Saturday, 31 March 2018

When the Cabbage Roll Weds the Perogie?

The Ukrainians have a few interesting foodie-related proverbs and sayings, such as: "No cook ever died of starvation." Or, "If you chase two hares at the same time, you will catch neither of them." And then, "No matter how hard you try, the bull will never give you milk." And finally, "Only when you have eaten a cockroach do you appreciate soup."

Though I've never had the privilege to visit the Ukraine, my daughter has. And in honour of that visit, today's foodie experiment was, not only another first for me, but also a tribute to a couple awesome Ukrainian dishes. For those of you who love perogies and cabbage rolls, this might be of interest to you. I, for one, love them both.

But what would happen if one took those two wonderful Ukrainian dishes, and combined them into one? As I pondered that, it quickly occurred to me that, as with other foodie creations that I've previously embarked on, I was about to find out. Perogie cabbage rolls? Why not?!

The experiment started with a package of frozen potato, bacon and romano cheese perogies. These were dropped into boiling water and stirred occasionally to keep them from sticking to each other. When they had surfaced on top of the boiling water, they were removed from the boiling water and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate.

While this was happening, in another pot of boiling water there was a whole head of cabbage that had been pre-cored, removing the stem. As it's leaves began to fall away from the rest of the head, and became soft, they were each removed one by one and set aside on another paper towel-lined tray.

The spine of each cabbage leaf was removed and set aside. (Along with a little salt, these became a great snack throughout the preparation process). Each perogie was then wrapped in a leaf (or half a leaf, depending on size) of cabbage. A toothpick was used to temporarily hold everything together throughout the rest of the cooking process, and removed before serving.

A jar of our favourite pasta sauce was then preheated and stirred, and then poured over the perogie cabbage rolls. These dishes were then covered in foil and placed in a 300 degree F oven about an hour before being served with a dollop of sour cream.

They were wonderfully yummy. 😋😋😋

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Smoke and Whiskers

A few years ago, when I was given a new Bradley Smoker for Father's Day, I suddenly discovered a new passion and hobby … smoking meat.

Since then I've experimented with everything from beef jerky to sirloin tip to meatloaf, from pork loin to sausages, from chicken to salmon, and even a variety of veggies. Often I would wrap some of these in a bacon-weave to make them even more exotic. Most weekends, if you were over at our place, you would see and smell the smoke rising from the old smoker. And if you followed my blog, The Other Side of Will, you would see the story and some pics behind many of these foodie creations.

I've enjoyed following several websites and social media communities that share the same passion for the smoker and barbecue, such as the BBQ Pit Boys. I've learned a lot from them and their members, and also shared a few posts of my own of some of my experiments. As such, I was only too happy to support the BBQ Pit Boys by starting an official chapter of my own here in Southern Alberta.

So, I'd like to introduce you to, Smoke and Whiskers, an official BBQ Pit Boys chapter. We can be found on Facebook at: Smoke and Whiskers.

OK, as any foodie will tell you, they understand the "smoke" part, but what's what's with the "whiskers" part? Well, the "whiskers" part simply pays tribute to the fact that I've been bearded for most of my adult life; I was bearded in my wedding pictures over 36 years ago, and though a little greyer now, I remain bearded still. Ah, whiskers! As someone once said, "God only made so many perfect faces; the rest are clean shaven."

So, what keeps you up at night? What do you mediate upon?

For me it's often the next exotic foodie idea, such as my plan to smoke a whole pig this summer for an upcoming family reunion. I confess that I've never tried that before, but such is the life of a foodie. No recipe, no magic formula; just an idea to be experimented with and sometimes tweaked on subsequent attempts. But you know you're doing something right when leftovers are often scarce and even the wife goes for a second helping.

Happy smoking. Peace.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Don't Let Will Get Your Goat

Among the many childhood experiences that I fondly remember, and to this day am grateful for, is that my parents introduced my siblings and me to a plethora of exotic dishes. When introduced to one such strange new dish, one of my brothers only question was, not the often too typical, "Yuck, I don't like that," but rather, "How do I eat that?" I cannot remember exactly what the dish was, but it obviously was something unique and different enough, that my younger brother's question was quite valid.

I suppose you could say that this past weekend's foodie creation was a tribute to those wonderful childhood cuisine experiences.

The original plan was to make a hearty beef stew on the charcoal grill in my trusty cast iron pot. While in the meat department looking for some beef bones to add to my stewing beef, I discovered some bone-in New Zealand goat. I thought I had won the lottery! Plans quickly changed. Now dinner was going to be a goat stew. I texted the idea to my wife and met no resistance, so I quickly hurried to the nearest checkout with my exotic find.

I was reminded of something my daughter said many years ago on a university trip into an eastern European country. She came back and said that they tried to have all foods at least twice. When I asked why, she said, "First to get over the shock of something different, and the second time to try and learn to appreciate it." Wise words, I thought. How can we rightly say that we don't like something different, unless we first actually try it?

After heating up my charcoal grill, and since I already had beef stewing meat thawed, I decided that my goat stew would also contain beef. Why not?! The goat and the beef were seasoned with some favourite spices and seared a bit on the hot grill before finding their way into the pot. I added some water, potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, Crimini mushrooms, garlic powder, black pepper, salt and beef broth. Later I added a little flour in order to thicken up the stew. After pre-soaking it in some water, I then added a couple chunks of rum oak barrel wood directly on top of the hot charcoal to give me the smoke I wanted to enhance my stew with.

One certainly could have made something like it in the kitchen on the stove top, but there's something about slow cooking outdoors over charcoal and smoke that gives food a unique flavour that I defy any indoor kitchen to even come close to.

After a few hours, it came time for the moment of truth; dinner was served. It looked and smelled good enough, but how about taste? We weren't disappointed. Goat certainly has a unique taste all its own that is not easily compared to most of the more common North American fares.

Someone once said in jest something to the effect of, "Everything tastes like chicken that doesn't have a taste of its own." Well, goat definitely doesn't taste like chicken. Perhaps the closest thing I can compare it to is lamb, but even that's not really a fair comparison. Goat tastes like, well, goat.

And if I still have not yet convinced you of this amazing meat, let me just close with this. Often times the best testimony of a meal is someone going for a second helping, as my dear wife did. Maybe the way to a woman's heart really is through a man who likes to cook. Hmm.

Postscript: It is interesting to note that the reheated leftovers on the second day were almost better than the first day. Hmm.

For Further Reading: 28 Health Benefits of Goat Meat
First Goat Picture Credit: Nick Bianco, Flickr Creative Commons
Final Goat Meme Source: Unknown