TORONTO -- The new secret ingredient in your arsenal for providing depth, texture and flavour to grilled dishes is as close as your grocer's dairy fridge.
Cream may seem like an unusual item to add to fare prepared on the barbecue, but a Halifax chef says the dairy product infuses savoury and sweet dishes alike with a luxury and elegance that will make your guests sit up and take notice.
"It adds flavour and texture to food ingredients you wouldn't normally have without it," chef Richard Julien said in an interview from the East Coast city.
Whether you're a home cook or someone working in a Michelin-starred restaurant, he says cream can take your food to the next level.
"As a chef, cream has always been a component of our kitchens. There's always been pushback for healthy lifestyle, but we're saying that used in moderation -- and a little goes a long way -- it will be part of our lifestyle choices when we're cooking," he said, adding he likes that it's a local ingredient produced by Canadian farmers.
But Julien, 42, didn't always use cream in the variety of ways he does now in his catering and culinary entertainment business, Chef Live!, which sees him and staff prepare meals for people in their homes in the manner of cooking shows.
"Growing up in the Maritimes, blueberry grunt was all I knew. Whipped cream, sugar and vanilla. Or chowder, obviously being from the East Coast, cream is a big part of what we do."
Julien -- who was recently commissioned to create grilling recipes with cream by various dairy organizations -- has come up with a recipe for spiced chicken drumettes. Using 10 per cent cream with some tandoori-style aromatics, such as ginger, garlic and toasted cumin, he devised a marinade.
"A marinade can tenderize and it can produce aromatics, so whenever I'm imparting flavour to a dish that has either meat or vegetables, those are the two things I'm looking for," he says.
"In barbecue recipes, cream is a natural choice because it's going to be more forgiving on the grill than, say, just using herbs and spices and juices alone because it has a higher moisture content."
Chicken needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 83 C (180 F) to be safe, but it can get dried out. The cream in the marinade adds moisture.
Yogurt with a few tablespoonfuls of cream plus garlic, ginger and spices can also be used in marinades for grilled chicken or pork.
Marinade that has been in contact with raw meat must be used once and discarded, Julien cautions. Set aside some marinade separately in the fridge ahead of time if you want to use it for basting.
For the barbecue, cream can be added to mild, semi-soft fontina cheese and white wine for a sauce to top pork tenderloin or combined with spices and yogurt to team with shrimp. It highlights potato salad and lends richness to delectable cake that can be topped with grilled seasonal fruit.
Cream can be used to thicken sauces and aerate desserts. Fold a little sour cream into the mixture for brownies or substitute 10 per cent or 18 per cent cream for milk for more richness.
For finishing a dessert, a chocolate ganache can be created using 35 per cent cream and a little butter, and only a thin layer is needed for flavour.
-- The Canadian Press
Creamy Barbecue Potato Salad with Crispy Red Onions
1 each sweet potato, yellow-fleshed and purple or red potato (each about 250 g/1/2 lb)
30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil, divided
Salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
125 ml (1/2 cup) 35 per cent whipping cream
60 ml (1/4 cup) mayonnaise
22 ml (1 1/2 tbsp) chopped fresh dill
15 ml (1 tbsp) whole grain mustard
15 ml (1 tbsp) grated lemon zest
5 ml (1 tsp) brown sugar
5 ml (1 tsp) each chopped fresh parsley and thyme leaves
2 ml (1/2 tsp) cayenne
1 clove garlic, minced
Crispy red onions
1 red onion, peeled
30 ml (2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
125 ml (1/2 cup) vegetable oil (approx)
1 green onion, chopped
Heat oven to 200 C (400 F).
Place potatoes horizontally on cutting board and slice vertically into 1-cm (1/2-inch) thick slices. Brush with 15 ml (1 tbsp) of the olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet; bake for 20 minutes. Remove sweet potatoes to a plate. Return baking sheet (with remaining potato slices) to oven; continue baking for 5 minutes or until just tender.
Heat barbecue to medium-high heat. Brush potatoes with remaining olive oil. Grill on greased grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until grill marks appear. Let cool.
Meanwhile, in a large cold bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form; stir in mayonnaise. In a small bowl, combine dill, mustard, lemon zest, sugar, parsley, thyme, cayenne and garlic; fold into cream mixture. Stir in potatoes; toss gently to coat. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate to chill.
Crispy onions: Slice onion in half and cut into fine slices. In a bowl, toss onion with flour; shake off excess. In a large skillet, add enough oil to coat entire skillet and heat on medium heat. Add onion and cook in batches until golden, adding more oil if necessary. Remove to paper towels.
Divide potato salad among serving plates. Top with crispy onions and green onion.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Source: Chef Devan Rajkumar Dairy Farmers of Canada, anydaymagic.ca.
Herb and Spice Marinated Barbecue Chicken Drumettes
16 chicken drumettes (about 750 g/1 1/2 lb)
125 ml (1/2 cup) 10 per cent half-and-half cream
1/2 small onion, peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled
7.5-cm (3-inch) piece of ginger, peeled and minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon (about 45 ml/3 tbsp of juice)
125 ml (1/2 cup) fresh cilantro leaves
15 ml (1 tbsp) butter, melted
15 ml (1 tbsp) each Dijon mustard, liquid honey and apple cider vinegar
10 ml (2 tsp) each ground cumin and coriander
5 ml (1 tsp) each ground turmeric and cayenne
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pull skin off chicken drumettes; place in a 20-cm (8-inch) square glass baking dish or similar size stainless-steel pan.
In a food processor, combine cream, onion, garlic, ginger, lemon zest and juice, cilantro, butter, mustard, honey, vinegar, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, salt and pepper; process until smooth. Pour marinade over chicken; cover and refrigerate for 1 1/2 to 2 hours to allow flavours to develop.
Heat grill to medium-high. Remove chicken from marinade and place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Place chicken pieces on greased grill; reduce temperature to medium-low. Grill with lid down for 9 minutes, turn chicken over, close lid and grill for 8 to 9 minutes or until juices run clear from chicken with tested with a fork. Place on a serving platter to share.
Makes 4 servings.
Source: Chef Richard Julien of Chef Live! in Halifax for Dairy Farmers of Canada, anydaymagic.ca.