Thu Jun 27, 2013
Ten years into the Meatwave now, and having published a new grilling recipe every week for about seven of those years, you'd think I may have started to exhaust the possibilities on the grill. In reality though, it's quite the opposite—each Meatwave we have I'm finding all new things I've never thought of before and am left trying to balance all the ideas that are pouring into my brain with what I can actually accomplish. Meatroccan Nights is a grand example. When realizing I had never tackled Moroccan cuisine, I started coming up with too many recipes and had to scale back from my original list, and even then, didn't have time to complete all I set out to do. Still, I put together a mighty fine spread that gave us a small taste of North Africa.
Put "Morocco" and "grill" together and the first thing I think of is merguez. These small, highly spiced lamb sausages are incredibly delicious, especially when cooked over fire. Homemade merguez required me to make the jump from hog casings to sheep casings, and while I was prepared for the increased difficulty, it didn't stop the expletives from flying as my first attempts constantly burst out of their delicate casings. By the end I had the hang of it and I got four pounds of sausage stuffed so we could enjoy these spicy, earthy, and lamb-y little links throughout the day.
Making merguez wasn't enough for me though, I had grander plans for this sausage. I used the merguez for these incredible little sandwiches that had caramelized onions, cilantro, manchego cheese, and harissa mayo piled onto oiled and toasted baguettes. Rich and full of sweet and spicy flavor, these were one my proudest creations ever.
I had bought an entire lamb shoulder to make the merguez, but ended up having about two pounds of meat left over. So I combined that with two pounds of beef chuck, onion, and spices to make these Moroccan-spiced meatballs. Another win for the day, they were unique from any meatball I've made previously and were a hit with Meatwavers, especially when served over a plate of saffron couscous.
To add a little poultry into the mix, I made these chicken brochettes. Marinated in what became a familiar mix of paprika, cumin, garlic, lemon, and cilantro, the Moroccan spice had a more profound impact on the delicate flavor of the chicken.
All this meat needed a place live (before hitting out stomachs), so I grilled up a batch of batbout—Moroccan pocked bread. Only about half ended up having pockets though, the others were just warm and spongy vehicles for the array of dips I made.
First up in the dip category was this chunky and spicy baba ghanoush. It took me a while to get a good baba ghanoush recipe, and once I found it, I haven't veered from it since. It was only after having a chunky and spicy version of this roasted eggplant dip recently while in Granda, Spain, that I felt the need to explore what else baba ghanoush could be, and this incarnation was certainly a worthy deviation from the norm.
I also worked on my hummus recipe. Going for a super-smooth hummus, I started out with dry chickpeas that I cooked until soft, then peeled, and processed using my standard hummus ingredients. Out came exactly what I wanted, silky smooth hummus like what you get from the top grocery brands.
The recipe made so much hummus that I split it in two and mixed the second half with harissa and mint, both which I had on hand from all the Moroccan cooking I was doing. This was clearly the favorite of the two and made all the hummus work worth it, since this is not a combo you can pick up in the store.
Tyson and Kristen brought this awesome bean salad. It looks pretty standard, but they dumped a can of Ro-Tel in there, which gave it an great spicy green chili heat.
For a change, our dessert options all consisted of "healthy" fruit. James brought along these extra sweet and soft Haitian mangos, while Treyci and Tito came with oranges and apples to de dipped in ground nutmeg.
This week was filled with new faces at the Meatwave. First up we have Tyson and Kristen, who joined us last year for the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, but made their first appareance at a Meatwave proper.
Then we have Natalie and Tom. My wife helped Natalie out on her Queens Memory Project, so I'd heard a lot about her, but never actually got to meet her until today, and what better way to make new friends than over grilled meats.
Also Meatwave (and Astoria) newbies were Max and Marcus. Our new downstairs neighbors transplanted from Michigan, these two are the first tenants in our building to take us up on the offer to join in the Meatwave. We're looking forward to getting to know them and their wonderful dog Teddy.
Returning for the first time this year were James and Darryl. The brains behind the barbecue operation at Serious Eats, it's always good fun talking to James and sharing some food. Don't miss his new video series that is really kicking ass.
Peter also made it out for his first Meatwave of the summer. Such a busy boy, we don't see him as much as we used to, so it's always great when he can get out from behind his bandsaw and partake in the meat and booze fest.
Jon was a late entry, arriving when the sun was setting with newcomers Aaron and Emily. Jon is always seems busy being a "doctor," but I say operating on a (veggie) burger is way more important that saving lives, right?
I saved the best for last, Pork chop! My favorite Frenchie, Pork Chop can be seen here enjoying a deliciously refreshing can of Cherry Coke, which of course came after his indulgence in our Meatroccan feast.