Sunday, August 14, 2011

We've moved!

If you are used to checking out my blog, come over and visit me at my new website.

Same content, same writer, just prettier colours!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Spicy Chorizo Sloppy Joes

One of my favourite shows the past season was Top Chef Canada on Food Network.  I was particularly intrigued by the show since it is hosted by Mark McEwan, who owns ByMark - one of my absolute favourites in Toronto - and had many of the Food Network Canada's present and past "star chefs" on it like Lynn Crawford (Justin's idol), Michael Smith (The Inn Chef and Chef at Large/Home), Rob Feenie (the first Canadian to beat Morimoto on Iron Chef America), and of course Susur Lee.

And then three of the contestants are chefs in restaurants I frequent regularly in Toronto - Rob Rossi from Mercatto (ok...he has resigned now and is getting ready to announce a new venture shortly), Andrea Nicholson from Great Cooks on Eight, and Steve Gonzales from Origin.  All in all, a great "recipe" (guffaw!!! knee slap!!) for a great show for Sandra.

I loved the episode that ran on June 21st called Surf or Turf (should be..."or be be turfed" guffaw again!!!!).  One of the biggest jokes in Toronto is our concept of "street food". Reality is we don't have any except hot dog carts because of permitting issues with the City.  Ok...there are a few french fry trucks, but it is nothing like it is in the U.S.  We don't really have pop-up restaurants and we don't have food trucks that serve cupcakes, tacos, roti or anything like that - well not any more. this multi-cultural mecca we suck when it comes to street food.

This fact has come to light lately here thanks to the City trashing its "Toronto A La Cart" pilot project.  The City issued permits to a number of food vendors, mandating that they must buy mandated $30,000 carts, and then they regulated the vendors to death over 3 years mandating their locations, approving just goes on and on.  And now these people have wasted 3 years of their lives and a lot of money on a failed program.  Smells like class action to me.

Hopefully that is about to change thanks to Suresh Doss from Spotlight Toronto.  Quite by chance, we had the pleasure of having lunch with Suresh last April at Reif Estates Winery.  Very interesting fellow and the leader in a charge to organize the food truck movement in Toronto this summer.  A first attempt to bring in food trucks from surrounding cities attracted over 3,000 eager and hungry Torontonians on the July long weekend.  There is a second gathering scheduled for August 20th in the Distillery District so we definitely have plans to attend.  And eat!!!

Anyway, that was a long lead up to me saying that on June 21st, Food Network had the remaining chefs create and sell street food from a "non-compliant" looking street cart at City Hall.  The winning dishes were served by Rob Rossi, including his take Sloppy Joes with a Spanish-Canadian bent fusion.  His other dish was a Seranno Ham and Canadian Cheddar cheese sandwich with Smoked Tomato Ketchup.  More yum.

I decided this dish needed to be made to take to my friend’s annual Lane Party and that this might be a potential cottage or camping dish in the future. Yummy. 

But I kind of forgot to print off the recipe, so I made it as much as could from memory, and the taste is incredible.  I used two different kinds of chorizo (dried and fresh) and then instead of the beef Rob’s recipe called for I ended up with lamb, after the lady at the meat counter gave me the wrong thing.  Sometimes mistakes work out really well, so this is my rendition of Rob’s Chorizo Sloppy Joes. 

You can vary the heat in this recipe depending on the sausages you buy.  Turns out the dried ones I got at Sausage King in the St. Lawrence Market were scorchers!  I didn’t need to add any chili flakes, but you could if you wanted.

Spicy Chorizo Sloppy Joes

1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons bittersweet smoked paprika
1 tablespoon cumin, ground
4 fresh chorizo sausages
2 dried or cured chorizo sausages
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground lamb or beef
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 jar passata (pureed tomatoes)
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar


20 small small soft dinner rolls or sausage slider buns
2 cups Manchego Cheese, grated or 1 recipe Queso Fresco
2 green onions, thinly sliced on an angle


Place dried chorizo sausage in the bowl of a food process, and pulse until ground.

Heat a medium non-stick saucepan over medium heat.  Remove fresh sausage from casings and crumble into the pan.  Add ground pork and lamb/beef and combine.  Cook for about 5 minutes or until starting to brown.
(Note:  If the mix seems a bit coarse, you can pulse it in a food processor for a few turns so you get a better texture in your Joe.)

Add onions and dried chorizo.  Combine well and cook a bit longer, about 4-5 minutes, until the fat has rendered.  Remove any excess fat from the pan.

Add garlic, bay leaves, smoked paprika and cumin. Add tomato paste, tomato purée and sugar, and combine  Cover and cook on low for approximately 30 minutes, skimming fat occasionally if needed.   If sauce seems a bit dry, add a bit of more water,

Serve warm. Spoon Chorizo Sloppy Joe in mini sausage buns and garnish with Queso Fresco or Manchego Cheese, and green onions.

Inspired by Rob Rossi on Food Network’s Top Chef

Queso Fresco or "Hey, I just made cheese!"

If you are a close friend of mine you've probably heard me talk about my 649 dream to buy a goat farm in Prince Edward County where I will make artisinal cheeses that I will sell at farmer's markets until Lynn Crawford and all the other hot Toronto chefs discover my amazing cheeses and make me independently wealthy (which I am already anyways in the dream having won $25k in the lottery duh!) by using them in their restaurants.

In addition to my small Anglo Nubian herd, I will also have a Jersey cow named Daisy for milk, 2 little pink pigs that will always look like Babe, and at least 6 chickens.  And the chickens will be Araucana ones from Chile, which will lay the pretty blue eggs for me, and some Cochins with feathered feet,  in case you wondered.  Cochins make excellent pets apparently.  I know...wake up, right?  Ah well, maybe one day.

A few months ago there was an article in Toronto Life Magazine about making your own ricotta, and I kept meaning to do it but never did.  Then...inspiration struck...I am taking Chorizo Sloppy Joes to my friends' this weekend for their annual Lane Party and I thought I would try making cheese to sprinkle on them.  Ricotta wasn't right, so I started looking into fresh cheeses.  Now I am no expert on fresh cheese nor any kind of cheese, but I love to eat it and from what I saw on the internet it seemed pretty easy to make.  There are only three ingredients:  milk, vinegar and salt.  Generally it is called Queso Fresco or Queso Blanco.  

It is not quite feta but not really mozzarella or ricotta either.  I think it will be a nice mild slightly salty cheese to sprinkle on pizza or sloppy joes, and there is no goat milk in sight, which will make my friend James happy.  Junior Chef J-Man thought it was a fun project tonight and so did I.

As an FYI, this cheese will not melt nor can it be shredded but it can be crumbled or sprinkled.  And it can be made using any kind of milk - the only difference being the yield of cheese.  I did it with 1% and only got a small amount of curds, but using 3.8% organic homo (the highest fat milk I could find), I got quite a nice yield.  If you don't have white vinegar, other kinds like rice wine or apple cider will work but you will have a slightly different tang to the cheese.

When adding salt, remember that some will drain out with the whey, so what might seem salty at first, might not have much salt to it in the finished product.  What I did here was crumble my cheese into a container, and grind some additional salt in, and shook it around.  Worked well.

This entry level foray has inspired me to pick up some ingredients to try more complicated cheeses.  Next thing poor Glen knows, goats and chickens are living in the back and our garage is converted to a cheese cave.  Sorry about that...but you know it is inevitable....the dream never dies.

Queso Fresco

2 litres (1 gallon) homo milk
1/3 cup of white vinegar
1-2 tablespoons sea salt (adjust how salty you want it)


Rinse the inside of a medium saucepan with water to coat the surface.  Add milk and heat on medium for about 12-15 minutes or until it comes to a low rolling boil.

Add the vinegar. The curds will separate from the whey almost immediately, and the mixture will start to look grainy.  Let it simmer for a couple of minutes and stir using your spoon to assist in the curd separating.  If the whey doesn't seem to really separate (the whey is the yellowy liquid left after you separate out the milk fat), add another spoonful of vinegar.

Pour the pot’s contents into a cheesecloth-lined colander and let it drain for a couple of minutes.  Sprinkle with salt until it has the taste you are looking for.

Gather the curds in the center, and squeeze out what liquid you can.  You can tie the cheesecloth’s ends and hang the cloth on the faucet so it can drain for a few hours.

Or like I did, squeeze out what you can and then place a bowl on top of the cheese, and weigh it down with weights or a couple of heavy vinegar bottles to drive out more moisture.

Leave like this for a few hours or overnight if possible.

The next morning, untie the cheesecloth, and admire your cheese!  It should keep for a while in the refrigerator (did you look at the expiry date on your milk...) but plan to use it in the next few days.

That's it!  We made cheese.  Next step is looking into ordering liquid rennet, tartaric acid and mesophilic culture on-line. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Culinary School Chronicles - Lamb

Last week's class was about stuffing pork chops and this weeks class was about stuffing and tying a boneless leg of lamb. Gross as it sounds, I was kind of hoping we'd get bone-in lamb so we could learn the technique for future reference.  Buying cuts of meat whole is generally much cheaper than buying the finished product and all it takes is a little elbow grease and practice to get the cutting right.

Today we were given previously frozen boned New Zealand lamb leg.

The first step, is to wash the lamb well and pat it dry with a paper towel.

You cut the leg open at the thinnest point and spread it flat on your cutting board.

When you look at the leg, you will see that the pieces of meat at the end are thicker than that in the centre.  Sliding your knife in, you slice down the middle of the meat almost through to the outside, then flip the meat out to create a butterfly cut.  Do the same on the other side.

Sprinkle the inside of the leg with salt and pepper. Spread your cooled stuffing (I'll get to that in a minute) across the inside of the lamb leg.

Starting at the more narrow end of the lamb (the bottom in this photo), start to roll the meat up like a sleeping bag, trying to keep it tight as possible.

If it all works out ok, it will look something like this.

Now you will need some butcher's twine.  The rule of thumb to truss a chicken is 1 times your arm span.

The rule for a leg of lamb of this size is 1.5 times your arm span.

Next, tie the end of the butcher's twine at one end of the lamb.

The motion to make - and it takes practice - is to hold out your left hand over the lamb, thumb in towards yourself.  Using your right hand pick up the long piece of the twine and loop it over your thumb, then your pinky finger, around under your hand, then twist your hand so your thumb points away from you , then rotate your hand until your palm is facing up.  Slip your hand out of the loop, then place it over the lamb and tighten.

Repeat, repeat, repeat and repeat until your entire lamb is tied off.  Something like this.

Wrap the remaining twine back over and around the lamb to secure the end pieces and create a nice compact package for cooking.

Brown your lamb, fat side down, in a 1 tablespoon of cooking oil, flip over and then place in a 350 degree preheated oven for about a hour for medium rare.  Check the internal temperature of the meat to your desired doneness.

To me, rare should read 130, Medium around 140 and well done around 150-155.  Remember that the lamb will continue to cook for a while once you remove it from the oven so it will come up 5-10 degrees in temperature while you let it rest.  Do let the lamb rest tented with foil for about 10 minutes before carving.

Serve with mint sauce.

Goat Cheese Stuffing:

1/2 onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 sprigs rosemary leaves removed and chopped
3-4 sprigs parsley,  leaves removed and chopped
3 sprigs mint, leaves removed and chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 ounces plain white goat cheese
Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a satué pan over medium high heat.  When hot, add onion and cook until golden brown.  Add garlic and sauté another 1-2 minutes.  Add peppers and herbs and continue to cook for several minutes.  

Remove from heat, and transfer to a bowl.  Add mustard and goat cheese and combine.  The heat from the onions and peppers will soften the goat cheese so it melts into the vegetables.  

Set aside and let cool slightly before using on lamb.

Mint Sauce

2 bunches fresh mint, washed, picked and chopped
1/2 cup malt vinegar
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

In a sauce pan, bring water and vinegar to boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat, and add sugar, chopped mint  and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes to infuse the flavour.  Adjust sweetness if needed.

To thicken the sauce slightly, disolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in about 1/3-1/2 cup water.  Add a little at a time to the sauce, allowing it to come to a boil between each addition so the true thickening power of the slurry is shown in the thickness of the sauce.

Incidentally, things referred to as sauces are thickened using a roux (could be a hot roux or a beurre manie) while things thickened with a cornstarch slurry are called a "jus lié (joo lee-yay). Chef always has interesting anecdotes.

Chef also recommended making a Sauce Robert to serve with lamb.  Sauce Robert is a brown mustard sauce made with chopped  onions cooked in butter until translucent, to which white wine, pepper, and demi-glace added and reduced, then is finished with mustard

Sauce Robert is one of the "small" or compound sauces made using Espagnole sauce (a mother sauce).  I read on Wiki that there are 78 compound sauces on record as catalogued by the great Marie-Antoine Carême who was a great chef in the times of Napoléon and the father of haute cuisine. Sauce Robert is one of the oldest compound sauces and was being used in kitchens in the late 1600s.