During BBQ season here at the shop (March-October), when I work in the bakery on Saturdays, I get the benefit of Eric’s company for a brief while in the morning as he puts the finishing touches on his BBQ. Saturdays find him baking off cornbread, roasting the chickens and finishing off ribs. As I go through the process of making cinnamon bread, I observe the different stages he goes through – the testing of the golden cornbread studded with colorful peppers, the brushing of the chickens with his BBQ sauce and the final glazing of the ribs with that same sauce.
The half chickens begin their journey on Friday when they are split and marinated in a special rub. On Saturday morning, Eric roasts them for about 45 minutes, bastes them in their own juice and, as he says, “gives them a sauce bath.” Once they are out on the sidewalk, customers have the option of another “sauce bath” before their chicken goes on the grill for the grand finale. As Eric points out, the basting process helps to crisp the skin while the layering of the BBQ sauce allows for a delicious development of flavor.
Rib preparation starts on Thursdays when they go in the smoker. On Fridays, the ribs are cooked “slow and low” for about 3 ½ hours. On Saturdays, the ribs go in the oven when they also get a good “sauce bath.”
Eric does a variety of pulled meats: pork, lamb, beef and spicy chicken. Preparation of these meats also begins on Thursdays when the fat of the meats is scored and Eric’s special rub is applied. The beef gets the addition of a good slathering of mustard while the chicken gets some additional fennel and cayenne (where the “spicy” comes from!). The pork, lamb and beef are then smoked on a large Weber grill over apple wood chips that have been soaked in apple juice. The meats get about 2 ½ hours of smoke with frequent rotating in order to ensure even cooking.
On Friday, all of the pulled meats go back on the grill, this time for cooking, at 7am. They cook for about 10 hours. The chicken gets slightly different treatment – in addition to getting the rub, it is also soaked overnight in beer for some extra flavor. On Friday, the chicken goes into our hot smoker indoors and spends about 4 hours there before a brief stint in the oven where they are crisped up and finished off. After cooking, Eric tells me that the pork pretty much falls off the bone. The beef too falls off the bone but, occasionally, Eric trims the fat a bit. The chicken is bone-in and is trickier to “pull.” The lamb too can be quite labor intensive and often requires a fair amount of time bone picking. Once the meats are pulled, they are put in their respective pots for the grill and they all get a bit of sauce, salt and pepper. The lamb gets the addition of some smashed cloves and rosemary. All of the pulled meat sandwiches are put on Iggy’s ciabatta squares.
What about the sides? Eric does a delicious apple-raisin slaw that is tossed with a lemon Dijon vinaigrette. His baked beans are also popular, studded with pieces of bacon and immersed in a molasses based sauce. Occasionally, Tripp makes his scrumptious pickled eggs and we also have McClure’s pickles (and occasionally housemade pickles!) available on the side.
Eric’s chili-lime corn is roasted in the oven and then rolled in chili-lime butter before going on the grill. This style of corn on the cob is called “elote” – a street food in Mexico, you can usually choose from a selection of butter rubs and then top your corn with Queso Fresco. Here at Formaggio, we have grated Ricotta Salata available to top your corn!
The hot dog line-up: Niman Ranch Fearless Franks are a regular request as they are a quarter pound all-beef nitrate-free dog. One of the most popular dogs, however, is the Pearl in the Hole, a creation of former grillmaster, Kurt. The Pearl is a half pound Pearl Kountry Klub hotdog (made in Randolph, MA).
Another all-beef dog, it gets grilled and put into a hollowed-out half of an Iggy’s baguette. Then, it is up to you to slather on the toppings of your choice from the condiment bar which has ketchup, relish, sauerkraut, chopped onions, hot peppers and three types of mustard. BBQ sauce is available for you on request! In addition to the beef dogs and, courtesy of our house charcutière, Julie, we usually have a variety of housemade sausages available – occasionally she does hot dogs too! Hot dogs come on B&R Artisan brioche rolls.
Later in the summer, Eric starts grilling lamejun. Lamejun is an Armenian flatbread spread with a ground meat, garlic and parsley paste. We do not make the lamejun in house but source them from Eastern Lamejun Bakers in Belmont. However, we do the grilling and provide a tomato salsa (similar to pico de gallo) to top the sandwich. Some customers also like to add one or more of the pulled meats to their lamejun!
Eric is a man of many talents – he is at home working in all areas of the shop: cheese, produce and the bakery – and it seems to me that he can fix almost anything. His passion for excellence and quality work is evident in everything he does and it is particularly evident to me when I see him working on the BBQ. The BBQ takes a great deal of hard work and involves three full days of preparation. To do it well every week for six months out of the year, you have to love what you do and, judging by how his BBQ tastes, Eric definitely loves what he does! If you are reading this and have yet to taste the result of his hard work, get yourself over here on a Saturday sometime between March and October. BBQ starts at 11am and they ‘cue ’til they’re through (i.e. until about 3pm or the BBQ runs out)!
We recently did a survey on Twitter, asking folks what their favorite BBQ item was… No one thing led the pack. Instead, the results were all over the board with shout-outs for the pulled lamb and the Pearl in the Hole, among others. The pulled lamb and the pulled pork were my usual go-to BBQ items – sometimes one, sometimes the other, sometimes mixed – and, yes, always with onions and BBQ sauce. Generally, I would get them straight up, figuring the bread took up too much valuable real estate in my stomach, preferring to allot that space to the meaty goodness. Towards the end of the 2009 season, however, I got out to the curb-side too late and the pulled meats had all sold out… As a result, I decided to try the chicken – slathered with BBQ sauce. Of course. I often shy away from chicken – perhaps the upshot of too much bland institutional food in school? However, I should have known better when it comes to Eric’s cooking. The chicken is now my standard order and, if I take it home at the end of the day, I tote along a container of BBQ sauce too. If I have extra sauce, it does not go to waste – I told Eric that his slogan for the sauce should be: “it makes everything better!” I mean that, literally and figuratively.