This recipe was a fridge-clearing miracle. Make a basic pie-crust and pre-bake it to 70% doneness. You want the base to include sautéed, finely diced: onions, carrots, celery, garlic, mushrooms, dried-thyme, etc. Add the leftover meat of your choice (brisket, Italian sausage, Christmas-turkey, etc.) and thicken the whole mixture with a roux. There should be enough to fill 2/3 of the pie. Let this cool and stiffen while you make the next layer. Otherwise, pouring the hot mixture into a recently cooked shell will make for a soggy pie. For a topping, use leftover mashed-potatoes... but as we did not have these, I just made a speedy sweet-potato mash with butter and a dash of maple. Fill the remaining 1/3 of the pie and put a little more on to get the "rounded" look. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes more. If you're not dead tired and over-partied at this point, you may consider making a gratin or cheesy topping for the pie. A few parsley-sprigs wouldn't hurt your detox-mission either. Serve wedges of this dish with seasonal greens.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Monday, December 24, 2012
If you like to keep things simple, there are a ton of ways to "cut corners" and make your taste-buds fly without doing the dirty work. (Buy the canolli shells pre-made from a good Italian grocer, buy gourmet crackers and bread instead of baking them, spike any pre-made ingredients with citrus zest to "wake-up" the flavour, etc). On top of this, 60% of this meal was made the day before Christmas Eve, really taking the pressure off the night of the party. For dishes like the brisket, the overnight treatment helped to tenderize the meat and let the sauce soak in, while letting the fat congeal in the refrigerator for easy removal in the morning. In fact, I was able to Crossfit for 2 hours at noon - testament to the "make it all the day before" theory. This is the 3rd year I've tackled Christmas dinner and it gets easier every year. Above all, I've learned to keep it simple. Pick two of three intricate dishes you want to make and let the rest be old-faithfuls or no-brainers. Everyone will be too busy looking at your show-stopper carrot pineapple cake with cream cheese frosting to notice that you just threw some smoked salmon on a cracker with some tangy sauce and dill sprigs.
Without further adieu, the 2012 Christmas Eve menu:
Appetizers: Cheesy spinach dip served gooey hot with crackers and bread for dipping, smoked salmon on rye with dill and lime cream, goat cheese "truffles" rolled in pistachios, apricots or grapes
Mains: Lucy Waverman's Brisket with meat purchased from Charles' Meats at the farmer's market, roast potatoes with thyme and rosemary, pear and yam soup, wild-mushroom puffed-pastry pies, favourite meatballs, greens with maple vinaigrette dressing
Desserts: Pineaple carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, Italian cannoli, sticky toffee date cake, fruit platter with persimmons and pomegranates, mom's cookie tower
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Sunday, December 16, 2012
If you're willing to sacrifice yield for flavour, duck is a fantastic alternative to the usual roasting bird. I flavoured Harold the duck (okay, didn't actually name him...) with orange, anise, rosemary cloves and other winter-y spices. Make sure to save the drippings for other dishes where a spoon of a high smoking-point fat is of use. I coated the salad's spelt bread croutons in duck fat and spices and toasted them on a baking sheet. Also, don't let excess duck skin go to waste when you can roast it and slice it for a topping where bacon would be used.
The Jerusalem artichoke gratin was split with half potatoes to lend the starchy softens that pairs so well with a creamy sauce and cheesy topping. The kale was done up with caramelized onions and re-hydrated dried cranberries to combat the leaf's bitterness. The salad was a mix of lettuce, pea-sprouts, pomegranate seeds, apples and spinach. I dressed it with a maple vinaigrette given the season. Most of the ingredients for this dinner were acquired from the local farmer's market...a treat to buy local after having eaten generic school food for a few months.
Saturday, December 15, 2012
The men of the family loved this one.
Friday, December 14, 2012
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Oxtail is such a wonderful cut of meat! It's a shame that many people overlook this "oddbit." If you're not opposed to a little animal fat in your diet and are comfortable with making slow-cooking dishes like pulled pork, oxtail is a breeze! Beef oxtail is most traditional, but I've also spotted some different animal tails in the ethnic stores around town. To be clear, "ox" in the oxtail sense no longer refers to those tails of castrated cattle... it's just you're regular t-bone-steak cow's tail. It's quite popular in Caribbean and Mediterranean cuisine - two cultures which really value their animals from nose to tail. Oxtail responds very well to braising or roasting and it's nearly impossible for your results to be dry or bland. I like cooking with cuts of meat such as this because of three reasons:
1. They are cheap
2. They soak of flavour like a charm
3. People are pleasantly surprised by how much they enjoy the. Hmm, maybe because it's still a part of the cow? Merely 30 inches away from your favourite Sirloin cut...
For this "Salty Oxtail Stew," I roasted the tail chunks in the oven for 40 minutes with no seasoning. I transfered them to a stockpot with carrots, onions, celery, 1 crushed tomato, fennel seeds and a healthy dose of salt. Usually I will season a stock at the end of it's cooking time, but I wanted the seasoning to permeate this long-cooking meat all the way to the bone, vs. just on the outside. I let everything simmer for about 3 hours. I removed the almost cooked tails from the pot, threw them in the oven with more salt to roast again and develop that fatty crust we all love so much. About another 30 minutes. To the stock I added zucchini, peas and some dried red lentils (for my mom, the veggie). Garnish with some chopped, salty olives and a fennel frawn.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Everybody loves a good adventure in Toronto's Chinatown. My friend Naomi can attest to the fact that I flipped out more than a dozen times, marvelling at dirt-cheap copper bake-wear, or bamboo steamers, or gargantuan mortar and pestles, or spring-form pans for $5. If you're like me and take pleasure in sighting rare breeds of mushrooms, dried shell-fish and vegetables and fruits whose name you've never heard of, then walk the few blocks where Dundas meets Spadina. After we braved a torrential downpour outside, Naomi and I sought refuge in our favourite dumpling house (also dirt-cheap). Despite the missing sake, greasy noodles and pork & chive dumplings were almost as good as the company. Everybody needs a friend with whom they can enjoy dirty tacos on a 2nd floor "restaurant," sympathize over delicious photos of food and discuss the sanctity of pastrami on rye. But we have our boundaries. She won't do steak tar-tar and I won't listen to more than 10 minutes of her ramblings on Marx's Communist Manifesto. One thing is certain - deliciousness is never lost in translation.
While I could theoretically dive into 3 scoops of chocolate-chip-cookie-dough at the general-store in cottage country (okay, not theoretically) at some point, one needs to fuel them self with proper food. Our fridge is flooded with farm produce: zucchini, napa cabbage, green onions, fresh herbs, etc. This was a super-lazy lunch which consisted of throwing everything in a frying pan with an inch of boiling water at the bottom. Simmer. Season with salt, pepper, fresh basil and toss on some grilled sardines. Technique = 2/10. Nutritional Value = 10/10.