Ode to the Great American Barbecue
Summer is here, and it's time to get out of the house, start up your grill, and start cookin'.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Photos by Peter H. Chang
The food is served at the McCullahs' backyard barbecue.
Dave’s Gourmet Jalapeño BBQ Sauce
Premium barbecue sauce is the base for this semi-homemade grilling staple.
Grilled Vegetable Medley
Toss these veggies on the grill using a grill pan or basket. Add some extra flavor with fresh herbs or dry rub, substituted for salt and pepper.
No matter what your religion, political persuasion, ethnic makeup, or sexual orientation, there is one American ritual that everyone seems to love: the summer outdoor barbecue.
Purists argue heatedly about whether the term refers to beef or pork or even chicken or fish that is smoked, cooked in a pit, or indirectly cooked on a grill. Should it be prepared with a spicy rub, slathered in sauce, or both? There is even debate about how it is spelled. Is it really "barbecue," or is it "barbeque," or one of the various abbreviations: "BBQ," "Bar-B-Q" or "Bar-B-Que"? For some, a simple "Q" will do. And then there are regional variations: Texas barbecue, Kansas City, Memphis, and North Carolina barbecue, and many others—all claiming to be the real deal.
The one thing no one disagrees about is a barbecue isn't just about food; it is an event, an outdoor gathering of friends or family to eat great food, to talk, drink, and tell stories. I would argue barbecue is all-inclusive because it doesn't even have to be centered around meat. For many, grilled veggies will do just as well. You don't have to be a carnivore—you can even be a vegan.
I was recently invited to a first-of-the-summer barbecue at the California home of Dennis and Connie McCullah, who have mastered the art of outdoor cooking and entertaining. They graciously agreed to let me bring along a photographer and to collect recipes to share with our readers.
The McCullahs, who own a construction company specializing in green technologies, have built a uniquely wonderful house that flows naturally between indoors and outdoors. It is situated in the back end of a sprawling, eclectic garden that is filled with dozens of rose bushes commingling with towering cacti, honey bushes, coral bells, poppies, all sorts of herbs, peppers, melons, succulents, lemon trees, and many other plants, water fountains, and stone sculptures ranging from Buddhas to frogs and turtles. You simply can't get to their front door without experiencing the garden.
The main feature, though, is a huge, glass-enclosed atrium with sliding doors and windows. It provides an outdoor experience no matter what the weather or time of year. In other words, it's a great place for a party. This particularly beautiful day, about 30 people are gathered in small groups in the kitchen, garden, back patio area that serves as a bar, and atrium while Dennis and Connie, with help from some of us, prepare the food. At other events, they have entertained as many as 200 people, so this was no big deal.