Chris Terlikar’s technique is slow. The head chef at the Texas-style Bluebonnet Barbecue in Melbourne says he likes to handle his dishes with the utmost care. “We are purists when it comes to smoking meat,” says Terlikar. “Lately we’ve been playing around with a new technique called reverse searing. We smoke a steak on the offset smoker until medium rare and then grill it over hot coals. It’s a great way to get a smoky flavour into a steak.”
Drawing on his experience working in Michelin Star restaurants such as PUBLIC in New York and an eight-week trip around Texas where he mastered the barbeque brisket, Terlikar’s tips for home barbeque fans are surprisingly attainable: “Keep it simple," he says. "Use your local butcher. They can custom cut pretty much anything you want.”
At Bluebonnet it’s not just about meat alone. Carefully matched drinks accompany the hearty menu with the intention of drawing out undiscovered flavours in both the food and wine. While beer is a barbeque tradition, wines offer smoked and grilled cuisine an entirely new opportunity for flavour.
Bluebonnet Barbecue assistant manager Caleb Baker takes us through a best-practice guide to up your barbeque game.
Draw out different flavours
“Matching food and wine is fun,” says Baker. “There are no exact rules; everybody’s palate is different.” He says a general rule of thumb is to aim for either contrasting or complementary flavours. “A complementary wine has flavours similar to those of the food. A contrasting wine offers something the food is lacking, like acidity or sweetness.”
Consider the occasion
Baker says choosing wine isn’t always about matching it to the food – you should also think about matching your booze to the occasion. “Even though you might think barbeque meats and beer or red wine are the way to go, on a hot summer day a crisp sparkling, dry white or even rosé works very well,” he says. “Sparkling is the ultimate aperitif, and is designed to stimulate the appetite.”
Match wine to smoked meats and vegetables
“Smoked meats and veggies are extremely flavoursome,”says Baker. “They’re often prepared with lots of salt and pepper and often a heap of other herbs and spices, therefore you should be looking for fairly bold wines to stand up to these big flavours. These can be complementary or contrasting: medium to full-bodied reds with a decent whack of tannin and spice are complementary. Dry white wines with bright, fresh acidity cut through the fat as a contrast.”
“For things like mushrooms, eggplant, beetroot, carrot – pair with rich, earthy white wines like chardonnay,” says Baker. “Light, earthy reds like pinot noir also work well.”
“Punchy, citrus-driven white wines like dry riesling, gruner veltliner or albarino are great with seafood.”
“Chicken is a bit of a blank canvas,” says Baker. “So it depends on what herbs and spices you’re adding to it. Usually I’d stick to white wine with chicken, such as a chardonnay.”
“This would depend upon the ingredients in the sausage. Your average sausage is usually quite meaty and often with a kick of spice or herbs, so a tasty, medium-bodied red like a sangiovese or tempranillo is a pretty safe choice.”
“The obvious choice for a big, juicy steak is a ballsy red with a decent hit of tannin like a shiraz or cab sav,” says Baker. “But don’t be afraid to try some other interesting, full-bodied reds like malbec, barbera or nebbiolo. If it’s a fairly fatty steak, go the other way and crack a bottle of crisp, dry riesling to cut through the fat and cleanse the palate after each mouthful.”
Wine and beer both work well, but there’s a difference
“There’s no denying beers and barbeque are a good combo,” says Baker. “But if you’re looking for a more exciting flavour experience and options to explore, wine offers so many more interesting flavours, aromas and textures.”
This article is presented in partnership with St Huberts’s new range of Victorian wines, The Stag, which includes chardonnay, shiraz and pinot noir.