The Driveway

Cape May Magazine / High Summer 2021

There are places I remember all my life

Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

The Beatles “In My Life”

The rituals occurred there long before I was introduced to the place. It was a vortex of food, football, and friendship. A gathering place for the misfits, an escape from the rigors of restaurant life, an oasis to refuel the body and soul. The cast of characters was constant yet ever changing. Food, adult beverages, and laughter were omnipresent. The driveway led to a large yard and was adjacent to the house whose centerpiece was a sturdy wood farm table that was always overflowing with an array of food as eclectic as the people preparing and partaking in the feasts. That table was host to some of the most creative food, conversation—and the occasional chicken dance—Cape May has ever witnessed.

Still the activity always returned to the driveway. Regardless of time of year or weather, coals glowed, and food cooked on the evolving lineup of grills and smokers. The driveway was where I was first introduced to the Big Green Egg and its progeny, the beer can chicken. Beer can chicken is the coq au vin of the pickup truck and red Solo cup tribe. Lacking a proper chicken rotisserie or stand, some creative or over-served individual (perhaps both) discovered that a full or semi-full can of beer fits snugly in a chicken’s posterior and creates barley-laden steam, cooking the chicken evenly from inside and out.

The Big Green Egg is a ceramic grill prized for its even cooking and ability to retain heat. Wood-only fires are preferred, creating a white ash and red ember cooking source that produces the finest smoke-enhanced flavor. Chicken, ribs, fish, and roasts with every manner of marinade and dry rub met the Egg as their final destination on the journey from farm to table.

The driveway was host to other epicurean implements of culinary degustation. A stainless-steel smoker that looked like it was welded by a half-drunk, half-mad sculptor produced pork butts so tender they fell apart just looking at a fork. The driveway was a place where I wrote many menus, some only in my mind, others on scraps of paper to be deciphered carefully later. Discussions on food, sports, and life were often aided and abetted by single-malts, Jameson’s, or other whiskies, and on a few memorable occasions, absinthe, often drunk from coffee mugs or Styrofoam cups.

Loins of fresh yellowfin tuna I caught ended up on a Weber grill that was centered in a hole cut into a picnic table. Whether from the canyons or the docks of the Lobster House, many denizens of the deep made their transformation into culinary delights in that driveway.

The grills are gone now, the pork fat and spilled beer stains are fading from the concrete driveway. The house has been sold and the driveway will now sprout new traditions and memories like tufts of grass pushing through the cracks signifying new growth and renewal.

The food has always been more than fuel or sustenance for me. It is inextricably woven into the fabric of the memories and people that I have broken bread with, cooked for and been served by. The venues and people ebb and flow, but the joy and passion for food marches onward.

Fire and cooking have been essential in transforming humanity from hunter-gatherers into a communal people focused on hearth and home. The grill or the kitchen is always the soul of most homes, and on rare occasions that soul is located in a driveway on Stimpson Lane.

This summer as your tribes come to your homes and gather around your grills and kitchen tables, try these recipes that were created or inspired by The Driveway: Beer Can Chicken with Carolina BBQ Sauce, Smoked Pork Shoulder with Cilantro Slaw, Grilled Asian Tuna Salad Wraps, and Bacon-wrapped Pork Loin with Broccoli Rabe.

Recipes

Beer Can Chicken

  • 1 roasting chicken
  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1 Tbsp granulated garlic
  • 1 Tbsp lemon pepper
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 can beer, opened

Mix all spices. Massage chicken thoroughly with spices. Take two sips of beer. Insert mostly full beer into chicken so its legs are even with the can bottom. Place chicken over low/medium grill and cook for 45 minutes or until internal temperature is 165. Let rest for 7 minutes. Slice and enjoy.

Carolina Barbecue Sauce

  • 1-¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1-½ cup ketchup
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup brown mustard
  • 2 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp granulated garlic powder
  • ½ tsp ancho Chile powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Whisk well over low heat and reduce by 1/3. Serve with beer can chicken.

Pulled Pork with Cilantro Slaw

  • 1 8 lb. pork shoulder
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • ¼ cup Hungarian paprika
  • 3 Tbsp dark chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp coriander
  • ¼ cup cracked black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp dry mustard
  • 2 Tbsp granulated garlic
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar powder

Mix all spices, coat the pork and refrigerate overnight. Place a smoker at 250 for four hours. Cheat code: sub ¼ cup smoked paprika for regular paprika. Place in a baking pan with 1-½ cups water, cover with foil, and cook at 250 for 4 hours 15 minutes. Let rest slightly. Pull the meat. Enjoy.

Cilantro Slaw

  • 1 head green cabbage, cored and shaved thin
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp Old Bay
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • 1 bunch scallions, bias cut
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Mix vinegar, sugar, and spices. Combine all vegetables and toss with dressing. Refrigerate for one hour and enjoy.

Bacon-Wrapped Pork with Broccoli Raab 

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 16 bacon slices
  • 3 slices provolone
  • Salt and pepper

Lay 8 of the bacon slices on a cutting board. Weave the other 8 slices, alternating each slice. Lay cheese on bacon. Season pork. Lay bacon on top. Fold over bacon slices, creating a tight package. Cook on low/medium coal for 45 minutes and let rest. Slice. Note: even a guy who wraps Christmas presents in Wawa bags will make the most beautiful design because, you know, bacon and pork.

Broccoli Raab

  • 3 bunch broccoli raab, blanched in salted boil water cooled and chopped
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil  
  • 2 Tbsp garlic
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup shaved locatelli cheese

Heat oil in a sauté pan and sweat garlic until translucent. Add pepper flakes. Add broccoli raab, then water. Cover and cook for 15 minutes on low. Stir in cheese and serve.

Grilled Asian Tuna Salad Wraps

  • 8 flour tortillas, wrap size
  • 4 lbs albacore or yellowfin tuna
  • Dressing/marinade
  • ½ cup Thai sweet chile sauce
  • ¼ cup soy sauce 
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp sriracha sauce
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • ¼ cup grapefruit juice
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 Tbsp red curry paste

Mix all ingredients together. Use half to marinate tuna for at least one hour. Grill over medium heat until tuna flakes and is medium well.

For the salad

  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ½ bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chopped mint
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 3 Tbsp wasabi paste
  • 1 head Napa cabbage, shredded

Mix with warm tuna and remaining marinade, let chill. Spread wasabi over tortillas. Add Napa cabbage. Add tuna, roll tightly, slice and enjoy.