Last evening I cooked a big roast beef dinner for my oldest son who just turned 33. His favourite meal is prime rib with yorkshires, potatoes, gravy, and all the trimmings, for me this has to include bearnaise sauce. Quite frankly I consider things like roast beef and vegetables really just vehicles for bearnaise sauce, I love this stuff! Of course a constant diet is a sure fire way to clogged arteries, but what a way to go! Anyway, after we all feasted to bursting on my son’s birthday dinner, I found myself with a considerably large amount of leftover bearnaise sauce, I just couldn’t bring myself to throw it in the compost, I was quite sure that I could find a good use for it the next day. So Monday morning’s breakfast went something like this; I sliced a croissant in half horizontally and threw it in the toaster to brown, meanwhile microwaving 4 strips of bacon and poaching two eggs. Then I went for my prize, my beloved bearnaise sauce. A minute in the microwave to reheat and voila! Lay out the toasted halves of the croissant, top with two strips of bacon and one poached egg per half and then dollop ridiculous amounts of that beautiful buttery, tarragony sauce over the works and finish with a couple of grinds of pepper, OMG, so delicious! Just as a note, this is unbelievably rich and unless you haven’t eaten for a few days, a half portion of this per person should be more than enough. I’m sure there are millions of ways to use up your leftover bearnaise, but this one was mighty tasty!
Hello all, sorry for the delay between posts, but what with the ongoing kitchen reno, visitors, gardening and various other bits and pieces of life, time just seems to have gotten away from me. With the warm weather the desire for lighter fare and not such heavy meals comes up. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my roasted dinners slathered with gravy and sauces and all that wonderful stuff but it just seems labour intensive in the summer time when what you’d rather be doing is planting a petunia. French Onion Soup for me is an all season dish, comforting in the cold, but relatively light as a dinner in the warmer weather. Shrimp rolls serve as my poor man’s lobster rolls, not quite as luxurious, but if you close your eyes you can pretend.
Everyone has their own versions of both of these dishes but this is how I made them yesterday.
French Onion Soup – serves 4
4 leeks, white part only, well washed and sliced thinly
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3 medium yellow onions, sliced thinly
1 clove of fresh minced garlic (optional)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 cups of low or no sodium chicken stock
4 cups of low or no sodium beef stock
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 springs of fresh thyme
4 – 1/2 thick slices of baguette or other crusty bread toasted
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1 cup of grated fontina, or gouda, gruyere, whatever nice melting cheese you like
Melt butter and olive oil in a 3 quart pot, add sliced leeks and onions, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper, saute on med. heat , stirring often until onions and leeks are a deep mahogany colour, do not burn (this may take 1/2 an hour or more), add minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add sherry to deglaze, let cook for a couple of minutes, add stock , thyme sprigs, pepper and salt to taste, add as much or as little salt as you like, but remember you can add more, but you can’t take it back out! Heat to the boiling point, lower heat and simmer for 1/2 hour. Spoon into oven proof bowls, top with toasted bread and divide cheese evenly between bowls. Stick under the broiler for about 5 minutes until cheese gets bubbly and golden brown, serve and enjoy!
Shrimp Rolls – serves 2
15 or so large cooked, deveined shrimp ( I used 31-40) shells removed, cut into 3 chunks
1 stalk of celery cut into a small dice
2 radishes cut into a small dice
1/2 tsp. of minced red onion
salt and pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp. of mayonnaise
2 hamburger buns toasted on the inside
2 lettuce leaves
Mix together onion, mayonnaise, lemon juice and salt and pepper, whisk to combine smoothly. Add mayo mixture to chopped shrimp, celery, and radishes and stir to combine. Toast hamburger buns and butter toasted side, lay a lettuce leaf on the bottom side of bun, top with shrimp mixture and top of bun. Make yummy noises as you pretend they are lobster rolls.
Sorry folks, I haven’t been blogging much lately as I’m knee deep in a major kitchen renovation, it should give me lots to talk about in future posts but for now I would like to share with you my favourite baked fish recipe. I’ve been making this one forever and there is a dispute between my husband and me where it actually originated. I think we were first served it by his Dad’s wife, and he thinks his aunt fed it to us on our honeymoon (almost 34 years ago, boy am I old!, but I digress) Anyway, not being a big lover of baked fish I was really happy to finally stumble upon a recipe that is really delicious and incredibly simple. I like to serve this one with boiled lemon butter potatoes, or a mashed mix of carrots and potatoes or mashed turnip and potatoes, all seasoned with lots of butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper and of course some cream. Anyway the recipe goes like this:
Fish Fillets in Cream
1 lb. of fresh white flaky fish, I use cod or haddock (you can also use frozen fillets here, just make sure to thaw and rinse first.)
1/2 cup of half and half
2 cups of crushed saltines
2 tbsp. of melted butter
1 tbsp. of fresh minced onion
1 tbps. of freshly chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lay fish out in a single layer in a baking dish, pour over half and half. In a small pot melt butter, stir in crushed saltines, minced onion, and parsley, mix well, sprinkle this over fish. Bake for 30 minutes until golden on top. Serve hot.
I love pulled pork sandwiches, there is no doubt that they are quite delicious, however roasting a giant pork butt or shoulder when you’re only needing to feed two people seems rather silly. But not fair, you still want to enjoy this delectable item of messy goodness. I have figured out a solution to this problem…sort of, and although nothing can replace the true slow roasted succulent pork butt or shoulder with the lovely bark and crust, this will probably satisfy any craving you may have until you have enough people gathered to roast a whole pig or someone takes you out to your favourite diner to dig in. I have started slow roasting a pork tenderloin (gasp!). Now I know what you’re thinking, there’s really no fat, and not much flavour to a pork tenderloin, however if you season it correctly you can make it mouthwateringly superb! Make way more bbq sauce than you think you need, use whatever recipe you like, mine usually consists of 1 1/2 cups of unseasoned tomato sauce (passata) 1 tbsp. of garlic powder, 1 tsp. of onion powder, 1 tbsp. chili powder, 1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper, 1 1/2 tsps. of yellow mustard, a few shakes of worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, 2 tbsp. of brown sugar, a few shakes of Franks Red Hot Sauce, and about 1/4 cup of bourbon. Whisk this all togther. Lay the tenderloin in a pan, tuck under the skinny end so it doesn’t dry out, wrap 3 or 4 strips of bacon around the tenderloin and cover with the bbq. sauce, cover pan tightly with two layers of heavy foil. Roast for about 4 – 5 hours in a 230 F oven, basting from time to time.
Your pork tenderloin should be very tender “pull apart tender” and mix what is left of the bbq sauce into the meat to keep it moist, serve on buttered toasted buns with lots of coleslaw. Craving averted!
…and yes those are tater tots, but I only had five! 🙂
Sometimes you just don’t have the energy or the inclination to prepare dinner, inspiration has deserted you, and you would rather just relax and not bother. I love to cook, but I have to admit that even I have days when I just wish dinner would magically appear before me. Of course there is always going out to dinner, but if you’re feeling put upon to prepare a meal, then getting dressed and primped so you’re ready for the public may be more trouble than actually cooking. You can also order in, but at least in my neck of the woods the choices are somewhat limited to battered and deep fried and the nutritional value is dubious at best. So I have learned over the years, make big batches so you can freeze some and when you’re feeling like a bag of hammers you can produce a tasty homemade meal with very little trouble. There are also a few things you can cook that require very little effort or creativity on your part, no brainer meals for days when spending two hours chopping and prepping, simmering and tasting are about as appealing as sticking knitting needles in your eyes. Following are a couple of easy fixes for everyday meals that require little of your time but deliver big flavour and pretty good nutrtion. Now, if you can find someone to clean up the mess after dinner you’re laughing!
Mustard Cream Pork Chops – serves 2
2 – 3/4 inch thick pork chops
fresh ground pepper
1 heaped tbsp. butter
1 heaped tbsp. grainy mustard
1/4 cup half and half
pat chops dry and sprinkle with pepper. In a saute pan over med. high heat melt butter, add mustard and stir to mix well, lay chops in pan and fry on both sides until cooked and browned, about 5-7 minutes per side. Remove chops from pan, add cream, stir and let cook for about 5 minutes so sauce thickens a little and reduces. Return chops to pan and turn so both sides get coated in sauce, plate chops and pour remaining sauce over top.
Baked Squash – serves 2
Preheat oven to 400F
Small winter squash such as acorn, humber or pepper (I wouldn’t use a spaghetti, or butternut squash here)
salt and pepper
2 tbsp. butter
herbs of your choice or maple syrup or brown sugar
Cut squash in half from stem end to bottom tip. Remove and discard seeds (or save to roast later for a treat). Take a thin slice off the side or what will now be the bottom of your squash so it won’t wobble in the pan. Sprinkle squash halves with salt and pepper, bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Place, 1 tbps. of butter in centre of each squash half and sprinkle with your choice of herbs to season. My husband likes it savoury so I usually season his with a little ground sage and dried thyme, I like mine sweet, so I add a little brown sugar or maple syrup to the pat of butter. Return to oven for another 20 minutes, serve and enjoy.
Homemade pasta, I used to cringe at the thought, turns out it’s pretty darn simple and it can be fun too! My husband loves to make pasta, so a couple of weeks back we set to making some homemade ravioli, he made the pasta, and I made the filling and we took turns rolling the dough through the pasta maker and filling the ravioli’s, we had a lot of fun doing it and ended up with three meals worth of ravioli’s, so a big win all way round! Making your own pasta is more than delicious, you get a great sense of accomplishment and it’s light years better than dried pasta. The recipe is very easy: into the bowl of a food processor with regular blade add 1 cup of white flour, 1 cup of semolina flour, 2 large eggs, 1 tbsp. of olive oil, 1 tsp. salt and you may need a little water to bring it together, pulse it and if it seems too dry, add a little water. Form it into a ball, wrap it in cling wrap and let rest for an hour or so. Cut into 6 portions, flour and feed 1 portion at a time through the pasta maker starting on the biggest gap and gradually working your way to the smallest. You can cut these sheets into any shape you wish on a floured surface, as I said we made ravioli’s and filled them with a squash mixture of roasted squash, butter, a shallot, a little cream, thyme, parmesan cheese and salt and pepper all cooked down to make a smooth creamy filling. Brush the edges of the ravioli’s with egg wash and press with a fork to make sure your filling doesn’t leak out, throw into a pot of boiling salted water to cook. When they float to the top they’re done, from there you can add whatever sauce you like or just drizzle a little olive oil over and sprinkle with pepper and parmesan cheese, it’s really your call. This turned out to be a really fun afternoon for my husband and me with a mouth watering reward at the end, I hope you give it a try with someone you love.
So I find myself baching it ( or the female equivalent) this evening. My husband has gone off to a birthday party for his oldest and dearest friend, I was unable to accompany him due to an old, arthritic dog that needs constant attention and unfortunately we were unable to find ourselves a dogsitter this time around. Finding yourself alone at home unexpectedly is somehow very freeing, I started to imagine all the cleaning, I would do, the tv I would watch, the music I would play really loud and then of course you do have to feed yourself. I have to say I’ve never been one to stand over the sink shovelling down a bowl of cold cereal, just not my style, I don’t always necessarily eat good food when alone, but I at least sit at the table with utensils and a napkin. Tonight I decided on Mushroom Bisque, this is one of my favourite soups of all time, it’s quite rich so not an everyday meal, but with a nice glass of wine and crust of bread, a lovely treat every once in a while. Now thankfully I did not have to make this from scratch just for little ole me tonight, I very smartly froze some the last time I made it and voila, instant fancy dinner for Paula! And to top it all off, a friend dropped by a banana chocolate cupcake for dessert. Sounds like a good night!
Elegant Mushroom Bisque 6 – 8 servings
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
1 cup sliced portobello mushrooms
1/2 cup butter
1/2 finely sliced white onion
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry sherry
4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup of shredded carrot
2 cups of light cream
splash of tabasco sauce
chopped parsley for garnish
In a large saucepan on med. heat, melt butter, saute mushrooms and onion. Cook until tender, add garlic and cook for another minute of two, don’t let the garlic burn it will go bitter. Stir in flour, salt and pepper to form a rue, whisk until smooth. Add sherry and let cook off for a couple of minutes continue to whisk all the while. Add stock a little at a time, whisking to keep mixture smooth. Add carrots and let cook covered for about 12 – 15 minutes. Add cream and tabasco, heat again for another 10 minutes and serve, garnish with chopped parsley.
If you do have enough left over to freeze, when you are reheating, do so slowly and whisk constantly as the soup will separate when frozen.
While watching a popular food show on TV the other day I was inspired by something I saw, I don’t quite remember what it was, because at that moment I was hit with a revelation. Knowing that we were going to be having steak for dinner the next day, I thought, instead of the tired old baked potato with sour cream, why not a potato pancake? Now you will have to forgive me, I tend to think about food constantly, not in a I have to eat it constantly kind of way, but in a what can I cook kind of way? I once heard that you must be French if, when you’re not eating or cooking, you’re thinking about about eating or cooking, so rather than think of myself as obsessive, I like to think of myself as French. (You’re buying this right?) Anyway, my reasoning regarding the pancakes was, you put sour cream on your potato latkes, so why not a potato pancake to go with your steak just to make life a little more interesting? I didn’t want the usual latke which I’ve made a million times and do love, I wanted something a little fluffier, more hardy if you will. I baked the potatoes ahead of time (for latkes you usually use grated raw potato) scooped out the innards and to this I added salt, pepper, minced garlic, chopped chives, an egg and some flour. I pan fried these until they were golden brown and set them on paper towel to drain. They certainly were tasty, but I was not quite happy with the texture in the centre, a little too gluey in my opinion, so it’s back to the drawing board. I won’t give up as the flavour was good, and I will eventually get there with some trial and error, ask my husband, I usually get what I want ;).
The dinner was still very good, I served the steak with Ina Garten’s basil mayonaisse, which was yummy. I won’t post her recipe as I would probably get sued for some copywrite infringement or something, but I’m sure you could find it on her website. Anyway, that’s what cooking is all about, trying out new things, making some mistakes, but sometimes stumbling on something incredible. Hopefully your successes will outweigh your failures.
It’s true, your tastes do change as you grow older or maybe you just get braver. Perhaps you just need stronger flavours as you’ve dulled your senses over time with years of abuse from junk food, cigarettes (hopefully a thing of the past for most of us), alcohol, funnell cake, whatever. As a child, ham and split pea soup was one of those things I wanted to like, but just couldn’t get past my lips for fear of what nasty bits lay in that thick, opaque liquid. It smelled good, people eating it made it look like it must be good, they “oohed” and “ahhed” and sopped up the bit remaining in the bowl with crusts of bread so they wouldn’t waste any of the delectable soup. My mother would set it down in front of me, I would have a few tentative spoonfuls, taking care that no bits of mystery stuff got mixed into the broth, and when it felt like I had spent enough time hunkered over my bowl , I would asked to be excused so I could go out and play. (For those of you born after 1985, I will explain what “going out to play” was some other time).
In some ways cooking has been a freeing experience for me, I know exactly what has gone into a dish and therefore need not fear it’s contents. I know that there will be no gristly bits, no globs of fat, no hard bits of bone, I can attack with confidence! I can eat and enjoy my ham and split pea soup and love it, and I do love it, it’s one of my favourite things, I make it every time we have leftover ham and I usually have enough to freeze for a couple of meals down the road. It’s hearty and so full of flavour that having this for dinner with some nice crusty bread and a salad makes for a very satisfying and comforting meal. So go forth and conquer your food fears, the best way to do it (I’ve found) is to make it yourself!
My recipe for Ham and Split Pea Soup
I always make this recipe after we’ve had a roast ham, when you remove the roasted ham from the oven collect and save some of the fat and liquid that has amassed and put it in a covered container in the refrigerator until you make your soup.
1 Ham bone
3 tbsp. of unsalted butter
1 lrg. white onion
1 large carrot diced
3-4 litres of ham stock
1/2 cup of reserved fat and ham liquid (this will have turned to jelly by now)
2 cups of yellow or green split peas, rinsed and cleaned
2 large carrots cut into coins
1 large parsnip cut into coins
1 cup of rutabaga cut into half inch cubes
reserved chunks of ham
2 large potatoes cut into cubes
pepper to taste
Cut into bite size chunks any nice pieces of ham left on the bone, set aside.
In a large pot cover ham bone with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 2 – 3 hours
Strain, reserving clear stock and throw away the bone and nasty bits.
In another large pot over med. heat, melt butter, saute onion and diced carrot, cook until soft, not coloured about 7-8 minutes. Add about 1/2 cup of reserved ham fat and jelly, let dissolve, add stock, and and split peas, cover and cook for about two hours, peas will start to break down and thicken the soup. Add the remaining carrots, parsnip, rutabaga and ham, cook for another hour. Add potatoes and cook for another 1/2 hour until potatoes are tender, add pepper to season. Serve hot with a nice crusty bread. Enjoy!
I have come to believe that the perfect dinner is not just about the food, it’s also about your state of mind. You could certainly have the most elaborate meal with many courses of roasted meats, and grilled fish with palette cleansers and russian eggs, fois gras, and lovely sorbet’s but if you’re not there in your head, it won’t matter, you just won’t appreciate it as you think you might. Sometimes simplicity is the most satisfying of all. A few choice morsels that you can savour while having a lovely conversation with someone you like to be around and a nice wine is the best meal of all. Tonight’s dinner was not a huge production, but a meal of a few things that we really like. It gave us time to reconnect and recount the day, while we ate a few of our favourite things. Tonight’s menu was smoked salmon (smoked by Pete in our backyard a couple of weeks ago, we may never be able to go back to store bought!) with the usual accessories of sour cream with dill, capers, and sliced shallots and steamed artichokes with buerre blanc for dipping. And to top it all off, Pete made ice cream with frozen fruit, fresh cream and vanilla bean sugar for dessert, I think I’ll keep him.
This was the second time I attempted a buerre blanc, the first being not very successful. As I had nothing to compare it to, I really had no idea what a complete and utter failure my first foray into the buerre blanc world was, now I do. This time I was blessed with the most amazing, thick, tangy and creamy concoction I could imagine! I was practically giggling with happiness at the wonderful emulsification that took place in my kitchen. Should you ever wish to attempt this tasty bit of heaven for yourself this is how I made it:
Beurre Blanc – makes about 3/4 cup
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1/4 cup white wine
1 shallot finely chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 pound of cold butter cut into cubes
salt and pepper
1 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
Place shallot, vinegar, wine, and lemon juice in a sauce pan over med. high heat and cook to reduce to about 2 tbsp. Add cream and reduce again to about 2 tbsp. whisk often. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. Start whisking in cubes of butter one at a time until they stop melding into the sauce, return pan to very low heat and continue to whisk in cubes of butter. When butter is all incorporated, add salt and pepper and chives and continue to whisk, you should have a sauce that is the consistancy of a bechamel, very creamy and smooth. Serve immediately with fish or vegetables.