Monday, July 31, 2006

Return of the S.C.C.


Yes, it'd been a while since we’d held a Sunday Chicken Club gathering, though probably not as long as you might think. Originally, we’d envisioned a monthly event, but that was back in the era of the clubs. Back when clubs of all kinds were in the air around here—book clubs, debating clubs, supper clubs, math clubs, knitting clubs, rockumentary appreciation clubs, Latin clubs, etc., most of them ill-fated. A bit like Michelle’s knitting club, the Chicken Club hadn’t completely disappeared but it had quickly become a sporadic affair. This last one, however, was a resounding success, and the star attraction, not surprisingly, I guess, was a roast chicken. It was based on a recipe from the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook, and I think it was hands-down the very best chicken either of us had ever made, and one of the very best either of us had ever tasted (Zuni Café-caliber). “A good roast chicken is the best dinner of all,” Alice Waters writes in the preamble to her recipe, and although I’m not sure I would agree with that statement 100% of the time, on this occasion there’s no question that she was right. Easy to prepare and absolutely succulent--juicy, with a crispy skin and a beautifully summery flavor thanks to the lemon, rosemary, and garlic--it was the perfect dinner party centerpiece.

Originally we'd been thinking Italian for this meal, but then we realized that the last time we'd had people over for chicken it had been for Pollo al Mattone, so when we came across the Chez Panisse Café recipe we just shifted our focus just a little and went mostly Californian instead. We wanted a well-composed menu, but we wanted the meal to be high on the manageability scale, too. This was a Sunday dinner after all--the idea is to relax, to share a leisurely meal and enjoy your company. We also wanted to make use of some of our goodies from the garden, especially our green beans and our lettuce, both of which have been growing way beyond our capacity to keep up with them. Keeping with our California theme, I thought of a tried and true favorite: a grilled potato salad with green beans and lettuce we'd found in Annie Somerville's Fields of Greens a few years back. Not only does this combo make for a handsome salad, but the addition of roasted-then-grilled potatoes is quite simply a stroke of genius, adding a wonderful smoky goodness to the mix and elevating this potato salad to heights that'll have your guests loving you forever. When it came to dessert, we wanted to stay seasonal. Those of you who've been reading of late will know that we've been knee-deep in berries; what you might not know is that we've also been taking advantage of this year's fabulous figs (as cheap as a case of 24 for $6.00 (!), and all of them perfect (!!)) like they were going out of style. Once again, the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook came through for us. This is the menu we settled on:

fresh bufala mozzarella with tomatoes
grilled new potato salad with cherry tomatoes, summer beans, and basil
roast chicken
cheese course
baked figs with raspberries

Roast Chicken, Chez Panisse Café-style

1 roasting chicken, about 3 1/2 lbs
1 tbsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
2 sprigs rosemary
2 cloves garlic
1/2 lemon

Remove any and all organs you might find in the cavity, reserving them for later use. Rinse the bird with cold water, then pat it dry. Chop one garlic clove in half and rub the entire chicken with it. Place the other clove in the cavity. Liberally salt and pepper the whole bird, including inside the cavity and the entire surface. Carefully loosen the skin from the breast meat with your index finger. Carefully stuff the sprigs of rosemary under the skin. Squeeze the lemon into the cavity of the chicken, then place the squeezed lemon inside the cavity. Tie the legs together with butcher’s string. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least one hour before roasting time. Preheat the oven to 450º F. Place the chicken, breast side up, in a roasting pan and roast for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350º F and cook for another 45 minutes, turning the bird twice during the roasting period, so that each wing side is up once. This method circulates the juices and the fat, keeping the meat moist. Let the chicken stand for 10 minutes before carving.

Serves 4 (so we roasted two of 'em).

Notes on the chicken: As you can see, the trick to this recipe has to do with shifting the oven temperature and rotating the bird during the roasting session. Also, it's important to be a little bit flexible with the overall roasting time. If your chicken weighs in under 3 1/2 pounds you're probably going to want to check at the 40 minute mark of the second roasting period. If it's a bit bigger than 3 1/2 pounds, you're going to want to give it some extra time. Our chicken was closer to 4 pounds than 3 1/2, so when we checked it after 45 minutes we found the meat from the inner part of the thighs was still a bit uncooked and that the bird hadn't reached that golden hue yet. We put it back in the oven, put another 15 minutes on our timer, and sat down to have some more wine and rejoin the conversation. When we opened the oven up again the chicken was perfect. We didn't even have to check it to tell. So after letting it rest for 10 minutes, Michelle began carving while I took the jus at the bottom of the roasting pan, added some white wine, a bit of salt, and some freshly cracked pepper, and reduced it for 5 minutes over medium-high. When the plates had been assembled, I drizzled a bit of the sauce over each portion and we served our anxiously awaiting guests.

green beans fresh out of the garden

Grilled New Potato Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Summer Beans, and Basil

2 lbs new potatoes
Light olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound fresh green beans
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, preferably Sweet 100s
1 handful salad greens
Basil-Garlic Vinaigrette
Champagne vinegar
12 Niçoise or Gaeta olives

Preheat the oven to 400º F. Toss the potatoes in a baking dish or casserole with a little olive oil and sprinkles with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Cover and roast until tender, 35-40 minutes. Set the potatoes aside to cool. Cut the potatoes into halves, or quarters if large, then place them on skewers or in a grilling basket.

While the potatoes are roasting, remove the stem ends from the beans and cut them in half diagonally if they’re large. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add 1/2 tsp of salt. Drop the beans into the water and cook until just tender, about 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the size of the beans. Be careful not to overcook. Beans should be crisp-tender. Rinse under cold water and set the aside to drain. Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves or leave whole if small. Wash the salad greens and dry them in a spinner or a clean towel. Make the vinaigrette.

Place the potatoes on the grill, cut side down, and grill until they’re golden and crisp and they’ve developed defined grill marks. Remove the potatoes from the grill, let them cool for a minute or two then toss them with the beans, cherry tomatoes, and vinaigrette. Adjust the seasoning, if need be, with a splash of Champagne vinegar and/or some additional salt and pepper. Loosely arrange the greens on a platter, spoon the vegetables over the greens, then decorate with the olives.

Serves 8 as a side salad.

Basil-Garlic Vinaigrette

2 tbsp Champagne vinegar
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped

Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Make about 1/2 cup.

baked figs and raspberries with homemade vanilla ice cream

Baked Figs with Raspberries

10 medium-size figs, roughly 1 1/2 pounds
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sweet wine, such as Beaumes-de-Venise, vin santo, or Sauternes (we used a Maculan 2005 Dindarello Moscato to spectacular effect)
1/3 cup honey, warmed
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 pint raspberries

Preheat the oven to 425º F. Remove the stem ends of the figs and cut each fig in half. In an earthenware baking dish, place the halves skin-side down, lining them up so they fit evenly. Pour 1/4 cup of water and the sweet wine into the bottom of the dish. Drizzle the figs with the warm honey. Sprinkle the sugar over the figs, making sure each fig gets a tiny bit of sugar.

Bake the figs in the upper part of the oven for 15 minutes. Baste with the water and wine mixture and bake for another 5 minutes. When the figs are starting to caramelize at the edges, add the raspberries, tucking them into the spaces between the figs. Save any extra berries for a garnish. Bake for another 5 minutes just to warm the raspberries through. Serve the figs warm with vanilla or honey ice cream.

Serves 4 to 6, sometimes even 8.

Note: the original recipe called for the figs to be “wood oven-baked.” I’m sure a wood oven would make this dessert even more impressive, but it’s still pretty striking baked in a conventional oven.

Vanilla Ice Cream

12 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups half & half
1 vanilla bean, preferably Tahitian or Madagascar, split lengthwise
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 1/2 cups cold heavy cream

Whisk the egg yolks lightly in a large bowl. Pour the half & half into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the half & half, add the bean and the sugar, and warm over medium heat, being very careful not to allow the mixture to come a boil. When the sugar is dissolved and the half & half is giving off wisps of steam, slowly whisk the liquid into the yolks.

Return this custard to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and reaches a temperature of about 170º F. Immediately remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Whisk in the cold cream, then cover and chill thoroughly.

Freeze the mixture in an ice cream machine and churn following the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a container and store in your freezer for several hours or overnight.

Makes 2 quarts.

How's that for a flurry of recipes? Hope you like them as much as we did.

[Grilled New Potato Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Summer Beans, and Basil and Basil-Garlic Vinaigrette recipes from Fields of Greens by Annie Somerville, all other recipes from the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook by Alice Waters.]


note: For more information on S.C.C. franchise opportunities contact our Franchising Department. 514-284-0811, ask for "Boris."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Time Is Now

le pavillon de la pomme 1

See that sign? We're not messing around. The time is now. This was the sign that greeted us at Le Pavillon de la Pomme on Monday, the one Michelle had noticed from a speeding car just one week earlier. As indicated, there were blackcurrants (cassis) and gooseberries (groseilles), but the place was absolutely teeming with blueberries (bleuets) and red currants (gadelles), both of which were at the peak of perfection. The bushes were so heavy with blueberries and red currants that you barely had to pick them. They were practically jumping into our buckets themselves. We spent about two hours and picked an absurd amount of berries--total cost: about $25. Keeping in mind that a thimbleful of red currants costs about $4 at the market, this was a very good deal.

How To Get To Le Pavillon de la Pomme From Montreal In 4 Easy Steps:
1. Take the Jacques Cartier Bridge to the 20
2. Follow the 20 east about 30 km to exit 115.
3. Drive south about 2 km to the 116.
4. Follow the 116 about .25 km east to Pavillon de la Pomme.

When we got there we rushed inside, picked up our buckets, and headed out back towards Mont-Saint-Hilaire.

le pavillon de la pomme 2

To get the good stuff, you've got to crawl under some netting from time to time,

le pavillon de la pomme 3

murray street

but that's a small price to pay for berries of this quality:

le pavillon de la pomme 4

How To Make Red Currant Jelly in 14 Easy Steps, According to Michelle
1. Place berries in a pot.
2. Add just enough to cover the bottom of the pot (Michelle recommends about 1/4").
3. Bring to a boil.
4. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
5. Pour the entire mixture in a jelly bag.
6. Let the contents drip into another pot overnight.
7. Measure the juice by volume.
8. Pour the same volume of sugar in a baking pan and place in a preheated oven at 200º F for 30 minutes.
9. For every cup of juice, have 1 teaspoon of lemon juice ready.
10. Bring your juice to a boil.
11. Add the sugar and lemon juice and stir.
12. Let it simmer until it comes to a gel, about 1 minute.
13. Carefully skim the foam and discard.
14. Ladle into jars and seal using either a wet or dry canning method.

Excellent on buttered toast, divine with a nice cheese.

Drive, coerce some of your car-driving friends, hitchhike, hell, take a taxi. Do whatever it takes.

Once again: Le Pavillon de la Pomme, 1130 Boul. Laurier (rt. 116), Mont-Saint-Hilaire, QC, J3G 4S6, (450) 464-2654.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sweet Salvation, rev. ed.

the spread fig. a: the spread at Backroom Records & Pastries

It's cause to rejoice when a new business opens up that really addresses even one of our needs in this town. When a business opens up that addresses two of them, well, it's time to do a little dance. And that, friends, is exactly what just happened TODAY. We here at " endless banquet" are happy to announce the grand opening of a little record store-cum-confectionery convenience called Backroom Records & Pastries. There you'll find the very best in vinyl-pressed electrically recorded music, with special attention paid to the blues, gospel, reggae, jazz, and rock idioms, as well as the very best in confections, especially pies, cookies, and preserves.

Backroom Records & Pastries
5912 St. Urbain
*Back Alley Entrance Only!*
Thursday - Sunday
12:00 noon - 6 p.m.
514 495 8046
music curator: Warren
sweets curator: Camilla

The record store situation had gotten so dismal in this town that my record-shopping habit had dropped off almost completely in recent months. It had been quite a while since I'd been out record shopping and found some good records on vinyl--lots of them! And to my knowledge, this was the first time I'd ever enjoyed a delicious, freshly-baked pastry in-store, while I shopped. Now that's living! Hmm, if I can only convince Camilla to start making some Jamaican patties--then I'd be able to finally resume the 8-year tradition I had of record-shopping and patty-eating that stretched across three countries and two continents, from London to Washington, DC to Vancouver.

the loot fig. b: the haul from Backroom Records & Pastries

Tasting notes:
cherry pie: super-yum
chocolate chip cookie: the best
V/A, "Last Kind Words: 1926-1953"(Mississippi Records): delicious
Washington Phillips, "What are They Doing in Heaven Today?" (Mississippi Records): heavenly


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

raspberries, gooseberries fig. a: raspberries, gooseberries

First off, for anyone who's been wondering why Michelle has been so quiet of late, one word will suffice to explain her relative absence: berries. Yes, Michelle has been thick in the middle of berry season, burying (no pun intended) herself in the task of preparing and preserving strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries, and virtually any other berry that might cross her path. While the season started off a little slow--too many torrential downpours just as the strawberries were beginning to ripen--things seem to have settled down, and it's already been a much better year for raspberries than I can recall. In fact, the raspberries have been getting better and better over the last week or so, and their market price has been dropping like a stone--on Monday Michelle bought herself two flats for a mere $16.00, a whole $2.00 under the best price from last year. Just when she thought things couldn't get any better she got a phone call last night from Steph. Steph had been out raspberry picking earlier that day, and the raspberry farm she'd hit was quite literally bursting at seams. The raspberries were plump, they were juicy, and the poor bushes that had brought them into this world were straining under their weight. Steph had picked as many as she could, but bushels remained, and she was so excited about her find that she wondered if Michelle might be interested in a little raspberry-picking excursion.

So this morning, bright and early, the two of them set off to do a little field work. When Michelle returned a few hours later she was fully loaded down, but the buckets of berries weren't nearly bulky enough to keep her from bouncing off the walls with excitement. They'd seen, they'd picked, they'd conquered, and Michelle came back with three healthy buckets of raspberries that were the best we'd seen yet, at a fraction of the price she'd paid at Jean-Talon Market (!). Needless to say, she was very happy about the raspberry situation. But what had her totally ecstatic was that on their way back from the raspberry farm she'd managed to pick out a tiny sign at 100 km/h and at a distance of nearly 500 paces with her legendary eagle eyes [Okay, maybe the car wasn't going 100 km/h, and maybe the distance wasn't quite 500 paces, but it sure makes for a better story that way.]. The sign read, "cassis." She could barely believe her eyes. Michelle blurted out, "C-c-c-c-cassis. Cassis. Cassis!" and Steph wrenched the car over to the side of the road to take a closer look. The sign stood outside of Le Pavillon de la Pomme in Mont-Saint-Hilaire, and although from outward appearances it looked as though they were solely an apple orchard (true to their name), it turned out they also had a U-Pick farm on premises with all kinds of vegetables and a selection of berries, including raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, and, yes, cassis (a.k.a. blackcurrants).

blackcurrants fig. b: fresh blackcurrants

The woman they spoke to at Le Pavillon de la Pomme was thrilled to see some interest in their blackcurrants. Although enormously popular across a large swath of Europe, blackcurrants had never really taken hold in Quebec, and Le Pavillon was having a hard time drumming up interest among their clientele. Nevertheless, the woman advised Michelle and Steph to act fast on the cassis. As with all berries, the season was rather short, but the problem of availability in this case was of a different nature. Although most saw little value in Le Pavillon's cassis, there was one group in particular that understood, and that descended on the farm to buy them out each and every year: "The Russians." She wasn't sure when, but she was sure they were coming, and when they did every cassis bush would be picked clean, that she could guarantee.

For her part, Michelle wasn't sure why "the Russians" had such a ravenous appetite for cassis, but she sure didn't blame them. She knew all too well how rare blackcurrants are in this part of the world. She, too, knew a good thing when she saw one. So she bought herself a small bucket, came home, and promptly set to work making a batch of liqueur de cassis.

blackcurrants and vodka fig. c: freshly rinsed blackcurrants, Moskovskaya vodka

Liqueur de Cassis

1 kilo cassis, stemmed and washed
1 kilo vodka
1 kilo powdered sugar
500 g water
1 g ground cinnamon
1 g ground clove
1 g ground coriander

Mash the cassis gently, mix together with vodka and spices, and allow to macerate for 10 days in a cool, dark place.

At the end of 10 days, add the water and the sugar to the mixture. Allow to macerate another 10 days in a cool, dark place.

Strain and bottle.

Just think: Twenty Days to a Homemade Kir!

Feel free to adjust accordingly. We did. Michelle cut the recipe in half.

[Recipe courtesy of M. Ferreyrol's Manuel Pratique Pour la Fabrication Rapide et Économique des Liqueurs et des Spirtueux Sans Distillation.]

But Michelle also vowed to return to Le Pavillon de la Pomme just as soon as she could.

In fact, she's already set herself up with another ride. She's going again tomorrow. Before the Red Tide.

Le Pavillon de la Pomme, 1130 Boul. Laurier (rt. 116), Mont-Saint-Hilaire, QC, J3G 4S6, (450) 464-2654


Thursday, July 13, 2006

BBQ #1, pt. 2: Sunday

eat bbq here!

It sure wasn't easy to sleep that Saturday night/Sunday morning. We were a little bit nervous, of course--the usual butterflies we get when we try out a new recipe for an occasion combined with the fact that the alarm was going to be rudely awakening us at 4:45--but more than anything, it was the aroma of that pork shoulder making its way through the apartment that made it tough to doze off. That rub was something else, and as the shoulder began to cook it quickly filled the apartment with its sweet spiciness--we found it was quite a distraction, and I'm sure some of our neighbors had otherwise inexplicable barbecue-related dreams. Somehow we managed to get a bit of shut-eye, Michelle was even able to get herself out of bed to make sure the roast was going as planned at 4:45, and when we awoke again the pork shoulder was fully cooked. We took it out of the oven, unwrapped it, noted its perfect appearance, and then took its temperature just to make doubly sure ("170º F." "Perfect!"). Then while Michelle shredded the pork and separated it into two batches, I mixed together the Sacred Harp-Approved sauce and got ready to smoke the North Carolina-Style pork.

By 10:00 both our pulled pork batches were ready to go, so we quickly set up our rummage sale, including a few not-so-hidden gems,*

toothpick dispenser, cake stand

made some early sales, then settled in for our first pulled pork sandwiches (breakfast!) at about 10:45, before the lunchtime rush. For our first taste, we both opted for the North Carolina-Style barbecue, complete with cole slaw dressing and a side of beans. The Alabama-Style barbecue tasted pretty great, too, but the hickory smoked flavor of the North Carolina barbecue was absolutely irresistible. The verdict: That dog can hunt! Again, we weren't going to be challenging the supremacy of Lexington Barbecue #1 or Wilber's or any one of those other legendary barbecue joints with our North Carolina-style pulled pork, but this was a mighty fine sandwich, made all the better because of the unreal smoky-tanginess of our cole slaw and by a single, solitary touch of local flavor: that Montreal classic, the Portuguese bun. Schlesinger and Willoughby acutally recommend serving their pulled pork barbecue on "cheap white fluffy buns," presumably to get that full, Deep South, "white trash" effect--we went "cheap," "white," and even a bit "fluffy," but, surrounded by excellent Portuguese bakeries on all sides, there was no reason to opt for something that tasted like it came off the shelves of Piggly Wiggly. We couldn't have been happier. In fact, Michelle, who'd never had true pulled pork barbecue before, just some sickly sweet slop she got at a local restaurant once, was quite nearly in tears. But we had a job to do, so before things got out of hand we cleared our plates and braced ourselves for the throngs.

All in all, our sandwiches were a big hit. Some who'd opted to stick to the sides wound up getting tempted to buy a sandwich too; some who'd enjoyed their first sandwich ordered a second to take home with them. This was by no means a massive barbecue--for our first streetside barbecue, we'd tried to keep things limited--but by 1:00 we'd sold out of both kinds of pork, our cole slaw, our beans, and about 5 jugs of Michelle's 100% Guaranteed Lemon-aid. The People had spoken.

Based on our experience, these recipes are sure-fire. If you're an amateur of pulled pork lacking the necessary equipment or the wherewithal to pull off 5-7 hours of hardwood or hardwood charcoal slow cooking over constant but indirect heat, these here are the recipes for you. Of course, there's absolutely no reason to start your barbecue at 12:45 a.m., unless you're itching for a fresh BBQ brunch. I've written them out as we actually prepared them, noting the source recipe that served as the inspiration/foundation for each. Here goes...

All-South Barbecue Rub

2 tbsp sea salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp cumin, freshly toasted and ground
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 tbsp cayenne
2 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp hot paprika
1 tbsp smoked sweet paprika

Mix together. Makes about 1 cup of rub.

[adapted from Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby's The Thrill of the Grill.]

Basic Pulled Pork Barbecue

1 bone-in pork Boston butt (about 11 lbs.)
1 cup All-South Barbecue Rub

Rub the pork butt on all sides with the dry rub and allow it to come to temperature, about 1 1/2 hours. About 30 minutes before you’re ready to roast your meat, preheat your oven to 300º F. Wrap the shoulder well in aluminum foil, sealing it very tightly at the top. Transfer the shoulder to a deep roasting pan, leaving the sealed side up, and fill the pan halfway with water. Bake, refilling the water halfway through, until the pork is exceedingly tender and falling away from the bone, about 8 hours.

Unwrap the pork, discarding any juices, and transfer to a baking sheet or large cutting board. When the pork is cool enough to handle, shred it, discarding the bones and any fat, and transfer to a large bowl.

When all was said and done and the bones and fat had been discarded, we were left with about 5 – 5 1/2 lbs of tender pulled pork. You’re now ready to add your sauce/s and finish your barbecue.

[adapted from Coy Ivey's Pulled Pork Barbecue recipe in Kathryn Eastburn's "The Sacred Feast," Saveur, June/July 2006 and Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby's The Thrill of the Grill.]

Sacred Harp-Approved Alabama-Style Pulled Pork Barbecue

1 3/4 cups high-quality barbecue sauce (see recipe below)
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup Coca-Cola
1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the barbecue sauce, ketchup, Coca-Cola, Tabasco, cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste. Take your cooked, shredded pulled pork, and add the barbecue sauce concoction as desired (this sauce was more than enough for the 3 lbs of meat we turned into Alabama-Style barbecue), mixing well to combine.

Transfer the pork to a baking dish, making sure to cover it tightly with aluminum foil. Cook in the oven until the pork is heated through and the flavors have fully mingled, about 45 minutes.

Spoon the pork into a split Portuguese bun and serve warm or hot, with sides of cole slaw (see recipe below) and beans.

[adapted from Coy Ivey's Pulled Pork Barbecue recipe in Kathryn Eastburn's "The Sacred Feast," Saveur, June/July 2006.]

Eastern North Carolina Pulled Pork Barbecue

1 cup white vinegar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp Tabasco sauce
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Preheat your grill. Place your hickory wood chip smoking device (filled with 2 cups of pre-soaked hickory chips) on the bottom of your grill [we were using a gas grill], giving it about 10-15 minutes to come to temperature and start smoking. Meanwhile, transfer your cooked, shredded pulled pork to an open sachet made of aluminum foil. When the smoker has begun to do its job, place your sachet on the grill, closing the lid, and allowing it to smoke for about 15 minutes to get a full hickory-smoked flavor.

While the pork is smoking, mix up your sauce. Just mix all the ingredients listed above together. Any extra will keep for 2 months in the refrigerator, covered.

Transfer your smoked pork to a large bowl, and add the Eastern North Carolina-Style Barbecue Sauce as desired. We mixed up about 2 lbs of the North Carolina-Style barbecue, and we had quite a bit of the Eastern North Carolina sauce left over.

Serve in a split Portuguese bun with a generous dollop of Piedmont-Style Cole Slaw (see recipe below), hot sauce, if you’re so inclined, and a side of beans (or corn, as the case may be).

Eastern North Carolina-style Pulled Pork Sandwich

[adapted from Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby's The Thrill of the Grill.]

A.J.'s Tangy Piedmont Cole Slaw

1 1/2 cups Hellmann’s mayonnaise
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp celery seed
1/2 – 3/4 cup high-quality barbecue sauce (see recipe below)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp smoked sweet paprika
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1 head green cabbage, finely shredded
2 carrots, finely grated

In a small bowl, blend the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, celery seed, barbecue sauce, paprika, salt and pepper, and mix well.

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage and the carrots. Pour the dressing over the mixture and blend well. Refrigerate until serving time, at least 2 hours.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

[adapted from Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby's The Thrill of the Grill.]

Not Quite All-American Barbecue Sauce

This recipe is a version of Schlesinger and Willoughby's Basic All-American Barbecue Sauce with two major differences: first of all, the yield (about 1/4 of the original), and secondly, I replaced a bit of liquid smoke with a healthy touch of chipotle purée, giving the sauce a bit of added heat while still adding some smokiness to the mix.

1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 28-oz can of tomato purée
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp molasses
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 – 1 tsp chipotle purée
2 tbsp brown Dijon mustard

In a large saucepan, sauté the onion in the oil over medium-high heat until golden brown, about 7-10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered at the lowest possible heat (while still simmering) for 4 hours.

Purée the sauce. Adjust the seasonings, if needed.

This sauce will keep in the refrigerator for weeks.

We used this sauce in the Sacred Harp-Approved barbecue and in the Piedmont-Style cole slaw, we also left some out on our fixings table in case anyone wanted to add even more zest to their sandwich.

[adapted from Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby's The Thrill of the Grill.]

That's everything you need. Knock yourselves out.


*I always kinda feel like Enid of Ghost World fame when I throw a garage/rummage sale. There are always a few items (like that toothpick dispenser) that I actually really don't want to sell. I was thrilled when Birdy came back up the stairs with us at the end of the sale. After all, he actually bends over and plucks toothpicks with his bill!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

BBQ #1, pt. 1: Saturday

eat bbq

What ended up being somewhat of a Week of Barbecue started out timidly enough. I'd slipped away to a cottage on Little Lake in Ontario without Michelle (when it comes to restaurant work, the show must go on, right?) for some Canada Day R & R. The Canada Day fireworks display in Bala got washed out due to torrential rains, but we made up for that the next day with some pyrotechnics on the gas grill. We had a couple of racks of spare ribs that we spent the weekend contemplating and visualizing before we finally decided to turn them into a batch of the Sticky Spicy Ribs featured in Gourmet's summer grilling issue in May. Those racks certainly lived up to their name, and they were so finger-lickin' good that six of us made short work of those short ribs, but as someone who's a steadfast "dry" when it comes to the "wet" vs. "dry" split on barbecueing ribs, I found myself thinking ahead to the next barbecue, and more than anything else I had my mind not on ribs but on North Carolina-style pulled pork barbecue. After all, we had to make up for those sandwiches we'd missed out on in New York.

When I got back to Montreal, Michelle and I got to talking barbecue. By the end of the week we'd settled on our menu and we'd decided to take our barbecue to the streets as a fundraiser for the nebulous Guerrilla Street Food Coalition and their ongoing battle against Montreal's insane bylaws regarding street vendors. Those of you who've been reading " endless banquet" for some time will know just where we stand on this issue, but if you need a refresher you can take a look here or here. Anyway, we consulted a whole host of recipes for pulled pork barbecue before picking two and finding a way to synthesize them in such a way that we could offer two different types of pulled pork sandwich from one cut of meat.

On Saturday morning we made our trip to see Vito and pick up the massive 11-lb. pork shoulder we'd ordered from him, along with some salt pork for my Down East Baked Beans. We love going to see Vito for all our butcher shop needs, but it's especially satisfying when we go in to get an uncommon cut of meat. On those occasions he seems particularly interested in what we're intending to make, so he prods us for a few details and he always asks us to come back with a full report. That day we both got the feeling there weren't too many others coming into Vito's and buying pork shoulders. I went back home, started my beans (I always bake them for about 8 hours to get them just right), and a couple of hours later, as I was heading back out to do some more shopping for our barbecue, I was literally stopped in my tracks by the Festival of India procession making its way along St-Joseph.

Krishna parade

Here I was in the midst of preparing a Festival of Pork and who should I run into but a massive gathering of people trying to spread Krishna consciousness through vegetarian cuisine and workshops on yoga and meditation. I paused for a moment, but then somehow found comfort in the fact that one of the buses that was part of the parade hailed from a Krishna temple in Sandy Ridge, NC, right in the heart of North Carolina's Piedmont region. If anything, the smell of my hickory barbecue wafting across the festival site at Jeanne-Mance Park, just blocks from our house, would help make those Sandy Ridgers feel right at home. That was the theory, in any case.

By the time Michelle got home from work late on Saturday night, the beans were cooked, the cole slaw had been prepared, the homemade barbecue sauce was chilling in the fridge, and the pork shoulder was slathered with homemade barbecue rub, just waiting to cooked to perfection. The two recipes we'd chosen for our pulled pork were vastly different. The most basic one was a recipe that had shown up in Saveur in the June/July 2006 issue, a recipe that's a fixture of the buffet accompanying the annual Henagar-Union Sacred Harp Convention in DeKalb Country, Alabama (Fasola!). Like all good barbecue, it's cooked "slow and low," but this recipe didn't involve a rub and it's one that doesn't even require owning a barbecue. The other recipe was a more or less traditional North Carolina pulled pork barbecue recipe that we'd found in Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby's The Thrill of the Grill, a book that hasn't lost any of its charm in the 15+ years it's been in print. Not only did this version of pulled pork involve a rub, it also called for 5-7 hours of cooking time over a hardwood charcoal grill--it did claim to be authentic, after all. The other major difference between these two recipes was that one called for a "bone-in" pork butt (Alabama), the other a boneless butt (Eastern North Carolina). The final complicating factor was that we definitely wanted to do some grilling--some hickory smoked grilling, to be exact--but we were pretty sure our barbecue was not cut out for 7 hours of "slow and low" cooking. We've only got a beat-up, hand-me-down gas grill, not one of these new-fangled big-rigs you see in all the food magazines (and elsewhere) these days.

50,000,000 BTUs can't be wrong

What to do? Well, as indicated above, we'd decided on the "bone-in" pork butt because we'd become convinced the flavor would be even better (and, after all, if it's good enough for Lexington Barbecue #1, it's good enough for us), and we'd decided to apply a rub to the whole cut of meat. We then decided to roast the shoulder in the oven for 8 hours in the manner outlined by the Alabama recipe to get the entire thing to that ever-so-desirable "falling off the bone" point. When that was done, we'd shred the meat, divide it in two, mix the Alabama half with its sauce and bake it for another 45 minutes, as per the recipe, while simultaneously finishing the North Carolina half on a hickory-smoked grill before mixing it with its wonderfully vinegary Eastern North Carolina sauce. This was not exactly going to be an honest-to-goodness North Carolina-style hardwood barbecue showcase, and we sure weren't going to be winning any prizes with our method, but then we're located about 700 miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line, and about 1,000 miles from the heart of North Carolina's barbecue country, so we weren't too worried about getting busted by the BBQ police. At the very least, we were pretty sure our pulled pork was going to be better than anything to be found in these parts, and we were hoping that our sandwiches might help tide us over until we get a chance to make that BBQ Odyssey we've been dreaming of.

So at 12:45 a.m. we wrapped our spice-laden pork shoulder tightly in aluminum foil, placed it in a water bath in our massive concave roasting pan and slid it into our pre-heated oven. Then we set the alarm for 4:45 a.m., when one of us would have to get up to see if the water bath needed to be replenished, poured a couple of bourbon and waters, and sat out on our back porch to take in a summer breeze or two and unwind before hitting the sack.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Paradise Found, or Mile End/St-Louis Barbecue #1

B.B.Q Shack by jekemp

The Guerrilla Street Food Coalition


Mile End/St-Louis Barbecue #1


rummage sale

Sunday, July 9, 2006

10 a.m. - 1 p.m.*

4899 Rue St-Urbain, Montreal, QC

Menu (while supplies last):

Eastern North Carolina-style Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Sacred Harp-Approved Alabama-Style Pulled Pork Sandwiches

A.J.'s Tangy Piedmont Cole Slaw

Down East Baked Beans

Michelle's 100% Guaranteed Lemon-Aid

Come one, come all.

All BBQ proceeds go to support the valiant efforts of the GSFC.


*i.e. Fret not. This event will end well before the 2006 World Cup final.

[Photo courtesy of jekemp's amazing BBQ Joints set on Flickr (
Thank you.]

Friday, July 07, 2006

Danish Modern

fresh danishes

Few things approach the heights of waking up to fresh Danishes hot from the oven. Pair 'em with a cup of coffee, and, no matter what, you're suddenly ready to face the world. According to the optimist, the fact that you have to prepare the dough in advance means you don't have to do much more than shape and bake them, lickety-split, when you get up in the morning. The pessimist, on the other hand, points out that this means you have to spend a good chunk of the day before preparing that dough. Not the whole day, though. Just a little attention now and again. Just enough to keep the dough happy. Aside from the freshness and the wonderful aroma they give off, the other advantage of making them yourself is that you get to decide what to put on them or in them. In my case, that meant some with rum-soaked raisins and cinnamon-cardamom-nutmeg sugar, others with fresh plums and sugar, and one lone apricot jam-filled number. Now that sour cherries are in season, I strongly suggest someone whip up some sour cherry Danishes with toasted almonds. All you have to do is pit your cherries, and stew them gently with a little lemon juice and some sugar (preferably vanilla sugar)--add some almond slivers to the mix and you're off to the races. Top 'em off with a little fondant and you'll think you're dreaming. The key, though, is nailing that Danish dough. Traditional Danish dough recipes are unbelievably labor-intensive. By contrast, the recipe that follows is modern, streamlined, and relatively easy to prepare. It also produces terrific results.

Danish dough (enough for a dozen)

60 ml warm water
125 ml milk, at room temp.
1 large egg, at room temp.
350 g flour
7 g instant yeast
1 tsp. salt
25 g sugar
250 g unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 cm slices

Mix water, milk and egg together in a bowl. Place the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add butter and mix until the butter is pea-size. Empty the mixture into a bowl and add the liquids. Mix until combined, but not smooth. The dough will be chunky and sticky. Cover with plastic and chill overnight.

Bring dough to room temperature. Flour your counter and roll the dough out to a 50 cm x 50 cm x square. Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter, and roll out again. Repeat 3 times. Cut dough in half, wrap both halves in plastic and chill until ready to use. (Up to 3 days.)

Bring dough to room temperature. Roll out to about 1/8" thick on a floured surface. Cut into desired shapes, fill and place on a baking sheet.

Once you've shaped and filled your Danishes, it's time to brush them with the traditional egg glaze (1 large egg, beaten + 2 tablespoons milk). Let them rise until they've just about doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. They should feel marshmallow-like at the end of this. Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 350º F. Add your filling and bake for roughly 15 minutes, just long enough so that the Danishes become nice and puffy, and perfectly golden-brown.

Let's be honest: unless you're able to get by on very little sleep or you have an unbelievable amount of composure and self-discipline, this probably isn't going to be an everyday recipe for you, but it sure makes for a nice weekend breakfast.

[The dough recipe comes from Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess. ]


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Top Ten #11

1. World Cup fever

2. Pimm’s No. 1 and Pimm’s Cups

3. Michael Ondaatje, The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film

4. Bill Buford, “The Dessert Lab: A Pastry Chef’s Quest for the New,” The New Yorker

5. birthdays at Senza Nome

6. Black Tartarian cherries

7. Darjeeling Samabeong DJ-1

8. Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley

9. M sur Masson

fresh outta our garden

10. our garden, 2006 edition