I am seated at a big round table in a rustic, open-air pavilion, ready to dig into a heaping plate of food. There are chicken wings with sweet chili sauce, shrimp on sugar cane, grilled flatbreads, cedar-planked salmon, rum-spiked baby back ribs and asparagus-mushroom kebabs. This is my final meal in a three-day learning and eating vacation called BBQ University. Led by Steven Raichlen, author of “The Barbecue Bible” and “BBQ USA,” host of his own cooking show on PBS, and a man dedicated to spreading the cookout gospel, it’s a crash course for would-be grill masters. I can’t believe I’m hungry, since chowing down has been one of our main activities. But there’s something about the smell of smoke and sizzling meat that never fails to make me ravenous.
My classmates and I have had a gut-busting time, passed the final exam, earned our diplomas and will soon head home armed with a loose-leaf binder full of recipes. Like all the other grads, I feel revved and ready to fire up the Weber and put Raichlen’s finger-lickin’ preaching into practice.
Cedar-Planked Salmon with Miso Glaze
6 salmon steaks (each about 1 inch thick and 4-6 ounces)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Miso glaze (recipe follows)
6 individual cedar grill planks, 7x7 inches each, soaked for 2 hours in water, then drained
1. Rinse salmon under cold water. Blot dry with paper towels. Brush each steak with oil on one side. Place oiled side down at a diagonal, one steak per plank.
2. Set up grill for indirect cooking (push coals to sides and place food in center of grate) and preheat to medium-high.
3. Spread glaze evenly over the top and sides of each steak. Place planks in the center of the hot grate, away from heat, and cover grill. Cook until glaze is golden, 20-30 minutes. To test for doneness, insert instant read meat thermometer through side of salmon steak. Internal temperature should be 135 degrees. note: Cedar planks must be untreated wood. Available where grilling supplies are sold or at www.grilling4all.com
Source: Recipe Courtesy of Barbecue University
Makes about 1-1/4 cups
1/2 cup white miso
1/2 cup mayonnaise (preferably Hellman’s)
5-6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon white pepper (optional)
Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl until smooth. If miso is very stiff, as some brands are, thin with 1-2 tablespoons of warm water, sake or mirin. note: white miso is available at Asian markets.
Source: Recipe Courtesy of Barbecue University
Raichlen’s nickname for this luscious creation is “uptown s’mores.”
Yield: Makes 8
8-10 ounces very good bittersweet chocolate in thin bars
8 large marshmallows
1-2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
16 slices pound cake, each 1/4-inch thick, preferably Sara Lee
1 bunch lemon verbena or mint, rinsed, dried, stemmed and thinly slivered, or 3 tablespoons thinly slivered candied ginger (optional)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Panini bread griller (optional)
1. Break chocolate bars into 8 rectangles.
2. Using a slender knife, cut the marshmallows crosswise into 1/2-inch slices; dust knife with confectioners’ sugar first to keep marshmallows from sticking.
3. Arrange 8 slices of pound cake on a platter. Top each with a piece of chocolate, some marshmallow slices, and then the lemon verbena, mint or ginger, if using. Cover with the remaining slices of pound cake, sandwich-style. (These can be prepared several hours ahead. Keep in plastic wrap until ready to cook.)
4. Preheat grill to medium high. When ready to cook, brush panini on both sides with melted butter. Secure two in the panini griller, if using.
5. Hold over fire until toasted to a golden brown, and chocolate and marshmallows have melted, about 3-5 minutes per side. Serve immediately. note: Panini can be placed directly on a hot grate and turned over with a spatula. Position on a diagonal to the grill ridges. Watch carefully. Butter can “excite” the fire.
Source: Adapted from “Indoor Grilling” by Steven Raichlen
1. He’s been described as the Gladiator of Grilling, the Michael Jordan of Barbecue. To us, Steven Raichlen is a teacher, our own culinary guru with wisdom to share and techniques to teach. We watch attentively as he preps his way through menus that take us on a trip around what he calls Planet Barbecue.
2. The curriculum features dishes from the Americas, Europe, Africa, India and Asia. Marinated shrimp are threaded on sugarcane for cooking and served with Vietnamese dipping sauce. When you bite into the cane, it releases a burst of sweetness. Other great natural skewers include stalks of rosemary, cinnamon sticks, lemon grass and vanilla bean pods. That’s our grilled naan in the background.
3. Each day begins at 9 a.m. with a demo in Kate’s Mountain Lodge, the Greenbrier’s hilltop classroom and dining hall. Here Raichlen sprinkles seasoning on a rack of baby backs. Then he shows us how to lightly massage it into the meat. “You can dry rub and cook immediately,” he says, “and the result will be delicious. Or, rub, refrigerate at least four hours or overnight, and the dish goes from being an Andy Warhol to a Picasso.”
4. Lighter fluid is a big no-no. Raichlen explains that the right way to start a fire is with a coal-filled chimney primed with pieces of wax paper drizzled with oil. he recommends using real hardwood charcoal lumps or briquettes, and adding chunks of woods such as hickory or mesquite.
5. In this hands-on environment, everyone gets ample grill time. Here, a student is “blistering” and charring vegetables that will go into a gazpacho.
6. Raichlen cooks ribs in a special holder of his own design. It lets you fit more on the grill, the meat cooks evenly and the fat drips into a foil catch pan set underneath. These are done Aussie style with a ginger, rum and pineapple barbecue sauce.
7. Some of us toast chocolate-and-marshmallow-filled dessert panini campfire-style. “Make extra,” Raichlen says. “These have a way of disappearing fast.”
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
This grand, Southern-style resort is filled with history. One year shy of its 300th birthday, the beautiful 6,500-acre property is like summer camp for grown-ups — and it’s the only place you’ll find Raichlen’s BBQ U. Students are free to enjoy all the amenities of this famed resort, and I filled my after-class hours with mint juleps and bellinis, an unforgettable spa treatment, some quality time poolside and visits to the on-site gourmet housewares store where BBQ students get a 10-percent discount.
Multiple sessions of BBQ University are offered in the late spring and summer. June through October, when BBQ U is not in session, food enthusiasts can enroll in single-day, hands-on cooking classes in a wide variety of specialties.