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.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Restaurant Visit - The Wine Bar

For those not familiar, Summerlicious is annual Prix Fixe Food Festival in Toronto.  In the dead of the Toronto winter, we also have Winterlicious.  150 restaurants of all sorts, sizes and varieties join up to offer set dining menus as set affordable prices (hence prix fixe).  Meals must be a minimum of 3 courses and lunch has to be $15, $20 or $25 and dinners $25, $35 or $45.  The idea of course is to try to get people to go out for dinner and to try restaurants they never would have before or thought were too prohibitively expensive.

Honestly, you are either a fan of Summerlicious or you are not – there are as many “neigh” sayers about it as there are supporters.  There is an increasing level of bureaucracy in applying to participate in the program by the City of Toronto – in addition to the actual application process, the meals have to meet certain price to cost ratios to show value, menus must be submitted for consideration 6 months in advance, and it goes on and on. Leave it to the City of Toronto to red-tape a great idea to death (dare I mention food carts!)

As a diner, I think introducing the price to cost ratio is a good thing.  I don’t know how many times I went to a restaurant for a Summerlicious lunch, and the appetizer was some mesculum greens with a few tomatoes with a vinaigrette, boring salmon with a few vegetables, and then some pudding.  And they’d charge $20. 

I usually try to hit at least 2 or 3 restaurants in each festival.  Bymark is always an outstanding choice and the value of their lunch menu is staggering.  And unlike many other venues who come up with price-conscious items to offer clients, Bymark generally serves off its regular menu.  At $25 what you are paying for is your main, and they are more or less covering the appetizer and dessert.  Don't get me started about their tower of Tuna Tartar or I'll end upon a very long tangent.  I’ll come back to Bymark in the Winter, but I wanted to try a few different places this Summer.

The Wine Bar ($15 Lunch)                                 
9 Church Street

I have long been a fan of The Wine Bar since it first opened years ago as JK Wine Bar (Jamie Kennedy has moved on to other ventures in and around the City.)  Besides the fact that you can no longer see Jamie behind the stoves of the completely open kitchen and Chef’s bar, not much has changed – and good thing too because this restaurant has it right in my books.  Great wine list, plenty of offerings by the glass and generally great service.

I really enjoy the small plates/sharing thing and I have never been here where everyone orders “their own” dish and doesn’t share.  This is the first time I have hit The Wine Bar for lunch and the first time for Summerlicious.  I applaud them for trying to keep the meal on the low-end of the Summerlicious lunch price range, but I really wished they’d charged a little bit more and made the “main” a little bit larger.  Maybe the expectation is that you'd order a few extra dishes to begin with.

As usual, you HAVE to order the poutine here.  It is always a higher end play on the Quebecois dish of fries with gravy and cheese curds, but their gravy is always to die for and the fries always perfectly cooked.  I should have listened to myself and ordered the Mini Burger Poutine, which had an astonishing beef gravy topped with smoked cheddar.  So good!!!  Instead I went for the Local Broccoli Salad, which was nice with raisins, toasted almonds and honey balsamic vinaigrette, but I was salivating over Deanne’s poutine.

I went for the Smoked Salmon open faced Sandwich with dill cream cheese and a fresh fennel & sweet onion slaw.  Truly a wonderful lunch dish.  The other ladies enjoyed Grilled Quail, served with some greens, roasted hazelnuts and pickled corn & mustard vinaigrette.  More than half a quail per person would have been a better serving.

Dessert was good with Sour Cherry Bread Pudding with Rum & Butter Sauce (a little light on the cherries though) and the Chocolate Tart with Chantilly Cream was enough to put you in a chocolate coma.

At the end, we were still a bit hungry so we finished up with one of their artisanal cheese platters.  Overall, food was good, if perhaps a little small (what do you want for $15, tho right?), and the service was a bit rushed but it was lunch hour so that is easily forgiven. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Justin's Junior Chef Bloggette - Spider Wienies

I am back in the City after camping, a week cottaging and sleep over camp.  I love summer.  Lots to do and lots of places to visit.

I really like camping.  My favourite night time camping snack is Spider Wienies.  I also like S'mores and Jiffy Pop.

Spider Wienies kind of look like a spider but also like a crab but Spider Wienies sounds better than Crab Wienies doesn't it???

Here is our secret method for making the best tasting campfire wieners ever!

Take your wiener and make a cut right through the wiener at both ends.  Make sure to leave a couple of inches of the wiener whole in the middle.

Flip your wiener over and make a second cut through it at both ends.  You will then have 4 arms on each end.

Stick your wiener on your long handled BBQ fork.

Place your wiener over the open camp fire and cook until slightly brown.

Be sure to keep turning it for even cooking.

Watch as the the arms of the "Spider" curl back.

Let the wiener cool a bit before you eat it.

Then repeat, repeat and repeat until all the kids are full!

Mushroom Caps with Chorizo Stuffing

Chorizo is a spicy pork sausage that originated in Spain. Chorizo sausage is by far my favourite kind of sausage, and the spicier the better.

You can get chorizo fresh (chorizo fresco) - in which case you have to cook it - or cured so you just have to remove the casing, slice and enjoy.  I think this winter when we get back to sausage making after a 2 winter hiatus, we will have to make some chorizo.

As I said above, it is a pork sausage and it is spiced with Spanish paprika, garlic and salt.  The Spanish chop their pork and add chopped pork fat to the sausage to give it its distinctive consistency. To me, what makes a really good sausage is ensuring that you have the right ratio of pork to fat.  Too much and the sausage is greasy; not enough and it dries out when it cooks. We find the best cut for sausage making is pork shoulder.  Funny, but it is also our favourite for pulled pork and Jerk pork.  It has a great fat cap that imparts so much moisture and flavour into the meat.

Different countries have their own version of chorizo.  The Mexican variety uses very fatty cuts of pork which are ground and then spiced.  Portugal has chouriço, the same pork sausage spiced with paprika, but wine is added. And Goa has a version that uses pork, garlic, chili and vinegar.  Must try to track that kind down to try.  Goa has the most amazing food so it is sure to be good.

This is an easy stuffed mushroom recipe that makes use of chorizo fresco.  It is combined with the stems from the mushroom caps, onions, panko, parsley and, of course, Manchego cheese.  The result are some tastey bites that are just a little spicy and a lot flavourful.  For best results and most even cooking, I recommend cooking the mushroom caps a bit in butter and water in a non-stick pan ahead of time so they don`t take so long in the oven and they cook evenly.

Mushroom Caps with Chorizo Stuffing

3 hot chorizo sausages, casing removed
18-20 large white stuffer mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot finely diced
1/2 cup Panko or bread crumbs
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
1/3 cup coarsely grated Manchego cheese


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove the chorizo from its casing and crumble in to a medium sized frying pan. Fry until browned about 6-8 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool slightly.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms, chop finely and set aside.  Peel and dice the shallot, set aside.

Sauté mushroom caps in a non-stick frypan for 2-3 minutes to partially cook.  I used a mixture of butter and water to `steam-fry` them.  Once cooked about half way, remove mushrooms from pan and set on a paper towel to drain.

Add the 1 tablespoon butter into a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped shallot and mushroom stems to the pan. Cook, stirring, just until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the Panko or bread crumbs and toss and stir until toasted golden brown. Add chorizo back to pan and toss.  Remove from heat and set aside in a large bowl.  Once slightly cooled, stir in the Manchego cheese and parsley.  Add into a food processor and pulse a few times.  If necessary, add a few tablespoons of water to help the stuffing come together and bind.  This will make it easier to stuff the mushroom caps.

Use a teaspoon or measuring spoon to fill the mushroom caps, mounding the stuffing in the cavity of the mushroom cap. Bake until stuffing is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Culinary School Chronicles - Stuffed Pork Chops

Only one more week of Culinary school left after today and I am so ready.  While I really have come to enjoy the classes, leaving the house on a Saturday morning at 7:45 is not quite so easily enjoyed.  In fact, it downright sucks.  I have enrolled in my next class on a Thursday night, so I`ll get my mornings back and just have to suffer through one long day per week, and Friday night dinners will be in the bag!

In today`s class we made stuffed pork chops.  This class was really more about the technique of stuffing a bone-in piece of meat than anything.  It also marked the first time getting to use my brand new boning knife. Damn, that thing is sharp!  I thought my other knives were sharp but this thing is like a razor blade.  As instructed by Chef, we made tunnels inside our chops using our knives.

I had friends over for dinner, so I went to the market and bought myself some bone-in pork loin that had been ``Frenched`` to add to the 2 chops we got in class.  I didn`t win the extra meat lottery this week sadly!

Frenching meat refers to the technique of removing any meat or fat to expose the bone for presentation purposes.  Most commonly you see this with rack of lamb, but it is often done with pork also.

So I cut my loin into chops, then layed them flat on my cutting board, which I pulled to the edge of my counter.  As Chef said, your inclination naturally is to angle your knife downwards when cutting, so it makes it a bit easier to keep your knife straight if you have extra elbow room to manipulate your knife, and having your board at the edge of your counter gives you this.

The technique is the to slip your knife in at the point where the bone becomes exposed, blade to the inside on the bone.  You lay your hand on top of the meat to act as a guide for your knife as you can feel it moving below you.

You slide your knife inside the meat to about 1/2 inch from the outside of the meat.  Then you flip your knife over and move the knife on an angle to create a pocket inside the chop. The trick is not to make your insertion point too big or your stuffing won`t stay inside, yet big enough that you can get your fingers inside with the stuffing.  If you end up with a big lump of stuffing in the middle, you just use the palm of your hand to flatten it for cooking.

There was no great magic to the stuffing recipe we made, so I modified it a bit at home to make it more interesting.  My friend France also gave me a massive bag of French tarragon from her backyard, so I decided to add some to the stuffing I brought home from school for my additional chops.  I also added in some Stilton cheese and golden raisins.

The recipe is pretty straightforward and after the chops were cooked, while I let them rest, I made a pan sauce by adding white wine, chicken stock, shallots and more tarragon to infuse a second layer of that slight licorice flavour that tarragon gives.  Tarragon is one of the four fines herbes in classic French cooking, the others being parsley, chives and chervil.

This recipe asks you to `sweat` your onion and celery. That basically means cooking in oil over heat to soften the vegetables but not add any colour.

Roasted Pork Chops Stuffed with Apple and Stilton

2 pork chops, thick centre cut, Frenched2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 onion, peeled and finely diced
1 stock celery, finely diced
2-3 stems tarragon, chopped
2 teaspoons parsley, chopped
2-3 ounces Stilton cheese (depends on how much you like blue cheese)
1/3 cup dried apples, finely diced
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 slice day old bread, diced
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Sweat onions over medium heat until just tender. Add celery, dried apples and raisins, and sweat for a further 5 minutes.  Add bread cubes, tarragon and parsley to the pan.  Add a small amount of wine to the pan to deglaze and to help bind the stuffing together.  Add more if required to help stuffing bind.  Add in cheese and combine. Remove from heat and set aside to cool so it can be easily handled.

Meanwhile, using your boning knife or paring knife, cut a pocket in each chop, being careful not to puncture the sides.  Fill with stuffing.

Heat remaining oil in a sauté pan, add chops and brown the chops about 1-2 minutes per side.  How long will be determined by how hot your oil and pan are.  Transfer chops to a roasting pan and place in preheated oven.  Roast until internal temperature reaches 175 degrees, approximately 15-18 minutes.

Make your beurre manie - combine 1 tablespoon flour with 1 tablespoon butter.  Combine until the flour absorbs all the butter and looks like a thick paste.

Deglaze your browning pan with white wine.  Add shallots (and optional tarragon) and chicken stock and bring to a low boil, scraping up any nice brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Cook for 2-3 minutes so the alcohol evaporates from the sauce.  Add your beurre manie a little bit at at time until desired thickness is achieved.  I used about half of mine.

Serve with sauteéd vegetables and a side such as wild rice or a savoury bread pudding.

Double Chocolate Cherry Clafouti

Ontario cherries are in!  Yay!  Now what to do with them!  I need a dessert for dinner tonight since my Compliance lady friends Joanne and Shannon are coming over, so I thought I would combine my love of cherries with the wonder that is chocolate and come up with a Double-Chocolate Cherry Clafouti.  The batter in this clafouti is quite similar to the ones I made with strawberry and rhubarb in June, the only difference really being the fruit and its preparation method, and the addition of wondrous chocolate.  The addition of the cocoa powder did change the consistency of the end product a bit - it was less custardy in the centre - but it was still wonderful and a total keeper for cherry season!

In my previous post about clafoutis, I mentioned that traditionally the French leave the cherries unpitted in the batter to add an almond flavour to the batter, but I just can`t do that.  I don`t really see how you can enjoy your dessert biting into a cherry pit every few seconds.  So I got a cherry pitter and removed my pitts.  Let me say, this task is the pitts!  HaHA! But the result is worth it.  

Double Chocolate Cherry Clafouti

1/2 cup chocolate chunks or semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups fresh cherries, pitted
1/3 cup brandy (optional)
2 tablespoons butter
3 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup homo milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pit cherries and place in a medium sized bowl, reserving about 1/2 a cup in a separate smaller bowl.  Add brandy to small bowl of cherries and allow to macerate for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350º.  Sift together the flour, cocoa, sugar and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.

Using 1 tablespoon butter, generously butter the inside of a 10" pie plate - a deep dish plate works best. Gently combine the batter ingredients until smooth. You can do this by hand, using a stand mixer or in your food processor.  The batter will resemble a thin pancake batter.

Pour a thin layer of batter (about 1/4") on the bottom of the pie plate or round baking dish. Set in the oven until the thin layer has cooked about 5 minutes.

Arrange the cherries and chocolate in the bottom of the baking dish.  Pour the batter over the cherries and chocolate and bake for about 45 minutes, until the clafouti is puffed and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature.

Serve with whipped cream, spiked with a little brandy and your reserved macerated boozy cherries.  For mine, I put them in an non-stick pan, added the remaining tablespoon butter, and let it cook for a few minutes.

It was all I could do to hold myself back from setting it aflame but I managed to control myself.  Might get to Cherries Jubilee this season at this rate!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Curried Couscous Salad with Orange and Mint

Many people think that couscous is a grain, but it really is a very tiny pasta made with semolina flour.  The name is derived from the from the Berber word "seksu" and it most often is used as the starch in North and West African dishes, and sort of surprisingly in Italy - particularly in the regions around Sicily.  

I guess I shouldn't really find that surprising since, as I just said, couscous is actually a pasta.
A couscoussière

Most of what we get today is mechanically produced, but in days gone by the village women would gather together and make couscous by sprinkling the semolina with water and rolling it with their hands to form small pellets, which are then dusted with dry flour and then sieved. After the couscous was made it was left to dry  in the sun.  The couscous is traditionally cooked in couscoussière, which is a two-level steamer pot.  Far more labour-intensive than boiling a pot of water, opening and adding a box of instant couscous, and letting it sit for 5 minutes!

Couscous is most often use in dishes where meat or vegetables are spooned over it - probably the most famous is the Tagine.  In Lybia, however, it is also made into a dessert called Maghrood, which combines the grain with dates, sesame and honey.  Egyptians make a similar dish using butter, sugar, cinnamon, raisins and nuts.  

This is a long way of me getting to the fact that couscous is a flexible starch and has many uses, including being used in a salad.  This salad has a nice subtle flavour of curry and the raisins, orange and mint add a sweetness and zing at the same time.

Curried Couscous Salad with Orange and Mint

1 1/2 cups couscous
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups boiling water

1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 orange, zested and cut into segments (a can of oranges can do in a pinch)
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup chickpeas (canned are fine)


Bring the water to boil in a medium sized pot.  Add butter and allow to melt.  Add couscous, stir and cover tightly remove from heat.  Allow the couscous to soak for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Whisk together olive oil, curry, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Pour over the fluffed couscous, and mix well with a fork. Add the chickpeas, parsley, raisins, orange zest, orange segments and mint, mix well, and season to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Caprese Salad Bites

Another quick and simple appetizer that tastes great and looks nice on your table.  I think I first had these at my friend Ann's a few years ago and had completely forgotten how great they are and easy to make.  You end up with all of the great tastes and flavours of a Caprese salad in your mouth at one time in a quick bite.

I saw a show on the Food Network recently where a Chef did an interesting take on this idea too.  He makes his own cheese, so what they did was use a little pipette to absorb mozzarella water, and then threaded the cherry tomato on the pipette, and topped it with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a perfect basil leaf.  The idea is that you squeeze the pipette in your mouth the same time as you bite into the tomato giving you the perfect burst of Caprese.

Caprese Salad Bites
(Makes 15-20 bites)

1 container Mini Bocconcini or Mini Mozzarella di Bufala
2 tablespoons Basil Pesto (jarred is fine)
1/2 container cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

Drain liquid from cheese container.  Add pesto and toss to combine.  Add a grind of salt and pepper and combine again. Allow to marinate in the fridge for about 1 hour before assembling.

To assemble, place one cherry tomato and one marinated cheese ball on each skewer.  That's it!  Very simple and very delicious.

Eggplant Caponata

I seem to always be in search of easy but interesting appetizers - things that have great flavour but that do not take a lot of strange ingredients or a lot of time and effort to make.  I try to avoid things that might scare a crowd or those I don't cook for often, yet are different enough to keep me interested.

Today I decided to try an Eggplant Caponata.  Two of the most popular and highly rated recipes I came across were those from Mario Batali and, of course, Ina Garten.  I liked Ina's use of roasted red peppers and capers - two of my favourite ingredients - and Mario's use of cocoa powder to give depth of flavour, so I combined both ideas to end up with the below recipe.  The result is fresh tasting, vegetarian and really required little effort beyond the initial roasting and some preparatory peeling and chopping.

I have more friends coming over next weekend, so I think I am going to do Mario's version up and do a comparison.

Eggplant Caponata
(mostly adapted from Ina Garten)

1 large eggplant or 2 medium sized ones
1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 cup green olives, pitted and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
1-2 large or 3-4 small cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
3 tablespoons Italian parsley, minced
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Meanwhile, line a baking pan with foil.  Cut eggplants in half lengthwise.  Rub foil and eggplant with olive oil.  Poke eggplants with a fork all over.  Place eggplants cut side down on foil lined pan. Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes until eggplant is very soft and can be pierced easily with a knife.

Toast pine nuts in a shallow pan until slightly brown, being sure to keep tossing in a pan so they don't burn - 2-3 minutes should be more than enough. Set aside to cool.

While eggplant is baking, prepare other ingredients if you haven't done so already - chop onion, roasted red pepper, olives, garlic and parsley.  Place these ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.  Don't over process - you want to retain some texture.

Once eggplant is soft, remove from oven and allow to cool until easy to handle.  Scoop out eggplant pulp removing any large sections of seed, roughly chop, and place in a separate bowl.  Discard skin.

Add eggplant to bowl of food processor and pulse to combine again.  Add red pepper flakes, tomato paste, cocoa, salt and half of the pine nuts and capers.   Pulse again to combine.

Return mixture to a mixing bowl and stir in remaining pine nuts and capers.  Add lemon juice and red wine vinegar and stir to combine.

Serve with toasted pita wedges or fresh made or prepared crostini.

Please excuse the less than stellar food photography this week.  My food photographer is on vacation and now making demands for a raise.  Or maybe even just a salary.  I guess paying in food no longer is enough.  Hopefully, he'll be back on the job soon!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Culinary School Chronicles - Poached Chicken with Sauce d'Archiduc

Classes of late have moved farther away from food theory and more to practical application of the skills we have acquired.  I wonder if anyone but me has actually spent the time reading the manual they gave us....?  Probably only the few die-hards like me and my tablemates who haven't given up on showing up yet!  16 bodies of 24 again today.  Oh means more product for those who show, so whatever.

Today Chef did a demo of Mushroom Rice Pilaf and then we learned to take chicken breast off the front end of the bird, remove the skin and poach it.  Very similar technique to what I did a few weeks back when we poached Rainbow Trout.

We also did a take on Sauce Archiduc which is a derivative sauce that combines the chicken's poaching liquid with a Béchamel sauce (back to Mother sauces again!).  The traditional version popularized by Escoffier is a cream and mushroom sauce, but this version incorporates lemon grass, Thai green curry paste and no mushrooms.  The sauce picks up a subtle hint of flavour from all of these ingredients and gives you that nice little burny tickle at the back of your throat that us capiscum lovers want.

Honestly, until I took this course, I never would have considered poaching to be a viable method of cooking - it seemed too much like boiling or microwaving to me.  But I was wrong.  Between the poached rainbow trout and the poached chicken today, I am a convert.  And it actually is quite a quick cooking method for your "a 1à minute" moments.  I didn't even know I had a là minute moments until I took my course but apparently I do!  And all of these classics still hold up incredibly well at a dinner party.

We also learned about the making of a clouté.  I must admit I love the French cooking terminology we keep learning.  Everything has a name and a defined method.  So classic.  So French!

Anyway a clouté is made by peeling an onion, and cutting it in half.  You then cut a fairly deep insert into the onion and place a bay leaf in the cut.  Then you use a few cloves to pierce the onion and bay leaf to hold them in place. This is my clouté looking back at me from my milk like a little clove studded face.

Basically what we do is place flavouring agents in the bottom of a sauté pan, adding the chicken and poaching liquid, then cook the chicken.  At the same time you make a classic Béchamel sauce and that sauce is added to the strained poaching liquid to create the Sauce Archiduc.  Using the Béchamel is just a different way to thicken an sauce instead of using a Beurre Manie or other method.

What I can say about this dish is that it seemed to be enjoyed by all on Saturday night, including the kids who cleaned their plates.  We served this dish with Mushroom Rice Pilaf and Roasted Asparagus.  Yummy!

Poached Chicken with Sauce d'Archiduc

Poaching liquid:

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (if you can leave the wing on and Supreme it...even better)
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, peeled and finely minced
2 tablespoons ginger root, finely minced
1 teaspoon Thai green curry paste
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
2 stalks lemongrass, cut half and bruised

Archiduc Sauce:

Reserved poaching liquid
1 recipe Béchamel sauce (see below\)
1/2 cup heavy cream (35|% cream)
Salt and pepper to taste

Use a sauté pan just large enough to hold the chicken breasts in a single layer.  Butter the inside of the pan and sprinkle with shallots, lemon grass, curry paste and ginger.

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Place them on the pan presentation side up (the prettiest side).  Sprinkle with lemon juice and add just enough stock to cover the chicken.

Cover the chicken with a cartouche ( a buttered piece of parchment paper cut in the shape of the pan - this acts as a paper lid).  Bring the liquid to a low boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat and simmer until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 175 degrees, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove chicken from pan and place in another dish, cover with foil to keep warm.  Return the poaching liquid to a boil, and reduce by half.  Add the Béchamel sauce.  Return to a simmer and continue to cook for 5 to 7 minutes.  Strain the sauce.

Adjust seasoning and serve over reserved chicken breasts with Mushroom Rice Pilaf and some lovely seasonal vegetables.

Béchamel Sauce

2 cups homo milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 clouté (half an onion with a bayleaf and 2 cloves)

Rinse a small saucepan with cold water.  This will create a coating in the bottom of the pan and reduce the chance of your milk burning on the bottom of the pan.

Add the milk and clouté to the pan and bring to a simmer.  You want to scald the milk but not boil it.  You will know it is scalded because bubbles will form around the side of the pan and if you swish the milk a bit you will get a wisp of steam coming off it.

Melt butter in a separate saucepan.  Add flour and combine well.  Cook for 1 minute but try not to add any colour - we are making a white sauce so we want a blonde roux.  Allow to cool slightly.  For this technique to work the milk and the roux MUST be a different temperatures - moderately warm and hot are ok.

Away from the burner add about 1/4 of the hot milk to the roux.  Mix until smooth.  Add in another 1/4 of the milk and mix.  Keep adding the milk a bit at a time until all milk is taken in by the roux.  Turn the heat to very low and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Take off heat at reserve for use in Archiduc Sauce.

(Incidentally, if you add about 2 cups of Swiss cheese to the Béchamel right now, you get a Mornay sauce which makes an awesome Mac'n'Cheese.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friends for Dinner - Vegetarian

Tonight was fun - got a chance to hang with my old (that is NOT a comment on our age by the way) friends who I went to high school with.  Actually, two of the ladies I have known since grade 6!  Hard to believe we have known each other so long.  Unfortunately, through time we lost touch -well actually I lost touch with them during university.

But through the magic of technology, and Facebook, we managed to reconnect 2 summers ago and I am glad to have them back in my life, even if only electronically mostly and in person once every couple of years.  It is true what they say about true friends - you might not see each other for a long time but with true friends you just pick up where you left off.  And we did.

Here`s a couple of nice quotes about friendship before I get down to the business of cooking:

A friend is one of the nicest things you can have, and one of the best things you can be. ~Douglas Pagels

Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty. ~Sicilian Proverb

The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart. ~Elisabeth Foley

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. ~C.S. Lewis

All right....back to the business at hand.  My friend Jill who is visiting from Scotland is a vegetarian so I thought since she was coming for dinner that I`d do a full vegetarian menu.  That`s why a few weeks ago I experimented with Falafel.  

Surprisingly they`ve become very popular with my family, and were a huge hit as lunch when we were camping - who knew!!!  Except Brenden tells me he only likes them cold and with ketchup...whatever!  You cannot even try to explain the tastes of a 15 year old boy.  At least he tried it and has been using up the leftovers from Friday night like crazy!

So here`s our dinner menu:


Eggplant Caponata with Toasted Pita Chips and Flatbreads


Pickled Turnips by Toorshi

Tomato Mint Chutney

Cucumbers Tossed in Yogurt with Mint and Parlsey

Toorshi Pickled Turnips

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Toronto Bites Goes Camping....

So I am off for a few days to commune with nature and perhaps drink a few beverages beside a late night campfire.  We have been camping  for probably close to 10 years now, at first against my will, but now I actually look forward to sleeping in a tent.

Although the odd evening where my mattress has deflated and I wake up with stiff hips on hard ground has made me reconsider my decision several times!

I find the prospect of cooking on a campsite fun yet challenging in the sense that I have to think through exactly what I want to eat with what and then bring it.  And I NEVER like eating boring food even when camping.  What we do is really car camping and I bow to my friends like Joanne, and Chris and Elsie who whip up bannock in a pan out of nothing and purify their drinking water from puddles.  That kind of camping is just not for me although the boys really want to go extreme camping (as they call it) in Algonquin Park next year and I know I will have lots of fun figuring out how to dehydrate stuff for them to take.

We have a reputation for always eating well when we camp and we do make food a bit more complicated than opening a box of burgers or just BBQing sausages, but all it takes is a little planning and  list making.  For example, a good horseradish cheddar melted on a burger, topped with homemade Red Relish, served with a salad of seasonal vegetables elevates the ordinary into extra-ordinary.

When I decide on salads, I try to make ones that use less than 5 ingredients and ones where ingredients can be repeated in different forms from one dish to another. Fennel Lemon Salad or Caprese Salad are both great examples of dishes with 2 or 3 key components.  Tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce never go wrong and there is nothing wrong with a good bottled dressing in your cooler.

Couscous also works better as a side or as the base for a salad than rice, as it only takes time to boil the water, then sitting for 5 minutes.  Throw in a combo of stock and orange juice instead, add some Asian spices, open a can of mandarin oranges and stir in.  Sprinkle with mint and voilà - creative but easy side dish.

A great tip that our old friend Mark gave us was to cook in the order of whatever is most defrosted.  So if you planned to have steak one night but the chicken is pretty soft, and the beef rock hard still - eat the chicken and wait until the next day for the steak.  Another helpful idea is to take something ready made for first night, especially if you are getting there later in the day.  A stew or chili made ahead and frozen not only acts as an ice block in your cooler, it is a quick heat and serve meal.

We also generally camp with our long-time friends Ann, James and their son Shane (the BFF of our favourite Junior Chef).  We just pool resources for lunch and then take turns making dinner at each other's sites so it reduces the planning in half and the cooking in half.

I also find this is the time where I will use helpers to make dishes come together quickly.  When I say helpers I mean buying products I can turn into something else, or buying good quality prepared products.  So I might pick up 10 chicken kabobs from Bano's at the Market and vac seal them, or buy pre-formed lamb burgers from Whitehouse meats.  If you ask them, they'll even vac seal them for you on sight in whatever quantity you want.

For me, it is the little touches that make camping special, like this year I will bring with me homemade Blueberry Preserves for bagels, and homemade Corn Relish and Red Relish for burgers.

Glen made pulled pork last weekend - his first attempt in his smoker - and we vac sealed and froze it.  We'll make some BBQ sauce - we did an amazing Carolina-style vinegar and mustard one last weekend.

And I am bringing Falafel which I made last week for something different for lunch. We shall see how it turns out but the plan is to just crisp the Falafel balls in a non-stick frying pan.  I also have some pickled turnips I bought from a vendor at a Farmer`s Market and an Eggplant dip from Scheffler`s at the Market that I`ll add some Tahini to make a quick sauce.  Otherwise, it is wraps and sandwhiches.  Those little cans of flavoured tuna are great or the foil packed Thai Tuna would be a good sandwich.

So here`s what we have planned for know I will let you know how it all turns out. And I might even teach you all how to make Spider Weenies!!!

Day 1:   Whitehouse Meats Lamb Burgers with Shropshire Blue Cheese
                Caesar Salad with Crispy Bacon, Sour Dough Croutons and Parmesan

Day 2:   Glen`s Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Carolina BBQ Sauce
                 and Tangy Coleslaw
Day 3:  Marinated Chicken with Lentil Salad (more details once I have them)
                 Grilled vegetables would go nicely here.... (hint hint Ann)

Day 4:  Chili with Fresh Bread
                Green Salad with Herbs, Tomatoes , Cucumbers and Cheese
                 Jiffy Pop (late night snack 2)

Day 5: and photos to come!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Falafel Balls

Falafel is a golf-ball sized ball patty made from ground chickpeas and spices.  The balls are deep fried or baked and served either alone with a salad or in a pita.  Typical toppings include lettuce, tomato, pickled turnips, hot sauce and a tahini-based sauce called Taratoor.

I read somewhere recently that McDonalds serves a McFalafel as one of their sandwich options in Egypt even!  That just strikes me as plain odd and several kinds of wrong, but McDonalds is as McDonalds does.

This recipe is adapted from one by Mark Bittman of the NY Times. It really does work best with dried chickpeas, so start the night before you plan to serve them and soak them overnight for best results. Other than that, the recipe comes together fairly quickly (especially if you have a deep fryer) and will make you never want to use those boxes of dehydrated falafel again.


1 3/4 cup dried chickpeas
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 small onion, quartered
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Scant teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1 cup chopped parsley or cilantro leaves (I did a mix of both)
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Corn or vegetable oil for frying
Additional salt for after frying

Put beans in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches. Soak for 24 hours, adding water if needed to keep beans submerged.  They will triple in volume over night.

Drain beans well (reserve soaking water) and transfer to a food processor. Add remaining ingredients except oil; pulse until minced but not puréed, scraping sides of bowl down; add soaking water if necessary to allow machine to do its work (I probably added 1/4 a cup in total).  Do not add too much liquid or the mixture will not hold together and you will find yourself having to squeeze out any excess to get it to hold together.

Keep pulsing until mixture comes together. Taste, adding salt, pepper, cayenne or lemon juice to taste.

Heat oil in a deep fryer to 350 degrees. If you don't have a deep fryer, a large, deep saucepan will work with about 2-3 inches of oil. Turn heat to medium-high and heat oil to about 350 degrees using a candy thermometer to keep tabs on the heat.  A good test to know that the oil is ready is to drop a pinch of batter dropped into the oil - if it is ready it will sizzle immediately.

Scoop heaping tablespoons of batter and shape into balls or small patties. Fry in batches, without crowding, until nicely browned, turning as necessary; total cooking time will be less than 3 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

I thought these turned out fantastic and I think that I will be adding them to my 2011 Xmas party menu, except slightly smaller.  Yummy.

Makes 24 balls

Quick Taratoor Sauce

This is a quickie version of the tahini sauce that you get in Middle Eastern restaurants.

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup Tahini paste
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Hot sauce (optional)

Combine all ingredients well.  Refrigerate until needed.  Serve in spoonfuls on your Falafel.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Culinary School Chronicles - Stewing

In today`s class we focused on a few traditional dishes from Eastern Europe and Russia.  It was a pretty quick class with a pretty hearty mid-class snack.  Chef`s demo today consisted of making a truly outstanding Veal Goulash served on a bed of Spätzle.  I have always wanted to try Spätzle but I don`t know anyone who makes it so I was pretty stoked to learn how.

And I just love saying Spätzle... Spätzle, Spätzle, Spätzle, Spätzle, Spätzle!!

Spätzle is somewhere between a boiled dumpling and an egg pasta, and is basically comprised of egg, flour and milk with a grating of nutmeg.  The batter itself is much thicker than pancake batter and I`d say even a bit thick and pliable looking.  The Spätzle is formed either by machine in the commercial application or using a Spätzle cutter creating what is called a Knöpfle Spätzle (homemade or handmade).

Spätzle are formed by placing the batter in the cup of a contraption called a "Spätzlehobel", and then running it back and forth over an extremely coarse grater attachment.  You can also use a coarse grater or potato ricer to make the dumplings.  The Spätzle are then cooked in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes so they float to the top of the water, then are drained and crisped up in a lot of butter.  Tasty but certainly heavy and fattening.

You can vary your Spätzle by adding cheese or spinach, porcinni mushroom dust, herbs, etc.  Spread out on a cookie sheet to be dried, they can be frozen and cooked a là minute as a sidedish or added to soups or stews.

Then we did our lab today which was a Beef Stroganoff unlike any I`ve ever eat before, mostly because the meat they gave us was tenderloin.  Guess there was an excess somewhere in the College, because I find the cuts of meat we get vary greatly from what we see in our manuals, which is fine with me especially when we get better cuts than the recipe calls for.  It just means adjusting your cooking times really and treating the particular cut with the appropriate manner of love.

Also, today was a small class, so we got an extra half a portion of meat each, which meant my meal for 3 could be stretched to lunch for 6 tomorrow when my parents are here.  Whew!  I hadn`t even started thinking about tomorrow yet.  Whoops.

Beef Stroganoff

1 pound beef tenderloin tips or medallions
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 cup Beef Demi Glace
1 to 1/2 cups Beef or Veal Stock
1 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 Gherkin pickles, very thinly sliced

Heat oil and butter in a sauté pan over medium high heat.  Add beef medallions and cook for 2 minutes per side or until browned.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Add onions and sauté until golden brown.  Add mushrooms, gherkins and cook for 2-3 minutes longer.  Add demiglace and stock to sauce.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Right before serving add sour cream and mustard back into the sauce and combine.  Add meat back in to sauce to warm slightly, but do not boil as the sour cream may separate.

Serve on top of a bed of buttered egg noodles, sprinkled with parlsey.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cheese Tasting #3

For this cheese tasting I decided to pick up cheeses I had never seen or heard of before, well except for the Burrata.  I picked it up because it was on special at Schefflers at the market for $5.99 instead of its usual $11.99.  Quite a deal.  And the day I wrote this, everyone went out and just left me to my own doings so I cut up some nice Calabrese bread, got out some blueberry preserves, greek olive puree and my Rhubarb Chutney to mix and match and pair.  With a lovely glass of wine of course.....not such a bad thing being left alone over lunch apparently.

Bel Gioioso Burrata - Ontario

I have talked about Burrata before as it is definitely one of my favourite kinds of cheese. Burrata is a kind of fresh mozzarella cheese but is different from the kinds you normally buy in that it is silkly and smooth on the oustide and the inside is filled with mozzarella shreds and cream. When you cut into a burrata, the centre oozes out gently as the cream and mozzarella shreds spill from the belly of the cheese ball.

Rating:  For an Ontario product, I am impressed.  Beautiful with just a splash of olive oil, some salt and freshly ground pepper and an outstanding olive pureé we bought from a vendor at the St. Lawrence Market (their product is extremely good whether it is their olive oil, olive puree or the vac-sealed olives themselves - all great).  Buy again if I cannot get Italian!

Fourme d'Ambert - Semi-soft Blue - France

This cheese is an ancient French blue from Auvergne that was being made far before the English started making the Stilton which it resembles (try finding white Stilton one time....soooo good with a glass of Bordeaux).

This is a raw cow milk blue, which has a grey-brown rind that is edible.  It is ivory in colour with a blue-green vein running throughout.  The blue vein is not terribly prominent or as strong as in some cheeses

Rating: Stood up well to a Blueberry compote I was gifted a few weeks ago.  The sweet earthiness of the blueberries nicely accentuated the earthy blue veins and the creaminess of the cheese (it being a semi-soft blue) really became prevalent.  It also worked nicely with the chutney and the olive puree.  I even mixed a bit of the blueberry with the olive and WOW that was a nice combo.  Sweet meets salty and tangy.  Wonderful.  Buy again if I want a gentle blue - maybe if I need two on a tray.

Bonnechere - Raw Ewe Milk - Ontario

This cheese comes from the burgeoning Ontario cheese mecca in Picton, Ontario and is made by Back Forty Artisan Cheese.  The cheese is named after the Ottawa Valley's Bonnechere River.

It is a semi-firm sheep milk cheese but what makes it unique is that the Cheesemaker has toasted the exterior to give the cheese a smokey flavoured rind.  The cheese has a subtle caramel flavour with a bit of wood, but does not taste like a typical smoked cheese - the flavours are subtle.

I like stories like the one for this operation, where the Cheesemakers left their jobs as teachers to pursue their passion in cheesemaking full force.

Rating:  Pairs quite nicely with the Rhubarb Chutney I made a few weeks ago (the chutney is also awesome with plain white chevre).  Worth another purchase.

English Hollow Cheddar - Wisconsin

This cheese is produced by the Maple Leaf Cheese Cooperative in Twin Grove, Wisconsin.  This particular one was aged 1 year and was crowned 2008 World Cheese Champion Winner in the Cheddar category.

This is a beautiful example of a short aged cheddar.  Wisconsin is known for producing cheeses in the Swiss style, so it is quite interesting that this cheese is produced in the style of the English town of Cheddar (you knew there was a place called Cheddar right...) smack dam in the middle of an area run by the Swiss Mafia (or at least is rumored to be).

Rating:  The cheddar is one of the most pleasing and complex ones I have eaten.  It doesn`t have the sharpness that some cheddars aged 5 and 7 years do but it has enough going on all by itself that it doesn`t need that age to be wonderful and distinctive.  And my kids inhaled what I left.  Totally buy again!

Cheese Fresh Bags

I also wanted to tell you all about these incredible bags that I actually got at my dollar store!  They work in a similar way to those green bags for vegetables that you see advertised on TV.  As you know, cheese is a living thing so it needs to breathe or else it will become overly-moist and bad bacteria and mould will develop.    

It says to only put one kind of cheese in each bag, but I cheat and put different kinds together.  These things work wonders and keep your cheese fresh waaaaay longer than if they were kept in a plastic bag alone.  Not that cheese has much time to go bad in my house living with a 15 year old and a 10 year old who eat anything besides blues (they will come back to me on this one one day I know!)