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No Nonsense Barbecuing
By Ross Dobson, Brett Stevens
Murdoch Books Pty LimitedCopyright © 2008 Murdoch Books
All rights reserved.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. In this crazy, fast-paced world I take great comfort in the very thought of a barbecue. And although your average barbecue may have evolved into a state-of-the-art, designed and intricate affair, in essence barbecuing is still just the same. If we so wish, barbecuing can be kept simple, and for me at least the satisfaction of handling a barbecue is one of life's pleasures that hasn't changed at all.
On this nostalgic note, there are many things from the 1980s — the Golden Age of the Barbecue — I wish I could forget and, for those of us who lived through it the first time around, some aspects of those days keep returning to annoy us like a slap in the face with a fish. In particular, there's one catchphrase from this time that established Australia on the barbecue map: 'Throw another shrimp on the barbie!' For those of you not familiar with this it was from a campaign aimed at luring tourists 'Down Under' — a cliché since hard to shake, I might add. But it was a campaign that was extremely successful. It evoked a sense of fun under the sun, of a casual, laid-back attitude and a celebration of the great outdoors. But to me the subtext was really about the unique Australian style of cooking and eating.
What and how we barbecue is indeed unique. I think we do, after all, prefer to throw a prawn (and it is a prawn NOT a shrimp) on the barbie rather than stand around for hours on end basting some huge unidentifiable piece of meat that will just end up shredded and in a sandwich. And this to me is the difference between how we barbecue and how those other great lovers of the barbecue, the North Americans, do it. While they are masters in the art of slow cooked, large cuts of meat basted, braised and sauced up until fork tender, the Australian way of barbecuing is really all about simplicity.
Of course, this doesn't deny the opportunity to marinate and baste. The flavours we use really do also reflect the range of ingredients we are afforded from our physical location on this planet, our climate and the diversity of cultures — taking advantage of all the flavours of Asia at our doorstep, embracing the exotic spices of the Middle East and Morocco, while continuing to have a deep love affair with the classic flavours of the Mediterranean. It's a global excursion — a multicultural journey in our very own backyard. All these wonderful flavours with a 'quick sticks' attitude of preparing and cooking — that is our idea of a barbecue.
For Australians the barbecue is also about getting out of the kitchen. I am not sure I see the point of saying something is barbecued if it has spent more time in the kitchen than outside on the barbecue. Forget the clichéd cultural connotations. Throwing a prawn on the barbie really is the essence of how and what we cook on the barbecue.
We all have our favourite animal to cook and you will find heaps of great recipes for your favourite — bird (chook, quail, duck, turkey), beast (cow, pig, lamb), or fish (anything aquatic). Whatever it is we cook, we fire it up, we do it fresh and we do it fast.
Let's not forget what it is all about. While I am the first to sing the praise of a great marinade or sauce, at the end of the day it is not about the barbecue sauce. It's about the barbecue.
Types of barbecues
Before talking about the actual types of barbecues, let's just establish exactly what it is a barbecue does.
A barbecue cooks food on a metal hotplate or grill, conducting the heat coming from underneath. The food can be cooked by either direct or indirect heat. For direct heat, think of a sausage. Not a very big piece of meat really and you cook it on the barbecue like you would in a frying pan — above the heat, turning often until evenly brown all over and cooked through. For indirect heat, think of a chicken. This is a rather dense piece of meat, bones included, and needs to be cooked on a barbecue which has a lid that can be closed. This creates an oven-type effect, so the heat circulates around the food, cooking it evenly to a golden crispy skin on the outside and, just like the sausage, cooked all the way through.
The most basic barbecue of course is an open fire. I think here of the type you see in camping grounds, where you are required to forage for your own wood, spark it up and get it going. It is fun but you wouldn't want to do this every day.
My first memory of a barbecue is a simple translation of this open-fire barbecue assembled in your own back yard — made of brick with a grill or hotplate suspended somewhere near the top and a place for wood to burn underneath. When these were around you asked a brickie to come over and actually build the thing for you.
The range of modern barbecues can only leave us feeling spoilt for choice, but they're more practical than the old-school, wood-burning, fixed barbecue.
A kettle barbecue sits on foldable or wheelable legs making it easy to get around. It has a rounded base (a bit like a big wok), which holds the hot coals, and you can cook the food over direct heat. A lid can be attached to cook the food on indirect heat, but for this the coals must be arranged in two rows on either side, leaving a space in the centre for a drip tray and for the heat to circulate evenly. If you can imagine that heat rises, kind of like steam in a shower that hits the ceiling, in a kettle barbecue it will bounce back down to heat the food.
Gas and electric barbecues are like cars. Some are like minis — light, small and easy to get around. Others are more like SUVs — big, showy and take up a lot of space. Whether a mini or an SUV, these barbecues are easy to fire up and the heat can be adjusted. Like the kettle barbecue, a gas barbecue with a hood will enable you to cook with indirect heat.
Electric barbecues can look and function just like a gas one except they will, of course, need to be plugged in somewhere, which can limit them. But the heat on these can be less intense than gas, coal or wood-fired barbecues.
Cooking on kettle and electric barbecues may need a little extra attention due to their heat variability and, with the kettle, its size. But fear not. A good barbecue has as much to do with an attentive cook as it does the barbecue. So do keep your eyes peeled making sure the food doesn't cook too quickly and burn, or cook too slowly and stew, defeating the whole purpose of a barbecue. And listen. You know the sound. Barbecued food ought gently sizzle which leads us to our third sense. Smell. We all know the smell of burnt food, so adjust your heat accordingly. When things look, smell and sound right they'll taste great, and this is the art of a great barbecue.CHAPTER 2
I do wonder if chicken is overtaking red meat as the most popular barbecue item. Probably not, but it must be close! In the good old days, the roast chook was a rare treat, reserved for the family Sunday dinner. But no longer so. While once it was red meat and two veg, today the white meat of chicken has come to dominate our eating habits, and what better place to cook it than on the barbie.
Are you into breasts or thighs? I save chicken breast fillets for stir-fries, but if I do barbecue them I prefer a breast with the skin on, keeping the meat tender and juicy, mother nature's pouch ready to be filled with vinegar-spiked salsas, herb- and olive-flavoured butters or wrapped in bacon, barbecued to a smoky crisp. Thigh meat is my preferred bit of the chook with nice little pockets of fat that quickly render away on a hot grill, keeping the meat moist and tasty.
Don't think for a minute you need a fancy-pants barbecue set-up to cook a barbecued chicken, flavoured with just about whatever grabs you. All you need is a can of beer and a few easy-to-get spices and away you go. Chook loves full throttle Asian sauces, zesty and tangy lemon and lime, lemongrass, chilli, ginger and garlic. And these flavours don't just work for a chook. The sexy little quail loves them too. The classic duck recipe in this chapter is a beauty, a treat you won't just save for a special occasion. And all of the recipes here are great to serve up and enjoy in the great outdoors, especially if you are lucky enough to live in the southern hemisphere!
But remember, for a chicken to taste like a chicken it must have been able to live like one. This means lots of running around, just as nature intended, scratching, pecking and flapping their way through life. So do get your hands on a free-range or organic bird.
List of Recipes
Honey Hoi Sin Chicken Wings
Barbecue Chicken with Green Olive Salsa Verde
Thai Barbecued Chicken
Lemon Soy Roast Chicken
Chilli Chicken Blt
Chicken with Tarragon, Olives and Garlic
Lemon Thyme Chicken Wings
Beer-Can Roasted Chicken
Chilli Caramel Chicken
Lemongrass and Lime Leaf Chicken
Teriyaki and Mustard Chicken
Quails with Peanuts and Thai Herbs
Duck with Saffron Rice Stuffing and Roasted Veggies
Lemon Chicken, Feta and Herb Involtini
Green Curry Chicken
Sweet Chilli and Ginger Chicken
Mexican Pesto Chicken
Fino Sherry Chicken
Turkey Breast with Herbed Crust
HONEY HOI SIN CHICKEN WINGS
12 chicken wings
Hoi sin honey marinade
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 tablespoons hoi sin sauce
3 tablespoons tomato sauce (ketchup)
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Americans might call these devilled chicken wings, a favourite for both kiddies and adults alike as they are a sweet and sticky easy-to-eat treat, just as good as a cold snack as they are straight off the grill. The Asian sauces here are a must have, but this isn't too much of an ask as these ingredients can be picked up in just about any supermarket if you aren't near an Asian specialty store. They have good shelf life but once opened do keep them in the fridge. I say to marinate these overnight and if you do, remember to turn them often.
Cut the wing tips off the chicken wings, then cut the wings between the centre joint to give two pieces — one of them looking like a little drumstick. Put the chicken in a steamer lined with baking paper (a Chinese bamboo steamer is perfect), cover with the lid and sit the steamer over a saucepan of boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove the chicken wings and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, combine the hoi sin honey marinade ingredients.
Put the chicken wings in a non-metallic dish, pour over the marinade and toss to coat. Cover and put in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight, turning often.
Remove the chicken wings from the fridge 20 minutes before cooking.
Preheat the barbecue grill to low and brush with a little olive oil to grease. (The cooking is easy but you do have to keep your eyes and ears alert that the wings are gently sizzling.) Shake the excess marinade off the chicken into the dish, put the chicken wings on the grill, reserving the marinade, and cook for 2 minutes on each side until they begin to turn golden, then start to baste. Baste, turn and cook for 2 minutes, then repeat. Keep doing this for 10 to 12 minutes until the wings become deep reddish-brown, glazed and just starting to char.
BARBECUE CHICKEN WITH GREEN OLIVE SALSA VERDE
2 × 1.25 kg (2 lb 12 oz) free-range chickens
140 g (5 oz/½ cup) table salt
60 g (2¼ oz/1/3 cup) brown sugar
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Green olive salsa verde
1 thick slice white bread, crusts removed
60 g (2¼ oz/½ cup) pitted green olives
large handful flat-leaf (Italian) parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1 large handful mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 large handful celery leaves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon salted capers, well rinsed
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
I use a procedure here called 'brining'. This is really nothing more than the most basic marinating method — soaking the meat in salt, sugar and spices — but the flavour is something else!
Cut the chickens in half through the breastbone, remove the cartilage and backbone, cut off the wing tips, then wash and pat dry with paper towel. Put the chickens in a snug-fitting non-metallic dish, cover and refrigerate.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the table salt, sugar and bay leaves. Return to the boil, stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved, then remove from the heat and cool completely. Pour enough of the brine liquid over the chickens so they are well immersed and refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours or overnight.
For the salsa, tear the bread and put in a food processor with the olives, herbs, celery leaves, capers, garlic, anchovies and lemon juice. Pulse to combine, leaving the mixture a little chunky. Put into a bowl and stir through the olive oil, and add some freshly ground black pepper.
Remove the chickens from the brine and pat dry with paper towel. Put in a bowl and add the olive oil and lemon juice, rubbing the mixture all over the chickens. Season with sea salt and black pepper and set aside for 20 minutes.
Preheat the barbecue hotplate to low–medium. Put the chickens on the hotplate, skin side down. Put the lid on the barbecue and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, pressing down occasionally with a flat metal spatula, until the skin is dark golden and crispy. Turn the chicken over and cook for a further 15 minutes, until cooked through. You can test if it is ready by making a small, deep incision between the end of the drumstick and the breast. Any liquid that runs out should be clear, not bloody. Remove the chicken to a plate and lightly cover with foil for 10 minutes to rest.
You can serve half a chicken per person to feed four or cut each half into smaller pieces and arrange on a serving platter with the salsa verde spooned over and extra lemon wedges on the side.
THAI BARBECUED CHICKEN
Coriander and pepper rub
6 coriander roots and 4–5 cm (1¾–2 in) of the stem, washed and chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon white peppercorns
3 tablespoons fish sauce
4 spring onions (scallions), chopped
1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz) free-range chicken
coriander (cilantro) sprigs, to serve
If you look at the ingredients in the coriander rub you could be excused for thinking that it all sounds a bit full on. But that is the nature of Thai cooking. It is all in the balance. A good Thai meal is like a roller coaster of flavour in your mouth — challenging, scary to some and quite addictive. I actually like using this same rub on chicken thigh fillets, which have been gently pounded to flatten, and cooking them on a hot grill.
Put the coriander into a pestle with a generous pinch of sea salt. Pound for a couple of minutes until pulpy, then add the garlic. Pound again until the garlic is also pulpy, then add the remaining marinade ingredients. Pound until you have a chunky paste.
Put the chicken on a chopping board, breast side down. Use a sharp knife or cleaver to cut either side of the backbone and throw away. Open up the chicken to reveal the inside of the rib cage. Cut the chicken down the middle and carefully remove the cartilage. Turn over and cut several diagonal slashes across the skin of the chicken. Make the incisions deeper across the legs. Put into a flat non-metallic dish, skin side up, and rub the paste over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours.
Remove the chicken from the fridge 1 hour before cooking.
Preheat all the barbecue burners to low–medium. Drizzle a little olive oil on the hotplate to lightly grease. Put the chicken on the hotplate, skin side down, and cook for 10 minutes with the lid on. Reserve any marinade in the dish. The skin should really sizzle the entire cooking time. Spoon the reserved marinade over the chicken. Reduce the heat, turn the chicken over and cook for 15 to 20 minutes with the lid on, pressing down a few times on the legs with a flat metal spatula, until the chicken is cooked through. Put the chicken on a tray, cover with foil and leave to rest on a warm part of the barbecue (away from direct heat) for 10 minutes. Cut each half into several pieces and serve with coriander sprigs scattered over.
Excerpted from Fired Up by Ross Dobson, Brett Stevens. Copyright © 2008 Murdoch Books. Excerpted by permission of Murdoch Books Pty Limited.
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