Monday, October 26, 2009

beef, mashed potatoes and yummy sauce

Just last week I was telling Simon that I didn't mind staying for the sauce class at work because I felt I didn't know much about sauces... He was so puzzled. What? You can make any sauce, with eyes closed. You are talking nonsense...

Well, tonight I did a sauce and it was yummy.

I had a crazy day. Mondays are always crazy but today was even more because of my (stupid) idea of posting a job offer on Kijiji and saying that it was ok to contact by phone. Oh my. I will dream of the phone ringing. I decided to leave a bit past 5pm (that is early for me...) because I just couldn't handle the constant ring and the fact that I just could not answer it with a very annoyed voice as I did not know whom it could be...

I really wanted to treat myself. A good, gooooood meal that would make me happy in a restaurant. Thick, tender, juicy, meaty, tasty beef. And mashed potatoes to make Simon happy.

Oddly, the beef (which was delicious) came from Superstore. It was Angus, at least 2 inches thick, nicely marbled. The only butcher near my job is Saslove's and I am annoyed/scared by the shopkeepers' attitudes, so I just try to keep away.

I did a quick sauce with mushroom stems & French shallots fried in butter. Then I added the wine that I took to deglaze the searing pan, reduced, strained, added butter. Heaven and just so easy.

Potatoes were also great. I kept some peel on as I boiled them, mashed them quickly, added finely chopped French shallot + fresh rosemary (that is still beautiful and growing like crazy in the garden!!!) and of course, a solid lump of butter.

ginger and lemongrass chicken soup

do you ever wonder what people do after work? what they eat?
i do, all the time.
i really have food for thought.

if you had followed me today, you would have:
left work at a reasonable time, gone to the grocery store.
***because you did not have time to do the groceries this weekend.
then gone home.
give a coat of paint on 4 paintings.
***because that make your conscience happy. you feel like you did some art... kinda.
then do some crispy kale chips
***nicole, i blame it all on you. it has become an obsession (insert here cheesy 80's song)

eat the crispy kale chips as you do:
a) a ginger and lemongrass soup with the leftover chicken and Chinese lettuce (that you don't know what to do with...CSA boxes boost your creativity)

b) a big batch of onion soup (because you have leftover baguette and you are obsessed about not wasting...)

c) bake some fish and potatoes for tomorrow's dinner (again, nothing goes to waste.)

d) prepare tonight's dinner: tenderloin, mashed potatoes and mushrooms, wine reduction sauce.

so, tomorrow's lunch, ginger and lemongrass chicken soup.

1 large chicken breast (or the equivalent... I had a lot of brown meat + some white)
1 stalk lemongrass
1 inch knob of ginger, matchsticked
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 bird's eye chili, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, sliced
1 large carrot, mandolined or matchsticked
1 half small Chinese lettuce
3 Tbsp chili oil
5 cups chicken stock

Cook the chicken and tear into pieces (or use leftover chicken...).
Cut lemongrass stalk in two, the bruise heavily.

Heat a bit of oil in a small stockpot, add ginger and garlic, cook for one minute. Add chicken and lemongrass, stir for a few minutes, add stock, chili. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Add the onion, let cook for 10 more minutes. Add carrot, cook for 3-4 minutes and add chili oil and Chinese lettuce, serve immediately.

acorn squash and apple soup, salty raisin croutons

We had this incredibly good but enormous raisin bread and I could not let it go to waste. Croutons are not the first thing to think about when you have sweet breads...but we should do this more often, it was delicious.

It had been awhile since we had really sat down and enjoyed 3 courses.
We started off with bread and rillettes from Philouze, little cornichons, then had the soup, extra croutons for Simon, then some roasted vegetables and peameal.

It was a very quick soup to make, not too much chopping. Acorn squash is my favourite for soups.

Acorn Squash and Apple Soup

1 acorn squash, roasted
1/4 butternut squash (because I had that on hand...), roasted
2 yellow onions, chopped
1/2 inch ginger, chopped
1 leek, cleaned and chopped, soft green part too
2 carrots, chopped
1 apple, peeled, chopped
grated nutmeg, cinnamon - start with less than one tsp each...
1 bird's eye chili
1 cup apple cider
3 cups chicken or veg stock
maple syrup to taste, water to thin out if too thick, salt and pepper...

Roast the squash with butter and pepper in the oven. (At 400, it should take about 20 minutes)
Set aside.

In a small stock pot, Cook the onions and ginger in a bit of butter or oil until slightly golden, add the spices, carrots and leek. Cook for a few minutes more. Add the apple and cook until all slightly caramelized.

Pour in the cider and stock, let simmer until vegetables are tender. Scoop in the squash flesh and blend until smooth in a mixer. Taste, adjust, add maple syrup if desired. I enjoy lots of pepper with acorn squash...

-For the salty raisin croutons, I simply cut the bread into cubes, mixed it with canola oil, a bit of cider vinegar, salt and pepper. Roast until perfection. Add a handful to your soup.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

roast chicken

The week just flew.
It was so busy at work, i came home and was wonderfilled thinking of all that I had accomplished during the day, and then made efforts to make dinner and clean and make art.

Dinners were so simple, we ate a lot of fish, although the highlight for me was crispy greens. I ate them with everything and almost every night. I bought a huge bag of Chinese greens and we roasted some with garlic and lemon zest (and ginger on some nights). Friday we got our share of a CSA box with kale and beets - so we had kale and beet greens 'chips'.

And I have to say, I was too lazy to take pictures. I stayed late at work to take pictures for work and when I got home, kaput, no more.

Yesterday, even though it officially was the weekend, was still hectic.
I got up and within 5 minutes, was drawing.
This gave the tone for dinner, it had to be effortless and easy.

We had a wonderful roast chicken from Saveurs Des Monts, the sauce was delicious. In a cast iron pot I threw in some leek, carrot, garlic, onion, thyme - left it in the oven for 2 hours. We strained the 'juice' and dipped our already juicy chicken in it, it was sinful. Sometimes simple is sooooooooo good.

Then did some nice root veg: butternut squash, potatoes, colorful carrots, beets, onion tossed with maple syrup, cider vinegar, grated garlic, butter, salt and pepper.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

comforting curry

Simon and I are just so busy lately and are soooooo scared of being sick.
That usually means garlic overload, veggies galore and a whole lotta spice!

I combined all possible 'kill it' ingredients:
garlic, ginger, chili peppers, lemongrass.

This resulted in some roasted Chinese greens and a curry.

The Greens

The greens are pretty easy. I usually sauté them but yesterday I was channeling Candice, the chef at work, and decided to roast them. She often speaks of kale and how she could eat it like chips when it is roasted.

1 great big bunch of greens (I think I did about 6 cups)
1 inch knob of ginger, finely diced
3 bulbs garlic, minced
zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp canola oil

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and arrange on a parchment lined baking tray. Roast at 400F for about 10 minutes or until leaves are crispy.

The Curry

I don't have a curry recipe, I usually toss in whatever I have. My lime leaves I keep in the freezer, there are always so many in a bag and they keep really well. The sweet potato is optional, I love that it breaks down and adds thickness to the 'stew', but it is not the best presentation when you have guests - although I find it gives incredible taste and texture. You could add it later in the curry and the cubes would then keep their shape.

You can omit the chicken if you wish for a vegetarian version and use vegetable stock. You could use all pretty chicken breasts and cut them into cubes - but I love the look of fat rustic pieces of chicken. The best is to roast a chicken, use the bones and make a stock and use some of it in your curry...

2 chicken breasts
3 cups chicken stock (save 2 for the curry)
3 Tbsp chili garlic sauce

1 head garlic, minced
2 inch piece of ginger, minced
1 stalk lemongrass, tender part minced
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 lime leaves
2 yellow onions, cubed
2 large sweet potatoes, cubed
1 package firm tofu (I am a softie for fried tofu, you will find these in the refrigerators, there are 4 cubes in a package...)
3 bird's eye chilies, seeds removed (or keep them if you wish for more heat)
2 Tbsp curry powder
1 mango, finely diced
2 sweet peppers (I had one yellow, one red)
1 bunch cilantro
1 can coconut cream

lime wedges and cilantro to serve.

In a preheated 400F oven, cook your chicken in 1 cup chicken stock and the chili garlic sauce. Once cooked, cool down and tear into pieces, set aside.

Fry the garlic, ginger, and lemongrass for a few minutes. Add the yellow onion and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the lime leaves, chilies, curry powder, sweet potato, cubed tofu and chicken - then add stock. let simmer for 25 minutes. Add the finely minced mango and peppers, cook for a bit more than 5 minutes (you don't want the peppers to get all mushy!!!), add the coconut milk and heat through. Just before serving, add some chopped cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and more cilantro.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

breakfast banana bread

I often make banana bread for breakfast.
I love the soft texture and biting down on all the little surprises inside...
Bananas never go to waste here!

The base recipe is from Joy of Cooking. It is simple and quick.
Then I throw in whatever I have in the cupboard: hazelnuts, walnuts, dried apricots, golden or thompson raisins, dried cherries...

The icing is what my mom did when I was young. Not too heavy, brings just the right amount of sweetness for breakfast. You'll find yourself scraping the plate to get all that you can...

Quick banana bread

Preheat oven to 350

Sift together and set aside:
1 3/4 cups flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt.

in another bowl, mix:
1/3 cup soft butter
2/3 cup white sugar

Mix in:
1 beaten egg
2 ripe bananas, mashed

Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture. I like to add a dash of cinnamon, maybe cloves of nutmeg :) then add your nuts or dried fruit. Cook for about 1 hour. You can use a 9x9 cake pan, a round 9inch springform or a bread mould (but I find that the edges tend to get too dark for the centre to be fully cooked). Also, you can either butter + flour your mould or use parchment paper - that is what I do, less messy.

For the icing:
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
juice of half an orange + zest
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Just mix all the ingredients together and pour over the bread - make sure there are no sugar clumps!

Monday, October 12, 2009

bacon, celery and blue cheese soup

My mother came by today and dropped off some celery.
As she lives alone, she doesn't cook that much and feels like some food items may go to waste if not shared.

So I made a soup and brought her some, her own little portion. Then the rest was frozen in convenient lunch portions - we have quite a impressive soup collection going, i love the choices in the morning as we pack up to go to work.

1 whole celery (I had some, she had some, it adds up...), roasted, chopped
6-7 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
2 yellow onions, chopped
3 baby carrots, chopped
3 bulbs garlic, rough chop
1 yukon gold potato, coarsely chopped
1.5 litres chicken stock, or vegetable stock
1/3 cup vermouth
1.5 inches blue cheese (a good square chunk)
1/2 cup milk or cream (I put in coffee cream as I don't like it too creamy)
small bunch of flat leaf parsley, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Start by roasting the celery in the oven, leaving the branches whole. Let the celery cool down, take out 'the strings', it makes for a smoother soup.

Then cook your bacon. With a slotted spoon, remove the pieces of cooked bacon - keep the fat!!
On medium heat, cook the onions until translucent in the bacon fat. Add the garlic, cook a bit more. Add the carrot, potato and celery, cook for about 8 minutes more. Add the Vermouth, reduce. Add the stock and let it bubble away until the vegetables are tender - then blend until smooth with a robocoupe or blender.

Return to soup pot and add the cheese, cream and water if necessary to get the right consistency. Season with salt and pepper, add the chopped parsley just before serving. Top with the cooked bacon, enjoy!!!

sour cream apple crumble pie

Sour cream in a pie, odd you think?

I was about 19 when i first did this pie.
I worked in a summer kitchen and then thought I would go back to school in the Fall - then the pastry chef retired, then they offered me good money to replace her, then I didn't go back to school.

This recipe was the owner's grandmother's.
We had it on the menu regularly, it was one of the most popular amongst the regulars, once you taste it, you crave it.

So every Fall I do it at home, at least once.
You can also do it with pears or peaches, then I just add a bit of almond paste or almond extract to the sour cream mixture.
You could also go nuts: pecans, hazelnuts are nice in the crumble.

I like a pâte brisée pastry as the base.

Pâte brisée

2 1/2 cups flour
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar (if you wish, i like it)
1 cup very cold butter, cubed
1 1/3 cup very cold (icy!) water

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then incorporate the cold butter with a pastry cutter and the help of a knife. It should resemble coarse meal, little peas of butter lost in a sea of flour. Then sprinkle the cold water over the dough and gently mix with your hands - judge how much you need as you go, you will probably need less. It should just hold together and not be sticky. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

The Pie!
1x9inch springform pan or deep dish pie pan

8-9 apples (I like Empire, but any baking apple is fine. I had Cortland today...)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp flour
1 egg

Roll out your dough and fit the pie pan (or pans! I did minis).
Then mix the sour cream with the egg, add the sugar and flour mixing well. Set aside.
Peel and cut the apples into slices. Mix with the sour cream mixture and arrange in the pie dish. Cook at 375 for about 25 minutes. The top should start to brown just a tiny bit. Take out of the oven and add the crubble topping, cook for another 15 minutes at 350. Crumble should be golden as well as the edges of the pie.

I don't really have a recipe for crumble, I usually just eye it.
I put equal parts of flour and oats, add about half of brown sugar and then put in just enough soft butter to bind it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

homemade pizza

This is one of Simon's favourite treats, homemade pizza.
He has been working so hard lately, working after work, almost no sleep. I have great admiration.

I decide to try and copy a pizza that we love sold at the bakery near our house. It is vegetarian, but I always thought prosciutto would be nice on it, so that is what I did for us. In addition to that, I wanted a crunchy element, so I fried some shallots and put them on top.

I had no sauce.
I usually have tons of tomato sauce, but my freezer is so full that I skipped buying boxes of tomatoes this year... it is so tempting. I am so sad. I want another freezer.

making a sauce from scratch is easy and quick.
I like my pizza sauces slightly sweet and spicy.

For one pizza, you would need:
4 ripe tomatoes
1 tsp brown sugar
1 small chili, dried
salt and pepper

I started by making an X on top of the tomatoes

Then carving out the bottom.

Drop them in boiling water for about 90 second, have a slotted spoon close to fish them out.

Let them sit to cool down.

See how pretty and velvety they are!!

Then I cut them up into small pieces and cooked with a bit of salt, pepper, brown sugar and whatever chili I feel like. This chili was bought in a Mexican store in Montreal, but I forget the name! I like to leave a big piece to simmer in the sauce and then take it out.

Ta-da. Doesn't this look yummy?

The final toppings were prosciutto, spinach, dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, provolone, mozzarella, fried shallots.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

boeuf bourguignon

this was so good.

i have some very vivid food memories of when i was 5-6 years old.
one is loving sardines.
another is loving raw beef with salt.
and then, the ultimate confusion: bouilli, boeuf bourguignon and ragoût.
one i adored, one my parents adored, and one smelled really icky as it cooked.

although i still love bouilli (a simple stew of beef, root veg, brussel sprouts and usually some nice still crunchy beans), i now crave the richness of the bourguignon sauce.

tasting the sauce constantly was satisfying - it went from acidic to full and rich. you could taste each ingredient addition, layers. oddly, i mentioned jugo de carne just a few posts ago - this was quite similar.

my not so classic boeuf bourguignon

1.25 lbs cubed beef
6 slices bacon, sliced on the bias
about 20 pearl onions, skin removed
2 Tbsp flour
1 yellow onion, finely diced
half a celery stalk, fine dice
3 cups wine
3 cloves garlic, mashed
1 small bunch thyme (you can leave the branches whole and take them out...)
1 small bunch parsley (the same, i leave the branches whole and take them out in the end - no sad green-gray color)
2 bay leaves (would have been awesome but i could not find any!!!)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1.5 litres of beef stock
1 lb mushroom, quartered
7 baby carrots (carottes nantaises), rough chunks, unpeeled
lots of pepper, well, i like lots of pepper

i started by cooking off some bacon. then put it aside in a colander.

***pat dry the cubes of beef and season with salt and pepper (taking away some moisture will help get a nice sear)

bring the bacon fat up to almost smoking point, add the cubed beef. halfway through searing, i added some pearl onions. once they were nicely caramelized, i put them in a baking dish and mixed in a bit of flour - put in a 475 preheated oven.

(yay! a meat picture!!! this is the beef before going into the oven...)

the flour gives the meat a nice coating that will eventually thicken the sauce. cook it well so that it looks crispy (not gooey!). about 10 minutes. Giving it a stir halfway will help.

as it is in the oven, drain any excess fat from the marmite. put in the yellow onion and celery. cook until translucent. add the bacon and eventually the meat + pearl onions. then pour in the wine. let reduce to about half the liquid.

add the tomato paste, beef stock, garlic, thyme and parsley. cook for about 90 minutes.
add the mushroom, cook for 30 minutes more.
add the carrot, cook until just tender (or still slightly crunchy, as you prefer!!)

adjust with salt, pepper and water as it simmers down. i found i had to add about 2 cups water.

delightful with mashed potatoes. ultimate comfort food.

Monday, October 5, 2009

chocolate and peanut butter squares

these are such a no-brainer.
easy, quick, yummy.

chocolate and peanut butter squares


4 cups quick oats
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup corn syrup
2/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 Tbsp vanilla

2/3 cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter
2 cups chocolate

in a large bowl, mix the first set of ingredients. i usually start by mixing the oats and brown sugar, making sure i squish all the lumps. then mix in the rest.

then, press down in a parchment lined baking dish.

you can use a 9x9 pan and have thicker squares, or go for quantity and use a larger dish.
send in the oven at 375. It should take about 15-20 minutes for it to be golden brown on the edges.

Melt the chocolate and peanut butter from the second set of ingredients and pour over the cooked oats mix. Tilt the dish on all sides to even out the chocolate, shake it if you need to - using smooth peanut butter will make the top flawless. (I only had crunchy, so there are a few bumps...)

Put in the fridge to set. I recommend pulling out the dish before cutting and serving, they are best room temperature. gooey-fudgey.

pork roast

i used to be so afraid of roasts.
then i accepted a job as a cook for a family who were celebrating a Jewish holiday...

oh my.
cooking for about 20 people, 2 ovens, soooo many dishes...
i managed to poach salmon, do roasts, sides, soups, layered dished, argh!!!!! run with the apple and honey!!!! run little girl!!! get the desserts out. survive. clean.

those roasts came out perfectly. my trick: searing and a little help from the thermometer. stress, nerves, panic. the host was happy, i was asked back more than once, then decided it was just too crazy, i didn't want to relive that madness anymore!

this was a 'welcome home' meal for simon. a roast is always a nice thing to come home to (and a loving girlfriend too). i pulled what i had left in the garden: rosemary, thyme, flat leaf parsley.

i chopped 5-6 cloves of garlic and mixed it in with 2 Tbsp butter, Dijon and the thyme+parsley. I wrapped it and put it in the fridge for about 12 hours, overnight is ideal.

pull your meat from the fridge for at least 45 minutes before searing to bring it to room temperature. season with salt and pepper and let rest for another 15.

preheat the oven to 325.

heat some olive oil almost to smoking point in a high sided pan and sear on each side until beautifully caramelized. be patient, it should take about 3-5 minutes on each side: you want to give it time so that the crust stays on. i dropped a rosemary branch in the pan before turning on each side. keep that pan aside - put the roast back in the pot that will go in the oven. Dot it with 1 Tbsp of butter. Cook in the preheated oven for a bit more than 1 hour. Your thermometer should read 145. Let the roast rest for 10 minutes, the temperature will go up to 150. It will come out juicy and delicious!!!

we ate it with an apple and honey chutney-style sauce, roasted spaghetti squash and rice. You can prepare a sauce by putting you pan back on the heat, deglazing with stock, wine or water.

chicken soup, with a twist...

simon was away for two days and i ate so poorly.
it seems that you force yourself to make good food for others a lot of the time...

friday night was hilarious.
i started by opening a bottle of prosecco that i was saving - it was corked.
then i cooked myself some shrimp and veggies with rice. the shrimp were horrible.
they smelled fine raw, but once i took a bite, oh dear. bad.
i still don't get it, i am an intense sniffer, also do so before taking a bite or cooking meat...
anyways, then i ate popcorn for dinner.

saturday, i had all the best intentions of doing the groceries and niet, didn't get to it.
ate take out. alone on the couch with my sad box of yummy-for-a-minute-remorse-a-few-minutes-later...

sunday. i was on a mission.
when i was at the butchers' and saw huge chicken thighs from saveurs des monts, i was inspired by Rachelle's post about chicken soup.
it was rainy and i wanted comfort.

i made a 'mexican inspired' chipotle chicken soup

soups are big in Mexico even though it is hot and humid during the day, maybe because of the slight chill in the evenings. i remember eating soup a lot when we visited. on every menu, they had a nice selection. my first bite of Mexico was a sopa de ajo, a garlic soup. i was sooooo tired and it was sooooo good.

then, i tasted the ultimate. it sounds so plain, so boring - but my first sip was so addictive that every time i saw it on a menu, i had to have it to compare: jugo de carne. yup, meat juice. don't ask me what it is, just enjoy. i find i am often that way when eating 'other cuisines', like in Chinatown. my parents had a good friend from Hong Kong and we ate a lot of surprises - i learned not to ask too many questions.

my chipotle chicken soup

1 huuuuuge chicken thigh, shedded
1 red onion, fine dice
2 chipotle in adobo, seeds removed, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 baby carrots, sliced
1/2 yellow pepper, cubed
2 ears of corn,
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 litre chicken stock
3 small jalapenos, thinly sliced
1 green onion, sliced on the bias
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

cook the chicken thigh in the oven, remove the meat, shred with your fingers, set aside.
in a small stock pot, cook the red onions until slightly caramelized, add the shredded chicken. cook together to enhance the flavours. add the carrot, garlic and the chipotle. cook for a few minutes more. add the chicken stock and canned tomatoes. stew together for about 45 minutes on low heat, adjust seasoning with water, more stock, or tomato juice (i added water along the way). 15 minutes before serving, add the corn and yellow pepper. just before serving, add the cilantro, slices of jalapeno and green onion.

the sweetness of the corn, the bite of the jalapeno and the smokiness of the chipotle, perfect match! beans would have made a nice addition to the soup, maybe a bit of sour cream?
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