Last week my mom and I were able to take a lovely little escape out of the city and head up north to Jeffery Lake to a beautiful cottage that my aunt and uncle had rented. With our house still up on the market at the time, and offers scattering through, it was nice to have a different atmosphere and be surrounded by close family to take our minds off all of the anxiety and stress we were dealing with. While a lot of people go up to a cottage to escape chores such as cooking, in my family food is once again one of the highlights! No cottage escape is complete without a killer meal! Now what we're going for here is a meal that is killer in flavour, but easy on the effort, which does require some simple planning. This time around all of the three families that were up each brought groceries, with my uncle Eddie taking the reigns in the kitchen. Eddie wanted nothing more than to spend the afternoon blasting his awesome Motown music, while singing and cooking up a feast for us...and possibly sneaking some ribs for himself along the way. Although he spent the day working hard keeping an eye on those delicious slow-cooked ribs that him and my mom collaborated on, the truth is, the meal that we planned was clever and simple enough that you could truly spend all day on the dock, with only a few short last minutes in the kitchen, all it takes is a little planning. When I'm planning cottage meals, I like to think of dishes that allow me and my family to spend as little time as possible in the kitchen. I like to keep things simple, but take things that one step further to make them a little special and memorable.
For our entrée, we chose slow cooked ribs. We got two families to each bring up several racks to split the cost, then my mom cooked up her notorious rib sauce recipe back at home so that she could simply pour it into a container to travel up north with us, saving us a lot of time in the kitchen at the cottage. With the ribs needing little babysitting while slow-cooking, you have plenty of time to enjoy cottage life outside! Pulled pork, brisket, ribs, just about any slow cooked recipe will do here.
- Do the prep - Make your sauce ahead of time, back in the city!
- Take it slow - Go for slow roasted meats like ribs, pork shoulder, brisket, etc. Why not bring up your slow cooker from your city kitchen! You won't regret using up that extra space in the car!
- Start early - Start your cooking first thing in the morning so that you have everything done before the sun comes up, and by dinner time you'll have fall-off-the-bone delicious meat.
For the sides, we're once again going for simplicity. Little ruby red potatoes and fresh Ontario corn on the cob can be cooked up in no time at all by simply tossing them into some boiling water. Here is where the planning comes in. It's easy to end the dish at that and have your guests and family season up the veggies with some salt and pepper themselves, but why not aim to impress? Whip up some easy and delicious flavoured butters to bring up to the cottage in a cooler. Perfect for topping corn or stirring into hot potatoes, these butters can quickly and easily transform a simple side dish! You can also do all the prep work for an awesome potato salad ahead of time! Just a quick chop of some bell peppers and you're pretty much good to go!
- Herbaceous Butters - Whip up some softened butter with fresh chopped herbs like basil, parsley, chives, mint, and/or rosemary, scoop and drop it onto a piece of plastic wrap, roll into a log, and refrigerate until solid. Serve with corn on the cob or stir into steaming hot ruby red boiled potatoes.
- Hot & Spicy Butters - Whip up some softened butter with cayenne pepper, lime, and cilantro for a festive butter with a kick! Scoop and drop it onto a piece of plastic wrap, roll into a log, and refrigerate until solid. Serve with corn on the cob or stir into steaming hot ruby red boiled potatoes.
- Speedy Potato Salad - Cube up some red, yellow, and/or orange bell peppers ahead of time at home and toss into a tupperware container. When your potatoes are boiled and ready to serve quickly stir in those cubed bell peppers, a scoop or two of mayo, a generous squeeze of lemon juice, salt, pepper, chives and a bit of garlic and ta da! You have a simple, delicious, and healthy potato salad!
No cottage meal is complete without a fantastic drink! My uncle Eddie once again stepped up to the plate this time around, creating a delicious and striking gin and tonic. By simply cutting up some halved cucumber slices and adding just a touch of fresh cracked pepper, the classic gin and tonic is transformed and becomes irresistible! With only two extra steps, Eddie's take on a classic gin and tonic is sure to be your new favourite!
- Play with a classic - It's easy to create your signature cocktail by simply adding an ingredient or two to your favourite classic cocktail! Uncle Eddie chose cucumbers and fresh cracked pepper for his gin and tonic, but don't shy away from other ingredients like hot peppers, fresh herbs, berries, brines, syrups, and more!