“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!

 

 

 

 

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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

 

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

 

“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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“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

“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” Chinese Proverbs

Stone grilled shrimpStones have been used for centuries as a cooking surface and can be traced to Mongolian, Korean, and Japanese roots. Its solid form distributes the heat evenly for a uniform cooking experience and is easily cleaned and maintained for repeated use.

The Artisanal Grilling Stone can be used on your BBQ or heated in the oven and used to cook in front of your friends and family.

Made of solid granite and sized at 40 x 20 x 2cm (15.75 x 7.87 x 7/8 inches) it can more than handle whatever your meal requires.

Meats, fish, vegetables, and even pizza become a new adventure as you expand your cooking and grilling repertoire. The Artisanal Grilling Stone will become a mainstay in your grilling arsenal as people wonder over your creativity and style.

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  • On grills – gas, charcoal and open flame.
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  • Under the broiler.
  • To turn a grill into an outdoor oven.

It can:

  • Can withstand high temperatures.
  • Cut directly on the glazed stone without concern about damaging or scratching the surface.
  • Easy to clean with soap and water and is dishwasher safe.
  • (not recommended for stove-top use)

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“There’s an alternative. There’s always a third way, and it’s not a combination of the other two ways. It’s a different way.” David Carradine

I’m feeling a little philosophical today. It’s a new year with new opportunities.

There’s always a different way, an alternative to your destination. If one road doesn’t get you there, take a look around and you’ll see that there is another road. It may not be the one you were expecting, but it most likely the one you need to take.  It might be hidden behind a few bushes or shrubs, but it’s there. Just look for it and you’ll find it.

Christmas and New Years are behind us. 2014 has presented itself and is open to all possibilities and whatever we want to make of it.  My mother use to spend New Year’s Eve cleaning the house. She said that she didn’t want to take the dirty from the old year into the new one. That’s my advice to the world. Leave the dirty, chaos, and past behind. Look for new opportunities, change your outlook, and find that new path that is hiding behind that shrub. There’s no resolutions that won’t be broken, but new outlooks always stand high above resolutions.

Happy New Year world!

Scott Tait

The glass is never half full or half empty. It's full of opportunity, or waiting for the next one!

The glass is never half full or half empty. It’s full of opportunity, or waiting for the next one!