Review – Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: An American Roadhouse

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: An American Roadhouse by John Stage & Nancy Radke

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is a small chain of NY rib joints. Their new cookbook does an excellent job of capturing not just the food, but also the look and feel of the classic blues and barbecue roadhouses.

This is not strictly a barbecue cookbook. It’s more a celebration of all things honky-tonk. The focus is recipes, but it is also full of cooking tips, bold photos, and bathroom graffiti.

There are a lot of recipes for pit-smoked barbecue classics like ribs and brisket that have been adapted to work on your backyard grill. There are many non-traditional recipes like Drunken Spicy Shameless Shrimp and Vaca Frita, as well as a good collection of tasty sides and desserts. I particularly enjoyed their techniques and tips sections that do nice job of walking you through the hows and whys of good barbecue.

So far I’ve made my versions of their Grilled Pork Chops in Brandied BBQ Peach Sauce and Asparagus, Red Pepper Potato Salad. Both were excellent. I’m looking forward to cooking up quite a few dishes from this book this summer.

Herbalicious Chicken

This is yet another grilled chicken recipe that really benefits from the marinade. In this case it’s a simple, tangy Argentinean chimichurri that combines herbs, lemon, and garlic to deeply flavor the chicken and keep it moist.

Ingredients
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 cup fresh Italian parsley
Juice of 1 large lemon (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
1 teaspoon kosher sea salt
6-8 chicken thighs

Instructions

Put the salt and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the remaining ingredients, except the chicken, and give them a whirl until they are well-combined.

Put the chicken in a freezer bag and coat with the sauce. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, overnight is best.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over medium (350°F) heat. I like using a raised grid on the Big Green Egg to help even out the cooking temperatures. Put the chicken on the grill and close the lid. Cook for about 10 minutes, then flip. Flip again every 10 minutes until the thighs hit 180°F internal – about 40 minutes.

Paella

Paella is Spain’s classic dish of saffron-infused rice combined with various meats and seafood. I love making this simple version on our Big Green Egg. It’s one of my favorite dishes to make for guests as an early dinner on Sunday afternoons.

It looks a little complicated, but it’s really only about a half hour or so of prep work, and another 45 minutes or so on the grill.

Ingredients

3 cups chicken broth
1/2 pound small raw shrimp, shelled
1/2 pound cleaned calamari, cut in rings
1/2 pound bay scallops
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2 inch chunks and lightly salted
1/4 lb of Spanish cooking chorizo, cut in 1/4 inch slices
1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 2 inch strips
1 1/2 cups Bomba or Calasparra rice
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons of sweet smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon of saffron
Olive oil
Lemon wedges, to garnish

Heat the broth with the saffron and the paprika. Keep warm and nearby.

Get your grill up to medium-high (about 400°F). You want to provide a wide, even heat that can be maintained with the lid open. You don’t want any hot spots. You can do this on most grills by cooking indirectly, or by using a diffuser like a pizza stone under the pan.

Use a shallow metal pan with about a 13-14 inch bottom. I really like this enameled paellera, but you could also use a chef’s pan. Add enough olive oil to cover to the bottom well. Heat the oil for a few minutes and then add the chicken pieces and fry until brown. Remove the chicken to a plate.

Add the chopped onion and garlic. Saute until the onion is soft. Add the tomatoes and cook until they break down and the mixture thickens and darkens. Add more oil if needed. This is the sofrito – it adds a lot of depth to the dish and provides a base for the rest of the dish.

Add the rice and chorizo and saute 1-2 minutes.

Stir in the chicken broth and try to spread the rice out as evenly as possible. Once you have a relatively uniform layer, leave it alone. The rice needs to sit undisturbed on the bottom of the pan to developed the tasty brown crust called the soccarat.

Arrange the browned chicken, scallops, shrimp, calamari, pepper, and peas on top of the rice. Try to make it even and pretty. Close the lid and lower your grill temperature to 350°F degrees. Cook undisturbed until all the liquid is absorbed – about 30 minutes.

Once the liquid is gone, bump the heat up to 400°F and start listening closely. The paella will start to crackle, and you might smell a toasted odor that tells you the rice is browning and forming the soccarat. Test by running a spatula under the rice to feel for a slightly bumpy bottom. Once you feel this, remove the paella from the heat.

Let the paella rest 5  minutes before serving.

Planked Salmon

One of the sure signs of spring is when Copper River salmon starts showing up in our local markets. Only available mid-May through mid-June, this is some of the richest, tastiest salmon out there.

I almost always take a pretty simple approach and just grill the salmon on a cedar or alder plank. Smoke from the plank deepens the rich, nutty flavor of the fish while protecting it from the flames so you can use higher temperatures to seal in the juices.

Use a food-grade plank that’s been soaked in water for at least an hour. Set your grill up for direct cooking at medium-high heat (about 450°F).

Oil the skin side of the salmon and season both sides with a little sea salt and maybe a grind or two of black pepper.

Put the plank on the grill by itself for about 5 minutes, or until you see the first wisps of smoke coming from the board. Flip the plank over and put the salmon on skin side down on the hot side of the plank.

Close the lid on the grill and cook for 10-15 minutes. I like salmon when it’s a juicy medium rare, so take the fillet off when it starts to flake, but is still a little translucent red inside – about 130°F internal. Remember that the fish will continue to cook a little once it’s off the heat, so you want it to be slightly underdone when you take it off.

I served it hot off the grill with a squeeze of lemon and a side of fresh peas and new potatoes.