Tag Archives: 12 Months of Cooking

Guest post: French in the house

Dear Life, please stop getting in the way of the important stuff, like, I don’t know, posting my blogs! I have a triple jillion written and half written posts, but it seems, every time I’m about to upload, you get in the way Life, and the blog stays silent for days, even weeks at a time. So come on noq, ease up a wee why don’t you.

Today’s post is a guest cooking challenge post (that’s been sitting in my inbox for about a month now!) by my partner in Life: Big Ring. Which means, November had two cooking challenges (I’ve still got to post mine). So enjoy 😀
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November 22, 2013
Cook’s Country – December/January issue
Chicken With Vinegar Sauce

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In the Big Ring/Princess of Pavement household, I do most of the cooking.
Partly because PofP isn’t very comfortable with the culinary arts; her diet before we got together consisted mostly of eggs, eggs and eggs. And partly because, with her long commute, it just makes sense for me to get things going in the kitchen.
Fortunately a long run of self-sustaining bachelordom meant I pretty much had to figure my way in the kitchen. Or starve.

Big Ring cuisine isn’t very fancy; lots of grilling with occasional forays into stir fry, omelettes, and international dishes like paella and butter chicken. I don’t do recipes.

Then PofP took on her year-long recipe challenge. She wanted to explore the pages of the America’s Test Kitchen recipe magazine subscription she’d received as a Christmas present and expand her own culinary horizons. I was glad to be the beneficiary. I got a break from the kitchen and enjoyed some very tasty meals.

This month, I decided to pick up the challenge. The latest issue had a number of recipes that tickled my taste buds and sounded relatively easy. When one, chicken in vinegar sauce, was billed as a classic French dish, I was sold. If we can’t live in France, we might as well eat as if we are.

It also helped that we already had most of the necessary ingredients in the pantry.

Now going in, I’ll admit to some trepidation to basing a sauce on vinegar. Around here we use it to clean the counter tops and stainless steel. And the apple cider vinegar in our pantry was only there because of the fruit fly infestation we endured in the summer; it was the lure to attract them into the sticky trap.
But if it’s good enough for the French, it should be good enough for us.

And, son of a gun, it was.

Poulet au vinaigre
1 tsp cornstarch
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tsp honey
chicken pieces (the recipe calls for bone-in, but I trimmed the bone from the breasts I bought for the recipe challenge)
salt & pepper to taste
2 tsp vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
1 shallot, minced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon (I used the dried stuff)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees with the rack in the middle
2. Dissolve cornstarch in 2 tbsp of the chicken broth in a 2-cup measuring cup. Whisk in vinegar, honey and remaining broth.
3. Heat oil in an oven safe 12-inch skillet until its just smoking. Place the chicken pieces in the skillet, skin side down. Cook until well-browned, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a plate skin side up.
4. Pour off all but 1 tbsp of the fat from the chicken and return the skillet to medium high heat, Add the shallot and garlic, cooking for about 30 seconds. Whisk in the broth mixture and bring to a boil, stirring up any brown bits from the chicken in the pan.
5. Return the chicken to the skillet, skin side up, then put the skillet into the oven.
6. Bake for about 10-15 minutes.
7. Remove chicken from the skillet to a plate, then tent it loosely with aluminum foil. Return the skillet to the stove top at medium high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 5-7 minutes.
8. Remove the skillet from the heat and whisk in the butter and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
9. Spoon the sauce over the chicken pieces and serve.

I steamed some broccoli as a side dish, along with toasty baguette and glass of white wine. Vive le France!

Cooking up Brussels

October 13, 2013:
Cook’s Country  – October/November issue
Brussels Sprouts Salad

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Please excuse the ugly bowl, my family is much too large to be served by my pretty bowls

Last month’s cooking challenge was a risk, a HUGE, Brussels sprouts kind of risk!

Not everyone loves Brussels sprouts, in fact, I think most people actually hate them. (Weird, I know!) But I love them, like really, really, really love them. My moms loves them. Big Brother loves them. Big Ring loves them.

And so, for this month’s challenge I decided to take on the Brussels sprouts. But not in your traditional steamed buttery yumminess you typically find them in. Nope, I made a salad. That’s right folks, a Brussels sprouts salad! Risqué indeed.

When Big Ring pulled out two bags FULL of Brussels sprouts, four pounds worth, it took all of two seconds and a bulging of my eyes to realize that maybe I’d chosen the wrong dish to bring to Thanksgiving dinner. My gawd, I thought, I’ve got to slice all of those! That’s gonna take forever!!! Well, not quite forever, just three hours. THREE HOURS!!!

By 45 minutes into the stemming and trimming process, I was sprouts cross-eyed, seeing double sprouts, everything in my peripheral was  sprouts green, and I’m pretty sure my wrist was feeling the effects of  sprouts carpal tunnel. I decided to take a break, and move onto the next step of slicing. But just to make sure I was on the right track, I took a peak at the recip And that’s when I learned I’d just wasted 45 minutes. You see, when I looked at the ingredients list, it said the Brussels sprouts needed to be trimmed. I didn’t know how to trim Brussels sprouts, so I Googled it and found a YouTube tutorial telling me I needed to cut off the hard part at the bottom and remove the dark green leaves around the sprout. But had I looked at the entire page the recipe was on, I would have found an America’s Test Kitchen step-by-step trimming tutorial in which it shows all I had to do was stem the sprouts, not remove outer leaves. Oh frick.

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“You know what the number 1 rule of Amazing Race is,” said my dear husband, secretly I’m sure knowing it would irritate the heck out of me:Read the clue! Pay attention to detail!” Every episode I’m practically yelling at the TV screen at the teams who don’t read the entire clue, who don’t follow all the steps in the clue, who don’t pay attention to detail. They deserve to be penalized, I say. And I guess, I, too, deserved that 45-minute penalization. D’oh.

By the time I had finished thinly slicing each and every one of those taunting, tormenting, troublesome sprouts, I was pretty close to swearing off my once beloved holiday veggie for life. My hands were tight, cramping, gripped into a slicing shape long after the knife had been pulled away. I wanted nothing more than to just quit this recipe, dash off to the nearest grocery store and pick up something I know would have been edible… a statement I could not yet promise for this one.

The money already spent, however, kept me on path. I whipped up the vinagrette, which was fairly easy aside from the shallot tears, then mixed it in with the Brussels sprouts, and then proceeded to shred the gouda, chop the dried cherries, and toast the pecans. (Thank you Big Ring for buying pre-chopped pecans; one less step.) Then, I begged for the best.

I was worried.

If this recipe was just for Big Ring and I, it wouldn’t have mattered so much if it turned out awful. But because I was feeding it to my entire family (or at least those brave enough to try cooking from my hands) and because there are a few of us around the table who very much love our sprouts, I was freaking out the whole drive over to my parents’. This was the first recipe challenge where it wasn’t just Big Ring and Little Ring as my guinea pigs. Risqué indeed.

I placed it on the table and called it “slaw.” What people didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them right 😉 I saw my parents, brothers, sister in law, nieces, and even a couple of my nephews pile it on to their plates. I took in a breath and waited. And then, it came:

  • “Who made this salad? It’s excellent.”
  • “I need this recipe.”
  • “Well done.”
  • “I don’t even like Brussels sprouts, but this is really good.”

And then, it was my turn. One bite. Two bites. Three bites just to be sure. HOLY YUMTASTIC!!! This was really, freaking tasty!!! Wow! The sprouts weren’t rabbity at all, they had softened up quite nicely from the viniagrette, and the smoked gouda along with the cherries and pecans gave it that extra powerful oomph of goodness. But would I do it again?

Only if I bought pre-sliced sprouts, which thanks to my sister-in-law I now know is an option.

Yum! Yum! Yum!

Fun fact about Brussels sprouts: They originate in Brussels!!! I never once associated Brussels sprouts with Belgium until this recipe when I realized the Brussels in Brussels sprouts was capitalized. My family has roots in Belgium; no wonder I love this veggie so 😀

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Not Brussels, but Bruges.

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved and sliced very thin
1 cup shredded smoked gouda
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries

1. Whisk lemon juice, mustard, shallot, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in large bowl. Slowly whisk in oil until incorporated. Toss Brussels sprouts with vinaigrette and let sit for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
2. Fold in smoked gouda and pecans. Add chopped dried cherries. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 8

Volcano of oil

Sept. 7, 2013
Cook’s Country – August/September 2013
California-Style Fish Tacos

130907fishtacosYou can’t just wrap a fish in a tortilla and call it a California-style taco. You need light, crisp fried fish, the perfect toppings, and high-contrast flavors and textures. ~ Rebeccah Marsters

I’m a bit late with this post, and in fact was a bit late with the making of this “August” challenge (I blame work!) and am now playing catch up, which means you guys will be getting back-to-back recipes … not sure if that’s a good thing 😉

So, back in early August, Big Ring and I met up with our New York turned trucker friends for dinner at the first annual Columbia StrEAT food cart festival in New Westminster. Now, normally I steer clear of street food, it just doesn’t sit well with my belly, but the foods featured in these carts, they were far too intriguing not to try. There was Holy Perogy, Beljam’s Waffles, Chilli Tank, and Vij’s Railway Express – yes that Vij! Super chef Vikram Vij bringing out what was sure to be yummy Indian eats at a fraction of the cost of his hoity toity restaurant fares.

I had hoped this event would have been sampler style so I could try bits from multiple carts, but no, it was a wait in a hour plus lineup and hope the food you want is still available when you finally reach the front of the line kind of event. But I digress. I chose Vij, and I don’t know, maybe I had hyped the food up in my head, but I was fairly underwhelmed by it all 😦

Yet, still, the atmosphere, the people, the feet on the street, the potential of such an event intrigued the heck out of me. And so, when I spotted California-style fish tacos in my latest Cook’s Country magazine, there wasn’t any debate about it, I knew that would be my August cooking challenge. How is that not street food???

But let me tell you that hot, spitting oil wasn’t gonna let me off easy. According to the recipe, I needed to keep the temperature at 350 degrees while the fish was sizzling inside, but the thing is, I didn’t have a temperature gauge, so your guess was as good as mine as to how hot that oil actually was. That said, given it spat a fiery volcano’s worth of oil up at me every time I laid a piece of battered fish down in it, I’m thinking it was probably hot enough.

When I wasn’t dodging the spitting oil, I was fighting to keep the battered fish from sticking to the bottom of the Dutch oven. Apparently there’s was a skill to it: when you place the fish in the oil, it’s advised you slide it along the bottom of the Dutch oven. Well, let me just say, that did NOT work. I swear half the fish was a mangled battered mess!

Overall, this was not my favourite recipe. I liked the heat of the jalapeños mixed with the refreshing white lime sauce, but I just couldn’t get over the battered fish. It tasted fine, don’t get me wrong, and it went well with a cold beer, and Big Ring said it was even better the next day, but I’m really just not a fan of deep fried. I think, for me, fresh fish – no batter – would have been a much better, repeat-worthy option.

Ingredients:
PICKLED ONIONS
1 small red onion, halved and sliced thin
2 jalapeño chiles, stemmed and sliced into thin rings
1 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

CABBAGE
3 cups shredded green cabbage
1/4 cup pickling liquid from pickled onions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

WHITE SAUCE
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons milk

FISH
2 pounds skinless whitefish fillets, such as cod, haddock, or halibut, cut crosswise into 4 by 1-inch strips (I used cod)
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup beer (light bodied lagers work best)
1 quart peanut or vegetable oil
24 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1. FOR THE PICKLED ONIONS: Combine onion and jalapeños in medium bowl. Bring vinegar, lime juice, sugar and salt to boil in small saucepan. Pour vinegar mixture over onion mixture and let sit for at least 30 minutes. (Pickled onions can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.)
2. FOR THE CABBAGE: Toss all ingredients together in a bowl.
3. FOR THE WHITE SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. (Sauce can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.
4. FOR THE FISH: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Set wire rack inside rimmed baking sheet. Pat fish dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Whisk flour, cornstarch, baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt together in large bowl. Add beer and whisk until smooth. Transfer fish to batter and toss until evenly coated.
5. Add oil to large Dutch oven until it measures about 3/4 inch deep and heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. Working with 5-6 pieces at a time, remove fish from batter, allowing excess to drip back into bowl, and add to hot oil, briefly dragging fish along surface of oil to prevent sticking. Adjust burner, if necessary, to maintain oil temperature between 325 and 350 degrees. Fry fish, stirring gently to prevent pieces from sticking together, until golden brown and crispy, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer fish to prepared wire rack and place in oven to keep warm. Return oil to 350 degrees and repeat with remaining fish.
6. Divide fish evenly among tortillas. Top with pickled onions, cabbage, white sauce and cilantro. Serve.

Serves 6