Days of Summer: Cooking With Coals
People grill in mysterious ways--to me, at least. Yes, there are myriad tutorial-like cookbooks out there. Yes, the June issues of culinary magazines annually publish chefs' tips on the subject. Yes, the Food Network is currently flaming with BBQ how-to specials. But for whatever reason (an overpowering fidelity to cocktails? a bizarre love for prep work that trumps any attention to the backyard brouhaha? delinquency?), that perfect char remains out of my reach.
Charcoal power's on the brain these days as the weather turns warm and the office brings on summer hours. And I'm determined to become a seasoned grill-goer before the season's end. This past weekend, I watched as my dear foodie friend Nick Pandolfi cooked sausages to perfection; they had beautiful diagonal scorch lines running their lengths, and when provoked with the tip of a paring knife, they released the most fragrant and sizzling juices. (We topped them with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, and good old French's yellow mustard. Rapturous, I tell you.) I'm not sure I could do the same solo yet, but the applejack cocktails I made were a hit.
There are dozens of great BBQ joints in New York where grillmaster hopefuls comme moi can at least learn what kind of flavor to attain. And even those places not known for their grill skills churn out some delicious options. Just this Sunday, I stopped by The Smith for a roast pork sandwich; it exited the kitchen in a cloud of porky steam and arrived in front of me, its bread positively soaked in sauce mixed with opalescent fatty drippings (not to mention the fact that it was adorned with some killer spicy cauliflower). But this weekend I'm headed to Texas--Houston, to be exact--that mecca of the 'cue. After this, the grill should be no mystery.
Stay tuned for a report on my meat-tastic weekend way down South.
Note: A Texan friend who will go nameless recently complained to me that we "Yanks" fail to sufficiently distinguish grilling from barbecuing. I will say that the only real difference involves sauce; the cooking method is similar ("to roast or broil on a rack or revolving spit over or before a source of heat [such as] hot coals," says Merriam-Webster). Disagree? Comments/knowledge welcome.