Sep 052014

UPDATE: I have recently started using Sriracha instead of the long-standing staple of a Louisiana style hot sauce in this dish. Why? I think it’s better, that’s why. Feel free to go either way, though. We don’t stand on ceremony here.

It’s true! This saucy buttery slightly spicy shrimp has no name! But why? Is it because it uses the image of a ronin as an allegory for justice without political interference, presenting the anti-hero as some sort of laconic commentary on the blurred line between flawed law and lawlessness?
Photo - The Man With No Name
Er, no. Sadly, it’s just because I couldn’t come up with a suitably fun or irreverent name. Feel free to help me out here.

Ahem. So – nomenclature aside, this is a magically simple mix of a few ingredients that you should already have on hand, and it makes a bag of frozen shrimp sing and dance.

Wait a minute. Frozen shrimp?

Yep. While I normally preach fresh ingredients, this recipe was specifically cobbled together to use frozen zipperback shrimp. Bags were on sale at the supermarket for six bucks a pop, and I laid in a couple of armfuls of them. What I wanted was a quick way to turn a bag or two (or three or four) into something delicious with a minimum of muss and fuss. Since this takes less than a half hour to prep and cook in a single pot, I think I hit the bullseye. But why don’t you whip up a batch and judge for yourself?

FAUX Q ALERT: You can cook this in a regular oven and it will taste about 95% as good as if you cooked it over a charcoal or wood fire. Which means it tastes 95% of freaking awesome. And you can’t really ask for much more from a six dollar bag of shrimp.

Full recipe after the jump.

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Sep 272011

Having roasted or barbeque chicken in the fridge and ready to use for everything from paninis to pasta dishes to a quick quesadilla is a brilliant idea. It’s tasty, healthy, neutral enough that you can go in almost any direction, and versatile enough that you can come up with a whack of different fast and easy ways to eat it and never really get bored. Unfortunately, cooking the actual bird is intimidating for a lot of people – to the point where I have seen suggestions in everything from bad supermarket-checkout magazines (you know the kind, glossy women’s lifestyle mags with a “food” section aimed at idiots like this) to chef-hosted cooking shows that say you should forget about roasting your own chicken and just buy a pre-cooked bird at the deli or take-out section of the supermarket.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Buying and cooking your own bird is always going to be a superior choice. There is no need to be hesitant. Roasted or barbeque chicken – especially if you just want to put the meat away for future use and don’t care about niceties like stuffing or carving presentation – is actually close to foolproof. All you need to do is remember five simple steps:

  1. Spatchcock
  2. Brine
  3. Dry
  4. Rub
  5. Cook

Wait a minute. Um … spatchcock? What the hell is that?

That, my friend, is a time-honoured and (sadly) little-used way to cook a bird quickly and with almost any kind of heat source. And quickly is key – the faster you can cook a chicken, the moister and more flavourful the meat will be. Spatchcocking a bird is akin to butterflying, but instead of taking out both the spine and the sternum you just remove the spine. The sternum helps to protect the breast meat from drying out, giving you all sorts of options for the actual cook. No matter what kind of grill/oven/smoker/roaster you are packing, you are pretty much guaranteed to have a way to make this work.

Ready? Get yourself a really nice bird – forget the supermarket, get a fresh free-range hen from your farmer’s market – and let’s dig in.

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Aug 102011

Let’s just get the name thing out of the way right now. I call these “Turd Rockets” because that is what they were called the first time that I was shown the basic recipe. I have seen them called lots of other things since: Pig Poppers, Atomic Buffalo Turds, and – at one hole-in-the-wall bar in Port Arthur where they made exceptionally good ones – Big Dumpers. I’m a sucker for tradition, though, so despite both the plethora of more interesting names and many tweaks to the recipe I will always call them Turd Rockets.

That said, I have to admit that I have a soft spot for “Big Dumpers”.
Anyway. These are a barbeque riff on the classic jalapeño popper. Instead of battering and deep frying, though, the stuffed pepper gets wrapped in bacon and smoked. And if you were maybe thinking that the combination of sweetened cheese and sausage and jalapeño and bacon and two hours over a smoldering wood fire was a good thing, you would be absolutely right. Keep reading to out just how right.

Mmm … Big Dumpers.

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Jul 182011

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away …

Er, wait. Wrong script.

A not-so-long time ago, in the fine city of Hamilton, there was a take-out and delivery place called “Hamilton Barbeque”. Two things made the place memorable: The fleet of red delivery cars – each with a flashing light inside a big plastic chicken on the roof – and the quality of the barbeque bird. It was stupidly good.

The place is gone now, and it’s tragic to think that there is a whole generation of Hamilton kids out there who will never point and yell “Flashing Chicken!” at the top of their lungs when one of the cars go by. It’s even more tragic to live in a city where people now think that Swiss Chalet is actually decent food. Sadly, there is nothing I can do about the cars. But I can do my bit to fill the gaping void when it comes to good barbeque chicken.

So – in honour of the late and much-lamented Hamilton Barbeque, I offer to you “Flashing Chicken”. There are no big secrets here, just a simple brine and a hotter-than-you-would-think turn in the smoker. And if you don’t have a real barbeque pit you can still play along, either with a grill or even in your oven.

Ready? Chicken awaits …

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Jul 082011

When it comes to a mojito, there is no middle ground: They are either great or they are worse than terrible. The instructions sound simple, but building a mojito is an art. Done right it is a thing of absolute summer awesomeness. But a mojito done even a tiny bit wrong is just wretched – you are almost further ahead sitting there parched and miserable with no drink at all.

This is a real problem because it means that, for a lot of people, there is just no point in trying to get a mojito. If you go out, you’re pooched – the vast majority of bartenders in these parts have no clue as to what they are doing and try and pass off a squirt of lime juice, a shot of rum, and a lonely leaf of mint as some sort of representative of this fabled drink. And if you stay home, well, the sad degradation of our society that has men dressing like hoboes in public has also led to a deplorable situation where the average person no longer owns even the simplest bar tools, let alone a proper muddler and the skill to actually use it.

Don’t get me started.

So instead of a poor approximation of a mojito, let’s make something else. Something with the summer-sweat vibe of the legendary original, something equally refreshing and fun, but with a method that you can pull off quickly and easily at home. Meaning you can skip right to the enjoyment of drinking the damn thing. And three or four follow-ups.

I present to you the True North Barbeque “Faux-jito”. It’s summery and fizzy and crazy refreshing. Ingredients and instructions (as always) after the jump. Enjoy.

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May 262011

I wanted to call this post “Classic Steak House Grilling” or better yet “Vintage Steak House Grilling” but I went with the more pedestrian title in deference to the various search engines out there. I’m pretty sure that most people are going to be typing “how to grill perfect steaks” or “how do I grill perfect steaks” into the search box because they don’t realize that the old-school steakhouse method is the thing they really want to find.

And yes, this is definitely grilling. You can smoke a steak, you can roast a steak, but when you want to do it right a steak needs direct heat. Grillheads rejoice, this is one time when your way is the best way. Crack a beer and pat yourself on the back.

This method (or “The Method” if you want to be dramatic about it) was revealed to me when I was visiting the butcher one day. I got to talking to another customer who is was a line cook at one of the last 1970s-style steakhouses in my area. We talked about steaks and as the topic wandered from the best cuts to the best thickness he was nice enough to pass along the secrets of the Lost Art Of The Steakhouse Grill.

And now, like that old guy in the original Kung Fu series, I impart the sacred wisdom on to you. Keep reading, grasshopper.

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Apr 112011

If you have ever spent any time at all in the American south, you will know that cornbread is a deadly serious subject. Every region has its own cornbread dogma, and the true believers in any particular state/county/town/swamp are not likely to welcome any suggestions or comparisons when it comes to their local product. This is both dangerous and unfortunate, since many areas of the south have what can only be categorized as nasty cornbread. In the low country of the Carolinas, for instance, they have a hard and fast rule that nothing approaching either flavour or texture should ever be found in their miserable yellow bricks of doom. If you are unfamiliar with the style of cornbread in a particular locale your best bet is to simply avoid it altogether. It saves all sorts of angst and embarrassment when your host asks you how much you love it.

This rule can be dispensed with in Alabama, however. The folk in Alabama know how to make seriously good cornbread. They like their ‘bread light and sweet, and don’t have the bizarre prohibition against sugar that you will find the Carolinas. This recipe is the real deal – I poached it from my friend Amanda who is Alabama born and bred, and while I have tweaked it specifically to be baked in a Big Green Egg or a hotter-than-average barbeque pit, it will work just fine in your kitchen oven too.
So grab yourself a hot cast iron pan and join me after the jump for some warm golden goodness.

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