Hail Caesar!

Celebrating 40 years of the Caesar Cocktail (source: Calgary Herald)

Ave!

Despite my best efforts, Calgary really isn’t known as a cocktail-enabled city.  Sure, we got the same influx of variable-tinis that every other place in North America got a few years ago, but beyond the 18 year olds thinking they’re sophisticated drinking a concotion of ingredients more suited to a kool-aid pitcher than a martini glass, we’re far more oriented along a beer-axis.

The exception to this is the Caesar cocktail, a drink few outside of Canada know about, that was invented here in Calgary 40 years agot.  Sort of a bastard relation to the Bloody Mary, the drink differs from the rather staid Mary by subbing out the tomato juice for clamato… a clam and tomato juice concoction.

Stop screaming and running away. You’ve had that combination in pasta sauces, I’m sure. Sit back down, and let’s continue.

The traditional caesar recipe is stated somewhat as the article above. The actual recipe is a little short on detail,  so let us do this up with a little more description:

  • Rim an appropriate glass with celery salt, add ice.
  • 1 ounce vodka (though you’ll be hard pressed to find a bartender in this town that limits it to a measly one ounce)
  • 4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dashes tabasco sauce
  • A little salt, a little pepper (this is really to taste. Everyone I’ve ever seen does it differently. Personally I add a little extra celery salt to the drink itself.
  • Top the glass up with clamato juice (I do know people who still make their own clam/tomato infusion for caesars, and it is glorious)
  • Add a celery stick for garnish.

Simple, tasty, good in winter or summer.

The trick, of course, is in the modifications. I am a fan of spicy food, and a spicy drink is no exception.  The addition of some ground horseradish can do wonders for this sort of drink, for instance. For the brave, the substitution of any of those “5 alarm XXX Holy #@!&^!” hot sauces can really turn the experience into something exciting (or suicidal, depending on your viewpoint). I’ve had some success with the really spicy versions by allowing some whole peppercorns to be steeped in the clamato for  awhile. Personally, though, I have found some of the most enjoyable modifications to be with the garnish.

After all, celery is boring.

Might I suggest, if you are going to make this delicious Calgary Cocktail, the addition of some spicy pickled string beans? Or a stalk of pickled asparagus? Not only does it make the drink look different, but the addition of a bit of pickle can really bring out an interesting addition to the flavour. I’ve seen green olives adorning such a drink to excellent results as well. One place I’ve known, did a garnish with banana peppers to similar effect.

In the end, no matter what you make for an addition, I recommend the Caesar at any party. They’re easy to make en masse, and few people in my experience seem to turn them down. The masses will vote you a triumph for your addition to the party!

Just remember, “memento mori”… thou art mortal. Try not to have too many of these in one sitting, and always enjoy responsibly.

Pork roast on the rotisserie

Well, up here in Soviet Canuckistan, its finally time to bust out the grill. I’m feeling lazy and I have my trepidations like I do at the start of every grilling season, so I’m going easy to start.

I’ve picked up a pork roast from the local co-op. It’s currently marinading in the fridge. In a couple of hours, as I juggle a shoutcast and cooking, I’ll be impaling (yay impaling!) it upon the rotisserie, and letting it spin for a few hours.

Marinade:

I’m a big fan of using what I have to hand for a marinade. Every one, in my mind, should be different. This time its:

  • Coca-cola (regular plain old coke. It needs the sugar. Coke zero makes a lousy base)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Seasoning Salt
  • Pepper
  • Mrs Dash seasoning
  • And a healthy addition of ground mustard.

Put it on the spit, light up the grill on indirect heat. Now, my grill has an indirect heat burner at the back of the grill. Not every grill has that. You can fake it though. Light one side of the grill, and push the pork roast on the rotissserie to the other side of the grill. Its not perfect, but I’ve made a right tasty meal or twelve that way on my old grill.

Now every grill is different, so its hard to say what temperature everything should be at. I crank the indirect heat to maximum for the first 15 minutes to start getting a bit of a crust on the roast, and then lower it to ~300 degrees. Some people go lower for longer.

The important part, no matter what, is the internal temperature of the meat. Digital BBQ temperature forks are cheap these days. Get one. Pork must be at least 160 degrees F internally to be done.

I recommend a drip pan under the meat. An old small cookie sheet will do the trick. Some people notice putting water in the drip tray helps keeps things moist, though I really haven’t noticed that much difference.

Of course, with indirect heat, its easy to lose said heat. Do not check the roast too often. Its ok. It doesn’t need your attention very often. This is lazy grilling. It will be just fine without you.

For the last half hour or so, I do try to put a bit of a glaze on the roast as it spins as well.

Glaze:

  • Maple syrup
  • Bourbon
  • Brown sugar to thicken it up a little bit.

As always, experiment with ratios. See what works best for you.

I really do recommend getting a BBQ mop for the glaze. Silicon basting brushes are wonderful things, but the mop seems to provide better coverage for such a thing. Plus, my inner seven year old is fascinated by the concept of mopping one’s food.

Due to it being on the rotisserie, its hard to say exactly how long it will take to complete, so I try to make sure my veggies aren’t done on the grill. I put a couple of baker spuds on the grill (sliced, given a bit of butter and some seasonings, and wrapped in foil) about an hour and a half to two hours before I think it will be done, and hope for the best. After all, the heat’s there, one may as well use it.

Serve with the veggie of your choice and enjoy!

Bison

Time to talk buffalo, and I don’t mean the city in New York.  Not knocking the Sabres fans out there, but we’re going to be talking about the tasty offering that’s made quite the resurgence in the past few years.

Actually, lets dispense with the term “buffalo” for the moment. That technically only applies to the asian water-buffalo. I’m sure its tasty itself, but we’re dealing with the North American Bison here, so let us work with the name given.

Here in western Canada, at least, there’s been a lot more bison on offer. We’ve seen our share of fad food-production around here, but bison seems to be sticking around.

Bison is noted to be a rather nutritious meat, and its low in fat. Very low in fat, actually. Where beef is 8.09 grams of fat per 100 grams of cooked flesh, bison is 2.42 grams. Its also a good source of Iron, B12, B6, Niacin, etc. (source: www.canadianbison.ca )

With this in mind, I set forth to the Calgary farmer’s market last friday to secure some Bison, in order to do up a bit of a meal.  Had a quick chat with the good people at the Valta Bison vendor, and selected a roast for the evening’s experiment. Please note, I am not a professional chef. I’m not even an unprofessional chef. I prefer to call this sort of thing “hacking my meal”.

Experiment:

Slow-cooked Bison Roast with a Shiraz and Bleu Cheese reduction

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Bento-Art

As many foodies are wont to do, I often traverse the digital offerings in my Internet Exploration Vessel. Over at Wired, there’s a link to a kitchen crafter known simple as AnnaTheRed. Kitchen artist is more how’d I’d describe it. I’d eat something crafted. Something considered art? I might put the chopsticks down. Her medium is not paint nor clay nor fabric, but Bento, the japanese style of lunch provided in compartmentalized containers.

Her repetoire can be best described as “geeky” in origin, with most of her bento-art referencing popular video games, sci-fi series, and more.

I know for myself, seeing the Raving Rabbid bento had me chortling.

Wired has a slideshow of 15 images regarding her work here, and an interview with the artist here.

Its art. I know I couldn’t eat it. Hold the soy sauce and wasabi.