Traditional recipes

Kenny Callaghan to Leave Blue Smoke

Kenny Callaghan to Leave Blue Smoke

The man who pioneered the barbecue movement in New York City is moving on

Executive chef Kenny Callaghan will leave Blue Smoke barbecue at the end of October.

Barbecue enthusiasts in the Big Apple sit down: Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) has announced that executive chef Kenny Callaghan of Blue Smoke and Jazz Standard will leave his position at the New York institution to "pursue an array of new culinary opportunities," meaning New York is losing an excellent barbecue master.

Callaghan, who helmed the barbecue revolution in New York City (USHG is calling him an "original pioneer of New York City's urban barbecue movement"), headed up the Blue Smoke kitchens for 12 years, serving 20 years total with USHG. Prior to opening Blue Smoke back in 2002, Callaghan served eight years in the Union Square Cafe kitchen.

Callaghan, who is also a partner of Blue Smoke Enterprises, will remain a partner and still be involved in the annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, which he co-founded. He leaves his cooking duties, however, at the end of October. We've reached out to USHG for comment.


Blue Smoke Rises Over Greenwich

s the city too hot? Was it 9/11? Or did those big city restaurateurs finally realize that suburbanites make up a large part of their dining public. Why not just serve us closer to home?

First there was Dan Barber, who opened Blue Hill Stone Barns after his Blue Hill in Manhattan.Then there was Rick Laakonen at Antipasti www.antipastiny.com, Joe Bastianich/Andy Nusser and Mario Batali at Tarry Lodge. Finally, there&rsquos the newest Big City branch up north&mdashBlue Smoke Chop House in Greenwich, coming early in 2009 to the former 1960&rsquos-era HoJos on East Putnam Avenue.

This Union Square Hospitality Group venture&mdashthat&rsquos Danny Meyer et al., the folks behind Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, Tabla, The Modern, Shake Shack, and Blue Smoke Barbecue, etc.&mdashwill be a partnership with the group behind the Delamar Hotel on Greenwich Harbor. The hotel aspect of the joint operation will be green and design-forward&mdashthe restaurant will be a broader take on Blue Smoke.

We had a long and informative chat with David Swinghamer, USGH&rsquos President of Growth Businesses (and Rye resident), who shared some of the details of the new Blue Smoke venue. Since we are all out of space for this week, we&rsquoll have to leave you with a teaser. Picture this: fabulous green architecture, outdoor firepits for dinner and cocktails, &ldquointeractive&rdquo cooking, and Executive Chef Kenny Callaghan. ‘Til next week&mdashwhen we&rsquoll give you all the juicy details.


Kenny Callaghan to Leave Blue Smoke - Recipes

The Chef
MICHAEL ROMANO AND KENNY CALLAGHAN of Blue Smoke

Servings
Serves 4.

Ingredients
2 to 3 whole racks of pork spareribs (about 3 to 31/2 pounds each), or 3 to 4 baby back ribs
6 to 7 tablespoons Blue Smoke Magic Dust (available at Blue Smoke)
1/2 cup Blue Smoke barbecue sauce (as above)
4 cups fruitwood or hickory chips
Notes: A rib rack for the grill is highly recommended for this recipe also, a grill rack with side flaps that fold up is helpful, so you can add coals during cooking.

Cooking Instructions
Trim the racks of ribs (or ask your butcher to), removing the 1 and 1/2-inch-wide skirt flap and any excess fat. Peel off the silverskin, using the flat of a knife blade. Rub 1 and 1/2 to 2 tablespoons Magic Dust on each side of the rack of ribs (for baby back ribs, rub in about 2 to 3 teaspoons on each side). Cover the ribs, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature before cooking. Soak wood chips in water for at least 1 hour.

If using a charcoal grill:
Light about 6 large handfuls of natural charcoal with a chimney or electric starter. When they're burning well, separate them into two piles at the sides of the grill, placing a foil pan between them to catch drippings. Open the bottom air vents. When the coals are gray with ash, set an oven thermometer in the middle of the rack, away from the coals, and cover grill with the lid. (Or poke an instant-read thermometer through a vent in the lid.)

When the temperature reaches about 225 degrees, place the rib rack down the center of the grill rack, away from the coals. Then put ribs into the slots of the rack, or lay them bone-side-down on the rack, keeping them away from the piles of coals. Sprinkle a handful of wet chips over the coals on each side. Return the lid to the grill, and half-close the top vents. Do not remove the lid for the first 30 minutes, as the meat smokes. The temperature should range between 185 and 225 degrees. In order to maintain a constant temperature, you may need to replenish the fire with prelit coals. Light about two handfuls of charcoal in a bucket or on a concrete slab about 10 to 15 minutes before you need to refuel.

Check the fire after 30 minutes, adding prelit coals as necessary, along with a few more wet wood chips. Replace the lid, open the top vents fully, and continue cooking. If the grill gets too hot, close the vents to reduce the temperature reopen them if you need to raise it again. Check temperature every 20 minutes, and refuel as needed. The total cooking time, depending on the temperature, should be 2 to 3 hours. The ribs are cooked when a fork in the fleshy part of the meat twists easily and pulls the meat away, or if two bones can be torn apart easily. A pinkish tinge from the smoke is correct and does not mean the meat is undercooked. Coat the meaty side of the ribs with the barbecue sauce, painting generously, and continue cooking for 10 more minutes.

If using a gas grill:
Preheat the grill to 500 degrees for about 20 minutes. Put a handful of soaked chips in a foil pan, under the rack on the back burner on the left side. (To get the chips to smoke, all burners should be operating on high.) As soon as the chips are smoking well, turn the front and back burners to low and the middle burner off, and open the lid. When the temperature falls to 275 to 300 degrees, place the ribs lengthwise in the middle of the grill (in a rib rack, if you're using one). Cook for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours, keeping the lid closed for the first 30 minutes while the chips are smoking. (Note that the chips are harder to keep smoking in a gas grill, and that a charcoal grill will provide much more smoky flavor.)

Follow instructions above for testing doneness and finishing off with the barbecue sauce.


Barbecued Baby Back Ribs

For the rub:
• 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika
• 1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
• 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
• 1 teaspoon chile powder
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon celery salt
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar

For the meat:
• 2 full racks baby back ribs, skin removed

For the barbecue sauce: (you may also use your favorite recipe or prepared sauce):
• 2 cups ketchup
• 1/4 cup cider vinegar
• 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
• 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons molasses
• 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• 1 1/2 tablespoons Tabasco
• 1 tablespoon chili powder
• 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large bowl, combine all the rub ingredients and mix well. Place both racks of ribs on a cutting board or wood slab. Gently massage the rub mixture into the ribs, making sure to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

2. Pre-heat oven to 300°. Place ribs on baking sheet in pre-heated oven. Ribs should cook for two hours, or until tender.

3. While the pork cooks, make the barbecue sauce. Combine the ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, molasses, mustard, Tabasco, chili powder, liquid smoke and black pepper in a nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until sauce is dark, thick and rich. Adjust sweetness, sourness and hot pepper to taste.

4. Heat your outdoor grill to high heat. In a small saucepan, warm the barbecue sauce over low heat. Remove the ribs from the oven and transfer to the grill. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Brush the warmed barbecue sauce over the meat and cook the ribs for 2 minutes more on each side. Remove from the grill and let sit 5 minutes.

5. Using a sharp knife, cut ribs in between bones. Serve immediately. For saucier ribs, apply a second coat of warmed sauce just before serving. Serves 6 to 8.


A Taste of North Carolina, at Last

Long and slow: That’s how good barbecue is smoked. It also seems to be the philosophy at Blue Smoke, the barbecue restaurants owned by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, which have taken 10 years to come up with a new sauce to slather on their pork. Unlike the company’s all-purpose Original Recipe BBQ Sauce, with its fairly mild ketchup and mustard base, the tangy newcomer, Blue Smoke Carolina Kick Barbecue Sauce, can run roughshod over a pile of pulled pork, giving it a robust new personality.

“We try to represent all the barbecue regions in the country — Kansas City, Texas, Memphis — and we wanted the Carolinas, too,” said Kenny Callaghan, the chef and pit-master. The sauce is a typical vinegar-based North Carolina blend, well dappled with bits of spice, which the restaurants now serve on the pulled pork. “The pork is somewhat fatty, so it can take the spice and vinegar,” Mr. Callaghan said. “But if someone prefers the other sauce, they can still get it on the pork.” And if someone buys the new sauce to take home, it can do wonders for a slab of fish, a flank steak or lamb chops on the grill.

Blue Smoke Carolina Kick Barbecue Sauce is $7.95 for an 18-ounce bottle pulled pork with the sauce is $11.50 for a sandwich and $18.95 for a platter, at Blue Smoke restaurants at 116 East 27th Street and at 255 Vesey Street (West Street) in Battery Park City.


Dining Tip: Baby Back Ribs

For the rub:
• 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika
• 1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
• 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
• 1 teaspoon chile powder
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon celery salt
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar

For the meat:
• 2 full racks baby back ribs, skin removed

For the barbecue sauce: (you may also use your favorite recipe or prepared sauce):
• 2 cups ketchup
• 1/4 cup cider vinegar
• 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
• 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons molasses
• 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• 1 1/2 tablespoons Tabasco
• 1 tablespoon chili powder
• 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large bowl, combine all the rub ingredients and mix well. Place both racks of ribs on a cutting board or wood slab. Gently massage the rub mixture into the ribs, making sure to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

2. Pre-heat oven to 300°. Place ribs on baking sheet in pre-heated oven. Ribs should cook for two hours, or until tender.

3. While the pork cooks, make the barbecue sauce. Combine the ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, molasses, mustard, Tabasco, chili powder, liquid smoke and black pepper in a nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until sauce is dark, thick and rich. Adjust sweetness, sourness and hot pepper to taste.

4. Heat your outdoor grill to high heat. In a small saucepan, warm the barbecue sauce over low heat. Remove the ribs from the oven and transfer to the grill. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Brush the warmed barbecue sauce over the meat and cook the ribs for 2 minutes more on each side. Remove from the grill and let sit 5 minutes.

5. Using a sharp knife, cut ribs in between bones. Serve immediately. For saucier ribs, apply a second coat of warmed sauce just before serving. Serves 6 to 8.


Blue Smoke Chop House in Greenwich: Danny Meyer’s Slightly Creepy Enlightened Hospitality Comes North

fter a recent re-read of Danny Meyer&rsquos biography-cum-religious-doctrine, Setting the Table, we emerged comforted in the knowledge that we took the correct career path. Unlike Mr. Meyer, who spends insomniac nights thinking of ways to please his customers, we began to feel that our diners were a nuisance. After all, we loved cooking, writing menus, designing restaurants, even choosing salt and peppers&mdashbut if one more diner asked for kechup for his steak, we&rsquod have gone postal. And P.S. – with our knife roll, we were heavily armed at the time.

Yet we admire Mr. Meyer and his obsessive – nay, creepy – devotion to pleasing his diners, and we visit his restaurants as often as we can. Danny Meyer et al have the ingenious ability to create instant standards&mdashin fact, their ideas have become so institutionalized, that it&rsquos hard to remember who initiated them. You know that nearly ubiquitous tuna burger? It was invented back in the ‘Eighties at Union Square Café, as a handy way to sell the irregular bits of tuna leftover from tuna steak. You know all those foodie-approved, quality-first takes on burger stands? (We&rsquore thinking here of Stand and BRGR, not to mention Greenwich&rsquos Burgers, Shakes and Fries). That concept comes courtesy of Danny Meyer&rsquos Shake Shack. And now that every Manhattan corner has a funky, pig-festooned homage to an Appalachian backyard, it&rsquos hard to remember that Blue Smoke was the first&mdashserving up Abita beer, barbecue ribs and pork and beans to an urbane, groovy-glasses-wearing clientele.

In our long, rambling chat with David Swinghamer, Union Square Hospitality Group&rsquos President of Growth Businesses, we learned several things about the new Greenwich restaurant&mdashsome of which are poised to become new standards. The overriding concept of the menu can be summarized in one word: wood. Union Square Chop House will serve its fare wood smoked, roasted in a wood-burning oven, or grilled over a wood fire. Even Blue Smoke Chop House&rsquos outdoor seating&mdashsomething Mr. Swinghamer is audibly excited by&mdashis wood-fueled. They&rsquore planning fire pits in the large outdoor dining area, along with a big glass wall to engage outdoor diners in the ‘interactive&rsquo&mdashwhich means, as far as we can tell, visible&mdashlumber-based cooking. Menu items besides Blue Smoke&rsquos signature Kansas City barbecue ribs? According to Mr. Swinghamer, prime meats and seafood, specifically wood-grilled oysters — a dish that we absolutely love. (When we last had it in North Carolina, a burlap coffee sack was soaked in seawater then draped over just-picked, native oysters, which steamed and roasted at the same time&mdashemerging tender, briny and subtly smoky.)

The BSCH plans to open in the first half of 2009, and is going into the old Hojo&rsquos on 1114 East Putnam Avenue in Greenwich. Besides Blue Smoke Chop House, the site will feature a &ldquogreen&rdquo hotel developed by a team lead bu Charles Mallory, the same folks behind the Greenwich Harbor Delamar Hotel. Swinghamer says, &ldquoWe&rsquore taking what is really a dumpy place and turning it into a treasure for people who work and live around there.&rdquo If anyone can remember Greenwich Harbor before the Delamar, hotellier Charles Mallory and Co. have some clear experience doing this kind of thing. That said, there is no news yet on how the &ldquogreen&rdquo hotel will handle all that woodsmoke pouring out of BSCH, a notoriously polluting feature. Some smog-bound communities have even banned the construction of new wood-burning fireplaces. Let&rsquos hope&mdashfor the environment, anyway&mdashthat Blue Smoke Chop House&rsquos venting is green, too.

Like the Batali/Bastianich/Nusser group&rsquos move into Port Chester&rsquos Tarry Lodge, this is the first suburban venture for Union Square Hospitality Group&mdashwhich recently opened a Union Square Café in the Roppongi district of Tokyo, and will open a Shake Shack on the Upper West Side late in 2008. When we asked whether the Greenwich move was part of a larger push, David Swinghamer demurred. &ldquoWe‘re not the kind of restaurant group that plans a big expansion and a lot of restaurants at one time. We like to take each one individually, so that we can really nurture it.&rdquo Huh. The press release quotes Swinghamer saying [italics ours], ‘&ldquoIn thinking about our first Blue Smoke outside of NYC, we felt it was important to open a restaurant in a location where many of our loyal Manhattan regulars live and work.&rdquo&rsquo The release also says that that Kenny Callaghan, Executive Chef and partner of Blue Smoke, and Mark Maynard-Parisi, GM/Partner, will continue to serve as partners of new Blue Smoke restaurants as well. Sounds like multi-unit expansion plans to us.

For those who are fans of the Manhattan Blue Smoke, more than the name will be different in the Greenwich venue. While Swinghamer hopes to retain Blue Smoke&rsquos permissive reservation policy&mdashwhere, in Manhattan, the balcony seating is reserved for spur-of-the-moment walk-ins&mdashthe new, more expensive foodstuffs may mean some higher price points. &ldquoBlue Smoke offers a lot of value in food and wine, but we&rsquod also like to offer&mdashif that&rsquos what you&rsquore looking for&mdasha great prime steak, and a wonderful bottle of wine. Of course, you&rsquoll have the option of digging into a nice rack of Kansas City ribs and some Blue Smoke potato chips, too. (FYI&mdashat Blue Smoke, the ribs&rsquoll go you $14.95 for a half rack, $22.95 for a full&mdashand the chips are $7.95.) Besides price, some of the classic Blue Smoke dishes might be missing to make room for all the woodsy seafood, steaks and chops. Swinghamer wouldn&rsquot say which, despite our needling. Let&rsquos hope it&rsquos not the fried chicken, which, in its lack of woodiness, feels doomed.

Finally&mdashand we seem to be asking this a lot lately of Manhattan restaurateurs–why the suburbs? &ldquoBlue Smoke brings in a diverse group of people. Young, old, families, singles, we have parties, it&rsquos great for takeout and special occasions. We think it&rsquos just right for diners in Fairfield and Westchester Counties.&rdquo And, we suspect, counties all over America, too.


At Long Last, Real Barbecue Makes a Stand In Manhattan

THE smoky romance of the barbecue pit, with its dry rubs and wet mops, its fruit woods and burnt ends, has long been a New York fantasy. But real barbecue has proved harder to produce locally than baguettes, baba ghanouj and banh mi put together.

Food-obsessed New Yorkers harp on the diversity of the city's kitchens and the excellence of their offerings, but most are unhappily conscious of barbecue as a magnificent native dish that is perpetually out of reach. Would-be pit masters have tried to please them but have had to contend with emission-control laws, strict fire codes and a general lack of faith that real barbecue could exist in these parts. Local fans have been reduced to mail-order ribs and the occasional binge weekend in Memphis.

But this fall, the stars have aligned for real New York barbecue.

Whether it's the arrival of newly efficient smoke-scrubbing technologies, a growing outdoor-cooking industry fueling national interest in barbecue, or a local economy that makes a $10 entree almost irresistible, the number of places making pit barbecue in Manhattan -- and making it well -- has suddenly tripled, and a good, old-fashioned barbecue war may be in the offing. There will be no unhappy victims.

Daisy May's BBQ USA opened in mid-August to instant success the pit master there, Adam Perry Lang, is already planning an expansion. The Queens barbecue legend Robert Pearson, after a decade of false starts, has entered into a partnership with the restaurateur Ken Aretsky to smoke his signature Texas-style beef briskets on the Upper East Side, in the space that formerly housed Mr. Aretsky's Butterfield 81. And at Blue Smoke, after tantalizing Manhattan with two years of up-and-down results, Danny Meyer, the owner, and his pit master, Kenny Callaghan, seem to have finally wrestled their technical problems to the mat.

Will smoke-sensitive neighbors, the ever-critical barbecue crowd and New York's famously demanding customers (who generally expect restaurants to keep regular hours, provide plates and serve vegetables, all in direct conflict with barbecue tradition) give them all a chance at success? Weɽ better hope so this has been a long time coming.

The city has no shortage of so-called bar-b-que and chicken-and-ribs joints, but aficionados know: that's not real barbecue. What is?

According to the mission statement of the Kansas City Barbeque Society, the closest thing the quarrelsome barbecue world has to a governing body, barbecue is meat cooked by indirect heat and smoke.

But each expert interviewed last week found something to disagree with even in that bare statement. The world of American barbecue, whose members come together at thousands of team competitions each year (and on countless Internet forums each day), includes professionals, amateurs and, seemingly, every resident of Memphis, Kansas City, Texas and the Carolinas. Each of those regions is fiercely committed to its own barbecue style, with completely different ways of seasoning and spicing the meat both before and after it is cooked.

Herewith the short list of what is universally agreed:

Smoking is not barbecue, although it is a close relative.

Barbecue sauce, while it has a place at the table, does not make barbecue barbecue.

Mr. Callaghan, who has been the pit master at Blue Smoke since it opened in 2001, offered a test: ''How about this,'' he said. ''Once you've been to your 50th or 60th barbecue joint, then you just know what barbecue is.''

In Manhattan, only Daisy May's and Blue Smoke cook their meat exclusively with wood, making them the sole local claimants to the real barbecue throne. (Pearson's Texas BBQ on the Upper East Side will join their ranks soon.)

Shortcuts practiced by the others -- including Virgil's in Times Square and Tennessee Mountain in SoHo -- include parboiling meat before cooking it over charcoal or gas, supplementing wood heat with gas and, some say, the occasional drizzle of liquid smoke. These can sometimes result in passingly good barbecue, at least by New York's former standards.

But according to Bobby Richter, a native of Rego Park, Queens, and pit master of the Queens-based barbecue team Big Island Barbecue, ''Once you've had real barbecue, you can't enjoy yourself at those places any more.'' (In another sign of life for New York barbecue, Big Island just became the first New York City team ever to qualify for barbecue's most prestigious competition, the annual Jack Daniel's Invitational Championships, to be held in Lynchburg, Tenn., on Oct. 25.) In short, the path to barbecue greatness cannot run through a gas oven.

What to Cook This Weekend

Sam Sifton has menu suggestions for the weekend. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

    • Gabrielle Hamilton’s ranchero sauce is great for huevos rancheros, or poach shrimp or cubed swordfish in it.
    • If you’re planning to grill, consider grilled chicken skewers with tarragon and yogurt. Also this grilled eggplant salad.
    • Or how about a simple hot-dog party, with toppings and condiments galore?
    • These are good days to make a simple strawberry tart, the blueberry cobbler from Chez Panisse, or apricot bread pudding.
    • If you have some morels, try this shockingly good pan-roasted chicken in cream sauce from the chef Angie Mar.

    Mr. Pearson is the only New York pit master whose product is respected throughout the city, on the Web and even in Texas, and his second coming to Manhattan is eagerly anticipated. Mr. Pearson's previous, brief foray into Manhattan involved trucking precooked briskets from Queens to the Upper West Side needless to say, this did not do much for the flavor of the barbecue, which should be eaten as soon as possible once it comes off the pit.

    A profoundly unlikely barbecue legend, Mr. Pearson was brought to New York from his native England by Vogue magazine as a hot London hairstylist in 1966. As an avatar of chic, he was often invited to Texas to teach new techniques to stylists there. From them, he said, he received a crash course in Texas barbecue. ''Those girls would take me from cow palace to cow palace all night long,'' he recalled.

    From Texas, Mr. Pearson embarked on a barbecue education that included posing as a journalist at Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City, in a vain attempt to get a look at the legendary pit. (Mr. Bryant saw through the ruse immediately, Mr. Pearson recalled, but granted him a one-minute audience anyway). The style he eventually developed, and brought to Queens in 1992, is even more spare than that of Texas barbecue purists.

    Mr. Pearson puts absolutely no seasoning on his whole briskets before putting them in the pit. His recipe -- if you can call it that -- calls for just the 14-pound slabs and smoke: no rub, no sauce, not even salt. The resulting meat, in addition to being outrageously flavorful and juicy, boasts a clear red smoke ring around the edges of each slice. The smoke ring is a universally recognized sign of real barbecue, though Mr. Pearson says ruefully that New Yorkers sometimes mistake it for excess barbecue sauce or underdone beef.

    Mr. Pearson will soon be opening up shop on East 81st Street. In 1998, he closed his original and still-mourned Long Island City location, on 51st Street, with its back garden and prowling cats, and moved his pit to a Jackson Heights sports bar. (That location will remain open.) The Long Island City lot was taken over by Philly's Smoke House, a multilevel barbecue palace that smokes over wood.

    In an attempt to forestall complaints from neighbors (the new location is in the heart of the Upper East Side, just a few blocks from Junior League headquarters), Mr. Aretsky has fitted Pearson's roof with a $36,000 electrostatic precipitator that filters out the smoke, vapors and grease that are inevitably exhaled by a barbecue pit. But he will be working the same no-frills pit, shipped from Mesquite, Tex., that he has always used.

    ''People ask to see the pit,'' he said. 'ɺnd then they're surprised when it's not a big hole in the ground.''

    These days, a barbecue pit -- even in barbecue country -- is most likely an above-ground brick oven encased in steel, about the size of a refrigerator. According to Mr. Pearson, the art and craft of the pit master takes place not in the cabinet (where the meat revolves endlessly on racks) but in the pit's separate, tiny firebox.

    In the firebox, hickory logs burn all day, every day, giving off a controlled, intense heat and, surprisingly, almost no smoke. Mr. Pearson said the goal is actually to produce as little smoke as possible. ''There will always be some smoke,'' he said, 'ɺnd that's enough to flavor the meat. But the less smoke you can see, the better the barbecue.'' In an efficient pit, he continued, you can cook 700 pounds of meat for 14 hours using only seven logs.

    Green, or moist, wood is the key to a fire that burns low and slow. ''You can't throw a couple of dry pine two-by-fours on a fire and expect to cook barbecue,'' said Chris O'Neil, the executive chef at Virgil's. He said that in the winter, when fresh wood is scarce, some pit masters resort to soaking split logs in pickle juice and apple juice to moisten them.

    Mr. Lang, who came to barbecue via his Long Island childhood and the kitchens of Le Cirque and Daniel, has already learned enough about the competitive side of barbecue to keep quiet about his methods. ''Part of barbecue's appeal is all the secrets and mystique,'' he said. Mr. Lang's pit, operated with a computer keypad, looks more like an oversize cellphone than a barbecue pit. But except for his automated humidity controls -- the absolute latest in barbecue technology -- the cooking principle is the same as Mr. Pearson's: wood smoke and heat, steadily applied to large pieces of meat.

    But Mr. Lang's end product could hardly be more different from Mr. Pearson's. Using the palate he developed in those haute kitchens, Mr. Lang slathers his meat with thick spice pastes and complex sauces. He ranges through all regional barbecue styles and heads beyond, into pineapple, ginger and any other ingredient that helps him achieve the explosive blend of spicy, sweet, tart and salty that is barbecue's flavor signature. He home-brews four completely different barbecue sauces, chops up his beef brisket and bathes it in yet another sauce, and makes a mustardy dressing to coat shreds of pulled pork, the Carolina classic. The barbecue itself is good, but it is the punch of the sauces that comes screaming at you across the metal counter, which Mr. Lang said he modeled on the one at Gray's Papaya.

    ''I hate restaurants,'' Mr. Lang said last week, about his transition from the likes of Daniel to a no-frills, no-seats barbecue joint on a barren stretch of 11th Avenue. ''Great barbecue is just as good or better than anything you eat in a restaurant,'' he continued. '➾sides, these are exactly the same sweet potatoes they serve at Le Cirque.'' Mr. Lang's side dishes, as might be expected, far outpace those of Mr. Pearson, who eschews barbecue sauce and grudgingly serves coleslaw only in response to customer demand.

    Blue Smoke, having spent its early childhood trying to be all barbecue to all New Yorkers, has had time to perfect its side dishes in the meantime (the baked beans with chopped burnt ends, crusty edges of barbecued pork, are exemplary). The original flaw in the Blue Smoke pit, a 15-story chimney that sucked out all the heat, smoke and humidity, has been adjusted. And Mr. Callaghan, sounding war-weary, said he hopes the slashing criticisms leveled by local barbecue fans when the restaurant opened are now permanently behind him. The barbecue is worthy, and occasionally even spectacular.

    Why do New Yorkers care so much about barbecue? Mr. Richter of Big Island Barbecue says that barbecue is simply addictive, no matter where you're from. Other New York aficionados cited spicy pastrami, smoked salmon and the glazed spareribs at old-fashioned Chinese restaurants as seminal barbecue experiences. For many Jewish New Yorkers, a weakness for slow-cooked brisket is already a given.

    Even as word gets out about the new pits, the nagging question of authenticity will continue to dog New York's pit masters. Will local barbecue be able to stand up to the real thing? Robb Walsh, the restaurant critic for the Houston Press and author of the definitive ''Legends of Texas Barbecue Cook Book,'' said, ''Let me put the question in New York terms: If you filtered Houston city water so it was the same as New York tap, and used the same flour, and brought in the same ovens, could you make authentic New York bagels in Texas? Yes, and no.''


    Thank You for Smoking

    New York might not be the country’s barbecue capital, but thanks to places like Daisy May’s, Dinosaur, Blue Smoke, RUB and new arrivals like Hill Country, Bar Q and Wildwood, pork is smoking in this town. It has also been smoking in my 350-square-foot apartment, where I’ve been determined to create backyard barbecue flavors using only my ventless oven.

    Creating smoke flavors without actual smoke is certainly feasible. Its essence can be sprinkled on using smoked Spanish paprika or smoked sea salt. By rubbing Lapsang Souchong tea over wild sockeye, a traditional salt-and-sugar-cured salmon morphs into a smoky gravlax. And then there’s Liquid Smoke — basically concentrated smoke-flavored water — a popular additive in many parts of the country and an ingredient in lots of store-bought barbecue sauces. I brushed some on ribs and dripped a little into sauces. Ugh! It tasted artificial. “It goes right to the roof of my mouth and hangs,” says Mike Mills, an author of “Peace, Love and Barbecue” and the owner of the 17th Street Bar & Grill restaurants in Southern Illinois.

    Though alternatives exist, smoldering wood produces unrivaled flavors. And real smoke is easy to create at home using a stove-top smoker, essentially a roasting pan fitted with a drip tray and a rack, sold by companies like Camerons and Emerilware. Or make your own: line a large wok with heavy foil, add wood chips, lay a smaller piece of foil over the chips to create a drip pan and set a round rack in the pan. A third piece of foil becomes the lid. Use pure, resin-free, ground wood chips. Elizabeth Karmel, the executive chef of Hill Country and the author of “Taming the Flame,” says she likes to think of wood in terms of terroir and chooses wood chips based on the origins of the protein, like cedar for Pacific salmon and hickory with catfish. “Pork loves apple wood, and cheese loves pecan wood,” she says.

    Before my first smoke-off, I made sure to open the windows, turn on a fan and remove the battery from the smoke detector. I began with ribs, the quintessential ’cue cut. Kenny Callaghan, the executive chef and a partner at Blue Smoke, advised me to smoke the meat first, then finish it in a low-temperature oven (“low and slow” being the BBQ mantra). “You cannot cook and then smoke, because once you cook you have created a barrier that will not allow the smoke to penetrate the meat,” he says. My fourth-floor BBQ was a success.

    I took my next cues from the chef Anita Lo, who has been smoking chicken, salmon and duck at her New York restaurant, Bar Q Amanda Johnson, a pastry chef at the Five and Ten in Athens, Ga., who smokes chocolate for sauce and even bartenders like Eben Freeman at Tailor in New York, who smokes Coke over cherry and alder woods to mix with bourbon for his Waylon cocktail. I smoldered wood chips under every food I could think of. I tried catfish, which cooked up tender in just 30 minutes and was tasty on its own or in Karmel’s catfish pâté recipe. I smoked mozzarella (messy but delicious), corn (don’t bother), salt, cod, ricotta, salmon, pears and tomatoes. In the end, I discovered that smoke complements fat and proteins more than delicate fruits and vegetables. Trust me, smoking is as addictive as the surgeon general warns. “I smoked everything that basically roams the earth,” explains Callaghan, talking about his early days at the Blue Smoke pit. “Foie gras was really good.”

    The seductive aroma of smoking meat lures omnivores, which helps explain why smoking is so social. “In cooking barbecue, you have a lot of time on your hands to hang out with friends and family,” says Chris Lilly, the vice president of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Ala. When all is said and eaten, don’t forget to return the battery to your smoke detector. Nobody wants to smoke in his sleep.


    Smokin' good times at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party

    The city's biggest barbecue starts smokin' June 7, with 14 of the nation's top pit masters turning out ribs, brisket and all the trimmings for a two-day feeding frenzy that will serve an estimated 125,000 people. The sixth annual Snapple Big Apple Barbecue Block Party at Madison Square Park is one of the city's best-smelling summer events, and it gets bigger and better each year. (The first year, despite a heavy downpour, 10,000 people showed up).

    You can just imagine how much work goes into the planning, not to mention the seasoning, marinating and grilling of various cuts of beef and pork. From noon to 6 p.m. on both days, the hungry will keep coming to eat their fill of Texas-style brisket, pulled or chopped pork sandwiches, and, of course, juicy, meaty ribs.

    So what's it like to be one of the cooks? The News talked to three locals to find out what they're making – and how you can cook up some authentic BBQ treats at home if you can't make it to summer's biggest grill event.

    Kenny Callaghan, executive chef and partner at Blue Smoke (116 East 27th St. between Lexington Ave. and Park Ave. South) and a co-founder of the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, will be making Kansas-city style spare ribs, which take about eight hours to cook in a 200-degree oven before they get grilled. The 7,200 pounds of meat he's ordered will be spiced with a dry rub (15 spices) and he's also preparing 400 gallons of his homemade barbecue sauce.

    "The Kansas City sauce is a tomato-based sauce," says Callaghan, who was born in the city and spent his first five years living in the East 90s. "In Kansas City, they like their sauce on the sweeter, thicker side and mine is rich and thick. I dry-rub the ribs for probably 24 to 30 hours, and then they get cooked low, slow and steady. On site, I will finish them off on a charcoal grill and the sauce goes on near the end."

    Callaghan's theory on why barbecue's getting so big around here? "New York is a melting pot of so many people from all around the country, and if you grew up in Memphis or South Carolina, you ate barbecue two or three times a week," he says. "People want barbecue when they move here, too."

    Plus, he says, barbecue is finger food – and people love to eat with their hands. "This is a big communal party of people eating some of the best barbecue in the country," he says. "And it's all being cooked on Madison Avenue, on the best stage they've ever cooked on."

    John Stage, chef owner of Dinosaur Bar-B-Q in Harlem (131st Street and 12th Avenue) says the pulled pork he'll make for the BBQ block party is hard to pull off at home unless you've got about eight-plus hours. He'll go through about 3,000 pounds of meat, and start cooking the night before.

    Reminiscent of a Memphis-style pulled pork, the sandwiches will be served with barbecued beans. Because it starts with canned beans, this dish is ready in 10 minutes. Though he lived for more than 20 years in Syracuse, Stage is from here originally and has lived for the past five years in Harlem.

    He likes barbecue sauce of all kinds, but among his faves is North Carolina sauce, which tends to be more vinegar-based as opposed to tomato-based or mustard-based. To help him out, he'll bring along a staff of four. "And then I have a lot of volunteers who'll help me out," Stage explains.

    As this is his first year as pit master at Hill Country (30 West 26th St. between Broadway and Sixth Ave.), Pete Daversa wants to wow block party goers. Big, meaty beef ribs and campfire beans are on his menu, and he's also planning to serve some of the jalapeno cheese sausage that he flies in from Texas. Daversa, formerly a line cook at Blue Smoke, loves the "fun craziness" of the days leading up to the block party.

    "I'll do a Texas-style dry rub and then slow-smoke the meat for 2 1/2 hours over Texas post oak," Daversa says. "It's a type of wood we bring in from Texas and it imparts a sweet flavor to anything we smoke."

    Originally from Connecticut, Daversa worked in technology for 15 years before deciding it wasn't really his life's work.

    "I went to culinary school with the idea of working in a barbecue restaurant," says the chef, who lives in Hoboken. "Barbecue is my passion."

    Though the ribs might not be a project you'd want to undertake, Daversa's smoked chicken wings give that downhome BBQ flavor without as much work as the ribs.

    If you'd like to buy a Fast Pass to the block party, you can do so through May 30. Tickets are on sale online at www.bigapplebbq.org.

    By the way, if you want more buzz on BBQ, check out the 92nd Street Y's "The All American BBQ," which will be held Thursday, June 5 at 8:15pm and which costs $26. Leonard Lopate will moderate the session and panelists will include restaurateur Danny Meyer of Union Square Café (founder of the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party), Food Network star Bobby Flay, the chef/owner of seven restaurants, and Chris Lilly, the winner of 10 world barbecue competitions and vice president of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, the "best barbecue in Alabama." Afterwards, taste a smoky treat cooked by one of the pit masters. For info, visit www.92Y.org.

    Cole Slaw
    Serves 6

    From Kenny Callaghan at Blue Smoke.

    For the slaw:
    2 pounds green cabbage, quartered, cored and thinly sliced
    2 red bell peppers, quartered, seeded and thinly sliced
    1 small white onion, peeled and chopped
    1 large carrot, peeled and grated
    1/2 cup sugar
    4 teaspoons salt

    For the sauce:
    1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
    1 teaspoon dry mustard
    1 tablespoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    2 teaspoons celery seed
    14 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
    1 green apple, grated
    1/2 onion, grated
    1 cup sour cream
    2 eggs

    Make slaw: Combine ingredients for the slaw in a large bowl and toss well. Place in a colander over a bowl, cover, and macerate at least 6 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.

    Make sauce: Combine all sauce ingredients in a large stainless steel bowl. Place the bowl over, not in, simmering water in a large pot and cook, whisking almost constantly, until thickened. The sauce should be at about 170 degrees on a thermometer. Remove the bowl from the heat and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate until well-chilled.

    To serve, remove the macerated slaw from the colander, discard the water that drained and place the slaw in a bowl. Add the chilled sauce and toss thoroughly to combine.

    Smoked Chicken Wings
    Serves 4

    From Pete Daversa at Hill Country. He recommends using a charcoal grill or smoker for this recipe. You will need 3 pounds of charcoal and 2 cups of wood chips, soaked and drained. You will have plenty or rub left over for another occasion.

    2 pounds fresh chicken wings

    For the chicken rub:
    2 cups dark brown sugar
    1 cup raw sugar
    1 cup kosher salt
    1/2 cup paprika
    1/8 cup black pepper
    1/8 cup white pepper
    1/8 cup onion powder
    1/8 cup garlic powder
    4 teaspoons cayenne powder
    4 teaspoons celery seed
    4 teaspoons ancho chili powder

    Prepare the rub: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well until there are no clumps. Place chicken wings in a separate large bowl. Add enough of the dry rub to the bowl, coating wings completely. Cover with plastic wrap and place wings in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

    Place the charcoal on one side of your grill or smoker and light. After the coals have turned white, place 2 cups of soaked, drained wood chips on the pile of coals. Place the wings on the opposite side of the grate so they will cook by indirect heat -- not directly over the coals. Close the lid and smoke for 45 minutes. For optimal smoky flavor, do not open the lid of the grill for the entire cook time.


    Watch the video: Cam - Burning House (October 2021).