Grilling and chilling
Budget gourmet for the 4th of July
06/30/2012 11:04 AM
I am a transplant to Chicago from St. Louis. For me, the 4th of July means traditional summer outdoor meals with toasted ravioli (“toasted” being a euphemism for fried), macaroni salad (it’s basically potato salad, but substitute elbow macaroni) and pork steaks.
The latter is sliced pork shoulder, an incredibly cheap cut of meat, grilled over charcoal. There’s virtually no limit to the amount of barbecue sauce that can be added to keep the relatively fatty cut of pork from flaming up and drying out.
Pork steaks are so popular in St. Louis, grocery stores begin running specials a week before summer holidays.
“We will not be undersold on pork steaks!” the ads blare. They generally hover around $1.79 per pound. You can feed pork steaks to a crowd of guests and not get hit very hard in the pocketbook.
The polar opposite of eating cheaply, albeit using a charcoal grill, is available with the latest gimmick chefs Grant Achatz and Dave Beran have fired up for Next and its newest cooking challenge, “Sicily.”
For only $250 per person, the Next boys will feed you an eight-course Italian meal using among other kitchen tools, a Weber kettle grill. The Next menu naturally includes sea urchin, sun-dried fish-roe flakes and swordfish. But what caught my eye was another one of the eight courses listed: slow-braised pork shoulder. Basically, the same cut of meat used for pork steaks. But, I am certain, way, way better.
Should I win the Illinois lottery before chefs Achatz and Beran change their menu again in September, I wouldn’t mind giving the Next Sicily experience a shot. For about $3,000, I’m sure I could scare up a ticket on Craigslist or eBay.
Of course, there’s always grilled pork steaks on the grill. I figure $5 worth from Dominick’s ought to do the trick.