“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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Turkey on the Smoker? It must be Christmas!

So since Christmas is just a week away, I thought it appropriate to share instructions for brining and smoking your bird outside.

stooge dinner

 

 

 

 

 

Brining.

Brining brings out the best in your bird and keeps the meat from drying out. Using a cooler, bucket, or whatever you have to hold the bird and totally cover it with your brine is what you need. If you can’t source anything, go to your favourite restaurant and see if they will sell you (give you is better, they just throw them out when they have too many piled up) a bucket that their fry oil comes in. Thoroughly clean and wash the bucket and make sure your bird fits. Best way, try it when it’s empty. That way you can fill it with water and see how much brine you’ll need to make.

The brine is easy and lets you embrace your creative side. Fill a stockpot with 2 gallons of water. Add your flavor profile. Or try this for a 12 to 25 pound turkey

2 pounds of kosher salt

2 cups of brown sugar

4 tbsp. black pepper

1 head garlic

1 coarse chopped onion

3 bay leaves

1 bunch of sage (dry is ok)

2 tbsp. oregano

1 quartered lemon (or orange)

Bring the water to a simmer to dissolve the sugar and salt but don’t bring it to a boil. When all the ingredients are combine, turn it off and let it cool.

Place your bird in the container and pour the cold brine over top. Add ice to keep it cool.

The bird will need at least 6 hours in the brine so this is your Christmas Eve project. After 6 hours, take Mr. Turkey out of the brine and wash your bird well under cold water. Place in the fridge overnight. Throw out the brine!

Butter bath!

Make a flavoured butter. This is another creativity opportunity and should be done the day before.

 Combine

½ lb. room temperature butter

1 tsp. granulated garlic

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. thyme

1 tsp. oregano

¼ cup fresh sage (fine chopped or dry will suffice)

Smooth all the flavors together. Place in the fridge till you need it but bring to room temperature just before you need it. It has to be soft.

Turkey Day rules!

Know how big your bird is and how long the smoking (cooking) process is going to take!

Own a thermometer!

Know when dinner is being served!

Prep and know how long your accompaniments are going to take!

Get as much done ahead of time as possible!

Make sure you have enough fuel for the smoker or gas BBQ!

Have your wood chips soaked, pouched and ready to go!

Build a schedule and work it!

Prepping the bird.

Separate the skin from the meat by working your fingers gently between the breast and the skin starting at the cavity opening of the bird but being careful not to break the skin. Gently work the soft butter into the space you just created. This flavored butter will melt into the breast basting it in butter and all those flavors you added to it. Take the extra butter and rub it all over the outside of the bird. If you ran out of butter, massage it with olive oil. Season your bird with salt and pepper. Now stuff your bird with additional sage, quartered onions, garlic cloves and some lemon or orange slices.

Your stuffing should be done separately.

At this point your bird is brined, washed, dried, seasoned, and stuffed with aromatic. You’re ready to go.

Smoking.

Set-up your BBQ for offset cooking and smoking. 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.)

Pick a suitable wood for the smoke, like oak, pecan, or maple. If you use cherry or apple it is tasty but can create a pink ring under the surface and if you family doesn’t know smoke, they might think it’s undercooked. Soak your chips and make a smoke pack with one part soaked chips and one part dry. The dry will start early and the wet will smolder after the dry is done. Make two or three packs so you’re ready when one is done with a new one.

Place a pan on the unlit area to catch the drippings. Tin foil roast or baking pans are great for this. 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.

Place your smoke pack on the heated element or on the coals.

Bring your grill to 400 degrees f. Smoke and roast for about 1 hour then turn the temperature down to 325 f. An 8 to 12lb unstuffed bird should take between 3 to 4 hours cooking time, subsequently an 18 to 20lb bird should take about 5 to 6/12 hours. Time can vary by 30 minutes so have a thermometer ready to check internal temperature (you want 165 degrees f) and always from the thickest part of the thigh. . Place the bird breast side down on your greased grill and over the drip pan.

Rotate your bird every 45 minutes or so to brown and cook evenly. Every grill and smoker 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, sage, and onions. Have it ready to go. So open the lid, turn the bird, baste the bird, and close the lid.

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 planning is everything! Post a picture to my Facebook site of your wonderful accomplishment. But most importantly, have fun with it! I’ve been smoking our Turkeys for 10 years and I’ll never go back to the oven. It makes the difference.

Be well and eat well this Christmas and every day!

Scott Tait

The Artisanal Grill

https://www.facebook.com/TheArtisanalGrill

 

“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

“BBQ is the new Black” Scott Tait

While my Green Egg gently weeps!

While my Green Egg gently weeps!

Every year we hear that something is the new Black, “Blue” is the new Black; “Red” is the new Black. Something is always the new Black. But Black is always hanging on; it’s still the base, the thing that others are judged by. So why can’t BBQ be the new Black? It’s the base that everything started from, cooking food over flame.  Meat, I’d like to introduce you to fire, fire meet meat.

Black is a neutral. It allows your focus to be on other things and not centered on colour and frivolous components.  BBQ for me is the same.  Knowing that this is my base, it allows me to concentrate on what is important. The flavor and the taste!  It grants me the opportunity to be creative knowing I don’t have to worry about the how just the what.

Food preparation should first take place in the mind. In sports, the winners, the champions play the game first in their minds to see all the possibilities and visualize the success. That’s what you need to do with cooking, visualize the achievement, prepare for the work, and work the plan. Getting rid of the superficial and distracting lets you achieve your goal.

Think about your creative process like Google maps. Pick your start point, pick your destination, and choose the most direct route. My start point is my BBQ, my destination is the finished meal, my route is the most direct I can find. People stress and fuss over all the little stuff, I don’t.  The meal is a journey from start to finish and we are supposed to enjoy the journey in life.

So allow BBQ to be your new Black. Let it be the base or starting point of your journey and don’t allow the frivolous colour to distract you.

Be well and eat well!

Scott

“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

 

“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

“Generally speaking, food has to be spicier than it would be if you tasted it on the ground,” Peter Jones

Hot Garlic Drumsticks with Bacon OrzoYou have to try everything. Hot, sweet, savory, strong, smokey, even weird in life. You don’t have to like everything, you just need to try it. After all, if you don’t try something you might miss your new favourite thing, a new direction, a new person, or even a new opportunity. Going through life only doing or trying what you know will never take you down new avenues. Change, stretch, break that envelope that you live in.

Food wise, hot and spicy is a good thing. It wakes up your taste buds and gives them new opportunities to experience. It might be that you aren’t a big fan and that’s OK. You tried and maybe you’ll try again. Look past the hot and see the flavour. That’s what we chili heads do.

Tonight’s offering is chicken drumsticks marinated in garlic, olive oil, and Nando’s Hot Garlic Sauce served on bacon and parmesan orzo. The drums were grilled over charcoal low and slow to keep them juicy.

Be well and eat well!

Scott