Whether it takes place in your backyard, on the beach, or in a park, these six recipes are here to help you make any outdoor cookout a delicious success that the whole family will enjoy.
Eating outdoors can be one of the true pleasures of life. We can kick off our shoes and feel the cool grass beneath our bare feet, while we feel the warmth of the sun on our skin. As we hear the tantalizing sizzle of the grill, we can smell the earthy fragrance of the coals that instantly recalls backyard memories. Formal table manners go out the window and casual soccer games and vegetable garden explorations segue seamlessly into dinner.
Maybe it’s because eating al fresco appeals to all of our senses. Maybe it’s because we’re more relaxed, or maybe it’s because we relish the opportunity to just be and to spend time with our family and friends. But, somehow, everything seems to taste so much better in the fresh outdoor air.
When cooking outside, simplicity reigns. It supports the spontaneity often associated with an impromptu backyard cookout. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get creative with flavours and format.
Whether it’s seasonal fruit and veg, flavourful skewers, or even a pizza, everything from dinner to dessert can be thrown down on the grill. And when prepared simply, taking advantage of unique and seasonal flavours and cupboard ingredients, you really can’t go wrong.
Whether in your backyard, on the beach, or in a park, make any outdoor cookout a delicious success that the whole family will enjoy with these six creative al fresco recipes. Read on—and let’s get grilling!
The thyme-scented dough for this flatbread takes only a few minutes to put together, but it develops flavour as it rises slowly in the fridge over several hours. Plan to make the dough in the morning for an evening cookout, or the night before for a lunchtime get-together. Cooked quickly on the grill, slightly charred plums, red onions, spinach, and a hint of goat cheese provide a fantastic flavour punch.
Something happens when you grill lettuce: it gets deliciously smoky and earthy. Little gems are a miniature variety of romaine, and because of their small size, they’re perfect for this dish. If you can’t find them, don’t hesitate to use romaine hearts. The Spanish-inspired dressing flavours of sherry vinegar and sweet paprika enhance the smokiness provided by the grilled lettuce. Finish it off with a bright splash of orange zest and crunchy walnuts.
If you’ve ever seen a spiky green fruit with a starchy, fibrous interior, you may have been looking at a jackfruit. Although it is a fruit and doesn’t contain significant levels of protein, its texture makes it a tasty plant-based substitute for pulled pork. In this dish, opt for the canned variety, which will save you the time and considerable effort it takes to clean fresh jackfruit. When paired with jackfruit’s meaty texture and barbecue-grilled corn, these smoky stuffed poblano peppers make for a deliciously satisfying meal.
Have a napkin handy when you serve these luscious grilled pineapple skewers. They’re as fun to eat as they are juicy, so we can’t guarantee that everyone stays perfectly clean. Grilled pineapple is a classic, but this version spices things up a bit, with just a pinch of heat that even kids will enjoy. Seared only until they begin to release their delicious juices but are still firm, these pineapple pops are topped off with a dollop of lime-zested coconut cream that’s perfect for dipping.
Get J-C Poirier talking about food, and the word “honest” will be sprinkled throughout the conversation like the Diamond Crystal kosher salt the Michelin-starred chef uses in the kitchen of his Quebecois bistro, St. Lawrence, in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Honest food Poirier’s favourite food is “honest food.” As a culinarian, and one paying homage to his French-Canadian heritage, he’s all about “being honest with his food.” But unlike the opaque marketing buzzword that “honest” has become in the food world, Poirier applies it with earnestness to the cooking that inspires him and that he hopes to encourage in others, including with his recently released cookbook, Where the River Narrow s (Appetite by Random House, 2022) . “What I mean is, you’ve got to be attentive to yourself as a chef or as a cook. It comes by knowing yourself and your background, and where you come from,” Poirier says. “Being honest is offering a part of who you are. That’s how I know the difference between good cooking and great cooking.” Honest roots Poirier comes by his greatness at cooking, well, honestly. All apron strings lead back to his bon vivant mother, who was as convivial as she was creative in the kitchen of the family’s Saint-Jérôme, Quebec, home. She bought local and stretched a dollar. She also pushed boundaries with the young taste buds around the table, exposing Poirier to quinoa before it became a household grain and making her own tofu. Honest training The magic of cooking and gathering over a meal compelled Poirier to eventually enrol in culinary school. He spent a year training in classical French techniques before putting them to the test in the storied Les Remparts in Old Montreal. Poirier was drawn to the physical aspect of cooking, but like many young people forging their own path, he was eventually lured away from the place that reared him. Vancouver beckoned. After stints at Rob Feenie’s Lumière, and even in his own Italian-inspired dining rooms and eateries, a meal in Paris inspired Poirier to get back to his roots in the kitchen. In 2017, he opened St. Lawrence, a cozy 40-seat space that’s like “entering my grandma’s house.” “It’s being authentic to myself,” he says. Honest legacy Poirier retraces his professional journey and personal growth in < Where the River Narrows > using recipes that channel timeless and foundational French and Quebecois cooking techniques, and a more relaxed Poirier at home. If he’s being honest, Poirier hopes the book will be a legacy to share with his two young daughters, Aïla and Florence. It also serves as a business card for a restaurant that’s earning prestigious accolades, including Chef of the Year and Restaurant of the Year by Vancouver Magazine . Last fall, dining authority Michelin bestowed one of its coveted stars upon St. Lawrence, too. Honest values That success can be linked to the professional values Poirier upholds in addition to raw talent. He leads by healthy example, eschewing alcohol, especially on the job, and espousing work-life balance by opening St. Lawrence only four days a week. He also offers employment benefits, including four weeks of vacation every year. His staff stay, and success follows honestly. Looking ahead, Poirier knows only that he will stay true—to himself and his craft. “I’ll just keep going forward and try to be me,” he says. “And my team? Try to be better and better every day at what we do, and the rest will come.” Key ingredients Quality over quantity is as much a mantra for J-C Poirier as honesty, especially when it comes to ingredients. That’s why he encourages home cooks to splurge on premium options. They make a significant difference to the end result, he argues, and because of their quality, you’ll need less of them, too, extending their value. Poirier’s essential top-shelf ingredients grass-fed, cultured butter organic all-purpose flour for baking; whole wheat, buckwheat, and Red Fife flours for bread making top-notch oils for a variety of purposes, including grapeseed oil for cooking, first-pressed canola oil for salad dressing, and extra-virgin olive oil for finishing dishes Diamond Crystal kosher salt for seasoning food and Maldon sea salt for a finishing touch to add texture high quality vinegars, including red wine, balsamic, and apple cider Cooking for the health of it French food doesn’t always conjure healthy eating. After all, the French eat four times as much butter and 60 percent more cheese than the average American. There are health-conscious ways to stay true to both your inner gastronome and the cuisine, however. For J-C Poirier, it’s cooking with emotion, logic, and love, and remembering the following. Less is more “I don’t need a 10 ounce piece of beef. I need maybe four or five, and a really high quality,” Poirier says. “I pay the price for it, but I just eat less.” Eat the seasons “In the summer, I will buy all the vegetables from the farm,” he explains. “When it’s asparagus season, we eat asparagus. In the winter, we eat potatoes and parsnips and sunchokes.” Cook for yourself—and from scratch “A lot of people buy processed food, and that has a higher amount of salt or sugar than if I start from scratch and control what I put in there.” Watch your fat Use high-end, pure versions of butter and cooking oils rather than refined options or those cut with other ingredients that could negatively impact health. “It’s being a little more aware, I think, of what people are buying,” Poirier says. Excerpted from < Where the River Narrows: Classic French & Nostalgic Québécois Recipes From St. Lawrence Restaurant > by Jean-Christophe Poirier. Written with Joie Alvaro Kent. Copyright © 2022 Jean- Christophe Poirier. Cover and book design by Jennifer Griffiths. Photography by Brit Gill, except page 148. Photo on page 8 by Amy Ho. Photos on pages 2, 5, and 6 courtesy of the author. Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin
Tourtière is, for me, the dish that best represents Québec. It can be traced back to the 1600s, and there’s no master recipe; every family has their own twist. Originally, it was made with game birds or game meat, like rabbit, pheasant, or moose; that’s one of the reasons why I prefer it with venison instead of beef or pork. Variation: If you prefer to make single servings, follow our lead at the restaurant, where we make individual tourtières in the form of a dome (pithivier) and fill them with 5 ounces (160 g) of the ground venison mixture. Variation: You can also use a food processor to make the dough. Place the flour, salt, and butter in the food processor and pulse about ten times, until the butter is incorporated—don’t overmix. It should look like wet sand, and a few little pieces of butter here and there is okay. With the motor running, through the feed tube, slowly add ice water until the dough forms a ball—again don’t overmix. Wrap, chill, and roll out as directed above.
My love of artichokes continues with this classic recipe, one of the best ways to eat this interesting, underrated, and strange vegetable. Frozen artichoke hearts are a time-saving substitute, though the flavour and texture of fresh artichokes are, by far, much superior and definitely preferred.