD featuring all episodes of Primal Grill plus extra footage has been produced.  Tell us about it, Steven.

Steven Schupak: We are really proud of this DVD; the layout of the episodes is really well done. Volume 1, which includes episodes 1-7 plus extras, has just been released. It includes two of my personal favorites: Shoulders and Butts, which helps anyone conquer the panic of cooking large hunks of meat; and Fish Without Fear, which helps you overcome all the insecurity of grilling seafood.  Volume 2, which will include the remaining six episodes plus even more extras, will be released soon.

BARBECUED ONIONS

Sneak preview! Here’s a recipe from “Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen” that hasn’t been posted yet at www.primalgrill.org.

Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: 8

8 Vidalia or other sweet onions, peeled
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 slices good-quality bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup your favorite brand of sweet red barbecue sauce
Freshly ground black pepper

You’ll also need:

8 pieces of aluminum foil, twisted into 2-inch rings or grilling rings
1-1/2 cups of wood chips or chunks, soaked for 1 hour, then drained

Using a sharp paring knife and working opposite the stem end, cut a cone-shaped cavity in each onion by angling your knife toward the center and cutting in a circle. Finely chop the onion you’ve removed. Set each onion on a foil ring with the cavity facing up.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and chopped onion and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the bacon in a strainer over a bowl. Place a spoonful of the bacon mixture in the cavity of each onion. Cut the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter into 8 equal pieces. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the barbecue sauce into each onion and place a piece of butter on top. Sprinkle with pepper.

Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips or chunks into the smoker box or a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke.
Then reduce heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center and preheat the grill to medium, then toss all of the wood chips or chunks on the coals.

When ready to cook, place the onions on their rings in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan, and away from the heat, and cover the grill. Cook the onions until they are golden brown and tender, 40 to 60 minutes. To test for doneness, pinch the side of an onion; it should be squeezably soft. If the filling starts to brown too much before the onions are fully cooked, cover the onions loosely with aluminum foil. Transfer the grilled onions to a platter or plates and serve at once.

FIVE-SPICE SHANGHAI SHORT RIBS WITH SHANGHAI BARBECUE SAUCE

Simplify the preparation of these ribs by substituting Best of Barbecue “Five Spice Barbecue Rub” and “Shanghai Barbecue Sauce” for the homemade versions here. Find both at www.grilling4all.com.

Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: 4 to 6
Advance Preparation: 4 to 6 hours for marinating the meat

3 to 4 pounds beef short ribs, bone-in

For the rub:

2 tablespoons Chinese 5-spice powder
1 tablespoon fine grained sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground white pepper

For the Shanghai Barbecue Sauce:

1 cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing) or dry sherry
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar, or more to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon peeled, minced ginger
2 scallions, white and green parts minced

You’ll also need:
1-1/2 cups wood chips or chunks, soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then
drained

Make the rub: Combine the 5-spice powder, salt, sugar, and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

Make the barbecue sauce: In a nonreactive saucepan, combine the hoisin sauce, wine, soy sauce, sugar, ketchup, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and scallions. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens (5 to 10 minutes).

Generously sprinkle the ribs on all sides with the rub. Cover the ribs with plastic wrap and refrigerate them while you set up the grill.

Set up a charcoal grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. Place a large drip pan in the center of the grill. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the ribs in the center of the grate over the drip pan and away from the heat. Toss half of the wood chips on each mound of coals. Cover the grill and cook the ribs until they are well-browned, cooked through, and tender enough to pull apart with your fingers, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. When the ribs are done, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about 1/4 inch.

Just before serving, brush the ribs on all sides with the Shanghai Barbecue Sauce and move them directly over the fire. Grill until the sauce is sizzling, 1 to 3 minutes per side. Watch carefully so the sugars in the barbecue sauce don’t burn. Transfer to a large platter or cutting board and let rest for a few minutes. Serve with the remaining barbecue sauce on the side. [Back to top]

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Special Fourth of July Edition

UP IN SMOKE
SPECIAL FOURTH OF JULY EDITION

Dear “Up in Smoke” Subscriber,

According to the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association, Americans will be firing up their grills and smokers in record numbers this July 4th weekend.  Last year, a full 69 per cent of households celebrated with a cookout.

Hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, and ribs lead the charge in most American back yards on Independence Day.  The Raichlen household—just in case you’ve ever stood over your grill or smoker wondering what’s on Steven and Barbara’s menu—will enjoy Cousin Dave’s Chocolate-Chipotle Ribs, Grilled Swordfish with Summer Salsa, Firecracker Corn, and Blueberry-Peach Crisp (to take advantage of the glorious blueberry crop on Martha’s Vineyard) with vanilla ice cream.  See recipes below.

From all of us, have a safe and wonderful holiday. 

COUSIN DAVE’S CHOCOLATE-CHIPOTLE RIBS

Cut into individual ribs and serve as an appetizer, or cut into 3-rib portions if serving as a main course.  Warning: These are addictive!  Steven’s assistant, Nancy Loseke, has wondered aloud if there’s such a thing as “Rib Rehab.”  She prefers to use spareribs rather than the baby backs called for here.  The choice is yours. A rib rack (see www.grilling4all.com) is especially useful, particularly if you double the recipe.

Source: Raichlen on Ribs by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2006)
Method: Indirect grilling
Advance Preparation: At least 4 hours for marinating the ribs
Serves 4 as a main course, 8 to 10 as an appetizer

3 to 6 canned chipotle peppers in adobo, with 1 tablespoon of their juice
1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, plus additional for garnish
1/2 ounce semisweet chocolate, coarsely grated or cut into pieces
2 strips fresh lemon zest, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon pure chile powder, such as ancho
2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 racks baby back pork ribs (4 to 5 pounds total), papery membrane
from the back removed
Lime wedges, for serving

You’ll also need:
1-1/2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably oak), soaked for 1 hour
in water to cover, then drained

Place the chipotles and their juice, onion, garlic, 1/4 cup of cilantro, chocolate, lemon zest, brown sugar, chile powder, salt, and lemon pepper in a food processor and puree, adding enough oil to obtain a thick paste.

Using a rubber spatula or your hands, spread the chipotle paste on both sides of the racks.  Cover with plastic wrap or put into a large zip-top type bag.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium (325 to 350 degrees F).  Place a large drip pan in the center of the grill under the grate.

When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate.  Place the ribs bone side down in the center of the grate, over the drip pan and away from the heat.  (If your grill has limited space, stand the racks of ribs upright in a rib rack; see above.)  If cooking on a charcoal grill and using wood chips, toss half of them on each mound of coals.  Cover the grill and cook the ribs until well browned, cooked through, and tender enough to pull apart with your fingers (1-1/2 to 2 hours).  When the ribs are done, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about 1/2 inch.  If using a charcoal grill, replenish the coals as needed.

Transfer the ribs to a large platter or cutting board.  Let the ribs rest for a few minutes, then cut the racks in half or into individual ribs.  Sprinkle the ribs with the remaining cilantro and serve at once with lime wedges.

 

GRILLED SWORDFISH
WITH SUMMER SALSA

Source: BBQ USA by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2003)
Method: Direct grilling
Advance Preparation: 15 to 30 minutes for marinating the fish
Serves: 4

4 swordfish steaks (each about 3/4-inch thick and 6 to 8 ounces), rinsed
and blotted dry
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Summer Salsa (recipe follows)
Fresh tarragon sprigs for garnish

Place the swordfish in a nonreactive baking dish and season generously on both sides with salt and pepper.  Drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil on both sides; refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.  Brush and oil the grill grate.  Arrange the swordfish on the hot grate, placing the steaks at a diagonal to the bars.  Grill for 2 minutes, then rotate a quarter turn.  Continue grilling until the undersides are nicely browned, about 2 minutes longer.  Repeat on the second side.  When done, the swordfish will break into clean flakes when pressed with a finger.  Transfer to a platter or plates.  Spoon the salsa over the swordfish, garnish with the tarragon, and serve at once.

SUMMER SALSA

Makes 1-1/2 to 2 cups

1 clove garlic, minced
Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
Kernels from two shucked ears of sweet corn
2 red, ripe tomatoes, finely diced, with their juices
1 scallion, trimmed and finely chopped (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
3 tablespoons diced pitted black olives, such as kalamata (optional)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in the bottom of a mixing bowl.  Mash to a paste with the back of a wooden spoon.  Add the corn kernels and the tomatoes, scallion, tarragon, lemon juice, olives, if using, olive oil, and a few grinds of black pepper.  Toss gently just before serving, adding more salt and/or lemon juice as necessary.

FIRECRACKER CORN

Source: Recipe courtesy of Steven Raichlen
Method: Direct grilling
Serves 8 as a side dish

8 ears sweet corn, in the husk
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and very finely minced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and very finely minced
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon pure chile powder (optional), or more to taste
Coarse salt (kosher or sea)

You’ll also need:
Butcher’s string

Shuck the corn, stripping the husk back as though peeling a banana, but leaving the husk attached at the stem end.  Holding an ear of corn in one hand, gather the husk together so that it covers the stem and then tie it with a piece of butcher’s string.  This forms a sort of handle.  Remove the corn silk.  Repeat with the remaining ears of corn.

In a medium mixing bowl, blend the butter, garlic, jalapeno(s), red pepper, cilantro, lime juice, and chile powder, if using.  Add salt to taste.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.  When ready to cook, arrange the corn on the hot grate so that the husks hang over the edge of the grill (this keeps them from burning) or place a folded sheet of aluminum foil under the husks to shield them.  Grill the corn until nicely browned on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side (8 to 12 minutes in all), turning with tongs.

Transfer the corn to a rimmed baking sheet, and while the corn is still hot, slather it with the butter mixture using a knife, pastry brush, or flexible spatula.  Transfer to a serving platter and serve at once with the remaining butter.

SMOKE-ROASTED BLUEBERRY-PEACH CRISP

Source: Adapted from BBQ USA by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing, 2003)
Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: 6-8

2 pints fresh blueberries, picked over
2 large ripe peaches (preferably freestone), peeled, pitted, and diced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup coarsely crumbled biscotti or shortbread cookie crumbs
1⁄2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
Pinch of salt
Vanilla ice cream (optional), for serving
Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

You’ll also need:

One 8-by-10-inch aluminum disposable foil pan; cooking oil spray;
1 cup wood chips or chunks (preferably apple), soaked for 1 hour in water
to cover, then drained

Pick through the blueberries, removing any stems, leaves, or bruised berries. Place the berries and the diced peaches in a large nonreactive mixing bowl. Drizzle with the lemon juice and stir gently.  Add 1/4 cup of the flour and the granulated sugar, and the lemon zest and gently toss to mix.  Lightly spray the aluminum foil pan with cooking spray.  Spoon the fruit mixture into the aluminum foil pan.

Place the biscotti crumbs, brown sugar, and the remaining 1/2 cup of flour in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until a coarse powder forms. Add the butter and salt, then pulse until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.  Spoon the topping over the filling.

Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-high. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium-high. If using a charcoal grill, preheat it to medium-high, then toss all of the wood chips or chunks on the coals.

When ready to cook, place the pan with the filling in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat, and cover the grill. Cook the crisp until the filling is bubbling and the topping is browned, about 40 minutes. Serve the crisp hot or warm, ideally with vanilla ice cream.  Garnish with mint.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Build a Better Burger, and They Will Come

UP IN SMOKE
BUILD A BETTER BURGER, AND THEY WILL COME
Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber,

If ever you needed an excuse for a carnivorous indulgence, consider the perfectly grilled hamburger. That mouth-stretching first bite brings the crunch-squish of a properly grilled bun (sesame seed-studded, of course) with a soft, yielding middle; the beefy chew of the burger itself, salt and pepper-crusted, fire charred on the outside, with a sluice of meaty juices at the center. And, of course, the tang and crunch of well-chosen condiments: crisp lettuce, tart pickles, sweet onion, and sauces to suit your taste.

In other words, heaven on earth.

Too often, however, the dry, blackened disks that come off the grill are less than celestial, and are more reminiscent of the other place.

The following letter, from Judi B. of Meridien, Connecticut, summarizes the frustration of many grillers:

Hi Steven:

It seems that I can never really cook a great burger on my grill. I build a hot fire, let the grate get super hot, (but I) never really get the right grilled flavor. I have even added butter to make the flare ups and then put the burgers on, but to no avail. I was hoping that you could offer some insight… I REALLLLLY APPRECIATE IT as my husband and I both love burgers. Thank you.

Talk about coincidence: Judi lives not far from Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut—a centenary luncheonette that claims to be the birthplace of the hamburger.

The current owner of Louis’ Lunch, housed in a tiny but atmospheric red brick building, insists the hamburger was invented in 1898 by one Louis Lassen, a Danish blacksmith/preacher/short-order cook who subscribed to the “waste not, want not” school of thought.

Mr. Lassen couldn’t bear to discard leftover scraps of beef, so he ground them into patties, so the story goes, which he broiled over open flames and sandwiched between two slices of toasted bread. He didn’t believe in adulterating what he deemed to be the perfect burger with ketchup or mustard. No. To this day, you’ll brand yourself as an outsider if you ask for these condiments at lunch spot patronized by students from nearby Yale University for the better part of a century.

And mentioning the other Hamburger (someone from a city in northern German) at Louis’ is the grilling equivalent of trash talk. The story there, on the far side of the Atlantic, is that the hamburger was invented by German seafarers who decided to apply heat to the steak tartar they had enjoyed in trading ports in Russia.

We hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but as early as 1834, the legendary Delmonico’s in Manhattan listed “hamburger steaks” on its extensive menu. Interestingly, an order sold for the princely sum of $.10—twice the cost of a veal chop or roast beef.

In my opinion, the more likely fact is that hamburger-like grilled ground meat patties were, like fire or shish kebab, likely invented independently in many different parts of the world at once.

In my research for my forthcoming book, Planet Barbecue, for example, I’ve enjoyed bistekki, a beef and veal burger, in Santorini, Greece, mici, a mixture of ground, beef, veal and pork flavored with garlic in Bucharest, Romania, and what may be the world’s largest burger (at least largest in diameter), the plate-burying pljeskavica from Bosnia-Herzegovina.

But when made right, the numbers suggest that the classic American grilled hamburger trumps them all. hamburger_heaven.jpgAccording to
Hamburger Heaven: The Illustrated History of the Hamburger
by Jeffrey Tennyson, Americans consume at least 38 billion pounds of hamburger each year! If formed into patties and positioned side-by-side, you’d get a chain of hamburgers 1.8 million miles long!

It may seem simple to grill a good hamburger. But to quote a friend on playing checkers: “It takes 20 minutes to learn the fundamentals, but a lifetime to master the game.

I’m all for shortening the learning curve. Who wants to wait a lifetime for the perfect hamburger? Here, then, are my tips for nailing a great hamburger.

  • A great burger begins with great meat. I like a half and half mixture of chuck and sirloin—the former for flavor, the latter for style. You can also buy Kobe beef burgers from www.allenbrothers.com or even burger meat ground from dry aged steak, the latter available from the Montana Legend Company.
  • Fat is good. This may fly in the face of current nutritional wisdom (and my dietitian daughter, Betsy, is going to kill me), but a burger needs some fat to be luscious. I like a fat content of 10 to 15 percent fat.On the other hand, if you’re watching your fat intake (and listening to Betsy), you may want to consider a burger made with a lean flavorful meat, like bison instead of ground beef. Let the lusciousness come from that fat, juicy slice of ripe red tomato or even sliced avocado.Many purists, including the owner of Louis’ Lunch, insist on grinding their own meat from scratch. Try to find a butcher who can custom-grind meat for you. (That lets you spec the exact ratios you want.) Better still, grind it yourself. Some stand mixers, such as KitchenAid, come with optional meat grinders, or you can find old-fashioned, hand-cranked units at www.lehmans.com.
  • Keep the meat cold (it helps to wet your hands with cold water), and handle it as little and as delicately as possible when shaping patties. Overhandling “bruises” the meat and over-compressing it will lead to dense, dry burgers.I like to make my burgers a few hours ahead of time and chill them on a plate covered with plastic wrap. This firms up the burger and helps it hold together during grilling.
  • Keep it simple. In general, I like to season my burgers with nothing more than coarse crystals of sea salt (lately I’ve been using Maldon salt from the U.K.) and freshly and coarsely ground black pepper. Save the fireworks for the garnishes.
  • Lightly brush the burgers on both sides with melted butter or extra-virgin olive oil just before grilling. This helps prevent sticking and adds an extra layer of flavor.
  • Of course, you’ll practice good grill hygiene by starting with a hot grilling and brushing and oiling the grate prior to grilling.
  • The proliferation of food-borne illnesses like E. coli—approximately 20,000 cases are reported to the Center for Disease Control each year— have made eating rare or medium-rare burgers the alimentary version of unprotected sex. Ground meats are especially susceptible to contamination—the surface bacteria normally killed by cooking a steak, for example, are dispersed throughout the meat. The USDA recommends cooking burgers to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F (80 degrees centigrade).There’s only one sure way to make sure you’ve cooked a burger to a safe temperature. Use an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the patty. Insert it through the side of the burger, not through the top. Again, you’re looking for at least 160 degrees F. For more burger safety tips visit www.safeandsavory160.com.So how do you keep a well-done burger from drying out? I like to place a disk of herb butter in the center of the meat patty. To make herb butter, mix softened salted butter with chopped parsley, chives, chervil, tarragon, or other fresh herbs, and perhaps a clove of minced fresh garlic. Form the resulting herb butter into a cylinder by wrapping it in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze it until hard. Then you can slice it crosswise into disks for placing in your burgers. (For precise directions, see How to Grill, page 98.) The butter melts as the burger cooks, so even a well-done burger will taste exceptionally juicy when you bite into it.Alternatively, make an inside-out cheeseburger. Coarsely grate cheddar, pepper jack, smoked mozzarella, or another favored cheese on a box grater and stir it into the burger meat. When you grill the burger, the cheese will melt, making even well done beef exceptionally moist.
  • Keep the burgers cold until the moment of grilling. Leave them in the refrigerator until the last minute, or place them a sheet pan over another sheet pan filled with ice.
  • Avoid cross-contamination, that is, never place a cooked burger on a cutting board, plate, or work surface where you’ve had raw beef. Never handle or eat a cooked burger with hands that have handled raw beef—unless you’ve washed them thoroughly with soap and hot water first. At our house, a bottle of Purell is almost as indispensable as a grill brush.
  • Do not, I repeat, do not press on a burger with a spatula while it’s grilling. All this does is squeeze out the juices onto the fire.
  • Do not, I repeat, do not overcrowd the grill. Follow the “30 percent” rule—leave 30 percent of your grill food free. That way if you get flare-ups, you have maneuvering room and a place to move the burgers if they start to burn.
  • Let the burgers rest, off the grill grate, for a couple of minutes before serving. This allows the meat to “relax,” giving you a juicier burger. (I also recommend this for steak.)Finally, lightly grill hamburger buns. Brush the cut sides with melted butter or olive oil and grill for 1 to 2 minutes. An ungrilled bun is like an un-pressed shirt.

Keep an open mind. In recent years, the concept of a “burger” has expanded to include turkey, pork, duck, salmon, tuna, lamb, and even Portobello mushrooms, recipes for all of which you’ll find in my books. Nancy recently did the following tally:From The Barbecue Bible (Workman, 2008):• Avocado, Sprout, and Salsa Burgers (page 225)
• Bulgarian Burgers (page 226)

From BBQ USA (Workman, 2003):

• Inside-Out Blue Cheese Burgers (page 338)
• “Sushi” Burgers (page 345)
• Portobello “Burgers” (page 574)

From Indoor Cooking (Workman, 2004):

• New Mexican Green Chile Burgers with Salsa Verde (page 158)
• Barbecue Pork Burgers with Honey Mustard Sauce (page 164)
• Lamb Burgers with Yogurt Cucumber Sauce (page 166)
• Oaxacan-Spiced Turkey Burgers with Chipotle Salsa (page 168)

If you have an ingenious twist on burgers, or your own trick for keeping burgers moist and juicy, even when cooked to well-done, please share it with us on the Barbecue Board.

In the meantime, folks, I don’t think you can do much better than these.

THE GREAT AMERICAN HAMBURGER

American-Burger.jpg
Source: The Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2008)
Method: Direct grilling
Serves: 6

For the burgers:

2-1/4 pounds ground beef (preferably ground chuck)
6 slices (each 1/2-inch thick) Vidalia or other sweet onion (optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 hamburger buns

For the toppings– any or all:

Iceberg lettuce leaves
Sliced ripe tomatoes
Sliced dill pickles or sweet pickles
Cooked bacon (2 slices per burger)
Ketchup, Mustard, and Mayonnaise

Divide the meat into six equal portions. Lightly wet your hands with cold water, then form each portion of meat into a round patty about 4 inches across.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.

When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate.

If using onion slices, brush them on both sides with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Place the onion on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned, about 4 minutes per side, then transfer to a plate.

Brush one side of the meat patties lightly with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the burgers, buttered side down, on the hot grate and grill until the bottoms are nicely browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Brush the tops lightly with some of the melted butter and season them with salt and pepper. Using a spatula, turn the burgers and grill until they are browned and cooked to taste, 4 to 5 minutes longer for medium. Meanwhile, brush the cut sides of the buns with the remaining melted butter and toast them, cut sides down, on the grill during the last 2 minutes the burgers cook.

Set out the toppings. Put the burgers and onion slices on buns and serve.

WASABI GOAT CHEESE LAMB-BURGER

Source: Recipe courtesy of Steven Raichlen
Method: Direct grilling
Serves: 6

2-1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 3-inch log of goat cheese, chilled
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
6 pita breads
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Wasabi Cream for serving (recipe follows)

Lightly wet your hands with cold water and divide the ground lamb into 12 equal portions. Form each into a round patty about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the goat cheese into six equal rounds.

Place a round of goat cheese on a lamb patty; top with another patty and seal the edges.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.

When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Brush one side of the lamb patties lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the burgers, oiled side down, on the hot grate and grill until the bottoms are nicely browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Brush the tops lightly with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Using a spatula, turn the burgers and grill until they are browned and cooked to taste, 4 to 5 minutes longer for medium. Meanwhile, brush the pita breads with the remaining olive oil and toast them on the grill during the last 2 minutes the burgers cook.

Split or slice the pita breads to accommodate the burgers. Serve with Wasabi Cream.

Wasabi Cream

Makes about 1 cup

1 to 2 tablespoons wasabi powder, or more to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or more as needed)
1 cup mayonnaise (Hellmann’s preferred)

Combine the wasabi powder and lemon juice and mix until a smooth paste is formed. Let sit for 5 minutes for the flavors to develop. Add the mayonnaise and whisk to combine. Refrigerate until serving time.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Grilling Safety

UP IN SMOKE
GRILLING SAFETY
Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber,

You know the scenario. The host of that Memorial Day cookout grabs the top of the LP tank (which he left connected to the grill at the end of last grilling season), and wobbles it optimistically, fingers crossed that there’ll be enough gas to take the barbecued chicken beyond its raw state. Then he’ll crank the starter burner to high and wait expectantly for that “whoosh” sound that either signals ignition…or conflagration.

Meanwhile, an equal number of charcoal grillers will haul their grills out of the garage, survey the cooked-on crud on the grill grate, and rationalize how it will “season” this year’s food. Then they’ll reach for the charcoal (oops, not much in the bag), lighter fluid (oh, good…plenty of that), and a match, preferably—but not always—in that order.

Nothing will ruin your reputation as a grill jockey faster or more completely than burning down the house or sending everyone home sick with food poisoning. With National Barbecue Month (May)—the official kick-off of the 2008 grilling season—upon us, what better time to get your barbecuing equipment in top working order and reacquaint yourself with the fundamentals of grilling and food safety? I know this may not sound as sexy as rubs or smoking, but that’s what we pros do, folks.

Getting Started
When I was eight-years old, my mother gave me an unforgettable lesson on the wrong way to light a charcoal grill. She threw a match on a pile of briquettes, then splashed gasoline on top. Only the quick reaction of a neighbor, who knocked the exploding gas can out of my mother’s hands, averted tragedy.

Incidents like this are not uncommon. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2005, gas and charcoal grills caused 3,400 structure fires and 4,900 outdoor fires in the U.S. resulting in property losses alone in excess of $137 million. So even if you normally skip safety warnings—read on.

Gas Grills

Make sure there are no insects or cobwebs under the burner knobs, in the grill manifolds, or in the connecting hoses. Replace any obviously crimped, brittle, cracked, or nicked connectors or hoses.

If the pinholes on the burner tubes are clogged, carefully unclog them with a straight pin or bent paper clip. Make sure the burner knobs turn freely; if they don’t, squirt the valves with WD-40. If your grill has an igniter switch, make sure it’s in working order. You may need to replace the battery—usually a single AA. Clean the drip pan in the highly unlikely event you forgot to clean it at the end of last season.

To clean the grill grates, preheat the grill and grates screaming hot, then brush with a stiff wire brush . Don’t forget to oil the grate with a grate oiler or a folded paper towel dipped in oil and drawn across the grate at the end of tongs. A grate is easy to clean when it’s hot, and almost impossible to clean when it’s cold. Then, throughout the season, keep your grate hot, keep it clean, keep it lubricated. The more you use the grill, the more the grate will resist rust and sticking.

Check the level of gas in the propane tank by weighing it; an empty tank will weigh about 18 pounds, a full tank, about 38. Another way to check the gas level in a propane tank is to pour a cup of boiling water over the side: the water will condense at the level where there’s gas. (Do not allow a supplier to overfill your tank as the gas needs head space.) Make sure the tank itself is in good condition and not showing signs of distress, bulging, or rust. Always transport it in an upright position—I’ve found a milk crate works well.

Reconnect the LP tank (which you removed from the grill last year and stored outside away from the house or other structures, right?).

Check all hoses and connections for leaks with a leak detection solution made by mixing equal amounts of liquid dish soap and water. Brush this mixture over the hoses and connectors. Open the shut-off valve, and if you see bubbling (which indicates a leak), immediately turn the gas off. Do not attempt to light the grill until the leak has been repaired. It’s not a bad idea to perform this test periodically, especially when lighting a grill after an extended period of disuse.

To light, open the lid of the grill, then turn on the gas at the tank. (Never light a gas grill with the lid closed—you’ll get a gas build-up and possible explosion.) Turn the burner knob to “high” or “ignite.” On some models, the igniter is slaved to a specific burner and you must light that tube first before lighting the rest of the grill. (Again, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.)

For more tips on safe propane grilling, visit the Propane Education and Research Council website, www.propanecouncil.org.

If the grill doesn’t light after a couple of clicks, turn off the burner control knob, turn the gas off at the tank, and wait 5 or 10 minutes before attempting to light it again. If everything seems to be in order but your grill still fails to light, call the manufacturer. And maybe make other plans for dinner.

Charcoal Grills

Get started by thoroughly cleaning your grill. (Of course, you did that the last time you used your grill, but just double-check.) Scrape out any congealed ash at the bottom of the firebox or kettle bowl with a garden trowel. Empty the ash catcher (if you haven’t already done so). Squirt any sticky vents with a silicone spray like WD-40. Treat minor rust or dings with a high-quality heatproof paint. If rust is beginning to eat through the grill walls, it’s time to say goodbye, no matter how many good times you’ve shared.

Clean the grill grate by heating, brushing, and oiling, as described above, or do as my assistant, Nancy Loseke, does—she buys a new grate for her kettle grill each year for about $15.00. There are also cleaning agents on the market formulated especially for barbecue grills. Check with your local hardware or grill store. Again, the more you use the grill, the more the grate will resist rust and sticking.

And while you’re at it, take inventory of supporting equipment. Do you need more or better chimney starters, long-handled tongs, grill brushes, or spatulas? How’s your supply of paraffin fire starters, disposable drip pans, or long matches? Do you have plenty of charcoal? (Store the latter in a tight fitting metal can to keep it from becoming damp.)

There are several ways to light a charcoal fire—the aforementioned lighter fluid (and a related product, self-lighting charcoal, which consists of briquettes soaked with lighter fluid), an electric starter, and a chimney starter.

The latter is my favorite. Charcoal goes in the top and a crumpled piece of newspaper or a paraffin fire starter, which you ignite with a gas lighter or long match, goes in the bottom. In 15 to 20 minutes, you have a cylinder full of evenly lit coals. The beauty of a chimney is that it lights the coals uniformly without petroleum-based starters. It’s easy to use and easy to transfer the coals where you need them.

When arranging the coals in the grill for direct grilling, leave at least 30 per cent of the grill coal free—this creates a safety zone where you can move food in case of flare-ups. And always wear long, heavy leather grilling gloves when handling chimney starters and coals.

General Grill Safety

· Position gas and charcoal grills 10 feet from walls, siding, deck railings, eaves, shrubbery, or other combustibles. Do the same with chimney starters. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, over one-third of all fires started by gas or charcoal grills begin on overhanging balconies or unenclosed porches.

·Place a large heavy sheet of metal under the grill or use a protective pad, like the one manufactured by DiversiTech to shield your deck from dripping grease or sparks.

· Never bring a barbecue grill indoors (charcoal or gas) or into any unventilated space like a garage. Carbon monoxide is odorless, tasteless, and deadly.

· Keep children and pets away from the grill. I’d add rambunctious lawn games (such as football or soccer) and guests who have had one too many to drink. Make sure the grill’s on level ground and that its placement doesn’t interfere with normal foot traffic patterns.

· Wear fitted clothing—nothing loose. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants are the preferred uniform of serious grill jockeys. And closed shoes, of course. The first time you step barefooted on a loose ember or a hot spark or dripping fat hits the top of a sandaled foot, you’ll appreciate this advice.

· Never leave a lit grill unattended. Remember the last of Steven’s Ten Commandments of Great Grilling: “Never desert your post.”

· Always have a bucket of water and a dry, fully-charged chemical fire extinguisher on hand. Make friends with your local fire department and have your extinguisher checked annually. A large box of coarse salt can be useful for extinguishing small grease fires. Sprinkle it on top. Call 911 without delay if a fire can’t be immediately controlled.

· Always use long-handled grilling tools to avoid leaning over the grill while cooking.

Shutdown

· Let charcoal cool completely—either let the coals burn down, or close the vents and the lid to starve the coals of oxygen. (Pouring water in the grill to douse hot coals is never a good idea. It results in hot and dangerous steam, and can damage the grill itself.) The charcoal and ash can I designed for my Best of Barbecue line is a perfect receptacle for hot coals, and a necessity if you’re a tailgater or “leave no trace” camper. Common sense dictates you should wait until the next morning to empty out ashes, and of course, never place them in a paper bag or plastic garbage can. A live coal can survive for more than 12 hours.

· Never attach or disconnect an LP tank or fiddle with fittings when the grill is on. If you run out of gas during a grilling session, turn off all the burners, reconnect the new tank, and light it afresh.

· After you’re done grilling and while the grill is hot, brush and oil the grill grate. Or if the grate is especially dirty, burn off the crud, then brush and oil the grate. Be sure to turn all the burners off (including rotisserie and smoker box burner—you wouldn’t believe how often people forget to do this, me included, and lose a whole tank of gas. Crank down the gas shut-off valve. Disconnect the LP couplings once the grill has cooled if the grill will be idle for several days.

Food Safety 101
A food poisoning strike at 3 a.m. will erase all memory of that great barbecue the night before faster than you can say, “ e. coli.” And unfortunately, food-born illnesses, like salmonella (present in as much as three-quarters of American chickens), have become a major concern in this country.

You can protect yourself, your family, and your guests from these scourges by developing good food-handling habits, such as the following, courtesy of the National Restaurant Association:

· Always wash your hands with hot water and soap before handling food, and between food tasks, especially if you’ve touched raw meat.

· Obsessively clean and sanitize food-contact surfaces (such as cutting boards or utensils) between uses.

· Don’t cross-contaminate, that is allow raw food (such as chicken) to touch or drip fluids onto cooked or ready-to-eat foods.

· Don’t use raw marinades (marinades in which raw meats have soaked) for basting cooked meats or as a sauce—unless you boil the marinade for at least 3 minutes.

Storage: Store perishable foods quickly and properly in the refrigerator after purchasing. Going to be out shopping all day? Bring an ice-filled cooler.

Preparation: Remember the Danger Zone (41 degrees F to 140 degrees F) and minimize the time food spends out between these temperatures.

Cooking: Cook food to its minimum safe internal temperature for the appropriate amount of time. (See below.) The only way to be sure about doneness is to use an instant-read meat thermometer. Insert it through the side of steaks, chops, chicken breasts, burgers, etc., not through the top. When checking for doneness in whole chickens or turkeys, insert the thermometer probe into the deepest part of the thigh meat, but not touching the bone.

Safe doneness temperatures:
Poultry: 170 degrees
Pork: 160 degrees
Hamburgers: 160 degrees

Holding: Hold hot foods at 140 degrees F or higher and cold foods at 41 degrees F or lower.

Cooling: Cool cooked food to 70 degrees F within two hours and to 41 degrees F (a normal refrigerator temperature) within four hours.

At Grill Side: Keep meats on ice or in an ice-filled cooler until you’re ready to grill them. Ditto for mayonnaise-based salads, like slaw and potato salad. (You’ll notice on the set of Barbecue University or Primal Grill we try to have meats on ice-filled sheet pans or in ice-filled bowls—and that’s not just for television.)

 

PERUVIAN-STYLE CHICKEN

Insanely popular in Lima and in Peruvian communities in the U.S. For maximum crispness and to speed up the cooking process, the chicken is spatchcocked (butterflied). Note: in Peru, you’d use a fiery yellow chili called aji amarillo (use 1 to 2). This recipe approximates the flavor by mixing yellow bell pepper and habanero.

Method: Direct grilling
Serves: 2 to 4
Advance Preparation: 2 to 12 hours for marinating the chicken

For the marinade and sauce:

1 yellow or orange bell pepper
1 habanero pepper, or 2 jalapeno peppers, or more to taste
One small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea), or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup mayonnaise (Hellmann’s preferred)

For the chicken:

1 whole chicken (about 3-1/2 to 4 pounds)

Stem, seed, and devein the bell pepper and the habanero and chop roughly.

Combine in a blender container with the onion, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, turmeric, and vegetable oil. Blend until fairly smooth. In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of the marinade mixture (reserve the remainder) with the mayonnaise and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate the mayonnaise mixture until ready to serve.

Place the chicken, breast side down, on a cutting board. Using poultry shears or a sharp knife, cut through the flesh and bone along both sides of the backbone. Cut from the tail end to the head end and completely remove the backbone.

Open out the chicken (like opening a book) by gently pulling the halves apart. Using a sharp paring knife, lightly score the top of the breastbone. Run your thumbs along and under the sides of the breastbone and attached cartilage and pop them out. Spread the bird out flat.

Turn the bird over. Using a sharp knife, make a slit in the skin between the lower end of the breastbone and the leg, on each side, approximately 1/2 inch long (you’re trying to accommodate the end of the drumstick). Stick the end of the drumstick on that side through the slit.

Put the spatchcocked chicken into a nonreactive baking dish and pour the marinade over it, turning to coat completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the chicken on the grate, skin-side down. Grill for 12 to 15 minutes per side, turning once with tongs and a spatula. The chickens can be a little awkward to turn; you’ll need to use both utensils. If the skin browns too much, lower the heat or move the chicken to a cooler section of the grill. The chicken is done when an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh (but not touching the bone) registers 170 degrees F. Or to play it safe, you can indirect grill the bird—in which case, place it skin side up on the grill and indirect grill for about 40 minutes.

Let the bird rest for 3 to 5 minutes, then carve and serve with the mayonnaise sauce.

PLJESKAVICA (BOSNIAN BURGERS)

These spicy flat burgers turn up throughout the Balkans, especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Flatten the burger to the thickness and size of a pita bread. The easiest way to do this is to flatten it on a metal or stone work surface, then pry it off with a slender metal spatula.

Method: Direct grilling
Serves: Serves 4
Advance Preparation: 1/2 to 1 hour for letting the meat rest

12 ounces ground beef, preferably ground chuck
12 ounces ground veal (or substitute more ground beef)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 to 2 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and minced (see Note)
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea), or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
Grilled pita bread for serving
Tomato slices and lemon wedges for serving (optional)

Combine the beef, veal, garlic, onion, serrano pepper(s), parsley, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl. Knead the mixture gently with your hands until thoroughly blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Divide the meat in four equal portions. Mold each into a large flat disk, like a pita bread, on the back of a metal baking sheet or stone countertop. Each burger should be about 6 inches across and 1/4-inch thick.

Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Brush and grill the grill grate.

Loosen the burger from the baking sheet, sliding a slender metal spatula under it. Transfer it to the grill. Grill until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. The internal temperature on an instant read meat thermometer inserted through the side will be at least 160 degrees.

Transfer to a large plate or platter and serve at once with pita, tomato slices, and lemon wedges for squeezing.

Note: For a hotter pljeskavica, leave the seeds in.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Barbecue: Feeding People Cheaply for Centuries

UP IN SMOKE
BARBECUE: FEEDING PEOPLE CHEAPLY FOR CENTURIES
Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber,

No matter what your net worth, there’s something supremely satisfying about feeding your family and friends well with limited resources. Anyone can drop $100 on a beautiful hunk of prime rib, but it takes talent and heart to turn low-cost victuals into a feast. Given the combination of a volatile stock market, tightening credit, and an uncertain economic forecast, I thought you’d appreciate a few suggestions for the grill that don’t break the bank.

Though barbecue is democratic in nature—enjoyed by high-born and low, rich and poor— it is a religion that has traditionally been preached in America from the pulpits of the budget-minded.

The slaves were among barbecue’s early practitioners in the American South. They quickly discovered that the meanest cuts of meat were much improved by smoke, spices, and low, slow cooking. The cooking was done over ember-filled trenches dug in the ground—the origin of the modern barbecue “pit.”

Political rallies during the 18th and 19th centuries were often organized around epic barbecues (they were called “pig pickin’s” in the Carolinas), and candidates duked it out over who provided the best comestibles. These barbecues were a way to feed a lot of people for not much money.

Yes, the history of live fire cooking is entwined with tales of thrifty people whose ingenuity led to some of our most beloved iterations of barbecue.

  • Charlie Vergos of Rendezvous fame, ran a sandwich shop in Memphis, Tennessee. One day, a meat salesman gave him a case of pork ribs to experiment with. (There was no market for baby backs in those days; the salesman couldn’t give them away.) Charlie direct-grilled the ribs high over blazing charcoal, mopped them with a mixture of vinegar, water, and salt, then he crusted them with a Greek-inspired seasoning he made up on the spot. Today, Rendezvous serves about four tons of its legendary ribs a week. They’ll ship ribs and their proprietary seasoning right to your door as you’ll discover if you visit their aptly-chosen website, www.hogsfly.com.
  • Another Charles—German immigrant Charles Kreuz (rhymes with bites)—founded a grocery store in Lockhart, Texas, in 1900, and did much to sharpen the state’s enduring appetite for beef shoulder clod, brisket, and sausage. At the end of each day, he barbecued any unsold meat over a wood fire and unloaded it at bargain prices. The business, though no longer in the atmospheric original location, is iconic in the world of regional barbecue. www.kreuzmarket.com
  • Southern California’s favorite barbecued beef was once considered a cut too tough and fibrous to grill. The tri-tip was generally ground into hamburger or sold as stew meat…that is, until supermarket butchers Larry Viegas and Bob Schultz seasoned a tri-tip with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and threaded it onto a turnspit, never expecting that spit roasting was just what this maligned cut needed. That was 1952. Now it’s the signature barbecue of Santa Maria, about 170 miles north of Los Angeles—and indeed, is enjoyed throughout the West Coast.
  • Most pitmasters discard rib tips, the cartilaginous ends of trimmed spareribs. But as my friend Lindsay Shannon knows, they make a great gnaw when properly seasoned and lengthily smoked. Lindsay is the proprietor of one of my favorite Kansas City rib joints, BB’s Lawnside Bar-B-Q. (For a close facsimile of his recipe, see Raichlen on Ribs, page 156.) The restaurant’s heat-holding granite barbecue pit has been working its smoky magic since 1950.
  • Even charcoal briquettes came to the market through one man’s frugality. Henry Ford began manufacturing them in the 1920s using wood scraps from his Model T production line. The business was run by a distant relative, E. G. Kingsford. Does that name sound familiar?

Saving Money
As any shrewd shopper knows, bargains in meat, poultry, and seafood are getting harder to find. The industry claims corn and its importance to the alternative fuel ethanol is to blame in part for the steep price increases we’re seeing at the butcher and dairy counters. But supply and demand bear responsibility, too, and as more people smoke brisket and ribs at home, the price of these cuts rises. It doesn’t help things when star chefs like Thomas Keller feature beef cheeks, lamb tongues, etc., on their upscale menus.

So, how do you save money?

Well, first use neglected or overlooked cuts. Baby back ribs have achieved star status, but spare ribs and country-style ribs (the latter direct-grilled like pork chops) are still affordable cuts of pork. Beef long and short ribs (see recipe below) and lamb ribs are also quite reasonable and deliver huge flavor for your investment.

Brisket prices have crept up, especially for the lean center cuts. But a whole brisket, sheathed in fat, with point and deckle attached, is still quite reasonable—and it’s a lot easier to cook without drying it out than the leaner version. Even better, ask your butcher to order you a clod (whole beef shoulder). Cook it low and slow as you would brisket (see a recipe on page 164 in BBQ USA). The flavor will come as a revelation. And it will serve a crowd of 20 to 30 people.

Asians have evolved a sensible strategy that saves you not only money, but calories, cholesterol, and fat grams. They often use meat as a flavoring or condiment—rather than a huge, plate-burying hunk of protein. Consider the Thai Grilled Beef Salad (recipe below) where a single flank steak will serve 4 or more people. A single salad can be as satisfying as a steak dinner when it’s paired with such explosively flavorful seasonings as chilies, fresh basil, mint, cilantro, fish sauce, and lime juice. In addition to the recipe I’m sharing below, you can find more Asian-inspired recipes in my story on healthy barbecuing in the June/July issue of Best Life magazine.


BBQ U Mac & Cheese with Grilled Onions, Chilies, and Corn (Photo courtesy of Don Barto)

Finally, another way to trim the cost is to avoid meat entirely. Believe it or not, one of the most oft-requested recipes from my files is a rich grilled version of macaroni and cheese, made famous in “BBQ U” Season 4, that has the most unrepentant carnivores reloading their plates. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself with this recipe.

Get out of your grilling and barbecueing comfort zone and try your hand at unfamiliar cuts like the aforementioned rib tips, tri-tip, or beef shoulder clod. Or grill up skirt or hanger steak for authentic fajitas, or beefy-tasting flat iron steaks, a relatively new cut from the shoulder. Make friends with your butcher or fish monger and ask them to keep you abreast of good buys.

As always, for great ideas and information and lively discussions about grilling and barbecueing, visit the Barbecue Board.

Five-Spice Short Ribs with Shanghai Barbecue Sauce
Here’s a preview of one of the recipes on my new TV series, “The Primal Grill” with Steven Raichlen. Shows will begin airing in May on PBS. Meaty but value-priced beef short ribs get an easy but exotic rub before being smoked to tenderness, sauced, and sizzled.

Source: “The Primal Grill” with Steven Raichlen
Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: 4 to 6
Advance Preparation: 4 to 6 hours for marinating the meat

3 to 4 pounds beef short ribs, bone-in

For the rub:
2 tablespoons Chinese 5-spice powder
1 tablespoon teaspoon fine grained sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground white pepper

For the Shanghai Barbecue Sauce:
1 cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing) or dry sherry
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons rice vinegar, or more to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon peeled, minced ginger
2 scallions, white and green parts minced

You’ll also need:
1-1/2 cups wood chips or chunks, soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then
drained

1) Make the rub: Combine the 5-spice powder, salt, sugar, and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

2) Make the barbecue sauce: In a nonreactive saucepan, combine the hoisin sauce, wine, soy sauce, sugar, ketchup, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and scallions. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens (5 to 10 minutes).

3) Generously sprinkle the ribs on all sides with the rub. Cover the ribs with plastic wrap and refrigerate them while you set up the grill.

4) Set up a charcoal grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. Place a large drip pan in the center of the grill. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the ribs in the center of the grate over the drip pan and away from the heat. Toss half of the wood chips on each mound of coals.

5) Cover the grill and cook the ribs until they are well-browned, cooked through, and tender enough to pull apart with your fingers, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. When the ribs are done, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about 1/4 inch.

6) Just before serving, brush the ribs on all sides with the Shanghai Barbecue Sauce and move them directly over the fire. Grill until the sauce is sizzling, 1 to 3 minutes per side. Watch carefully so the sugars in the barbecue sauce don’t burn.

7) Transfer to a large platter or cutting board and let rest for a few minutes. Serve with the remaining barbecue sauce on the side.

Spicy Thai Grilled Beef Salad (Yam Nua Yang)
In honor of the forthcoming 10th anniversary edition of Steven’s Barbecue! Bible (May 2008), here’s a recipe for Asian Grilled Beef Salad along with a photo from the new book.

Source: The Barbecue! Bible 10th Anniversary Edition by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing, May 2008)
Method: Direct grilling
Advanced Preparation: 2 to 8 hours for marinating the meat
Serves: 4

For the beef and marinade:
1 flank steak (1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

For the dressing:
3 cloves garlic
1 to 6 Thai or jalapeno chiles, minced (seed the chiles for a milder dressing)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

To finish the salad:
2 large heads Boston or 4 heads Bibb lettuce, separated into leaves, rinsed, and spun dry
1 hothouse or English cucumber, very thinly sliced
1 small sweet onion, very thinly sliced
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
12 fresh mint leaves (optional)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts

1) Lightly score the flank steak in a crosshatch pattern, making the cuts 1/4 inch deep. Place the meat in a glass baking dish. Combine the soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a mixing bowl and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Pour this mixture over the steak and let marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or as long as 8, turning several times.

2) Preheat the grill to high.

3) Make the dressing. Grind the garlic, chiles, and sugar to a paste in a mortar with a pestle. Work in the fish sauce and lemon juice. Alternatively, puree in a blender or small food processor.

4) Prepare the salad. Line a platter with the lettuce leaves and arrange the cucumber slices, onion, cherry tomatoes, and mint leaves (if using) on top.

5) When ready to cook, drain the steak. Oil the grill grate, then place the steak on the hot grate and grill until cooked to taste (4 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare), using tongs to turn. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let cool slightly or completely. The salad can be served warm or at room temperature. Thinly slice the steak across the grain on the diagonal. Spoon the dressing over the salad and arrange the beef slices on top. Sprinkle with the cilantro and roasted peanuts and serve.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Salt of the Earth

UP IN SMOKE
SALT OF THE EARTH
Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber,

Quick: name one ingredient no grill jockey in the world would be without. The answer is easy. Salt. From Spain’s salt-crusted rib steak to Vietnam’s salt and pepper prawns to Scotland’s smoked salmon, salt is not only a seasoning, but an integral part of some of the world’s greatest grilled and smoked dishes. If you think that salt is just, well, salt, it’s time to take a fresh look.

For most of recorded history, sodium chloride—an essential mineral for humans and animals—was a precious commodity. It played a huge role in the evolution of the world as we know it. Anthropologists posit that the first human settlements and cities first rose where there were natural salt deposits. Humans followed animals to salt licks, etching the first dirt roads, and ultimately, the path to the world’s first social barbecues. Roman legionnaires were paid in salt wages (Latin: salarium argentum), giving rise to the word “salary.” Salzburg, Austria, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Saltville, Virginia, are communities named literally for the salt deposits around them.

Although you’d never guess it to look at exotic salt prices at your local gourmet shop, salt is not rare. It is, in fact, one of the most plentiful minerals on earth. The deposits under Kansas alone could service the planet’s salt needs for the next 250,000 years!

For culinary purposes, there are many different types of salt. Here are some of the most common, along with their suggested uses:

salt
Check out the New York Times bestseller Salt for a fascinating history of this important mineral.

 

Table salt– This form of sodium chloride is used in over 70 per cent of households in the U.S. It is available plain or with iodine, an element required in trace amounts by nearly all living organisms. (In humans, iodine aids healing, helps regulate blood pressure, prevents goiters, and elevates the IQ of populations that have ready access to it.) Each crystal is tiny and cube-shaped, meaning it packs tightly. (Note: you should use less table salt if substituting it for kosher or coarse salt in a recipe. For a helpful conversion chart, go to www.mortonsalt.com .) It is the least expensive of the culinary salts, making it a reasonable choice for preparations calling for more than a few tablespoons of salt, such as brining, which can require several cups. It is also good for baking as it dissolves easily in liquid.

Kosher salt – Kosher salt is table salt that has been compressed and then flaked. This process increases its surface area so it can draw out more moisture from food. The large flat crystals also dissolve more slowly than table salt—which is one reason I like it so much for grilling. It doesn’t dissolve completely, so you get little pointillistic bursts of flavor when you bite into a kosher salt-seasoned steak or chops.

Kosher salt has a crunchy texture and a clean flavor which makes it excellent for crusting grilled or barbecued meats, mixing into dry rubs, or rimming a glass for margaritas or a grilled shrimp cocktail. Like table salt, it is relatively inexpensive and also good for brining. (For specific information on brining, go to this archived issue of Up in Smoke) This is the everyday salt I reach for at the grill—especially when grilling meat.

Sea salt – Sea salt results when seawater evaporates—sometimes in sluices specially designed for the purpose, sometimes in natural pools in salt marshes and tidal basins. Its color and flavor vary depending on the coastal area where it was harvested. It can range in color from white to grey to brown.

Unrefined sea salt, which has a moist appearance and is usually sold in jars, often goes by its French name: sel gris (“grey salt”). It tends to form coarse, pyramid-shaped crystals, which are exquisite for seasoning grilled seafood. Fleur de sel (“flower of salt”) is the highest grade of sea salt. It comes from France, and is skimmed by hand from the top of salt marshes. Another great sea salt, this one dry, comes from England and is called Maldon. These salts do not come cheap, but their flavor and texture are richly rewarding.

salty.jpg
A father and sons team of salt merchants in the famous salt flats of Trapani, Sicily. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Loseke.)

Specialty salts – Up to now, we’ve been talking mostly about everyday salts. Specialty salts come from the four corners of the globe and are used by the world’s grill masters for everything from Indian tandoori to a Hawaiian style luau.

The prize for the most distinctive incarnation of sodium chloride surely goes to Indian black salt, (actually, kind of purplish)—a coarse, unrefined mineral salt with a pungent, sulfurous aftertaste. Sounds off-putting, but nothing beats it for finishing certain Indian grilled lamb dishes.

Red salt, also known as alaea, is a specialty of Hawaii. The large crystals have a pinkish-orangish tinge (not unlike salmon), which the salt picks up from particulate volcanic red clay. Red salt is the traditional salt for a Hawaiian pit roasted pork dish called Kahlua Pig. See Barbecue USA, page 252, for a recipe.

Our features editor, Nancy Loseke, is especially enamored of Murray River salt, a delicate, pale apricot-colored salt from ancient underground rivers in the Murray/Darling River area of Victoria, Australia. The salt has, she says, a pleasing crunch, a pure taste, and has given her a reason to recall to active duty the antique salt cellars she inherited from her grandmother. Each diner gets one, as well as a tiny silver spoon.

She also alerted me to Danish Viking Smoked Sea Salt, a remarkable seasoning that is made by evaporating sea water over a smoky wood fire of juniper, cherry, elm, beech, and oak. Talk about a salt that’s grill friendly! Think of it as the Scandinavian version of American hickory smoked salt, which is made by infusing salt with natural hickory smoke and (sometimes) yeast. This salt, as well as the salts detailed above, are available in some specialty shops, or can be ordered from www.salttraders.com or www.saltworks.com.

Curing salt – Technically speaking, all salts cure the foods exposed to them by drawing out moisture. (See the Asian-inspired fish cure recipe below.) But there are salts on the market that have been especially developed to cure meats quickly; they usually contain sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite, and are familiar to barbecuers who like to cure and smoke their own bacon, hams, sausages, jerky, and other meats, as well as salmon, sablefish, and shad.

And while we’re on the subject of the different types of salt, here are a few thoughts on how to use them for grilling.

When to salt: When grilling steaks and chops, I like to apply a generous seasoning of salt and pepper to the meat on both sides immediately before cooking. Put it on too early, and you’ll draw out the juices and cure the meat—desirable for some dishes, but certainly not for steak.

For everyday use, I reach for kosher salt. I like the way the coarse crystals resist melting so you get crunchy bursts of salty flavor each time you take a bite. I also often use coarse sea salt.

Curing: Curing is a process whereby foods are exposed to salt or a salt sugar mixture or solution for a prolonged period. The salt draws out moisture, giving the meat a firmer texture and, of course, a salty flavor.

Brining works the opposite way. The food is marinated in a solution of salt, often sugar, and water, and in the brining process, by the magic of osmosis, some of the liquid is absorbed by the meat. Thus brining is well-suited to inherently dry foods like chicken breasts, turkey, pork, and shrimp.

Rubs give meat character and personality. Most contain salt. To apply a rub, sprinkle it over the meat and rub it into the surface with your fingers. Hey, that’s why it’s called a rub. (Wear latex gloves to keep your hands clean.)

So what about pepper? Well, as you can well imagine, I have strong thoughts about what comes out of the peppercorn grinder and how to use it for grilling. Stay tuned, because we plan to devote a whole issue of Up in Smoke to it in the near future.

In the meantime, here are two recipes, one never before published, that showcase the amazing talents and versatility of salt.

Vietnamese Salt and Pepper Grilled Shrimp

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This recipe appears in The 10th Anniversary Edition of The Barbecue Bible, which will be released in May, 2008, by Workman Publishing. You can preorder the book now from Amazon.com. This recipe is almost Zen-like in its simplicity, but makes a terrific appetizer for 6 to 8 people or a main course for 4.

1-1/2 pounds headless jumbo shrimp, shells left on but de-veined (see NOTE)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Coarse salt, preferably sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
Juicy lime wedges for serving

Rinse the shrimp under cold running water, blot dry with paper towels, and put in a large non-reactive bowl. Sprinkle with the lime juice and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Toss to coat, and let marinate for 10 minutes while you preheat the grill to high. Meanwhile, put a wedge of lime and separate mounds of salt and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon each) on small plates, one for each person. Set aside.

When ready to cook, oil the grill grate. Arrange the shrimp, in their shells, on the hot grate. Grill, turning with tongs, until the meat is firm and pink, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter or plates. To eat, squeeze the lime wedge over the salt and pepper and mix with chopsticks; peel the shrimp and dip in the lime/salt/pepper mixture.

NOTE: To de-vein an unpeeled shrimp, make a lengthwise cut along the back of the shell with kitchen shears. Scrape out the exposed vein with the tine of a fork or the tip of a paring knife. Two pounds of head-on shrimp can be substituted for headless.

Pac-Rim Fish Cure

Try this easy but exotic cure the next time you smoke salmon. Makes about 3/4 cup.

1/2 cup granulated palm sugar (see NOTE) or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black or white pepper (I prefer a medium-grind)
2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1-1/2 teaspoons dried loose green tea

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with your fingers or a whisk, breaking up any lumps. Transfer to a covered jar and store away from heat and light. The cure will keep for several months.

NOTE: Granulated palm sugar can be found at some Asian markets.

To use:
Generously sprinkle half of the cure evenly on the bottom of a large glass baking dish. Place about 1-1/2 pounds skinless salmon fillets, preferably center-cut, on top of the cure. (Optional: You can soak the salmon in sake, Japanese beer, or Chinese rice wine in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour first; drain well and blot dry with paper towels before curing.) Cover the top and sides of the salmon with the remaining cure. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours. Rinse the cure off the salmon under cold running water, then blot dry with paper towels. Using the indirect grilling method, smoke the salmon with cherrywood chunks or chips (applewood can be substituted) until cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes. For more detailed instructions, see How to Grill, page 309.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Where’s Steven?

UP IN SMOKE
WHERE’S STEVEN?
Perhaps you’ve seen the feature on my blog—a photo with the caption, “Where’s Steven?” It’s a literal question, inviting people to identify my location as I travel the world’s barbecue trail, doing research for my next book, Planet Barbecue. Lately, however, the rhetorical form of the question “Where IS Steven?” may seem more appropriate. Perhaps you’ve even noticed Up in Smoke has been on hiatus the past few months.

Well, first, folks, I apologize for our silence. It’s been very busy (in a good way) here at Steven Raichlen, Inc. over the past few months. Let me bring you up to speed on some of the most exciting new developments…

Barbecue University™
It’s official! Barbecue University™ 2008 will take place at the spectacular Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Known as the “Grand Dame of the Rockies,” the Broadmoor is the longest-running consecutive winner of both the AAA Five-Diamond and the Mobil Travel Guide Five-Star awards. I can’t think of a better place for BBQ U.

The theme for this year’s BBQ U—now in its eighth year—is “The Primal Grill”—based on my new TV show by the same name (more on this below).

The intense, 3-day immersion in fire and smoke will feature all new recipes from around the world’s barbecue trail, not to mention those iconic dishes everyone wants to know how to master. You know what I’m talking about: brisket tender enough to cut with a fork (this year, Texas Hill Country-style with chili rub and beer mop), pork shoulder (smoke-roasted like they do in the Yucatan: in banana leaves), and an eye-popping spit-roasted prime rib studded with garlic, rosemary, and asiago cheese. You’ll learn more than two dozen new recipes in all.

Our collection of grills has grown, too, making BBQ U™ the place to preview the industry’s latest technology and refinements. The newest members of the family include a cool wood-burning Grillery grill, a competition-size Texas smoker, and of course the latest charcoal and gas grills. What hasn’t changed is our commitment to teaching the fundamentals as well as the advanced techniques of live fire cooking. And making sure that every student gets a turn at the grill.

When not grilling, BBQ U students can enjoy the Broadmoor’s three championship golf courses, an award-winning spa, tennis, rock climbing, fly-fishing, swimming, and a host of other activities, not to mention dining at more than 15 different resort restaurants, including the Adam Tihany-designed “Summit.”

The next sessions of BBQ U will take place June 1-4 and June 4-7. For more information, or to reserve a spot for yourself or someone else at Barbecue University™, 2008, contact the Broadmoor directly by calling 800.634.7711

It’s a wrap: The Primal Grill
The other big news is my new TV show—”The Primal Grill”—scheduled to launch on PBS in May, 2008. You might recognize our location—the beautiful Tubac Golf Resort near Tuscan, Arizona—where the movie “Tin Cup,” starring Kevin Costner, was filmed.

So what’s new about the show? Just about everything. All new recipes. Get ready for spit-roasted Aussie ribs, a new Philly “cheese steak” (a whole beef tenderloin stuffed with grilled
chilies, onions, and provolone), prosciutto-grilled trout, and even a smoked raspberry pear crisp.

We have a great new production team headed by Emmy-award-winning producer, Matt Cohen. The show will have a brand new look with new music, energy and excitement. We’ve just started editing—stay tuned.

Other News
Mrs. Raichlen and I recently completed barbecue tours of Spain, France, Morocco, Turkey, Israel, and Romania. By the way, for those of you who wondered, our November 8th blog featured grilled foie gras at the popular Avazi restaurant in Tel Aviv.

Next up are the Cayman Islands and the Mayan Coast in the Yucatan, as the march along the world’s barbecue trail—and the research for Planet Barbecue—continues.

Finally, speaking of books, preparations are under way for the 10th Anniversary edition of The Barbecue Bible. (Hard to believe a decade has passed already!)

Since the publication of the book and the launch of our web site, I’ve been collecting the questions you’ve sent about live fire cooking: for example, how to smoke the ultimate brisket? How to grill the perfect steak? How to cook and serve a whole meal off a single grill? Or how to grill when it’s 10 degrees below zero in Minnesota? Your queries form the core of an exciting new chapter in The Barbecue Bible: “The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Barbecuing and Grilling.” Think of them as a “Barbecue University” level course on the art of live fire cooking.

And because a picture is worth a thousand words, we’re also adding 100 new color photographs to the new edition—shot by award-winning food photographer Ben Fink and covering everything from essential techniques to mouth-watering beauty shots to show you what the finished dishes should look like.

The 10th Anniversary edition is due out in May, 2008—we’ll keep you posted.

RECIPES: THE EXTREME GRILLING CONTEST

Winner: Pumpkin Chicken
Louis Kiss, of Sherman Oaks, C.A.
Halloween is my favorite time of the year and this has become a tradition prior to Trick or Treating. (I do not recommend handing cooked chicken out to Trick or Treaters as it would tend to be quite messy).

During this season Pumpkin Ale is heavily advertised (although it is available year-round at most specialty food stores). Upon reading and trying different recipes in Beer-Can Chicken, I felt confident to experiment like a Mad Scientist.

Since I make monsters for a living (I’m an effects artist) and Pumpkin Ale kindles my love for the Halloween season, I figured it was high time to start a Halloween Feast. So I added this ale and pumpkin pie spice to my favorite way to cook chicken.

The blend of spices complement each other and can be tasted distinctly without being overbearing.

When first hearing of my concoction, guests seem turned away from the thought of combining pumpkin spice with chicken. Upon smelling the chicken grilling they began salivating like were-wolves during a full moon. After tasting it, they all wanted the recipe.

Pumpkin Ale is usually available in bottles so be sure to reserve an empty can to transfer into.

For the Rub:
1 1/2 tablespoons of Pumpkin Pie Spice
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
ground cayenne pepper to taste

For the Chicken:
1 bottle of Pumpkin Ale
1 chicken
2 teaspoons of olive oil (I prefer olive oil since it gives the chicken skin a certain crispness)
2 whole cloves

You will also need:
2 cups of hickory wood chips (hickory uniquely complements the spices) soaked for 1 hour in pumpkin ale, then drained

1. Make the Rub: Place ingredients in bowl and stir.

2. Clean the chicken. Rub olive oil over the chicken then place in the bowl of rub and work into chicken meat as well as the cavity. I like to make a few slices in the chicken so the rub really gets into the meat.

3. I heat my gas grill for indirect grilling and place the drained wood chips in an iron smoking box.

4. Fill an empty beer can 3/4 full with the Pumpkin ale, add remainder of rub not used on the chicken, add the cloves. Don’t add more than 3 cloves since this will overpower the flavors of the spices and smoking. Place the can into the chicken cavity.

5. Once the smoker box is going I place the chicken over the burner that is turned off and wait impatiently for 1 1/2 hours as the smell permeates the air.

6. I like to turn the chicken after 50 minutes to make sure one side doesn’t get charred.

7. Remove the chicken from the grill and let stand for a few minutes. Your guests will be ravenous at this point.

8. I am sure you’ve just started a brand new Halloween tradition and I bet more than likely you will make it more often throughout the year.

Runners Up: In No Particular Order
Grilled Donuts With Chipotle Chocolate Sauce
Carl Harmsen, of Piscataway, NJ
Perhaps only a true foodie would think it’s good by the name, but trust me on this one; make them once for a crowd and they will NEVER let you cook again without serving this tasty and so simple dessert! The crispy, smoky outside with the soft chewy center really wake up with the spicy chocolate sauce. If you make an odd number with more than one per guest but not enough for everyone to have two, be prepared for some creative bargaining to happen around the table.

Needs
Natural charcoal fire set up for direct grilling
Hickory chips soaked for one hour and drained
12 plain glazed donuts—the kind with a hole in the middle and no filling

For the Chocolate Sauce
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 Tsp Tabasco® Chipotle Pepper Sauce

1. Combine chocolate chips, sugar, water, and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring just to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in Tabasco® Chipotle Pepper Sauce. Serve warm.

2. Set up your grill for direct grilling and toss a handful of hickory chips (not chunks) on the hot coals for immediate smoke.

3. Arrange the donuts over medium to high heat, and allow them to cook 3 to 5 minutes per side.

4. Donuts should become soft and get grill marks but not be burned. When you remove them the sugar glaze will cool, becoming crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside.

5. Drizzle the sauce over the donuts and serve immediately with plenty of napkins.

Sizzling Crawfish
Laurie Emerson, of Biloxi, MS
1 lb. crawfish
12 grape leaves
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
1 cup of any hot sauce
1 tablespoon paprika (to put on top of grape leaves)

1. Clean crawfish with salt. Allow to stand in water for 30 minutes. Then pat dry.

2. Clean grape leaves and place 4-5 crawfish on each leaf

3. Spoon chopped tomatoes and chopped scallion on top of crawfish. Top with teaspoon of hot sauce and paprika.

4. Roll up grape leaf and place on hot grill. Remove after browning all sides.

Smokin’ Joe Kapp’s ABS
Joseph Kapelewski, of Richmond, VA
For the Sauce
100 Jalapeño peppers (enough to cover half of your grill). Green, purple, or red stages are all ok (fresh from the garden is ALWAYS best—store-bought peppers can hang around for a long time before they are sold.

2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
6-8 cloves of garlic (regular NOT elephant)
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons of either Tequila or Bourbon (Optional for teetotalers)
6-12 Cayenne peppers (Optional)
3-6 Habanero peppers (Optional)
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons of honey

You’ll Also Need
Blender
Funnel
Bottles and caps (I get glass bottles and plastic screw on caps from a local distributor) or just small canning jars with lids and rings will do.

Wash and remove stems from all peppers.

1. Smoke Jalapeño peppers using your best method (indirect with smoke box or foil pouch on a gas grill, soaked wood (Hickory or mesquite) on charcoal, fire box attached to grill, professional smoker, etc.) The key is low and slow until the peppers turn dark and leathery (avoid Krispy Kritters). Put a pan of ice water under the peppers to minimize the heat—the key is the smoke. Process may take 6 to 8 hours depending upon your smoking method.

2. Into blender add smoked peppers up to about two inches from the top of the blender. Add salt, garlic, lime juice, and tequila or bourbon (just for medicinal purposes) Finish with cayennes and habaneros or top off with some more jalapeños if you want a milder product. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar.

3. Put the top on and run blender on high for 1 minute. Check the consistency. If too thick add some more vinegar. If too thin add some paprika (it can really suck up moisture after 2 to 3 minutes of blending so be careful). The reason for adjusting is the degree of moisture or dryness of the peppers after smoking.

4. Continue blending and checking in one minute intervals until consistency is how you want it ( I like it thick – like an A-1 sauce – others may prefer thinner). Then blend on high for 2 minutes. Let it rest for 5 minutes and then blend on high again for two minutes.

5. Pour into sauce pan. Add honey. Honey is hard to measure without making a mess. Pour out the equilivant of two globs that should be about two tablespoons.

6. Mix well and heat over medium high until mixture regularly bubbles. Use a funnel to pour into sterilized bottles or small canning jars. Seal them up and let them rest for about a week for optimum flavor. Put in refridgerator after opening.

Used as a condiment on just about anything. Great on hot dogs, chicken, nachos, rice, you name it.

Sweet and Crunchy Grilled Salmon
Brock Hale, of Baltimore, MD
This incredibly simple treatment for salmon creates a show-stopping flavor for a readily available fish. It is a delicious contrast between the sweet and crunchy crust and the meaty texture of the fish. Top it with a store-bought mango salsa for an easy main dish, or use it with the recipe below for an entrée-sized salad.

The flavor when the salmon is paired with the salad is a particularly winning combination.

Grilled Salmon
4 4-6 oz. salmon fillets, skin removed
Cinnamon-Sugar coating mixture (3 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon, by volume)

1. Preheat grill to medium-high and oil grate.

2. Place salmon fillets directly on the grill, and coat the top liberally with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Close lid and grill for 4 to 6 minutes. Sugar will melt and coating will adhere to the fish.

3. Flip the fillets, taking care not to break them apart. Coat the second side with the cinnamon-sugar, close lid, and grill another 4 to 6 minutes.

4. Remove from grill. Serve as a stand-alone main dish or with the salad recipe below.

Sweet and Spicy Salmon Salad with Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette
Serves 4

1 recipe grilled salmon (above)

Salad
2 romaine lettuce hearts, chopped
2 large ripe mangoes, diced
2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, finely diced (optional)

Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dark sesame oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Japanese rice vinegar
1 inch grated ginger root (about 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend to mix.

2. Divide lettuce between 4 plates and top each with an equal portion of mango, tomato, onion, and jalapeno. Add salmon hot off the grill, and dress salad and fish with the sesame-ginger vinaigrette.

3. Serve with a chilled wine with citrus notes (Montes 2003 Sauvignon Blanc or Kris 2004 Pinot Grigio are good examples) to balance the sweet and spicy flavors of the salad.

Grilled Baja Buttermilk Toast With Yogurt-Fruit Drizzle
Janice Elder, of Charlotte, NC
A riff on French toast, grilling brings an entirely new dimension to this dish. It can be served as a breakfast/brunch dish or even as a very unusual and delectable dessert.

2 cups vanilla flavored yogurt (nonfat or low fat works well)
2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1 mango, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped almonds, lightly toasted
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup buttermilk
8 thick slices brioche, challah, or other soft white bread
1 cup shredded coconut, lightly toasted

1. Clean your grill very well; oil the grill grate and heat it to medium heat.

2. In a mixing bowl blend together the yogurt, pineapple, mango, almonds and allspice. Cover and reserve in refrigerator.

3. Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl. Add the salt, sugar and vanilla, blending well, then add the half-and-half and buttermilk, whisking to combine completely. Pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish. Working in batches if necessary, place the bread in the dish and let soak, then turn and soak on the opposite side.

4. Grill the soaked bread until golden brown, then turn and repeat on the other side. Serve right off the grill drizzled generously with the fruit-yogurt mixture. Sprinkle with toasted coconut.

Makes 4 generous servings or 8 small ones.

GRILLS, GEAR, AND FUEL

In honor of the holidays, we’re offering a 10 percent discount on our 10 best-selling accessories for holiday gift-giving at the barbecue store. And we’ve also created some special gift boxes, including sampler kits of Steven’s rubs and barbecue sauces.

Here’s a list of some of Steven’s other favorite holiday gifts for grill lovers:

Rectangular 4 Compartment Basket
Ultimate Grill Cleaning Brush
Stainless Steel Shellfish Rack
LumaTong
Non-Stick Ultimate Rib Rack
Stainless Steel Skewers 3/8″ Wide Set/6
Insulated Food Gloves
Stainless Steel Beer Can Chicken Rack
All Purpose BBQ Rub
Ultimate Square Chimney Starter

Finally, as the New Year approaches, all of us at BarbecueBible.com and Workman Publishing wish you a very happy, healthy, and smokin’ 2008.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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