Be Careful What You Heat

“Never use suntan lotion on the meat to prevent it from burning on your barbecue.”

Now that is solid advice any barbecue chef should observe religiously.

Like the Chinese rice noodle, the history of mulled wine is long and will make you sick if you overindulge. As with sangria, mulled wine recipes differ wherever you go. Some simply include a few spices while others, as we will see, toss in other stuff such as fruit.

“Mulled” simply means spiced and heated – not boiled – liquid which, in this instance, happens to be red wine.

During medieval times, mulled wine was referred to as Hipocris wine, after the physician Hippocrates. It was thought to be a healthier choice than water as the water available then may not have always been “sweet”.

It remains a solid choice over water, to this day.

• Turn on the side burner of your barbecue. I know you would have gone with the side burner option if for no other reason than to make mulled wine.

• In a good-sized saucepan, simmer – do not allow to boil – ½ cup water, ½ cup sugar, three sticks of cinnamon and eight to 12 whole cloves for approximately 10 minutes.

• Here’s my favourite part: add two bottles of red wine (even guys can do this).

• Peel two lemons and an orange and add the peels to the brew.

• Allow it to sit for a while, no boiling, to let the flavours blend. Strain off the big stuff and serve your mulled wine in mugs while still warm.

• And be careful not to fall into the fire again.

Before you indulge in another mug, get dinner started. A great accompaniment is the Philly Cheese-Steak Sandwich, which apparently originated in South Philly, in 1930, although the actual cheese wasn’t added until the mid-1940s.

Fascinating stuff.

For superb sandwiches that will impress all your friends, ask your butcher to cut four half-inch-thick rib-eye steaks (1 to 1 ¼ pounds of meat). You will also need eight large mushrooms, a large onion sliced into ½-inch slices, two whole bell peppers, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, four slices of provolone cheese (preferably), four long bread rolls and a pinch or two each of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.

• Skewer the onion slices together for easy cooking (you can also use toothpicks).

• Wipe the mushrooms with a damp paper towel (do not rinse or they’ll be soggy).

• Brush both with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.

• Time to heat up the barbecue: clean, oil and preheat the grill grate to high.

• Char the bell peppers whole, four to six minutes a side.

• About the time the first side is done, start cooking the mushrooms and onion.

• Once all the vegetables are golden brown, remove them to a cutting board to cool.

• Brush steaks with olive oil and season with garlic salt before grilling on high, about three minutes a side for medium rare.

• Just before removing, place a cheese slice on each steak and close the lid of the ‘cue so the cheese will melt.

• Peel, core and seed charred peppers before thinly slicing.

• Place peppers, sliced mushrooms and grilled onions in a bowl.

• Add two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and two tablespoons of olive oil.

• Stir to coat the veggies and season with salt and pepper.

• Prepare the bread rolls: slice lengthwise and spread with condiments you love – hot mustard, spicy ketchup, etc.

• Remove the tasty cheese-steaks from the grill, place on the prepared rolls and pile the veggies on top.

To maximize the experience, and the height of the veggie pile, philly cheese-steak sandwiches may be served open-faced as required.

Always remember to be careful what you heat.

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