Monday, April 25, 2011

A Perfect Weekend Breakfast

I woke up this morning with a craving for avocado. That doesn't happen often for me and when it does, Val-Mont's avocados usually aren't ripe enough for me to have instant gratification. This morning, however, luck was on my side. Inspired by a post on foodgawker that I've since lost because this is the type of thing that doesn't require a recipe, I decided to combine some of my favourite foods into one perfect dish.

Bagel with Cream Cheese, Avocado, and Prosciutto

1 St. Viateur bagel (Fairmount is an okay substitution, grocery store bagels are not)
1 avocado
cream cheese
olive oil
a few slices of prosciutto

1. Toast your bagel.
2. While it's toasting, crisp the prosciutto in a pan with a tiny bit of olive oil.
3. On the toasted bagel, spread a thin layer of cream cheese.
4. Mash onto each bagel half 1/2 of the avocado.
5. Top with crisped prosciutto.
6. Enjoy bliss on a bagel.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Baked Potato with Barbecued Beef

I had a plan to cook something delicious for Easter. I was torn between porcini and rosemary crusted lamb chops, chile rellenos, boeuf bourguignon, or maybe a homemade orecchiette with rabbit ragu. The best laid plans ...

Instead, I found myself on Easter Sunday having not gone to the grocery store on the weekend (or moreover having not done a proper grocery trip in at least two weeks) with only my freezer and standard pantry fare. Luckily, there were frozen cubes of beef in the fridge. My initial plan was to do a stew of some form, but I couldn't find the inspiration. Then, I remembered a lonely mostly full bottle of barbecue sauce in the fridge, although I've been meaning to make my own. Comfort food sounded like a good plan for the day and there's nothing more comforting than faking traditional barbecue when you are now counting the last time you had Texas barbecue in double-digit months.

Genius struck late in the day as I realized that barbecued meat, while tasty, wasn't much of a meal. What could be better than shredding the beef and putting it on top of a delicious baked potato? Maybe with some aged cheddar that somehow managed to be leftover from making prosciutto cheddar scones.

And there you have it, comfort food made simple ... although it takes a bit of time. Please excuse the lack of measurements, but I think you can figure it out! The slow cooker method is excellent for ribs, pork, and chicken as well.

Baked Potato with Barbecued Beef

600g beef ragout cubes
1 bottle of barbecue sauce (or try homemade)
as many russet potatoes as people you're serving
olive oil
shredded aged cheddar cheese

1. Depending on your level of commitment, season the meat and sear it in a pan.
2. Transfer the meat to a slow cooker. Cover in barbecue sauce and cook on low for 8 hours.
3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F.
4. Wash potatoes. Stab potatoes with a fork repeatedly.
5. Coat potatoes with olive oil and rub with salt.
6. Wrap potatoes individually with aluminum foil.
7. Bake potatoes for 1 - 1.5 hours or until tender. (The Canadian sized ones should be closer to an hour. The freakish Texas-sized ones will try your patience.)
8. Shred the meat as much as you want. Cut open potatoes, top with meat, and shredded cheese to taste.

Sesame Chicken

When I lived in Austin, there was a Chinese take-out place right around the corner from my last apartment. At that point in time, I'd never been a huge Chinese food person, but I quickly became hooked on their sesame chicken. The sauce was horribly Americanized. Overly sweet with a slight tang ... and I loved it. This recipe isn't quite that, but it's good. It also uses mostly ingredients I have on hand and you should too if you keep a ridiculously overstocked Asian pantry. I did run out of regular soy sauce midway through making this (technically, that's not true. I ran out of the soy sauce that I like and didn't want to use the cheap stuff in the sauce.), so I ended up using dark soy sauce in the sauce. I'm going to recommend that you stick with the light though!

One year ago: Cherry Tomato Penne al Arrabbiata

Sesame Chicken (from Cully's Kitchen)

4 chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
cornstarch, to coat chicken
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon sherry wine (I used mirin)
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
2 drops sesame oil
1 teaspoon ground ginger (I used 1/2 tbsp grated fresh)
1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup chicken broth
1-2 tablespoon sesame oil (to personal taste)
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 dash red chili pepper flakes
2 teaspoons cornstarch (or more is you want a thicker sauce)
Vegetable oil or Peanut oil (for frying)
Sesame Seed (to garnish)
Sliced Green Onion (to garnish)
prepared Rice, to serve.

1. Combine marinade ingredients with chicken and let marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.
2. Remove chicken from marinade and toss in cornstarch then cook chicken in hot oil on the stove or deep fryer until cooked through.
3. Remove from pan and keep warm in oven while making the sauce.
4. [I made this part slightly more complicated.] Brown ginger and garlic in a sauce pan with oil until fragrant.
5. Add remaining sauce ingredients EXCEPT cornstarch and bring to a boil over med. heat.
6. Mix cornstarch with a little water (about 1/4 cup) in a cup until dissolved- then slowly add to the sauce mixture on the stove and heat until thickened to the consistency of gravy.
7. Add the chicken into the sauce. Heat thoroughly.
8. Serve over hot rice.
9. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Potato Latkes

An aside: A funny thing happened a few weeks ago. I somehow managed to run out of time and inspiration to blog. A week went by and I had nothing to post. After the week was up, I felt like I couldn't post just any recipe. It needed to be something good and yet, I still had no time or inspiration. By the time a week and a half had passed, the pressure felt off too. I had paused for so long that there was no longer any urgency. I was free to re-make recipes I had enjoyed and throw together my own concoctions that would never be good enough to post. It was a wonderful feeling, so you may note a reduction in blog posts going forward (or you may not, knowing me!). It doesn't mean I've forgotten how to cook or forgotten about this, just that perhaps I can enjoy what I've done before in addition to seeking out the new. After all, that was the purpose of starting this little project.

The main event: I was lulled out of my cooking rut by a friend. It was her birthday and she was having a potluck, so I decided to ask her what she wanted me to bring, expecting it to be the grapefruit yogurt cake. Instead, she surprised, no shocked me, by requesting potato latkes. I don't think I've ever had them before, but this recipe did give me a craving for some good Southern hashbrowns ... which are quite similar. Perhaps that's why I wanted to add bacon to these. It all makes sense now!

One year ago: Tomato and Olive Penne

Potato Latkes (faithfully followed from

1 pound potatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil

1. Peel potatoes and coarsely grate by hand, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated.
2. Soak potatoes 1 to 2 minutes after last batch is added to water, then drain well in a colander.
3. Spread grated potatoes and onion on a kitchen towel and roll up jelly-roll style. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible.
4. Transfer potato mixture to a bowl and stir in egg and salt.
5. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 4 latkes, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per latke into skillet, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Reduce heat to moderate and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes. Turn latkes over and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Add more oil to skillet as needed.