B B Q = Slow Food

by Jeanne

Bbq_bible “Barbecuing is a dance on a razor’s edge between grilling and burning.” Steve Raichlen

I hope you are prepared.  In less than three days BBQ season officially opens across America.   

Over at Slate David Plotz is on a noble quest to find the "greatest barbecue joints in America, an R.W. Apple-ian gut-stuffing to sample as much ‘cue of as many different varieties as I could in a week, to try to figure why barbecue was so distinctly American and where you should go to eat the best meat in the world." What a rough job. 

As he points out, many of us don’t know the difference between grilling and barbecuing:

"What most Americans call barbecuing is not barbecuing. When you throw some charcoal on the Weber and sear some T-bones and burgers, you are "having a barbecue" but you are not "barbecuing." You are "grilling." When you grill, you cook fast over high, direct heat. But when you barbecue, you cook meat slowly, over low heat (as low as 170 degrees), and with smoke. Grilling is a transatlantic flight on the Concorde. Barbecuing is a cruise on the QE2. Grilling is a quickie on the kitchen table. Barbecue is tantric."

Amen and Ah-hem!

According to Celebrating BBQ there are four regional styles of BBQ in America: Carolina, known for its whole pork, shredded pork and hot-sour-vinegar-based sauce; Memphis, where smoky, sweet-hot ribs and pulled pork shoulder are "the real signature of Southern barbecue"; Texas, where savory beef brisket and pork rules the range; and Kansas City, whose hot, sticky, tomato-based sauce was the prototype for the bottled commercial sauces now found in supermarkets everywhere.

One of the simplest methods that yields great flavor is to use dry spice rubs which if you think about it is a dry marinade. Now there are as many rub blends as there are uses and grill meisters.  Everyone has their signature rub it seems so the idea here is to experiment until you find a composition that pleases you. The mixture is worked over the outside of food which will encourage the formation a concentrated flavor. 

Rubs are usually a dry combination of herbs and spices, although sometimes a little oil is added to moisten the mixture. As they are often massaged into the meat.  Steve Raichlen, author and BBQ expert, says that a good rub "should certainly hit the basics–sweet, sour, salty and bitter." Generally speaking you can use rubs across all meats and poultry in varying, to your liking, degree, but here are a few parameters:

  • Stick with earthier spices (red and black pepper, cumin, cinnamon) for meats  and lighter ones (ginger, cardamom) for fish and chicken
  • Rubs can be massaged on the meat or poultry just before grilling or for a more pronounced flavor leave the rub on longer and in the fridge until ready to grill
  • Shirmp needs only 10-15 minutes; boneless chick and fish 30-45 depending on thickness; whole chickens 4 hours or overnight;  steaks about 1-3 hours

If you are not feeling like rubbing it all together Tom Douglas has a line of very aromatic and exotic products called Rub with Love.

Pincho Powder

Excerpted from "Barbecue! Bible™ Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades, Bastes, Butters & Glazes" (2000) the definitive cookbook on global grilling. Pinchos is the Spanish word for shish kebabs.  You’ll find the dish in bars in Spain and in Puerto Rico.  Steve recommends using Spanish or Hungarian paprika. And accompanying it with sangria certainly wouldn’t hurt.

1/2 teaspoon saffron
1/4 cup Spanish paprika
1/4 cup dried parsley
1/4 cup freeze-dried chives
2 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
2 teaspoons dried onion flakes
2 teaspoons dried garlic flakes
2 teaspoons chili pepper flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons black pepper

Crumble the saffron between your fingers into a bowl.  Whisk the remaining ingredients together.  Place all the powders into something that you can gently crush together–a pestle is good. It needs to be a semi fine powder.

To make the pinchos, sprinkle the powder on 1/2" – 1" cubes of pork, beef, lamb, or chicken in a mixing bowl. Add a little olive oil and marinate the cubes covered in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours. Skewer meats and grill over high heat, basting with olive oil.