Nov 242016

sausage-horrorJust in time for the culinary debauchery of the U.S. Thanksgiving, the fine folks at Flashbak have scrounged up a truly appalling collection of food advertisements from days of yore. In the days before food stylists, digital editing, and apparently even minuscule budgets for air-brushing … foods in print media apparently looked a lot more like garbage and a lot less line something you would actually want to eat.

Take a few minutes and enjoy a visual spectacle of things that might have appeared on the tables of your parents and their parents at “fancy” meal time. If you live south of the border and are trying to cut down on how much Thanksgiving grub you pack away this year, this will definitely help curb your appetite.


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.

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 »

Jun 132012

Let’s cut right to the chase: People are intimidated by brine. They shouldn’t be, but they are. Brining is simple, relatively foolproof if you remember one important rule, and makes a massive difference in the quality of your finished meat. So it’s time to cast aside the fear and uncertainty – brining is good, and it’s time you started doing it.

A few ground rules to start: One, brining is generally reserved for poultry and pork. Beef isn’t really going to benefit from this and it is going to be too rough on the texture of fish and seafood. Two, you should always brine your poultry or pork if your cooking method is dry. Three (and this is the super important rule you must remember), your brine needs to be ice cold before the meat is immersed. Cold brine is happy brine. And fourth (and finally), giant-sized Ziploc bags are your best friends.

With these basic thoughts firmly stuck in the back our our minds, let’s begin. The basic brine for both pork and poultry is dead simple. For every half chicken (or equivalent) or every two pork chops (or equivalent) you will need:

1 litre (4 cups) of boiling water
50 ml (a scant 1/4 cup) of brown sugar
50 ml (a scant 1/4 cup) of kosher salt

That’s it. That is the whole shebang. I told you this was simple.

So – dissolve your sugar and your salt into the boiling water in a large bowl. You are going to have to stir this pretty well to get it to completely dissolve, becuase it is right on the edge of how much sugar and salt the water can actually take on. When it is completely dissolved, put the bowl of brine in the fridge (or freezer if you are in a hurry, but see the note below for a caveat or two) and chill it completely.

Cold brine is happy brine.

Once the brine is nicely chilled, you can add your meat. Grab a Ziploc bag that is large enough to hold both your meat and all of the brine you made, carefully pour the brine into it, and then add the meat. Adding the meat last helps you avoid pouring disasters, trust me. Now pop it back into the fridge, with the following list of times in mind:

Chicken or any game hen – 1 hour
Pork chops or ribs – 2 hours
Pork loin – 4 hours
Pork shoulder – overnight
Turkey drums or breast – overnight
Full turkey – 24 hours

When your time is up remove the meat from the brine and pat it completely dry (inside and out!) before you start to season or cook it. For pork, be sure to let the meat rest at room temperature so it can warm up before you start to cook, but poultry can hit the roaster / grill / smoker / whatever right away.

A Note About The Freezer: If you are in a hurry and need to chill your brine in the freezer instead of the fridge, be sure to cover it with a sheet of waxed paper so you dont get a tiny blizzard of crystals in your ice box.

And that is pretty much it. Roast or grill or smoke your brined and dried meat excatly as you would have before. Your actual cooking technique will not change, but your results definitely will. Once you get going with this you can start to add some flavour to the brine – orange zest, sage and cloves for roast turkey; juniper berries, garlic and rosemary for grilled pork; lemon zest, garlic and tarragon for roast chicken and other small fowl; garlic, crushed peppercorns, and ginger for grilled bird. Play with it, the possibilites are endless. Just remember: Add these things after the brine has cooled, otherwise you risk getting a nasty bitter note in your food.

And did I mention that cold brine is happy brine? Yes? Good.

Play with it. Experiment. Have fun. But most of all, do this. Every time.

Feb 212012

The Big Green Egg is famous for holding constant temperatures for long periods of time with minimal attention and fuss. This is a good thing. But what if you want to change the temperature in a hurry? If you need to cool things off, there isn’t a lot you can do but close the dampers and wait. But if you need to raise the temperature a couple of hundred degrees – or just want to get your Egg up to ludicrous levels of heat for a steakhouse style sear without waiting around – you need to get your hands on a secret weapon.

You need to buy a blow dryer.

Watch the sales and pick yourself up a compact blow dryer when you see one on the cheap. Shop smart and you can find a decent one for around ten bucks. You don’t care about the heat output, just how much air it can move. Compact dryers generally have a shorter, wider barrel that shoves a lot of volume down the pipe and they are easy to tuck away with the rest of your tools.

Now, whenever you need to build some big heat in a hurry just remove the daisy wheel from the top of the egg, open up the bottom damper all the way, and blast your hair dryer into the now-gaping bottom vent. It will only take a couple of minutes to go from “low and slow” to “flaming death”.

You have a month or two before the barbecue season starts again in earnest, so start combing the sale flyers each weekend and get yourself one of these little gems while you wait. It’s a pro tool that you need to have.

Feb 162012

There is no way of getting around this, so I will just throw it out there: February is a shit month for cooking barbeque in the Great White North.

So to change things up a bit and to help shake off the mid-winter blahs, I hereby declare this dessert week. Dessert is a crucial part of any great barbeque – the only thing better that rich saucy tender smoky meat is a big load of sweet and gooey dessert afterwards. Now is the time to try out some new after-dinner ideas and build up a repertoire of sweet finishers that you can tuck into your bag of tricks and pull out come spring and summer.

In my professional opinion, you should cook and eat a new dessert at least 14 times before serving it to guests. For, er, research purposes. Fill up your sugar bin and stay tuned – I’ll try and post three sweet ideas over the next three days.

Dec 022011

Awesome George dropped me a line regarding the Mango Pico De Gallo:

Hey guy! I made your mango pico and it was pretty f’n good, but if you put a bit of habanero into it is AWESOME. Have you tried that? I used about an eighth of a pepper for a double batch of your stuff, it made for good heat while still being mostly mango.

Hey guy back! Thanks for the props, and for the idea. Veteran readers will remember that I have pimped the fruity sweetness of habanero peppers in recipes past. But I hadn’t gotten around to adding it to the mango pico. In fact, since I always keep a jar of Sweet Habanero Splash in the fridge, I’m going to experiment using that. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Sep 292011

In the recent discussion of “spatchcocking” I reminded you to save the spine of your chicken for making stock. This goes for the rest of your trimmed and discarded parts any time you cook chicken – the spine, the wing tips, and even the carcass after you clean off all the meat and pack it away in the fridge.

Regardless of which recipe you use to make your stock, there is one crucial tip: DO NOT BOIL IT. Period. Boiling the stock will make it cloudy – some of the fat will emulsify and you will never get it out. Simmering the stock will leave it beautiful and clear after cooling and skimming.

Clear stock is good stock. So no boiling. Or else.