Comfort foods from the grill
By STEVEN RAICHLEN
Grilling is the world’s oldest and most universal cooking method, practiced in virtually every country and culture on six continents (seven if you consider the cookouts staged by grill-obsessed scientists in Antarctica). Especially during the warmer months, enjoying food fresh off the grill in the company of friends and family can be the epitome of comfort.
But there’s a lot more to grilling than throwing meat on the grill. Here, you’ll learn how to grill pork in all its smoky glory, as well as glean some new techniques to make your hot dog grilling game even better. Insider tips, cooking advice, and gear recommendations pair with each recipe, so you’re ready to cook the best meat you can. And now, ladies and gentlemen, fire up your grills!
Black pepper baby backs with whiskey vanilla glaze
If ribs epitomize barbecue, the baby back epitomizes ribs. Cut from high on the hog, next to the backbone, baby backs have tender meat (more so than spareribs), abundant fat, and a convenient shape and size that makes one rack perfect for feeding one or two people. But don’t ribs require low and slow smoking for the better part of a day? Well, that’s one way to prepare them, but ribs can also be grilled using the indirect method in particular, a technique I call smoke-roasting. Slow-smoked ribs are all about tenderness; smoke-roasted ribs retain some of the meaty chew that makes pork chops or loins so satisfying to bite into. You’ll still get plenty of smoke flavor, thanks to adding hardwood chunks or chips to the fire. The following rib recipe keeps the seasonings simple: pepper, paprika, salt, brown-sugar, and celery seed. The emphasis is on the pork. And because we Americans like our ribs sweet, I’ve added a whiskey brown sugar glaze with an unexpected note: the scent of vanilla extract.
Yield: 4 to 8 servings.
Method: Smoke-roasting (indirect grilling).
Prep Time: 20 minutes.
Grilling Time: 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
Grill/gear: If you want a pronounced smoke flavor, cook these ribs on a charcoal grill. You’ll also need 4 hardwood chunks, or 3 cups hickory or other hardwood chips (the latter soaked in water for 30 minutes, then drained). If you want to grill 4 racks of ribs for a party on the standard 221/2-inch kettle grill, you’ll want a rib condominium-a rib rack, which allows you to stand the ribs upright. A rib rack also helps drain off the fat.
Shop: A 21/2-pound rack will feed 1 to 2 people as part of a meal. Alternatively, use St. Louis-style ribs, which are spareribs with the rib tips removed, trimmed to a rectangular shape. Because they’re meatier and better marbled than baby backs, they may take longer to cook.
Insider tip: “Fall-off-the-bone tender” – Never have five words done more harm to the notion of what constitutes good eating. Fall-off-the-bone tenderness usually results from steaming or boiling ribs-a practice frowned upon at the big barbecue competitions, such as Memphis in May and the American Royal. No, a proper rib is supposed to have a little chew to it.
Ribs have a papery membrane (the pleura) on the concave side. I like to remove it for aesthetic reasons. Slide the blade of a butter knife under the skin and pry it away from the bones, then grab one end of the membrane with a dishcloth or paper towel and gently pull it off the ribs. If you can’t find it, it may have been removed by the butcher beforehand. There’s no great harm in leaving it on.
4 racks baby back ribs, each 2 to 2 1/2 pounds, with membranes removed
3 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
3 tablespoons smoked or sweet paprika
3 tablespoons coarse salt, sea or kosher
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar, dark or light
1 teaspoon celery seed
4 hardwood chunks or 3 cups hardwood chips (the latter soaked in water)
For the glaze:
1/2 cup rye, bourbon, or other whiskey
1/2 cup packed brown sugar, dark or light
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Place the ribs on a sheet pan.
In a small bowl, combine the peppercorns, paprika, salt, brown sugar, and celery seed, and mix with your fingers, breaking up any lumps in the brown sugar. Sprinkle the rub on the ribs on both sides, rubbing it into the meat with your fingertips, using about 3 tablespoons per rack. Store any leftover rub in a sealed jar away from heat and light.
Make the glaze by combining the whiskey, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla in a saucepan, and boiling until syrupy, about 4 to 6 minutes, whisking to mix. Set the glaze aside.
Set up your grill for indirect grilling, and heat to medium-low. Brush or scrape the grill grate clean, and oil it well with some vegetable oil. Add half the wood chunks or chips to the coals.
Arrange the ribs on the grate, bone side down, away from the heat, and lower the lid. Smoke-roast the ribs until sizzling, browned, and tender. When ready, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about 1/2 inch, and the ribs will be tender enough to pull apart with your fingers. Replenish the wood and charcoal as needed. Total cooking time will be 3 to 31/2 hours. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, baste the ribs with the glaze. Baste twice more before serving. Pour any remaining glaze over the ribs, and serve immediately.
Note: For sizzling crusty ribs, brush the racks on both sides with glaze, and move them directly over the heat zone for the last few minutes of cooking. Direct grill for a couple of minutes per side.
Direct versus indirect
- Direct grilling. Spread hot coals in a single layer, and place the meat directly above them.
- Indirect grilling. Arrange coals around outside of grill, and place meat in the center, away from heat.
Hedgehog hot dogs
Hot dogs are the first food most of us grilled, and you don’t need a cookbook to show you how. What special technique could I possibly bring to a food that’s essentially ready to eat when it comes out of the package?
Hedgehogging dramatically increases the ratio of crisp, smoky crust to center meat. Tip o’ the hat to Russ Faulk of Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet for this singular scoring technique, and the idea of grilling the hot dog buns with mayonnaise and remoulade sauce. He calls his version a “Po’ Dog.”
Yield: 8 hot dogs.
Method: Direct grilling.
Prep time: 15 minutes.
grilling time: 8 to 10 minutes.
Grill/gear: Hot dogs can be grilled over charcoal, wood, or gas.
Insider tip: These hot dogs use a technique called “hedgehogging,” in which you score the surface of the hot dogs in a crosshatch pattern. The edges puff and char during grilling, giving you an exceptionally crusty exterior and adding more smoke flavor. They also look cool as all get-out, and they may be the best hot dogs you’ve ever tasted.
8 high-quality all-beef hot dogs
8 hot dog rolls
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
Creole Mustard Sauce (below)
Baby arugula or other micro-greens
2 ripe tomatoes or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced
Using a paring knife, make a series of crosshatch cuts on the surface of each hot dog, about 1/8 inch deep and 1/4 inch apart, on all sides. (This will expose more of the hot dog to the grill’s direct heat.)
Slather the cut insides of the rolls with mayonnaise.
Set up your grill for direct grilling, and heat to high. Brush or scrape the grill grate clean, and oil it well with vegetable oil.
Arrange the hot dogs on the grate. Grill until the exterior is sizzling, crisp, and browned, about 2 minutes per side, 6 to 8 minutes in all. While you’re at it, grill the mayonnaise-slathered rolls until toasted, 1 minute per side.
Slather the rolls with Creole Mustard Sauce. Add the hot dogs, baby arugula, and tomato slices, and any other condiment you fancy.
Creole mustard sauce
Yield: 1 cup
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Creole mustard
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste
3 tablespoons minced celery
3 tablespoons minced green olives
1 tablespoon drained capers
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, and whisk to blend. Any leftover sauce will keep in the refrigerator for several days.
Excerpted from GRIT. To read more articles from GRIT, please visit www.grit.com or call 866-803-7096 to subscribe. Copyright 2020 by Ogden Publications Inc.
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