By Chuck Martin
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Barbecue moves in mysterious ways.
BBQ Guru and cookbook author Steven Raichlen prepared six dishes for the Virtual Chef challenge.|
(Glenn Hartong photos)
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When we asked Steven Raichlen, author of the new BBQ USA (Workman; $19.95) and Beer-Can Chicken (Workman; $12.95) to serve as our most recent Virtual Chef, we expected good food and hungry people. We didn't expect a family reunion.
Here's how our grill-out event turned into a tears-of-joy Oprah segment: After more than 400 readers voted for their favorite ingredients at Cincinnati.Com, we selected a few people to come and watch Raichlen work his magic on the grill. When Leslie Miller of Blue Ash called to confirm she was coming, she was ecstatic. Raichlen was her cousin, she said, and she hadn't seen him in more than 30 years!
Well, that was mighty sweet but maybe just a bit unbelievable. Was this woman from Blue Ash really Raichlen's cousin, or was she posessed of a vivid imagination - someone who bought all his cookbooks, videotaped his television appearances and watched them over and over?
We became more suspicious after we told Raichlen about his long-lost Cincinnati relative. Funny, he didn't remember having a cousin named "Leslie."
Thankfully, though, there were no false claims made in the parking lot of Ridge Market in Pleasant Ridge, where Raichlen parked his bright yellow "barbecue bus" and grills. The woman who called herself "Leslie Miller" arrived soon after Raichlen, who quickly remembered her as his cousin, Leslie Rochlin. She also brought along her son, Matt, who was home from college at George Washington University, to meet his now famous cookbook-author relative.
"We grew up together in Baltimore," Leslie said. "Everyone called him 'Little Stevie.'"
Raichlen soon advised everyone only family members could address him as such.
As soon as the hugs and handshakes ended, Raichlen went to work; his three grills - two charcoal and one gas - already were fired. As Virtual Chef, he was to create a dish using six ingredients: Flank steak, asparagus, new potatoes, portabella mushrooms, corn on the cob and Vidalia onions. He was to cook everything on the grill in less than an hour.
Raichlen receives applause after serving as the Cincinnati Enquirer virtual chef at the Ridge Market in Pleasant Ridge Friday afternoon. Among those applauding are his long lost cousin Leslie Rochlin Miller (At the end of the table in tan with glasses).|
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As it turned out, Raichlen bent our Virtual Chef rules a bit. Instead of creating one dish incorporating all of the chosen ingredients, he created six individual ones: grilled flank steak with wasabi sauce, grilled Cajun asparagus, grill-roasted potatoes, grilled portabella mushrooms stuffed with pine nuts and garlic and grill-roasted Vidalias stuffed with blue cheese and pine nuts. And to make sure no one went home hungry, Raichlen added a few more signature dishes to our parking lot feast: St. Louis-style baby back ribs, Buffa-que chicken wings and cinnamon-grilled peaches.
Hey, if he was willing to cook all of that, who wanted to quibble about rules?
Instead of taking on all the cooking himself, Raichlen asked a few of the dozen or more spectators to pitch in. Reader Charley Fulmer of Westwood watched the wings and ribs, Bob Randolph of Oakley, who wandered down from the Pleasant Ridge VFW Post to see what was going on, helped prep vegetables, and cousins Leslie and Matt did more than their share.
"Where would Stevie be without his family?" Leslie wondered aloud.
HOW VIRTUAL CHEF WORKS
Last week, more than 400 readers voted for their favorite ingredients at Cincinnati.com.
The most popular ingredients were:
Corn on the cob
We then turned the results over Friday to Virtual Chef Steven Raichlen. Using three grills in the parking lot of Ridge Market in Pleasant Ridge, the cookbook author created six dishes in 50 minutes.
The scoring system
We give the chef 90 points
The chef must use all six of the primary ingredients selected by readers.
For every five minutes under 30 minutes cooking time, the chef earns one bonus point.
For every five minutes past 45 minutes cooking time, the chef is penalized one point.
A reader "observation panel" tastes and scores the chef's creation on a 1-10 point scale. Scores are averaged and added to total score. (This time, due to indulgence, we failed to ask for a reader scoring. But based on verbal comments during the tasting, we've awarded the chef an average score of 10.)
Highest possible score: 106. Steven Raichlen's total score: 99.
HE WROTE THE BOOK
Ready to barbecue? These books by Steven Raichlen might be a good place to start
BBQ USA (Workman; $19.95)
The Barbecue! Bible (Workman; $18.95)
Barbecue! Bible: Sauces, Rubs and Marinades (Workman; $12.95)
Beer-Can Chicken (Workman; $12.95)
How to Grill (Workman; $19.95)
These summer cooking classes should give you some grilling experience. Call for more information and to register.
Dorothy Lane Market, Dayton: "Mediterranean Classics on the Grill," 6-9 p.m. July 15. $60. (937) 434-1294.
Jungle Jim's Market, Fairfield: "Learn to Make a Grilled Pizza," 6:30-9:30 p.m. July 30. $52. "My Big Fat Greek Cookout!" 6:30-9:30 p.m. July 31. $42. "Fire Up the Grill and Chill the Beer," 6:30-9:30 p.m. Aug. 4, 6 and 7. $48. 674-6059.
THE PERFECT STEAK
The most common question Steven Raichlen hears during his barbecue travels: "How do I cook a perfect steak?"
Here are his tips:
Choose the right steak. (Raichlen's favorites for grilling are porterhouse and rib steak.)
Use a hot fire.
Clean and lubricate grill with vegetable oil before cooking.
Turn steaks with tongs only. Don't use a fork.
Season steak well with coarse salt and pepper after grilling.
Allow steak to rest a few minutes before carving or serving.
Drizzle steak with melted butter or olive oil while it rests.
Steven Raichlen's new 13-episode public TV series, Barbecue University, begins at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, June 14, on Channel 48, WCET-TV.
The man who is probably now the hardest working cookbook author (Raichlen and his barbecue bus are on a 24-city tour that ends in Los Angeles July 3) used the occasion not just to cook, but to teach his barbecue art. During the next 50 minutes, the gaggle by the grills learned how to create an asparagus "raft" by attaching several spears with toothpicks, how to hollow a Vidalia onion for stuffing and how to poke a steak and squeeze an onion to test for doneness.
"What's the difference between direct and indirect grilling?" Raichlen asked more than halfway through his lesson.
By then, most knew the indirect method calls for cooking food slowly in the center of a covered grill, hot coals on each side. Direct grilling, on the other hand, means cooking a burger, steak or other food directly over hot coals.
"What are the three rules of great grilling?" the barbecue instructor quizzed them.
"The grill should be hot, clean and lubricated," Fulmer responded, from his post by the jumbo kettle grill stacked with wings and ribs.
Raichlen then showed them how to lubricate the grill by rubbing a vegetable oil-soaked paper towel over the hot grates with tongs.
When all the food came off the grill and fell beautifully into white platters, the small crowd applauded and then lined up for samples.
Roxanne Yoho of Lebanon, who served as our Virtual Chef in April, graciously carved steak and ribs. There was so much excitement, we forgot to ask folks to score Raichlen's creations. (Another Virtual Chef rule discarded for the day.) But based on the mmms and sticky fingers, there was no doubt the chef earned a "10."
After he signed a few cookbooks for fans, Raichlen walked across the street to share a beer at a pub with his cousins and catch up after 30 years. All because of barbecue.
(Several of these recipes are adapted from Steven Raichlen's cookbooks.)
Grilled Flank Steak with Wasabi Cream Sauce
1 flank steak, about 1 to 2 pounds
1 cup bourbon
1 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
WASABI CREAM SAUCE
1 to 2 tablespoons wasabi powder
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Slash steak several times on each side. Mix marinade ingredients and add to steak in shallow dish. Cover and marinate up to 2 hours in refrigerator.
Make wasabi sauce by whisking all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate until using.
Remove steak from marinade and discard marinade. Grill steak about 5 minutes on each side, or until desired doneness. Allow steak to rest a few minutes before slicing thinly across the grain. Serve with wasabi sauce. (Wasabi sauce can also be served with tuna and other grilled fish.) Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Grilled Corn with Soy-Garlic Butter
6 ears sweet corn
1 stick unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
Prepare grill and shuck corn. Melt butter in pan over medium heat and saute garlic for a few minutes. Stir in soy sauce.
Grill corn until browned on all sides, about 8 to 12 minutes, while brushing with Soy-Garlic Butter. Add salt and pepper to taste.
1 pound asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup coarse kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons ground thyme
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
2 teaspoons ground dried sage
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Snap off tough ends of asparagus; rinse and dry. Create asparagus rafts by placing 4 or 5 stalks side by side, facing the same direction. Skewer the asparagus crosswise together using toothpicks or small wooden skewers. (This will prevent the asparagus from falling between the bars of the grill grate.)
Make Cajun Rub by mixing all ingredients together. Brush both sides of asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle to taste with Cajun Rub. Grill asparagus about 2 to 4 minutes per side. Makes 4 servings.
Barbecued Vidalia Onions with Blue Cheese and Pine Nuts
8 medium Vidalia onions
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup pine nuts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Peel onions. Using a paring knife and working opposite stem end, cut a cone-shaped cavity in each onion by angling knife about 1-inch down toward center. Remove core of onions and discard. Salt and pepper onions to taste.
Mix blue cheese with pine nuts. Set onions in aluminum foil pan, hollowed out ends up. Spoon equal amounts of blue cheese mixture into each onion cavity and top each with 1/2 tablespoon butter.
Set pan of onions away from heat in a covered grill and cook 40 to 60 minutes, until side of onion is squeezeably soft. Makes 8 servings.
Barbecue-Roasted New Potatoes with Garlic
3 pounds small red potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1/4 cup olive oil
3 heads garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste, or favorite barbecue rub or seasoning, to taste
Toss cut potatoes with olive oil. Crush garlic heads with the palm of your hand to remove cloves, but do not peel. Toss garlic cloves with potatoes and oil and add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour potatoes into foil pan and place in covered grill, away from hot coals. Cook potatoes, covered, until potatoes are soft and browned, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Allow each person to squeeze roasted garlic from skins before eating. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Grilled Portabella Mushrooms with Pine Nuts and Garlic
4 large portabella mushrooms, trimmed and wiped clean
2 large garlic cloves, slivered
1 sprig fresh rosemary leaves, stripped from stem, or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/3 cups olive oil, or more as needed
12 basil leaves, thinly slivered
Using tip of knife, create several small holes in the "gill" side of each mushroom. Insert garlic slivers, rosemary and pine nuts in holes.
Combine 1/2 cup vinegar, salt and pepper in mixing bowl and whisk to dissolve salt. Whisk in oil and slivered basil. Arrange portabellas gill side up in casserole or baking dish. Pour marinade over and around mushrooms. Cover and marinate mushrooms in refrigerator for 30 minutes to 3 hours.
Prepare medium-hot grill. Remove mushrooms from marinade and whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar. Arrange portabellas grill side down on hot grill. Grill for 3 minutes, then turn mushrooms gill side up. Spoon some of remaining marinade over mushrooms. Grill until mushroom caps are browned and tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Makes 4 servings.
Option: Insert slivers of Romano, Parmesan into mushrooms with other ingredients.
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