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.
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