If you have ever been out on the town for a night in Halifax NS, there are very high chances your night ended at a Pizza shop on the city’s famous “Pizza Corner”!
I remember thinking to myself the first few times I had one – I’m not sure what this meat is made of but man it is tasty! And that sauce… YUM!
If you have never had one – it’s shaved seasoned beef (traditionally shaped into a large cylinder shape and cooked on a spit) served on a warm pita, topped with chopped tomatoes, raw onions and a garlic sauce.
In recent years, I have tried a few different recipes (most are very similar) and landed on a seasoning that I am very happy with… Chef Ted Readers seasoning really gives the meat a nice hint of heat. You can substitute it out for Cayenne in a pinch but I would highly recommend the Hot & Spicy Bonedust (careful, as it is truly hot and spicy so I would not add more than the recipe calls for).
When it comes to Donair sauce it doesn’t get much easier… I have tried a few different recipes – including one from a friend who is a chef and never had much success. Using Sweetened Condensed Milk is key for a thick sweet sauce!
· 2 pounds Ground Beef
· 2 teaspoons Salt
· 2 teaspoons Dried Oregano
· 1 teaspoon Coarse Ground Black Pepper
· 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
· 1 teaspoon Summer Savory
· 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
· 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
· ½ teaspoon Ted Readers Hot & Spicy Bonedust
· 1 Tomato chopped
· 1 Medium Onion chopped
· 1 Package of Pita Bread
· 1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
· 2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
· 4 tablespoons White Vinegar
Combine all the dry ingredients in a small bowl
In a large metal mixing bowl, sprinkle spice mixture over ground beef. Knead the meat and spices well to ensure that you get even flavour.
It is important to try to get all the air out of the meat mixture when you press into the pan. If you do not – the final product will have holes.
Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Cut your paper to be equal to the long side of the pan and had enough length to overhang the sides. It does not need to cover the sort ends so to speak. The paper will allow your meat to release from the pan easier when you go to smoke the meat.
Place your meat into the lined loaf pan.
Punch the meat down to remove any last air pockets then using a spatula you can flatten/smooth out the top of the meat.
Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator over night or for at least one hour.
Pre-heat smoker to 350F
Remove meat from loaf pan and place on the smoker. Discard the parchment paper.
Smoke until it reaches an internal temperature of 160F – about 60-90 mins
While meat is cooking – whisk sweetened condensed milk, garlic powder and vinegar in a small bowl until well blended. Cover and place in refrigerator.
Remove Donair meat and allow to cool 20-30 mins.
Slice the meat using a meat slicer or sharp knife. About 1/8” thickness is good
Sautee meat in a large frying pan until browned (only using as much as you plan to use).
While meat is cooking, you can place pitas in a single layer on top of the meat to warm them (flipping occasionally).
Once the meat is browned and the pitas are warm, place the meat on the pita, top with chopped tomatoes, chopped white onion and the donair sauce.
For the authentic experience, you can serve the donair wrapped in foil with a side of napkins.
Note – any unused cooked meat can be frozen in portions and used later as a tasty snack! Best frozen vacuum-sealed in unsliced portions.
1/4 tsp Kosher Salt (you can add a bit more to taste)
1/4 tsp Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese
Preheat Grill to 400F
Slice Peppers lengthwise and remove seeds & membrane.
Place peppers on the grill cut side up – cook for 10 mins – turning peppers over after 5 mins. (If doing in oven – roast on baking sheet cut side up for 10 mins). Leave cooked peppers rest (you can place in a baking dish and cover with plastic wrap to allow to continue to softened while making veggie mixture)*
In a medium skillet over medium heat, add oil sauté onions until soft – approximately 5 mins. Add sliced mushrooms, minced garlic, chopped spinach and spices. Cook for a few mins until spinach is wilted and mushrooms are softened.
Remove sautéed vegetables from pan and place in a mixing bowl. Remove Laughing Cow Cheese wedges from packaging. Using a rubber spatula or large spoon incorporate cheese into warm veggie mixture until combined.
Divide cheese and veggie mixture into 4 and spoon into cooked pepper halves.
Top each with grated parmesan cheese.
Return peppers to the grill for an additional 10 minutes.
* Initial Cooking Time – I like it when the peppers still have a hint of crunch (a la dente). If you prefer a really soft pepper – you can cook the peppers up to an additional 10 mins. Just watch for charring.
Preheat Grill to 375F (can also be done in the oven on a cookie sheet)
Brush any dirt off mushrooms and remove stems (these can be kept and used in other dishes. E.g. omelets, etc…).
In a medium bowl – Crumble cheese. Fold in chopped bacon.
Stuff caps with cheese mixture – will vary based on size of mushroom but likely 1 heaping tablespoon.
In a separate bowl combine breadcrumbs with spice. Drizzle with olive oil. Stir until combined.
Top each stuffed mushroom with seasoned breadcrumbs.
Carefully place mushrooms on grill over indirect heat – for 15-20 mins.
Once the mixture is heated through and tops have started to turn golden – remove from heat and let cool slightly. If cooking in the oven – place mushrooms on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes or until heated through and lightly browned
Note – * can be made gluten-free by substituting for Gluten-free panko breadcrumbs. You can also add sauteed chopped garlic scapes to the cheese mixture.
For over 20 years now I have been cooking turkeys in a garbage can… What started it all you ask…
In the fall of 2000 I was attending the Moosehorn International Camporee an event put on by the Boys Scouts of America (BSA). The event was hosted at the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge outside of Calais Maine. As a young adult leader, I was eager to learn what I could from the trip. The BSA had many different traditions than Scouts Canada and one of them at this camp was a “Leader Cook-Off”. The event was awesome…. Leaders from all over the USA cooking, using all kinds of methods I had not seen. Cast iron dutch ovens, tripods, charcoal chimneys, lump charcoal, rebar with columns of chicken wire filled with charcoal briquettes but the most intriguing was a group cooking in a garbage can!
These leaders were using a combination of pails, foil and charcoal to cook a turkey in the woods! As most who know me well are aware, I like to ask questions… well I spent probably 20 mins talking to this group of leaders to understand how they were doing it. Through this time they shared tips, tricks and key steps to success.
The first attempt
Returning home I was keen to put my new teaching to use…. The following month the opportunity presented itself! We were attending a camp with our group and I decided to try making garbage can turkey for the troop!
Off we went with a turkey in the cooler, a shiny new garbage can, new pail, some string, some foil and a bag of charcoal! The scouts were convinced that this project was going to be an epic fail… we spent the afternoon getting set up and following the guidance of my American colleagues (as best I could remember) it was time for the reveal…. To be honest I wasn’t sure exactly how this thing was going to turn out either. With a group of doubtful teens and unsure leaders looking on, I lifted the garbage can off and pulled back the charcoal from the bottom of the inside pail. Using oven mitts I lifted the bucket slowly only to reveal the best looking turkey I had ever cooked! The kids both young and old were amazed at how things turned out! Little did I know that moment started annual tradition that has continued for over twenty years!
Turkey at the camp
Thanksgiving turkey dinner outdoors at my father-in-law’s camp with the backdrop of fall foliage at its peak… What started as a scouting activity quickly became an annual family tradition. The first year was a bit rocky as I felt the pressure of so many onlooking family members! Needless to say I made a few mistakes but did eventually get the bird cooked and it was tasty! From that point forward, it became a day that we all looked forward to. In the early years we kept a log of things that went well and things to improve… the technique and tips outlined below are a summary of my experience cooking almost 50 turkeys this way over the years.
70L metal garbage can (see notes)
25L stainless steel bucket
One 2×2 18” long wooden stake with one end pointed/angled
Heavy duty aluminum foil (wide roll)
Hammer or axe
2 charcoal chimneys
Large bag of Charcoal (preferably briquettes)
Oven proof mitts
Material to start charcoal (egg carton/birch bark/paper)
1/4 cup (or more) Cajun Seasoning (I use Emeril’s Essence – the recipe can be found below)
Ingredients for brine (see below)
Pre-Work – The Day Before – Brine the Bird
You can omit this step if you wish but it does make more a much more flavourful bird. Think of brine like a marinade… The one I use is at the bottom of this post – it’s by Emeril Legasse (one of my early culinary influences). I have also listed the recipe for his creole seasoning which I use for when cooking turkeys. The instructions and ingredients required are below.
Step 1 Light the charcoal
Fill two charcoal chimneys with charcoal briquettes. light bottom with birch bark/peice of egg carton or crumpled newspaper. Will take 15-20 mins to be ready. Use this time to complete the steps below.
Step 2 – The Stake
Choose an area to cook the turkey. Ideally somewhere sheltered from the wind and without ground material that will catch on fire (ie gravel or sandy soil work will).
Drive stake into ground far enough that when you put your bucket over it there is 1-2 inches of space between the top of the stake and the bucket. Do this by driving the stake in the ground far enough for the bucket to be flush with the ground when you cover the stake. then remove bucket and drive the stake down 1-2″ more. this will create a stable base for the bird. You can also remove a bit of soil away from the base of the stake. this will allow place for the bird to go down a bit if it is a bigger turkey.
Step 3 – Foil the stake and cooking area under the bucket
Using the aluminum foil – tear a strip of foil 18-20″ wide. Poke a small hole in the centre of the foil. Carefully slide the foil down over the stake (the stake goes through the hole). Tear a second strip of foil 6-8″ wide to wrap the stake. Make sure foil it tightly wrapped. there should now be no ground or stake showing. Dry fit the bucket over the stake again to make sure the foil extends beyond the bucket. If your foil does not you can put another layer over the existing foil.
Step 4 – Secure and Season the bird
Make sure to truss the bird with butchers twine. There are several videos on youtube on how to properly do this. Doing so will make your life much easier when you go to take the cooked bird off the stake and keep the legs/wings from touching the bucket. Rub the bird with olive oil and season generously with cajun spice.
Place bird on stake but putting the stake through the body cavity with the legs down. See picture below.
Step 5 – Cover the bird
Place the 5 gallon stainless pail over the bird on the stake. Make sure that no part of the turkey touches the bucket as that area may burn if it does.
Step 6 Prepping for the charcoal
Tear 2 roughly 18-20″ pieces of foil and tear each of them down the middle. This does not have to be that precise. The pieces are placed at bottom of the outside of the bucket. place it with the long side down along the bottom of the bucket. Continue this until you have gone all around the bucket. This will prevent any ash and dust from getting on your turkey.
Now place the bricks on top of the foil – laying flat. stagger them across from each other (like four points of a compass around the bucket). This keeps the large can elevated and the charcoal still able to get air to burn.
Step 7 – Adding the charcoal
At this point your charcoal should be starting to turn grey and is ready. using a fire proof gloves or oven mitts, place the first chimney of charcoal around the base of the 5 gallon pail (over the foil in step 5). Do the same thing with the second chimney keeping 6-8 briquettes for the top of the bucket.
Step 8 – Cover with the garbage can
Place the large garbage can over the 5 gallon pail with the charcoal. Make sure that it is touching the 4 bricks and the charcoal is still getting air. If there are any charcoal outside the large can – you can push them in gently under the rim so that the heat stays in the can.
Set a timer for 2 hours. during this time, carefully check the outside can periodically to ensure there is still heat. If you are cooking on a windy day you may need to add a 3rd chimney of lit charcoal after an hour but this is rare.
Step 8 – Checking for doneness
After 2 hours most birds will be done. With oven mitts on, carefully remove the large garbage can and set aside. Using tongs move charcoal away from the outside rim of the inner pail. Pull back the foil around the can just enough to get the pail off to check the temperature of the turkey. Before you remove the inner pail, remove any remaining charcoal from the top of the pail and set aside. Brush any charcoal dust off the top of the can. Carefully remove the pail – it may be stuck to the foil on the ground in places so lift carefully. With the thermometer, check the temperature of the bird by placing the thermometer in the thickest part (without touching the bone). If it is above 180F you are good to pull it off (If it is not – carefully put the bucket back over the bird. move any charcoal back around the pail. then put the large can back over the inner pail and leave for 15-30 mins).
Use clean oven mitts and have someone help you take the bird off the stake and put on a platter then tent loosely with foil for 15 mins before carving.
Additional Tips – from mistakes I have made!
Make sure Turkey is fully thawed
Use a thermometer to check temperature
Don’t try on frozen ground
You will not get drippings for gravy
Tie the bird well
Bones makes best stock
Don’t peak you will lose precious heat
Don’t be on a set timeline
Use charcoal chimneys to light charcoal
Use charcoal briquettes- as they more even heat
Make sure to remove any plastic parts from the turkey
Warm water, soap and towel to wash up
if your large garbage can is new – you can pre season it the day before. Place 4 bricks on the ground (this will keep can off the ground and let charcoal breath. Light two chimneys of charcoal. Once charcoal is ready (15-20 mins), place the charcoal on the ground in the middle of the bricks then place the garbage can over the charcoal (opening down). This will burn off any residue from the manufacturing process.
Southwestern Turkey Brine
2 cup fresh lemon juice
1.5 cups fresh orange juice
2 cup kosher salt
2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 cup chopped yellow onion
4 oranges, halved
4 jalapenos, minced with seeds
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferable Mexican
2 Gallons (7.5L) Water
In a large non reactive container (I usually use a small cooler – this is the easiest but you need to wash well with warm soapy water when you are done. You can also mix the brine in a large container then dump into doubled garbage bags as well), combine lemon juice, orange juice, kosher salt, light brown sugar, yellow onions, oranges, jalapenos, cilantro, garlic, chili powder, ground cumin and oregano with 2 gallon water.
Stir well to dissolve brine the sugar & salt.
Add the turkey to the brine, cover and refrigerate, turning occasionally, for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. If using cooler – you can add reusable ice packs to the brine.
Peel Sweet Potato. Grate Potato into a large mixing bowl
In a separate bowl combine Flour, Garam Masala and Salt
Add flour mixture to the grated potato. Mix well ensuring all flour is well incorporated into shredded potato.
Using a measuring cup or scoop – scoop 1/4 cup of the shredded potato mixture. Will keep the fritters the same size.
Using your hands, squeeze the mixture into the flat round shape. 2-3” in diameter and ¼-3/8” thick. Place gently onto a piece of parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Continue this until you have no mixture remaining.
In a large nonstick pan heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil.
Once hot gently place the premade patties into the plan one at a time. You may need to cook in batches. If so you may need to add a bit of oil to the pan between batches.
Leave cook on one side until golden brown – will depend on how hot your pan is but typically 3-4 minutes.
Once golden brown on one side – flip gently – then cook until golden brown on the other side.
Repeat this until all your patties are cooked. If you cook in more than one batch – you can keep the cooked ones warm in a 200F oven on a cookie sheet.
A lot of people find calamari chewy and tough… well let me tell you – if you make your own you won’t think that any more!
Squid are fascinating creatures that change colour in an almost alien like way and they squirt black ink as a defense mechanism. The fact they feed mainly at night and are attracted to light make wharfs and piers the ideal fishing location to jig for squid.
In summertime, they can been found swimming close to the surface after dark attracted to the light of the wharf in some harbours of Atlantic Canada. I have been lucky enough to catch fresh squid on a few occasions (they are a lot of fun to jig). Even if you don’t have squid in your area natively many supermarkets carry it frozen. My suggestion is to speak to the staff in the seafood counter and ask if they have any. Often they have it frozen and only take out a bit at a time to put in their display case.
Cajun Deep Fried Calamari
1 lb fresh (or previously frozen) calamari cut into 1/4“rings & keeping tentacles – see note below on cleaning and preparing.
¾ Cup white all purpose flour (I use Bob Red Mills Gluten Free 1/1 flour)
¼ Cup Corn flour
1 ½ teaspoon Cajun Seasoning (I use Emeril Legasse’s Essence – the recipe can be found online)
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Cup Buttermilk
Kosher Salt & Dried Parsley for plating
Oil for frying (canola or other)
Place calamari rings and tentacles in a medium glass bowl with the buttermilk and stir to combine.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate. Ideally for a couple of hours but minimum 30 minutes.
Heat oil to 375 degrees F. This can be done by using 3-4” of oil heated over medium heat in a large deep pot but it’s preferable to use a deep fryer. If you are using the pot method make sure you have a thermometer that will monitor the oil temperature as hot oil can be very dangerous if you do not.
Place the all purpose flour, corn flour, Cajun seasoning and baking powder in a medium bowl; stir to combine.
Remove each piece of squid from the buttermilk (allowing the excess buttermilk to drip off) and dredge in the flour. Place coated squid on a plate. A fork works well for this step.
Repeat the process until all pieces are coated.
Place 8-10 pieces of squid in the hot oil.
Pay close attention as the squid will cook fast! Fry for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove the squid from the oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat the process with the remaining squid.
Sprinkle Calamari with kosher salt and a pinch of dried (or fresh chopped) parsley.
Cleaning and Preparing Squid
When it comes to cleaning and preparing squid to make calamari there are a few tricks that you need to know if you are getting whole squid. The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife have a good post on how to do it. For this recipe, I use the method illustrated in Method B in the link below.
Soak cedar plank in water for 1-2 hours minimum (or overnight). You may have to weigh it down to stay in the water.
In a small saucepan, combine Maple Syrup, Rum, Onion, Ginger, Garlic, Soya Sauce, Chili Powder, Salt & Pepper.
Heat over medium-low heat until reduced by half, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool completely.
Once cool place Salmon in Ziplock bag – pour in cooled glaze. Working gently, remove as much air as possible and place in fridge for 1hr.
Heat grill to medium heat, about 400°F.
Once preheated – place cedar plank on grill – leave for 5 mins to remove initial moisture.
Sprinkle plank lightly with coarse sea salt – helps fillet from sticking and adds flavor.
Carefully remove fillet from ziplock (reserving glaze)
Place salmon, skin side down, on the cedar plank.
Brush reserved glaze.
Grill salmon 15 min, or until it is cooked to your desired doneness, brushing with sauce every 5 minutes or so.
Remove from grill.
Slide a thin spatula under the fillet to remove . Serve immediately.
Skinless fillets will work for this recipe as well
Dehydrated onion can be replaced with fresh minced shallot
This recipe can also be done in a cast iron skillet in the oven. Follow steps 2-4. Preheat oven to 400. Remove from ziplock place in cast iron skillet. Reserving glaze. Brush salmon with remaining glaze. Bake 15 mins or desired doneness. Slide a thin spatula under the fillet to remove . Serve immediately.
1 Cup Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
¼-½ Teaspoon Salt
1 ½ Teaspoon Baking powder
½ Teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Cup Greek Style Yogurt*
½ cup Sugar (for coating)
1-2L Canola or Vegetable Oil for Frying will vary based on what you are using to cook in
Makes ~12 small donuts (depends on cutter size)
Combine Flour, Salt, Baking powder & Cinnamon in a medium bowl and mix until combined.
Add yogurt to the dry ingredients and mix until the dough forms
Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth
Shape into a ball
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a min of 30 mins
Preheat oil to 350 degrees. You want 1 ½ to 2 inches of oil in a heavy deep pot, deep cast iron pan or deep fryer. Do NOT leave oil unattended.**
Roll chilled dough out onto a lightly floured surface to 1 cm thick
Using a donut cutter or other small round cutter (you can even use a small glass for the outside and an apple corer for the inside) make as many donuts as you can. Keep the whole donut shapes and donut holes.
Remove any excess dough from around the donuts & holes and put to the side. You can make a ball out of the excess and repeat steps 7 and 8 until you have used all the dough.
Carefully place 3-4 donuts in the preheated oil. Watch not to get oil splattered on you. You can put the donut on a slotted spoon and slowly place it in the oil.
Move the donuts around in the oil to prevent the dough from sticking to the bottom.
Turn them over at least once. Remove from the oil when golden brown and place in a metal bowl
Sprinkle the warm donuts with sugar and toss gently to ensure they are well coated.
Repeat steps 10-13 with the donut holes. Note they may cook a bit faster than the donuts.
*can be made Lactose Free by substituting for Lactose Free Greek Style Yogurt
**Very important to use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oil as it can cause fire if not monitored. Never leave unattended.