By Tim Hazell
Grilling employs a significant amount of radiant heat and is ideal for producing delicate seafood and vegetables quickly. Food is either placed directly over the coals or cooked in a cast-iron pan.
Barbacoa, from which the term “barbecue” derives, originated in the Arawak-speaking Caribbean. For a traditional Mexican version, a brick- or stone-lined pit is dug into the earth. Wood is placed at the bottom and burned until the interior is red hot. A large pot is prepared with a little water and/or pulque (fermented agave sap), vegetables, and aromatic herbs added. A grill is secured so that the meat does not touch the bottom of the pot. Lamb or mutton is wrapped in maguey (agave) leaves and placed inside the pot. The meat may be topped with the animal’s stomach stuffed with other edible organs and a mixture of herbs, spices, and chilies.
The pit is covered with a metal sheet and a layer of fresh earth and then left overnight. When uncovered, the organs and leaf-wrapped meat are melt-in-the-mouth tender, while the liquid has turned into a traditional soup (consommé).
In North America, the word barbecue predominantly refers to grilled cuts of pork or beef. Shrimp and fish are also universal favorites. The following recipe is for red snapper, a very popular catch in the Gulf of Mexico. Prepare for outdoor grilling as directed or adapt for your kitchen.
Grilled Snapper with Blistered Bean Salad
1 habañero chili, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
4-1/2 teaspoons light brown sugar
Sea or Kosher salt
2 small red onions, cut through root ends into 8 wedges
2 cups sugar snap peas, strings removed
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
1 lb. green beans, trimmed
4 (6-ounce) snapper fillets
1 cup torn basil leaves
1/4 cup salted, dry-roasted peanuts, crushed
Prepare a grill for medium-high heat. Place a large cast-iron skillet on the grill to heat. Stir chili, garlic, vinegar, and brown sugar in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved; season chili vinegar with salt. Set aside. Toss onions, sugar snap peas, and 1-1/2 tsp. oil in a large bowl. Season with salt. As soon as skillet is hot, add vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until blistered and crisp-tender, 6–8 minutes for onions and about 4 minutes for sugar snap peas. Transfer to a platter. Toss green beans and 1-1/2 tsp. oil in another large bowl and cook directly on grill grate on one side until blistered, lightly charred, and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the platter with onions and sugar snap peas and toss to coat; drizzle reserved chili vinegar over all. Wipe out skillet with paper towels. Add 1 tbsp. oil and set back on grill. Season snapper all over with salt and cook, skin side down in skillet, until skin is golden brown and crisp, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook until just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Set snapper on top of bean salad. Top with basil and peanuts.