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Peruvian Roast Chicken with Garlic and Lime

There is something so comforting, primal even, to see and smell something roasting over a spit, in my case it's a rotisserie on my barbecue grill. This is probably my favourite recipe for cooking chicken on the barbecue and if you don't have a rotisserie use the beer can style, or just roast it in an oven. Courtesy of Cooks Illustrated
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
2 Tbsp kosher salt
6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp finely grated zest and ¼ cup juice from 2 limes
1 tsp minced habanero chile (I used jalapeno)
1 (3 ½ -to 4-pound) whole chicken

Process all ingredients except chicken in blender until smooth paste forms, 10 to 20 seconds. Using fingers or handle of wooden spoon, carefully loosen skin over thighs and breast and remove any excess fat. Rub half of paste beneath skin of chicken. Spread entire exterior surface of chicken with remaining paste. Tuck wingtips underneath chicken. Place chicken in gallon-size zipper-lock bag and refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours. 

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Place vertical roaster on rimmed baking sheet. Slide chicken onto vertical roaster so chicken stands upright and breast is perpendicular to bottom of pan. Roast until skin just begins to turn golden and instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast registers 140 degrees, 45 to 55 minutes. Carefully remove chicken and pan from oven and increase oven temperature to 500 degrees.

When oven is heated to 500 degrees, place 1 cup water in bottom of pan and return pan to oven. Roast until entire skin is browned and crisp and instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees inserted in thickest part of breast and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, about 20 minutes (replenish water as necessary to keep pan from smoking), rotating bird 180 degrees halfway through cooking. 
 
Carefully remove chicken from oven and let rest, still on vertical roaster, 20 minutes. Using kitchen towel, carefully lift chicken off vertical roaster and onto platter or cutting board. Carve chicken and serve.

You can do all the above or if not, do as I did, use a barbeque rotisserie and roast on the rotisserie for 1 ¾ hours or until internal temperature reached 170° F. Once it is removed from the barbeque, let it stand covered with foil for 10 minutes, then carve and serve. Very yummy!!!!

This is sofa king good it will bring tears of joy to your eyes.


Grandma Boos and Her Perogy Mission

As I write this, I have just finished a dinner of perogies, cabbage rolls and kielbasa - a traditional meal in this part of the world given the large multi-generational eastern European population that makes up much of Western Canada, and it was fantastic. Comfort food of the highest order.

Earlier in the day we all pitched in and made two very large batches of perogies to freeze for dinners down the road.  The recipe we use to make perogies is one that Grandma Eveline left to the family and we have made countless times over the years, and in doing so, when making the perogies, Grandma is called back to us for a visit, if only for a short time, and sadly, if only but a memory - however I will take anything I can get.

She was no softy by any measure. She would tell you to suck it up and move on from your problem, don't dwell on the past since you can't change it and don't screw up again - learn from your experience. I heard all of them.

No matter the situation she always presented a tough veneer to the outside world or at least she tried to.  Her kindness did come through however and was shown to many people that came to her door, hat in hand, during a personal life crisis whether self-made or forced upon them, and she always had a bed, a meal, and a ton of advice for them. Her advice was dispensed whether you wanted it or not, agreed with it or not, or whether you liked it or not.

In my eyes she did not age, she didn't grow old in the young mans eyes - Superheros don't age.  She was eternal, immortal and bulletproof. For many of her grandchildren she was a tough Superhero, and now, even in my 50's, she still remains my Superhero, she always will.

One day during a telephone call with her I was suddenly struck by the fact she was growing old, she was not immortal, she was aging and beginning to suffer the debilitation's of old age. She was the one asking for help not offering it. I was crushed, my Superhero was weakening. When I explained the conversation to Susan who was listening to my side of the conversation as she sat beside me she too was crushed. We both cried.

Time wore on and as she grew older she became weaker and in need of care, it was because of her physical vulnerability that she moved to a care home leaving behind her few remaining possessions that were given to many of us, of which I received her cookbook, a few pictures, a box of notes and THE MIRROR. Not any ordinary mirror, but THE MIRROR that hung on the wall of her home forever. Now it is in my home and has been for years.

We lived a long distance away from her and did not see her as often as I would have liked, but life does interfere with desires; the last time I saw her she was not in good spirits or in good health and saying goodbye was the hardest thing to do. It turns out it was my last goodbye to her.

When the telephone rang one day it was my dad calling to tell me that Grandma had passed away; it was devastating for me and my family. It turns out that she was a Superhero not only to my wife and me, but the children too, our Superhero was gone.

Over the years since her passing I take every opportunity to talk about her with anyone that will listen to me ramble on.  There are many stories to share too, one of which I wrote about previously and some of which I will write about in future blog postings.  Her perogies are reason enough to ramble on and on and on and on about and I will do just that.

After she retired and moved to Kelowna she would occasionally travel throughout BC and Alberta to visit with friends and relatives, and during her travels I was often times on the agenda.  Her preferred mode of transportation during those times was driving her red Chevrolet Camaro, and I mean she really drove it. REALLY DROVE IT!!! She did like to drive fast and did all the time.

The cops hated it when she drove fast and did stop to tell her so from time to time, but often times when they stopped her and looked at her as they stood at her car window, they just asked the kindly old woman in front of them to slow down, no ticket was issued.  With a nod and a thank you Grandma took off and once clear of the pesky cop, entered warp speed once again. She had places to go and people to see and you can't get there driving like an old woman she would tell you.

That Camaro would pull up in front of my house and we would unload the contents of her car and set up for a visit of a week or so. The contents of her luggage ushered in a frenzy of perogy making, the likes of which were only seen when a gaggle of Baba's got together to make perogies for a big sale at the local Ukrainian church.

Once settled-in she would go shopping and come back with bags of flour, eggs, cheese, potatoes and the like, all necessary ingredients to the perogy making process. Once the larder was stocked to her satisfaction the perogy making began.  After a couple of days there would be a hundred dozen perogies in the freezer, yes, a hundred dozen, enough for a year or so of fine dining. She would then move on to her next stop leaving us with her perogy memory and a full freezer. Awesome...

She was French Canadian and perogies are not a French Canadian staple so I assume she learned how to make them to keep her husband well fed since he was a man of German heritage and loved a good dumpling. Who she learned the perogy making art from I don't know, but she mastered the hell out of it.

She embraced technology in the perogy making process to help speed it up and in doing so she utilized an Italian pasta roller, which I now have in my kitchen, to roll out the dough and to seal the dumplings she had a "Perogy Zipper" which looks similar to a lid from a spray can - kind of. I also have a couple of perogy zippers that she gave me as she often times left them behind when she visited people, we used one this past weekend in fact.

I do remember a time when she showed up at my door when I was living back in Edmonton during the early 80's recession. My wife and I were there trying to survive the recession having left BC in debt and with collection agents chasing us. Funny how the more things change the more they stay the same since I am now back in Prince George, broke, in debt and only one missed paycheque away from having the collection agents calling me again.

Anyway, being as broke as we were, our dinner menus were meagre at best, usually involving spaghetti, macaroni, or hamburger. My Aunty Lori (you do remember the Popsicle stick aunty don't you?) would invite us over to feed us from time to time when she noticed the rickets setting in or a gaunt pallor overtaking us, but for the most part we just ate hamburger and pasta. Then one day that lovely Camaro came screeching to a halt in front of our duplex, perogy making tools inside it and the perogy maker driving it. We hit the mother-lode.

After staying with us for a week or so she left us with a full freezer of perogies and that freezer took care of us for many months. It was fine dining, as perogies are the physical manifestation of fine art embodied in food. They really are.

Over the years she would show up and make batches of perogies for us regardless of my financial standing and they were always welcome. All of my family love perogies and they will tell you Grandma Eveline's perogies were the best, bar none. When we make them they are delicious too, but like Memere's cookies they do lack that certain something when not made by the Grandma. But they are delicious.



Cheesecorn!



I love popcorn and in particular popcorn made with coconut oil, salted, and topped with a gallon of clarified butter. Butter! Oh how I love butter on popcorn. Clarified butter! Warm, delicious clarified butter, lots and lots of clarified butter, however I am told it is not good to consume too much butter (damn doctors anyway), so I resorted to eliminating butter from my popcorn and it left me wanting. I needed to find something that was pleasurable; but not butter. Tall order. So I have searched for a trade-off that would give me my popcorn fix and keep me closer in line with the demands of my primary care physician, and I have failed constantly.

I made popcorn in a hot air popper, once, served plain - YUCK!

I use canola oil now to pop popcorn most of the time; a good source of monounsaturated fat that can help reduce my bad LDL cholesterol level and is a good source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat which is good for my heart health.

Before you go off on canola oil I must say there is always a conspiracy theory being circulated by some armchair rocket scientist/food expert about something telling us that "insert food name here" is bad for us and canola oil is no exception. I sought answers from the all knowing Internet and read up about canola oil on the Mayo Clinic website, so I will stand by the Mayo Clinics observations on the matter and continue to use it to pop my corn or toss my salad even. Click on link for more information. 

Mayo Clinic on canola oil (click here)


To compensate for the lack of butter, I have tried many of the different versions of popcorn flavourings on the market, but to get a pleasurable flavour out of them requires using a lot of the topping so the salt adds up which becomes bad. Very bad. The single largest ingredient of popcorn flavouring is salt with a myriad of multi-syllabic ingredients to follow, bad, very bad.

My favourite non-butter popcorn flavouring is cheddar cheese as in cheesecorn. Eating a bag of it then leaving telltale orange fingerprints over everything I come into contact with is a big treat; juvenile I know, but a treat none the less. My all-time favourite cheesecorn is made by Nuts On Clark (odd name I know) and I got addicted after buying a big bag of it at Chicago's O'Hare airport, and once addicted, anytime I traveled through O'Hare I was forced to buy another bag. Addicted or smitten? Regardless, it is THE BEST!!!

Nuts On Clark 

Now while I'm not a doctor, I don't play a doctor on TV, nor did I sleep in a Holiday Inn last night, I do know that excessive salt is bad so I started searching the Internet for less damaging type of popcorn flavour, lower salt, no butter, (cheesecorn anyone?) than what I could find locally.  During one such search I stumbled onto Nuts.com and they sell mushroom popcorn. Mushroom popcorn?  Yup mushroom. Mushroom shape that is. I was intrigued. 

Nuts.com (click here for link)

Popcorn pops into two distinct shapes - mushroom shape and butterfly shape.  The butterfly shape is the one you get when popping the standard store bought popping corn like Orville sells, or other purveyors like movie houses offer. Light, fluffy, tender, that is of course if you use fresh and good quality popcorn.
Mushroom popcorn from Nuts.com on left
Butterfly popcorn from Orville on right
 

The mushroom shape is a little denser, chewier and compact. It is the popcorn you get most often when purchasing caramel corn, cheese corn or packaged popcorn sold in the grocers potato chip aisle. Its compact shape lends itself to being robust enough to handle transportation well, grab hold of toppings well and does not break apart when being coated using the little cement mixer type thingies that are used in commercial popcorn shops. I like it for the chewier texture.

Trying to find a good quality popcorn powdered cheddar cheese locally was impossible and doing my due diligence on all matters popcorn at Nuts.com I found the cheddar cheese topping of my dreams and my topping search was over. Can I have an Amen please!!!!
My research told me that mushroom popcorn would be best for cheesecorn and looking at their website they offered it, so that part of the search was complete.

I also had an education on powdered cheddar cheese. When looking at the ingredients of the cheese I found on the Internet searches, I discovered there are many offerings and many of them have salt as a major component and one serving will kill you according to my doctor.  There are cheese powders that have cheese as the major ingredient which is better or preferred even, that is what I was searching for.


I know by reading the nutrition labels on powdered cheddar cheese that there is a saturated fat content because after all it is pretty much just dehydrated cheese with a few multi-syllabic ingredients and a little salt for flavour thrown in but not all powered cheddar cheeses are created equal.

I determined through extensive speculation and guessing that when compared to using a gallon of butter, a little sprinkle of powdered cheddar cheese would be the trade-off I was searching for. I have not consulted my doctor on my determinations, however, Orville is dead and I'm not feeling so good myself, so my findings should be considered suspect. Tasty, but suspect...

Nuts.com powdered cheddar cheese is what I needed. My search was complete.  I ordered 5 pounds each of popcorn and the cheddar cheese topping and in less that 5 days it was delivered to my door. Crossed the border unscathed too, so their shipping to Canada is spot on.

Well it turns out that 5 pounds of powdered cheddar cheese is a lot. Not a little - a lot; so I will be sharing.  5 pounds of popcorn is not a lot, so I will not be sharing that. Eager to sample my purchase, I made a few batches. Once made and sampled I was transported to Nirvana - delicious!!! The rest of the family agrees as well. However my joy is tempered by the single word - moderation, and I will try to be moderate, I promise...

I have done a quick calculation of the fat and calorie count using the coconut oil, salt and melted butter of my old favourite and compared it to the same size bowl of cheesecorn made with canola oil and the powdered cheddar cheese and by my calculation it is less fat and less salt, but then I'm no expert.

While not an everyday snack, I will be enjoying it on movie night and Susan will always know where I am by the orange fingerprint trail that is left behind. So now I know everything there is to know about anything. Again...

My stovetop popcorn popper is a pleasure to use.

I simply crank up the heat and add some canola oil.

Add the popcorn, close the lid and crank the whirlygig slowly.

Once the popcorn stops popping I pour it into a paper bag.

Sprinkle some cheese over it and shake the bejeezus out of it.

Pour into my old faithful popcorn bowl and enjoy, orange fingers and all...

Nuts.com is worth a visit and their service was excellent and given the speed at which the popcorn is disappearing I will be in contact with them again real soon....


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