Thursday, May 20, 2010

Butchering for the barbie

I was sitting around with some friends on a patio after work yesterday and they start chatting about an old coworker of theirs in Ghana who they thought was weird mainly because his favourite animal was a goat, as opposed to say a giraffe or elephant. Now, I'm not sure what this guy liked to do with his goats, but I have to say, just the mention of certain animals brings a Pavlovian dribble of saliva to my tongue. It might be odd that a guy raised as vegetarian for fifteen years would love meat so much, but I figure I'm just making up for lost time. And especially in Toronto where our barbecue season is shorter than the hair on a peach, the time to dust off your grill and get cooking has long passed.
Pork Chops with sauteed mushrooms and ricotta on a bed of greens

4 x 1 1/4" pork chops from your local butcher
2 onions, halved and sliced
3 cups of oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 tbsp sweet balsamic vinegar
1 lemon, quartered
4 tbsp of ricotta cheese
1C baby spinach
1C arugala (rocket)

Salty sweet spice rub

2 tbsp kosher salt
3 tbsp hot paprika or 3 dry chillis
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp mustard seed
1/4 coriander
1/4 tsp nutmeg

If you have all the your spices whole, it's best to make the rub by toasting everything (except the sugar) in a dry pan over medium for 45 to 60 seconds. Let it cool down then grind the ingredients together with a mortar and pestle.

Start off by wiping your grill with a rag or paper towel soaked in olive oil and then preheat your BBQ to 450, or leave all burners on medium high for ten minutes if you don't have a thermometer built in. Inside, saute the onions on medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes until they're soft, then add mushrooms and let them cook down for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, season with salt and pepper and turn down to minimum heat.

Rub your chops in the spice mixture and then bring them outside and place on the BBQ with at least an inch of space around all of your pieces of meat on the grill, to allow the hot air to circulate and cook evenly (they'll need to be flipped in four minutes). Close the lid. Inside, add a healthy splash of balsamic vinegar to your mushrooms and onion and stir throughout leaving on low heat to cook off excess moisture. Back outside, flip your meat and close the lid again allowing the chops to cook for another 4 minutes... if you want crosshatched sear marks to impress your guests, give the meat a 90 degree turn 2 minutes into cooking on each side and keep the heat just a touch higher to make up for opening your grill over and over.

Prep the plates with your greens, lay the meat on top, garnish with your balsamic reduction, and then finish with a healthy dollop of ricotta. Serve with a slice of lemon if you prefer. Or better yet, a slice of lemon on a tom collins. Cheers to Spring.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Why not do it upside down?

Tarte Tatin is French for upside down tart and if you've never made one, you've missed out. You're gonna read the recipe and think it's missing a step but it's not. It really is that easy and it looks so damn gorgeous when it's done. It's also an ideal recipe to use up that little ball of left over pastry you have in the freezer because you only need one thin sheet. You can use whatever firm fruit you prefer. We've tried apple and pear and both turned out well. I've also seen quince tarte tatins, which should be delicious, too.

Recipe: Tarte Tatin

3-4 Firm Pears or Apples
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp butter
1/3 c Dark Brown Sugar

One thin sheet of pastry dough

Wash, peel, core and quarter Pears. Toss in bowl with lemon juice and set aside. Melt butter in a small cast-iron skillet or baking tin. Stir in brown sugar and remove from heat. Arrange pear quarters in the pan tightly packing them in overlapping concentric circles. You really want to cram them in because they'll cook down a lot. Cook over medium heat 20-25 min. Do not move or stir pears while cooking, but gently press them down with a spatula as they soften. If you don't have a cast iron skillet and are using a cake pan, cook the pears in a preheated 350 oven using the lower oven rack for about the same time.

While the pears are cooking, roll dough on lightly floured surface into a circle matching the size of your skillet or pan. Aim for a thickness of 1/4". Drape dough over pears, tucking in the edges, and bake tart on upper rack of a 400 degree oven until golden brown, 35-40 min.

Remove from oven and invert a plate or baking sheet over the tart. Carefully flip skillet and baking sheet simultaneously. Lift off skillet, loosen any apples that may have stuck, and reunite them with the tart.