3.31.2014

My Favourite Cream of Tomato Soup


There is nothing more comforting than a warm bowl of soup on a blustery spring day. Make yourself a fantastic grilled cheese, using great bread and an old cheddar cheese. Cut the crusts off and slice the sandwich into little squares. Float the little pieces of grilled cheese in a bowl of cream of tomato soup for a lunch that you’ll want to repeat over and over again. 

My Favourite Cream of Tomato Soup
Serves 8.

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups chopped onion
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 – 28 oz cans whole or diced tomatoes (with juice)
1 ½ cups water
1 cup whipping cream
1 Tbsp fine sea salt, or to taste
Few turns of freshly ground black pepper
¼ - ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, depending on how much heat you like
½ tsp celery salt
½ tsp dried oregano
1 ½ Tbsp granulated sugar

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent and soft. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor. Return the soup to the pot and warm gently. Check for seasoning and serve hot.






4.26.2013

Broccoli Slaw


I've been enjoying the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook this week. There are several recipes that I would love to try from Deb Perelman's book, but this is the only one I've tried so far - and I've made it twice. This is the broccoli salad that you have either made for family gatherings or you've eaten at family gatherings. It is such a familiar salad, yet I didn't have a recipe for it and I'm not sure that it would have crossed my mind to try and find one.

I am happy to report that this recipe is as good as you remember... better, in fact. The first batch I made was so enticing to me, I had a big bowl of it before bed. And then I lay there, not sleeping, cursing myself, wondering what had possessed me to eat that much broccoli at 9:30 at night. Proceed with caution.

Broccoli Slaw

2 heads broccoli (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayo
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
Lots of freshly ground black pepper

Trim the broccoli and chop it into large chunks; then cut each chunk into thin slices. I usually cut the stems into thin slices, then stack the slices and cut them in the other direction, into thin matchsticks (I was too precise with these instructions).

Toss the broccoli with the almonds and cranberries. In a small bowl, whisk the buttermilk, mayo, vinegar, sugar, and salt until smooth. Stir in the onion. You can let the onion marinate in the dressing for 10 minutes, to mellow it. Pour the dressing over the broccoli mixture, and add a generous amount of black pepper. Stir the salad until the broccoli is evenly coated with the dressing. Serve immediately, or keep covered in the fridge for 2-3 days.

4.11.2013

Napa & Sonoma - 2013

Arista Winery, Healdsburg
I have recently returned from spending two nights in Napa Valley and two nights in Sonoma Valley. My friend Kristin and I went to celebrate her 40th birthday - and celebrate we did! Here are some of the food/wine highlights.... 

Chateau St. Jean, Sonoma
Out of four dinners, we had reservations for three nights. The fourth dinner was as good as any of the other meals, if not better, a testament to the caliber of food available in the area.

 The Girl & The Fig - Sat at the bar and indulged in a pork belly sandwich on house-made brioche followed up with homemade vanilla ice cream with a warm fig & salted caramel sauce.




BarnDiva - A little fancier, the chevre croquettes with tomato marmalade, honey, and lavender were scrumptious.
Mustards Grill - A Napa favourite, we shared the popular pork chop, after starting with crab cakes (crabs are in season till the end of April apparently).
Ad Hoc - The more reasonably priced cousin of The French Laundry, we by no means felt hard done by. In fact, we felt fantastic! Soba noodle salad, duck breast with duck confit, a cheese plate with Marcona almonds, and an ice cream sundae to end things off.


Not only were the dinners delicious, the breakfasts and lunches were very good, too. And the coffee... Don't even get me started...

Beer-Batter Fish Tacos
Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma
 
Kristin & I

Bouchon Bakery, Yountville

Ritual Coffee, Oxbow Market, Napa

C Casa, Oxbow Market, Napa
Plump Jack Winery, Napa


Perfection.

3.06.2013

Cara Cara Orange & Ginger Marmalade


Cara Cara oranges are one of my favourite citrus fruits. They are a cross between oranges and grapefruit and seem to bring the best of both to the table. Combined with ginger, this is a thrilling marmalade that I am going to make more of this week.

This recipe is from a book that I am loving right now - Food in Jars by Marisa McClennan. So many recipes that I want to try... Cantaloupe Jam w/ Vanilla is near the top of my list but I'll have to wait for summer to do that one. Come to think of it, I'm going to make a note on my calender so that I don't forget.

I was surprised to see that this recipe included powdered pectin. I haven't seen other marmalade recipes that include pectin but apparently Cara Cara's don't have a lot of natural pectin and the powdered pectin helps with the set. I would also hazard a guess that the cooking time is reduced because of the added pectin and therefore the colour of the marmalade is maintained beautifully. I kid you not... This marmalade is gorgeous, in looks and taste.

Cara Cara Orange & Ginger Marmalade
Makes 7 - 250 mL jars.

4 pounds Cara Cara oranges (about 8 or 9)
6 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp powdered pectin
4 ounces fresh ginger root
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Prepare jars, rings and tops for canning. For a detailed guide to canning, see The Harrow Fair Cookbook.
Wash the fruit in warm, soapy water and dry thoroughly. Using a sharp veggie peeler, remove the zest from the fruit. Stack the zest strips in piles and chop into fine confetti. Combine the zest in a pot with 2 litres of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-high, and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, until zest is tender.
Peel and chop the ginger root and place in the work bowl of food processor. Add 1 cup water and process until the ginger is pureed. Strain the juice through a fine mesh strainer. Keep the juice and discard the pulp. 

While the zest cooks, "supreme" the fruit by cutting the white pith away from the fruit and cutting the fruit into segments between the membranes. Collect the fruit and any juices in a large measuring cup.

Drain the zest in a fine mesh strainer, reserving the cooking liquid. Combine the sugar and the powdered pectin.
In a large pot, combine the drained zest, segmented fruit, 4 cups of the reserved cooking liquid, the sugar/pectin mixture, and 1 cup ginger juice.
Bring to a boil and cook vigorously until the mixture reaches 220 F. This will take 30-40 minutes. Stir regularly as it cooks to prevent scorching.
When the marmalade reaches 220 F and sustains that temperature for 1 minute, remove the pot from the heat. Ladle the marmalade into the prepared jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a hot-water bath for 10 minutes. (I didn't do the hot-water bath b/c I forgot and I don't usually do it for jams). 

3.03.2013

Notes on Roast Chicken

My sister made the roast chicken that I wrote about in February and she wasn't as thrilled as I thought she'd be. After questioning her technique, I realized I wasn't clear enough with the instructions. I have made the exact chicken three times now so I've got a lot to say on the subject. 

Amazing Roast Chicken

1 whole chicken
Salt
Fresh thyme or rosemary
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup butter

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Place the chicken in a 9x13-inch baking pan. Salt the inside cavity of the chicken and stuff the herbs and garlic inside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the soy sauce. Brush the chicken with the soy mixture and place the chicken in the oven. Set a timer to baste the bird every 10-15 minutes. Don't pour all of the soy mixture over the chicken at the very beginning. Every time you baste the chicken, use a little more of the mixture and it should be gone in about 3 hours.

The chicken is ready when the joints are loose and the skin is a dark golden brown. The meat should be falling off the bones, or just about. The one I made last night was so dark (in a good way), it looked like a lacquered Peking duck.

I also made stock with the last carcass I had from this chicken. I didn't include ALL of the drippings, but I did include some. The stock is a dark brown so although it might not be great for certain things, you can bet that it will make some fantastically tasty soups, stews, etc. And you definitely won't need to add any extra seasoning.

2.09.2013

Ketchup-Glazed Dog Biscuits




What sort of a dog biscuit recipe would the owner of the French Laundry in Napa Valley make for his dog? I couldn't resist finding out. In Thomas Keller's new book - Bouchon Bakery - we have the opportunity to find out. And I was happy to oblige my dogs, Soul (above) and Oscar (below). I'm sure if they could talk they would be gushing over these treats!

I tweaked the original recipe a little bit to accommodate what I actually had on hand. At the Bouchon Bakery, they originally made these treats with leftover fois gras.... I couldn't even find chicken livers at my local grocery store so I made do with beef liver. And you'll notice that there are some odd measurements like "3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp cornmeal". That happens because at the bakery they measure by weight rather than volume and these measurements reflect the conversion.

Ketchup-Glazed Dog Biscuits
Makes approximately 4 dozen.

1 pound bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
13 ounces chicken or beef livers, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp fine cornmeal
3 cups + 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
3 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp egg whites

Preheat the oven to 250F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until the fat has been cooked out and the bacon is a rich golden brown. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.

Pour off all but a generous film of bacon fat. Add the livers to the pan and saute, turning them frequently and smashing them slightly for about 5 minutes, until broken down to a paste. Remove from the heat.

Place the bacon in a food processor and pulse a few times to grind it. Add the livers and process to combine, then add the cornmeal and process until you have a coarse mixture.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the flour and mix to combine. Slowly pour in the chicken stock and mix until the dough begins to gather around the paddle and feels moist to the touch. Remove the dough from the mixer and knead it just enough to combine.
Place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap and roll it out to a 3/8-inch thick sheet. Using the dog bone cutter (approximately 2 1/2 inches long), cut out the treats and arrange them on the prepared sheet pans. Knead the trimmings together, roll out, and cut out additional biscuits.
Bake until the treats are completely dry, about 3 hours. Remove from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 200F.
Combine the ketchup and egg whites; the glaze will be very thick. Brush it over the top of the warm treats. Return the pans to the oven and bake for 20-30 minute, then transfer the treats to the rack to cool completely.
The biscuits can be stored in a covered container for up to 1 month.

2.05.2013

Roast Chicken - Seriously Delicious


I was looking through some old posts on The Good Egg blog a few days ago and I read something that tweaked my interest. It was a post written after I had spent a weekend with my friend Elaine in Newfoundland. I wrote about how she had roasted a chicken for 3 hours and how good it was. Then that reminded me of the books she had put me onto while I was there - Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking and More Home Cooking, both wonderful little books that I have recommended to tons of people. In one of those books, Laurie Colwin talks about how she roasts a chicken - for at least three hours on a temperature of 250-300F. The catch is that she would baste the chicken "constantly" during those three hours.

Basting a chicken is no big deal - if you are indeed home to do it. I realized my biggest stumbling block would be remembering. So, I set the timer for for every 10 to 15 minutes and last night we had one of the tastiest birds I've ever made.


There is one other part of this story. Laurie Colwin suggested sprinkling the chicken with salt, pepper and paprika. But I wanted to try a recipe from one of my scrapbooks. Melt 1/2 cup butter and combine that with 1/2 cup soy sauce. Just those two ingredients created something very close to magic. I also stuffed the chicken cavity with a bunch of fresh thyme (well, not so fresh anymore) and 4 or 5 garlic cloves. After the three hour wait on the chicken, we were rewarded with a falling-off-the-bone, juicy-beyond-belief, taste sensation. It was an epic chicken dinner.