“We feel free when we escape – even if it be but from the frying pan to the fire.” Eric Hoffer

paella

Creating something from scratch. Remembering the toil and feeling the satisfaction of the results is what I get from cooking. Especially over open flame. We have a tendency these days to feed our bellies and our brains with what ever is at hand or popular for easy gratification and instant fulfillment but is it rewarding? When you think about the amount of time we spend staring at our cellphones or on the Internet deviling into and scoping out things and other peoples lives for momentary indulgence it stands to reason that our concept of food and eating has adopted these habits. The slow and rewarding process of learning a book from cover to cover or building something from its basic components has been lost to us. Immediate results, at hand knowledge and the need for on-the-spot contentedness has made us into fast fix junkies.

So now that I have that off my chest, let’s talk about creating something that takes time, forethought and some effort. Paella. The Valencian dish that some see as a task while others see as a meld of cultures. The word itself means pan. In this world what is simpler than bringing into existence a meal that encompasses meat, chicken, shellfish and rice all in one pan? Doesn’t that feed our need of immediacy and simplicity?

Paella, stews, soups and casseroles fill that voguish need for everything but in a traditional and satisfying dish that takes time to create.

This one is a simple take on the traditional. Assembled for 4 people and cooked on my #BGE over hardwood. Inside is good but outside adds that smoky kiss and sends a salute to Bacchus.

Needs:

1 Chicken breast or 4 thighs (or combination of both) cut into 8 pieces of equal size

1/8-cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 Spanish chorizo sausages cut to same size as chicken

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

½ Spanish onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, reserve some for garnish

½ can whole tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed

Or 8 small cherry tomatoes diced

2 cups short grain Spanish rice

2 cups water, warm

1 cup white wine

Generous pinch saffron threads

8 scrubbed littleneck or pasta clams

8 jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined

1 handful of sweet peas fresh or frozen and thawed

Lemon wedges, for serving

Special equipment:

12-inch Cast iron fry pan or your outdoor pan. This works in this size pan, anything smaller will overflow.

Chicken rub:

1-tablespoon smoked paprika

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1-tablespoon onion powder

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to preference

How:

Rub the spice mix all over the cut chicken, cover and place in the fridge for an hour or so to incorporate the flavours.

Outside, get your grill (charcoal or gas) ready with a medium heat.

Heat oil in your pan over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo to the oil in the pan and sauté. If you are using cooked chorizo, you’re just browning it. If it is raw you are cooking till ¾ done. Remove your sausage and add the chicken skin side down to the oil and now chorizo-seasoned pan. Brown the chicken on all sides till ¾ cooked. The chicken and chorizo will finish cooking when the paella is assembled in the hot pan. Salt and pepper to your needs. Remove from pan and reserve.

Now using the same pan make a sofrito (fancy word) by sautéing the onions, garlic, and parsley on medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes stirring occasionally to get the onions translucent. Then, add tomatoes and cook until the mixture comes together and the flavors unite. 2 or 3 minutes should do. Add your rice and stir-fry to coat the grains. You will see them start to give up their hard pale colour. Pour in wine and stir to coat all the rice. About a minute. Add the water and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. Distribute the chicken and chorizo evenly throughout the pan. Sprinkle the saffron over the entire contents of the pan. Add the clams tucking them into the rice hinge side down. This way you will see them open and cooked . Give the pan a good shake and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. No stirring from here on. Check the rice for al dente during the last minutes of cooking, when your rice is fluffing up and beginning to take over the pan, tuck in the shrimp as you did the clams. The shrimp will take about 8 minutes to cook. When you’re shrimp is pink, you’re clams are opened and you’ve checked the rice by sampling it, turn up the heat on your grill for 1 minute. You should be able to smell the rice on the bottom toasting.

Now take off the heat and let it rest, covered with foil for 5 minutes. Add your peas and parsley and tuck your lemon wedges into your creation.

Pull any unopened clams from the paella and discard.

It’s best and easiest to serve this family style in the pan in the middle of the table and let everyone help themselves.

Scott’s notes:

In traditional paella the rice on the bottom toasts and firms up. You can impress your friends by telling them it’s called the socarrat.

Make sure the shrimp and clam count matches your family and feeders. You want everyone to have an equal portion.

If you want to serve a gathering, double up the recipe and use a bigger pan.

Be well and eat well.

Scott Tait

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They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. Andy Warhol

Life has changed.  For the better?  For the worse?  No answers here. Change is change and its how you deal with it. Let’s just say I’m happy.

Beef RibsI’ve been absent for a while and for this I apologize. My focus has been personal for the last few weeks. I’ve sold my house; my son has an apartment and a full time position embracing the world in a suit and tie. My daughter is back at college finishing her last year and I’m living with my girlfriend. Change no matter what it is is part of life. If you stay stagnant nothing happens and the world and any opportunity pass you by.  You have to make your world or the world decides to handle it for you.

So back to food. What we create and what we are capable of creating is matched by the effort we put into it. I recently took a job with a BBQ restaurant as a smoker. I would prefer Pitmaster, but I’ll take the title.  Cooking in an industrial setting is a little different than cooking for family and friends and the idiosyncrasies of a pellet smoker compared to my BGE is challenging. I like to match my meals with the wood I’m smoking. Fruit woods for pork, hickory or maple for poultry, and pecan or oak for beef.  Using one wood for all proteins is different for me but when you are cooking for the masses, you don’t really have an option.

Then there’s the forward thinking.  Smoking today for tomorrow. How many plates can we expect? What about the food truck’s needs.   How much can I fit in the smoker and not compromise the smoke circulation and temperature? It’s a dance I’m quickly learning.

So back to the food, again. The first thing off the BGE at its new home was beef ribs.  I’ve done them before and have always been disappointed. I finally realised my mistake. They’re not pork, they’re beef, they have different rules.  Beef doesn’t abide by the 3/2/1 system. They need lower and slower and no complex rubs. Just let the meat talk for itself and do what it needs to do. The rub was simple, kosher salt, black pepper, garlic and onion powder, and cumin. The first level of the membrane pulled off and smoked over pecan wood for 7 hours at 250f. Taken off when the meat feels like a balloon filled with water, soft and giving.  I wrapped them in foil and left them to rest. Just before serving I grilled them on the gas grill and basted them with a basic beer based sauce to caramelize the sticky goodness.I love my Beef Ribs!

I also served hickory smoked chicken wings too because it’s all about excess at this point. An avocado and edamame salad topped it off.

This was the first meal I cooked for my new blended family and to bring everyone together. I’ve said before food is love but maybe I should preface that, family is love and food is the binder that brings everyone together at the table. Making it special makes the days end special.

What are you doing tonight or this weekend? When was the last time you brought everyone together and talked about life? Think about it?

I’ll be updating a lot now that I’m settled in.

Be well and eat well.

Scott

 

“Your Honor, Not only do I intend to prove that my client is guilty but also that he is innocent of not being guilty.” – Lionel Hutz (The Simpsons)

They're finally off my backA few weeks back I did what I thought was a nice thing. My neighbour’s daughter was turning 21 and they were having a party for her. She asked me for some direction on how to do pulled pork. I gave her ideas on how to create a rub and volunteered to put it on my Big Green Egg for the cook and smoke time. The results were wonderful and the accolades she received from her family were abundant. My neighbour did all the work; I just took care of the smoking part.

So why the dissertation? From the day that I sent wonderful smells and aromas through the backyard and my house I have received nothing but grief! My family and girlfriend “assumed” I would steal away a small taste for them. They were wrong! All 10 pounds found their way inside a tin foil blanket and was sent to the party. For the past 3 weeks I have heard nothing but their cries. “You teased us!” “You couldn’t save just a taste for me?” “When are you doing a shoulder for us?” The pulled pork fix was in. It was like living with addicts waiting for their dealer to get back from holidays.

Last night the cries of the disallowed were silenced. He madding throng received their fix!

Pulled pork has gotten so much press over the past few years that you would think people would tire of it but there seems to be no slow deceleration of its popularity.

A pork shoulder rubbed and slowly smoked over hickory wood with a sauna of beer and apple juice underneath it doesn’t lose its vogue. Additionally neither does slaw and potato salad.

The slaw was made with a sherry vinegar, Dijon, and mayonnaise. The potato salad with yogurt, honey, onion and jalapeno gave it a sharp yet light taste. Try yogurt instead of mayo next time.

I’m happy that my family loves my pulled pork, actually they like all my creations. But if it was up to them it would be a weekly if not daily effort on my part.

Be well and eat well!

Scott Tait

The Artisanal Grill

On FoodSided

On Twitter @artisanalgrill 

“Life is all about timing… the unreachable becomes reachable, the unavailable become available, the unattainable… attainable. Have the patience, wait it out. It’s all about timing.” Stacey Charter

Green Egg and SmokeA million years ago man discovered fire. To say man invented fire is a bit of a misnomer. It’s like saying man invented water or air. Maybe you can argue that he discovered a way to produce fire, but invented, no.  I’m still at a loss to figure out why he would put his hunted provisions on it. Maybe it was accidental in its discovery.   Caveman Dave left his hunter gatherer score on a hot rock by the fire and was astounded by the smell and aroma that hit his olfactory and taste buds!  Basic grilled meats are invented!

We should be happy Caveman Dave stumbled on the combination of meat and fire. I think this was bigger than the wheel! When was the last time you ate a wheel?  There are so many variations of fire cooking in the world thanks to a discovery a million years ago that we should take a good look at all of them.

I’ve been pushing this view because we get locked into the routines of daily life. When I became a single provider I strived to keep it interesting for my kids. We could have lived on take-out, prepackaged frozen concoctions, or bacon and eggs. I’m thankful that my sense kicked in and I decided to take the initiative regarding cooking. I’ve tried to teach them (and anyone that will listen) to take an extra twenty minutes and make the spaghetti sauce, buy the beans and make the chili instead opening a can, make the soup, bake the bread, cut out the ordering in.

My twist is the fire. Smoke billows to the sky, smells hit the neighbourhood and I’m outside. The grills take preparation beyond turning a dial to a set heat. They take nurturing and caressing to make sure they keep their temperature and don’t flare.  You have to take your time and pay attention. You walk away, things burn, Ovens and microwaves have ruined the art of preparing a meal. Meat needs a rub, wood has to be chosen, timing has to be focused, and love needs to be instilled.

The quote I started this with is something I live by. Life is about timing, patience, and looking forward to what’s coming. Food has been a building block on which I  base my daily life. Have an idea of what you want to create, make sure you have the ingredients, and take action. It will either work or not but at least you put your effort into it. Fast food has no soul; it fills a hole but ends up creating a black hole in your nutrition and your life. Cooking, grilling, smoking, all of it takes patience and in the end gives you a sense of accomplishment and a warm hug to those around you.

What are you cooking tonight? Does it have heart? Did you put your soul in it? Why not?

Be well and eat well!

Scott Tait

The Artisanal Grill

“Reality is frequently inaccurate.” ― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

What's for dinner when there's nothing to cook!

What’s for dinner when there’s nothing to cook!

So the cupboards are bare after the holidays. That’s a good thing. But not tonight! It’s -20c with the wind chill and I’m not going out. Too damn cold.

I have sausage meat, pasta, and various canned products. So fire up the BGE and let’s see what happens.

Canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, and the ground sausage and we have a sauce for the penne to bake on the BGE. A little flour, yeast, and water and we have a loaf for the cast iron pan. With a little imagination you can take what you have and create something from scratch without a lot of effort. Taking a look around made the bread into a garlic and onion loaf. A little left over red wine in the sauce and with parmesan rind to cream it out and dinner is served.

The idea is not to be spectacular every time but to add a little creativity, thought, and imagination. Although the sauce was made inside, (-20c outside just to remind you) the pasta and bread was baked outside to add a little smoke, flavor, and love.

We’ve all seen chopped and Iron Chef and the black box concept. Sometime you just need to look in the freezer and pantry to come up with something. Use your imagination! Substitute! Change it up and see what happens. Recipes are guidelines and are not carved in stone. The cooking police will not show up at your door and you might just find a new creation to add to your arsenal!

Be well and eat well!

Scott

Baby it's cold outside!

Baby it’s cold outside!

 

There's nothing better than fresh baked bread!

There’s nothing better than fresh baked bread!

“Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once a year.” Victor Borge

Notice the snow!

Notice the snow!

I love Christmas, I become many people during the season. I’m a shopper, decorator, wrapper, host but mostly a father.  I don’t look for presents; I look for the reaction to the gifts I give to my children and loved ones.  I’ve never returned a gift because it’s given with love.  I’ve even kept the unfitting sweaters and shirts because they were given from the heart. OK, I’m silly but that’s me.

My favourite role is that of cook. My neighbours see the smoke rising every Christmas morning as I start the Big Green Egg to smoke my turkey. Sometimes the weather participates and then there are other times, like this year.  Toronto experienced an ice storm the weekend before and 350,000 homes were without power. I was lucky, my fence wasn’t. But better the fence than the house, or my BGE!

Five years ago I experimented with brine for my turkey. I haven’t done one since without. Osmosis is a wonderful thing.  It doesn’t produce a salty bird, just a juicy and tasty turkey that will surprise and astound your family.

My brine; kosher salt, whole black pepper, brown sugar, 2 whole cut clementines, sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic head, onions, and a little maple syrup for the hell of it.  Submersed in a cold brine for 10 hours in a cooler and flipped every 4 hours or so (when I remembered).  Rinsed and patted dry and ready for a smoky embrace. Stuffed with onions, garlic, rosemary, sage and clementines. Rubbed with a concoction of butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic.

This year’s choice of smoke, maple wood! Sweet and light!

I’m practical with my smoking and realize that I don’t want to spend the day outside so I smoke for approximately 2 to 3 hours on my BGE.  I finish inside in the oven. This way I’m paying attention to not only the bird but the veggies too! That and I don’t kill myself by falling on the ice! On transfer to the oven I cover with bacon to add more flavor and moisture. I found if you put it on while you smoke it the bacon holds back the smoke on the areas it covering. It also leaves a weird pattern. Get the smoke to the flesh first.

You might notice I haven’t mentioned stuffing. I choose to make mine on the side in a cast iron pan. I take some of the drippings from the pan I had underneath the bird in the BGE and mix them with the stuffing. I make a sausage stuffing. Sometimes duck but this year an artisanal porcini sausage. Wonderful combination!

20 minutes a pound and my 18lb bird was ready in 6 hours but I started checking them temperature after 4 hours. You have to take in account fluctuation in the fire and the temperature outside. Every time you open the lid, you drop the temp.

So here’s my bird! Garlic mash, turnip, green beans in a cream sauce, brandied carrots, and sausage stuffing.

Too bad Santa had to leave!

Too bad Santa had to leave!

Enjoy! We did!

Be well and eat well!

Scott

The Artisanal Grill / Now on FoodSided.com

A little smoke goes a long way!

A little smoke goes a long way!

So a new start to a new year!

Creating a new direction in life is a journey of expectation, wonderment, possibilities, and fear.  I’ve travelled this road for over a year now and lo and behold the future I see is bright. I haven’t travelled this path alone; I have the support and love of everyone I know. In addition I’m travelling it with a few friends that are on their own paths.

My concept of taking the indoors outdoors and looking at food as an offering of love and comfort seems to have spread and connected me with like thinkers and food centric renaissance people alike.  BBQ, smokers, grills or whatever you chose to call them are just extensions of your kitchen and can be utilized all year.  Conventional recipes can be updated to add flair and switched up.  How your mother made it is wonderful, but thinks about what you can turn it into if you add your own personality and skill.

So now starts the next dimension to my journey.  I am now a staff writer for FoodSided.com. FoodSided is an extension of FanSided which is dedicated to sports and sports bloggers.  Taking the same passion from their base site, FoodSided is building to become one of the most popular and searched food sites on the web. I look forward to the experience and the continuation of the journey.

I will be posting here and on FoodSided.com along with updates on Twitter and my Facebook page.

Please follow and enjoy the journey with me.

Be well and eat well!

Scott Tait

The Artisanal Grill

 

Don’t cancel your Christmas Turkey people! Take it outside Artisanal Grill Style!!

So the weather in Toronto has left us powerless and cold.  Reports are in that people are canceling orders for their Christmas Turkeys because they are afraid their electricity will be off and they can’t cook their birds.

Really?

Hard times call for creative thoughts. One of the concepts that I have been dictating for some time now is that what you can do inside you can do outside. I’ve been planning a step by step on my Christmas bird from brining to smoking, but that’s to come when I start it tomorrow. But for now as a reminder to all you Canadians out there with BBQs, you can do your bird outside. Dust the snow and ice of the grill, get out your camping stove, and make the lady at the convenience store look at you funny when you ask if they have any charcoal while everyone else is buying salt! Make this Christmas the year of the Q!

Now don’t be scared. Transform your thoughts of grilling on it. Think of your BBQ as an oven. After all, it’s a heating source.

Step 1:  Prep your bird as you would but leave out the dressing (stuffing). It’s better to do it separately.

Step 2:  Set-up your BBQ for offset cooking. Meaning if you have 2 burners, only light one of them, if you have 3, keep the center on off and light the outside ones. You want to set up a cooking environment that has no direct heat underneath the bird. Think about it. In your oven there is no direct heat source underneath the bird. Hot air circulates around it. This is what you’re doing outside.  If you’re using charcoal, place the lit coal to one side so none will be under the bird. (Note. You’ll have to add more to keep the temperature constant so have a way to light more to add to the coals and minimize the open lid time.)

Step 3:  Place a pan on the unlit area to catch the drippings. This gives you a drip pan.  Add water, wine, and whatever else you would place around the bird in the oven. This gives you the base for your gravy.

Step: 4  Bring your grill to the proper temperature (350 degrees f). An 8 to 12lb unstuffed bird should take between 3 to 4 hours cooking time. Time can vary by 30 minutes so have a thermometer ready to check internal temperature (165 degrees f). Place the bird breast side down over the drip pan.

Step: 5  Rotate your bird every 45 minutes or so to brown and cook evenly. Every grill will behave differently so pay attention and remember if you’re looking, you’re not cooking. Take some of the juices that have accumulated in the drip pan and baste. To minimize open lid time, you can create a secondary baste liquid of heated chicken stock with sautéed bacon and onions. Have it ready to go. So open the lid, turn the bird, baste the bird, and close the lid.

Step: 6  Pay attention and follow your bird’s path. Outdoor climate will affect the overall time but with patience you can create a Christmas turkey that will astound your family.

The classic French rules say that your cooked bird should stand as long as you cooked it for. I can’t do that but I will let my bird stand for at least 30 to 45 minutes after it’s out of the heat. Cover with tin foil and let the juices work their way back through the meat.  If you do this and don’t turn off your grill you’ll have plenty of time to cook your veggies, stuffing, and make your gravy on the BBQ. Remember the camping stove I mentioned? Why not use it too!

We’re Canadian folks! Don’t let a little thing like a power outage or an ice storm to make you resort to KD or cold-cuts for Christmas dinner. Take the lead, put on a sweater and get outside!

“Age seldom arrives smoothly or quickly. It’s more often a succession of jerks.” Jean Rhys

Jerk Chicken wings with Mango Hot SauHeat again? I’m afraid so! As I’ve said before it’s really not about the heat, although that’s fun, it’s about the flavor and the feeling released on your senses. Jerk is one of my favourites and always has been. There is a sweetness in the fiery goodness from the All Spice, cinnamon, and brown sugar that permeates the meat to another dimension.

Spicy and sweet has always been in my arsenal. There are plenty of ready-made dry rubs out there to make your life easier but there is nothing like creating your own concoction specific to your personal taste and it’s easy.

My wings were marinated in my own rub and moistened with a little vegetable oil to spread the karma of the Caribbean. Grilled over charcoal and served with a Scotch Bonnet and mango dipping sauce smoothed out with honey and yogurt excited the mouth.   On the side, Orzo and grilled vegetable salad with toasted tortilla strips for crunch.

You have to take bland out of the equation. Good meals with interesting twists and a flavour theme keep the creative juices flowing.

Be well and eat well!

Scott

“A hot dog at the ball park is better than steak at the Ritz.” Humphrey Bogart

Yesterday was a good day. Things happened, issues worked out, and the feeling in the air was happy. It wasn’t a prime rib or porterhouse day, more like a Salisbury steak day, which in the long run is satisfying and comforting. Like a meat hug.

So hitting the #BGE with my more than massive cast iron pan I thought why not switch it up a little bit. Salisbury meatballs in a onion sauce. Then the thought of what to serve them with?  We’ve all had baked potatoes with the works on top. You know chili, bacon and cheddar, broccoli and cheese, whatever. So my meatballs sat on a twice stuffed cheddar potato with the onion gravy ladled on top.

Ok decadent, maybe a little excessive, but my doctor is on holidays, and cholesterol level is surprisingly normal, so why not.

Veal, medium ground and a de-cased  pork sausage for a meat medley. Dehydrated onions, worcestershire, a little soya sauce, garlic and pepper with some bread crumbs to make my balls. I sautéed them in the cast iron over coal till they were browned and removed from the heat. The onion went in to clear added garlic beef stock with a slurry of corn starch to thicken the sauce. Then back in with the meatballs to finish cooking.

The potatoes were baked, scooped and mixed with cheddar and cream till and blended till smooth. Then back in the skins. Balls on top and sauce over everything!

Nice and comforting.

Salisbury meatballs! A different take on an old standard.

Be well and eat well.

Scott

Browned

Browned

Sauced

Sauced

Over the top

Over the top