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BBQ Boot Camp

Having done exactly this to two chickens and then massaged them liberally with more dry-rub, Raichlen stood them upright in the middle of a grill arranged for indirect cooking (piles of charcoal are pushed to either side to give off a medium heat). The birds looked as if they might lock wings and do a little poultry polka. We waved to them as Raichlen brought the lid down. A little more than an hour later, our tiny dancers were golden brown and roasted to a moist perfection seldom encountered in your typical backyard bird. "You can do this with Cornish game hens," Raichlen added with a smirk, "but you'll probably want to use eight-ounce cans."

Class lasted about four hours, during which time we grilled not only soup, burgers, and chicken, but also cabbage, corn, and, my personal favorite, cinnamon-grilled peaches—all of which we happily devoured. It was a meal of medieval proportions, complete in every way. The only thing not grilled was the sangria.

By 1 p.m. I was stuffed and a little drunk, and had the rest of the day to enjoy the resort. I found my swimsuited wife poolside, sipping a frothy drink. The Greenbrier may be 100 miles out in the middle of nowhere, but its 6,500 acres of manicured grounds could make Palm Beach feel dowdy. Later, we tried our hand over at the Greenbrier's croquet club. If you've hefted a mallet only in a bumpy backyard, you have no idea how supremely gracious it is to play on a regulation field, where every blade of grass has been clipped to one micron in height. I may not have been wearing a seersucker suit, but I felt as if I were.

By day two, I was totally into the ironic rhythm of a barbecue school at a four-star resort: Raichlen's tongue-in-cheek whistle kicking off four hours of busy grilling, followed by totally selfish afternoons. The class made everything from Thai grilled beef salad and Chicken Under Brick to Coco Loco Crème Brûlée and bacon-grilled prunes. Yours truly prepped the hot dogs stuffed with cheese and chile peppers—maybe not the most exotic dish, but then how often are you going to get a request for bacon-grilled prunes?

One of our cohorts, we learned, had been publicly humiliated when his wife appeared on Oprah and told a shocked nation that her husband was a grilling failure. Hoping to resolve their marital woes, Oprah had shipped him off for boot camp training.


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