To turn a meal into a party and transform anything from meat and vegetables to sauces and desserts into signature dishes, just break out the barbeque. Here’s how some club and resort chefs are using their grills and smokers to achieve unique dimensions of flavor.
There’s a lot of excitement among the members of the Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls, S.D., whenever “Ethel” shows up. Even something as simple as a burger becomes festive food when prepared on the 1,000-lb. stainless-steel grill, nicknamed by Executive Chef Matt Muntefering, out on the golf course or on the patio of the Player’s Club Grill.
“Our members like to be at the center of the action and watch the smoke barreling out of the grill as we cook,” Muntefering says.
|SUMMING IT UP
• Barbeque makes any meal a party.
• Even delicate foods can be smoked.
• Smoked fruits and vegetables make easy sauces.
• Use portable grills, smokers and accessories like vapor guns to enliven buffet stations or provide an “ooh, aah” factor tableside.
• Take a “less is more” approach; don’t let smoking overpower meats or ingredients.
The eight-foot-long, five-foot-wide grill can accommodate major cuts of meat and even has a rotisserie spit attachment that Muntefering has used to cook whole hogs. Ethel also has wheels, and hitches to the back of a truck for easy transport to various venues on the property.
Muntefering also uses two wood pellet-burning smoker units to develop distinctive flavors in meats and other foods, ranging from cheeses and jalapeno and bacon-wrapped date appetizers to a deconstructed coq au vin.
“Over the past two or three years, we’ve been seeing younger members join the club, and they particularly like it when we smoke some unusual foods,” he says. “This gives me a chance to incorporate more smoked items onto the dining room menu.”
For the coq au vin (which he makes with either chicken or duck), Muntefering brines the meat to keep it moist, then smokes it. To finish it, he puts it on the grill. For the deconstructed presentation, he places the chicken on a plate with a port demi glace, and arranges the carrots and pearl onions around it.
Smoked items usually appear as a monthly feature on Minnehaha’s dining-room menu, Muntefering reports. “Like the coq au vin, I like to take classic dishes and put my own twist on them using the smoker,” he says.
Another example is the corned beef he recently smoked to make reuben sandwiches. With the trimmings, he made a smoked reuben chowder. He has even smoked the tomato sauce for pizza, and made smoked-tomato salsa.
For the fall/winter menu, Muntefering plans to add a juniper berry-brined smoked pork loin rack, which will be served with roasted sweet corn and mascarpone polenta, grilled pattypan squash and Brussels sprouts and apple bacon jam.
A growing number of golf outings and other private parties and banquets, Muntefering notes, are also requesting smoked briskets, ribs, pork racks, butts and even house-smoked salmon for their antipasto displays.
“To do everything I want to do, I will need a bigger smoker,” he says. “Hopefully I’ll be able to put one in the budget sometime soon.”
If the budget allows, he would also like to get a “smoking gun,” to give members a little tableside show with their meals. The gun creates a vapor on the plate that is captured under a lid. When the lid is lifted at the table, the vapor escapes, adding drama to the presentation. “The vapor gives the dish an ‘ooh, ahh’ factor, and opens up the appetite,” he says.
As much fun as Muntefering has with smoking, he is still careful to use a light hand when doing it.
“Sometimes, less is more,” he explains. “You don’t want the smoke to overpower the meat or other ingredients.”
Smoked items are on the menu at Semiahmoo Resort in Blaine, Wash., from morning to night—from smoked salmon for breakfast to duck breast, foie gras, rack of lamb or halibut with a Parmesan and fresh herb crust, wrapped in caul fat, for dinner.
Culinary Director Eric Truglas made his own smoker from a hot box used for banquets. He also developed the resort’s signature spice blend, which is used for both barbequing and smoking. (The secret of the spice mix was asked for by so many guests that the resort now sells it by the packet.)
For a brisket or pork shoulder, for example, Truglas rubs the meat with the blend, then lets it rest for several hours to allow the spices to permeate. He then smokes the meat for between six and eight hours.
More delicate ingredients get a lighter smoking. Being located near the water, seafood is plentiful and very popular with guests at Semiahmoo. Truglas often includes smoked local oysters, scallops, mussels and clams on his menu. He also smokes vegetables, including all different varieties of mushrooms.
Truglas likes to add excitement to the resort’s Friday night barbeque buffets by bringing the smoke box and barbeque grill out as stations, so guests can watch their food being prepared. “This way, they can see that we make everything in-house,” he says. “They also like to see what goes on behind the scenes.”
He has created some special dishes for these nights, including a smoked jalapeno and blueberry cornbread. On another night, he served a smoked crème brulee for dessert.
People in east Tennessee love their barbeque, so it’s no surprise that the Blackthorn Club, in Jonesborough, Tenn., is booked for private barbeque buffet parties at least once a week, reports Executive Chef James Allen. The catering department’s Rocky Top Barbeque Buffet can include apple cider-brined smoked tenderloin, smoked chicken with white barbeque sauce, and a grilled baby vegetable medley. Even desserts might have smoked sauces, such as a smoked peach coulis on pound cake.
Allen draws inspiration for his barbeque seasoning from all over the world. He’ll achieve a mole profile with chocolate and chipotle, or an Asian flavor with Chinese five-spice. Even everyday condiments get special treatment. For example, Allen makes a grilled orange ketchup that elevates burgers.
Four times a year, the club holds a barbeque rib night for members on the veranda. For that, Allen uses a five-foot portable grill.
“The veranda is always packed on barbeque rib night,” Allen says. “It gives the members a nice show, with the pre-smoked ribs being flashed on our grill and finished with a variety of sauces.”
The grill also allows Allen to cook at other venues throughout the property. That means hand-cut rib eye steaks on the golf course, grilled molasses-basted salmon at the tennis courts, and burgers at the pool.
For smoking, Allen uses a six-inch hotel pan lined with foil and wood chips, topped with a perforated pan. Hickory is his go-to wood for general purposes, but he also likes the softer smoke of pecan, olive and applewood.
“This is a great smoker that you can use right on your burners,” he says. “I’ll smoke just about anything.”
For example, he notes, tomatoes, peaches or carrots make nice sauces when smoked. On weekends, the dining room menu changes constantly, so Allen uses this opportunity to “roll out selected smoked items on a whim.” One consistent favorite is the house-smoked salmon.
“We roll out the salmon every Easter for our buffet, and it is annihilated by the end of dinner,” he reports.
Recently, for a charitable event, Allen smoked a red curry bacon (see recipe at left) which he served as a component of an upscale BLT with goat cheese aioli, heirloom tomatoes and baby arugula on locally made sourdough bread.
“Everyone went crazy for it,” he says. “It’s a labor-intensive recipe, but it was so well-received that I plan to run it as a special for a limited time at the club.”