MEET ME HALF WAY…
“It’s Memorial Day weekend, I must barbecue!” these were the words i found my self saying a few days before I found myself at the super market with Lily and Charles buying supplies for what I like to refer to as “going all in!” To go all in, is to not half ass something, do it, and do it to the nines. This was not going to be “hot dogs and hamburger” barbecue. My opportunities to grill come few and far between so when I do get the chance, I like to do it right. I jump on it. Not to say it ever comes easy, at least not on the Upper West Side. Barbecuing is almost virtually illegal everywhere in New york City. If I was in Washington Heights, I would plop my grill right there outside my apartment building on the side walk and get to business, half my block does it several times a week during the summer. Uptown they don’t bother you so much about it. I’ve seen huge grills, 4 ft wide, double chained to park fences in Harlem, and believe me, they get used. This meal was already long in the making, as Charles and I had spent part of our morning and afternoon scrubbing rust off the stainless steel grill plate that belonged to Charles’ gas grill that is itself about 16 years old, and had not even been touched, much less used in about 3 years. We were skeptical about the rusted propane tank attached to it. It looked as if it was as old as the barbecue itself. With it’s last bits of paint peeling out on the heavily rusted surface of the tank, it did not look inviting. So we decided against trying to use the gas itself and instead opted to remove the propane tank and just fill the grill with coals.
At the super market we wander around picking up everything we need. Starting with the butcher meat, first a 3-1/2 lb rack of Organic Baby Back Ribs and two Pork Chops, a lot of meat for two guys and a petite girl, but Charles is known to be garbage-disposal-like when it comes to good food. If its there he’s going to eat it. My non Hot Dog policy is quickly put to bed when Lily returns from the refrigerated section with a package of Oscar Meyer “Bun Length Beef Dogs” and potato bread buns. We move on to the barbecue sauce’s and decide on a Stub’s “SPICY” barbecue sauce. Then on to the herbs and vegetables. We pick up Three Portobello Mushrooms, Asparagus, Garlic, and fresh Rosemary. Now we needed the bare essentials, chips, charcoal, and beer. We all separate in the chip section looking for our favorites. I am a professed Kettle Cooked Salt and Vinegar addict, and avidly stand by UTZ “Sea Salt and Vinegar.” I grab a bag as Charles and Lily Return, Charles has a bag of Dirty brand “Lightly Salted” chips, Lily with a Kettle brand “Honey Dijon” chips. We decide against the cheaper MatchLite charcoal and go with the slightly more expensive “HardWood Briquette” charcoal. Last is the beer, picking up a six pack of Labats Blue Light on our way to the register. We cash out at $103, and head to Charles’ House.
Back in the kitchen I get to work chopping garlic and rosemary. Charles and lily on the terrace prepare the grill, getting the charcoal going. Natural Charcoal can take quite a while to burn down to the hot coals appropriate to cook over. This is usually why people opt for the cheaper chemical filled stuff that burns to coals much quicker. I write the time off and call it a sacrifice for my health. In the kitchen not sure about how the best way I should go about preparing the meat, I make a call to a trusted friend of all things food, and ask for a reco on how I should proceed. Fallowing the recommended recipe’s I start with the Pork, hoping the little time I did have to marinate would amount to something. The pork marinade consist of garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and lots of lemon, including the rinds. The pork is marinating, I go out to the terrace to check on the grill. The fire is roaring. Charles and Lily are enjoying beers waiting for the fire to burn down. Back to the kitchen to prepare the ribs and the vegetables. I was told to just dry rub the ribs with salt and pepper and then add the barbecue sauce just before they finish cooking. I had extra mashed garlic so I couldn’t resist, I decided to mix it with some brown spicy mustard and olive oil to lightly coat the ribs with before applying the salt and pepper. the ribs are prepared, the portobello mushrooms and asparagus are dressed with olive oil and then salt and pepper. Finally after what seems like forever in the kitchen I’m ready to start cooking! On the terrace the fire is just about done. Time for the meat. Huge platters of pork in hand I head back out to the terrace but abruptly stop when I hear a banging at the front door. we were not expecting anyone. “BANG BANG BANG” again.
I go to the door to find the building security on the other side. “Having a barbecue?” I wasn’t going to deny it, so I informed him that we were and we were, and almost finished. He then proceeds to tell me that it “has to stop this minute, can I come in and check?- people are saying they’re going to call the fire department” Now there’s no way I’m letting this guy into Charles’ house. Charles arrives at the door, informing security that it was not an issue and that we were finished. After a few more vague threats security leaves. I rush the food out to the grill to try and get in as much cooking time as possible, as we had just told security that we were done cooking and, no more smoke would be coming. Squeezing as much onto the grill as I can, the grill begins to smoke heavy. Thick dark smoke pouring off the terrace. We begin to weigh the fines one could receive from the fire department versus the food. I decided I will cook the food half way then take it off and finish it in the broiler. So much for barbecuing. The food still came out great.