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In the Kitchen

Firing up the Ugly Drum Smoker

This weekend, for the first time since the summer just gone, I fired up the beast – my Ugly Drum Smoker. And it was ultra-cool feeling to make some barbecue!

Ugly Drum Smoker

The usual routine to light it, wad up a couple sheets of newspaper, cram them into the base of the barbecue lighting chimney, place 10-12 pieces of hardwood charcoal in the top compartment, and then light the paper on fire.

Within five or ten minutes (time becomes irrelevant when barbecuing) the paper is burned up and the charcoal is beginning to turn white from the heat. I waited until about half the charcoal pieces were ignited and then dumped the chimney of charcoal into the basket of charcoal in the base of the drum.

Ugly Drum Smoker

Then I let that start to heat up the drum. I’m a man of science, seeing as I don’t yet have a feel for the way the UDS works so I lower a thermometer probe into the centre of the drum.

I want the interior of the drum to be about 200°. ?

Chicken on Smoker

Once the drum has reached temperature, I placed the six chicken thighs on the grill/rack. I put a thermometer probe into one of the pieces of chicken and then closed the lid and let the barbecue start smoking and cooking.

There’s a saying in the barbecue world, “If you’re looking, you’re not cooking.” So I leave the drum closed and let the smoke and heat do it’s magic.

Chicken on UDS

Oddly enough, I really don’t know how long I left the thighs on the grill. It was about 45 minutes …. here I am saying I’m a man of science and yet I didn’t record the time in and out. Weak.

Chicken on Smoker

The first batch that I did, yep, I did two batches, turned out perfectly cooked. I pulled them off when the internal temperature of the meat was 180°. ?I had used my homemade rub/coating and the kids found it too spicy (it does have a powerful bite to it!).

Once the first batch of thighs was done and I had tasted them, I realized that it was ridiculous to fire up the UDS just to do six thighs. So I grabbed another six from the fridge, tossed them in a bag with sone store-bought Shake N Bake mix, and them put them on the grill.

Chicken on UDS

The second batch turned out just as beautifully. And not nearly as spicy so the kids both had a taste. Not a big taste – they’re both not big on eating meat right now.

Bottom line, the chicken thighs were awesome. But next time I light up the grill I will be sure to have more meat ready to go on the smoker. Probably a big old pork loin that I can barbecue and then slice up for lunches during the following week.

I’ll be sure to share pics of my next Ugly Drum Smoker experience.

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In the Kitchen

Baking Bread Over A Fire

I recently bought a new cast iron Dutch Oven. It was on sale on Amazon for $35 (nope, I’m not sponsored by Amazon nor am I an Amazon affiliate) but I couldn’t resist buying it.

While I was at the cabin, I figured it was a good opportunity to use the Dutch oven in an outdoor fire pit.

So, weekend at cabin, new Dutch oven, fire pit, my love for baking bread…perfect combination. Right?

Easy No Knead Bread

I mixed together my usual bread recipe:

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups of water

Mix the ingredients, let it stand for a few hours (typically over night) and then bake it at? 450° for a half hour.

Baking Bread

Instead of baking it in the oven – onto a piece of parchment paper and into the cast iron Dutch oven and into the fire! How exciting!

Baking Bread

I pulled the white hot coals around the Dutch oven, put the lid on, put a couple hot coals on top of the lid, and left it for half an hour.

Baking Bread

After the half hour was up, removed the coals from the lid and opened it to.

Yeah… that may have been too hot!! And too long.

Baking Bread

Although the bread didn’t work out – it was burned to completely black, I’ll be honest, I am looking forward to getting back to the cabin and trying again!

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In the Kitchen

Cheese Filled Zucchini Blossoms on the Grill

Funny that on the last week of the Coquitlam Farmer’s Market I rediscovered the delicacy of cheese stuffed zucchini blossoms.

Zucchini Blossoms

I say that I “rediscovered” zucchini blossoms because once I tasted these tender morsels, I was transported back to my childhood when we often ate stuffed zucchini blossoms.

I was inspired to try preparing zucchini blossoms because of a series of photos I saw on Instagram. Each week during zucchini blossom season the @WineBarbarian.ca (Bill Tieleman) goes to the Vancouver Farmer’s Market and gets blossoms from Forstbauer Organic Farms. Each week Tieleman does wildly creative things with the blossoms.

My favourite from this year was when Cinders the Dragon ate up some other beast leaving behind rib bones and zucchini blossom…. well never mind.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the Coquitlam Farmer’s Market when I saw a basket of the blossoms so I got a bag full and took them home to try my hand at cooking these tender little morsels. And, well actually, dealing with the zucchini blossoms was more work – delicate work – than I had anticipated!

Parmesan and Smoked Cheddar

We started out grating parmesan cheese and some two year old double smoked cheddar. And then realized that grated cheese was probably not the best for working with zucchini blossoms – we couldn’t figure out how to get the grated cheese into the blossoms!

So we switched to thin sliver-like slices of the parmesan and cheddar cheeses and slid them inside the blossoms.

Zucchini Blossoms

Once we had the cheese inside the blossoms we dipped and rolled them in a whipped up egg mixture.

Zucchini Blossoms

From the egg mixture into a bowl of flour to be rolled over until sure they had a thin coat all the way around. Onto a plate and ready to go the grill.

Even if it is cold and dark outside (so it is really difficult to take quality pics), I still prefer using the gas grill on the back porch rather than the electric stove inside.

Zucchini Blossoms

I got about 1/2″ of oil in my Field Company cast iron pan good and hot before carefully setting each cheese filled blossom into the pan.

A few minutes in the hot oil and then I turned them over to let the flip side get crispy.

Zucchini Blossoms

I still had a pile of grated parmesan so I sprinkled a little on each of the blossoms as I took them out of the pan. The leftover heat from the grill helped the cheese melt into the blossoms for a little extra cheesy-goodness.

Zucchini Blossoms

To be honest – these were delicious! Tiny, tender morsels of flavour bombs. For a first attempt, I impressed myself.

And the best part of all of this? Both of the kids loved them and asked for more! Unfortunately, that was the final batch of zucchini blossoms for this year as the weather turned cooler. Oh well, like the Toronto Maple Leafs say, “There’s always next year.”

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In the Kitchen

The EASIEST No Knead Bread. Ever.

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted much on here over the last two weeks. The truth is I’ve been battling some significant personal issues during that time.

Too many sleepless nights. However, this too shall pass and I (we) will be okay.

But let’s talk about something that makes me smile – making and baking bread.

Easy No Knead Bread

I have discovered the easiest, simplest way to make a perfect loaf of bread. Yes. That easy.

In a mixing bowl add 3 cups of unbleached white flour, a half teaspoon of yeast, and a teaspoon and a half of salt. I currently have a big (Costco size) bottle of Himalayan pink salt available so I use that.

The ingredients:

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups of water

Use a fork to stir the ingredients around a bit. If you have seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, or sesame seeds, add about a quarter cup of whatever you want. Or don’t.

Then stir in a cup and a half of water.

Easy No Knead Bread

I then use a rubber scraper (I call it a rubber spatula) to mix the water and flour mixture. I just roll the ball of dough over and few times until the water and the flour are all mixed together – no clumps of flour in the bottom of the bowl.

The mixing should only take a few turns – maybe 30 seconds, a minute of stirring.

That’s it for the “work”.

Easy No Knead Bread

Then I leave the ball of dough in the bowl over night.

In the morning I get up, place my cast iron Dutch oven in the oven, set the temp to 450 degrees, and let the oven pre-heat.

Easy No Knead Bread

Then I prep the dough.

I rip off a piece of parchment paper about 30 cm long, sprinkle maybe a tablespoon of flour on it, then roll the dough out onto the parchment paper.

All I do is roll the ball of dough around on the paper so that the outside of the dough has a light coating of flour and is no longer sticky to the touch – no kneading. No hassle.

Easy No Knead Bread

I put a slash in the top of the ball of dough and then carefully lower it into the pre-heated Dutch oven, put the lid back on and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes I remove the lid and let the bread keep cooking for another 15 minutes at 450 degrees.

Out of the oven, onto the cooling rack to let it cool off for a couple of hours – if you can wait!

Easy No Knead Bread

That is it. No kneading. No mess. No fuss. Just a perfect loaf of bread each time.

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In the Kitchen

Homemade Sourdough Bread

Now that the weather has cooled off I am not so reluctant to turn on the oven and bake my own sourdough bread again. Love it!

Sourdough Bread

This weekend I tried making a loaf of the “bread in a bowl” bread. Well, actually I did not try, I just did it.

  • 4 cups of enriched white flour
  • 1 cup of my rye sourdough starter
  • 2 tsp of sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp of yeast
  • 1 3/4 cups of water.

All you do is roughly mix the ingredients until the wet and the dry know each other quite well. That’s it.

In the original recipe they suggest leaving the dough sit for an hour and then bake it right in the bowl you have mixed it in. Because I use my sourdough starter, I like to let the starter “work” and develop a “sour” taste.

So I leave the shaggy ball of dough in the bowl all day while I am out and about doing stuff. In the evening I transferred the dough into my pre-heated cast iron Dutch oven and baked the bread at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.

After the 20 minutes at 450, I lowered the temperature to 350 degrees and continued baking for another 20 minutes.

And where is the picture of the inside of the bread? I forgot to take one!

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In the Kitchen

My Ugly Drum Smoker Follow-up

I did it. I have managed to finish building, seasoning, and now cooking meat in the Ugly Drum Smoker that I started building earlier this summer.

Ugly Drum Smoker

Yes I did. I cooked a set of side ribs and a pile of sausages.

The ribs and sausages turned out “okay”. Not great. My results may be more related to my choice of meat, however, considering it was my first time cooking over hardwood charcoal in an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS) I was pretty pleased.

To hear more about my UDS experience, you can watch my little YouTube video. Be sure to watch to the end to see my bloopers and little boo-boos.

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In the Kitchen

Cooking a Chicken Pot Pie Almazan Kitchen Style

My daughter and I love to watch the Almazan Kitchen YouTube videos and she came up with the idea of creating her own “Almazan Kitchen” video. And, she asked me to work on the video project with her.

Perhaps the most gratifying thing I have ever heard say in a very long time was when she said, “It is SO COOL that my dad will work on this project with me!”

I asked her what she meant by that comment and she replied that “Most dads are very strict and just say no to strange ideas.”

That was an interesting response. Number one, is this true of most dads? And how does she know what “most dads” are like?

At any rate, in this video project, my daughter was the director and videographer and I was the actor being directed by her.

She had me prepare and cook a pretty amazing chicken pot pie over a campfire – a fire that was a total pain to get and keep going! We also made a Caesar salad.

She is pretty pleased with her success and is already planning a follow up video project. She also “directed” the final edits and insisted that we add in the “outtakes” and bloopers.

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In the Kitchen

Sourdough Bread; We’re Back in Business

If you cast your mind back a couple weeks to mid to late June you may remember we had a little bit of a heat wave.

And the combination of that little heat wave and the frenzy associated with the end of the school year made me forget to take care of my sourdough starter.

Sourdough Bread

You know that line in the song, goes something like, “Someone left the cake out in the rain…” yeah, I left the sourdough out in the heat.

As a result, my starter went terribly bad. Not bad as in boozy smelling but bad as in, “get that stinking thing out of the house” bad. Bad. Really bad.

Sourdough Bread

Fortunately I’m a generous person and I had given some starter to 3 friends. And when they saw me post on Facebook that my starter was now a non-starter (see what I did there!) they offered to give me a little scoop of my starter back to me. So I’m back in the sourdough business again.

Now that I have my sourdough starter bubbling away and being fed everyday again, I figured it was time to bake a loaf of bread. So I did.

I started this morning. Into my stainless steel mixing bowl I scooped up two cups of unbleached white flour, a half cup of sprouted spelt flour, and a half cup of dark rye flour.

I added a teaspoon and a half of pink Himalayan salt, a half teaspoon of quick rise yeast, and stirred it all together.

I then made a little well in the centre of the dry ingredients and added a cup and a half of water. Using a rubber scraper (a spatula to some) I carefully mixed the wet into the dry until I had a big sticky ball of dough.

And I let that big shaggy ball of dough sit in the bowl all day. When I got home late in the afternoon I added a tablespoon or more of sesame seeds and about the same amount of sunflower seeds.

I stirred/mixed those in and then left the dough for another hour.

After the dinner dishes had been cleared and washed, I cranked the oven up to 450° and put my cast-iron Dutch oven into the oven to pre-heat.

Sourdough Bread

I rolled the dough out of the bowl onto a piece of parchment paper. I gave it a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds and then lowered it into the smoking hot cast-iron Dutch oven.

Into the oven for 30 minutes with the lid on and then 25 minutes with the lid off at 400°.

Sourdough Bread

The results were spectacular.

I am so happy to be working with sourdough again!

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In the Kitchen

Smoked Bread on the Grill

I put a ball of bread dough on the grill and “smoked” it!

Smoked Bread

I put the dough on the one side of the grill with no direct heat and the foil packages of applewood chips on the other side with heat under them.

The heat under the foil packets got them smoking hot – and created a nice sweet smoke aroma that filled the grill – and gave the dough a smoky odour.

Smoked Bread

Unfortunately I kind of screwed up the process. I had not let the bread dough rise enough. I was thinking that I would let the dough develop a smoky flavour and then let it rise for a couple more hours.

Nope. Duh. Being on the grill made the dough bake – who woulda thought?! Grill – heat – cooking. So my ball of dough that had not yet had time to rise enough got baked.

Even so, the end result was actually pretty good. Yes, next time I will let the dough rise more before “smoking” it but, live and learn.

I’ll try again

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In the Kitchen

A Beautiful Loaf of Bread

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

Buddha

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