Wednesday, September 8, 2010

All moved, now!

Please join me over at

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Moving day!

Hi folks -- I've combined my three blogs and moved them over to my own website. So if you want to keep up on what I've discovered in urban nature, gardening, field-to-table food, come to my writing & photos over at .

Sunday, May 30, 2010

One pan: ingredients

OK, before you get upset at my lousy diet, I had a great big green salad with tomatoes and cucumbers and asparagus, 'kay?

But tonight was meant for leftovers! Actually, I deliberately made leftover potatoes this morning: I peeled and cut up two potatoes and cooked them so I could use them for dinner. I only used one potato: the other one will be used later in the week.

Friday night I did a slooooooow braise of a Boston Butt pork roast. I put in a Dutch oven:
5lb pork roast salted and peppered, then browned on all sides
8 cloves garlic, smashed
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, cut into 2" lengths
(those vegetable ingredients I sautéed in the pot after I removed the browned roast)
Then I added:
1 can of Guinness beer
2 peeled and chopped carrots
2 peeled and chopped parsnips
2 bay leaves
and about 750ml of water, until the roast was almost submerged.
Bring to a boil on the stove, transfer to slow oven for 5 hours.

So I fork-separated and had some pulled pork off the roast tonight together with the potatoes, and that yummy cheese.

First the potatoes in the cast-iron frying pan with a drizzle of olive oil and a knob of butter. Eventually add the pork (it just needs to warm up). Shortly after, some cheese. Don't try to grate the cheese like I did: just crumble it in your fingers.

Yummy one-pan meal. Hash browns and pulled pork with apple-cinnamon cheese.

That's a cheese with potential. I can see doing a bunch of things with it. Like a grilled cheese sandwich!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chris' Cheesemongers bag

Here it is!

Silk screened on both sides with the shop's logo:

I like the orange reverse on the stitched handles. And the fact that the handles are long enough to sling it over my shoulder.

Lots of space in it for things. Two bottle-shaped pockets and a central divider. I shopped at the Market yesterday, and it held a basket of potatoes, one of carrots, one of parsnips, three bunches of asparagus, a bottle of olive oil, two of wine, 5 heads of garlic, 3 hunks of ginger, a pound of mushrooms from Phil's, and some more of that wonderful cheese that I bought last week.

The bags are only $5.00, and very roomy.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tasty cheese

I'm a sucker for a good cheese!

I was looking for one last week, before having Oliver and Melissa over for dinner. I went to Chris' Cheesemongers: actually, it was funny how I ended up there. I was next door, at the organic Golden Orchard, buying some zucchini and cucumbers, and told the cashier how much I love using my LCBO partitioned bag for shopping. One of the cheesemongers was right behind me, and promptly told me that if I liked that bag, I'd like the ones they sell at Chris' Cheesemongers even better: longer straps, better compartments, larger size!

Nothing would do but I had to have one of those bags, so I went next door with him, and told him that, in addition to the bag, I wanted a mild cheese to serve at the start of dinner. We started with a pretty uninspired camembert (I think that was my suggestion) and by the third cheese, he had talked me into this, which I had a runny taste of.

Let it come to room temperature, and enjoy the delicate flavour. I served it with some rosemary and sesame flatbreads and some almonds.

It's made of a combination of goat, sheep and cow milk. I'm eating the last of it as I write this. The taste of goat and sheep is there slightly, giving it more character than a straight cow's milk cheese frequently has.

It's imported from Tuscany, $19.95.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Salut! Wine and food festival

I won tickets to Monday night's chefs duel over crab.
Dang, I wish I was one of the judges, because those of us who were not judges ate tasty appetizers, but no crab!

Here are some pictures I took.

I apologize for the quality: I need to (a)check that my battery is charged before leaving home and (b)check the settings on the point and shoot camera before pointing and shooting! Don't bother enlarging. The pictures look best small :-D

This one is a look down the bar at all the trays of food that had been set out, cleaned, ready to use, depending on what the chef wanted for the competition.

Radicchio, peppers, basil, thyme, green onions, and a lovely hunk of ginger.

Fingerling potatoes! Red baby potatoes! Yukon Golds! Are you hungry yet?

Several types of tomatoes, some dill, apples, cucumbers, and peppers. Oh yeah, some pears, too!

Aromatics: leeks, yellow and red onions, and a whole whack of a tubfull of peeled garlic cloves.

Here we have some plantain, yellow squash, zucchini, red bell peppers, and some mammoth carrots. These aincho baby carrots.

Screams guacamole, doesn't it? A couple of avocados, some limes, lemons, and oranges.

Fresh greenery.

Slab of awesome bacon, the package not yet opened, and some chorizo sausage.

Dairy products! Dang, I missed a shot of the $450 hunk of Parmesan. Just relax and imagine the richness these ingredients brought to the dishes.

Not the secret ingredient! But Ingredients I would have gladly munched, raw, because they looked so fresh.

Aw shucks.
(You didn't think I was going to pass on that, did you?)
Some nice freshly shucked Malpeques.

Cheeeeze, pleeeeeze.
Some boccancino on a skewer with a basil leaf and teeny tomato, plus some maple cheddar from Black River Dairy in Prince Edward county, and some heart-stoppingly wonderful marbelized carmelized onion cheddar, and I don't know the name of the dairy: send it to me and I'll fix this.

Awesome steaks.
Some were used to create a Steak Diane using some mashed potatoes, grated Parmesan cheese and (yum yum) secret ingredient, crab, all mixed together, placed on top of the steak. Me wants. Damn, me not judge, so me didn't get.

Obligatory crowd scene. Actually, it was more crowded looking the other direction.

Master of ceremonies, Dick Snyder, announcing the winner! Chef Gordon Mackie of Far Niente. Chef Bruce Woods of Brassaii put up an admirable fight.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Why I have problems buying processed food when I'm not looking the processor in the eye

Yet another food recall is happening, this time around some Italian-style processed meats and cheese.

The larger the plant, the greater the chance that one machine's lack of cleanliness is going to impact a whole bunch of food, because everything from that line (or perhaps the plant) gets recalled.

It just freaks me out how much food is being recalled these days: worse in the USA, where food poisoning can result in millions of pounds of meat being recalled and destroyed.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Playing with my food again

They had the cutest spoons at T&T Supermarket. I couldn't resist. Somehow, I just pictured serving a lovely little amuse gueule on them at my next dinner party. So tonight, when I was cooking up scallops and edamame for dinner, I... decided to play a little.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ever buy something unknown?

Like, an ingredient you've not used before? Something you have no idea how to prepare?

I need to look some things up.
I love anchovies. I like white anchovies, I like salted anchovies, I like salted anchovies in olive oil... and then I saw these at T&T supermarket (I biked over there yesterday afternoon).

I have no idea what I'm going to do with them. Maybe they're something that I add to soup, or grind up, or just munch on for a snack (like dried capelin, which my Dad used to buy long ago in Montreal).

I'll do some research and let you know what transpires!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Yes, I finished the soup!

But forgot to blog about it!
It ended up taking the whole evening to make the stock, so I made the soup the following evening.

I had two bunches of wild leeks, and I cut them apart at the bottom of the leaf.
Sautéed the bulbs and stems along with a couple of onions, and then added the stock from the previous night together with some potatoes, cut into 6 to 8 pieces each, depending on the size of the potato. There were probably about 3 pounds of potatoes. Also added some black pepper. Would have added some nutmeg, but I seemed to have used it all up. Must remember to buy some more.

Simmered until the potatoes were cooked, and then roughly chopped and added the leek leaves to the mix, and cooked for about 5 more minutes.

Removed from heat, waited for it to cool a bit, and then used my stick blender to turn it into a homogenous soup.

It's good hot, it's good cold. I like it cold with a little drizzle of white truffle olive oil!

I've frozen it in two sizes: hefty meal and soup appetizer.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Potato and wild leek soup

I'm starting it! I make some chicken stock before getting into the potatoes and wild leeks.
On the stove I have a big pot with
3 onions, quartered;
3 stalks of celery, chunked;
6 (very small) cloves of garlic, smashed;
1 kg of chicken backs from Rowe Farms (was only able to get those today: their stall at the north St. Lawrence Market was out of them on Saturday).
2 big pinches of kosher salt;
A flat palm's worth of basil
Same of savoury.

So after that simmers for a few hours I'll have chicken stock.
Then I'll start making the soup.

No, it's not for dinner tonight :-D

Cold & hungry

Fixed up the water thingie in the back yard again so it's flowing freely (catkins from the male cottonwood tree just to the south had blocked the water intake). Sat outside quietly for about an hour and a half to take pictures of migratory birds. (They've been uploaded and added to my Backyard Birds set at Flickr).

Came inside and wanted a grilled sandwich for a late breakfast.

Got out some cheddar that I bought from Montfort at the north Farmers' Market at the St. Lawrence Market on Saturday. A hunk of side bacon, oven roasted, came from Witteveen's in the south market, the baguette was from Future Bakery, and the dijon... well, I had that already in the fridge.

Assembled the sandwich, heated up the cast iron frying pan with a little olive oil and butter, and put it on at a medium-low heat, bacon side down.

Carefully turned it to be cheese side down, watched the cheese melt, removed to a plate.

That was good. Now I'll have a cup of chamomile tea while I go through the bird pictures.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Wow, Grocery Gateway's on the ball

I use Grocery Gateway to buy the heavy stuff: kitty litter, laundry detergent, milk, cleaning supplies, juice. Since I'd have to take a cab to bring it home, it's even easier if I go online and order it and get them to deliver. I tweeted yesterday that I missed the cutoff for Saturday delivery, and now Grocery Gateway is following my tweets. They're using the new media intelligently!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Know your meat source

More and more people are becoming vegetarians and vegans. When I read the linked article, I understand more of them.
I'm still doing what I can to purchase my meat from small organic establishments: Witteveen at the St. Lawrence Market on weekdays, the farmers who sell pig, goat, and lamb at the north market on Saturdays.

Please don't buy meat from CAFOs. If you haven't seen Food, Inc., watch it. Read some of the books that have been written in the last few years (including Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food).

Oh -- that link: Tom Philpott's  Michael Ruhlmann pointed to this article in a tweet today.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Brunch at the Black Hoof Café

Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of having brunch with Cheryl from Autodesk at the Black Hoof's newest spot, the café directly across the street from the original.

We arrived at 11am, which seems like a good time to go: only had about a 5 minute wait until we were seated (line up was out the door by the time we left.

Yummy menu. We had difficulties deciding what to get!

Eventually we settled on tongue grilled cheese sandwich (Cheryl, who accepted the waiter's recommendation to get that over the blood sausage & crepes, since she had not eaten here before) and pig tails & grits (Pat). Plus French press coffee (two pots thereof).

We shared :-)

The tongue grilled cheese sandwich was wonderfully rich and flavourful: swiss cheese, and the tongue had been turned into a preserved meat somehow (didn't ask for info, unfortunately) and sliced very thin -- was a very rich corned beef kind of taste.

The pig tails were shredded meat that was shaped into kind of a rectangular sausage that had been crisped on the outside: yummy, and didn't have to deal with all those little bones. The grits were creamy, tasty, a little sweet, and topped by two perfectly poached eggs.  A little crispy chip (tasted like Munchos -- remember them?) was on the top and gave some crunch to the dish.

We still had room for a little more, so Cheryl ordered the donut holes, stuffed with marrow and rhubarb jam. Little gems, about the size of a marble, dusted with sugar. Added that little bit of sweetness to say that the meal was done (that's when we had the second pot of coffee).

I'll be back. There was so much on the menu that looked good! Definitely have to try the suckling pig benny: three people at the next table all ordered it, and it looked scrumptious.

I'm also curious about fried artichokes & broth.

Unlike at the parent restaurant, there seem to be a number of items that a vegetarian could enjoy here: granola, salad, rapini pesto & pasta, and toast with jam and goat butter. Food for all!

Monday, April 5, 2010

More arugula

Tonight's dinner was scallops and pine nuts on sautéed arugula with garlic.
It was good.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cobb Salad Variant

Had lots of leftovers in the fridge, so time to put them all together!
I had
Diced turkey thigh (cooked)
Diced maple smoked bacon (cooked)
Confit of sliced mushrooms
Cherry tomatoes
Baby arugula
Ripe avocado
and some Bolthouse Yogurt & Chunky Blue Cheese dressing.

So that was dinner.

If I were to do it again, I'd probably add some pine nuts so something would crunch.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Artisanal Bread recipe!

My friend Sandy has done a mash-up of bread recipes.
She came up with the following. Now, the really cool thing about this is you don't need to make the loaves at once: make a loaf, put the rest of the dough back in the fridge until you want to make the next loaf, then just pinch off a hunk and make fresh bread without going through the work of doing it all from scratch each time.

Makes 4 1-lb loaves.
  • 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100F)
  • 1-1/2 tbsp granulated yeast
  • 1-1-/2 tbsp kosher or other coarse salt
  • 6-1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour
  • cornmeal for dusting
To prepare dough:
  1. Add yeast and salt to water in a 5-quart bowl or lidded plastic food container. Don't worry about getting it all to dissolve.
  2. Mix in all of the flour at once with a wooden spoon or in a large food processor/mixer with a dough attachment until the mixture is uniform and all flour is incorporated. If mixing by hand and it is difficult to mix all the flour in, wet hands and work by hand. Don't knead the dough. The dough will be wet and loose enough to take the shape of the container.
  3. Cover (not airtight) and allow to rise at room temperature until it flattens on top or begins to collapse, approximately 2 hours. The dough can be used for baking at this point, although it will be easier to work with after refrigeration.
  4. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, cutting off and baking portions as described below.
Dough can be frozen in 1-lb portions; defrost overnight in the refrigerator prior to baking.

  1. Dust a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper with cornmeal.
  2. Sprinkle surface of refrigerated dough with flour, then pull up and cut off a 1-lb piece (about the size of a grapefruit) using a serrated knife. Sprinkle liberally with flour to keep it from sticking to your hands and to work into the dough. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all sides to form a ball with a smooth top, and create the gluten cloak for rising. Most of the flour will fall off. Dust the top with more cornmeal, since this will become the bottom of the loaf.
  3. Rest the loaf on the paper and let rise, uncovered, for about 40 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 450F for at least 20 minutes with a covered pot or Pyrex dish in the oven.
  5. When the oven and dish are at heat, put your hand under the paper, lift the loaf, drop it upside down into the pot (removing the paper), and cover the pot.
  6. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Uncover and bake for an additional 15-30 minutes until crust is brown.
  8. Lift out and cool on a wire rack.

Feel free to add herbs, cheese, or substitute different types of flour: you can use this recipe as a base to make all kinds of breads.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Oops! I did it again

Bought an organic chicken, and put it breast side up in a roasting pan, decorated with anchovies and coarsely ground black pepper. I gave it an initial spritz of olive oil, and after that, just basted it with juices every fifteen minutes. It was almost 4 pounds: that's 20 mins/pound plus 20 mins., was 1 hour 40 minutes. It was awesome. I had problems stopping myself from eating.

Something I did with some of the rendered chicken fat: I had a bunch of small button mushrooms (around 15) that had been in a paper bag in the fridge for a couple of weeks. I truly advocate using paper bags for mushrooms: if you don't eat them immediately, they dry -- they don't turn slimy, they don't get mouldy. There's a use for mushrooms that are a bit dry -- they're really great when you cook them! There is less moisture that has to be removed by the cooking process. So tonight I cleaned the 'shrooms, removed the bottoms of the stems, and cut the little ones in half and the larger ones in quarters.  Took a couple of basters worth of liquids from the cooking chicken and put them in a small cast iron pan, brought it up to temperature, then added the mushrooms for 6 minutes. Oh gawd, they were good. Finished them with a little cream, and served on a toasted English muffin.

Saved the rest of the chicken drippings in a container in the fridge so I can repeat the experience, but will try more and different 'shrooms next time: gotta go to the St. Lawrence Mkt and check out what they've got, and try cooking them up.

I'm fancying a mushroom paté made of meaty mushrooms with some butter and well cooked eggplant. I may give it a try in the near future!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My paté recipes

I started making paté while I was a university student, too broke to afford to buy some. It's definitely an inexpensive dish to make. I used to use a blender; now I use a food processor.

I've been through a number of variations through the years. I started with chicken livers, ground pork, and butter. Over time, I ditched the ground pork, have sometimes substituted duck fat for butter, and have added other ingredients. Once I added curry. That worked. Once I tried to make one that tasted garlicky. Wasn't able to succeed, but knew I'd never be able to succeed when I put a half-head of garlic in, couldn't taste it, but started burping garlic a couple of hours later. Not something I'd recommend!

It slowly evolved so that, at its simplest, it's 1 pound of chicken livers to 2/3 pound of butter and 1 medium onion, season to taste.

Here are the recipes in their current incarnation. The idea to add apples came from a Jamie Kennedy paté I had a number of years ago at his Wine Bar. I added Calvados after I saw a recipe using it on the web somewhere. The recipe with duck fat stems from me corrupting a Jacques Pepin recipe.

Paté #1
This is the basic recipe -- you can add spices and herbs to it to do what you want. I've used basil, Italian herbs, green peppercorns, and even did it once with curry powder. 
1/2 lb butter
1 medium onion, chopped
about 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
2 apples peeled, cored, diced
2 oz calvados
1 lb chicken livers

Making paté takes time. Take the time to do it right: if you try to rush things, you'll have too much moisture in the paté, and it will be too soft. In a small frying pan, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter and add the apples. Cook them slowly until most of the moisture is gone from them and they have carmelized on the outside. This will take about a half-hour or so.
While that's happening, in a 10" frying pan (cast iron's really good for this) melt a couple of tablespoons of butter and add the mushrooms. Cook them down until they've released all their water and become dark and meaty. Add the onion and sweat it. Add the calvados, and cook the liquid down until it's almost all gone. Add the rest of the butter, and when the water in it has boiled away, add the chicken livers. Add the apples. Cook until the livers are pink inside, and remove from heat. When cooled, process in a food processor until smooth. Spoon the mixture into a plastic-lined loaf pan, cover with plastic laying directly on the pate (otherwise it oxidizes and turns gray). Refrigerate.

Paté #2
Stolen idea from Jacques Pepin, but I'm using chicken liver instead of duck (and most cleaned ducks these days don't seem to come with the livers in them!)
1/2 lb duck fat
2 shallots, finely chopped
3/4 lb chicken livers
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the duck fat, and give it 15-20 minutes over a medium-low heat, until it starts to get a little bit of color to it. Add the shallots, and give them a minute. Then (slowly! you don't want hot fat splashing) add the chicken livers. Cook until pink inside, then remove from heat. When cool, process in a food processor, and press through a sieve. Spoon into a plastic-lined loaf pan, or small jars if giving as a gift, or a crock.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Secret Pickle Dinner Party 2: with 6 courses, in 12 pictures

Oh gawd it was good.
To celebrate each other's birthday, Sandy and Betty and I take each other out. It's usually a surprise to the birthday girl where we're going to go.
Last night, we started with martinis at a cute little bar on Parliament with lots of pairs of traditional furniture and a trio of chandeliers.

Given the setup, it is obvious that this isn't where we are going to eat. Sandy and Betty check several times to see if I know where we are going... I confess I have no idea. I knew of a couple of restaurants in the area, but nothing really birthdaylicious springs to mind. So we sip our martinis, slip on our coats, then sally forth to the Fair Trade Jewellery Atelier, where dinner #2 of the Secret Pickle Supper Club is about to begin. (You'll have to ask Alexa about the name!)

We open the door, and are met with chef Matt Kantor of Little Kitchen at his serving table, right in the front window. Beyond him is a table set for, oh gosh, at least two dozen people. Cloak room and aperitifs in the back.

We go to the back, doff our coats, and pick up a Campari and soda (it's been a while since I've had one of those: I had forgotten how much I enjoy them). And I snap this picture, which looks to the front of house. Drinks in hand, we mill about, meet people, and eventually sit down.

At each table setting is a booklet for us of the night's adventures in eating Piedmontese food and drinking suitable wines.

Oh, this looks good.
It's going to be a very good evening.

I confess I miss one photo, and that's of the yummy breadsticks (Grissini del Olio) that we have to go along with the aperitif. Beautiful crunch, right amount of salt, nice herbacious flavours, probably the best breadsticks I've ever had.

On a flatscreen TV behind me, there are Flickr pictures of Piedmont showing the entire evening, except for when it's decided we have to see this bizarre Russian lounge lizard TV act from what looks like the '80's.

Next, it is on to the antipasto: I grab a couple of shots while Matt plates things, but realize half way through the evening that my battery is low low low, so there are only a few shots of food-in-progress.

This is Vitello Tonnato. Delicate beautiful veal tenderloin, buttery soft, with a tuna sauce. What an amazing complementary pair: the delicacy of the veal, and the stout flavours of the tuna sauce work really well together. The wine for this course is Demarie Roero Arneis 2008 (thanks, Alexa, for MCing and the awesome booklets that you put together!)
Here's an up-close look at my plate: delicate pieces of veal with sauce, capers, and some tarragon.

Our next appetizer is a tart of artichoke and goat cheese with bagna cauda: a sauce I am truly in love with!
Bagna cauda is made of anchovies, garlic, parsley and olive oil (and some recipes use butter, too). Matt's recipe uses some butter. In the same way that veal and tuna work together, this little tart and bagna cauda function as a team. The arugula salad on top adds some contrasting bitterness, and it is a great combination.

The accompanying wine is Ascheri Fontanelle Barbera D'Alba 2008.

So where do we go after these delicious appetizers? To a stunning risotto: Risotto di Barolo con fungi (although we have a Via Collina Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba wine instead of a Barolo).

It is a bit of a surprise when we first get it, because we're not used to seeing risotto made with a red wine, which makes a pink dish. It is totally scrumptious... smooth, with a bit of a bite at the middle of the rice grains. Lots of flavour.  Wonderful marriage of flavours of rice, wine, and mushroom.

This dish is paired with the Dolcetto, the same wine used to make it.

Next is the main course, the serious meat course. And Matt takes his meat courses seriously, as I discovered when he cooked an amazing dinner for four for Sandy. This course is described as Bollito Misto — mixed boiled meats. Imagine meats from different animals all slowly braised together, so none of the meat is tough, and all of it is flavourful, and flavoured with the other meats and vegetables that are also cooked in the same pot. We are given a variety of tongue, veal, capon, pork feet, and brisket, too, I believe. Veggies are potatoes and carrots. The two tasty sauces in the upper right corner are roasted pepper puree and anchovy spread. Rawr!! The paired wine was Tenuta San Mauro Barbaresco.

Where do you go after this? for a stretch, and give the chef a little break maybe (did you get a break, Matt?).
After these dishes, two more courses remain: first, the cheese course with Testun al Barolo (which has a strange connection for me: that was the last food I had in mid-December that tasted good, before I was struck by pine mouth {caused by a problem with pine nuts which lasted a couple of weeks). Alex Farms was selling it as a Christmas cheese, so I bought a hunk for my parents. It's a great cheese, on the mild/medium side, and packed with grape must from the wine fermentation process. This is matched with a salad of arugula and shaved fennel, a truly scrumptious combination. The matched wine is Cantina Parroco Nebbiolo Langhe 2007.

And then, on to dessert! If you know me, you know that I'm really not a big dessert fan. This dessert, however, is really yummy. It isn't over sweet (which tends to be my prob. with most 'serts). Tarta di Nocciole with poached pears in red wine.
A thin slice of a hazelnut cake (which has some flour and whole eggs as well as lots of ground hazelnuts) reminds me of a flourless, unleavened almond Passover cake my Dad bought... oh, gosh, must have been around 1972. The cake is wonderful. I could gladly eat it for breakfast every day. The sauce drizzled around and under is based on Nutella, and in the ramekin are some delicious poached pears with some ginger, to add some brightness to the dish.
This dessert is accompanied by a sparkling red wine, Piemonte Cantina San Pancrazio Brachetto 2008. Really good pairing.

There is yet one more thing to happen. Joey, the Accordion Guy was there. I didn't realize that he had brought his accordion to sing me a happy birthday!

Pot roast for friends

I had the opportunity to make a post roast dinner for some friends recently.
I went to the grocery store, and was surprised that all they had in the meat section was tiny little 0.5Kg pot roasts. Not enough for a family of four with two sons in their late teens!
So I asked the girl at the deli counter if she controlled the meat counter as well, to which she replied that no, there was someone else, and she'd get him.
A young man came out, we spoke, he had no brisket, but would see what he did have. He came back with a big blade roast, and said it was the smallest of what he had out back. It's not the tenderest cut, but it's got big flavour, and makes for a good pot roast if treated well so it doesn't seize up.
I bought it.
I brought it home.
I rinsed it off, applied "steak spice" and salt and pepper and let it air-dry and come up to temperature -- about two hours.
With my roast nice and dry, I put the dutch oven on the stove, just below medium, and put some oil in the bottom of it. When it was shimmering, I added the pot roast, and gave it about 5 minutes a side (if you pretend it's a cube with six sides, it works better than you might think).

Fully seared, I then removed the roast from the pot, and deglazed with about a half of a carton of organic vegetable stock, and to that I added:

  • about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 
  • 2 bay leaves, 
  • 1 chopped onion, 
  • 2 chopped scallions, 
  • 4 smashed garlic cloves, 
  • about a half-litre of water, 

and brought to a simmer.

Then I put the roast back in the pot, and it was pretty much submerged: only a couple of centimeters of it was in air. Lid on the pot, and then into a really slow oven: 225F for one hour per pound. This roast was about 7 pounds, so it went in overnight, from midnight to 7am.

Took it out, put the meat thermometer in, and it was well done.

Wrapped foil around it, and reduced the liquid in the pot to about half, then puréed it with a stick blender, thickened it with about 2 tbsp of flour, and added some parsley, chives, and pepper to the gravy.

While I was goofing around with the gravy, I put into a roasting pan some onions, potatoes, squash, and carrots, and drizzled and tossed them all with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted them for a couple of hours at 350F.

Assembled everything into a roasting pan for delivery and easy reheating (well, the gravy's in a plastic container) and covered with foil.

Oh. The pot roast weighed 3.14kg. Does that mean I can call it a "pot pi"?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Simple dinner: grilled meat, greens.

Last Friday I bought a fair amount of meat from Witteveen's in the St. Lawrence Market. I still had the three lamb loin chops in the refrigerator tonight, so I had to use them for dinner.

Tonight's dinner was simple: lamb chops grilled on a cast iron grill pan, with some steak spice rubbed into them, and kale and asparagus.

For the meat, I brought it up to room temperature, seasoned it, and then tossed it onto a cast iron grill pan that I had lightly oiled and brought up to about a 4 (out of 10) in temperature. The oil was smoking, I put the exhaust fans on, and cooked the chops for 10 minutes a side -- which is about double what I give them in a flat cast iron pan. The raised grill lines impart a lovely pattern on the meat, but it does mean that most of the meat is not in contact with the heat source, so it takes about twice as long to cook.

For the veggies, I cleaned and prepped, and only cooked them while the chops were resting. Kale, torn to bits and microwaved for 2 minutes; asparagus microwaved for 45 seconds. (I wish I could remember where I bought the asparagus because it's the grittiest asparagus I've had in at least 10 years. I spent 5 minutes washing 5 measly stalks, and it was still gritty.)

I had some heliodoro rosemary cheese from Alex Farms in the fridge that I knew would pair well with the lamb and would be very tasty on the greens. It had been there a while, and had gotten quite hard. The vegetable peeler, my first choice of tool, wasn't up to the task. Absolutely no go. I might as well have tried to peel the bricks on my house. Forget about picturesque white curls sitting on the greens!

Next, I tried ye olde box grater. Hah. Even more useless than the vegetable peeler. The cheese just rode down the outside of the grater like it was on ball bearings. Pressure on the cheese caused it to break into some pieces, but no grating happened.

Then, Lee Valley to the rescue. Pulled out the microplane, which used to be sold for woodworking purposes, until the Lee family discovered that chefs were using them. Man, does that thing bite into things! I can imagine what it would do with wood, because it certainly did the job with my (almost) petrified heliodoro. It turned it into lovely light little gratings, as you can see.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bread pudding made from banana bread

Going to go to Steve & Rob's for dinner. Will take wine. That goes without saying. Am offered a choice of bringing bread or a dessert.

I very seldom make dessert. In the last 15 years, I've made two apple-blue cheese tarts, and one boozy bread pudding. I volunteer to make dessert again.

And opt for doing a bread pudding.

I think it was a dinner that Matt Kantor did -- Sandy's win of a gourmet dinner at home -- that made me think of a bread pudding based on banana bread with some nutella on top.

So that's what I made! I confess, I cheated and bought the banana bread.

Cut it into slices, toasted it in the oven, and then cubed it.

Put the cubes into a loaf pan, covered with a very rich custard of 3 eggs, 2 cups of cream, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla. Then drizzled a whole lot of nutella over the top of the whole thing, and popped it into the oven until done.

I was surprised that the Nutella didn't melt more, really surprised.

The next day, dinner day, I bought some scrumptious Belgian dark chocolate truffles at Domino's in the basement of the St. Lawrence market, and some low-fat vanilla Hagen Dazs ice cream (it was the only vanilla they had, and believe me, the bread pudding wasn't low fat!).

At dessert time, I put the truffles in a microwaveable measuring cup, and nuked them until they melted.

Sliced the pudding, which I had warmed in the oven while we ate dinner.

To serve, I put a slice of pudding, a scoop of ice cream, and poured some molten truffles over all. Sorry I don't have a shot of that!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Catching up: cod tongues

Cod tongues. Something I hadn't had in quite a while. I grew up with my grandfather bringing packages of them and other Newfoundland delights to Montreal each year, where he spent winters after my grandmother died.

I hoped to have some a couple of years ago when my sister and I went to Iceland (they call them cod chins there), but never got around to that or puffin or other strangenesses of the land.

I had a hankering for cod tongues, yes I did.

I saw these in the freezer cabinet at Mike's at the St. Lawrence Market -- oh gosh: must be over a year now. And so I bought them. And being a fool, I left them in my refrigerator's freezer, which goes through freeze/thaw cycles fast enough to create ice crystals in two months. I should have put them in my chest freezer.

Alas, it was a long time before I rescued these from the freezer. They were vacuum packed, but still showed signs of freezer burn.

I cooked these (almost) the proper way. The truly proper way would have been to start by making a brunoise of salt pork fat and frying it until it renders enough fat into the pan to cook the cod tongues. I didn't have any salt pork, so I put some olive oil in the pan.

The cod tongues were dredged in flour to which some salt and pepper has been added, then plunked into the medium frying pan. Depending on the size, you could fry them up to 5 minutes a side.

They don't look revolting. Actually, they look pretty much as they should.

But boy, were they tough! And tough is not what you expect from cod tongues. Some parts of it should be almost jelly-like in texture.

I ate a few with some horseradish mustard (and ate the kale) and I hate to say, put the rest in the compost bin. Next time I'll not leave them in the freezer so long.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Roasting a bird with Anchovies on it - part deux

I did it!
I roasted a fowl using anchovies instead of salt. 
Given it was an experiment, and just me at home, I didn't want to do something large like a turkey. So I bought an organic cornish hen over at Whitehouse Meats at the St. Lawrence Market. It was only 1-1/4 lbs, so I wouldn't be wasting a lot of food if it turned out horrible.

Rinsed the bird, did the wing fold over so they don't flop, and placed it on its back, so it would be breast side up. Peeled and halved an onion, and stuffed it in the cavity. Opened a can of Spanish anchovies that I had at home that were wrapped around capers. They were harder in texture than most anchovies I've bought in the past. Still, I spread a few of them across the bird's breast and nestled some of the capers in places like the leg joints.  Not a whole lot of fat on the bird, so I used a bit of olive oil.

Basted a few times while it was cooking (I gave it 1 hour and 15 at just below 350F), and gradually the anchovies softened, and I smashed them around a little.

While it was resting, I microwaved some kale I had washed and torn into bite-sized pieces. Gave it a light sprinkling of sesame oil, tossed, and put them both on the dinner plate.

Verdict? I really enjoyed the taste. It wasn't overly fishy, but the anchovies provided some of that "umami" feel that makes food really mouth satisfying. I'll definitely do it again, and next time, I might smear some truffle paste on it, too!

Addendum: last week I did a 1.5kg organic chicken the same way. I needed to start basting earlier than I did, because the anchovy fillets didn't break down as much. But it was still very tasty.