You know what it’s like: You’re about to grill a beautiful cut of meat a plancha when, lo and behold, you realize you’ve forgotten the plancha. Josh DeChellis, the executive chef at La Fonda del Sol, found himself in just such a predicament while in wine country when he came up with the idea of converting a red-wine barrel into a smoking plank. The impromptu experiment yielded a steak with flavors so earthy and smoky that he’s decided to use the same technique at his restaurant.
The one-year-old red wine barrel is from Wölffer Estate on Long Island. And the steak, a prime rib, or chuletón, is seared on the grill, then seasoned with pimentón. He then places it on the barrel, which has been heated in the oven. The chuletón is doused regularly with a full-bodied red wine, then flambéed with Laphroaig single malt Scotch for yet another layer of boozy earth and smoke. More wine is added as the meat cooks and, finally, onions and herbs.
Now, with your average wine barrel running a couple hundred dollars, you may wish to opt for a more budget-friendly alternative. DeChellis recommends home cooks use a cedar plank, easily found in most kitchen stores. Soak the plank in a blend of water and red wine, then heat up in the oven or on the grill. (Half-barrels cost about $40, cedar planks $6-$14.)
La Fonda’s wine barrel-smoked prime rib — for two at $39 per person — is available through fall, but only by pre-order.
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