Succulent specialties, from Greece to Alabama.
SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK
Take that ball and run with it: To take charge, and go all the way toward the finish line or ultimate completion of your task … like the Manning boys on any given Sunday, and like the team that raised the Costa Concordia this week, against all odds. We Southerners just love our football metaphors.
GRILLING WITH SAUCES
The Old Bride needed to satisfy a craving for some grill food this week before heading off to Utah for the annual Association of Food Journalists conference. NOTE to ALL: Grill food always comes in handy when we’re too busy to spend time in the kitchen. I suspect my hankering for grill food also was triggered by the tailgating frenzy that strikes all inhabitants of Hotty Toddy world this time of year, especially after a big win.
Whatever the trigger(s), I broke out my handcrafted Ira de Koven wrought-iron skewers, quart-size mason jars, mayonnaise, a bottle of red wine, and assorted spices, and went to work on a couple of my favorite grill foods.
One dish we are featuring this week is Souvlaki, a Greek-American favorite popular across the South for its combination of skewered, grilled pork, marinated in wine and Greek spices, paired with a traditional yogurt-cucumber sauce. The other featured dish is Alabama-style barbecued chicken brined in apple juice, glazed with Alabama White BBQ Sauce. (I’m getting into Crush-the-Tide mode).
Have to tell ya, my grill-food craving was satisfied. Now, I ‘m craving a little ol’ win next week in the Yellow Hammer state.
This classic Mediterranean cucumber and yogurt sauce is the perfect foil for grilled lamb or pork. NOTE: The yogurt MUST be drained and the juice squeezed out of the cucumber, or the sauce will be too runny.
16 oz plain yogurt, drained
2 c cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced, juice squeezed out
2 T good quality olive oil
Juice of a lemon (approximately 2 T)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 T fresh dill, chopped (one recipe calls for 1/2 c dill, and no olive oil)
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
Place the yogurt in a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl, and refrigerate to drain overnight. Place the diced cucumbers in a dish towel, and squeeze out the juice. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a covered dish and refrigerate at least two hours before serving. Yields about 6 cups.
SOUVLAKI MEAT STICKS
Cubed pork shoulder makes for excellent skewer grilling, but I strongly recommend having the butcher prepare your meat cubes by removing the fat and connective tissue, before cutting the meat. Otherwise, expect to work long and hard.
Wooden skewers are readily available in the grocery store if you aren’t fortunate enough to have handcrafted skewers like the ones made for me 30 years ago by a metal craftsman. Prep the wooden skewers by soaking in water for about an hour prior to grilling. Prep metal skewers by oiling them with nonstick cooking spray or olive oil.
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c red wine
2 to 4 T fresh lemon juice
1 T dried mint, or 3 T fresh mint, chopped
1 T dried oregano (or 2 T fresh oregano, chopped)
1 T fresh thyme, chopped, OPTIONAL
4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 bay leaf, crumbled into pieces
3 lb pork shoulder cut into cubes, fat trimmed
Salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
Lemon slices, reserved for serving
Whisk all marinade ingredients together in large mixing bowl. Add pork cubes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours. About 1 hour before prepping for the grill, soak wooden skewers in water. Heat grill to medium high (about 350˚F). Place about six or seven pieces of meat on each skewer. Dust the skewered meat with salt and pepper.
Grill about 10 minutes, with grill covered, giving the skewers a quarter turn every three minutes until all sides are seared and the meat is cooked through. Remove skewers to platter and squeeze fresh lemon on the meat. Serve with Tzatziki Sauce for dipping the meat, grilled eggplant, and a side salad of shredded iceberg lettuce, onion, and tomatoes, drizzled with Mississippi Comeback Sauce. Yields 4 to 8 servings (depending on your diners).
VARIATIONS: Substitute lamb; or substitute chicken for the pork, omitting the mint but add the thyme. Squeeze the lemon juice on grilled meat and dust with Cavender’s Greek seasoning.
ALABAMA WHITE BBQ SAUCE
This “BBQ” sauce is a thin glaze that works best as a finishing sauce on grilled chicken, or as a dip for fries. Some versions omit the vinegar, sugar, and paprika. I prefer the vinegar because of the flavor it brings out in grill- smoked meat.
2 c mayonnaise
1 c apple cider vinegar, OPTIONAL
1/2 c apple juice
2 tsp prepared horseradish
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp dried mustard
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp paprika
2 T white granulated sugar
1 tsp ground or minced white onion (dice the onion fine and squeeze it through a garlic press)
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until completely blended. Transfer to a container, cover, and refrigerate until use. Yields about 40 oz (a large canning jar).
WHITE BBQ SAUCE GLAZED CHICKEN
This recipe is a variation of the Big Bob Gibson chicken recipe from northern Alabama. Those folks may wear the wrong color of red, but like all Southerners, they know good food. I chose chicken leg quarters, but whole chickens cut into half work very well.
3 lb chicken leg quarters
Sweet Apple Chicken Brine
1/4 c favorite BBQ dry rub
Alabama White BBQ Sauce
Brine the Chicken:
1 qt apple juice
1 qt water
1/2 c kosher salt
1/4 c dark brown sugar
2 T molasses or cane syrup
Mix all ingredients and submerge the clean chicken leg quarters in the brine. Refrigerate a minimum of 3 hours, or overnight.
Grill the Chicken:
To grill the meat, remove chicken from brine to a large pan. Dust lightly with favorite BBQ dry rub. Heat grill to medium (about 300 to 325˚F). Place chicken on top rack away from direct flame to cook low and slow. Close grill cover and cook about 10 minutes before turning the chicken.
Grill another 10 minutes and baste Alabama white BBQ Sauce over the tops. Grill a few more minutes, turn over, and baste other side. Grill about another minute to seal in the sauce before removing to a serving platter. Be careful not to scorch the white sauce. Remove to serving platter and drench in additional white sauce.
Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian, and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SOFAB). Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ web site: www.tripleheartpress.com and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter (@LaurieTriplette).