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Jul 19, 2008 08:42 PM

Toronto hounds BBQ report

Taking a page out of the SF Bay Area book, a group of Toronto area hounds gathered today for a potluck picnic. Unlike most potlucks in this day and age, there was nary a crappy grocery store bakery item or lame fast food bucket in sight. Instead, we were treated to a seemingly endless array of deliciousness, either homemade or selected with care.

Since there were so many wonderful things to eat at this event, I hope all the fabulous cooks who brought dishes will share their recipes here for the benefit of the dozen plus hounds who were lucky enough to be in attendance and the thousands and thousands who weren't so fortunate.

I'm sure to miss a few dishes, but I'll try to give the rundown.

As we waited for people to arrive, we declared the chocolate chip cookies to be an appetizer and dug in. They weren't so much cookies with chocolate chips as they were chocolate chips with a bit of cookie to keep them together. Soft and chewy and mmm mmm good.

Then we dug into homemade guacamole and vietnamese (?) pork wraps with a variety of condiments. There was another ricotta dip with a fresh dill flavor. We had pulled pork sandwiches with chipotle & peach BBQ sauce (this was so delicious, amazing), and tomato and fennel salad with yuzu dressing. There was bacon fried rice, tomato and mozzarella salad (which I brought, recipe below), jerked chicken grilled up fresh on the BBQ, along with a variety of fantastic sausages from a great local butcher, also grilled fresh. We had spicy orange and onion chowder, that was apparently based on one of my favorite Joy of Cooking recipes for orange chicken. There was also butter chicken made from scratch before we moved onto dessert.

For desserts, there was homemade mango sorbet, late season Ontario strawberries with balsamic, and a beautiful cherry cobbler. Plus, more chocolate chip cookies, as we reclassified them as a dessert.

There was green tea iced tea (with simple syrup for sweetening), wonderful Quebec cider, and all the fixings for Mojitos for drinking.

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  1. The salad I brought was adapted from this month's Cook's Illustrated -- Really Good Cherry Tomato Salad, the Cherry Tomato Salad with Basil and Fresh Mozzarella variation.

    Ingredients (this was a double batch):

    4 pints of tomatoes, quartered. I used a mix of those pre-packaged boxes of heritage tomatoes in a bunch of different colours and some small yellow tomatoes, rather than straight cherry tomatoes -- it was more colourful and interesting.
    1 tsp of sugar
    1/2 tsp of salt
    1 large shallot, minced
    2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
    16 ounces of mozzarella di buffalo
    3 cups of fresh basil, torn roughly
    Olive oil

    The basic premise of the recipe is removing the seeds from the tomatoes and reducing them into a sauce, in order to keep the salad from being kind of salad soup, as tomato salads often are. I was actually kind of disappointed in that aspect of it. While it was totally non-soupy right at the moment it was made, 2 hours later, soup. Still, it was pretty delicious, so I can't complain much.

    Steps (paraphrased):

    1. After quartering the tomatoes, toss them with salt and sugar and let them hold for about half an hour to draw off a lot of the moisture. I found stirring them in this stage periodically really helped get the seeds loosened up. Save the liquid.
    2. Spin the tomatoes in your salad spinner to draw off even more moisture. Save the liquid.
    3. Throw 1 cup of the liquid, plus the balsamic and the shallots in a pot and simmer until they're reduced to 1/3 of a cup. Unless you have another use for it, you can toss the rest of the liquid.
    4. While that's reducing, tear up all the basil, and cube the mozzarella in small bits.
    5. Cool the reduced sauce, and then add olive oil and pepper, mix well and then toss with tomatoes.
    6. Toss in basil and mozza.
    7. Eat!

    1. Thanks for writing up our first and hopefully annual picnic, Jacquilynne! I would love to see this grow into an event on the scale of the Bay Area picnic. Jamie was kind enough to take some photos and post them here:

      For the Vietnamese pork "lettuce" wraps, I used Carb Lover's mother's banh cuon recipe. I made the filling exactly to her recipe (which is amazing), and then I sorta got lazy and didn't make the crepes. Instead, I piled the filling into Belgian endive and offered the toppings as a self-serve option. Toppings included: fried onions, cilantro, bean sprouts, nuoc cham and hoisin sauce (not traditional, but it worked!). Carb Lover's detailed recipe and instructions can be found here:

      Thanks again, Carb Lover for sharing that recipe. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of it since your original posting.

      For the fried rice, I used my mom's recipe that I grew up with. It's a bit ridiculous to call it a recipe, but the end result is awfully tasty.

      - green onions, chopped, white and green bits separated
      - bacon, chopped and cooked
      - eggs, lightly scrambled
      - long-grain rice, cooked and chilled (preferable, but not necessary
      )- low-sodium soy sauce
      - oil (either peanut oil, or if you are feeling very decadent, reserved bacon fat)

      Heat oil until very hot in a large pot. Add the whites of the green onion and stir fry for a minute or so. Add the rice and stir fry until the rice is broken up and the oil is evenly distributed. Add soy sauce to taste and stir fry until is has been evenly distributed and absorbed (note: I use low-sodium because the bacon adds a bit salt hit). Make a well in the pot by pushing the rice to the sides. Pour the eggs into the well and scramble lightly. When the eggs are about 2/3 cooked, stir the rice back in and stir fry until the rice and eggs are "dry" again. Add the greens of the green onions and the bacon and stir fry until everything is hot. Eat. Enjoy.

      1. How do people get involved in this?? It's something I'd love to do. Unfortunately I neither knew about it nor was I even in the country.

        Maybe next year.


        2 Replies
        1. re: Davwud

          Join the Toronto Chowhound google group!

          We usually post a note about upcoming chowmeets on the Toronto board, directing folks to the group site for info. But in this case, we decided to start small and see if there was enough interest to make it worthwhile (plus it was at someone's home, so we didn't want it to get too huge). It was loads of fun with lots of great food, so we'll definitely do it again next year! Hope to see you then! Personally, I'd love it if you made biscuits and gravy... :)

          1. re: TorontoJo

            Funny you should say that.
            We spent Friday night in Knoxville and ended up at Crapper Barrel for breakfast. We got biscuits and country (sausage/sawmill) gravy with it. It was fine. The whole time Mrs. Sippi is saying, "Your's is better."

            We'll just have to see how things work out.

            BTW, I think I'm already a member of that group.


        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. I made the cobbler from an article by Kay Rentschler in Cook's Illustrated's July/August 2001 issue. I found the filling to be too runny, so I would boil the macerating liquid longer next time or add a bit more cornstarch. One cardboard basket of cherries (around $15 at Toronto's St. Lawrence Market) yielded the required four pounds. I used a Baco Noir for the wine.

            Serves 12

            Biscuit Topping
            2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
            6 tablespoons sugar
            1/2 teaspoon baking powder
            1/2 teaspoon baking soda
            1/2 teaspoon salt
            6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
            1 cup buttermilk
            2 tablespoons sugar for sprinkling

            Cherry Filling
            4 pounds fresh sour cherries (do not use fresh sweet, or sweetened)
            1 1/4 cups sugar
            3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
            Pinch salt
            1 cup dry red wine
            1 (3-inch) stick cinnamon
            1/4 teaspoon almond extract

            1. Remove the pits from the fresh cherries, catching any juices in a bowl (you might need this later). Combine the remaining filling ingredients (except the wine) together and stir to combine with the cherries. Pour the wine over, and let sit for 30 minutes.
            2. While the cherries are macerating, make the biscuits. Preheat the oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
            3. Mix all the biscuit's dry ingredients together in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times with the steel blade to combine, then add the butter pieces, and process until the mixture looks like cornmeal. Dump into another bowl, then stir in the buttermilk until everything is moistened.
            4. Form 12 biscuits using a large spoon or ice cream scoop and plop them on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle batter with the 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes until the bottoms and tops are lightly browned.
            5. Drain the cherries and spoon them into a 9x13" baking dish, reserving 3 cups of the liquid. If you don't have enough, add some of the cherry juices left over from pitting, or add more red wine.
            6. Boil the liquid in a medium saucepan with the cinnamon stick until it thickens. This might take 5 to 10 minutes. Off heat, remove the cinnamon, stir in the almond extract, then pour the hot mixture over the cherries in the dish.
            7. Arrange the warm biscuits over top and place the dish back in the oven, until the juices are bubbling and the biscuits are nicely browned, about 10 minutes.
            8. Cool 30 minutes on a rack, then serve.