Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Connoisseur’s Corner Spots, July 2014

Recently, I recorded more Connoisseur’s Corner spots with Jordan Rich, and for those that don’t catch it on WBZ, here are a few highlights…

Choosing a grill or smoker

With the proliferation of BBQ shows on TV, and with many of you knowing that my patio is covered with four different barbecuing devices, I have frequently been asked “smoker v. grill?”   The answer…“depends”.  Depends on whether you have time, or you want to cook fast…. obviously. 

In the smoker realm, you need to have time.  With time being such a precious commodity, most people don’t embrace the idea of a smoker because the culture of smoking meat is based on the concept of “low and slow”.  Low temperatures take a looooooooong time to cook food; but that’s how the magic happens.  Low temps over long periods of time renders fat and breaks down the collagen in meat, making the toughest cuts of beef tender and melt in your mouth.

I enjoy smoking foods.  I have a Primo Oval XL and a Weber Smokey Mountain 22.5.  I would really like a “Stumps” (“Stump don’t build no junk”), but college tuition takes precedent for now.
The Great Primo Oval XL with a BBQ Guru Controller

On the grilling side, it speaks for itself, if you want to cook a thinner cut or meat or vegetables quickly.  I have a gas grill (Weber), but I also have a Weber Performer charcoal grill.  I hear people complain all the time that it takes too long for charcoal to heat up, but that just isn’t true, especially if you’re letting the gas grill heat up; letting a gas grill heat up for ten minutes is about the same time it takes to heat up a full chimney of charcoal. 

For those that don’t understand the concept of a chimney starter, I have covered this in earlier postings, but imagine a large coffee can filled with charcoal.  Light some newspaper in the bottom, and let the fire build from the bottom.  In ten minutes, those coals will be ready to go; just dump into the grill and get cooking.

In any event, and regardless of the cooking vessel used, grilling or smoking allows you to enjoy the primal experience of cooking meat over fire.  In my world, there’s almost nothing better.

Grilling fruit

Grilling isn’t just for meat and some vegetables; how about fruit?

My daughter really enjoys certain grilled fruit.  There’s something unusual but delectable in the combination of a little char and the sweetness of certain fruits.  My daughter likes slices of banana on the grill…a little char on the outside, but soft and warm beneath the surface.  Drop that on a dish of vanilla ice cream, and that’s a tasty summer dessert.

But how about trying a grilled pineapple?  Take slices or wedges of pineapple, sprinkle a little brown sugar on them, and lay over the grill for a few minutes, turning frequently.  Do the same for apples.  The brown sugar will caramelize and give a sweet richness to the fruit, while you’ll get some grill marks that will add a savory char.  Sweet and savory…an umami party in your mouth.

Smoking cabbage

Cabbage is the brisket of the vegetable world-a tough cut that requires a lot of work to break down.  If you’re into smoking, you can treat a cabbage the same way you treat a brisket-smoke for a long time, at a low temp, and you’ll be amazed at what happens.



I turn a cabbage so the core is facing up.  I cut the core out, leaving a well in the top of the cabbage.  In that well, I place chunks of margarine, garlic, salt and pepper, and I coat the rest of the cabbage in olive oil.  I make a ring of foil to place the cabbage on, and it keeps the cabbage upright during cooking.  I cook the cabbage for at least 4 hours in the smoker, while the other food is cooking.  The result is tender, smokey, buttery cabbage leaves that could be a featured side in upscale restaurants.

More short spots coming...stay tuned...