What Barbeque Isn’t

It has become widely apparent to me that there are some key differences between the East and the West. And now, I don’t mean the World here, I just mean the wee ol’ United States. The red, the white, and the blue. Happy Belated Birthday, by the way, America. The San Francisco fireworks in your honor were just plain lovely, after I stopped thinking about the regretful act of not wearing socks that night.

There were a plethora of other lovelies this past holiday weekend too: grillin’ out with friends on Saturday, starting to walk through a great new book on Sunday, and a baseball game finished off by said fireworks on Monday. Why can’t all weekends be that awesome (minus the sunburn)?!

But let’s get back to the matter at hand. Throughout the course of the past week, I have without a doubt deduced one clear, glaring difference between East and West, and this isn’t to say that there aren’t quite a few, but alas. I have what may be the most important discrepancy: the definition of “barbeque” (aka barbecue).

I’d like to direct your attention to the following article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbecue. Yes, Wikipedia, the source of all sources.

You can read through the whole article, if you wish. It’s actually rather interesting. But what I’d like to call your attention to is the following paragraph:

“The word barbecue is also used to refer to a social gathering where food is served, usually outdoors in the late afternoon or evening. In the southern USA, outdoor gatherings are not typically called “barbecues” unless barbecue itself will actually be on the menu, instead generally favoring the word “cookouts”. The device used for cooking at a barbecue is commonly referred to as a “barbecue”, “barbecue grill”, or “grill”. In North Carolina, however, “barbecue” is a noun primarily referring to the food and never used by native North Carolinians to describe the act of cooking or the device on which the meat is cooked.”

Here’s the issue: I found myself eating around a grill 4 separate times this past week from Thursday through Monday. Not once did I partake in, or make use of a, barbeque. Often times, I had to confusingly ask for clarification. Here’s one example.

Co-worker: “Are you coming to the barbeque at lunch today? It’s free.”

Me: “Free? Yes! Where is the pig being cooked?”

Co-worker: (insert strange look on face) “Huh?”

Me: “Oh, yeah, right. What you mean to say is there are some meat items that have been grilled, and that is free, right?”

Co-worker: “Yeah. A barbeque.”

Either way, the grilled meat was good. But it ain’t barbeque.

And neither is this chicken, although a grill was most certainly part of the festivities. It doesn’t make it less good, I promise. But there is right and there is wrong in this world, and to say barbeque for something that has a pig nowhere in sight is just plain wrong. Although, I should be clear here, and state my one exception: you can called chicken ‘barbequed chicken’ IF there is a barbeque sauce involved, but that’s still a stretch, and in that sense it really is only referring to the fact that it’s chicken, with barbeque sauce, and not necessarily grilled, either.

Agree? Agree to disagree? Tell me more. Maybe one day I’ll learn to turn the other cheek at this craziness; probably not. And since I am out West, and unlikely to find any truly original REAL barbeque, I’ll settle for grilled meats instead. Because, really, what’s not to love about a grill, anyway?

Grilled Chicken with Za’atar
adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2011; serves 4

time commitment: ~3 hours, plus overnight marinating (most is inactive time; everything can be made in advance, leaving only grilling chicken for the day of)

i’m including the original recipe amounts here, but this is easily adaptable to a crowd, as we practically quadrupled the recipe with no problems, scaling back on the marinade just a tad. the chicken is great by itself, or with either/both of the dipping sauces below. also, I don’t tend to remove seeds from peppers, as we like things spicy in our house, and we like to torture our guests. feel free to remove them if you’re feeling sheepish.

printable version

2 heads of garlic, top third cut off
5 T olive oil, divided
1 1/2 t lemon zest
3 T fresh lemon juice
1 T chopped fresh rosemary
1 small serrano chile, minced
2 t dried marjoram

1 T chopped fresh marjoram
1 T sumac
1 T ground cumin
1 T roasted sesame seeds
1 t kosher salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper

1 whole chicken, cut into 6 pieces (breast, wing, thigh/leg)
1 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 F. Put garlic on a large sheet of foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and wrap tightly with foil. Roast until tender and golden brown, 45-50 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the remainder of the marinade and the za’atar. In a medium bowl, add 4 tablespoons oil, lemon zest and juice, rosemary, chile, and marjoram; whisk to blend. When garlic is cooled, squeeze roasted cloves out of skins and into the same bowl; mash into a paste with the back of a fork and whisk all ingredients together.

For the za’atar, combine marjoram through black pepper in a small bowl.

Place chicken pieces in a glass baking dish or large bowl. Sprinkle 2 1/2 tablespoons za’atar over chicken. Pour marinade over chicken; turn to coat. Cover; chill overnight.

Season chicken with salt and pepper; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a gas grill to medium-high. Brush grill rack with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Grill chicken, turning occasionally, until skin is crisp and browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of thigh without touching bone reads 160°, about 40 minutes, more or less for some pieces and depending on the size. Transfer chicken to a platter, sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoon za’atar, and let rest 10 minutes.

Serve by itself, or with cumin aioli and green harissa (recipes below).


Cumin Aioli
from Bon Appetit, July 2011; makes 1 cup

printable version

1 t cumin seeds
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 c grapeseed oil
1/4 c evoo
Kosher salt

Stir cumin in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, 2 minutes; let cool. Coarsely grind in a spice mill. Whisk yolks, lemon juice, and garlic in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly pour in grapeseed oil drop by drop, then olive oil, whisking vigorously until emulsified. Whisk in cumin and 1/2 t water. Season with salt. Cover; chill.


Green Harissa
from Bon Appetit, July 2011; makes 1/2 cup

printable version

1 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 c chopped spinach
1/4 c evoo
1 garlic clove, minced
1 serrano chile, minced
1/4 t ground coriander
1/4 t ground cumin
Kosher salt

Combine first 7 ingredients in a food processor and purée until smooth. Season harissa to taste with salt.


How ’bout some Artichoke in your Hash

flank steak with aleppo pepper aioli

There is nothing like a Sunday without a list of to-do’s. I’d finished my homework yesterday, so Sunday was all mine (aside from weekly laundry) – which meant I got to make lunch and prepare a non-weeknight-dinner. I always try to cook something pretty hefty on Sunday, so we’ll have enough to last a couple of days for lunch. Since I wasn’t able to cook much last week cause of my birthday (well… and class of course), I turned into a cookin’ machine today. Fortunately, for the sake of my pants fitting, I did not bake the pumpkin biscuits as I’d planned. (but I think I cancelled that out with a piece of red velvet cake that jennifer made for my bday…. oh well. There is NO dieting in culinary school. None.)

aioli and steak rub

With tons of enthusiasm regarding my dinner plans, I hopped up out of bed and headed to the grocery store (and back!) before noon. If you know me, you know that THAT never happens. I am very much a sleep till 10, eat, drink coffee, and watch Food Network or DVR’d shows until 1-ish person. What made getting up and home before lunch possible was practically rolling out of bed, brushing my teeth, and quickly changing into the clothes on the floor (yep – no shower, no hair-brushing, and no coffee – Peets is right next to Whole Foods). And who needed a shower anyway, the storm outside was shower enough.

flank steak rub

I didn’t take any pictures at lunch, but I made roasted corn and goat cheese quesadillas. They were pretty good, and perfect for lunch. For dinner, I’d decided to make another meal from my recipe stack. The recipe itself was loooong and was rather intimidating, but it turned out to be pretty easy and really yummy. I think it was the artichokes that frightened me a bit. I have never cooked with artichokes. I always thought they were a little too funny lookin’ and was never willing to give them a chance. Anything that looks like brussel sprouts has potential to remain on the shelf and never get its foot (or any other part of itself) into my kitchen, and since they are green and round, they (artichokes) look like them (brussel sprouts). Once I realized that spinach artichoke dip, a lovely addition to any party, had artichoke in it (yeah, I know….) I realized that maybe I did like them after all and when I saw this recipe, I decided this would be the test.

sauteed artichokes

As it turns out, artichokes are mighty fine. Mighty fine indeed. They are especially tasty when cooked alongside potatoes. According to Wikipedia, hash is often a mixture of beef, onions, potatoes and spices that are cooked either alone or with other ingredients. Think corned beef hash. I tend to refer to hash as anything involving small pieces of potatoes and other ingredients, and apparently Bon Appetit does too. I wonder what the Food Lovers’ Companion would say? I forgot to look when I was at home…
What really made this dish though – strangely enough – was the aioli. The recipe uses Aleppo pepper, which is a medium-heat pepper from Syria. Whole Foods didn’t have it, and although I was up and at it early, I wasn’t in the mood for spice shopping, so I substituted a mixture of sweet paprika and cayenne in a 4:1 ratio. Don’t know if it tastes like Aleppo pepper, but it’s good nonetheless, and that’s what the Internet told me to do. And with it rubbed on the flank steak with thyme, it makes for a really scrumptuous flavorful dish. One of those dishes where all the flavors tie in together – the thyme in the hash and on the steak, aleppo pepper in aioli and rubbed on the steak, etc. But the aioli – what a tasty treat. It sounds fancy, but it’s really just mayo and garlic, plus anything else you add. Simple. And good. So damn good.

Go whip this up. And don’t be afraid of the artichokes, like I was. They are pretty wussy and don’t make all the fuss you hear about. Promise 🙂

Flank Steak w/ Artichoke Potato Hash & Aleppo Pepper AioliAdapted from Bon Appetit, April 2009; Serves 4-6

printable recipe


2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 t Aleppo pepper (or 4:1 sweet paprika:cayenne pepper)
1/4 t kosher salt
1/2 cup mayo (I used light mayo)
2 T evoo
1 t Sherry wine vinegar

1 1/2 T fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 t Aleppo pepper (or substitute above)
1 t kosher salt
1/4 t fresh ground black pepper
1 1.5-2 lb flank steak
1/2 lemon
8 baby artichokes, stems trimmed
1 1/4 pounds unpeeled yellow potatoes
3 T evoo, divided
1/2 c water
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T heavy cream
1 T peanut or veggie oil
2 T chopped fresh chives (I didn’t have any, used scallions)

Mash garlic, Aleppo pepper, salt, pepper in small bowl with back of spoon (or use mortar & pestle if you have one) to form paste. Whisk in evoo, mayo, Sherry vinegar.

Mix thyme, Aleppo pepper, 1 t salt, 1/4 t pepper in small bowl. Rub onto steak and set aside.

Squeeze juice from lemon half into medium bowl of water. Cut 1/2 inch from tops of artichokes. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, break off dark outer leaves until only pale yellow leaves remain. Cut artichokes lengthwise in half; cut each half into 1/2 inch wedges. Place in lemon water to prevent browning.

Place potatoes in heavy large saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover; sprinkle with salt. Bring to boil; reduce heat to med-hi and boil until tender, 8-10 min. Drain and transfer to baking sheet until cook enough to handle. Halve or quarter, depending on size.

Drain artichokes; pat to dry then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 2 T olive oil in large skillet over med-hi heat. Add artichokes and saute until browned, about 4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water, thyme sprigs, and garlic. Cover skillet and simmer over med heat until artichokes are tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover & boil until liquid evaporates, stirring often, 2-3 mins. Add remaining 1 T olive oil and potatoes; stir to coat. Add cream and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Cook until potatoes are heated through and browned in areas, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Season hash to taste. Let stand at room temp.

Preheat oven to 400. Heat peanut/veggie oil in ovenproof skillet over hi heat. Add stead and cook until bottom is brown, about 2 minutes. Turn steak over; transfer to oven and roast until desired doneness, about 7 mins for med-rare. Transfer to cutting board; tent with foil to keep warm. Let rest 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, rewarm hash gently over medium heat. Stir in chopped chives. Thinly slice steak crosswise. Divide steak and hash among plates. Drizzle aioli over steak.