Onions are one of the most versatile staples of our pantry. They make for a perfect base and a perfect condiment, either cooked or raw. For now we will be dealing with the raw onion. I’m sure it happens to everyone; you eat a dish, bite into some raw onion and feel its pungency linger throughout the entire day. There are two tricks I like to use to diminish its pungency but without giving up any of the flavor.
Let’s start with a Montreal classic: bagels and lox. I personally have an affinity for St-Viateur’s all dressed bagels. At home I serve it up with cream cheese (and it has to be Liberté …or your local creamiest of the cream cheeses is a must), lox overflowing the sides of the bagel, a mount full of capers, coarsely ground pepper, a drizzle of lemon infused olive oil (take out your best-est olive oil here) and thinly sliced red onion.
To tame the pungency of the red onion as a condiment, you’ll want to start by thinly slicing it. In a bowl cover it with salt; pour cold water over the onions to cover and mix until the salt is dissolved. Add a few cubes of ice and let the mixture sit for at least 20 minutes. Strain and pat dry the onions. Drop a few over the lox to complete this all dressed classic Montreal bagel. These onions are also great for salads, sandwiches, burgers…
Another way to soften the blow of post onion bad breath is to marinade the onion in some sort of acid like lemon or vinegar. This is the base for my famous guacamole. Yes, I said it, famous! You can ask any of my friends and family. The onion taming technique is described below in the recipe and makes a great base for other dishes like gazpacho.
Kristel’s Kitchen Guacamole
- Two ripe avocados
- One small onion
- Two limes – juiced
- One garlic clove – pressed
- One tomato – seeded and chopped into a small dice
- Small bunch of cilantro – chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon Mexican spice blend – any generic grocery store mix works here, or make your own by combining equal parts of cumin, dried oregano, chili powder and paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Splash of hot sauce – or as much as you or your guests can handle
Finely chop the onion. In a mixing bowl add the onion, the juice of one lime and a few pinches of salt. Mix it all together until the salt has dissolved and let sit for 20 minutes. At this point you can start mixing your guacamole. Scoop out the ripe avocado into the mixing bowl and using a fork mash it all up. Using a garlic press, crush one clove. Slice in half one tomato and using your thumb remove the seeds. Chop the tomato and add to the mixing bowl. I enjoy experimenting with different varieties of tomatoes but grape tomatoes give just the right amount of sweetness and they don’t need to be seeded. Gently mix all ingredients; careful, the tomatoes are delicate.
Mix in the Mexican spice blend and the hot sauce. I like playing around with different types of hot sauces and I usually use two kinds: a basic one to give a base of spice and one that adds a different flavor dimension, for example smokiness (think chipotle). This is the perfect opportunity to play around and wow your guests. If you have any fresh hot peppers on hand you can also add those into the mix (remember to use your latex gloves). Make sure to taste the guacamole and adjust the seasoning with pepper, salt, spice and perhaps even add more lime juice. Grab your favorite chips and dig in!
A priceless indulgence of the summer BBQ! Well, perhaps it’s neck and neck with ribs but a great indulgence nonetheless. Simple or elaborate, it is just delectable, moist, tender and its skin perfectly crispy! Sprinkle your chicken with salt, pepper and herbs, or baste with store bought BBQ sauce or marinate the chicken with your own creation. Whichever you decide, it will be fabulous!
The first time I made beer can chicken at home it was a delicate balancing act. The can was too full, the chicken too heavy and the grills too far apart – or not enough for such a narrow base. It is needless to say that the chicken fell over many times. So for beer can chicken you have two options: attempt the balancing act or for $5 buy the contraption seen in the picture. This stand is specifically made for beer-can chicken and is available at most grocery stores. Let me tell you, this contraption is definitely a worthwhile investment!
On this particular beer can chicken day I had an over-ripe mango on the counter and recently purchased whole dried ancho chilies I had not yet worked with. These two key ingredients mated to create this ancho-mango marinade.
Ancho-Mango Beer Can Chicken
- One dried ancho chili
- One tbsp dried oregano (remove the leaves from a few sprigs if using fresh)
- One tsp cumin
- One tsp cayenne
- One half tbsp salt
- One mango, peeled and cut into pieces
- Two garlic cloves
- One whole chicken, cleaned and patted dry
- One large can of brown beer
- One cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup molasses
In a food processor combine the dried ancho chili, oregano, cumin, cayenne and salt until well blended. Add the mango and garlic, mix until smooth. Rub the marinade over the cleaned and dried chicken, making sure to get some of the marinade under the skin so that it can penetrate the meat. Latex gloves also come in handy here. Allow the chicken to rest and absorb the flavors at room temperature for about an hour.
In the meantime, use a can-opener to pop open the can of beer and pour out half its contents into either a glass for yourself or a saucepan if you decide to make a glaze. If you’re going for the glaze, then you should definitely go to your fridge and get a second beer for yourself to enjoy. In the saucepan, add the brown sugar and molasses. Bring up to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool.
Beer-can chicken must be cooked with indirect heat, which essentially means that you want to leave the burner located under the chicken in the off position. Also make sure you have enough room to close the lid over the chicken. Turn only one side of the grill burners to medium heat and let the BBQ reach about 350°F. While the grill heats up, take the time to place the can of beer in the contraption’s holster. At this point you are ready to mount the chicken onto its beer-can throne. Once securely set, place the chicken onto the grill, above the grill that is in the off position, so it is in indirect heat. Close the lid and let it cook. Every fifteen minutes or so baste the chicken with the beer glaze and turn it to make sure it cooks evenly. Total cooking time should be between one hour and a half and two hours depending on the size of your chicken (internal temperature should be at 180°F).
The skin of this particular chicken was crispy and so sticky that the tongs stuck to the chicken. The meat was juicy and tangy from the mango and ancho pepper.
If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, the meat makes for awesome sandwiches!