Aug 122014
 

There are two fundamental truths about buttermilk: One, you cant make great biscuits without it. And two, unless you are feeding a latter-day incarnation of the Brady Bunch you always end up wasting some of the buttermilk. You make biscuits once, twice, maybe a batch of pancakes … and when the expiry date comes around there is always about a third of a carton left that you end up tossing out.

The obvious alternative is to hunt around for smaller cartons of buttermilk – some dairies offer 500 ml / 1 pint sizes – but you usually end up paying the same amount (or more!) for the half-size package and then you find that most recipes use odd percentages of the full carton, still leaving you with a leftover stinky mess going down the drain.

Batman may not have these problems, but for lesser mortals like you and I? Definite dilemma.

If you hunt around online you will find people suggesting that you freeze your leftover buttermilk. Sadly, however, the milk separates and never seems to want to completely re-emulsify, leaving you with biscuits that may taste the same but come out semi-flat and with a nasty dry crumble in their texture.

But … what if you get the structure in place first and then freeze the whole mess? Better yet, what if while doing that we make sure the amount of buttermilk used is always an even fraction of a whole carton? And what if we do all of that in a recipe that lets you either bake off the biscuits for eating immediately or par-bake and freeze them for a quick finish later?

That would be, to put it mildly, awesome. And if we tweak the recipe so that you can make it in a food processor for super easy mixing and counter cleanup? Then, my friends, we move from the realm of “awesome” straight through to “legendary”.

Fresh-baked BEMOBEL Biscuits

Yep. Legendary biscuits. Want some? Keep reading.

Continue reading »

Post to Twitter

 Posted by on August 12, 2014
May 282014
 

That’s right – May 28th is National Brisket Day. It is also National Hamburger Day, which is an interesting coincidence since the World’s Best Burger Blend just happens to contain brisket.

Funny how that works.

Sliced Smoked BrisketWhen it comes to smoking beef, brisket has no equal. Period. But you don’t need a smoker to get some serious flavour and value out of the cut. A quick trip to the ol’ True North Barbeque archives will get you started with the simplest of equipment and ingredients. A couple of links:

If you have nothing but an oven (and can get your hands on a big-ass roasting pan) try the “Emergency Brisket” – you still get the big beef flavour and all the melt-in-your-mouth tenderness of a traditionally smoked brisket in a fraction of the time. Even if you do have a smoker, this is a great technique to have in your repertoire when time is tight or your cookout plans end up facing last minute changes.

Got a grill, along with the aforementioned oven and big-ass roasting pan? Set yourself up for a big hit of rural Mexican flavour with “Mucho Machaca Beef”. Coated with a super simple three-ingredient rub then charred and then braised, this is a traditional recipe that makes the best damn tacos you will ever have, and lets you use a partial brisket if you don’t have the space or the inclination to use a full cut.

Both make for easy-to-freeze leftovers and have the added bonus of stretching your food budget a long way. Take an afternoon to make one of these and then enjoy quick meals out of the freezer for the next couple of months. Or just invite the neighbourhood over and make a lot of people happy. Enjoy.

Post to Twitter

 Posted by on May 28, 2014
Jan 272014
 

(NOTE: This is one of the things on here that would really benefit from a couple of explanatory photographs. Annoyingly, I didn’t take any when I made this because it was an off-the-cuff experiment and I didn’t expect to be able to write it up immediately. Who knew? I will update this with real photos in the next week or so. Until then, you just have to make do.)

If you have ever been to a restaurant that offers northern African cuisine you will have noticed that the way the aromas in the place are somehow more enticing than any place else. The scents are all things you have experienced before – warm and aromatic spices like cinnamon and cumin and coriander – but it’s not the combination that makes them so memorable, it’s they way they infuse the space and hit your nose. You don’t just smell them, you almost feel them.

There is, of course, a trick. People in the northwestern horn of Africa – Tunisia, Algeria, and especially Morocco – mix their spices into a warm paste with the hot drippings from seared meats and then slather the result onto the meat before roasting. The hot fat opens up the spices and enriches them, making them penetrate the meat more easily and giving them an incredibly pervasive aroma that will give you a serious case of hound-dog drooling while it cooks. In Africa this technique is usually used for lamb or goat, but I got to thinking about how it might work out for a nice cut of pork. Since the traditional lamb spices don’t pair overly well with pig, I lazily co-opted my go-to pork rub as the base. While the technique is Moroccan-inspired, the flavours are not. But fear not. The results are, quite frankly, spectacular.

I did it in the Big Green Egg, but it would work quite nicely (just not with the same depth of flavour) in a regular oven. You do need a big oven-proof skillet to make this work, and a meat thermometer is a must. So grab your gear and read on for the incredibly simple details.

Continue reading »

Post to Twitter

 Posted by on January 27, 2014
Jan 272014
 

Here’s the thing: When you make mashed potatoes, you almost never make them to go alongside a sandwich or a salad or anything else that is easy and quick to put together. Mashed potatoes are inevitably going to be part of a meal that takes some time and effort to make. So the last thing you want to be doing when you are trying to carve your turkey or make your gravy or get everything to the table is the whole draining and drying and mashing and whipping process that goes along with good mashed potatoes.

Mashed potatoes are great. Sweating over that pot with the beaters and the milk and the butter when you have ten other things to do at dinner time … not so great. And while you can make traditional mashed potatoes ahead of time and then warm them up, they just aren’t the same in either body or texture when they get to the table.

So take a gander at your new secret weapon – mashed potatoes you can (and should!) make the day before and just pop in the oven for amazingly creamy and fluffy smashers that are ready when you are. They are rich and delicious and work equally well topped with either gravy or butter. And the only tools you need are a big pot, a 2 liter shallow baking dish (a gratin dish works wonders here) and an electric mixer.

Sound good? Of course it does. Keep reading!

Continue reading »

Post to Twitter

 Posted by on January 27, 2014
Jul 292013
 

Reader question time!

“Do you have an opinion on grilled pizza? I want to try but I am not sure how the dough will cook and not burn. And also, I was looking at pizza stones.”

This is an excellent question. I’ve waxed poetic about stone-cooked wood-fired pizza in the past, so you would think that I’m going to come down firmly in that camp. You would, however, be wrong. In a nutshell, the average gas-grill-owning backyard cook is probably want to go with the grilled option. Really!

Here’s the deal: Unless you have a cooker that has a real indirect heat source – and by that I mean even and equal indirect heat in all areas, not just a gas grill with one side turned off and the food on the other – grilled pizza is going to give you better results than using a pizza stone. Bread likes even heat, period. And no matter how hard you try, an “indirect” cook on a gas grill always leaves you with uneven heat. Period.

Fortunately, grilled pizza – as long as you understand one rather important limitation – is actually easier than you think. The only caveat is that you can forget about thin crust. Just not going to happen. Otherwise this is as easy as, er, pie. If you want to give it a try, keep reading!

Continue reading »

Post to Twitter

 Posted by on July 29, 2013
Jul 082013
 

A perfect Margatita. Shaken, not blended.Yeah, yeah, I know. When you are eating barbeque, you should be drinking beer. It’s one of those Great Truths Of Life. And it’s definitely hard to argue with the pairing of a good cold beer (none of this Coors Light business) and smoky saucy juicy meat … as perfect pairings go, it’s right up there with Starsky and Hutch. It’s also true, however, that variety is the spice of life and you should definitely have a couple of go-to cocktails in your repertoire. You want something that is quick and easy to make, pairs well with barbeque, and works as a premium refresher in the summer heat.

Regular readers, of course, will already have the “Faux-ito” on standby. Today we will add to that by busting out the tequila (but not the blender) and lay down a perfect Margarita. There are no tricks here – just remember that the quality of your ingredients is key. In a properly balanced Margarita all four of the flavours are front and centre, and there is no place for second-rate hooch to hide. Start with good booze and everything else flows from there. Grab your shaker and keep reading!

Continue reading »

Post to Twitter

 Posted by on July 8, 2013
May 082013
 

So yeah. While these pages are here to celebrate and promote the delectable art of cooking barbeque, I have (as mentioned in the past) nothing against grilling. Grilling is not barbeque, but grilling is good. Grilling makes sense for a lot of everyday meals. And grilling is the only way to make fajitas.

I’ve made a lot of fajitas, and I have always used flank steak. It’s the fajita standard. But my butcher recently suggested using flatiron steak instead, and it was a revelation. Flatiron has the same general texture and shape as flank steak, but has a much more desirable marbling of fat. That means you get bigger and deeper beef taste that you ever can with the overly-lean flank. If you haven’t tried working with flatiron steak, now is the time.

There are a couple of things you do need to know. One, not every butcher knows what they are doing here, so ask around. The standard cut of a flatiron has a nasty piece of fascia or sinew running through the entirety of the plate. If you are going to use flatiron for fajitas, your butcher needs to separate the two chunks of muscle and take that “shingle” out of the centre. You end up with two slightly-but-not-much-thinner cuts than the traditional single flank steak. Two, you must cut across the grain when you serve this, but if you have ever made fajitas before you know how this works so there’s no real surprise there.

If you love fajitas, you need to give this a try. Slices of this would also be spectacular in a thai-inspired steak salad, or tossed in a bowl of fresh noodles. In the standard butcher’s beef roster it is listed as cut #1114D, with the official name “Top Blade Steak”. Ask your butcher next time you are shopping for beef and see if you can get yourself into a couple of slabs of this. A standard cut of flatiron is just about 1 kilgram, so after it trimmed of the fascia and split into two it will easily feed four in a regular fajita tortialls-n-fixin’s setup.

Enjoy.

Post to Twitter

 Posted by on May 8, 2013
Apr 222013
 

Once again our old friend spring has, well, sprung. You’ve probably already wandered out to the garage or shed and looked at your stock of cooking supplies and said to yourself “Damn, I’m going to need charcoal.” Before you head to the store, take a few minutes and revisit the reviews of some of my favourite charcoals from the last couple of seasons:

Wicked Good Weekend Warrior Blend – My favourite all-purpose lump

Charcos – A startlingly-good cocoanut charcoal brick

Basque’s Sugar Maple Lump – A sweet maple grilling charcoal

Nature’s Mesquite – The friendliest all-mesquite charcoal lump

Now get out there and get cooking!

Post to Twitter

 Posted by on April 22, 2013
Sep 042012
 

There was a time when bacon jams and bacon marmalades were exceptionally rare things. A handful of people made them at home, you might have found a jar or two in the homemade preserves at a specialty food or craft fair, and that was it. Now it seems like bacon spreads of whatever description are the flavour du jour in the culinary world – hell, I’m pretty sure I saw it on the shelves at 7-11 the other day.

This is not a bad thing. The more the merrier, I always say. But leave the store-bought stuff for the plebes. I have tasted a lot of bacon marmalade and I have yet to taste one as good as this. Or, quite frankly, even close. You don’t need any special equipment, but it is easiest (and, I think best) if you have a slow cooker. Beyond that it is just some chopping, some stirring, and an afternoon of amazing smells in your kitchen.

Read on for the ingredients and details.

Continue reading »

Post to Twitter

 Posted by on September 4, 2012