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Posts Tagged ‘Barbecue’

Happy August, everyone! We’ve had a very full and good weekend so far here in “the Hav”, with a few friends visiting from out-of-town to partake in some lechon. The unfortunate things about lechon are: 1) it’s so enormous it really takes a full party to eat, and 2) it’s time-consuming and therefore requires a real occasion to make it worth making. 7 hours on the grill means we can’t make this baby on a normal weeknight!

The occasion for celebration this time around is that three of our favorite former roommates (MT, AT, and LL) were in town visiting. Perhaps the next time you come to visit, we’ll make that an excuse to fire up the grill for some lechon again!

Lechon

As far as the pork goes, this time around we tried something a little different.  First, just because it was easier to get, we used a bone-in, skin-on shoulder (instead of the boneless, skinless shoulders sold at Costco).  Perhaps the bone added flavor, but not that we could tell.  It did, however, add difficulty to carving.  The second change was that the first three hours we cooked the shoulder directly on the grill and finished the last four hours wrapped in foil.  This created a smokey, crunchy crust without drying it out.  This is a change we definitely recommend.

One additional recommendation — do overestimate the amount of meat you’ll need. We bought a 7.5 lb. bone-in shoulder for a party of 8 adults and 1 baby with a healthy appetite for meat, and ended up with barely an ounce of leftover lechon. A big part of the reason we had no leftovers is that the bone really took up a lot of the 7 lb. We spent too much time cooking for us to not end up with leftovers, so we are definitely going to overestimate in the future.

Cheese Plate

This bit is pretty exciting. Greg and I have taken to eating cheese plates pretty regularly as a pre-dinner snack, usually just a small sliver of 3-year Vermont cheddar with a few slices of peach. Cheese plates are a great way to start a party, since they’re a very low-maintenance, prep-ahead appetizer that keeps guests entertained until the main meal is served.

This cheese plate pictured above has the following: 1) toasted almonds dusted in salt, sugar, and cinnamon; 2) a small wedge of pecorino romano with a drizzle of agave; 3) hand-picked peaches from Lyman’s; 4) 3-year old Vermont cheddar.

Cabbage-Fennel-Celery Slaw

1/2 head green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 head fennel, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch celery, thinly sliced
sesame oil, agave, salt to taste

This is a pretty different slaw from the type we usually make. This includes cabbage, fennel, and celery, and very minimal dressings to allow the vegetable flavors really stand out on their own. (Also, I’m suffering from a bad case of strep throat so am a bit timid about extra seasonings these days, especially anything acidic or spicy. Under normal circumstances, we would have added some apple cider vinegar or habanero salt in a heart beat!)

Slice all vegetables extremely thin, ~1/8″ thick. We used a fabulous mandoline that we had received from our two good friends on the other side of the pond (we know you’re reading this, M&A!). Salt the vegetables, and let sit, refrigerated, for at least two hours. This step helps to tenderize the cabbage.

Gently whisk together agave and sesame oil, and drizzle over the slaw. Toss all vegetables until well-combined, and taste. Add additional seasoning, if needed.

Peas-Feta-Avocado Salad (not pictured)

3 c frozen shelled peas
6 oz. feta, cubed
1 avocado, cubed
olive oil, salt, pepper to taste

Defrost frozen peas in microwave or by running under hot water for 30 seconds. Toss with cubed feta and cubed avocado. Add olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.

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We wouldn’t have guessed it until this weekend, but Labor Day marks the completion of quite a year.  Okay, I suppose it’s a little bit arbitrary where we start counting (like, maybe our wedding day is slightly more appropriate) but Labor Day coincides well, too.

One year ago this weekend we had our first housewarming party as a couple, in our very own apartment, our very own home together.  It was somewhat of an eclectic soiree, combining a number of our old New York, yuppy (“young urban professional”–with no judgment attached) friends and a number of our new New Haven friends (decidedly less yuppy).  We made black beans and arepas (back in the pre-grill days) and four (or five?) desserts (can’t blame this one on not having a grill).

It was also the first time all of us met Andy.  In this last year, Andy and his now wife Marcella have been featured guests at many meals; they also received a homemade wedding cake from us in May.  Then, he was a stranger from a foreign land–Mozambique to be exact.  Now, he’s off to England for studies, leaving a gaping hole stateside.  New Haven has suffered quite a bit this summer: First an earthquake, then a hurricane, and now Andy leaving.

Well, enough maudlin rehashing of developments in our relationship and our friends’.  What says summer better than a backyard barbecue with potato salad?  We had grilled burgers with fresh tomatoes, caramelized onions, and goat cheese (and the burgers were so thick they nearly passed for meatballs), a grilled corn salad with red pepper, celery, and sun dried tomatoes, and a bit of a twist on a potato salad.  Enjoy the recipes, and the extra day of rest (we sure did).

Grilled Burgers

Use 1/4 lb of meat for each burger, but do not make them as thin as you get them at the store.  Sprinkle with spices–Montreal Steak seasoning is a good mix–then roll into a ball, indent dimples in the center on both sides and maybe flatten just slightly.  The reason to keep them thick is so that you can have burgers that are medium (or more, or less) on the inside while also developing a good sear on the outside.  Too thin, and there will be no char by the time the burgers are cooked all the way through–or worse, you’ll get the char and dried out hockey pucks for burgers.

Cook over a high flame, flipping only once.  5 minutes per side should do it.  Do not fiddle around!  Fiddling keeps the burgers from developing a nice crust, which ensures an easy flip and a sturdy burger.  Top to your delight.

Mostly Green Potato Salad

2 lb potatoes (red-skinned fingerlings would be beautiful, though we used Idahos)
1 heaping T of capers
2 scallions, pickled (soaked in vinegar, salt, sugar)
1/2 cup peas
feta cheese, crumbled/chopped to taste

Cube potatoes and boil until tender (a fork should go in and out easily).  Drain.  Combine all ingredients with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Enjoy. And don’t use mayo.

Grilled Corn Salad

6 ears of corn
1 red bell pepper, diced
10 sun dried tomatoes, chopped
3 stalks diced celery
1 T ground cumin
lemon juice, salt, and olive oil to taste

As has been stated, there are a million ways to grill corn.  The easies and quickest: husk the corn and grill directly over the fire, flipping every few minutes.  Cut kernels off of corn.  Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix.  Of course, you could do this sans grill using frozen corn or oven roasted corn.  And a microwave is a great way to cook corn–one of us thinks so.

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This summer has been one of the most exhausting, least restful summers on record.  I realized this morning that I wanted summer to end so that I can relax–among the most ridiculous things a person (in school, no less) could feel.  Though we’re halfway through summer at this point, it still didn’t feel quite summery to me. We decided that some serious therapy was in order, and we picked up a package of chicken thighs, ten ears of corn (in-husk), and lit up the grill.

Yes, the grill!  The newest addition to our family, a beautiful fat-bellied 22.5 inch Weber charcoal grill.  We inaugurated the grill last week with a full rack of spare ribs, rubbed heavily, cooked slowly for three hours, and finished with a cranberry-habanero sauce.  But today was impromptu, so chicken, which cooks in half the time, would do perfectly.

Luckily, Stop & Shop is selling corn 10 ears for $2.  This price, of course, is irresistible.  The only thing better than grilled corn is cheap grilled corn.  Several summers Joann was very excited to make corn chowder, but corn was too expensive for my taste–“It’ll get down to 10 for $2, you’ll see, and then we’ll buy.”  Turned out that summer there was a serious crop failure in the Midwest — the price of corn never fell and this former hedge fund trader missed the trade.  And then never heard the end of it.

For added fun, we’ve started grilling bread.  It’s easier than bread-bread.  Okay, I know some people will say that bread-bread is far from easy–trust me, this is easy.  Standard bread recipe, a single rise for an hour, cut into 8 pieces, roll out or stretch by hand, grill for 2, 3 minutes per side.  And one last experiment: grilled escarole.

Three hours later, we’ve grilled twice as much food as we could possibly (or, had planned to?) eat, and it finally felt like summer.  I needed an evening with iced tea in hand, a smokey grill smoldering away, and piles of smokey corn, chicken, bread, and escarole.   It feels like summer, but we’ve decided to keep up this habit well through the winter.

We’ll have many grilling posts coming your way.

Grilled Corn: You can’t do this wrong, and my family has cooked them all of these right ways.  Leave them in the husks; take them out of the husks; dunk them in water, or don’t; smother them in butter and spices, or don’t.  My favorite just happens to be the easiest.  Shuck the corn, place over a hot fire, don’t do anything else to it.  Flip every few minutes until the corn is cooked all around and (if you desire) lightly charred.  Do not overcook or the corn will dry out; in fact, in peak season corn is good enough that you can eat it raw, so err on that side.

Grilled escarole: Maybe even easier than the corn (at least, by design; this might not be the best way to do it, but it worked for us today).  Cut a head of escarole in half, rinse with water, dry, drizzle with olive oil and salt.  Place over hot grill, flip after a few minutes; escarole should be lightly wilted, lightly charred.  You can use any sturdy “green” (radicchio would be great, but it’s more of a “red” than a “green”).  We topped with another drizzle of olive oil and some grated cheese; a light vinaigrette, or an anchovy-infused oil would work delightfully, too.

Grilled bread: 3 cups flour (recommended: 2 whole wheat, 1 all purpose), 1 cup water, 1 T yeast, 1 T sugar, 1 T salt.  Mix, knead, etc., let rise for one hour.  Turn out on a floured surface and cut into 8 pieces.  At this point you can either roll out with a pin or gently stretch with your hands.  Lightly oil each side of the loaves.  Thicker loaves will give you chewier (read: preferred) final product.  Throw over hot grill; they’ll be ready to flip after 2, 3 minutes when they feel ready to flip (try too early and the dough won’t be set yet).

Barbecue chicken: Whatever you do, use low, direct heat, skin side up for the first hour, flip and cook for another 30 minutes, then apply sauce (if you want) at the very end.  Starting with the skin up will allow the fat in the skin to render and to drip through the meat and it will also keep the fire from flaring up.  Keep the fire low by covering and closing all the vents more or less (each grill holds heat differently, so for some grills you can get away with closing everything, while for others you’ll need to keep at least some–top or bottom–open).  A low, smokey grill will do all the work for you.  But if you want to do a little more work you can marinate (see future posts), or rub the chicken before hand.  See previous rib post for an example of sauce and rub.

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