Time to scrape the grill

Cynthia Stone
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We’ve had a warm spring, and that means the die-hard grillers have been out for ages. (I know a sprinkle of snow is no deterrent.)

For the rest of you, drag the barbecue out of the shed, scrape off that grill, and gear up for the year’s first backyard cooking experience.

Here are recipes for the three components of a perfect barbecue — marinade, dry rub and sauce.

Simple barbecue marinade

It isn’t always necessary to combine a dry rub and a marinade, but it’s nice to have that perfect recipe in your back pocket when you’re dealing with a pork butt or pile of chicken legs that need extra flavour. This can be used on any meat, fish or vegetables, but the tougher the cut the more it will benefit from a long soak. For roasts of beef or pork, whole chickens or ribs, 24 hours is ideal. For chops or chicken pieces, 4 hours is the minimum. For fish and vegetables, 30 minutes would be fine. This is even terrific on tofu. It makes plenty for a large roast or two chickens. The fresh herbs in this recipe are key to best flavour. Bruise the stalks with the dull edge of your knife to release their oils.

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 tbsp. each olive oil, honey and soy sauce

1 green onion, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed but left whole

6 stalks fresh thyme

2 stalks fresh rosemary

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and pour over whatever you are planning to barbecue in a large bowl or heavy-duty plastic bag. Seal and refrigerate as long as is convenient. While the barbecue is heating up, dry the food thoroughly with paper towels, apply a dry rub as you wish, and grill away.

All-purpose barbecue rub

This mixture is perfect on steak. For pork or chicken, I stir in a spoonful of brown sugar. It’s delicious with seafood, as well, but use more sparingly. This amount should do 16 steaks, chops or chicken pieces, but it keeps well in a sealed jar. Dried oregano is larger than the other herbs and spices, so crush it in your palm before adding.

1/4 cup chipotle, ancho or any other chili powder

1/4 cup smoked paprika

1 tbsp. each ground cumin and coriander

1 tbsp. each garlic and onion powder

1 tbsp. each dried thyme and oregano

1-1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp. dry mustard

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and store sealed until ready to use.

Smoky chipotle barbecue sauce

I doctored up store-bought sauces for years, adding brown sugar, honey, vinegar or hot chilies, depending on what I wanted. Then it dawned on me that I could make it from scratch and it would taste exactly right. That includes changing the ingredients in my own recipe based on what’s on hand. This past weekend, I had a small bowl of leftover pizza toppings — sliced mushrooms, red onion and red pepper. In it went — fab.

If you have nothing else to do with your fresh cilantro then add the leaves, too, but I love mincing the stems for a smashing flavour burst and I save the leaves for last-minute additions to lots of dishes.

For a smooth sauce, puree at the end. I like it chunky. If spicy is not to your taste, start with 1 chipotle and a bit of the canned sauce, then work your way up — you can always add more but you can’t take them out. I seldom use a whole can at one time unless I’m making a massive batch of something, so I wrap them individually in a little plastic wrap, then put them in a zipper bag and freeze for months. If you absolutely can’t find them in your grocery store, add a spoonful of ground chipotle chili powder — almost as good.

1 large onion, diced

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 whole head garlic, peeled and chopped

1 small bunch fresh cilantro, stalks only, minced (optional but quite delicious)

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes

2 cups strong coffee

1/4 cup wine vinegar

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp. Dijon or hot mustard

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 tsp. each ground allspice and ginger

3 chipotle chilies canned in adobo sauce (more or less to taste), minced

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a heavy pot, fry onion in oil until soft and starting to brown. Add garlic and cilantro stalks and cook just until fragrant — about 30 seconds. Push everything to one side and add tomato paste to a bare spot in the pot. Cook, stirring, until it darkens slightly in colour and starts to stick to the bottom of the pot. Add tomatoes, coffee, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, brown sugar, honey, allspice and ginger. Add as many chipotles as you like.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered 30 to 45 minutes, stirring often, until it is the consistency you want. Stir in salt and pepper and taste — don’t add more until it cools down because it will taste saltier when cold. Refrigerate and use within a week.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.

Organizations: The Telegram

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