January 16, 2012

Beer Butt Chook

Well, I did make this chicken in Australia, and therefore it must be a chook...?

27 days of eating, drinking, and being merry. I've just come out of an amazing holiday season that I spent with Nathan and my parents. It has been a hard adjustment to say goodbye to them knowing that, because I live on the other side of the world, it could be another long haul until I see them again. Either way, holidays are never really over because they live on in our memories. And boy do I have some good memories. 

Of those 27 days, 12 were spent at our home in Adelaide. We went on a lot of adventures while here, had some great lunches, but every single night but one was spent at my house. That's 11 dinners in a row - with not a lot of time for prep in a given day. If you know me, you'd know I didn't take this task lightly.

Brilliantly, I sat down with Nathan ahead of the holidays and made a meal plan for the nights in Adelaide. That, I must admit, was genius on my part. The other thing that made my life SO much easier was having my beautiful Mom as my "sous chef." I'll halt there and pick that up in another blog entry. Let's get on with the main takeaway for you - the juiciest, easiest, yummiest chicken I have ever made. Enjoy!

1 whole chicken
1 can of beer at room temperature

Rub - you can use any rub you like, I've played around a lot and loved this one:
2 tsp chile powder 
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp paprika (can used smoked for added va va voom)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
a few grinds of sea salt and pepper 

1. Wash chicken in cold water and pat dry with paper towel. My chickens don't have any of the insides in them - but if yours does, remove and discard.
2. Cover chicken with rub, using all the rub. If you have some left over when the chicken is covered, I suggest pouring it in the cavity for extra flavour. 
3. Pour out half the beer. Using a small knife, carefully put two more holes in the top of the can. Slide the chicken over the beer can.
4. Carefully place on the BBQ, placing the legs forward so the can and the two legs make a tripod. BBQ over indirect medium heat for about an hour - the time will depend entirely on your BBQ, but the chicken's internal temperature taken at the thickest part of the thigh, with out hitting the bone, should be 170F. 
5. Let the chicken rest 10 minutes before carving. 

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

November 21, 2011

Brussels Sprouts Gratin with Rosemary and Aged Cheddar

Now if you're one of the 80 percent of the world that won't eat Brussels Sprouts, I compel you to take a moment and re-evaluate.

What is it about these tasty little bundles that you hate? They've barely got any flavour, so it can't really be that. They have a similar texture to some household favourites, so it can't be that. Does it stem from the fact that when you're Mom served them up there were, maybe, more interesting items on the plate? Turkey? Roast beef? Mashed potatoes and gravy? Yorkshire puddings?

For whatever reason, the fact that Brussels Sprouts seem to often accompany a special family dinner, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, means something. It means they are a decent side dish. Until now.

I've been wanting to try this recipe since I saw it in my Fine Cooking mag. Last night, I served this showstopper to Nathan, not as a side dish, but as the main meal - the only meal. Do yourself a favour and see why Brussels Sprouts are no longer a decent side dish but rather a wonderful complement that will make anyone come back for seconds.

4 tbsp butter
1 - 1.5 lbs Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 large shallots, halved
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
3/4 cup Aged Cheddar Cheese
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs 
2 tsp fresh rosemary finely chopped
1/4 cup parmesan, grated

1. Heat oven to 375 F, with rack positioned in centre. Using a food processor, slice the shallots and Brussels Sprouts. 

2. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat until it begins to brown and starts smelling nutty. Reserve 1 tbsp of melted butter. Add Brussels and shallots to pan and toss while cooking until softened, about 6-8 mins. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Meanwhile in a small saucepan, add cream, milk, cheese, cayenne pepper and nutmeg and heat over medium heat until cheese is melted, whisking occasionally, without boiling. 

4. Mix the panko, rosemary and parmesan with the reserved butter. Put brussels mixture in a pie plate, add sauce (gently jiggle it to mix), top with panko mixture. 

5. Bake for 15 or so minutes until breadcrumbs start to brown and edges are bubbling. Let sit for 5 minutes before dishing up. 

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

November 17, 2011

Bistro Steak with Horseradish Dip

Scalloped potatoes. Here, they're called potato bake. If only I grew up here. I spent the first half of my life hating scalloped potatoes. The reason for my hate was obvious to me - I hated, and still hate, seafood. I wouldn't dare touch a dish with scallops or any other fishy grossness. One fateful evening I learned something. My Mom said, "Why do you hate scalloped potatoes?" when she saw me not eating them. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and explained something that I thought was dead obvious, "Mom, I don't like seafood!" Finally it was explained to me that scalloped potatoes didn't actually have scallops in them, they are called that after the cut of the potato! (I know, what?!)

Anyway, other than the fact that this recipe would go great with scalloped potatoes, this is a completely irrelevant story. I simply thought of it when I thought of how much food I used to hate, (or thought I hated), that I now love. Like horseradish.

It all started on a now routine trip to wine country. We were in Langhorne Creek this time headed to lunch and were recommended a winery/horseradish farm (you heard it here first). They had all sorts of amazing horseradish dips and spreads, I fell head over heels right then and there. Now I am likely addicted. I used one of them in this recipe, a horseradish mustard mix. However, I understand not everyone has access to a winery/horseradish farm, but no worries mates, you can just use plain horseradish and wholegrain mustard as I have reflected in the recipe.

2 thick cut rib eye steaks (in Australia: scotch filet)

Marinade - a flavourful but not too overpowering marinade that just brings out the best of a good cut of steak
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp olive oil

3/4 cup low fat sour cream
2 tbsp prepared horseradish
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix the marinade ingredients together in a shallow glass dish. Coat steaks in the marinade and marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or up to 24 hours in the fridge. (If marinating in the fridge, let sit at room temperature for 30 mins before grilling.)

2. Meanwhile, mix up all the dip ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. Grill steaks over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, turning once, until desired doneness. 8-10 minutes for medium rare.

4. Serve steaks with cold dip on the side.

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

November 02, 2011

Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint

I am pumped up on salads right now. I think it is because it is Spring, and what accompanies bbq food better than a fresh salad made with all the season's best ingredients?

I've made a bunch of salads in the past few weeks and I will try and post them all soon. This particular salad was intriguing to me because I don't often use fruit as a main salad ingredient. I made it twice in the last week...nuff said. Give it a shot - you won't regret.

Juice and seeds of 4-5 roma tomatoes - discard rest (by discard I mean load with pepper and feed to whoever is around)
1 medium shallot, minced
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
S & P to taste

2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1.5 cups watermelon chunks
3/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped coarsely

1. Place juice, shallot, sugar and vinegar in small saucepan. Simmer until reduced, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Mix salad ingredients together in bowl. Toss gently with dressing.

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

October 18, 2011

Simply Spring Spinach Salad

Spring. A season that, in Canada, means sunshine, blooming flowers and snow melt. It is a time where you walk down the street with a big smile on your face, a bounce in your step and no worries about the fact that you probably should have worn shoes instead of your flip flops. I love spring!

In Canada.

In Adelaide, on the other hand, it is probably the worst season! This is not to complain about Adelaide, or spring for that matter - it is simply to state a fact. The summer is a lot too hot, but hard to complain about that (talk to me in a couple months...).  Autumn is absolutely amazing - the absolute best, consistent, sunny weather. And winter, it is great...for winter.

You see, it all comes down to expectations. Coming from Saskatchewan, my expectations for winter are pretty low. But, in the same vein, my expectations for spring are very high! So, although it is starting to get much nicer now, and summer is still 1.5 months away, spring here has been rather unpredictable, windy and rainy.

One thing that doesn't change, no matter how far we are from home, is the seasonal food and recipes. And this salad is SO easy (I cheat and use store-bought dressing) and it tastes more like spring to me than anything else! I've been making this one for a long time, and it never gets old.

1 bag baby spinach
1 pack fresh strawberries, sliced
1 advocado, diced
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese

Toss and dress with whatever dressing you like! Recommendation: Kraft Poppy Seed, which I can't find here so I used Newman's Own  Light Balsamic and it was a lovely combo!

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

October 16, 2011

Roasted Veg Lasagna

Here's a winner for you. This recipe is from Jeanne, my mother in law who is an amazing cook. She made this for me at the farm and we took the leftovers home, which was a really nice treat the next day. 

We decided a chauffeured wine tour was in order to celebrate my 26th. Having been on many wine tours before (umm, we live in Adelaide which has at least 5 world-renowned wine regions within an hour's drive - I've died and gone to heaven) I knew that...well, I might not be the best hostess upon our return.  And since everyone comes over to drink the bottles we bought throughout the day (totally unnecessary) I needed to have something to serve. But, being me, I couldn't order pizza for all. So I spent the night before roasting vegetables like it was my job and put them all together for this fantastic dish that went amazing with a homemade caesar salad (using this recipe for dressing) and bottle of Adelaide Hills shiraz. 
Sorry I don't have the token served up picture, I guess I just wasn't thinking about that when it was served ;)

Roasted Veg Lasagna - you'll never go back to meat

3/4 pound medium fresh mushrooms, cut into 1/4 inch slices
4 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
2 red pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks3 tablespoons olive oil
1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 jar pasta sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
15 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

  1.  Brush veggies with olive oil and roast in oven heated at 350. (15 minutes, flip over, 15 more minutes, remove mushrooms and roast zucchini and peppers for 5-10 mins more)
  2. Prepare your cheese mix- combine ricotta, parmesan, egg
  3. Prepare your tomato sauce – mix jar of sauce with diced tomatoes including liquid
  4.  Put a ¼ cup sauce in pan
  5. Layer – 5 noodles, half ricotta mix, ½ veggies, 1/3 of sauce, 1/3 of mozza
  6.  Layer once more
  7.  Top with 5 noodles, rest of sauce and rest of cheese
  8. Bake covered at 350 for roughly 45 mins, uncover and bake for 10 mins longer (brown top and bubbly sides)

Serve and prepare to take your praise!

August 16, 2011

Spicy Pecan Blue Bites

Now this is one FABULOUS dish!

Like spice? Like blue cheese? You'll LOVE these. I am not going to lie, I know blue cheese is an acquired taste - one which I've been sooo lucky to acquire - and I also know not everyone likes spicy food. If you don't like either, avoid this bite recipe that is bursting with those flavours. 

This recipe is from my Aunt Gayle. I have one word to describe Gayle: FABULOUS! But, I digress. She, like the rest of my family, is a fantastic cook. If only I lived in Kelowna so I could enjoy more of her awesome dinner parties - which go far, far beyond fine food. 

I would serve this with with another small bites recipe or maybe a dip as an appie before dinner. They are very easy to whip up for guests and in my experience, they disappear fast. 

40 pecan halves - they need to be full halves and if you're like me you will want extra for snacking!
1 tbsp olive oil
A soft blue cheese like Gorganzola
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp sugar
Honey to drizzle

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Toss nuts in olive oil. Mix cayenne and sugar in a bowl, adjust by adding more of either one to your taste preference. Toss nuts in spices until nicely coated. 

2. Lay coated pecans on a baking sheet and bake until toasted. The time will vary depending on your oven, and there is a fine line between toasted pecans and burnt pecans, so keep a close eye. Mine took about 10-12 minutes. Cool pecans fully.

At this point you can seal the pecans in an airtight container for up to 2 days. 

3. You'll want to leave your blue cheese on the counter for awhile so it is soft. Roll a small ball of blue cheese with your fingers and press it between 2 pecan halves. I make the ball about the size of one pecan half. 

4. Line the "pecanwiches" on a serving tray and drizzle with a very small amount of honey. 

Serve and prepare to take your praise!