The tantalizing aroma of meat on a sizzling hot grill may be among the best things about summertime. “Nothing brings out flavor like grilling: the sanguine taste of beef, the briny succulence of seafood, the natural sweetness of vegetables. The smoke and charring associated with grilling add a depth of flavor unattainable by any other cooking method,” says grilling expert and cookbook author Steven Raichlen.
For many of us, a few hotdogs and hamburgers - maybe a chicken breast or two - are as adventurous as we get with our backyard fire. But Raichlen, credited as “the man who reinvented barbecue,” is always in search of new, interesting and exotic grilling techniques. He recently completed a global barbecue pilgrimage to 60 countries and the result is Planet BBQ, his latest book that includes 300 recipes that showcase tasty grilling techniques from around the globe. Following are a sample of some of Raichlen’s recipes, tips and techniques to bring the world to your backyard grill.
Cumin-Grilled Chicken Breasts with Fiery Bolivian Salsa (from Planet Barbecue!) Llajua (pronounced yak-wa) is Bolivia’s ubiquitous tomato and chile grilling sauce, and if spicy if the order of the day, then llajua is the answer. Made with a blend of super hot chiles—locoto or rocoto chiles, Scotch bonnets or jalapeño peppers—mixed with ripe tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro, it’s the perfect condiment for cumin-rubbed grilled chicken breasts. Don’t assume it’s limited to topping chicken, though; llajua is delicious over grilled beef, pork, and lamb, and makes a great topping for grilled potatoes.
Lamb Burgers with Yogurt Cucumber Sauce (from Indoor! Grilling) Grilled ground meat patties are a constant on the world’s barbecue trail. The type of meat varies from region to region. Greek grill masters use ground lamb instead of beef, as do those in the Balkans, Asia Minor, the Middle East, and central Asia. These lamb burgers buzz with Greek flavors—garlic, oregano, and mint. A refreshing tzatziki—yogurt cucumber dip—is the sauce. To complete the Greek theme, the burgers are served on pita bread instead of buns.
Méchoui of Lamb or Goat with Berber Spices (from Planet Barbecue!) The big kahuna, the pièce de résistance of Moroccan grilling, is barbecued lamb. This two-step approach includes studding the lamb with onion, garlic, and ginger then basting it with a Moroccan sauce of garlic, cumin, and cilantro vinaigrette called charmoula.
Korean Sesame Grilled Beef with Asian Pear Dipping Sauce (from The Barbecue Bible) Korean barbecue comes in two main varieties: kalbi kui, Korean Grilled Short Ribs, and bool kogi, thin shavings of beef steeped in a sweet-salty sesame marinade and grilled crisply over charcoal. The sugar and sesame oil caramelize during the cooking, giving the meat a candied sweetness. The dish takes its name from the Korean words for “fire” and “meat.” The meat is cooked on a grill that looks like a perforated inverted wok.
Chinatown Ribs (from Raichlen on Ribs, Ribs, Outrageous Ribs) These ribs were inspired by a popular appetizer common in Chinese restaurants. Dark, shiny, and supernaturally crimson, with a candy-sweet crust and a meaty but tender inside, the ribs play the anisey sweetness of five-spice powder and hoisin sauce against the earthy taste of roast pork. Five-spice powder is a blend of star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, and pepper; hoisin sauce is a thick purplish brown condiment (there’s something plummy about its sweet flavor). Put them together and you get some of the tastiest ribs on the planet.
Russian Onion and Pork Kebab (from Planet Barbecue!) Shashlik is to Russia (and the former Soviet Republics) what shish kebab is to Turkey. They even mean the same etymologically: “sword meat”—in other words, meat grilled on a sword-like metal spit. The meat in question here is pork, marinated in grated onion and charred over charcoal. If you ever visit a dacha (weekend villa) in the countryside around Moscow on a weekend, you’ll smell shashlik before you actually see or taste it, for everyone seems to be grilling some in the backyard. Here’s how shashlik is prepared by Raichlen’s friend Nikolai Baratov, editor of BBQ, Russia’s first barbecue magazine.