Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lemon Meringue Martinis

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I am not much of a baker.  Now I CAN bake. As I've said before, I've taken advanced pastry arts at Culinary School (probably 10 yrs ago now though) so I can bake.  I generally choose not to. As such, the most difficult part of a dinner party menu for me is the dessert.

There is a restaurant in Toronto called Four Bistro, and everything they serve is under 600 calories and they have the cutest little desserts in shot glasses.  You can order 1, 2, 3 6 glasses...whatever you like.  So that is the idea I started with for my dessert, except I was told by my wise friend Anthony that a shot was far too small so I better go for a martini.  So I did!

This dessert may seem a bit fussy and full of steps but it is actually really easy to make, requires relatively few ingredients and is great for those who do not want to spend time baking cakes or making a pastry dough.  The first layer in the glass is a graham cracker crumble, which is topped by a tart lemon curd, which is then capped by a toasted meringue.  Now it has been absolutely YEARS since I made a meringue but it came out perfectly.  It is much easier than I thought.

The only technique that might be a bit foreign is using a double boiler or "bain marie".  This cooking technique is used when you want to cook a delicate item - that usually includes eggs - and need to ensure it doesn't burn or the eggs don't scramble.  In the lemon curd recipe, we cook the lemon curd in a mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water, so the mixture cooks without direct heat being applied.  Traditionally, bakers often use this technique to melt chocolate so they can ensure that it doesn't scorch.  (I have found a microwave on low power works just as well and only uses one bowl!)

This recipe will make enough for 6 generous martinis or 8 slightly smaller ones.  I have used 4 oz. sized martini glasses.  The components should be made in this order for best results:

Graham Cracker Crumble
1/2 package graham cracker cookies
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pulse graham crackers in a food processor until fine and no large pieces remain.  Add in sugar and process again.  A bit at at time, pour the melted butter into the graham cracker sugar mix and pulse quickly to incorporate butter.  The mixture should hold together if you pinch it with your fingers.

Spread graham cracker mixture on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.  Bake for approximately 10 minutes in preheated oven, stirring every few minutes.  The graham crackers will dry slightly.  When ready, remove from oven and let cool.  Use right away or store in an airtight container until needed.

Lemon Curd
4 large lemons (or 6 small ones), at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
zest of 2 lemons

Zest and juice the lemons, being sure to strain out the seeds.

Cook's Note:  You should end up with about 2/3 cup of lemon juice.  If your lemons do not render that much juice, then just top it up with a bit of good quality lemon juice concentrate (ssshhhh....).  Also, I like my lemon curd quite tart, so you can add another 1/4 cup of sugar if you want it sweeter.

Place strained lemon juice and sugar in a stainless steel mixing bowl.  Bring a small pot of simmering water to the boil.  The pot should contain about 2" water.  Place the mixing bowl over the simmering water to create a double boiler.  Whisk the sugar and lemon juice together until sugar dissolves and the gritty feeling in the bowl is gone.

Remove the lemon juice-sugar mixture from heat.  Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk.  Slowly add eggs a 1/4 cup at a time into lemon juice mixture, whisking constantly until it thickens, about 8-10 minutes.  Do not leave the curd unattended during this time, otherwise you will be serving lemon scrambled eggs.

Once the mixture thickens, remove from heat and pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps.  Return curd to the pot and add whisk in the butter one piece at a time.  Once butter is incorporated, whisk in the lemon zest and let cool slightly.  The curd will continue to thicken as it cools.  While cooling, cover the curd with plastic wrap, being sure to place the plastic wrap right on the surface of the curd to ensure that a skin does not form.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


1/4 teaspoon salt
6 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Place egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer and beat until soft peaks form.  Add sugar a bit at a time until all incorporated.  Add salt.  Whip on high speed of your mixter until egg whites are stiff but not dry, approximately 5 minutes.

Cook`s Note:  The terms you will read in recipes involving beating egg whites are foamy, soft peak and stiff peak.  Your egg whites are foamy when they have turned white, have thickened slightly and a lot of bubbles appear.  Continuing to beat the egg whites on high will next bring them to soft peak where you can scoop them, and soft peaks that fall.  Stiff peak is next and the egg whites are shiny and peaks will hold.

This video is actually a bit cheesy but it is a pretty good demonstration of what foamy, soft peak and stiff peak egg whites look like.  Check it out if you need a reminder.

To assemble martinis:

Place a layer of graham crumble crumbs in the bottom of a 4 oz martini glass, about 3 tablespoons. Top with 3-4 tablespoons of lemon curd.  Top with egg whites.  Using a pastry blow torch, caramelize the exteriors of the merinuge until peaks are slightly browned.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Waste Not!! Issue #1: Roasted Chicken

The other day my friend Val visited me in my office and made a suggestion for my blog. She thought it would be great to have ideas to make one base dish, and then come up with ways to morph them into one or two other dishes during the week for easy dinners. Can't say I disagree!

I can't promise to be able to do this every week, but hopefully a couple of times a month I can explore this idea with you all.

All of these recipes are either ones that I make routinely more or less out of my head, or that I might come across in the newspaper or magazine, but it is interesting (and challenging) to combine them all consciously.,  Normally I just walk in the door and open the fridge and see what is there so I can make use of left overs.  Who knows, maybe I'll even get to the point where I have shopping lists for you all to download and print.

All in time.....

The other idea I had was to do posts on how to use up things you have too much of.  Like turning old bread into Panzanella Salad or Ribolitta or bread pudding or crostini, croutons, bread crumbs and more....the idea being to Waste Not!!

In this Waste Not!! menu the base dish is a chicken roasted in a dutch oven with lemons, potatoes and thyme.  The chicken will make its appearances during the week as follows:

Round 1:

Roasted Chicken with Lemon Thyme Gravy served with
Super Easy Smashed Potatoes and
Roasted Asparagus

Round 2:

Tandoori Naan Pizza served with Salad

Naan pizza has become a staple in our house and there are endless variations.  I think the first time I made it, there was some skepticism, but that first bite proved me right and we've all been making it ever since. For those that aren't familiar, Naan is an East-Indian flatbread that is oval in shape and more perfect a base for individual pizzas than pita in my opinion.

Adding Tandoori paste to basic tomato or pizza sauce transforms its flavour, and the cilantro and roasted red peppers add brightness.  For added entertainment value, Justin will teach you how to make the Naan pizzas.  And know that extras heat up and travel very well for a lunch the next day - the boys had them today.

Round 3

Corn Chowder with Chicken and Chorizo with Italian Bread

This soup is a variation of the one Justin and I made a few weeks ago using seafood.  I like the combination of chicken and chorizo.  Hell, I like the combination of chorizo with anything to be honest.

Roasted Chicken with Lemon Thyme Pan Gravy

Well I screwed up.  I forgot to take my chicken out of the freezer on Sunday to defrost so I could cook it for tonight's dinner.  Not being one to worry about such things, I decided to just adjust my approach to roasting my chicken and my cooking time.  Instead of cooking the chicken in an open roaster for about an hour at 400 degrees, I put it in my dutch oven, lid on, with a little bit of olive oil, some herbs, potatoes, onions and preserved lemons, put it in the oven and hoped for the best.

Well I got the best.  After about an hour of cooking time, my chicken was defrosted and up to 60 degrees and well on its way to becoming dinner.  It just goes to show you that most mistakes can be corrected or at least mitigated.  If you didn't mess up like me, the chicken would normally take about an hour.

Roasted Chicken with Lemon Thyme Pan Gravy

1 large roasting chicken
2 tablespoon olive oil
5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence
Salt and pepper to taste
1 preserved lemon, cut into eigths (a regular lemon is ok but you will need more salt)
2 bay leaves
2 lbs mini white potatoes, scrubbed with skin on
1/2 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into a large Dutch oven.  Add chicken, rub with additional 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with Herbs de Provence, salt and pepper.  Cover chicken with preserved lemon pieces.

If cooking from frozen, place pot in the oven, cover with a tight fitting lid, and cook for approximately 1 hour.  After the 1 hour cooking time, add the chicken stock, potatoes and onions and return to cook for approximately 1 hour, or until an instant read thermometer reads 180 degrees in the thigh joint.

If your chicken is defrosted, place onions and potatoes around the chicken, and add thyme sprigs, bay leaves and chicken stock to Dutch oven, and cook uncovered in the pre-heated oven for approximately 1 hour, or until an instant read thermometer reads 180 degrees in the thigh joint.

Remove chicken and potatoes from pot and allow to cool slightly.  Cut chicken into 8 pieces for serving.  Use the cooked potatoes as they are or go on to make Super Easy Smashed Potaotes and Roasted Asparagus.

Lemon Thyme Pan Gravy

1 cup pan drippings and stock from Dutch oven
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup cold water
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2-3 sprigs thyme
Roasted lemon pieces from Dutch oven

Pour stock that collects in the bottom of your Dutch oven through a fine sieve to remove onion pieces and lemons, then put into and gravy separator to remove fat.  Wash Dutch oven, and return stock to the pot, leaving the fat layer in the separator.  Add in chicken stock and thyme.  I added back in the onion pieces and lemon pieces for extra flavour.  Bring to a rolling boil.  

In a separate small bowl, whisk cold water and flour together to make a slurry.  This will thicken your gravy.  Be sure to whisk well to ensure there are not lumps.  Whisk slurry into stock and return to a boil.  It is only once the sauce reaches boiling that the thickening power of the flour will be realized.  Cook for 2-3 minutes on medium heat to remove any trace of flour taste.   Serve over chicken.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oven-dried Cherry Tomatoes

For some strange reason I seem to have 3 very large containers of cherry tomatoes in my refrigerator.  I will keep the newest container for lovely salads during the week, but I need to make use of the other two before they start to turn.  One idea I came across a while back - though I can't find the original source this morning - is oven dried tomatoes.  So I looked around a little and came across some extremely easy instructions on Martha Stewart.  And it is a mind and taste-bud blower!

This recipe will work with any variety of tomato so now I am intrigued to see if it will work with some of the beautiful and colourful heirloom varieties we get at the local markets during the summer.  I've included a link to Martha's original recipe below, but have modified the ingredients and instructions in accordance with this morning's little project.

Oven-dried Tomatoes

2 pints mixed cherry and grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon sugar
Herbs, such as basil, thyme, oregano, or rosemary, to taste
Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a pan with parchment or use a Silpat baking mat. Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, on pan, spaced 1/2 to 1 inch apart. Sprinkle with sugar and herbs; season with salt and pepper.
Place in preheated oven and dry until juices have stopped running, edges are shriveled, and pieces have shrunken slightly, approximately 3 hours. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, up to 3 days, or frozen, for up to 6 weeks.


Oven-Dried Tomatoes - Martha Stewart Recipes

These amazing little gems have a wide-range of uses - put them on pizza, add them to a tomato sauce, purée them to make a roasted tomato "jam" to spread on crostini, or do as I did and put them on an open-faced sandwich.

My newest cheese love is Ossau-Iraty, which is a French sheep's milk cheese.  It is one of the most wonderful cheeses I have eaten and just begs for a glass of Bordeaux.  Since you can eat the rind on the O-R,  I am.  I have placed thin slices of O-R on a piece of beautiful Italian bread made by Glen this morning.  Topped it with some fresh thyme and my oven-dried cherry tomatoes.Served it with

Asparagus Leek Soup with Lemon and Dill 

Pure bliss!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Justin's Junior Chef Bloggette - Tandoori Naan Pizza

I love pizza.  This is a kind of pizza I can make myself, except I need my Mom's help to put it in and take it out of the oven.  If a 10 year old can make this pizza, trust me, you can too!  My Mom likes to make Naan pizzas to make quick diners during the week that use left overs.

Naan is an East-Indian flat bread that is kind of like pita, but not really.  Naan is cooked in a special oven called a Tandoor, which is a big clay oven.

The other kinds of Naan pizzas we make use things like pepperoni, Chorizo sausage, left over steak - basically anything you'd put on a regular pizza you make or order.  We do a Greek one too that uses feta cheese, red onions and black olives (blech - but my Mom likes them).

Here's what you need:

Tandoori Naan Pizza
(Serves 2)

2 pieces fresh Naan bread
1/2 cup canned pizza sauce or left over tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Tandoori seasoning or paste
1/2 cup left over chicken
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (more if you like a really cheesy pizza)
1 roasted red pepper, sliced into strips
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix pizza sauce and Tandoori spice and set aside.  Place Naan breads on a baking sheet.  Put 3 tablespoons of sauce on each Naan bread and spread it around using a spoon or brush.

Sprinkle half of the cheese on each pizza. Sprinkle half the chicken on each pizza.  Add strips of roasted red pepper and sprinkle with cilantro.  Bake in oven for about 15 minutes or until cheese is melty and brown on top.

Corn Chowder with Chicken and Chorizo

Great use for left over chicken and a play on the Seafood Corn Chowder Justin and I made a while back.  I just modified the ingredients and the flavours slightly and came up with this extremely tasty chowder.

Corn Chowder with Chicken and Chorizo

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and diced  (or 1 can - I know, I know but it works in a pinch)
2 cups water or chicken stock
1 can creamed corn (it really is the secret to a creamy, rich but low-fat chowder)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup left over chicken, chopped
1 hot (or mild...boooo) smoked Chorizo sausage, diced
1 teaspoon chives, diced
5 drops liquid smoke
3 dashes of your favourite hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste


Heat oil in a soup-sized pot. Add onion, carrots and celery.  Add salt and pepper to taste and cook until soft but not brown (about 6-8 minutes). Add smoked paprika and thyme and stir.  Add stock or water and bring to a low boil.  Add potatoes and reduce to a simmer until just cooked, about 7 or 8 minutes. Remove about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of potato/celery/carrot and set aside.  Using an immersion blender, purée soup until smooth. Add reserved potato/celeary/carrot mixture back in.  Add the can of creamed corn and milk and and stir to combine.  Add more salt and pepper if needed. Cook for 5 minutes until heated through.  Add chopped left over chicken and Chorizo sausage and combine.  Heat through and serve sprinkled with chopped chives.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day: Corned Beef and Colcannon with Horseradish Mustard Sauce

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  St. Patrick is probably the most widely recognized saint from Ireland.   While March 17 originally started as a Catholic holiday it has evolved over time to a general celebration of Irish culture, shamrocks and all all things green (especially green beer in Toronto).  March 17 is also my cousin Ann's birthday.  I lost my cousin many years ago to cancer, so every St. Patrick's day I think of her specifically, miss her terribly and wish she was still in my life.

Interestingly, the original colour associated with St. Patrick was said to be blue, not green.  There is a story that he used the shamrock to explain the holy trinity to a bunch of pagans, and hence the association grew over time.

So in honour of St. Patrick and my cousin Ann (who was actually English and neither Irish nor Scottish like me) I have decided to make a St. Patrick's Day Feast based around the corned beef I made earlier this week.

I have turned to Tyler Florence for his turn on Colcannon as the basis for the below recipe.  I've modified the recipe because I cooked my brisket on Sunday (amazing how quickly 10 days elapsed (wink)), and Tyler serves his with ham.  Also I could not bring myself to put 2 sticks of butter in anything that was not a baked good.  The whole potato-cabbage culture with the Irish came about as a result of famine and poorness, so while I am fine with modernizing classics, I don't know any Irish who would put that much butter in potatoes!  My parents (who are Scottish) would never consider steaming anything, especially potatoes, so I went back to boiling the spuds instead of using a steamer.

Serve with:
Corned Beef Brisket, thinly sliced
Horseradish Mustard Sauce


6 medium sized mashing potatoes, scrubbed
2 leeks
2 cups chopped green cabbage
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup butter
1 cup hot milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish, if desired


Peel and quarter the potatoes and put them into a large saucepan with enough cold water to cover them. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until they are fork tender.

Cook's Note: I actually kept my boiling water from the corned beef the other day, refrigerated it, skimmed off and fat and cooked my potatoes in it for extra flavour. Sounds a bit odd maybe, but it really is good.

While potatoes are cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet and add the leek and cabbage and grinding of salt and pepper to taste. Sauté leek and cabbage until they are wilted, about 5 minutes.

Heat the milk in a glass measuring cup in the microwave or in a small saucepan. Add to the potatoes and mash thoroughly. Stir in 2 tablepsoons of butter. Mix in the sautéed greens and serve immediately

Plate and serve with corned beef. Traditionally, this dish is served with a knob of melting butter in the center, but this is optional.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Horseradish Mustard Sauce

A perfect accompaniement to your roast beef or St. Patrick's Day corned beef!

Horseradish Mustard Sauce:

3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup jarred grated horseradish (with liquid)
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, horseradish, zest, and 2 teaspoons salt. Season generously with pepper to taste. Refrigerate the horseradish sauce for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Roasted Asparagus

This is one of my favourite vegetables and my favourite way to prepare it.  And I find it endlessly funny that it makes your pee smell funny.  So does Justin.  What can I say....I am a 10 yr old at heart.

2 lbs asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Snap ends off asparagus where it bends.  Place oil in the bottom of an oven safe dish.  Add asparagus and salt and toss to coat.  Roast uncovered in oven for 6-10 minutes or until asparagus is fork tender.  Note:  The overall cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of your asparagus.

Super Easy Smashed Potatoes

This is a great and quick side dish and can be made with potatoes you boil or steam on the spot, or with potatoes you cook around a roast or chicken.  They are also handy when you slightly over-cook your potatoes with their jackets on and don't want to admit the mistake!  Turn a mistake into something new I say. These would be good with crisped bacon and some cheese also.  Almost like deconstructed potato skins.

Super Easy Smashed Potatoes

2 lbs. mini white or red potatoes, washed and scrubbed (skins on)
1/3 cup low fat sour cream
1 tablespoon salt
5-6 chives, chopped finely
Salt and pepper to taste


Place washed potatoes in a medium sauce pan, and cover.  Add salt to water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, turn down and cook for 15-120 minutes or until they are fork tender.  Drain, and let cool slightly.  Using a fork or potato masher, smash potatoes being sure to retain some form.  They should be rustic looking.  Add sour cream, chives and more salt and pepper as needed.

Serve hot.

Basic Chicken Stock

Any time I roast a chicken I immediately make a stock with the left over carcass. While the stuff out of the carton is convenient and has its place, there is no point in tossing chicken bones in the garbage when they can be turned into the basis for another meal or soup or sauce. You’ve already paid for the chicken, so why not get your money’s worth from it?

When I make a stock I do not bother to get fancy and peel and nicely chop my vegetables. I wash them and rough chop them. I cut the onions in quarters, crush the garlic quickly, and throw them in the pot skins and all. When the stock is ready, all of the vegetables. skins and bones will be strained out as you will not be eating these vegetables – they are to flavour the base stock only.

Sometimes if I don’t think I have a large enough carcass to make a decent quantify of stock, I might add a few chicken drumsticks, or purchase a few packages of chicken backs to add. Chicken backs are extremely inexpensive ($1-$2 a package) as they are generally discarded by the butcher when he cuts up the whole chicken.

Basic Chicken Stock


3 pounds chicken bones, backs and necks, rinsed (do leave some meat on the carcass)
1 large onion, cut in quarters, skin left on
2 medium sized carrots, unpeeled, cut in large chunks
1 large ribs celery, cut in large chunks
2 bay leaves
8 whole black peppercorns
4 springs fresh thyme, or small pinch of dry
2 cloves garlic, crushed, left whole but crushed
1 tablespoon salt
good grinding of pepper
10 cups cold water

Place all ingredients in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer so that the stock maintains a steady, but very gentle boil. Simmer for minimum 3 hours but 8 if you can. Use a ladle or mesh spoon every so often to skim-off any foamy scum that comes to the surface.

Once stock has cooked, strain through a fine mesh strainer or through several layers of cheese cloth, and discard the bones and vegetables. Cool to room temperature or overnight, so you can remove the layer of yellow fat that will accumulate on the surface.

Freeze stock or use within 2 days.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Toronto Bites on

For those of you who haven't been stunned by my massively huge photo on Facebook, I was lucky enough to have been interviewed by Elyse from Chicken Farmers of Canada as their food blogger of the month.  I was honoured and amused.  Thanks Joanne for putting us in touch!

Interview on

Be prepared for a rather large photo of me when you click through!!!

Much luv


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Corned Beef Brisket - Corning the Beef

I really like corned beef.  Like good corned beef.   Not the stuff out of a can that my parents eat. I have never been able to understand the concept of canned meat to be honest.  And I like Montréal Smoked Meat even more, but that is another post and nothing I would ever attempt.  I will only say that the ONLY Montréal Smoked Meat you should EVER eat when you are visiting the city is that made and served at Schwartzs Deli on St. Laurent north of Sherbrook.  It is the best by far and there is nothing better than buying some rye bread, a few pounds of smoked meat (and some yellow mustard) to eat in the car on your way home to Toronto.  If you go to Schwartz's know that people line up the the doesn't matter. And it is worth it.

But this is about corned beef, not smoked meat.  Once again, I digress....

When we were on the cruise they served a corned beef hash that became the central focus of Justin's breakfast every morning.  And it was good.  Very simple....corned beef, onion, potato and a few spices, fried up and browned.  So I decided I would try to replicate that for him as a treat, but I knew I had to try to make the corned beef myself to make it even more special.

I've never made corned beef before.  Usually we'll buy a brisket already brined (in Montréal if we can) and then cook it in the oven, but this time I decided to start at ground zero.

The first thing to know is corning the beef takes time.  10 days to 3 weeks depending on the recipe you read.  So this isn't something you can decide to make for dinner one night on a whim, but the best things in life are worth waiting for.   For my first foray into corned beef I turned to Alton Brown at FoodNetwork for his recipe which apparently is now legendary.  Picked up a 4 lb. brisket at Costco and started, so here we go!


2 quarts water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons saltpeter
1 cinnamon stick, broken into several pieces
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
8 whole cloves
8 whole allspice berries
12 whole juniper berries
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 pounds ice
1 (4 to 5 pound) beef brisket, trimmed
1 small onion, quartered
1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped

Place the water ino a large 6 to 8 quart stockpot along with salt, sugar, saltpeter, cinnamon stick, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, juniper berries, bay leaves and ginger. Cook over high heat until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the ice. Stir until the ice has melted. If necessary, place the brine into the refrigerator until it reaches a temperature of 45 degrees F. Once it has cooled, place the brisket in a 2-gallon zip top bag and add the brine. Seal and lay flat inside a container, cover and place in the refrigerator for 10 days. Check daily to make sure the beef is completely submerged and stir the brine.

After 10 days, remove from the brine and rinse well under cool water. Place the brisket into a pot just large enough to hold the meat, add the onion, carrot and celery and cover with water by 1-inch. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender. Remove from the pot and thinly slice across the grain.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Back from Vacation!

I am back from a fantastic week on a cruise with my family.  I wasn't really sure what to expect on a cruise since I had never done one before.  Basically, it is like an all-inclusive resort on the water.  With a lot of old people.  And apparently most of them don't have any peripheral vision.  Or patience.   I don't think I have seen that many walkers, canes or little driver cart things ever.

The food was fine, and sometimes really good, but what impressed me most was the scale of the entire operation.  Most of the food is cooked in a central kitchen and then sent out to the various satellite restaurants for service.  Cooking for 3,000 every evening is a daunting task and the staff at NCL were incredible.  Kudos to them.  It was always consistent and tasty, and really what just got to me sometimes was other guests.  We ended up avoiding the buffet all but 2 nights, mostly so I didn't end up in prison with a murder rap on my hands - I definitely could have taken out a walker or two.  Just avenging Justin because they almost took out my 10 yr old with their dinner plates!

The head chef on the boat was East Indian, which meant we had the most amazing Indian food on the buffet every day.  Glen ate curried goat, I had chickpea curries with cauliflower - all as good as in the best Indian restaurants I have eaten in.  Then the next day we'd eat in a Bistro and dine on duck confit (my death row meal) and duck breast.  One night decent Italian.  Another very weird Tex Mex tapas.  Quite a variety.

However if I hear anyone say "Washy washy, happy happy, smiley smiley." again, I WILL take them out.  But I understand the need on a boat with so many people to maintain sanitary conditions.

The best thing I ate on my trip - and definitely one of the best things I have EVER eaten - was a Pulpo Tostada in Cozumel.  Pulpo is octopus and my kids laughed when I ordered it - until they ate it - then they wanted their own.  It was beautiful thinly sliced, lightly boiled octopus on a tostada covered in a light layer of refried beans, avocado and the most amazing lime-flavoured coleslaw I have ever eaten.  Incredible.  I can still taste it in my mind.  I must make it!!!

Once I get organized I`ll get back to writing!