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Zoethe

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Summer, it takes like burning [Aug. 9th, 2011|10:12 pm]
Zoethe
I'm doing something that doesn't happen very often around here: I'm barbecuing.

When I was a kid, barbecue was a summer staple. Partly because in our unairconditioned houses, it provided hot food without heating up the oven - and believe me, when it's 110 degrees outside under the eastern Oregon sun, you do not want to heat up the oven.

But a big reason for barbecuing was that it tasted so darned good. A burger cooked over charcoal isn't inherently superior to one done on the stovetop - after all, it's perfectly possible to do a bad job barbecuing - but it has a big head start over a fried burger.

For our first anniversary, my ex bought me a Weber round grill. His mother was horrified over the notion of such an unromantic gift, but I was thrilled. We barbecued on our deck in Alaska both summer and winter - even after a bear mauled our grill in search of the source of the yummy residual scent of smoky meat. When we had an outdoor hot tub, we would invite people over in the dead of winter for soaking and barbecue, our little contribution to maintaining sanity at 20 below zero. (The great image of my ex bundled to his eyeballs and wielding a barbecue fork while the rest of us wandered around in swimsuits is one of those absurdities I will always cherish.)

Alas, I lost the barbecue in the divorce, and after we moved to Ohio the habit fell away. A couple years ago we won a barbecue in a sweepstakes, and have used it a few times since, but there hasn't been any just-for-us grilling.

Until today. I had a chicken that needed to be cooked, and suddenly cutting it into quarters and putting it on the grill sounded like the best idea ever. After parting it out, I marinated it in a salt and sugar brine with garlic and vinegar, and then started it over a slow grill, away from the coals so it can cook through.

When I was a kid, barbecue also meant potato salad, jello salad with fruit, macaroni salad, corn on the cob, and Mom's pickled cucumber and onions salad. Out of that list, I am retaining corn on the cob, but the rest of the accompaniments will be grilled asparagus, zucchini, and yellow peppers. I've coated them lightly with olive oil and garlic powder, and they will go on the grill when the chicken is almost done.

Stepping outside with a plateful of food, ready to spread it over the open fire of charcoal, was one of those sense memory experiences that takes me back to the hot, dry summers of my childhood: we kids running in and out the back door, carrying plates to set the table, fetching things from Mom for Dad, being yelled at to stop slamming the damned screen door! I think I developed my taste for rare steak because Dad only cooked over the hottest, most massive possible bed of coals he could muster. He cooked with a spray bottle in hand, putting out the roaring grease fires that threatened to engulf dinner (and did, on occasion--Dad had a tendency to get distracted).

To Ferrett, the charred places on barbecue taste terribly burned. To me they taste like home.

My barbecue is updated, enhanced methods thanks to Cooks Illustrated. But it's lost a little something of that crazy childhood charm.

The trick with this is to light a medium number of coals all off to one side of the grill. You don't want a searing hot fire, because it will end you with chicken that's burned on the outside and raw in the middle. Once the coals are ashy, you can throw some wood chips soaked in water onto them if you like a smoky taste - do this only once, as doing it more can result in an ashy, bitter taste. Then place the chicken piece on the side of the grill away from the coals, skin side up with the thickest part of the meat toward the coals. Cook them for an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half, never turning them. I checked them every 15 minutes to make sure nothing was getting charred, but the heat was low enough that it was never a problem. After an hour and a quarter, I checked with a meat thermometer and the breasts were a perfect 165 degrees.

All that space on the other half of the grill shouldn't go to waste, says I. So after 45 minutes I put asparagus, sliced zucchini, and sliced bell peppers on the other half. Before putting them on the grill I coated them lightly with olive oil and sprinkled with garlic powder. On the slow heat of the grill, they were done when the chicken was done.



Add in corn cooked the regular way, and this was dinner. The chicken was incredibly moist and juicy, with a sweet smokey flavor that I thought was wonderful. Ferrett is not as crazy about smoke flavor, so next time I will try it without the hickory chips. A definite winner!

Crossposting from Dreamwidth now. Sigh. If LJ won't let you comment, you can comment here: http://zoethe.dreamwidth.org/782486.html?mode=reply:
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: jojomojo
2011-08-10 03:56 am (UTC)
I miss Holly's barbeque skills. We always did swap traditional gender roles when it came to the kitchen :/ (not that she isn't a great cook)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-10 12:25 pm (UTC)
I think part of the reason I haven't done it often is that barbecuing is guy-cooking and I never got much comfortable with it, but that's really silly of my and I'm working to get over myself.
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[User Picture]From: bunny42
2011-08-10 04:43 am (UTC)
Here's something to try sometime.

Rhulman's a Cleveland lad. I think. Ohio, anyway. And great friends with Mike Symon of Lola fame.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-10 12:27 pm (UTC)
I was initially planning to grill the corn, but Ferrett asked me to give it the regular boiling treatment, and I didn't have enough room on the grill for it anyway.
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[User Picture]From: cathubodva
2011-08-10 11:55 pm (UTC)
I can't even eat boiled corn anymore! If we're eating corn but not heating up the grill, I put it in the oven.
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[User Picture]From: tormentedartist
2011-08-10 05:00 am (UTC)
Damn now you make me want to grill...when we lived on the lake we used to grill all the time but now we really don't have a private place to grill : (
How could anyone not like rare steak...honestly that is the way its meant to be eaten.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-10 12:39 pm (UTC)
We lack anything like a comfortable patio space, so it's grilling on the driveway (which, to be fair, means at the back of the house, not out on the street). I want to create some space outside, but that's a project for another year.

And I agree on the steak, but have a friend who only eats them well done - criminal, IMHO.
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[User Picture]From: tormentedartist
2011-08-10 04:15 pm (UTC)
I don't know if you have ever done this but I find that using a brick or a steak sized piece of stone to hold the steak down helps get grill marks and cooks it evenly. I covered the piece of stone with foil of course : )
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-10 04:50 pm (UTC)
I never have. Will have to try!
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[User Picture]From: kudilu
2011-08-10 02:27 pm (UTC)
eh, rare is a little too raw for me. i prefer, when the cook is able, medium-rare, and when the cook is iffy, medium. There's a texture change in there, and i prefer after the change rather than before the change. but well-done is just shoeleather, and anyone that wastes a decent steak on that shit should be beaten.
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[User Picture]From: tormentedartist
2011-08-10 04:16 pm (UTC)
Yes, good steak should never be wasted!
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[User Picture]From: mariadkins
2011-08-10 05:09 am (UTC)
we had barbecue for supper tonight, too. but we don't have a grill. those ribs crocked all day long. we also had corn, fried apples, and mashed potatoes.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-10 12:39 pm (UTC)
That sounds delicious, too!
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[User Picture]From: merle_
2011-08-10 05:19 am (UTC)
when it's 110 degrees outside under the eastern Oregon sun, you do not want to heat up the oven

I would argue that you also don't want to be outside over a hot grill and should instead be hovering under a damp sheet with a fan blowing over you, an ice pack on your head, and perhaps contemplating ice cream for dinner.

And that said, the charred edges of well barbecued food are incredible. Aside from lighting issues it seems like a food that would be better in the winter.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-10 12:42 pm (UTC)
We lived through it remarkably well--meaning that no one got heat stroke. The fact that it's a pretty dry heat helps. I can't deal with the humidity.

Winter just doesn't trigger the grilling instinct in me, not without a hot tub.
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[User Picture]From: heathrow
2011-08-10 12:34 pm (UTC)
I love grilling. I grill a couple of times a week, just because I can't heat up the kitchen that much. I usually marinate a cheaper cut of beef and grill it. Then it is served with a baked (read: nuked) potato and a fruit salad. Simple, easy, filling. :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-10 12:44 pm (UTC)
I'm hoping to do more of it. Grilled steaks really are quite superior.
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[User Picture]From: heathrow
2011-08-10 12:50 pm (UTC)
They really are! And it makes me feel like I've cooked when I've actually been a big slacker. Some prep earlier in the day, a hot grill, and you look like a superstar!

(If he's not a fan of the grill marks, maybe experiment with wrapping in foil?)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-10 01:12 pm (UTC)
I think he's more used to the idea of grill marks on steak.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2011-08-10 01:03 pm (UTC)
mmmm...yum...
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From: anonymousalex
2011-08-10 01:51 pm (UTC)
Ooo, it's still morning, and you make me want to eat what you had.

I love grilling. For years, I thought it was more in concept than in reality; then I got a Weber and realized the problem was I had a cheap grill. It makes a difference.

I particularly liked when I discovered grilling zucchini. It actually makes the over-large ones that would otherwise be too fibrous work. (You don't find those in the store, only if you grow your own and look away for 5 minutes.) Slice, marinade in an oil-and-vinegar type dressing, and grill over medium to high heat.

I was going to mention grilling the corn, but someone beat me to it. I like the smoky aroma, but in truth the corn itself isn't that different.

Oh, and steak: for some reason, I didn't grill steak until just a month or so ago. Just didn't get around to it (busy grilling other things). Now I'm kicking myself for not starting sooner.

-Alex
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-10 02:22 pm (UTC)
I would call steak the king of the grill, but that honor really belongs to Alaskan King Salmon. Oh, I do miss it.
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[User Picture]From: daemonnoire
2011-08-10 02:46 pm (UTC)
When we moved into our new house, Adam bought me a stand mixer, and I bought him a grill. We get about as much use out of both, which is to say, quite a lot. Adam has gotten surprisingly experimental with the grilling, and a few months ago did a rather lovely pork roast with apple wood chips. I'm generally not a fan of hickory (I prefer mesquite), and the apple chips gave the meat an almost sweetly smoky flavor. So maybe try some different wood chips, and see how it goes?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-10 03:47 pm (UTC)
Trying different woods is a good idea.
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[User Picture]From: dragonsflame71
2011-08-10 03:24 pm (UTC)
We grill year-round, and we as in Ryan grills year-round. I still remember last year's epic West TN flood... no one could get out, no one could get in, and that man was still grilling! Rain, sleet, snow, shine... he grills. He uses wood chips and low heat too... found him some wine barrels cut up into grill use sizes on Etsy for our anniversary... best gift yet!

Although, as a Southerner, I have to use a joke here.... We know you're from up North ways if you think barbecue is something you do in the back yard ;)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-10 03:57 pm (UTC)
I always heard that you knew you were in the north if "barbecue" was mostly boiled ketchup.

I forget that barbecuing and grilling are two different things to those in the south!
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[User Picture]From: fitfool
2011-08-11 02:20 am (UTC)
Grilled corn, glazed with a spicy sweet soy sauce mixture that my mom made was amazing. I miss my parents' grilling skills. I've been making small forays into using the grill and I do love grilled meat but I'm very unsure of myself. Your dinner looks yummy. I would've happily dug in :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-11 03:27 am (UTC)
Grilling was always "man's work," so I'm having to push myself to do it. But it's worth it!
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