Bonfire envy

November 11, 2009

marshmallows toastingGenerally, I love being a Canadian — but when I learned last week that Brits have a Bonfire Night every November 5th to celebrate the capture of renegade Guy Fawkes in 1605, I was bitter. Why don’t Canadians have a bonfire night? Just for surviving our crazy climate we deserve a bonfire. We do! We really, really do!

So, since we have no culturally sanctioned bonfire holidays here, I decided to put my pyromaniac urges to good use by lighting up the charcoal grill over the weekend while I was raking leaves.

During the summer, standing over a smoky, hot charcoal grill can be uncomfortably hot. But, stoking up the coals as you do your yard cleanup in the fall is actually a pretty fantastic way to make an afternoon spent outside in the crisp fall air more enjoyable.

So, why not create a low and slow grilled brisket or flat chicken this weekend? Or, just use the hot coals to make grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and to warm your hands after planting bulbs?

Be sure to have lots of marshmallows around and cups of hot chocolate so that you can bribe your helpers to stick around and help for more than a few minutes!

Is your grill kit packed away for the winter or are you still grilling and barbecuing?

The miraculous $3.49 BBQ

June 26, 2009


Some days words just flow out of my fingertips and onto the computer screen in an effortless cascade. Today, not so much. In fact, as I sit here trying to form a few coherent sentences, it’s as excruciating as if every word is a hair being plucked from my skin with tweezers. Not fun.

But, since I am very dedicated to this blog, I am here trying to tell you about my new favourite grill.

My son and I spotted this disposable grill at Shopper’s Drug Mart the other day. We couldn’t believe that the regular price was just $3.49 so we bought one immediately. We were sure that once we tried it out that we’d be able to reveal to the world that this device was a piece of crap.

Well, guess what? We were 100% wrong. This grill that costs less than the grande latte I bought on the way home from the drug store worked like a charm. It had lots of heat: I started it at 11:50 am and at 2:45 pm it was still warm enough to melt chocolate or keep a cheese dip molten and ready for tortilla chips to be dunked.

Will you buy one of these grills? If so, what will you make on it?

Getting ready to grill

March 2, 2009

cedarwrapped-troutAh, my precious grill. How I miss thee. Sigh.

As the winter starts to wind down, I’m more than a little excited about getting out into the backyard so that I can have regular dinner dates with an open flame once again. Last week I ducked out for a clandestine quickie to try out a new grilling technique. While I’ll certainly be using my tried and true recipes when the weather warms up, I’m also excited to have discovered the Cedar Smoking Sheets pictured above.

I don’t know much about the origins of this concept (one package I read said they were Japanese-style but none of my Japanese friends seem to have used them before), but the idea is clever: you soak these supple sheets in water, wine, tea, etc. and then wrap them around raw pieces of fish, chicken, cheese and such before trussing them closed and placing the bundles on the hot grill.

The result: smoky flavour and no scorched or torn pieces of food.

Have you tried these sheets? If so, how would you rate your attraction to them? Do you love ‘em, like ‘em or think they’re just not all that?

FYI: I bought my first pack online but I know that Sobeys will be carrying these sheets in their stores this summer.

Links to other grilling related posts:
Smoke Chips
International Grilling Atlas
Best Rib Recipe
Instant Read Thermometers
Burger Tips
Spring Grilling
Cold Weather Grilling
Cheeseburger Tips

Are you a Grill Master?

June 5, 2008

It’s not news that many grillers have an emotional connection to both seared foods and the backyard appliances used to make such recipes. The picture above illustrates test kitchen assistant Amy Grigg’s passion for grilling. While I admire Amy’s affection for her grill, I caution her and other grill lovers never to kiss a hot grill. Instead, show your commitment to grilling by testing your knowledge.

Did you know that…?

• More than 7 billion grilled hot dogs will be eaten this summer in America with many more consumed here in Canada
• Our top four favorite burger toppings are: cheese (70%), ketchup (63%), mustard (50%)
• 76% of households own a grill of some kind
• 75% of grill owners have a gas grill
• If you don’t have a gauge, you can weigh propane tanks on a bathroom scale. An empty tank will weigh between 17 and 19 pounds so if the scale reads less than 20 lbs, refill before you try to cook

If you had these facts top of mind, it’s likely that you are, indeed, a grill master. However, if you want more proof of your grill master status before bragging to your friends, try this quiz to test the limits of your knowledge.

Or, skip the test and take a second to share your secret grilling tips with the rest of us by commenting below.

The best rib recipe for summer 2008

May 15, 2008

Like a good burger, there’s something about feasting on a platter of sticky, gooey pork ribs that epitomizes summertime in Canada. This particular rib recipe is a hit during hot weather since it eliminates the precooking step by using a foil-grilling packet to steam cook the meat and glaze it simultaneously. It’s also one of the recipes that my guests always ask for when I make these ribs for a backyard barbecue. You’ve gotta love it when an easy recipe with a short ingredient list is also a crowd pleaser!

Althought the word ‘chili’ is in the title, the flavour of these ribs is sweet and only slightly spicy since Thai sweet chili sauce is not nearly as hot as the unsweetened versions. Perfect with a cold, frosty beer on a hot day, these ribs can be served with rice or a grill top baked potato. Regardless of what you serve with these ribs, make sure you have plenty of napkins – or better yet finger bowls – handy because they are notoriously sticky!

Thai Chili Glazed Ribs

2 lb (1 kg) pork ribs, sliced into single pieces
1 tbsp (15 mL) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) Thai sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup (50 mL) hoisin sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) sesame oil
Chives or green onions

Preheat the grill to medium. Sprinkle the ribs evenly with flour. Stir the chili sauce with the hoisin sauce and sesame oil. Pour the sauce into a large, foil-grilling bag (or place in the centre of a very large piece of heavy duty foil that has been brushed with oil), set on a baking sheet.

Add the ribs and spread evenly in the bag in a single layer. Fold over the open edge of the bag and seal tightly and so that the foil fits around the food snugly. (Alternatively, scrunch up the edges of the foil to create a secure packet).

Slide the bag onto the preheated grill. Cook, flipping bag every 15 minutes, for 65 minutes. Let ribs rest in the bag for 10 minutes. Cut bag open using kitchen shears. Arrange ribs on a platter and sprinkle with chives before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Foie gras to hot dogs

April 30, 2008

I’ve been called a food snob. What with my $22 bottles of balsamic vinegar, penchant for foie gras and routine indulgence of Lanson champagne; although I do love all of these things, I’m anything but a snob.

I also love many humble, everyday foods. In fact, hot dogs are one of my favourite summertime treats. I like a good quality hot dog and it needs to be grilled until it’s just ready to burst so that the skin is crunchy and the hot dog is super juicy. During the 90’s Martin and I lived next door to Maple Leaf Gardens; there was an excellent hot dog cart downstairs at the corner of Carlton and Yonge. Their hot dogs were so good that sometimes I zipped 26 floors down the elevator just to pick up one of these stellar hot dogs for lunch or supper.

Hot dogs, I’m pleased to see, are being rediscovered and given TLC by a few savvy restaurateurs. When I was in Vancouver recently I noticed a Gourmet Hot Dog place on a trendy downtown street and here in Toronto there is a newish place called Buddha Dog that I’m hoping to try out sometime soon.

Until I can get to one of these venues that respects the hot dog for the pleasure it truly is, I’ll be buying Kwinter’s hot dogs, the best I’ve found at my local grocery store, to cook on my home grill.

Hungry for more? Check out these blogs that celebrate the hot dog:

Basic burger tips

April 17, 2008

All winter I dream about sun-drenched summer evenings and eating a juicy char-grilled burger fresh off the grill. Bliss! As it happens I’m not alone. According to a study conducted by Weber Barbecues, 98% of Canadians like to grill burgers of one kind or another in the summer. Although it wasn’t super warm last night, it was sun drenched so Oliver and I did indeed grill burgers and the results were stellar!

So fellow burger lovers follow these suggestions for making terrific tasting burgers from pantry ingredients. I’ve tried to give you a summer’s worth of tips so I hope you’ll bookmark this page.

The Basic Burger

1 small onion, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp (45 mL) barbecue sauce
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
1/4 cup (50 mL) fresh bread crumbs
1 lb (500 g) ground beef

Preheat grill to medium-high. Mix onion, garlic, egg, barbecue sauce, salt, and pepper until well combined in a large bowl. Stir in breadcrumbs. Crumble beef into bowl and toss gently until evenly combined.

Divide mixture into four. Use your hands to shape meat into 4 patties, each about 4-inches (10-cm) wide. Lightly grease grill and add patties. Grill, covered and turning just once, for about 10 minutes or until the internal temperature of the patties is 71°C (160°F). Makes 4 burgers.

10 Beyond Basic Burgers

1. Ginger-scallion: Substitute 1/2 cup (125 mL) finely chopped green onions (also called scallions) for grated onion. Omit barbecue sauce and add 1 tbsp (15 mL) minced fresh ginger and 3 tbsp (45 mL) soy sauce to meat mixture. Ideal for ground beef or pork.
2. Texas: Omit barbecue sauce and add 2 tbsp (30 mL) grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tbsp (15 mL) chili powder and 1 tsp (5 mL) oregano leaves. Ideal with ground beef.
3. Moroccan: Omit barbecue sauce and add 1 tsp (5 mL) dried mint, 1/4 tsp (1 mL) each cinnamon, cumin and coriander seed and 1/2 tsp (2 mL) hot pepper sauce. Excellent with ground lamb, pork or chicken.
4. Lemon-dill: Omit barbecue sauce and add 11/2 tsp (7 mL) dried dillweed and 2 tsp (10 mL) finely grated lemon zest. Ideal with ground veal or chicken.
5. Greek: Omit barbecue sauce and increase garlic to 2 cloves. Add 1 tsp (5 mL) each dried mint, oregano and dill, 1/2 tsp (2 mL) cinnamon and cumin and finely grated lemon peel. Good with lamb or pork.
6. Caesar: Replace barbecue sauce with 1/4 cup (50 mL) creamy Caesar salad dressing and bread crumbs with grated Parmesan cheese.
7. Peking: Omit salt and replace barbecue sauce with hoisin sauce and substitute 1/2 cup (125 mL) finely chopped green onions for grated onion. Increase garlic to 2 cloves. Good with ground beef or chicken.
8. Thai: Replace barbecue sauce with 1 tbsp (30 mL) each fish sauce, soy sauce and lime juice. Add 1 tsp (5 mL) finely grated lime peel and 3 tbsp (45 mL) chopped fresh coriander. Increase breadcrumbs to 1/2 cup (125 mL). Press 1 tbsp (15 mL) sesame seeds into patties as they are being shaped. Good for ground chicken.
9. Pesto: Replace barbecue sauce with 3 tbsp (45 mL) basil pesto and 1 tbsp (15 mL) finely grated lemon peel. Good for beef or veal.
10. Pizza: Replace barbecue sauce with tomato sauce. Add 1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped black olives, 1 tsp (5 mL) each dried basil and oregano and 1/2 cup (125 mL) shredded Italian blend cheese.

Dana’s Hot Tips for super sizzling burgers:

• For homemade club pack convenience, make double or triple batches of patties. Layer them between pieces of waxed paper and freeze. Be sure to make patties no more than 1/2-in (1-cm) thick so that they will grill quickly and evenly from their frozen state.
• To grill 1/2-in (1 cm) thick frozen burgers, reduce heat to medium and grill for 15 to 18 minutes, turning once.
• Although choosing extra lean ground meat for burgers has health appeal, burgers made with lean and medium ground meats will be juicier and freeze better.
• For tender burgers, form patties by pressing the ingredients together lightly so that the mixture doesn’t become too compacted.
• If making cheeseburgers, drape cheese over patties and cover for the last 60 seconds cooking time.
• For optimum safety, choose meat at the grocers with today’s packaging date, then prepare and cook or freeze patties on the same day.
• No matter how you like your steak, always cook burgers to well-done to ensure that any bacteria the meat may have come in contact with while being ground is eliminated.

Get more burger grilling tips from the experts at Health Canada.