(Theguardian) – Forget burning burgers on a rusty grill, UK-style. Put a fresh spin on Easter feasting by embracing the classic Kansas City barbecue – in the comfort of your own kitchen
Felicity Cloake’s alternative Easter menu.
Felicity Cloake’s alternative Easter menu. Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian
An Easter barbecue might seem a foolish idea in a year when the holiday falls at the end of March. If the annual egg hunt is more likely to feature frostbite than scorching sunshine, you don’t want to be stuck in the garden desperately trying to coax damp charcoal to life – but, with these recipes, you won’t be. In fact, there’s no need to scrape the rust off the grill at all even if the sun does shine next week because this is barbecue in the true, American sense of the word.
In the States, burning burgers while wearing a comedy apron is called grilling, and it’s what you do on your summer vacation. Barbecue, conversely, involves large slabs of meat cooked low and slow in a wood-fuelled “pit” oven, and that’s something you can enjoy all year round. Indeed, sub-zero temperatures proved to be the perfect appetite-whetter on a recent trip to Kansas City – though barbecue’s spiritual home lies further south, there’s no denying their passion in this midwestern outpost, where the very wind smells of woodsmoke and snow covers the woodstacks outside every right-thinking restaurant.
In fact, it was Kansas City that lit the spark at an even further-flung homage to the elemental joys of slow-cooked meat. Britain’s first barbecue joint, Bodean’s, opened in Soho in 2002, inspired not by Memphis, or Lexington, but by founder Andre Blais’s love of KC barbecue in all its eclectic glory. I took a trip out there with him and his executive chef Richard Coates earlier this year to visit gems such as Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, a local institution housed in a working gas station, and Arthur Bryant’s, a no-frills joint (fans include Sarah Palin and Barack Obama; their barbecue sauce carries the legend “The President’s Choice”).
Struggling to keep up, I soon saw just what had got them so excited about this smoky, succulent meat – and in the process developed an unhealthy crush on burnt ends, the fatty point of a brisket. My favourite example was served up on a grease-stained cardboard plate by Danny Edwards, a 37-year veteran of the pit, who got the bug from his father, a Texan who moved north in search of work during the Great Depression.
Barbecue came to Missouri with the railroad, which brought in workers from all over the South – so unlike Texas with its ribs, or South Carolina with its pulled pork, one of the joys of Kansas City barbecue is that has no particular speciality. In fact it has appetite enough for all of it. As Doug Worgul of Joe’s is fond of saying: “Kansas City didn’t invent barbecue; we just perfected it.”
And perfect barbecue involves wood; Bodean’s gets through several hundred tonnes a week in its various outlets, and though the recipes below were inspired by our trip to the American midwest together, I wouldn’t dare call them “barbecue” in front of the chefs we met there (These are men who can break down half a hog in less time than it would take me to work out which end was which.) But, between ourselves, you can do low and slow pretty well in an oven too. And the best bit is, you don’t even have to venture outside.