Category Archives: pork

Tequila Boom-Boom Spare Ribs Recipe

Tequila Boom-Boom BBQ Sauce Spare Ribs

¡Hola, amigos! Here’s something different for you to swirl with the set of ingredients from the lands of Aztecs and Maya: Tequila Boom-Boom Sauce Spare Ribs recipe. If you are looking for something new to try this Father’s day, this might be of an interest. These ribs will assure your papa’s (+ party) complete satisfaction.  We devoured them with gusto and had a good Mexican laughabout any rib sauce we’ve tried previously including the sickly-sweet and flat commercial sauces. For the secret ingredients, I basically added some tequila and a few new capsicum varieties to my staple Cajun BBQ sauce. The base sauce has a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity as well as and a long record of successful meat and poultry basting for all kinds of events in case you will be looking for a kids-friendly version and would wish to omit tequila. However, the new version layered with tequila, arbol, ancho chiles and Cholula makes it better and bolder for my adult taste.

Tequila Boom-Boom BBQ Sauce
Tequila shot added to the BBQ spare rib sauce

The upside of this recipe is that you can make the ribs and sauce way in advance of the event (fully cooked or par-cooked),  up to 48 hours ahead if you keep it in the fridge and/or up to a week sealed and kept in the freezer saving yourself time and headache of the party prep. It will also travel well and will make a centerpiece appetizer or main.

The downside is that you would have to allow at least 3.5 hours to make it.

The most popular tequila Jose Cuervo makes an excellent base for Tequila Boom-Boom drink
Tequila Boom-Boom is actually a Mexican drink made of equal parts of tequila and Sprite (or similar, like 7Up or ginger ale) served in a rock glass with a dash of Grenadine syrup.  Another name of this drink is a Tequila Slammer, because of the way the drink is taken:  the fifth of the glass is empty to allow the mix of tequila and carbonated drink to fizz. You then put your hand over the top of the glass and slam it onto the bar counter to mix it. This move causes the drink to foam fast, so you have to drink it immediately, or it will spill. This drink is strong; I didn’t want to get intoxicated early in the afternoon, so I decided to give a splash of it to my favorite my favorite BBQ pork rib sauce I was making the other day.  The result was amazing, definitely worth sharing.  I marked Seven Up  optional in the recipe to make the sauce stickier and to cut on evaporation and caramelization time for your convenience.
Several dried capsicums and ground coffee are used in the rub and added to the BBQ sauce

Capsicums and the spice rubs are all rage this summer with dozens of new varieties and combinations coming from all over the globe. I am more than willing to try them all.  This recipe obviously took Mexican direction, so in addition to tequila I used crushed arbol flakes, ancho chile powder and Cholula spicy sauce, all originating from the Bestico (aka Mexico).  Naturally, you can have tequila swapped with whiskey, bourbon, gin or vodka depending on your preference and give it some other cultural direction to Memphis, St. Louis, etc. (the recipe gives a choice of chilis if pure Mexican fare is hard to find in your area).

Perfectly cooked ribs should be tender, but still juicy and not falling off the bone.

The recipe below is the oven BBQ method, which I much prefer to the grilling method for both, time and quality results. Albeit, I often combine both by baking ribs in the oven until ready and almost falling off the bone; and finishing them on a low BBQ heat for the basting part of 15 minutes. FYI, the most appreciated ribs are not supposed to fall off the bone. According to the famous carnivore, Jay Rayner, the best tasting pork ribs should be tender, but still juicy and well attached to the bone. The falling off the bone is a sign of an overcooked, overfrozen or over-re-heated meat. Properly cooked ribs should still have some resilience and chew and would pull cleanely off the bone with your teeth.

Rubbing spare ribs with the mix of spices and herbs.
Makin BBQ sauce and ribs’ brushing stage
Cutting spare ribs into individual portions

Voila, our succulent out of this world ribs are done and ready to be served.
OK, one rib down already while I’m still taking pictures! That’s a good sign. Someone’s gonna be happy tonight…

For the summer side course, keep it simple: boiled/grilled seasoned corn and refreshing coleslaw salad (recipe will follow shortly).  For the corn seasoning, try the Lime Chili Butter, OR brush it with my new favorite: Honey-Cinnamon Butter -1 tablespoon of salted butter melted with a dash of honey (or maple syrup) and a pinch of cinnamon.
Tequila Boom-Boom Spare Ribs with Russian Slaw and Honey Cinnamon Corn Sides
For the colder days, pasta with simple tomato sauce made from the garden tomatoes would make an amazing companion to these ribs. I suspect, Daddy won’t trade it for the world’s best cupcake as this would be so much better than mac n’ cheese.

Enjoy and don’t forget to serve the paper towels!


Yields: 4 main to 8 appetizer portions

1 rack of pork spare ribs (2 pounds, or 1 kg)

Spice Rub:
2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile or cayenne powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coffee
1/2 freshly ground black pepper
Tequila BBQ Sauce 

1 small dried arbol pepper, crushed, OR , 1 teaspoon of regular chili flakes

1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup Seven Up (optional)
juice of one lime
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
1/2 cup molasses, OR honey, OR maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon Cholula chili sauce, OR Tabasco
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350F.

Trim the ribs of any excess fat or sinew.  Remove the thin membrane from the back side of the ribs and discard (PS: I’m not always doing it, but this would prevent the ribs from coiling). Optionally, cut the rack in 4 individual portions for a better fit into the baking pan.

Combine the paprika, ancho chile powder, coarse salt, paprika, oregano, marjoram, cumin, garlic, onion powder, ground coffee and black pepper together in a mixing bowl to make a rub.  Rub the mixture into the ribs on both sides and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Place ribs into a baking pan (I prefer the glass one), cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil, turn the ribs over. Cover back with foil and bake ribs for another 45 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the basting tequila sauce (see the instructions below). When done, the ribs will be tender and the meat will have shrunk back from the bones.
Lower the oven temperature to 275F. Brush the ribs generously with the Tequila BBQ sauce and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the ribs over and brush with the sauce. Return to the oven for 7-10 minutes. Repeat coating the ribs on both sides for another 5 minutes each side. Remove from the oven. Brush with extra sauce if wish be. Let stand for a few minutes, cut in individual portions if necessary and serve.

Tequila BBQ Sauce:

Soak the dried chili flakes in a small bowl with a few tablespoons of hot water to rehydrate for 5 minutes.  Add the soaked flakes, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, brown sugar, tequila, Seven Up, lime juice, onion, garlic, molasses, hot sauce and salt and pepper to the blender or food processor.  Pulse few times until the mixture is smooth. Equally, you can grate the onion and garlic and just mix the ingredients in a bowl with the fork.

In Juniper Spirit: Ham in Pastry Crust (Jambon en Croute) Recipe

“All right, all right, I’ll give you a break for now, but we’ll have a serious conversation in January,” I promised my protruding belly’s mirror reflection a week ago.  Christmas is about tradition and comfort food, so it’s OK to feel or look a little pudgy…  Soon I will have all the time needed to martyr myself with celery and quinoa salad and the ideas of how to “look great in a minivan,” I thought to myself later that day, buying a naughty chunk of a Christmas ham to cook for the family dinner…
And what a dinner it was!  Even our most ferocious calorie-count members admired it. Not only that centerpiece ham expressed and celebrated Quebec’s oldest Christmas tradition, it tasted better, than ever and not just because of the wine was on a table. One secret ingredient made that magic. It was neither the ham itself, nor a crust, but a little crushed juniper berry I added to the mustard rub in between.  It infused the ham and crust with the touch of piney Christmas spirit and balanced the flavors wonderfully.
Earlier in fall we had to cut some old juniper skyrockets in our yard and I foraged an impressive quantity of juniper berries. Not that I didn’t know anything about juniper berry as a spice: it turns vodka into gin, improves the fermentation process of sauerkraut, and makes a great concoction for a hot bath…

However, that would pretty much limit my knowledge of its use. Seeing that quantity of unbelievably fragrant freshly foraged juniper berries was kind of a revelation to me. I wanted to know what else can be done with them and start experimenting right away.

Which is how the idea of using them in the rub came first and I made this little ham back in September. WHOA! It worked better than I expected.  I’m usually not a big fan of ham, reserving it to special occasions only, but this one came out really outstanding.

What a complex yet subtle flavor touch to the roasted ham in crust! It made me think of Christmas right away and so I reserved this recipe and juniper berries (both dried and frozen) for the winter holidays, and here I’m sharing it with you today.

I also researched extensively about the juniper berries and came up with this list of

What You Can Do with Juniper Berries in Your Kitchen:

  • Make spirits and bitters: primarily gin by adding juniper berries to vodka along with bunch of other botanicals (this DIY Gin recipe works great for me)
  • Infuse vinegars (bruise the berries and use this easy method): vinegars bring out the citrus element of the berries 
  • Infuse hot drinks: teas, tisanes, mulled wine, etc. with the enhanced piney juniper berries flavor (have also great medicinal effect on upset stomach, urinary tract infections, bloating, heartburn, etc.)
  • Infuse desserts, fillings, gels, creams and frostings 
  • Infuse salt or sugar
  • Use in brines for: brisket, turkey, pork, chicken or fish as flavor enhancer 
  • Add to game or venison stews and terrines (wild boar, hare, deer, etc.), as well as pork
  • Add to dressings and vinaigrette: works well with olive oil, apple cider or balsamic vinegar, horseradish, mustard, mayonnaise, ginger and garlic
  • Add to sauces and gravies: i.e. Madeira, White wine, Cranberry sauce, etc. and/or thickening dripping liquids into sauces
  • Flavor cabbage stews (German, Polish style Bigos, etc.) along with allspice berries and peppercorns
  • Use in fermenting veggies (sauerkraut, pickles, etc.):  works as stabilizer, adds crunch and flavor
  • Add to bird/meat stuffing 
  • Rub in curing meats (along with other spices) to make pancetta, pastrami, smoked meat, ham, game, etc.
  •  Add to stocks and soups included in bouquet garni: adds nutty-woodsy notes of flavor
  • Add to pasta, potato, couscous or polenta water
  • Recycle leftovers jams into glaze by mixing them with water/syrup infused with juniper berries.

Juniper berries are not exactly berries, but the tiny pine cones of the shrub that are so tightly clenched they look like blue-purple berries. They have strong tart, coniferous flavor with a hint of citrus and very small amount is used in particular recipes. If you remember, in one of the episodes of the fantastic comedy Bedazzled (with Brendan Frazer and Elizabeth Hurley) the major character is explaining at some point that the word `Gin’ is short for the French genievre or the Dutch jenever, both of which mean juniper, the main flavor in gin. Juniper berries have been used since ancient times and were especially popular in Greece, Rome and Egypt as medical remedy, to flavor dishes, or be used for spiritual rituals (some have been even found in the tomb of King Tut).

Back to our Christmas ham: this is a wonderful, festive, traditional Quebec recipe for frugal (and beyond) holidays. It keeps the meat juicy, yet well done. The juniper berries not only add flavor, but work as a natural anti-bloating agent. The juniper-mustard flavored pastry crust helps the dish taste and look elegant and exquisite.

Simply put: it’s a super easy, convenient and impressive centerpiece dish on a budget for many occasions. I do hope you will try it and like it and get back to me with your comments.

Final note: juniper berries are not hard to find on-line or in whole food/organic stores and only a small quantity is used in the recipe. The initial recipe however didn’t have juniper berries in it, so if you can’t get a hold of juniper berries, feel free to substitute with a tablespoon of crushed fennel seeds or dried tarragon.  

Happy Holidays and Enjoy Your Cooking!

Other Festive Recipes for Holidays:
Two years ago:  Crispy Cod Croquettes
For Ham in Crust:
3 pounds (1.5 kg) smoked ham, boneless, fully cooked
1 bouquet garni with 6-8 juniper berries added
3 tbsp (45 mL) Dijon mustard
2 tbsp yellow mustard grains, crushed
1 tbsp juniper berries (about 8-10 berries), freshly crushed
1 pound (450 g) puff pastry
1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tbsp (30 mL) water for brushing the dough
For Madeira Sauce Infused with Juniper Berries:
3 tbs (45 mL) unsalted butter
½ cup (125 mL) shallot, minced
½ cup (125 mL) Madeira or Port wine
1 cup (250 mL) brown veal or beef stock
¼ cup (60 mL) 35% cream
Salt and pepper to taste
4-5 juniper berries for infusion
Cover smoked ham with cold water in a big pot, add bouquet garni and bring to boil. Simmer the smoked ham for an hour and half to two hours to remove some salt. Let cool.
Drain the liquid and pat dry the ham carefully. Mix the Dijon, crushed mustard and juniper seeds in a small bowl.  Rub the ham with mustard-juniper mixture all over.  
Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Roll out the puff pastry into a sheet/s about ¾ in (1.5 cm) thick and transfer to the baking sheet. Place ham in the center of the dough sheet and wrap the ham with the dough completely. Add patches of dough when necessary to make sure all ham is well-covered for the juices not to drain out.
Mix the egg yolk with water and brush the pastry from all sides. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the crust is golden and puffed. Remove ham from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes for the juices to set before carving. Cut the ham with the knife long enough to cut the entire length of it. Serve with Madeira sauce, mashed potatoes, rice or fresh pasta.
Madeira Sauce with Juniper Berries:
Melt butter in a saucepan. Add chopped shallots and cook gently for 5 minutes. Add Madeira (or Port) and cook for 2-3 minutes longer. Add brown veal or beef stock. Add cream and bring to boil. Season with salt and pepper.  Add 4-5 juniper berries for infusion and set aside covered for 10 minutes. Strain the sauce from juniper berries before serving.
Adapted from: « Le cochon à son meilleur » by Philippe Mollé, Les Éditions de l’Homme, March, 1996

Hearty Cabbage ‘n Lentil Soup With or Without Smoked Sausage

It’s about time a post a great soup recipe and I’m sure this one would please both, vegetarians and carnivores. This October is definitely taking a Swiss food direction for us: the recently discovered Vaudois sausages are actually the culprits of turning this wonderful vegetarian soup into a real carnivorian treat. First thing first though, this soup is incredibly nourishing and soul-soothing already in its vegetarian version. The ingredients and spices in it already make a perfect flavor combination and are bursting with healthy nutriments. The smoked sausage however does bring its taste and depth to the level the non-vegetarian would never forget.  Naturally, with the modern scientific approach to cooking, a teaspoon of liquid smoke can deliver relatively similar aroma in vegetarian version (although you probably won’t even need it). But the succulent smoked sausage itself, especially the one we discovered recently at Saucisson Vaudois deli, well, that’s a different story…

Last week-end we headed to Mont Saint-Grégoire (about 40-minutes driving from Montreal) to have our last year’s walk through the golden leaves of the fall and collect some apples. This area is known to have a number of Swiss farmers settled there over the years (true, the mountain scenery looks remotely Switzerlandish). Not surprisingly, on our way to the mountain forest we stopped by at Saucisson Vaudois in a tiny town Sainte-Brigide. Just by the number of cars with Montreal’s licenses and European-looking people stepping out of them (some were wearing Tyrolean hats indeed) we knew something was going on in there. The selection of all things Swiss was impressive including of course the smoked sausages and their names, like Waadtlaenderwurst or Nuremberg Bratwurst.

Lower right image credit Saucisson Vaudois

The October special sausages like saucisse aux chou grabbed our attention and we got some to try along with bunch of other things that make you drool. For the record, many Montreal celeb restaurants, like Au Pied De Cochon, for example, are buying Vaudois specialties directly from them (which explains why you don’t necessarily see those products in major groceries).

One of their best selling items is a blood pudding and most of the time if you come by in the afternoon, chances are you won’t find any. We were lucky to get some and believe me, after it’s been slow-cooked with onions, apples and cider for about 30 minutes, it WILL make our taste buds singing Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo! (provided you like boudin in general and tried some of the world’s best).
If you’re currently visiting Montreal to enjoy the fall scenery, look no further and go to MontSaintGrégoire. It’s not only quintessentially quaint place for cabane a sucre (maple syrup attraction). Each fall the majestic matured sugar maple grove of Charbonneau turns into a breathtaking Pan’s Labyrinth of adventures hidden among the enchanted trees.

Just meandering along the red & yellow leaf-covered trails in a splendor of the dazzling colors is already serene and relaxing. But you have so much more options: from apple-picking (yes, it’s still on) and food & beer sampling; to biking or horse-riding, to hair-raising tree-top trekking…

And as you look out into the majestic fall scenery (and/or perform some thrilling Tarzan flips in Arbraska on a zip line), your appetite is growing and soon you find yourself making pit stops at farms and local deli to hurry back home after and sample what you bought…

And then 30-minutes later this uber comforting soup is born. The Vaudois smoked sausage with cabbage (a cuire) with cooking instructions: ‘boil for 20 minutes’ suggested that it dived directly into a hearty mix of boiling veggies. Cabbage in, cabbage out and so it was a cabbage soup; with the touch of the traditional Swiss Papet Vaudois (leek, potatoes, wine) ingredients; bunch of spice and dark greens to lift up the taste and benefits; and lentils for an extra fiber and protein (specifically in vegetarian case).

Boy oh boy it was good, Oktoberfest-like too, with a cold glass of beer on a side. Cheers!

Great Tip: cooking a whole smoked sausage, be it Swiss Vaudois or Spanish Chorizo and slicing it right before serving delivers much tastier results than cutting the sausage in pieces before cooking (then the sausage loses half of its taste and color).

Useful swaps: use these (almost interchangeable) ingredients to match your taste or fridge selection:

-1 leek to 1 onion, thinly sliced (add all at the time to add onion);
-2 potatoes to 2 sweet potatoes or 2 big carrots (add all at the time to add potatoes);
-3 mentioned spices (paprika, cumin, coriander) to a heaping tablespoon of ground or paste curry;  
-¼ cabbage to 4 cups of kale (add all at the time to add kale);
-1 big tomato to 1 cup of diced canned tomatoes or 1 cup of tomato juice;
-1 pound smoked uncooked sausage to 1 pound smoked cooked sausage (add 5 minutes into the end of cooking);
-½ dry red lentils to 1 cup any canned/rinsed lentils or navy beans
Enjoy your fall cooking!
Yields: 6 generous portions.
1 tbsp vegetable oil
½ tsp chili flakes
1 onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp ground coriander
 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 leek (white part only), thinly sliced
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 big tomato, diced
½ cup white wine or apple cider vinegar (optional)
6-7 cups vegetable broth, or chicken stock, or water
¼ small green cabbage, shredded
1-2 bay leaves
1 lbs smoked uncooked sausage
½ cup dry red lentils
2 cups kale (or Swiss chard, or spinach), coarsely chopped
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Fresh parsley or basil for garnish, minced
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or a large pot to medium high and add chili flakes. Add onion, garlic and sauté for one minute. Add paprika, coriander, cumin and mix. Add leek and potatoes and sauté for 5 minutes more. Add tomatoes and sauté for two more minutes. Optionally, add a big splash of white wine or apple cider vinegar.
Add broth, cabbage and bay leaves, stir and bring to boil. Add the sausage. Reduce heat to simmering. Half-cover the pot with the lid and cook simmering for 10 minutes, until potatoes are almost done.
Add red lentils, mix well, bring back to boil and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Remove the lid, add kale, mix and simmer for 2 more minutes uncovered.
Check the seasoning, discard the bay leaves, remove the sausage and set aside to cool down a bit (3 minutes). Slice the sausage to the bite-size pieces. Ladle the soup in the bowls and add the desired amount of sausage to each. Garnish with chopped parsley or fresh basil and serve immediately.

Cajun Grill Summer Fiesta

If you ask me what I’ve been grilling lately, my answer would be: what haven’t I been grilling lately. From classic meat, poultry and fish to pizza to all kind of veggies, including bok choy, Swiss chard and scallions and now we’ve even upgraded ourselves to grilling the fruits too. Peaches, pears, apples, even grapes – everything flies into our BBQ for that juicy quick char and we can’t get enough of it. And what can be faster and more convenient way to decompress after a hard working day and traffic on a cool summer evening? Here are the images of our latest Cajun grill char summer fiesta dinner with the tips on how you can char grill restaurant quality chops, fruits and veggies.

Everything you see was seasoned with practically one home-made spice: Cajun Spice Mix. 
A friend from New Orleans passed us his killer Cajun spice recipe long time ago and I can’t stop appreciating it. Mixed with a bit of olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and sometimes a dash of Jerk or Tabasco it makes a fantastic rub for the pork chops in an instant.  
These are our simple and easy apps for the Cajun spice and that restaurant quality char grill (polished with practice) blackening and the perfect diamond grill marks everybody’s looking for:
Cajun Spice Mix (see the recipe below) is not hard to make as long as you have all the right ingredients. The tips are:

  • Avoid using table salt (it makes the mix too salty and less flavorful) – use Kosher, Himalayan, Maldon, Fleur de Sel, sea salt, etc., but avoid the table salt by all means
  •  Try to use freshly ground black pepper when you can;
  •  Use garlic and onion granules instead of powder to prevent sticking and burning;
  •  Feel free to include or exclude any extra spices of your choice (in moderation) to find your ideal mix.

For the perfect grill marks and quality results with your pork chops (charred on the outside, tender and juice on the inside):

  • Always pat-dry the meat before seasoning, including before marinating or rubbing;
  • Allow the chops to sit for at least 10 minutes in the fridge upon rubbing and before grilling;
  • Heat the grill to high. Clean with brush and brush with oil;
  •  Place your chops on the grate on the high heat at a 45-degree angle to get a single strip of angled marks (1 minute max);  
  • Rotate about 60 to 80 degrees for a diamond-grid pattern (1 minute max). Repeat on the other side (another two minutes);
  • Lower the heat to medium low and cook chops for another 10 minutes (15 minutes max in total) away from direct heat to prevent burning and drying and to attain that juicy tender yet well done state;
  • Do not over-grill your chops (12-15 minutes max in total) or they will become tough.
  • And that’s it: congratulations, you have just made the criss-cross of a pro!

As for the veggies and fruits, just slice them in not less than ½ inch thick, sprinkle with Cajun Spice Mix and throw on the grill for 1 minute each side. Turn carefully as some (like watermelon) can be fragile.

Serve immediately with your favorite BBQ sauce (suggestions: Tkemali or the Spicy Cajun BBQ Sauce below) and/or a quick mix of Salsa Verde with some extra lemon juice, minced garlic and chopped parsley. I also had a bit of currents from our garden, so I gave them a quick stir with a splash of white wine and a dash of maple syrup to make a quick dressing coulis. 

Amazing!  I hope you will find some tricks useful. Enjoy your grilling!


For: Cajun Spice Mix
¼ cup quality salt
¼ cup paprika
¼ garlic granules or powder
¼ cup black pepper
2 tbsp onion granules or powder
2 tbsp dry oregano
2 tbsp dry thyme
1 tsp dry basil
½ tsp crushed bay leaves
½ tsp red chili flakes
Dash of ground coffee (optional)
Mix all ingredients together and store in the air tight container in a dry dark place for up to 6 months.
For Cajun Fiesta Grilled Pork Chops
Yields: 6 portions
¼ cup Cajun spice mix (see recipe above)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
6 medium size pork chops ½ to ¾ inch thick
Mix first three ingredients in a bowl and rub both sides of each chop. Allow to sit for 15 minutes before grilling. Preheat the grill to the high. Place the chops on direct heat for one minute to char at a 45-degree angle to get a single strip of angled marks for one minute. Rotate about 60 to 80 degrees for a diamond-grid pattern for another minute. Repeat on the other side. Lower the heat to medium low and cook chops for another 10-12 minutes away from direct heat to prevent burning and drying and to attain the juicy tender yet well done state. Cover with aluminum foil and let sit for 5 minutes before serving on the heated plates.
For Spicy Cajun BBQ Sauce
1 cup ketchup
4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Yellow mustard
1 tsp Spicy Dijon or Hot Creole mustard
¼ cup molasses
2 tbsp red vinegar (optional)
6 dashes Tabasco sauce or 4 Habanero sauce or 4 Jerk
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion or shallot finely chopped
1 tsp Cajun Spice Mix (above)
Mix all the ingredients in the saucepan and bring to boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Keep warm until ready to use.

Grandma’s Whole Pea Soup on Cold Wintry Night

It’s been cold, really cold in the last few days. A sudden strike of an obsession with grandma’s soup is not unusual during such times. Along with a distant memory of a grand granny cooking a pea soup in a giant cauldron for the family of 60+… so warm and comforting.
What else can be on your mind while driving home with a growling belly in this biting frost and with more than 50 shades of gray around? Perhaps a stew or a bowl of steamy mashed potatoes? Chances are though this rustic soup is not only among my infinite ramblings this evening…
I bought a $1.50 pack (1lb or 454 gr) of organic whole peas on our last visit to the farm because I knew the time for this soup was coming.  There was a recipe of Soupe aux pois de grand-mère labeled to it, which I am presenting to you, although, hugely modified. The recipe asks to add 341 grams of canned corn at the end, which I’m not so sure about, but it might be an idea to thicken some liquid vegetarian version.  For the vegetarian version I suggest you use a good vegetarian stock and give the chopped veggies a quick fry-stir with a tablespoon of ghee or vegetable oil before adding them to the pot. You can find the whole peas in most of the supermarkets in Quebec, or order them on-line. The farm-bought, of course would always be cheaper and fool-proof organic.
NOTE: Just like beans, whole peas require soaking in the water for 8 hours or overnight before cooking. But if you are not very legume-sensitive (or, in other word, reactive), feel free to use a rapid method of boiling peas for 2 minutes, letting them sit for an hour and then cook as instructed … which still requires a bit of time, so I suggest you do your math when ready to cook this soup.
Peas are usually coming into the recipes in a split form, but this French Canadian classic is made with whole peas and is traditionally a part of Cabaneà sucre (sugar shack) menu Québecois are so famous for.  Which brings me to the question of the non-vegetarian version based on beef or veal stock, with the addition of some ham or pork sausage and, of course, the salted pork lard (LOTS OF IT)… The recipe stipulated ½ pound of lard, but I did not use any because I had something better – a home-smoked and braised hock… 
So if you will excuse me, my dear fellow-vegetarians, I have to include this part to keep the lyrics. I really wanted to step my game up in the carnivore version of this soup, so what was supposed to be a simple salted lard and/or ham in an old-fashioned version (don’t worry, I keep the classics in the recipe below) of the whole pea soup, became a real German-style state of the art smoked pig knuckle slowly braised in the oven. The richness of it combined with slow-cooked peas is truly a heavenly combination.

Using braised knuckle requires some extra prep. Last week-end we had a bit of sun, which felt almost like an approaching Cabane à sucre time (or perhaps the Imbolc celebration would be closer). We made a fire outside for a little alfresco break from our 6-months long winter strong conditions. I decided to use this occasion to smoke whatever I could for the future culinary applications, including a few pork knuckles. It’s really no-brainer: you just smoke the knuckle over the fire on all sides (torch is OK in your own kitchen on a day like today). Then cool it and clean it with the brush under the cold running water and it’s ready to be braised for 2 hours with a few cloves of garlic, onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and a bit of liquid (such as water, broth, wine, or, my favorite, mix of water and apple cider vinegar).

Ta-dah, few hours later you have a great addition to a soup or stew, or can start eating it as schweinshaxe Bavarian style. Add sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and beer and you will be in a German heaven. In my case though it makes a great addition to the rustic pea soup when de-boned and minced. Please do not discard the skin from the cooked hock, because it actually is a great swap for salted lard and a major flavor booster. Add it to the soup 15 minutes into the end of cooking.

You can prepare the whole pea soup up to three days ahead and might notice that it will taste better with time. Next day it will be much thicker and velvety: the flavours will be married, the smokiness will shine through more prominently.  Serve it with baguette crostini, garlic croutons and aged cheese on a side garnished with a bit of fresh parsley if you wish.

It’s not for no reason that this soup is one of the homiest and most comforting dishes in the French Canadian menu: it’s a humble delight to come home to on an Arctic winter night.


One year ago: Perfect Green Salad Vinaigrette


Yields 6-8 servings
1 lb or 454 gr dried yellow whole peas
½ lb salted lard (optional)
1 ham hock (or 1 smoked and braised pig knuckle)
9 cups of water (or 10 cups of vegetarian broth for vegetarian version)
3 cups of veal or beef brown stock (or 2 cups cream of corn for vegetarian version)
1 large onion, chopped
2 small carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp dried savory
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
* 1 can (341 gr) cream of corn (optional for vegetarian version)
Cover the peas with water and soak overnight or for 8 hours. Drain. Alternatively, you can skip soaking by rinsing whole peas in cold water, then placing them with the rest of the ingredients (except for the cream of corn in the vegetarian version) in a pot, bringing to boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside for 1 hour.
Bring the soup back to the boiling point, lower the heat and let it simmer covered for 1 hour or until the peas become tender.  Remove the hock, let it cool, then de-bone, mince the meat and return into the pot for the final 15 minutes of simmering. For vegetarian version, add cream of corn 15 minutes before the end of cooking.
Check the seasoning. Remove the pot from heat. Discard the bay leaves. Optionally, you can now puree the soup in a blender to the consistency you like. Taste again for salt and pepper and serve garnished with fresh parsley, chives, or garlic croutons.