by Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach
Texas Beef Brisket New Mexico-Style (Picture) Photo by Steve Tesky
Brisket Basting Sauce
Rum-Cured Hawaiian Salmon with Thai Pepper Mint Chutney
Grilled Artichokes Stuffed with Serrano Cilantro Aioli
In the Beginning…
At age seven, co-author Dave got his first lesson in grilling. It was a Sunday afternoon in the early 1950s in Falls Church, Virginia, and Dave’s dad was engaged in the newest suburban ritual: attempting to grill fatty chicken pieces over charcoal without burning them–and Dick DeWitt had acquired a family reputation for burning the chicken. Suddenly, he handed the tongs to Dave and said, “I’m going to get a beer. Be right back. Watch the chicken.” He walked into the house and the phone rang. It was his boss at the Pentagon. As the conversation dragged on, Dave made a valiant attempt to save the chicken. He noticed that the coals were hottest in the middle, so he placed the thickest pieces of chicken there. Then he realized that the chicken parts had to be turned often or they burned. They tended to burn when the fat dripped on the coals, producing flare-ups. So he moved the dripping pieces to the outer edge of the grill, where the fire wasn’t so hot. Worried and sweating profusely, Dave wrestled with the chicken for fifteen minutes before his father returned.
“Hey, you didn’t burn it,” Dick DeWitt said. “What’s your secret?”
“You gotta watch it every second,” Dave replied, a big lesson learned.
Forty-eight years later, of course, you can adjust your gas grill to precisely the right temperature so the chicken supposedly won’t burn, but you still have to watch it. Not every second, but one of the fun things about grilling is that you have to pay attention. With smoking, the attention span isn’t so crucial, and some people have been known to take naps during the process. Okay, maybe they passed out while demonstrating the close affinity between outdoor cooking and beer.
Nancy’s story is just the reverse of Dave’s. She didn’t grow up in a barbecuing family, so nothing more exotic than the usual burgers and steaks got grilled. When Nancy and Jeff were newlyweds, living in an apartment in the Berkeley/Oakland area, they would haul a small hibachi up the fire escape to the roof so they could grill. When Nancy first started grilling, it was immediately apparent that the clouds of smoke that could be seen across the bay in San Francisco were testimony that she didn’t know what she was doing. Being from Wisconsin, Jeff grew up grilling bratwursts, so he stepped in to show her the ropes, an arrangement that has lasted to this day. So Nancy creates the recipes, does the prep, and Jeff does the grilling and smoking. Nancy can sit back and enjoy a cold one while he does the work!
This is the ninth book we’ve coauthored since 1984, and we’re still having fun! This one is designed for people with some degree of knowledge about outdoor cooking and is not intended to cover the basics, like how to start a charcoal fire. There are dozens of books that will teach you Grilling 101, or you can ask your father.
Enough about what this book isn’t. It is specifically designed to prove that outdoor cooking and chile peppers are inextricably linked. Essentially all that is required to use the recipes and techniques contained herein is a passion for chile peppers in cooking and a love of barbecue in all its meanings.
The Meaning of “Barbecue”
We use the word barbecue in three ways. First, in the most general sense, it is a gathering of people where food–especially the meat–is cooked outdoors rather than in or on a stove. At most family barbecues, the meat is grilled; that is, cooked on a grate directly over the heat source. The second definition of barbecue, in the technical culinary sense, is meat cooked indirectly from the heat source and flavored with smoke. Finally, the grilling apparatus, no matter how modest or one with all the bells and whistles, is called a barbecue. The apparatus for producing true barbecue is not called a barbecue but rather a smoker or a pit. Go figure.
Now, about chile peppers. Despite the fact that both of us were grilling way before we discovered chiles, they became our favorite ingredient in cooking. In fact, we fell for chiles so hard that between us we’ve authored thirty books on them and fiery foods, plus produced trade shows and video documentaries, and edited two magazines on the subject of pungent peppers. So considering this chile pepper hang-up we have, and the fact that we are still grilling or smoking food every week, it was inevitable that the two biggest loves of our lives (sorry, spouses) would collide in a cataclysmic eruption of fiery heat and smoky flavor that we modestly entitle The Barbecue Inferno.
So, grab some pods from the garden, fire up the smoker, turn on the gas grill, and descend, with Dave and Nancy as your Virgil, into the pit known as The Barbecue Inferno. Oh, better grab a beer before you go, ‘cause it’s gonna get hot.
Important Advice for Cooks
Most of these recipes require some sort of advance preparation. We’re not going to remind you over and over in the head notes to the recipes about the advanced preparation, so don’t be surprised to see some long marinating times! In fact, we’re not going to nag you about cleaning the grill each time, either.
The cooking times depend on a number of factors, including the heat of your fire, the thickness and moistness of the meat or vegetables, the wind, the humidity, the distance of the food from the fire, and whether or not you use the unit’s cover. There are simply too many variables to be really precise. In the recipes, we give suggested fire or smoke temperature, suggested length of cooking time, suggested internal temperature when possible to measure, and then suggest you cut it open to check it. Just pay attention and you’ll be fine. Remember, food on the grill and in the pit is more of an art than a science.
Okay, okay, we borrowed a Texas technique and changed the rub to reflect our chilehead tastes. For years we have been perfecting recipes using a smoker known as an Oklahoma Joe’s. It is a horizontal, cylindrical smoker about three and a half feet long and about fourteen inches in diameter. It has an attached, dropped fire box that allows smoking with fairly cool smoke because the fire is separated a bit from the smoking area. Because smoking is so time consuming, it makes sense to smoke several things at once. In addition to brisket, we also smoke a turkey breast. Some cooks use the basting sauce as a mop during the smoking process and eliminate the long marinade at the end of smoking. Leftovers, if there are any, make the best barbecue sandwiches when served on a crusty hard roll with your choice of sauce.
1 9 to 10 pound brisket (“packer trimmed” preferred)
½ cup lemon juice
2 cups mild red New Mexican chile powder
1 tablespoon ground cayenne chile
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
Brisket Basting Sauce (recipe follows)
Thoroughly coat all surfaces of the brisket with lemon juice, and rub in well. Combine the chile powder, cayenne, black pepper, and garlic powder in a bowl, and sprinkle generously all over the brisket, rubbing it in well. Make sure that the brisket is entirely covered. Allow to marinate for at least an hour before smoking.
To smoke the brisket, build a hardwood fire in the fire box using pecan, oak, or any fruit wood. When the fire is smoking nicely, place the brisket on the rack fat side up, to let gravity and nature do the basting. Place the breast as far from the heat source as possible, and close the smoker. During the smoking, do nothing to the brisket. The smoking will take approximately 8 hours at 200 degrees smoke temperature. This means a lot of beer will be consumed while you wait and tend the fire.
After the brisket has finished smoking, remove it from the smoker, slather it generously with Brisket Basting Sauce, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil, and return it to the smoker. Close off all of the air supplies to the fire, and allow the meat to “set” in the pit for about 2 hours.
Yield: A 10-pound brisket will yield about 10 to 20 servings, depending on the individual brisket and the size of the appetites of the guests.
Heat Scale: Medium
This recipe is from Red Caldwell, who revealed the secrets of Texas barbecue to us when we were editors of Chile Pepper magazine. After a beef brisket has been smoked, it is basted in this sauce for a couple of hours before it is sliced and served. Some cooks slather the sauce on during the smoking. It can also be used with smoked lamb or pork.
Our Favorite Names of
Melt the butter, add the onions and garlic, and saute for 4 to 5 minutes to soften. Add the beer, squeeze in the lemon juice, and add the lemon rinds to the pot. When the foam subsides, add all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a medium low and simmer for 20 minutes.
Yield: About 5 cups
Heat Scale: Medium
Before smoking, some fish are treated with a liquid cure, a mixture of various ingredients that helps in the preservation process. This cure is both sweet and hot. For the chutney, Fresh Thai chiles are available in Asian markets. Serve on a bed of white rice with the chutney on the side, along with grilled pineapple and mango slices.
In a bowl, combine the rum, sugar, oil, mint, ginger, and chile. Allow the mixture to sit for 30 minutes to blend the flavors. Place the steaks in a glass dish and brush the cure on both sides of the steaks. Cover and marinate for 4 hours in the refrigerator.
To make the chutney, combine all the ingredients, except the mint, in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the fruits and vegetables are soft. Remove the mango, pepper, onion, and chiles and simmer the sauce until the liquid is reduced to a syrup. Return the fruit and vegetables and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Allow to cool and add the mint.
Place the salmon steaks in a grill basket with handles. Grill the salmon over a medium fire until it flakes, about 15 minutes, turning occasionally. Serve the salmon with the chutney on the side.
Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Hot
This is an extremely versatile dish that can be done ahead of time and thrown back on the grill as it is heating up, and it can be served either warm or cold. To take a short cut with the aioli, we have used a prepared mayonnaise as the base.
Our Favorite BBQ Cook-Off Contest Names
Cut the artichokes in half vertically and scoop out the center leaves and the “fur” of the choke. Immediately squeeze some lemon juice over the center and cut leaves to keep the artichoke from discoloring. Poach the artichokes in boiling water until the leaves just start to come off easily.
Remove the artichokes and drain. Drizzle the marinade over the artichokes and marinate, coved for a couple of hours at room temperature.
Combine all the ingredients for the aioli and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or more to blend the flavors.
Grill the artichokes over a medium-low fire for 10 minutes or until the heart is tender.
To serve, place the artichokes on plates and place a dollop of the aioli in the center of each artichoke and serve with additional aioli on the side.
Yield: 4 to 8 servings
Heat Scale: Medium