We’re into August now, and while I haven’t grilled as much as I’d would have liked to this summer, I’ve taken the Weber around the block a few times. Of course, there’s grilling and then there’s barbeque; let’s not confuse the two. They both require craft. Grilling is a quick, high temperature cook and flavor enhancement of something already reasonably tender.
The skill of barbeque involves not just patience but a Zen meditation slow-down. Barbeque transforms a big, tough cut into something tender and succulent. This is alchemy. We build a fire (breathe in) and let it burn down to coals at its own pace (exhale). Add fragrant wood chips soaked in water (breathe in), lay our foods down on the grates away from flame and cover (exhale). If we can calibrate the ambient temperature under the dome to about 250 degrees, and if there is no direct flame licking close to our food, we need not think about what’s happening unseen under the lid too frequently.
Teasing the flames into that temperature zone is the rub (I’ll take the pun, thank you). Past that, you’ll want to feed some more smoking chips in periodically. I use my nose to determine if more chips are needed. If I still smell the fragrance of smoke I wait longer as smoke from a cup or two of chips can easily linger for 30 minutes. Also, If you are cooking something really thick, you’ll need to strategically cycle in fresh coals to perpetuate the heat for the long haul. Adding three lumps every 45 minutes can be a good starting point.
As much as I enjoy transforming big ole hunks of meat, I also have vegetarians to please. Applying some of these flavor developers toward vegetarian items, such as tofu, seitan or tempeh, is an intriguing undertaking. So yesterday for dinner, I slow smoked a full pound brick of tofu, intending to shave it for BBQ tofu sandwiches. The tenderizing aspect of barbeque is no longer required, in fact, I want to dry some of the moisture from the tofu to firm it up. I also want the long flavor development.
I prepared a classic BBQ spice rub, anchored in salt and sugar, rubbed the tofu and let it sit for several hours.
Tofu needs salt! I built a fire as described and cooked the tofu off heat for 45 minutes before flipping it onto the direct heat for a final few minutes of char opportunity. Char-portunity?
We sliced it thin, served it on buns and completed with Carolina mustard sauce, slaw, onions and quick pickles.
It is a sandwich big on flavor. And I may have piggy-backed some ribs into the mix in addition. Who would I be to not utilize every cubic inch of well-developed flavor smoke?
Yield: 1/2 cup, or enough for 1 pound tofu and 1 rack ribs
Prep time: 5 minutes
Inactive time: 2-12 hours
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon kosher salt, preferably ground fine
1 Tablespoon black pepper, ground fresh
3 Tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1. Mix all ingredients together.
2. Coat tofu generously and allow to sit, refrigerated, for 2-12 hours.
Yield: 6 cups, or 4-8 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Inactive time: 30 minutes
Half a head of green cabbage, shaved fine with a knife
1/2 teaspoon whole yellow mustard seed
Pinch white pepper
1 Tablespoon salt
3 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup distilled vinegar
1. Mix all ingredients together. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes then mix again.
Carolina Mustard Sauce
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yields: 1 cup
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
1 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup honey
2 Tablespoons cup brown sugar
1/2 cup distilled vinegar
1 Tablespoon ketchup
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire (vegan if needed)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1. Mix all ingredients together in a pot. Simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning.
We will explore Carolina mustard sauce more in our new grilling class this Sunday, August 14 at 11am at Lincoln Square: Southern BBQ Styles Made Easy on the Patio. In this hands-on class, we’ll teach you how to get seriously delicious BBQ flavors by pairing regional sauces with quick cooking grilling techniques. In addition to the Carolinas, we'll transport you to the flavors of Kansas City and Alabama with this delicious menu:
- Grilled Pork Tenderloin Sliders with Creamy Slaw and Carolina Mustard Sauce
- Smoky Grilled Chicken with Alabama White BBQ Sauce
- BBQ Rubbed Baby Back Ribs with Kansas City BBQ Sauce
- BBQ Baked Cheddar-Green Chili Cornbread