Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Winter Blah

Today is a blah day, following a blah week, I'm tired and trying to avoid getting a cold before I travel. I'm heading out for Salt Lake City Utah Saturday morning to set up and then work the HPBA 2011 expo. HPBA is pretty much the highlight of my travel year, I get to see everything that is new and exciting in the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue world and as the show moves around from year to year we get the chance to spend ten days in a city that we wouldn't otherwise visit.  Interesting new and regional foods to try out too.

I made pulled pork on the weekend that wasn't worth writing home about; 6 hours is just not enough hours to make decent pulled pork. On a positive note I picked up about 8 pounds of pulled pork for a 90th birthday party Tuesday night and it was amazing. Picked it up from a local favorite on mine called Hog Tails, great place to get well made barbecue. Unlike the American south, actual barbecue restaurants are a rare breed in Ontario, I don't think the cardiologists are disappointed...

On the gluten free trail I found something I do like, Glutino makes a gluten free wild berry rice bar that taste great and could easily sub for granola bars. I'll probably check out some other products by Glutino to keep the experiment going in a positive direction.

A friend of mine sent me a great easy quinoa recipe and I thought I'd post it up as I pretty much plowed through the leftovers from saturday's get together when I first tried it. I need to come up with some interesting quinoa creations; ps, quinoa is very visually appealing.

Quinoa Salad by Sara
1 cup quinoa
1 can of garbanzo beans drained and rinsed (can use any kind of bean really, I was going to use
black beans but I ran out of time to soak and cook – they take a long time – canned is ok though
if you are short on time)
1 red pepper chopped
½ cup of sliced garlic stuffed olives
1 can corn – drained

Dressing – (these measurements are approximate – I just kept adding ingredients until it tasted good to

½ cup olive oil
1/3 cup of red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 ½ teaspoons of sugar
2 tsp cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes

Enjoy, comment, etc!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Training Day

More orientation training today here at barbecue headquarters. I like to keep the menu easy and colorful so that everyone can get a taste for all of the delicious things that you can make on a barbecue.

Today's menu:
The Perfect Steak
Jalapeno Poppers
Grilled chicken sandwiches on egg twist buns
Assorted grilled flatbread pizzas

I've brushed on two of these topics before so I'll leave the details out. Steak is referenced in another post on this blog but you can also follow the link above to see how it's done.
The grilled chicken sandwiches were an idea that I had presented about two weeks ago but hadn't actually tried out yet. They worked out very well:

• Chicken breasts x 4
• Egg twist buns x 6
• Goat cheese x 1 small
• 1 red onion
• mushrooms
• Mango chutney
• Spinach
• Rickards barbecue sauce (Referenced earlier in the blog as Barbecue Sauced)

Prepare your barbecue sauce and coat the chicken breasts completely, let marinade. Before you start grilling your chicken have your onions and mushrooms cut into slices and begin cooking them down in a little butter, salt and pepper, easy on the salt; cook down until golden brown should take almost as long as the chicken. Grill your chicken breast until they are cooked, roughly 20 minutes at 500°F or if you'd like to use a thermometer, the ideal safe and edible temperature for poultry is 170°F. You can at this point either add the goat cheese to the chicken right on the grill to melt it a little or wait and add it after; it all depends on how you want to serve the chicken. I like to slice the chicken before putting it on a bun, it's less of a big lump of chicken on a little bun then. Topping it up with mango chutney, spinach, mushrooms and onions. Done.

Jalapeno pepper poppers are an office favorite and they're pretty easy and cheap. It also helps that GrillPro manufactures a pepper roaster with a coring tool, (ahem, shameless product plug). Anyway, pepper poppers are great and hard to say ten times fast. Follow...

Buy this:

• Roasted red pepper cream cheese - because it's already mixed
• Jalapeno peppers, many are cheap so don't be afraid to load up
• bacon, optional and delicious.

Do this:
Top and core the peppers; seeds are really spicy so you want them out, a good rinse helps too. Stuff the peppers with cream cheese, I haven't found a great way to do it but get creative, the good 'ol butter knife is what I've found works best. Wrap partially cooked half strips of bacon around the tops of the peppers and pin with a toothpick. I say partially cooked because if you use raw bacon it may cook as the pepper does but it will look and feel slimy and blubbery when you finally take the peppers off of the grill, not very appetizing. Pierce the bottom of the peppers so that any extra moisture can escape and not form super hot juice pockets. Place the roasting rack on the grill and roast for 20 - 40 minutes, the cook time will dictate the temperature. You'll want to do this no higher than 350°F otherwise you'll burn the bottoms of the peppers. More time means less spice, when the pepper flesh begins to wrinkle and the cream cheese melts the peppers are effectively done. You can easily put the rack on a cutting board and serve to your guests.

I think that flat breads make an easy base for simple rustic pizza's. Sure using a brick oven and a homemade dough produces the best rustic pizzas but that's not for this blog post. Brush the flat bread with olive oil and add fresh chopped basil and some course pepper and salt. Top with fresh assorted tomatoes, I like grape, cherry, and whatever the mid-sized yellow ones are called, cured sausage, spinach, red onions, brie cheese. This is just one variation there are obviously many others. Bake on the barbecue much like you would bake in the oven; basically 350°F for 15 - 20 minutes. If your grill notoriously burns hot check your pizza mid way through cooking to rotate it clockwise 90°, always bake pizza on the grill indirectly, in other words not directly over the heat.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tasting a Gluten Free Lifestyle

I've seen a lot in the news recently about how gluten is making us all fat; I've known for some time that there are people who just can't eat gluten, allergies etc., but this is the first attack that I've seen on my personal daily gluten intake. As I like to try new things I'm going to try and cut back on my gluten intake and check out some of the snazzy gluten free food items that are available. For the most part the vast majority of the home cooked food world is gluten free but I have no idea how prevalent it is in boxed foods, research abound!
I just bought a loaf of gluten free bread made from brown rice.... I don't know the manufacturer off hand but let me tell you, this gluten free bread is both expensive (by bread standards) and a poor substitute. Not good with sandwiches or peanut butter, would make a good weapon. It's just too gritty, I felt like I was chewing gravel, that's a bit of an exaggeration but you get my drift. It dries your mouth out and needs to be milled pretty heavily with your teeth before it can be swallowed, every bite is squeaky like raw cauliflower and it's really dense. All in all not my favorite...

Thanks to Mike for a lot of gluten free recipes, the adventure begins.

Valentines Dinner

I would have more to say about a valentines dinner but Monday is volleyball day for both of us and it's hard to cook an incredibly well thought out dinner with around 30 to 40 minutes worth of time to dedicate to it. Dinner was grilled vegetables, much like below... Mushroom risotto and grilled top sirloin.
Forgetting the veggies and the risotto I love top sirloin; top sirloin is an amazing cut of meat that can be incredibly tender like a tenderloin filet without the exceptional cost. They've always been my standby cut when I'm cooking for several people on my own dollar. Quick easy and delicious was the name of the game yesterday so rather than babble on about how to cook the perfect steak try Derrick's review blog, a quick review and all of the necessary links. The Perfect Steak.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pancetta and Butternut Squash Risotto

These two main ingredients are favorites of mine and could probably make an appearance in many more recipes. Pancetta is the perfect salty ingredient, whereas butternut squash, on top of being inexpensive is a nice sweet yet very distinct taste that can add a lot of color (because it's orange) and flavor to a dish.

I'm borrowing this recipe from a friend of mine, the first time I had it, watched the process of making risotto, I was mesmerized. I hadn't had a lot of risotto before then and had never attempted to make it myself. The results were amazing and I have yet to get tired of this recipe, a nice one to pass along to people because it's fairly easy.

• 2 cups arborio rice
• 1 Butternut squash
• 300 g of pancetta, one big piece
• 1 sweet onion - diced
• 1-2 liters of chicken stock
• butter
• Parmesan cheese
• sage
• salt and pepper

Start by peeling and coring the butternut squash, cut the squash into moderately sized cubes and spread them out evenly on a baking sheet. Drizzle a little oil over the lot to lightly coat them and sprinkle some fresh ground pepper and course salt over the squash as well. Roast at 350° for around 20 minutes stirring them around once so that the roast up golden brown and tender. Not mush, we are not done cooking and this isn't a soup.

In a large stainless saucepan add small cubes of pancetta; you'll want to take the big hunk of it and cut it into bite sized cubes, not too small as they will reduce in size in the pan anyway. (you should now put about 1 liter of your chicken stock in a pot to warm it up, you don't need to bring it to a boil but you also don't want to be adding cold stock to hot risotto) Fry the pancetta until you end up with chewy browned meaty bits then remove them from the pan and set aside, leave the drippings in there you'll need them next.

Add your arborio rice to the bacon grease, my apologies, but there's no reason to waste good drippings. You may need to add a little butter because there isn't a lot of liquid that that may have come out of the pancetta. Toast the arborio rice in the butter, you want a nice golden brown on the rice before you start adding stock. Give the rice a head start and then add the diced onion. Onion needs to be golden brown, rice toasted.

De-glaze the pan with white wine and start adding the chicken stock one cup at a time, not one cup after another. Dump one cup of warm stock into the rice and stir making sure you don't end up with large pools, let the stock reduce to the point where it's almost entirely absorbed then add another. Continue this process until you reach your desired doneness. Remember, too much stock means starch soup; instead of adding moisture to the rice making it plump and sticky it pulls the starch completely out of the rice and creates porridge, if you wanted porridge you'd ask for porridge.

Midway through adding the stock take half of your squash and mash it with a fork, no need to go crazy just make it mushy and add to the rice. Near the end of cooking add in the remaining larger pieces of squash and the pancetta. When you think it's finished, tasting is always is your best friend, add in about a cup of Parmesan cheese and a tablespoon of butter, stir. Done, enjoy!

A week in review

Good morning, it's been a busy week of eating but not so much cooking. Traveled to Charlotte Tuesday and along the way got to visit my favorite fast food chain. Let's just say I'm glad that Chick-fil-A is not in Canada because I would go there every lunch. Their staff is courteous, menu simple, clean, and oh yeah everything in the south comes with sweet tea. Their well seasoned chicken-y bits, crisscross cut fries, and plentiful trans fat ladened sauces (although there is no nutritional information on them online so I'm not sure that's a fair assumption, guess it's only sauce, how bad can a couple of ounces of sugar, fat, and preservatives be...) can actually brighten my day. Sweet sweet chicken, those Christian's certainly know what they're doing, I give it a fil-A plus.

But I didn't come here to write about fast food. However, on a related note I flew down out of Buffalo on my way to Charlotte and if you're ever in western New York and have not tried it get a roast beef on a Weck; it's delicious and somewhat of a regional delicacy. Most restaurants I've been to in Buffalo serve it and I've had few that were terrible, although how hard is it to mess up roast beef on a kaiser. I may try to come up with my own variation on a weck, more to come on this topic. Canadian bacon on a weck! maybe...

Pulled off an early Valentines Friday and headed out of a nice romantic dinner at Sole restaurant in Waterloo ON. I like to try someplace new whenever we go out but after living in a city for nearly a decade you find a few places that are your favorites. Sole is a swanky Mediterranean style wine bar and restaurant with a moderately priced but exceptionally well thought out menu. Besides the exceptional decor and staff the food is amazing and I've never been disappointed when going there, save for two things. #1, their wine by the glass menu is fairly limited. I understand trying to up sell the bottle or half liter but really if there are two of us, one red drinker and one white, a bottle of wine is too much wine for just me... at a restaurant... when I have to drive... I can easily drink it to myself but do I want to pay restaurant prices just to drink a bottle of wine, no. #2, classic risotto is boring especially when your average customer doesn't eat a lot of risotto, to them it's just creamy rice, big deal. It would be great if they could spice up the risotto and do a creative Mediterranean take on risotto. I wouldn't normally beat up on the risotto except both my significant other and some random person seated near us both commented on it being unremarkable. (aside, I have a risotto recipe from a friend of mine that could be nominated for employ-meal of the month, I don't know what that means... post later today).

Enough meandering, meat and potatoes content starts now... Dinner for two went as follows, Lebanese chicken and lentil soup for the gentlemen and Caesar salad for the lady, steamed clams for the gentlemen and Promvimi veal scallopini for the lady. Not to dwell on the starters, they were enjoyable; pretty much everything we had expected. The mains were great, I love mussels or clams when they are prepared properly. From the menu "cherry stone clams, white wine, romesco sauce, pearl onions, black olives, cilantro, shards of manchego cheese, naan bread"... A great combination if ingredients, the onions were sweet and a wonderful contrast to the bitterness of the olives and cheese. I appreciated having naan bread to soak up as much of the romesco sauce as possible, more bread please. I was completely stuffed as the portion was more than adequate even though about 1/3 of my clams didn't open, I wasn't upset. A delicious meal and they were nice enough to offer it on the house because of the clams, super nice. The veal scallopini was also delicious, the bright colour of the the shaved asparagus and cherry tomato ragout certainly made it look appetizing. The veal was moist and tender without drowning in sauce. The risotto as mentioned above was kind of blah, it made a nice creamy base to the meal but on its own wouldn't have stood very tall. All in all a dinner worth returning for.

More to come...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Forced Budgeting

I'm practicing something that I don't like called budgeting; budgeting for those of you who don't know is a punishment for stealing in some countries and generally revered by almost every culture. As I'm now "budgeting" I thought it would be a good idea to find some good budget wines. The search is new but promising; if I can buy a wine in Ontario that's less than $20 and absolutely outstanding it's a steal; the 2007 (I think, might have been 2006) Liberty School Cab. Sauv. is one of those wines; although I can't find it anymore. A good wine under $15 is what I'd call a budget wine. Budget wines in my experience have some character flaw, which is probably why the price is low, but in general can be quite enjoyable. Bought a bottle of 2009 Winery of Good Hope Cab. Sauv. Merlot and it was great, a little acidic, beware heart burn victims but all in all everything I'm looking for in a full bodied completely dark red wine. Did I mention that it's under $12?

Good times, gotta go.

Load up the grill

Did some charcoal grilling today, as it's product testing Friday, and that's just what we do on Fridays. Made some peameal sandwiches that were okay but their toppings would have been more suitable with another meat. Dan the man made mango chicken and it was good! Try the following:

Combine in a sandwich:
• egg twist buns
• grilled chicken, lightly coated in course salt and pepper
• shallots and mushrooms cooked down in butter
• brie cheese
• mango chutney
Jalapeno mustard... Not sure where you can get some but it's really good. 
• spinach


Chicken and Peameal

Big Steel Keg, we had 5 chickens and two cuts of Peameal at once when we started cooking.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Easy as... Grilled Vegetables

Did a training session today for a bunch of new recruits here at barbecue headquarters. Part of their training was cooking on a gas grill as most people learn best hands on. Came up with a simple lunch menu that can teach anybody the basics of grilling, while at the same time turn out something delicious.

• red peppers, yellow peppers
• zucchini
• mushrooms
• red onion
• burgers
• Italian salad dressing
• balsamic vinegar
• olive oil
• course salt
• course pepper

Grilling is easy and fun and an entire meal can be created with very little work. Cut the peppers into large slices, obviously remove the core, top, and seed and cut into wide long meaty strips. Cut the Zucchini into long strips either the length of the Zucchini or on an angle all about 1/4" thick, you don't want them so thin that they'll stick to the grill yet thin enough that they'll cook all the way through. Toss those veggies into a Ziplock bag and toss them with the Italian dressing, you can create your own veggie marinade but Italian dressing is ready made for the amateur griller. Another easy veggie marinade is balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and vegetable seasoning; get creative if you don't like these two; many options available. Set them in the fridge.

Take the mushrooms and cut them into slices or if you've already purchased the sliced mushrooms you're ready to go. Cut the onion into thin strips and combine with the mushrooms. All into a foil pan, generous splash of balsamic vinegar, splash of olive oil, course salt and pepper sprinkle.

Preheat your grill to 500°F and toss your burgers on, burgers are a great way to practice grilling meat and getting diamond pattern sear marks; see Perfect Steak Grilling Guide. Once the burgers are on add the tray of mushrooms to a warming rack or unused side of the grill, you want to give them some heat but certainly not as much as the burgers. At about the halfway point of grilling your burgers, it varies depending on the burgers you are using, take the veggies out of the Ziplock with a set of tongs and place them on the grill. veggies only take about 5 minutes to grill at 500°F and take one flip in the middle; you're softening the vegetables on the inside and searing them on the outside. Don't burn the flesh completely because that doesn't taste good yet don't serve them raw either, also gross.

In all there is about 20 minutes of cook time in the above and everything should be able to come off the grill at the same time. Grilled vegetables are great on their own and better with a little crumbled goat cheese and roasted almond slivers on top, both available at the grocery store. The mushrooms and onions can either be eaten alone or as a garnish on the burgers. You could even toast some thick slices of French bread top them with spinach, the mushroom and onion mix and possible a slice of brie cheese. All in all, nice sides to an otherwise tired meal.

Those who love what they do should teach, passion cannot be bound by textbook.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

BBQ Sauced?

I was trying out some recipe cards I found around the office the other day and I came across one delicious barbecue sauce (I don't know what else to call it, rub?) recipe on a Rickard's beer promo handout. The recipe is designed for a beer can chicken but I've tried it on beef and pork; not so spectacular with beef but it works well with pork. Anyway, good sauce, multi-use would love to hear of or find a recipe that could give it a great home.

• 1/4 cup grainy Dijon mustard
• 1/4 cup (possibly less) maple syrup
• 2 tablespoons of paprika, it has a lot of paprika
• 1 teaspoon mustard powder
• minced garlic, tried elephant garlic, I like it
• finely chopped fresh rosemary
• A little chili powder helps too

I generally don't eat chicken skin but I do like how it turns out with this sauce, crispy and delicious. Tweak the above portions to fit your tastes, I'm guessing from what I remember of making it. Other cool recipes by Rickard's here.

New Toy

Had a chance to play around with this grill at work quite regularly, a lot of fun to cook on without a hefty hit to the pocket if you buy one. Can't wait to see the final photography from Monday's photo shoot, many thanks to Geoff for being a cooking machine. Check out the site and the forum, a lot of interesting recipe ideas contributed here; Keg Forum.

Big Steel Keg

Pancetta and Butternut Squash Quiche...

Men can make and eat quiche too; if you don't agree, tough it's my blog anyway.

What you need:

• Two deep dish pie shells, buy them from the store or make your own. Homemade.
• 200 grams of pancetta bacon cut into small cubes
• 1 medium butternut squash also cubed
• Sweet onion 1 large - sliced, diced, whatever you like
• Dozen large eggs
• 2 cups of 5% cream
• Gouda, lots at least 200 grams, I like it cheesy! Cut into cubes
• Spinach

• Parsley chopped
• Thyme - roughly a teaspoon chopped
• Pepper - your call
• Nutmeg - teaspoon

Add cubed squash to a baking sheet and coat with oil; I use a basil walnut oil that I got for Christmas, but you can easily use olive oil. Add a little course salt and pepper and roast at 400°F for about 20 minutes or until the squash starts to brown and soften. Don't cook it until it's mush and remember to stir the cubes around at the halfway point. When roasted mash half of the squash with a fork; set all of the squash off to the side. 

Fry the pancetta until it starts to brown and release the grease, add the onions and brown them heavily (low and slow really helps them caramelize), should also add the thyme and some pepper at this point to season. Once the onions have caramelized and the pancetta browned into delicious chewy bits, add the mashed and roasted squash pieces. Stir up the mix and let cool for a couple of minutes while you take the next step.  

Mix the cream and the eggs together in a large bowl and add the nutmeg and pepper, I'd normally say add salt to the eggs but there's enough salt in the filling to suffice for this meal. Stir in the cheese cubes.

Add the pancetta and squash mixture into the bottom of the pie shells generously, next add the spinach and some chopped parsley, then pour the egg mixture on top of everything leaving about 1/4" of rim around each pie shell as the eggs will expand slightly, much more with puff pastry.

Bake at 400°F for 20 to 30 minutes, up to 40 on a barbecue and keep the lid down.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Worth a look

Mussels? Food-Country with Michael Smith


Recently tried Flagstone | The Music Room 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, buy it, if you can't buy it steal it, if you can't find anyone to steal it from fly to South Africa and repeat steps one and two because it's worth it for a sub $20 wine. I believe the bottle said only 28 barrels made so when it's gone it's gone.

Gotta start Somewhere...

Sweet Jalapeño Corn Bread 
• 1 Cup White Flour
• ¾ Cup of Corn Meal
• ¼ cup white sugar
• 1 teaspoon of baking powder
•1 teaspoon of baking soda
• Pinch of salt
• 1 1/3 cups of 10% cream
• ¼ or more cups of melted butter
• 1 egg
• ¼ cup honey
• 1 cup of corn kernels fresh or canned
• 2 Jalapeño peppers seeded and cored, finely diced.
• 1 cup cheddar cheese
• 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Add the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and then add the wet ingredients, mix thoroughly; the batter should be about the consistency of thick pancake batter. Pour into a large baking dish no more than 2 inches deep. It will take forever to bake in a loaf dish and probably burn in the process, so don’t do it.
425 degrees, bake for 30 -40 minutes. 
To add a little to the process, grate cheese on top of the loaf before it goes into the oven. Baste the bread at the 1/3 and 2/3 point of cooking with Jack Daniels and honey mix (or equivalent, it’s the whiskey flavour that matters) to get a nice golden brown sheen on the top of the loaf and a touch of oaky flavour.

In the beginning

Welcome to the place where my thoughts, recipes, complaints, and ideas spill over into the digital world. I love that I now have a place to post great recipe ideas that I may stumble across, create, or otherwise borrow from friends, family and of course my line of work. Working for one of the world's foremost barbecue companies I run across some pretty cool recipes. Expect grilling to make regular appearances; there is a lot of fun to be had in front of the grill that I can't wait to share. Moreover, I can probably suggest great wines to pair with meals or enjoy on their own.
Anyway, good things to come.

Kind Regards,