Sure, the weather has sucked hard lately. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t fire up the BBQ every now and again. It’s almost summer, after all.
For the fifth meeting of the EGS, held at our house late last month, the theme was “Off the Grill”. That meant both the appetizer and main had to be either barbecued or grilled. What’s the difference between barbecuing and grilling, you ask. Grilling means you cook using indirect heat. Barbecuing uses direct heat.
I went first and cooked up a slab of baby back ribs I bought at the downtown farmer’s market. I used our charcoal Weber grill (it was a gift from the Toronto City Hall press gallery when I moved to Alberta almost six years ago). For ribs, it’s really the only way to go because you get that nice smoked taste and you can easily adjust the heat. Before the ribs hit the grill, they marinated in a dry spice rub for about 24 hours. The grill time lasted about 3-4 hours. About every 30 minutes, I used a spray bottle to spritz them with a mixture of apple juice and water (keeps the ribs moist). Near the end, I slathered on a homemade BBQ sauce. I served them with a homemade coleslaw.
Tim paired the appetizer with cans of Jack Daniel’s lemonade and ice tea drinks. (Sorry about the photos. None of us brought cameras and we ended up using Sabrina’s blackberry).
Sabrina was up next and she used an ingredient that I didn’t even know could be barbecued: mussels. Yep, mussels. She directly placed the mussels (sourced from Billingsgate) on the barbecue.
The ones that opened were thrown into a special sauce she was also cooking up on the barbecue. Smart cookie. The sauce was out of this world, a mixture of garlic, tomato, white wine, chorizo sausage and, of course, mussels. The dish was served in mini red pots with slices of crusty bread for dipping. Aaron paired it with champagne.
Brendan also went the seafood route, serving prawn skewers marinated in lemongrass, chili, parsley, cilantro and other herbs.
His presentation was pretty original and dramatic. He stuck the skewers in orange halves that were lying on a bed of cilantro. Because of the appetizer’s Asian influence, Kate picked Tsing Tao beer as the beverage.
After the appetizer round, Sabrina came out on top. She received big points for presentation, originality and taste.
Next up: mains.
I went first. I cooked lamb, something I’ve never attempted before. I bought a leg of lamb at Ben’s Meats (Stony Plain Rd.). I cut the lamb up into cubes and preceded to marinate it for four days in a mixture of herbs, spices, vegetables and eventually port, red wine vinegar and fresh lemon juice. I then barbecued the meat for about 10 minutes before serving with a greek salad, baked potato wedges (cooked in our fire pit) and a homemade tzatziki.
There is really nothing like homemade tzatziki, and the trick is to make it with Greek yogurt, otherwise it will likely turn out to be a watery mess. You can find Greek yogurt at Hellas (Greek speciality food store; 12407-109th St). Tim paired the meal with a rich Malbec.
Sabrina surprisingly served the only steak dish of the night, a honey and soy marinated rib-eye kebab. The honey was a really nice touch.
The dish came with a barbecued grilled eggplant package stuffed with olive and sun-dried tomato tapenade (the recipe was her own creation) and goat cheese and basil grilled baby potatoes topped with creme fraiche, capers and sun-dried tomatoes. Very decadent.
Aaron, always a cocktail master, paired the meal with a blueberry mojitini.
Brendan finished out the evening by serving perfectly cooked ahi tuna marinated in roasted garlic, basil, parsley, olive oil. The tuna was accompanied by a fragrant fennel and tangerine salad. Tim loves ahi tuna so Brendan scored huge points for bringing out the big fish guns.
Kate paired the main with an Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc (a tried-and-true white for any occasion).
In the end, Sabrina pulled out another win. She again scored big points for originality and taste. Nice work, Sabrina. Brendan and I are going to have to sharpen our knives if we want to catch up to her.