Thu Aug 7, 2014
Carne-val has been one of the finest Meatwave traditions. This celebration of all that is meat has been taking place since our first year back in 2004, making this summer's Crane-val the 11th annual! To bring an even truer meaning to the name, I devised a 100% all-beef menu that I was sure would result in a bovine good time.
A classic burgers and hot dogs cookout used to be a summer staple, but has kind of fallen off as I'm on a never ending quest to come up with as many great grilling recipes as possible. I felt a strong desire to get back to basics though and acted on that by heading the butcher, picking out the fattiest pieces of chuck, getting them ground, and finally forming all that beef into eighteen 1/3-lb patties to make sure everyone who rsvp'd would be able to partake in a burger. Nothing special here, but there's also nothing quit as comforting as an all-beef burger seared over a hot fire with melted American, nestled into a toasted potato bun.
There can't be burgers without hot dogs! Hot dogs remain one of the few things at the Meatwave I don't make myself. After struggling with sheep casings when making merguez, I'm fine to keep the hot dog production to the experts, and there are none quite as expertly done as Nathan's all-beef franks in natural casings. I also picked up eighteen of these, which were all gone at the end of the day, meaning everyone seemingly got at least one dog and one burger—cookout success!
Of course the Meatmaster could never settle on just burgers and dogs, so I had a few more items on the menu beyond the everyday cookout fare. This included grilled beef short ribs. I never really knew a short rib would do well grilled, but was shown that it was not only possible, but is insanely delicious at Miller's Guild in Seattle. I always thought the fat would be too chewy and overwhelming, but the ribs I had there was so tender and delicious, I was proven wrong in one bite.
So I picked up two racks of short ribs, divorced the meat from the bone, gave them nothing more than a coating of salt and pepper, then grilled them over high heat until medium-rare. These were incredible—beefy, juicy, and tender, and they were made all the better with a spread of chimichurri sauce.
To keep the beef-wave going, I also picked up another item that's new-to-me—tri tip. I've had this California barbecue staple plenty of times, but it's not a common cut here in New York, so have never cooked any at home. I found a couple sources for tri tip recently though and picked up two to test out.
The first I did in a traditional Santa Maria fashion—rubbed with salt, pepper, and garlic, then grilled over oak—I used one chunk of oak placed on charcoal to stand in for the usual oak logs brunt down to coals. I cooked it until medium-rare, then sliced and served with a Santa Maria salsa—basically like pico de gallo with celery and some balsamic added in. The tri tip itself wasn't super beefy tasting like the short ribs, but did have a nice mild flavor and tender texture. The salsa certainly went a long way in making this feel whole.
My second tri tip I actually liked better. Instead of going simple with salt and pepper, I gave this one a marinade of lemon juice, oil, Worcestershire, soy sauce, garlic, and more. The mild meat picked up a lot of flavor from the marinade, which made this incarnation of tri tip stand out better on its own with no crutch by way of a sauce.
Ok, so I said it was going to be 100%-beef, but we can make an exception for bacon, right? I really wanted bacon on my burger, so I threw some strips on the grill over indirect heat, sprinkled on a brown sugar and chili rub, and let them cook until crispy. This is like super bacon for your burger, you get all the smoky and salty, but also a touch of sweet heat. It was also great just on its own, which is how most of my guests ate it.
To deliver on the full classic cookout, I put together some tradition sides. First up was corn done simply by throwing ears over the fire, roasting until charred, and then finishing them with butter, salt, and pepper. Like a burger or hot dog, this is just plan backyard comfort food.
Next came a macaroni salad. This one is a bit deceiving—it looks like the standard almost two-ingredient macaroni and mayo salad, but there is so much more flavor built up here. With vinegar, mayo, sour cream, and lemon juice, this was a super tangy side that was balanced out by the dairy, given depth by way of mustard and hot sauce, and contrasted with crunchy fresh celery, shallots, and green onions.
My side de resistance was this potato salad. A type of copycat recipe of my favorite potato salad of all time from Il Bambino in Astoria, this brought together fingerling potatoes that were tossed in an aioli with a basil pesto, pecorino, and crispy fried shallots. Man, this is one damn tasty potato salad and wish I still had leftovers so I could eat more of it right now.
Joe provided some fun booziness with a giant watermelon whose flesh he mashed and combined with coconut rum. As if we didn't have enough beer and other liquor already, this stuff went fast and Joe soon found himself making a second batch as Meatwavers were all too happy to down one drink after another.
Chrissy was my hero of the day, bringing a s'mores pie from one of my favorite joints—Pies n' Thighs. Now I may be partial to their peanut butter pie, but this one gave it a run for the money with its super chocolatey ganache, toasted marshmallow topping, and sweet graham cracker crust.
Whew, that was a lot of food, but we had a lot of mouths to feed. Margot was certainly the girl of the day. She was celebrating her second birthday and all she wanted to do was "Eat meat outside." There's no better place to do that than the Meatwave, so I'm happy we were able to make her birthday dreams come true.
I need to give a special shoutout to my co-workers. After years of trying to sell the Meatwave at work with little turnout from my colleagues, I kind of gave up hope that they would see the light and become the Meatwavers I wished they would be. With a new batch of faces though has come renewed hope. I've converted one co-worker so far, Noah, who's helped me make the sale to others. This week Christina took the plunge, bringing her sister, Steph, and roommate, Vicky, along to ride the wave. They were prepared to head out to the beer garden in late afternoon, but ended up becoming the last ones standing, boozing and meating it up way after sundown.
Next from the WCS crew was Chrissy, who brought her boyfriend Alex. Chrissy deserves a second shout out for that awesome pie—seriously amazing. I probably spent more time talking to Alex though, who has a similar passion for grilling and photography, and I was happy to share some tips and tricks for both.
Maggie may just become the most dedicated Meatwaver of the year. As soon as the schedule was out, she added each one to her calendar so she wouldn't miss any. She's four-for-four so far, and gets extra points for bringing her boy Patrick along to most of those too.
Further representing the Penguin were Joe and Naomi. I think most Meatwaves have ended this year with Joe making a proposition to me to leave my wife for him—that's the power of the meat.
Yet another Penguin pal—Kris's co-workers all are Meatwave lovers—is George and his girlfriend Juanita.
Julian and Tracey made it out from Staten Island for the first time this season. We've known each other for a few years now as barbecue buddies, but until this summer I was never able to make it to their place for a cookout. This changed last month, as Julian and his friend Chris threw a blowout in Brooklyn with tons of brisket, pulled pork, and turkey. I was only to return the favor, cooking for him this time around.
Then we have Chris. He's also made it to almost every Meatwave, but I've only seemed to capture incredibly awkward photos of him, so he's been absent from representation on the blog. I told him I was getting a good shot this week and giving him the credit he deserves. Chris is special because he will not leave without eating everything at the Meatwave, no matter how insane that proposition may be.
Last, but not least, we have Watson. This over 150lb Newfoundland literally had to be pushed up the stairs by three people, but once he got up and out, he stole the show. A giant mass of a mammal, he sprawled across the deck, demanding the attention and affection of all, and everyone was all too happy to comply.