Wednesday, December 15, 2010


There seems to be an underlying theme with my menus in the last couple of weeks.  French.  Perhaps, it is an unconscious protest in response to reading Bill Buford's, Heat in which Mario Batali's disdain for all things French is mentioned again and again.  
I belong to a dinner club in which the host picks a theme and we all bring a dish to correspond with that theme.  The latest gathering was an International Christmas dinner and I decided to make Tourtiere.  Tourtiere is a traditional Quebecois Christmas dish and even though Quebec is still in Canada, much to the dismay of the Parti Quebecois, this dish feels somewhat foreign as it is not in my traditional Christmas line-up.   If GWH has his way, though, it will be added from now on because he loved it although his opinion is probably skewed because I am pretty sure the fact that I decorated it with a Moose made him biased. 

So Bon Apetit and Joyeux Noel to all! 

...........See I am bilingual!

1-1/2 cups (375 mL) cubed peeled potato 
1 lb (.5 kg) lean ground moose
1 lb (.5 kg) lean ground pork
2 cups (500 mL)  mushrooms, finely chopped
3/4 cup (175 mL) celery, finely chopped
3/4 cup (175 mL) chicken stock
2 onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp (4 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each pepper, sage and thyme
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each ground cloves and cinnamon
Pastry for double pie crust and cut outs
1 egg yolk

In saucepan of boiling salted water, cover and cook potato until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and mash; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together pork, moose, mushrooms, celery, stock, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, sage, thyme, cloves, cinnamon and potatoes.  Set aside.

On lightly floured surface, roll out 1 of the pastry discs to scant 1/4-inch (5 mm) thickness. Fit into 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate. Spoon in filling. Roll out remaining pastry. Brush pie rim with water; cover with top pastry and press edge to seal. Trim and flute.

Roll out scraps; cut out desired shapes. (Make-ahead: Wrap tourtiere and shapes separately; refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Or overwrap in heavy-duty foil and freeze for up to 2 weeks; thaw in refrigerator. Add 20 to 30 minutes to baking time, covering with foil after 45 minutes; remove foil for last 10 minutes.)

Mix egg yolk with 2 tsp (10 mL) water; brush three-quarters over top. Arrange cutouts on top; brush with remaining egg wash. Cut steam vents in top.

Bake in bottom third of 400°F (200°C) oven until hot and golden brown, about 75 minutes.

If you find that the crust is browning too quickly, then cover loosely with tin foil for the remainder of cooking time.

I am submitting this to the Hearth n' Soul Blog hop.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

which comes first the chicken or the egg?

This month's Daring Cooks challenge was to poach eggs and there were a couple of recipes that were provided to us along with this challenge.  The obvious one, of course, is Eggs Benny, which is one of my favourite dishes.  I have made Eggs Benny several times and in many different variations - back bacon, spinach, tomatoes, ham, lox, crab, shrimp, to name a few - so I decided to make the other recipe provided, Oeufs en Meurette.  This is a recipe that I have never even heard of, let alone made.

We usually have a big breakfast/brunch on at least one day of the weekend so this Oeufs en Meurette was going on my menu for Sunday.  I don't know if it was the power of suggestion after reading the recipe for the Oeufs en Meurette but I had an urge to make Coq au Vin for dinner on Friday.  When preparing my grocery list, I soon realized that the sauce for both of these dishes was VERY similar, in fact close enough that I could kill two birds with one stone.  I decided to make the Coq au Vin on Friday night and reserve some of the sauce to have with the Oeufs en Meurette on Sunday...... so in this case the chicken, definitely, came before the egg.
Coq au Vin

24 to 30 pearl onions
4 chicken thighs and legs, or 1 (5 to 7-pound) stewing chicken, cut into serving pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons water
6 ounces salt pork, slab bacon, or lardon, cubed 
8 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 (750-ml) bottles red wine, preferably pinot noir
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, quartered
2 medium carrots, quartered
3 cloves garlic, crushed
6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups chicken stock or broth 
Cut off the root end of each pearl onion and make an "x" with your knife in its place. Bring 2 to 3 cups of water to a boil and drop in the onions for 1 minute. Remove the onions from the pot, allow them to cool, and then peel. You should be able to slide the onions right out of their skin. Set aside.
Sprinkle the chicken on all sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the chicken pieces, a few at a time, into a large (1 or 2-gallon) sealable plastic bag along with the flour. Shake to coat all of the pieces of the chicken. Remove the chicken from the bag to a metal rack.
Add the 2 tablespoons of water to a large, 12-inch saute pan over medium heat along with the salt pork. Cover and cook until the water is gone, and then continue to cook until the salt pork cubes are golden brown and crispy, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the salt pork from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, using the remaining fat, add the pearl onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and saute until lightly brown, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside. Next, brown the chicken pieces on each side until golden brown, working in batches if necessary to not overcrowd the pan. Transfer the chicken into a 7 to 8-quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven.

Add the mushrooms to the same 12-inch saute pan, adding the 1 tablespoon of butter if needed, and saute until they give up their liquid, approximately 5 minutes. Store the onions, mushrooms and pork in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Pour off any remaining fat and deglaze the pan with approximately 1 cup of the wine. Pour this into the Dutch oven along with the chicken stock, tomato paste, quartered onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Add all of the remaining wine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the chicken in the oven and cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the chicken is tender. Maintain a very gentle simmer and stir occasionally.

Once the chicken is done, remove it to a heatproof container, cover, and place it in the oven to keep warm. Strain the sauce in a colander and remove the carrots, onion, celery, thyme, garlic, and bay leaf. Return the sauce to the pot, place over medium heat, and reduce by 1/3.

Depending on how much liquid you actually began with, this should take 20 to 45 minutes.

Once the sauce has thickened, add the pearl onions, mushrooms, and pork and cook for another 15 minutes or until the heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, remove from the heat, add the chicken and serve. Serve over egg noodles, if desired.

  • I did not marinate the chicken overnight. 
  • I added all the ingredients to the slow cooker and cooked it on high for about 3 1/2 hours and on low for about another 1 1/2 hours.
  • I served it with mashed potatoes.
  • I omitted the tomato paste, quite by accident, but the results were good anyways.
  • Delicious!

Oeufs en Meurette
From Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, seen on Epicurious


8 eggs (size is your choice)
1 bottle red wine (750ml/25 fl. oz.)
2 cups (400ml/16 fl. oz.) chicken stock
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
Bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, bay leaf)
½ tsp. (2 ½ ml/3g) black peppercorns
2 Tbl. (30 ml/30g) butter
¼ lb. (115g) mushrooms, sliced
¼ lb (115g) bacon, diced
16 pearl onions, peeled (200g/7oz.)
Vegetable oil for frying
8 slices of baguette, ¼” (6mm) thick
2 Tbl. (30 ml/30g) butter, room temp.
2 Tbl. (30 ml/20g) flour 
salt and pepper

1. Heat wine and stock together in a large pan and poach eggs a couple at a time for 3-4 min. Yolks should be firming but still a little soft. Set them aside.
2. Add the veggies, herbs, and peppercorns to the poaching liquid and let the sauce simmer until reduced to half volume. This will become the meurette sauce.
3. In a separate large skillet, melt 1 tbs. (15ml/15g) of the butter on medium-high heat and sauté the mushrooms until soft and then set aside. Add in another 1 tbs. (15ml/15g) butter and the bacon, frying until browned, then set aside on a paper towel. Turn down the heat to medium, add in the pearl onions and sauté until softened and browned. Then drain off the fat and add the bacon and mushrooms back to the pan and set aside off the heat for the moment.
4. In a medium skillet, heat a few tbs. of oil and then fry the baguette slices until browned on each side. Add more oil as needed. Set the fried bread (croûtes) on a paper towel and then place on a baking sheet in an oven that is set to 200F/95C/gas mark 1/4 or whatever your lowest setting is to keep them warm.
5. Blend 2 Tbl. (30ml/30g) butter and flour together to form a paste of sorts that will be used as the thickener for the sauce. Whisk this into the reduction sauce until the sauce starts to thicken.
Strain the sauce over the skillet of mushrooms, bacon and onions, and return the skillet to heat, bringing to a boil. Season with salt & pepper to taste, then set aside again.
6. Reheat the eggs by placing them in hot water for a quick minute. To serve, plate a poached egg on top of a croûte, and then ladle some of the mushrooms/bacon/onions and sauce on top.


  • I used the sauce from the Coq au Vin for the  Oeufs de Meurette
  • I cracked the eggs into a pot of gently boiling water with vinegar
  • I use a very scientific method to check to see if the eggs are done - I touch them with my index finger
  • I usually drain the poached eggs on a paper towel

Blog-checking lines: Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

Friday, December 3, 2010

cook the books club - heat

Our current reading assignment for Cook the Books is  Heat {An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany}, by Bill Buford.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Buford's telling of his experiences in various professional kitchens, particularly the tales of Mario Batali's kitchen in his three-star restaurant, Babbo.  Based on my limited professional kitchen experience, I found his account to be entirely believable. Although most of my restaurant experience has been from the other side of the heat lamp as a server, I have witnessed first hand the ginormous egos that take up most of the room in these kitchens already lacking in space.

About twelve years ago, I had the opportunity to work in the kitchen of a restaurant.  Friends of mine owned a small bistro that served a variety of foods, including steaks and gourmet burgers along with a few Greek specialties.  I was between careers, at another "what am I going to do now?" interval in my life.  They were short a cook and knowing first hand my abilities and my passion for food as we had shared many meals together, he asked me if I wanted to cook with him at the restaurant.  Before I said yes, I considered the effect this might have on our friendship because we were very close friends and I didn't want to jeopardize this.  My curiosity or my thirst for a challenge got the better of me and against my better judgment, I decided to give it a go.  Before I go any further, I have to explain something here.  He is Greek, as Greek as they come.  Not that there is anything wrong with that but if you can imagine the healthy ego of a European man combined with the ginormous ego of a chef, you will understand why there was no room for me in that kitchen.  I squeezed in anyways and had a little fun in the process before I decided I could no longer breathe.  When I told him that I didn't think that the restaurant kitchen was for me, he said, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!"  We laughed about that for a long time.  I am glad that I left before it was too late to laugh.

Near the end of the book, Mr. Buford comes to a realization.

"Alarmingly, we then left to get something to drink (Mario was parched), when he put the question to me again: so, a restaurant?  And I realized: no.  I did not want a restaurant.  When I started, I hadn't wanted a restaurant.  What I wanted was the know-how of people who ran restaurants.  I didn't want to be a chef: just a cook."

As I read this, I found myself nodding.  That was me: just a cook.

Throughout the book it is said over and over again that a good pasta dish is about the pasta, not the sauce.  So I decided I would make fresh pasta for the first time and then at Mr. Batali's suggestion, top it off with just a basic tomato sauce in order to let the pasta take center stage.

Mario Batali's Basic Tomato Sauce


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 1/2 medium carrot, finely grated
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • Salt
  • Spaghetti, cooked al dente
  • Whole basil leaves, for garnish
  • Grated Parmesan, (optional)


In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot, and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

When ready to use, the cooked pasta should be added to a saucepan with the appropriate
amount of sauce. Garnish with basil leaves and cheese, if using.

Note: I used a fresh pasta recipe from Giada de Laurentiis and the recipe will follow in a later post.

This is my submission to "Cook the Books" which is hosted by Rachel of the Crispy Cook, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen and Jo of Food Junkie, not Junk Food.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Grateful for Laughter and Twice Stuffed Turkeys

Yesterday was American Thanksgiving but in Canada, we celebrated over a month ago. This works out perfectly for me because I have a tendency to be late.  So this is my Canadian Thanksgiving post just in time to coincide with American Thanksgiving.  So depending on which country you are in, I am either tardy or timely.

Cooking has always been a passion of mine.  Through my teen years I loved to cook and did a lot of it to help out my single, working mother.  Holiday dinners and cooking turkeys, though, were ultimately the responsibility of my mother even though I helped her with every step of the process.

I was around twenty when I was setting up my first household and decided that I should invite everyone over to my house for Thanksgiving dinner.  I was going to make the best Thanksgiving dinner any of us had ever had.  There would be turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy and pumpkin pie from scratch.  If they did not know that my middle name was Susie, as in Homemaker, they would surely find out soon.

I made the stuffing the way my mother always had:  tear the bread, chop the onions, add the seasonings and the melted butter, and then stuff the cavity of the bird.  While chopping the onions, I had a little accident that involved my finger and the knife and had to find a band-aid to quell the flow from my bleeding digit.  No big deal, it was just one more incident in a series of kitchen mishaps.  Carry on.  I proceeded to stuff the bird using my hands to press the moist bread mixture as far into the cavity as I could.  Next I seasoned the bird with poultry seasoning and other spices, laid sliced onions over top and put it in the roasting pan.  I stood back to admire my work, proud of my accomplishment.  

This feeling of pride was short lived because it was then that I realized that my band-aid was missing.  I did not want to consider the possibilities of where it might be and, frantically, I searched everywhere – the counter, the floor, the garbage can– but it was nowhere to be found.  I had no choice but to “unstuff” the bird.  How many of you have “unstuffed” a bird before it was cooked?  I emptied the contents of the bird’s cavern into a bowl and then moved it, piece by piece, to another bowl in an attempt to find the missing band-aid.  Did I find it?  No, but I felt fairly satisfied that it was not in the stuffing so I re-stuffed the turkey and placed it in the oven.

Before dinner, I did end up finding the elusive band-aid hiding in a corner on the floor where the baseboard and the wall met.  I can’t tell you how relieved I was because even though I went through every single piece of stuffing and was fairly satisfied that the band-aid was not there, I still had visions of someone taking a bite and getting that odd look on their face.  You know the look.  The one that says, “I am not exactly sure what I just put in my mouth combined with how am I going to get it out of here as fast as I can without anyone noticing.”

The rest of the dinner went well.  The mashed potatoes were buttery and creamy and the turkey moist and delicious.  And then there was the stuffing.  Well, the stuffing was superb, if I do say so myself, and only the beginning of what was to become known as my signature holiday dish.  Everyone loves my stuffing.  It is probably the one thing that my ex-husband misses about me so I often save some for him to send via my daughter. 

It was only after dinner when we were all sated and languishing, in that comatose state that is only brought on by eating a turkey dinner, that I decided to share the story of my twice-stuffed turkey with my guests.  We had a good laugh.  Occasionally, over the years, this story has been retold and then we laugh again.  I am grateful for this laughter.

This year I invited Giada to join us, teeth and all.  She wanted to add lemon rind to my stuffing but I wouldn't let her.  I don't thing she really "got" us but we did enjoy her mashed potato dish.   

Baked Mashed Potatoes
with Parmesan Cheese and Bread Crumbs 
from Giada's Family Dinners, by Giada de Laurentiis
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter and set aside.

Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water until they are very tender, about 15 minutes. Drain; return the potatoes to the same pot and mash well. Mix in the milk and melted butter. Mix in the mozzarella and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking dish. Stir the bread crumbs and remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the mashed potatoes. Recipe can be prepared up to this point 6 hours ahead of time; cover and chill.

Bake, uncovered, until the topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

causing a stir

Risotto is the dish to make if you want to cause a stir because that is exactly what you will be doing for about a half an hour - stirring.  This is the first time that I have made risotto but definitely not the last.  It has all the makings of a comfort dish, especially this one by Giada de Laurentiis which includes vanilla and butternut squash.  Mmm, creamy.  This is not a dish to be making if you don't have a kitchen where you can visit with your guests while you are cooking because you will be tied to that pot for a while.  You could always insist on a new kitchen before you make it.  That would probably cause quite a stir.

Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto
from Giada's Kitchen - New Italian Favorites 
by Giada de Laurentiis


  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 large vanilla bean
  • 3 cups peeled cubed (1-inch wide) butternut squash, about 12 ounces
  • 2 tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 3/4 cups finely chopped onion (from 1 onion)
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives


In a medium saucepan, warm the broth over medium-high heat. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and add them, and the bean, to the broth. When the broth comes to a simmer reduce the heat to low. Add the butternut squash to the simmering broth and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon remove the butternut squash to a side dish. Turn the heat on the broth down to very low and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition to of the broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. Discard the vanilla bean. Turn off the heat. Gently stir in the butternut squash, Parmesan, the remaining tablespoon of butter, and salt. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl and sprinkle with chives. Serve

Note:  I used chicken broth instead of the vegetable broth.


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