Saturday, 20 July 2013

vulcan the smoker + burger night

a full view of vulcan
in roman mythology vulcan is the god of fire. at number five in bani gala he has been reincarnated as a barbecue grill/smoker. his body is fashioned from a large steel barrel supported by a rectangular frame. his fire is contained in a little hatch fed by coal or wood. his name brandished in metal is proudly displayed on the lip of the curve of his upper body. in a jar beside him are tools that are capable of withstanding his wrath. they are used to retrieve large hunks of meat and poultry after they have been smoked or grilled. 

vulcan was inspired by a combination of arizona living and the pakistani love for grilling. the yusuf family’s adventurous appetites led us to try mexican and american meats and we fell in love with long slow smoked brisket and ribs. barbecue in the land of red, white and blue is an extended affair. the southern states are famous for cooking tough cuts of meat over indirect heat usually a wood fire for a long while. in pakistan meat is generally grilled after being marinated which essentially helps tenderise the meat. it absorbs some of the smokiness of the grill but it is nowhere near the deep almost tobacco like smokiness of american barbecue. i have fond memories of baba’s barbecues on trips to murree. back then he used a rectangular grill with a mesh of diamond shapes as a platform for grilling chicken tikka and bite-sized pieces of beef.

vulcan was designed by m and baba with helpful input from google. online blueprints for smokers provided guidelines on dimensions. the design was modified to add a hot plate. baba also suggested creating a hatch for the wood and coal as opposed to using another barrel. the father and son project was not without its contentions for baba is often teased about his ‘directorial’ propensities, sometimes with undesirable consequences. for instance once he overcooked m’s gumbo so that the rice became sticky and clumpy. then during the first meat smoking experiment he overloaded the smoker with wood despite m and mama’s instructions.

vulcan’s body (that is the steel barrel) was procured from pindi. baba recommended the services of the local welder on bani gala high street. m disagreed with baba’s choice because in his opinion the man dilly-dallied and required much handholding and cajoling. eventually, after several months of back and forth m got fed-up and switched to another welder who promptly carved the steel barrel on the horizontal and started constructing vulcan.

beef brisket being smoked
smoked beef
i was in islamabad during april, a prelude to the long and unforgiving sub-continental summer. daytime temperatures can be quite uncomfortable but the evenings are pleasant and breezy. a couple of heavy showers and thunderstorms kept the heat at bay allowing m and mama to conduct some smoking experiments. the first one included beef brisket and whole chickens and the second beef tenderloin. baba grilled vegetables and sausages and m did a burger night.

baba stoking the fire 
burger night at home
the sibling tending to the burgers
baba and m watching vulcan
time to eat
o's burger with an egg on it
he used a combination of beef, veal and fat for his burgers, seasoning the meat generously with salt, coarsely crushed black and pink peppercorns. his patties were square like those at wendy’s. he created a stack of them using butter paper to separate each patty. once ready they were transported to vulcan along with a tray holding some eggs, burger buns and a block of american cheese. mama made coleslaw and skin on chips. i made salted chocolate sauce to be poured liberally over scoops of vanilla ice cream for dessert. baba set the porch up beautifully.

baba set up the table
six of us tucked into double patty burgers that night as both of us siblings had our other halves with us. 

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