Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Roasted Cornish Hens

This blog has been a little heavy on the fish recipes lately. You'd think we were all Pisces for goodness sake! But I guess it's the time of year where we crave lighter fare and also have the tendency to put everything on the grill. And why not? We're under six feet of snow for half the year. But you can't eat grilled food everday for the carcinogens it gives off. And plus you get tired of it. For me, grilled food is such a magnificent burst of flavour. Nothing is more delicious than the first bite of the first cheeseburger of summer! But by the middle of August, I'm so sick of barbequed anything that I can't wait to make my first big pot of chili and throw on a football jersey.
So I like to keep a balance between grilled food and oven baked. But I certainly don't want to make anything slow roasted so as to have the oven going all afternoon heating up the house. And that's why I enjoy a roasted cornish hen when I have barbeque burnout. They're easy, fast and delicious. Back when I started making this recipe, cornish hens were cheap as dirt because nobody knew what they really were or how to cook them. Now they fall into the special treat category because they're considered gourmet fare. But to me, they're just fowl and I treat them like a chicken in that way. Except that you'll blow the socks off your guests because everybody gets their own and they smell amazing during the cooking process. So keep an eye out for a sale and stock up and keep them in the freezer. If you get larger sized hens, you can chop them in half, but I like the smaller ones so everybody gets their own bird. Serve these with any vegetable you like. I like roasted butternut squash in the fall and asparagus or baby carrots in the spring. The one side you Must have is long grain rice. Buy the good Uncle Ben's wild and long grain package. Why would you spend the money on the birds and then serve cheap and crappy rice? And remember that you're worth it!
You need to make a glaze too which is just a half a small jar of red currant jelly and a squirt of honey.
So thaw out your hens, one per person. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Rinse out the cavity and put a few smashed up cloves inside each one. And also salt and pepper. Then place them all in a roasting pan with a rack. Season each one with salt and pepper and just a little bit of nutmeg and cinnamon. And put a little pat of butter on each one too. Put them in the oven and roast for about an hour. Put a lid or a tin foil cover on for the first half hour, then remove it. Baste them as you go, about every 15 minutes after you take the cover off.
Now make your glaze. Just melt 1/2 a small jar of red currant jelly with a squirt of honey on low to med heat on the stove. Whisk it until it comes to a boil and then remove from the heat. Using a brush, baste each hen with the glaze and do this a few times until your rice is cooked. Follow the package directions for the rice. You should make it about 1/2 an hour before your hens are done. Also prepare your vegetables to coincide with the timing of the hens.
After an hour and a half, remove your hens and let them sit out the last step. Pour your pan drippings into your glaze and bring it back up to the boil and let it reduce by half. Spread your rice out on a platter and rest your hens on top of the rice. Now pour your reduced glazed all over the hens and serve it up. Or you can plate each one individually with a portion of rice and a bird. Make it nice and set the hen on the rice like a bird in its nest and pour some glaze over it. Add your vegetables to the plate and Voila! Be prepared for your guests to swoon because they will have never seen or tasted anything so amazing! And if you really want to blow them away, serve the Grand Marnier cheesecake for dessert. This is one of my recipes that I call Smoke and Mirrors because it is so impressive and yet so easy to prepare! Try it out.

Tips and Tricks

No one would describe me as handy in the kitchen, but I get by because I've learned some tips and tricks along the way that are infinitely helpful. Want to save yourself some aggravation down the line? Keep reading.

1. Freeze leftover wine into ice trays so that you have perfect cubes ready whenever you need to cook with wine. You also won't be wasting. (Then again, what is "leftover" wine? Does not compute).

2. You can do the same with fresh herbs if you have a lot but don't need them all at once: chop them up and freeze them into cubes of olive oil. Next time you need some fresh herbs, drop a cube into the pan, and voila!

3. To peel garlic easily, smash the clove with the broad side of a chef's knife. The paper will fall off.

4. If you have ants in the kitchen, find the source and encircle it with a line of chalk. The ants won't cross the chalk.

5. You only bake cookies once every two years or so, and your brown sugar has gone hard as a rock? Keep a slice of apple or a piece of bread in there to keep the sugar soft.

6. Rice in your salt shaker will help keep the salt from clumping.

7. Line your fridge crisper drawers with newspaper to absorb odours.

8. Want to make your home smell good? In a soup pot, boil water, sliced lemon, and pure vanilla extract. Add other favourites like chai or star anise. Let simmer all day long, add more water as needed. Unlike air fresheners, this method doesn't mask scents, it absorbs them.

9. To combat fruit flies, put a piece of ripe fruit into a jar and form a paper funnel in the mouth of the jar. The flies get in but they can't get out. Make sure you pour boiling water down your drain periodically, because they like to live in there.

10. If you're going to be using hot oil for frying or sautéing, keep a cup of bleach on the counter. It will absorb the deep-fried odour, and you can then discard it.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Fish Tacos and Cilantro-Lime Butter

Not my best food photography, but you get the point. 
I tried fish tacos for the first time when I was in Santa Monica a few years ago with my sister. They were distinctly California- I loved the lightness of these tacos, so different than the heavy beef “Old El Paso” tacos I’m used to. Don’t get me wrong, I love that type of taco, but spending an entire week in a bikini means one cannot get lulled into a false sense of security about what they eat. Hilariously, on this same trip, I order scallops for dinner one night. My plate arrived with three scallops on it and some bean puree. I had to get an order of sweet potato fries on the side. When the waiter gave me a strange look, I said, “I’m Canadian. I need more food than this.” It all made sense to him after that.

Since that trip, I’ve tried fish tacos in a variety of places. I can’t quite achieve the hit of that first taste though, and some of the ones I’ve tried have been a little weird. I, for one, feel that for these tacos, I need to have strips of fish in it, not one whole piece of fish. It also needs a batter with a little southwest flavour. Being the type of person I am, after I tried enough of these in restaurants, I became quite convinced I could make them myself.

And so I did. And they were delish! Here’s what you need:

  • ·      White fish of some variety, I used “Basa”, which I have no idea about but it is nice and light.
  • ·      For the batter, you need cumin, coriander, chilli, flour, beer and a little baking soda.
  • ·      Tortillas
  • ·      Sliced Avocadoes, tomatoes, FRESH cilantro, limes and salsa verde (or regular salsa if that makes your life easier)
  • ·      You can also do a chipotle sour cream if you like it spicy, just finely chop a chipotle and stir it into sour cream.

Remember, we’re keeping these tacos light, so there isn’t going to be any kind of heavy sauce or anything like that.

We’re going to deep fry this fish. Start by slicing it into strips set those aside. Make your batter in the same way you made it for Fish and Chips, but to add the taco flavour, put in a teaspoon of cumin, chilli and coriander to it. A pinch of baking soda makes the batter fluff up nicely. Stir in the beer for pancake batter consistency.

Dust your strips of fish with a little flour, salt and pepper. Set up your deep-fry pot with oil and get that to the right temp. (You can drop in a couple drops of batter and if they fry up right away, your temp is good.) You definitely want the oil hot enough, if it isn’t hot enough the food absorbs more oil and thus you find yourself with a very fattening and greasy piece of fish.

This should give a good idea of the innards of the taco.
As you take your fish out, put it on a plate with paper towel to drain it. Salt it right away. (Notice how similar this is to fish and chips? It’s because my mum knows exactly what she’s talking about when it comes to a fish fry).

For an extra nice touch, wrap your tortillas in tinfoil and warm them up in the oven. Before you start frying up fish, I recommend slicing all your taco toppings. That way you aren’t tracking batter from one end of the kitchen to another, and you won’t burn up all the fish.

Once your fish is done, you’re good to go! Top your taco with fresh cilantro, tomatoes, salsa and nice, ripe avocadoes. Serve these with lime wedges and some Corona, and you’ll feel you’re right on the Baja Peninsula.

Now, if you want to get REALLY fancy with the leftover cilantro, I strongly recommend corn on the cob with lime-cilantro butter. This is easy but takes a bit of thinking ahead.

That's cilantro lime butter on that corn!
Take out a stick of butter and let it get very soft. This will take at least an hour, depending on the temperature of your house. Meanwhile, very finely chop some cilantro. Put your soft butter in a bowl, with the cilantro and juice of one lime. Mix that all up with a fork. Now, take a sheet of parchment paper, and scoop out your butter on to that. Roll it up in a little log and put that in the fridge for at least an hour. Now you can slice it and put it on the hot corn. A delightful side dish for the fish tacos! 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Stuffed Sole

When my daughters suggested we start a blog and share our recipes, I had no idea how much fun it was going to be. And it has given me another advantage that I didn't see coming at all. I now have a license to watch Foodnetwork and other network stations that air food cooking episodes endlessly during my spare time. Pre-blog days, this appeared to be a person wasting time and procrastinating switching laundry loads. But today was truly a special day because there was a marathon of Lidia's Italy. One episode after another for the whole day! (Lidia has by far, the worst hair on network television, but she isn't about beauty, so I overlook) I was on my fourth episode today when the conversation went like this:
Mario: "Honey, can you help me shovel out the gravel (1/2 a ton) from the back of the truck?"
Me: "As much as I'd love to help you with that sweetie, I'm doing research for my blog."
Hahahah! Yay for blogging! And people need to understand that its work just like anything else!
So the episode that got me out of shovelling gravel caught my eye and I thought it best that I do that exact recipe for dinner tonight so certain people can see that the research is real and true. Even though I was lying on the couch eating cheese popcorn at the time.
You'll need:
However many fillets of sole you need. I plan on two per person.
For the stuffing:
1 cup breadcrumbs
chopped parsley
2 cloves minced garlic
zest of 1 lemon
salt & pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or parmesan/reggiano
olive oil
a dash of dried chili flakes
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
Prepare your casserole dish:
Butter it and layer the bottom of the pan with sliced lemon, 1 cup white wine, juice of 1 lemon, a splash of olive oil and a handful of capers.
Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
Spread 2 tablespoons of the stuffing mixture on each sole fillet and role them up and secure with a toothpick. Top each one with a dollop and butter and more of the stuffing mixture and a splash of olive oil. Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 12 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 4 or 5 minutes more. Sprinkle with lemon juice, the remaining juice from the pan and freshly chopped parsley just before serving.
You could serve this with rice and salad for a nice, light meal. I'll publish another variation on stuffed sole soon that is quite a bit more rich (fattening) that involves cream and shrimp and is really delicious too. But start with this one so you'll know that all delicious food doesn't have to involve butter and cream. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Easy-peasy Duck

Since my gastronomical rampage through the Niagara region, I’ve been trying to cook at home more so that my bank account can recover, and so that I can be a little bit healthier too. My latest experiment? Duck.

Now as a person that generally only cooks trout and green beans, taking on duck might seem like a stretch. But I figured that if I was going to spend an entire evening working on a meal, I want to taste something that tastes good. And duck has long been a fascination of mine. I rarely see it on restaurant menus and I’ve never watched anyone cook it, so it has a certain mystery about it. Plus, I mean, there’s just something so luxurious and impressive about eating duck on a Tuesday night.

So first of all, it took me two groceries stores to even find any duck. My local Loblaws was no help. The seventeen year old behind the butcher counter didn’t even seem to understand what I was asking for. Clearly, he has not been watching enough Food Network. So on I went to my local butcher in Kingston where I was offered a whole duck first (which was too much of a challenge - no good) before I found duck breasts. And would you believe a single breast of duck costs over fourteen dollars? I did not know this. As such, I decided my loved one and I would be sharing.

Next came a little googling to figure out temperatures and such. Easy stuff. A little olive oil and butter in the pan over medium heat, and pat the duck dry first. Make sure you score the skin so that the fat can render and it gets nice and crispy. I probably could’ve scored mine a little more. Apparently you should be scoring every half inch or so. Don’t cut the meat though, just the skin! Or Gordon Ramsay will have your head.

Next, place the breast in the pan skin side down. Now leave it there for about 7 minutes. Don’t touch it. You will be tempted to fool around with it and move it around in the pan, but that will ruin the crisping of the skin. Go walk away and drink a quick cocktail or something while you wait.

After the time is up, flip the breast and sear the other side for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, you should be heating your oven to 400 degrees. Once the two minutes is up, put the duck into a corningware dish. Add a bit of olive oil, but not much because the duck fat will do most of the work. Into the oven it goes for ten minutes.

Then what I did was melt some butter, brown sugar, and beer in a saucepan over medium heat until it formed a glaze. Pour that over the duck in the oven every couple minutes to make the skin nice and caramelized and delicious. After ten minutes, take the duck out and let it rest. When it’s done resting, slice it on a bias and serve with your favourite veg. I used baked sweet potatoes.

It will be so delicious that your boyfriend’s friend will call in the middle of the meal to specifically ask about the duck and how it tastes. (Yes, this happened. Word about duck gets around fast among men!)


Friday, 15 June 2012

Fish and Chips

Father's Day is such a bittersweet day for me. I missed my dad every minute of every day for the longest time after he passed away. Then, over time, the sense of loss became more sporadic in nature. I'd see a rainbow and think of my dad. And I believed that rainbows were a special hello from him. I still do. Or the smell of shoe polish would bring me back to the time he'd be shining up his police boots to go to work. The sadness eventually became less raw and was replaced by a sense of pride and my memories became happy ones and that sustains me now. But Father's Day also gives me a great sense of celebration and I think of my brothers and what wonderful fathers they became. Which I never would have guessed would happen during my childhood growing up with them. And my two daughters (the ladygirls) struck gold when they won their father in the lottery jackpot of life. Over the course of their lifetime, he has been kind and loving and generous and patient. He has guided them with his wisdom to achieve everything they thought they could do and then a little bit more. In short, he did, and continues to do what only the very best fathers do. He adores them!
I love to cook and whenever I asked my dad what he would like me to make him for a special dinner, the answer was always the same. "Let's have a big feed of fish and chips" he'd say. Hahah Did I mention my dad is a Newfie? In my stupid, ignorant, petulant youth, I'd resent this request. I felt my skills were quite a bit more considerable than frying up fish and chips. Under protest, out I'd go to get the ingredients and stomp around the kitchen fixing up his supper. I didn't have the wisdom back then to realise two important lessons in life - Fish and Chips, when done properly is bloody well delicious. And eating a big, all you can eat fish fry with your friends and family is a tradition that is beloved by many countries around the planet. It is a joyful experience to say the least. And oh what I would give to make my dad a feed of fish and chips just one more time!
Let's start with the chips. I don't have a deep fryer or even a thermometer to test the temperature of the oil. What I do have is a pot with handles on it that holds the vegetable oil, and a basket that fits into that so you can put the fries in it and drop it down into the oil. This is probably pretty old school. So use your deep fryer if you have it, or otherwise, pour about 3 inches of vegetable oil in a pot and let it heat up on Med-High heat. Peel your potatoes and slice them into the size of fry you like. Some people like thin and some like thick. The important thing to remember here is that only a new white potato will make the best fries. Don't use yellow flesh or red potatoes. Put your fries down into the heated oil and let them go for about ten minutes. If you have the deep fryer or the basket, pull them out and prepare your fish. Then put them back into the oil to fry when you put your fish to cook. Frying them twice will make them crispy. When they are golden brown and you can easily stick a knife in them, pull them out of the oil. Let the excess oil drain off them and put them on a paper towel lined platter and salt them liberally while they are still very hot. This way the salt will stick to them.
For the fish, I always use cod because that's what we eat in Newfoundland. Here they tend to like halibut or haddock. It really depends on your budget and what you can find that will determine your fish. You can use fresh or thawed frozen. Plan on at least two pieces of fish per person. Cut your portions to make sure each fillet is no more than 1/2" thick. Dry all your fish pieces with a paper towel and dredge each one in seasoned flour. Just salt and pepper is all you need to season.
Your batter is the key. It is just flour and beer. The end. Don't put anything else in it. Start with a cup of flour and whisk in some beer. The goal is to have a pancake thickness. If you get too thin, add more flour and if it's too thick, add more beer. Put about 3" of vegetable oil in a large pot and heat it up on Med-High heat. I put just a small drop of batter into it once it heats up to see what's going on. If it bubbles up right away, you're ready to go. Reduce your heat a little bit. Using a pair of tongs, take a floured piece of fish and put it into the batter making sure it's battered all over. Then slowly let it slide into the oil and keep holding a small corner with your tongs until it rises up off the bottom. You don't want to just drop it in there or it will stick to the bottom of the pot and you'll have a disaster on your hands. Only do two or three pieces at a time or your oil will lose its heat and that spells another disaster. After about 4minutes, flip the fish over and see if the batter is golden brown. Do the other side when you're liking the golden colour. Let it go for another 4 minutes and then, using a draining type spatula or spoon, lift it out of the oil over the pot and let the oil drain out of it back into the pot. Then put it on a paper towel lined platter and salt it right away. Heat your oven up to 250 degrees and as you have the cooked and salted pieces on your platter, keep it warm in the oven until the next few pieces are done. And so it goes. You can make two pieces or twenty pieces. Just don't leave your oil unattended for even a second to prevent fire. This is not for the faint of heart. And maybe you should not even attempt this recipe if you don't have a drop or two of Newfie blood in you! And you have to be vigilantly attending this meal. So if you have guests, they'll have to fend for themselves until all the oil is turned off. Or you could hire a witty guest to entertain them while your back is to them for what seems like forever!
I serve lemon and tartar sauce with this. And ketchup and malt vinegar for the chips of course! And if you're really puttin' on the Ritz, cole slaw. Enjoy and wishing a very happy Father's Day to all you wonderful Dads!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

I will judge you by the way you order your steak…

There’s nothing better than a barbecue in weather like this. Monday was so hot; I couldn’t endure the thought of cooking in my kitchen. Frankly, I could barely endure the thought of even entering my kitchen, let alone turning things on. I have no A/C and just turning on the stove would have put me over the edge of sanity.

Luckily, my lovely father had the foresight last year to buy me a barbecue as a birthday present. (Life changes so quickly- the year before that I was asking for pretty clothes and frivolous jewellery for my birthday. Last year I asked for a barbecue and HomeSense gift certificates.) ANYWAY. Now I do have a barbecue, and quite a nice little outdoor room on my balcony (thanks to my wonderful mum). What’s a girl to do on such a hot day? Being a woman of the new millennium, I barbecued!

I considered it to be an homage to my pops for Father’s Day. I picked up some lovely steaks, got a nice bottle of red, and purchased some really nice blue cheese for a topping. Now, had I been true to a Saturday night at my dad’s house, I would also have done sautéed sliced mushrooms, “Morton’s Style” (and I probably would have spent substantially more money on the meat). But I am not my father; I am still myself, so I decided that surf and turf would be more up my alley. I always keep frozen uncooked shrimp in my freezer. You would be crazy not to- shrimp spices up any meal and the frozen variety cooks in about three minutes. (Think about all the options of, “Oh, I just threw this shrimp alfredo/rice wraps/scampi together…”) Do not EVER re-cook precooked shrimp from a package. They will become the toughest little buggers you’ll ever eat and you’ll hate shrimp and it will be ruined for life. So, just buy the uncooked and everything will be fine.

Moving right along. The barbecue was once the sole domain of MAN. Men did the barbecuing, they drank beers and generally discussed manly topics whilst grilling various slabs of meat to charred perfection. Not so anymore my friends! Oh no, us women-folk have joined in the grilling and do a fine job, if I do say so myself. (I’m still waiting for a “Girl Meets Grill” cooking show… Food Network could leave the 1950s and get the women out of the kitchen and to the barbecue, in my opinion.)

But this isn’t a blog about my views on foodie television; it’s a recipe blog, so here we go. The menu is grilled steak, green beans with shrimp and garlic, and a mixed salad. It was quite delicious, although I was slightly concerned the man I fed it to didn’t have enough to eat. If you were feeding the carb-eating sort, I’d throw in some potatoes or some other form of starch. 

Shrimp with garlic, butter, Old Bay and green beans
Lighting the barbecue was my only slight issue. Luckily my neighbours were outside to observe this, and were ready with 911 had I had some ill-fated turn with the gas tank. Since I am of course convinced that I can do EVERYTHING myself, I knew the barbecue lighter and I would meet in the middle at some point and there would be flame. And I was right about that. Once I got my barbecue lit, I clearly cracked an ale in true man-fashion. I let the barbecue heat up while I went inside to prep the steaks and shrimp. The steaks were an easy prep- salt, pepper, and some great steak seasoning. My personal preference (also my father’s) is Barberian’s, a great steak place in Toronto. It’s a secret recipe, but you can find the info here. The shrimp was only slightly more complicated. In my grilling basket, I put the shrimp, green beans, some freshly minced garlic, a dollop of butter, salt and pepper, and finally some Old Bay. Old Bay is amazing, and according to my mother you can put it on “anything from the sea,” which is exactly what I do. The shrimps and steak are so easy, not to mention the delightfully easy clean up that comes from cooking, you have to wonder if it counts as cooking at all!

In the meantime, I’ll tell you a little about salads. Salads are perhaps the easiest thing in the world to make. In university, my roommates and I really pushed the limits of salads and included just about anything we had lying around. We went through balsamic vinegar like it was water.

On to salad construction: Put lots of veg, fruit, cheese and/or nuts in a bowl, throw a little dressing on it, and you’ve got yourself a salad. As for dressings, they’re as easy as pie (and pie is actually not easy at all, but salad dressing is). The main formula for a good dressing is one part acid, three parts oil. Add a scoop of Dijon mustard to help them emulsify, and you have yourself a vinaigrette of the gods. For example, for your acid you can do any kind of vinegar- balsamic and red wine work particularly well. Stir in some extra-virgin olive oil and then a little mustard, and that’s about it. You could also use lemon juice as your acid if you want something lighter. Want an Asian feel? Do a little rice vinegar with soy sauce, olive oil and a splash of sesame oil (only a splash! Not too much because it can be bitter). You get the idea. Add a little seasoning at the end and taste it before you put it on the salad. It’s so easy that I’m convinced my dog could make salad dressing.

The barbecue is definitely hot now. Throw on the grilling basket with the shrimps and beans it, and the steaks. I happen to like my steak very rare- a little chilly in the centre works just fine for me. Of course, not everyone has predatory leanings like I do, so generally cooking it to medium-rare is ideal. (This man who joined me for dinner tried to order it medium well, but I flat out refused. You can eat a leather boot instead.) To cook your steak to the ideal wellness without slicing it open to check the inside, (we’re not amateurs here) touch it. Medium-rare will feel like the soft part of your hand, right below your thumb, if you touched the middle finger to the thumb. This is hard to explain, but you can see pictures here. My steak got taken off the grill after about three minutes/side, but my friend’s stayed on for five minutes/side. Then let them rest; don’t just tear into the meat immediately like Fred Flintstone. Letting them rest allows the juices to re-distribute and will obviously make the meat more flavourful and moist.
Surf 'n' Turf

The shrimp took about seven minutes to cook in total; I just tossed it around in the grilling pan until the shrimp turned pink. As SOON as they turn pink, take them off the heat because they are done and any longer on the grill means they’ll become tough. (Yuck) Throw it on a plate and you’ve got supper in less than 20 minutes, start to finish! I topped my steak with some blue cheese, and sautéed mushrooms or onions would be great too. I feel like the combination of red wine, rare steak and blue cheese in my mouth may be a transcendental experience that brings me closer to the heavens, and I can see how King Henry VIII and Elvis found it so easy to overindulge. 

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Tour a Vineyard: Wine not?

Even the most casual of wine-thusiasts can appreciate the knowledge that a wine tour affords. Whether you stop at just one vineyard, or six, you definitely come away with a greater appreciation for what you’re drinking. And also, because, you know: free wine. 

On a recent trip to Niagara Falls I was able to see four boutique wineries that produce a wide range of reds, whites, sparklings, and icewines. For me, the greatest pleasure was in learning about icewine. (Yes, to be considered an official icewine, it must be spelled as one word. My space bar still works!)

Icewines are harvested late in the season, usually January or February. This is still distinct from a “late harvest” wine because icewine can only be named as such if the grapes were on the vine for three consecutive nights of -8° C. Once this has happened, all of the harvesting and processing is done in the middle of the night so that the grapes don’t warm up at all. The idea is that the freezing temperatures concentrate the juice inside the grape, making a much sweeter nectar. For each ice grape, you only get about one drop of liquid. In other words, icewine production sacrifices dozens of bottles of regular wine for one bottle of icewine.

The end result is worth it, though. Certainly, it’s very sweet. Too sweet for some. A regular chardonnay is about a 1 or a 2 on the sugar scale (which is based on a calculation of grams per ounce). Icewine is a 22. Maple syrup is a 60. So yes, it’s sweet, but probably not as sweet as what you have for breakfast on a Sunday morning.

Icewine is fragrant, fruity, and syrupy. I would compare it to apricot jam or fruit cocktail. I found it delicious but probably wouldn’t sit down with a bottle on a Thursday night to watch Jeopardy (although never say never). However, there are some amazing things you can do with icewine. Here’s a few to try if you’re new to this tasty little luxury wine:

Icewine martini
2 ounces icewine
1 ounce vodka
Shake over ice and garnish with fruit slice of your choice (such as peach, lemon twist, or frozen grape).

Icewine “Royale” from
1 ounce Cab Franc icewine
3 oz. champagne
Layer the sparkling wine over the icewine and garnish with a floating raspberry

“Poire Regal” from
Arrange 12 pancetta slices in a single layer on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 450° for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined wire rack using a spatula. Cut pear crosswise into 12 thin rings. Arrange on a serving platter. Top evenly with crisp pancetta and crumbled goat cheese or Niagara Gold Cheese. Drizzle with Northern Ice Vidal or Jamie's Signature Series Big Red just before serving.
My personal favourite though? A little chilled fruit, a very cold glass of icewine, and some Canadian folk music. Pair with a hot, sunny day on the shores of Lake Erie and a loved one. Enjoy. 

Chilean Sea Bass

Phew! I thought I had lost my joy of cooking these past few weeks. I was so tired of cooking mundane meals with inferior ingredients that I actually thought about going on a reducing diet! It turns out all I needed was an amazing piece of Chilean Sea Bass! I happened upon it by accident too. I was sent on a quest by my Portuguese partner to get a flag of Portugal for our truck for the Europe Cup soccer tournament. He said he was ashamed that we are the only Portuguese house in town that doesn't have a flag on our truck. So off I went in search of a truck flag. I hit paydirt on my third convenience store. It was a hard fought battle too because the owner of the store had to go into his little back room to find his stash. Then he tried to pawn off the national flag of Cyprus on me, insisting that it was the flag of Portugal. I may be blond, but I do know the flag of almost every country in the world. Gosh! Then we had to dicker over the price because he tried to hose me once he found the flag I needed. What an ordeal!
Since I was in the same plaza as the Asian market, I decided to go in and see if I could find something to make for dinner. I browsed around - and there like it had a beacon shining on it, was the most beautiful sea bass steak I had ever laid eyes on! It cost a fortune and I didn't care. I grabbed some lemons and garlic and green onions and they had some really fresh rapini, so I grabbed that too and practically danced out of the store. I put that flag on my truck right there in the parking lot and drove off with it flapping in the wind, planning my menu in my mind's eye!
By the time I got home, I had decided on a rice pilaf (which you already know how to make if you follow this blog) and sauteed rapini to go with my piece of sea bass. Sea bass is one of God's perfect fish. You'd have to work at it to make it taste bad or ruin it. It can be a less is more kind of fish, or you can go right to town and add some really strong flavours to it. It is a blank canvas in that way. I decided to bake it with a nice lemon and garlic sauce.
For the sauce you'll need:
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons of olive oil
a bunch of sliced green onions. Keep the hearty white parts separate from the delicate green tops
3 cloves of minced garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
a splash of white wine
chopped fresh parsley - this is just getting sprinkled on the fish when you serve it
To prepare the fish:
Season both sides with salt, freshly ground pepper, a bit of cayenne pepper and some lemon zest and lemon juice.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Pour some olive oil in an oven proof non-stick casserole dish and put it in the oven to get the oil really hot. It should be about 1/4 inch deep.
While that oven is heating, you can start your sauce. Melt the butter and the olive oil in a skillet and add the white part of the green onions and once they sweat down a little, add your garlic. Just let it saute for a minute or two (so you don't burn the garlic). Add your wine and lemon juice and stir it around for a few minutes and reduce your heat. Season it with a bit of salt and pepper and let it gently simmer, stirring it once in a while.
When your oven gets up to temperature, remove the hot pan and slide your fish into it. I cannot stress enough how dangerous this is!!! Slide your fish into the oil away from your body, slowly and carefully. That hot oil will be jumping!!! Keep this whole operation away from you as far as your arms will stretch! Put the pan back into the oven for 5 minutes and now you have to flip your fish. Just before you do this, add the tender green tops of the green onions to your sauce. Once again, being ever so careful, flip that fish and put it back in the oven for just 2 minutes. Then take it out and top it with your sauce being careful to make sure all the onion goes on top of the fish and not all over the pan. Put it back in the oven for 3 or 4 more minutes. Your side dishes should be already cooked and ready to serve at this point. In fact, make them first before you start the fish. Remove the fish from the pan and plate it for serving. Sprinkle the parsley on it just before you do this. So amazing. Use any side dish you like with this recipe. I like sauteed rapini, but that isn't to every body's liking. It can be quite bitter, but a bit of chicken broth seems to take that away. Just chop up the rapini and throw away the stems. Melt some butter and olive oil in a skillet and sweat some chopped garlic and add the rapini and about 3/4 cup of chicken stock. Season it with a bit of salt and pepper and put the lid on it for a few minutes. It will reduce to about half of what you started with. Take the lid off and let it saute for about ten minutes more, stirring it once in a while and give it a squirt of fresh lemon juice just before you serve it. Such a wonderful and tasty meal!
Just on a side note, since I used so many lemons to make this meal, I kept all the squeezed out peels and made a simmering pot pourri to make the whole house smell wonderful after and to eliminate any fish odours left behind. Just add about 3 cups of water to saucepan and add your lemon peels, a few cinnamon sticks and a couple of star anise. Let it simmer away on the stove for hours and add more water if it boils away. This will keep your house smelling wonderful for days! Bon Apetit!