By Jan Norris
No matter how much you know, you can always learn from a pro. A group of “students” — guests and the media — were enlightened on several aspects of throwing
a backyard barbecue, thanks to the chefs and kitchen staff at The Ritz-Carlton
Chef Ryan Artim welcomed the group, part of a cooking school series at the resort. The lessons were all about putting together a stylish but easy barbecue.
“It doesn’t have to be complicated,” Artim said. “You can do some of the dishes ahead of time so all you have to do at the last minute is throw a few things on
One of the keys to successful entertaining is having all the components ready for the dinner, so all you’ll need to worry about is the last-minute food.
A tip from the pros: Everything for the meal is listed and checked off — the menu, right down to the condiments; the dishware and serving pieces, linens and
decorations. Don’t forget drinks, ice and napery — and music for the patio,
Have some light foods and drinks ready for guests when they arrive, as the Ritz staff did with chilled champagne and a selection of chilled shellfish, both raw
and cooked. Chips and house-made salsas were simple and easy for diners and
For an outdoor summer ’cue, the heat is on, so have plenty of cold drinks available, too: craft beers, wine coolers, soda fizzes and water.
For his menu of ribs, steaks and grilled fish, the chef brined racks of spareribs overnight — a method cooks are familiar with for turkey. “It works great on
just about any meats,” he says. A dry rub goes on the ribs before they hit the
wood-fired grill, then barbecue sauce is added last, just before serving. “I
don’t like to use a sauce on them over the fire. It tends to burn and they’ve
already got a rub on them for flavor. Heat the barbecue sauce so everything is
hot when it’s served,” he advises.
The grill is hot when the ribs hit it, then the fire is lowered (or the grate raised — depending on how your grill works).
Chicken is marinated in a citrusy marinade, and can be treated the same way, or prepared in the oven. A dry rub, rather than a sauce, also gives it flavor.
Like most chefs, Artim prefers the meatier and more flavorful thighs for
Fish are firm fillets; mahi-mahi, swordfish (it’s off a watch list for now) or salmon make good choices. Use a fish basket to make turning them over the fire
easy, and give them a smoky finish.
Simple small red potatoes, baked and hollowed slightly, contain a bacon, horseradish and sour cream mixture for a quick side dish that goes great with the ribs and
fillets. A slaw has a blender-made dressing that could be made a day ahead and
tossed with the cabbage-apple mixture at the last minute.
Key lime pie and fruit cobblers provided the sweet endings to this cooking class meal — both easy make-ahead choices for a do-it-yourself affair.
Of course, if you don’t want to bother, you can just call The Ritz — its catering department could recreate this meal at your home.
The Ritz-Carlton will have two more cooking classes for “Date Nite with the Chef”
Jan Norris is a freelance writer/editor. Check out more recipe tips and ideas at www.jannorris.com.