Focus in on the delights of the kitchen and the table with ...

On first hearing that our Let’s Lunch theme for July was ‘Barbecue’, I felt concerned, because I do not have a massive brick chimney with a big ol’ pit to hold massive portions of pork (either whole hog or pork shoulders) in proximity to glowing hickory wood coals for many hours, with a vinegar-kissed sauce of one persuasion or another anointing the meat throughout the process. My good friend Fred Thompson has written out everything I need to know to do a great home-version of this art and craft in his must-have book, Barbecue Nation: 350 Hot-Off-The-Grill, Tried-and-True Recipes from America’s Backyard. (page 120) But this is a very busy week, as I am leaving come Monday on a very special journey, about which I will tell you in a post later today. Suffice to say for now that major new cooking projects were not in the picture due to a travel-preparation to-do list that stretches from here to the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was concerned.

Then the invisible light-blub over my head glowed and made a little happy “pop”. That word ‘barbecue‘ can be a verb! It can mean ‘to cook something wonderful on a grill over low-and-slow or hot-and-wild heat of many and varied descriptions, for assorted amounts of time using an array of marinades, rubs and seasonings’. It can mean Thai-style grilled garlic chicken. It need not be pork, and it need not take a long (worthwhile but long) time.

To my delight, about the time I was focusing in on my post here, wonderful and generous friends invited us to come for a great big cookout on July 4th. Lots of folks were coming and lots of great food was in the offing. Barbecued ribs were already on the menu, and I offered to contribute chicken wings. My host made it even easier by buying and preparing the wings so that my task came down to making the marinade (see Recipe below) and the traditional dipping sauce with the perfect tangy heat for grilled dishes. (It’s in fact a dynamite good sauce, great with way more than grilled meats). Here are the two recipes I used. I’d love to hear what ‘barbecue’ means to you, so do weigh in on the comments form. In case you’d like to see the entire menu (I can’t stop looking at it and grinning with happy memories and gratitude to our hosts and fellow cooks), I’ll share photos at the end of this post, after the recipes.  AND I’ll be back shortly to add a round-up of LET’S LUNCH ! posts by my fellow food-bloggers around the web…

Nancie’s Grilled Garlic Chicken, Thai-Style

2 teaspoons whole white or black peppercorns

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro roots (or roots & stems)

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

About 3 pounds chicken thighs and legs

Old-School: Using a mortar and pestle, crush the peppercorns to a fine powder. Add the cilantro roots and pound and grind well. Add the garlic, salt, and sugar and continue pounding, grinding, and scraping, until you have a fairly smooth paste. Stir in the soy sauce to make a fairly smooth paste. Add a little water if needed to soften the mixture.

New School: Grind peppercorns, or use ground pepper (yes, that is just fine; no worries.)  In a blender or a small food processor, combine the pepper, cilantro roots or stems, garlic, salt, sugar, and soy sauce.  Grind it all up into a fairly smooth paste. Pulse to grind it evenly and stop to scrape the sides down as you go. Add water if needed to move the blades.

Combine the seasoning paste with chicken in a large bowl, and toss to combine everything well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, turning several times to season evenly. (Keeps well up to 12 hours, covered and refrigerated.)

To cook, prepare a grill. When hot enough to cook chicken, arrange chicken pieces over coals or heat and cook, turning often, until browned handsomely and cooked through. When chicken is done, transfer to a serving platter and serve hot or warm with Sweet-Hot Garlic Sauce and sticky rice

Copyright: Nancie McDermott, 2012. All rights reserved.

Nancie’s Sweet Hot Garlic Sauce

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup white vinegar

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chili-garlic sauce (tuong ot toi)

In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, water, vinegar, garlic, and salt. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the liquid reduces slightly and thickens to a light syrup, 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the chili-garlic sauce. Set aside to cool.  Transfer to a jar, seal, and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days. Serve at room temperature. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Copyright: Nancie McDermott, 2012. All rights reserved.

I’m part of a monthly Twitter-party called #LetsLunch. To see posts by some of my fellow food bloggers from many kitchens near and far, check the hashtag on twitter, or start here, with posts already up for savoring:

My Kitchen and I: Steamed Buns with BBQ Pork

A Cook and Her Books: Barbecue Sauce and the Pig Hill of Fame

Eat. My. Blog. : Homemade ketchup, relish, and mustard! BBQ Friendly Condiments for #letslunch

And now, a quick little tour of my July Fourth celebration, starting in the grocery store and ending with pound cake and ice cream. Sweet and good!

I knew this would be a stellar gathering when I found cilantro with roots attached at Whole Foods. You can make a great tasty version using chopped stems and leaves, but chopped up roots are the original ingredient and they make the quintessential version.

Asparagus spears wrapped in prosciutto, ready for roasting and then a sprinkling of lemon zest . Divine.

Summer rolls, Vietnamese-style. We got a production line going and turned out a slew of these. Perfect summertime party-picnic-quick supper food. One guest brought the asparagus and fantastic deviled eggs, and stepped up to rock the summer rolls-assembly line with skill and grace. Gold star cook!

Our wonderful host provided not just one version of pork ribs, but two versions. Hoisin on left, Dr. Pepper on right. Both were divine. I wish I had me a big ol’ mess of them right now.

Another guest brought this Asian-flavored slaw which was fantastic. I will be pursuing this recipe with dedication. Perfect barbecue companion and summer-go-to for keeping in the fridge.

Ditto for these two salads. Great fresh and ideal ‘keepers’: tomato watermelon with basil on the right; sweet potato with red onion to the back.

Perfect cookout companion by my lights: Not one but two kinds of rice! Calrose short-grain rice on the left; black sticky rice on the right.

Lemon ice cream (ethereally bright and fantastically pleasing) and pound cake. First pound cake this guest had ever made. Look at that texture! She nailed it. Made everybody happy.

That was our July Fourth celebration cookout. I hope you had a good mid-week holiday, and that summer brings you lots of good food and good times with good people.

About the Author
Nancie McDermott is a food writer and cooking teacher, and the author of ten cookbooks. Her passion is researching and celebrating traditional food in its cultural context, and her beloved subjects are two seemingly different places with much in common: the cuisines of Asia and of the American South. Nancie gained her Southern kitchen wisdom as a Piedmont North Carolina native,and her Asian culinary research commenced soon after college, when she was sent to northeastern Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.
  1. Lucy@acookandherbooks Reply

    Wow! I was thrilled with the discovery of this chicken wing recipe and then I got a taste of your Independence Day feast! I want to taste everything here.

  2. Renee Reply

    Looks like you had quite a feast! I love hot wing recipes. I want to eat a different hot wing every Friday night, so I am sure I will try this one out soon. 🙂

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      We are on the same page — the page with the finger-marks and taste-full stains, made by our saucy wing-wielding fingers. I hadn’t made wings in several years, just by way of getting in a recipe-rut in terms of party food. Deciding on this and having made it three times recently, I’m a wing-devotee. So good for crowds and fun to eat and variations? Endless. Happy summer cooking and thanks for stopping by.

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