“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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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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