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"?