Thursday, October 29, 2009

I will make that tart again, with adjustments

I made Sooah's Facebook-posted tart (apple-nut-blue cheese) last night for the office Hallowe'en potluck today.

I will make it again in a week.
With a modification.

I used store-bought crust. I'll make a proper pâte brisée next time.

And I won't make the mistake I made this time.

I doubled the crusts, doubled the apples... and woke up this morning with the realization that I hadn't doubled the maple syrup, thyme, nuts, or cheese.

I masked my error by putting some clotted cream on top of the tarts (it was a good fix). The tart was still savory, but not as packed with nutty goodness and blue cheese contrast to Granny Smith apples. I think the amount of thyme was just about right, though, and could have been a bit much had it been doubled. The pecans worked as well as walnuts, to my taste, without the walnut bitterness.

I'll get it right next Saturday night, and serve it with something like a Taylor-Fladgate port for a savory dessert.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Me wants! Wii software

Courtesy of Signe Langford's blog, I investigated the link to Cook or be Cooked.
Oh, I want that.
Maybe I'd learn something; maybe not.
But it must be more fun than fishing is!
It uses both the Wiimote and the nunchuk.
I'm not seeing it available on the online store front yet, but I'll be keeping my eyes open. I'm having friends over for cassoulet and apple/pecan/gorgonzola tart on Nov. 5th, and it would be grand if we could play something like that.



I'm seriously considering this "piece of news" about why people choose to drink white wine with fish (although it is my preference, I could really make an argument for specific reds with black cod, mackerel, fresh sardines, etc.)

One thing that keeps ringing in my mind is all those years of watching the original Iron Chef series, done in Japan.

The chefs would do so many things to fish to guarantee they didn't taste at all "fishy."

Now, we're not talking about old, funky fish that they've cut the heads off and reduced to fillets so people can't tell how long the fish has been in the monger's ice-filled case. We're talking about extremely fresh, top of the line, wallet-breaking fresh fish.

Yet still, they took actions to prevent the fish from tasting "fishy."
When I eat Portuguese sardines roasted on the grill (or raw) I am celebrating the fishiness of what I am eating. Same for a beautiful slice of raw mackerel with ginger for sashimi.

This test was also done with Japanese people, so I admit, I am attributing some of the biases of the Japanese judges and chefs to the rest of the populace. What, exactly, was the criterion of "fishiness" that the testers found so off-putting? Especially since it was scallops they were eating! These aren't even fish: they're bivalves.

It couldn't have been that the scallops tasted like fish at all (as seemed to be the base line on Iron Chef): was it that the red wine made it taste like old, rancid-oil, fish? Or was it something else? Was it all in the minds of the testers, and not their tastebuds?

Need. More. Data.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thomas Keller's coming to town -

Thomas Keller's coming to town -

Hmm... decisions, decisions. The book sounds interesting to me (even the negative review I read made me want to have it).
To go or not to go?
80 bucks.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Just because of harvest season

One of my photos. Available for sale at FinerWorks

Could a tart be in my future?

Courtesy of Sooah, who posted the link on Facebook, comes Apple Walnut Gorgonzola Rustic Tart
It looks simple enough. A total of 7 ingredients (should one buy tart dough, which I think I will).

The ingredients sound absolutely yummy together, although I am tempted to replace the walnuts with pecans (I confess I find walnuts reaaaally bitter). I love the combination of a blue cheese and nuts and fruit, and am thinking of pairing it up with some port to serve for friends along with cassoulet for dinner in a few weeks.

Maybe I'll try making a mini one. Just to test it out first.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Planning stage: cassoulet

OK, the last one was horrible, terrible, bland, overcooked, and unsalvageable.

I have now invited friends over for cassoulet in early November, and I'm not going to try to be a purist this time, and especially won't follow any British recipes for it (unless Heston Blumenthal has written one -- if so, let me know).

I have an absolutely beautiful piece of pork belly that I bought at the north St. Lawrence Market a couple of months ago and froze. I'm thinking of smoking it myself. Can't decide whether to do it outside on my barbecue or to try one of those fancy-schmantsy smoking bags one can supposedly use in the oven. I think I'll probably go for outdoors. Need a new propane tank. Can use some lovely mesquite chips in the iron smoker box.

Another item to solve is the whole sausage thing. I think that our North American tastes tend toward more spices and flavours, so I may investigate the sausages at the south St. Lawrence Market: I know they offer a number of venison sausages, and one of those might be perfect. I'll talk to the people who work there. I've learned a lot from the Market people over the years -- unlike at the supermarket, they know their product, know the best way to cook or serve it, and care about customer service.

There should also be a poultry ingredient in cassoulet, and I've got that taken care of already: two breasts and other body meat from a goose I roasted for Thanksgiving.

So onward, in the cassoulet adventure: if you have any suggestions or recommendations, please let me know!

Friday, October 16, 2009

That's a lot of soup!

Tuesday evening I took the remaining goose leg and both wings, and used them to make a stock (I reserved the leg meat for the soup). I enriched it with the leftover gravy. Once I had the stock, I added all the vegetables I had roasted with the goose, plus a bunch of carrots that I roasted with a lashing of olive oil and carmelized while I was making the stock. When the veggies were squishable with my tongs, I added a butternut squash that I had cooked on the weekend with the express purpose of adding it to the soup (thanks, Mom, for the recommendation to use the microwave oven).

Cooked until everything was soft, and took my trusty KitchenAide stick blender to it. By that time, it was too late at night to parcel it into individual meals, so it sat in the fridge until tonight. I also needed to buy more containers for freezing, which I purchased and washed on Wednesday.

Tonight I ladled the soup out into the individual serving-sized containers. I have a baker's dozen of soup for lunches and/or dinners. That should, in conjunction with the other frozen meals and soups I have in the freezer, last through until January (I figure I'll eat it once a week).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Roast goose for Thanksgiving

The day has come! Time to do the bird! The first thing I have to do is make the stuffing, because it has to go in the bird when it first goes in the oven (the veggies will come later).

I brought out all the ingredients and took a picture. 2-day old baguette, canned chestnuts, dried cranberries that soaked in Grand Marnier for 2 days, onion, shallots, garlic, fresh thyme and sage, and salt and pepper.

Yes, I almost forgot the celery. I did remember it though, while I was half-way through tearing the bread up into bits. So it got chopped, along with the rest of the ingredients, and then I added a bit of white wine to moisten the stuffing.

Preheated the oven to 400F, put about 2 cups of water in the bottom of the roaster.
Removed extra neck skin and fat from the cavity of the goose, and then stuffed it. (I rendered the skin and fat in a pot on the stove, using the same process I used for duck in the summer.)

Hold the sides of the vent together with the tail by using a skewer. Tie the wings and legs so they'll stay positioned on the back, and won't flop all over.

Salt, pepper, and thyme.

Put the goose into the roaster breast side up. More salt, pepper, and thyme.

After a half-hour, reduce the temperature to 350F. Baste every half-hour. After the bird has been in the oven for an hour, add the vegetables around it. For this one, I used a bulb of anise, a celeriac root, 3 red onions, a head of garlic (top of it cut off), 8 potatoes, 4 small turnips, and 8 leeks. Why so many vegetables? I plan to turn most of them into a puréed soup.

Because the goose was stuffed, it took longer to roast. Here it is after 3 hours plus a half-hour of standing, 9lbs minus about 2-1/2 cups of fat (which I am saving for other uses).

I used the giblets and neck to make a stock to make gravy, and added the stock to the drippings in the pan.  Delicious, if I say so myself!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Planning to roast too many vegetables

I like my food to multitask, or at least, serve multimeals.

Tomorrow, when I roast the goose, I plan to roast far too many potatoes, carrots, onions, turnips, celeriac, garlic and a bulb of anise. Waaaay too many to have with dinner.


I thought that all those veggies, roasted in a pan along with goose, would make for a yummy roast harvest vegetable soup. Add to those leftovers the buttercup squash that I'll be cooking and puréeing today. I should be able to use some gravy in the stock (I've got a carton of organic chicken stock that will probably serve as the base. Some of the stuffing will help to thicken the soup. I can take all of those leftovers and use my handy-dandy immersion stick blender to make a creamed soup to which I will add some diced leftover goose.

Freeze in meal-sized containers, and enjoy some reminders of thanksgiving dinner through the winter.

Shoot. Forgot to buy celery.

Guess I'll be making a trip to Loblaw's today to get a bunch.

I'm going to stuff the goose with a bunch of things, some traditional, and some that aren't so traditional.

I went out with the gang from work on Friday night for a few beers (pinot grigio in my case). Wayne, one of my coworkers, makes a stuffing for turkey that has as some of its ingredients dried cranberries and cashews soaked in Courvoisier for two days. Sounds good to me! Except I decided I'll be using some canned chestnuts instead of cashews, and I didn't want to buy a huge bottle of Courvoisier, so I bought some Grand Marnier instead. Since yesterday, the dried cranberries have been soaking up the liqueur: the smell is wonderful.

Other stuffing ingredients are some 2-day old baguette, fresh thyme and sage, an egg, onion, shallots, pepper & salt. Oh. And the celery I forgot to buy yesterday. Am also contemplating adding some Seville orange slices.

Friday, October 9, 2009

And a goose to go in the roaster

Well, I left things too late, or maybe, not late enough.
There were no fresh geese left at the market today. DeLisio's sold their last one this morning. They're a good store: if they don't have what you're looking for, they'll tell you where you can get it. So he recommended that I check out the St. Lawrence Mkt North tomorrow morning to see if I could get a fresh one.

Last minute panic set it (what if one isn't there, and everyone else is sold out?) so I went to Sobey's and bought a 4 kg young goose. Any stragglers want to join me for goose & squash & broccoli and gawd knows what else on Monday?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A roaster to call my own!

Didn't have enough time today to hit the Market at lunch: I just had too many meetings.

Went across the street from the office to Dinetz's and bought a nice Paderno roasting pan. Was on sale for $109, so that seemed good.
While looking for a link to a picture right now, I see that Costco's offering it for $99.00.

Oh well, saved me a couple of hours of TTC time, buying it downtown!

Tomorrow: a goose. Hope I can find a fresh, local, organic one.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Can I resist?

Thanksgiving weekend is coming, up here in The Great White North.

For about a year, I've been predicting that, over time, goose is going to replace turkey in a lot of homes for holiday feasts.

Why do I think this?
  • They haven't been overbred to produce birds that can't even stand up at maturity.
  • Return to older, heirloom foods is going to, at some point, focus on older breeds of birds. The turkey was once a vigorous flying bird. Alas, its export to Europe and then return to North America may have given it a bigger whiter breast, but sure didn't improve its flavour.
  • Epicureans are rediscovering animal fats — especially organic, grass fed animal fats (much higher in the Omega 3s that you want).
  • Smaller families means we don't need as much meat as on these monster turkeys. A goose (or for a couple, a duck) will do it.
  • Dark meat. 'nuf said.

So, I hanker for a goose (don't think like that!).

I was late to the market today, and took a quick look around my fave meat vendor's stall, Witteveen's Meats — alas, no goose. I know that there was frozen goose at one or two of the others — I was hoping to buy fresh. I may have to go there at lunch tomorrow to check out the other vendors (DeLisio, Whitehouse, and La Boucherie).

Follow the Ethicurean!

I've been a fan of The Ethicurean for a number of years, now. While some of the information is very American, we have to acknowledge that what happens south of the border affects us here, too, since we don't have eternal growing seasons like they do in California and Florida. So it can be worthwhile catching up on what is happening in terms of the Leafy Greens Marketing Board when it tries to add some "food safety" items to its mandate. It will affect what we see come north in the winter for organic or even non-organic greens.

And hey, that's the website where I learned about the Mangalitsa pig.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Caveat Emptor

While purchasing ingredients for the ill-fated cassoulet, I went in search of a confit of duck legs (yes, I could have confitted them myself, but thought I'd save some time).

Whitehouse Meats at the St. Lawrence Market has some cute little packages (alas, not transparent) of confit of duck. When I asked one of the butchers what the package contains, I was told it held two duck legs. For $12.99, I thought that seemed fair.

As I was preparing to add it to the pot of beans, I discovered that there was only one leg in the vacuum-sealed pouch. Beware of buying food you can't see!

Good-bye Gourmet Magazine

The bean-counters have been in at Condé Nast for the last few months, and people have been tiptoeing around nervously. Even the editor of The New Yorker was spotted eating in the cafeteria — whether that was to be seen or to be seen not expensing expensive epicurean delights is up to him to say.

Alas, they decided that Gourmet Magazine has to go. People have to clean out their desks immediately, and November's issue will be the last (it's probably already been printed, or is at the printers).

Gourmet is gone: the companion website, Epicurious, is slated to remain open, and the magazine Bon Appetît will continue to publish.

RIP: it was good to know you.

The bland leading the blind

I call myself blind because I haven't attempted a cassoulet before.

Do not, I implore you, follow that recipe I linked. The results are so bland I've had difficulties forcing myself to eat it. Actually, I ate it two and a half times, and put the rest in the city compost container.

The recipe on Epicurious seems much better. As does practically any recipe that calls for reasonable amounts of herbs and spices. I should have worried when it only had 4 cloves of garlic, sliced in half, and one bouquet garni for enough cassoulet for 8 people.

Even the recipe on The French Food and Cook seems a bit bland, but at least has bacon and 10 cloves of garlic.

I'm going to have to try again. But right now, I'm just glad I didn't serve it to my friends!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hunting the cassoulet

So many variations!
It's strange: some recipes are standard. Everyone knows them, knows the ingredients, knows the unchanging way to prepare them.

Do a search on cassoulet recipes, and discover quite the opposite!

It is definitely a Provençal meal over which writers wax poetic.

I decided to test-drive a cassoulet recipe before doing it for company. I settled upon a fairly simple version, cut it in half, and, once it was mostly cooking (still have to add the sausages, which are browning in the oven, and the confit of duck legs in an hour) I started browsing other recipes.

A mistake, perhaps?

Doubts assail me.

Oh no -- I used a bouquet garni and this recipe calls for fresh thyme! And this one over here -- it calls for more than twice as much garlic! Did I use enough salt? Pepper? I looked up the ingredients of Toulouse sausage, and it seems to be pretty standard breakfast sausages, so I used them. Was I wrong? Oh no! This recipe for Toulouse sausage has a lot more herbs! This recipe calls for goose fat, that one, olive oil.

I have duck confit, and it's hunting season, so I really should have used partridge! (I will when I do it for my friends).

So I will cook, and taste, and then consider the variants and which way to take it next time, for my friends, on a blustery fall day.