For the last few weeks, I’ve been crisscrossing the country on behalf of Raichlen’s Indoor Grilling. So I thought I’d start this newsletter by telling you a little about what it’s like to be an author on book tour.
A good day starts at 5:30 or 6:00 A.M. Quick trip to the gym, then pick up for my first morning TV appearance. While most people are having breakfast, I’m grilling Muffulettas (the indoor grilled version of New Orleans’ famous sandwich, page 317) or “Victory” Chicken (one of the dishes I used to defeat the Iron Chef in Tokyo, page 182). Other typical demo dishes include Chili-Rubbed Shrimp with Avocado Corn Cocktail (page 46) and Grilled Pound Cake with Pineapple Salsa and Tequila Whipped Cream (page 387).
What makes a good television demonstration dish? It should be colorful, fail-proof, easy to grill anytime, day or night, and made with ingredients you can buy anywhere. And it doesn’t hurt if you can cook the dish on the air from start to finish in 3 or 4 minutes.
The next stop on the tour might be a second TV station or an interview on a drive time radio show, followed by lunch or a photo session with a newspaper food editor. If I’m lucky, I get a few hours in the afternoon for lunch, returning phone calls and emails, or I might pay a courtesy call to a book distributor. If I’m not lucky, well, lunch is a bag of airline pretzels. In the evening, I teach a cooking class or do a book-signing. Then I drag myself to the airport, fly to the next city, and do the same the next day.
Book tours simply wouldn’t be possible without a profession you may not even realize exits: the literary escort. It’s not what you think—this sort of escort prepares the food you demonstrate on television, gets you from point A to point B, and generally helps make life on the road bearable.
Actually, touring is amazingly cool and not one of the smallest pleasures is meeting fellow grilling fanatics. Barbecue Board members in Atlanta, Cleveland, and Seattle (to mention just a few places) have shown up at my book signings, and meeting you all makes me feel at home.
I’ll be continuing to tour this spring, and this summer, when we launch the first ever “Tools and Techniques Tour” with the barbecue bus. Stay tuned and check my Tour Dates for the latest schedule.
GRILLS, GEAR, AND FUELS
It’s still winter in many parts of the country and with Raichlen’s Indoor! Grilling on the brain, I’ve been thinking a lot about fireplace grilling. The fireplace is the world’s oldest indoor grill and to my mind, it’s still the best. The reason is simple: it enables you to grill over that most flavorful fuel, wood.
The only piece of equipment you really need for grilling in your fireplace is a Tuscan grill, a heavy metal grate with four legs to hold it up over the embers. Tuscan grills are available through Spitjack.com andSurlatable.com, and in another month or so, I’ll have one I designed available in The Barbecue Store. But it’s easy to jury-rig a fireplace grill. Simply stand two bricks on their sides, facing one another, about 12 inches apart. Position one of the grates from your outdoor grill on top.
If you really get into fireplace grilling, you may want to purchase another amazingly cool piece of equipment, the Spitjack Fireplace Rotisserie. Modeled on a 19th century Italian fireplace rotisserie, the Spitjack comes with either a win- up or electric mechanism to turn the spit and a drip pan to keep your fireplace clean. Simply stand it in front of the fire and you’re ready to roast.
Finally, a word about fuel. Any hardwood log will do the trick-I’m partial to oak, apple, or cherry. The wood should be split, seasoned, and dry (not green). Never use pine or other soft wood in your fireplace. And just to play it safe, if you plan to do a lot of fireplace grilling, have your chimney professionally swept before you start.
TIPS AND TECHNIQUES
Grilling in a fireplace is quite similar to using a charcoal grill: you cook over glowing embers, not over a raging fire. Build a big fire (8 to 15 logs and kindling) and let it burn down to glowing embers. Shovel these under the grill to do your grilling.
If you have a large or deep fireplace, the best way to work is to build and feed your fire in the back of the fireplace, or on one side, and place your Tuscan grill in the front. I like to add a fresh log every 15 minutes. Use a fireplace shovel or garden hoe to move the coals.
Another great fireplace grilling technique is to roast vegetables in front of the fire. Place a brick 8 to 12 inches away from the embers. Make doughnut-shaped rings from aluminum foil and stand a medium-size onion upright in each on the brick. Roast the onions in front of the fire, giving a quarter turn every 6 to 10 minutes, until the onions are tender. Wear leather gloves and use the longest tongs you can find to turn the onions. The fireplace can get pretty hot.
Finally, another popular fireplace technique is roasting root vegetables, like potatoes or beets, right in the ashes. Rake out a bed of embers large enough to hold the root vegetables and top with a 1/2 inch thick layer of ash. Arrange the vegetables on the ash, topped by more ash and embers. (The ash acts as insulation, keeping the vegetables skins from scorching.) This is a much slower, gentler cooking method: you’ll need 1 to 1-1/2 hours of roasting.
By the way, for some great reading about fireplace grilling, check out The Magic of Fire: Hearth Cooking by William Rubel.
Here are two great recipes for fireplace grills, but don’t worry if you don’t have a fireplace. They’re also terrific cooked outdoors.
Grilled Fillet Mignons with Chipotle Pepper Jack Cheese Butter
Note: Pepper jack cheese (flavored with minced jalapenos) is available at most supermarkets. If unavailable, use regular jack cheese or sharp cheddar. If you can’t find chipotles (smoked jalapenos), a highly tasty version of this dish can be made with minced fresh jalapenos and an optional drop or two of liquid smoke.
For the butter:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
2 ounces pepper jack cheese or plain jack cheese, finely grated (about 1/2 cup)
1 canned chipotle chili, minced
2 tablespoon minced cilantro (optional)
1-1/2 pound fillet mignon steaks, cut about 1-1/4 inches thick
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground or cracked black peppercorns
1) Make the chipotle cheese butter.
2) Place the butter, cheese, chili, and cilantro (if using) in a bowl and stir to mix. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can roll this mixture in a sheet of plastic wrap into a log, freeze it, and cut it crosswise into neat round slices. Alternatively, leave it in a small serving bowl and simply dollop it on top of the steaks.
3) Set up your grill for fireplace grilling. Shovel a bed of hot embers under the gridiron.
4) Just before grilling, brush or rub the fillet mignons with olive oil and season generously on all sides with salt and pepper. Brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the tenderloins on the grate and grill until cooked to taste, 4 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare, rotating each a quarter turn after 2 minutes to lay on a handsome crosshatch of grill marks.
5) Transfer the steaks to a platter or plates and let rest for 2 minutes. Top each with a disk or dollop of chipotle cheese butter and serve at once.
Spit-Roasted Chicken with North African Spices
This recipe is easy to make, but it does require at least 6 hours or as long as overnight to marinate the chicken. You can certainly cook it on an outdoor rotisserie.
For the spice paste:
1 small onion, rough chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and rough chopped
a 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and rough chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flatleaf parsley
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
2 teaspoons cracked black peppercorns
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup olive oil, or as needed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 3-1/2 to 4 pound chicken
1) Make the spice paste. Place the onion, garlic, ginger, cilantro, paprika, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin, cardamom, and cayenne in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Work in the oil and lemon juice and process to a paste, adding oil as needed to obtain a smooth, spreadable mixture.
2) Remove the package of giblets from the body cavity of the chicken and set aside for another use. Remove and discard the fat just inside the body and neck cavities. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold running water and then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels.
3) Spoon about 1/4 of the spice in the front and main cavity of the chicken. Place the bird in a large, heavy-duty, re-sealable plastic bag and slather with the remaining spice paste. Squeeze the bag to coat the chicken with spice paste on all sides. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or as long as overnight.
4) Build a fire in your fireplace and let it burn down partially, so you have a mix of flaming logs and glowing embers. Set up your rotisserie in front of the fire with a drip pan underneath it.
5) Remove the chicken from the spice paste. Truss it with butchers string or bamboo skewers and place it on the turnspit. When ready to cook, attach the turnspit to the rotisserie.
6)Spit roast the chicken until the skin is crisp and a deep golden brown and the meat is cooked through, 1 to 1 1/4. The internal temperature at the thighs will be 170 degrees. Baste it often with the fat in the drip pan. Transfer the bird to a platter and let rest for 5 minutes, then untruss. Quarter or carve the chicken and serve.
MAILBAG: YOUR QUESTIONS AND QUERIES
From Jack Grubbs:
Hello, Steven: I enjoy your books and style of cooking. I’m looking for a grill to cook steaks and fish on over a wood fire for a restaurant. Any ideas?
Hi, Jack: Two grills come to mind: the CB940 charcoal grill from Charbroil and the Bar-B-Chef Texas Charcoal Grill from Barbeques Galore. Both are front loading, which means you add the fuel through a door in the front, not the top. This makes it a snap to toss logs on the fire both before and during grilling. Both also have cast iron grates (a boon for obtaining killer grill marks) and an adjustable fire pan height to control the heat. I like to build a good bed of glowing charcoal embers first to get the logs burning, then add the wood as needed for flavor and smoke.
From Brian Sylvester in Tucson, Arizona:
Dear Steven: Could you please share with me a good citrus marinade that I can use on chicken or beef? I’ve tried a few on the internet and they just don’t work that well. Most recipes say to marinate chicken a few hours. This does not seem to be enough time for the marinade to get into the meat. Is there one out there to marinate the chicken overnight?
Hi, Brian: Check out “The Only Marinade You’ll Ever Need” from my book Barbecue! Bible Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades , which basically consists of equal parts fresh lemon juice (or lime, orange or other citrus juice, or a mixture of citrus juices) and olive oil-plus fresh herbs, spices, and seasonings to taste. (And of course, plenty of garlic.)
Here’s the basic formula:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coarse salt (sea or kosher)
4 strips fresh lemon zest
3 cloves garlic, crushed with the side of a cleaver or minced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, such as a mixture of basil and parsley
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir or whisk to mix. Marinate boneless, skinless chicken breasts 1 to 2 hours, chicken pieces 2 to 4 hours, and whole chickens 6 hours to overnight.
You can customize this by changing the fruit or adding a fruit flavored liqueur, such as Cointreau or limoncello (an Italian lemon liqueur). For a Mexican-style marinade, for example, use lime juice instead of lemon, jalapenos instead of hot pepper flakes, and cilantro as your fresh herb.
From Mike Stanley:
Hi, Steven: I’m looking for a good basting brush to apply barbecue sauce with. Most of the ones I have shed soft bristles onto the meat.
Hi, Mike: Two strategies here. Mrs. Raichlen likes me to buy inexpensive natural bristle paint brushes at our local hardware store (you know, the ones that sell for $.79 to $1 apiece). We use them once or twice, then throw them away.
Option 2: Buy a really good natural bristle basting brush with a removable head (for easy cleaning). In the next month or so, I’ll be selling such a brush in The Barbecue Store as part of my Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue line. But Mrs. R will still likely use the disposable brushes.
That’s all for this issue. If you have more questions, there’s a great place to get them answered: the Barbecue Board.