Construction of a Menù

Post Menu Costruzione

The Time Line on the Grill in 3 Steps

Now I can say I’m lucky: I have at my disposal all the tools I want and if I want to create a menu for my guests I can just put in line a batch of devices, each dedicated to a course, but it has not always been so. A few years ago, it meant engaging in adventurous buildings in mezzanines between the grills made with crushed coke cans and training you to do the acrobat between temperatures and set ups, very often with zero margin of error. And thank goodness! It is in human nature to transform what appears to be a limitation in a resource, forcing you to some extent to develop skills that you would not otherwise have had.

A bit ‘of notches on my Colt, some mistakes and many curses later but equally fun, I can appreciate how those experiences have been useful for me to learn how to manage the space on the grid depending on the preparations to be made. In all serenity I can say now that without that training in the field I would not be able to achieve in the following years many jobs apparently impossible or at least with some serious problems.

At the end rationalizing what has been learned, it could be summarized that the process of creating a time line for a barbecue menu goes through the definition of three steps:

1. Spaces Definition

Menù su KettleIn other words, to identify how many devices we have available and how many courses we have in mind to achieve for how many people. Mind you: having two devices does not mean you can only do two courses and the skill lies right in this. But it is important to understand how many levers we have available and how much we need to force them to get our purpose. So making an example, suppose we have two kettles (we see the most complicated hypothesis: if we had gas devices it would certainly be simpler, because more flexible) and a 5-course menu to be made for 30 people: starter, first course, main course, side dish, dessert.

2. Find the fixed points and the cooking areas

That is to understand what are the binding elements of our endowment or our choices, those to which we must somehow adapt. In our specific case, the first thing is certainly the fact that we are using charcoal devices, which in some ways is an added value but that certainly does not help in terms of elasticity of the settings. Assuming that on these devices it is much easier and faster to start from a low temperature and then rise, rather than the contrary, we know that if we start with preparations that require high temperatures, these will also bind us to the following ones, if we start low the following can always be high.

Post Menù Portate

The other element that could be binding is the number of diners: 30 people to serve on 5 courses, starting to request interesting surfaces on the grid. Considering that we have just two simple kettles available, we have to turn towards preparations that have a high yield between volume and portions. On this topic it is worthwhile to spend two words: you will see how with the passage of time and experience you will make your own personal scale relative to the values expressed by this proportion. In order to push the concept to extremes, a pulled pork takes up little space on the grid but is able to satisfy a large number of people, so just with a simple smoker full of normal collars, we are able to serve a regiment. On the contrary, an example of low yield preparation is the hamburger: it takes up a lot of space per serving, it must be served hot and just in time and requires at least 10 minutes cooking on the grid. On the evaluation we always start from the main course, which then constrains everything else. Fishing from this scale values we have to find something that suits. Imagine scoring the point of this scale we are considering and raising until you find what we need: a steak is clearly the worst we could choose, for the same reasoning as the hamburger, so we go up. A chicken, or following a turkey, are better but we are not there yet. A Brisket or Pulled Pork could go but on the first we have some space limit on the kettle and in both we are quite narrow with the portions. Going up again, we could identify what meet our criteria, a beautiful pork roast or even better two, or a Porchetta, one of the dishes certainly higher in the ranking of yield. We choose this and considering for the type of cooking a low weight reduction, not more than 10% and 120 gr. for each diner we have a raw target weight of (120 x 30) / 0.90 = 4 kg right-fair. Very feasible.

Then proceed with the second course in importance: the first course. In this sense, translating into barbecues, we have two main areas of choice: the first courses on wok or the oven-style ones, like lasagna to understand. In reality there are also alternative, more adventurous and artistic solutions but for the time being we will not complicate life and remain on technically more consolidated technics. The the oven style first courses in our yield ranking do not occupy a very bright position: the maximum available space for an indirect cooking in a kettle is more or less that of a 12 portions pan. Even supposing to play with the volumes and create a castle of grids, we would not go beyond 24. Not much better unfortunately we classify the pasta dishes in the wok. On the other hand, much better goes the rice dishes, which absorbs a lot of liquid, added from time to time during cooking and starts from a decidedly lower initial weight of raw material. By my experience we could say that a wok works best for homogeneity of cooking on the one kg of rice but with a little manuality can reach up to a maximum of 2 kg. Let’s say that a portion of raw rice ranges from 50 to 80 grams and in our case, assuming you want to occupy only one kettle and one wok for the purpose, we would have available 2 kg / 30 people = 65 grams that to work more comfortable we can allow us to round up to 60 grams. As a recipe we could match to Porchetta for winter atmosphere, the recipe of Risotto al Roquefort e Rochefort.

Post Menù portate 2Now we evaluate the situation: We have a cooking area set in indirect with two heat points set up, dedicated to pork for a few hours and another with central set up and very high temperatures for Risotto in Wok. Can the two areas happen in the same device? Yes! We could cook the porchetta using the baskets containing embers on the two sides of the combustion grid to form a set-up with two heat points, then when cooked, put the Porchetta in rest in the cambro (remember the advantages of the Rest right?), Move the baskets to the center, if necessary fill up fuel and proceed with cooking Risotto. We need a side dish and already that we have concentrated two cooking areas in a one only device we could overlap a third one placing some baked vegetables under the porchetta during cooking, which would be enriched by the fallen juices. We could make some tomatoes but probably some simple potatoes are the ones that would be more appreciated. You could put two 8-piece pans in the space of the drip pan left free in the center from the set up to two heat points.

In this case it is all too easy, we still have a whole kettle free and only two courses still to be placed. We have a very large selectable space in front. We could afford the two cooking areas necessary for an appetizer of sure success and that makes very well, the Candy Salmon Cubes: an indirect cooking first phase at medium temperature to toast the black bread and a following indirect cooking at higher temperature to brown and glaze the salmon. As mentioned, it is too easy: for the dessert we could afford to take advantage of the high heat of the second phase to plate the fruit and make a grilled fruit salad, one of the recipes on my book, Subito Barbecue. Or take advantage of the first phase at a moderate temperature to make apples smoke and create a cream of smoked apple and amaretto. With the intensity of the salmon and two tendentially fat dishes like the Risotto al Rochefort and even more the porchetta we choose the freshness of the fruit salad. Well we are ready

3. Define the Time Line

In designing the Time Line of our menu we have two objectives: the first is that there must be minimum or no waiting times between one course and the other, the other is that as much as possible we should reduce our presence on the grid to dedicate time to our guests. The definition of the time line always starts from the bottom of the menu: the last course to be served is the grilled fruit salad, but it not only does not require a realization just in time but even give its best if left to rest and cool. It will take about 15 minutes on a ceramic plate but let’s leave it aside for now. The previous course is the Porchetta with a side dish of potatoes. Between the two, clearly the first has a longer cooking, say 1 hours / kg then 4 hours. Let’s assume halfway through cooking to add the potatoes. The risotto, on the other hand, will require for change of set-up, preparations and cooking about 45 minutes. Then there are the two phases of candy salmon cubes: toasting the bread at moderate temperature, about 15 minutes but that can be done well in advance and the browning and glazing of the salmon, about 20-30 minutes.

So assuming to start serving for 12.30, going backwards the time line could be the following:

8.00 Cooking Porchetta
(Kettle 1 – Indirect – Two heat points Set Up  – Temperature 180°C)

10.00 Cooking Potatoes
(Kettle 1 – Indirect – Two heat points Set Up  – Temperature 180°C)

11.00 Toasting the Black Bread
(Kettle 2 – Direct – Two Zones Set Up  – Average Temperature)

11.15 warmin Ceramic Plate
(Kettle 2 – Direct – Two Zones Set Up  – High Temperature)

11.30 Plate the Fruit
(Kettle 2 – Direct – Two Zones Set Up  – High Temperature)

11.45 Slicing the grilled fruit and seasoning with sugar and Maraschino

12.00 Rest of Porchetta and Potatoes

12.00 Cooking Salmon
(Kettle 2 – Direct – Two Zones Set Up  – High Temperature)

12.10 Cooking Risotto
(Kettle 1 – -Direct – Central Set Up Centrale – High Temperature)

12.30 Serving the Starter

12.55 Serving the Risotto

13.20 Serving Porchetta and Potatoes

13.45 Serving Grilled Fruit Salad

Naturally the same principle is applicable in any other situation as long as you are within the physical limits that your equipment allows you to reach, but certainly this system helps you to fully exploit them.

And what system do you use to construct your time line?

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