In Guyana, a Bar-b-que (or barbeque) is about smoked and grilled chicken over hot coals, Chicken, not pork or beef, Chicken! If there are slices of beef or some pork-chops on the grill, they are incidental to us, we are all about the Chicken. And now that we’ve come out of the dark ages, we can also have those store-bought sausages added for the extra novelty.
The Bar-b-que is also about that smoky flavour and the burnt edges, it’s about the rich basting sauce that is unsparingly applied, and it’s about the conversation around the pit/grill, conversation that could be about anything or nothing.
I am not a Bar-b-que man, I am probably more of a Burn-B-Que chap, but then I am usually in agreement with the old Guyanese adage that “when it bun, it done”. Whenever I can learn a little bit more about the whole Bar-B-Que process (without putting myself to too much trouble, that is) I like to be able to say that I picked up a little bit from a master. This weekend I was a a Bar-b-que at Nikhil‘s house, where we were “christening” his new Bar-b-que pit. Before Nik actually built the pit we had lengthy discussions about the “ideal” Bar-b-que pit, and there were lots of ideas floating around, from an oven/pit combination to what he has now, which is very similar to the one in my yard, except he used some nice clay bricks, from a distance it may look like a wishing well, you can toss coins in if you like, just not when we’re barbecuing. We were quite surprised when we saw it, but according to him, it’s not his fault, he gave very clear instructions to the builders, all of which they ignored, so, the grill and the pit itself needs some work 🙂
Learning from the master. The head honcho and chief cook was Naseem, he knows more about food than I’ll ever know, both about eating it and preparing it, and likely about its History too. Something I learnt about Bar-b-queing this weekend was Naseem method of firing the coals. I have never seen it done his way and although I found it unorthodox, I thought it quite intriguing.
Firstly – the wood. The quantities I put here are for cooking roughly forty pieces of chicken (leg & thigh, and wing & breast pieces). What you need is this (you can probably substitute, but I’ll go with the Master) four to six pieces of greenheart wood, roughly eighteen inches by four inches by half an inch. I would be remiss to mention the proper nomenclature here or my old Biology teacher would be offended, greenheart is called Chlorocardium rodeii, and is one of the premium woods found in the Guianas. The other wood used is what we typically call “roundwood”, no one can as yet inform me of its specie name, but I’ve been reliably informed that the roundwood crosses species, it’s a wild wood that grows fairly straight and is about two to three inches in diameter. It is used in local construction for making T-shores (and I’ve also been told it’s used in cremations), we use three to four pieces of this, roughly five feet long.
The greenheart, you chop into long slivers; the roundwood, you cut into half the length then split each piece down the middle, and you put these into a teepee style arrangement, just like a campfire I suppose. Next, a good dose of gasoline, and some matches. Once lit, you can make sure the outer edges catch by using some wadded up newspaper. Once this is burning nicely you put the grill back on top. This is the interesting part, we didn’t put the coals on top the wood as I normally see done, we put the coals on the grill! That’s right, on the grill, as if we’re cooking them. Thank goodness Nik had two grills.
At this point, the Naseem method calls for Naseem to get away to the house, and instruct people who have no idea what his plan is to “get the coals hot and dig a hole in the middle and spread them around. So we basically we just ignore all those instructions, we fire the coals on top the grill and when they’re nice and hot, all red underneath, we empty the grill onto the fire below and spread them around til it looks nice and even.
Very nice method, and then after adding a few more coals to it, we put the new grill on and prepare the grill for the chicken and everything proceeds as normal from there. It’s at this point in the Naseem method that he reappears and has new instruction for some able-bodied men to go get the chicken and the sauce.
Firing the coals on the grill, that one is new to me, but most effective 🙂 Now let’s see, I think I have to learn the preparation of the chicken… or I’ll just have Nas do that every time.