All posts by Ed Hitchcock

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.

Thanksgiving turkey dinner, Kamado style

Up here north of the border we celebrate Thanksgiving a little earlier than in the US – on the second Monday in October. It lets us enjoy the vestiges of warmth before we plunge into winter. And here in Ontario at least, November is typically pretty rotten. Of course, there is the added benefit to those south of the border that recipes we try out can be posted for you to use for your thanksgiving feasts!

This year we had to feed seventeen people for thanksgiving this year, so of course we prepared enough food for 30. The centrepiece was a 10.3 kg (22.7lb) turkey that I was dying to cook on the Kamado grill, along with acorn squash, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and a bunch of things cooked inside as well (which doesn’t involve actual fire, so I won’t go into details here).

The turkey:

  • 1 10 kg (22lb) dinosaur descendent. Air chilled fresh is better than frozen, and free-range is best of all, but usually double the price.
  • Beer brine – I loosely followed this recipe from Traeger Grills, but used only 1 500mL can of Pilsner Urquell, which I quite like using for cooking.
  • injection – 4 oz garlic infused olive oil + 1/2 can Pilsner Urquell, and a dash of creole seasoning.
  • 3 navel oranges, quartered
  • fresh rosemary and thyme

I don’t have a fridge big enough to store a brining bird for a day or two, so I got up early and brined the bird for about 5 or 6 hours in a cooler, with plenty of ice to keep the temperature down. I tilted the cooler so I didn’t have to fill it all the way, and kept the bird breast-side down in the brine, while the back was not submerged. I could have made more brine, but why bother? It’s the breast that really needs brining.

After brining I injected the breast, legs and thighs with the beer and garlic oil mixture, stuffed the oranges into the cavity, and slid sprigs of rosemary and thyme under the skin of the breast as well as into the cavity. Lastly I rubbed a little more garlic-infused olive oil all over the skin of the bird, thus ensuring it was completely impossible to handle.

I set up the Kamado with lots of charcoal (I like to use Canadian maple, beech and birch which gives a nice combination of heat and aromatic smoke), and two good chunks of apple wood. I set the heat deflector to the lower position, and slid in a drip pan. I placed an old cooling rack between the deflector and the pan so the drippings would not burn and produce acrid smoke that would affect the flavour – this is a little thing that can make a big difference.

I roasted the bird at about 350F. I say “about”, because while the Kamado is great at low and slow, or seering heat, but I find sometimes prolonged cooking at medium high temps can be finicky, so I had to make sure to keep an eye on it.

Now here’s the shocker – it cooked completely in three hours.

Yes, 22 pounds of turkey at 350F cooked in three hours, or a little over 8 minutes per pound, and the temperature rose very quickly over the last 15 minutes or so, so I had to be on my toes to pull it out at the right time. In fact, I was a little slow and the extra two minutes it took me to get my stuff together allowed to to overshoot slightly, mostly because I couldn’t believe it was ready so soon. It is important to have a good digital thermometer for this!

Despite the food safety guidelines, I would recommend pulling the bird out before the middle of the breast hits 155F, and I have heard as low as 151F. I tried for 155, but it crept up to 158 by the time I got it out. I tented with foil and drapes a tea towel over it and let it rest for a little over an hour (because I had to cook the veggies on the grill afterward), and during the rest the breast temp crept up to almost 170. So yes, definitely take it out before it hits 155 on a bird this size.

Here is what it looked like just before I pulled it off the grill:

Roast Dinosaur

But wait, there’s more!

While the turkey was resting, I tossed in some more charcoal and laid out the acorn squash (quartered, basted with a little oil and brown sugar) and sweet potatoes on the grill to roast for an hour. Next time I will perhaps start the sweet potatoes in the oven ahead of time, as they take a little longer to cook through. Doing them over charcoal gives them a little extra flavour to make them that much more special. If you have an upper rack (“grill extender”) you can also do a pan of stuffing, to add a little smoke flavour.

This whole meal came out very well, and I was extremely pleased (as were my well-fed guests). I’m not sure why the bird cooks so fast – but the fact that there is not a whole lot of space around the bird with the lid closed is part of it I’m sure. Next time I will be a little quicker yanking it off the heat, but otherwise I would do it again the same.

 

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!

Cooking with Indirect Heat

When cooking over fire you don’t always want the food directly over the flame. many cuts of meat and other foods need to cook slowly, more like baking or roasting than grilling, and for this we use indirect heat.

Indirect using a gas grill:

Heating indirectly with a gas grill is straightforward. Get all burners going to heat up the grill with the cover down, and once heated, turn off all burners but one. With my tube burner grill I leave on the one at the far left, and turn off the other two. This provides enough heat to keep the closed grill at about 300F, and anything on the right half is completely away from the flame. On my smaller H burner grill, there are only two burners, so one half is hot, leaving slightly less than half for indirect heating – though I can get higher temperatures because it is a larger burner. Interestingly, I find that the warming rack above tends to be hotter than the grill (heat rises, remember?), which is the opposite of cooking over direct heat.

Over Charcoal:

Indirect cooking over charcoal is much the same as over gas, but requires a little more hands-on work. What you want to do is get the fire going at one side of the grill, and place the meat on the other. You also want to raise the grill up as high as it will go, to keep the food from cooking unevenly. Many grills, like Kamado style cookers, have heat deflector plates for low and slow cooking. These are thick ceramic plates that are placed directly over the coals, so the heat has to flow around them, allowing you to cook indirectly over the entire cooking surface.

Cooking over indirect heat is fairly simple and intuitive, and the more you do it the more you will learn the idiosyncrasies of your grill, and it will become completely second nature.

 

Grilled corn on the cob

Okay, this one is really easy and really really good. And personally, I don’t think I will prepare corn any other way ever again.

Preparation:

Remove the husk and soak the cobs of corn for an hour or so in cold water with a little salt. Pat the corn dry, and drizzle with olive oil. Rub the olive oil all over the cobs so they are evenly covered. Be generous with the oil, but not so much that it’s oozing everywhere (drying the corn helps the oil stick).

Sprinkle the corn with fresh cracked salt and pepper, and any other spices you might want to add – I like a little Creole seasoning on mine.

Grill on medium high heat, rolling the cobs about 1/4 turn every two minutes or so. You want just a touch of charring, but obviously not completely burnt. Once it has been charred all the way around, move to a cooler part of the grill, or a warming rack, or to indirect heat for another 2 minutes or so to finish off.

That’s it. Eat.  With the oil and spices on it already, there is no need for butter and salt (though if you want to guild the lily…).

Try it, and let me know what you think!

corn

Grilled tuna steaks

Tuna is an interesting fish. Most of us have had canned tuna, but fresh tuna is a completely different animal in taste, texture, and of course preparation. While the canned variety is inexpensive, fresh tuna can be quite pricey, upwards of $50 a kilo. But sometimes it goes on sale at our local grocery store, and then it is definitely time for this recipe.

Unlike other fish, I like to treat tuna steaks as actual steaks – I prepare them and cook them in a very similar manner to beef. Grilled tuna is meaty, takes flavours well, and is very nutritious. Depending on how hungry everyone is, I count on 150-200g (5-7 oz) per person, but have had the occasional feast of 1/2 pound or more.

Ingredients:

  • Tuna steaks, about 3/4″ to 1″ thick. 
  • Salt & pepper
  • garlic powder
  • lemon zest

Prepare the tuna as you would steaks: pat them dry, sprinkle both sides with fresh ground salt and pepper, garlic powder, and lemon zest. Lets sit for up to 1/2 hr while you get the grill heated up to let the flavours penetrate, and let the fish warm up to room temperature.

Get the grill hot. On my gas grill I cook on medium high to high, and on my charcoal grill I will cook around 500F. Season the grill with a touch of oil to prevent sticking, and put those bad boys straight on the grill. Unlike other fish, tuna does not fall apart when cooked, so using a topper is not necessary.

Cooking time is fairly short – over charcoal I do about 1.5 minutes per side, then finish off with another 30 seconds per side at a different angle (you know, for grill lines). On the gas grill slightly longer, maybe 2 minutes and 1 minute.

That’s it, serve right away. It does not need to rest like beef. It should be nicely seared on the outside, with the inside retaining some pink colour. Serve as you would steak, with a salad or your favourite veggies. If you want to sauce it up a little you can use just about anything from salsa to BBQ sauce. I quite like it with Danger Sauce myself.

Enjoy!

tuna

Tagliata

Tagliata is something I fell in love with on my trip to Italy a few years ago. Basically, it is a steak cooked rare, sliced thin, laid over a bed of rocket (arugula), drizzled with a little olive oil and topped with shaved parmesan cheese. Simple, elegant, and tasty.

I’ve had my Kamado grill for less than a week, but decided it was time to dry some high-temperature searing of steak – mostly because I found a nice Angus top sirloin on sale at Longo’s… So here’s what I did:

Meat – as I mentioned, it was a top sirloin steak, about 1″ thick, and about 0.63 kg (22 Oz). I seasoned it with salt, pepper and garlic powder, letting it sit for about an hour with the seasonings on it.

Fire – I stoked up the Kamado, getting it up to about 650 F.

Beer – nothing to do with th erecipe, but I had  Red Racer White while cooking…

Other preparations:

following a suggestion from one of Steven Raichlen’s books, I mixed a little olive oil, garlic, and fresh rosemarry sprigs and spread it out on the bottom of a baking dish for the meat to rest on when done. I also washed and spun some arugula and spring mix greens.

Cooking the steak turned out to be quite easy. I gave it about a minute, rotated, another minute, flip, give it a minute, rotate, and shut the vents down to drop the combustion way down, and left it for three minutes. Then a I transferred it to the dish of oil, garlic and rosemary (I just used two or three tablespoons of oil, not 1/2 inch like Raichlen), let it sit for a minute, then flipped it and let it rest for 5 minutes. Then Sliced it thin.

For serving, lay slices of the steak (which was actually more medium rare – have to go hotter and faster next time) over a bed of arugula, drizzle with a little olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar, and shave some parmesan on top. I also had a spring mix salad, with some craisins and pumpkin seeds, which we love, and for fun I threw on some red peppers to grill while the steak was cooking.

I must say, that seared-over-charcoal flavour of the steak is substantially better than the steaks I did on the gas grill, and I used to be really happy with those.

Now, here’s a little bonus with this recipe: go light on the steak, with lots of salad, throw on the grilled veggies, and you have a super-tasty, grilled delight which is actually healthy for you. Sure, once in a while it’s great to really go for glory with the meat, but not every day. That 22 oz. of steak fed a family of four, with leftovers.

Hops, hops, and more hops.

Let me be clear. I am now, and have always been, a hophead. I love hops. From old classics like Liberty Ale to Amsterdam’s Boneshaker to hyper-hopped beers like those from Dogfish Head and Stone. Love’em.

But…

Yes, there is a but.

There are many many styles of beer that are fabulous without being super bitter and more floral than my rose garden. And I fear that these beers and styles are being overlooked in the mad rush for ever-hoppier IPA’s. While the classic styles may face little risk of displacement in their home markets, being displaced from the North American market (where the hyper-hop trend is strongest) means reduced sales for these breweries, but also that the NA drinking public will miss out on a wide range of styles and really excellent beers.

So here’s what I do, and feel free to join me. I’m not going to boycott hoppy beers, far from, I will continue to enjoy them, but (and yes, another but…) I will make a conscious effort to by a craft beer of a more traditional style for every supper hoppy IPA I buy. That way when I am sharing beer with friends I can expose them to styles they might not otherwise encounter. So I’ll pick up some Musoka Summer Weiss when I get Mad Tom. Or Mill Street Organic when I buy Amsterdam’s Boneshaker. Or – and here’s the real winner – I’ll pick up a Beau’s Beaver River I.P.Eh. Because even though it’s an IPA, it is more traditional in it’s hopping – well balanced, delightful, and not over the top.

So who’s with me?

Danger Sauce

Why do I call this Danger Sauce? Well, because I can. Try it, and tell me if you don’t think it’s dangerous!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups Orange Juice
  • 1 cup tamoato sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups beer (I Barking Squirrel, a malty lager)
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 1 tbsp cider vinnegar
  • 3 tbps guava paste, or 1/3 cup guava jam
  • 1 tbsp raw (turbinado) sugar
  • 1 tsp salt – I like non-iodized sea salt or pink salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp roasted cumin
  • 1 tsp grainy mustard

Measure out the OJ, beer, and tomato sauce into a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, get the dry ingredients ready. Chop the chipotle with it’s sauce. I have a hand-blender, so I add a touch of orange juice to the chipotle and whirr it up, making a nice paste I can add a bit at a time.

Once the liquids have reduced by about 1/4, add the dry spices, vinegar, guava sugar and mustard. Stir thoroughly, particularly if using guava paste – you want it to dissolve fully.

Let it simmer (stirring occasionally) for another 5-10 minutes, then taste to see if more orange or guava is needed, or more salt or pepper, then add about half of the ground chipotle. Stir, and after 5 min taste again. The hotness is up to you, add the rest of the chipotle if you like a kick to it, leave it out if you like a slow simmer from your chipotles. Or add more if you are a real hot pepper lover.

Simmer for 10 minutes more, then cool, and store in the fridge. Keeps for several weeks.

This sauce is great for glazing as well as a little dipping on the side. Goes great with poultry, but also darn tasty with pork. I would love to know what you think, so if you decide to make this sauce, leave a comment below. Enjoy!