The cover is off the pool, the grill and patio furniture have been cleaned off, and we're running through summer recipes to wow our guests as we prepare to start weekend entertaining.
Bookstores are displaying barbecue and grilling books galore, and the garden and back yard are starting to show signs of life.
By midweek, everyone is officially praying at the altar of the local meteorologist for cooperation.So now that everything is spruced up and ready to go, how can you make this barbecue season a truly memorable one? Dive in to one of the hottest cuisines in the world, which until now, has been relegated to Indian restaurants: tandoori cooking. The ancient tradition of preparing food in a tandoor oven has a history with roots that trace to Turkish, Arab and Persian cultures. Originally developed in central Asia and later brought to India by the Moguls, tandoor ovens were traditionally made of hand-molded clay, often with hay and animal hair mixed in for structural reinforcement. The contemporary tandoor is thankfully lined with high-temperature ceramic, which not only maintains cooking temperatures, but also resists extreme temperature changes. The tandoor is wider at the bottom, resembling a tall planter turned upside down, and foods are put in via the opening at the top. The end result of a centuries-old method is still pleasing today -- foods are uniformly seared on the outside, moist on the inside, and natural sugars caramelize to create a flavor profile that isn't nearly as easy to achieve on a standard grill rack. According to Floyd Cardoz, executive chef and partner of Manhattan's
High Heat, High FlavorCardoz uses
|Photo: Amy Kalyn Sims|
At home, he has "a very primitive one in a metal barrel that sits on the side of my back yard. It was originally installed a decade ago, when I was creating dishes for the menu at Tabla." Today, he uses it a couple of times a month, along with his Fortunoff four-burner grill with rotisserie.
Tandoor How-ToAs Cardoz says, "If you're proficient with a grill, it's easy to work a tandoor." Practice does make perfect, however; numerous stories abound of naan that doesn't quite stick to the tandoor wall and ends up in the embers, where it is quickly vaporized before it can be retrieved. When it comes to what to cook in your tandoor vs. a traditional grill, the options are endless. "Any kind of meat works, from a full leg of lamb to flank steak, and a wet marinade is better than a dry rub in most cases," Cardoz explains. "Seafood is also great: shrimp, crab, lobster, a whole black bass or red snapper, or chunks of meatier fish, like mahi-mahi, striped bass, tuna or swordfish all cook well on skewers. In terms of vegetables, the more traditional ones are cauliflower, peppers and even whole eggplants, but you can do anything you normally cook on a grill -- zucchini, mushrooms, onions." And for dessert? "Pineapple, peaches, or any other firm fruits. As long as they'll stay on the skewer, they'll be terrific," Cardoz advises. Accessories, all the rage for grills, are fairly minimal for tandoor ovens. Most come with at least one naan hook, a naan scraper and skewers that are at least three feet long to reduce the chance of burned hands and forearms. A cover and some good oven mitts are the only other items you'll need.
|MARINATED HANGER STEAK|
Recipe courtesy of Floyd Cardoz, from
one spice, two spice
You can make this recipe in a tandoor or on a grill.
1½ tablespoons coriander seeds
1. Coarsely grind the coriander seeds, peppercorns, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and cloves in an electric spice grinder. Sift the ground spices through a coarse sieve into a bowl. Stir in the salt and ¼ cup of the oil.
2. Pat the spice rub all over the steaks; marinate, covered and refrigerated, for at least 4 and up to 36 hours.
3. Preheat the tandoor oven or grill.
Tandoor: Thread the steaks on skewers, leaving space between each steak. Cook for 6-8 minutes for medium-rare.
4. Transfer steaks to cutting board and let them rest at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut them against the grain at a 45-degree angle into ¼- to ½-inch slices. Arrange the meat on a warm platter and serve at once.
To control the temperature, small vents can be opened or closed, and ash from prior fires can be kept in the pit for use in lowering flames if they get too high. A hardwood charcoal, without additives, is Cardoz's preferred fuel, but most home tandoors are equipped for easy hookup to a gas line. In that case, professional installation is recommended.
Cooking With GasKurt Eickmeyer, VP of sales and marketing for Wood Stone Corporation, says that while Cardoz favors charcoal over gas for better smoke flavor, "We recommend natural gas or propane for use with our tandoors, because regulating, understanding and maintaining the heat can become an adventure unto itself." While tandoors are energy-efficient, "for most clients, gas gives an additional ease of operation and flexibility," Eickmeyer says. Fuel costs are comparable to those for a traditional gas grill. "Generally, 40,000 BTUs is the maximum heat needed to saturate the vessel. The only minor downside is that it does take a while to get the heat up so that it remains at a consistent temperature -- one to two hours.
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