Each spring, there are two rites of passage in Oklahoma — one good, one bad.
The good one is dusting off the barbecue, cleaning off the grates and filling the propane tank or stocking up on wood or charcoal in preparation for opportunities in the warm-weather months to gather friends and family to cook out.
The other one is waiting for storm season to come and go. From late April to early June, Oklahomans prepare for the worst, hope for the best and wait for the season to run its course. Most years, we brush off hail attacks, take the high ground through floods and keep an eye on the sky for the worst of our fears, the tornado. Springs rarely come and go without tornadoes, though most of them are more bark than bite. When spring turns into summer and Oklahoma loses touch with rain until September, our meteorologists compile the data and file each storm season away by year and begin preparations for the next. But once in a great while, spring turns tragic thanks to a killer tornado.
Unfortunately, 2013 will now hold an infamous place in the annals of Oklahoma weather along with 1999, 1993, 1984, 1955, 1947 and 1905.
In the aftermath of this kind of tragedy, it's really tough to get excited about cooking out or anything else as every free minute will likely be spent helping in the recovery in some way. Maybe when all the tears have dried, the debris cleared and we pull together to stuff chaos back into its box again, we'll be in the mood for a cookout.
Some friends joined me recently to help the Grigsby family celebrate the reopening of American Propane's showroom, which was destroyed in an explosion in February 2012. The Grigsbys can certainly relate to the collective gut-punch endured by those in central Oklahoma who were victimized by a random act of destruction.
The new American Propane is a microcosm for how we wrestle chaos into a new and improved sense of order in the long term. Oklahoma City is a paragon in the fight against chaos, proven over and over again.
We will rebuild. As many times as we must, we will rebuild. It's what we do here.
No matter which way you direct your prayers or from whom you draw inspiration, the song remains the same: Whatever we have to do can and will be done, but we all do better when we work together.
When the job is done, it'll be time to gather and raise a glass to Oklahoma resilience and civic pride.
Thanks to Russ “The Smokin' Okie” Garrett, of Enduring Brands; Patty Hamby, of Buy For Less stores; and Amie Gehlert and Kenny Talley, of the soon-to-open Back Door Barbecue, about 50 folks got a great lesson in how to make that smoker or grill sing this summer at our first “Open Flame” class of 2013.
I stepped aside and let the pros work the kamado-style grills by Primo to produce classic barbecue plus some creative surprises. I did manage to make some ranch-style beans and macaroni and smoked cheddar cheese salad.
When the time is right to cook out, here are some inspired recipes for your cookout. And don't forget how ideal barbecue is for delivery to those called to clear the debris.
1 10- to 16-pound brisket, full packer, not trimmed
1 bottle Worcestershire sauce or Head Country Premium Marinade
1 cup brisket rub
Remove brisket from wrapping and rinse. Trim the edges of the brisket of hard/dense fat and little pieces of meat or fat that are just lightly attached. I like to trim all edges, getting rid of any brown/off-color meat.
Coat the brisket with Worcestershire. Head Country makes its own version, called Premium Marinade. Apply liberally. Coat the brisket with a good beef rub. Head Country rub is good, and Russ Garrett recommends Cookshack's Brisket Rub. Coat heavily. Return to fridge. Let sit for minimum of 2 hours, preferably 4.
Light a smoker to 225 to 250 degrees. The meat cooks about an hour per pound, but time will not guarantee results. Place brisket fat-side down.
Leaving the meat side up allows the smoke to settle on the brisket and helps to create a great bark. The added benefit is that the fat will protect the brisket from heat rising from below. Using a choice quality brisket, there is no need to put the fat cap up so the fat will render into the meat. Cook until the brisket reaches 195 degrees when a temperature probe is inserted into the thickest part of the flat. Also feel the resistance of the probe as you insert. That will give an indication of tenderness. If it doesn't penetrate easily, continue cooking and recheck until the probe meets little resistance.
Once the proper temperature is achieved, remove from smoker and let sit at least 30 minutes. Turn the brisket over, and scrape the fat off with a knife. Slice across the grain of the meat in ¼- to ½-inch slices.
Competition secrets: The thickness of the cut can be varied. If it's too tender, cut it thicker to hold the meat together. If it's not tender, cut it thinner. ... In barbecue contests, judges only get one or two bites of a slice of brisket.
When preparing the full packer brisket, trim the point closely, removing as much external fat as possible, exposing the meat underneath. Season the brisket as normal.
Cook the brisket as indicated. Slice and separate the trimmed point from the flat.
Slice and cut the point into cube/bite-size pieces. Lightly season with your beef rub. Lightly coat with barbecue sauce. You want just enough to make the burnt ends appear wet, but you don't want to drown them. Place in a disposable aluminum pan.
Return to smoker, allowing the smoke to continue to season the burnt ends. The additional cooking time will allow the additional fat in the point to render out. Continue to monitor and test the burnt ends each hour. At the point where they are soft and tender, remove. Typically, burnt ends will take 2 to 4 more hours.
Source: Russ Garrett, the Smokin' Okie.
— Ingredients provided by Buy For Less —
Macaroni and Smoked Cheddar Cheese Salad
16 ounces elbow macaroni
8 ounces mild cheddar cheese, cubed
¾ cup red onion or sweet yellow onion, finely diced
½ cup green, yellow or sweet red pepper, finely diced
1 clove garlic, grated or mashed into paste
1 cup light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon ground chile de arbol or cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Soak your favorite wood chips for at least an hour. Prepare smoker for indirect cooking. Keep the temperature at 90 degrees or lower. Shake off residual water from chips and toss onto the hot coals. Place cubed cheese on a metal tray or bowl and place in smoker. Allow to smoke 10 to 20 minutes, making sure the temperature doesn't rise above 90 degrees.
Cook macaroni according to directions.
While macaroni cooks, combine remaining ingredients in a small mixing bowl.
When macaroni is done, drain and rinse with cold water. Drain in a colander, shaking out most — but not all — of the moisture.
Transfer macaroni to a large mixing bowl and combine with dressing until thoroughly coated. Add smoked cheese. Taste and correct flavor with salt and pepper.
SOURCE: Dave Cathey
Steak Wrapped Scallops with Chimichurri Sauce
1 thin rib eye steak
1 stalk of green onion
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cilantro
1 teaspoon Peruvian yellow pepper paste
Dark beer, to marinate
Salt, pepper, garlic, cumin
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
6 tablespoons garlic
6 tablespoons oregano
½ cup chopped yellow Peruvian pepper
½ cup wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
Marinate scallops for 30 minutes in lemon juice, cilantro and Peruvian yellow pepper paste.
Spread Boursin Cheese inside the steak and put green onion and scallop in the middle of flat steak. Roll up the steak and toothpick to keep everything in place. Marinate in Dark German beer for about an hour before putting on the grill.
Heat the grill to 350 degrees and cook on both sides of steak for at least 15 minutes on each side.
SOURCE: Patty Hamby
Rocoto Chile Sauce
1 cup Rocoto pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup queso fresco
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oregano
1/4 onion minced
1 clove garlic minced
Black Pepper to taste
Flat-leaf parsley and/or cilantro, optional
Mix all the above together and fry for 15 to 20 minutes over medium heat until brown and mushy.
Combine skillet ingredients in a blender with oil, queso fresco, water and parsley and/or cilantro and puree.
SOURCE: Dave Cathey
2 cups pinto beans
2 quarts water
3 cups chicken stock, broth or plain water
6 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
1 white onion, cut in quarters
1 small head garlic
2 to 6 jalapeno peppers, stemmed
2 tablespoons salt, divided
2 tablespoons fresh-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seed, toasted and ground
Preheat grill to medium-high heat or preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Bring 2 quarts of the water to a boil in a large pot. While you wait, sort through the beans to remove any stones or misshapen beans.
Add the beans to the boiling water and lower heat to medium low. Simmer with lid ajar until the beans are soft, which can take from an hour to two hours depending on the quality and age of the beans.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion and peppers and toss with oil and a little salt and pepper. Make sure the vegetables are coated. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with foil and roast. Remove peppers after 10 minutes; let everything else roast until charred and slightly caramelized, 30 to 40 minutes.
Once beans are softened through, strain off cooking water and replace with chicken or vegetable broth. If the broth doesn't cover all the beans, add water. The beans should be at least two inches below the surface of the liquid. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer.
Combine all vegetables and cumin in a blender and puree. Add to simmering beans and mix in with remaining salt and pepper. Continue simmering until liquid has thickened, 4 to 8 hours.
When brisket is done, carve off odds and ends, then toss it in with the beans.
SOURCE: Dave Cathey