“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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“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

“Show class, have pride, and display character. If you do, winning takes care of itself.” Paul Bryant

So thinking outside the kitchen, and in turn sacrificing one of my indoor cast iron pots I decided to make #beefstew on my #BGE #BigGreenEgg.   Incorporating smoke with the flavor of the beef and sauce was one of the best things I’ve ever attempted.

I marinated the beef in beer with fresh rosemary overnight. Patted dry, floured, seasoned, and seared in my cast iron over the fire with hickory smoking away below. Since I was using the Egg, I left the lid off the pot because closing the lid on the Egg had the same effect and allowed the smoke to permeate the flavor. I removed the beef and sautéed the onions in the juices from the beef and then reunited them with more beer and some beef stock. At the halfway mark I joined the union of flavours with peas, potatoes, and carrots. When we were about 15 minutes away from completion, I add my dumplings to cook in the broth.

The comments from the trolls that live with me? This is the best stew we’ve ever had. I have to say I’m really proud of this one. The hickory smoke add to the overall experience of the stew and mixed with the rosemary background in the meat gave it another dimension.

My pot will survive and is now destined for use on the #BGE all the time.

Be well and eat well!

Scott

Beer marinated beef and rosemary

Beer marinated beef and rosemary

Everyone into the pool! You too dumplings!

Everyone into the pool! You too dumplings!

Pretty tasty stew!

Pretty tasty stew!

“Life is like a grapefruit. Well, it’s sort of orangy-yellow and dimpled on the outside, wet and squidgy in the middle. It’s got pips inside, too. Oh, and some people have a half a one for breakfast.” Douglas Adams

So you sit and wait, and wait, and wait.  No matter how much of yourself you put into something and take a personal stake in it, it seems you always end up waiting for others to act. There seems to be this pause in the universe that puts a hold on things and makes you ponder your actions. What’s it for? Why can’t we just get on with things? What’s the hold up?

The rain in Toronto put a damper on my efforts to do a Lobster Mac on the grill. A little rain doesn’t usually hamper me but that was ridiculous. We’re still drying out! Needless to say the Mac went in the oven against my better judgment.

So I realize that I’ve been slow to post but once again life threw a wrench in my direction. No complaints just waiting for stuff to happen.

I’m still working on the presentation for Masterchef Canada? I have an idea and am working on a plan. The biggest question? Do I wear my kilt? Do I go for the spectacle? It’s 30 days till the audition and I’m in 2nd gear. 3rd and 4th gear are in hand but still to come.

The backyard has had a few meals go through it. Here are a few images of what’s happened on my deck.

Be well and eat well!

Scott

Wet time, Summer in the City. My backyard grills get wet.... well wetter!

Wet time, Summer in the City. My backyard grills get wet…. well wetter!

Trying to get through that bottle of Maple flavoured Rye!

Trying to get through that bottle of Maple flavoured Rye!

Took it inside. I don't mind a little rain, but I look bad when I'm drenched!  Really bad!

Took it inside. I don’t mind a little rain, but I look bad when I’m drenched! Really bad!

Garam masala rubbed Mutton with curried rice

Garam masala rubbed Mutton with curried rice

“There’s no straight lines make up my life; And all my roads have bends” Harry Chapin

“There’s no straight lines make up my life; And all my roads have bends;

There’s no clear-cut beginnings;  And so far no dead-ends.”   Circle (Harry Chapin)

This lyric has permeated my mind for the past year. The way people and things from my past keep reoccurring in my life. Since I have had the last 12 months to analyze myself and the world, I have come to the conclusion that I’m happy. Things haven’t gone as planned. But whose do. You’re dealt cards that you have to try and make sense of. You plan your hand, and then someone pulls from the bottom of the deck. It’s not your fault how your hand plays out. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But the point is to stay at the table and handle your cards as best you can.

I started #TheArtisanalGrill as an outlet for my cooking and my thoughts.  Its growth has been organic. Simple quotes, alternative methods of cooking conventional meals, and twists on life and the world.

So now comes the next step; Last night I met with one of my high school English teachers. Neil is the Editor of The Bluffs Advocate, a local community newspaper in south east Toronto. We’ve had discussions over the past month regarding me contributing a BBQ piece for the summer edition.  Exciting, yes, scary, yes, fun, absolutely!

The images below are from the Official Launch Party they held @DoraKeogh last night.  Music, beer, and laughs filled the popular Irish pub.

Back to talking about food!

Tonight; Meatloaf on the BGE

Be well and eat well

Scott

Dora Keogh

Bluffs Advocate Launch Party

Bluffs Advocate Launch Party

Bluffs Advocate Launch Party

Neil Walker and Jim McQueen

Medicine Line

Medicine Line

Medicine LineParty people

The Griller and his lady

The Griller and his lady

 

 

“Youth is like a long weekend on Friday night. Middle age is like a long weekend on Monday afternoon.” Richard Nelson Bolles

Alabama White BBQ Sauce heaven!

Alabama White BBQ Sauce heaven!

So this weekend ended with a bang. Not just the fireworks but the thunderstorm that came minutes after it. Watching all the soaked sightseers running up the street was like a scene from a disaster movie. There used to be a few signs down here that said “Welcome to the Beach. Get out of my parking spot!” I must admit that when I moved down here 20 years ago the crowds that would show up on long weekend were miniscule compared to the amounts that show up now a days.  Sometimes I feel like putting those signs back up or just hightailing it out of here. We have Victoria Day, Canada Day, Simcoe Day, Labour Day, and the Jazz Festival where 100,000 people show up to wander the street. It’s nice living here but when you can’t move your car for fear of losing your parking spot you start reevaluating.

So food, because that what this is all about was large, tasty, and fun.  Sunday we started with grilled Rib Steaks on the BGE, Grilled asparagus and a Caprese salad. First time we could eat outside this year. The surrounding trees are sharing their pollen and seeds all around and you need to dust the table once an hour, but being outside was nice and relaxing. Enough was left over for baguette sandwiches on Monday.

Victoria Day was orgasmic. I finally made Alabama White BBQ Sauce. Phenomenal on the hickory smoked, bacon wrapped drumsticks! Also embraced slow smoked ribs with sauce, roasted potato salad in a yogurt base, and field greens with strawberries red onion, and almonds courtesy of Vicky and her culinary skills. The appetizer was the trolls favourite, smoked brie.

I hope everybody enjoyed good food, good times and family and friends.

Have a great week and be well.

Scott

Best flavour!

The trolls favourite!

The trolls favourite!

Because you gotta graze sometime!

Because you gotta graze sometime!

Here piggy! Your so tasty!