Amid the lingering piles of snow, I sat out by the pit, like men do, enjoying the last sunbeams of the day. Nothing was on the grill tonight, as I didn’t have time really. We had to be somewhere in 45 minutes, and I had thus released the option of grilling tonight; something just not in the roll of the BBQ dice. But as the black-capped chickadee lit upon my bird feeder, I noted out of the corner of my eye, the little Weber standing stoically in place, childishly straddling its mountainous pan of ash. It was giving me the look again, the one it always gives me, every time I step out onto the patio. Like puppy dogs or cute babies, the grill knows how to work me, how to manipulate me, and eventually, how to get its way. I look at the clock. I look at the grill. Back to the clock. The grill. If the Weber had a bottom lip, it was jutted out pretty nice. Patron to pathetic indeed, and just a little bit inconsiderate.
“Fine then”, I muttered to the grill, as I grabbed the charcoal chimney in one easy motion, filling it three-quarters with coal, and plunking a couple chunks of apple wood on top. I crammed some papers up its bottom end, and put flame to it with a mechanical ease born of sheer muscle memory. Before I knew it, smoke was bellowing into the air, as I stood abreast of the little pit, mentally improvising a menu.
“I’ll give you what you want”, I said, “But it won’t be pretty”. The little Weber seemed delighted if but just for a moment, that it was going to get used. And a man’s pit should get used, just as often as it can be, for not only to season it, but to foster a degree of sanity upon one’s own meat lust, and the ever-abiding need to occasionally burn things. It is good for us.
Quick and dirty like, with no motion for poetry, I slapped together some winglets, gently seasoned in Lawry’s, and set them to sear in an orange blaze of apple wood. I had also been in the mood all day for a simple grilled cheese sandwich, so I tossed on one of them too, delicately toasting it over the bed of coals. Now some might hazard it plum foolery to cook his grilled cheese out on the grill, forsaking a nice kitchen range, but I contend that “on the grill” is the way it was always meant to be, and couldn’t be more fitting, nor more honorable to its namesake. The trick to really grilling your grilled cheese to watch it closely. Like a high maintenance relationship, keep checking in on it, and nurturing it as necessary. Yes, I suppose you could do it inside on the stove top like you’ve done all your life, and that is good too, but you would at once miss the tweety birds flirt amid the dogwoods, and the sun light slant through the fragrant spruce, and the wispy aroma of the grill, the fresh air, and the fellowship of the coals.
Grilled Cheese and Chicken. In a few short minutes, the call of the Weber had been pacified, and supper thus procured. Victory snatched from the jaws of haste. The little grill looked a trifle more at ease now, resting contentedly, smoldering quietly the last of its hot coals. Basking in the wake of deeds well done. Tomorrow, it will want to do it again. That’s the way man-pit relationships go. We just have to deal with it. True, good BBQ is all about taking our time, and that is always preferable than rushing head-long through it. But it is still better to have grilled and grilled fast, than not to have grilled at all. Because it is our stead-fast belief, or at least our sincere hope, that time spent grilling is not deducted from one’s life span. Which is handy, because it may take a life time even, to aptly tame your Weber.
Twilight in February. I strike a match, and put flame to the political section, which resided nicely crumpled in the bottom of the charcoal chimney. The initial rush of smoke was strong, as it curled up into the fading light. A satisfied contentment was in the air as I tarried there at the pit, hands in my smoking jacket, admiring how the moon hung in the eastern sky, and how its soft ,blue hue washed over my many snow piles, shoveled high, and seasoned in ashes blown. A pleasant evening to grill, by and far. But then when isn’t it, really. Lets head inside then, and see what’s for supper.
Deep in the recesses of the freezer, where men seldom tread, I found a bag of winglets which all but begged for attention. I was reminded of some popular sports bars in the area, where upon I would patron on occasion, who would specialize in these sort of wings. And they were pretty good wings as wings go, tho nothing remarkable, but a staple still you could count on in the heady thralls of meat lust. But I grow weary of those places, with their crowds of people and their sticky tables. And their overly loud ambiance, of which you can nary hear anybody you’re talking to anyways. I guess I’m getting older. I aspire higher than that. Thus, but to create their choice appetizer from the quiet and tranquil quarters of my pit, kissed gently by a moon beam, well, that was more my style tonight. As most nights are I guess.
After the winglets had thawed, and being the creature of efficiency that I am, I just left them in the bag for the seasoning process. I dusted them with great abandoned with some Louisiana Grill Sweet Heat, and shook the bag around like the shake and bake commercials of old. It felt good. Almost therapeutic A lovely technique for getting that rub everywhere it ought to go. And by golly, I shook it good. The rub was actually a bi-product of haste, go figure, as I mistakenly clicked on it, and the inter web minions thus sent it to my door step, for better or for worse. Turned out to be pretty tasty, however, and I think I might even order some more now. At any rate, the wings are ready, so let’s go put them on the grill. Let us put meat to flame!
Over direct heat to start, nice and hot, like sending your soldiers to boot camp, to sear them up, and make them a little crunchy on the skin. After boot camp, lets tuck these winglets aside over the all-important in-direct heat, a forgiving technique all aspiring grill masters seldom can go wrong with. Smoke wood optional, but if you have it, why not. I always seem to have scraps of hickory laying about, so that’s what I used. Also, in my freezer foray I happened upon some shrimp, or least-wise I think it was shrimp. Yeah, it was shrimp alright, of which I added to the cook at the last-minute, to broaden if you will, the meat diversity on my plate. Giving equal ingesting opportunity to the things of the sea, as well as what flirts in the farm yard.
Next step was to put the lid on and leave the thing alone for a while, to infuse some of that smokey flavor into the meat, that we all know and love. A wonderful process involving the procuring of yourself a lovely beverage from the ice box, and taking up residence in the nearest easy chair, whilst overseeing the grill puff away in fading light. Milky moonbeams on hickory smoke, ah, these are the simple pleasures patron to the cook. Why it is we do what we do, forsaking the stove top for the hobo lifestyle, under the shimmering stars, and over the open flame. Ambiance no crowded sports bar will ever match.
During the last 10 minutes or so, I basted the winglets in some Sweet Baby Rays, and hit them a little more with some direct heat, to caramelize the sugars a tad. Man! Then proceeded to plate up, and dine in the acute absence of the sports bar scene, whilst basking in the relative tranquility patron to the pit. Amen.