You have to love barbecue season. The joy of cooking outdoors. The smell of burgers and hot dogs sizzling in the open air, filling it with tasty goodness. The sight of a fine paella steaming away on a hot grill. Wait. What?
That probably doesn’t sound like the barbecue fare that your family used to cook on the grill when you were growing up—and it’s not. We all know that our country has undergone a rapid culinary evolution over the past few decades thanks to robust immigration, extended travel on the part of backpack-wearing 20-something adventure-seekers—not to mention business travellers as global trade has expanded—and a general broadening of our gastronomic roots. Sure, we still love our Sunday roasts and maybe the odd tourtiere in French-speaking parts of the country, but we’ve come a long way from those traditional Anglo-Franco staples.
Nowhere is that more obvious than on the grill.
While selections such as choice steaks, premium ground chuck, organic chicken and the finest Sockeye Salmon will always be barbecue standards, we remind our clients that we have a lot more options at our disposal when it comes time to create a memorable barbecue feast, even if that means simply making small (but significant) variations or additions to those usual faves. Let your imagination run wild and tap the right equipment, and it’s possible to cook virtually anything on a grill.
Before we get to those alternative dishes, a few points on the many benefits of outdoor grilling. First, if you’re like so many Canadians, you’ve likely spent a large sum of money (maybe thousands of dollars) on a premium grill. These workhorses can be used year-round in almost any weather, giving you a perfect tool to cook up great barbecue flavour even when the snow flies. Next, at times of year like this—when temperatures are in the 20s and 30s, making indoor cooking especially uncomfortable (who hasn’t cranked up their stove or oven in the mid-summer heat only to regret the move after a few stifling minutes?)—grilling can be a more energy efficient and climatically comfortable way to cook. It’s also highly enjoyable after months spent huddled away from the cold inside your house.
So, there you go—barbecuing just makes sense. As does thinking outside the grill box by taking your culinary experience to the next level. Back to that earlier point about being able to cook anything on the barbecue. Dishes such as paella are perfect for the grill because they involve quite a bit of tending as they cook (and, as we’ve established, hot kitchens are a bad place to be in summer) and are also a fun and colourful party conversation-starter when they’re laden with delicious mussels, chorizo, peppers, onions, shrimps and the golden goodness of luxurious saffron.
Pizzas are another fun, alternative barbecue option, particularly if you’re cooking for a large group of people or you have kids. In the latter case, you can make or purchase smaller, individual-sized crusts and let your little ones add their own ingredients to get them involved in the meal-prep process. Grilling a pizza only takes minutes as opposed to the long process of baking it in your oven. We like to place our crusts directly on the barbecue grates, undressed for about four minutes, rotating them before removing. Dress the grilled side with your toppings and throw it back on the grill for another four to five minutes for crispy, char-grilled goodness. You’ll be amazed at how different it tastes compared to a traditional oven-baked pizza.
Don’t have one of those huge, restaurant-quality grills that are all the rage?
Remember that size doesn’t necessarily matter. A small Weber charcoal grill can be transformed into a premium smoker for ribs, chicken, fish and brisket by simply soaking some wood chips, packing them in foil and adding to a red-hot grill. Throw on a choice piece of meat and get ready to feast. The beauty of a solution like this is that it allows you to spend the day in the sunshine with the smoker working in the background. All that’s left is for you to enjoy the fruits (or meats) of your barbecue labour.
Another option that many people overlook, although not vegans and vegetarians who have long embraced their glorious grills, is the potential to cook delicious veggies in the great outdoors. We love options such as grilled zucchini, satay veggie skewers (add whichever vegetables you love, almost anything works), grilled corn or tropical fruits (grilled pineapple is absolutely delicious!) or even buttery potato parcels. For the latter, simple create a veggie boat out of foil, add a handful of new summer potatoes and then season with herbs and seasoning and add a dollop of butter. Grill for 30 to 40 minutes, moving the package occasionally to avoid overcooking and enjoy!
It’s even possible to grill certain cheeses such as haloumi after seasoning with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. The result is a deliciously tangy dish that’s grilled slightly on the outside, but full of creamy goodness on the inside and makes for an amazing grilled topping on salads. You’ll never forget your first bite.
Don’t have time to whip up an alternative barbecue feast on your own? Let us take the reins while you kick back on the patio with family and friends. We not only offer amazing packages such as our Baja Fish Taco and Open-Air Fish Fry options (OK, both use deep fryers, but they’re perfect for any backyard barbecue), but also fun choices such as our Irie Jerk Chicken and Porchetta Feast that will have your guests wondering how you came up with the gastronomic inspiration for such an incredible spread. We’ll let you take the credit.
You might even want to go all out and have us set up your backyard as a commercial kitchen where we can grill, smoke, rotisserie and fry to give you a bucket-list backyard experience! It doesn’t end there. We also offer themed packages like our California Cookout (Baja fish tacos, deconstructed California sushi salad cups, mini California-style pizzas and a Sonoma wine and cheese tasting).
Last point: remember that barbecues aren’t simply made memorable by the main menu items on the grill, be they meat, vegetables or a combination of the two. From the side dishes to the condiments and buns, it’s the little things that make a lasting impression. We bake many of our breads in-house, for example—including our famous jumbo Kaisers, focaccia or Calabrese long buns—and work with local bakeries to source fresh, specialty buns and breads (our Cliffside Hearth brioche is a highlight) for any barbecue that we cater.
It’s also important to get the condiments right, which is a perfect way to add flare and an alternative spin on more traditional burger-and-hot dog barbecue extravaganzas. Our barbecue packages can include condiments such as Tomatillo salsa verde, hummus, chimichurri, bacon jam, and roasted garlic aioli, all scratch-made by our chefs.
So, next time you invite the neighbourhood over to show off your grilling skills, blow their minds and prove your Michelin-worthy bona fides with an alternative spread that would impress even the most discerning chef in search of new barbecue classics.
Fia Pagnello, founder
Want us to cater your next BBQ party? Contact us now!