Arrosto, girarosto, allo spiedo or alle brace . . . all refer to grilled or spit roasted meats in Italy. The word brace (bra-cheh) means grilled over embers and for Italians the smoldering, glowing remains of an open fire create the perfect setting for enjoying la dolce vita.
Grilling in Italy is much simpler than the American-style barbecue. The fire is either charcoal or wood burned down to coals (hardwood such as oak is considered best, olive wood is also used). Determining temperature and time is literally by hand. Holding your hand over the fire just above the grill for 2 seconds means the flame is hot; perfect for searing a steak, 3-4 seconds is cooler and suited for grilling meats that cook quickly. For meats that have a longer cooking time (poultry, spare ribs), 5 seconds. Italians use the less is more approach to grilling and believe that the flavor has to come from the meat. Marinades, if used at all, are simple. An anointing of extra virgin olive oil or a sprinkling of herbs such as rosemary or sage is all that is needed.
In Tuscany and Umbria wood grilled meats are the truest interpretation of the rustic cuisine of the region. The legendary Florentine steak, “bistecca fiorentina” anointed with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with salt and coarsely ground pepper and grilled rare to medium rare, is a rite of passage for the taste traveler in Italy and should not be missed. In Umbria, Porchetto allo spiedo, a whole young pig, deboned, flavored with wild fennel and garlic and spit roasted in a wood burning oven is a signature Umbrian dish.
I’ve written about espresso rubs for grilled meat before but I thought I would do a reprise for Father’s Day 2014. After all, Fathers want to be masters of the grill and rubs (wet or dry) always give an extra kick and wow factor to just about any grilled meat. So here are 3 Italian inspired recipes that bring a shot of espresso to the Italian grill for Father’s Day.
Recipe for Black Espresso Rub
Combine the following ingredients for a rub you can use for meat. poultry or fish. Can be stored in a tightly closed contained in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
1/4 cup finely ground espresso beans
2 T finely grated lemon zest
3 T sugar
2 t sea salt and 2 t coarsely ground pepper
2 t garlic powder
1 T ground coriander
1 t ground chipotle chili
*traditionally rubs (spices and herbs) were made for BBQ to create a flavorful, crispy crust while a liquid marinade tenderizes because of the addition of an acid (teas, coffee, fruit juices, lemon juice, wine, vinegar) to the rub’s herbs and spices
I’m not quite ready for the holidays. I haven’t started my Christmas shopping and I’m not ready to let go of my favorite summertime food. That of course is BBQ. Not that you can’t BBQ in the winter. Just like running out your backdoor through the snow to the hot tub for a steaming soak, cooking on the grill in your parka has a charm all its own. But unlike the sweet fruity flavors of summer BBQ sauces I prefer a more robust sauce for the wintertime grill.
Enter Michael Symon’s Coffee Barbeque Sauce. Baby it’s cold outside but the robust flavor of a strong coffee (I use an espresso) and the heat of chipotle keep you warm and satisfied. Here is my version of Symon’s Sauce.
COFFEE BBQ SAUCE:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted
1/2 tablespoon chipotle powder
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sherry vinegar 1 cup ketchup 1 cup strong coffee (I use espresso)
Add the oil to a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion with a good pinch of salt, sweating until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the coriander, chipotle powder, brown sugar, vinegar, coffee, and ketchup. Stir to combine, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain, discard the solids, and let cool. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Makes about 2 cups.