Barbecue in the Winter! Are You Nuts?

The primeval need to flash-up the grill is totally irresistible … an innate, desperate need passed down through time.

The outside temperature will never deter the intrepid grillmeister from accomplishing his task (it will just freeze the barbecue knobs. And I don’t mean his buddies).

“Intelligence is something we are born with. Barbecuing is a skill that must be learned” (Edward de Bono).

Learning to host a successful barbecue outside in winter is much more demanding than a barbecue on a sunny summer evening. You must keep guests moving; keep them engaged.

Hand puppets can be difficult in winter, what with the big mitts you will already be wearing, but I can suggest festive hats and noisemakers for the adults and sparkler wands for the kids.

Avoid large fireworks displays as they are illegal and tend to alarm the dog.

The French call the barbecue – and you won’t believe it is this easy – “barbe a queue”, meaning “whiskers to tail.”

What you take away from this French lesson is to always be very careful about what your French friends are putting in your coq au vin, whatever that is.

If you ever find yourself in Japan, you may come across the Japanese version of a barbecue or Yakitori, which is nothing at all like it sounds.

A rule of etiquette is to always wear your best socks to a yakitori as you will be asked to remove your shoes at some point in the proceedings.

There will be many communal dishes at the yakitori, and at this point I cannot stress too strongly how important it is to identify the wasabi before you put anything in your mouth.

You will no doubt be mishandling the chopsticks on this occasion, leading to attendant locals muttering under their breath the ancient Japanese maxim, “Like a bull in yakatori.”

A lot of people from the Yukon travel to Mexico for a vacation and have eaten myriad items from a grill, but how about everyone’s favourite – barbecued Quesadias? You can almost hear the mariachi band playing in the background.

Forget about Montezuma’s revenge and the burning ring of fire … Mexican food can still be fun.

All you do is combine half a cup of sour cream, two chopped-up shallots, a peeled tomato seeded and finely diced, one-quarter tablespoon of cilantro, two or three thinly sliced chilies and half a teaspoon of ground cumin in a bowl, mixing well.

Add salt and fresh pepper to taste.

Keep it hot, clean and lubricated (the grill, that is).

In this instance, medium-high heat will suffice. On a flat working surface, lay out eight, eight-inch tortillas and spread the mix evenly on four of them.

Cover with the other four tortillas, making a kind of thin Mexican sandwich. Heat quesadillas on the grill for two to four minutes per side or until lightly browned, turning with a large spatula.

Slice to whatever size you like, and serve with a flourish.

If you close your eyes and concentrate, while eating said quesadillas, you can almost picture yourself standing beside Davy Crockett, at the walls of the Alamo, watching Santa Anna and his horde approaching from the south, trailing a huge cloud of dust – especially if you use a lot of jalapenos, in which case you may actually be crying.

And remember to always grill responsibly with peppers.

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