Luckily for us, we no longer have to hunt for sabre tooth cats or camels, giant sloths or armadillos, forget about catching a wooly mammoth or mastodon or elephant-although they would feed a crowd. And since a trip to the market does not usually include: bison, deer, turtles, gopher, frogs, rattlesnakes, raccoon, opossum, rabbit, muskrat or wood ibis the recipe below reflects the ancient cooking method using beef.
Paleoindian cooking could be thought of as “pulling weeds and playing with fire”, but the following Paleo inspired recipe is more than that and you recreate what they may have enjoyed in your own backyard with a Habachi-style or charcoal grill. Lump charcoal works best for this recipe and is better suited for cooking directly on the coals. Charcoal is also great for browning and searing. Sticks and stones made up most of the cooking utensils of the time but long handled tongs are needed today. By laying the meat directly on the hot coals (or you can bury the food among the coals and ash) you can experience the way some of the first Floridians enjoyed cooking for survival which we enjoy as a Florida tradition. Watercress with its wild peppery flavor represents the “Gathered Greens”.
When I tested this recipe on my husband he said it was the best steak he ever tasted, but he likes his steaks Pittsburg style, which is charred on the outside and rare on the inside, I think he is part cave man.
Steak on a stick was one culinary leap forward for the Archaic Indians, add a little fruit nectar drizzle to the sizzle on the stick and flavor rewards are compounded to create an exciting new taste. That new taste along with new cooking methods increased the culinary options for the early Floridians. Laying food on the fire or hot embers progressed to burying food in the hot embers or ashes. Roasting food by spearing it with a stick and holding it over the fire evolved into the use of the spit and grill. The novelty of cooking over an open flame still holds our interest today and our taste buds enjoy the end results.
The enticing aromas of onions and meat cooking together must have been just as intoxicating to the first Floridians as it is to us today. Onions have been growing wild for thousands of years and were probably a part of the early Floridians diet. For this recipe Spring onions are used as a substitute for the stronger flavored wild onion and the meat is beef tenderloin.
If you choose the more traditional open pit method with palmetto stem skewers be sure and shave the sharp edges off the 2 to 3 foot long stems. As a child growing up in a wooded area in north Florida we had plenty of hickory trees for firewood and saw palmettos for making skewers to roast food over an open flame in a fire pit. Our foods were usually hot dogs or marshmallows but this simple method has worked for thousands of years. Using green stems helps prevent the skewers from burning. Hickory chips can be used on a charcoal grill if you don’t have access to hickory logs and a fire pit. Burn hickory logs about 2 hours until hot coals are visible without a flame. Hickory chips need to be soaked at least one hour and used according to package directions, without soaking the chips will burn too quickly to give the smoky hickory flavor.
Roasted Onion and Steak on a Stick
6 Spring onions, green tops trimmed to about 2 inches
1 pound beef tenderloin, cut into 24 cubes
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 bag hickory chips
Cook over glowing hickory coals in a fire pit or follow these directions for a more traditional method.
Prepare a fire in the grill according to manufacturer’s instructions and let the flame burn out until hot coals are visible, then place damp hickory chips on the fire.
Sprinkle beef with sea salt and thread 4 pieces on each skewer followed by one onion per skewer, or place onions directly on the grill the last few minutes of cooking time. Threading lengthwise remember the more tightly threaded the more rare the meat will be with a longer cooking time.
Place on grill and cook to desired doneness, 1-inch pieces take about 15 minutes to cook while turning occasionally. My son and his friend RJ were home from college when I tested the recipe and both gave it high marks.