One of Josiah Citrin’s earliest childhood memories involves fire — more specifically, his dad cooking over the flames with a spatula in one hand and a Miller Lite in the other.
“It was just this innate sense of communal gathering,” Citrin said about the backyard barbecues of his youth. “It was just really a lot of fun.”
Citrin — an L.A.-based, two-star Michelin chef — is an expert when it comes to cooking with fire. His latest cookbook, “Charcoal,” details a few tricks for mastering the art of grilling.
One of his best tips is to opt for natural hardwood lump charcoal when grilling, which he said hold the hottest heat for the longest time. (He prefers a mix of oak and hickory woods.) Stay away from briquettes, Citrin said, which light quickly but die out just as fast and are padded with unnecessary additives.
Instead of cooking protein for a few minutes on each side, Citrin turns his meats every 30 seconds for three minutes, then takes the protein off the fire and lets it rest for three minutes. For a 1-pound steak, he repeats the method three times, for a total of nine minutes cooking time and nine minutes resting. He said the process yields a perfectly cooked medium-rare masterpiece every time.
Citrin’s cooking style goes off-grate too. One of his favorite ways to cook is in the coals, especially with vegetables, which are aplenty in Southern California.
“Why would I want to leave that out and not use that? And not use that as the star?” Citrin said about the abundance of produce he includes in his cookbook.
One of his most popular dishes is a head of charred cabbage, baked in the embers and served with a lemon-sumac yogurt dipping sauce. His recipe for roasted carrots with ricotta, herbs and black pepper honey, which blister and blacken in the coals, is also a hit.
Feeling inspired to fire up the grill and cook up a feast? Citrin has one last tip when it comes to cooking with fire: “Just don’t be afraid of it; you just have to go for it,” he said.
Recipe: Coal-Roasted Carrots with Ricotta, Herbs, and Black Pepper Honey
From CHARCOAL by Josiah Citrin with JoAnn Cianciulli, published by Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, A division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2019 by Josiah Citrin. Photographs © 2019 by Stan Lee.
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