I've been a fan of Ted Reader, King of the Q, ever since I started watching him on the Cottage Country television series. Ted's irrepressible enthusiasm combined with his creativity led me to start grilling all sorts of foods I'd never dreamed of cooking outdoors.
I got the chance to sit down with him and talk about his 18th cookbook - called Beerlicious: The Art of Grillin' & Chillin' and more!
Q: I've read that you got into cooking at a young age. How old were you and what's a fond food memory from that era?
A: I knew by the age of 6 that I really liked eating and watching people cook; by 10 I was going to be a chef. There was no Food Network back then but I loved watching Bruno Gerussi's Celebrity Cooks show and then I'd try to replicate what I'd seen. The first complicated dish I made, at around age 12, was Chicken Cacciatore; I followed that up with sole stuffed with baby shrimp.
Q: Do you have early memories of grilled food as well?
A: I learned to grill from my dad, who actually used a charcoal-filled wheelbarrow when our barbeque fell apart. He punched a couple of holes in the side, grabbed a shelf from the refrigerator, and he was all set. He loved cooking big steaks, seasoned simply, and slicing them thinly. I still love steak prepared that way.
Q: You are a trained chef who has worked in some very prestigious establishments; what made you decide to focus on the grilling world?
A: I seemed to gravitate towards the grill in every kitchen I worked in; I guess I really like getting my hands dirty. When I went to work for Dave Nicol and President's Choice, I was tasked with researching American barbeque and organizing a big barbeque competition at the Skydome in Toronto. This work really opened my eyes to a lot of wonderful ideas and I was kind of hooked. One thing led to another and I started doing product development, television work and creating cookbooks.
Q: You've already published so many great cookbooks - why Beerlicious, and why now?
A: The short answer is that beer + barbeque = delicious. The long answer is that this book has been in the works for quite a few years but like many of my ideas, especially for product and recipe development, sometimes I come up with things before their time. Beer is really on the rise now, with so many great craft breweries not only in Canada but all around the world, so the timing for a book that celebrates beer and barbequing couldn't be better.
Q: What do you look for in a beer?
A: When I'm drinking, it's got to be something crisp, easy to drink and refreshing. I don't want a beer I have to chew. I favour blonde beers, for example. But when it comes to cooking, that's the time for beers with big flavour, like porters, stouts, pale ales, etc.
Q: You've shown people how just about anything can be put on a grill. What are some of the more unusual things you've experimented with?
A: There isn't anything I wouldn't put on a grill or smoker. I've smoked honeycombs, chocolate, salt and rice. The only thing I can think of that didn't turn out so well was bubblegum, but it was a fun experiment. My favourite ‘guilty pleasure' is barbequed Twinkies.
Q: I understand you have a huge collection of barbeques, smokers etc. at home. Are you equally fond of grilling gadgets?
A: Actually, I'm not big fan. I like to keep things simple and I always tell people there are no rules, and you don't need a lot of tools. The few essentials I would recommend are 9 inch tongs, a good spatula with a thin edge, a thermometer, a quality grill cleaning brush and an injection syringe.
Q: Why did you choose to work with Schneider's?
A: I grew up with their products and to me they represent an important part of this country's food tradition. Sausages, hotdogs and so forth can be very fun foods to work with and I have really enjoyed coming up with some recipes that use them in unique ways.
Q: What's up next for you, aside from a glorious summer of grilling for family and friends?
A: I'll be doing a bit of travelling to promote the Beerlicious cookbook, which I'm excited about because I love to visit food shops and look for new sources of inspiration wherever I go. I'm also pretty fired up about a new TV show I have in the works, called Beerlicious.
Note: I saw a clip of the Beerlicious show. It's awesome and I cannot wait for it to be broadcast. It's as genuine and fun as Ted himself.
Ted's top tips for grillers:
Keep your gas or charcoal grills clean. A clean grill is a hotter and healthier grill.
Never leave your grill once you have started to grill your food. Stand your post and be ready.
When grilling directly over the fire/flame with medium high-high heat keep the lid open. When you are low and slow grilling using indirect heat keep the lid closed.
Never squish, poke, score or cut into meats - including hotdogs and sausages. You will push all of the valuable juices and flavour out of the foods, drying them out and overcooking the items. Take it easy and be patient.
If you are a guest at a barbeque never touch another person's grill and keep your comments on how you'd do it better yourself.
Recipe: Ted Reader's Smoked Sausage Flatbread Appetizers
This is a quick and easy twist on bruschetta that is sure to get your BBQ party started.
1 large white onion, peeled and cut in 6 or 8 wedges
2 medium sweet red bell peppers
1 green onion, finely chopped
½ tsp (2 mL) chopped fresh thyme
Drizzle olive oil, about 2 tsp (10 mL)
2 tsp (10 mL) white balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 Schneiders® Grill'ems® Smoked Sausage
2 pieces pre-baked flatbread, about 4-6 oz (125-170 g) each (can substitute naan or pita)
2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
2 tsp (10 mL) smoked paprika
1½ cups (375 mL) grated smoked Provolone or Mozzarella cheese
PREHEAT BBQ to medium-high, about 400°F (200°C). Grill onion wedges for 10-15 minutes, turning frequently until lightly charred and tender. Remove from grill and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Slice onions into thin strips, place in a bowl and set aside.
GRILL whole red peppers until skin is blackened and blistered, about 15 minutes, turning the pepper to char on all sides. Place hot roasted peppers in a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand covered for 10 minutes. This will allow the skin to be removed more easily from the flesh. Carefully peel pepper, remove seeds, and discard skin and seeds. Slice the roasted red pepper into ¼-inch (1 mL) thick strips and add to grilled sliced onions. Add green onion and thyme and drizzle with a little olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside and keep warm.
GRILL the smoked sausages for 10-12 minutes turning occasionally being careful not to have them split. Remove and slice into ¼-inch (1 cm) thick pieces.
COMBINE olive oil and smoked paprika together and stir well. Brush top side of flat bread evenly with smoked paprika olive oil mixture. Grill flat breads for 1-3 minutes per side until golden brown and lightly crisp. Slice into small wedges, about 12-15 pieces per flat bread, and arrange in an even layer, smoked-paprika-oiled side up on a cookie sheet.
PLACE a slice of smoked sausage on one piece of flat bread. Top with 1 tsp (5 mL) d onion pepper mixture and a small amount shredded cheese. Repeat with remaining flat bread pieces.
WARM on grill 2-3minutes or until cheese melts. Serve immediately.