Friday, 30 November 2018

Orecchiette with Brussels Sprouts & Parmesan

I saw an orecchiette and Brussels sprouts dish on Pinterest, and thought it was so pretty, the way the Brussels sprouts leaves echoed the size and shape of the pasta. Of course, when I then made a dish with orecchiette and Brussels sprouts, it wasn't anything of the sort, because I used our home-grown Brussels sprouts ranging in size from tiny to practically kale. Oh well, never mind, it was quite delicious, and apart from a few minutes spent mucking about with the Brussels sprouts, as fast as any other pasta dish. 

There is also some home-grown thyme in the kitchen this year, so I am calling for it in recipes more than I have in recent years. You will still have the problem that most of the dried thyme available for sale is tasteless dust. I would be inclined to buy some fresh, use twice as much as I called for here, and leave the rest out in a sieve until dry. Then you will have some decent thyme for a while.

Thyme is an easy to grow and attractive perennial, so if you have any garden space at all, it is worth while getting a plant or two. It spreads to make a good groundcover so one or two plants will usually be quite enough to go on with.

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

250 grams (1/2 pound) Brussels sprouts
1 large leek
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup unsalted butter
225 grams orecchiette or other similar pasta
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme
the zest and juice of 1/4 lemon
100 grams (3 ounces) Parmesan cheese

Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts. Remove (and keep) loose leaves and cut the remaining sprouts in half. Wash and trim the leek, and slice it lengthwise. Cut into slices about the size of the Brussels sprouts leaves. Peel and mince the garlic.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the leeks in it very gently until the water comes to a boil.

When the water boils, add the prepared Brussels sprouts and boil them for 2 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon, draining them well. Add them to the leeks. Put the pasta into the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions (I am assuming about 10 minutes).

Stir the leeks and Brussels sprouts occasionally as they cook, and season them with pepper, thyme, and the lemon zest.

Grate the Parmesan cheese coarsely.

Just before the pasta is done, add the garlic to the pan of vegetables and mix it in well. Sprinkle the lemon juice over them.

Drain the pasta, leaving about half a cup of water in the pot. Return the pasta to the pot and mix in the vegetables and about 2/3 of the cheese. Stir well until the cheese is melted. Transfer the pasta to a serving dish or individual dishes, and sprinkle the remaining cheese over it.

Last year at this time I made Broiled Mushrooms

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Poutine with Homemade Gravy

I saw this recipe for Poutine gravy and thought I had to give it a try. As usual I have put my sticky hands all over it, not to mention that I found the quantities required to be more than a little vague for certain key items.

I tried to intensify the meatiness of it by concentrating the stocks, and also flavouring them with shiitake stems. I keep them for stock making, since I did pay upwards of $12 per pound for them, but they tend to pile up. This was a good use for some but if you don't have them you can certainly leave them out. I also used toasted barley flour for the flour as I like the extra layer of flavour it brings to soups and sauces. My finished gravy was a bit thicker than the photos suggested, but I was okay with that. It may be that I was a little short on liquid (since I am guessing as to what constitutes une boite). For perhaps the same reason I found the amount of ketchup just a tad high so next time I intend to replace one tablespoon of it with a little paprika.

When all is said and done though, this was the most delicious poutine we have eaten in quite some time. Yeah, yeah, it's been quite some time since we have eaten any poutine. Next time is going to come a lot sooner though, because this is GOOD and not at all hard to do, in spite of the fairly detailed instructions.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 15 minutes prep time

Poutine with Roasted Potatoes and Homemade Gravy

Make the Roasted Potatoes:
1 or 2 medium-large potatoes PER PERSON
mild vegetable oil, salt, & freshly ground black pepper to roast
50 grams (2 ounces) fresh cheese curds PER PERSON

Wash and trim - peel if you like - the potatoes and cut them into a thick classic French-fry shape. Put them in a pot with water to cover and boil them for about 8 minutes. Drain well but carefully so as not to break them.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. 

Spread them on a baking tray in a single layer and toss them in enough oil to coat them lightly. Season with a little salt and pepper but don't get too carried away as the cheese and gravy will have lots.

Roast them for about 1 hour, turning them halfway through the process, until browned and crisp. When done, sprinkle the cheese curds over them and return them to the oven for 5 minutes. Meanwhile...

Make the Gravy:
3 cups unsalted (or low-salt) beef stock
1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dried shiitake stems OPTIONAL
1 large clove of garlic
1/4 cup unsalted chicken stock
3 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
a few drops Tabasco OR chile-garlic sauce to taste
1/4 cup barley flour OR soft unbleached wheat flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter
salt & freshly ground black pepper as needed

Let the potatoes cook for about 20 minutes before starting the gravy.

Put the beef stock, chicken stock, bay leaf, and shiitake stems - if you have them - in a pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and simmer until the volume has been reduced by 1/3 to about 3 cups. This should take 15 to 20 minutes. Strain out the bay leaf and mushroom stems.

Peel and slice the garlic. Measure out the last 1/4 cup of chicken stock and mix in the corn starch, ketchup, paprika, and Tabasco sauce. Set aside.

About 5 minutes or so before the stock is ready, toast the barley flour in a dry skillet until it is paper bag light brown. Remove it from the heat and add the butter and garlic slices, stirring well until the butter is completely melted and the flour is all combined. If you are using wheat flour, melt the butter first then stir in the untoasted flour.

Return the pan to the stove over low heat and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Slowly mix in the hot, strained stock stirring constantly to form a smooth sauce. Give the remaining ingredients (chicken stock, starch, etc) a good stir and mix them slowly into the gravy.  Stir constantly until the gravy thickens, just a few minutes. Test the seasoning and add salt and pepper as required.

When the potatoes and cheese curds are ready, drizzle hot gravy over them ad lib and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Cabbage with Leeks & Mushrooms.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Barley, Wild Rice, & Mushroom Pilaf

This is as similar to some of the roasted vegetable salads I have been making lately as a it is to a true pilaf, I would have to say. The predominance of the grains makes me willing to call it a pilaf though.

All kinds of favourite things here - I love the chewiness of the grains, the umami of the roasted mushrooms, and the bite of the garlic, cheese and lemon. You could serve it by itself but it will go well with chicken, fish, or any kind of meat, really. Salmon trout in particular seems like a good idea. A green salad will finish things off.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 15 minutes prep time

Barley, Wild Rice, & Mushroom Pilaf

Cook the Wild Rice & Barley:
1 leek
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup wild rice
2/3 cup pot barley
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups water

Trim the leek, and cut it in half lengthwise, then into thin slices. Rinse them and drain them very well. Put the butter in a rice-cooker and turn it on. When the butter melts, add the leek and cook gently, stirring regularly, until softened.

Add the wild rice, barley, salt, and water. Be sure the rice cooker is on. Close it and let the contents cook until it turns itself off; about 45 minutes. 

Cook the Mushrooms & Shallots:
125 grams (1/4 pound) oyster mushrooms
125 (1/4 pound) button or shiitake mushrooms
6 to 8 shallots
 2 to 3 cloves of garlic
75 grams (3 ounces) Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme or savory
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Clean and trim both sets of mushrooms. Cut off and discard any tough stems from the oyster mushrooms, and cut them in half lengthwise if large. Slice the button or shiitake mushrooms (discard shiitake stems). Peel and sliver the shallots. Peel and mince the garlic. Grate the Parmesan cheese.

Toss the mushrooms and shallots together on a sheet of parchment paper over a baking tray. Dot them with the butter and season with the thyme, salt and pepper.

When the rice-cooker turns off, leave it to stay warm. Turn the broiler on and broil the mushrooms and shallots, stirring every few minutes, until softened and browned. For the last time or two of broiling, mix in the garlic and 2/3 of the Parmesan.

Make the Gremolata Dressing:
1 clove of garlic
a few gratings of lemon zest
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley

While the mushrooms and shallots broil, peel and mince the garlic along with a small amount of lemon zest, say about 1/4 teaspoon loosely packed. Mix them with the lemon juice. Wash, trim, and mince the parsley.

When the mushrooms are ready, tip the barley and wild rice from the rice cooker onto the tray of mushrooms and mix well. Drizzle with the lemon juice and sprinkle about half the parsley onto the mixture, and toss everything together. Transfer everything to a serving dish, and sprinkle with the remaining parsley and Parmesan. Serve at once. 

Last year at this time I made Honey, Lemon, & Ginger Squash.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Squash Poached in Maple Syrup

Squash poached in syrup is a typical dessert in Turkey, and it is also very common throughout Central and South America, and the Caribbean. It just seems to be North Americans who think squash is only a main course dish, no matter how much sweetener is dumped on it.

It is often served with some sort of mild, soft cheese. This version leans a little to the Caribbean, with the spicing and the rum, but the maple syrup brings it back to Canada.

I can see I am going to have a fair bit of syrup left after we have eaten the squash; I am thinking it will be good in or on bread pudding or French toast.

6 to 8 servings
40 minutes prep time plus time to cool

Squash Poached in Maple Syrup

1.5 kilogram (3 pounds) butternut squash
1 1/2 cups dark maple syrup
3/4 cup water
1 4" cinnamon stick
3 or 4 slices of fresh ginger
6 to 8 allspice berries
2 tablespoons rum
1 cup thick yogurt - OPTIONAL

Wash the squash thoroughly. Trim off the ends. You can leave the remainder of the skin on, or you can peel it. Cut it into even slices or chunks, discarding the seeds and stringy flesh from the centre.

Put the remainder of the ingredients - the ginger should be sliced into 1/4" slices - into a pot in which it will cover the squash. Bring it to a boil.

Gently add the squash pieces and bring the syrup back to a boil. Reduce the heat to a slow, steady simmer. Cover the pot and let the squash simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn all the pieces over, very gently, and let simmer, covered, for another 10 or 15 minutes until tender.

Let the squash cool in the syrup. If you like, place about 1 cup of thick yogurt in a coffee filter in a strainer, and leave it over a bowl to drain for a couple of hours while the squash cools. Serve with the squash.

Last year at this time I made Spanish Beef & Turnip Stew

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Roast Chicken in a Clay Pot (Romertopf)

I've had a Romertopf (clay pot) for roasting meats for quite a long time, but I don't feel like I get as much use out of it as I would like. I guess one of my new year's resolutions will be to try to use some of my appliances more often than I do, and this can go down as a trial run.

The other thing I got that suggested this recipe was a whole pastured chicken from a local farm. We've been buying duck and chicken eggs from them for a while and recently they have had frozen chicken, both whole and cut up, as well. There have been some recent changes to the law which make it easier to get high quality pastured chickens from local farms, although you will have to go to the farm to get them. These chickens have much more substance than factory farmed chickens, or to put it another way, if you don't cook them a little differently from industrial chicken, you may find them tough. Something, something, actually walking around on their actual legs. Also they will be a little older and almost certainly larger than what you will find at the grocery store.

Cooking such a chicken in a clay pot (Romertopf) is a good plan. The clay pot gets very hot and the chicken cooks quickly, but the fact that it has been well soaked keeps the chicken moist and tender. You can expect to find quite a lot more broth in the pot when it is done than when you started. Yes, the plan is that this chicken will end in soup - after it has provided 3 or 4 meals. That's quite a lot of mileage out of a 6.7 pound chicken. 

6 to 8 servings
2 to 2 1/2 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Roast Chicken in a Clay Pot (Romertopf)

a 2 to 3 kilo (4.5 to 7 pound) whole chicken
1 medium leek
1 medium carrot
1 stalks of celery OR 1 cup peeled julienned celeriac
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons Hungarian Spice Blend OR Classic Poultry Seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chicken stock

Cover the clay pot - both top and bottom - in water and soak for at least 20 minutes and up to 40 minutes. Check the oven to make sure that the racks are arranged so that it will fit into it. Take the chicken from the fridge and let it come up to room temperature as the pot pieces soak.

Wash the leeks and cut them into somewhat coarse julienne; do the same with the carrots and celery. Peel the garlic and cut it into slices.

When the soaking time is up, drain the pot well. Arrange the vegetables in the bottom of the pot and place the chicken on top. Take about half the garlic cloves and put them inside the chicken; push the other half under the skin in various places. Mix the seasoning and the salt, and put half of it inside the chicken, turning it to distribute it. Sprinkle half of the remaining seasonings mix evenly over the bottom of the chicken then turn it over and pour the vinegar and chicken stock over it. Sprinkle the remaining seasoning mix over the top of the chicken.

Put the lid over the chicken and place the clay pot in the oven. Turn on the heat to 425°F. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken. Remove the lid and roast the chicken for a further 20 to 30 minutes, until nicely browned, and the legs wiggle freely when tested. Let rest about 10 minutes before carving.

Last year at this time I made the delicious Cheesy Brussels Sprouts Bread Pudding

Monday, 19 November 2018

Hungarian Seasoning Blend

I first mixed this up many years ago (not this batch!) from a description in I Hear America Cooking, by Betty Fussell. It listed the spices, without the proportions, but it sounded interesting enough for me to come up with a version. I think I added a few things too.

Use this with chicken, fish, or pork, or in soups and stews. I made it up to use on Roast Chicken in a Clay Pot, but there will be about half of it left over. It's not a bad idea to make it a few days in advance to allow the flavours to blend. Once made, keep it in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 2 months.

about 1/4 cup
15 minutes prep time

Hungarian Seasoning Blend

Grind Some Spices:
3 or 4 pods of green cardamom
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon dill seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

Crush the cardamom pods and remove the papery green husks. Add the remaining spices and grind well until everything is fine. Put them in a small bowl or jar. 

Add Some Spices:
1 teaspoon rubbed tarragon OR basil
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika

Add the spices listed above to the ground spices. Blend well.

Last year at this time I made Balkan Sour Vegetable Soup.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Turkey & Mushroom Stuffed Leeks

Our leek crop this year is looking very nice, in spite of the fact that leek moths showed up for the first time in the late summer. One day they were looking magnificent, and the next they started to look chewed, wilted, and tatty. Mr. Ferdzy dumped impressive quantities of diatomaceous earth over them a couple of times and they perked right up. It was impressive.

You want the biggest, fattest leeks you can get for this, and it would not hurt to have some extras and save the trimmings for some other use. Two will be sufficient, but it will be harder to get the perfect part of the leeks.

The trouble is that the closer to the outside of the leek, the tougher and stringier the leaves will be. But once you get too far in, the leaves become too small to roll. And even with careful selection of the leaves, it will be best to provide a pretty sharp knife when you serve them. This may explain why stuffed leeks are not a very common thing. They were really tasty though, and the filling was delicious. Ground turkey can be a bit dry but all the vegetables mixed into it kept it moist and gave it lots of flavour. 

4 to 8 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

Prepare the Vegetables:
2 to 4 large, fat leeks
6 cloves of garlic
1 large carrot, grated
125 grams (1/4 pound) button mushrooms
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil

Put a large pot of water on to boil Wash the leeks, trim off the root ends, and from the point where the leaves begin to branch off and turn dark green. Cut them into 4" or 5" pieces.  Boil them for 10 minutes, then carefully remove them to a strainer and rinse in cold water until cool. Drain well.

Meanwhile, peel and mince the garlic. Peel and grate the carrot. Clean and chop the mushrooms fairly finely.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet and cook the carrot and mushrooms over medium heat, stirring regularly, until softened and reduced in volume. Add the garlic and mix it in well. Cook for a minute longer then transfer the vegetables to a large mixing bowl and let cool.

Cut each leek lengthwise, with a very sharp knife, about 1/3 of the way through. Peel off the outer layers that are big enough to roll up. Once you get to the leaves that are too skinny to be rollable, set them aside. You need enough of the wide leek leaf rectangles to roll them up into 12 tubes, in sets of 2 or 3 leaves. Chop the leftover leek leaves up very finely and add them to the cooked vegetables in the mixing bowl.

Mix the Filling:
1 1/2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
500 grams (1 generous pound) lean ground turkey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Make and measure the crumbs, and add them to the mixing bowl. Add the ground turkey, egg, and seasonings. Mix well. I find this sort of mixture easiest to mix with my hands.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Take a set of prepared leek leaf rectangles, and place 1/2th of the filling, rolled into a tube shape, on it. Roll it up to re-form the shape of the leek. Place the stuffed leek section in a lightly-oiled shallow baking pan which will hold the 12 of them snugly. (I used an 8" x 10" lasagne pan.)

Repeat with the remaining 11 sets of leek leaves and filling.

Bake the Leek Rolls:
1/4 cup chicken stock
75 grams shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon corn starch or arrowroot
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pour the chicken stock over the pan of stuffed leeks and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove and discard the stems from the shiitakes, and cut them into strips. Sauté them gently in the oil. If they look like they want to dry out or scorch rather than sauté, drizzle a little water over them to help them cook. 

When the leeks have baked for 30 minutes, spread the shiitakes over them. Mix the starch into the sour cream and dribble it over the leeks and mushrooms. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the top and return the leeks to the oven for another 30 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Cranberry Meringue Pie. I suppose I should say that I made it again as written, and it worked perfectly!

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Mincemeat Cake

It seems I only just mixed up and canned my mincemeat, and here I am using some already. One of the reasons I decided to make mincemeat was that I had been seeing so many ideas for things to make with it other than pies or tarts, which I usually find to be a bit too intense. This cake, however, was very good. The mincemeat gave it a lively, rich flavour and moist texture but it was not overwhelming.

I actually only put in 1/4 cup of sugar on the grounds that mincemeat basically is sugar, held together with a little fibre and booze. But apparently not quite, because the general consensus was that it could have used a little more. You may wish to taste the batter to be sure you have added the correct amount. I have to say I was amazed that what looked like a substantial quantity of mincemeat going into the batter turned out be almost invisible in the finished cake. We could certainly taste it though!

8 to 12 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Mincemeat Cake

Mix the Dry Ingredients:
2 cups whole spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger

Measure the flour, and mix in the other ingredients - you can do it right in the measuring cup, if the sides are high enough. 

Mix the Wet Ingredients & Finish:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
the finely grated zest of 1/2 large orange
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (the juice of 1 large) orange
2 cups (500 ml) mincemeat

Line the bottom of an 8" spring form pan with parchment paper, and butter and flour the sides, Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Work the butter until soft in a large mixing bowl, then add the sugar and work them together until very smooth and soft. 

Grate the orange zest finely and add it to the butter. Mix it in well. Break in the eggs, one at a time, and beat them in. The mixture will be quite curdled looking and that is fine.

Mix in half the flour, etc. Measure your orange juice; if you are short of 1/2 cup top it up with some brandy, rum, or sherry. Add half of it to the batter and mix well.

Mix the mincemeat into the batter. Mix in the remaining flour, and the remaining orange juice, until the batter is smooth. Scrape it into the prepared pan and smooth it out evenly. Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then loosen the sides and let it sit until cool. Keep well wrapped until you are ready to serve it. Keeps well for several days - and in fact is probably best let to sit for at least one day before being served - but it is not for long-term storage like fruitcake because of the apples or pears in it. You could freeze it, I imagine.

Last year at this time I made Roasted Potatoes Manti Style

Monday, 12 November 2018

Warm Chicken & Wild Rice Salad with Roasted Vegetables

I seem to be on a kick for warm salads of roasted vegetables. This is a salad, I guess, and not a casserole, but it definitely inhabits the borderland between the two. Mr. Ferdzy was a bit perplexed by it but proceeded to eat truly startling quantities of it, so it's a happy habitation, I would say.

Wild rice is available all year round, but it always goes so well with autumn vegetables that this is the time of year I seem to use it most. This is a bit of a casual dish for such an expensive ingredient, but sometimes I don't care. Well worth it, I thought.

4 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Chicken & Wild Rice Salad with Roasted Vegetables, Seeds, & Dried Cranberries

Cook the Wild Rice:
1 cup wild rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups water

Put the wild rice and salt into a rice-cooker with the water and turn it on. Alternatively, it can be cooked in a pot on the stove. Bring it to a boil then reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for about 45 minutes until the rice is cooked and the water absorbed. This can be done a day in advance.

Roast the Chicken & Vegetables:
1 large carrot
6 to 8 large shallots
450 grams (1 pound) Brussels sprouts
2 or 3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
4 large (450 grams; 1 pound)  skin-on boneless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons rubbed savory
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Peel the carrot and cut it into short, thin strips. Peel the shallots and cut them into quarters. Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half or quarters if they are large. Toss the vegetables with the oil in a large shallow baking pan.

Cut the chicken thighs in half - you are most likely to get skin-on thighs with the bone in too, so I did this in the process of removing the bone - and toss them with the mixed seasonings. Arrange them over the vegetables and roast for 30 minutes.

If you cooked the wild rice the day before, it should come out of the fridge to warm up a bit while the chicken and vegetables roast. 

After 30 minutes, stir the vegetables, but shift the chicken pieces around to keep them on top. Roast for a further 15 minutes.

Dress the Salad & Finish:
the juice of 1 large lemon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Juice the lemon into a jam jar or small bowl, and mix in the mustard.

Measure out the seeds and cranberries, and mix them.

When the roasting pan comes out of the oven, remove the chicken pieces to a plate to cool slightly.

Mix the wild rice into the vegetables, along with the seeds and cranberries. Drizzle the dressing over and toss again.

Chop up the chicken and mix it back into the salad.

Last year at this time I made Lentil, Carrot & Parsley Salad.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Stir-Fried Beef with Broccoli, Shiitakes & Oyster Sauce

A popular and classic take-out dish, made in about the same time it would take for your order to arrive and probably cheaper and better too. Dirty dishes though; but you can't have everything.

That was the last red pepper from our garden, which had been sitting on the counter for a while and required some trimming. Hopefully you can get greenhouse peppers now. It could be omitted if you can't. As with all stir-fries, the cooking is very quick so everything should be ready and organized before you turn on the burner.

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Stir-Fried Beef with Broccoli, Shiitakes & Oyster Sauce

Make the Sauce:
1/4 cup beef stock
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Measure the cold stock and mix in the starch and soy sauce. Set aside.

Prepare the Ingredients:
250 grams (1/2 pound) sirloin or similar steak
1 small head of broccoli
1 medium onion
1/4 of a red pepper
75 grams (3 ounces) shiitake mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
3 to 4 very thin slices of ginger

Cut the steak into 1/4" thick slices; if your beef was from frozen it is easiest to do while it is still semi-frozen.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. 

Wash, trim, and cut the broccoli into florets. Peel the onion and cut it into slivers. Wash the pepper and cut it into thin strips. Remove and discard the stems of the shiitakes, and cut them into strips. Peel and mince the garlic. Mince the ginger very finely.

When the water boils, blanch the broccoli for 1 or 2 minutes, then drain well. 

Make the Stir-Fry:
1 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons good quality oyster sauce

Heat the oil over high heat in a large skillet or wok. When it is hot, add the beef, and stir-fry for a minute or two. When it is sizzling hot, add the onion, pepper, and mushrooms. Continue cooking for a few minutes until the vegetables begin to soften, and the meat looks mostly cooked. Mix in the garlic and ginger, then after a minute or so, mix in the drained broccoli.

Cook for several minutes more, stirring frequently, until the broccoli is done to your liking. Stir up the sauce and pour it over, stirring as it goes. It will thicken up and coat the vegetables, etc within about a minute, at which point the stir-fry should be transferred to a large serving dish. Drizzle half the oyster sauce over it and mix in gently, then drizzle the remaining oyster sauce over it. Serve with steamed rice.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Pasta with Bacon, Broccoli, Leeks, & Cream

I'm on a kick with leeks and broccoli! I've done plenty of versions of pasta in a cream sauce with some cheese, too. This all comes together very nicely, and in pretty much the usual time to get pasta on the table, which is to say not very long at all.

Three leeks seems like a lot, but it's amazing how they want to disappear. The amount of pasta to cook is, of course, the amount of pasta you know 2 people will eat.

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Pasta with Bacon, Broccoli, Leeks, & Cream

1 small head of broccoli
1 large carrot
3 large leeks
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
150 grams (1/2 pound) lean bacon
2 tablespoons bacon fat
166 grams to 225 grams (1/3 to 1/2 pound) stubby pasta
salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons rubbed savory
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup unsalted chicken stock
1 cup 10% cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Wash and trim the broccoli, and cut it into florets. Set it aside. 

Peel and grate the carrot. Wash, trim, and cut the leeks into thin slices. Rinse them well and drain them thoroughly. Peel and mince the garlic.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

Chop the bacon and cook it gently in a large skillet until crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, and drain off any excess fat leaving about 2 tablespoons. (Or add enough to make 2 tablespoons, but good luck with that.)

Add the leeks and carrots and cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. The vegetables should soften and cook down, but don't let them brown. Season with salt - very carefully given the presence of both bacon and cheese - and more generously with pepper, and add the savory. Mix in well.

When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook it for the time indicated on the package plus 1 minute. When it has 6 minutes left to cook, add the broccoli.

Meanwhile, mix the flour into the chicken stock being sure there are no lumps. Mix the cream into the chicken stock then pour it into the pan of vegetables. Bring it to a gently simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta and broccoli are cooked and the sauce has thickened; both at about the same time if all goes according to plan. Drain the pasta and broccoli very well then mix them into the pan of sauce. Serve with the grated Parmesan sprinkled over.

Last year at this time I made Onion Caraway Soup.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Moroccan-Spiced Cauliflower

This is a flavourful but straightforward treatment for cauliflower, good with simply cooked fish or chicken. Rice, pasta, or roasted potatoes will round out the meal. If you could get your hands on some parsley to sprinkle over the top it would be an improvement, as cauliflower tends to make for a very pale meal. I still have some in the garden but I didn't think of it until I was sitting there looking at my very beige plate; what else is new?

4 to 6 servings
20 minutes prep time

Moroccan Spiced Cauliflower

Mix the Spices:
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed summer savory
2 teaspoons rubbed mint
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

Grind the coriander and cumin seeds, then mix them with the rest of the spices in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cook the Cauliflower & Finish:
4 to 5 cups (1 medium head) cauliflower florets
2 or 3 shallots
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
the juice of 1/2 large lemon
a sprinkle of chopped parsley (optional)

Put a large pot of water on to boil for the cauliflower. Wash and trim the cauliflower and break it up into florets. 

Peel and mince the shallots and garlic. Heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet and cook the shallots until soft - just a couple of minutes - stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook for a minute longer. Mix the spices into them for a minute, and remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, once the water boils, cook the cauliflower for 5 to 7 minutes, until done to your liking. Drain it well and return it to the pot, over medium heat. Drizzle the olive oil over them, then mix in the shallots and spices. Stir in well. Mix in the lemon juice and stir in well, until completely absorbed. Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Trout & Spinach au gratin.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Smoked Pork Chops with Mustard Cream Sauce

You need to have access to a good German-style butcher to get smoked pork chops. Fortunately, here in southwestern Ontario that is not too difficult. They are so good that usually I just fry them up and serve them, maybe with some applesauce. Mashed potatoes are the classic choice to serve on the side, alongside whatever green vegetable you would like.

Smoked pork chops come in 2 styles. Some are brined before smoking, making them rather ham-like. This seems to be more common, although I have purchased others that were simply smoked, and were essentially raw. The brined ones will cook a bit faster, but otherwise they are treated the same. They will also vary in their degree of saltiness, so don't add much salt to the sauce to start with but be prepared to adjust it at the end.

They don't take too long to cook either way so you should at least have the sauce ingredients out and ready to mix before you start cooking the chops. Keep a light hand with the salt and the lemon zest, although remember the sauce should taste a bit stronger than you would want to eat straight, since in fact you won't be eating it straight but putting it on the chops.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Smoked Pork Chops with Mustard Cream Sauce

Make the Sauce:
1/4 cup ham or chicken broth, or water
1 teaspoon arrowroot or corn starch
1 tablespoon coarse-seeded Dijon mustard
a few gratings of lemon zest
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sherry
1/4 cup 10% or 18% cream

Measure the stock or water and set it aside.

Mix the starch, mustard, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and sherry in a small bowl until smooth. Mix in the cream until smooth.

Cook the Chops:
2 teaspoons bacon fat
4 smoked pork chops

Heat the bacon fat (or other oil, if you must) in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When it is melted and just starting to smoke, add the chops and cook them for 7 to 10 minutes per side, until the chops are done to your liking. The time will vary according to the thickness of the chops and the style of smoking.  Ham-like chops will cook a little faster than raw smoked chops.

When the chops are done, remove them to a serving platter. Immediately reduce the heat to medium, and pour in the stock or water. Scrape up any bits adhering to the pan. Stir up the sauce mixture to redissolve the starch - it will have settled in waiting - and pour it in to the pan at once, stirring well as it goes in. The sauce will simmer up and thicken pretty much at once. Test it for salt, then spoon it over the chops. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made German Leek Salad