Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pork Meatball Banh Mi

It's that magical pre-vacation time when the last thing you want to do is go grocery shopping. With no vegetable box this year, our options for dinner are more limited than usual. I found this recipe while looking for something different to do with the ground pork sitting in the freezer. This came together incredibly quickly (after I skipped on marinating the veggies for an hour!) and was remarkably flavourful. I made some changes I'd recommend (reducing the sugar), some I'm on neutral on (using cucumber slices instead of daikon), and some I'd recommend avoiding (using the last of our slices of bread instead of baguette).

One year ago: Baked Green Lasagna with Meat Sauce

Pork Meatball Banh Mi (adapted from epicurious.com, originally Bon Appetit)

Hot Chili Mayo:
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
2 cups coarsely grated carrots
2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon (Japanese white radish)
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)
Thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
16 large fresh cilantro sprigs

1. Hot Chili Mayo: Stir all ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt.
2. Meatballs: Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs.
3. Sandwiches: Toss first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally (I just had them sit while the meatballs were cooking.)
4. Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes.
5. Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2-inch-thick shell.
6. Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell. Arrange jalapeños, then cilantro, in bottom halves. Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs.
7. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs. Press on baguette tops.

Red Braised Pork

This is a rich, flavourful dish that comes together easily. It does require a bit of time, but good things come to those who wait.

One year ago: Chocolate Cinnamon Cream Scones

Red Braised Pork (from Land of Plenty)

450 - 560g boneless pork belly, preferably with skin
2" piece of ginger, unpeeled
2 scallions
3 tbsp peanut oil
2 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
3/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 of a star anise

1. Cut pork into 2 - 3" chunks, leaving each piece with a layer of skin and a mixture of lean meat and fat.
2. Crush ginger with a heavy object. Cut scallions into 3 or 4 sections.
3. Heat oil in the pot until beginning to smoke. Add pork and stir-fry for a couple of minutes.
4. Add stock and all other ingredients and stir well. Bring to a boil.
5. Simmer half-covered or uncovered over a very low flame for 2 hours, stirring occasionally until liquid is reduced and meat is fork tender.


I decided that the perfect thing to bring some people at the office was homemade fudge. Of course, I've made fudge in the past, but it was cheater fudge with evaporated milk. I decided this year would be the year to try the real thing. The first batch went smoothly, although it did require more patience and checking of the temperature than I bargained for ... not to mention the anxiety of whether or not it would turn to fudge (the transformation was nothing short of amazing!). I got a little bit cocky for the second batch (of course the mint ones!). Instead of setting, the fudge remained like chocolate taffy. Luckily, the book had remedies for this and I think the finished product turned out amazingly, even if I did have to warn people about foil bits! Unluckily, the transition to saving the dish involved covering the counter and my hands in chocolate. Don't get cocky! I omitted the nuts. They don't belong in fudge in my world!

One year ago: Maple Pecan Pie

Fudge (from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts)

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp light corn syrup
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

1. Generously butter the sides of a 2.5 - 3 qt saucepan. Mix sugar, cocoa, salt, cream, and corn syrup in pan. Stir over moderate heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a boil.
2. Cover the saucepan for 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Uncover the pan and place a thermometer in the pan. Boil without stirring until it reaches 236F.
4. Gently remove from heat. Add butter, do not stir. Let stand until temperature drops to 110F.
5. Prepare a pan, covering the bottom and sides on a loaf pan with aluminum foil.
6. When fudge has cooled, remove thermometer and add vanilla. Beat using a wooden spatula or spoon without stopping until fudge becomes very thick and is barely beginning to lose its shine.
7. Stir in nuts if using. Push mixture into lined pan. Push into smooth layer.
8. As soon as it feels firm but before it hardens, remove from pan by lifting foil and cut into portions with a long, sharp knife.
9. Wrap immediately.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Butter-Roasted Cabbage Strips with Caraway Seeds and Mustard Seeds

I was pleasantly surprised that I liked this dish. Thus far, I've mostly enjoyed the cabbage we've been getting with more Asian flavours or in raw preparations. This recipe was nicely seasoned and brought out the sweetness of the cabbage which paired nicely with pork tenderloin. We skipped on the optional aged Gouda because the boy wasn't willing to part with some of his precious Gouda for this recipe. I imagine it would be even better with the cheese!

One year ago: French Lemon Cream Tart

Butter-Roasted Cabbage Strips with Caraway Seeds (from All About Roasting)

4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp caraway seeds, coarsely ground
1 tsp mustard seeds, brown or yellow
1 small head green cabbage (680g), preferably Savoy
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Gouda cheese (optional)

1. Heat oven to 350F. If desired, line a heavy duty rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add caraway and mustard seeds and set aside.
3. Quarter cabbage and remove cores. Slice each quarter into 1/3" thick pieces. Pile onto baking sheet (don't worry if it's high, it will shrink!).
4. Pour butter over cabbage and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
5. Roasting, tossing and turning with tongs every 10 minutes until tender with crispy brown edges, about 30 minutes.
6. Serve hot or warm with some grated Gouda.

Sear-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Quick Vermouth Sauce

The last of the cheap pork tenderloin has now been eaten. The boy got stuck cooking this dinner as I went Christmas shopping after work. I think he did a pretty good job! This recipe is more of a guideline or springboard for dinner. The pork could be seasoned differently with rubs, but the method is excellent and results in an extremely moist piece of meat. The sauce has more substitutions listed in the cookbook than ingredients. If you find that too much sauce evaporated off before you put the finishing touches on it (perhaps because it was left on a hot burner), just add more liquid before adding the butter.

For best flavour, season the pork 4 - 24 hours ahead of time.

One year ago: Veal Scaloppine with Marsala and Cream

Sear-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Quick Vermouth Sauce (from All About Roasting)

1 pork ternderloin, silverskin trimmed
1/2 to 3/4 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp grapeseed oil or other neutral-tasting oil
1/4 cup finely minced shallots, scallions, leeks (white parts), or onions
1/4 cup dry white vermouth (or white wine, apple cider, marsala, or sherry)
1 cup chicken broth
1 to 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or other herb)
2 - 4 tbsp unsalted butter, heavy cream, or creme fraiche

1. Pat pork dry and season with salt and pepper. Set on a plate and refrigerate for 4 - 24 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 350F. Let pork sit at room temperature while oven heats, 25 - 30 minutes. Pat surface dry.
3. Heat an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and sear undisturbed until brown on one side, about 2 minutes. Turn and brown on all 4 sides. Transfer to a small rimmed baking sheet.
4. Roast pork until internal temperature reaches 140 to 145F, 13 to 18 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, let skillet cool slightly. Add shallots and return pan to medium heat and saute until they are slightly softened, about 2 minutes.
6. Add vermouth to skillet, increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Scrape bottom of skillet. Simmer until vermouth just barely covers bottom of skillet, 2 - 3 minutes.
7. Add broth to skillet and simmer until reduced by about half, 5 minutes. Stir in parsley, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
8. Transfer pork to a carving board to rest for 5 - 8 minutes.
9. Meanwhile, heat sauce over medium heat to just below a simmer. Add any drippings from pan (we didn't have any). Whisk in butter 2 at a time in 1/2 tbsp sized parts. Don't let the sauce boil. Add dairy depending on how rich you want the sauce. Allow sauce to simmer until thickened.
10. Carve pork into 1/2 to 1" thick slices. Pour any meat juices into the sauce. Spoon sauce over each serving.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ground Lamb Meatballs with a Saffron Sauce

I know I just had a ground lamb Indian dish, but I couldn't resist the sudden availability of small packages of ground lamb at a reasonable price at the store. This recipe is less indulgent than the last one, but still delicious with more spice and a bit of heat. I had a friend over and messed up slightly by forgetting to scoop the lamb meatballs out and then reduce the sauce. I ended up overcooking the lamb a bit and not having a thick broth to pour over the meatballs. I recommend not making that mistake, but promise that the dish will be good even if you do!

One year ago: Slow Cooked Scrambled Eggs with Cream Cheese

Ground Lamb Meatballs with a Saffron Sauce (from 660 Curries)

225g ground lamb
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, ground
1/2 tsp black cumin seeds, ground
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp cayenne
3/4 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp saffron threads
4 or 5 black cardamom pods
6 whole cloves, crushed
2 tbsp canola oil

1. Mix lamb, salt, fennel, cumin, ginger, onion and garlic together in a medium-size bowl. Form into 10 balls and place on plate.
2. Pour 2 cups water into a small saucepan, add cayenne, paprika, saffron, cardamom pods, and cloves. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Cook, uncovered until you have an aromatic, reddish-orange broth, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
3. Heat oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add meatballs and cook, moving to ensure even browning until seared all over, 5 - 7 minutes. Drain off excess fat.
4. Pour spiced broth over meatballs. Raise heat to medium-high and vigorously simmer uncovered, basting every minute or two, until lamb is barely pink inside, about 10 minutes.
5. Remove lamb from broth and transfer to a serving bowl.
6. Continue to simmer broth until it reduces to about 1/2 cup, 8 - 10 minutes. Pour over meatballs and serve.

Ants Climbing a Tree

This is a simple dish that's perfect for a weeknight meal. While it wasn't quite as impressive as some of the dishes I've cooked lately, it was a surprisingly satisfying dish that seems cozy for a winter night. The name comes from the look of ants (the ground pork) clinging to the noodles (the tree). I substituted rice noodles (because that's what I had) for the bean thread noodles, so I didn't have quite the visual effect for that. I also doubled the pork and spice ingredients just because 115g of meat didn't seem like enough to make dinner for 2 with leftovers. Maybe with the right noodles it would've been a better proportion. The original is included below.

One year ago: Red Lentil and Chickpea Soup

Ants Climbing a Tree (from Land of Plenty)

115g bean thread noodles
1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
115g ground pork
peanut oil
3 tsp light soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp chili bean paste
1 2/3 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
3 scallions green parts only, finely sliced

1. Soak the noodles in hot water for at least 15 minutes.
2. Add Shaoxing rice wine and a couple of generous pinches of salt to the pork and mix well.
3. Season wok, add 2 tbsp of oil and heat over a high flame. Add pork and stir-fry until lightly browned and crisp with a tsp or so of light soy sauce.
4. Add chili bean paste and stir-fry until oil is red and fragrant.
5. Add stock and drained noodles and stir well.
6. Tip in dark soy sauce for colour and season with light soy sauce and salt to taste.
7. When stock has come to a boil, simmer over a medium flame for about 10 minutes until liquid has mostly evaporated and been absorbed.
8. Add scallions, mix well, and transfer to a serving dish.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lamb-Almond Dumplings in a Tomato Cream Sauce

Ground lamb was on sale the last time I was in the grocery store, so of course I couldn't pass it up. The flavours in this dish were perfectly balanced. Serve with the buttery basmati rice for an amazing meal.

I made a couple of mistakes with this recipe and forgot the chopped red onion. I also thought this recipe didn't need cumin seeds and used all of them making the rice (apparently cumin seeds now don't last much more than a month around me!), so I added a bit of ground cumin to the meat mixture instead. I'd recommend following the recipes, but it's not the end of the world if you have ground cumin instead.

One year ago: Red Lentil and Chickpea Soup

Lamb-Almond Dumplings in a Tomato Cream Sauce (from 660 Curries)

450g lean ground lamb
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds, ground
1/4 cup firmly packed fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
6 medium-size cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp Punjabi garam masala
1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
2 tbsp ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 cup canned tomato sauce (I used strained tomatoes)
1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, ground
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Combine lamb, onions, almonds, mint, cilantro, garlic, garam masala, and salt in a medium bowl. Divide into 12 equal portions and shape into a meatball.
2. Heat ghee in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds and cook until they sizzle and smell nutty, 5 - 10 seconds.
3. Add meatballs to the pan in a single layer. Cook, gently shaking every 2 - 3 minutes until they are evenly browned, 5 - 8 minutes. Transfer meatballs to plate.
4. Pour tomato sauce into skillet and scrape bottom to deglaze. Stir in cardamom and cayenne.
5. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally until a thin film of oil starts to form, 5 - 8 minutes.
6. Stir in cream.
7. Add meatballs to skillet and spoon sauce over them. Cover skillet and simmer, basting occasionally, until meatballs are light pink in center, 10 - 15 minutes. Serve.

Buttery Basmati Rice with Spinach and Onion

My cookbook suggested I serve this side with my main dish and I have to admit when I first read the list of ingredients, I wasn't terribly excited. Still, I decided to give it a shot. Mostly because it would use up the chard I had in the fridge (chard and spinach are exactly the same, right?) and partly because I had all of the ingredients on hand. The end result, though, is so much more than the sum of its parts. I took one bite and was pleasantly surprised by the depth of flavour. The boy had a bite and was also impressed and wanted to know what was in it. I started listing the ingredients and felt sure I had missed something, but no, I had remembered it all.

Usually I don't bother with the rinsing and soaking of rice, but I figured this time it didn't really add any time as the rice soaks while the onion and greens cook. I'm not sure if that's part of the magic, but it's probably worth doing!

One year ago: Pita Bread

Buttery Basmati Rice with Spinach and Onion (from 660 Curries)

1 cup basmati rice
2 tbsp ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium-size red onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 cups firmly packed fresh spinach leaves (chard!), well rinsed, patted dry, and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt

1. Place rice in a medium bowl. Fill halfway with water to cover rice. Rub grains, drain, and repeat 3 - 4 times until rice remains relatively clear. Fill halfway with cold water and let sit until grains soften, 20 - 30 minutes. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, heat the ghee in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add cumin seeds and cook until they sizzle and smell aromatic, 5 - 10 seconds.
3. Stir in onion and add a handful of spinach. Lower heat to medium and stir until greens wilt, about 1 minute. Repeat until all spinach has been added.
4. Cook onion-spinach mixture until all liquid has evaporated and onion has turned soft and honey-brown, 15 - 20 minutes.
5. Add drained rice and toss with onion-spinach mixture. Pour in 1 1/2 cups water and add salt. Stir rice once.
6. Increase heat to medium high and cook until water has evaporated from the surface and craters form, 5 - 8 minutes.
7. Stir once. Cover with lid and reduce heat to lowest possible setting. Cook for 8 - 10 minutes.
8. Turn off heat and let pan sit on burner undisturbed for 10 minutes.
9. Remove lid, fluff, and serve.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pork Ribs with a Sweet-Sour Glaze

While trying to make room in the freezer and reorganize it so things could be found, I discovered a package of pork ribs. Although this recipe calls for them to be grilled, I thought putting them in the slow-cooker would be much easier for a weeknight meal (baking also works according to the book). Be sure to start the night before with making the paste, marinating, and making the glaze.

I was a bit skeptical of the sauce when I walked in the door to a sauce simmering and was overwhelmed by the smell of garlic, but the end result had sweetness and a hint of heat. I served it with a salad with cilantro jalapeno dressing and some stewed beets with a few Indian spices. Not only did the plate look beautiful, but the earthiness of the beets complemented the ribs wonderfully.

One year ago: Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes
Two years ago: Arugula and Cheese Pseudo-Frittata

Pork Ribs with a Sweet-Sour Glaze (from 660 Curries)

2 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1.8kg pork ribs
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar, dissolved in 1/4 cup boiling water
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp Balti masala (I used a premade garam masala)
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
4 medium garlic cloves
2 - 3 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, stems removed
2 tbsp canola oil
1 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro

1. To prepare ribs, mix ginger and garlic pastes, salt, and turmeric together in a small bowl. Smear paste over ribs. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. Combine all glaze ingredients in a small bowl and stir thoroughly.
3. Place ribs in slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours or until tender.
4. Combine garlic and chiles in a mortar. Pound together with the pestle, scraping the sides.
5. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and stir-fry until dark brown around edges, 5 - 8 minutes.
6. Add pounded garlic-chile blend and stir to lightly brown garlic, about 1 minute.
7. Stir in tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, salt, and turmeric. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally until vinegar evaporates and there is an oily sheen, 3 - 5 minutes.
8. Pour in 1 cup water and scrape pan to deglaze. Once the sauce comes to a boil, lower heat to medium and simmer until it thickens, 5 - 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
9. Paint glaze on ribs and continue to cook until glaze has a slightly opaque look to it (You might also consider using the broiler.). Remove ribs from slow cooker and let rest for 5 - 10 minutes before serving.
10. Rewarm sauce and stir in cilantro.
11. Slice ribs and transfer to a platter. Brush with sauce.

Fish-Fragrant Pork Slivers

I've been craving Chinese food a bit lately and had found some cheap pork chops at the grocery store, so this recipe seemed like a perfect candidate for a weeknight dinner. At first, I was a bit turned off by the name, but there's nothing fishy about this dish. The end result is salty, sweet, sour and spicy ... everything you could want in a Chinese dish! If you mix together everything while your mushrooms are soaking, the dish comes together very quickly and easily. Don't forget the rice to soak up the sauce!

As far as changed to the recipe go, I did omit bamboo shoots (and the alternative of celery stalks). It's supposed to add a crunchy element to the dish, but I also served a side of sliced daikon (turnips!), so I felt it wasn't needed.

One year ago: Gingerbread Cupcakes
Two years ago: Mediterranean Couscous and Lentil Salad

Fish-Fragrant Pork Slivers (from Land of Plenty)

a small handful of dried cloud ear mushrooms
280g boneless pork loin (meat from pork chops)
peanut oil
2 tbsp pickled chili paste
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
2 scallions, green parts only, very thinly sliced
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp cold water
1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 1/2 tsp white sugar
1 1/2 tsp black Chinese vinegar
3/4 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/8 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp chicken stock or water

1. Cover cloud ear mushrooms in very hot water and soak for 30 minutes.
2. Cut pork into thin slices and cut these into long, fine slivers. Place in bowl, add marinade ingredients, and stir to combine.
3. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
4. Thinly slice cloud ear mushrooms, discarding any knobby bits.
5. Season wok and add 1/4 cup of cool oil and reheat over high flame.
6. When oil is beginning to smoke, add pork and stir-fry.
7. As soon as strips have separated, push to one side of wok, tip the wok toward the other side, and tip the chili paste into the space you have created.
8. Stir-fry until oil is red and fragrant and then add garlic and ginger and mix everything together, tilting the wok back to normal.
9. Stir-fry for another 30 seconds or until you smell the garlic and ginger.
10. Add mushrooms and stir-fry briefly, until just hot.
11. Stir the sauce in its bowl and add to wok. Stir to incorporate, add scallions, toss briefly, and turn onto a serving dish.

Stracotto with Garlic and Pancetta

This is another recipe that can be blamed solely on impulsively bought meat. It's such a bad habit and at the same time has such delicious results that I don't think I'll be stopping any time soon. The sauce on this dish is incredible and worth every bit of extra work straining and shredding the pancetta. This is a perfect winter meal. The author suggests serving it with polenta. I served potatoes, but think polenta would be an even better vehicle for soaking up every last bit of sauce. This dish does require some planning ahead as it needs to marinate before braising.

One year ago: Christmas Macarons
Two years ago: Cream of Tomato Soup

Stracotto with Garlic and Pancetta (from All About Braising)

1.6 - 1.8kg boneless beef chuck roast or 1.8 - 2kg bone-in beef chuck roast
coarse salt
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
1 head garlic, cut crosswise in half
2 bay leaves
2 3" rosemary sprigs
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
one 750mL bottle fruity, dry red wine (Chianti)
aromatics and braising liquid
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grappa or brandy
1 cup beef or veal stock
225g pancetta (preferably in one piece, but sliced works)
freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add celery, onion, and carrot and saute until vegetables are slightly brown, about 8 minutes.
2. Add garlic, bay leaves, rosemary, and peppercorns. Add wine and bring to a boil.
3. Simmer for 5 minutes and set aside to cool to room temperature.
4. Tie meat with kitchen string and season with 1 tsp of salt. Slide into a zip-log bag and pour in cooled marinade. Refrigerate for 24 - 36 hours, turning once or twice.
5. Heat oven to 300F.
6. Remove meat from marinade, reserving marinade. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
7. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add meat and sear on all sides, 15 - 20 minutes total. Transfer to a 3 - 4 qt Dutch oven.
8. Pour most of the fat from the skillet and discard. Return skillet to medium-high heat and pour in grappa.
9. Bring to a boil and scrape pan. Continue to boil until reduced to 2 tbsp, 3 - 4 minutes.
10. Strain marinade into skillet, reserving vegetables, and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes.
11. Add stock and boil again to reduce down by half, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
12. Tuck pancetta under roast in Dutch oven. Scatter reserved vegetables over top and push some under the roast.
13. Pour braising liquid oven top of roast. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper and then with the lid. Slide pot into lower third of oven.
14. Cook until roast is fork-tender, 2.5 - 3 hours, turning once halfway.
15. Lift beef from braising liquid and transfer to a shallow platter.
16. Strain braising liquid into a saucepan, reserving the pancetta and garlic and discarding remaining aromatics. Skim off fat from liquid and bring to a boil.
17. Simmer for 10 minutes to give sauce body and concentrate flavour.
18. Squeeze garlic from cloves into a small bowl and smash to a paste.
19. Tear pancetta into small shreds and add to simmering sauce.
20. Snip strings from roast. Carve into 1/2" thick slices. Spoon sauce onto each serving and top with a small spoonful of garlic paste.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Babi Kecap

I bookmarked this recipe a while back, but had it on the back burner due to never seeing kecap manis (Indonesian soy sauce) in Montreal (not that I had looked very hard). Imagine my surprise when a friend led me into a tiny Dutch convenience store outside of Ottawa and I found some sitting on the shelf. Of course there was no question as to whether or not I was buying the tiny bottle. The sauce on this recipe was fantastic. I should've listened to my inner voice, though, that told me to cover the pork while it simmered as the pork turned out a bit dry and the sauce reduced more quickly than I wanted it to. Despite the amount of chiles in the recipe, I didn't find it to be spicy.

One year ago: Chicken with Lemongrass
Two years ago: Espresso Chiffon Cupcakes with Fudge Frosting (which I recently remade!)

Babi Kecap (from Almost Bourdain, originally Rick Stein)

2 tbsp vegetable oil
100 g shallots, thinly sliced
50 g garlic, minced
25 g peeled ginger, finely grated
1.25 kg lean pork shoulder, cut into 3cm chunks
4 tbsp kecap manis
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp Tamarind water
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3-4 medium-hot chillies, seeded and chopped
4 red bird's eye chillies, left whole
500 ml Asian chicken stock (~2 cups)
Crisp fried shallots, to garnish (I omitted)

1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat.
2. Add the shallots and fry until they are soft and richly golden.
3. Add the garlic, ginger and 1/2 tsp salt and cook for 1 minute.
4. Add the pork to the pan and fry for 2 minutes until lightly coloured.
5. Add the kecap manis, dark soy sauce, tamarind water, pepper, chopped and whole chillies and stock.
6. Leave to simmer, uncovered [I recommend ignoring and covering], for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring now and then towards the end of cooking, until the pork is tender.
7. Lift the pork out of the sauce with a slotted spoon onto a plate.
8. Boil the cooking liquid until it has reduced to a well-flavoured, slightly thicken, shiny, dark brown sauce.
9. Season to taste with salt, return the pork to the pan and stir in. Spoon the pork onto a warmed serving plate, scatter with the crisp fried shallots and serve.

Quick and Easy Chinese Greens

My one complaint with the CSA box of late is they don't seem to understand that bok choy cooks down. They insist on giving us only a 1/4 lb or so of bok choy, which when making this recipe really only leaves you with a brief taste of this dish and wishing that they'd given a reasonable portion. One day, I will get a full serving ...

One year ago: Goat Cheese and Asparagus Risotto (how seasonal of me!)
Two years ago: Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

Quick and Easy Chinese Greens (from Seductions of Rice)

1/2 cup chicken stock or water
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 scallions, cut into 1" lengths
1/2" ginger, peeled and minced
450g choi sum (or bok choy), cut into 3" lengths and thickest stalks cut lengthwise in half
2 tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tbsp cold water.

1. In a small bowl, mix together stock, oyster sauce, wine, soy sauce, and sugar.
2. Place a wok over high heat. When hot, add oil and let heat for 20 seconds.
3. Toss in garlic, scallions, and ginger and stir-free for 30 seconds.
4. Add greens. Stir fry for 1.5 - 2 minutes.
5. Add sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 3 minutes.
6. Stir in cornstarch mixture and stir-fry until sauce thickens, about 15 seconds.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


First of all, please note that this recipe is not a quick, weeknight dinner. It is, however, a flavourful, rich dish that I think would be outstanding as a hearty winter dinner. A nicely spiced ground beef is covered with a layer of custard, giving you hearty beef and rich eggs. I roughly halved the recipe and cooked it in a loaf pan, rather than a square pan, so I needed a bit extra cooking time (and my oven always seems to run cool). I also messed up and added chili powder instead of curry powder initially as a substitute for the Green Masala, however, the masala is quite spicy according to the recipe, so that may be a good addition if you like a tiny bit of heat. Serve this dish when you need a little comfort as an alternative to Shepherd's Pie or meatloaf.

One year ago: Peppermint Meringues
Two years ago: Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes

Bobotie (from The Soul of a New Cuisine)

560g ground beef
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp Green Masala or curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp crushed coriander seeds
2 tomatoes, chopped or 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup crushed peanuts or smooth peanut butter, unsweetened
2 tsp salt, divided
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
pinch of ground nutmeg

1. Heat a Dutch oven or other large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and onion and cook, stirring to break up any lumps until beef is well browned, about 5 minutes.
2. Stir in garlic, masala, cumin, coriander, and tomatoes, reduce heat to low and cook stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
3. Stir in the bread crumbs, peanuts, 1 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1/2 cup water and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Remove beef mixture from pot and drain on paper towels. Transfer to a plate and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 2 quart baking dish.
6. Whisk together milk, eggs, egg yolks, nutmeg, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt.
7. Spread beef mixture in bottom of pan and press down to pack well.
8. Pour egg mixture over beef mixture.
9. Set baking dish in a larger baking pan and add enough hot water to come 1" up the sides of the baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes.
10. Remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes until custard topping is golden brown and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Pickled Cabbage

Our CSA box seems to think we should be eating cabbage right now. The problem is, I'm not a huge fan of cabbage for the sake of cabbage. Luckily, if you cover it in enough tasty seasoning, I think it's delicious (or I can't taste the cabbage at that point!). The recipe below claims to make 4 servings, but I'm not sure how 2 cups of cabbage plus some red onion can be a serving! I didn't have fresh grapefruit on hand, so I just threw in some juice that was sitting in the fridge. Even without the grapefruit juice though, the mix is quite nice. I also substituted chili powder for harissa because I didn't have the time to make it. Next time, I will do this recipe right. Don't skip on the basil and cilantro on this!

One year ago: Spicy Red Beef Curry
Two years ago: Egg Drop

Pickled Cabbage (from The Soul of a New Cuisine)

1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp Harissa
1/2 head Napa cabbage shredded (about 8 cups)
1 grapefruit, peel and pith removed and segments sliced, juice reserved
2 sprigs basil, leaves only, chopped
2 sprigs cilantro, chopped
one 2" piece ginger, peeled and grated

1. Combine vinegar, soy sauce, water, and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Transfer to small bowl and let cool.
2. Add onion, garlic, peanuts, peanut oil, and harissa to vinegar mixture and stir well.
3. Put cabbage in a deep baking dish or large bowl and pour mixture over it. Toss to combine.
4. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
5. Drain cabbage and transfer to large bowl. Add grapefruit segments and juice, basil, cilantro, and ginger, tossing to mix.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cardamom-Scented Chicken with Ginger and Garlic

I made it 3 nights eating Thanksgiving leftovers or repurposing them into new dishes. Night 1: turkey tacos with cranberry salsa and feta cheese. Night 2: Turkey enchiladas with pumpkin mole sauce. Night 3: More enchiladas. But then it was time for a break from leftovers. I had bought some drumsticks at the store on sale and quickly identified this recipe using EYB. Unfortunately, I was out of onions and failed to realize this until it was time to cook, so I omitted those. He gives the option of adding in 250g of baby spinach leaves, but I had kale, so I used that instead. It worked out wonderfully and I would definitely not omit the greens from this recipe as they do an excellent job of capturing the delicious flavour of the sauce. The chicken in this recipe comes out super moist, tender, and smelling of cardamom.

Finally, as a warning, you're better off doing some planning ahead and marinating the chicken the night before as the simmer times on this recipe do add up!

Cardamom-Scented Chicken with Ginger and Garlic (from 660 Curries)

2 tbsp Ginger Paste
1 tbsp Garlic Paste
2 tsp cardamom seeds (green or white), ground
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
8 chicken drumsticks, skin removed
2 tbsp canola oil
1 medium-size red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
4 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks (each 3" long)
250g baby spinach (or chopped kale or other green)
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro

1. Combine ginger paste, garlic paste, cardamom, cayenne, salt and turmeric in a small bowl and mix well to form a wet paste.
2. Smear each drumstick with the paste and refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight.
3. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add drumsticks and onion, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Allow chicken to sear all over and onion to soften, stirring occasionally until bottom of pan acquires a thin brown layer of spice and everything smells menthol-like, 18 - 20 minutes.
4. Pour 1 cup water into pan and scrap bottom to deglaze it.
5. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pan, and braise chicken, spooning liquid over chicken frequently until meat is fall-apart tender, 25 - 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a serving platter.
6. Add spinach to pan and increase heat to medium-high and cook sauce, uncovered, stirring occasionally until sauce has thickened and greens have wilted, about 5 minutes.
7. Stir in cilantro and spoon sauce and spinach over drumsticks and serve.

Bengali Squash in Coconut Milk

I can already hear my office mate's objection to this recipe. How is it any different from the Indian squash dish you already made? Granted, they are somewhat similar, but at the same time different which different seasoning and heat levels. I found this one to be much milder than the last and the turmeric gave it a lovely colour. The original calls for bottle gourd squash, but I used butternut. This recipe also calls for fenugreek and nigella seeds which I didn't have on hand despite the boy's insistence that there must be every spice known to man in the cabinet. Instead, I upped the amount of mustard used in the recipe.

Bengali Squash in Coconut Milk (from 660 Curries)

680g bottle gourd squash, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
2 tbsp mustard oil or canola oil
2 tsp Panch phoron (or roughly 2/3 tsp fennel seeds and 1/3 tsp each cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, and black/yellow mustard seeds)
2 - 4 dried red Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, stems removed
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro

1. Heat oil in a medium-size skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle in panch phoron and chiles and stir-fry until chiles blacken and seeds crackle, pop, and are aromatic, about 1 minute.
2. Add squash, salt, and turmeric. Cook, stirring, until squash is coated with spices, 1 - 2 minutes.
3. Pour in coconut milk and stir. As soon as it starts to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover skillet, and simmer, stirring occasionally until squash is juicy-tender, 20 - 25 minutes.
4. Stir in cilantro and serve.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Southwestern Turkey with Garlic-Ancho Chili Paste and Gravy

It's been a long time since I made a turkey ... too long. I wanted to try something a bit different this time, so I chose a recipe with an ancho chile rub. I was a bit concerned about the method of cooking though, so I went back to Alton Brown's method that I've used before with much success. I'm not sure how much the flavour of the paste came through (if at all which may be due to me scaling back the paste too much because my bird was smaller), but the meat was incredibly moist. I may continue to play around with the flavours, but the method is a complete winner.

Southwestern Turkey with Garlic-Ancho Chili Paste and Gravy (Flavour from epicurious, originally Bon Appetit; Method from Alton Brown)

1 17-to 18-pound turkey, neck and giblets removed and reserved
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water
3 large heads garlic
3 large dried ancho chilies, rinsed, stemmed, seeded, torn into pieces
1/2 cup corn oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons corn oil
1 1/2 pounds turkey neck or wings, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
5 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
2 cups (about) canned low-salt chicken broth
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
Cayenne pepper

1. 2 to 3 days before roasting: Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.
2. Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.
3. Early on the day or the night before you'd like to eat: Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.
4. Make chile paste: Preheat oven to 350°F. Separate heads of garlic into individual cloves (do not peel). Pierce each clove once with toothpick. Scatter garlic on baking sheet; roast until tender and beginning to brown, about 25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Peel garlic, cutting hard tip off each clove.
5. Pack enough garlic into 1/2-cup measuring cup to fill (about 40 cloves); reserve any remaining garlic. Blend 1/2 cup garlic in processor to form course puree.
6. Meanwhile, place chilies in small saucepan. Add enough water just to cover. Simmer over medium-low heat until chilies are soft and most of water evaporates, about 15 minutes.
7. Add chili mixture, oil, cumin, and honey to garlic in processor. Puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover paste and garlic; chill.)
8. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
9. Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.
10. Season turkey with salt and pepper. Slide hand under skin of turkey breast to loosen skin. Spread 1/2 cup garlic-paste over breast under skin. If stuffing turkey, spoon stuffing into main cavity. Rub 2 tablespoons paste all over outside of turkey. Reserve remaining paste for gravy.
11. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add neck and giblets, turkey neck pieces and onion; sauté brown, about 15 minutes.
12. Place contents of skillet around turkey in pan. Add celery, tomato, allspice and any reserved garlic to pan; pour in 2 cups broth.
13. Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes.
14. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting.
15. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.
16. Using tongs, remove turkey parts from pan; discard.
17. Pour mixture in pan into sieve set over large bowl. Press on solids in sieve to release liquid. Spoon fat from pan juices; add enough broth to juices to measure 6 cups.
18. Stir 1/2 cup reserved garlic-chili paste in heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until liquefied.
19. Add flour and stir 1 minute (mixture will be very thick).
20. Gradually add 6 cups broth mixture, whisking until smooth.
21. Simmer until reduced to 4 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes.
22. Season with cayenne, salt and pepper.
23. Serve turkey with gravy.

Quinoa with Black Beans and Cilantro

I made this dish as a gluten-free alternative to stuffing (and because I haven't had quinoa for a while and love it!). It comes together quite quickly and easily and is substantial enough to serve as a main dish. If you don't want to use canned black beans, I recommend cooking a large batch in a slow cooker and freezing in 1 cup snack bags until you're reading to use. I used thawed previously frozen beans for this recipe and they worked great. The original recipe puts the cheese as optional, but I think the dish really needs the cheese to balance the flavours.

Quinoa with Black Beans and Cilantro (from epicurious, originally Bon Appetit)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups chopped white onions
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup quinoa, rinsed, drained
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
11/2 cups water
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
Crumbled Cotija cheese or feta cheese

1. Heat oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and red pepper; sauté until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
2. Stir in next 4 ingredients.
3. Add water; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until quinoa is almost tender, about 14 minutes.
4. Add beans and 1/4 cup cilantro; cook uncovered until heated through and liquid is fully absorbed, about 3 minutes.
5. Transfer to bowl; sprinkle with 1/4 cup cilantro and cheese, if desired.

Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese

I had a dilemma. I had promised not to bake, but the plans for a bakery pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving had fallen through (it was out of season here). Rather than break the baking rule, I went in search of a good pumpkin appetizer and found this recipe. I accidentally doubled the amount of pumpkin puree, but I believe the batch of pumpkin puree we had was less flavourful than the canned stuff, so use your judgement (or taste as you go) about how much pumpkin to put in. This dip is excellent with apple slices and I can't wait to try it on my bagel in the morning.

Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese (from Ezra Pound Cake, originally Better Homes and Gardens)

1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 - 1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the softened cream cheese, pumpkin and sugar until smooth. (You could also use an immersion blender or wooden spoon.)
2. Add the pumpkin pie spice and vanilla.
3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Cranberry Salsa with Cilantro and Chiles

For some reason, I have an aversion to the idea of making cranberry sauce, so when I saw a recipe for cranberry salsa, I thought it would be a perfect alternative. I was a bit anxious about how it would turn out, but it was perfect. Tart cranberries with just a little bit of heat. I thought it was a little too much work to shell all the pumpkin seeds (I had some from when we roasted pumpkins), so I left the shell on and no one seemed to complain. I also didn't have pumpkin oil to toast the seeds and simply used canola.

Cranberry Salsa with Cilantro and Chiles (from epicurious, originally Bon Appetit)

4 teaspoons pumpkin seed oil (or neutral oil)
1/2 cup natural unsalted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds or unshelled)
Sea salt
2 cups fresh cranberries or frozen, thawed
1 1/3 cups chopped green onions (dark green parts only; about 2 bunches)
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons minced seeded serrano chiles (I left the seeds in)
6 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add pepitas; stir until golden, about 1 minute. Transfer to plate; sprinkle with sea salt.
2. Place cranberries in processor. Using on/off turns, process until finely chopped. Transfer to bowl.
3. Add onions, cilantro, and chiles.
4. Stir sugar and lime juice in another bowl until sugar dissolves. (DO AHEAD: Cranberry and lime juice mixtures can be made 4 hours ahead.) Cover separately; chill.
5. Add cranberry mixture and pepitas to lime juice mixture; stir to combine.

Cornbread and Chorizo Stuffing

I briefly contemplated doing a pumpernickel stuffing this year for Thanksgiving before going back to the cornbread comfort zone. I wanted to give it a southwestern flavour, so what better to pair cornbread with than chorizo? Of course, when I went to the store, all they had was merguez, so that didn't go as planned, but it was still tasty. The liquid amounts on the original recipe seemed entirely too low and some of the reviews stated it was a bit dry, so I doubled the egg and stock and found it stayed plenty moist. I also doubled the amount of sausage in the recipe, because who doesn't want more sausage?

Cornbread and Chorizo Stuffing (adapted from epicurious, originally Gourmet)

1 recipe cornbread
1/2 pound Spanish chorizo (cured spiced pork sausage), casing removed and sausage chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped (3 cups)
4 celery ribs, coarsely chopped (3 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Butter a 3-quart shallow baking dish.
2. Crumble corn bread into 1/2-inch pieces, spreading out in 1 layer in 2 large 4-sided sheet pans. Bake, stirring occasionally, until dry, about 20 minutes. Cool completely and transfer to a large bowl.
3. Meanwhile, cook chorizo in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Add onions, celery, garlic, oregano, and 1 1/4 teaspoon salt and sauté until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.
5. Add to vegetables corn bread.
6. Whisk together broth and egg, then pour over stuffing and toss well.
7. Transfer to baking dish and cover tightly with buttered foil. Bake in upper third of oven 1 hour.
8. Remove foil and bake until top is golden, about 15 minutes more.

Poinsettia Cocktail

I usually leave the drink-making to the boy, but I stumbled across this while looking for holiday-themed drinks and decided it would be the perfect way to start the evening off. It's light and refreshing, but appropriately festive.

Poisettia Cocktail (from Chatelaine, originally Nigella Lawson)

750-mL bottle Prosecco or other fizzy dry wine, chilled
1/2 cup (125 mL) Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Triple Sec, chilled
2 cups (500 mL) cranberry juice, chilled

1. Mix the Prosecco or other fizzy wine with the Cointreau (or Grand Marnier or Triple Sec) and cranberry juice in a large pitcher.
2. Pour into wineglasses or champagne flutes.

Tomatoey Rice Pilaf

I love good recipes that use up leftovers. I had extra braising liquid leftover from making the polpettone and it seemed a shame to let the deliciousness go to waste. Luckily, the book also had a suggestion for what to do with it. This was a success and gives you one more reason to make the polpettone!

Tomatoey Rice Pilaf (from All About Braising)

1 cup leftover braising liquid from polpettone
1 cup chicken stock
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup long-grain white rice

1. Heat the oven to 350F.
2. Measure leftover braising liquid and add enough stock to equal 2 cups. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed.
3. Melt butter in an ovenproof, medium deep skillet over medium heat.
4. Add rice, stir, and saute until grains are coated with butter and you hear a faint crackling sound, 2 - 3 minutes.
5. Pour in braising liquid mixture and bring to a simmer. Cover tightly and slide into oven and bake until rice is tender and has absorbed liquid, 30 - 35 minutes.
6. Let rice sit, covered, for 5 minutes, then stir before serving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stir-Fried Potato Slivers with Chiles and Sichuan Pepper

This recipe cooks surprisingly quickly for potatoes, thanks to the fine slicing. I expected it to have a bit of heat, but you don't notice it until you get a bit of the numbing aftertaste from the peppers and then the warmth of the chiles.

Stir-Fried Potato Slivers with Chiles and Sichuan Pepper (from Land of Plenty)

1 1/2 lbs potatoes
peanut oil
6 dried chiles, preferably Sichuanese
1 tsp whole Sichuan pepper
1 - 2 tsp sesame oil

1. Peel potatoes and cut them into very fine matchstick slivers (you can use a mandoline or coarse grater on a food processor).
2. Soak potatoes for a few minutes in cold, lightly salted water to remove excess starch.
3. Drain potatoes.
4. Season a wok, then add 2 tbsp of peanut oil and swirl over medium flame until hot but not smoking. Add chiles and Sichuan pepper and stir-fry until oil is fragrant and spicy.
5. Add potatoes, turn heat up and stir-fry vigorously for 4 - 5 minutes, seasoning with salt and a pinch of sugar to taste.
6. When potatoes are hot and cooked but still al dente, remove from heat, stir in sesame oil, and serve.

Wafu Salad Dressing

A friend introduced me to Wafu salad dressing a while ago and I loved the taste, but somehow I never got around to buying any of it. I was delighted to find a recipe for it online. The dressing's a little on the runny side, but it's still quite tasty.

Wafu Salad Dressing (from Food Network)

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon garlic
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup milk

1. Place all ingredients in a mini food processor and blend until well incorporated.
2. This can be thinned out to a desired constancy with a little extra milk. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Honey Sesame Pork Tenderloin

Dish #2 of cheap pork tenderloin was a success. With a little planning ahead (i.e. marinating the night before), this is a great weeknight meal. If you do much Asian cooking, you'll likely have all of these ingredients on hand. The crust on this is excellent salty from the soy sauce, sweet from the honey, and a little bit of a crunch from the sesame. The original recipe calls for cooking until a meat thermometer registers 160. I went with the newer guidelines and cooked until 145F and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing. The pork was perfectly moist and delicious, but obviously still pink.

Honey Sesame Pork Tenderloin (from Stop and Smell the Rosemary)

1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp sesame oil
450 - 680g pork tenderloin
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sesame seeds

1. Combine soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil in a large plastic bag. Add tenderloin and marinate at least 2 hours in the refrigerator (or overnight).
2. Preheat oven to 375F.
3. Combine honey and brown sugar in a shallow bowl.
4. Remove tenderloin from marinade and pat dry with a paper towel.
5. Roll tenderloin in honey mixture then roll in sesame seeds.
6. Roast in a shallow pan 20 - 30 minutes, or until meat registers 145 - 160F depending on desired level of doneness.
7. Let rest for 5 minutes and serve.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Pistachios and Lemon

I'm currently intrigued by Melissa Clark's new cookbook Cook This Now after reading some good reviews online and listening to my office mate rave about the cauliflower dish from the book that was posted on Smitten Kitchen. While trying to be responsible, I decided I should check out some of the other recipes before deciding to make a purchase decision. After trying this recipe, I think I'm pretty much sold on the book. (Is it too late to add it to my Christmas list?) The use of grated squash in this recipe is brilliant. It cooks and melds with the rice. I'm not a huge fan of leeks (mainly due to texture), but found that I appreciated them in this recipe as only the flavour and not the annoying texture was there. The lemon brings a bit of spring to a satisfying wintry dish. I was shocked by how little Parmesan this recipe calls for (only as a garnish), but found I didn't miss it at all. I made this for myself on a night when the boy was out, figuring he wouldn't appreciate the mainly vegetarian, vegetable-centric dinner, but he took some for lunch and liked it (until I told him how little Parmesan was in it!).

Butternut Squash Risotto with Pistachios and Lemon (from Cook This Now, posted recipe on Cannelle et Vanille)

1/2 pound peeled butternut squash
about 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium leek, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 cups arborio rice
2 rosemary branches
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/3 cup dry white wine (I used vermouth)
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped salted pistachios
grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a food processor fitted with a fine grating attachment, shred the squash.
2. In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer.
3. Melt the butter in large skillet over medium heat.
4. Add the leeks and cook, stirring them occasionally, until they are soft, about 5 to 7 minutes.
5. Stir in the garlic and cook it until fragrant, about 1 minute.
6. Add the rice, squash, rosermary, and salt. Stir until most of the grains of rice appear semi-translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.
7. Pour the wine into the pan and let it cook off for about 2 minutes.
8. Add a ladleful of stock (about 1/2 cup) and cook, stirring it constantly and making sure to scrape around the sides, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Continue adding stock, a ladleful at a time, and stirring almost constantly, until the risotto has turned creamy and thick, and the grains of rice are tender with a bit of bite, about 25 to 30 minutes.
9. Pluck out the rosemary branch and stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and black pepper. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice if needed.
10. Garnish with the pistachios and optional cheese before serving.

Polpettone Braised in Tomato Sauce

I stumbled across this recipe while searching eatyourbooks.com for recipes that would use up the leftover ricotta. These are giant meatballs, more similar to a meat loaf than meatballs and traditionally served on their own as a main course. I planned on cooking these on a Monday and needed a quick grocery store run first. I searched high and low at the grocery store for ground veal completely perplexed as to why it was suddenly missing. Eventually, I found the sign that ground veal had been on sale over the weekend and was of course sold out (this city seems to love veal). I ended up using ground beef and it was delicious, but I can see how ground veal would be even better. Please note this isn't a quick weeknight meal, but it's worth the time. The original below makes 12 very large meatballs. She says this serves 6, but we found that with side dishes, one was plenty (although my meatballs were probably a tiny bit larger than they should've been).

The leftover braising liquid is recommended in rice pilaf or as a base for soup.

Polpettone Braised in Tomato Sauce (from All About Braising)

Braising sauce
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion (about 8 ounces), finely chopped
1 celery stalk with leaves, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
2 cups tomato juice (I used strained tomatoes)
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup buttermilk (or whole milk)
3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp coarse salt
freshly ground black pepper
680g ground veal

1. Heat butter in a large deep skillet (with a lid) over medium heat. When butter is melted, add onion, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally until soft and barely translucent, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Add bay leaf, tomato juice, and stock. Bring to a simmer, stirring once or twice, and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes. Adjust seasoning.
3. Meanwhile, combine bread crumbs and buttermilk in a small bowl. Let sit for 5 - 10 minutes.
4. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, egg, salt, and pepper.
5. Add soaked bread crumbs to cheese and stir with a wooden spoon until well mixed.
6. Break off hunks of veal and drop into bowl. Gently knead until evenly mixed without overworking the meat.
7. Using a 1/3 cup measure, scoop out a heaping portion of the veal mixture and shape into a round ball. Arrange on a large platter.
8. When sauce is ready, reduce heat to medium-low and lower meatballs into the skillet. Spoon sauce onto top of meatballs and cover pan.
9. After 20 minutes, carefully turn the meatballs with a large spoon. Spoon sauce over top, cover, and continue to simmer until meatballs are firm and cooked through, 35 - 45 minutes.
10. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with a bit of sauce on top.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pork Tenderloin in Paprika Cream

The grocery store had a very nice sale on pork tenderloin, so I came home with 3 very nice pork tenderloins. As luck would have it, I also had some leftover sour cream on hand and extra bell peppers from the CSA box (not to mention plenty of tomatoes!). I'm becoming quite a fan of paprika dishes and the pork was excellent with this. Serve over egg noodles to soak up the extra sauce. This recipe may not be very fast, but once it gets started, it doesn't need much babysitting.

Pork Tenderloin in Paprika Cream (from Gourmet Today)

680g pork tenderloin, cut into 1 1/2" thick slices
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup lard or vegetable oil, divided
1 large onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Italian frying peppers, cored, seeded, and coarsely chopped (I used green bell peppers, not ideal, but it worked)
2 tsp sweet paprika (I used 1 tsp hot and 1 tsp sweet)
450g plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp all-purpose flour

1. Pat pork dry and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp lard in a 12" heavy skillet over moderately high heat. Brown pork, turning once, in batches if necessary. Transfer to a plate.
2. Add remaining 3 tbsp lard to skillet and reduce heat to moderate. Add onion, garlic, and peppers and cook, stirring frequently until onion and peppers are beginning to brown, 7 - 8 minutes.
3. Stir in paprika, tomatoes, and 1 tsp salt and cook, stirring frequently until tomatoes have broken down and mixture is very thick, 15 minutes.
4. In a bowl, stir together water, sour cream, and flour until smooth.
5. Stir sour cream into tomato mixture, bring to a simmer, and simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 15 minutes.
6. Add pork with juices and simmer until meat is cooked through, about 12 minutes.

Roasted Mushroom and Cheddar Stuffed Burgers

Warning: this method creates incredibly juicy burgers. You'll probably want to use a fairly substantial bun for them! If you don't want to do the filling here, just skip the initial step and create the undivided patties. I scaled the recipe down, but have included the original below which cooks enough for 6.

Roasted Mushroom and Cheddar Stuffed Burgers (from All About Roasting)

2 tbsp unsalted butter
225g button mushrooms, finely chopped
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (I used cilantro instead)
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese (35g)
burger mix
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
900g ground beef
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 475. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, spread a thin layer of salt over foil to absorb drippings and prevent smoking. Arrange a wire rack so that it sits at least 3/4" above the surface of the pan.
2. Melt butter in a 12" skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, season, and increase heat to medium high. Saute until mushrooms release liquid and start to brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and parsley. Remove from heat and cool. When cooled, stir in cheese.
3. Break beef into 1 - 2" lumps with your hands and drop in a mixing bowl. Season with salt, Worcestershire, and pepper. Mix gently. Try to avoid overhandling.
4. Divide hamburger meat into 12 even portions. Shape into a thin 4" patty.
5. Divide filling among 6 of the flat patties. Top each patty with another flat patty and pinch edges and round the burger to make 6 burgers.
6. Roast burgers on the wire rack for 10 - 16 minutes, depending on desired level of doneness.

Garlic-Chile Mayonnaise

I grew up with a strong dread of mayonnaise and when I first moved to Montreal, I was horrified to find that fries were often served with mayonnaise with no ketchup to be seem unless you specifically asked for it. Two years later, I realized I had adapted to Montreal when I found myself sitting in a bistro in Vermont requested mayo for my fries. The addition of garlic and chiles to mayo makes it just that much better.

Garlic-Chile Mayonnaise (from All About Roasting)

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers, we included a minced pepper or two as well!)
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a small bowl, stir together mayo, adobo sauce, garlic, and lime juice.
2. Season to taste.

Oven Fries

Somehow I managed to turn a meal of burger and fries (with some healthy Brussels sprouts at least!) into an evening long production. It might've had something to do with deciding to make the buns, two sides, some special mayo, and a more complex than usual burger. I turned over the cooking on the fries to the boy and he may've cheated on the method just a bit by microwaving the potato instead of parboiling them. They were still crispy outside and fluffy inside though, so I think he can be forgiven. Don't line the baking sheet with parchment paper as that will keep the fries from getting as crispy!

Oven Fries (from All About Roasting)

2 large russet potatoes, about 1 3/4 lbs, scrubbed
kosher salt
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 450F. Fill a large pot with cold water.
2. Peel the potatoes and cut them lengthwise into 1/2" thick by 1/2" wide sticks. Drop into pot of water.
3. Drain and rinse the potatoes to remove the excess starch and return them to the pot with enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Add 1 tsp salt to the water. Partially cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook until they show signs of tenderness, not more than 3 minutes.
4. Drain potatoes and spread on clean dish towels to dry.
5. Slide a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet into the oven to heat it.
6. Transfer potatoes to a platter, add oil, and toss.
7. Remove heated baking sheet from oven and transfer potatoes to sheet, leaving 1/2" between them. Return to oven and roast, turning fries with tongs and rotating once after 15 minutes and then after another 10 minutes until fries are crisp, about 30 minutes.

Creamy Braised Brussels Sprouts

The boy was more than a bit unhappy that the CSA box sent us Brussels sprouts this week. I was ecstatic to get to try a recipe that had caught my eye. Maybe I shouldn't get this excited about vegetables, but the recipe didn't disappoint. Chopping and braising the sprouts helps cut the strong taste. You could add a bit of crumbled bacon to take this recipe even further, but honestly, it doesn't need it. The confirmed Brussels sprouts hater declared these were acceptable and I will take that as quite the accomplishment!

Creamy Braised Brussels Sprouts (from All About Braising)

450g Brussels sprouts
3 tbsp unsalted butter
salt and ground white pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 lemon

1. Trim the very base off of each sprout and peel off any ragged outer leaves. Depending on the size of your sprouts, cut into 6 pieces, quarters, or in half (mine were extremely small). Wedges should be no more than 1/2" across.
2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sprouts begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
3. Pour in cream, stir, cover, and reduce to a slow simmer. Braise over low heat until sprouts are tender, about 30 - 35 minutes. The cream will reduce some.
4. Remove cover, stir in lemon juice to taste and simmer uncovered for a few minutes until cream is thickened into a nice glaze.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cilantro Jalapeno Dressing

We received some beautiful red oakleaf lettuce this week in our CSA box and I was more than a little worried that it wouldn't survive the fridge for very long. So rather than risk it, there was a menu change of plans to have a dinner salad. I was making a Mexican meal, so I pulled out a cookbook from the Junior League of Houston, hoping that they would have something that would work. Thankfully, the book came to my rescue. I love this dressing, it's creamy with just a hint of heat. The original calls for parsley, but we opted for all cilantro. I only wish the CSA had given us more salad greens this week! The recipe below makes a cup of dressing.

Two years ago: Cranapple Crunch

Cilantro Jalapeno Dressing (adapted from Stop and Smell the Rosemary)

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 green onions, chopped
1 large clove garlic
1/2 - 2 fresh jalapenos with seeds (depending on your heat tolerance)
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp paprika (I used hot Hungarian)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper

1. In a food processor, process mayonnaise, buttermilk, cilantro, vinegar, green onions, garlic, jalapeno, Worcestershire, paprika, salt, and pepper. (If you're unsure how spicy you want it, start with 1/2 a jalapeno and work your way up.)
2. Toss with salad greens (and maybe some julienned red bell peppers). You can store extra in the fridge.

Acorn Squash with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette

I decided to try something new and stay on top of our squash problem this week. I needed something that would go well with a Mexican themed-meal and was quite happy to find this. I used a whole red chile from the CSA box and the colour was beautiful. I also mistimed this dish and ended up leaving the squash soaking in the lime vinaigrette for a good 30 minutes which was definitely a good thing! I also didn't notice until later that the recipe was for 2 acorn squash, not one and used the full vinaigrette amount. I would keep it that way, but then again, I prefer to cover up the squash flavour!

One year ago: Split Pea Soup with Smoked Sausage and Greens
Two years ago: Maple Cream Pie

Acorn Squash with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette (adapted from Smitten Kitchen, originally Gourmet)

1 (1 1/2 – to 1 3/4-lb) acorn squash
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh hot red chile, including seeds (I used a whole chile, closer to 1 tbsp)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 450°F. Halve squash lengthwise, then cut off and discard stem ends. Scoop out seeds and cut squash lengthwise into 3/4-inch-wide wedges.
2. Toss squash with black pepper, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons oil in a bowl, then arrange, cut sides down, in 2 large shallow baking pans.
3. Roast squash, switching position of pans halfway through roasting, until squash is tender and undersides of wedges are golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes.
4. While squash roasts, mince garlic and mash to a paste with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Transfer paste to a small bowl and whisk in lime juice, chile (to taste), cilantro, and remaining 1/4 cup oil until combined.
5. Transfer squash, browned sides up, to a platter and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Spicy Grilled Chicken with Creamy Pumpkin Mole Sauce

I was looking for some creative things to do with pumpkin when I came across this recipe. The pumpkin flavour isn't strong, but the sauce is excellent. This recipe makes a lot of sauce. Instead of grilling some whole pieces of chicken, I used cut up chicken for inside of tacos. With the leftover sauce, I see some ground turkey enchiladas in my future ... or maybe pork. Decisions, decisions.

One year ago: Couscous with Herbs and Lemon
Two years ago: Macaroni and Cheese (still a definite favourite!)

Spicy Grilled Chicken with Creamy Pumpkin Mole Sauce (from epicurious.com, originally Rick Bayless in Bon Appetit)

2 dried ancho chiles,* stemmed, seeded, torn into large pieces
4 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 3-inch-diameter slice white onion (1/2 inch thick), separated into rings
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 5x3x1/2-inch-thick slice country white bread, crust trimmed
3/4 cup drained canned diced tomatoes (I used fresh)
3 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 canned chipotle chiles
1 cup canned pure pumpkin (I used my homemade puree)
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
8 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
Fresh cilantro sprigs
Lime wedges

1. Heat heavy large pot over medium heat. Add chile pieces; toast until aromatic and lighter in color around edges, pressing with potato masher or back of fork and turning pieces, about 2 minutes.
2. Transfer chile pieces to medium bowl. Cover chiles in bowl with hot water; soak until soft, about 30 minutes.
3. In same large pot, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onion rings and garlic. Sauté until brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to processor, leaving oil in pot.
4. Add bread slice to pot; cook until golden, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer bread to processor (reserve pot).
5. Add tomatoes to processor. Puree mixture until smooth. Transfer tomato puree to small bowl (do not clean processor).
6. Drain ancho chiles and place in processor. Add 1/2 cup broth and 2 chipotle chiles. Puree until smooth.
7. Add 1 tablespoon oil to reserved pot. Heat over medium-high heat. Add ancho chile puree; cook until puree thickens and darkens, stirring often, about 1 1/2 minutes.
8. Add tomato puree. Simmer until thick, stirring often, about 4 minutes.
9. Whisk in pumpkin and 3 cups broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until mole thickens and reduces to 3 1/3 cups, about 30 minutes.
10. Whisk in cream and sugar. Season to taste with salt.
11. Puree 2 tablespoons oil and 2 chipotle chiles in small processor. Transfer to bowl.
12. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Spread chipotle glaze thinly over both sides of chicken breasts. Sprinkle chicken generously with salt. Grill until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
13. Transfer chicken to plates. Spoon mole over each. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and lime.

Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash and Apples

Thanks to the CSA box, we have a constant oversupply of squash and apples. I figured I'd get two birds with one stone with this recipe (finally finishing off the apples only to have more arrive the next day!). I'm not a huge fan of overly sweet squash recipes, but the flavours of this dish worked for me, even more so the next day. Best of all, no need to peel the apples for this recipe. I little time saved is a good thing!

One year ago: Lamb Stew with Spinach and Garbanzo Beans
Two years ago: Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash and Apples (from All About Roasting)

1 butternut squash (about 2 1/2 lbs), peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4" chunks
2 tart, crisp apples (about 1 lb), quartered and cut into 1" chunks
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp minced fresh marjoram/rosemary/thyme/sage
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pecans, lightly toasted and chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (you'll want to spread out the food so it doesn't become mush!).
2. Combine squash and apples in a large bowl and drizzle with butter, olive oil, and maple syrup. Season with herb and salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
3. Arrange mixture on baking sheets in a single layer.
4. Roast, turning with a metal spatula once or twice until squash is caramelized and tender, about 40 minutes.
5. Sprinkle with nuts and serve.

Maple-Brined Boneless Pork Loin Roast with Apples, Onions, and Mustard Bread Crumbs

I think pork gets a bad rap. I associate it with over-dried chunks of meat that are anything but appetizing. This dish, however, was moist, flavourful, and excellent. It came out perfectly cooked with just a hint of maple-appley goodness. It surpassed my expectations and I had to restrain myself to keep from eating too much. I followed the recipe almost exactly, only substituting some thyme for rosemary because I ran out of rosemary. Next year, I will remember to buy large amounts of apple cider when I go apple picking for this recipe! I wasn't too sure about the apple-onion mixture, but it tasted even better the next day. As a warning, the brine requires some advance planning and this is not a quick recipe, but the results are worth it. If you don't have fresh bread to make bread crumbs, I would probably skip the crumbs.

One year ago: Curried Peanut and Tomato Soup
Two years ago: Cornbread Dressing

Maple-Brined Boneless Pork Loin Roast with Apples, Onions, and Mustard Bread Crumbs (from All About Roasting)

5 cups cool water
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
4 garlic cloves, smashed (skin can stay on)
2 bay leaves
900g - 1.1kg boneless pork loin, preferably a blade-end roast, tied at 2" intervals
450g tart, crisp apples (3 - 4), peeled, cored, and cut into 1" chunks (~3 cups)
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced (~2 cups)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups fresh apple cider (mine was hard cider), divided
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

1. At least 18 hours before roasting, combine water with salt and syrup and stir to dissolve the salt. Add rosemary, peppercorns, garlic and bay leaves.
2. Put pork roast in a sturdy gallon-size bag, pour in brine, and seal. Refrigerate for at least 18 hours and up to 24 hours.
3. One hour before roasting, remove pork from brine and let site at room temperature.
4. Heat oven to 325F.
5. Put apples, onion, and rosemary in a bow. Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
6. Spread apple-onion mixture in bottom of a shallow-sided roasting pan that will hold pork roast with 2 - 3" to spare around the sides. Set aside.
7. Heat 1 cup cider in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and boil until reduced to about 1/3 cup, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in maple syrup and mustard. Set aside.
8. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp of oil and pat pork dry. Brown pork until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Set pork fat side up on apples and onions.
9. Return skillet to high heat. Add remaining 1 cup cider and bring to a boil, scraping the pan. Boil until reduced by half, about 8 minutes. Pour over apples and onions, avoiding pouring on pork.
10. Brush half of the cider glaze over the top side of the pork.
11. Roast pork for 45 minutes. Brush with remaining glaze. Return to oven and roast until thermometer in center registers 140F, about 1 - 1 1/4 hours total.
12. In a medium bowl, stir together bread crumbs, melted butter, mustard, and rosemary. Season to taste.
13. Transfer pork to a carving board and let rest for 10 - 15 minutes.
14. Stir apple-onion mixture and keep warm.
15. Increase oven to 375F. Spread bread crumbs on a small baking sheet and toast in oven, stirring often, until golden brown and crispy, 10 - 12 minutes.
16. Remove strings from roast and carve into slices. Serve with apple-onion mixture on the side and top pork with bread crumbs.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

For a dessert party, I decided to make mostly my greatest hits instead of trying something new for a change (although using very good chocolate in some recipes I knew well was a bit of a learning process. I need more chocolate practice!). I did decide to try one new recipe ... pumpkin of course to honour the season and use up some of the ridiculous pumpkin puree collection sitting in the freezer. I wasn't too sure about these when I pulled them out of the oven. They didn't look quite right to me (some of them seemed to have exploded a bit ... maybe because I forgot to rap the pan to release the air bubbles?), but they were delicious. The maple cream cheese frosting is excellent, but a little bit runny and maybe a little light on maple flavour for me. I may keep searching for another maple cream cheese frosting recipe, but I think the cupcake portion is a definite keeper. I scaled the recipe in half and had 24 perfect mini muffins. I also found the amount of frosting to be just about right, but I heavily frosted them.

One year ago: Mocha Cupcakes with Kahlua Frosting
Two years ago: Broccoli Casserole

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting (from Smitten Kitchen, originally David Leite)

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing pans
1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Make the cupcakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 350° (175°C). Line a cupcake pan with 18 liners.
2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.
4. Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition.
5. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour.
6. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth.
7. Scoop the batter among the cupcake liners — you’re looking to get them 3/4 full. Rap the filled pans once on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely.
8. Make the frosting: In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy.
9. After frosting, refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to set up frosting.

Fettuccine with Tahina, Pine Nuts, and Cilantro

Another quick and easy recipe that tasted surprisingly good. We both thought it was missing a little something ... maybe lemon? Or next time we'll try it with ground lamb and some Middle Eastern spices? The full recipe below serves 4.

One year ago: Poutine Calzones
Two years ago: Buttermilk Biscuits

Fettuccine with Tahina, Pine Nuts, and Cilantro (from Radically Simple)

6 tbsp pine nuts
3 tbsp tahina
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
12 ounces fresh fettuccine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
6 tbsp torn cilantro leaves

1. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil and cook according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.
2. Meanwhile, lightly toast the pine nuts in a small skillet.
3. In a large bowl, stir together tahina and oil. Add garlic.
4. Add pasta to bowl and toss well.
5. Add cheese and 1/2 cup pasta water and toss until creamy.
6. Salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and cilantro.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


This is hands down my favourite breakfast that I've made in quite a while. The idea is so simple, but the results are so incredibly delicious. You could play with it and add some lettuce, tomatoes, or avocados. I'm sure it would be good, but why mess with perfect simplicity?

I did make one change to this recipe. Instead of browning the bagel in butter, I used some of the bacon fat from cooking the bacon. Why waste bacon fat?

One year ago: Fettucine Alfredo
Two years ago: Pecan Pie

Bagel-Egg (from Sexy: Cuisiner Pour Deux ... note this book is in French)

1 sesame seed bagel (Montreal bagels preferred of course!)
2 tsp bacon fat, reserved from cooking bacon (or butter)
2 eggs
6 slices of bacon, cooked
1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella or gruyere) (I found 1 cup to be a bit much)
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Slice bagel in half. In an oven-safe frying pan, heat bacon grease on the stove or melt butter. Place bagel cut side down in pan and let brown for a few minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Break an egg in each bagel hole being careful not to break the yolk (I found it easier to break into a small bowl and pour in).
4. Cover each egg with 3 slices of bacon and top with the cheese.
5. Place skillet in the oven and bake for 5 minutes until cheese is melted and egg white is set (yolk will still be liquidy and delicious).
6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.