We all use the words “backyard barbecue” to describe an outdoor cookout. But true barbecuing means cooking food low and slow over an open flame. Most of the burgers and hot dogs served at your average backyard bash are actually grilled—meaning they’re cooked quickly over a hot fire. Even though people often use the words interchangeably, or even generically, grilling is not barbecuing. I should know.
I love to cook outdoors, but until recently my main means of doing so was on a gas grill. As a New York City–born and –raised guy, I couldn’t be bothered with all the fuss of tending to a charcoal fire and then having to clean up the mess. Well, I am older and wiser now and can appreciate the pros and cons of both gas and charcoal. And when I built my summer house in the Hamptons, I finally got the chance to try out everything. While I still love my gas grill, I have since opened my heart to other outdoor cookers: charcoal grills, smokers, pizza ovens . . . you name it. And while, yes, these are messier and more time consuming to cook on, they make food that tastes amazing.
As an American chef I have always looked to my native country for barbecue inspiration, and with good reason. We have a spectacular belt of states throughout the South to the Southwest that each has its own take on the most talked about cuisine in America. Even places such as the central coast of California and the Pacific Northwest have their own distinct style of outdoor, wood-fired cookery. Those dishes help define a cuisine that is distinctly American and are the topic of the greatest food debate in the fifty states: Which state has the best BBQ?
While I won’t touch that one with a ten-foot pole, I can say that as time went by and my travels began to take me overseas, I realized that almost every country, every culture, has its own version of barbecue. Although I always thought of barbecue as an American pastime, grilling burgers and hot dogs with my family at the Jersey Shore (pre MTV) when I was four or five years old, it turns out we were just like every other place in the world that loved cooking outdoors.
Now I not only look to my homeland but across the world for flavors, techniques, and ingredients. In these pages you’ll find Tuscan Rosemary-Smoked Whole Chicken (page 117), a tip of the hat to northern Italy, next to Smoked Ginger Chicken with Cardamom, Cloves, and Cinnamon (page 123), a distinctly Indian taste explosion. Slow-Smoked Pork Shoulder with Napa Slaw and Queso Fresco (page 152) shares these pages with Coconut-Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Green Onion–Peanut Relish (page 155). There are also recipes for quickly grilled dishes as well, such as Pimiento Cheese–Bacon Burgers (page 199) that has the American South written all over it, and Rib Eye with Goat Cheese and Meyer Lemon–Honey Mustard (page 189) that’s straight from the center of Cali.
I get tons of questions while I’m standing in my restaurant kitchens, walking down the street, and of course more than ever on social media about grilling fish and vegetables. Most people think of those amazing aromas in our backyards as charred meats and poultry, but more and more, as we all try to be a little bit more healthful, fish, shellfish, and vegetables are finding their way to the grill and the smoker. One of the new staples in my house is Hot-Smoked Salmon with Apples, Dried Cherries, Hazelnuts, and Greens (page 217) with an apple-cider-vinegar dressing for the crunchy salad; it’s great for a crowd. Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Cilantro-Mint Chutney (page 256) make a great appetizer to get things started, along with Watermelon–Plata Tequila Cocktails (page 44). Be careful, they go down like lemonade!
You’ll notice that the starters, salads, and sides chapter of this book is quite large. In my opinion, these dishes really help complete a table. So when you’ve got a serious barbecue going, make a handful of these: Fire-Roasted Corn with Mango-HabaneroCilantro Butter (page 69), Grilled Eggplant Caponata Bruschetta with Ricotta Salata (page 77), Grilled New Potatoes with Queso Fresco and Grilled Green Rajas (page 95), Grilled Asparagus with Figs, Cabrales, and Sherry Vinegar Sauce (page 54).
’ve also expanded my horizons when it comes to cookers. The majority of the sales in the United States these days is for gas grills, mostly because of the ease and consistency of the heat—plus, with their shiny stainless finishes, a lot of them look really cool in your backyard. However, a purist will use only live fire, and I have a few different grills these days. I love the Big Green Egg mostly for slow cooking and smoking. It has an amazing capacity for insulating the perfect amount of heat, and I find it to be super easy to use when it comes to smoking meats, fish, and vegetables. I’ll always have a classic Weber kettle around for quickly grilled ingredients that need just one chimney starter full of hot charcoal. One of my all-time favorite cookers is called a Caja China. I call it the magic box. It’s terrific for things like a whole hog, whole pork shoulders, and whole turkeys for Thanksgiving. My new favorite grill is what I call a “crank grill,” hand made by a gentleman named Chris Engelbrecht (see page 16). It makes life so easy because you can control the height of the grates for fast searing or slow cooking and you can escape those dastardly flare-ups. I love cooking chicken with the bone in and the skin on with this grill; it comes out perfectly crispy on the outside and juicy and flavorful all the way through because of the control. There are so many choices, but in these pages I go over the merits of many of my favorites so you have options if you are looking to acquire a new cooker.
As I am writing this, my mouth is seriously beginning to water. Time to get off this computer and over to my outdoor kitchen! I’m going to break out my chimney starter, fill it with hardwood charcoal (if you use lighter fluid you’re fired from the grill), soak some wood chips, get out a spice rub, knock out a dipping sauce, toss together some slaw, and fire it up. If you can’t tell, I’m addicted to barbecue. No intervention necessary.
Open-Faced Cuban Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Sour Orange-Jicama Slaw
Cuban food is not to be confused with other types of Latin cuisine—it’s not spicy and what it lacks in heat, it more than makes up for with herbaceous, garlicky, citruspunched flavor. The marinade for this pork butt is simple, but it makes an impact as it becomes one with the meat. Cooked slowly in a Caja China, the pork will be perfect every time because the fat melts into the meat and leaves it fork-tender. The tropical guava glaze, added only in the last hour of cooking so that the sugars don’t burn, turns into an irresistible lacquer. A fresh and crunchy slaw balances the rich pulled pork in this insanely good sandwich. Serves 8
1 (4-pound) pork butt
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped, plus 3 cloves, smashed to a paste
3/4 cup canola oil
Scant 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves, plus 2 teaspoons finely chopped
1 1/2 cups guava jelly
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
4 Cuban bread loaves or foot-long soft baguettes, sliced lengthwise
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Sour Orange-Jicama Slaw (recipe follows)
1. Using a paring knife, make small slits over the entire surface of the pork and rub the chopped garlic into the slashes.
2. Combine the oil and oregano leaves in a blender and blend until smooth. Put the pork in a large roasting pan or bowl, add the oregano marinade, and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.
3. Remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
4. Whisk together the guava jelly, mustard, orange zest, and orange juice in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
5. Prepare your Caja China according to the manufacturer’s directions. Light 12 pounds of charcoal for model #1 or 16 pounds for model #2 in batches in a chimney starter and allow to burn until covered with a fine layer of gray ash, 20 to 25 minutes.
6. Season the pork liberally with salt and pepper. Put the pork on the rack of the Caja China. Cover the box with the ash pan and charcoal grid. Spread the hot charcoal over the grid. Cook, adding hot charcoal as needed, according to the manufacturer’s directions, for 2 1/2 hours.
7. After 2 1/2 hours, baste with the guava glaze and continue to cook, basting every 15 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the roast registers 180°F, about 1 hour more.
8. Remove the roast from the box, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes. Using tongs, pull the pork into bite-sized pieces and toss with more of the guava glaze.
9. Stir together the butter, garlic paste, and chopped oregano and season with salt and pepper. Spread each half of bread with some of the garlic butter and place on a hot grill pan until lightly golden brown, about 20 seconds.
10. Spread both sides of the bread with some of the mayonnaise. Mound some of the pork on top of the mayonnaise and top the pork with some of the slaw. Serve the sandwiches open faced.Sour Orange-Jicama Slaw
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 jicama, julienned
1/4 head red cabbage, finely shredded
1 large carrot, julienned
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Whisk together the orange and lime zests and juices and the sugar in a large bowl. Add the onion, jicama, cabbage, carrot, and cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
Copyright © 2013 by Bobby Flay with Stephanie Banyas and Sally Jackson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.