Monday, May 25, 2015

Guide to light summer fare on the BBQ: Part 1

No one likes a massive meat fest more then the guys at Smoke Salt and Fire, but every meal can't be gigantic steaks and whole pigs, sometimes you just feel like something a little lighter. Whether you need a quick lunch or a light summer supper on the barbecue your first stop should be your local butchers shop or meat counter. Most butcher offer all kinds of fantastic light summer options.
Hot Macedonian Sausage with olives, feta, green onions and Bordeaux mustard 
Sausages are a summer favorite, with classics like brats and hot Italian available in most grocery stores, but your butcher may  be able to offer you some more creative options.  In the past few weeks our butchers have set us up with wild boar sausage, spicy chorizo sausage and hot Macedonian sausage and we didn't even have to say pretty please.
Of course just having great sausage doesn't make the meal, you have to dress them up. Let's start with the bun, first off stay away from standard grocery store hot dog buns if at all possible, I mean your not a kid anymore, get an adult bun. Head over to your grocery store bakery section, or even better your local bakery, and see if they have something a little better. Recently we picked up some amazing baguette buns at our local bakery, but we've wrapped beautiful sausage in everything from croissants to naan.
Now you're going to need some toppings, get creative here, we went mostly Mediterranean with the toppings for our Macedonian sausage, but then we threw in a Bordeaux mustard twist. We went a completely different direction with our Chorizo, pairing it with some red wine cheddar, an Old Smokey mustard and cilantro. The point is to get creative and make something fun.
Chorizo sausage, on baguette bun.
Burgers and Sliders
Burgers and their smaller cousins sliders are another great summer favorite that's easy to get creative with. Let's start with the meat, first of all you don't need pre-formed frozen patties, making a hamburger patty is the easiest thing in the world, if you ever used Play-doh as a kid you already know the technique. Anybody can make burgers or sliders using grocery store ground beef, but if you want something really special why not ask your butcher to grind some of your favorite cut of beef for you, at SS & F we tend to go for a mix of chuck and brisket, but skirt, flap, rump, short rib and even oxtail can be ground for delicious burgers.
Sliders with a chuck/rump mix by chef Dominic
Kangaroo on top emu on the bottom
Of course you don't have to use beef at all, ground pork, lamb or chicken can also be used for burgers and sliders or you can get even more creative, not long ago Dominic graced us with some fantastic kangaroo and emu sliders. If you have access to it game meat can be another great option for burgers, I've had the opportunity to try, moose, venison and wild duck burgers and they were all fantastic. 
Now for the bun and toppings, as with hot dog buns grocery store burger buns tend to suck so be prepared to get creative bun wise. Kaisers are a great option for burgers, they tend to have more substance and flavour then grocery store burger buns. An even more fun option can be cheese and/or onion buns from your grocery store bakery department or local bakery.  If you don't mind you burger patty hanging out a bit around the edges croissants can be another flakey, buttery delicious bun option for burgers. There are bun options for sliders to, the bakery near me does some fantastic Italian dinner rolls, or why not combined the best parts of breakfast and dinner by serving up some sliders on english muffins? This breakfast staple is excellent for soaking up all that yummy meat juice from a nice juicy slider. 
At Smoke Salt and Fire we believe great cheese is almost a necessity on an amazing burger. While it's important not to feel limited in the types of cheese you can use we recommend staying away from processed cheese slices unless you're specifically going for a very old style burger. That said there are literally hundreds of amazing cheese options, if you want to keep it classic you can go with an old cheddar or a nice jack, but there are other ways to go to. Blue cheeses can be a nice option that often gets overlooked for burgers, Stilton is my personal favorite for burgers. Smoke mozzarella is also great on burgers and a bit out of the ordinary or why not try the mix of gruyere and parmigiano Dominic uses for his sliders.
 Another favorite way to dress up a burger is with bacon, why not see if your butcher has something special put aside bacon wise or even better make up a batch of your own bacon, we have great recipe for red wine bacon or go all out and make you own "King Bacon" to put on your burgers.  
Any way you slice it these barbecue ideas should help to heat up your summer barbecues. Keep and eye out for part 2 of our light summer barbecue guide coming soon, when we'll be looking at how to spice up some more summer barbecue favorites.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cucumber and Tomato, a great summer salad

Salads are great in summer time, cool and delicious on a hot day. A great side for barbecue or perfect as a meal on it's own. Cucumber and tomato salad is a particular favorite of mine, there's something about the combination of cucumber, tomatoes and green onions in a simple vinaigrette that just takes your breath away.
Cucumber Tomato Salad with rice, olives and pork souvlaki 

1/2 english cucumber
2-4 tomatoes
1 bunch green onions
2 tbsps finely chopped parsley
2 tbsps feta cheese


1/2 cup olive oil
1/8 cup white wine vinegar (you can use balsamic, malt, red wine, cider or white vinegar if you prefer)
1/4 of a lemon
1 tsp seedy mustard (I used Kozlik's Triple Crunch, but any seedy mustard will work)
1 pinch oregano
1 pinch black pepper

Coarsely chop you tomatoes and cucumber into 3/4 inch chunk as see in the picture above and throw them in a large salad bowl.  Chop you green onions into 1/2 inch lengths, discard the root and add the chopped onions to your salad bowl.   Sprinkle in your finely chopped parsley (I like Italian parsley but any fresh parsley will work) and crumble in your feta cheese.  Toss the salad until everything is thoroughly mixed together.
For the dressing add your vinegar and live oil to a small bowl or measuring cup. Squeeze the juice from 1/4 of a lemon into your oil and vinegar, try to squeeze as much lemon juice as you can from your 1/4 lemon, if any seeds get into your dressing fish them out with a fork. Add your seedy mustard and throw in a pinch each of oregano and black pepper, stir the dressing thoroughly and pour on your salad before the oil and vinegar separate.
Toss the salad again to evenly distribute the dressing. Bonus points if you add bacon bits. Serves 4 as a side or 1 as a main.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Red Wine Bacon, a thinking man's recipe

So it would appear my business partner thinks you want foie gras, gold leaf and half a hundredweight of pomp and circumstance with your bacon. Personally I like to think you lot are a little more sophisticated then that. I mean does chef Dominic really think people want bacon that looks like something Mr. T would wear on a chain around his neck? Do you really want bacon that's as spangly as P-diddley's trousers?  I think not.
In all seriousness though I think the bacon Dominic made is magnificent and it's going to be fabulous for an event I'm hoping to organize in the near future, but more on that in a later post.
What you really want is some seriously grown up bacon, you want bacon that's moved on from the breakfast table to take it's rightful place at dinner. You want the kind of bacon that makes people really rethink what bacon is all about, you want red wine bacon.
That's right, I said red wine bacon, amazing winey, garlicky, baconny goodness that takes bacon to a whole new level.


1 pound of pork belly (Ask your butcher to remove the skin at the time of purchase)
1 1/2 tsp Morton's kosher salt
1/2 tsp curing salt #1 (sometimes called Pink salt #1 or Prague salt #1)
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp of brown sugar
2 tbsp of garlic powder
1/2 cups red wine

1 /12 cups of red wine
1 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp brown sugar

!. Throw your dry ingredients into a large ziplock bag (I like Glad Zipper locks, but do you boo, most heave duty ziplock type bags will work)
2. Add your wine to the bag and shake thoroughly so the wine is well mixed with the dry ingredients.
3. Put your pork belly in the bag, force as much air as possible out of the bag before sealing and place the sealed bag in the fridge.
4. Store the bag in the fridge for between 1 and 3 weeks to cure, turning the bag over daily to ensure even curing.  I recommend erring towards longish curing times when working with red wine try for at least 10 day to allow the wine to get right in there.
5. Making a glaze, put your glaze ingredients into a sauce pan and and simmer until the red wine starts to thicken and look syrupy.
6. Remove the now cured belly from the bag and rinse under the tap, allow to dry for about a 1/2 hour before smoking
7. I like to smoke over a hickory and apple wood mix between 220-240 degrees, allow about 45 minutes per pound, double that if it's below freezing out. Coat with wine glaze when you put it in, turn the belly over at the half way mark and re-glaze.
8. Remove from the smoker and refrigerate for 24 hours before slicing. (Do not skip this step!!!)

Cooking:  As I mentioned at the beginning this bacon is more at home at the dinner table then at breakfast, though I've found fun ways of including it at breakfast also, there are lots of interesting ways to cook it, when you fry it it turns a deep winey red as it cooks and the wine flavour is very distinctive.  My favorite way to prepare it is to put it over top of a chicken breast in the oven, just cook the chicken as you normally would and lay the bacon on top of it before you put it in the oven, the wine flavour will spread through the chicken in the most delightful way.

I've also enjoyed chopping my wine bacon into lardons and frying them up to throw on top of salad, you have to do something to help salad. ;)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Strawberry Bruschetta

Fresh strawberries, that tangy, sweet taste; dancing in perfect harmony with the lemon soaked tomatoes and the fresh from the garden taste of beautiful thyme. The crunch of the baguette against the smooth creamy taste of the goat cheese makes this an appetizer to impress your friends. Or woo the girl of your dreams. Or make up for doing something stupid to your usually loving partner.

6 Medium size hot house tomatoes.
10-15 Good sized strawberries
6 Lemons
1 Red onion
1 Handful of parsley
1 Sprig of thyme
1 Tbsp of Salt
1 tsp of garlic powder
Vienna loaf or whatever bread you like.
1 Small of soft goats cheese - chilled

Disclaimer: This recipe takes 24hrs! You can rush it but you will not get anywhere near the same flavours!

First the strawberries. Cut them into little cubes by cutting them in half, cutting into strips, then cutting those strips in half. When you have them cut up, throw them in a bowl with the juice of one lemon and the leaves from your sprig of Thyme. Let them sit for 1 minute then throw out any remaining lemon juice in the bowl. Pop them in the fridge and let them sit for 24 hours! When you take them out they should have a bit of the lemon flavour with a nice aftertaste of the thyme. Lovely!

Cut up those delicious looking tomatoes and throw them into a bowl, small cubes is great. Next is the onion, cut up half, very fine and in it goes with the tomatoes. Next is the handful of parsely leaves, cut them up fine and in they go too with the juice from the remaining lemons and the tsp of garlic powder. Stir it up and let it rest beside its starberry friends for 24 hours.

The next day!

Toast your bread or throw it in the frying pan with a little oil and give it a quick fry.

Put a thin layer of the tomato bruschetta on the bread, followed by a thin layer of the starberries then crumble a little of the goat cheese over and  you are done!

Now feed it to your loved one and enjoy the eternal love... or, you're out of the doghouse now. you're welcome.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Breakfast porn 2: How to make your own amazing tasting breakfast

Do you ever wake up craving something delicious? Or need to make a yummy breakfast to impress that someone special? You can make a delicious and amazing looking breakfast in less then 20 minutes.

Bacon, 4 strips
Eggs, 2
Cheese, cheddar, 1 cup grated
Finely chopped garlic, 1tbsp
1 small onion, finely chopped
Butter 5 tbsps
1 english muffin
1 tomatillo thinly sliced (Optional)
1 tsp Italian parsley (Optional)

Melt 4 tbsps butter in in a large frying pan, when butter is melted throw in your onion and garlic. As soon as the onions and garlic start to go translucent add 2 slices of bacon to you pan.  Cook the bacon until it's done to your liking.  While the bacon is cooking cut the english muffin in half so it's ready for the toaster.

When the bacon is fried the way you like it take it out of the pan and place it on a side plate to rest.  Crack 2 eggs in to the pan you just cooked your bacon in, cooking the eggs in the bacon grease will add flavour. I like my eggs sunny side up, but if you're an over easy person that can work too. If you're adding tomatillos put them in the pan with the eggs as shown in the video.

At this point put your english muffin in the toaster and begin toasting.
When the english muffin is done toasting butter and plate it open, it then add bacon, now use a spatula to remove the tomatillos from the frying pan and put those on top of the bacon, then put the eggs on top of that.  Now cover the whole thing in grated cheddar, I used a 5 year old raw milk cheddar, but whatever you have at hand will work.
Now stick it in the oven under the broiler until the cheese melts, took about 90 seconds in my over, but your results may vary.
If you're trying to impress someone special sprinkle with some finely chopped Italian parsley to give the dish that attractive dash of green.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Dominic's Summer Hot Sauce

 Look at those beautiful peppers! Red! Ripe! Perfect to add that summer kick to everything you cook!

Why is it that peppers remind me of the summer? I think of islands, beaches, the sun, sitting in the shade with a burn, looking like a lobster and getting drunk from something that tastes like a coconut did VERY inappropriate things with a bowl of fruit and a bottle of rum. But let’s leave the beaches and bikinis behind and head to that drum cut in half, coals glowing a loving orange colour and throw on some veg!

For my hot sauce I like spice, but above spice I like flavour! If the reaction is, “Mmm this tastes great… oh my god I need a drink.” I'm doing it right.

My hot sauce starts with a citrus note that fills the mouth and gets it watering, then comes the garlic and onion, adding rich notes of BBQ and the same taste one would get from the first bite of pasta sauce. It finishes sweet and then burns a constant and sharp treat that will last for about 30 seconds on a fresh pallet.

Sounds good? Ok, let’s get those veg on the grill!
I will be using:
1 Head of garlic.
1 Large red onion
Aprox 30 Scotch bonnet peppers
Aprox 8 Red hot chili peppers
6 Lemons
1 Tbsp of brown sugar.

Garlic! Grill it! It turn as soft as butter.
(TIP: Pull off as much of the outside husk as you can.)
(TIP: BBQ, cut in half, serve with crusty bread, olive oil and a nice balsamic as an app.)

Onion! You know what happens when you throw it in a pan with butter, same thing happens on the bbq.
(TIP: Cut an ‘X’ halfway through each end so the heat can get in there.)

Peppers! Throw them on and watch them closely, as they cook, the meat will start to separate away from the waxy outside covering.
(TIP: Experiment! There’s an amazing selection of peppers out there and they taste wildly different, see what combinations you like and what works with your best dishes. I’m using Scotch Bonnet and Red Hot Chili Peppers.)

Got the veg on the grill? 
Great!  Flip those peppers and enjoy something cool to drink while you dream of the sand between your toes.
Done? Awesome! Smell that? Mmm, think of all the dishes that you could add a little spice too.
Jerk Chicken. Fried Chicken. Pizza. Curry. Burgers. Wings. Sauces. Drinks(Caesar+). Desserts. Quiche. Etc.

Pull the veg off and let them cool a little so you can touch them with your hands.
Snip an end off the red hot chilies and squeeze the meat and seeds into your container.
Pull off any stems and throw the scotch bonnets into the container too, seeds and all.
In goes the onion when it’s nice and soft.
In goes the garlic when it too is nice and soft.
Squeeze in your lemons using a wire strainer to make sure the seeds stay out.
Now add 1-2 cups of vinegar and blend with an immersion blender until you have a paste that is super hot!

The next step is completely up to you and how hot you like things. The more vinegar you add, the
less viscous and less hot it will become. If you see my picture of the container I chose, it was 1/4th full of the chili paste and I added 3/4 vinegar.
Add a Tbsp of brown sugar or two and give it a stir.

You’re done! How easy was that!
Now go wash your hands!!
Trust me O_O  

SS & F's guide to making great veggie soup

At Smoke Salt and Fire we may be meat eaters but that doesn't mean we don't appreciate a healthy hearty veggie soup. A good vegetable soup can be one of the worlds great comfort foods and the best part is it's cheap to make because veggies cost way less then meat.
The real trick to making a delicious, filling, satisfying vegetable soup is to build up a strong umami flavour. If you aren't familiar with the term umami it refers to a savory taste often found in meat and fish but also present in some vegetables like tomato and eggplant.  
You're going to need a large pot to get started, once you have that we can start building our flavours.  We'll begin by adding some oil to the bottom of our pot, you can really use any cooking oil here, like olive oil, canola oil or butter, but my favorite oil for starting a soup is sesame oil. Sesame oil adds a strong umami base to the start of our soup that I feel adds depth to the final flavour of the dish.  Once you've added oil and heated it to a medium heat you're going to want to add some onion and garlic flavours to the dish, throw in some finely chopped garlic and onions or scallions or shallots or leeks or any combo there of. Let the onions and garlic saute in the bottom of the pot until they start to become translucent.

While the onions and garlic are sauteing chop up your other vegetables, you should start with carrots and celery as those are going to be the next thing we throw in. Toss in your carrots and celery and let them saute with the onions and garlic for a bit, you'll know it's time to add more ingredients when the carrots and celery start to sweat. If you want to add potatoes to your soup you should throw those in next because they take a while to cook, cut potatoes up fairly small when cooking for soup, large chunks of potato can take too long to cook.  If you're not using potatoes or you've already added them it's time to start adding your other ingredients, you can really add any veggies you like at this stage. I usually add sweet peppers next, my favorite are Sheppard Peppers, a sweet red pepper with a little more flavour then standard bell peppers.
Now you're starting to build a nice flavour profile it's time to pump up that umami flavour. There are lots of vegetables that can add a nice umami flavour to a veggie dish, I can hear the mushroom fans chanting shitaki now, you can also use some types of squash, but my personal favs are tomato and eggplant so we'll chop some of those up and throw them in the pot, I'm also adding some yellow zucchini, for not better reason then I like zucchini.

By this point you're probably starting to see some nice veggie juices in the bottom of the pot, stir your ingredients a bit to make sure they cook nice and even.  Once your veggies start to soften you're going to need to add some liquid, you can use water, or vegetable stock but I like to use white wine or sometimes beer, depending on the flavour I'm going for. If you're going for more of an Asian flavour you may want to consider saki or soju.
If you're using wine to cook with it's okay to use cheap wine but make sure you choose one you'd want to drink, stay away from anything that says cooking wine on the label. There are 2 reasons for this, first whatever flavours are in the wine are going to be intensified when you cook with it, also when cooking with wine you're a fool not to have a glass, so try and pick something cheap you'll enjoy and that matches the flavour profile you're trying to create.
Once you've added your liquid, whether wine, soup stock, water or something else leave the heat at medium until it starts to bubble; then turn it down to low and allow to simmer for about 20 minute. While you're veggies are simmering you can start to think about spice and seasoning, I tend to leave salt for last because many seasonings contain some level of salt and you don't want to over do it.  I usually like to start by throwing in some finely chopped fresh dill, parsley and cilantro, if I have it handy fresh chives can be nice also. If I'm going for an asian feel I might add soy sauce or another asian style sauce. I sometimes like to add Old Bay seasoning, this Southern favorite tastes great in soups, white or black pepper can also add some zing to a soup, as can smoke paprika. If you're looking for more heat then that get some hot peppers, I like those little red chillies from Thailand, but you can use any chillies you really like here depending on the heat level you're looking for.
Finally we need to think about salt, before you add any salt taste your stock so far, some vegetables contain a fair amount of salt also if you've use soy sauce, vegetable stock or Old Bay seasoning those will have added their own salt. Now add salt in small amounts, stir in thoroughly and taste again before adding more salt until you're satisfied with the flavour. Now let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes, at this point you have a terrific veggie stew, with a nice broth and you can happily serve it just like that, but what I like to do at this stage is grab my blender. Blending will bring all your flavours together and make every bite a filling delicious mix.  I find it usually take 3 to 5 minutes of blending to get the consistency I like, but your results may vary depending on your blender and whether you want to blend it smooth or you want it a little chunky.
After that it's just a matter of of serving, once you get you soup in a bowl you may want to do a little something to finish the dish, if you're serving vegans I suggest some finely chopped parsley or cilantro, for others maybe some cheese or even a few bacon bits or if you're me all of the above.
This isn't the only way to make a great veggie soup of course and there are lot's of great variation, but this guide should get you started on the road to some great soups, I hope some of you will be inspired to come up with your own great soups.

Tell us in comments about you favorite soups and recipe creation.