Gastro-Disasters: A Visual Archive Of Things Our Parents Thought Looked Yummy

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.


Posted in General Drivel | Leave a comment

“Pumpkin Pie-Faced” Thanksgiving Shooters

Hey! This week is American Thanksgiving! And just like the rest of the world (who celebrate Thanksgiving at the normal time) our friends south of the border will be indulging the joy of festive food … and then paying for for that joy with an infestation of relatives. Yes, relatives … like friends you didn’t choose and can’t get rid of. If only there was a way to enjoy the flavours of the fall feast and hang on to your sanity.

If only …

The Pumpkin Pie-Faced Shooter

Well, whaddya know. It’s the “Pumpkin Pie-Faced” shooter, with flavours redolent of the classic fall dessert and enough booze on board to either keep your relatives quiet or put you into a state where you just don’t care. It’s a simple three-ingredient concoction, and if you don’t have the ingredients on hand they are dead simple to get at Ye Olde Local Liquor Store. I’ve called for rather specific items in the mix but if you can’t find them I have also given you options to fill in the gaps.

Like most cocktails (the Perfect Margarita comes to mind here) the actual putting together of the thing is easy – all of the details are in getting quality booze. I’ve provided what I hope are thorough notes regarding the ingredients, but if you have any questions or need clarification you know where to ask.

Ready to go? Good. The relatives are on their way, and you need to get yourself braced for battle. Keep reading!

Continue reading

Posted in Drinks | Leave a comment

“Waste Not Want Not” Buttermilk Biscuits

UPDATE: The original version as posted on the site resulted in biscuits that were super rich, but didn’t rise as high as traditional recipes. A reader – who has asked for no credit here, so my lips are sealed – suggested cutting back the butter from the original full stick to three-quarters of a stick. The difference in results is startling, so I have updated the recipe to include that change. Also, the Nameless Biscuit Guru also suggested letting the cut biscuits rest on the baking sheets at room temperature for about 30 minutes before baking if you possibly can – you will see the biscuits fluff as they sit and you end up with an amazingly light and airy result … exactly what you would expect from legendary biscuits. Thank you, Nameless Guru, thank you.

There are two fundamental truths about buttermilk: You cant make great biscuits without it, and you almost always end up wasting some of the buttermilk. You make biscuits once, maybe twice, whip up a batch of pancakes on the weekend … and when the expiry date comes around there is some left in the carton that ends up 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 or may not taste the same but come out semi-flat and with a nasty dry crumble in their texture.

But … what if you get the biscuit structure in place first and then head to the freezer? 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 completely bake the biscuits for eating now or par-bake and freeze them for a quick finish later?

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

Fresh-baked Biscuits

That’s right … legendary biscuits. Want some? Keep reading.

Continue reading

Posted in Sides | Leave a comment

“The Shrimp With No Name”

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Features, Not Meat | 5 Comments

National Brisket Day

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.

Posted in Barbeque Is Not A Verb, Beef, Faux Q, General Drivel | Leave a comment

“Talkin’ Moroccan” Pork Loin Rack

(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

Posted in Pork | Leave a comment

“Secret Weapon” Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

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.

Stay away from those sites that do not reveal the truth about where exactly they are headquartered and from where your drugs will be shipped. Some sites claim they are stationed in Canada, but they turn out to be located somewhere else;

Sound good? Of course it does. Keep reading!

Continue reading

Posted in Sides | 3 Comments

What’s The Deal With Grilled Pizza?

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.

what do you think we can handle your requests.

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

Posted in General Drivel, Grilling | Leave a comment

A Perfect Margarita

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

Posted in Drinks | Leave a comment

Punch Up Your Fajitas With Flatiron

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.


Posted in Beef, Grilling | Leave a comment