Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Urban Summer BBQ

BBQ. Is there any greater word in the English Language to hear on a summer afternoon? The sounds of sizzling meat, the smell of smoke in the air, the feel of a cool breeze while a warm sun hits your face . . .

There's only one problem. I live here:

Downtown Toronto. BBQ is done here:

A backyard, with grass, possibly a pool, and lots of summer memories. Back to me, in downtown Toronto. What I gain in access to 24 hour grocery and restaurants, cultural festivals, and an urban life, I sacrifice in comfort, a great place to grow up, and fresh air. See my unit has no balcony. It doesn't even have a window I can open. Oh, and my a/c unit in my living room doesn't work. For me to enjoy the greatest gift summer can bring, I have to have BBQ in my cramped residence room in artificial circumstances. So I have to make the best of a bad situation.

First, see me cooking burgers on a George Foreman grill. A grill is not a BBQ. It comes close if it has some sort of flame, like a Burger King grill where the burgers are flame kissed. Nope, I have to use electricity. I put on an apron to make it feel like I was outside cooking, enjoying summer. I even was making a smoothy of vanilla yogurt and frozen fruit to also fuel the lie.

I really don't like the George Foreman Grill, or any of the knock-off's for that matter. What makes it better than a frying pan is that you can 'knock out the fat!" as George says with the oil dripping down into the trough. What is the opposite of good though, is the fact that the grill has no temperature control. It just burns. The outside of the burgers (or chicken if that's the meat your cooking) gets scorched while the inside doesn't really cook well enough. Hank Hill on King of the Hill uses the slogan "taste the meat, not the heat" when describing propane bbq'ing, but it applies to this grill as well - I won't lie, I like tasting the heat of a nice charcoal or open flame. And the clean-up: these things are terrible to clean. But all of this doesn't make it impossible for use. My favourite use for the grill is roasted corn.

The kernels caramelize just nicely. But the cooking surface is not equal, as the clam-shelled grill can't close evenly over both cobs at one time. This goes for burgers, sausages or anything.

For my roasted corn, I melted butter in a shot glass, brought out some kosher salt, and my favourite popcorn seasoning, dill powder.

The little shot of butter was perfect for the golden corn. The dill popcorn seasoning is something I saw at Taste of the Danforth where they had all sorts of popcorn shaker flavours to put on the corn. It makes sense; good on popcorn, why not corn?

In the end, despite my vigilant eye and myriad of spices I added to the burger, it was bland and crispy to the outside. The corn turned out great and my smoothy was delicious. But, I ate it, looking out the window at the city and dreaming of the day when I might be back at a real house with a backyard, with a real bbq, and a real meal. For now, I will wait for Ribfest next weekend in London.

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