In my travels this weekend I stopped in at Ontario Gas BBQ. My friends might think this is odd behaviour for me since I don’t own a gas or propane grilling unit, but in fact this place also sells an amazing selection of equipment and fuel for the charcoal bbq fanatic as well.
In fact they have an entire room dedicated to charcoals of the world. You might say charcoal is charcoal, right? There is even a website dedicated to charcoal reviews. I’ve tried a few different ones over the years, and I’ll say some charcoals might be better for slow bbq and others might be better for when you need very hot heat – there are definite differences in density of various charcoals available for the bbq freak. As well, some charcoals tend to arrive at the store in bigger chunks while others come all smashed up. I find bigger chunks give me the kind of air flow I want for hot grilling. Overall though, I’m not too fussy. I usually buy Maple Leaf charcoal, a quality Canadian brand, and it serves me very well.
I should say that I have nothing against cooking with gas grills. I know lots of people like them a lot, especially those swanky units with the side burners and bun warmers and who knows what else, and they’re very satisfied with the results they get. If it works for you, great. Go for it. If I’m going to cook outside though, I want the results I can get with real charcoal (and I’m not talking about those weird pre-fabricated briquets. What’s in those things?).
Tuffy P brought me dinner today from The Pie Commission, located near Queensway and Islington here in Toronto. Check out their menu! Tuffy brought me two of these small pies home for dinner, a chicken cheddar bacon mash pie and their special today, a pulled pork pie. The chicken cheddar bacon mash pie was excellent but the pulled pork pie was total smokey paradise. Perfect!
The Pie Commission gets the 27th Street seal of approval. 935 The Queensway, entrance at rear off Queen Elizabeth Blvd. Serious pie action.
In our area, I rarely see poblano chiles in our grocery stores, so when I saw them at Starsky’s the other day, I bought a bunch of them. Some went into last night’s soup and the rest I popped into the dehydrator. Dried, poblanos are called anchos, and they’re great in just about anything. I sampled a few of the dried ones and they’re tasty as snacks. I was surprised at how variable the heat is from one chile to another. Some are totally mild, others have a bit of heat, and a few of them offer up more heat than you’d expect.
I’ve noticed, looking at the stats for this blog, that quite a few people have been searching for ways to prepare lobster mushrooms. Here’s one way – the way I prepared them for dinner tonight in fact.
Lobster mushroom and sausage omelet
lobster mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
two or three eggs
some tasty sausage (I used Goralska Polish sausage)
grated awesome cheese
In a cast iron pan, sautee the mushrooms with a little vegetable oil on medium heat. Lobsters are very firm mushrooms that hold their texture. As well, they don’t shed water in the cooking process the way some other mushrooms do. After a few minutes in the pan, add some chopped up sausage and let it cook together. You want the sausage to start to crisp up and the mushrooms to start turning a nice golden colour. When this is ready, transfer to a non-stick pan. I know you’re going to say, aw c’mon, do I have to use two pans? The answer is yes. I like the way the mushrooms and the sausage cook up in a cast iron pan, but in the end you’re making an omelet and non-stick pans are great for omelets. So, you transfer the sausage and mushrooms to a non-stick pan. With the transfer, they’ll bring along enough oil for the omelet. Heat up the pan to the high side of medium. While that’s happening, beat up your eggs with a fork. Some people add a little splash of milk. You can do that if you want. I usually don’t. When the pan is hot, pour the mixture over the mushrooms and sausage and move the pan around to spread around the eggs. When the eggs are just about done, toss some of your awesome grated cheese on top (tonight I used an old gruyere). Let it melt on there for a moment, fold two sides of the omelet to the middle and serve it up, maybe with a spoon of good salsa and some fresh ground pepper and just a wee bit of salt. There are a million variations. If you have some fresh herbs, chop them into the egg mixture before pouring it onto the pan.
If you want something even simpler and still super-delicious, sautee the lobster mushrooms in your cast iron pan until they get nice and golden. Add salt and fresh ground pepper and maybe a wee bit of some ground hot chiles and spoon loads of the mushrooms onto toast. Just that simple.
The Mushroom Hunters – On the Trail of an Underground America, by Langdon Cook, explores a foraging culture the extent of which I had never imagined. The massive extraction on tasty edibles from the woods of the mountain west is driven by popularity of local foods in so many restaurants. The morels in that sauce have to come from somewhere.
The book introduces us to pickers and buyers and gives us an insider’s view of mushroom camps that are more like temporary villages, complete with competing buyers who set up their buying tables right in the camps. Pickers pull out dozens of pounds of mushrooms. Some of these pickers pull more mushrooms out of the woods in a day than I’ve picked in local woods in the years I’ve been foraging. The quantities are staggering. Some of those western woods are mushroom factories.
If I lived out there and knew that all the best mushroom spots were overrun with commercial pickers I might not be so happy (although I’d be happy to find a forest with a fraction of the tasty fungi those characters pull out of the forest). Here in Ontario I’ve never seen those quantities of mushrooms. Maybe there are areas where people can pick commercially, but I haven’t found them. In the areas I forage, if one other picker has been around, it’s time to go to another forest. There just aren’t that many mushrooms to go around.
The Mushroom Hunters is a fascinating insight into a world most of us did not know even existed. It’s a compelling book that focuses on the author’s interaction with a few people who make their living foraging. I think that people who are interested in nature and food and unusual occupations would really enjoy this book. You don’t have to be a mushroom-hound to read it.
First, I grilled half a dozen cobs of corn on the bbq (yes, a charcoal one) along with some red shepherd’s peppers and a chunk of kielbasa (I used a 6 inch chunk of Goralska from Starsky’s sliced in half lengthwise). I let the corn brown some. I allow the skin of the peppers to blacken some and then I peel off most of the blackened bits later.
Then in the kitchen…
I started some onions cooking up in a Dutch oven with a little oil on the bottom and a pinch of salt and a good pinch of dried scotch bonnets. I chopped up two carrots and tossed them in the pot and I added in a couple cloves of garlic from the garden. Then I stripped the corn cobs and tossed in the kernels, and chopped up the peppers and tossed those in as well. I chopped up the kielbasa, except for one bite-sized piece which I sampled (strictly in the interest of science). I added two chopped up baking potatoes (I think the starchy potatoes rock in this soup), and chopped up and added a few plum tomatoes. I then added in lots of stock, a couple bay leafs, and chopped and tossed in loads of fresh basil from the garden.
I let the whole business simmer away for around an hour. An amazing soup!
(oh, almost forgot….I tempered some milk and added a little to each bowl before serving)
I was asked today how I cooked the chanterelles I found on the weekend. Here is what I did. I fired up the bbq (I burn charcoal), and grilled a couple chicken breasts. Nothing fancy here. I used one of my standard bbq rubs – a spicy one – and simply grilled the chicken until it was almost done. Meanwhile back at the ranch, I started frying up my chanterelles – loads of them – in a wok with a little vegetable oil and some chopped up shallots and a wee pinch of salt. After a few minutes I added some zucchini halved and cut in roughly 1 inch pieces. I let this all cook until the mushrooms were almost done, then chopped up my bbq chicken into pieces the same size as the zucchini and tossed it in. I let it all cook together for a few minutes, added plenty of fresh ground pepper and there you have it. Spicy grilled chicken with chanterelles and courgettes.
I like granola for breakfast, but I got tired of buying mediocre overpriced granola. I thought, hey I bet it’s easy to make your own. Turns out it is and it’s spectacular. Mine has oatmeal, bran, flax meal, wheat germ, 3 kinds of nuts, 2 kinds of seeds, dried cranberry, sultanas, dried apples, cinnamon, honey, some really good olive oil and a wee bit of maple syrup. If I had planned better, I could have used the dehydrator I use for mushrooms and dried my own fruit too. Next time.