Monday, 30 September 2013

London Calling: Cuttlefish Ink Pasta

And now for something completely different….

This is one I tried kind of just for fun. I happened to be in the Loblaws and what did the PC Black Label have? BLACK PASTA. Like, the coolest. It’s infused with cuttlefish ink. PC calls it “Nero di Seppia” because, you know, branding. So obvi I had to buy this to try to make something alarmingly awesome looking.

I was lucky enough to have my long-lost London pal over for dinner, so I decided to do an homage to her town and do something I’d seen Gordon Ramsay do: halibut with roasted tomatoes and pesto. If memory serves, Gordon put it over a parsnip puree (he loves parsnip purees!) but I wanted to use the black pasta.

It took two grocery stores, believe it or not. I went to Farm Boy for my halibut, my basil, my tomatoes, and basically everything except the black pasta. Sorry FB, but Loblaws has you beat on that one!

Also, Farm Boy didn’t have pine nuts. But Loblaws wanted ELEVEN DOLLARS for a tiny tub so I decided my pesto could surely do without!

First step is to turn the oven up high and toss your grape tomatoes in some oil and balsamic and salt and pep. Then roast them a good maybe fifteen minutes.

While that’s happening, get your water to a rolling boil. I found the black pasta took a few minutes longer to cook than regular pasta. Not sure why that is, but just keep an eye on it. For your pesto, throw a whole bunch of basil and maybe half a cup of olive oil in your magic bullet. A bit of minced garlic, some salt and pepper, and pine nuts if you can afford them. After it was blended, I heated it in a sautee pan while the pasta finished.

Put your black noodles on a stark white plate (for effect) and then streak the pesto around the outer perimeter. Don’t just pile it on top of the noodles or you’ll lose the colour. Meanwhile, sear your halibut in olive oil for three minutes a side. Season it with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Place it gently on top of the noodles. When the tomatoes come out of the oven, place them in a scattered pattern around the black noodles.

Use your bitchin’ microplane that your momma got you (if you’re that lucky) to top the dish with fresh parmesan cheese. I served the whole affair with a simple mache salad with lemon zest, black pepper, and vinaigrette. Bloody brilliant, as the Londoners say!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Shrimp Po' Boys

I would marry me. 
Well, there’s been quite a lot of chatter around sandwiches in the blogosphere this week, hasn’t there? Stephanie Smith, New York Post writer and creator of decided to share with the world the perhaps ill-thought out “hilarious and cute” story of how her boyfriend said she was 300 sandwiches away from an engagement ring. As in, “Isn’t this story so funny? Eric woke up this morning and questioned why I hadn’t made him a sandwich yet, since I had already been up for 15 minutes!” We all have that friend. You sort of laugh, and shift uncomfortably in your seat while thinking to yourself, “Oh sweet Jesus.” (Full disclosure: I cannot get past this man’s hair. Something about it disturbs me deeply, so I’m actually probably even more judgmental about it than I should be.)

I have friends who insisted this was clearly satire. I have friends who insisted this set the woman’s movement back 100 years. I’ve read the hilarious responses, I’ve analyzed the critiques. Now, we all know I identify myself with the f-word, so my thoughts tend to lean towards to “WHAT THE HELL?” side of the argument, but again, I also have that hair bias.
This one is not 300 Sandwiches worthy, because the lettuce is dangling out, and that's a no-no.

Smith has since responded, which crushed my dreams that this was perhaps an incredible art commentary on feminism and culture, and has in fact confirmed that she really is planning to marry a man who calls her “babes” (ughhhhhhhhh) and does, in fact, intend to make 300 sandwiches, (and probably thousands more, since this Eric fellow she wishes to spend a lifetime with has an insatiable appetite for various buns and breads) and all for a man who obviously charms himself with his own jokes a little more than he ought to. He is wildly amused by the feedback they received, because he says this was a “tongue planted firmly in cheek” joke. But I suspect he is just doing damage control because in the first article, we are told he is a man who likens sandwiches to sex, and sees them as love (“To him, sandwiches are like kisses or hugs. Or sex.”) I like a good prosciutto as much as the next girl, but let’s not confuse palate pleasure with lust. (Okay, feel free to insert a good salami joke here).

In her response, she states that OBVIOUSLY he was just JOKING when he asked her to make him hundreds of sandwiches in order to get a big, shiny, rock; but of course she is going to do it and blog about it ANYWAY because that is LOVE, people. HA-HA-HA-HA. Right? Love! So cute. I personally am looking forward to the current saccharinely sweet sandwiches to fade to sarcastic and sardonic sandwiches after years of having to slice tomatoes and assorted cheeses, but don’t get me wrong- this is not some embittered old hag thing (well not and old hag thing, anyway). I like love just as much as the next person. I love to cook, and I certainly love to cook when in the presence of male company. The end-goal is not marriage however. The end-goal is a full stomach, many compliments to feed my already over-sized ego, and perhaps someone to load the dishwasher after. (Ha-ha not really! Do not touch my dishwasher. I am the only one to touch the dishwasher.)

One thing the Internet does agree on however is that this blog has some seriously gorgeous sandwiches. The food porn reigns on this site, that’s for sure. I may even be a little of her food photography. So, despite the backlash over her basically living as a meme, I have been inspired to make a sandwich for dinner today. (NB: The only lucky recipient of my sandwich skills will be me. And maybe my dog if there is any leftover.)

Remoulade ingredients
Let’s make Shrimp Po’ Boys. I used the BonAppétit version of the sandwich and this recipe for the remoulade. But of course we all know I can’t follow instructions to save my life, (so, future suitors, do not instruct me to make you any amount of sandwiches for a ring). There were some amendments to each recipe.

Start by making your remoulade first. You’ll need:
            1/4 cup mustard
            1 1/4 cups mayo
            1 teaspoon lemon juice (my addition- this recipe needed some citrus)
            1 teaspoon hot sauce (I used Frank’s)
            1 large garlic clove, minced and smashed
            1 Tbsp sweet paprika
            1-2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning

I clearly did not measure mine, I am just telling you what the Simply Recipes people suggest. I also added a good-sized dash of Old Bay. Whisk up all those ingredients in a bowl and put it in the fridge. You are welcome to let it mellow for a few hours before you assemble the sandwiches.

Now for the shrimp batter. Start by seasoning your shrimp with the following:
Garlic Powder
Oregano (this is optional because I didn’t have any and     it turned out just fine)
Onion powder (also I had none of this, but life went on)

When deep frying in the most dangerous way possible, I recommend keeping everything close. 
Then, I made the shrimp batter with beer, flour and Old Bay, plus a little panko for texture. Mix this together until it’s the consistency of pancake batter. Too thin will not work, so add your beer slowly.

Shrimp and beer. 
Heat some oil until a drop of batter will sizzle right away in the pot. They only need to be fried for about two minutes, until they come to the top of the pot of oil. Give them a quick flip for colour on all sides. Then drain on a paper towel.

Slice a nice bun and put your remoulade on both sides of the bun (Stephanie Smith credits this revolutionary technique in her first sandwich ever, aka the Sandwich That Ruined Feminism.) Serve with iceberg lettuce (I realize this has the nutritional equivalent of Styrofoam, but it has a great crunch) and some tomato. A little hot sauce on the side and a squeeze of lemon, and you have yourself a sandwich which should at least get you a fourth date (you surely are not cooking at home for a first or second date- what kind of girl are you?!). Bow down, bitches.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Old Fashioned Beef Stew with Dumplings

Now there is just nothing wrong at all with a nice, hearty pot of beef stew is there? Especially with fluffy steamed dumplings! You almost forget all about comfort food by the end up summer after all those grilled, delicious steaks and burgers. But boy oh boy, when you take that first mouthful of pure old school pleasure, it's like pulling into your mom's driveway after four years away at university. I should add that the only reason I decided to make this meal today was that I had all my ingredients on hand, so I didn't have to go out the door to buy a thing. And that is always the deciding factor for me. Especially on a Friday when I quite look forward to having a nice glass of wine while I cook! (and I downloaded Blurred Lines, so I twerked alone in my kitchen all the while!) So let's get started.

You'll need:
a pound of stewing beef
2 peeled and sliced carrots
2 stalks of sliced celery
1 chopped onion
sliced mushrooms if you like
any kind of root vegetable you like (so you're getting the idea. Put whatever you like in your stew!)
1 box of beef broth (homemade is always best, but this is a great mid week meal, so boxed is fine)
1/2 cup of flour
1 Tsp of onion powder
1 Tsp of garlic powder
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp of fresh chopped rosemary
1 tsp of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
oil for browning the meat. I like Canola.
1 cup of red wine
2 large peeled and diced (to bite sized pieces) potatoes

Cut your stewing beef into bite sized pieces. Put your flour, onion powder, garlic powder and about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper into a freezer bag. Add the beef chunks and shake it all around to coat it. Heat the oil on medium heat and add the meat and all the flour. Let it brown for about 5 minutes, stirring it around. It will seem like a disaster because the flour will stick to the pot. Don't worry about that because the wine will get that deglazed in no time. Add your chopped onion and let that sauté for another 7 or 8 minutes. You're really going to think you're in trouble now because everything is really tight and sticking. So add a splash of wine and scrape the bottom of your pot with a wooden spoon to get all the bits up. Add your sliced celery and just smash your garlic and throw it in. Now add your full cup of wine and keep scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the full box of beef broth, the Worcestershire sauce and the chopped rosemary and thyme. If you're doing mushrooms or root vegetables, you can add these in now too. Reduce your heat to Medium Low and let this simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. Stir it often and scrape the bottom of the pot every time. Add your potatoes and carrots and let it simmer for another 30 minutes. Keep your lid on the pot the whole time. Taste for seasoning now and add some salt and pepper if needed.

Now for the dumplings, we're going to make them the easy way. No shortening or butter needed.
2 cups of flour sifted
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of milk
Stir it all together and it should be the consistency of mashed potatoes. Or just a tiny bit looser. If it's too dry, add a splash more milk. Now add a spoonful of the batter right on top of your simmering stew and go around the pot until you run out of room. Let them simmer on Med Low for 10 minutes with the lid off the pot. Then put the lid on and let them simmer for another 10 minutes. And that's it! Turn off the heat and let the pot just sit for at least twenty more minutes with the lid on to let everything cool off a bit. This would be way to scalding to try to eat right away!

To serve it, I like to put a dumpling in the middle of a pasta bowl and add a good ladle full of stew over the top of it. Feel free to garnish with some freshly chopped parsley. So awesome, better make lots! And who doesn't love a one pot meal? Cheers friends!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Pot Roast Sandwiches

Oh please God I beg you to give me just twenty minutes of peace! I finally finished my diet (for which I lost 39 pounds, but that is irrelevant now) and I have a new kitten. Not that I wished for a new kitten at all. But my most beloved, handsome prince went out one night and never came back. And because I am deeply loved, people arranged for a new kitten to replace him. You can't say no to that kind of love, so I gratefully (read begrudgingly) agreed to it. So far, that kitten has shredded two brand new pairs of skinny Calvin Klein jeans and scarred my legs to where they look like a road map of northern Ontario. There is more blood drawn from my flesh on a daily basis from kitten claws than a devil worship ceremony at a bath salts convention in Miami. But I digress.

The point is that I haven't been able to get near the stove in weeks and weeks because of the terror I live in on a daily basis. And because of my vigilant efforts to try to tame the beast, (water spray bottle and hollering like a banshee) I was able to nearly get a pot roast dinner into the roast pan the other day. I didn't get the potatoes in. But carbohydrates are no longer a necessity of life for me anyway, so it worked out okay. And because I am always so stressed and shredded and bleeding all the time, I rarely eat food anymore. (Although I wish I could!) So the pot roast was put to the fridge because the need for vodka over ruled. BUT the sandwiches which came from those leftovers were brilliant! The Evil Ginger Cat is shredding my flesh as I type this, but I'll forge on ahead because I'm more used to it now. First we'll make a pot roast:

Use a 1or 2 lb cut of beef. Pot roast is what the label will say for the best one to use. But don't use an expensive cut such as a sirloin or prime rib. Or an outside or eye of round. You want a fairly fatty roast so it will break up and have some flavour.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and put the roast into the pan. Add 2 carrots cut into big pieces, 2 stalks of celery cut into large pieces, 1 onion cut into quarters, 2 cloves of garlic smashed but whole and 2 quartered and peeled potatoes. Double the vegetables if you're feeding more than 4 people. Add 2 cups of red wine and season everything with salt, pepper and some garlic powder. Put the lid on and let it roast for about 3 hours. If you like root vegetables like turnip and parsnip, you can throw that in too.

If you want to serve this as a main, remove the meat and cover with tin foil for about 10 minutes. Remove all the vegetables and cover with tin foil and leave them to warm. You can simmer down the pan drippings to half and serve as an au jus, or you can make a gravy. For that, just make a slurry (that's Newfie speak for take a half a cup of warm tap water and stir in about 2 tablespoons of flour, stirring it in with a fork, so no lumps, and whisk it in to your drippings) which are simmering on medium heat. As it thickens, turn down your heat to low and keep on whisking. Taste for seasoning and serve it up with your vegetables and sliced meat.
If you want to make the most amazing sandwiches ever... Don't make the gravy.

Slice your meat and put it and the pan drippings into a container and store overnight.
Get the freshest buns you can find. I am so lucky to have a Portuguese bakery in my town and those are the best buns to use. They're soft. So don't use Ciabetta or chewy buns like that. Use Kaisers or potato buns if you can't get Portuguese. Saute a thinly sliced onion in butter until it softens and add about 6 or 7 sliced mushrooms. The better the mushrooms, the better the sandwich. So use the ones you like. Season with salt and pepper. Cut the bun in half and spread some Dijon on one side and some horseradish mixed with sour cream and Worcestershire sauce on the other. (half horseradish, half sour cream and about a tablespoon of Worcestershire). Preheat your broiler in the oven to high heat. Heat up the beef in drippings in a saucepan to a simmer. Put several slices of the beef on one side of the bun and the mushroom and onion sauté on the other. Add some cheese over the onions and mushrooms. I like Gruyere, but mozzarella works fine or Provolone or whatever you have. Lay it out on a cookie sheet and put it under a broiler for a few minutes. Watch it ever so vigilantly so nothing scorches. You just want a melt. Pull it out and if you like, add some radicchio or spinach or even fresh thyme just before serving. Put the two buns together and there you have a bloody good Pot Roast sandwich my friends! It will melt in your mouth and you'll be thankful for your happy life again! Enjoy!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Baked Jalapeño Poppers

Now it’s football season, and if you happen to follow any of us LadyGirls on Twitter (well, 2 of 3 LadyGirls) you would know that we are pretty damn excited about that! I’m a bad Canadian, because in all honestly, I could care less about hockey. I know that it’s supposed to be our national sport, and I know that we practically invented it (and apparently basketball as well, which I also don’t really care about.) What I do care about is football. Why do I care about football? I care because I understand the scoring, and because football goes hand in hand with beer and snacks. Also with watching as a big gang of people. And gambling! The list goes on. All of these things are fun, and all of them are included in football.

Let’s talk about snack. Now, you likely remember Mummy’s epic Snack Stadium for Superbowl last year. That is an ace up your sleeve for sure. But you need to have other options, because no one is going to assemble one of those every week. Not to mention, what are you going to do if they actually stop selling Twinkies? Variety is the spice of life, and that includes your snacking life too. I love a good bar food recipe, and one of my absolute favourite bar foods are jalapeño poppers. They are SO GOOD. Spicy, full of cheese, which I clearly love, and deep-fried. So that is pretty much the best combination of life.

I really try to ration my deep frying at home though, for two reasons. The main reason is that I attempt to lead a healthy lifestyle in which I consume fewer calories than I burn, or at least some reasonable ratio thereof. So deep-frying is a good way to guarantee the opposite of this. Secondly, I don’t own a deep-fryer, so my method, filling a big pot with oil and hoping for the best, is rife with potential house burning fires. I live dangerously, y’all.

The good news is that there are many people who wish for lighter, healthier versions of delicious bar food, and so therefore there is a market for my recipe of baked jalapeño poppers.

You need:
  • Jalapeños
  • Bottle of beer and 1 egg mixed together
  • Panko or crushed cornflakes mixed with Old Bay or a seasoning of your choice
  • Soft cheese blend (I used herbed goat cheese with a little ricotta, but cream cheese is a crowd favourite)

Start by halving and de-seeding your peppers. This is easier said than done. Important rule is not to touch your eyes while you’re doing this. Don’t touch anything delicate, actually. Think this through, my friends. I promise you’ll thank me for that advice.

Try to remove all the seeds and the white parts, because that’s where the majority of the heat is. Now fill your pepper halves with the cheese mixture and dump it into the beer/egg mixture. This makes them sticky and the beer adds flavor. Next, in they go to crumbs. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake at 375° for about 40-45 minutes. Serve hot with your favourite team scoring in the background!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Coq au Vin

Clearly it is time for us to start blogging some fall recipes. Today I went out without a jacket on, and I was full-on chilled. So that’s fall weather, and that means everyone wants to cook heartier meals and eat more delicious things. It also means you can cook recipes over the stove slowly without turning your house into a sauna.

My first fall recipe for the year is Coq au Vin. I actually used the lighter, faster Nigella Lawson’s “Coq au Riesling” recipe, which led me to a very fortuitous trip to the liquor store, since I had no white wine in the house (who drinks white wine anymore?!). My favourite Zinfandel (Ravenswood) was on sale, so I clearly put three of those bottles in my cart. Then I found a nice Ontario Riesling, so that went in the cart too.

I got up to the cash to pay for my wine and it was fall Food & Drink day! AND it’s the twentieth anniversary edition. Serious delight abounds, because this is a beautiful food magazine filled with all kinds of lovely recipes. Not only that, it is FREE. Because the province of Ontario insists they are the only people you can purchase liquor from, this magazine is the least they can do. If you don’t live near a Liquor Control Board of Ontario store, maybe you can try to find it online. I keep all of mine on a bookshelf, and even though a few weeks ago I was accused of being a hoarder for this exact behaviour, I’m never sorry when I have a go-to recipe bible.

Anyway, it’s time to cook a chicken. (I would like to interject at this point that I had some very dear friends over for dinner for this meal and the “coq” jokes were abundant. I don’t want it to get too racy for this blog, but I’m sure if you use your imagination for even one second, you can think of at least three excellent cooking puns using the word coq. The French language is a never-ending source of amusement for us Anglophones. The word for seal is “phoque”, which I didn’t know until my four year old godson told me. I nearly scolded him for swearing and then I realized he was talking about the seals on TV.)

This recipe was incredibly easy. You need:
  • Chicken thighs (skinless with bones if you can find them, otherwise boneless skinless works)
  • 1 sliced leek
  • Bottle of Riesling
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • Package of oyster mushrooms, chopped
  •  3 bay leaves, sprig of fresh thyme
  •  Splash of heavy cream
  •  Salt and pepper to taste
I modified a few of Nigella’s instructions, but not many. For example, Nigella calls for fresh dill at the end. I chose thyme because that was easy and accessible for me. I also did use the splash of cream, because I think it makes the recipe richer. (Cream and coq jokes now obvious). Also funny, in the comments for her recipe, people ask questions like, “Can I use carrots here too?” OF COURSE YOU CAN. Why would anyone even ask that and then expect Nigella to take time out of her day to respond to that? Get a hold of yourselves people. You can do anything you want; you are the one that’s going to eat it.

Start with a nice big pot and add a little olive oil. Sauté either some diced bacon or pancetta, and then add in your sliced leek and garlic. When they are soft, place your chicken thighs to the pot. The thighs are skinless because we aren’t going to take them out and sear them after, and non-seared chicken skin is not appealing to the palate, I can assure you. We do want this to be a weeknight meal, so that’s why we’re skipping that step. If you have more time, feel free to get skin-on thighs and then sear them to crisp them up later.

Now you simply dump in your entire bottle of wine, add the bay leaves, thyme and bring to a boil. Once it comes to the boil, cover and simmer for 40 minutes at least. The blogosphere agrees that this recipe is better left at this point and refrigerated overnight, but you can obviously eat it immediately too. Add your cream and give it a stir. You can serve on a bed of noodles, which is apparently the traditional serving, or you can do what I did, which was to serve it on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

(Important editorial note: I assumed you knew to take out the bay leaves. Don’t eat those.)