Pat Blythe – Some foody tips…..and music

It’s Sunday morning, the sun is out, and I’m listening to some Pat Metheny and David Blamires. Toss in a little Wichita Lineman, and it’s a smooth, jazzy kind of day.

Fast forward to Tuesday, and at 3am this morning, the final cut of this week’s podcast is ready to be scheduled for publication… fifth one. This week is my conversation with Kirk Reed from Toronto band The Reed Effect. He talks about time, creativity, shares thoughts on live entertainment and how to become a computer geek… the new album, 1973. My aim is to have a podcast ready every Tuesday morning at 6:01am. So far, so good….but for some reason this particular morning I’m more tired than usual, and my brain has decidedly turned to mush. Only a few synapses firing, so it’s time for that rare and elusive, but decidedly necessary, second cup of morning coffee! It might even segue into a third!!

All those handy dandy tips…..

Pinterest, FB, Instagram, Twitter… media seem to be full  of handy dandy tips and tricks, suggestions and recommendations, do’s and don’ts, ranging from how to keep the skin on your chicken crispy, to cleaning your glass shower with a tiny cube of dishwasher soap (how the hell do you come up with that one?). There are so many books, blogs, YouTube videos, cable programs and websites, it’s a wonder we have any time left to actually do the cooking and the cleaning. In fact, we don’t because we’re watching all those videos, cable programs and reading all those blogs.

Now if we could actually follow all these handy dandy tips we’d have the entire house “eat off the floor” sterilized and the perfect dinner presented every single night. Who are you looking at? Not happening here! Most of us have been spending so much time at home lately we don’t even notice the dust anymore…..and the fridge is the only thing kept well stocked…..well, maybe except for the bar. Drop in guests have become as extinct as the passenger pigeon and so keeping up appearances…..just as extinct. But for shits and giggles I’ve collected some bits and pieces from various sources, including inside my head and personal trial-and-error. So here’s my two cents, beginning with your favourite and mine…!

Disclaimer – I am neither a professional baker nor a professional chef. I’ve had my share of kitchen disasters and have my own tried and true methods. I’ve also watched and learned from others. Both my sons survived into adulthood with no lasting ill effects from my culinary skills. No one has ever been poisoned, no one’s growth was stunted (although the eldest might have something to say about that), nobody’s teeth fell out and nobody died (as far as I know).

The Savoury Side

  1. Crispy chicken (or turkey) skin. Who doesn’t fight over this one? Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of salt (kosher or sea salt) all over the bird and leave it in the fridge, uncovered, overnight. The air and salt will draw out excess water. Me, I tuck rosemary and thyme under the skin, slather (with a brush) the whole damn bird with lashings of melted butter, sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic power (and anything else I can think of) and stick in the oven. DO NOT rinse or wash the bird. Period. Google that one!

  1. Slicing meat right off the grill? Don’t! All those lovely juices will bleed out on to your plate. Wasted! Let the meat snooze for a bit, allowing it to absorb all those lovely flavours in the juice. Burgers and grilled chicken….giver’ 5 minutes. That glorious looking steak…..let it comfortably recline for 7 minutes. A bigger bird (not Big Bird!) or a roast (beef/port)….let them snooze for at least 15 minutes before carving. If you’re worried about over cooking, just take it out of the oven or remove it from the grill a bit earlier that you normally would.
  2. NEVER store tomatoes in the fridge!! That goes for coffee (quelle horror!!), peaches, garlic, potatoes, onions and bread. Flavours and textures can get compromised. However, as single family person, if I don’t keep my bread in the fridge I’ve got an instant batch of penicillin in just a few days.

My Truth…..As for the taters and onions….they safely lounge in my refrigerator’s veggie bin (or a cool dark spot on the back porch in winter) for a month or more. No harm done and they don’t start to grow a garden on my back porch in summer.

  1. Pucker up! If you zap lemons, lime or oranges in the microwave for 10-15 seconds before squishing out all their goodness, those little darlings will yield twice as much juice. Another round of G&Ts anyone?
  2. Always begin cooking your fish skin side down…..undisturbed. The skin keeps the fish from drying out or overcooking on the outside. For the last few minutes, flip to the fleshy side.
  3. Go to the supermarket on hump day. Research has shown only eleven per cent of people grocery shop on Wednesdays, and only four percent shop after 9pm. There’s more room to manoeuvre that shopping cart and cruise the aisles. Also, no waiting in a lineup for checkout.

My Truth…..“Pandemic” shopping late at night is my favourite. Mask on, plugged into my favourite tunes, I can quite literally dance around the store without pissing anyone off by getting within 10 feet of them.

  1. …save your bacon grease, especially from the “good” bacon you get from your local butcher. Use it to add a little flavour to that grilled cheese, fry up those Brussels sprouts or add some zip to that steak. I’ll even add it to the minced beef when making spaghetti sauce or mush. I always have a jar on hand in the fridge and it keeps for a year….or freeze it.
  2. The best tool in the kitchen is your mouth. Who knew? Keep those taste buds busy during the cooking process. When I’m checking out a new recipe, specifically a savory dish, I will follow the instructions religiously. The second time I start to play; swapping out ingredients, adding more of one and less of another; maybe use the oven instead of the stove. Go ahead…..keep tasting, lick that spoon, but stop sticking your finger cake!

  1. Don’t crowd your pans. Too much crowding and everyone gets steamed and soggy. If you’re looking for crisp, leave some space. If you’re roasting, minimum 400F for the oven.
  2. Here’s a new one…..keep your vegetable scraps. Throw them in a plastic bag and toss them in the freezer. When you reach critical mass, it’s time to make some soup stock. That’s okay, toss it all in. Whip out the strainer for the final product. Did you know you can also freeze tomatoes? The same goes for bananas. But don’t mix them or the tomatoes with the other veggies.

My Truth….I limit my use of salt, depending more on fresh herbs from my garden as well as my drawer and pantry of spices and dried herbs.  Spending more time in the kitchen these days has allowed me to experiment, discovering new favourites and freshening up my repertoire….and gain a few pounds. Also, followed by the mouth, the nose is also a key cooking “tool”. Do I smell burning toast?

Oh, and apparently jujubes go really well together with salty chips. A party in your mouth…..who needs dip?

Sweets & Treats

  1. For heaven’s sake, READ THE RECIPE BEFORE you begin. Baking is a science (and an art but mostly a science). Make sure you have everything you need to make that sensational pie/cake/muffin/brownie. If not, a trip to the store is in the cards.

  1. No substitutions!!! There are specific recipes for that. Unless you know exactly what you’re doing, swapping out ingredients is not on the list of “shit, I’ll just use x instead of y” and then wonder why you’ve got a flat cake or a muffin that can be used as a paperweight (or a doorstop). Unless you’ve got allergies or some kind of food intolerance or have been doing this for eons, don’t mess around. In baking, all the ingredients work together in harmony… CSNY….they need each other. ….and really, there is no substitute for butter…..
  2. Make best friends with your oven. Check oven temperatures with an oven thermometer and adjust accordingly. They’re not all “spot on”.
  3. If the recipe calls for room temperature, that doesn’t mean “hold the egg in your hand for a minute”. As for the creaming the butter and sugar together…’ll be left with tiny chunks of cold butter…..that, and you’ll give yourself quite a workout. The key word here is “cream”. All the ingredients should blend effortlessly and happily together… the same temperature.
  4. “Mix until well blended” does not mean walking away and leaving the KitchenAid to beat the crap out of something for 10 minutes. On the other hand, “mixing until just combined” means don’t beat or whisk; use a fork, a spatula or, in some cases, your hands until all the ingredients form a cohesive unit. It might be a bit lumpy…..that’s fine. The recipe didn’t say “smooth as silk”. That referred to the chocolate ganache that didn’t quite work out.
  5. Don’t trial a new dish, whether sweet or savoury, on guests. Personal experience screams this one! If you do, make sure there’s enough in your bank account to order in for that party of ten (and NOT pizza). Also have some handy dandy frozen desserts you can quietly slip out of the freezer (no one will ever know….wink, wink). ….and may I suggest you never order spaghetti on a first date…..especially while wearing white!

  1. There’s the “no sugar, carbs or fat diets”….the list goes on. Don’t darken my doorway looking for anything but sugar, carbs and real fat in any of my baking. As for my Southern Comfort Christmas cake….steer clear of this one if you’re on the “no alcohol diet”. As for my GingerPennies…..they’ll kill any diet. (I just gained 10 pounds writing this!)
  2. Basic pie pastry. Challenging at best, soul destroying at its worst. Watching my mom, good old “Home Ec” class (remember them), and trialing loads of recipes, what I’ve discovered…’s all in the “feel”. Light, not too sticky but will absorb the extra “rolling flour” willingly; supple…..easily stretches without cracking, drapes elegantly over, and becomes one with the pie dish. Quite frankly, if not too overworked the dough can be used a second, or even (horrors!!!) a third time. NEVER, ever a fourth! My pastry…’ll never know which “rolling” you’re enjoying. …..and remember, it’s doughnuts, not do We don’t “do” nuts!

My Thanksgiving apple pie

  1. Reminder! Check the “best before date” in your pantry and fridge. Especially key ingredients like yeast (doesn’t hibernate well), flour of any kind, oils (a sniff will tell you), dairy (mostly days but some are weeks and the sniff test works here too). Some foods will create their own little villages quite quickly in your fridge or cupboards so keep an eye out.
  2. Wet and dry ingredients. For the majority of recipes, keep them separate until the appropriate time when they are meant to come together. (wipe that smirk off your face) Dry ingredients are meant to be whisked (whether sifted or not) to ensure raising agents (you’re smirking!) and spices are thoroughly distributed. Same with the wet…..stir well and then add the dry ingredients to the wet. The other way round for most recipes can create a lumpy mess.

My Truth….I actually dice up my lard and flour (and sugar if I’ve added a bit for a sweeter crust) in a huge stainless steel mixing bowl with a knife. I mix the wet ingredients (egg, vinegar and water) together in a separate measuring cup and then add the wet to the dry bit by bit, mixing with a fork until it’s just coming together. Then I use my hands, adding more liquid if necessary until my pastry “feels” right. My hands help to warm up the lard just a wee bit so it spreads throughout the dough more easily, but not enough to melt the whole damn lot! The bits of lard or white streaks create the flakiness. Too much melting makes it dense and tough. (I suppose making pastry is a bit like sex…’s all that gentle foreplay)

Next week….spring cleaning! Oooooo… exciting!

Love the One You’re With – Crosby, Stills & Nash

September 15th – Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays

I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl – Nina Simone

Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk – Rufus Wainright

That’s Amore – Dean Martin

Red, Red Wine – UB40

Green Onions – Booker T. & The M.G.s

Sugar Sugar – The Archies

Tupelo Honey – Van Morrison

Buttered Popcorn – The Supremes

Vegetables – Beach Boys

Oregano – Chilly Gonzales (short version)

Oregano – Chilly Gonzales (longer version and overhead piano shots!)

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Stay Sane.



Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at:

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

One Response to “Pat Blythe – Some foody tips…..and music”

  1. marlene schuler Says:

    Reading this made me think I wish I had not dropped out of Home Economics for extra Business classes. Recall making a loaf for a friend and 6 mths later when visiting found it in the bottom of a shopping bag. Was told it could have a made a great door stopper LOL.

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