Cliff Daniels is always stoked to smoke on the grill at his Kansas City home. Daniels’ wife, Patty, three daughters and seven grandchildren are his primary barbecue beneficiaries. A retired insurance executive, Daniels says the best way to ensure a satisfying savory result is to smoke meat “low and slow.”
Q: Would you characterize yourself as primarily a guy that likes to grill?
A: My cooking style defies being put into one category. In the ’80s, when I started cooking a lot, my recipes included food that was fried, breaded and heavily sauced with cream and butter. About 20 years ago, I started leaning toward the grill to make as many meals as possible.
It’s been in the last 10 years with the help of my wife, Patty, that we started cooking as healthy as possible. Now, I choose to prepare leaner cuts of meats and use olive oil and herbs, instead of finishing a dish with butter and cream sauces. Today, many sauces I make are simply lemon juice, olive oil, white wine and herbs. Instead of preparing so much beef, I will smoke or grill pork, chicken and fish topped with a mango or a fruit salsa.
Q: Who inspired your love of cooking?
A: I developed my love of cooking from my father, Don, who was a very innovative cook in the ’60s. I grew up in Kansas City and my mother, Dorothy, was a very traditional cook who would make a pot roast with potatoes. But my dad did weird things, like make sauces using Dijon mustard, which would cover a hard-cooked egg, served on an English muffin for dinner.
So now I love to read cookbooks, and every time Patty and I travel, we always get a cookbook from the area we visited. I love reading recipes from chefs like Steven Raichlen, Bobby Flay and the BBQ Queens, Karen Adler and Judith Fertig. I am drawn to cookbooks that show techniques, which inform my grilling and overall cooking.
I really enjoy cooking with herbs and have a little plot in which I grow rosemary, chives, basil, parsley, dill and thyme by our house. I’ve learned you don’t have to start with butter as the foundation to a tasty dish. I primarily cook with olive oil and use a lot of fresh herbs to create flavorful food.
Q: Is passing food knowledge and perfected recipes on to your children and grandchildren important to you?
A: I am in the process of writing a cookbook geared to be given to family and friends. Some of the unique chapters include our family’s Christmas smorgasbord, one commemorating my retirement, my take on healthy cooking and barbecue recipes.
My mother’s family is of Swedish origin, and my Grandmother Gustafson was born in Sweden. Our Christmas dinner is a traditional Swedish smorgasbord, including Swedish meatballs, ham, sweet red beans, Swedish rye bread, Swedish tea rings, Bondost cheese, potato sausage, several types of pickled herring and a dessert of Swedish cookies. Making and serving this food to our extended family — especially around the holidays — connects all of us to our ancestry and culinary traditions.
The retirement chapter of the cookbook is comprised of recipes brought to my retirement party. Each person attending brought their favorite recipes, and this is a compilation commemorating those people in my life and the food they shared.
The healthy cooking chapter has many of the recipes that have been slimmed down to represent a healthier style of cooking. The barbecue chapter details methods of grilling and has all our family favorites, which includes sauces.
Q: Do you share this recipe because your grill is a go-to?
A: When preparing food for a group or a large family gathering, I generally choose to prepare meat on the grill. I have a 44-inch Weber, and it is excellent for indirect grilling or smoking.
I usually use hickory wood when smoking beef and pork. When I’m grilling chicken or fish, I prefer apple or cherry wood.
When our youngest daughter, Katie, was going to school in Greenville, N.C., I became acquainted with the Carolina-style barbecue, which is a vinegar and mustard-based sauce and different from Kansas City-style barbecue that is tomato-based. I have found that finishing smoked meat in the oven yields moist and flavorful results.
Patty usually fixes her coleslaw to go with each of the grilled entrees I make, so we’re a good team. All three of my daughters are great cooks in their own right, and for our family, making food and sharing it is just a way of life.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. E-mail her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
Cliff’s North Carolina Pork Barbecue
Makes 16 servings
For the rub:
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
For the meat:
2 (4-pound) pork shoulder roasts
2 cups apple juice
For the sauce:
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon water, divided usage
2/3 cup minced onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sugar
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons ground thyme
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 teaspoons dry ground mustard
To prepare rub: In a small mixing bowl, whisk salt, garlic salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne together.
Rub mixture over surface of pork roasts and set aside.
To smoke meat: Prepare a medium fire on one side of a charcoal grill and set grate on highest setting. To imbue a smokier flavor, add hickory wood chips to fire.
Place pork on side of grill without coals. Place lid tightly on grill and smoke meat over indirect heat for 3 to 4 hours, making sure to maintain the fire at a temperature of 250 degrees.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Pour apple juice into the bottom of a roasting pan. Place smoked pork into pan and cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil.
Braise meat in oven for another 2 hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted into center of roast reads 160 degrees, and meat easily pulls apart. Using two forks, pull pork apart, discarding any fat. Set meat aside.
To prepare sauce: In a small saucepan, whisk apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup water, onion, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, sugar, bay leaf, thyme and canola oil together over medium-high heat on stovetop. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl, whisk dry ground mustard and remaining 1 tablespoon water together. Whisk into warm vinegar mixture. Remove bay leaf and discard.
Pour sauce over pulled pork and serve immediately. Serving suggestion includes placing pulled pork on buns, topped with a dollop of coleslaw.
Per serving: 440 calories (69 percent from fat), 33 grams total fat (11 grams saturated), 121 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams carbohydrates, 29 grams protein, 277 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.