Saturday, 3 July 2010

BBQ for a Day

Nothing says summer like a barbecue dinner, but alas, such a dinner is a rarity for me since I've moved into an apartment with no balcony on which to place a barbecue. Imagine my excitement when a colleague of mine decided to open his house for a BBQ potluck dinner last Saturday! At long last I was able to work a grill again, and I decided to make the best of this opportunity. Partly because I hadn't barbecued for a while, and partly because I knew others were bringing dips, salads and other starter items, I decided to make grilled vegetables as my potluck contribution. Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself for a moment.

I first had to get myself some meat as my own main course, and almost instantly knew what I wanted: short ribs. A minor problem with short ribs is that butchers here mostly cut short ribs into the "English cut" (i.e. 2-inch bones, usually just 1-2 bones attached), which is not suitable to the East Asian-style ribs I had in mind; for the East Asian style, "flanken cut" (i.e. 1/2-inch bones, cut across the entire rib slab) was the way to go. Fortunately the butcher at one of the supermarkets in town was able to satisfy my request, and soon on the Thursday before the BBQ party I was homeward with about a dozen slices of short ribs.

That evening I took three of those slices and marinated them with some light and dark soy sauces, freshly ground pepper, sesame oil, Chinese cooking wine, sugar and minced garlic, letting it sit in the fridge until I had to leave for the party Saturday afternoon.

Doesn't that slice of short ribs look delicious after being grilled over medium heat?

As for the grilled vegetables, I opted to go for some East-meets-West flavouring. Just like back when I lived with my parents, I bought bell peppers, zucchini and white mushrooms. I sliced both the peppers and zucchini into large flat pieces, while for the mushrooms I just removed the stems and kept the caps intact. Putting them all into a mixing bowl I marinated with light and dark soy sauces, freshly ground pepper, olive oil, sugar and dried thyme. The vegetables should be marinated about a couple of hours before they're grilled to allow them to absorb some of the marinade (thanks to the dark soy sauce, the changes in colour for the mushrooms and the zucchini are a giveaway).

I grilled all my vegetables over medium-high heat. For the zucchini, I grilled them until grill lines appeared before I flipped or removed them. You'll also know the zucchini are fully cooked when the slices feel softer to the touch, sometimes even limping when lifted off a surface. For the peppers, I grilled them until the slices felt softer to the touch. As a personal habit, I grilled the peppers skin-side last, as that side charred more easily and it allowed me to better determine when to remove them from the grill.

As for the mushrooms, I grilled them cap down (i.e. right-side up) first. I love it since after I flip the mushroom caps to finish cooking them, the mushroom jus, mixed with the marinade, starts to collect in the caps. Care should be taken when removing the caps off the grill and onto a serving plate; if the mushrooms are small enough, they're a treat to pop a whole cap in one's mouth, allowing the jus to burst its flavour in one's mouth.

Lastly, with the leftover marinade sitting at the bottom of my mixing bowl, I poured that into a smaller, microwaveable bowl and heated the marinade, allowing people to ladle some of it as a sauce over the vegetables if they wished.

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