By Marlise Ponzo

Spring has sprung and barbeque season is upon us again. Time to fire up the Big Green Egg and indulge in some serious meat. One year ago we acquired this fabulous outdoor ceramic smoker/grill for our family home after it was enthusiastically recommended to us by Yannick Bigourdan, owner of Toronto’s uber successful Nota Bene restaurant. The whole family banded together to contribute to the sizable purchase as a gift for my husband Albert’s birthday.

Having ordered the extra large size we decided to have it delivered to the house and set up. This was a very good call indeed as the pudgy round heavyweight is extraordinarily awkward to lift unless you have a three man team. The Egg is really like no other BBQ you’ve ever seen. The Kamado, an ancient clay chimneyed cooker originating in Japan, inspired the design. The heat, which can range from 200° F to 700° F is controlled by airflow regulated by the top adjustable chimney contraption and a bottom windowed vent. Once the ideal heat is reached The Egg maintains it steadily. This crazy egg shaped barbeque is worth every penny.

Born in Georgia in the southern United States this barbeque is a chameleon, working effectively as a smoker, grill, wood burning pizza oven and slow cooker. We have tried so many food preparations on The Egg. We’ve slow cooked beef brisket, prepared ribs of various animals, whole fowl and fish, whole milk fed piglet, lamb leg, crispy pig snouts, thin crust pizza; the list goes on and on.

Albert became so infatuated with the quality of bbq coming off The Egg that many a morning neighbors catching a site of him in the backyard at 4 am must have thought him a madman. He would shuffle out of bed at the first sound of the alarm and wander out to the patio to crack open The Egg and start the charcoal. The darkness of the yard interrupted only by the small focused light of a miner’s headlamp. You have to start early when preparing and slow cooking a 16-hour brisket.

Albert swears it is worth the early wakeup call and lack of sleep to bite into a truly inspired piece of juicy brisket, and I would have to agree with him as the meat was, as always, cooked to absolute perfection. Its smoky depth of flavour was so provocative that we just had to open a bottle of 2002 Alion. This wine is one of my favorite Spanish reds. Bodegas Alion was a sister project of one of Spain’s top producers. Their first born, the utter embodiment of perfection, was the iconic Vega Sicilia. They started Bodegas Alion in 1992 to display to the world the soaring potential they saw in Spain’s lesser-known Ribera Del Duero region.

It needs to be said again….. meat from this Q can inspire some truly great pairings with the complex and rich flavours The Egg imparts.

Here is one of Albert’s summer chicken recipes. LOVE THIS!!!!

Spatchcock chicken with hand chopped green olive pesto

This preparation is quite tasty and a great way to keep a whole chicken evenly cooked and therefore moist. The sauce is both lemony and briny which goes really well with the slightly charred chicken. I love the smokiness that is imparted by cooking this recipe on a lump charcoal BBQ. You can experiment with many varieties of wood to impart different flavors on the meat. The wood chips are added directly to the hot charcoal before the meat is put onto the grill.

For the chicken

1 whole organic chicken or naturally raised without hormones or antibiotics such as Chanteclaire Rouge which comes from Mennonite farmers in Ontario

kosher salt

coarsely ground black pepper

olive oil for brushing

brine from olives (optional)

For the hand chopped Green Olive Pesto

½ cup firmly packed meaty green olives, pitted and roughly chopped into 1/8-inch pieces

½ lemon juiced

½ cup of olive oil

pinch of chili flakes

1 garlic clove germ removed and finely minced

1/3 bunch of basil chiffonade

1. Mix all ingredients together and let stand for at least one hour. You can make this the night before and it will develop flavor. You may have to add some lemon juice and olive oil the following day as some of the acidity may dissipate and the oil may get absorbed by the olives.

To Spatchcock Chicken:

1. Place chicken breast side down and head facing away from you.

2. With poultry shears cut just to the right of the backbone all the way from top to bottom.

3. Turn the chicken so the head is now facing you and cut the other side of the backbone, which is still attached to the chicken.

4. Remove the wishbone by tracing it with a boning knife removing it from the meat and wiggling it out.

5. Remove the keel bone if you find the chicken will not lay flat like a book. The keel bone is a dark looking bone in the cavity of the chicken.

Cooking Preparation:

1. (optional) Brine the chicken for 2 hours in the drained olive brine. Pat dry once removed.

2. Preheat the Big Green Egg to 450 °F.

3. Rub the chicken with olive oil all over and generously season with the salt and black pepper.

4. Wrap a large brick that is slightly larger than the chicken with aluminum foil to protect the food.

5. Place chicken on grill skin side down with the brick on top making sure chicken is flat. Close lid. Check after 4 minutes making sure that the grill is not flaring and flip bird. Try to keep the lid closed as much as possible.

6. Control the heat of the Egg to keep it at 450° F by closing and opening the two vents. The lower one for drastic changes and the top one for fine-tuning.

7. Cook for another 4 minutes and re-flip the bird always making sure to return the brick. Continue flipping it roughly every 4 min. You may have to jockey the chicken around different parts of the grill to avoid big flare-ups. A little bit of char is welcome on the skin, which you definitely want crispy. The chicken is ready to come off when the thickest part of the leg or thigh reaches 165 ° F. It usually takes 18-24 minutes depending on size and age of the bird.

8. Let the meat rest for a good 10-15 minutes skin side up and then cut between the joints with a knife or the poultry shears. First through the wings, then the drumsticks, and follow with cutting the breast through the breastplate. You will end up with eight pieces but if you like you can continue to cut the breast into two pieces each.

9. Serve the pesto on the side in a serving bowl and go to town.

Enjoyed With: 2006 Manzoni Bianco (Riesling/Pinot Blanc Cross) Pratello Lieti Conversari, Lombardia, Italy, Citrusy, nutty and honeyed….and only $15.90 LCBO

Summers have been changed forever as every Monday the BBQ is ignited and the charcoal begins to glow, the sweet smell of apple wood and meaty deliciousness turn our backyard into an aromatic heaven. I strongly recommend that all of you serious BBQ aficionados log on to and consider trading in a little piece of your nest egg for one of theirs.

Marlise Ponzo, has been working in the Hospitality industry for many years and  possesses experience in many different roles from fine dining server, restaurant manager, sommelier to wine/food writer most recently. She is absolutely passionate about the culinary arts and the artistry of food and wine pairing. Being married to a chef, vacations become true culinary adventures and often land her at one michelin star restaurant or another. She has been working at Crush Wine Bar for the past eight years and has used this extraordinarily successful restaurant as a springboard for learning everything she could about the wonderful world of wine. In 2008 she graduated the Canadian Association of  Professional Sommeliers certification program with honours and accepted two awards of excellence for blind tasting from CAPS. Currently she continues to explore her passion for sensory development and wine appreciation through reading, tasting, traveling and writing.