Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pho who the bell tolls

Oh, it tolls for me, because I ate too much.
Big bowl of Chicken Pho at Hanoi 3 Seasons on Queen East (between Caroline and Larchmount). Fragrant, steamy, with lovely flavours of lime, cilantro, ginger, a touch of coconut? and basil in the broth. And a bird's eye pepper to just add a little edge. I only started going to Hanoi 3 Seasons in the spring. I found out tonight that it's when the weather gets cold that it really fills up, as people come in search of that delightful bowl of steaming broth, rice noodles, and other goodies. Next time I might try the rare beef pho.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I had a dream...

Back in the summer.
That Chef Lynn Crawford and her significant other moved next door, and all the neighbours were terrified to invite her over because they were afraid to serve her inferior food.

Well, it's sort of coming true.

Chef Lynn Crawford has bought out The Citizen with Cheri Stinson, who she has frequently paired with on Restaurant Makeover. The Citizen isn't quite in Leslieville, it's the neighbourhood next door (Call it Riverside, call it Queen/Broadview, call it Lower Riverdale).

Before it was The Citizen, it was the second home of Riverside Cafe, where Signe Langford used to do such wonderful things with mussels in a wee tiny space.

Set to open next year in March, we'll have to see if all the neighbouring restaurants panic like the neighbours did in my dream.

More details at The Toronto Star (I'm not sure how long the link will remain live).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tasty snack: grilled cheese sandwich

You don't think I'd make it with Wonderbread and Kraft slices, do you?

I took a couple of diagonal slices of baguette, lightly buttered the outside cuts, and schmeared some Kozlik's horseradish mustard on the inside cuts. The cheese? Some boschetto al tartufo.

The last time I made a grilled cheese sandwich was at my parents' sometime over 30 years ago, and they had a waffle iron/griddle. I had to make do in a cast-iron pan using a sturdy spatula.

It was tasty, if I say so myself.

Roasting a bird with Anchovies on it

I wish I could say that you heard it here first, but I read about it from a link from the J-Walk blog -- it linked to an article on The Atlantic's website, which described putting anchovy strips on top of a turkey or goose (breast side up, please!) so that the bird would not just baste itself while cooking, it would season itself, too.

What a great idea! For Christmas, Mom is planning the standards, which include both a turkey and a ham. I want to try it. I know my parents would go for it. My sister would absolutely hate the idea, so I'm thinking of sneaking a tube of anchovy paste in my luggage. Maybe if I rub the breast with that, it will have the same effect without leaving the telltale markings of the fillets.

I'm also tempted to carry it a step further and take a tube of truffle paste and massage some of that into the bird, too, but Helen reaaally hates the smell of truffles. I'll save the truffles for those of us who like it -- I'll bring some cheese.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Variations on a theme

Apples - cheese - herb - and a splash of something. All together in a tart (mini or otherwise).

Today I ran across a recipe using apple and goat cheese on Seven Spoons -- which leads me to posit that any kind of savory dessert tart can be made from:
1 fruit
1 cheese
1 herb
1 nut
1 liquid to provide added moisture.

I'm thinking of where this could lead me in the future: starting with fruit, I'm imagining wildly different things with cranberries, or tangerines, or even kiwi or star fruit. What would happen with a custard apple? Or a passionfruit? Or if I start with cheeses, I can go wild, strong, mellow, or mild: the range from a hard nutty flavour through a blue cheesiness or over to goat or sheep or go mild with ricotta or buffalo mozarella. Nuts can be strong or pungent or contribute their own special oil. Wow, what a kaleidoscope of flavours to be had!

Let me know if you decide to make a tart, and what combination you choose to use.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Why we can't allow food to be Walmart-ized

Good article at Ethicurean. All about the variety and number of jobs that are created by a small town having its own downtown grocery store.
Of course, much the same logic applies for all businesses in small towns: everyone loses when all goods are imported from elsewhere, and the only jobs are minimum-wage greeters and "sales associates".

Getting the urge



It's that time of year again. Thinking about creamy mushroom soup.

Last night's dinner

Was great fun.
We started with olives and spicy cheddar spread and two varieties of Evelyn's crackers, which I bought at Scheffler's Deli at the St. Lawrence market. There were some olives stuffed with cheese, some kalamatas, and the winner of the night (for the olives) was definitely the ones stuffed with lemon. Really a wonderful flavour, and good firmness.

I had bought a can of lemon-stuffed olives back in late winter at The Olive Pit, and while they were OK (in martinis!) they were a little on the soft side.

The munchies were accompanied by a really nice bottle of Thirty Bench Small Lot 'Rose' VQA vintage 2008, which was lovely and tasted like the last gasp of summer. It's a really small lot wine: the label states that only 326 cases of it were produced.

From there we moved to a salad that Betty made that included mixed greens, dried apricots, blue cheese, and walnuts, all perfectly wilted under a hot vinaigrette. At this point we got into the Chateau Saint-Germain 2007 Bordeaux superieur, which carried us through the main course, too.

For the main, we had a cassoulet. Unlike the last one I made that just about blanded me to death, I put a lot of flavour in this one. I started with a really spicy chorizo sausage from The Sausage King that I browned in the Dutch oven and then put aside, then put into the same pot onions, shallots, garlic, and celery and sautéed until everything was nice and glistening and transparent where appropriate in the duck fat that I had used to cook the sausages. I added a can of organic diced tomatoes, bouquet garni, bay leaves, thyme, and salt, and brought to a boil. Then, the 400g (dry weight) of white northern beans that I soaked overnight. Added about a litre of water (enough to cover the beans) and simmered for two hours.

Next stage, I removed the celery, bouquet garnis, thyme, and bay leaves, and cut the sausages into bite-sized pieces and put them in the bottom of a large enameled casserole, on top of squares of pork skin from the pork belly (cooked for two hours the night before), which lined the bottom of the pot. Added sliced goose breast (from Thanksgiving dinner) and big cubes of pork belly. Put the beans on top, and into the oven for an hour and a half, covered. Then put bread crumbs and melted butter over the top and broiled until toasty brown.

And that was that course.

Dessert consisted of the apple-pecan-blue cheese tart. I made my own pate brisee and used whey butter in it, which I think added good flavour, but I could have completely omitted the salt from the recipe (which I had cut in half because the whey butter was salted). I used a blue Eremite cheese this time, which worked well.  The tart was served with a really lovely 10 year old Port that Sandy and Damir brought: Warre's Otima10, a Port house since 1670. Delicious port!

After dinner, it was time for games: Wii Sport Resort is lots of fun, lots of giggles, and I obviously should never be given control of a small watercraft.

Eat well!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Stage 2 of cassoulet almost done

Beans cooking with spicy chorizo sausage, diced tomatoes, onion, shallot, garlic, celery, bay leaves, bouquet garni, and a couple of sprigs of thyme (and about a tsp of sea salt). Definitely not going to be bland like the last one!
Comes off the stove at 3, and then I'll try to pile it into my ceramic dish (hmm. will it fit?) together with pork belly and goose breasts. On to cook for another two hours at 4 (I don't think we'll need it before 6). Finish with some panko breadcrumbs and melted butter.

Bought some really interesting butter yesterday at the market (funny, I had just read about it on a blog within the last week). Whey butter. Someone said it had more flavour to it.  I'll find out today, both as it tops the cassoulet, and as the butter ingredient in the pate brisée that will surround the apples, thyme, maple syrup, and blue cheese.

Spicy cheddar & beer spread

8 ounces grated old white cheddar
1 tbsp and a bit of Worcestershire sauce
14 shakes of Tabasco sauce
About a teaspoon and a half of paprika
1 ancho chili, ripped to little bits
Put in a food processor, slowly drizzle in about 4 oz of good beer -- more or less, depending on how much moisture is in the cheese.

Blend until smooth, refrigerate. Give it a few hours for the flavors to blend. Remove from fridge about a half-hour before serving.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Prepping for another cassoulet

I have a lovely piece of pork belly in the fridge, rubbed all over with oregano, thyme, rosemary, and garlic. I will cook it tomorrow night in a very slow oven, as Michael Ruhlman did for his BLT from Scratch (200F with a splash of water in foil for 3-4 hours) but I'll only half-cook it, and finish it in the beans.
I will take out of the freezer tonight a lovely goose breast or two, and let it slowly thaw in the fridge.
Tomorrow I will buy some yummy sausages.
I will put beans on to soak tomorrow night.
And it will all come together on Saturday afternoon, together with another apple-blue cheese-pecan tart.
Saturday night will be fun, regardless of the weather.