…there are happy members and guests across the country. Here are some innovative techniques that club and resort chefs are using to make their outdoor cooking a hot commodity.
Members at Red Run Golf Club in Royal Oak, Mich., are more than happy to queue up at the action station when Executive Chef Edward Evans breaks out “Big Red.” That’s the nickname for the 60-inch, oil-drum-turned-custom-built-charcoal-burning grill that Evans tows around the grounds on a trailer hitched to a golf cart.
SUMMING IT UP
“It’s big enough to roast a whole 200-pound pig or smoke a large brisket, but it’s still very mobile,” Evans says. “On the weekend, we do a lot of neat things on it at the halfway shack on our golf course—everything from hamburgers, brats and hot dogs to lamb burgers [see recipe, pg. 34], gyros, chicken shawarma, even pastrami.” The pastrami is seasoned for three or four days in the kitchen, then slow-smoked for eight to ten hours outside. Brisket is seasoned and left to sit for a day, before it is smoked outdoors over indirect heat at 210º F for 10 to 12 hours.
Because of the grill’s unique design, Evans can adjust the heat from direct, high and hot for grilling, to indirect, low and slow for smoking. Every week, he notes, members are excited to see what Evans will be cooking in Big Red.
“It’s so popular that it almost has a personality of its own,” he says.
Red Run’s chefs also enjoy the opportunity that Big Red provides to get outside and interact with members, Evans adds. And in addition to bringing a unique facet to the club’s foodservice offerings, the grill also relieves some pressure from its other dining venues.
On the golf course, Evans emphasizes, the food must be grab-and-go, to avoid slowing down play. For “sip and swing” events, which feature a different food or drink at each hole, Evans has done grilled mahi mahi and pork taco stations.
For luau-themed events, he will take Big Red to the pool area and smoke a pig all day.
“The aromas from the cooking meat will remind the members that something good is coming tonight,” he says.
Evans also uses Big Red to prepare wild-game dinners, even in January. Game that he has cooked has included Russian boar, buffalo burgers and elk. At some of these dinners, he has served over 500 people.
His go-to seasoning for ribs, which have won local awards three years in a row, is a sweet, Memphis-style combination of sugar and spices. The rub is so flavorful that sauce is optional. But when he does use a sauce, he prefers a vinegar-based, Carolina-style version.
“First you get the lip smack of the vinegar-based sauce, then the sweetness of the rub,” Evans says.
He cooks the ribs over applewood and hickory, because the former gives a distinctive sweetness, while the latter adds a smokiness. Members often request that Evans prepare ribs to-go, for their own tailgate events and other parties.
Last July 4th, he had three different grills cooking ribs, chicken and hot dogs for over 2,000 guests at Red Run. To feed them, he went through over 500 ribs, 1,000 pieces of chicken and 700 hot dogs.
Bringing Barbecue to Banquets
Because South Carolina generally has nice weather year-round, just about any time is barbecue time at Seabrook Island (S.C.) Club. Executive Chef Randy Macdonald takes advantage of the opportunity to cook outdoors, barbecuing everything from chicken, burgers, hot dogs and brats to whole pigs, oysters, chicken gyros and souvlaki in pita.
Teaching Grill Skills
For members who want to experience the thrill of the grill first-hand, Executive Chef Michael Lannon offers classes at Naperville (Ill.) Country Club. Last summer’s class included instruction on easy-to-make, yet elegant dishes, such as grilled beef tenderloin with grilled bread and a grilled corn relish; grilled crab and avocado gazpacho; and grilled shrimp ceviche.
This year’s sessions will focus on grilling seafood and farm-fresh vegetables, Lannon reports. The attendance for each class, which sold out quickly last year, is limited to 25. Lannon also makes up recipe books to give to the participants.
At Red Run Golf Club in Royal Oak, Mich., Executive Chef Edward Evans has offered a tailgate grilling class for members. He showed the 40 attendees (his event was also a sellout) the basics of cooking outdoors, including the benefits of direct and indirect heat and how different marinade ingredients affect meats. During the class, he also demonstrated how to cook pork tenderloin—a meat that he believes “intimidates a lot of people, so they almost always overcook it.”
Many times, Macdonald will also upsell off the banquet menu, to steaks grilled on the ocean-view patio with a baked potato bar. For weddings, he will do a slider station at which he offers two to three variations—the pork or crab-cake sliders are cooked in the kitchen, while the hamburgers are cooked on the grill outside. He will also do brochettes in variations, such as pineapple chicken thigh and swordfish on the barbecue grill.
On his to-do list is developing outdoor grilled seafood nights and oyster roasts to sell as events.
“We want to push banquets into a new way of thinking,” he says.
Inside, Seabrook’s oceanfront dining room can do 600 to 700 covers per night. On weekends in the summer, Macdonald sets up a limited service outdoor grill called “Cap’n Sam’s” that offers burgers, chicken, hot dogs, a changing grill special, sides and drinks, to take some of the pressure off the dining room. A similar “Cap’n Sam’s” option is also available for banquets.
Macdonald recently upgraded from smaller grills that could be loaded onto a truck to large, tow-behind gas grills, which he describes as “massive beasts,” with much more firepower. This makes it easier for him to barbecue just about anywhere at the club, including the equestrian and tennis centers, as well as off-premise for charity events. Next, he would also like to get a tow-behind smoker.
Salmon for banquets is smoked on-site, as are some innovative sides such as smoked potato custard (served with the surf-and-turf selection for dinner on New Year’s Eve) and a smoked sweet potato puree. Other items that Macdonald smokes include maple syrup, to make a brine for sweetbreads or pork chops, or to add to a balsamic vinaigrette for a winter pear salad; dark and white chocolates, for moles and wine-dinner desserts; and seasonal citrus, such as orange, blood orange, lemon and grapefruit for buerre blancs, savory anglaise, vinagrettes and custards.
For smoking, Macdonald uses readily available woods such as hickory and mesquite, and pecan when he can get it (“It adds a great flavor,” he says). The housemade rubs that he keeps on-hand include Cajun-style, coffee (for steaks), and a togarashi with nori and sesame seeds for mild fish, scallops and chicken. To make his house barbecue rub, he adds twists such as powdered jalapeno, cloves, cinnamon and paprika.
“Those flavors are not necessarily identifiable, but they lend depth and complexity to the rub,” he says.
A Sunday Summer Tradition
At Naperville (Ill.) Country Club, Executive Chef Michael Lannon now grills every Sunday in the summer, offering 12 menu items and a buffet of sides. “The golfers love it, because they can stay outside and still enjoy a great meal,” he says.
In addition to pork ribs, beef briskets and cooked-to-order steaks, a favorite selection is three-day-brined smoked pork shank, cooked on the grill and served with cilantro-lime pesto and pomegranate barbecue sauce with pickled goat-horn peppers. Grilled seafood is also popular, especially the grilled lobster and salmon.
Last summer, Lannon introduced grilled desserts, including peach and poundcake (both grilled) with a peach liqueur sauce (“It sold like crazy,” he says). A take on bananas Foster, with a banana tossed in brown sugar and butter, then quickly grilled, and a caramel nut bread pudding that was warmed on the grill, then topped with a rich caramel bourbon walnut sauce, got equally enthusiastic responses.
For an annual cookout event held the week before July 4th, Lannon has as many as five grills going at one time. He is also planning an outdoor “Pig and Pinot Dinner” for this June, with stations featuring tapas portions of dishes made with the various parts of the pig. One station, for example, will do pork bellies, and another will feature upscale carnitas.
Lannon uses different woods to achieve different flavor profiles. Georgia peachwood, which he says burns “nice and hot,” lends a fruity, smoky flavor to foods. He’s used it to cook everything from seafood to grilled vegetables; scallops pick up the flavors the best, he says. While a little pricey, walnut wood adds “a nutty, almost Asian flavor” to quail and duck, he adds.
Lannon also likes to play with flavors in his barbecue sauces. For one pork dish, he combined mango, cilantro and chili, and for a salmon dish he used blueberry and vanilla.