Barbecue and Baseball

mariners

The Mariners lost. Again. Dangit. I’m a Seattle Mariners’ fan, and their season is off to a rough start, especially considering they were predicted to be the top team in the American League West, based on changes to the starting lineup and their spring training performance. They acquired a big hitter and have one of the best pitching rotations in the game. 2015 was supposed to be the express lane to the World Series. So far…not so good, but my hopes remain high that they will start stringing wins together and make a solid run for the postseason. In the meantime, I will drown my sorrows in grilled protein.

Grilling season, for me, mirrors the Major League Baseball schedule; April to October. I started grilling a couple days before the Mariners started playing regular season games, but my results have been equally mixed.

I’m a month in, and I finally made it through the protein rotation. Tonight, I sent chicken breasts – marinated in pineapple and lime juice – to the charcoal pit. They performed admirably, backed up by grilled onions, seasoned with chile powder, and roasted bell peppers, sweet and tender after facing the hottest part of the fire until the skins burned black and were peeled away to show off the sweet and tender flesh. Add some turmeric-tinged rice and hot sauce and you’ve got a fajita lineup that can defeat the biggest appetite. Unlike the Mariners, my barbecue team was victorious this evening. Chicken was the third of the land-based proteins to grace the grates this season.

I started off the season, of course, with pork spareribs. Ribs are my ace in the rotation, and they rarely disappoint. Four hours of wallowing in dry rub followed by five hours of smoke resulted in a very happy crowd. That meal was followed by pork tenderloins; coffee-crusted and served with red eye gravy barbecue sauce. It was another victory for the home team.

A week later, I pushed my luck by sending yet another pork-based meal to the mound. This time, it was thick-cut pork chops that were brined for a day, then coated with a spicy rub. I was hopeful for another win, but the crowd was disappointed. Too salty, they cried, and they were right. Adjustments to that recipe are needed.

Last night, beef was the star attraction: a soyu and red wine vinegar marinated chuck roast coated in a garlic salt and lemon pepper rub. Hopes for a complete game shut out were high, but, unfortunately, I left the chuck roast unattended for a bit too long and found one side charred just a step beyond delicious. I made adjustments to the fire in the late innings, and the other side of the roast turned out well. I was able to hide the burned bits on the bottom – out of sight of the hungry crowd – but I knew it wasn’t really a win. Poor fire management was to blame for that disappointment. I can do better.

I haven’t gone to the bullpen for ocean-based proteins yet, but that time is coming. My aquatic relievers are a bit fishy, temperamental and prone to quickly burning out. I can’t rely on them, but when they deliver: My, oh my!

I have been looking for excuses for my less than perfect grilling performance. For example, the weather has been only marginally conducive to grilling. But I can’t blame the weather for the unforced errors on my part. If there are hiccups in the process, so be it. It’s a long season. My skills will sharpen and I will be a more consistent performer. The important thing is that grilling season has begun, and, along with it will come many warm evenings filled with good food, happy barbecue fans, bonfires, s’mores, and – with a little luck, good pitching, and solid management – Mariner wins.

On a side note, in addition to being a grilling and baseball-filled weekend, it has been a multi-sport weekend. The NBA playoffs continued (I couldn’t care less) and the NFL draft marched on for days (how is this a thing?). Much to my disappointment Pacquiao lost to Mayweather according to the twittercast of the match (I’m far too cheap to pay for that view). But most importantly, several friends of mine completed their first marathon today. They worked hard all winter and spring getting ready to face 26.2 miles, and, today, they were victorious. Huzzah to Jennifer, Sally, and Tam for conquering 26.2 miles! That’s an accomplishment worthy of some smoked ribs.

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