"Oh, come join us," coaxed my daughter. "They're doing a special Sunday barbecue menu at Duplex. Pork ribs, chicken and beef, coleslaw, baked beans and corn bread. Your kind of food."
A waft of the wonderful barbecue chicken I had when I was a little girl in camp floated through parched layers of memory. Ah, to rediscover that camp barbecued chicken again.
The campsite was up the Hudson River in Beacon, N.Y., at the foot of Mt. Beacon. Barbecued chicken cooked high above the campsite was traditionally the last meal of a two-week stay, and the one meal we looked forward to each year, probably because of the unstructured nature of the evening, a chance to dine under the stars and listen to ghost stories in the dark. A deliciously scary, exhilaratingly carefree night.
We'd scrape knees scampering up the steep, narrow road leading to a clearing where talented black camp chefs wielded their Southern culinary magic over the cooking fires. There has been no barbecued chicken since then that has satisfied my undying hunger for that smell and taste. I don't know what the chefs used to marinate the chicken. And I don't know what wood or fuel they used. The chicken had a distinctly woodsy, smoky taste that mingled divinely with the clean, medicinal smell of pine, oak and cedar in the air.
Search for the Chefs
Anyway, I'm still looking. I've attempted to search for the chefs who cooked meals at the University Settlement House camp in the '40s, with no success. Years later, I asked the settlement house director to see if recipes existed in their archives. No deal.
Anyway, here was Mark Carter, Duplex's chef (and owner), whose own culinary talents have been lauded throughout the brief years of the restaurant's existence, doing an irresistible barbecue meal on a Sunday, no less, when resistence is down, down, down after a week of pressing up, up, up. So I brought my imaginary bib and joined the small group of my daughter's friends for dinner.
Carter had been at his fires since 7 a.m. slow-cooking the long, graceful pork ribs, top sirloin and chicken. His barbecue smoker was a makeshift cinder block and wire mesh job of the type you'd normally expect to find in do-it-yourself publications that I never read. Ceramic tiles acting as a roof for the oven let the aromatic smoke waft skyward through the cracks between them.
Carter did an incredibly neat job of constructing his cinder block creation on the patio behind his restaurant. It matched the stark fence behind it, and all in all, appeared spanking clean and surprisingly industrial high-tech. But then, so is the restaurant spanking clean and high-tech. Homey and warm, too.
His cinder block smoke oven had two wire mesh shelves covered with groupings of chicken, top sirloin and pork ribs. He used hickory charcoal for cooking and hickory wood chunks for smoke. It took the ribs eight hours to cook to a succulent tenderness; the top sirloin 10 hours and the chicken almost three hours. Perfection.
"I can give you the marinade recipe, but it won't do any good," Carter said. The secret is the hours of slow smoking. "That's the secret," he said.
Well, the ribs, chicken and beef were superb. Superb. Better, almost, than any barbecued ribs, beef and chicken I'd tasted in a long time. Certainly since camp days.
So I went home and put on a barbecue menu like the one at Duplex.
Carter used his Russian grandmother's coleslaw made with mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, cabbage, onions, peppers and carrots. A bit vinegary, much like the creamy kind you find in New York.
Duplex's barbecue sauce (one for all three meats) was the classic American sweet-spicy type, found in the Midwest, with bourbon, cumin and a myriad of spices added. My daughter, who did most of the cooking that day at home, marinated our Chateaubriand in a highly peppered wine marinade, and I went to Koreatown and purchased ready-made bul gogi barbecue sauce to use for pork chops since no ribs were left at the market when we shopped that morning. Koreans use the sauce for kalbi (beef).
My daughter chose to marinate the chicken drumsticks in a Cajun-type marinade, which was spiked with chiles, cumin and coriander. Our menu also included a bean pot recipe that we have had in our files for years. It uses canned pork and beans doctored with bacon, molasses, brown sugar, chili sauce and ketchup. The Duplex bean pot was similar, using small white beans with tomato, molasses, mustard and beer and was very good.
Sweet Corn Bread
I also prepared the sweet corn bread, which we enjoy in places like Marie Callender's. It's a recipe we developed after a reader tipped us off as to how to closely match Marie Callender's product at home (half yellow cake mix and half corn bread mix and voila.) At Duplex the corn bread was the classic American type that's rather crumbly and dry. We used steamed white corn, they used yellow, both served with sweet butter. We added a platter of beefsteak tomatoes and red onion slices for a salad.
The dessert at Duplex was a homey American peach pie with a touch of ginger and French custard-style ice cream. We made a strawberry shortcake with bakery angel food cake and frozen strawberries for convenience, having had a late start in preparations that day.
It was idiocy to do as we did--a heavy-duty, major dinner with shopping and cooking necessary within a few hours' time. We began cooking at 1 p.m. when the groceries arrived with the cooks (my daughter and me, both of whom had worked that morning), and didn't stop until the first guest arrived at 7 p.m.
Most of the dishes on our menu could have been prepared a day or two ahead and reheated or finished at the last moment. Our menu shows you how.
You can use all of the meat we used, or stick to one. None will, I'm afraid, be as extraordinary as those slow-cooked in a cinder block smoker at Duplex and certainly will be nothing like the wondrous barbecued chicken I had when I was a little girl at camp.
But then, none ever will.
You can taste a Duplex barbecue for yourself this Sunday, starting at 4 p.m. Cost is $20 per person; or $12 for youngsters younger than 12 and $5 for those younger than 5 years. Duplex is at 1930 Hillhurst, Los Angeles. (213) 663-2430.
If you can't make this week's barbecue at Duplex, however, one will not be held again until winter, much as we pleaded for a sooner date.
"You don't want to get me up at 6 a.m. every Sunday do you?" Carter said.
SUNDAY BARBECUE MENU
Margaritas and Other Cocktails (Full Bar)
Fresh Corn Chips and Potato Chips
Wine-Marinated Peppered Chateaubriand
Bul Kogi Barbecued Pork Chops
Spicy Chicken Drumsticks
Condiments (Assorted Mustards, Homemade Mayonnaise, Lime Wedges)
Assorted Relishes (Chiles, Tomatoes, Olives)
Barbecue Bean Pot
Steamed White Corn
Beefsteak Tomatoes and Red Onion Platter
Sweet Corn Bread
Strawberry Angel Food Cake
Vanilla Ice Cream Bars
The Margaritas can be mixed up to the point of blending individually. Marinate Chateaubriand, pork chops and drumsticks day before or several hours ahead. Arrange condiments in serving jars hours ahead. Assemble and cook bean pot a day ahead and reheat 30 minutes before serving. Prepare corn bread and coleslaw several hours ahead. Cut tomato salad one hour ahead.
WINE-MARINATED PEPPERED CHATEAUBRIAND
1/4 cup freshly cracked black pepper
1 (5-pound) Chateaubriand
1 bottle (fifth) Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon or Beaujolais
1 onion, minced
1/2 head garlic, crushed with skin intact
2 tablespoons olive oil
Press freshly cracked pepper onto entire surface of Chateaubriand. Place in shallow enamel, glass or stainless steel pan. Add Burgundy, salt to taste, onion, garlic and olive oil. Turn to coat meat well. Cover and let marinate several hours or overnight.
When ready to cook, prepare medium-low coals and cook meat until done as desired, about 30 minutes for rare, 40 minutes for medium, basting with marinade frequently. Makes 8 to 12 servings.
BUL KOGI BARBECUED PORK CHOPS
4 pounds pork chops or ribs
1 (16-ounce) jar bul kogi sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly cracked black pepper
Place pork chops in overlapping layer in glass or stainless steel pan. Pour bul kogi sauce over pork chops. Add lemon juice, garlic and pepper. Marinate several hours or overnight.
When ready to cook, prepare medium-low coals and cook meat, turning and basting frequently, until pork chops are done as desired. Makes 8 to 12 servings.
SPICY CHICKEN DRUMSTICKS
4 pounds chicken drumsticks
4 limes, halved
1 bottle (fifth) Reisling
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons Cajun spices
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 jalapeno chiles, minced
1/2 head garlic, crushed with skin intact
Place drumsticks in shallow glass pan. Squeeze lime juice over drumsticks and add squeezed lime halves to pan.
Add Reisling and olive oil and sprinkle with Cajun spices, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper to taste, red pepper, chiles and garlic. Marinate several hours or overnight.
When ready to cook, prepare medium-low coals and cook meat, turning and basting frequently, until chicken is done. Makes 8 to 12 servings.
BARBECUE BEAN POT
6 slices bacon
3 (1-pound) cans pork and beans
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons catsup
2 tablespoon chili sauce
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
3 tablespoons dark molasses
1 small onion, grated
Cook bacon and crumble. Add to pork and beans in large casserole. Add Worcestershire, catsup, chili sauce, mustard, molasses and onion. Mix well. Cover and bake at 350 degrees 30 to 45 minutes or until bubbly. Makes 8 to 12 servings.
1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sugar, about
2 tablespoons lime juice, about
Combine cabbages and carrot in large bowl. Add sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, 1 tablespoon sugar, lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss to mix and coat well. Taste to adjust for seasonings, adding more sugar, salt or pepper as needed. Makes 8 to 12 servings.
STRAWBERRY ANGEL FOOD CAKE
1 large angel food cake ring
1 (16-ounce) package frozen strawberries, thawed
1/2 pint whipping cream, whipped
1 pint fresh strawberries
Split angel food cake horizontally in equal halves. Spoon most of frozen strawberries over bottom layer. Cover with cake top and spoon remaining frozen strawberries on top. Dollop top of cake with whipped cream. Garnish with fresh strawberries. Makes 8 servings.