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Seasons by the Sea: It's Griller Time

Thu, 05/21/2020 - 14:53
Central Barbecue in Memphis recently supplied the base for an otherwise homemade dinner of ribs, slaw, and cornbread. Locally, Townline BBQ or Smokin’ Wolf can provide barbecued meat and sides.
Laura Donnelly

Nothing can stop us from having picnics and barbecues! With a bit of care and common-sense planning, it’s quite possible we can share these outdoor meals with others.

Memorial Day weekend is upon us. A few more restaurants will be bravely opening up for takeout (Beacon, Morty’s Oyster Stand, and more), and places like Loaves and Fishes and L and W Market have been open for months already, doing a gangbuster business. If you’re not much of a cook, you can pick up whatever you want from these places. Doesn’t a lobster roll from Bostwick’s sound like a fine idea? Along with a Montauk ale or two?

Along with a lot of bread baking, some of my friends have been buying smokers and grills and are experimenting with them. Justin plans to make some North Carolina-style barbecue for Memorial weekend, and he has been sampling different types of wood chips and chunks for smoky flavor.

Ellen’s husband, Chris, is going to dig out the Big Green Egg and make Eisenhower steak. The Big Green Egg is a kamado-style ceramic charcoal barbecue cooker. The kamado is similar to our more common charcoal kettle grills, but the heavy ceramic material makes it more versatile and the shape helps cook food evenly. The Eisenhower steak method is cooking the meat directly on the charcoal. Do not attempt this method with briquettes, you need to use the hardwood lump charcoal, which burns hotter and has no chemicals added.

My friends in Carmel Valley report that Monterey Bay salmon is coming in off the boats so they’ll be firing up the grill at River Ranch. Tanya is contemplating having a pig roast! Jane and Steve plan to enjoy the classics: hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and some local asparagus. Jule will be cooking brats and chicken on his Weber kettle and smartly sent a reminder to smother the coals when done because they could be used again.

I have a tiny tabletop gas grill, which is handy for spontaneous year-round cooking. A piece of fish, some sliced eggplant, a few spears of asparagus or ears of corn. But for the big jobs and serious flavor, I use my Weber kettle grill with lump charcoal.

Side dishes and condiments are often more important to me than the main meat or fish. Really good coleslaw and potato salad are such a treat, same for deviled eggs. Having a variety of pickles is a good idea, I love Backyard Brine and Jane Bimson’s Nana’s Pickles!

If you’re just going to hang out in your own backyard with your family, then cooking and eating outside is easy-peasy. But if you plan to venture out with food and share it with safe distancing friends then I highly recommend you wrap each portion individually. Wrap utensil sets in napkins for each person. Don’t put a bunch of brownies and cookies in a Tupperware container and let people stick their grubby little mitts into it. Wrap each brownie in waxed paper or foil or whatevs and distribute them. Take more napkins and cleansing wipes than you would have last summer and make sure everyone knows which glass, cup, mug, bottle is theirs.

I am not a big fan of mail-order prepared foods or grocery delivery systems. I prefer local, local, local and cooking everything myself. However, lately I have been availing myself of various treats from afar. Hey, it’s fun to get a package! Soon some fresh Hatch chiles wil be arriving from New Mexico and I’ll spend an afternoon grilling and peeling them, with one of Ina Garten’s whisky sours in my hand.

I ordered peaches from Georgia due to arrive whenever, and I also sampled some ribs from Central Barbecue in Memphis. All I had to do was make some slaw and cornbread to go with the ribs. Out here, pick up your ribs, brisket, chicken, etc., from Townline BBQ or Smokin’ Wolf and just make your sides.

There’s something primordial about all this sourdough bread baking and outdoor cooking going on. We are at home, we may have way more time on our very, very clean hands, and over all, it’s more economical.

Let us be grateful for fresh food in the fresh air, perhaps a glimpse of good friends from a distance, and remember to honor those men and women who lost their lives serving our country.

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