In the video below, Food Network celebrity chef Rob Rainford shares his grilling tips, his favourite BBQ wines and his new cookbook Born to Grill. There’s also a delicious recipe for his barbecued Thai flank steak and Asian noodles below. Rob has always loved cooking, but his consistent theme has always been his love for the grill.
Rob Rainford is a Canadian chef with a world renowned reputation. Born in Saint Andrew Parish, Jamaica on November 30, 1966, Rob moved to Canada with his family when he was three. Rob enrolled in culinary school at George Brown College in 1994 and after completing his formal training, began his professional career.
His career has taken him through several kitchens in Toronto including Kensington Kitchen, Accolade, Crown Plaza, Senses just to name a few. He then hosted License to Grill on Food Network Canada, Discovery Home in the U.S., and the Asian Food Channel for five years, and it’s now in syndication.
BBQ Wines, Grill Tips and Cookbook, Thai Steak Recipe: Chef Rob Rainford
Natalie: Rob Rainford feels as though he was Born to Grill, and that’s the name of his new cookbook. The Canadian chef hosted a wildly popular grilling show on the food network for five years, and has published three cookbooks. He was born in Jamaica but moved with his family to Canada when he was just three.
He completed his culinary training at George Brown College in Toronto, and then worked in several restaurants before beginning his career in television and books. We’re going to talk to him about that, plus his favourite wines for barbecue.
Natalie: Welcome Rob. Thanks for being here today.
Rob: Hi Natalie. Thank you for having me.
Natalie: Ah, terrific. Now you say that you were born to grill. What do you mean by that? Were your parents always grilling food when you were a child? Where does that come from?
Rob: Well, part of the culture in Jamaica is wrapped around jerk, with the chicken and the pork and a lot of vegetables that are on the grill all of the time. So it was something that I noticed, that I have seen all my life, probably not really recorded.
The second part of it was when I got my jobs in the restaurant industry I gravitated towards the grill. So it was one of those things that I felt, no matter how much I tried to go away from things, it kind of kept blending itself back to this little area called the grill. I enjoy it so much; it’s a passion of mine.
Natalie: That’s great. Is there a big difference between grilling and barbecuing in your mind?
Rob: I think there is a huge distinction between the two practices. Grilling revolves around an electric grill, gas or charcoal. But generally speaking it’s a heated surface, direct heat. You are cooking steaks or vegetables and you are just basically getting something seared and off.
Now barbecue, for me personally, revolves around the smoking element. It is adding elder woods, hickory, mesquite, cherry, and plum, any of those woods that you can add to a fire or a charcoal where it’s going to emit a smoke, and that smoke is now going to transfer its flavour into a product, which can be a protein or vegetables. Now I think that is the distinction of barbecue for me. The root word of barbecue is barbacoa, which is digging a pit; which again, lends itself to where I come from in Jamaica and Hawaii. The Seminole Indians did this. So part of the whole culture is revolving around smoke elements. So I love barbecuing, but I also love grilling.
Natalie: Great. What distinguishes the taste of grilled food for you? What makes it so primal and we’re drawn to it?
Rob: I think it’s the actual application of the cooking process, more so than just the food that actually goes on. When you are lighting your charcoal, there’s a process to it. Even turning on your barbecue, natural gas or propane, you have to turn it on and get that fire up to a certain level before you’re allowed to start cooking. I just think that element itself blends and lends itself to … It’s not the last male bastion of dragging your knuckles on the ground and cooking meat on an open fire. But it does it lends itself to that.
I’m a father and I have only daughters. So I’m not saying that only men do this, and I bump into a lot of women across the country and across the planet that say they do barbecuing as well. But its outdoors, you are smelling the elements. You can have a cervesa, some wine, it just lends itself to saying it’s a communal thing. That’s what I love about it.
Natalie: Terrific. You talk about the Rainford method and I think that’s part of your new cookbook, Born to Grill. Can you tell us a little about that?
Rob: Well, the Rainford method to me is basically a deconstruction of a recipe where I strip it down to its bare essentials. You know, here’s a shopping list, here are the items that you are going to need to get. Here’s what you are going to have to do with them i.e. the marinating process or dry rubbing. Then here’s your call to command now. Lets light our barbecue. If its charcoal you’ve got a forty five minutes set up. If its natural gas or propane you’ve got about fifteen minutes setup. Are we going to cook direct heat or indirect heat? I’m taking you through the process. This will take you X amount of time, how to get those beautiful hatch marks, putting it on at 12 o’clock and turning it to 3 o’clock. So the Rainford method to me is the methodology, it’s the direction.
What I would like to say to anyone who buys the book, is that, you’ve got that voice, which is my voice. I could be your older brother, I could be your baby brother, I could be your father or your grandfather, but I am here with you. I’m talking to you. So you have a call to action. The Rainford method is just me, over your shoulder, helping you out throughout this process.
Natalie: That sounds like a lot fun. When you are over our shoulder, are you also recommending wines for all barbecued or grilled foods? Do most or all grilled foods go with wine do you think?
Rob: Generally speaking, if I were to make that blanket statement, for sure. I think that it’s a real individual thing, just like wine, it’s individual. If you like certain wine, and remember, I don’t think that we belong to the school where its old school, where white goes with fish and chicken and red goes with … it’s up to you. You get to pick. I get to give you some suggestions, but by the same token please, feel free to disregard them and go in your own direction.
Natalie: I think we can break more of the rules when it comes to grilled food, grilled seafood especially. It takes on that sort of more robust flavour and you can get into the red wines through that method of cooking.
Rob: Yes, most definitely. I do believe that smoking element, that grilling element, that earthiness, lends itself to the tannins in a lot of red wine. It’s not going to fight against it. That’s the biggest issue I have with anyone who says I’m going to do the perfect pairing for you. You have to know that person’s preferences and then take it to the next level. Does it really lend itself to the particular food that you are cooking?
Again, as a chef, we have to go through the wine experience and we want to make sure that everyone understands it on that level. By the same token, it’s a really individual thing.
Natalie: What do you think is the toughest grilled or barbecued food to match with wine? Which has been the most challenging one for you?
Rob: I don’t think that there’s a big challenge on that, per se. The elements that are in play are, if it’s a piece of fish, it could potentially stick on the grill. Those are the issues, it’s a technical thing. But if it gets off the grill, it will match up with, well with any wine.
Natalie: I like your approach.
Rob: That’s the beauty.
Natalie: So today you have picked one of your favourite barbecue grilling wines. Why don’t you tell us about this wine?
Rob: I have my bottle here as well. It’s a Ravenswood Zinfandel. Joel Peterson is the wine maker and I’ve met him several times. He has come up to Toronto and we’ve done events together. He’s one of those winemakers, who, when I had the opportunity to have a conversation about the process, we started to blend ourselves together so we were almost finishing each other’s sentences.
The (inaudible) is basically really earthy. It’s got some plum and apricots in there. The tannins are suited so well to pretty much any kind of meat. There’s a bit of a blend going on. There’s Sirah in there and Zinfandel. It’s one of those wines that if I had a piece of lamb, this would go with it. Even if I had a beautiful rib eye, this wine would go well with it as well.
Natalie: Terrific, let’s give it a taste, shall we Rob?
Rob: I have to open mine up. You are way ahead of me. I can’t believe that. Can you pour mine too? Pour two glasses.
Natalie: I’ll do it virtually for you. Just pass me the bottle.
Rob: No worries, I know I’m not even looking at the camera right now. But you know when you gotta open up on time, you gotta go.
Natalie: That’s okay.
Rob: I didn’t realize it was a test.
Natalie: No, it’s not a test. It’s wine. Let’s relax.
Rob: Ok, it’s open.
Natalie: I think Zinfandel is one of the most barbecue, grill friendly wines on the planet because picking up on a lot of things that you were already saying, it’s got the big juicy red flavours, its robust enough to stand up to the flavours, and yet it doesn’t have all those drying tannins that can just perhaps add to the drying flavours of barbecue or grill. So I just think it’s perfect with just about everything on the grill.
Rob: I agree. Touché my dear.
Natalie: So give it a taste and tell me what you get from it. I think that’s, oh my goodness … lots of berry flavour.
Rob: Tons of berries in there. There are tons of berries in there.
Natalie: Wow. Gosh.
Rob: And it’s just a relaxing wine, don’t you think?
Natalie: It is. It’s not fussy.
Rob: No, it’s not, no it’s not.
Natalie: It’s definitely very smooth and slippery.
Rob: Oh yes.
Natalie: I like that in a wine.
Rob: All the terminologies you write every month, I love that.
Natalie: Yum! That’s technical
Rob: Yes, yum yum yum.
Natalie: Well Rob, thank you so much for being with us today. I’m going to post your web site, your cook books, Twitter and Facebook so that people know how to reach you and where to find you, and how to get your new cookbook, Born to Grill. Congratulations on that.
Rob: Thank you very much. Have a great day.
Natalie: Take care Rob, Thank you.
Rob Rainford’s Born to Grill: Over 100 Recipes From My Backyard to Yours by the much loved chef and television personality. Rainford takes grilling to a whole new level with twenty mouth-watering menus from around the world, making this the ultimate cookbook for grill masters and novices alike.
Rob’s Barbecue Wine of Choice
Ravenswood is one of California’s zinfandel pioneers, and remains one of its best producers today. This terrific Vintners Blend Zin offers enticing aromas of spice, black raspberry, brambleberry and blueberry and raspberry. It’s terrifically vibrant with layers of textured flavor.
Smooth with polished tannins and a warm finish are perfect for the barbecue because it has the flavours to stand up to grilled meats but a juiciness that is a terrific complement to the smoky flavours. This is also a great wines for pizza and movie night and is available year-round in the Vintages Essentials Collection. Pair with: baked beef ribs basted with homemade barbecue sauce, jerk pork and Rob Rainford’s Thai flank steak.
Drink: 2012-2015. 359257 14% XD 750 mL $17.95 Score: 90/100.
You can find more terrific barbecue wines here.
Rob’s Thai-Style Barbecued Flank Steak
with Asian Noodle Salad Recipe
This Thai-style flank steak is my twist on a flavor profile I have come to love. Living in Toronto, a city with such diverse cultures, inspired this dish.
The Rainford Method
For the steak, in a bowl combine the soy sauce, ketjap manis, lime juice, garlic, green onions, chilies, sugar, sesame oil, fish sauce, ginger and lemongrass until well blended and sugar has dissolved. Remove half the marinade and set aside to use as a dressing. Place the remaining marinade in a resealable plastic bag.
Lightly score the beef in a crosshatch (diamond) pattern and place in the bag with the marinade. Give it a massage and place in fridge for 4 hours.
2 oz (60 g) vermicelli-style dry rice noodles
Canola or grapeseed oil
1 head Boston lettuce, washed, dried and leaves separated
1 English cucumber, sliced
1 red onion, sliced into rings
2 cups (500 mL) cherry tomatoes
1⁄3 cup (80 mL) fresh mint leaves, divided
1⁄3 cup (80 mL) fresh cilantro leaves, divided
1⁄3 cup (80 mL) fresh basil leaves, divided
1⁄3 cup (80 mL) dry roasted peanuts, chopped
2 Tbsp (30 mL) sesame seeds
1⁄2 cup (125 mL) soy sauce
1⁄2 cup (125 mL) ketjap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) or regular soy sauce
1⁄3 cup (80 mL) fresh lime juice
3 cloves garlic, finely grated
2 green onions, sliced (white parts only; reserve green ends for salad)
2 Thai chilies, seeded and finely chopped
2 Tbsp (30 mL) packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp (30 mL) sesame oil
2 Tbsp (30 mL) fish sauce
1 Tbsp (15 mL) finely grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped lemongrass, outer stalk removed
1 lb (500 g) flank steak or flat-iron steak
Canola oil for greasing
Kosher salt to taste
Fire up your charcoal or preheat your gas grill. Grilling temp should be around 350°F (180°C). For charcoal grilling, you’re ready to grill when a thick white ash has appeared on the coals. Place three-quarters of the hot coals on one side of the grill and place a few on the other side. Oil the grate with canola oil.
Remove the beef from marinade, discarding the used marinade. Season the beef generously with salt. Place the beef on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes per side or until well marked and rare, or longer if you prefer your meat less rare.Transfer the beef to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Slice very thinly against the grain.
Meanwhile, soak the rice noodles in warm water about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well and drizzle lightly with oil to prevent sticking.
Combine the smaller lettuce leaves, cucumber, onion, tomatoes and half of the mint, cilantro and basil in a bowl. Add the reserved unused marinade and toss until well coated.
Mound a portion of the noodles in the center of a serving platter and top with the salad. Arrange the beef over the salad and garnish with peanuts, sesame seeds and remaining herbs.
Makes 6 to 8 servings as part of this menu; 4 if served alone
Tip: If you prefer to serve this on individual plates, line each plate with a large lettuce leaf first to add flare to the presentation.
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Is there someone else with a fascinating wine story whom you think I should interview? Please e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org.