DIY Ketchup

Ah, ketchup.  That simple, and yet oh so necessary condiment. Not only is it great on burgers and fries, it is also often used as a base for other sauces. So I decided I wanted to make my own. And you know what? There are about a gajillion recipes for ketchup, all of them different, and all of them sound fantastic. So being indecisive, I decided to pull bits from half a dozen or so different recipes, and this is what I came up with:

Ed’s Everything but the Kitchen Sink Spicy Ketchup:

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 5 oz can tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp creole seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper (or steak spice).
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle powder

Combine all ingredients but the vinegar in a saucepan, bring to a simmer and stir well. It will splatter, so be careful. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the vinegar and stir thoroughly, simmer for another 10 minutes or so partly covered (to allow some evaporation, but prevent spattering).  It should thinken up slightly, but it will thinken up more as it cools. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then transfer to a container and refrigerate.

This recipe is a little less sweet than commercial ketchups, and has just a little simmer of heat. With my first batch I added the vinegar at the start, and lost some of the tartness, which is why I recommend adding it later. Of course, one could always just ad a little more.

This recipe has a lot in it. Like most of my recipes, there are no hard and fast rules – feel free to adjust, add, or eliminate as you like, based on your own tastes. Enjoy!

Even Steven Butt Rub

Here’s another rub recipe, which is much lower in paprika than my 4-3-2-1 rub. This one I call Even Steven, because I use only one measuring implement – usually a 1/3 or 1/2 cup measuring scoop – to measure everything. That keeps it nice and simple, and it doesn’t matter what size of a batch you make, you don’t need to calculate when scaling up or down, just keep the proportions the same!

Even Steven Butt Rub:

  1. Full scoop of paprika. I use a combination of sweet and hot – mostly sweet, but then top it up with a little of the hot. Maybe 5:1 sweet to hot.
  2. Full scoop ground black pepper. I like a medium grind, not the fine grind used in pepper shakers, but not so coarse it doesn’t mix well.
  3. Full scoop salt. I typically use kosher salt, again for the medium grain size – fine salt comes out too salty, coarse chunky rock salt doesn’t mix well, and also falls off the meat.
  4. Full scoop mixed granulated garlic and onion, about 50:50 – I use the  stuff that is about the consistency of table salt (“granulated”, as opposed to “powder”, which is finer, but really either would work).
  5. Full scoop assorted herbs and spices. Here you can get pretty creative, what I do is typically ~ 1/4 to 1/3 scoop chipotle powder, a little cumin (a bit less than a teaspoon for a 1/3 cup scoop), about 1/3 scoop dried oregano, half as much (~1/6 scoop) dried thyme, and topped up with whatever else you have – I’ve used chilli powder, or a little creole seasoning, or ground coffee, a little cocoa powder, or whatever strikes my fancy. Or just level it off with the other items from the scoop.

Just toss all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly, and then store in a container with a shaker lid. I like to keep the plastic containers my bulk spices come in and use those, because they have the shaker lids that snap open and shut, and they come free with the ingredients!

I use this rub often for pork and chicken. If I’m doing ribs I’ll mix it about 50:50 with brown sugar (maybe 60:40), for doing a butt I’ll mix it 70:30 with brown sugar, and for chops, tenderloin or chicken I’ll use it straight without mixing any sugar.

Have fun with it, and enjoy!

Chimichurri

Here in North America, we tend to think of steak as a thing by itself. Sure, we have the occasional steak sandwich, or maybe even a little steak sliced on a nice salad – but that’s not, you know, Steak. But elsewhere in the world a good steak is often fancied up by making it into a dish (such as Florentine tagliata), or by the addition of sauces or condiments.

Chimichurri is a sort of Argentine pesto used as a sauce on grilled meats. It seems a little weird to us northerners to put a green sauce on a steak, but trust me, it’s fabulous, and I’m really surprised it hasn’t caught on more. Here’s my recipe:

  • 3/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 3/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper.

Toss all ingredients in a food processor and blend it into a paste, let it sit in the fridge for an hour or so for the flavours to meld. It will keep for a couple days in the fridge.

Of course, feel free to play with the recipe – I certainly did. Some people hate coriander – fine, use all parsley. Or toss in a little basil or oregano. Traditionally it is made with wine vinegar, but I like to use cider vinegar – again, experiment with what you’ve got and what you like. A little squeeze of lime might be good too, or a dollop of chipotle paste to give it some kick.

Next time you’re grilling up some nice beef, give it a try, and let me know how you liked it.

Pulled Pork Tacos

Who doesn’t love pulled pork (or, as it’s called in the land of my birth, barbecue)? It is tasty, inexpensive, and you get a lot all at once, especially if you get a whole (“New York”) shoulder. I like to smoke a pile and freeze it in small packages that can be used for lunches and quick meals. But sometimes I don’t feel like just making a standard pulled pork sandwich, and want something a little different. One thing I like to do, particularly in the summer, is make soft tacos with the pork on small corn tortillas, and top with pico de gallo and mango slaw. These are very tasty and refreshing, and without dousing them with cheese or sour cream they don’t give you that “I ate way too much” feeling.

I won’t give a recipe for pulled pork here – I’ll assume you have some on hand. If not, why not? There’s all sorts of recipes out there, get going!

Pico de Gallo (Salsa Fresca)

  • 2 medium to large tomatoes, diced and drained.
  • chopped onion – about 1/2 cup. You can use green onions, or red onions for a bit more kick, or vidalias for a bit more sweetness.
  • chopped cilantro – about 1/3 cup, more if you are a fan, less if not so much
  • 1 finely chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper seeded and chopped (can be omitted if you or your guests don’t like the heat)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • juice of one lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • drizzle of olive oil (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. If you let it sit in the fridge for an hour or more the flavours blend nicely.

Mango Slaw

  • 1 lb package shredded cabbage for slaw, or finely shred 1 lb of cabbage
  • 1 green, unripe mango, sliced into strips. If you don’t have a mandolin, you can use a peeler to peel fat strips of mango and cut these into thin strips with a knife.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper, 1/4 tsp each or to taste.

Combine all ingredients and toss well. This is a very lightly dressed coleslaw, and not sweet. Be sure to use unripe mango for a nice refreshing tang and a bit of crunch. Ripe mango is too soft and sweet.

And that’s pretty much it! Grab a corn tortilla, a dollop of pork, pico do gallo and top with the slaw. If you like more of a kick, hit it with your favourite hot sauce, and enjoy on a summer evening with a refreshing beer. I find it goes great with hefeweizen, but your tastes may differ from mine.

Both the slaw and the pico de gallo will keep for at least a day in the fridge, so by all means leave enough for leftovers!

Peppercorn crusted cross rib roast

In my last post I talked about the flavour of cuts from the chuck, or shoulder region. The cross rib roast is another cut from the chuck, so it has all that wonderful flavour as well. This cut is often de-boned and tied, and is quite lean compared to other chuck roasts. It does have a few strands of connective tissue, but these can be tolerated because the rest of the roast is so good. This cut, being fro the chuck, is also considerably cheaper than fancier cuts like prime rib.

We are going to do a reverse sear on this roast, cooking it indirectly for about an hour, and then putting over direct high heat to put a crust on it.

Ingredients:

  • Cross rib roast, about 3 lb
  • steak spice, coarsely ground
  • fresh cracked black pepper

Take the meat out of the fridge at least an hour ahead of time. You want the meat to cook evenly, and if the centre of the meat is still cold, you will end up overcooking the outer portion to get the inner portion right. Pat the meat dry, and coat thoroughly with coarsely ground steak spice, plus extra black pepper (Or you could just mix up your steak spice with extra pepper!). You want to lay down a pretty a pretty thick coating so it’s thoroughly crusted up.

Set your grill or smoker for indirect cooking – I use my kamado with the heat deflector – and preheat it to 250-270F. I like to add a little wood to the fire, not a lot, because we aren’t smoking the roast, but a chunk of hardwood (maple, oak, apple or hickory all work well) gives it a little extra character. Put the meat on, and let it cook indirect for about an hour (exact time will depend on your setup, and size of roast). You want an internal temperature between 115 and 120F.

When it reaches the target temperature, the next step is to sear it on all sides with high temperature. If you are using a gas grill, especially one with a ceramic sear burner, just crank it up, and move the roast over the heat to sear. If, like me, you are cooking indirect over charcoal, it may be a bit trickier. I transferred the roast to a board. covered with tinfoil and a tea towel to keep it warm, then removed the heat deflector and opened it up. It only took a few minutes to get up to nice high sear temp, and then I replaced the roast.

Sear it for 1-2 minutes per side (and I mean in-the-thick-of-it, honest to goodness high temperature searing to crust it up). And, being a roast, that would probably be 5 sides (4 sides + one flat end). Remove from heat, tend with foil, and let rest for 10-30 minutes.

That’s pretty much it. Slice and enjoy!

(for some reason I didn’t take any pics this time. Next time.  I promise)

 

 

Petite Tender with Grilled Pepper & Onion

When I was a kid, we often had chuck steaks. These were pretty inexpensive cuts, because they were kind of tough, but they had a lot of flavour. I recall being disappointed with a sirloin steak – a pricer cut with a fancier name, because though it was more tender, it was much less flavourful.

Fast forward a few decades.

I have not seen “chuck steaks” in a long time. The chuck, or shoulder region, is often sold as a roast (such a cross-rib roast) because the connective tissue that makes it tough breaks down with long slow cooking. But a few cuts from the chuck are gaining in popularity, because they are cut lengthwise, with the muscle fibre (like a flank steak), thus eliminating the tough connective tissue. The flat iron steak is one of these, and the petite tender (also called shoulder tender or bistro filet) is another.

The petite tender (a name that others me – choose a language and stick with it!) is shaped like a stubby pork tenderloin, about 6″ long. And it is one of the most tender cuts of beef, and full of that wonderful chuck flavour. This cut can be hard to find, so I was pretty excited to find they now carry it at one of my local grocery stores, Longo’s. But his wasn’t just beef, it was Certified Angus Beef (CAB). Oh, and did I mention it’s not an expensive cut? Yup, poor man’s filet mignon! So here’s what  did with it:

  • 4 Petite tender steaks, about 7 oz each (they were 2 in a package)
  • Steak spice (see my recipe here)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 large sweet onion (spanish or vidalia)

If you are using charcoal, you’ll want to get the fire going to make sure it’s ready when you are. Pat the steaks dry with paper towel, and coat liberally with steak spice. Make sure the spice adheres well to the meat – get your hands in there.

Chop the pepper in half lengthwise, and remove the stem and seeds. Cut the onion into thick rings. Get the grill up to medium high heat, season the grill with a little oil and put the onions and peppers (skin side down) directly on the grill. You can put a serious char on the peppers, as we will be removing the skin, but keep flipping the onion so it doesn’t burn. The onions are done when the soften up and get floppy and you think they might start falling through the grill. The red peppers should also soften up and loose their rigidity.

There are all sorts of recommendations for peeling roast peppers – from cold water to sealed containers to paper bags. If you have a favourite, use it, but once charred the skin scrapes off easily. Once the skin is off the peppers, slice them into narrow strips. Keep the onions and peppers by the grill, we’ll need them again shortly.

With the grill still at medium high heat (I run my kamado at about 500F), put the steaks on the grill at a bit of an angle to the lines of the grill. You might be tempted to cook these hotter – I often do steaks at 700F or so, but these are lean cuts and can scorch more easily. You may want to lightly coat the steak with a little oil to help prevent this.

I cook my steaks for 2 minutes, rotate them (to get cross-grill lines) and cok for another 2 minutes, flip them, 2 minutes, then bring them to a part of the grill away from the most intense heat, top with the onions and peppers, close down the vents and let cook indirectly for 4 minutes.

transfer the steaks to a plate or board, loosely tent with foil, and let rest for at least five minutes. Serve with veggies, potato, or salad of choice.

photo 4

If you want to guild the lilly, so to speak, you could mix in a little soft goat cheese with the onion and peppers, or a little herbed butter, which then melts nicely in that last few minutes of cooking.

This is a great way to serve a terrific cut of meat.

Enjoy!

Steak spice, take 2

A year and a half ago, I write a little post about steak spice. At that time I was moving from light seasoning to more intentional and aggressive seasoning. Well, I’m all about learning, and I’ve been doing a lot of learning over the last few years. So here’s what I’m using now to season my steaks:

  • 1/4 cup coarse salt – I use a mix of sea salt and Himalayan pink salt. Just because.
  • 1/3 cup mixed peppercorns – black, white, pink, green. Yum. Mix it up.
  • 1/4 cup dried minced garlic and onion – I lean towards a little more garlic than onion, but I just use the 1/4 cup measure and fill it with both. It’s easier that way.
  • 1 tbsp coriander seed
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes

You may notice that all of the ingredients are coarse and chunky. There’s a reason for that; freshly ground pepper and coriander have more flavour. So I mix it all up and throw it into a pepper grinder so I can grind it fresh over the meat. I managed to find a grinder that holds a full cup of spice, and has a flip out handle for those times when you need a lot.

And let me toss in a little bonus tip: for those times you want to take it up an extra notch, make a small batch (half or quarter all the measurements) and toast the pepper, coriander and mustard seed. Put them in a dry sauce pan on medium high heat, and roll them around. After about a minute the mustard seed will start to snap and pop out of the pan. Remove from heat and let sit for maybe half a minute more, and transfer the spices to a clean bowl to cool.  Then mix as above. Toasting these spices gives them a little extra dimension, and makes them more aromatic. But that extra flavour doesn’t last long – so this is counter-productive when making a big batch. Save it for when you really want to impress someone.

Enjoy!

 

Best, irreproducible pork chops.

Let me tell you a story of some of the best pork chops I ever made, and how the recipe can probably never be reproduced.

It was late spring, about two years ago. We had picked up some nice fresh Ontario pork chops, and I was looking forward to tossing them on the grill. Nothing exotic, just a little salt, pepper, garlic and glazing of sauce. When we got home it was starting to cloud up, so I rushed to get the gas grill started. I didn’t want to grill in a downpour, so I didn’t want to wait for charcoal to get up to temperature.

My wife helpfully suggested that we could cook them inside, but I figured there was time. And besides, grill vs pan? Come on.

So I tossed the chops on medium heat as the clouds darkened. after a few minutes I flipped them, and that’s when it hit.

To be honest, I don’t know what kind of storm it was, but terms like “microburst” and “supercell” come to mind. For about half an hour the weather was so severe I would not risk the 4 metre walk from my back to to the grill. Wind gusts must have exceeded 100 km/h. Rain was horizontal.  Chairs were flying. The grill, of course, went out.

When it passed, I did what any die hard outdoor chef would do – I went back out and re-lit the grill and finished off the chops.

I thought they would be mediocre at best, inedible at worst, but hey, grilled pork chops. But no, they were juicy and tasty. I think by heating, and then removing heat, and then finishing off I pretty much did an accidental reverse-sear.

So my irreproducible chop recipe is as follows:

  • start with 2 thick fresh pork chops
  • apply fresh cracked pepper, salt, and garlic powder
  • set the grill to medium heat, and cook 5 minutes per side
  • get hit by a tornado
  • once severe weather passes, relight the grill. Set to medium-high, cook chops for 2-3 minutes per side, add BBQ sauce of your choice, and grill for another 2 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 145F.

 

 

Note to self…

Today I had the Kamado going in the afternoon to cook up a variety of goodies for tonight and for the week – a couple of pork roasts and a beef sirloin roast, and I was going to throw on some potatoes and a squash for the last hour or so. The problem was that I way overestimated the cooking time of the beef. It was done well ahead of when I had planned, so I had to keep it from getting too cool as it rested while I roasted the veggies.

Basically a big fiasco time-wise.

In the end it all came out okay – the beef was more on the medium side of medium rare, but tasted fine, and the potatoes and squash were good, and one pork roast is ready for another dinner, while I pulled the other for sandwiches for the week. But I have to remember this. Note to self: beef cooks WAY faster than pork.

Perfect Pork Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin is an almost perfect cut of meat. It is lean, tender, flavourful, and reasonably inexpensive. For the health-conscious, pork tenderloin is comparable to chicken in terms of high protein, low fat content, and low in overall calories (about 40 calories/oz, or 140 calories/100g). The only downside to tenderloin is that it is so lean, it can easily be overcooked and dry. To prevent this, I have been playing with a reverse sear method, and with lots of variation it has not once let me down.

Ingredients:

  • Pork tenderloin (a 1 lb tenderloin will do for 2-3 people, depending how hungry they are)
  • fresh cracked salt & pepper
  • garlic powder
  • barbecue sauce

Pat the tenderloins dry with paper towel, and lightly dust with the salt, pepper, and garlic powder. If you want you can add some extra flavours of your own, like steak spice or a little creole seasoning.

Prepare your grill for indirect heat, and cook the meat for about 25 minutes at 275-300F.

Transfer the meat to direct medium heat, flipping it so bottom is now on top, and baste the tops with a little barbecue sauce. After 5 minutes, flip the meat, and baste the other side with sauce. after 5 minutes flip again, give it three minutes, and then take it off to rest for 5 minutes, tented with foil, before slicing to serve. If you have a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should be between 145 and 150, and not over 155.

I have found this technique to be both easy and very forgiving, with the end result being tender and juicy every time. Give it a go, and let me know what you think!

Three things that go really, really well together.