“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

fireI’ve written about this before but lately it seems to be the predominant thought in my mind. Words like simple, basic, and grounded echo like a drum that wont stop its beat.

Life for me has changed in the past years. I remember sitting down in March and planning vacation time, summer camps and how we were going to occupy the kids for a two-month period without school to monopolize their world. The Christmas planning of gifts and family time divided equally so no ones time or present was greater than the others. Negotiating suppliers, salespersons and senior managers so I proportionately distributed my time to the task that was at hand. It was tiring.

Now I find myself reveling in basic things. The world no longer commands me. My time is my time and I find myself fascinated with what for years I have neglected. Myself.

Yes there are still demands and time needs to be made terms with, but the hurried pace has left me. Some might deem this growing older but I see it as finally maturing. Life gave me the chance to see and appreciate what’s important and appreciate it. The deals can wait. The travel itinerary is a thing of the past. I finally see what’s important.

Leaving the corporate world and filling my life with what I like and what I enjoy has created a framework of joy and independence. I miss the salaries from days gone by, I’m not going to lie, but creating a sense of fulfillment in life far outweighs it.

It may seem that I am about to contradict myself now, but having many small jobs gives me satisfaction that I have never had and gives me the time to do what gives me joy. Simply put, writing and cooking.

The deadlines are mine and not imposed by others. The ideas and concepts come from my mind and the words are the results. Simple, basic and grounded.

Elaborate items have no part in my world, especially when it comes to food. We have taken to hiding basic concepts and tastes with sauces, bacon wraps and wild presentations on plates. The phrase we first eat with our eyes is true, but no matter how beautiful something looks on a plate it’s your pallet that has the last say.

I take stock in Marco Pierre White’s stance, giving up his Michelin stars and going back to simple recipes and styles. The Food Network has made the simple complex and given us the impression that we need to do things their way. I’m here to say that’s a fallacy and marketing ploy.

Simple, basic and grounded. Let the food talk to you and tell you what to do. Walk around the market or grocery store and see what excites you. Be creative, not bound by what others do. Recipes are guidelines not laws. They are to be used to start your journey not be the journey.

That’s what food and words give me: a journey and lessons that I now live by. Look to what’s in your heart, what you like. Make your life and your meals yours not someone else’s.

Be well and eat well

Scott Tait

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“Know what’s weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change. But pretty soon, everything is different.” Bill Watterson

What do you do when you’re tired of the same old but everyone around you still insist on it. Make it different and wait for the backlash, or make it the same in a new way? After a summer of BBQ, (actually it’s a way of life around here), I get bored of the classic baked potato yet everyone still expects it to make a showing on the table.

Loaded Baked Potato SoupFall has hit quickly in Toronto and the chill is on us. The baseball season is at end and the playoffs are in sight. So using a ball euphemism, I decided to develop a baked potato curve ball.

Taking the task partially outside I created a Full Loaded Baked Potato Soup. Yes extreme, yes filling, and yes wonderfully satisfying. Each year we celebrate a Canadian Thanksgiving outside and on a farm in Northern Ontario. My responsibility, the tailgate! With the temperature dropping I think that this will make a good addition to the food so I decided to experiment first.

When making soup, I prefer to roast off my vegetables first instead of just sticking them in the stock to cook. To me it brings out more of the natural sugars and taste in the base flavour. So not to break my tradition, I roasted off 6 Russets and the carrots for my stock first. When they were soft and ready, I sautéed half an onion and celery in a large stock pot with olive oil until they were soft and translucent. Rough chopped 4 of the potatoes and the carrots and Added them to the pot with, garlic, salt and pepper and 3 bay leaves. Topped the whole thing off with 2 liters of chicken stock and let it simmer for an hour. I threw in two tablespoons of a BBQ rub that I had made to bring some of the outdoor spice and aroma to the soup.

After the hour the stock was blended down to a smooth consistency ( after taking out the bay leaves), placed back in the stock pot and put on low.  The remaining two potatoes were rough chopped into bit size pieces and joined the other happy elements in the soup.  Keep extra chicken stock around and if it’s too thick for you, thin it out to your liking with some extra.

Finished with sour cream, crisp fried bacon, chopped green onion, and shredded cheddar for the fully loaded part.  Take a look. It feels like soup to the mouth but tastes like a baked potato.

Putting a different spin or preparation on an old favourite is a way to break from the norm but still fill the need of the comfort you and your family get from the staple.

I remember a teacher from high school giving me instruction on how to look at a situation.

  1. Leave it the same.
  2. Remove it completely.
  3. Rearrange it.
  4. Take away from it.
  5. Add to it.

That’s how to keep an old favourite from creeping into mundane territory.

What can you do to your standard and give it new life?

Be well and eat well

Scott

PS. I think the family will like this at Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

The broccoli says ‘I look like a small tree’, the mushroom says ‘I look like an umbrella’, the walnut says ‘I look like a brain’, and the banana says ‘Can we please change the subject?’ Anonymous

We are a comparing society. Coke verses Pepsi, Cascade verses Finish, Ford verses Dodge? We compare politicians, actors, restaurants, even bottled water? My parents, well really my mother always compared things in Canada to how they were in Scotland. “It’s not like it was back home”, or “The ones I grew up were much better than these ones.” There are few things in this world that are unique anymore and when one does surface, there are like products within weeks that we can offer up comparisons to.

Smoked lambWe do the same thing with food. Actually you have to admit these words have come out of your mouth or someone you know more than once. “It tastes like chicken to me.” You know you have. Chicken is like a blank canvas. It takes on the tastes and the profile of what and how we prepare it. Beef and pork can follow suit. Cooking is creative and flows with the artists, or chef’s hand, eye, and palate.

So here is my big caveat. Lamb! No matter how you prepare it, no matter what you enhance it with, the natural flavour of lamb always comes through. That why it’s my favourite protein. From curried to roasted, braised to stew, grilled or smoked you always know its lamb.

Some consider the flavour too strong, others consider it too earthy but I consider it unique and wonderful.

So today I offer you a slow smoked butterflied leg of lamb with roasted beets, Home grown beans with toasted almonds, and a kale and feta salad.

The lamb was rubbed with a mixture of olive oil, garlic, black pepper, Dijon mustard, rosemary, sage, mint and one anchovy. It was left in a re-sealable bag for 5 hours in the fridge and brought to room temperature before it hit the grill.

The Big Green Egg had the beets on to roast over pecan wood for 4 hours at 300f before the lamb hit the smoker. I placed a tin pan of water below the lamb and filled it with the same fresh herbs that were in the rub to give an aromatic moistness to the smoke. When it reached an internal of 150f I switched it to the hot gas grill for a quick sear on the outside for some charring. Left to sit wrapped in foil for 15 minutes and it was ready to devour.

I love lamb. It’s bold and subtle at the same time. Kind of like me : )

Be well and eat well.

Scott

 

“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

“When you invite the whole world to your party, inevitably someone pees in the beer.” Xeni Jardin

Practicing for the Super Bowl!

Practicing for the Super Bowl!

So the big game is coming up. You’re the guy with the big screen and the beer tap. You’re having way too many people over and you know something is going to get broken, the neighbors are going to complain and your wife has no intent of helping you with the food.

Here’s how to survive.

1                     Share the bounty. Ask people to bring something along with the beer. Salad, chips, popcorn, veggies (I was made to put that one in) and dip, anything that will lighten your load.

2                     More little food is better than big food. People want to snack. Change from burgers to sliders. You don’t want everybody to fill up on one thing.

3                     Timing is everything.  Work backwards from your scheduled time. Do something low and slow that you can prepare ahead and leave alone to take care of itself. Chili, stew, pulled pork, or brisket. Something that you can prepare and walk away.

4                     Only do one thing that needs immediate attention. If your doing wings, burgers, nacho, or something that has to be done at the last minute, have all your prep work done. Have the BBQ lit and up to temp. Have the veggies for the slaw shredded and ready to go for the last minute dressing. Have the beer in the fridge. Get as much done as possible before hand. Planning ahead means more eyeball time on the big screen.

5                     Don’t experiment! Go with your strengths. Doing something you’ve never tried before is for later. If you screw it up your chances of getting a pizza delivered to fill that void is slim. Remember this is the busiest day of the year for pizza delivery.

I’ve devised my menu on Seattle and Denver plus a little extra. Coffee rubbed brisket with a low and slow smoke served with slaw on dinner rolls. Denver chili over coals because I’m not doing a Denver omelet.   Bacon wrapped, jalapeno stuffed chicken legs. I love the option of chicken legs over wings. They reduce the amount of effort when you think about it. The average person will eat 5 or 6 wings but only 1 or 2 legs. When you have a large amount of people it reduces what you’re juggling on the grill. These are started about 45 minutes before anyone shows up but were assembled earlier in the day so they’re good to go for game time.

Remember, sharing, bite sizes, timing, prepping, and going with your strengths.

Lastly, have an exit plan. Plan on getting everyone home safely or making sure they have a place to stay. The day after the Super Bowl has the largest number of people calling in sick. Did you book a vacation day because your boss knows you’re not sick!

Last night was my first time on FanSidedRadio. Pre Super Bowl talk and food ideas for the party.

Check it out!  bit.ly/1mQpDfn

Be well and eat well

Scott

“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

“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