I have always loved cooking outside and eating outside. I wouldn’t call myself a big spit and saucy bbq type of person, I just love the concept of cooking traditionally out of doors, It may have started with camping when I was young. But in my mid twenties, I owned a cottage deep in Canadian shield country which I loved and it was where I really got into cooking out of doors on either wood or charcoal. The cottage was truly one of the most special spots to me in all the world both then and now and I have so many wonderful memories of entertaining there and of raising my daughters in their younger years.
A friend introduced me to the original charcoal kettle Weber grill and he showed me how to use it properly. I still remember the smoked chicken that he showed me how to make and when I took leftovers into the office I worked at, the smell was just amazing and everyone was transported to the outdoors for a brief moment. The trick to the recipe was starting with a nice quality whole chicken, a good bed of coals, indirect heat, soaked chips thrown on, and then covered and no peaking for one hour. It was perfect every time. I then began experimenting with different bbq sauces. I was around 27 and I made “rattlesnake ribs” I think out of the Silver Palate cookbook – if anyone remembers that. To go with them, a bourbon based bbq sauce. The recipe required a long smoke with a rub and then another long cook with a wet rub and finally a finish with the sauce. It was and still is the best rib recipe ever. Over the years I’ve changed it up a little bit making it with different spices and cooking methods. In the meantime, I’ve made a lot of bbq sauces each one different than the other. I think what I love is the concept of what open fire, wood and smoke all does to food and then how a sauce may enhance it.
Chef Mckenna, I’m pretty sure sometimes wonders how he went from a French trained chef in a sophisticated restaurant kitchen to being “demoted” to a “pit-master”. But really, I know he actually loves the challenge of cooking outdoors and over fire and most of the time – is joking with me. Furthermore, who ever said pit-masters were not great chefs requiring a serious amount of skill in creating delicious food that is not burnt and overcooked! It’s about being in nature, about cooking food in a traditional way. Chef Mckenna has mastered bringing the forest and field to the fire in some very creative and excellent dishes in the short time he has been here.
I now have a bbq sauce that is part of our farm flavours spice product line and it is one the official South Pond tasters – Aubrey Rose (my youngest daughter) and Shawn love. I call it Silo Stout bbq sauce because it is a bit red like the tiles of the silo, made with a local beer and has just a bit of sweet and spiciness and is good on everything – including Aubrey Rose’s every day breakfast – soft boiled eggs. Our Manvers Station – named after the old train station in this township; it is a spice rub that I use on a lot of things – chicken, ribs, beef, vegetables and of course – Aubrey Rose’s morning eggs.
I named this Farmhouse Supper on Thursday the 27th, Fire and Smoke just because I love both of those things. The menu features some of Chef’s favourites and mine; bringing the chicken that I used to make on the kettle grill with his take on it to our community table. Fire and smoke is about cooking food all year long, out on a grill or in the wood fired cookstove through the winter months. Nothing tastes better.