08/06/2012 10:00 EDT | Updated 10/06/2012 05:12 EDT

Smoked pigtails delicious change from ribs; stuffed peppers a substantial entree

Truck mechanic Gary Fordham loves to experiment with different recipes and enjoys using a smoker or barbecue as much as possible. Here are some of his favourite dishes to try.

Smoked Pigtails

Once you try these, ribs will never taste quite as good, says Gary Fordham. He advises that when buying pigtails, choose 10- to 13-centimetre-long (4- to 5-inch-long) pieces from the large end of the tail, with skin removed. He also says they're great served with cabbage rolls.

12 pigtails

15 ml (1 tbsp) celery powder

15 ml (1 tbsp) garlic powder

7 ml (1/2 tbsp) black pepper

4 green peppers

4 cooking onions

Barbecue Sauce

750 ml (3 cups) ketchup

15 ml (1 tbsp) celery powder

15 ml (1 tbsp) garlic powder

75 ml (6 tbsp) apple cider vinegar

15 ml (1 tbsp) molasses

Combine ingredients for barbecue sauce and set aside. If preferred, use your favourite barbecue sauce.

Remove most of the visible fat from pigtails. Combine celery powder, garlic powder and black pepper; season pigtails with mixture.

Place pigtails in a smoker for about 2 hours at 93 to 102 C (200 to 215 F). If you don't have a smoker, you can use a barbecue. Remove 1 grate and turn burner on that side to high. Wrap a couple of handfuls of woodchips in tinfoil and poke some holes in the top of the foil. Place package of woodchips directly over burner, then place pigtails directly on grate on opposite side, away from direct heat. Close the lid.

Make up 3 more pouches of woodchips so you have replacements when the smoke dies down.

Baste pigtails 2 or 3 times with barbecue sauce while they're being smoked. After 2 hours remove pigtails from smoker or barbecue. They do not have to be fully cooked.

Meanwhile, cut green peppers and onions into 4-cm (1 1/2-inch) square pieces and set aside.

Heat oven to 150 C (300 F).

In a roasting pan with a tight-fitting lid, place pigtails; mix in peppers and onions and coat with more barbecue sauce, reserving some for the final step. Cover roasting pan and bake meat and vegetables for about 1 hour. Remove lid, baste with more barbecue sauce and cook ribs for another half-hour without the lid to let sauce caramelize.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Note: Do not substitute celery salt or garlic salt for the powder. If you can't find celery powder, use a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder to grind celery seeds to make the powder.

Source: Gary Fordham.


Stuffed Peppers

The only limitation on what you can use to stuff peppers is your imagination, says Gary Fordham. But this combination of rice, sausage and cheeses is one of his favourites. It is more than substantial enough to be a main course. Serve with a green salad.

8 large green peppers

1 l (4 cups) cooked rice (cooked in low-sodium chicken broth)

1 red pepper

2 cooking onions

1.5 kg (3 lb) Italian sausage

Italian seasoning

Garlic powder

12 mushrooms, quartered

1 can (796 ml/28 oz) diced tomatoes

8 pieces Asiago cheese, each about 5 cm (2 inches) square and 5 mm (1/4 inch) thick

8 pieces Provolone cheese, each about 5 cm (2 inches) square and 5 mm (1/4 inch) thick

500 ml (2 cups) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

250 ml (1 cup) Italian breadcrumbs

Cut tops off green peppers. Dice tops into 1-cm (1/2-inch) pieces and reserve. Scrape seeds out of inside of peppers.

Fill a large pot three-quarters full of water and bring to a gentle boil. Add peppers and boil for about 5 minutes, just long enough that peppers change colour to a dull green but are still firm. (Cooking too long makes them mushy.) Remove from water and let them cool and firm up.

Cook rice in chicken broth according to package instructions, omitting salt. (In general, 250 ml/1 cup raw rice makes 925 ml/3 3/4 cup cooked rice, but volume will be less if you use instant rice.)

Dice red pepper into 1-cm (1/2-inch) pieces. Dice onions. Set aside.

Remove casings from sausage and place meat in a large frying pan over medium heat. Break up sausage with back of a spoon. When sausage is partly cooked, after about 15 minutes, add reserved diced green pepper, red pepper and onions. After about 10 minutes (or about 5 minutes before sausage is fully cooked), add mushrooms.

When mixture is cooked, combine with cooked rice in a large roasting pan or bowl. Add tomatoes and mix well. Let cool.

To stuff peppers: Place piece of Asiago cheese in the bottom of each green pepper. Add enough of the rice-meat mixture to half-fill each pepper. Place piece of Provolone on top of rice. Add another layer of remaining rice-meat mixture, leaving enough room for a generous topping of Monterey Jack cheese. (You don't want the cheese to melt down the outside of the peppers.)

In a pan with sides to hold them upright, place peppers; heat in oven just until cheese starts to melt. Remove, sprinkle breadcrumbs on top of each pepper and broil until breadcrumbs are browned to the colour of toast. Watch carefully to make sure they don't burn.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: Gary Fordham.


Potatoes and Smoked Sausage

Gary Fordham can't explain why canned potatoes taste so good in this dish. They just do. He says it is fast to make, a family favourite for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and is great with chili sauce.

2 cans (each 540 ml/19 oz) potatoes, drained and sliced

Oil, for frying

750 g (1 1/2 lb) lean smoked sausage, about 2.5 cm (1 inch) in diameter and sliced into 5-mm (1/4-inch) pieces

1 each red and green pepper, diced

1 large cooking onion, diced

12 mushrooms, sliced

15 ml (1 tbsp) parsley flakes

5 ml (1 tsp) black pepper

In a pan with a little oil, fry potatoes over medium heat. After 10 to 12 minutes (when potatoes are about half-cooked, add meat, peppers and onions, mix together and continue cooking. About 5 minutes before potatoes are done, add mushrooms. Stir in parsley flakes and black pepper and serve. (It should take about 25 minutes altogether.)

Makes 4 to 5 servings.

Source: Gary Fordham.