Feeding the Masses, Again

I’m not sure what gave me the idea for a deep Southern barbecue for Memorial Weekend. I think it may have been the pile of paper plates and plastic cups I had left over from an event — no dishes to clean! (And you can’t exactly serve Tuscan grill on paper plates.) Maybe it was Brownie McGhee popping up on the iTunes playlist. Whatever the motivation, the invitations went out and preparations began.

Brisket & pork shoulders on the smoker

Brisket & pork shoulders on the smoker

“Good god,” my friend Katy emailed when she got the invitation, “This is almost like catering the auction all over again. You’re obviously a glutton for punishment.” More

The Ultimate Summer Condiment

There is a condiment unlike any other — a glistening concoction that will transform your burgers from fine to sublime, and that will have your summertime guests kneeling at  your feet in reverence, O’ God of the Barbecue. And I will share it with you, here, now, just in time for the 4th!

Bacon onion marmalade

This is not a condiment for vegetarians or the tentative. I call it bacon onion marmalade. And it is the anecdote to mediocre summer burgers. You may even want to bring a little stash with you when someone invites you to their barbecue. More

Pink Wine is for Chicks

Culinarily speaking, summertime is a feminine season. Sure, the dudes are out by the grill — sucking beer, flipping burgers and talking pre-season football. But it is the salads, the lightly seared skinless chicken breast pailliards, the peaches and the pink wines that prevail.

Pink wine and figs

I sit here drinking my pink wine and looking at a bowl of figs, feeling emasculated. By late August, I’m wondering where is the cold weather and a long-braised leg of some animal? More

A Phoenix from the Flames

Among the world’s barbecue meats, next to regal rib-eyes and blissful racks of pork baby backs, chicken is the ugly red-headed stepchild.

More often than not, as I’m sure you’ve experienced at your share of backyard feasts, chicken is ruined on the grill. Rubbery thighs emerge black and blistered. Breasts languish on blazing grates while the host chats and tends to other things, turning them six or eight times over the course of an hour or so and eventually asking, “Do you think they’re done?” (Is it possible to successfully cook a chicken breast on the barbecue? Yes. Is it likely you will encounter it this summer? No.) More

Deep in the Heart of Texas

We were beginning to enjoy the cool fall weather. And then it hit. In Southern California, we call it the Santa Anas. You might know it as Indian Summer. Put simply, it got @#$%ing hot!!! 110 in the shade.

Life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. The perfect opportunity for a last barbecue or two. So the other night, we called some friends over and did Texas-style. Stood out on the deck with my tongs like a cowboy. Hollered at the chickens and the kids, spit into a tin. Perhaps it’s still warm where you are, and you’ll want to try it too. Put on some Patsy Cline and call the cowboys in…

More knowledgeable people than I could speak more articulately on the regional differences in barbecue. In Texas, I know they love their beef, and they like chilies. I know you’ll love this steak with salty-sweet chili rub. To go with it, I made cheese grits and an iceberg wedge salad with bleu cheese dressing and pancetta — neither strictly Texan, but pretty good foils to the flavorful steak. We drank one of our big jammy family zinfandels — there’s no better varietal with barbecue. Of course, beer, a nice mint julep or even a zesty margarita would’ve paired well. This Texas dinner will serve 4, amply.

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Cowboy-Style Grilled Steak

2 lbs good steak on the bone (rib-eye, preferably; but porterhouse is good too)
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp pimenton (Spanish smoked sweet paprika) or regular paprika
1 tsp ground chipotle pepper
1 tsp ground pasilla or other mild red chili

Take steaks out of the fridge about one hour before you grill. In the meantime, combine other ingredients to make a rub. About 10 minutes before grilling, sprinkle steaks evenly with rub. Gently massage the rub into the meat.

Heat your BBQ as high as it will go — mine gets up around 600 degrees. Cook your steaks 3 or 4 minutes on each side, depending on thickness, until cook medium or medium rare to your preference. Remove, cover with foil, and let sit for 10 minutes. Then use a very sharp knife to cut across the grain into 1/2 inch thick slices. Spread a few slices on each person’s plate, and serve with cheese grits.

Cheese Grits
(Note: I highly recommend buying some Anson Mills grits from the link on this blog. They’re about the best grits on earth. While you’re there, pick up some dried polenta, including the fabulous rustic polenta integrale. Make your shipping costs worthwhile!)

1 cup dried grits
1/2 cup grated cheddar
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano or asagio
1 tbsp butter
salt & pepper to taste

Heat about 2 cups of water in a pot to a simmering boil, and add dried grits. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring and adding more water frequently, for up to an hour. Grits should be tender and not at all crunchy. Add salt and pepper to taste, then stir in cheeses. Stir in butter last, and then cover and let sit for five minutes. Scoop some onto each of four plates, and surround with a fan of the steak slices.

Iceberg Wedge Salad

1 head iceberg lettuce
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese (roquefort, gorgonzola, etc.)
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp mayonnaise
4 strips pancetta (or bacon), cooked to crisp
salt & pepper

Remove the core from the lettuce, and cut into quarter wedges. Mix the bleu cheese, milk and mayo vigorously together until it forms a thick dressing (some chunks of bleu cheese should remain). Drizzle some dressing over each of the wedges, then drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and lay a cooked strip of pancetta on top of each. Serve.