A guy who likes to eat trying to eat better in every sense of the word

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Summer Checklist

With the days growing longer and the evenings getting warmer the urge to play with my grills is getting strong.  This year in addition to eating great I plan on refining my skills on the grill.  I’ve spent the winter working on knife skills and traditional cooking skills, time to tackle those things that always give me trouble at the grills.

Things to get better at:

Judging cook time for whole chickens and potatoes

I always underestimate the time needed to cook bone in chicken and potatoes.  This has resulted in too many meals of hard potatoes and chicken that has to be microwaved for a few minutes after sitting down.  I think this has been a result of trying to rush weeknight dinners more than it has been an inability to cook.  I need to remember that the first rule of BBQ is to relax, it’s done when it’s done.

Neatness

I’m pretty meticulous when it comes to food safety and cleanliness but I could do a better job of keeping my grill area tidy.  It’s always the little things I avoid, like cleaning out my ash tray, putting covers back on grills and putting away my chimney.  Hopefully by writing this here for all the world to see I will keep myself accountable.

Using my offset smoker

I didn’t play with my offset smoker at all last summer.  It’s only a cheap one but I think tending to the firebox is a great reason to avoid household chores and keep hydrated for a long cook.

My other goal for the summer is to expand my horizons.  I’ve always kept things relatively simple around the grills and smokers, lots of Southern BBQ flavours when BBQing and some lots of the same flavours on the grill.  I’ve also used a lot of the same proteins and cuts.  I want to try new things this year.

Things to try this year:

More  Seafood

Not just haddock, salmon, shrimp and scallops.  I want to play with some more exotic fish like red snapper and mahi mahi.

Authentic Flavours

Having access to the whole world’s spices and herbs at the Historic Farmer’s Market I want to try some different cuisines from around the world and create authentic recipes, not bottled sauce versions.

 

What about you are there any flavours you want to try this year or things you want to get better at?

2012 Rule #1–Keep it fresh

Part of the rut I felt I was in was buying the same things over and over and cooking the same things.  Sobeys and Superstore only offered the same produce and cuts of meat and I wasn’t convinced that getting up early on a Saturday to go to the markets was worth it.  In mid-September we made a trip to NL to visit my parents.  Unbeknownst to me our last 2 days there were the opening weekend of the recreational cod fishery.  I had the opportunity to hand catch North Atlantic Cod right in Trinity Bay.  We set off at dawn and were back with our quota a couple of hours later.

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It was the best cod I had ever eaten.  The first meal I cooked with it was within 12 hours of having been in the water.  I decided then that I was going to make it a goal to eat more fresh and locally sourced food.

I’ve now started going to the Seaport Market and the Alderney Farmers Market every Saturday morning.  Anything I can’t get at those markets I try and source from smaller grocers.  Dave’s Produce in Cole Harbour has become a new favourite.

Last week the guys at Meat Mongers posted a photo of a beef tri-tip on their Facebook page and I jumped on reserving one.  I had seen many cooks on BBQ boards of this beef cut but I could never find it here.  The tri-tip is the small triangular cut near the shank on the bottom sirloin

I picked up my tri-tip on Saturday and rubbed it with some Santa Maria seasoning, tossed some mushroom and asparagus in black bean sauce and foiled it.  Had a mug of Blue Heron ESB to pass the time:

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I put it on the Weber OTS over indirect heat until an internal temperature of 120* and then put over direct heat until 135*.

Served with some fried rice left over from a meal earlier in the week:

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The beef flavour was incredible.  Sourcing local ingredients makes a huge difference in flavour and quality.  It’s taken a bit more work in terms of menu planning but I’ve been able to do it on my existing grocery budget.

A new year, a new direction

Despite not posting here I have been cooking, a lot.  I guess you could say I got all blogged out.  I felt I had cornered myself into only BBQing and despite my love for it I was in a rut always grilling and smoking everything I prepared. So I just stopped writing about what I was making.  With 2012 just starting I thought I’d get back to what I originally intended this blog to be: my kitchen journal.  A place for me to keep track of what I made, what worked, what didn’t and how I’d change it next time.

First, out with the old, the last BBQ related cooks I photographed without updating:

Thanksgiving 2011

Did a turkey and some sausage dressing on the WSM for Thanksgiving dinner.  Compound butter with rosemary and garlic was rubbed under and over the skin.

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Chicken Gallotine

Despite not being able to do it as quickly as Jacques Pepin I managed to gallotine a whole chicken.  Didn’t get a picture of the final product.  It was stuffed with spinach, mozzarella and sun-dried tomato.

 

 

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Ghost Chile Brisket Chili

The beginnings of a pot of chili made with leftover ghost chile brisket..

 

 

 

 

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Smoked and Roasted Lamb Shoulder

A beautiful lamb shoulder from the Halifax Seaport Market smoked and roasted in the Weber OTS

 

 

I received two great cookbooks for Christmas: Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes and Jacques Pepin’s Complete Techniques.  My goal is to cook from Jamie’s book during the week and do something challenging from Pepin’s book on the weekends.  So far I’ve had great success with Jamie’s book. Tasty meals on the table within 30 minutes.  Which on busy weeknights is awesome.  Will start blogging them this week.

Here’s to 2012!

Dino Bones

With father of SWMBO in town visiting I was asked to do some BBQ as people are always amazed at the stories of hours long cooks, funny looking cooking rigs and burnt up looking hunks of meat. 

I’ve made a lot of pork in the last while so I was in the mood for beef.  I didn’t have the time to do a brisket so beef ribs it was.

Trimmed and membrane removed:

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Rubbed with Lone Star Rib Rub:

3 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea) 
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin

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Put them on the WSM around 11:30 in the morning with a full ring of Kingsford Char Wood and 10 lit briqs.  I was trying to run real low 220-235 but temps climbed to 270 at the dome.  I find the Kingsford CharWood burns really hot.  Great for grilling but not so much for the WSM, may have to go back to the RO blue bag.

At 6 hours they were sauced with Bulls Eye Blazin’ Chipotle and foiled for another 45 mins or so.

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I executed the tricky ‘dump the hot charcoal into the kettle’ manoeuvre and put some corn on to grill

 

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Ribs out of the foil:

 

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And plated:

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These were very meaty beef ribs, don’t normally find them like that in grocery stores here, glad I picked up a second rack to vacseal and freeze.

A busy summer

It’s been a very busy summer both at home and at work.  As a result I’ haven’t documented my cooks as well as I would have liked to. Here are some of the things I’ve been cooking.

Rosemary and Garlic Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts

Bone-in chicken breasts rubbed with garlic and fresh rosemary and wrapped in bacon.  Cooked indirect for about 45 mins and then 5 mins direct to crisp up the bacon.  The garlic/rosemary/bacon worked really nicely together.  Got a couple prep pics but none of the finished product.

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Baby Back Ribs Experiment

Picked up 3 racks of baby back ribs and wanted to try some different rubs and compare side by side.  One was rubbed with Bone Suckin’ Sauce, one with my pork rub and one with Classic BBQ from épices de cru.  I really liked the épices de cru rub, then my own, I liked the Bone Suckin’ Sauce the least.  I also learned that I prefer my baby backs with sauce and not just dry rubbed and smoked.  Successful experiment!

Top to bottom: Bone Suckin’ Sauce, my rub, épices de cru

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Pizza Margaherita

Basil and Tomato are two of my favourite summer flavours and who doesn’t like pizza?

Fresh tomatoes, basil and sliced mozzarella:

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Garlic scape pesto for a sauce:

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Ready to go on the Weber:

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I’ve got my grill setup working pretty well for pizza.  A full chimney of lump red hot spread around the outside of the kettle with my pizza stone on the grill grate on top of two bricks to raise it up as high as possible.

All done:

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The pizza came out great but I still want to get that browned on-top cheese.  So I came up with plans to modify my cheap kettle into a wood fired pizza oven.  A buddy and I got started this week and I’ll post the entire process once it’s done.

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Makin’ Bacon

After two failed attempts I finally got bacon making right!

I cured two 1lb pieces of pork belly, one with just salt and pepper, the other with salt and ghost chile:

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I let them sit in Ziploc bags in the bottom of my fridge for a week to cure. 

Then rinsed and back in the fridge for a day to dry out.

 

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Smoked in the WSM at 250º for a couple of hours until they reached 150º internal

 

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Oh MAN does this stuff taste good.  The S&P bacon has a nice smokey flavour and is not overpoweringly salty.  The ghost chile bacon is AWESOME!  Has a nice steady heat with a little lingering burn.

Bacon and egger with ghost chile bacon is a great way to start a Sunday morning

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East Coast Living Photoshoot Photos

As I documented here I was featured in the summer issue of East Coast Living Magazine.  Once the Canada Post strike was over the great photographer Dennis Evans sent me a CD of the photos.  They’re posted below and you can check out Dennis’ work at his website.

Ghost Chile Brisket–Take 2

On the weekend past I decided to take another crack at cooking with the bhut jolokia aka the ghost chile.  I’d experimented with it a couple of times (here and here) and was going to get more serious this time.  I ground up five chiles and mix half of powder with some canola oil and injected the brisket with it:

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I used the rest of the chiles to make a paste with oil and salt and rubbed the brisket with it:

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We also had a small pork shoulder that was rubbed with Tlaleloco and Masala rubs from here

 

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Both were put on the WSM at 265º for 8 hours until probe tender then rested in a cooler for an hour.  The brisket money shot:

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The heat was AWESOME!  The slices of the flat had a nice even heat that stayed with you for a few minutes.  The chunks of point were not for the faint of heart.  Not everyone was able to handle them.  I vac sealed them and have plans for a great pot of chili.

The two spice blends that you wouldn’t expect to work well together did.  The coriander came through big time. 

Both plated:

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I picked up more ghost chiles today and hope to play with them this weekend.  I’m working on a bacon cure with them… stay tuned!

Bone-in Chops and the Things I always get wrong

Had some nice looking bone-in rib loin chops waiting for dinner tonight.  Yellow spuds, mini peppers, onion and mushrooms for sides.

Everything on my BBQ tray ready to go out to BBQ Island:

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Potatoes and onion got a head start and peppers and mushrooms joined in when the chops went on indirect:

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Once I finished my Caesar the chops went on direct:

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After the turn:

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Plated up:

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Spuds were slightly under done which always happens, potatoes and whole chicken are two things I’m really bad at timing correctly.  That’s why this is only my 2nd post this week.  Last night I had a whole chicken that spent 24 hours in Cornell Marinade.

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It didn’t help that I decided I wanted to try and get to the driving range and practice facility but I put it on the gasser, straight out of the fridge, indirect.  Between turning up the heat and moving it around I mangled the chicken.  It tasted fine but looked horrible.  I often end up having to put pieces back on the grill after cooking a whole chicken.  I don’t time potatoes or chickens well at all.  Any suggestions?  I think I’m going to try the metal skewer trick for the potatoes but am not sure what to do for chickens other than have another beverage and start cooking earlier.

Is there anything you have trouble getting right consistently?

Fish Tacos and Stuffed Peppers

I’ve committed to plan a full week’s worth of meals to be cooked on the grill and document them all.  Tonight’s meal was grilled haddock for fish tacos and bell peppers stuffed with cheesy rice.

Peppers hollowed out and stuffed with rice sautéed with onions and chipotle powder.

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The haddock got a quick bath of key lime juice, cumin and chile flakes:

 

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Everything on the Weber OTS

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No matter how well I oil my fish holder everything always seems to stick to it.  As a result, the plated pic isn’t the nicest looking.

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Everything was tasty but I think next time I’ll use smaller peppers, that was a big carb bomb.

Whole roaster chicken is marinating in Cornell marinade for tomorrow.

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