Food is just a lot more than just eating. It’s about having fun, it’s about laughing, it’s about getting close to each other, and what better way to do it than in a backyard with a grill?
Ed and I met a few years ago. I went to one of the special events at his restaurant. Me and my wife love a good party, so as it turned out, everybody else was pretty much leaving and he and I were sitting there having a drink, and he found out some things that I was doing. He said he wanted to do a community event, so we talked and put together an event, and he prepared a meal for all of the young people that were in the youth detention. He fixed all the food at 610. Interesting, because of some the rules that they have. He had to fix food that was kinda easy to cut, and what have you. But one thing I love about Ed, he does not believe in dumbing down the food. It wasn’t like, oh, these are kids, let’s do, you know, spaghetti and meatballs. He did the same kinda food that he would do in his restaurant. As a result, he and I become pretty close. Over the last few years, I’ve been to his house. He’s been to my house, and when he call me, I’m like, “Man, great.” You know, “Whatever you need,” ’cause if I call him, it’s always whatever I need. Whew! Look like we gettin’ ready to have an interesting party! But, I mean, at this point, we all in, so, we just gonna have some fun, regardless. Okay! Getting ready to brine, and then ended up cutting some tomahawk chops. I mean, you know, brining adds, literally adds moisture and flavor. So typically if I’m brining, it’ll be, you know, something smaller. Or you can do a whole chicken, turkey breast, things like that. A wide variety of seasonings here. I have, I’m gonna start with the brown sugar, and you don’t have to be too precise. Some scallions. You could cut ’em, you could tear ’em. Just get ’em in there, and a wide variety of other seasonings. You don’t have to be too particular. Just kinda use what you like. Salt. I prefer a sea salt. It doesn’t have to be overly expensive, but also, this is a big piece of pork, so it can take quite a bit of seasoning. Red pepper flakes, as much or as little as you like. Then we have other, coriander and we’ll get to some mustard seeds. Again, the fun thing about a brine is you can kinda do it how you want. There’s fennel, and the other thing is, you can also do it to match whatever the rest of your menu is going to be. So we’re getting this done kinda early. You can also do these things a day or two in advance. Three days in advance. Again, big piece of meat like this can go for a couple of days if you had the space in your refrigerator. Shallots. I am a big fan, one, using your hands. I mean, if you’re cooking, you might as well enjoy it. That’s why you’re doing it at home, for your friends and your family. You want to make it personal. My household loves garlic, and I’m actually going to move that around a little bit. This is mustard seed here. There we go. Not that difficult. Apple cider vinegar. This should bring a nice acidity to it. And also help open up the spices and the seasonings. So depending on how much time you have, cover that with foil. Put it in your refrigerator. Let it sit for a couple days. If you have a couple days, you might even want to turn it over to make sure it gets evenly distributed with the liquid at the bottom, as well as raise your level of your brine so you can get a little bit more, a little bit better coverage. This is a big piece of meat. I think we about ready to go.
[Man] I’ll hook it anyway so it don’t move.
You say, you enjoying the break? Yeah.
[Man] That’s what I was, I was just gonna say. Did you want me to get you something to drink? Where’s your bottle opener at?
For me, like, a backyard grill is, you know, it’s about the food, but it’s also about communion. It’s about friends, family, coming together. I mean, these are the times that you invite your friends and have relationships and people come in, they bring their food. Someone brings a six-pack of beer, some bourbon, we get together and, you know, it’s a participation thing. Everyone gets together and does it together. Is Ben burning everything yet or–
Yeah! Just like we eat at your place.
You’re really gonna eat this thing that Ben’s cooking? You really trust Ben?
[Man] That’s why I’m standing out here watching.
Whew, nothing like friends. Let me tell you. You know what?
And we know what, though? I’m gonna fix y’all plates.
How you doin, man?
Man, I’m doing great. Doing great. Glad we got past this crazy weather.
Yeah, what are we doing here? Man, these look nice. Are these ready to go?
They’re pretty close. So, we got the sweet potatoes on here, and the fire’s a little extra hot.
‘Cause I threw some extra coals on there while we were waiting for the weather to pass.
Is that enough bacon? ‘Cause I’m gonna eat like that much.
Well, then it’ll be enough for everybody else. You know, the greedy people, so that’s the greedy people’s section.
Okay, that’s fine.
And then, the normal people will be here.
I’m honored that I’m allowed to grill here.
Yeah. Well, you know, I’m gonna see how you do.
I mean, I’m–
I am a professional chef, after all.
Yeah, well. I mean, that’s what you call yourself. You got a license or anything?
I actually do. I do! Make me some room here, ’cause we gotta throw all this–
[Ben] Yeah, I’m thinkin’ the potatoes gotta be–
All right. We got a lot of hungry people out here.
Can I start throwing these–
Yeah, all right.
Where do you, where is the hottest part? Back there?
Straight in the back. You see, that’s, yeah. That’s why I got the potatoes up front.
We making all these guys?
[Ben] Eh, we might as well. We’re here.
All right. Listen, listen. This is a new thing I just made. Try that. It’s my barbecue sauce. Try that. Can you guess what’s in it?
I definitely tasted the mustard, but not, it wasn’t overpowering mustard. I could just, I could just tell it was mustard.
Are you serious?
I use, instead of ketchup, I use roasted bananas.
When you said bananas, I could tell they weren’t raw.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Because it didn’t have that, that, that kind of cloying sweetness.
So were they regular bananas, overripe?
Regular bananas. Put ’em in the oven until they turn black, and then they, like, get real soft inside.
And use that, and then, you know, spices and vinegar and everything, and then puree them together.
You’re the first one to try it.
Well, I’m gonna give you a passing grade.
Okay. That’s good enough for me. So what, now you’re gonna have the bacon drip on the pork?
That’s good stuff.
[Ben] Yeah, we’ll just let it go drip about it. That’s why I always put ’em on that top rack.
That’s good stuff.
And you see, some of this bacon is actually getting done.
It’s gonna flame up.
There you go.
Let’s get some big pork chops on there.
[Ben] That’s better.
What’s your secret to grilling? What’s your one, couple of tricks you do?
Um, couple of tricks, well, one, I don’t believe in gas grills of any sort.
Might as well cook in the oven.
I hear ya.
So I always do a combination of charcoal and wood. You know, standard briquettes to kinda get it started, then throw some lump on there.
Every time I come here, you’re like, you’re manning the grill and no one else, and you really feel like, like, this is your element.
[Ben] Yeah, it is.
This is where you wanna be.
Everyone is partying, drinking, and you’re here on the grill.
Well I’m, I like to entertain and host, and I love to cook.
It’s a relaxing thing for me. So I want everybody else to just relax and have a good time.
And it’s funny, right, ’cause for a lot of people, this isn’t relaxing.
But for you, this is.
It’s absolutely relaxing. My favorite thing to do in the world. Okay. Now I’m leaving your for a minute. Don’t–
I got ya. I got ya! I got this, don’t you worry! I’m gonna eat all his bacon while he’s gone. That’s what I’m gonna do.
Yeah. Ooh, that’s good. That’s really good! Is there anything else? That’s it, right? Just the asparagus? What is this, is this oil?
No, I did that. So that’s a–
Oh, let me do it. Can I use this on the asparagus?
Yeah, that’s what I, actually, that’s what it was for. It’s olive oil and it has some red pepper in it. What you ready to do?
I’m gonna just . Yeah, so.
So I’m gonna pull it. Oh, you, that’s for the quail?
I’m just gonna dab it a little bit. We make a good team.
Yeah, we do. But you can’t afford me. That looks good. That asparagus is gonna take no time, anyway.
You wanna put it on that end right now?
Yeah, may as well.
[Ben] Go ahead. So you just threw the little bit of olive oil and the–
Smoked sea salt on there?
All right, and then we gonna just throw these on there in a dry cast iron skillet, and we gonna end up throwing these right on top of the–
And don’t, don’t worry. We’ll handle it. You just go ahead and eat. Mister Professional Chef.
Tomahawk pork chops.
Asparagus. Sausages, bacon, and quail.
Who are your little friends up here?
My quail. This is my dish.
[Ben] Ah, that’s good. Whew! Man, this, it is kinda pretty.
It’s beautiful. Let’s just make like a–
[Ben] A crosshatch?
Yeah, like a, what do they call it? A Jenga. We’re gonna make a pork chop Jenga. You grab from the middle.
[Man] Dig in!
If you grab it and the tower falls down, you don’t get to eat.
[Man] It falls down, you don’t get it.
[Ben] You got it? Good.
At the end of the day, it’s a plate of food. That plate of food, as beautiful and as delicious as it is, it’s gone in a few minutes. Oh! Ooh! Oh, it’s so good to see you!
[Arden] I wanna get a muffin. Can you let me go?
Yes. Oh, I thought you were trying to, I thought she was trying to give me a hug. She was trying to get a muffin. You know, do you remember Ben?
[Ben] Hi! Wait, hold on, hold on.
[Ben] She wants a muffin made by who? All right.
I think we’re good.
[Ben] Yeah, so–
So what do you do, Ben? You ring a bell? What’s your call to action here?
There ya go.
That’s my call to action. So, hey folks. I mean, so the regulars, y’all know how we do. The invited guests, we have one rule at our house. If you actually get to our house, then you’re allowed anything in our house. That just makes you family. You help yourself, have a good time. This is kinda what we do. So we have sweet potatoes, the asparagus with pine nuts and a little bit of blue cheese compound butter, quail, tomahawk chops, beautiful bacon, beef sausages, corn muffins. So everybody enjoy.
The only thing permanent about food is our memories, our experiences, the people, the relationships we make because of food. Some of my best friends have happened because we, of a meal shared, because I met them at a restaurant. I proposed to my wife over a bucket of fried chicken. You know, these things are real and true. Food, it brings us these things.