The saddest moment of summer’s end is when the grill is covered for the last time and pushed into a dark corner of the garage. If spring heralds the first smoky hint of barbecue, late fall is defined by the absence of that tantalizing aroma throughout the neighbourhood.
In truth, the piquant smell of barbecue is a call to action of unparalleled urgency, especially when we think the season is over. The very moment we close the garage door on our beloved grill, we smell the char drifting lazily on the September wind and most certainly from the direction of our pesky neighbour’s backyard. We envision the scene just beyond the garden gate. Our goofy neighbours; he in a mismatched Hawaiian shirt and oversized shorts, she bikini-clad despite the cellulite, sunglasses pushed haphazardly on top of unruly sun-bleached hair, lounging poolside, popping cold ones and forking tender morsels of juicy steak into each other’s mouths. And we are not just a little envious. We are rabid. They’re having fun! Why does everybody else get to have fun? We want to have fun too.So we rummage through the freezer to claw out a pitiful clump of frostbitten chops. And we stomp outside to start having fun again. But first, we put the grill back together and make a run to the Depot for another tank of propane.
In truth, barbecuing is like one big neighbourhood love-in — as soon as someone fires up his grill, we must all fire up our grills. As soon as the first hickory-scented breeze rolls past our finely tuned noses, we must hasten to our own grill. We tease the blue flames with meaty drippings until we’ve created our own hickory heaven. And so it goes. Through the summer and beyond. But how far will we go?
Let’s make a pact this year, shall we? Let’s agree to barbecue until we can no longer find the grill beneath the snow, until the air is so cold that our defrosted steaks refreeze as we carry them and our aching fingers glow with fire and ice. If just one person keeps the fire going, we will all keep the fire going this September, this October and well into the ice-capped winter. Deal? Deal! OK. Now here are just a few recipes to help us all fan the eternal flame.
Grilled Rack of Lamb
Makes 4 to 6 servings
2 racks of lamb
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp herbes de Provence
Preheat gas grill.
1. Pat the lamb dry. Cut into 8 double-chop portions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. In a small bowl, mix the garlic, mustard and herbs. Spread over both sides of lamb.
3. Place the lamb over medium heat. Cover and grill 8 minutes, turn and grill for about 4 to 6 minutes longer for medium rare (130˚F). Remove lamb and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
For the wine, take it all the way to Provence with a red or rosé Cote d’Aix-en-Provence or Bandol.
Ron’s Roasted Red Potatoes
My friend Ron roasts red potatoes in the oven while he tends to the grilling outdoors. These are luscious in a roasty, toasty way and go well with the lamb recipe or grilled steak. To ensure he makes them often, I planted fresh chives in his backyard.
6 large red potatoes
Fresh snipped chives
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Wash and pierce potatoes. Place olive oil in a bowl. Roll each potato in the olive oil.
2. Place directly on the oven rack (slide a baking sheet under the rack to catch any drippings). Sprinkle with salt. Roast for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until tender.
3. Serve with sour cream and fresh snipped chives.
Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Serves 4 to 6
Chimichurri is a spicy pesto that is so popular in Argentina it’s as ubiquitous on South American tables as ketchup is on North American tables. Flank steak is best when cooked medium rare and thinly sliced.
1 flank steak (1 1/2 – 2 lbs)
2 cups parsley
3/4 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped shallot
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp hot red chili flakes
1. Preheat gas grill. Pat steak dry. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill 4 minutes. Turn steak and grill 5 minutes more or until medium rare.
2. Make Sauce: Put parsley, olive oil, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, shallot, salt, and pepper in food processor. Pulse until chopped. Add hot red chili flakes.
3. Cut the steak across the grain into thin slices. Serve with Chimichurri Sauce.
A Malbec from Argentina would stand up well to the spicy sauce.
Chicken with Chipotle BBQ Sauce
Serves 4 to 6
I try to resist doling out Chipotle recipes since there are so many already available, but this is such a delicious hot and sweet barbecue sauce I had to include it. There are times when I don’t feel like standing over the grill waiting for chicken to cook. In that case, I roast it in the oven until tender and finish it on the grill with the Chipotle BBQ Sauce.
3-4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces
Chipotle BBQ Sauce
1 canned chipotle pepper with 1 tbsp adobo sauce
2 garlic cloves
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 cup chicken broth
1. Make the Sauce: Put chipotle, adobo sauce, garlic, onion, ketchup, vinegar, sugar, cumin, paprika, and oregano in food processor. Pulse until nearly smooth. Add chicken broth, salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 15 minutes.
2. Preheat grill. Pat chicken dry. Grill chicken over medium low heat, skin side down, covered, for 20 minutes.
3. Turn heat to medium-high. Turn chicken pieces over. Continue cooking for another 15 to 20 minutes or until well browned and cooked through. (White meat should register 160 degrees and dark meat 175 degrees on a meat thermometer).
4. Brush with Chipotle Barbecue Sauce and cook 5 minutes longer.
I would serve a cool white wine with a vibrant finish such as a South African or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Memphis Barbecue Sauce, Thank You Very Much
Fit for a King, this barbecue sauce is popular throughout Tennessee. Use it to sauce pulled pork or pulled chicken. To make either, slow roast pork loin or a whole chicken until meltingly tender, then pull apart into shreds with two forks, discarding any bones.
2 tbsp butter
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp molasses
1 bay leaf
1 tsp liquid smoke flavouring
1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, cook, stirring until softened. Stir in the spices and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
2. Stir in ketchup, mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, molasses, bay leaf and liquid smoke.
3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Smooth sauce with an immersion blender, if desired.
Serve with pulled pork or chicken and plenty of ice-cold Canadian beer.
Thai Grilled Beef With Peanut Sauce
Makes 4 servings
When I lived in LA, I often ate at Tommy Tang’s in Hollywood where I had my first taste of Thai food. I particularly loved the marinated steak, which I have re-created here. The peanut sauce recipe is absolute perfection — I learned to make it at George Brown College.
4 strip steaks
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
Sweet red pepper, thinly sliced
English cucumber, thinly sliced
George Brown Peanut Sauce
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
Marinate and Grill Steaks
1. Mix soy sauce, garlic, pepper, sugar and olive oil in a large glass container. Add steaks, turning to coat. Marinate 1 hour.
2. Preheat grill. Grill steaks 4 minutes per side or until medium rare.
Make George Brown Peanut Sauce
1. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, bring coconut milk to a gentle boil. Reduce heat. Stir in the curry paste. Simmer 3 minutes. Stir in the peanut butter, chicken stock, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice. Cook over low heat 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt.
2. Serve steak with thinly sliced sweet red pepper, thinly sliced cucumber and peanut sauce.
Thai food begs for the spicy, lychee-scented flavours of Gewürtztraminer.
Mixed Seafood Grill with Red Pepper Mayonnaise
This is a feast where guests are encouraged to eat with their fingers and enjoy the mess. Cover the table with newspapers, provide plenty of napkins and ‘ave at it. It doesn’t get much better than this!
24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
4 fish fillets such as tilapia
24 clams, scrubbed
24 mussels, scrubbed
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp minced fresh basil
4 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise (recipe follows)
2 large lemons, cut into wedges
Melted butter, optional
1. In a medium bowl, mix the olive oil, butter, basil, paprika, salt and pepper. Toss shrimp in mixture. Rub remaining mixture over fish fillets.
2. Preheat grill. Preheat oven to 300˚F.
3. Place mussels and clams in grill basket. Cover and cook 5 to 10 minutes or until clams and mussels have opened. Discard any that do not open. Transfer to a large serving dish and keep warm in a 300˚F oven.
4. Meanwhile, skewer the shrimp and place on grill. Place fish fillets on grill. Cook uncovered, turning once, until shrimp have turned pink and fish fillets are cooked through and flake easily with a fork.
5. Transfer shrimp and fish to serving dish with clams and mussels. Serve with Red Pepper Mayonnaise, lemons and melted butter if you wish.
Serve with a medium-bodied Italian Pinot Grigio.
Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise
1 large sweet red pepper
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
1. Preheat broiler. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place red pepper on baking sheet and roast under broiler until blackened on all sides.
When cool enough to handle, scrape off most of charred skin (it’s OK and even yummy to leave some charred bits on pepper). Remove core and seeds.
Put the pepper and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until chopped.
2. Add the mayonnaise and process until nearly smooth. While the machine is running, add the oil in a thin, steady stream and process until smooth and creamy.
3. Season with sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Refrigerate one hour before serving.
Oven Baked Sweet Potato Wedges
These are absolutely delicious with the Mixed Seafood Grill. To prevent them from sticking, I use the double precaution of parchment paper and cooking spray. Cooking time is an estimate and depends on the size of your wedges.
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 6 to 8 wedges each
4 tbsp olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Coat with cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss sweet potato wedges with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread out on baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until tender.
Here’s my secret to grilled corn — Shuck it, cook it in a pot of lightly sugared (no salt!) boiling water for about 7 minutes, then finish it on the grill until kernels turn brown and caramelized. Serve with any of the above entrees or cut the kernels from the cob and use in soups, salsas and pasta salads.