Mixed Grill. Mixed Grill.

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Mixed grill. Mixed grill.  The phrase hummed in the air all afternoon at the trailer.


Marc and I invited ourselves out to Carl & Julianne’s Airstream in wine country for Labour Day Weekend with the plea to use the BBQ.   This BBQ- it was previously enjoyed and left for dead next to the giant “To Burn” pile in the trailer lot next door- Carl had rescued it, dragged it over to the Airstream.  It enjoys a second life now, one in which Marc and I have played a part every time we enjoy a weekend with C, J & M out of the city.


For several weeks before the long weekend, we perused the food mags and sites for barbecue ideas.  Burgers were featured everywhere, of course, all with some sort of label of “ultimate” or “perfect” or “gourmet”, but that didn’t seem special enough for one of these cherished occasions where we get to use actual flames to cook food.  Flames that burn from artisanal charcoal.  After narrowing down the list and debating about what would go best with cold beer and hot weather, we decided on the menu.

Homemade babaganoush with grilled pita bread

Mixed grill with cherry cola barbecue sauce

Grilled vegetables with goat cheese

Grilled nectarines with honeyed crème fraîche

And so, early on Saturday afternoon, the preparation and cooking began.  The coals were lit, the mesquite pellets sealed in tinfoil, the grill scrubbed clean.  There were to be hours of slow cooking ahead for the ribs and the eggplant, and hours spent lounging and beering in the shade as the smoky, meaty smells would waft towards the picnic table.



Then we started to get hungry.   The eggplant was the first to be lifted from the flames, only to be judged insufficiently cooked and thrown into the trailer’s oven for softening.  At best, the resulting babaganoush tasted intriguingly smoky.  At worst, it tasted a little… burnt.  But at 5:30, after having already sat still listening to and smelling the ribs sizzling for almost 2 hours, we weren’t going to waste any more effort on the stupid appetizer.


Then came the sausages (the homemade Antonelli’s sausages which never let us down), and the spice-rubbed, skin-on chicken thighs that blistered and crisped to perfection under the supervision of three adults who could not leave the meat alone, who could not go five minutes together without one of us “peeking”, even though we promised each other we’d leave it alone.  The barbecue sauce was applied, and reapplied; the veg hit the grill as the meat neared its end, the ribs rested before they got hit with more sticky, sweet, cherry-cola sauce.   Mixed grill.  Mixed grill.  Finally, we ate.  Even the pickiest eater among us could not help gnawing at the bones.


All of it was divine.  The ribs fell apart in our hands, every surface, every utensil on the table became sticky with sauce.  The sausages, coarse enough to be toothsome, were spicy little nuggets next to the juicy chicken, done just right.  The vegetables were tasty but hardly seem worth mentioning next to the all-consuming chewy, meaty, saucy, smoky, drippy, messy mixed grill.

Comme il faut

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Irresistible.   At the library, I try to limit myself to 3 or 4 cookbooks at a time because I have to carry them all home, up steep hills, and some of those cookbooks weigh a ton;  I’m building up the muscle needed to lug home the big yellow Gourmet Cookbook.  In the meantime, I brought home The Bistros, Brasseries and Wine Bars of Paris:  Everyday Recipes form the Real Paris.  Balancing an armload of books in the narrow aisle I flipped the book open to Pan-Seared Cod with Potato and Smoked Sausage Purée from La Muse Vin.  Didn’t even need to look further before I plunked on the top of my pile and lurched over to the check out.


It’s the first book I sat down with when I got home.  I thought about bustin’ out the PostIt™ notes to bookmark the ones I wanted to try but, that would’ve meant book marking almost every page.   Irresistible, French cooking!   The first thing I read was on the front cover, the definitions of the establishments listed in the title:

  • Bistro, an informal place serving a few hearty dishes noon and night.
  • Brasserie, a café-restaurant with continuous service and timeless foods.
  • Wine bar, a small establishment featuring wines by the glass and some simple food.

Seems a lot of overlap in the definitions, perhaps the only true point of differentiation is the time of day at which meals are served at each.  So I can’t have wine for breakfast?
After much lip chewing and salivating, I convinced Marc that we should make choucroute garnie, unglamourously translated as Sauerkraut with Pork and Sausages.  This took some earnest convincing on my part as Marc abhors the sauerkraut.  But I quoted the book that fresh sauerkraut is worlds away from what he would know as canned, pickled cabbage.  We can get fresh made sauerkraut in bulk at the Rainbow grocery (right next to the bulk, house-made kimchi and the enormous tub of organic miso paste) so the authenticity of the recipe would not be tarnished.   If I’m to be perfectly honest, it was likely the promise of Canadian bacon in the recipe that made his decision, not my championing of sauerkraut.

Ah, so satisfying, this glorious, humble dish.  Salty, meaty, tart with vinegar and crunchy with cabbage, spicy mustard on the side to slather on hunks of bratwurst.  No question, this will be making repeat performances as long as the weather hovers around “chilly”.