26 weeks of new recipes and finally, a barbecue. I was pretty pleased with myself when I bought a lime green portable charcoal grill for twenty bucks at Canadian Tire in Corner Brook. We have a great backyard in Cow Head…no deck but a little green space with a gorgeous view and sun in the evenings, when there’s no horizontal rain. No room for a big fancy propane contraption, which is just as well because a friend told me a story once about lighting one and singeing her eyebrows and ever since then I’ve been a little hesitant.
Wings! You can get them here, frozen, but pretty good and pretty cheap. Our friend Nell from England had been over for a visit and brought gifts of spices. Indian spices from specialty shops and not the Bulk Barn in Corner Brook. Nothing against Bulk Barn, it’s saved me more than once, but they say the best place to eat Indian food outside India is England, so I accepted the spices from the “Motherland” (as Nell likes to call it) with glee. Yes, that’s right. With glee. Didi broke out her homemade yogurt maker (yep) and the little red chicken and friends decided to christen the little green grill with tandoori wings.
I’d never made tandoori in my life, so I was sort of flying by the seat of my pants. I let the wings thaw out for a couple of hours and poked around in the fridge to see what I could come up with. Didi had made four little pots of yogurt, not quite enough for the marinade, but I found some sour cream to fill in for the missing yogurt. The instructions on the packet of tandoori spice said “Concentrated product. Dilute with 19 parts of natural yogurt to 1 part barbecue ground spice.” Easy enough. Turns out there were about sixteen heaping tablespoons of yogurt, so after adding three more tablespoons of sour cream and one tablespoon of the spice, I was good to go. The list of ingredients on the spice packet was a long one…I probably could have made a homemade tandoori mix, but between the spices being rationed for the rest of the summer and the lack of fenugreek and cardamoms down at the liquor store, I tore open the package and felt no guilt about it. I wondered about the inclusion of “permitted colour E124 and E102” and the warning that the packet was “to be used as a cooking ingredient only” but forged ahead anyways. I sprinkled the wings with the juice from a lime, threw in the yogurt/sour cream and spices, mixed everything to let it marinate, and left for work.
Home a few hours later, time to set up the barbecue. My sister and brother-in-law were in town and I had invited them up, breezily saying “I’m going to throw some tandoori wings on the grill, no big deal.” The lime green barbecue had been sitting in a box in the living room for a couple of weeks. I was confident that it was one of those things you could take out and light on fire, no questions asked. I poured myself a beer, and opened the box. I wasn’t alarmed when the box itself took ten minutes to open, but panic did set in when a five page instruction booklet fell on my lap, along with a pack of nuts and bolts with labels like A, B, E, E1, F2. Shit. Now, I have learned to open the hood of my car and put in power steering fluid every three days whether Lucy needs it or not, but this was too much. I made a few lame monkey attempts at assembling the thing, but luckily Jade and Trevor showed up ten minutes later. I greeted Trevor with a “Hey, you’re a handy guy. Put this together. I’ll get you a beer.” Two minutes later it was done. I thanked the gods of matchmaking that Jade had married a guy who could put together twenty dollar barbecues, and went outside to set it on fire.
No one really uses charcoal anymore. A bit of a shame really, because there’s really nothing like it. As convenient as propane is, everything just tastes better over hot coals. That was the thought going through my head as Didi and I tried to light our pile of “no lighter fluid needed” charcoal. It was windy and it took a few tries, but up she went and we waited for everything to turn ashy white and hot. And then for some reason, we put the cover on, thinking maybe that we’d protect the little fire from the wind, not noticing that the vent on the cover was closed. I remembered something vaguely about “fire needing oxygen” and when I went out with the plate of wings, the coals were close to dead. I swore, cursed my caveman smugness, and wished for a deck and a big propane barbecue.
I thought I was pretty great for buying my first barbecue, not thinking I would need the rest of the cooking gear and cursed again as I tried to stick a fork through the metal grill to poke the coals back to life. Put the wings on, and the cover on (with the vent open this time), hoped for the best and went inside to make the mayo.
I’d like to say that I made my own homemade mayonnaise, but I didn’t have it in me after the barbecue fiasco. I say that like I do it all the time. I’ve never done it, but it’s on the list. Right up there with homemade croissants. For wing night it was a couple of tablespoons of Hellman’s, the juice from half a lime, and some chopped fresh wild mint from Didi’s garden. At least we think it’s mint. It tastes like mint and it hasn’t killed us yet. If it’s a weed that tastes like mint, fine. It beats a two hour drive to the Corner Brook Dominion every time you want a mojito.
Mayo done, time to check the wings. Coals dead again, threw the cover in the grass and yelled “What’s the frigging POINT?!” Another poke at the coals, turned the wings over and waited. An hour or so later I convinced myself that they had to be done, what with a nice, slow burning coal heat and all. I brought the plate inside, warning everyone to check first, I wasn’t sure if they were done. I told Didi to take the biggest wing to see if it was cooked all the way through. She’s brave like that, whereas I’m the person who has to smell three day old ham in the fridge.
PInk! A lovely colour for birthday cake icing, not so much for chicken. Oven on 425, wings thrown in. Including a half eaten one from Jade who made it clear that she’d be pretty pissed if I ruined her vacation with a case of salmonella. I told her to shut up and drink her wine, that it would kill any germs. I stayed in the kitchen, staring at the wings in the oven until they were ready. I wondered if I’d have to change the name of my blog to “the little red salmonella chicken.”
The wings were gone in five minutes and no one seemed too worried about the underdone chicken episode. Tandoori wings, yes. Love. Lime mint mayo, love love. I think I might try sour cream next time, might be a better match. Perhaps hot coals will help as well. Or a propane barbecue.