Greetings From the Grilling Guru
GREETINGS FROM THE GRILLING GURU
Elsewhere in the country, winter is the true test of a grill master’s mettle—and commitment. As one barbecue fanatic in Minnesota put it, “When it snows, what do you shovel first: a path to your car or the path to your grill?!” (Tell us where you stand on this issue by voting at the BBQ Board Newsletter Poll.)
I got a taste of true winter grilling recently in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where I went to teach a series of grilling classes for The Cookbook Co. It was only late October, but a sudden storm dumped 3 inches of snow the night of my first class and 6 inches in total. The show must go on, so I borrowed a parka and, yes, I shoveled a path to the grills. I guess if it snowed in Miami, my car would sit under a snowdrift.
Obviously, you need to increase the cooking time in extreme cold. My beer can chickens took almost twice as long to cook in snowy Calgary as they would in Miami. I set up an extra charcoal grill and used it solely for stockpiling lit charcoal. I shoveled hot coals into the other grills every 15 minutes to keep the temperature up. The wood chips I had soaking in a bucket froze, so I had to move them next to the grill. We also had a large gas grill, and the trick here was to keep the lid down—even when grilling quick cooking foods, like shrimp.
Far different weather awaited me on my next trip—a long weekend in Buenos Aires. Winter in the U.S. means summer in South America, and when we got to this beautiful city—rightly hailed as the Paris of Latin America—the weather was perfect for grilling and dining outdoors in your shirtsleeves.
If you think Americans are grill maniacs, you should visit Argentina. Almost very street corner has its parilla, grill restaurant, with a massive stone hearth in the front window or right the dining room, where every imaginable cut of beef is charred to smoky perfection over blazing charcoal for all to see.
So what’d I learn? Well first of all, I experienced some new meat cuts, including a tira de asado (a long, slender rib steak made by cutting lower portion of the beef ribs crosswise instead of lengthwise (as is done in the U.S.) Ojo de bife (“eye of beef,” literally) is the leanest, meatiest portion of a rib roast, which is cut and cooked as a steak. Then, of course, there are animal parts most Americans don’t grill, but are really delicious, such as mojecas (sweetbreads), rinones (kidneys), and chinchulines (lamb chitterlings).
Argentinean beef is grass fed, not grain fed, and hormone free. As a result, it’s milder in flavor than American beef, and a bit tougher. Not that that’s a problem, as in Argentina, beef is always served with a tangy duet of condiments—chimichurri and salsa criolla. The former is a sort of vinaigrette made with oregano, garlic, olive oil, and wine vinegar. The latter is a sort of salsa made with diced tomato, red bell pepper, and onion. If Buenos Aires is in your travel plans (and it should be—it’s an excellent value these days), here are some good places to try Argentinean barbecue.
La Cabana (Rodriguez Pena, 1967): A high style remake of a Buenos Aires landmark. (The original closed in the 1990s after a half century of service). Located in the tony Recoleta district and operated by the Orient Express company.
La Cabana Las Lilas (Alicia Moreau de Justo, 516): A classic Buenos Aires chop house with scenic outdoor seating on a canal.
La Brigada (Estados Unidos, 465): Oozing with atmosphere in the colorful San Telmo district (although some of the meat here is a trifle tough).
Have you been anywhere interesting on the world barbecue trail?
Let us know on the Barbecue Board—especially if you’ve found some interesting dishes or restaurants.
NEWS AND VIEWS
It’s been an incredible year for your faithful grill master, an incredibly busy year, starting with the launch of my latest book, BBQ USA. As many of you know, I set out on a book tour across America in a brightly painted barbecue bus. (Our slogan: “Honk if you love BBQ.”) We started in Philadelphia and finished in Seattle, and our 8000 mile journey took us to more than 20 American cities.
Highlights of this amazing journey are almost too numerous to list, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention:
- A Johnsonville bratwurst barbecue at our presenting station, Maryland Public Television, in Owings Mills, Maryland to celebrate the launch of the BBQ U TV show.
- Smoky, tender ribs at City Barbecque in Columbus, Ohio, where we stopped in for a book-signing. Pork shoulder at Super Smokers in St. Louis for another book signing. (We also managed to find time to eat some St. Louis fried ravioli.)
- Lunch at Goode & Co. in Houston, during a four city swing through Texas. While in the Dallas area, magician, insurance mogul, and bbq fanatic Norman Beck brought us some smoked brisket from his favorite barbecue joint, Carter’s BBQ (on Martin Luther King between Malcolm X and Main St.).
- In Santa Fe, New Mexico, we feasted on carnitas (grilled beef sandwiches) prepared at the pushcart of the legendary Roque’s in the Plaza Real. In Seattle, we chowed down at the Northwest Barbecue Festival (sponsored by the Seattle Post Intelligencer) and feasted on terrific grilled and smoked salmon at the Dalhia Lounge. I even got to chat with Kevin Costner about buffalo in Aspen, Colorado—site of the Food & Wine Classic, where I teach an annual barbecue class.
The most unexpected celebrity barbecue encounter was with Howard Stern—who turns out to be a grilling fanatic, running his oversized Viking grill like a race car at the Indy 500. Yes, I appeared on his show, and yes, I taught a private barbecue class for the Howard last summer. Below you’ll find a recipe we jointly developed for scallops grilled in smoked salmon.
In July, Japanese TV chef Kumahachi Moreno chef and a film crew came to visit with our family for a traditional American 4th of July BBQ in Martha’s Vineyard. (The menu included grilled lobster, smoked brisket, and cinnamon grilled peaches for dessert.) The following month, I was invited to Tokyo, Japan, to do BBQ battle with Iron Chef Roksbura Michiba.
The week leading up to contest was nerve-wracking, to say the least, but I had my step-son, Jake (chef of Pulse at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan) with me as back up. Chef Michiba prepared an incredibly theatrical dish of lobster and abalone grilled in a mountain of seaweed, but in the end it was no match for our downhome barbecued chicken and ribs!
Finally, in October, we returned to the Greenbrier resort in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, to tape year two of Barbecue University TV. Look for our stunning new “campus” at the Howard’s Creek Lodge, with its outdoor fireplace and spectacular backdrop of a golf course and the Allegheny Mountains behind it. Back this year is grill cam (a heatproof camera position in the firebox) and we’ve added time-lapse photography to give you a charcoal’s eye view of the action. The show launches on April 3, 2004. Contact your local PBS station for details (and to make sure they’re planning to air the show).
Finally, come April, 2004, the barbecue bus will be back on the road. Check the web site for more details as they become available.
GRILLS, GEAR, AND FUELS
Have a question about grills, tools, or fuel? In this issue of Up in Smoke we launch a new column to address your questions and comments about the tools of the trade. I’ll also be reviewing some of my favorite products from time to time.
“I searched high and low for the flat metal skewers Steven calls for to make ground lamb kebabs,” writes Edward Jaro from Raeford, North Carolina, ” I finally wound up going to a local metal fabrication shop that supports a local poultry plant. I bought 6 flat stainless steel skewers, each 18 inches long and 3/8 inch wide for $8! Was it worth it—the lamb kebabs turned out great. Thanks for making me a better grill master!”
If you don’t have a metal fabricator near you, you can order flat metal skewers for making Near East and Indian ground meat kebabs from Yekta Supermarket, tel. 301-984-1190.
Scott Hill from Charlotte, North Carolina, wants to know where to buy alder wood for smoking salmon.
Two good sources: BBQR’S Delight (www.bbbqrsdelighht.com): alder and other compressed wood pellets. And Nature’s Own/ Peoples Woods (www.peopleswoods.com).
Eric Palander from Seattle wants to know where we get the lump charcoal we use at BBQ U.
Lump charcoal is made by burning whole logs or other solid pieces of wood in a kiln without oxygen. It’s a pure and natural product, unlike charcoal briquettes, which often contain borax, coal dust, and petroleum binders. Look for natural lump charcoal at grill shops and natural foods supermarkets.
Emily Marchetti wants to know where to buy the rib racks I used on the Rib Show on BBQ U (and that I call for in the various books).
Three good sources are: www.webergrills.com, www.charcoalcompanion.com, and www.barbequesgalore.com.
TIPS AND TECHNIQUES
Also new this issue is a column on grilling tips and techniques.
I’ll get the ball rolling with a cool technique I picked up in Argentina. Please share your tips for upcoming newsletters on the Barbecue Board.
Like grill master everywhere, Argentineans are obsessive about cooking on a clean grill grate. They scrub the grill with a long handled stiff wire brush. The twist is they dip the brush in a bucket of salt water before scrubbing. The salt is supposed to clean and sterilize the grate and add a subtle flavor to the meat.
I’ve started dipping my grill brush in salt water, too.
“After reading your book, we were inspired to buy a smoker,” write Eric and Barbara Michaelson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “We prepared spareribs following your Kansas City Sweet and Smoky Rib recipe, however, we couldn’t get the split logs to stay lit. They went out and the smoker never got above 150 degrees. What did we do wrong?”
Most home size smokers are designed to be fueled with charcoal.
Wood chunks or even small logs are added to produce a smoke flavor, but the heat comes from the charcoal. The next time, build a good, thick, hot bed of embers with natural lump charcoal. Toss the logs or soaked wood chunks or chips on the embers and replenish once an hour. This should give you both smoke and the requisite heat.
“You have a great show,” writes Pat Meier of Peoria, Illinois (a self-proclaimed charcoal fanatic). “I’ve always wanted to cook a large prime rib roast on my charcoal grill, but I worry tremendously about overcooking it. How can I make a prime rib and know exactly when to remove I, so that it’s medium-rare?”
Thanks, Pat. Timely question. I’m going to ring in 2004 with a smoke-roasted prime rib. Here’s my plan of attack.
New Year’s Eve Prime Rib
Prime rib is what I call a “millionaire” dish—a very little work and a not overly excessive capital investment make you look like a million bucks.
To season the mighty roast, make a paste of garlic (say 6 cloves), a handful each parsley, rosemary, and sage leaves, a tablespoon each salt, and cracked black peppercorns. Puree these ingredients in a food processor, adding enough olive oil or bacon fat to make a thick paste.
Now using the tip of a paring knife, make a series of 1/2 inch deep slits in the roast on all sides and force a little of the garlic-herb paste in each. Spread the remainder over the roast on all sides with a spatula.
Now for the smoke-roasting. If you’re working on a charcoal grill, set it up for indirect grilling, placing a large drip pan in the center. Toss a handful of soaked hickory chips on each mound of coals. If you’re working on a gas grill, place the chips in the smoker box or wrap in foil to make a smoker pouch (poke some holes in the top to release the smoke), and place under the grate over one of the burners. Preheat on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium.
Place the roast over the drip pan. Indirect grill at around 350 degrees for 2 to 2-1/2 hours. The roast will be a perfect medium-rare when an instant read thermometer registers 140 degrees. (You’re actually looking for 145 degrees—but remember, the roast will continue cooking even off the heat.)
Serve it right away? Not on your life. Remember, roasts need to rest for 10 minutes or so to allow the meat to “relax.” Tent it with foil to keep it warm. Then cut the meat off the bones, thinly slice crosswise, and get ready for some of the best prime rib in your life.
So what do you serve with this regal prime rib? For starters, how about a horseradish sauce, made by mixing equal parts mayonnaise, sour cream, and freshly grated or prepared grated white horseradish?
Scallops a la Howard
Radio talk show czar Howard Stern is a huge grill buff, not to mention a great supporter of my books. This summer, I gave him a private grilling class. I wanted to show him how to make the Rosemary and Proscuitto-Grilled Scallops in How to Grill (page 343), but the Howard doesn’t eat red meat. He did have some smoked salmon in the refrigerator—the inspiration of these “Scallops a la Howard.”
1-1/2 pounds large sea scallops
28 to 32 fresh rosemary sprigs (each 3 to 4 inches long)
12 ounces very thinly sliced smoked salmon
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pull off and discard the small crescent-shaped muscle from the side of any scallop that has one. Strip the bottom leaves off the rosemary skewers to expose 2 inches of stem. Cut the smoked salmon into strips just large enough to wrap around the scallops (about 3/4 by 3-1/2 to 4 inches).
Lay a scallop flat on your work surface. Wrap a piece of smoked salmon around it and skewer through the side with a rosemary sprig. The idea is to pin the salmon to the scallop with the rosemary. Repeat with the remaining scallops.
Arrange the scallops on a plate or in a non-reactive baking dish.
Place the oil in a small bowl. Finely grate the zest (the oil rich outer rind) into the oil. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and stir with a fork. Brush the resulting lemon oil on the scallops on both sides. Let marinate for 15 minutes while you light the grill.
Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.
When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the skewered scallops on the grate, placing a sheet of folded foil under the exposed part of the rosemary stalks to keep them from burning.
Grill the scallops until just cooked, 2 to 3 minutes per side. The scallops are done when they turn white and feel firm (but just barely; they shouldn’t feel hard). Serve at once.
MAILBAG: YOUR QUERIES AND QUESTIONS
Lots of mail this fall. And lots of great questions about grilling.
“What’s the proper way to wash basting brushes,” writes Scott from Federal Way, Washington.
First, soak the brush in a bowl of hot soapy water for 24 hours, changing the water several times. (Plunge it up and down like a plumbers’ helper to loosen any deeply imbedded debris.) Then place it in the dishwasher. Clean barbecue mops the same way.
Speaking of cleaning, “what’s the best way to clean a porcelainize grill grate?” writes Arnie from Michigan.
Preheat the grate as hot as it will go (this loosens the burnt on debris), then brush it vigorously a stiff wire brush. Normally, the enamel on grate is harder than brass brush bristles and preheating helps remove the debris. Of course, in the long run, you’re best off finding a cast iron grate for your grill.
Branden Rasmussen wants to know what “sweet” paprika is and where to find it.
It’s the same thing as regular paprika (“sweet” distinguishes it from “hot” paprika) and it’s available just about everywhere. The best paprika comes from Hungary and Spain.