Beef stew was, sadly at the time, a staple of our childhood. My mom would buy stewing beef and my dad, clearly unaware of the benefits of cooking such cuts low and slow, would brown the meat, add tomatoes and potatoes and green things and serve it up for dinner – and it was a long, meaty chew. Nowadays, I appreciate the flavour potential of inexpensive cuts of beef – and I love a good dark, sticky braise. A recipe that calls for a few hours’ cooking time sounds daunting, but dishes like beef stew and carbonnade can be slid into the oven after school and be done by dinnertime. Of course, starting with the proper cut of beef is important, which is why so many people panic in the meat aisle, why Mike dreads me sending him to the store with vague cuts of beef on his list, and why having a good butcher is a very good thing. But when there isn’t someoneContinue reading

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Apparently, the world is divided into two types of eaters: those who want to segregate everything on their dinner plates, and those who like everything mixed together in a big jumble, like pad Thai or a rice bowl topped with all manner of meat, eggs and veggies. That’s me. The grill continues to rule our world. I’m amazed how much I don’t miss my oven. (This will change in the fall, I know. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.) Thinly sliced, intensely marinated steak cooks almost instantly on the grill while you do any number of veggies alongside – sliced zucchini, peppers, eggplant, asparagus – anything goes. Totally different from the usual barbecue fare, but perfect for eating outdoors – a pair of chopsticks is all you’ll need.

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I know, cooking a $50 prime rib is scary. Trusting it to cook properly on the grill can be even scarier. But once you get the hang of cooking on your grill over indirect heat – there really is nothing to it – it’s very liberating to realize you can use your backyard barbecue much like your indoor oven. Prime rib is a classic – the marbling means it will be juicy, the bone means one lucky person (or a few, if you get a 2 or 3 bone roast) will get to stretch out in the grass and gnaw on it afterward. This is a single bone roast – almost like an enormous steak. A beautiful cut of meat I do not want to screw up. So here’s the trick: once you prep your roast however you like it – I just pat it dry with paper towel, then rub it with a cut garlic clove and sprinkle with salt and pepper – aContinue reading

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If you live somewhere where there are actually things growing out of the ground already, lucky you. Here in Calgary, there are still small glaciers on most streets and in yards, but this weekend the temperature finally crept up past zero. Way up past ten, even! Hello, barbecue. It’s been awhile. Last week I had lunch with a local rancher (one who supplies our Calgary Co-op stores with beef that’s born and bred in Alberta), and was given a gorgeous T-bone steak to take home, which we used as an excuse to fire up the grill (which since October has been subbing as an outdoor freezer). When you get a taste of spring, even when there’s still snow on the ground, you gotta jump on it.

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When we were kids, my dad fancied himself a pretty good beef stew maker. I did not agree – he used big chunks of flank steak, which I suspect weren’t cooked quite long enough to break down in its tomato-ey sauce, because while it was certainly lean and healthy, it had the texture of chewy meat rope. (Sorry Dad – it’s not you, it’s me. And the meat rope.) Fortunately, he’s so fantastic that it’s easy to overlook his stew. But it’s funny how childhood food preferences stick with you – I keep thinking I don’t like beef stew, but really I do. (So long as the meat is cooked long enough.) Any tough cut of beef (or bison) makes a good stew – even those chunks of “stewing beef”; the trick is to simmer it first, giving the connective tissues time to melt and the gravy a chance to develop, before adding the potatoes and carrots, which you don’t want to break down toContinue reading

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I feel like I’ve been slingshot (can that be used as a verb?) straight into mid January, and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a grilled cheese sandwich. I’ve decided that if I’m going to eat bread, it might as well be truly fantastic – and preferably used to bookend other divine ingredients, bound together by melty cheese. There are few things I love more than a grilled cheese sandwich, but too often everything gets ignored but the cheese. Let’s start with the bread, shall we? This is a roasted garlic oval from ACE Bakery, with sweet, mellow roasted garlic right in the dough. It’s a good size – with enough structural integrity and a crisp crust. I used my friend Jessica’s trick – to mix grated Parmesan cheese into soft butter to spread on the outside of each slice, which creates an extra crunchy, cheesy exterior, maximizing those crispy edges.

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I’m super into braising things these days. The process of it. The browning of the wodges of meat and their long, lingering time in the oven. (In a cast iron pot, not the slow cooker.) The way the house smells when you walk outside and then back in – I keep going out and coming in, just for the experience. It feels like cooking. Bringing home an identifiable slab of meat, cutting and searing it (neither of which requires any particular skill), adding whatever flavours you like (balsamic! salt! thyme!) along with liquid and heat and allowing it all to do its thing – to break down tough connective tissues and melt into a delicious stew no different from those our ancestors cooked for their families in a pot on the hearth or over an open fire. Deep for a Wednesday night, I know.

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At the beginning of the year, my friend Jan and I started a series we called Gatherings, a monthly post based on a time we had extra people around our table, or in our backyard – there have been birthday parties (OK, a few birthday parties) and a big pot of meatballs, pecan waffles with wine smoothies and music-inspired cocktails. I was in Toronto on Monday-Tuesday and we got together to work on a project and as we sat on the hotel room beds, laptops and books and room service calamari and wings spread across both, Jan, who is far more on the ball than I, pointed out that we were due for a post in a couple days. Apparently it’s the last week of August. (People in Tofino gathering for their annual Lantern Festival at the botanical gardens 2 weeks ago.) So yesterday, Jan wrote about cousin camp – an annual summer thing where she has her nieces and nephews over for an epicContinue reading

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He has a shirt and a noun (or many), in lieu of a Nenshi action figure, why not a pie? Generally in Calgary we gear up for Canada Day and Stampede, energy-wise – this year the city was tired, still collectively recovering from the floods and the muck when July 1st snuck up on us. (Or on me, anyway.) It was good timing, actually – everyone was in need of a little reprieve and celebration, and our mayor suggested we all take a day off and enjoy each others’ company. (Amid all this, one day upon seeing a photo of Nenshi on the cover of Avenue, W said to his cousin: “see that guy? He’s the principal of Calgary.) Emceeing the festivities at Fort Calgary I got to talking with the chairman of the (Fort Calgary) board, who told me one of her family’s favourite meals is something they call Nenshi pie – made with the filling from his mother’s samosa recipe baked in aContinue reading

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