If there's one thing the world's great chefs agree on, it's this: If something tastes good, it will taste a heck of a lot better on a stick.
Anyone who has ever taken their taste buds to the Red River Ex or a carnival anywhere in North America knows this is true.
As a courageous food lover with fire in his eyes and naturally curly hair, I have personally consumed corn dogs on a stick, pork chops on a stick, fried doughnuts on a stick, fried shrimp on a stick, fried candy bars on a stick as well as a bunch of other stuff I probably would not have put in my mouth had it not been enticingly served on sticks.
According to a website I am looking at right now, one of the hot new food items at fairs in the U.S. is (this is true) fried Kool-Aid on a stick. I have no idea how they get Kool-Aid on a stick, but we should pray the technology never falls into the hands of our enemies.
But that's not the point. The point is I started giving serious thought to food on a stick recently when I spent half a day taking a certification course conducted by the Kansas City Barbecue Society so I could be a judge at the inaugural Winnipeg Free Press Pit Masters Championship, being held Aug. 18-19 as part of the Winnipeg BBQ and Blues Festival.
Also getting certified that day was my buddy Jason Wortzman, a trained chef and director of marketing and product development at Granny's Poultry, Manitoba's sole turkey processor.
Jason is the food genius who, several years ago, was inspired by a column I wrote about a U.S. bar owner who served his patrons turkeys infused with a gallon of vodka. That inspiration led to the recipe for Doug's Great Canadian Tipsy Turkey, a bird marinated in a Canadian whisky so famous it did not want its name mentioned in this column. Anyway, Jason promised if I could come up with some brilliant new way to barbecue turkey, he would feature me as the centrefold "celebrity chef" in the summer grilling issue of Great Taste, Healthy Living, the glossy new cooking magazine co-published by Granny's and Manitoba Turkey Producers (about 25,000 copies will be coming out in mid-June and you can get one free at your local Manitoba Liquor Control Commission outlet or by visiting www.grannys.ca).
So, naturally, the first thing that popped into my mind was (dramatic pause) Turkey on a Stick, which I created at home via the technique of taking globs of ground turkey, forming them into tiny meat torpedoes, jabbing them with wooden skewers, then slapping them on the grill, slathering them with teriyaki sauce and serving with a little tzatziki sauce. Like any food scientist worth his seasoned salt, I tested Turkey on a Stick on my family, whom I monitored for signs of imminent death, such as a sudden desire to listen to country music.
Surprisingly, everyone gobbled them down, including my daughter, who typically sneers at my grilling genius, but in this case said, and I will quote her directly: "Yummy!"
So I had my head held high Wednesday morning when I arrived at Granny's to test my recipe on my pal Jason, who also was fired up. "I love food on a stick," he confessed. "Anywhere you go in the world, you can find something on a stick."
With no thought for our own safety, we bravely took two pounds of ground turkey and tossed in minced garlic, chopped onion, diced red pepper, parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, basil, sea salt, ground pepper, teriyaki sauce and an egg, followed by enough panko bread crumbs to bind it together and prevent the turkey torpedoes from falling off the skewers.
Having skipped breakfast, I was eager to eat these little guys as soon as we pulled them off Jason's charcoal grill, but first a photographer and a graphic designer and a food stylist had to take photos, which involved arranging the skewers on a plate, frowning at them, frowning at each other, then rearranging the skewers, followed by another round of frowning.
Eventually, we got to eat, and here are some actual quotes from the experts at Granny's:
Chef Jason: "Mmmmm! Moist! You taste lots of flavour. It would be great with a dark ale or maybe a margarita."
Graphic designer Brian Fawkes (smacking his lips): "Awesome! Winner winner turkey dinner!"
Marketing co-ordinator Wendy Harrisko: "I love it! Anything on a stick is fun. It's very carnival-ish."
Dietitian Vanda Racciatti: "It's really healthy and really fun. I love that it's on a stick. It's mess-free, no cleanup."
Some other guy whose name I didn't catch: "You should serve this at the Ex because it's better than mini doughnuts."
Call me biased, but I think you should pick up the magazine and check out my recipe, because, and this comes from the heart, I'd really love to stick it to everyone this summer.