June 29, 2015

What we cooked last week:

Monday: Grilled Scallops, charred corn, green salad
Tuesday and Wednesday – travelling
Thursday: Seafood mixed grill
Saturday: 4th of July Stewart Family Cook-Out
App of smoked hot dogs
Barbecued Ribs, Grilled chicken, corn salad, the whole July 4th

On Tuesday I was in Philadelphia and took a client to dinner at a spectacular barbecue restaurant – Fette Sau (“Fat Pig” in German). This is the flagship of Joe Carroll – backyard, non-professional chef – and it cooks the stuff you can find in his cookbook – “Feed the Fire” – Pulled pork, St. Louis Ribs, Brisket, smoked, barbecued chicken, baked beans with burnt ends, etc. The food is awesome – the kind of barbecue on which you will not want to put any sauce. (Below is a complete description – the entire operation of this place was fascinating.)

On Thursday we tried Carroll’s “Seafood mixed grill,” another simple, I-must-have-this-again recipe from Feed the Fire. You need a grilling basket to cook this – lemon slices, shrimp, scallops and a sturdy white fish (haddock, e.g.), herbs, olive oil and lemon juice cooked over wood. Serve this with a crisp white wine and some crusty bread and you will go to bed happy and full.

And on Saturday we had our first 4th of July bash in, what, 30 years? We’ve been going to Mike and Slo Casey’s party on the 4th during that entire span. The ribs and grilled chicken and corn salad and deviled eggs and various apps were great, but the revelation of the evening was Linda Stewart’s desert – fruit macerated in limoncello with a dressing of greek yogurt, honey and lemon juice.   Delicious, healthy and just the thing to cut through the deep umami of sauced ribs and grilled chicken.

Finally – I warned you this was a long one – the other revelation on the fourth was the great American hot dog. When we were a young married couple we often had cookouts at the Duffy’s with an appetizer of grilled (usually charred) hot dogs, sliced into bite-size pieces which we dipped into Dijon mustard. Against She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed’s judgment, I decided to revive this just-folks hors’ d’oeuvre (this is where Reg Henry’s Ausification – ‘horse doover’ – fits perfectly). The hot-dog plate was clean within 10 minutes of our guests arriving. I should add that Beez beautiful decorations and flowers (and her cole slaw, deviled eggs and corn salad) had as much to do with the festivities as anything.

Here is the complete story on Fette Sau: The restaurant occupies a handsome, industrial space set back from the street with a courtyard at the entrance and a table-filled courtyard at the other end of the dining room. This is more like Texas or the Carolinas than the kind of joint you find in Pittsburgh – as you enter, you join a line-up to give your order to the young lady who slices and piles up whatever poundage of each item you want (along with various sides) on a pewter platter covered with butcher paper. You move on to another young lady who takes your money. You then find your place at one of the communal tables on which are rolls of paper towels and three sauces (sweet barbecue, hot barbecue, vinegar sauce) and, if you are like my guest and myself, you then head over to the bar to order a bourbon flight (Knob Creek, Elijah Craig and Belvedere) with a beer back.

And then, heaven. The brisket was the most delicious piece of slow-cooked beef* I’ve ever had (as opposed to seared and rare steak), the St. Louis ribs made the baby-backs I cook seem puny, and the pulled pork was better than mine – partly because of the Duroc provenance, but mostly because of the cooking. The entire crew of the establishment consisted of the two ladies afore-mention, another who hauled new pieces of meat and sides out to the slicer, two bartenders, a manager and a busboy. Other than the silver and glass ware there was little clean-up. So – minimal staff, standard ingredients bought in bulk, premium brews and whiskey (there is also a full bar and wine), no back-and-forth between waiters and customers over menus – a recipe for low cost, high volume and profit, I’m guessing. We need one of these in Pittsburgh – the communal tables are perfect for a ‘milennial’ area like East Liberty or Lawrenceville.

*The closest thing I can recall is the boiled beef they serve in Vienna. But there you have to sip the rich broth and then eat the beef to get the same flavor contained in a single slice of brisket served at Fette Sau.