When smoke gets in your cocktail—or your happy hour fare—it can be a very good thing.
As the authors of the new cookbook Red, White, and ‘Que: Farm-Fresh Foods for the American Grill, Karen Adler and I like to push the barbecue envelope with every recipe we create. What makes us happy is to marry the world of white tablecloth with the world of down-home barbecue, great food and drink with a relaxing, casual style.
Smoke and char are those ancient flavors of the hearth that still speak to us today. A little char on a lemon to update a classic whisky sour or grill marks on fruit in sangria can elevate summer’s favorite drinks. A great bark on a rare Creole Coffee-Rubbed Beef Tenderloin looks as delicious as it tastes, whether you serve the beef warm or chilled and sliced thinly for open-face cocktail sandwiches. Garden peppers of all kinds—red bell or Japanese Shishitos—blister beautifully on the grill, then soften and sweeten as they cook.
Olive oil-brushed bread on the grill is a revelation. Artisan bread gets a smoky, rustic flavor on the grill and can be topped with anything for an easy-does-it appetizer.
For this happy hour, we sliced the beef tenderloin and paired it with a flavorful Creole aioli, fresh arugula, and a few shavings of pecorino. It could be a meal in itself. We also took the classic Caprese salad of mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil in a new direction with grilled red peppers, feta cheese, and fresh chives. And an added benefit for today’s backyard barbecuer, grilled bread with toppings can go gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian or whatever your guest list dictates.
Grilled bread is also something anybody can do on the grill. Invite your guests to take a turn—there is always somebody handy with the grill tongs who can be plied with a few glasses of sangria.
After all, it’s your happy hour, too.
Grilled Fruit Sangria
Simply grill slices of orange and pineapple. Blister whole clusters of grapes (or use a perforated grill pan to contain them). Chop the fruit into smaller pieces and cut each grape in half; the fruit goes into a large pitcher. Pour in 1.5 liters of a chilled, fruity red wine, 1/2 cup (120 ml) Calvados, 1/2 cup (120 ml) brandy, and maybe simple syrup to taste. A good stir, and the sangria is ready to serve over a glass of ice. Adapted from a recipe by Mike Vrobel of DadCooksDinner.com. Makes a pitcher of sangria.
Grill-Roasted Red Pepper, Feta, and Chives on Grilled Bread
2 large red bell peppers
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces (227 g) feta in a block, drained and
cut into 8 slices
2 tablespoons or more coarsely snipped
Brush the whole red peppers with olive oil and place over direct heat. Grill, turning every few minutes, until the peppers have good grill marks all over. Remove the peppers from the grill and place them in a paper or plastic bag, close the bag, and let them steam until they’re cool enough to handle. Then, stem, seed and cut into 8 slices. To serve, place 2 slices grill-roasted red pepper and season lightly with salt and pepper on each plate, and then add two slices feta. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with snipped chives.
Creole Coffee-Rubbed Beef Tenderloin
Serves 8 to 12
When you want to do it up big for a special occasion, this recipe is perfect. You can serve the beef tenderloin right off the grill or grill it earlier in the day and serve it chilled. Another tip: Buy a whole beef tenderloin and trim it up yourself to save money. Simply trim away any fat or silver skin and tie the narrow end under the roast so that the whole tenderloin is the same thickness and grills evenly. This dish has the flavor of a New Orleans party—and they know how to celebrate!
Creole Coffee Rub
2 tablespoons very finely ground chicory coffee, Kona coffee, or espresso
1 tablespoon Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons Creole or whole-grain mustard
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Creole Coffee Rub (above)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
One 6 to 8 pound beef tenderloin, trimmed
Olive oil for brushing
4 cups baby arugula
For the Creole Coffee Rub, combine all ingredients in a bowl and blend well. Keep in a sealable jar on your kitchen counter until ready to use.
For the Creole Sauce, stir the mayonnaise, horseradish, mustard, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons Creole Coffee Rub together until well blended. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Prepare a hot fire in your grill.
For the tenderloin, fold the tapered end under the meat, then tie the tenderloin at intervals with kitchen twine so the tenderloin becomes a cylinder and will grill evenly. Brush the tenderloin with olive oil and sprinkle all over with Creole Coffee Rub.
Grill, covered, for 10 minutes, turning a quarter turn after 5 minutes. Brush again with olive oil and grill for 10 to 12 more minutes, turning a quarter turn every 5 minutes, until a meat thermometer registers 130°F (54.5°C) for rare or to your desired doneness.
Let the tenderloin rest for 5 minutes, and then remove the twine.
To serve, line a platter with the arugula. Slice the tenderloin and serve it on the bed of arugula, accompanied by Creole Sauce.
For Grilled Bread with Beef Tenderloin, Aioli, Arugula and Pecorino, simply brush slices of artisan bread with olive oil and grill on both sides. Top with a slather of aioli, a slice of grilled beef tenderloin, arugula and a few shavings of pecorino.
Recipes adapted and used by permission from Karen Adler and Judith Fertig’s Red, White, and ‘Que (Running Press, 2017).