After a long day on the road in Hastings and Prince Edward Country, chefs Chuck Hughes and Danny Smiles set out to create a succulent feast from the bounty of local Ontario ingredients they’ve gathered.
After foraging for wild juniper, harvesting local beets and squash and securing tender buffalo mozzarella, plus a bone-on tomahawk ribeye roast, the pressure’s on to create a campfire feast for the local farmers and purveyors.
With the help of a custom-made barbecue grill on loan from Enright Cattle Company, they’ve got the perfect vehicle to cook the 43lb ribeye roast. Sounds impressive, but the menu doesn’t end there. They’re also roasting Golden Nugget Cups, candy-sweet squash from Earth Haven Farms, halved and stuffed with Ontario buffalo mozzarella (a gift from winemaker Norman Hardie.) The squash holds another local secret: sumac foraged from chef and local resident Justin Cournoyer’s back woods.
This citrus-like star ingredient is widely used in Middle Eastern cuisine, which is why the chefs were surprised to find it growing in the wild in Ontario.
Neither Danny or Chuck are strangers to the flowering plant: Danny uses it in his homemade za’atar mix with sesame seeds and thyme, and it’s part of Chuck’s arsenal at his restaurants as a citrus substitute. “It’s like a Canadian lemon,” says Chuck.
Justin teaches them how to find the best plant by looking for a vibrant red hue in the berries, and to store it by drying it whole in the sun and making a powder, which can be used to braise beef or put on raw bread.
Chuck and Danny use their collected sumac to sprinkle on the golden nugget squash, tempering its sweetness with a slight pucker. The cups rest just above the coals, collecting the succulent drippings from a 43 lb. bone-in tomahawk style side of beef rubbed and spritzed with juniper, and juniper branches are tossed onto the fire, creating fragrant smoke. The food’s so good, even a slight drizzle can’t dampen the mood, and the feast goes on under the stars for hours.
Chuck and Danny begin cooking the bone on tomahawk ribeye roast hours before their guests arrive.
Home cooks can take a walk on the wild side with sumac in their own kitchens. In the warmer months, ground sumac gives flavoured butter an extra kick, lending a slight tartness to balance out summer-sweet corn on the cob. Paired with juniper, sumac steeped in tea and poured over wild Canadian blueberries from British Columbia makes for a spread-worthy preserve to liven up breakfast at home or the cottage. And for lazy nights any time of year, a potent sumac infused potion, sweetened with maple syrup, uses whole sumac clusters — combine it with vodka for a Canadiana martini, a true sweet and sour sipper.
Missed the episode? Catch it online at Chuck & Danny’s Road Trip.
Watch video below to learn more about sumac.