Saturday, 26 October 2013

Devils on Horseback

Let’s talk about hipsters. Fans of irony, clothing created ethically without ethics and, perhaps ironically, being like every single one of their very individual friends. (Internet, do not email me if I’ve misused the word “irony” here. If Alanis didn’t care, neither do I.)

My best friend and I once had a discussion about whether or not we were hipsters. (My best friend is definitively not. She wears J. Crew every single day.) I was having a harder time identifying myself. I did have that U-Back dress from American Apparel, but on the other hand I shopped at the Gap just as regularly. I like to listen to Bon Iver (maybe that’s too mainstream to be hipster now), but I also have Women and Song vol. 1 on regular play (this may make me a middle-aged woman, but “Good Mother” is just SUCH a kick-ass song). I read Vice magazine, and Glamour. We concluded I was just shy of hipsterdom.

But I appreciate irony like everyone else, and I am a particular fan of Instagramming my food in Kelvin or Walden, and so perhaps in my late twenties, I am entering that dreaded “aging hipster” phase, which basically terrifies me. Luckily I live in the suburbs, so I think I’m safe (although I do have lots of room to brew my own beer). Anyway, who cares about all this hipster business when the 70’s had some awesome food trends? I think we should bring them back, in a totally ironic and fresh way.

Here on TLGT, (that is awesome, I should hashtag us- #TLGT) we appreciate the classics. Our Vichyssoise recipe would be an excellent example of this.  So what if that recipe came from the day when you had your husband’s boss for dinner? It’s still fresh and delightful. You know what else is goddamn delightful? Devils on Horseback. Dates, blue cheese, bacon (but I used prosciutto, because we know how I feel about bacon) and a nice, boozy sauce. What could be better? Nothing.

Preheat your oven to 350°. Start by slicing your dates in half and stuffing them with blue cheese- I used a nice sheep’s milk Stilton, and that was fabulous, but you could do anything. Ideally, you want a fairly salty cheese, to go with the sweetness of the dates. Wrap it in prosciutto, because we are re-vamping classics, so something has to be fresh and new. Pop those in the oven for ten minutes.

Now, cognac is the traditional pairing, but they don’t sell that at the Wine Rack, they only sell $10.00 sherry there, so that’s what we are going to use. Don’t drink it though! Just simmer it down in a pan with a little sugar until it reduces and forms a nice, sticky glaze.

Plate your little devils in a fresh way- but I kept the 70’s toothpicks for a little hit of kitsch. Drizzle with the sherry glaze. These are probably ironic enough to bring to the next hipster Ugly Sweater party that you go to, and you can all sit around and play Scruples while you eat the Devils!

Editor’s Note: I may have listened to “Good Mother” 828 times while writing this blog.  

Friday, 25 October 2013

Red Velvet Cake (Special Guest Blogger!)

I'm a new member of the blog, Diane's sister. I only rear my head now because I don't cook, at least nothing more then what a box of Shake 'N Bake offers or Hamburger Helper. But God love my family and my husband of 28 years, they never complain, they are happy to have a meal in front of them. 

I also don't bake; I find it more hateful than cooking. The whole general idea of the kitchen and everything in is not something that interests me. However this one night, this one crazy night, I was reading a People magazine and I saw a Cake Boss recipe for a red velvet cake.... from scratch. I'm not even sure why I lingered on the page; normally I would have flipped it in disgust because why would I ever bake a cake, especially from scratch? I think the fact that it was a "red velvet" cake caught my eye. They seem to be really in style and sexy these days and since I like to stay hip and cool, I lingered. And then I thought, "Why Joanne, WHY can't you attempt something like this?"

And the non-baker in me responded, "I'll tell you why you silly bi-atch, because you don't own a mixer, cake pans or one single ingredient required for the mix". I wasn't going to be deterred. I tore the page from the magazine and threw it to the floor, determined it would happen. And then it became Bailey's birthday a few weeks later and I had to commit. And so I forged ahead to the grocery store with my list in hand. Visiting the baking aisle of the grocery store was like Jacques Cousteau visiting uncharted waters in the South Pacific. It was foreign and it was scary. I caught a premix for a red velvet cake out of the corner of my eye and I reached for it and stopped myself. NO, I was going to do this... and guess what, it turned out magnificent!! And P.S.- I borrowed my mother's cake pans and mixer but have since bought my own. So here's what you need.

1 1/4 c vegetable shortening
2 c sugar (it says additional for parchment, but I did not get parchment, I had to draw the line)
1 tbsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used no name, it was fine)
4 1/2 tsp red gel food colour (I could not find the gel, I used liquid)
3 c cake flour
1 1/4 tsp fine sea salt (not sure why sea salt, but I didn't question the boss)
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 tsp white vinegar
3 extra large eggs
1 1/4 c buttermilk
Your favourite cream cheese frosting (I used Betty Crocker and thanked the Cake Boss I didn't have to make the icing from scratch too!)

1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (9x2 in) round cake pans and set aside.
2. Beat shortening and next 8 ingredients in a large bowl (make sure it's LARGE!) with electric mixer on low speed until blended and then on medium-low for 1 min. Add eggs individually, beating one minute after each egg. (Prepare for the mix to fly all over the kitchen as mine did... it gets better when the buttermilk goes in)
Add the buttermilk in 2 portions, beating just until blended.
3. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until cake begins to pull away from the sides.
4. Cool cakes on a wire rack for an hour... and this is where it says to put them on parchment paper, which I did not do, I threw them on a plate and iced it up!! If I could do this at the age of 50 with no baking experience, anyone can. So give it a try!!!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Have you ever invited people over for dinner, but then gotten so caught up in the Speech From the Throne that you forgot to make something? Then you look in your fridge and all you have is eggs, milk, spaghetti and pancetta (because you’re a fancy b*tch)?

Fear not, my culinary chums. If you have those items, (or fine, bacon, if you lack pancetta), you can make your guests a beautiful Italian dinner of Spaghetti alla Carbonara. You also need a good hard cheese like Parmesan. These are all things that a well-stocked fridge and pantry should have, so you’ll be good to go at the drop of a hat.

See how my pan isn't nearly big enough?
This is a two-step meal. Start by boiling some salted water for your pasta. While that comes to a boil, sauté your pancetta in a large frying pan (because you are going to put all the pasta in it- it needs to be quite large in order to accommodate it all). Add some minced garlic to that. Now, in a bowl, crack four eggs and whisk with a little milk and a nice amount of grated cheese. Whisk it more and set aside. (Side note- many people think carbonara is a cream sauce. Many restaurants of ill repute will just add bacon to alfredo sauce and call it a carbonara. This is incorrect and slightly shifty. It is an egg sauce, and it is creamy and amazing anyway.)

Egg mixture
This is one of those meals where timing is everything, so you need to have it together when you come to this next step. If your guests are trying to engage you in conversation at this point, this is an excellent time to tell them to open the wine in order to occupy their minds with a task so that you can concentrate. Or encourage them to choose some dinner music. Whatever. Just get them away from you.

Here we go. Drain the pasta and add it to your very big pan. Turn off the heat of the stove, and if your pan is quite hot, take it off the burner entirely. Now take the egg mixture and dump it all over. What we are trying to achieve here is a cream sauce, not scrambled eggs on pasta. To do this, you need to immediately start aggressively tossing your pasta and continue to do this until the pasta is coated. The heat of the pasta and pan will cook the eggs, and with your assertive tossing, the eggs will not be able to solidify into clumps.
I probably would have been better off with a smaller plate. 

Garnish with some fresh parsley (if you have it, which is why everyone should grow herbs in their kitchen) and serve immediately. Salt and pepper to taste. Now you can judge anyone who thought carbonara had something in common with alfredo!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Best Scarf Down There Ever Was!

Now let's just face it, there comes a time in every body's life where you just don't have the time or the energy to  bust out the skillet and make a grilled cheese when you're starving to death! You know this is true. And that's why the peanut butter sandwich is your go to friend right now. Desperate times call for desperate measures! Right? Well move over peanut butter and jam sandwich. There's a new sheriff in town and it's called liverwurst. Or Pate, if you have it. Protein and flavour. Quick and easy. And EW! Who the hell wants to wash that peanut butter knife in the morning? It smells and looks gross!

Take a slice of bread (hopefully you have a loaf of Italian or French left over from dinner, but any bread will do) and butter it. Add a thin layer of Dijon. Then add a slather of liverwurst (or pate). Grind some freshly ground pepper over it and add a cornichon. Add some thinly sliced onion if you like. Or maybe some hot sauce or HP sauce. It's up to you. You're the hungry person! And roll it up. Eat it. And we're done here. Fast food that didn't cost you twenty bucks. (although I still love peanut butter and jam sandwiches! This is just another idea.)

Friday, 4 October 2013

Beef Bourguignon

Well it just so happens that today, I am in a very fine mood. It's Friday. So it's already a good day. And we've had the most beautiful fall weather imaginable. And I think today calls for a celebratory dinner. So I'm going to make a nice Beef Bourguignon. Now I know you're already thinking of Julia Child since she pretty much set the standard for this meal. Or in fact, the movie they made - Julie and Julia. Either way, Julia (the real chef) was a French trained chef at Le Cordon Bleu. So it goes without saying that she knew her shit. As a young wife and mother, I wanted to make something amazing like that, but I didn't have a clue what a lardon of bacon was and her recipe looked like something written by the hand of an alien from another planet when I was in my young twenties. I really felt she took it right over the top and tried to intimidate all of us young, new housewives with an interest in cooking for our sexy new husbands. So I'm still kind of mad at her for that. And I sort of think that was the point of the movie.  BUT, as the years (decades) have passed and I've looked at hundreds of copycat recipes, I realize that Julia had it right. I still think her recipe is too complicated and over the top. But what she did do was keep it fresh. I've seen recipes that call for frozen onions. That is a travesty to me. I'm all about fresh ingredients because you can taste the difference. And please young cooks, don't ever get in the habit of using anything canned or frozen or jarred. I jar my own tomatoes for God sake, and I would always still use fresh if I can get my hands on them. My motto in life is this - W.W.T.F.D. What Would the French Do? And I adore all things French. So some recipes call for this to be served on top of garlic toast. Not French (although it sounds delish!) Or on top of rice or pasta such as Julia did. Still not entirely French though. I like to serve it just as a stew with a side of arugula and a sliced baguette that you can slather with butter and dip as you go along. Of course I would have lipstick on, some wonderful scent of Chanel and most likely, a scarf type accessory draped around my neck as I was serving this. Hahaha NOT! But I wish! Let's go! You'll need about 3 hours.

You'll need:
2 pounds of beef cut into bite sized inch chunks. You can use stewing beef or chuck.
1/2 pound of bacon or pancetta or pork belly chopped. The idea is that you're browning your meat in yummy pig fat!
a splash of olive oil
1 peeled and thickly sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of good, bold red wine. (The best is to use a burgundy since this dish is named after it)
2 cups of beef stock
1 tablespoon of tomato paste (why can't somebody invent a tube to sell this in? I hate wasting a whole can of tomato paste for only needing a tablespoon.)
3 cloves of minced garlic
2 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
some freshly chopped parsley
24 fresh pearl onions
a pound of mushrooms cut into quarters. Quality counts here. So use the freshest you can get and any mushroom you like, or a combination of a few.
1/2 cup of butter
fresh French bread to serve it with

Cut up your beef and toss it into a plastic bag with the flour and some salt and pepper and shake to coat the beef. Use a Dutch oven for this if you have one, or a pot that can go from burner to oven. Brown your bacon on Med heat until it's fairly crispy, but not too much so, and remove the bacon and set aside. Add your beef a few at a time and brown them on all sides in the bacon fat. If it's sticking too much, add just a splash of olive oil to loosen them. If you run out of bacon fat, add a little splash of olive oil to keep browning. When all the beef is browned, set it aside with the bacon. Drain off any fat in the pot if there is any. In the meantime, sauté your sliced onion and carrots in a bit of olive oil for about 8 to 10 minutes. Be careful not to use too high heat and scorch them. Med low heat is good. You just want them softened and golden. Add your minced garlic in after about 6 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325. While your pot is empty, add a small splash of wine to deglaze it and scrape up the bits. Add all of your meat and bacon and carrots and onion back into the pot and add your wine and beef broth, season with salt and pepper, add the tomato paste and just 1 sprig of thyme and 1 bay leaf. Bring this up to a simmer and give it a stir once in a while. Cover it and put it in the oven for about 2 1/2 or 3 hours or until the meat is very tender.

While the meat is roasting, peel all of your little onions and sauté them in some butter and olive oil until they are golden brown. These are delicate and you want to leave them whole, so just gently shake the pan and let them roll around to brown, Then add about 3/4 cup of beef broth, salt and pepper and your other sprig of thyme and a bay leaf and let them simmer uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated. About 45 minutes. Just let them simmer slowly and don't stir so they'll hold their shape. Saute your mushrooms in butter until they are browned. About 1/2 an hour before you serve, add the onions and the mushrooms into your beef pot, stir it all up and let it continue to cook with the lid off the pot. Taste your seasoning and just before serving, sprinkle with your parsley and serve it up with your French bread.

And that's all she wrote folks. I don't know why I was so petrified of making this all those decades ago. It seemed like such a monumental task at the time. Hahah I guess youth has no time or patience for cooking in stages! Now this dish is a pleasure to make. Enjoy friends!