Years ago, we started the tradition of hosting a Gemini party at the original location of the Living Room Studio, which was actually Chris George’s house on Milton Street (in Gretna). We had a giant barrel grill, kegs of Abita Amber, and a menu that ranged from wine-marinated ribs and whole ribeyes, to fresh-caught fish and traditional Thai satay. Once we even had bear sausage. We put this grand spectacle on pause once the studio shifted into its new home, but dusted it off this year for Chris’ 40th birthday. Travis Thompson (Chris’ former roommate at the original “studio” and BlackBelt Band bassist/vocalist) has gone on to master the BBQ in the years we’ve let this gathering marinate. This year, Travis took over the role of master chef for our Gemini party reboot. He’s graciously accepted our request to share some of his BBQing secrets, just in time for you to rock your summer grilling festivities. I’ve even thrown in one of my off-the-menu cocktail recipes that I sling on the sly at work to help you wash all this meat down. —Kevin Barrios
Season the prime rib on all sides. I use what I have around (Tony’s, Cajun Shake etc.). Let the entire roast sit out in room temperature, seasoned, resting for 2 hours. Insert a meat thermometer. If your prime rib roast has bones, make sure the thermometer is not touching them.
Using my regular-sized Weber BBQ pit, I place a foil pan in the center of the pit, adding a layer of unlit coals on each side (around 10 to 15 coals of standard Kingsford charcoal). Load the charcoal chimney starter with coals. Get them good and hot. Put water in the foil pan about 1/4 of the way up. Dump half of the lit coals over one side of the BBQ pit, onto the unlit coals, and the rest on the other side. Give the pit about 15 minutes to mingle. Add a few chunks of apple, pecan, cherry, and/or oak wood on top of the lit coals (even an aggressive wood, like mesquite, can be used on beef ). Put the BBQ rack onto the pit.
Place your seasoned prime rib roast (with a thermometer inserted properly in the center) on the pit. Cover the pit with the lid, making sure the vent holes are on the center line of the pit.
You want to cook the roast for about 13 minutes per pound. My latest roast was 9 pounds. The math told me 117 minutes (2 hours), but it was done faster than that. I think it was because on that particular day, it was sort of windy (there are no exact rules to BBQing, only guidelines).
After half of the cooking time has passed, open the lid and spin the roast 180 degrees. Put the lid back on the same way it came off for an even cooking. Halfway through the second leg of cooking (typically 30 minutes), lift the lid again to check the internal temp. DO NOT LET IT EXCEED 150 DEGREES. If it’s close, take it off to rest for about 15 to 25 minutes. Even though it’s out of the pit, it’s still cooking. The roast should be perfectly cooked medium rare. If you’re cooking for a group of people who have no respect for the way meat should be properly cooked and think that prime rib should be overcooked, then put those portions back on the grill to overcook those pieces.
Start by washing the drumsticks and then paper towel-patting them dry.
Then put them in a gallon ziploc bag and add your marinade. This can be many things. Most of the time, I like to see what I have around the house. Anything from Zesty Italian to Jamaican jerk marinade to just olive oil with vinegar, salt, and pepper works. The key is to not over-marinate them. 12 hours max—over-marination makes the chicken chewy. If you go more, you can put them in the freezer and stop the marinating process (chicken freezes very well).
Get your BBQ pit ready. I use my Weber grill for chicken. Once my charcoal starter has finished lighting the coals and they are mostly gray, I add them to half of the pit. On the other half, I put a foil pan with some water. I use either apple, cherry, oak, or pecan chunks for my smoke. We are BBQing—not grilling—so we use indirect heat and smoke from wood to flavor the chicken. Put a chunk of wood over the lit coals. Place the BBQ rack on.
Put the chicken over the foil pan and cover the BBQ pit, making sure that the open vent holes are above the chicken and not the heat source. One full coal starter chimney will have the BBQ pit pretty hot (400 to 550 degrees), but that’s okay with chicken. Chicken, unlike ribs or brisket, is naturally a softer meat and can be cooked at a high temperature.
After about 20 to 30 minutes, lift the lid, baste the chicken with a basting sauce, and add another chunk of wood to the coals. Whatever basting sauce (or mop sauce) I use, I make sure it won’t burn. Using straight up BBQ sauce bought at the store will burn, due to the high sugar content, and ruin the flavor. I pick a store-bought BBQ sauce and cut it by half with apple cider vinegar, apple juice, or both. This will flavor the chicken nicely.
After a total cook time of 45 minutes to an hour (depending on where your internal BBQ temperature is), the drumsticks, if poked, should be running clear juice out of them. If you like, put them in a bowl and toss them with a store-bought BBQ sauce or one that you’ve perfected yourself, or leave them as is, right off the pit. Don’t be scared to try different sauces, rubs, and woods or to just use things you have on hand. If you master the cooking technique, the flavor experimentation will be a great gastronomic science fair experiment.
Baby Back Ribs (or St. Louis cut ribs)
Start by making a dry rub. I’ve found in my experiences that you can make a solid rub by taking your favorite seasoning and cut it by half with brown sugar. It doesn’t matter if it’s Tony Chachere’s, Cajun Shake, or even McCormick seasoned salt. It doesn’t matter if it’s light brown, dark brown, or regular brown sugar. It’ll all be awesome. Put the dry rub on the side. Unwrap the ribs from packaging. Rinse and pat dry. Use a butter knife to get under the membrane on the back of the rack of ribs. Once you’ve gotten the membrane at a starting peel point (either from the middle of the rack, the front, or back), use a paper towel to help hold the membrane so you can easily pull it off from the back. Apply the dry rub. Rub it in good. I use a gallon-sized Ziploc for marinating the ribs, so I cut the rack in half. It’ll fit four pieces (two full racks) in one bag. Put the four sections that have been dry rubbed into the gallon sized Ziploc bag. Add a can of beer. I like to taste more rib than beer, so I use an affordable, decent beer like Tecate. Marinate the ribs in the refrigerator for 12 hours. The beer will speed up the cook time.
After 12 hours, drain the Ziploc bag. Remove the rib sections and re-rub them using the same rub as before. I use a 5 gallon drum BBQ pit to cook the ribs. It’s much easier to keep the temperature controlled in a larger pit than a smaller one. It’s difficult to keep 220 to 250 degrees in a small Weber, so if you can find a large pit (or even better, a pit with a side compartment), you’re in business. Use the side vent and the top vent to control the temperature inside. One charcoal starter, filled to the top with charcoal, ignited, and placed on one side of the pit burns at a perfect 250 degrees in my 5 gallon BBQ pit. I’ll drop a large chunk of either apple, oak, cherry, or pecan wood on top of the lit coals to create smoke.
On the non-lit side of the BBQ pit, place a foil pan with water filled 1/4 of the way up. Place the ribs over that pan (on the non-lit side). Close the lid and make sure you’re in the 220 to 250 degree temperature zone. There should be a noticeable amount of smoke being created by the chunk of wood you put over the hot coals. This is real BBQing.
After an hour of cooking between 220 to 250 degrees, open the lid and shuffle the ribs around so they get an even cook. Now you need to baste them. My favorite “cheat” baste mop sauce is to get my favorite BBQ sauce and cut it in half with apple cider vinegar. This mop sauce will flavor and tenderize the ribs while they cook. Cook for another hour. Open the lid and re-baste them.
I don’t like my ribs falling off the bone. To me, they’re perfect when the bone just starts poking out of the side). Using a second grill that’s piping hot, sear the ribs to give them a caramelized flavor. Let them rest on the side for about 15 minutes. Slice them into individual pieces. If you did it right, there should be a priceless smoke ring showing on the inside of the rib. Put the individual pieces into a bowl and toss them with your favorite BBQ sauce.
Remember, BBQing is cooking indirectly with coals and smoke to flavor. Most people think BBQing is getting a pit, lighting coals, and cooking food directly over the top of it. That is grilling. BBQing is indirect cooking using smoke to flavor your meat. BBQing isn’t easy, but it’s more than worth it if your technique is tight and you don’t rush any part of the process. If you made it through these recipes and you have the courage to try, you are developing a love for probably the oldest (and possibly greatest) cooking method known to mankind.
Kevin B’s Banana Hammock
The Banana Hammock is a variation of the classic tiki-bar rum punch.
I’m not much of a measurer when it comes to making drinks or cooking food. I go by feels, but I’ll do my best to break it down for you. You can do this as an individual cocktail or make gallons for a huge party. I’ll give you measurements for a 32 oz. cocktail (including ice—preferably shaved) and let you work the rest of the math out.
- 2 oz Malibu or similar coconut rum
- 1.5 oz Creme of banana liquor
- 1 oz Meyers’s dark rum or similar dark rum
- .5 oz Captain Morgan or similar spiced rum
- your favorite pineapple-centric mixed fruit juice
- splash or two of soda water (you can use a mild orange or citrus flavored soda water if you like)
Fill your 32 oz. cup with ice, pour in the liquor, add the juice and soda, then mix back and forth. Garnish with a pineapple chunk and an orange.