How to Host a BBQ in the Park Without a Grill

[Hey, this is Adam The Amateur Gourmet. I’m on vacation in Barcelona, Spain and while I’m gone I’ve asked some awesome people to fill in for me. Today we have my dear friend Lauren Gutterman, who, along with her girlfriend Patty (whose post is up next!) generously hosted Craig and I this past July 4th for a picnic in Prospect Park. It was such a fun day and the food Lauren made was so good, I begged her to do a post about how she pulled it all off. Here it is! Take it away, Lauren.]

To celebrate July 4th this year, Patty decided to organize a traditional, American BBQ picnic in Prospect Park complete with a badminton tournament (a sport just about anyone can play, although not necessarily well). Doesn’t Adam look like he’s having a ball?

adam badminton.jpg

The only problem: we don’t own a grill. Rather than buying a grill, schlepping it to the park, and figuring out how to use it while our hungry guests waited to eat, I decided to evade disaster and cook an easily-transportable BBQ ribs meal at home.

I’d never made ribs before, so I choose the following recipe, which I figured would be sure to produce flavorful ribs even without an outdoor grill. The spice-rubbed, beer- braised, espresso BBQ sauce-coated ribs came out beautifully (my one mistake was using regular espresso instead of instant in the sauce, but even that didn’t ruin the dish). I paired the ribs with my favorite All-American potato salad, as well as a simple, fresh corn and tomato salad.


Cooking the ribs for an hour and a half in our already over-heated apartment was the downside of deciding not to buy an outdoor grill. But we avoided the hassle of cooking at the last minute, and we didn’t have to confine our party to the packed and smoky grilling-designated area of the park.

Chili-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs with Espresso Barbecue Sauce

developed from Bon Appétite June 2003

2 tablespoons hot Mexican-style chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 pounds baby back pork ribs (St. Louis-style ribs were on sale at Whole Foods July 4th weekend, so I used them in instead of baby back)

1 12-ounce bottle dark beer (I used Negra Modelo in keeping with the Mexican theme)

1 18-ounce bottle good-quality barbecue sauce (I used the Bone Suckin’ Sauce brand, combining the Regular and Hot kinds)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper in small bowl to blend. Rub spice mixture all over ribs. Place ribs in heavy large roasting pan.

Boil beer in medium saucepan until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Pour beer around ribs. Cover pan tightly with foil. Bake ribs until fork-tender, about 1 hour 30 minutes.

Combine barbecue sauce, 1/2 cup water, brown sugar, and espresso powder in heavy medium saucepan. Simmer until flavors blend and sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. (Ribs and barbecue sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool slightly, then cover separately and refrigerate.)

Prepare stove-top grill pan (medium heat). Brush ribs with some barbecue sauce. Grill ribs just until heated through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer ribs to platter. Bring remaining sauce to simmer. Brush ribs with more barbecue sauce. Let ribs cool and pack in portable containers.

All-American Potato Salad
from Cook’s Country

I’ve never been a big potato salad fan, but this recipe is delicious. I’ve made it many times now and everyone loves it.  The key is tossing the boiled potatoes in pickle juice and yellow mustard – dijon really doesn’t work as well here. The recipe makes a lot of dressing, but I recommend that you use it all.

2     pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 1/2     teaspoons table salt
3     tablespoons dill pickle juice, plus 1/4 cup finely chopped dill pickles
1     tablespoon yellow mustard (I use French’s)
1/4     teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2     teaspoon celery seed
1/2     cup mayonnaise
1/4     cup sour cream
1/2     onion, red (small), chopped fine
1     rib celery, chopped fine

1. Place potatoes in large saucepan with cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to boil over high heat, add 1 teaspoon salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Drain potatoes thoroughly, then spread out on rimmed baking sheet. Mix
2 tablespoons pickle juice and mustard together in small bowl, drizzle pickle juice mixture over potatoes, and toss until evenly coated. Refrigerate until cooled, about 30 minutes.

3. Mix remaining tablespoon pickle juice, chopped pickles, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, celery seed, mayonnaise, sour cream, red onion, and celery in large bowl. Toss in cooled potatoes, cover, and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes. (Salad can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 2 days.)

Sweet Corn and Tomato Salad with Fresh Cilantro
developed from Bon Appétite July 2004

10 ears fresh corn, husked
12 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Rather than boiling the corn and then cutting the kernels from the cobs (as most recipes suggest), I like to sautee the uncooked kernels (as Ina Garten recommends). I think this results in a more flavorful and less mushy salad.

Cut corn kernels from cobs. Sautee in large saucepan with a few tablespoons of olive oil for about 3 minutes. Be careful not to overcook. Transfer corn to large bowl and let cool. Add remaining ingredients; toss to blend. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper.

Let's dish!

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