21 April 2014

Feast: Happy Easter! Buona Pasqua!


Happy Easter to all who celebrate!  I hope you and yours had a wonderful Easter, filled with good people, good fun and (of course) good food.

After a longer and harder winter than usual, Little Robin Redbreast hops through shoots of grass and tells me warmer weather will soon arrive.  This of course means soon trees will bud,  my irises will  their striated leaves through the ground, and of course favourite farmers' tweets about their spring rituals will fill my Twitter feed.

I start thinking about my Easter feast when the leaves begin to turn and we all begin to resettle into shorter days and longer nights.  Rarely do my plans hold true.  In September I thought about roasting turkey; in January that turkey became an Indian-themed dinner.  

By March, Italy and the thoughts of homemade porchetta filled my mind.  Previously I'd done a Tuscan-style pork roast--a bit of a cheat on porchetta for those who don't want to wrap and tie a pork belly around a roast--so going the extra step only seemed right. Our Dear Little Puff of Cream suggested a recipe, and Alessandro gave me some moral support and tips as to what he looks for in porchetta (tip:  it's all about the crackling). The meal was rounded out with roasted capsicums, garlic and onions tossed with marinated artichokes in olive oil and lemon, grilled asparagus dressed in balsamic and parmesan, and potatoes mashed with (more) roast garlic.  I took a bit of a liberty with dessert, opting for a citrussy limoncello tiramisu.

Instead of snapping pics of each item, I decided to offer images and recipe links to the porchetta and tiramisu.

140421 Easter Porchetta 2

Porchetta (Bon Appetit (Sept 2011))
If you ever need a reason to go to a real butcher, this is it.  Matt (my favourite butcher), presented me with some beautiful tamworth pork, and he trimmed the belly to fit the loin exactly.

The roasted, fennelly-spicy meat was simply sublime.  And the crackling?  Burnished and amazing.



140421 Easter Limoncello tiramisu 2
Tiramisù al Limoncello (Lidia Matticchio Bastianich)
As a means to shake off winter's heavy mantle, I wanted an Italian dessert that also brought a promise of sunny skies and warm weather.  Lemon and limoncello fit the bill.

Don't let the fact this contains alcohol scare you--it's cooked off in both the zabaglione and the simple syrup, allowing its boozy nature evaporate. And what's better?  It can be made ahead (up to two days).




cheers!
jasmine
 I'm a quill for hire!



17 March 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!: Guinness-braised beef short rib poutine


Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

Some of you may recall my mission to create Guinness-braised short ribs, and what I created was, in fact, Guinness-braised long ribs.  This year, I pledged to rectify this situation.  My plan was simple:

1) Buy beef short ribs when my darling butcher put them on special.
2) Label said shortribs.
3) Freeze said labelled short ribs.
4) Easily retrieve actual short ribs from the freezer, thaw and make Guinness-braised short ribs.

I am happy to report that my mission was successful.

I bought; I labelled; I froze; I retrieved; I thawed; I made Guinness-braised short ribs.

Although they were really good with a side of mashed potatoes and steamed veggies, I didn't actually want Guinness-braised short ribs. 

I wanted Guinness-braised short rib poutine.  Tender meat in a rich gravy, over a bed of golden crispy-on-the-outside and fluffy-on-the-inside chips.  Sauteed mushrooms strewn overtop and soft bleu cheese lightly blessing the entire glorious plate.  

Yes.  That's what I wanted.  And that's exactly what I got: a warm dinner plate of happy.

Of course the main part of this recipe is the short rib recipe itself.  I went back to my Steak and Guinness stew recipe and made a few minor adjustments.  The poutine itself is a non-recipe recipe, and very much up to your individual palate:

Guinness-braised shortrib Poutine
Ingredients
Chunky chips
Guinness-braised short ribs, meat cut off the bone (recipe follows)
Gravy from the above short ribs
Sauteed mushrooms
Bleu Cheese (Cashel, if you want to continue the Irish theme)



Guinness-braised shortribs
Serves four

Ingredients
Marinade:
1 clove garlic, minced
1dspn/2tsp/10ml mustard powder
0.5tsp/2.5ml black pepper
375ml/1.5c Guinness (or any other brand of stout you prefer)

1kg/2lbs beef shortribs, cut into 4cm (1.5") pieces
olive oil
butter
400g/14oz mushrooms, sliced
0.75tsp/3.75ml salt
0.75tsp/3.75ml black pepper
2 medium onions, slivered nose-to-tail
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
2 celery ribs, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
625ml/2.5c diced tomatoes, fresh or tinned
125ml/0.5c Guinness (as above...or any other brand of stout you prefer)
375ml/1.5c beef broth
125ml/0.5c tomato paste
1tsp paprika (hot, preferably)
3 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
2 bay leaves
40g/3Tbsp/45ml soft butter
25g/3Tbsp/45ml ap flour
1-2Tbsp/15-30ml Worcestershire sauce

Method
Mix marinade ingredients together in a zippy bag and add shortrib pieces. Let marinate overnight.

Remove the meat from the zippy bag, and pat dry.  Do not throw away the marinade.

Heat your brasier pan or dutch oven over a hob and slick the bottom with oil.  Sear the meat on all sides and set aside.

Add more oil, if necessary and add the tomato paste and fry until the sugars caramelise and the paste's colour deepens to a brick red.  Remove from pan.

Tip in the onions (with more oil, if necessary) and caramelise to a light golden colour. Add garlic to the pan and mix.  Once the garlic releases its perfume, stir in the celery and saute until translucent.

Preheat your oven to 190C/375F.

Add the seared meat, with its juices to the vegetables. Pour in the marinade along with the diced tomatoes, Guinness, and enough beef broth to cover. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the paprika, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves. Stir well. Let the mixture come up to a boil and keep it there for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Lid the pot and pop into the oven to braise for two hours.

While the meat is simmering, melt oil and butter together; add salt and pepper. Tip in mushrooms and sauté until lovely and soft. Remove the fungi from the pan and set aside.

Just before your timer dings, knead the butter and flour together into a beurre manié.

After the dinger dings, put the pot back onto a medium-low flame on the hob. Remove about a cup's worth of liquid and mix it with the beurre manié and pour back into the stew. Stir well. Add the mushrooms and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for 20 minutes before serving.


cheers!
jasmine
I'm a quill for hire!

14 March 2014

Happy Pi Day! Key Lime Pie with Chocolate Coconut Crust


Happy Pi Day! As many of you know, I'm from Kitchener-Waterloo…home of the University of Waterloo and its renowned maths, engineering and computer science faculties, The Perimeter Institute, and one of North America's fertile tech hubs…so pi day can take on a slightly different feel than in other areas.

Much to my parents' regret, the maths and sciences genes swerved by me, leaving me more interested in pie than pi.  That said, I've been known to watch documentaries and attend lectures about physics, stats and math. And of course a good percentage of my working life--both corporate and as an independent consultant is spent with maths and science inclined colleagues and clients. The numbers part of my brain is alive and well, just happily riding the waves of words, music and art that usually preoccupy my mind.  

I usually let Pi Day pass sans fooferah, but this year, thanks to my unhealthy obsession with all those lovely Buzzfeed quizzes, I found out I am a key lime pie.  That is, the "Which Pie Are You?" quiz offered the following proclamation:

"You're tart and sweet, and so, so creamy.  You think outside the box, which can be your biggest asset.  Nothing's quite as satisfying as your cool graham cracker crust."

Yeah.  That sounds about right.  

But so do the other quizzes I've taken.  I'm Lady Violet, Lizzie Bennett as well as Abigail.  I'm Henry Rollins from Black Flag and I'm Wonder Woman.  I'm so awesome I don't need to give up anything for Lent…especially snickerdoodles.

But back to pie…erhm…pi…erhm…

Needless to say, ever since that pie quiz, key lime pies have been jostling for room in my head.  And it turns out…I happen to have all the ingredients on hand.  Sweetened condensed milk and coconut extract in the pantry, cookie crumbs, coconut and lime juice in the freezer.  The rest --sugar, salt, butter and eggs are almost in use.

The filling is a pretty standard, unfettered key lime pie filling.  The crust is a result of a bit of kitchen playing.  Together they create a rather easy and lovely pie. The only caveat I can offer is that it does take a full workday to set, so make it the night before or the morning of to ensure the filling is properly cooled and set.


Key Lime Pie with Chocolate Coconut Crust

Yield one 9" (23cm) pie.

Ingredients

For the crust
150g/300ml/1.25c less 2tsp chocolate wafer crumbs
55g/165ml/0.66c unsweetened desiccated coconut
20ml/2dspn/4tsp sugar
1pinch salt
40g/45ml/3Tbsp butter, melted
1tsp/5ml coconut extract

For the filling
375g/14oz/300ml/1.25c less 2tsp sweetened condensed milk (one tin)
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
150ml/0.5c+1Tbsp+2tsp key lime juice (or regular lime juice)
1 pinch salt

Method
Preheat oven to 350F/180C.

For the crust:
Mix all crust ingredients together.  The texture will be damp sand-like.

Press onto the bottom, and up the sides of a pie tin.  Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  

Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire rack.  

Leave the oven on as you mix the filling.

For the filling:
Mix the tinned milk with the yolks.  Add the juice and salt and mix until smooth.

Pour into cooled crust.  Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool on the counter for about 30 minutes and then set, uncovered, in the fridge for 8 hours.

Garnish, if you must, with sweetened whipped cream.

Note:
If you're squeezing the lime juice yourself, rasp a couple of teaspoons of zest and mix into the filling.


cheers!
jasmine
I'm a quill for hire!