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?).
Do you cook outdoors?
I took Friday off work and headed up to the secret enchanted mushroom forests to do some foraging. I didn’t have high expectations because the rain we received mid-week wasn’t nearly enough to encourage a good flush of tasty edibles. However, wandering around a forest always makes for a good day, with or without lots of mushrooms to pick.
I went to my most reliable chanterelle spot first and found nothing at all. It was a mushroom-free zone of the worst order. I wandered down the trail thinking I should give the whole area at least a quick look before abandoning ship. I almost stepped on the chanterelles in the picture below, as they were on the edge of the trail I was walking.
Look how well hidden they are in the leaves on the floor of the forest. Encouraged by this find, I examined this chunk of forest carefully. I found just 8 chanterelles in total. I also found two bug-eaten examples of hypomyces lactifluorum. Aha, I thought. The lobsters have started. I high-tailed it over to a nearby forest that always has loads of lobsters, but nada. So I drove to another productive lobster spot, a boggy hemlock forest. Again nada. At this spot, I was reminded that there are many inconsiderate idiots roaming this planet. See the photo below:
Who did they think was going to clean up after them?
Off I went to yet another forest. This is one I’ve only recently learned about. However, today there were no mushrooms around. It was a beautiful forest to walk through though.
Later on Friday, our pals Candy and Stagg came over, and also Behzad, another friend we’ve known for many years. We enjoyed some bbq and a couple excellent games of scrabble. It was great to see Candy and Stagg, who have been on an incredible roadtrip and recently arrived in Toronto.
Sometime this afternoon I realized, after thinking about BBQ, that I must be recovering very well from my bout with whatever nasty ailment dumped me on my butt for two days.
A simple dinner tonight – jumbo shrimps, marinated with a chipotle marinade, grilled on the bbq and served up with roasted spicy sweet potato wedges.
Lake Anchovy has drained away. The snow is gone. Today was beautiful. I hereby declare bbq season open at Anchovy World Headquarters. I took the winter cover off our Green Egg, found the charcoal chimney I had stashed in the shed back in the fall, and fired it up.
The head cold I have just won’t quit. Tuffy P and I should have bought stock in a tissue company because we’ve increased sales significantly. Normally I would treat a head cold with medicinal doses of very good scotch. My theory is that without scotch, a cold can last as long as 7-9 days but if you treat it with scotch it only lasts 7-9 days. Unfortunately I drained the last of the scotch in the house last week. Time for my backup cold treatment: comfort food. At this point I’ll ask my vegetarian and vegan friends to go do a crossword puzzle or something. I’m going to talk about bbq meatloaf.
This starts with ground beef and ground pork in a ratio of about 2 parts beef to 1 part pork. Add a couple eggs. Chop some onion and a bell pepper and add that in too. The texture of the meatloaf is defined by how fine you chop your onion and pepper. I like mine fairly coarse but you can make yours finer if you please. If you have some mushrooms around, chop some of those in as well. Add a handful of bread crumbs. Spice it up. I used my standard bbq rub mixture + fresh ground pepper. Then, mush the whole business around with your hands until you have some consistency.
When I bbq meatloaf, I make them in foil cake pans. Yesterday, I made three…one was for our 89 year old neighbour next door, who got his along with some of Tuffy P’s homemade chocolate chip cookies…another was for Tuffy’s dad. I form the loaves in the pans, leaving about a half-inch all around. Next, I lay strips of bacon on top of the loaves (cause that’s what mom did and it’s delicious). Then generously cover the whole business with the secret ingredient (cause that’s what mom did and it’s delicious). The secret ingredient is Heinz Chili Sauce. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone. To do meat loaf on the bbq, you need to have even indirect heat. I use a big green egg, but you can do this with any kind of bbq that allows you to get indirect heat. I suppose even gas grills will work. I cook the meat loaves at 375F. The amount of time you need depends on the size of the meat loaf. For a big one, you could need as long as an hour and a half. About 3/4 through the cooking time, brush on more chili sauce. Be careful your heat is not too high, or you’ll burn the top without cooking the inside and that’s no good at all.
I still have the cold, but now I feel better about it.
I enjoy cooking for family and friends. Today’s Easter dinner is over here. Our family on Tuffy’s side is coming over.
I had Mark the Village Butcher debone a leg of lamb for me. Actually it’s a leg and a half, tied together as a single roast. I’m going to roast it on the bbq. We use a big green egg, which I’ll set up for indirect heat by putting in a ceramic insert that causes the heat to flow up the sides and provides a handy place for a drip tray.
Last night I made stock from the bones, along with a few cloves of garlic, some rosemary and some shallots. I added some red wine and some butter and slowly cooked this down. Today I’ll put it back on the stove and continue cooking it down into a sauce for the lamb.
There will be plenty of veggies too. Last night, I made a pot of ratattoule, which just needs to be heated up for dinner. I’m going to roast potatoes and parsnips as a bed for the ratattoule, and finally, I’m making a batch of veggie biryani, for something a little different.
Let’s not forget, last night I made three loaves of paska. I haven’t been eating much bread, since I’ve been on the train shedding pounds, but I confess I broke down and had some paska toast this morning, and it was out of this world. I neglected to photograph the loaves, but you can see what our coffee can loaves look like from last year’s pictures on the old blog.
I started another page for this blog, called Dinner at the Anchovy’s. I made this page to keep track of good things to eat here at Anchovy World Headquarters. I started with tonight’s dinner, a version of the bbq vegetable soup we’ve made a few times in past months. I’ll let you know when I add to the page.
Fantastic weather today – sunny and almost warm – a perfect day for yard work, and for bbq. I decided to make smoked turkey legs, and here’s how I go about it.
First make a brine. I used water, loads of salt, some soy sauce and loads of crushed red peppers. Some people use sugar in their brines, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Pour the brine over the turkey legs and let them sit as long as you can. I’ve seen recipes that call for the turkey to sit in the brine for upwards of a day, but I don’t think it’s necessary to leave it that long. If you only have two or three hours, so be it.
Prepare the smoker. I use a Big Green Egg smoker. We use this for all our BBQ. We’ve had it for several years and I swear by it. I’ve never done this with a gas grill. Gas grills are a mystery to me. I know some people get good results with them, but I’ll take charcoal any day. I set up indirect heat with the grill over a drip pan and a temperature of about 200 F. I used plenty of damp hickory chips for additional smoke.
Take the turkey legs from the brine. Rinse them in cold water and pat them dry with paper towel. I then apply copious amounts of my favourite bbq rub before putting the legs on the grill. I removed the skin prior to smoking. You can smoke the legs with skin if you air dry them first. Otherwise you won’t get a nice texture on the skin.
Turn the legs every hour or so. I had mine in the smoker for about 5 hours. Some people baste them after two or three hours but if your temperature is low enough, the legs remain very juicy and it really isn’t necessary.
While they turkey smokes, work around the yard, maybe have a cold beer, talk to the neighbours, walk the dog…all this knowing dinner is going to be fantastic.