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The Barbecue Manifesto

07/10/2015 08:27AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier

By Andre Arceneaux

There is perhaps no greater cause for contention in the culinary world than the subculture of grilling. Since the beginning of time, man’s desire to grill meat on an open flame has caused competition between families, cultures and regions. Barbecue is personal, creating feuds like the Kreuz Market Feud that last generations and pit (intended) rivals against each other in heated battles. 

Sure, you may not want to be a world-recognized Pitmaster, but you can make your backyard cookout the envy of the block with these quick and easy gourmet-grilling tricks.

The beautiful thing about barbecue is the purity of the craft. Enthusiasts of the three main barbecue schools of thought will differ on a few points, but all will agree that the source of heat you choose plays an important factor in the quality of your barbecue. With that in mind, it is important to think carefully about the flavor you want to impart into your food and how best to achieve it. Before we get to the grilling, here’s a heat source primer.

Charcoal- The standard for backyard barbecues everywhere. Though the heat source can be temperamental due to flare-ups and hotspots, a well regulated, white-hot bed of coals gives the most authentic and iconic flavor to burgers and other cuts of beef.

Wood Smoked- Although not the most popular method in Cajun Country, wood smoked barbecue is the dominant grilling method in big barbecue cities like Kansas City and Austin. Franklin BBQ in Austin, Texas is so popular that they fire up their six offset smokers daily at 2 a.m. and are sold out of everything by 11 a.m.

Natural Gas- It’s quick, easy, clean and has the benefit of accurate temperature control. Natural gas can be a good method for those who grill often. Despite all these positive qualities, gas grilling is frowned upon by die hards. Pitmasters will tell you to save the propane for crawfish.

Picked your heat source? Cleaned and oiled your grill? Great! Now it’s time to wow your taste buds with gourmet grilling made simple. 

No grill real estate would be complete without burgers. They don’t have to be boring. Dress up your burgers by stuffing them with blue cheese in this easy recipe. 

Blue Cheese Stuffed Burgers:

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 pound ground beef

3 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons water

1 egg white, lightly beaten 

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/4 cup fat-free sour cream

Sauté onion 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat; let cool. Combine onion, beef, breadcrumbs, water and egg white in a large bowl; stir well. Divide mixture into 8 equal portions, shaping into 1/2-inch-thick patties. Spoon 1 tablespoon cheese into the center of 4 patties; top with remaining patties. Press edges together to seal. Burgers should cook 4-5 minutes per side for medium. When in doubt, use a meat thermometer. 

If you are pressed for time, take a shortcut and purchase preformed (but not frozen) burger patties from your local grocer or specialty meat store. Spoon cheese into the center of one of your patties, top with another, and press the edges to seal.  You could also stuff your burger with any cheese or selection of toppings, like crispy bacon crumbles. Grab a pack of artisanal buns, heirloom tomatoes and your favorite condiments and bite into a great burger.

You can do so much more than just grill meat on your pit. Try these grilled sweet potatoes for a crispy, smoky side.

Spiced Grilled Sweet Potatoes: 

4 medium sweet potatoes (skins on), scrubbed well

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Cover potatoes with cold salted water in a large pot, and then bring to a boil. Simmer until slightly resistant when pierced with a sharp small knife, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain well. Slice potatoes lengthwise when they are cool. Mix together salt, spices and apple cider vinegar; add oil in a slow stream. This spice rub will act more like a marinade and will form a sweet and savory crust on the potatoes. Brush this mixture on sweet potatoes. Grill potatoes until grill marks appear and potatoes are cooked through. Should take about 15 minutes. 

No get together would be complete without dessert. Because all of your cooking is focused around a grill, dessert should be no exception. Raise your grill game with this simple delicious dessert, all cooked in a foil pouch.

Bread Pudding with Fruit:

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup sugar 

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 

4 cups bread cubes

1 cup fresh berries of your choice

Whisk eggs, milk, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Add bread cubes and berries; soak 30 minutes. Butter a sheet of nonstick foil and add the bread mixture; form a packet. Grill over indirect heat for 35 minutes, turning a few times.

After all that hard work, you deserve a refreshing drink. Enjoy this grilled (yes, grilled) spiked lemonade as you and your guests watch the sun go down.

Grilled Lemonade (Pitcher Size):

16 lemons (Cut in half)

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 3/4 cups water

Pinch of salt

Grilling the lemons makes the drink taste caramelized and slightly smoky. To make a pitcher, dip the cut sides of 16 halved lemons in sugar and grill until marked. This should take about 5 minutes. Make sure you don’t burn the sugar. That will make your lemonade bitter. While lemons cool, simmer 1 1/4 cups sugar with 1 3/4 cups water and a pinch of salt until the sugar and salt have completely dissolved. Squeeze the lemons through a strainer into a pitcher to catch seeds and pulp; stir in the sugar syrup, some ice and a few of the grilled lemons. Spiking, per glass with your favorite spirit, makes this smoky, sweet drink one the whole family can enjoy.

Get the family involved by grilling fruits like peaches and pineapple rings for kids. Experiment with grilling fresh produce from your local farmer’s market. And don’t forget about all of our delicious Louisiana seafood. Fire up your grill for a new twist on catfish and your other fish favorites. 

Whatever you do, don’t let yourself get intimidated by cooking over a flaming grill. With a little practice, you too will be able to hold your head high as your friends and family raise their glasses to your barbecue bounty.

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