My mother recently gifted Andrew and me some matching novelty mugs to celebrate the start of fall. They’re printed with the following inspirational poem:
i really want to go to a
watch horror movies.
drink hot cocoa.
you know, fall shit.
That list is pretty perfect. However, if I may, I’d like to add in my favorite fall activity: “grill some meat.”
As I’ve previously made clear in this newsletter, I fully believe grilling is a year-round activity. But if you’re a fair-weather grill fan, now is the time to get out and enjoy these last temperate days; or at least, the beginning of patio heater hangout time. And when my friends over at Jono Pandolfi asked me what I’d grill on a sunny autumnal weekend, I knew immediately.
So here’s my autumn weekend grilling menu. The kind of hang you have in the evening after a morning at the farmers market. Steak, sliced to share, served with a juicy, tangy Concord grape agrodolce, next to a sensible salad with grilled squash and the perfect vinaigrette. I’ll keep my intro short for this edition: Substack has a word limit and there are three recipes in here.
Smoky Chile Coffee Rub
This dry rub is closely adapted from an old Barefoot Contessa recipe and is pretty deliciously all-purpose. Try it on some pork chops too. Please note that there isn’t any salt in this rub. You salt right before grilling. Otherwise, the salt will draw the moisture out in the fridge, and you won’t get a nice crust on the grill.
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons finely ground coffee
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Pack onto both sides of a couple of New York strips, or any protein of your choice. Let rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours, then come to room temp before grilling. Generously salt the steaks before grilling.
Grill steaks to the desired temperature. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
Concord Grape Agrodolce
This is an autumnal take on a recipe I developed for Bon Appétit’s Basically earlier this year. I used Thomcord grapes because they’re seedless, but have all the flavor of classic concords. Also, duh, they looked beautiful at the farmers market.
1 shallot, peeled and sliced into thin half-moons
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided, plus more
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound Concord or Thomcord grapes, removed from stems
¼ cup honey
3 tablespoons (or more) apple cider vinegar
Heat vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook shallot, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add grapes, honey, apple cider vinegar, and ½ cup water to shallot mixture in pan and cook, stirring often, to prevent sticking and burning. Cook until grapes are completely softened and falling apart and agrodolce is thickened, 15–20 minutes. Taste and season with more salt, pepper, and/or vinegar if needed. Remove from heat and set aside.
Note: Agrodolce can be made 4 days ahead. Transfer to an airtight container; cover and chill. Reheat over medium before using.
The Perfect Vinaigrette
This vinaigrette comes with a hot tip from our friend Dori Santos: she always marinates her chopped shallot in vinegar until she’s ready to dress the salad. When it’s time to eat, she whisks the marinated shallot with the remaining components and streams in the oil. This essentially quick-pickles the shallot and infuses the whole vinaigrette with flavor. You can also find her recipes for Cherry Lime Rickey Pie and Pork Adobo in earlier issues of this very newsletter.
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 small shallot finely chopped
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¾ cup olive or sunflower oil
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine the vinegar and chopped shallot in a small bowl. Set aside until ready to assemble the salad.
When you’re ready to eat, whisk together the vinegar/shallot mix in a medium bowl with the mustard, honey, and Worcestershire sauce. Stream in the oil while whisking until the mixture is emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Thanks again to the wonderful team over at Jono Pandolfi for partnering with me on this week's issue. All of the gorgeous pieces featured in these photos are available over on their site!
If you buy something from this link, A Piece of Cake gets a little percentage of the sale. Wow, everybody wins.
True Nora Eph-reaks may have clocked The Perfect Vinaigrette as a thinly-veiled reference to her semi-autobiographical 1983 novel Heartburn. That book was adapted into a film of the same name, starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. My personal favorite version is the audiobook recording by Meryl. It’s really worth a listen.
Every year, one of Andrew’s cousins releases a Letterboxd list of the best movies available on every streaming service. We’ve already referenced this year’s edition several times when that “What are we going to watch tonight?” moment arrives.