BBQ 101 – Chap’s offers classes on grilling
VAIL – Wired into the hard drive of every American male is supposed to be a complete set of instructions on how to grill meat. Unfortunately, when many of us step up to the plate wielding tongs and a mass of raw steak, we discover that, somehow, our DNA let us down.But grilling isn’t brain surgery, nor is it only for men. Locally, one restaurant is addressing those facts with a weekly series of grilling classes that aim to give a primer on the ancient art of flame-cooking meet. At Chap’s Grill & Chophouse at Vail Cascade Resort, one of the best deals in town is a grilling lesson complete with a meal and wine for only $35.At a recent Tuesday night session, Randy Belanger, executive sous chef at Chap’s, walked an eager group through the basics of grilling using buffalo, venison and Kobe beef. Meanwhile, Russ Craney, restaurant manager and wine expert, introduced guests to some unusual Spanish and Argentinian wines to accompany dinner.”It’s a great, affordable chance to have some wine, some great food and learn a little something,” said Emily McCormack, spokeswoman for Vail Cascade. “And anyone can do it because it’s grilling.”Set on the restaurants back deck, next to the pool and overlooking Gore Creek, the Grillin’ and Chillin’ event is an excellent opportunity to get food and wine trips from the experts without having to work too hard. Belanger takes a laid-back attitude to his instruction, offering easy-to-follow tips with an pro’s knowledge and a local’s sense of humor. And, if you’ve forgotten anything along the way, a take-home booklet details the recipes and instructions for each course.
Meat & marinadesEach Grillin’ and Chillin’ course focuses on different kinds of meat. At the last event, it was all about marinating and grilling red meat. Belanger explained that leaner cuts of meat need to be marinated for 24 hours to make them tender, and he walked the group through some tips on how to make a great marinade.For the buffalo, Belanger used a marinade of beer, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, maple syrup and oil, in addition to spices.”The alcohol is acidic and helps break down the proteins in the meat,” Belanger said. “The terikayi adds sweet and salty flavors with a background of ginger while the soy sauce adds a nutty flavor.”Adding maple syrup, he said, counter-balances the gaminess of the buffalo, while oil balances the cooking action of the acid. In other words, acids like lemon or alcohol can cook the meat while it marinates; oil prevents that.
Another tip Belanger offered is to avoid pre-ground spices in favor of whole coriander and peppercorn, which should be toasted in a pan and then fresh-ground.”That pepper in the shaker tastes like sawdust after a while,” he said.Belanger also suggested the types of meat to use and where to get it. The Montana buffalo he used was extraordinarily tender and flavorful, but the marinade made it even more succulent. The venison chops were marinated in a more complex concoction consisting of garlic, thyme, rosemary, shallots, port and red wines, juniper berries and other spices. For the Kobe beef, Belanger explained that it’s natural marbling (fat content) made it naturally more tender and flavorful, making it a candidate for a simpler marinade.With the breeze blowing off the creek and the smoke wafting off the grill on a perfect summer evening, it seemed like an ideal marriage of dining, relaxation and an opportunity to learn a few things to use at home on the grill.There are two more Tuesday night classes coming up this summer. The next on Aug. 2 features quail, chicken and duck and complementary wines while the final one Aug. 9 focuses on salmon and halibut.The $35 price includes all food and wine, plus a $10 voucher for a future trip to Chap’s. Space is limited, so call 469-7018 to reserve a spot.
Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado