Friday, August 15, 2014

Barbeque Challenge

Here's my August column from the Petaluma Post...

Can you believe that it is already August?  The summer goes by so fast!  But there is still time to get out and enjoy those beautiful evenings. There is nothing better than barbequing to do that.  Here is the challenge that I threw at a group of friends for dinner one night.  Everything on the menu must come off of the BBQ.  We had cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, salad, entrĂ©e and even dessert; all off the grill.

Of course, we started with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.  The cocktail was a grilled peach and bourbon splash with a charred oak swizzle stick.  Cocktails are no longer made with just your simple fresh fruit juices and sodas; there is a new area of flavors coming from shrubs and tinctures.  A shrub is a fruit and vinegar combination that is sweetened and can also be used to make sodas by adding seltzer.  A tincture is an alcohol extract from an herb.  I choose to make something like a shrub, although I omitted the vinegar for this particular recipe. First grilling my peaches on the BBQ, and then combining with lemon juice, sugar and water.  Simmer to release the flavors then stain to get just the liquid.

Grilled Peach “Shrub”
Grilled Peach and Bourbon Splash
5 peaches, split in half and pitted
1 cup sugar
¼ cup lemon juice
2 cup water

Turn your barbeque up to high heat and allow to heat thoroughly; the grates need to be hot for the peaches not to stick.  Place the peaches on the grill, and cook until all sides are well marked (some burn is ok) and the peach is soft.  Then transfer them to a cooking vessel add the other ingredients, bring to a simmer.  Mash the fruit when tender; I used a potato masher.  Continue to simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes, until the desired flavor.  Then strain and chill.

Grilled Peach & Bourbon Splash
1 shot Bourbon
2 shots peach shrub
Club Soda to finish
Served over ice

Shake it well and serve over ice, with a slice of grilled peach on the charred oak swizzle stick for garnish.  It was quite good, but I think I’ll need to try it with a real shrub; I think a little acidity from the vinegar would pair well.

The hors d’oeuvre of the night was a lot of fun too.  Perfect match for the bourbon cocktail! Grilled bacon wrapped onion rings!  You’ve got to live Pinterest.

Bacon Onion Rings
2 lbs bacon - thinner strips 16-20 pieces per pound
2 or 3 large onions
2 Tbl or more Sriracha

Carefully clean the onions, careful not to cut through the rings.  Then cut the onions into half to three quart inch slices.  Break apart to create the rings, leaving 2 ti 3 layers together.  Brush well with Sriracha.  Wrap each ring with 2 to 3 slices of bacon, varying by the size of ring as appropriate.  Use a bamboo skewer to hold the bacon in place and the rings together.  Then BBQ on low, being careful since the bacon can splatter and give you flame ups.  Grill for approximately 30 to 45 minutes.  Keep a close eye on them, you want the bacon to be very crisp, but not burnt. Serve with a Sriracha mayonnaise. So, is wrapping something in bacon healthier than battering and deep frying it?  Not really the point of this, but interesting.  By the way, most people will only eat one or two of these; they are 2 to 3 pieces of bacon each.

Our salad course was a grilled romaine with lemon and parmesan. Yes, you can put lettuce on the BBQ.  Romaine heads work well, the structure allows you to cut the head in half lengthwise and have all of the leave stay attached.  Brush lightly with olive oil, place cut side down on the grill and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  This will just lightly grill the edges and begin to wilt the center.  Drizzle with fresh lemon juice and sprinkle with fresh grated parmesan cheese, yum.

Our entree of the night was grilled sausages (thank you Thistle Meats).  We tried their mild Italian and a fresh lamb sausage, which were both excellent.  Thistle Meats is a premium specialty butcher featuring locally sourced meats (and you can also get a very good sandwich there too).  They are located at 160 Petaluma Boulevard North, right in the first block of downtown.

How to finish off the evening with a grilled dessert?  No not s’mores, but angel food cake.  Cut the angel food cake into individual serving sizes, turning the grill down to low and toasting each slice.  The flavor was like fresh toasted marshmallow and pound cake.  Then top with strawberries and whipped cream.