Tag Archives: Grilling

Grilled Chicken Skewers with Ginger Coconut Sauce and Mild Annoyances

on white 625 sq I am the grill master of our house. However, if the weather is particularly nasty, I will try to send my husband out to cook, but inevitably I will be beckoned to see if the food is done. It seems that I have the magic touch. Well, total disclosure here; I spent the summer between my first and second year of cooking school working in a restaurant as the grill chef. 

The restaurant had a huge stone barbecue on their patio. They stored the charcoal for the barbecue in 50-pound bags on the roof of a shed at the back of the patio.  I had to climb a ladder at the side of the shed and toss down the sacs of charcoal. My nickname that summer was Cinderella as my face was always covered with charcoal streaks. In addition to cooking the proteins, I also had to prepare pan sauces on the grill. That required a deft hand in moving the charcoal around to create hot and cool spots on the grill. I burned more than my fair share of pans the first few weeks, but eventually I got the hang of it. By the end of that summer I was fairly proficient in determining when a burger was done, when a strip steak was cooked to medium rare and when halibut was just cooked through to perfection.

These days I cook on a gas grill, and rely more often than not, on an instant read thermometer. They are basically idiot proof and they guarantee perfect results almost every time. This one is expensive but works very well.

This recipe for Grilled Chicken Skewers with Ginger Coconut, sauce hails from Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby’s brilliant book, “License to Grill.” Although this book was written over 17 years ago, it still feels fresh and relevant. I have been making this recipe for many years and never tire of it. The original recipe calls for boneless skinless chicken breasts, but I recommend using boneless skinless thighs.

I must admit that I get mildly annoyed when people tell me they only use boneless skinless chicken breasts. Not quite as annoyed as when people tell me they never use salt in their cooking, but I won’t get started on that one right now. I always use boneless skinless thighs and serve it to guests who say they don’t like dark meat. They don’t even realize they are eating thighs and they always ask me how I keep my chicken so moist. Thighs are a no-brainer. They are next to impossible to overcook because of their higher fat (and therefore flavour) content.

The velvety coconut-ginger sauce enrobes the chicken and the ginger, jalapeño and lime add a seductive little flavour zing. The “shake” topping, crafted from peanuts, sesame seeds, cumin and red pepper flakes adds crunch and packs a welcome buzz of heat.mise en place 2If you are using wooden bamboo skewers, be sure to soak them for about an hour before skewering the meat, so that they do not burn. This recipe is also quite delicious when you substitute tofu for the chicken (or so I have been told by my vegetarian daughter!)

Click here to print recipe for Grilled Chicken Skewers with Coconut-Ginger Sauce.

on black

 

Hanger Steak with Corn Relish

with corn relish 3About 10 years ago I noticed a new, well new for me, cut of steak appearing on restaurant menus. Suddenly it seemed that “hanger” steak was on every trendy bistro restaurant menu. Curious,  I ordered it and discovered for myself how delicious it was. It had a full beefy flavour and richness that reminded me of skirt steak, but it was a bit more tender.

I began to do a little research and I discovered that until recently, butchers were hogging this cut all for themselves, hence the steak’s nickname, “Butcher’s Steak.” Now I have nothing against butchers, as a matter of fact, some of my favourite people happen to be butchers, but that seems kind of selfish to me, not sharing this amazing cut with the rest of us!

Upon further investigation, I discovered the geographical location of this cut on the cow. I found this great diagram on the the meat loving website chomposaurus. For all you carnivores out there, you must check it out!location of hanger steak It comes from the plate section of the steer and it “hangs” off of the cow’s diaphragm, hence the name “Hanger” steak. It is a vaguely V-shaped pair of muscles with a long, inedible membrane down the middle. If you have a good butcher (and luckily I do!) who knows how to break this down properly, he or she will remove the connective tissue and silverskin surrounding it and break this down into two separate, well-trimmed steaks. Each one will be about 12 inches long and weigh in at about 8-12 ounces. That’s only 1 – 1 1/2  pounds of hanger steak from each cow! No wonder the butchers were hoarding it. There was hardly enough to share with the whole class.

whole hanger steak 2trimmed hanger steaks 2

It is a tough piece of meat that needs to be marinated and must be cut across the grain. This shortens the long grainy muscled fibers and preventing chewiness. It should be cooked to medium or medium rare (125-130°F). Using an instant read thermometer, guarantees you get it right every time! Anything above medium will result in a rubbery steak and anything less than medium rare, you will be eating a very mushy steak.slicingI marinated mine in a mixture of red wine, olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and thyme. At least 6 hours or up to an overnight soak in the marinade is ideal. Cook it on a medium-high heat. Let rest for about 5 minutes before carving.red wine

seasoningsI served it with a yummy grilled corn salad. I was very excited when I saw the first local corn of the season at the market. However, last night, reading the newspaper, I discovered that agency responsible for governing food labelling in Canada, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has greatly expanded its definition of local food. The old definition defined local as food that is produced within 50 kilometres of where it’s sold.local cornHowever, under a new interim policy, they are expanding the definition to mean food produced in the same province in which it’s sold. What that means is that in Ottawa, I could be eating corn that has travelled over 700 kilometers (435 miles) from Lambton Ontario, and it could still be labelled local in Ottawa. Certainly gives new definition to the term local. grillingThe contrast between the rich tender steak and the crunchy, slightly spicy corn relish makes for a perfect bite! I made Mark Bittman’s spicy-sweet green beans to go along with the steak and corn.

Click here to print recipe for Hanger Steak with Corn Relish.with corn relish 2

Avocado Toasts

I’m about to confess something that may get me drummed out of the tribe. I’m sick of eating humus! Truthfully, I have only myself to blame for this unfortunate state of events. I have been eating humus with carrot and celery sticks  for lunch everyday for the past year. Seriously, everyday! I know, you must be wondering, how is that possible? She’s a food blogger, she must create all kinds of wonderful lunches, each day more imaginative and fantastic than the last. But the sad truth is that I get into a rut, it’s just easy, plus it’s healthy and fairly low cal and so then I feel justified later in the day to indulge in my daily aperitivo!

I confess my boring lunch habit not so you will feel sorry for me, but as a way of sharing with you the discovery of a fantastic and simple appetizer to serve with drinks when company comes to visit.

Every summer for the past 26 years we have been gathering at our cottage with my husband’s University housemates and their spouses. Over the years our numbers have swelled as everyone started having kids. We had our annual get together this past weekend. It was just a small group of 15 this year as several members had other commitments. Each family is responsible for one meal over the weekend. It’s fantastic because it means that I am not in the kitchen the entire weekend cooking for everyone and I can enjoy my company instead of resent them!

As I began to plan what to serve my guests with drinks before dinner, I ruled out the usual suspects: humus and pita (sick of humus, see above!), tortilla chips and salsa (too predictable), a big bowl of pistachios or peanuts (nut allergies). As I was reading my July issue of Bon Appetit magazine, the photo on the editor’s letter page stopped me cold. It was just simply grilled bread topped with ripe avocado, sea salt, olive oil and red pepper flakes. I have to say that since Editor-in-Chief  Adam Rapoport took over at the helm of Bon Appetit, I have really started to enjoy reading this magazine once again. He has injected it with a fresh modern vibe and it just inspires me to cook everything on the pages. I still miss Gourmet (a moment of silence please!), but Bon Appetit is really doing a great job to partially fill the void.

The beauty of these avocado toasts is in their simplicity. The key is to gather together the very best ingredients for this dish. There is no real cooking or recipe involved here. Think of yourself as an orchestra leader, bringing together some gifted musicians. Each on their own, sounds quite nice. Together, they create a beautiful harmony. Look for good Artisan bread that has an “open crumb structure” (that’s baker speak for bread with lots of holes – more holes means more crusty spots to give added crunch and crevices for the olive oil to drip into).

A big fat clove of fresh garlic gets rubbed onto just grilled bread.

The avocados should be perfectly ripe, so buy them a few days ahead so they have time to ripen to perfection.

Table salt need not apply for the job of topping these crostini. Pull out the Maldon Sea Salt or some Fleur de Sel. The large crystals of salt will give added crunch and provide a perfect counterpoint to the bland creamy avocado. Pull out that expensive bottle of fruity, slightly bitter olive oil that you have been saving for a special occasion. The nooks and crannies of the grilled Artisan bread will soak it up. Finally, a very light sprinkling of red pepper flakes to wake up the taste buds.

These Avocado Toasts will have your friends and family toasting you!!