Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Winter is here

The first snowfall of the winter arrived this morning.The significance of this is that we in Toronto had no snow in November for the first time in 160 years.We managed to play golf until the end of November.My final game was on November 21.The season was therefore extended by some 3 weeks.My next game will be in Kuala Lumpur on January 5 when I will be back for my annual visit.
Winter has not officially arrived until the winter solstice on December 21.However in Toronto, winter arrives early and leaves late.However this year, with El Nino the temperatures have been warmer.Last year at this time the temperature was already -10c.When I refer to "warmer" it is totally relative.I remember when we first came to Canada, I was watching the weather report and the presenter announced that after a few weeks of below freezing temperatures the weekend's temperature will be a "balmy zero".I knew there and then that I was in a very cold place.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner

We are well into Fall and with this comes Thanksgiving which was on October 12th. As Malaysians we are not really not into this festival but as they say When in Rome....We also had some family visitors from Singapore and therefore had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner at home. I roasted a turkey in my convection microwave oven which I have been doing for the past 19 years.
It is so easy that I really have a stress free Thanksgiving and Christmas, at least where cooking the turkey is concerned. I also roasted a prime rib of beef. My daugther made delicious mash potatoes ( with Yukon gold potatoes and sweet potatoes).
With the cold weather fast approaching, we are squeezing in as much golf as possible. On the days we played it was not as cold, between 5-15 c. The trick is to dress in layers. Firstly it is a better way to keep warm, as opposed to wearing one thick layer. Secondly when the temperature starts creeping up as the day progresses, it is easy to peel off layer by layer. Last Saturday when we starting playing at 9.45 ( there was a 1.5 hr frost delay), it was about 6 c but crept up to about 12 c by 1 pm and therefore I had to peel off all the layers until I was only in my golf shirt.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September Blues

It is really coming to an end, summer that is. Next weekend is Labour Day weekend, which unofficially spells the end of summer although Fall does not officially arrive until September 20. This summer has been especially busy for us socially as we had a dinner party to attend every weekend for the past 3 months, no kidding.This, it appears will continue into September. We have given our share of parties and this is the reason for our active social calender.The Malaysian food that we served have been very popular with our friends especially "wat tan hor". For me it is so easy to make but seems abundantly popular among Malaysians.The last few months I have also served, Penang Hokkien Mee, KL Fried Hokkien Mee, Yong Tau Foo, Curry Laksa, Nasi Lemak, Sang Har Meen ( including once using lobsters instead of prawns), char kuey teow etc. I have not taken many pictures because my first priority is to serve a good meal at that moment and not, I apologise thinking of taking pictures for this blog!
The Blue Jays have not been playing well for the past few months after a good start to the season and have fallen out of contention for the playoffs. Although many have forgotten that this year was just a reloading year and the plan was to make a run for the playoffs in 2010. I hope that tis will happen. Nevertheless I will still be a fan no matter what happens. As I tell my friends, there are 30 teams in Major League Baseball and only 8 teams make it to the playoffs. Together with other contending teams, there maybe about less than 15 teams out of the 30 that are playing meaningful baseball by September. If every fan gives up on their team when they are not contending, half the teams will have no support.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Great Summer Weather

I have been really enjoying the great weather so far this Summer. Many Torontonians will want to vehemently disagree with me. This summer has been wetter and cooler than normal.The natives have been whining about it being not hot enough.They are partly right.One of the major differences in weather in the eastern seaboard of North America and say the U.K is that we have very cold winters and very hot summers.In the UK , the temperatures are relatively cool in the summers and typically do not get a really a hot whack of in your face heat for any length of time in the summer.If you watch golf on TV, you will notice that during the British Open in the middle of July, both players and spectators are wrapped up in sweaters. Not so here.We typically get very hot temperature for days on end, 32 -35 C during July and August.This is the payback for the very bone chilling days in the winter.So when this hot weather is not delivered by mother nature, the people really freak out.Not me though.Being brought up in the tropics, I have enough of hot weahter to last me a few life times. I enjoy the 20-25c highs so far this summer.I played golf yesterday in 22c weather, absolutely fantastic for this time of the year. This Saturday the forecast is for a high of 30c and this means lots of Gatorade to bring along for golf.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Penang Hokkien Mee

Made Penang Hokkien Mee over the Civic Holiday long weekend. I typically make this dish several times a year mainly in the summer when kangkong is at its best. The key to this dish is to use lots of shrimp shells for the stock base. Malaysian street food is not as well known as say Thai and Vietnamese in this part of the world but I promise you that we have a bunch of very delicious dishes. Penang Hokkiem Mee is one of these dishes. In the Kuala Lumpur area where I was from, the best Hokkien Mee is from the O&S Coffee shop in PJ. On every visit back, I will make a point to have a bowl of this dish and really soak in the taste and when I cook this dish back in Toronto, I would have made a good duplicate. On numerous occasions in Toronto when I sample various dishes from my Malaysian friends, many of this dishes are nowhere close to the original in both the taste and the type of garnishings. One of the reasons is that they have have been away too long and have lost sight of the original taste.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

British Open 2009

The Open Championships which concluded over the weekend at Turnberry, Scotland was the third of the four Majors played every year.As I have indicated in my previous posts these events are time markers for me to track the progress of Spring and summer.Very soon in August,the fourth and final major will be played and that spells the end of summer.
This year the Open Championships is significant because Tom Watson, 2 months shy of his 60th birthday was in contention right until the very end when he lost in a playoff.Golf is a game that allows you to play at a very high level until late in life.I for one will play and enjoy this game for a very long time.My passion for this game and the efforts I make to improve has encouraged me to stay healthy.Because of golf I try to jog 2-3 times a week outdoors and use the treadmill in my basement during the winter.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summer's Bounty

I really love this time of year with summer in full swing. One of the reasons is the availability of luscious fruits.Cherries, peaches, nectarines, pears, the list goes on.These fruits are at their finest and at the prices are at their lowest.I just bought some lovely cherries for 99 cents per lb. We get a lot of these fruits from the Southern hemisphere from countries like Chile and South Africa so this is not really a summer fruit thing but fruits seem plentiful this time of year.I have also developed a good habit by snacking on fruits when hungry especially in the evenings instead of eating something less healthy.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Baseball's Mid Summer Classic

I cannot believe that we have reached the middle of the season. Yes we are half way through the baseball season and tonight the All Star Game will be played, this year in St. Louise, home of the Cardinals.In the past this game is a mere exhibition but over the last few years it has been decided that the winning League will host the first games of the World Series in October.
The significance for me this year is that the Blue Jays will be represented by not one but 2 starters. Starting pitcher, Roy "Doc" Halladay and second basemen Aaron Hill.This is a great achievement for the Jays as not many of the teams are even represented in the starting line up.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

KL Hokkien Mee

Had friends over on Tuesday night, the eve of Canada Day.Made 3 types of noodles viz Hokkien Mee, Lobster Sang Meen and Wat Tan Hor. Also served BBQ sea bass with asparagus. It was quite a feast made more meaningful because my 2 kids were present, my son with his girlfriend and my daughter.It is really not easy to schedule everyone together as they are quite busy with their own lives. The occasion was also to celebrate my friends birthday, hence the Lobster noodles. Also to welcome our new friends, a delightful Italian couple on their first visit to our home.
The Hokkien mee was made for the first time with the thick noodles which made it very authentic. Previously my Hokkien mee was made with regular size yellow noodles which became thicker when braised but nowhere like the thick fat noodle found back in KL.The other day I was at the factory outlet of this noodle manufacturer and found out that they make a thicker version of their yellow noodles which they supply exclusively to restaurants. I bought a 5 lb bag ( the smallest size available). The dish turned out perfect , identical to that found in KL. My daughter and my wife will give me grieve for this boast , but please judge for yourselves from the picture!

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Friday, June 19, 2009

US Open 2009

Time is really zipping by. Every year I use the Major golf tournaments as time markers.The first Major of the year, the Masters is played on the first week of April and signals the beginning of Spring. For this reason I really like the Masters as it marks the start of favourite time of year for me.
The US open is usually played the week of the summer solstice and Father's Day. As a very proud father of 2 wonderful children and a golf fan I really enjoy this weekend. On top of this there is baseball to enjoy.The Toronto Blue Jays are still playing well inspite of too many pitchers on the diabled list.Also we will be going to a party on Saturday night. This will be a really busy weekend. One sour note is that the weather forecast for Saturday is not so good and it looks like my weekly golf game will be a wash out.This is the same weather system that is affecting the eastern seaboard and has caused the US Open to have a rain delay.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

T Bone

BBQ season is now in full swing after a slow start to to the below seasonal temperatures we have been experiencing in Toronto the past month or so. I am really not in the mood to BBQ when the weather is cloudy, windy and chilly.
One of the supermarkets had a special for T Bone steaks and I got a few pieces for the BBQ. For vegetables I had asparagus and tomatoes, all done on the BBQ. The steaks were simply seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil. I prefer it this way as I can really enjoy the natural flavour of the beef. The steaks were about 1/2 " thick which which is not the ideal thickness. I prefer them to be at least 1" thick so that I can achieve the doneness ( rare to medium rare) that I like. The steaks turn out to be medium to medium rare and were nonetheless totally tender and delicious and were enjoyed with English mustard.

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Groundhog Day

Played at the Don Valley Golf Course last Saturday, a municipal facility five minutes from my house. Although this course is right in the center of Toronto there is an abundance of wildlife in the course.Foxes, deer and groundhogs. Spotted this little fella by the 5 th hole.They have grown used to humans and go about their business quite fearlessly. Also this must be the nesting season for birds as in various parts of the course we have been attacked by birds who swoop down from behind onto our heads.We must been too near their nests.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Enjoying Spring

Very cliched I know, but the month of May has really flashed by very very quickly. I am really enjoying these 2 months of Spring with the nice cool weather and the great expectations the comes with Spring. I was down with a nasty long winded cough for 2 weeks which restricted activities like golf and getting my meager planting program going.When I said meager I really mean it as I only plant some chillis and herbs ( daun kesom, coriander and mint) in my very tiny garden. The threat of frost during the Victoria Day weekend, which is the traditional start of the planting season really put back the planting by one week which is a big deal in the short growing season in this part of the world.
Apart fom missing golf with my cough, 2 rounds had to be cancelled due to the weather. On one of the rounds we actually played 5 holes but had to stop due to lightning. On top of being sick and no golf, the Toronto Blue Jays went on a 9 game losing streak, which is one of the longest in franchise history. Mercifully we have won the last 2 games against the Boston Red Sox and I played a round of golf yesterday in vey nice 15 degree weather. My cough is now completely gone and everything is now kosher in my little world.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Gulai Tumis

Made Gulai Tumis or Nonya Assam Fish for dinner the other night. The picture above does not really do justice to the tasty halibut collars used for this dish. Halibut is eminently suitable for this dish because of its firm sweet white flesh. "Collars" is a less expensive cut compared to the usual steaks that this fish comes in. I like the fatty and oily parts that comes with the collars. As a comparison these collars are $3 per lb compared to the steaks which are about $7 per lb. The traditional fish used for this dish in Malaysia is white pomfret which I also like. I buy nearly all my fish from the frozen section of the Chinese supermarkets. They are usually of better quality than the so called "fresh" fish sold. These "fresh" fish is presented usually as steaks and it is difficult to tell whether the fish is fresh or not. I only buy "fresh" fish when they come whole when I can tell from the eyes (clear) and gills(dark red) whether they are fresh.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

We are open for business

BBQ season is upon us. I started to use the grill last week for the beer can chicken.The grill that I have is a Weber, one of the best high end brands in the market.This baby cost $1100 2 years ago but I must say it is worth every cent. The lighter works every time and the 3 burners gives out excellent heat.The best thing I like about this grill is that it uses natural gas instead of propane.I will therefore never run out.This is especially frustating when grilling expensive steaks when we have people over for dinner and the flame goes out. During the summer I do a lot of outdoor cooking and the natural gas allows me to do a lot of non traditional BBQ meals like roast pork, Chinese roast pork and char siu too.
Another good thing about the Weber is that it is so easy to clean.Everything can be taken apart and cleaned. There is therefore no excuse for a dirty looking Weber as you can see from the picture.It is spring cleaning time!

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Golf Opening Day

The golf season started for me this year when we had our first game on Saturday April 18. It was a beautiful morning with temperatures at around 15 c going up to maybe 18c by midday.We played very well for the 2nd nine and I did not make a double bogey for the entire nine.

I think this year could be a breakout year for me as I have sorted out a couple of swing issues in my mind over the the winter. Every Winter when we have a 5 month lay off, I typically use the time to reflect on my swing. Lessons will help a lot but they will not be 100% effective unless I include some self lessons. For example my teacher told me that I release or "cast" my club too early resulting in loss of power. This is where lessons are so important as I would not have noticed it myself. However he did not provide me with a means on how to solve this problem. This is a common trait among golf teachers that I have worked with. They are good at picking swing faults but not good at communicating solutions. For this problem I have devised a swing thought to maintain my wrist cock right until impact.

The other problem I have which is far too common for all golfers is not maintaining posture. Specifically moving the head up and down. The key discovery for me during the winter is that I am moving my head up without realising it. Therefore I am making a very conscious effort to keep my head still and has gotten very good results in Saturday's game.

I had a visitor from the UK last week and we had dinner together. This was his first visit to Toronto and one of his observations that our city is a concrete jungle with little greenery really took me by surprise. I really had no answer for him except to protest the fact. After he left I suddenly realised what he meant. Although we are nearly a month from into Spring, all the trees are still in Winter mode. That is the reason the city look so barren and devoid of any greenery except for those from the ever greens.If he had come in May the landscape would have been entirely different!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rite of Spring

The Masters Golf tournament is on this week. Truly a rite of spring! I am watching the action with the full glory of wide screen High Definition TV. The beautiful Augusta Golf Course with azaleas in full bloom. Really a very pleasant way to spend the Easter long weekend. These conditions are in contrast to what we have in Toronto.The weather has been good for the past few days but no where near to what they have in Augusta.
We have been invited to dinner both Friday and Saturday and therefore I am taking a break from cooking. However on Sunday night we are having a family dinner to celebrate Easter and I will be making a rib roast for the occasion. As I will be watching golf I will not have time do make anything else and so my dear wife will be making all the other fixings for the meal.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Home Opener

Today is the start of the regular season for the Toronto Blue Jays. This year the home opener and the season opener is on the same day. As a fan of the Jays this day is eagerly anticipated after 6 weeks of spring training for the team. This year the expectations for the team is realistically low as 2 of the starting pitchers had major surgeries last year and are on the disabled list. We are on what is referred as "reloading" year ( as opposed to the less marketing friendly term-" rebuilding"). However I am a real fan as opposed to a "fair weather" fan of the Jays and will be supporting the team through thick and thin.
The weather has not been co-operating with the temperature at 0 c this morning and with snow on the ground! The game will not be affected as it will be played indoors at the Rogers Center.
Last night I wanted to cook a rib roast using the BBQ but at the last moment decided against it as I decided not to jump the gun on the " season opener" for my Weber and wait till the weather warms up more. How right I was. Instead I roasted a 2 1/2 lb rib roast in my oven which has a convection feature.
What happened to golf ? I had actually booked a tee time for 8.15 last Saturday but had to cancel due to inclement weather, rain and high wind, not a good combo for golf. What a bummer

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Ipoh Hor Fun

We had 10 people over on Saturday for Ipoh Hor Fun.The difference between the traditional Ipoh Hor Fun and the meal I served is instead of " kai see" or shredded chicken I served " white cut chicken" and giant prawn wontons instead of prawns as the garnish.The chicken turned out very well and everyone commented how "smooth" it was.
The giant prawn wontons also turned out nicely.The wontons were larger than normal because I used "sui kow" skins instead of the usual wonton skins. I had to get them from the manufacturer as these are only supplied to restaurants and not available in the Chinese supermarkets unlike the common wonton wrappers
Serving 10 piping hot bowls is no easy task. The time between each bowl served should not be more than 1 minute as I want my guests to all sit down and have the meal together. If the interval between each bowl is say 6 minutes, it will take 1 hour to serve 10 bowls. By the time the last bowl is served, the first guests would have long finished their meal. The key is to serve each bowl piping hot. I achieve this by cooking the hor fun in bulk ahead of time and then portioning it into the 10 bowls with the chives. I will then have a very large stock pot ready with boiling water. When it is time to serve I will quickly reheat the hor fun and the chives in each bowling before ladling in the stock. In this way the dish is served in a timely manner piping hot. It took just about 10 minutes for everyone to be served.
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Monday, March 23, 2009

Versatile Minced Pork

Got another piece of pork butt for $1.29/lb and had the butcher mince it for me for anther 10 cents. Mince pork is a very versatile ingredient. It can be steamed as a meat patty, steamed with tofu or in this instance made into a noodle dish. Any balance can be frozen for later use. The minced porked was cooked with shitake mushrooms and seasoned with oyster sauce. I used garlic, green onion and ginger as aromatics. Also dark soya sauce from Malaysia was used to give the dish some colour. Any type of noodle can be used. I like "mee sua" and it went very well with the chicken stock soup base.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pork Ribs

The price of pork has been relatively low over the last few weeks. Whenever I venture into a Chinese supermarket, or any supermarket for that matter, I typically scout for the specials or products that are really fresh and nice. Yesterday pork side ribs were $1.39 /lb vs the usual price of $2/lb. So I bought one slab of about 3.5 lbs and had the butcher cut it to bite size pieces ( actually they cut it through the bone into strips and I will cut them into bite size pieces) I used about 3/4 of the ribs and steamed them with black bean sauce. Depending on the amount of black bean sauce used( I used 2 table spoons of ready made paste from Lee Kum Kee) no further salting is required. The result was a dish of succulent ribs enjoyed by the whole family. I plan to use the balance of the ribs to make a soup noodle noodle dish the next day.
I also made a dish of stuffed red peppers using fish paste bought over the weekend.The peppers were pan fried ( fish side down) and then finished with a black bean seasoning.The key is to use a generous amount of corn or tapioca starch on the insides if the peppers so that the fish paste will adhere to the peppers. The peppers were sweet and succulent and this turned into a very tasty dish.
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Monday, March 9, 2009

The beginning of the end

This is really my favourite time of year. Winter is coming to an end. I am certainly not celebrating prematurely as I realize that mother winter can ambush us with another cold spell and/or another snowstorm in the coming weeks. However all the signs are here. The days are getting longer, 6.00 pm is still bright especially when we moved to Daylight Saving Time yesterday.
In baseball, spring training is in full swing and the World Baseball Classic is now on. The Blue Jays may again not make the playoffs this year but at this time of year, hope springs eternal.
For golf , the driving range will be opened soon and the season will start in about 4 weeks. The earliest I played was March 31st, but typically it is the first or second week of April.
This anticipation is what makes this my favourite time of year. It is the beginning of the end.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Happy Birthday Toronto

Today is the 175th birthday of the wonderful city of Toronto, my home for the past 19 years. It is safe, clean and I believe, a quality of life that has few peers. Torontonians do not know how lucky we are as we complain about everything - bad air, traffic gridlock, high crime rates, too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter etc. I suspect many have not been to other parts of the world to experience real traffic gridlock or hot weather.
As a birthday present the temperature soared to 18c this afternoon, so what is the big deal? Well it was -16c on Monday.Therefore today I really enjoyed being outdoors driving around with my sunroof open.
Also today I had a free Driver fitting session with the Ping representative in one of Golf Town outlets. For those of you not familiar with golf, club fitting is important in getting the maximum benefit from your clubs. Just as you need to get fitted for a suit, you need to get the right club for for swing. I ended up getting a sort of prescription for my Driver, 12 * loft, offset with "soft" regular shafts ( polite way of referring to "senior" shafts) and a thinner grip size to allow me to set the wrists better, which is the main thing I am working on in my golf swing.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Comfort Food

Had this for dinner last night.Pork meat patties, the ultimate home cooked comfort food. Bought a piece of "pork butt" from the Chinese supermarket and had them grind it for me. I almost never buy ready made minced pork from the Chinese supermarkets as I am not sure what cuts of pork they use.Usually they are too fatty for my liking.
There are many ways to flavour this mince pork dish, salted eggs, cuttlefish and my favourite, preserved vegetables.From the leftovers I will usually make a congee for next day's meal
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Monday, March 2, 2009

Hainan Chicken Rice

A family favourite, Hainan Chicken Rice.Typically make this dish at least twice a month especially if whole chicken is on special in the supermarket.This week it was a "buy get one free deal". So I made 2 chickens this time.The chicken was put in boiling hot salted water , covered. When the water came to a reboil the heat was turned to the very lowest setting and steeped for 45 minutes.( If there is only one chicken I will turn off the heat completely and steep for 30-35 minutes) It was then removed and put into icy cold water for 30 minutes. It was then hung up to cool and dry for 3-4 hours. I found that it is only by this method that the skin and meat is firm, comparable to the ones in restaurants and BBQ outlets
For the rice, first render some oil from chicken fat, flavour with garlic and lightly fry the rice grains.Then cook the rice in the normal manner but with salted chicken stock instead of water.
I like to serve this dish with chilli garlic sauce or ginger /green onion sauce, although I personally also like it with Coleman's mustard.
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Monday, February 23, 2009

Had Curry Laksa for dinner today. Actually made this yesterday and tasted even better today.This recipe is different from the usual type of Laksa I make as this does not have curry powder in the mix. This is referred to as " Nonya' Laksa and the curry paste made from ground chilli, turmeric, shallots, garlic, galangal, belacan and lemon grass.This paste is sauteed until fragrant and added to an ikan billis broth. Coconut milk is also added at the end of the cooking process.
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Birthday Noodles

Today is my wife's birthday.Usually the family will go out for dinner to celebrate a birthday but we decided instead to have it tomorrow night since it is a Friday.So I made birthday noodles but instead of using the large fresh water prawns or "sang har" in Cantonese, I used lobster instead.Made it with lots of gravy so much so that the noodles in the picture were pretty much hidden! It turned out well and enjoyed by everyone.
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Quick Dinner

Made Thai Red Curry chicken for dinner last night.It was an easy quick dinner because I used the red curry paste made previously. All I had to do was to take out the portion I needed from the freezer, fried the paste in a bit of oil until fragrant and then added in the chicken. Added a new twist to this dish by using evaporated milk instead of coconut milk.The taste was the same as far as I could tell.
Also made a steamed egg dish called " sam wong tan". I typically make this dish in a pinch when there is a need for another dish.The trick to his dish is to add the right amount of water to the egg mixture.I found that 100ml water per egg is the optimun amount.So in this instance, I added 400ml water for the 4 eggs.The other crucial step is to ensure that the water is at a slow boil
To round up the menu, stir fried baby bok choy.I love using whole garlic for this dish.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Day Dreaming

BBQ is synonymous with Summer. So why these pictures of "beer can" chicken when there is a foot of snow on the ground and my BBQ grill does not look like it is ready for anything.Just day dreaming? Maybe not.
It is the middle of winter and the picture of the chicken from my archives is an ideal kick off for the recording of my culinary journey.I am a passionate home cook.I cook for my family and occasionally for my friends. It is time to record all the stuff that I have done and therefore I am getting off my butt to record this journey and I hope to share this with you.However this will not entirely on my adventures ( and sometimes misadventures!) in the kitchen.I will also record and share with you my other passions viz golf, baseball and my family.
"Beer can" chicken is one of the easiest ways to roast chicken.I simply season the chicken with soy sauce ( also to give it colour) and pepper. Stick an 8 oz of beer or soft drink into the cavity.Pre heat the BBQ to 350F. Stand it up right on the BBQ grill on indirect heat ie the heat source is is front and back or on both sides and not directly under the chicken.Roast with the lid down for about 1 1/4 hours or until the meat thermometer reads 180F.I usually remove the chicken when the temperature reaches 170F as it will continue to cook.
I typically eat this with sweet Thai chilli sauce.
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