Saturday, November 08, 2008

Fire up that Damn Grill!

It's almost a heartbreakingly beautiful day in this part of North Carolina. For no particular reason, other than a way of taking my mind off heavier and more foreboding matters, here are some recipes. First off, one for the unabashed carnivores.

Get you some goddam pig ribs! Open a can of PBR. Drink it. Open another can and pour it into a big bowl. Pour in a can of chicken broth. Pour in 1-2 cans of water. Boil that shit. Once it gets all bubbly like, throw in the pig ribs. Let 'em boil for about a minute.

Mix up some salt, pepper, apple butter, molasses, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Now, I don't hold with that "proportions" shit and don't get all pansy-ass with measuring cups and table spoons, so all I can tell you is to mix it till it tastes right.

Paint it on the ribs and put them suckers on the grill. Turn 'em regular, and slather on more of the sauce as they dry out. The beauty of boiling them in the beer and chicken broth first is you don't have to worry yourself so much about them not being cooked all the way the through and giving you some god-awful disease, so you can pretty much take them off the grill at the first sign that they're done.

That's some damn fine eating. An ex of mine, a little Jewish gal who despite having grown up all Hebrewsky was fine with the swine, said it was the best bone-in pig she ever did eat.

Okay, for you pesky pescadaria, here's another recipe.

Go to your local carnaceria and get some whole tilapia. Don't be a pussy and get all worried about not speaking Spanish, or, if you do, that you don't know the Spanish for tilapia. Look for whole fish that resemble Oscars from the aquarium section of a pet shop (they may actually be Oscars, since "tilapia" is not a species but a broad term that covers a range of cichlids). When he or she sees that you're a gringo, the butcher or fish monger may ask you if you want them filleted or otherwise cut up. You don't. That is to say, you want them gutted and scaled, but you want to leave the tails, and particularly the heads, attached. It's okay to cut off the fins (other than the tail) , though.

Now, you or the people you're planning to serve may be the sort of candy-ass separated-from-nature middle-class whitebread Americans who get all knicker-twisted at the sight of food with a face on it. If so, you can always cut the heads off after you've cooked the fish. But as Latinos, Asians and Europeans already know, fish tastes better when it's cooked with the head still on it. That's because the head contains 60% of the fat.

Once you're back home with your fish, mix some apple butter (or, if you prefer, honey), soy sauce, lemon juice and minced garlic in a pan. As I said above in the colorful whiskey-tango patois of my people, I don't generally hold with exact portions, I just mix the stuff until it tastes interesting. Rub it into the fish, inside and out, and then soak some tortillas in it. Sprinkle the fish with sea salt, basil, cilantro and freshly ground pepper. Put some lemon slices in the fish's body cavity. Wrap the soggy tortillas around the fish, covering them completely in a mummy-like wrap. If the tilapia are of any size, you'll need several tortillas per fish.

Put either a banana leaf or a sheet of tin foil on the hot grill. If you opt to use a banana leaf, you can get these at many Asian and Latino markets. They're usually sold frozen, so be sure you've thawed it out in warm water. The banana leaf or tinfoil keeps the fish and its soggy tortilla cocoon from sticking to your grill. The advantage of the banana leaf is that it adds a nice smoky flavor as it cooks. If the fish weigh less than a pound each, grill for about 4-8 minutes per side. If they weigh more than pound each, grill for 8-10 minutes per side. When the fish is done, you can serve it in its crispy tortilla cocoon as though it were en papillote, or you can pry off the tortilla casing and cut off the heads for more your squeamish guests.

You want some vegetables, you say? Sweet white corn is particularly easy. Don't take it out of the husk. Put a cup of sugar in a large pan of water and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Put in the ears of corn, but only after the water has cooled a bit, as you're not trying to cook it. Soak it for about twenty minutes, then put it on the hot grill. Turn it every few minutes until the outer husk starts to get a bit black and crispy. Peel off the husk and sprinkle the ear of corn with sea salt and black pepper. Add a little butter if you're feeling decadent.

Goddam, now I'm hungry.


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