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 »

Jun 022012

Here’s a fact: If you cook barbeque, you are going eat a lot of sandwiches at some point. This isn’t a bad thing, not at all. There is something almost magical about the combination of barbeque meat and really good bread.

But just because “meat and bread” is an awesome combo, that doesn’t mean you should stop there. The right condiments can take a great sandwich into the taste stratosphere. And I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill supermarket mayo here. I’m talking garlic, and lots of it. I’m talking flavour.

The simplicity of this garlic concoction means that it pairs perfectly with all of the mainline barbeque meats – beef, pork, or chicken – and it’s dead easy to make. Convenient and energy efficient, too … the next time you have your oven (or better yet, your Big Green Egg) already cooking something at the remarkably common temperature of 175 degrees (that’s about 350 Fahrenheit for you folks in the good ol’ USA) you can pop this in at the same time.

Ready to whip up some garlicky goodness? Keep reading!

Continue reading »

Dec 212011

This particular pico de gallo use to have a really sucky name. That was unfortunate. Now, however, it has an awesome name which is entirely fitting since it is an awesome flavour mix. The new name just sort of popped out – I was doing some Chrstmas baking and shouting random and generally wrong lyrics to the Brave Combo version of Must Be Santa and there it was. Ho ho ho.

So. This is an easy pico that makes any sort of roasted or grilled pork into a festival of summery brightness. There are just a handful of ingredients and the actual “putting it together” time is short. However, you will want to start making this about 2 hours before you plan to eat it – the watermelon needs to drain for a bit and you want to give some time at the end for the flavours to come together.
And a big special super thanks to Pippa at the Cheese Shoppe On Locke for information and advice about the feta!

Continue reading »

Dec 102011

After my brief digression about the difference between “salsa” and “pico de gallo”, a couple of people wrote to ask if I had a quick recipe for actual salsa.

Darn tootin’ I do.

Actually, if we are going to be 100% accurate about this, I’ve already posted a recipe for salsa with the Sweet Habanero Splash. However, rather than just being my regular acerbic self and telling them to wake up and pay attention, I am going to get fully into the spirit of the holidays here and pony up a second salsa recipe. This one is amazingly simple, a lot less lethal than the habanero stuff, and is probably something you will want to keep in the fridge 365 days a year. You need a blender or food processor, just so you know. Keep reading for all the details.

Continue reading »

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!

Aug 092011

When you eat barbeque in the Carolinas, you get a super soft bun loaded up with a big heap of pulled pork (drenched in mop) and topped with a mound of coleslaw. And not your bright green supermarket slaw, either. This is slaw for barbeque, and instead some undefined might-be-mayo creamy white stuff, the dressing is always based on mustard. So you get the sweet pork, the sour of the vinegar in the mop, and then the cool crunch of slaw and the tang of bright mustard to round things out. The combination is magical, and probably the main reason that in those parts the word “barbeque” means this dish, period. Why would you cook anything else?

However, when you are feeding barbeque newbies (something that occurs with distressing regularity here in the Great White North) you will find that there are a not-insigificant numbers of people who – for lack of a better word – freak when you even mention the idea of putting coleslaw onto a hot and tender pork sandwich. Being a good host, you don’t really want to force your guests to eat something, but you also want to give them the full flavour experience. What to do?

You make a mustard-based stand-alone sauce for serving, that is what you do. You can squirt it on each sandwich as you assemble them, or you can put it on the table in a squeeze bottle for the folks to apply on their own, or you can do both. It’s easy, it works, and you can even use it to give people the option of cole slaw or not. Keep reading!

Continue reading »

Aug 082011

One of the rookie mistakes with pulled pork is pulling the whole butt at once. Bad move. When you first break into your butt it is drool-inducingly moist but once the meat is pulled it goes south (no pun intended) in a hurry. It’s a conundrum – you need to pull the meat when it is steaming hot to get the right texture, but pulling it hot means that a lot of the moisture (and flavour) disappears as steam.

The trick is to pull just the amount needed for each sandwich, get it in the bun, close it up, and then pull the next serving. The bun traps and captures and absorbs the moisture, but even then you need help. Specifically, you want a thin sauce (traditionally known as a “mop”) to over-hydrate each serving as you pull it. You could use water, of course, but that would be lame. You want a mop with flavours that compliment and enhance the sweetness of the pork. What matches with sweet? Sour (of course) and a bit of heat.

Sour, sweet, and a bit of heat. It’s either the title of a forgotten Simon & Garfunkle song, or it’s a recipe for a simple pulling sauce that makes your pork sing. Keep reading to find out which.

Continue reading »

Apr 122011

My legions of faithful correspondents have informed me that you can now get agave nectar at Costco. I cannot vouch for the quality or the origin of the agave, but now you have an option if you just can’t find it anywhere else.

Apr 042011

You’ve got questions? I’ve got answers. Specifically, answers to your questions and/or complaints about the “Sweet Habanero Splash” sauce. Apparently, the recipe is causing some agitation amongst the masses.

What’s the deal with having to roast the garlic?

The deal is that raw garlic – especially when it gets around acidic components – has a sharp-verging-on-bitter flavour. It just doesn’t work here, and yes, you can tell the difference. The roasted garlic is a base layer of earthy goodness, it ties the other flavours together and mellows the whole thing. And really, how hard is it to throw some cloves in some foil toss the whole mess in the oven?

Aren’t you supposed to take the seeds out of hot peppers?

I guess you could, if you were making baby food or perhaps some nice gruel. This is a hot sauce, and you want all of the heat that the peppers have to offer. The whole idea here is a balance of searing spice and warm fruitiness. Balance. As in two sides. Take away one side, and there is no balance.

Sweet Potato? Really?

Yep. It reinforces the sweetness of the peppers, it adds some excellent colour, and it provides the texture that lets you make the sauce as thick or thin as you want at the end. If you really have a problem with sweet potatoes, you could use carrot to the same general effect, but I don’t think either the colour or the taste would be as good.

How can anyone possibly taste this to tell if it needs more salt?

By bucking up and being a man, that’s how. Or a woman if that is how your chromosomes happen to rock. You can do it, trust me. Yes, it’s hot. Flaming hot. Crazy molten hot. But it’s not deathly hot, and you will survive. If you need to buffer it somehow, put a dab on an unsalted tortilla chip or cracker and taste it that way. And have a beer ready to go afterwards. Ready? Go.

Mar 262011

Habanero peppers are one of the most tragically misunderstood members of the vegetable kingdom. They have a complex flavour profile, tropical notes infused with a tonne of sweetness and big hits of fruit. Sadly, almost no one ever notices these things, mostly because the little buggers are so hot they pretty much blow your head off. It’s a shame, since once you get past the heat the habanero is one of the most delicious compliments to any sort of protein. Fish, beef, pork, and chicken – especially chicken – are all brilliantly enhanced with the judicious application of the habanero.

So lets get a little bit judicious and whip up a batch of “Sweet Habanero Splash”. The tropical fruit notes are highlighted here, and the sweetness is brought to the front with the addition of agave nectar. If you like hot sauces you just might find yourself calling this your new favourite. It’s bright and sweet and complex – like a summer fiesta in a jar.

And yeah, it’s still gonna pretty much blow your head off.

Continue reading »