“Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.” Robert C. Gallagher

Getting tired of the same old same old. I’ve tried all my life to keep things interesting. I’ve skydived, taken improv classes, sushi preparation, swing and tango dancing, got a tattoo, travelled by myself, started 2 businesses, and even ran a 5k (not that I could today). I’ve studied fencing, tai chi, kung fu, aikido, and meditated in a Buddhist temple. So now I’m in need of something else? What it is eludes me.

Habanero and garlic chickenI think that’s why I like to cook. I can keep it different, experiment, and travel the world without moving from my backyard. Maybe I just remedied my own conundrum; I am in need of some travel.

So what have you tried lately? Where have you travelled too? Burgers don’t cut it but teriyaki burgers do! Grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts, no! Prosciutto wrapped thighs stuffed with provolone and sun dried tomatoes, yes!

Taking a trip from the regular keeps it interesting and lets you explore your creativity. Watch a new cooking show and get some ideas. Pick up a magazine, ask your mom for some recipes, look at everything in your cupboard and figure out a new way to put it together, have fun!

At New Years a friend gave me a roasted garlic and habanero herb mix and I have been staring at it for 4 months. This past weekend I decided to stop ignoring and take it for a little dance. The mix with oregano, olive oil and softened butter made a wonderful rub both on and under the skin on a whole chicken.

Take a chance, do something different, get rid of the same old same old!

Be well and eat well!

Scott

Twitter @artisanalgrill

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“The Bluebird of Happiness long absent from his life, Ned is visited by the Chicken of Depression.” Gary Larson

Stone grilled chicken breastsChicken is the most consumed protein in the world. Our affair started with Mom’s chicken soup probably out of a can, and then progressed to the Colonel.  As we continued or travels we found sweet and sour, Mac somethings, and finally Buffalo wings.

In our house rotisserie, spatchcock, and fire roasted takes the stage, after all smoke and fire makes everything taste better!

Last night was no different. I’ve taken to cooking everything I can on my granite cooking stones. They give a nice even cook across whatever I try. So over hickory wood, rubbed with sage, seasoning and olive oil the breasts hit the stones! I wanted simple yet flavourful and have been craving a white sauce so the plate consisted of Hickory roasted chicken breasts on a bed of penne tossed with olive oil and garlic and covered in a sage cream sauce. Combining the hickory smoke with the pasta and cream is an amazing team.

The weather in Toronto over the past week has been better. Snow is melting, sun beams are breaking through, and I can get away with a T-Shirt for short term exposure. So the night was primed for outdoor cooking. If I can, I move it outside. Actually even if it’s freezing or raining I still try and take it outside.

Think about what you’re doing tonight? Can part of it be moved outside? Don’t you want the memories of summer tastes now instead of 4 weeks from now? Do you have a jacket? What’s stopping you?

Thursday March 20th is only days away. Start now or start planning the rebirth of your outdoor cooking season!

Be well and eat well!Hickory smoked chicken penne and sage sauce

Scott Tait

“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!

Toronto Underground Market November 2013

I had the opportunity to visit, for the first time, The Toronto Underground Market (http://www.yumtum.ca) in November. What a great event! Foodies galore, new tastes, and like-minded people who truly believe in alternative foods, preparations, and good times. It’s a movement that likes to experiment, taste, and celebrate foods in a nontraditional setting and atmosphere.

I’m looking to participate in the next one and to launch The Artisanal Grill to the world. I have some idea that I think will rock the palate and show some smoking and grilling skills.

The greatest tastes to my mouth were the Molasses Braised Pork Belly from Little Tomato and the Pulled Jerk Duck from King Catering! Others were good but my taste buds did back-flips when I had their offering!

Craft brews were abundant and the music rocked the Evergreen Brickworks!

What a night!

I whole-heartedly recommend this event the next time around. Who know’s, you might see me!

Be well and eat well!

Scott

Sometimes when someone offers to take your picture, they don't run away with your camera! Thanks to the stranger that thought the shot was spectacular!

Sometimes when someone offers to take your picture, they don’t run away with your camera! Thanks to the stranger that thought the shot was spectacular!

Guy satisfaction!

Guy satisfaction!

Fidel GastroKing CateringCrossroads DinerBoots and Bourbon

Pork belly to die for!

Pork belly to die for!

“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