Despite yesterday's clouds and cold, we went through with the premiere barbecue of the 2005 season. My young neighbors Aurora and Jose helped me get the fire started--we had two methods going side by side.
Method 1: standard Kingsford
Aurora doused the briquettes with inordinate amounts of lighter fluid, stuck in a few fluid-soaked pieces of heavy paper and kept looking for something to fan the flames with, while her brother scoured my yard in search of kindling. Dried tree-of-heaven seed pod cases seemed to work best.
Method 2: Whole Foods Yuppie
My track record with the standard Kingsford method is so marginal that my dad is either laughing in heaven at this or spinning in his grave, since he would Kingsford-grill us steak on a hibachi almost every Sunday of the year, including December and January. In order to uphold the grilling honor of the Kelleher name, some years ago I went higher-tech and lower-chemical. I bought a chimney starter. Here's what it looks like, more or less (this is not a product endorsement, just an example):
I also bought a bag or two of Whole Foods wood charcoal pieces. With those and the chimney starter, you don't need lighter fluid. I haven't tried Kingsford briquettes in the starter, but I probably should. The wood pieces burn faster than the briquettes do.
Results: Surprisingly, this was the first time ever that my chimney starter didn't light on the very first try. Aurora got the briquettes smoking and a little ashy on the corners before I could get the starter going. But on try two or three, the starter went up. Jose liked looking at the red coals through the air holes (from a good distance back, may I add.) Then we dumped them on and had a good, hot fire.
The party ended up working itself into two shifts--first were my beyond neighborhood friends plus two young women working at Su Casa, a nearby Catholic Worker house of hospitality for homeless Latino families. They are among the few shelters in the city that will take intact families. Su Casa and other Worker houses are a lot more than just shelters, though. If you want to know more about the Catholic Worker movement: http://www.catholicworker.org/ One of my North Side friends promised to get an old bike of his fixed up and get it down to them. Hope that works out. We were also treated to some mighty fine grilled meat--seemed too thick for carne asada mexicana, and the grillmeister who produced it was Chilean/American, but whatever he did, he worked some serious mojo! Andrew, el rey de res asada, tells me that in Chile they make chimney starters out of big old cans. So don't feel compelled to order from Amazon if you're handy.
The second shift was Aurora, Jose and the rest of their family--their big brother and parents. They brought cebollos--the Mexican onions with a smallish, perhaps inchwide, white bulb and a long green stem. Aurora showed me how to grill cebollos: you wash and trim them, make sure they are very wet, then put about five of them on a piece of foil, salt them and put a pat of butter at each end, then bundle them up on the foil in a packet and put them on the grill. It's kind of like grilling corn.
We also had burgers and Polishes. A Polish with the cebollos was really good!
Aurora's mom wanted to know what I did to the hamburger meat to season it before I put it on the grill. I did some of them different ways, and they don't know about Worcestershire sauce, so it was hard to explain. I also did a couple that had chili powder and Mexican oregano. Next time we'll have to prep the burgers together so she can see for herself.
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