Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

Barbecue 101: grill meets (wine)boy

With summer gaining on us pretty quickly, you’ll be spending more time in the great outdoors grilling all manner of animals, vegetables and fish.  This American tradition, often referred to as barbecuing, really originated in prehistoric times and even before cavemen knew how to start a fire.   So, how could they enjoy barbecue delicacies if they didn’t know how to start a fire?  They would simply wait for the conclusion of a lightning-induced forest fire, and then gingerly roam the charred woods to feast on the roasted remains of various animals. Can you imagine any other way to barbecue a tyrannosaurus rex?        Anyway, many of us will soon be dusting off the old grill, laying in a good supply of charcoal (or propane for you gas grillers) and purchasing all manner of animal parts to roast in the great outdoors. And the good news is you won’t have to wait on a lightning-induced forest fire! Regardless of what cut of meat, fish or even vegetable you intend to barbecue, preparing the food before grilling is crucial to achieving success with the finished product.  Many people make the common mistake of firing up the grill, laying on the meat and immediately inundating the food with commercial barbecue sauce. Wrong move.     The problem is that when you add sauce to meat over a hot grill the food catches on fire and turns the stuff into crispy, unidentifiable, blackened hunks of formerly organic matter. And I don’t have anything against purchased sauces even though I’ve never bought one without adding other ingredients. However, I know you can do better with your own concoction. Here are few recommendations (from BarbecueBoy) for avoiding a disaster and for turning your grilling experience into a rousing success.  Let’s deal today with two of the most popular cuts of meat: chicken and pork ribs. I like to begin by trimming a portion of fat from both cuts of meat.  Next, I always apply a dry rub of spices or powders to impart flavors to the meat during grilling. Try using different combinations of dry rubs.  A good one for ribs is a teaspoon each of black pepper, chili powder and cumin.  Or try these other store-bought rubs on either chicken or ribs: Cajun seasonings; lemon pepper; Indian curry spices; or Jamaican Jerk spices. I generally cook the meat, particularly ribs, very slowly (by closing the lid and adjusting the air vents on the top and bottom of the grill) and I use the indirect method of grilling.  To use the indirect method, simply move the charcoal to either side of the grill and placing the meat in the center of the rack.  For indirect grilling with gas, simply turn one or more of the burners off and move the meat to that side. You can even add water to an aluminum pie pan directly under the meat to catch any drippings and to keep the meat moist during cooking. Sometimes, I will simply slow roast the meat with just the dry rub and serve it that way without any sauce, or other times I’ll serve the sauce on the side.The key, however, is not to add the sauce to the meat until the very end - for the last five minutes or so. If you wish, you can take the ribs or chicken off the grill, add more sauce to the meat and cover the dish in a warm oven for a while longer. So now I suppose you want my barbecue sauce recipe?  Okay, I’ll share this one with you:  one cup of ketchup; 3 oz. of orange juice; two table spoons of Tabasco; one teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce; 3 oz. of white vinegar; and one teaspoon of brown sugar.  Bring this concoction to a boil and let simmer for about 15 minutes.  This is particularly good on ribs. Now what about wine for the above mentioned dishes?  I am a great believer that rose’ is the perfect barbecue wine, particularly ones that are dry or just slightly sweet. Here are two that would be especially nice with the barbecued chicken or ribs mentioned above.  2007 Masciarelli Rose’ d’Abruzzo ($12) This delicious dry pink Italian rose’ has aromas of spice, strawberry and freshly mown hay. In the mouth it is full of delicate cherry flavors with just a touch of cinnamon and enough acidity to make it a special match to barbecue. 2008 Las Rocas Rosado ($14) This Spanish rose’ is a deeper color of pink than the Masciarelli and the flavors are more intense. On the nose, the wine has a berry and floral character and on the palate has rich cherry and spicy tones with excellent balance.  The wine starts off slightly sweet and then finishes dry. Try it with heavier, spicier barbecue sauces or dry rubs. 

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