Thursday, August 23, 2012

Simple dinner for the family

Sirloin steaks with Montreal steak spice, baked potatoes (with eventual sour cream) and roasted asparagus (rubbed with olive oil and dashed with salt, pepper and garlic).

Moosehead for me while I cook on the new BBQ.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pork rib experiment with the new smoker

For my birthday from my awesome family (and arranged by my wife), I received a Masterbuilt Propane Smokehouse and a 20 lb tank.  I love it, as I have always wanted one.

Link to the item:

After a dismal first go at trying to smoke my regular jerky recipe (heat too high, not enough ventilation and scorched most of it), I did a lot of research and decided to go with ribs this time.  I normally braise them in the oven, but figured that this would be my best choice for a real go at using the smoker.

Hit up Costco for a pack of ribs.  I picked some that had enough fat, without being overbearing.

The dry rub I made up was a mix of cumin, kosher salt, dark brown sugar, garlic powder, ground black pepper, chili powder and a bit of cayenne.  Pulled out the mortar and pestle to give it all a good grind, but it was a bit small, so I had to finish up in one of the Kitchen-aid bowls.

Pure Canadian pork.

I took a bit of time to strip the membrane off the back of the ribs.  It was a bit of a pain as the membrane kept tearing, but I was able to remove it all before adding in the rub.

From here I switched from the iPod Touch camera to the Sony as I wanted better resolution and colour for the photos.  The rub I used really took on a nice colour after about an hour allowing it to penetrate a bit into the meat.  Did both sides, but heavier on the meatier side of the ribs.

 For the smoking, I decided to go with the hickory chips.  I did have other kinds (sugar maple, mesquite, black cherry and whiskey), but wanted to keep it to something I was used to using when barbequing.  Soaked the chips for about 40 minutes before adding to the pan.

Loaded up the top 2 racks with the ribs.  I was able to fit 3 per rack, but spaced it out with the shorter ribs on top and the meatier ribs below.

 All closed up and the propane was started.  In the second shot, you can see the smoke coming out from the emblem on the front of the unit and around the door.

 Heated up to the perfect temperature now.

After an hour, I opened up the smoker briefly to spritz down the ribs with a spray bottle.  The spray bottle contained a mixture of 3/4 cup unsweetened apple juice and 1/4 cider vinegar.  I also refilled the water pan with a mixture of apple juice, cider vinegar and RO water to keep the humidity up.  Added another couple of handfuls of chips to the pan too.

First peek at the ribs 1 hour in.  Nice reddish shade, but still very raw.

Sauce making time!  In a medium pot, I added in 2 cups of Heinz ketchup, 3/4 cup apple juice, 1/2 cup cider vinegar, 1/2 cup mustard, 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tablespoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and heated it slowly until I saw some bubbles, then lowered the temperature and simmered for 15 minutes while stirring frequently.

 Hour 2.  Sprayed the ribs down again and refilled the water tray.  Bark starting to form.  Added in more chips.
 Hour 3.  More water, more spritzing, more chips.  Crusty bark is getting darker.  I poked the ribs and saw it separate a bit showing tender pork under the bark.  Smelled phenomenal, but closed it back up.

 Hour 4.  Time to pull them out for saucing.  Checked the ribs and really easily pulled out a chunk of pork and bark.  TASTY!.  I smothered the ribs quickly on both sides and wrapped them up in tin foil.  Refilled the water tray and put the ribs back in for another 45 or 50 minutes.

Final product, which I slathered with a bit more sauce before serving.

 The knife went through the ribs so easily.  Not dry at all.  I am really happy with the results.  Added in some corn on the cob and my roasted potatoes on the side.  Had a couple guests over for dinner and we only went through 2 racks.  The remaining 2 I am breaking apart for sandwiches for me.

Next attempt will be either lamb or a brisket I think.

I also have some apple wood and cherry wood coming to me from a friends property.  He needed to remove some trees and I get some of the wood which I am going to season for later.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Images from my garden

I do not have the room for a complex garden at my home due to all the room taken up by the pool, but I work with what I have got. 

I have been experimenting over the past 2 summers as to what works well in the soil I have.  So far I have determined that peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers seem to work the best.  My cucumber plants exploded this year and are overrunning the garden and choking out the peppers unfortunately.  I need to figure out something better for next year.  Possible using the chicken wire fences I built for my mom a couple years back.

From Garden 2010

Above is the cucumber plants from about a month ago.  They are much larger now.  I need to take an updated snap.

From Garden 2010

One of the cucumbers harvested last week.  They are growing oddly, but taste excellent.

From Garden 2010

From Garden 2010

Some of the cherry tomatoes from the upside down planter.

And below are some of the visitors to my garden.  The birds are long gone now.  But I seem to have a lot of toads lately.

From Garden 2010

From Garden 2010

From Garden 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Garden Fresh Quick Pickles

My garden is finally starting to produce so I made up some brine for quick pickles to have with dinner. Quite simple and very tasty. You can substitute other vegetables as well. As it is not a true pickling, they do not last a long time, but I never had a problem with expiry as they go so quickly.  The recipe below is fairly basic, but using my own gardens produce fresh makes it even better. You can really taste the difference.


1.5 cups of White Vinegar
1/3 cup of sugar
1.5 tbsp of sea salt
1.5 cups cold water
1/2 tablespoon of fresh ground black pepper
3 tablespoons of cider vinegar

Mix all the base ingredients with the exception of the cider vinegar into a seal-able glass container. I usually mix with my mini hand mixer as it does a quick job of cleanly.


1-2 chilies
1 large English cucumber
1 medium onion (try the purple ones for a better end flavour)*

The chilies are to be chopped fine. Keep the seeds for a bit of heat.

The onion is to be peeled then sliced into rings. The rings are separated.

The cucumber is to be sliced to about 0.5 cm thick. I usually do it on an angle.

Mix and steep all the vegetables in the brine. Pour the cider vinegar that was set aside over top the brine and veggie mixture. Seal the container and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours. They should come out nice and crisp.

*I did not have a purple onion on hand and was not dragging the kids to the store to get one today. So I used a yellow onion instead. Still tasty.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bourdain "Medium Raw" Contest

Anthony Bourdain is running a contest for his new book "Medium Raw".  I had sat down and wrote an essay based on his concept of "Cooking Well".  Unfortunately, I did not read the rules prior to writing and found out just as I was about to enter that people outside the US are unable to.  So I thought I would start sharing here.  I would have loved to enter as he really inspired me in my ramblings.  I love watching his show with my son (who seems to want to become a chef himself now).

I hope whoever reads this can appreciate my view on the concept.  Post back and let me know how you feel.


Cooking Well is more than just the application of cooking practices.  It is the experimentation and addition of a Cooks own ideas and techniques that push the boundaries of what is expected. 

Staying with the tried and true is something that will eventually bore the people you are trying to serve an excellent meal to. Things need to be changed up and risks need to be taken occasionally to wake up the palette of your gastronomic audience.

And it is not just the serving of the food you have prepared, but I also find that people love to hear how I prepared the meal, if I used something different or unique, or if I used a special method of my own.

It is about injecting your passion and love of the art of food into what you create.  It is about presenting your appetizer or entrĂ©e or dessert or drink in the most eye catching manner possible, as the first impression of your meal is always the visual aspect.  Your cooking might taste excellent, but if it looks like a bowl of gruel, that may put off some of the people you are trying to serve.

Food should never be rushed.  Time is one of the elements that are missing from a lot of today’s meals. 

This starts right from the beginning of planning the meal...looking for the best ingredients, the freshest produce, the tastiest meats and the plan to bring it all together. 

I get a lot of my vegetation ingredients from farmers markets or my own garden or even the small hydroponics setup I have in my kitchen, where I grow my most common used herbs.  The fresher my base ingredients are the better my end product is.

I also hunt for some of my food.  Hunting is one of the most intimate practices that you can participate in and really makes you appreciate where your meal is coming from.  I find it has made me respect how I apply my cooking practices and to use what I have obtained to its best potential.

Time is something that is also missing in the end process.  Take the time to savour and enjoy what you are consuming.  Today's society has missed that for too many years.  Most people rush though what they are eating, stand up, belch and rush off to the next thing.  They are missing part of life, part of the hard work that one person or many performed to bring together a meal worth appreciating.  That what they are eating will become a part of them.  It is not just fuel, but your body uses what you eat also as building blocks to grow, rebuild and repair.

The aspects of Cooking Well are not just in the Cook, but also in the components, the time, the audience and the stories about your meal.  It is the appreciation of all these elements that in the end will show how well you cook.

~The Honest Ramblings of an Incoherent Amateur Chef