Gabonese barbecue makes the seamless transformation from street food to your kitchen.
When I moved to Oklahoma, I fell in love with barbecue. I couldn’t resist the deep, smoky flavors developed from secret spice rubs, perfect cooking times and proper grill temperatures. To me, an import, the entire process seemed mysterious – somewhat of a science experiment.
Although I’ve been in Oklahoma six years this month, I still haven’t mastered the grill. In fact, I use a gas grill, which – from what I understand – pretty much bans me from ever making proper barbecue. Still, with my limited resources and knowledge, I wondered if there wasn’t a way to make a tasty barbecue sandwich at home. Combing through dozens of recipes, I found that coupé coupé might be my best bet. Coupé coupé is African street food – simple, straightforward barbecue. Often, the meat is smoked and then, in a nod to French colonial days, stuffed into baguette sandwiches. The finishing touch is a healthy load of grilled onions and peppers, the spicier the better.
I’ve seen it a hundred times; anyone who is serious about grilling has a special spice blend – usually a highly guarded secret – for the meat. Coupé coupé is no different. Served along dusty dirt roads from grill stands with limited resources (and almost certainly no refrigeration), they keep the spices simple, often no more than a bit of garlic powder, cayenne and an unlikely but tasty addition – chicken bouillon.
Chicken bouillon is the last thing I would think to put on smoked meat, but after sampling this recipe I can assure you that the flavors work together very well.
If there is anyone in Oklahoma who hasn’t braved smoking his or her first piece of meat, this African recipe is a great start. The beauty of coupé coupé, and any smoked meat is that it pretty much cooks itself. You’ll need a lazy morning for the meat to cook 2-3 hours, during which time you can tend to the garden, take a nap or read a book. With summer in full swing, I like a recipe that cooks itself while I chill out in the air conditioning or by the pool. That’s the kind of cooking I can get behind.
Barbecue, called coupé coupé, is all over Africa. This sandwich is inspired by Gabonese love for smoked meats piled into crusty baguettes. If you like things spicy, double or triple the amount of cayenne; this mix is mild.
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. powdered chicken bouillon
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 1/2 lbs. flank steak
Grilled poblano peppers, skinned and cut into strips
1 onion, sliced and grilled (I grilled in foil with olive oil)
2 c. hickory wood chips
Soak wood chips for about an hour. Drain off water and place tray of wood chips directly on the flame guard. Cover back up. Preheat the grill on medium until chips are smoking. Reduce heat to a constant 200-225 degrees, leaving only the left and right (or just left) burner on. The middle should be off and reserved for the meat. Place a foil tray of water on the right side. Keep grill closed. It can take 15 minutes or more for the chips to start smoking.
Prepare the flank steak: Mix together chicken bouillon, cayenne nd garlic powder. As strange as it seems, chicken bouillon is classic in Africa, even on red meat.
Sprinkle heavily onto steak. Add some coarse ground salt and pepper to taste.
Place flank steak on grill, close the cover and cook for about an hour. Flip, fit with instant-read thermometer and close the lid. Every once in a while, check the temperature, just in case it is creeping up or down.
Cook until your instant-read thermometer beeps like crazy, telling you it has reached 160 degrees. Poke it in a few different spots to make sure the reading is consistent. The total cook time will depend on your cut of meat – mine took around two and a half hours.
Let the meat rest 5-10 minutes. Slice thinly across the grain. Brush a baguette with olive oil and toast on the grill. Spread with a little mayo. Add grilled poblano strips and onion slices and top with thinly sliced flank steak.
Sasha Martin is cooking one meal for every country in the world. Her picky husband and baby girl are along for the ride. Join the adventure for recipes, reviews and more at www.globaltableadventure.com.
The flank steak gets a bad rap. Often maligned as a less desirable cut of meat than, say, a filet or strip steak, this steak is taken from the lower “flank” of the cow and, when overcooked or cut incorrectly, can be tough and flavorless.
But flank steak is gaining street cred as a relatively affordable cut of beef that is quite tasty when correctly prepared. Often used in dishes like fajitas and Cantonese stir fry, flank steak is found prepared in a variety of ways in cuisines throughout Europe and North and South America. The meat is best served by a “low and slow” preparation, such as braising, which tenderizes the meat. It’s also great on the grill.
For an easy preparation, combine two smashed cloves of garlic, two tablespoons of Dijon mustard, two tablespoons of honey, three tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette, a half-cup of beer and a tablespoon of fresh chopped ginger. Pour over a two-pound flank steak and refigerate overnight. Cook on a grill for 3-5 minutes on each side. Be sure to slice the steak thinly and against the grain to ensure tenderness