- Casual Classes
- Wine &
- Corporate &
EDMONTON — Though many people barbecue all-year around, I do not. So by the time spring and (mere hours later) summer arrive, I have worked myself into a romantic frenzy about grilled meat. There is a warm cedar deck in this vision, plus a gin and tonic, and a steak seared to pinky perfection.
Sadly, within a few weeks, I have, once again, paid a lot for various cuts of meat, only to prove it is possible to never, ever learn from your mistakes. No matter the number of demonstrations I have received from expert chefs on how to test meat while it’s on the grill (something about poking it with your finger to see if it feels rubbery, or hard, although I forget which means what), I still routinely overcook (and under-season) when I barbecue.
What begins as excitement about the barbecue season quickly curdles. Isn’t this supposed to be a man’s job? Ergo, why am I even here?
So it was with trepidation that I ventured out to Blackhawk Golf Club, southwest of the city, shortly after it opened this spring to consult with executive chef Andrew Fung, who is a Gold Medal Plates top winner and a guy who gets grilling like few others. Born in Hong Kong, Fung came to Edmonton with his parents as a teenager. He took the one-year baking program at NAIT before moving to Vancouver to study at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. His chef background includes the Hardware Grill, as well as two years spent cooking in Zurich, Switzerland. While the menu at Blackhawk displays Fung’s Asian influence (he makes his udon noodles from scratch), the chef has also devoted himself to the art of the grill. He understands that after a game of golf, a well-grilled piece of protein can really hit the spot.
What I discovered after chatting with Fung is that, like most culinary pursuits, good grilling is a combination of a few basics, and a lot of practice.
Perhaps the most common mistake that grillers make, says Fung, is that many fail to adequately heat the barbecue before slapping the meat down. Preheat the barbecue for five to ten minutes beforehand; otherwise, the meat will stick.
Second, while there is much to be said for the natural goodness of animal flesh, most proteins (from chicken to pork to beef) benefit from a treatment of some description before the cooking stage begins.
“Chicken, by itself, has no taste at all, it’s so bland,” insists Fung. “You have to add flavour.”
He recommends a brine to add moisture and taste to a standard chicken breast and says that even something as simple as Montreal Steak Seasoning will give beef a pick-me-up. A marinade of mustard, olive oil and fresh herbs (see Andrew’s recipe) applied a mere 20 minutes before grilling adds sizable tang. Remember, marinating longer is not necessarily better because the acid component of a marinade mixture (the vinegar, mustard, or lime) actually begins to chemically cook the protein if left on too long, and cooking is the barbecue’s job.
Fung’s third piece of advice is to make sure and let the protein rest for two or three minutes after shutting the gas grill off before you eat it. Fung says that’s why barbecues have an upper rack built in. (I thought this was strictly for heating garlic bread, but not so.) If you grill over charcoal, remove the meat from the barbecue altogether and tent it with a piece of tin foil for a few minutes.
“If you cut the meat right away, the juice runs away,” explains Fung. “If you let the meat rest, the muscle relaxes and it retains the moisture. It’s a common mistake, but everything should rest after being barbecued.”
Executive Chef Andrew Fung says the key to good grilling is a good marinade.
He gets his beef for the restaurant at Blackhawk Golf Club from Diamond Willow, a collective of certified organic ranchers from southern Alberta.
For the marinade below, he recommends a hanger steak (a shoulder cut of beef now quite popular in the restaurant trade), but you could substitute flank steak. I used a nicely marbled rib-eye when I made this recipe at home, simply because it was on sale and the sales staff at the grocery store recommended it.
The key with using a lower-priced cut of steak is to marinate it. Then, slice it thinly and at an angle after cooking and before plating and serving it to guests.
Here are Fung’s suggestions for your next barbecue, whether or not golf is involved.
Easy Barbecue Marinade
Serves 4 to 5
8 tablespoons (125 mL) olive oil
2 tablespoons (25 mL) Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons (25 mL) chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons (25 mL) chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon (5 mL) black pepper
1 kilogram (two pounds) hanger or flank steak
Combine marinade and place in a shallow dish. Place meat in dish and marinate, turning once, for 20 minutes. Heat barbecue for 10 minutes before placing meat on grill. Grill to taste.
Spring Greens Salad with Honey Poppy Seed Dressing
This recipe works well with any combination of fresh greens and provides great balance when steak is the main course.
For the salad:
6 to 8 cups (1,500 mL to 2,000 mL) mixed spring salad greens
1 cup (250 mL) blackberries, strawberries and raspberries, as desired
cup (125 mL) roasted pecans, walnuts or other nuts of choice
For the dressing:
cup (125 mL) apple cider vinegar
1 cups (375 mL) olive oil
2 tablespoons (25 mL) Dijon mustard
cup (125 mL) honey
1 teaspoon (5 mL) poppy seeds
Combine all dressing ingredients and toss with salad fixings.(Add dressing slowly, bit by bit, to make sure you don’t over-dress the salad. Leftover dressing will keep in the fridge for four days.)
Roasted Peppers and Asparagus
This combination makes for a colourful and attractive side dish, and the robust texture and flavour of the peppers pairs well with beef.
3 or 4 peppers, green, red, yellow and orange, as desired
12 spears fresh asparagus
4 tablespoons (50 mL) olive oil
2 tablespoons (25 mL) balsamic vinegar
Seed and core peppers, and cut into quarters, and cut the tough ends off the asparagus if necessary. Brush a hot barbecue with olive oil and grill the vegetables until a nice char has formed on the outside. Remove from the grill and toss with olive oil and balsamic and set aside, allowing to marinate for 15 or 20 minutes. Toss on the barbecue to reheat at the last minute.