Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

Want to know more about me? Friend me on facebook, follow me on twitter, or even look up my New Yorker cartoons on instagram! NB; different platforms not all food related)

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Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Margarita Madness!

“America, America, my nation’s heart to thee! Oh endless skies, and deep tanned thighs, can I eat KFC?”

Maintaining the rage for all things American, it’s Tequila time here at Kit’s Cucina, and much like Floyd on Alcohol, I too have been known to have a tipple while slaving away over a hot anything. Particularly when sponsored (hint, hint all liquor marketers out there – particularly Don Julio of who I am about to rave).

I was at a party at Katka and Neil’s flat last year (Hi Katka and Neil!). Neil had invited a whole lot of his “telcoms” colleagues to come over for the party. It was like walking into the UN; there was an Englishman, a Scott, an Irish fellow, an Indian, an American, a Canadian and a Malay, and their girlfriends were from all over the world… particularly Eastern Europe.

The American guy was really very nice; hugely fat, beardy and weirdy (he either had one of those “draw-strings-that-you-pull-to-give-your-buttocks-definition” or a lopsided G-string – urk! – showing through his pants). He seemed a bit of a chuckle head, so I immediately smelt a rat and suspected he might work for the CIA. And why not? He perfectly fit the profile. Or have I read too many Smiley’s people book scenarios?

Regardless, he was drinking Tequila and offered me a glass or two. And WOW! The very best tequila I have ever drunk. It was called Don Julio, known colloquially as ‘the Don’ and is Mexican (a quick aside here – I know that Mexico is not the USA, but it is in the Americas, so I feel I’m on safe-ish ground with my opening song).

You will recognise the Don by its wooden stopper. It’s unavailable in stores here (he had brought it back in his luggage – or through the diplomatic bag), but would be worth your while chasing on the internet. It’s made with 100% blue agave with no other ingredients but water. Aged in white oak, such tequilas have much the quality of single malt scotchs. Awesome. See how they make it here:

Tequila Don Julio

This should probably (definitely) NOT be used for cocktails. But it just goes to show the difference between good and terrible tequila.

Anyway, over summer I cranked out the ice shaver my brother Jim (Hi Jim!) gave me last Chrissy (it was nudging 40 degrees at the asbestos beach shack) and made some cocktails. Here’s a few takes on the margarita for the next time you’re losing your cool. Try to get the best quality tequila you can (look for the word agave):

2 parts tequila
2 parts triple sec (Cointreau)
1.5 parts fresh lime juice
Crushed ice
Lime wedges
Salt flakes

Rub glass rim with lime wedge, dip in salt to crust rim. Shave ice, fill glass. Pre-mix cocktail in a jug, pour over ice. Top ice, garnish with lime wedge.

60ml tequila
20ml Cointreau
20ml lime juice
Treat glass as above. Shake ingredients over ice and strain into glass.

One part tequila
Three parts Jose Cuerva margarita mix (triple sec and lime cordial pre-mix from your bottle shop – yummy)
Mix, pour on crushed ice, drink, beat children, set self on fire from BBQ.

1 3/4 cups chilled pomegranate juice
Salt flakes for glass rim
1 1/2 cups silver tequila
1 cup triple sec (Cointreau)
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
Ice cubes
8 lime wedges, for garnish

Shake pre-stirred jug of cocktail mix in portions over ice and pour into salted glasses. Make face. Pomegranate? Who ever has this stuff? Erk! Really? It’s good for you? Well, we’ve already made this much, better drink it. Hey, second one’s not so bad. Ole! Yes please. Has the ambulance arrived yet for the burns and beating victims from previous recipe? Better have another then. Blur memory. Wake next morning with straw sticking out of hair, a cracking headache and bruises.

Until next time (and particularly in light of the espionage comments above), it’s bye from me till next time!

p.s. Tell Julian Assange I'm on my way with the ice shaver!

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Beer Can Chicken

I had cause for reflection about the phrase "season's greetings" and "compliments of the season" while I was on holidays. I would, of course, like to wish you a happy Christmas and merry New Year, but not only would it be redundant, it's also kind of cliched.

Maybe I could just say: "Salt, pepper, smoked paprika, tarragon": the majority of the flavourings in KFC incidentally (chuck in some MSG; normal paprika; have a couple of types of pepper - black, white, green; brown sugar, white sugar: onion salt; garlic powder; maybe some chilli powder - I once managed to beat the Colonel by five spices). So "Secret Herbs and Spices" to you.

Did I hear someone say "beer can chicken"? (Yes, it's in the title of this article, Kit). I thought so.

Well, a couple of years ago I was given an American BBQ book that has revolutionised the humble barbee as far as I'm concerned. It's called 'Taming the Flame' by Elizabeth Karmel and I can highly recommend it.

The US have, of course, a different concept of BBQ to us. Here, it's all about hot grills, searing flesh (yours and that of the dear departed), letting it rest and digging in. Which is actually pretty fantastic and low maintenance for catering.

But the Yanks actually call the food made "BBQ", as in "I'm going to eat some BBQ" (don't get me started - next stop I'll be complaining about them making up words like ironical, or de-plane/de-bus/de-boat/de-BBQ, or calling main courses "entrees", or tomato sauce "marinara sauce", etc - but that's a different article), and they're really into cooking outside with a lid on for HOURS...

Anywho, this book opened my eyes to the whole indirect heat cooking with the lid on, possibly with wood chips to smoke the meat. We've made ribs, beer can chicken, North Carolina pulled pork (drool), Greek lamb (I know what you're thinking - and don't be disgusting), fish and more and it really makes the good old barbs a much more flexible tool.

And one of the big secrets to American BBQ? The rubs. Make a spice rub using the spices above, rub it on the meat and slow roast it. Brown sugar (and possibly white sugar as well) is key, as is tarragon and smoked paprika, to get that authentic American taste. I recall an overinflated Oprah Winfrey years ago telling viewers how great chilli con carne was if you melted chocolate in the sauce. And you'd better believe it! Americans love sugar in everything, including pumpkin. (Is this coming out a bit nationist... as in racist against Americans? Not my intention, but if read that way, I deeply apologise).

So, recipes for beer can chicken? Why coitanly:

* 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
* 2 tablespoons salt flakes
* 3 tablespoons sugar
* 2 tablespoons brown sugar
* 1 tablespoon cumin
* 1 tablespoon chilli powder
* 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
* 1 tablespoon onion powder
* 1 tablespoon garlic powder
* 1 tablespoon celery salt
* 1 teaspoon tarragon

Phew! Pre-packaged I know, but that's the old US of A for you! I'm coming over a bit red, white and blue right now as I write this (particularly around the lips... how's my circulation looking?). You can use other herbs, like oregano instead or in conjunction with the tarragon - try playing with the levels to suit yourself. Can be stored in a container pre-mixed for a few months.

Brush chicken with oil and season with 2 tablespoons dry rub.
Open beer can, pour out about 1/4 cup of the beer, and make an extra hole in top of the can. Sprinkle a remaining tablespoon of the dry rub inside beer can.
Slide the chicken over the can. The legs act as a tripod, steadying the chicken. Put the chicken on the beer can in the center of the grill's cooking grate.
Cook chicken for about an hour and a half over a moderate indirect heat (until the internal temperature registers 165°C in the breast area and 180°C in the thigh).
Let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

You can find out more about 'Taming the Flame' at:

God Bless Y'all!

Kit ///

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