Cooking over hardwood trumps cooking over charcoal for several reasons. Main one? Flavor. In this episode, Steven Raichlen tells you what you need to know about selecting the proper woods and matching them to your menu, building the perfect fire, and coaxing the maximum flavor out of your grilling. From this pyrotechnic glory will emerge Mario Batali's Veal Chops with Lemon Oregano Jam. Then, a BBQ U first: a seafood and meat Paella wood smoked entirely on the grill. And finally, because even desserts get barbecued at BBQ U, Fire-Charred Pound Cake with Grilled Pineapple Salsa and Tequila Whipped Cream.
MARIO'S VEAL CHOPS With Lemon Oregano Jam
Source: BBQ USA by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing, 2003)
Yield: Serves 4
Advance Preparation: 30 minutes for marinating the chops
4 veal chops (each about 1 inch thick and 10 to 12 ounces)
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
Lemon Oregano Jam (recipe follows)
You'll also need:
2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably oak), unsoaked
1. Lightly brush or rub the chops with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Place the chops in a nonreactive baking dish and squeeze the lemon juice over them. Sprinkle the oregano on both sides of the chops, turning them several times to coat them evenly. Let the chops marinate for 30 minutes.
2. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke. If using a charcoal grill, preheat it to high then toss all of the wood chips or chunks on the coals.
3. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the marinated chops on the grate and grill until cooked to taste, 5 to 8 minutes per side for medium, rotating the chops a quarter turn after 3 minutes to create an attractive crosshatch of grill marks. To test for doneness, use the poke method; the meat should be firm and just gently yielding.
4. Transfer the grilled chops to a platter or plates and let rest for about 3 minutes, then serve with the Lemon Oregano Jam on the side.
Lemon Oregano Jam
Yield: Makes about 3/4 cup
2 large lemons (preferably with thin rinds)
1/4 cup sugar, or more to taste
1-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea), or more to taste
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
1. Scrub the lemons under cold running water, then pat dry with paper towels. Cut each lemon into 8 pieces and remove and discard the seeds.
2. Place the lemon pieces and the sugar, salt, and pepper in a food processor and process to a coarse puree. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a thin stream; the mixture should emulsify, becoming honeylike in consistency. Add the oregano, pulsing to mix. The jam can be prepared up to this stage and kept, refrigerated, for several weeks. Transfer it to a clean glass jar, placing a piece of plastic wrap between the top of the jar and the lid to keep the lid from corroding. Bring to room temperature before serving, stir to recombine, and taste for seasoning, adding more sugar, salt, and/or pepper as necessary.
GRILLED POUND CAKE WITH PINEAPPLE "SALSA" AND TEQUILA-WHIPPED CREAM
Adapted from: Raichlen's Indoor Grilling
Method: direct grilling
3/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon tequila (preferable gold)
8 slices pound cake (each slice 1/2-inch thick, preferably Sara Lee)
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Pineapple "Salsa" (recipe follows)
4 fresh mint sprigs for garnish
1. Place the cream in a chilled mixer bowl or in a large metal bowl. Beat with a mixer until soft peaks form, starting on the slow speed and gradually increasing the speed to high. The total beating time will be 6 to 8 minutes. When soft peaks have formed, add the confectioners' sugar, cinnamon, and tequila. Continue beating the cream until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes longer. Don't overbeat the cream or it will start to turn to butter. The tequila-whipped cream can be made several hours ahead. Refrigerate it, covered, until ready to serve.
2. Lightly brush each slice of pound cake with butter on both sides.
3. Prepare the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Brush and oil the grate.
4. Cook the pound cake until lightly toasted. If desired, rotate each slice a quarter turn after 1 minute to create a handsome crosshatch of grill marks. You may need to cook the pound cake slices in batches.
5. Place the pound cake slices on plates. Top each serving with a spoonful of Pineapple "Salsa" and a dollop of tequila-whipped cream, garnish with a sprig of mint, and serve at once.
Yield: 2 cups
2 cups fresh pineapple cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons thinly slivered fresh mint or lemon verbena
1 to 2 jalapeño peppers (preferably red for color contrast), seeded and minced; for a hotter salsa, leave the seeds in
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or more to taste
1 tablespoon light brown sugar, or more to taste
Place the pineapple, mint, jalapeño(s), lime juice, and brown sugar in a nonreactive mixing bowl, but don't mix them until 5 minutes before you are ready to serve. Taste for seasoning, adding more lime juice and/or brown sugar as necessary.
Variation: Slivered mint keeps this "salsa" in the realm of a salad. If you really want to push the limits, try substituting chopped fresh cilantro for the mint.