UP IN SMOKE
Lights! Camera! Action! As the morning mist rose over the Old White Golf Course at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia a few weeks ago, early-risers experienced a curious sight. A full outdoor TV studio, complete with klieg lights, a boom camera, and a giant light screen appeared out of nowhere one morning–the set for the taping of Year 3 of BBQ University for PBS.
Which explains why this newsletter is so late–I’ve been completely and totally swamped. Please accept my apologies and thanks for your patience and interest.
So what’s it take to produce a TV show like BBQ University? An unbelievable amount of work on the part of a small army of dedicated people.
The culinary side is headed up by Greenbrier Cooking School Director Eve Cohen and a hard-working staff of four. Each recipe (we did more than 50 during the 6 day shoot) required a complete mise en place (set up-meats prepped and rub and sauce ingredients measured out into glass bowls)-often with a full back-up. Direct grilled dishes, like salmon rosemary kebabs and drunken steaks, were generally cooked right on camera. In the course of the shoot we used:
311 lbs of meat
3 gallons of extra virgin olive oil
200 lbs of charcoal
1 cord of wood
But true barbecue, like the Smoke-la-homa brisket or the brined smoked turkey, actually requires 3 batches-a raw one to show the starting point; a partially cooked dish to give you an idea of what it should look like half way through the cooking process, and a finished dish or “hero” to show the final result. Multiply this by the 7 to 8 dishes we taped each day and you begin to get an idea of the unbelievable amount of work involved in the food prep.
The production side of the shoot was no less daunting. Producer Charlie Pinsky presides over a crew of 10–4 videographers, a lighting guy, a stage manager, and 2 control room operators. Grilling may be simple, but to capture the magic of live fire, we used 4 different cameras-a tripod camera for me to talk to, another for close-ups, a boom camera that gives you those cool moving overhead shots (try talking to that camera while you’re cooking), and the infamous grill cam, which gives you those fantastic “charcoals’ eye” views of the food sizzling away on the grill grate.
Personal note here: It turns out I went to Sudbrook Junior High School in Baltimore, Maryland, with one of the videographers, Marlene Rodman. Any other Sudbrook Jr. High Schoolers out there?
On any given day, we had more than a dozen different grills fired up and smoking away on the set. As we taped, we rotated between charcoal and gas grills and smokers, from the tiny “Que” (Weber’s new portable gas grill) to the mighty Ranch grill we used for smoking whole salmons and 4 dozen bratwurst.
Of course, on the production side of things, the hard part is just beginning. During our week of taping, we shot 265 videotapes-25 tapes for each show! These will be edited down to thirteen 26-minutes shows-a painstaking process that takes 2 to 3 weeks per show. Sound and music have to be edited in and of course, we have to add the cool graphics, like the flaming BBQ U that separates segments.
Barbecue University 3 starts airing on PBS in April or May. I hope it’s in your area (we’re in 90 percent of the PBS markets), but if for some reason we’re not, please write your PBS station and tell them you’d like to see it.
Note: the “textbook” for the new series is BBQ USA. But to keep everyone on his toes, we’ve included some brand new recipes. You’ll find two of those in the Recipe section below.
NEWS AND VIEWS
Speaking of BBQ U–we’ve just set the dates for the 2005 sessions of Barbecue University at the Greenbrier:
A lot of you couldn’t get past the waiting list this year, so we’ve added some extra seats and extra classes. Sign up early to insure a spot, click here for more information.
GRILLS, GEAR, AND FUELS
“Keep it hot. Keep it clean. Keep it lubricated.” These, of course, are Raichlen’s Rules of Great Grilling, and if you start with a hot grill, scrub it conscientiously with a grill brush, and oil it with a folded paper towel dipped in vegetable oil, your food will never stick to the grate. (You’ll also get killer grill marks.)
To judge from sales at our Barbecue Store, a lot of you are taking my advice to heart. The oversized “Monster” Grill Brush I use on BBQ U TV show was our best seller last month. Thanks to all you grill fanatics who have tried it out, and we still have plenty in stock for anyone who needs one. This is simply the biggest, baddest, toughest grill brush on the market. I’m glad you like it.
Check out the monster grill brush and more at the store.
TIPS AND TECHNIQUES
“I need your help, please!” writes Brian Van Deusen from New Market, Maryland. “Should a marinade that I also want to use as a table sauce be boiled? How would boiling alter or affect it?”
When reusing a marinade that contained raw meat–either for basting, or serving–you must bring it to a roiling boil for at least 3 minutes to sterilize it. Another and better option is to set aside a portion of the freshly made marinade (before you put meat in it) and use this portion as your sauce. The portion you set aside does not need to be boiled.
Besides this sterilizing effect, boiling the marinade serves several other purposes. It helps blend flavors; mellows the pungency of onion and garlic; blunts the sharpness of acids, like lime juice or vinegar; and can serve to emulsify marinades that contain oil or melted butter.
One the other hand, boiling can destroy the spontaneity of some marinades that contain fresh herbs or diced fresh tomatoes.
Brian goes on to ask about the purpose of boiling barbecue sauces.
Again, it helps blend the various flavors into a harmonious whole, cuts the sharpness of acids, like tomato sauce and vinegar, and concentrates flavors by removing the water. It also sterilizes the sauce for prolonged storage-but you must pack the sauce into a sterile jar to achieve this effect. To sterilize a jar, boil it and the lid in a large pot with water to cover for at least 10 minutes.
Is there ever an instance when you don’t want to boil a sauce or marinade?
Yes. When you boil a marinade, you have to let it cool to room temperature before adding the food-a process that takes time and trouble. If you’re not planning to use part of the marinade as a sauce afterwards, in most instances, boiling is not necessary.
With delicate sauces, like sauce vierge (“virgin sauce,” an uncooked tomato sauce from France-see below), boiling would upset the delicate balance of flavors.
Lemon Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce
Makes 3 cups.
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (the oil rich outer rind)
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 (one and one half) teaspoons liquid smoke
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and whisk to mix. Gradually bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat and simmer until thick and flavorful, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl or clean jars and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until serving.
Cinnamon Grilled Plums with Port Sauce
Adapted from Raichlen’s Indoor Grilling
For the red wine sauce:
1 cup red wine from Washington State (pinot noir or merlot)
2 strips lemon zest
1 cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons sugar (or to tast)
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 large ripe plums
8 cinnamon sticks
8 strips lemon zest
Vanilla ice cream or yogurt
4 sprigs fresh mint
4 large chilled martini or wine glasses
Make the wine sauce. Place the wine in a heavy saucepan. Stick the cloves in the strips of lemon zest and add them to the port with the cinnamon stick and sugar. Gradually bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Boil the mixture until slightly reduced and just beginning to be syrupy-3 to 5 minutes. Dissolve the cornstarch in the lemon juice and gradually stir it into the port mixture. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes-the sauce will thicken. Strain the sauce into a heatproof bowl and let cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, cut each plum in half to the stone through the crease. Twist the plum halves in opposite directions to separate. Pry out the seeds and discard. Cut each plum half in half again. Using a metal skewer, make a starter hole in the center of each plum quarter (from outside to pit side). Skewer two plum quarters on each cinnamon stick, skin side to cut side, placing a strip of lemon zest between each. The recipe can be prepared several hours ahead to this stage.
Preheat the grill to high. Lightly oil the grill grate. Arrange the plum kebabs on the grate. Grill until the plums are sizzling and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side, lightly basting with some of the wine sauce.
Meanwhile, scoop vanilla ice cream into the martini glasses or wine goblets. Place 2 plum kebabs on top and spoon any remaining wine sauce over them. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve at once.
Virgin Sauce (Fresh Tomato Sauce)
from Raichlen’s Indoor Grilling
Makes about 1 cup.
The French call this redolent garlic-basil-tomato condiment sauce vierge (literally “virgin” sauce)–perhaps for the reason that it’s never been cooked. It lives or dies by the quality of the ingredients: verdant leaf basil (fresh, of course); tomatoes so luscious and ripe, they go splat if you drop them; and olive oil of noticeably green color and fragrance and flavor, you can only describe it as fruity.
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 large ripe, red tomato (6 to 8 ounces), seeded and cut into 1/4 inch dice
12 nicoise olives or 6 pitted black olives cut into 1/4 inch dice (not strictly traditional, but a nice touch)
8 fresh basil leaves, thinly slivered
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
Place the garlic and salt in the bottom of a bowl and mash to a paste with the back of a spoon. Add the basil, oil, vinegar, and pepper and stir to mix. Add salt and vinegar to taste: the sauce should be highly seasoned.
MAILBAG: YOUR QUESTIONS AND QUERIES
A lot of you have asked me a question posed by reader Paul Haddad: When do I cook with the grill lid opened versus closed.
When indirect grilling or smoking, you always leave the lid closed.
For direct grilling, follow Raichlen’s Rule of Palm:
When grilling any food thinner than the palm of your hand (viewed from the side), such as sates, pizzas, chicken breasts, thin fish fillets, shrimp, asparagus, corn, peach quarters, etc., leave the grill lid open. Ditto for highly flammable foods, like garlic bread. These foods grill quickly and need constant monitoring, so leave the grill lid open.
When grilling foods substantially thicker than the palm of your hand, like porterhouse or T bone steaks, tuna steaks, chicken pieces or quarters, large shish kebabs, etc., close the grill lid. This speeds up the cooking process.
One further question from Paul:
When you say to preheat to high with no further instructions on temperature, does that mean keep it on high?
Yes it does.
Tammy wrote in with a question several of you have asked: Could you please tell me what sweet paprika is and where I can find it?
Sweet paprika is your basic paprika-the stuff sold as paprika on your supermarket or gourmet shop spice shelf. It’s called “sweet” to distinguish it from “hot” paprika-which has more of a bite. So the bottle can be labeled “sweet paprika” or simply “paprika”-the stuff is the same. By the way, the best paprika comes from Hungary and Spain. There are also a wide variety of smoked paprikas from Spain, which are wonderful for seasoning barbecue. One good brand is La Chineta, which can be ordered on line from Tienda.com (www.tienda.com).
Finally, a query from Arthur from Hampton Bay, New York. When using a smoker, do you use charcoal or logs as a heat source? I have been told never cook with logs-even aged hardwood-because they produce too much smoke and creosote that will overpower the meat. Only cook with charcoal or logs you have burned to coals in another fireplace then shoveled into the pit. Do you agree with this or do you use whole logs?
Wow! A simple question with a complicated answer. In my smokers, I personally use lump charcoal for heat source and soaked wood chunks (oak or hickory) for smoke. This is the model followed by a lot of professional pit masters at the big barbecue competitions.
Some people (like half the pit masters in Texas) cook exclusively over logs, but they tend to be working in an open pit. In North Carolina, many pit masters burn the wood in a separate fire pit and shovel the glowing embers under the meat in the cooking pit.
We’re talking about smoking here. When direct grilling, you can cook over a pure wood chunk or log fire. Just let the wood burn down to glowing embers. This is how they grill in Argentina and Tuscany and the results are fantastic. As you might imagine, this works great in a fireplace.
Well, folks, that’s about it for this issue. Again, thanks for your patience–and interest–and as always, happy grilling!