In Los Angeles, the aroma that wafts from backyard barbecues on the Fourth of July varies slightly depending on the neighborhood one finds oneself in.
In large swaths of the city, from the Eastside to South L.A. to the southeastern suburbs, the smell of cumin and garlic from Mexican carne asada beckons. Drive north toward Glendale and you'll catch a whiff of the distinctive smell of grilled lamb from Armenian kebab. Head east into Downey and you'll find more garlic in the air, rising from the Cuban mojo smothered on pork chops.
Smelling one's way through neighborhoods is one thing, but eating the offerings is better. If you haven't been invited to one of these backyard feasts, the solution is simple - make one yourself.
A few recipes:
There are few better backyard meals than tacos made with a good carne asada, grilled flank or skirt steak that has been marinated in a blend of spices that includes chiles, garlic, cumin, lime and orange juice. This comprehensive recipe lists not only the marinate and prep details for this grilled Mexican staple, but the necessary fixings to accompany it.
Also referred as kalbi, these are Korean braised short ribs, usually beef. That Korean barbecue madness that has gripped the nation? It's because Korean barbecue is really, really good. Like the best grilling marinades, the one for galbi employs garlic, along with with soy sauce, sugar and other ingredients. Skip the urge to buy those frozen Korean barbecue "street" tacos and grill some galbi at home instead.
Chuletas de puerco
My own Fourth of July barbecue meal will likely consist of these Cuban-style pork chops, drenched in the garlicky marinade referred to as mojo crillo and lovingly tended to on the grill by my father. Chuletas are your basic supermarket pork chop - what makes them wonderful is the mojo. It's best to make your own, as my dad does, but novices can get a taste with the bottled mojo sold in many Latin American grocery stores.
While commercial outdoor grilling is banned in the city of Glendale, fortunately backyard grilling is not, allowing the city's Armenian American residents to grill fragrant delicacies like lula kebab. Typically made with seasoned ground lamb, lula kebab is shaped around a skewer then thrown on the grill. In some recipes, an egg helps hold the shape. It goes nicely with a traditional pilaf.
This Brazilian grilled favorite is served off a large skewer in churrascarias, but it's relatively easy to grill at home. It's typically made with a large cut of tri-tip or rump steak, rubbed with garlic and often served with a tomato-based relish. There are some helpful links on how to find the right cuts of meat, along with this entertaining how-to video.
Not that there's anything wrong with burgers and chicken. Whatever your holiday meal is, enjoy.