Photo from the book, Serial Griller.
Memorial Day is the official start of summer, so on yesterday's Ask The Chef segment of the new Food Show (live 2-4 weekdays on WGSO 990 AM) we had chef Matt Moore, a cookbook author whose new book Serial Griller: Grillmaster Secrets For Flame Cooked Perfection, offers anecdotes and tips on grilling from grillmasters throughout the fruited plain.
He was a great interview, chatty and informative, and I came away having learned something very enjoyably. We shared memories of growing up with fathers who grilled with charcoal briquets that had so much lighter fluid on them it was the central taste of all food.
Matt is less scarred by this than I, and has made a career out of grilling. He is more than a little obsessed with cooking everything to be eaten this way, which is definitely overboard for me. But I can’t wait to try some of these recipes, including one collected from right here at Brasa on Metairie Road. His 200-days-a-year travel schedule allows him to collect a lot of knowledge, which he is happy to impart.
First there is barbecue, which is a low-and-slow pork thing from the Barbecue Belt. And grilling is everything else. I didn’t realize 25 percent of Americans do not own a grill. I wasn’t surprised that of all the others, gas is preferred by 65 percent.
He talked of his own grill, a cast iron version of something similar to the Big Green Egg, and the fact that he grills chicken on it at least twice a week for his family. It’s fun to talk to all these chefs, who in the end, regardless of their gourmet creds, always come back to basics.
The word primal was mentioned a lot in this conversation. Like I always say, there is little more satisfying than basic roasted meats. He couldn’t agree more.
GRILLED PICANHA WITH CHIMI DE LA MESA
Hands-On: 50 minutes | Total: 1 hour 10 minutes
Picanha is the top cut of the sirloin. It’s a staple of Brazilian cuisine, typically rolled, skewered, and roasted. Edgar prefers to use Wagyu for this recipe, for its tenderness and rich flavor; and instead of using the traditional method, Edgar simply portions the large cut into individual steaks. Most top sirloins in the states come with the fat cap removed—no bueno. Be sure to ask the butcher to keep the fat cap on. Sometimes you can get lucky and find the exact cut sold as a cullote steak.
The big key here is to first grill the steak fat-side down to render the fat, which also provides flavor as the rendered fat drips on the coals. This is a standout cut that’s perfect for entertaining. The Chimi de la Mesa recipe makes enough sauce for the steak with enough remaining for both the snapper and the lobster recipes that follow.
1 Prepare a two-zone fire using red oak coals. Alternatively, open the bottom vent of a charcoal grill completely. Light a charcoal chimney starter filled with charcoal. When the coals are covered with gray ash, pour them onto the bottom grate
of the grill, and then push to one side of the grill. Adjust the vents as needed to maintain an internal temperature of 400° to 450°F. Coat the top grate with oil; place on the grill. (If using a gas grill, pre- heat to medium-high [400° to 450°F] on one side.)
2 Liberally season both sides of the steaks with salt. Add the steaks to the grill over direct heat, fat cap side down, and cook, uncovered, for 8 minutes, or until the fat is well-rendered, moving the steaks off direct heat from time to time if flare-ups occur.
3 Grill the steaks on the skinny side for 3 minutes, or until charred. Flip and grill an additional 2 minutes. Set the steaks with the unseared side down and cook an additional 3 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 130°F. Remove the steaks from the grill and rest for 10 minutes.
4 Serve by slicing the steak against the grain into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices. Season the slices with fleur de sel and top with chimi de la mesa.
Chimi de la Mesa
4 (8-ounce) top sirloin or cullote steaks, fat cap on
Kosher salt Fleur de sel
Chimi de la Mesa (recipe follows)
Makes 11⁄2 cups
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1⁄4 cup fresh oregano leaves
1 shallot, peeled, ends removed
2 bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley, stems removed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil
3⁄4 teaspoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Combine the garlic, oregano, and shallot in a food processor and pulse until combined. Remove from the processor. Add the parsley to the processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Return the garlic mixture to the processor and add the vinegar, vegetable oil, and olive oil. Process until the ingre- dients are thoroughly incorporated into a roughly chopped mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chimi de la mesa is best used immediately, but you can cover and refrigerate it for up to 1 day.
SWEET POTATOES AL RESCOLDO
Hands-On: 25 minutes | Total: 1 hour 35 minutes
Honestly, these sweet potatoes are so good, I’d eat them for dinner . . . and dessert. The technique of cooking the potatoes in the dying brasas, or embers, is known as al rescoldo and is widely practiced throughout Argentina and South America. Potatoes are not the only thing buried in the coals at Brasa— peppers, onions, and squash regularly receive this charring treatment.
You’ll need about two charcoal chimneys worth of coals to cover the potatoes. The flavors produced by this technique, combined with the sweet, spiced pecan butter, melds Louisiana and South American in one simple dish. Serve as a hearty side to a grilled steak or pork chop or, as I said earlier, for dessert.
4 sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
1 teaspoon Mexican cinnamon (canela)
1⁄2 teaspoon guajillo chile powder
Finely chopped fresh parsley
1 Prepare a fire of live red oak coals or two chimneys full of charcoal. If you do not have two chimneys, work in batches to produce enough coals. After the coals have gone from glowing red-hot to gray, pour the coals onto a grilling surface and use tongs to carefully submerge the sweet potatoes completely beneath the coals. Allow the potatoes to sit in
the coals until completely cooked, about 1 hour. Remove the potatoes from the coals and let cool to the touch. Brush clean and cut in half.
2 Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat on the stovetop or over direct heat on the grill. Add the sugar, pecans, cinna- mon, and chile powder and mix until thoroughly combined.
3 Generously spoon the butter on top of the cut potatoes. Place the potatoes, cut-side up, back on the grill over direct heat (500°F), cover, and cook for 5 minutes to allow the potatoes to firm. (You can also place the potatoes under a broiler for 2 to 3 minutes to set.)
4 Plate the potatoes and garnish with the parsley.