The Brooklyn-based grill-chef requires a hardened desire to grill, a determination to spite fire regulations and the absence of a fire-safe space. Meat prepared while leaning through a kitchen window to tend the grill on the fire escape may lack subtlety, but, by god, it has character.
In San Diego, grilling isn't so much an act of Nietzschean will-to-power as a necessity for surviving a summer in an apartment bereft of air conditioning, where a lit stove or hot oven means an apartment like an inferno and no prospect of relief until equilibrium returns some time around 2 a.m. In San Diego, grilling is a seven-months-a-year, five-days-a-week activity, and it has to be done right. It requires a pilgrimage to the altar of the Sauce Goddess.
Known to mortals as Jennifer Reynolds, the Sauce Goddess learned her art at her father's knee, dad being an inveterate griller and a master of the barbecue-sauce-and-spice rub. The family moved a lot as they followed her father's sales career from San Diego (where Her Sauciness was born) to Michigan, Illinois and New York, but wherever they went, the grill was sure to follow. Her father never measured his ingredients, so she learned his art by measuring for him and then working out what he used. Now, with some modifications, the Sauce Goddess has her own line of sauces and a couple of decades worth of grilling experience to share.
The Goddess began with an unexpected revelation:
'I use gas a lot because it's so fast. It heats up, it's hot, it's clean,' she said.
Listen up, grill wussies-the Goddess has given you dispensation: Gas is acceptable.
Initiates to the grill should make their first try with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, the Sauce Goddess says.
'It's the ideal meat; you can't overcook a chicken thigh,' she said. 'It only has five more calories per ounce than a breast.'
But the hardest part of grilling may be knowing when the meat is done. Most of us just like to cut into the meat to check. The Sauce Goddess has a commandment: Thou shalt not cut into thy meat on thy grill.
'If you slice it on the grill, all the juices run out,' she said. The meat will dry out. She recommends putting it on a plate to cut into it, so some of the juices reabsorb. But for steak, the best way to check doneness is to touch the middle of the meat. The firmer it is, the more rare it is. And if you're going to eat steak, eat it rare.
'Meat should not be gray,' she said. We communed via telephone, but the sourpuss face she was making was audible.
She recommends medium rare, but whatever you do, check its doneness early. 'When in doubt, you can always put it back on,' she said. 'Never over-grill. You can't go backwards. Take it off and let it rest for two to four minutes.'
Resting will allow some of the juices to be reabsorbed by the meat.
The Sauce Goddess does not limit her range to meat. She grills fish (take it off early; it will keep cooking on the platter), vegetables (no oil needed, just salt and pepper are fine) and even pizza (not for beginners).
The Sauce Goddess knows no limits.
For more from the Queen of Sauce,check out www.saucegoddess.com.