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'Get Your Grill On': Chef Gives Savory Tips


I'm Michel Martin. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Coming up - look, smell, taste. Callie Crossley tells us what's on her wine list.

But first, it's time to cook.

Labor Day usually means cookout. But what if you're sick of a routine barbecue or grilling fare? You want to step up on your grilling game but you're not sure how. Well, listen up. We're here to help. We're taking you to B. Smith here in Washington, D.C., known for its Cajun, Creole and Southern cuisine. We're joined by the man who makes all that goodness in the kitchen happens, Chef James Page.

He's going to walk us through his grilling techniques and, of course, make us a little food in the process. The sacrifices I make for my listeners.

Okay. Chef James.

Mr. JAMES PAIGE (Executive Chef, B. Smith): Come on up.

MARTIN: Yes. Let's do it. Can you just explain the difference between barbecuing and grilling?

Mr. PAIGE: Barbecuing is more of an open flame, so you might have wood, (unintelligible), usually outdoor campfires style. (unintelligible) whereas the grill can be indoor, hibachi

MARTIN: Barbecue outside; grilling inside.

Mr. PAIGE: Exactly.

MARTIN: Okay, great. What are you making for us?

Mr. PAIGE: First, I want to display a free range pork chop with savory marinade. This marinade is a - just canola oil, scallion, mint and fennel seeds. The next marinade is a sweet marinade - a citrus, lemon, lime, orange zest, clove and ginger. One thing you have to keep in mind with marinades is that it imparts moisture and flavor. But when you add too much sugar to your marinade and if your grill is too hot, that will cause your product to burn. And nobody wants burnt barbeque.

MARTIN: A question for you. When you're getting your marinades together…

Mr. PAIGE: Yes.

MARTIN: …if you're nervous about the proportion between, you know, the acid, the oil, the sugar, the flavor…

Mr. PAIGE: Right.

MARTIN: …how do you know if you're getting it right?

Mr. PAIGE: Taste, taste, taste.

MARTIN: Taste the marinade.

Mr. PAIGE: To your own specificity.

MARTIN: All right. Your taste.

Mr. PAIGE: How do you want to taste, you make sure that you like it. If you like it, your guests will like it.

MARTIN: If you like it - all right. I think a lot of people think of - people are very health conscious these days.

Mr. PAIGE: Exactly.

MARTIN: And they just don't necessarily think of barbecue, particularly, as being a particularly healthy food.

Mr. PAIGE: Barbecuing is one of the more healthy ways of preparing food because it does not allow the product to sit in it's own fat. It will never make it to your plate because it's dripping away from the product as it's cooking. Being rendered out and it's just dripping away from the product, so.

MARTIN: Okay. You've given me all kinds of good reasons to feel good about what I want to do, anyway.

Mr. PAIGE: I'm glad I'm here for you. Glad I could be here. So, now, as you can see, or as you can hear, the mark on the grill, the reason why these are darker versus this one is because of the sugar content.

MARTIN: You're saying that the sweet one is a little browner, that the stripes are…

Mr. PAIGE: The marks,

MARTIN: The marks - grill marks…

Mr. PAIGE: The grill marks are more defined because the sugar caramelized…


Mr. PAIGE: …instantly against the hot grill surface.

MARTIN: Okay. Great. When is it done?

Mr. PAIGE: Pork cooks extremely fast so it's done - I like to feel the outside closest to the bones so you don't disrupt the integrity of the meat.

MARTIN: All right.

Mr. PAIGE: You want to keep it whole. You don't want to customer to come down with their knife and see, you know…

MARTIN: Poke marks.

Mr. PAIGE: …(unintelligible). Yeah, exactly. That area of any piece of meat around the bone takes the longest to cook, because its not just cooking meat, it's cooking bone and meat also.

MARTIN: So test the temperature closest to the bone.

Mr. PAIGE: Closest to the bone, exactly. So what I'll do is I'll place covers on it because I have the grill marks intended to like I want them. I will place the cover on it to allow the heat to roll around the product, which is convection.

MARTIN: You're actually stopping the process a little bit before it's done to allow the internal temperature to finish the cooking.

Mr. PAIGE: Exactly. You move it to a cooler part of the grill where you can hardly see the movement that the heat gets by - if you look at the smoke. It will roll around.

MARTIN: Tricky.

Mr. PAIGE: Savvy. Savvy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: All right. What are you doing right now?

Mr. PAIGE: So, I'm going to start the dessert. This is the steak for the grilled candy apple, a grilled biscuit. These are caramelized sugar and apples and pecan. Spice that up. You think you have a grill that's hot enough, you can cook on it just as you would a range sauté pan on the grill.

MARTIN: Really?

Mr. PAIGE: Yes, you can. It's totally possible.

MARTIN: Even my little Weber at home, I can do that on my little Weber at home? I can put a pan on there?

Mr. PAIGE: Sure, sure. As long as you can control your heat and you get it hot enough in the beginning.

MARTIN: I don't think most people think of dessert as something that comes from the grill.

Mr. PAIGE: And that's why it's a fabulous food for the summer for your guests. It's another dimension for conversation to use.

MARTIN: What other fruits do you like to grill?

Mr. PAIGE: Apples, pineapples, things with high sugar content so that the heat can allow that fruit to caramelize.


Mr. PAIGE: And give it another dimension.

MARTIN: Peaches, pineapples…

Mr. PAIGE: Peaches, pineapples.

MARTIN: Watermelon?

Mr. PAIGE: Avocado.

MARTIN: Avocado.

Mr. PAIGE: Very high in excessive oils. It won't stick to your grill. But the added dimension, that's a big thing about - you could grill cornflakes if you wanted to.


Mr. PAIGE: Have a smoky breakfast.


Mr. PAIGE: But it's all about the added dimension of grilling. It affects everything you grill differently. You know.


Mr. PAIGE: So, okay, let's start with the biscuits.

MARTIN: Okay. What are you doing? What is this? Whatever is…

Mr. PAIGE: This is a sweet shortbread.


Mr. PAIGE: I'm Southern, so I call it a biscuit.


Mr. PAIGE: And what we'll do is we'll grill it to impart that smoke and that flavor and top it with our caramelized apples, walnuts and…

MARTIN: Okay. And it seems fast.

Mr. PAIGE: …add a caramel cream…


Mr. PAIGE: …to make the plate look so.

MARTIN: What do you have here, chef?

Mr. PAIGE: So what we have here is the caramel cream sauce. Very easy. You just get a hot pan on your grill and just maybe a teaspoon or tablespoon of sugar. Allow it to go straight to caramel, just quick amber like caramel. Caramel is beautiful. I like caramel. And straight, heavy whipping cream or just whipping cream and dilute it. It will boil and bubble. Just pull it off the heat, keep stirring and stirring it. And it will thicken up, and it's a caramel cream.


Mr. PAIGE: So we'll build the dessert. These things are very simple, very easy to put together.

MARTIN: And the biscuits are already made of - yeah. Apples and pecan.

Mr. PAIGE: And pecan. Now we'll fill the top.

MARTIN: Putting a little caramel cream.

Mr. PAIGE: The biscuit on top. And we will finish with whipped cream as soon as I find it. So that's the basic dessert. Just a very straightforward shortbread done on the grill.

MARTIN: That looks fantastic.

Mr. PAIGE: Simple. Kids can do it. Kids can help mom, or dad, if he's willing.

MARTIN: Why is it that guys like barbecuing so much, or grilling? Why is it a guy thing?

Mr. PAIGE: It somehow and some way is tied with your testosterone. I can't place my finger on it, but it's something about heat, metal and fire that…

MARTIN: And sharp knives, heat.

Mr. PAIGE: Absolutely. You know.

MARTIN: It just - mm.

Mr. PAIGE: And because it makes people run away and I guess you are the alpha male who can stand there and take the heat and…


Mr. PAIGE: …grill great food.


Mr. PAIGE: That's as deep as I can go on that one.

MARTIN: But for the ladies, though, can we represent? I mean, I don't know, can we hold our own?

Mr. PAIGE: Well, it's - absolutely you can. But you're smarter than we are, so you make us do it. I figured that out.

MARTIN: Well said. All right. Okay. You know, I want to ask you, is it - I don't know if you're into this whole barbecue competition but that seems to be a really big thing now. What do you think about that?

Mr. PAIGE: I am preparing to take heads as soon as possible.

MARTIN: Uh-huh.

Mr. PAIGE: When I enter a competition, I will take heads and return with those heads.

MARTIN: Is that right? All right. All right. It's time to see what you made of. It's time to see what you made of here, you know.

Mr. PAIGE: Absolutely. That's the sweet.

MARTIN: Make sure you know all hat and no cow.

Mr. PAIGE: Absolutely not.

MARTIN: Make sure. Okay. Okay.

Mr. PAIGE: (Unintelligible)

MARTIN: I'm having a little bit of my sweet pork chop and it is - I'm cutting it out. It is as beautiful - thank you.

Mr. PAIGE: Tender.

MARTIN: Tender. The color is even. No pink in our pork, you know.

Mr. PAIGE: Absolutely not.

MARTIN: All right. Hmm. Mm. Okay.

Mr. PAIGE: She's not faking, folks.

MARTIN: I'm trying not to holler. I'm trying not to holler. I'm trying to savor it. Mm. Mm. Mm. Mm. The flavor is the good too. Excuse me all. I'm not trying to be rude here. Really, this is just a reporting. I don't want you to think that I'm being selfish. It's reporting. I'm just doing all this for you. I hope you understand the sacrifices I make. I'm might have a little bit of dessert here. I'm having a little of the apple crisp. Oh, my goodness. Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed. I'll be back to the office later. You all finish the show.

Mr. PAIGE: Does this work?

MARTIN: I'll be back later.

Mr. PAIGE: Is it worth it?

MARTIN: Mm. Yes.

Mr. PAIGE: Okay.

MARTIN: Chef James Page of B. Smith's Restaurant in Washington, D.C., Thank you so much for taking the time.

Mr. PAIGE: Thank you very much. Pleasure to have you. Hope I can see all of you, you know, in my dining room one night.


Mr. PAIGE: Please finish and enjoy.

MARTIN: I'm just making sure it's good. I wasn't feeling greedy. I'm just checking…

Mr. PAIGE: (Unintelligible).

MARTIN: …just making sure.

Mr. PAIGE: Lovely.

MARTIN: Because I don't want to hurt your feelings. It's really you I'm thinking about.

Mr. PAIGE: Thank you for coming through and spending some time here in the kitchen.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: I must say it was nice to get out of the studio for a minute, but it really was too hot in that kitchen. So we're glad to be back in 4B. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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