Friday, July 15, 2011

Les mets d'chez nous! (2ième partie)

Bonjour encore!

My deepest apologies for straying from this topic for so long. So many new experiences and adventures in the culinary arts have distracted me from this cultural examination.

Mais là, ciboire, on va ben examiner d'la bouffe québecoise!

1 - Cipâte (Meat pot pie)

Imagine a massive pot pie with all kinds of meat and veggie goodness! Cipâte is one of the other French Canadian treats my mother would make when I was a kid, albeit occasionally. Like tourtière, it comes in as many variations as there are families. And in Quebec, that's a LOT!



1 ½ lbs chicken meat, cubed
½ lb sliced mushrooms
4 cups chicken stock (Mom uses her own, but for simplicity's sake, use store bought. Your local butcher probably has really good stuff for fairly cheap)
2 lbs boned pork shoulder
2 cups diced potatoes
2 lbs boneless stewing veal
2 tsp salt
1 lb boneless stewing beef
½ tsp pepper
2 cups chopped onion
½ tsp savory
1 ½ cups diced celery
1 recipe for double pie crust (see previous post)
1 cup thinly sliced carrots


- Remove fat from pork, dice finely and fry, until crisp, in fry pan coated with 1 tsp butter. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
- Cut pork, veal and beef in ¾ inch cubes and mix with chicken in bowl.
- Mix vegetables and seasonings in a large bowl.
- Scatter fried pork fat over bottom of large heavy casserole [18 cup] or Dutch oven. Fill dish with alternate layers of meat mixture and vegetable and seasoning mixture.
- Prepare pastry. Roll out to fit top of casserole. Seal pastry to edges of dish and cut several steam vents on top of pastry.
- Refrigerate dish overnight to blend flavors.
- Next day, pour in enough chicken stock through steam vents to fill pie.
- Cover dish and bake at 300 degrees until meat is tender, 4 ½ to 5 ½ hours.
- After 2 hours cooking, if pie seems dry, add a little more stock.
- Uncover dish for the last 30 mins to brown pastry.
- Remove from oven and cool for 15 mins.
- Serve with a home-made [or store bought] relish or chili sauce.

2 - Fèvres au lard (Baked Beans, literal translation: Beans au Fat)

Baked beans have never been a favourite of mine. In fact, I couldn't bring myself to eat them until the past couple of years and even then under very specific circumstances - those circumstances essentially being "when served with a metric frakton of maple syrup". But in the past couple of years, I've had samplings from various high-end restos and a sugar shack that made me change my opinion somewhat. The key is not to over or undercook the beans, because it's not the flavour that makes baked beans unpalatable, it's the texture. If they're underdone, they're this chalky mouth-torture that is the edible equivalent of a soap-beat. When they're overdone, it's more like oral waterboarding. Of course, all this can be solved (like most culinary problems) with a cup or so of maple syrup. Conversely, you can cook them well!

So, once again taking my Mother's culinary expertise in hand, here is another taste of quebecois cooking:



- 1 lb navy beans, dried
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 5 cups water
- ¼ cup molasses
- 2 tsp dry mustard
- 2 tbs sweet pickle juice or 2 tbsp vinegar
- ¼ tsp pepper mixed with specks of ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 3 quartered onions
- ¼ lb piece of salt pork
- freshly ground pepper


- Pick over beans for dirt, etc. and wash. Place beans in a large pot, pour in 3 cups of water, cover pot and let beans soak for 8 hours or overnight.
- Add 2 more cups of water and rest of ingredients except salt pork and ground pepper.
- Bring to a boil over med-high heat. Reduce heat to simmer, and boil, covered, for 1 hour or until skins of beans begin to wrinkle.
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
- Cut salt pork at ½ inch intervals almost all the way through. Place the salt pork in a 2 quart bean pot or casserole dish. Cover with the hot beans and their liquid. Generously sprinkle with fresh pepper.
- Bake for 6 to 8 hours, covered, until tender.
- When beans are 2/3s baked, add about ¾ cup water, or enough to just cover.
- Uncover for last ½ hour of baking.

Makes 4-6 servings.

According to my mother, this isn't "authentic" but awfully tasty. However, I did some research and so-called authentic recipes are fairly similar. I did notice a lack of tomato in a lot of recipes, some in others. So, if you like a more tomato-ey flavour, add a teaspoon or so of tomato paste or a tablespoon of ketchup.

Et voilà mes amis! D'autre bouffe s'en vien plus tard.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ribs Redux


Well I'll be damned! Another smokey discovery recently made!

If you've ever done any research into smoking meat, you may have noticed that there are as many different ways to smoke food as there are kinds of wood. It can get a little frustrating when you're investing a lot of time and money and effort to find out how to do something the best way possible only to discover there are 50 other ways to do it that may or may not be better.

In my original post on smoking ribs, I presented the 3-2-1 method of smoking, which involves rubbing the meat and refrigerating it overnight, smoking them for 2.5 to 3 hours uncovered, wrapping them in foil (aka "tenting") and splashing them with some sort of flavourful liquid (apple juice, cider, etc.), smoking for another 2 hours, unwrapping and finishing for an hour. Now, this always produced super-tasty ribs, but they never were quite the right tenderness for my exacting tastes.

So, with that in mind, I went back into Internet Search mode and found a different technique, one which involves a bit more work and attention, but the results were fantastic. I give credit to The Smoker King for this method, which I didn't follow to the letter, so I'll break it down for you in my own words and personal tweaks.

OK, so first of all, nothing has changed with the basics. We're looking for back ribs, membrane removed, rubbed in whatever goodness you have since invented or found online (or, if you're still using one of the rubs I've posted, awesome! Thanks for the compliment!) and left in the fridge overnight.

It's the next day that things get interesting.

Once your meat has been sitting out for about an hour to get to room temperature and your fire is going, it's time to apply the new secret technique! Oooooo...

What is said technique? A ridiculously simple mop sauce.

Mop Sauce for Ribs

- 1 1/3 cups apple cider vinegar
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- pinch of rib rub (if you don't have any, just a pinch of brown sugar and a tiny pinch of cayenne will suffice) NOTE: This pinch of rub is optional. Sugar burns/caramelizes during the smoking process, and the rub contains sugar. Some of us, like me, like this crispy, burnt-y, bitter flavour. Many do not. If you don't, omit the rub/sugar and just add a pinch of cayenne and some salt.

- Whisk together in a ceramic/glass bowl with a whisk or fork

Apply a generous amount of mob sauce to both sides of the rack(s) of ribs.

Place ribs on the smoker (bone side down) and smoke uncovered for 5 and a half hours. Apply a layer of the mop sauce to the top side of the ribs every 45 minutes, no need to mop the underbelly. Also, if you can find it, try out pecan wood with your ribs, its flavour is just wonderful. If your smoker is like mine, you may need to move the ribs around a bit to ensure even cooking. Don't flip them over though.

At the 4 hour, 30 minute mark, wrap ribs in foil with the rest of the mop sauce. Smoke for another hour.

Remove, unwrap, and let stand about 5 minutes before cutting into sections.

Admittedly, this results with this method aren't as pretty as the mahogany coloured ribs you get from the first method I've used. These ribs are going to be "wetter", even before you add BBQ sauce. But the texture and tenderness is PERFECT. Well, at least the closest I've ever come.

So, the rib experimentation will continue until TRUE pork perfection is achieved!

Till then, may you smell of wood smoke and meat vapour! And may every bite be as tasty as the last!


Adventures in Pulled Pork

Hi everybody!

Posting today on one of my more recent forays into the world of smoking that most noble animal, the Pig!

So, after months of hemming and hawing over trying pulled pork on the smoker, I finally tried my hand at it for a Canada Day BBQ. It didn't quite go as planned (maybe I should have followed the recipe more accurately), but the end result was quite tasty.

Now, as you all know, smoking is my new favourite. But most of the cuts of meat I've done have been fairly small and easy. How would a 6 pound pork shoulder turn out? I was justifiably nervous, especially as I was making it for a party! Eep!

So, let's start from the beginning. Well, there are numerous pulled pork recipes that abound on the 'Net, so I want looking and found enough info to cobble a basic recipe in my mind and I think I had the techniques well organized. And all it took to ruin that was to watch one episode of Road Grill on Food Network... For those who don't know, Road Grill is a travelling BBQ show hosted by former CFL QB Matt Dunigan (and also features Whalesbone executive chef Charlotte Langley!). As much as Mr. Dunigan's super-jock attitude might grate on my nerves, it's actually a pretty good show.

Now, in what I thought was a moment of TV serendipity, that particular episode covered off pulled pork. Awesome! And the way Mr. Dunigan made everything look was perfectly simple. Rub pork, let sit, mop (baste) with "mop sauce" once, leave on smoker for 5-6 hours and that's that! Unfortunately, I forgot to look at the actual goddamn recipe online! If I had, I would have noticed the "mop every 30 minutes" part. DAMMIT!! As a result, the pork was well-cooked, but a little dry. The fork-tender, "pullable" quality wasn't there as I took it off the smoker. I was a bit discouraged, but I had this giant slab of pork that was tasty, albeit a bit tougher than expected, and I'd be damned if I was going let it be ruined.

That being said, it looked mostly like smoked pork shoulder should, which is this:

So jealous of the forker who got it right in this picture!

Anyhoo, with resolve and knife in hand, I began the process of carving up pieces of the cooked pork shoulder and chopping it into small pieces, giving it that pulled pork look and feel. But how to make it more tender? Well, here's where I went "out of mandate", at least out of BBQ purist mandate. See, from what I've read of "Real BBQ", it has a strong presence/following/origin in North Carolina, where the slow smoked pork is indeed fork tender and is almost always served "dry" with some sort of dipping sauce on the side. Not at all like the sauce-laden messy goodness we usually find in this end of the continent.

Well, I went with the saucy method. I turned the oven to 300 F, placed all the meat and excess fat in a roasting dish, and slathered it with the Blueberry BBQ Sauce that seems to be my new signature and popped the whole mess into the oven for about 15 minutes. The heat helped render some of the fat, which in turn moistened the meat. When I took it out of the oven, I had nearly perfect pulled pork by Canadian standards.

So, disaster averted! All our guests enjoyed the pork, and Kari got to use it to make her grand experiment of the Pulled Pork Cupcake a reality (more on that in a future post, although the recipe may have to remain a closely guarded secret). But, that being said, I learned an important lesson: don't believe everything you see on TV!

OK, now that the dramatic account of "what went wrong" has been covered, maybe I should actually show y'all how it's done, and the proper directions will be provided!

Smoker Pulled Pork

First, you'll need your meat. I suggest going with a 2.5 kg pork shoulder (aka picnic roast or Boston butt), preferably bone-in, with fat cap still attached. The great thing about pork shoulder is that you don't need to prep the meat in any way as you would with ribs or tenderloin.

Once you get your meat home, rub it with a spice rub 12-24 hours before putting it on the smoker.
The following rub is my own adaptation of the rub used on Road Grill. It was really spicy and tasty.


- 1 cup brown sugar
- 4 tbsp cayenne pepper
- 4 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp yellow mustard powder
- 4 green cardamom pods, ground

Mix all ingredients together until well blended and coat meat with rub. You can apply a thin layer of olive oil or prepared yellow mustard to help the rub stick to the meat. Don't worry about the mustard changing the flavour of the meat, it's dissipated by the smoke.

Wrap rubbed meat in plastic and put in fridge.

The next day, remove meat from fridge about an hour before you put it onto the smoker so it warms up to room temperature.

While the meat is warming up, start your fire. You REALLY want to stick with lump charcoal when building a fire for smoking. I find briquettes, no matter how natural they say they are, smell (and, therefore, taste) like chemicals. And you don't want that flavouring your meat! What you do want flavouring your meat on top of the natural lump charcoal (usually maple in my neck of the world) is some sort of lovely wood chips. I used mesquite with my pulled pork to impart a strong flavour that can compliment the strong flavours in the rub and the mop (more on the mop in a moment). Soak 2/3 of your wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes. Reserve 1/3 of wood chips and keep dry.

OK, now it's time to apply your mop. A good mop is a thinner version of a basic BBQ sauce that helps keep the meat moist as it smokes.

I basically used the exact same formula as on Road Grill:


1 2/3 cups ketchup
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup fresh apple cider (I used beer instead as I had no juice)
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 teaspoons paprika
4 teaspoons dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt

Whisk all ingredients together in a glass or ceramic bowl.

Using a "mop brush" (see your local hardware store or BBQ dealer, if you're lucky enough to have such things where you live!) or simple basting brush, apply a generous amount of mop sauce to the pork shoulder before putting it on the smoker.

Once on the smoker, keep adding wood chips (2 handfuls wet chips to one dry) every 30-45 minutes to keep producing smoke. You want to smoke the pork at 250-260 degrees Farenheit for about 5 to 6 hours, and apply the mop sauce every half hour or so. You may need to add charcoal to the fire as you go to keep the heat up.

As the pork is smoking, you can make your BBQ sauce as you like it. I love my Blueberry BBQ Sauce so much, I'm linking it twice in the same post and it works wonders with pork.

Once the pork has finished smoking, you should be able to pull it apart with tongs and a fork in a large roasting pan. At this point, you may want to stir in your sauce to serve it "wet" or leave as is to serve "dry".

Serve on fresh buns topped with a bit of coleslaw for crunch with BBQ sauce for dipping on the side.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A simple meal for Summer and my favourite condiment!

Hello fledgling and full-fledged culinary aficionados,

Alright, it's time to bring it back to the easy. After gourmet steaks, polenta tortes, smoked pork and gold-leaf encrusted foie gras emulsion of rubies (OK, I made that last one up), it's time to rein it in a little and get back to the quick and easy. It's Summer, there's way too much outside to enjoy to be stuck in the kitchen for 3 hours.

Now, with all cooking, there are basics that everyone should have in the pantry/kitchen. A couple of bulbs of garlic, an onion or two, a couple of tomatoes, a stick of butter, a dozen eggs and a bottle of olive oil. With just that, you could eat pretty damn well! But, most of us crave a little variety in our diet. This can easily be achieved with a few pre-made storebought items that allow you to perk up the most basic meals into something quite tasty. Best thing is, chances are a lot of these are items you have sitting around in your fridge or pantry and might fly under the radar when you're thinking of what to make for dinner.

So, with that in mind, let's look at one quick and easy meal item that can be made with very few ingredients and almost no time: Salmon Patties. I got this one from Kari's mom, confirmed it online, and tweaked it a little. Still, easy as all git-out!

Salmon Patties - Makes 4 patties - Serves 2


- 1 can Sockeye salmon
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko)
- 4 tbsp onion, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Black pepper to taste
- Additional seasonings to taste (I used a pinch each of chili powder and basil)
- 4 tbsp cooking oil for frying (olive, canola, etc.)

- Drain salmon and put in mixing bowl.
- Crack egg and add to salmon.
- Add remaining ingredients (except oil) and mix with hands.
- Form into patties, ensuring air is squeezed out and patties hold their shape.
- In a large frying pan (preferably cast iron), heat oil on medium-high heat.
- Using tongs, gently set patties in oil and cook for 5 minutes on one side until golden brown, flip and cook other side.
- Serve on buns for salmon burgers or on their own with a generous dollop of Sriracha Mayo (see below) and a nice salad.

So, that's dinner! Now, let's talk about Sriracha!

In case you don't know what Sriracha is, it's this super-tasty, fairly spicy hot sauce from Thailand (or is it Vietnam?), easily recognized by the squeeze bottle with a rooster logo on it (hence, why it's often called "cock sauce").

Move over ketchup! This is the new staple 'red sauce'


I happen to love the stuff, so much so that I bought the cookbook! Lots of fun recipes in it, even one for making Sriracha Salt!

Srircha Mayo

In a bowl, stir together about 1 tsp of Sriracha sauce with a half cup of mayo and the juice of a quarter lime.

That's it!


Monday, July 4, 2011

Simple Salad for Lunch

Good day all!

It's stupid hot again in Ottawa, and salads seem to be the way to go this week. So, I came up with this quick and easy salad just today and I think it's a great way to use up some stale bread, ripe tomato and possibly other items sitting in the fridge or pantry that you might want to great rid of.

I call this one the "Italian Sandwich Salad" because the ingredients are basically identical to those in traditional Italian sandwiches, which I discussed in an entry I posted last August.

It started with a Bean Salad that was in the fridge. I was going to eat that, but then I got the fiercest craving for some kind of soft, warm crouton on the side of it. Then I noticed some Genoa salami in the fridge as well, and the Bean Salad was quickly forgotten (sorry Bean Salad, I'm sure you're tasty). Instantly the idea for a salad with Italian flavours found in the big ol' "two-day" sandwiches from Bottega hit me. First, I would fry up the bread with olive oil into a kind of warm crouton, then mix it up with marinated eggplants, tomato, onion, garlic and roasted red pepper and some kind of light dressing. Now, this recipe features raw onion and garlic, so be aware of your own gastro-intestinal system and proceed accordingly.

The methodology changed a bit as I went into the following:

Italian Sandwich Salad - 4 servings


- 4 slices bread (or 1 foccacia), slightly stale
- 2 small, very ripe tomatoes, sliced
- 1/2 very thinly sliced sweet onion
- 4 cloves garlic, very finely minced
- 1/2 cup marinated eggplant (mild or hot is up to you)
- 1 roasted red pepper, diced (unfortunately, the jar of peppers I had today was moldy, so I omitted it - sadface)
- 12 slices Genoa salami, sliced into thin strips (or any other type of meat you enjoy - I bet prosciutto would rock!)
- Olive oil to taste
- Balsamic vinegar to taste
- Sea salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Dried or fresh oregano to taste


- 1/2 cup hot pepper rings
- 1/4 cup Kalamata olives


- Toast bread slices until crispy, then slice into "fingers" or cubes.
- Place the toasted bread in a mixing bowl and toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and oregano until well coated.
- Fry toasted bread on high heat for about 3 minutes.
- Pile bread onto plates (that's right, the "croutons" go on the bottom).
- Next, pile on the marinated eggplant. Don't drain it too much, the oil it's packed in provides a lot of flavour.
- Pile on the rest of veggies and top with additional olive and balsamic vinegar if desired.
- Top with meat and serve. Garnish with flat-leaf parsley if you want.

So, that's about it! Minimal cooking involved and lots of flavour.

Bon appetit!