Where There’s Smoke

Photographed by Dana Gallagher

Food styling by Alison attenborough; prop styling by philippa brathwaite. PREVIOUS PAGES: table and chairs from r 20th Century; pitcher and platter from mxyplyzyk; tray and servers from bark; tablecloth from henro. this page: tray from lost city arts; glasses from mxyplyzyk. FOLLOWING PAGES: Left, fork from crate & Barrel; red pitchers from lost city arts.

Menu For 8
Deviled Eggs
Iceberg Lettuce With Roquefort Dressing
Barbecued Spareribs
or Baby Back Ribs
Brined and Smoked Whole Chicken
Potato Salad
“Pit” Beans

Let’s get something straight: Throwing a steak or a batch of burgers on the Weber? That’s not barbecue. Not in the true, slow-cooked, dry-rubbed, or, alternatively, sauce-slathered sense of the word. Barbecue is an art form – one that’s slightly daunting to any chef whose New York kitchen isn’t equipped with a soot-encrusted smoker and several cords of hickory wood. But in fact, there’s nothing daunting about rigging an impromptu pit out of a kettle grill and rustling up a rack of ribs or a smoked chicken when the craving strikes – and that craving has been striking nightly since Danny Meyer opened his rollicking roadhouse, Blue Smoke, two months ago. Under the tutelage of Illinois pit master Mike Mills, Meyer and his culinary team – Michael Romano and Kenny Callaghan – have become assiduous students of Memphis-style dry-rubbed barbecue, and not only have they adapted their restaurant methods for the backyard barbecuer (lopping a good five hours off the cooking time), they’ve shared their recipes for an all-American picnic-table feast, from curry-tinged deviled eggs to smoky stovetop “pit” beans. Meyer even unearthed his grandmother’s potato-salad recipe. But don’t expect him to be as generous with his proprietary Blue Smoke Magic Dust rub and sauce: Some secrets just have to stay that way.

The Recipes

Michael Romano and Kenny Callaghan
Blue Smoke

Deviled Eggs
12 large eggs
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 and 1/2 teaspoons tarragon-infused champagne vinegar
3/4 teaspoon Colman’s dry mustard
21/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garnish: Blue Smoke Magic Dust (available at Blue Smoke, 116 East 27th Street, 212-447-7733)

Place the eggs in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, and simmer for exactly 9 minutes. Pour off most of the water and immediately run cold water over the eggs.

Crack the eggshells and peel the eggs under running water. Cut a small sliver off both ends of each egg and halve them crosswise, forming round cups. Remove the yolks, and reserve. Pass the yolks through a fine sieve into a bowl. Add the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustards, cayenne, and curry powder to the bowl, and mix together with a rubber spatula until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon the egg-yolk paste into a pastry bag with a star tip, and pipe the mixture into the egg whites to form rosettes. (Or use a teaspoon to mound the yolk into the egg whites.) Sprinkle the top of the eggs with Magic Dust. Refrigerate immediately.

Iceberg Lettuce
With Roquefort Dressing
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1/2 cup crumbled Roquefort cheese
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head iceberg lettuce, chilled and cut into 8 wedges
Garnish: Crisp crumbled bacon (optional)

Whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and vinegar in a bowl. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the Roquefort cheese and parsley until well incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over wedges of the lettuce and garnish with the bacon if desired.

Barbecued Spareribs
Or Baby Back Ribs

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.

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.

Brined and Smoked Chicken
2 cups kosher salt
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 garlic head, split in half
1 and 1/2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 and 1/2 teaspoons juniper berries
3 bay leaves
2 3-to-4-pound chickens
Melted butter for brushing

In a pot large enough to hold both chickens, combine all of the brine ingredients with 2 gallons of water and stir. Add the birds to the pot, cover, and refrigerate for 8 to 10 hours. Remove the birds from the pot, discard the brine, and rinse the chickens thoroughly under cold water and pat dry. Coat the whole chicken with melted butter. Heat up a charcoal or gas grill, and cook using the methods described in the rib recipe above, maintaining the temperature of the grill at about 250 degrees for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Potato Salad
4 and 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-to-1-inch pieces
2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup chopped sweet onion
1 and 1/2 cups finely diced celery
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
9 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon snipped chives

Place the potatoes in a large pot, and cover with cold salted water. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, and allow the potatoes to cool in the cooking liquid. Drain the potatoes while they are still warm.

Combine the mayonnaise, onions, celery, sugar, vinegar, mustard, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the potatoes to the dressing while they are still warm. Gently fold in the chopped eggs, and garnish with chives.

2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon celery seed
7 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
2 pounds green cabbage, thinly sliced
2 green bell peppers, quartered, seeded, and sliced
1 small sweet white onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 Granny Smith apple, grated with skin on

Dressing: Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together in a large bowl until well blended. Slaw: Toss together all the vegetables in a large bowl, add the dressing, and mix together until incorporated. Adjust seasoning to taste.

“Pit” Beans
2 cups dry pinto beans
2 cups dry cranberry beans
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces bacon, diced
(about 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons diced long red chili or jalapeño
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup bean spice mix
(recipe below)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
21/2 teaspoons yellow mustard
Hot sauce to taste

Put the beans in 2 large bowls (do not mix them), cover with several inches of water, and allow to soak overnight. Drain and transfer beans to 2 medium saucepans, cover with several inches of fresh water, and simmer for about 1 hour, adding water to keep beans covered. Taste a bean for doneness; if it’s soft, add salt and cook for a few more minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.Place the bacon in a large saucepan and render over low heat until most of the fat has cooked out. Add the vegetables to the bacon and sauté until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the bean spice mix, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, ketchup, barbecue sauce, cooked beans, and 2 cups of the reserved bean liquid.

Simmer slowly, uncovered, until the sauce starts to thicken, about 30 minutes, adding more bean liquid if the beans become too dry. Add the mustard, and season to taste with hot sauce and salt and pepper.

Bean Spice Mix
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground celery seed
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
7 and 1/3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

Mix all ingredients. Store in an airtight container until needed.

Hog Heaven
So you’ve worked your way through the menus on the previous pages, and it’s only whetted your appetite for more. Hang on tight: You’re stepping into a world of hotly defended traditions, untempered loyalty, and secret formulas as closely held as Coca-Cola’s. Fortunately, there’s plenty of good advice out there, even if you’re using a basic kettle grill instead of a backyard pit (kind of tricky to rig up in Manhattan, anyway). Dotty Griffith’s Celebrating Barbecue: The Ultimate Guide to America’s 4 Regional Styles of ‘Cue (Simon & Schuster; $24) breaks down the grilling world by its warring factions, each of which claims it’s the one true holy order: Texas-style (savory-smoky, slightly sweet), Kansas City (sweet-sour, hot), Carolina (hot and sour), and Memphis (sweet, hot, and smoky). Let the Flames Begin, by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby (W.W. Norton; $30; June) isn’t so much about barbecue, but it offers lots of general grilling advice and techniques, as well as a bunch of spice rubs. Al Roker’s Big Bad Book of Barbecue (Scribner; $27.95; June) applies the unflappable weatherman’s amiable persona to 100 basic backyard recipes. And if the testosterone-soaked world of backyard cooking just puts you off, surf on over to www.girlsatthegrill.com, where founder Elizabeth Karmel is threatening to take back barbecue from the guys. Karmel, a former marketing and P.R. consultant for Weber, has filled her brand-new site with seriously reliable and informative cooking and equipment tips, spice rubs, and an e-store (still under construction) where you’ll be able to buy it. If all this arcana gives you the ‘cue vapors, you can even hire Karmel to come out to your house for grilling lessons. She lives in Chicago, so it won’t come cheap – but let’s face it, the truest of barbecue devotees will go a lot farther than that for a fix.


Good eggs:
Deviled eggs are spiked with curry, cayenne, and tarragon-infused champagne vinegar.

all-american feast:
The pit team at Blue Smoke conjures the ultimate summer menu: from left, potato salad, “pit” beans, coleslaw, smoked chicken, and pork spareribs, plus deviled eggs and iceberg lettuce with Roquefort dressing (not shown).

salad days:
Crunchy iceberg lettuce makes a comeback, dressed to the nines with Roquefort cheese, garlic, and crumbled bacon.

no pits:
Slow cooking over indirect heat is the key to barbecuing ribs and chicken in a standard kettle grill. It’s also helpful to have a rack with flaps, for adding hot coals without disturbing the meat.

Where There’s Smoke