Sunday, December 28, 2008

Crab Cakes

Saturday 27 December
Or goyishe latkes. Barbara had bought Holt a prezzie of a bag of panko, the upscale Japanese bread crumbs, and we have admit they did make for a light and fluffy crumby coating. Served them over a dressed salad of baby spinach (from the Nice People in Findlay Market) and arugula (from the Nice Barbara in the Back Yard) with a little pan sauce, deglazed with wine and lime juice.

Chicken in Champagne Sauce

Friday December 26
We happened to have most of the ingredients, for the family classic.
The half roll of sage sausage from yesterday, a quarter pound of scrappy bacon, carrots from St. Catharines meet neeps from Cincinnati. We lacked a chicken (definitely sine qua NON), but a drive out to the supermarket on Boxing Day clears your head, at least a bit.

The Christmas Ham, and All the Trimmings

Thursday December 25
The glory of Cincinnati is Schad's ham, and it's the perfect thing to serve for Christmas. It's so delicious, it doesn't need a glaze, and it bakes up in just over an hour. This time, we only got a half ham, as last year we couldn't fit a whole one into the oven, and nine pounds of ham is still plenty. As we were keeping it simple, we just had sweet potatoes (nuked in their jackets), and roasted asparagus for vedge. But even if you're not having turkey, dressing is essential - so Holt made his wonderful cornbread as for stuffin' muffins, but this time using a pan of fried-up diced onions and celery, a half roll of crumbled sage sausage, and fresh sage as flavoring, and letting the whole thing bake up in a large pyrex dish, without bothering to re-crumble it. It was moist and flavorful, and can be interpreted as either dressing or cornbread.
Holt made the pumpkin clafouti again for dessert, but the pumpkin he got from a Findlay Market farmer was not as sweet as the one from a St. Catharines' Market farmer. So we dusted it with powdered sugar, and will Canadianize the rest by pouring smuggled Canadian maple syrup over it. Come to think of it, that worked for the sweet potatoes too.


Wednesday December 24
A New Mexican New Year's tradition, which is bound to be served when Holt and the Parker family get together in wintry weather.
The "Anaheims" (New Mexico Long Greens, to you!) we bought at Kroger's turned out to have quite a bite; Harold, at least, found the posole a touch hot in both senses (¡picante y caliente!). But we drained some yogurt to serve as crema, which cooled it off - again in both senses.

Braised Radicchio and Chicken

Monday December 22
One amazing day last week, the rain fell and the temperature skyrocketed up to sixty degrees. So Barbara took off her coat and spent the day in the garden, raking leaves, pruning roses, and picking the astounding remains of greenstuff: perfectly good fresh arugula, parsley, and nicely-reddened radicchio.
Today we used nature's bounty: we trimmed the lovely radicchio, nicely reddened with the cold; sautéed it with diced pancetta, and braised it with frozen veal stock, while reheating the legs of Thursday's chicken on top. The combination was delicious: bitter but bright radicchio, salty pancetta, and chicken to soak up the unctuous and delicious flavors.

Portobellos Trifolati with Penne

Portobellos Trifolati with Penne
Tuesday December 23
As here, but with penne rather than spiral pasta. The temperature has fallen to 5 degrees (Fahrenheit!), so nobody was going out to pick thyme, and we used the dried stuff; luckily we still had some fresh parsley that we picked two days ago, when it was 55 degrees warmer.

Chanukah Latkes and Lox

Sunday December 21
Claudia Roden's classic recipe: a pound of potatoes, grated, soaked in water, drained, and squeezed dry (we use a potato ricer); one egg; salt and pepper; traditionally fried in oil. Topped with drained yogurt and slices of lox. Next time, we should make a half more, using either two small or one jumbo egg, because we went on to have Graeter's ice cream and egg nog for dessert.

Mussels with Chorizo

Saturday December 20
This was Holt's inspiration for Findlay Market finds: mussels from - how ironic - Prince Edward Island, and Spanish style chorizo. Sautéed the chorizo in the bottom of a big pot, then added half a diced onion, three cloves of garlic, and a splash of white wine once the garlic took a little color. Toss the mussels in, stir in a lot of parsley, and cover. Once the mussels open, eat them.*

*The rule for mussels is: don’t cook them if they don’t close. Don’t eat them if they don’t open.

Asparagus Pasta

Friday December 19
The James Beard recipe, which we've done before. Asparagus, probably from Chile or Peru, was on sale at Kroger's; sometimes we're glad we're not strict locavores.

Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables

Thursday December 18
One of our favorites, roast chicken with a lemon up its butt, and this time with sprigs of thyme under the breast skin - when they were done, you could pull the sticks out and the thyme leaves, and flavors, stayed in place. Roasted alongside were not just cut-up onions and potatoes, but some sliced small golden ball turnips that Barbara rootled up in the garden. They still tasted a little rutabagoid, but on the whole, it was good stuff.

Tilapia and Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

Tilapia and Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce
Wednesday December 17
The very last of the Chinese tilapia from Trader Joe's, dipped into seasoned cornmeal, and fried until golden. Alongside, plain roasted asparagus, but Holt was reveling in being reunited with his gas stove, so he made a lovely lemony Hollandaise to pour over both. Sort of like Bundles of Sole with less fuss.

Lamb Hash

Tuesday December 16
It's a shame that the Black & Decker food processor we bought at Canadian Tire didn't work out - the possible liquid level was laughably low, so we sent it back. But that meant we couldn't make hash with the processor, so we brought the remains of last Wednesday's lamb leg back to process in Cincinnati. So simple: chop onions and fry in oil; process potatoes (Kennebecks, and again, we brought them back with us) and fry in the same pan; throw in some old veal-stock cubes from the freezer, and let it simmer under cover until the potatoes are tender. When all is edible, add processed lamb and chopped fresh thyme and parsley from the garden, and IMMEDIATELY toss about and brown under the broiler until it's as crusty as you like it.
A classic, served with ketchup if you like that sort of thing; which Holt does.

Shrimp and Artichokes

Monday December 15
Today was the Great Drive South to Cincinnati - Eliza crossing the ice, but in the other direction. We got home in reasonable time, and scavenged dinner from what was left in the fridge and freezer - a bag of frozen shrimp, and the remains of a giant jar of Costco artichoke hearts.
Sort of like the traditional chicken and artichokes but now with more shrimp. Just a little onion sautéed, then the artichokes sliced into smaller wedges, a squirt of lemon, then peeled shrimps nettled into the mess till they turn pretty in pink.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Venison Stoo redo (stux redux?)

Sunday 14

The leftover stew from Tuesday, served on top of the last of our PEI potatoes from the Royal Agricultural. And that cleans out the refrigerator for the Great Drive South.

Holiday Drinks Party

Saturday 13 December 2008

At John and Lisa's, the Sainsburys (no relations). Unlike the supermarket, they made all their own food—and what food! While we nattered with lots of interesting people with interesting shoes, we nibbled on:
little cheese quiches and ham quiches
red pepper and white bean spreads to go on all sorts of crackers and baguettes
smoked salmon canapés topped with crème fraiche and capers
bits of smoked trout on curried tartlets
green olive tapenade
divine! fig and black olive tapenade
sushi rolls and multicolored wrap rolls
pickled mushrooms
succulent shrimp with chilli sauce (as they would say)
little puff pastries
cheese and anchovy savouries
and a fabulous spice cake.
Accompanied with (way too much) wine, it was a perfect evening. So thanks, and merry Christmas, Lisa and John!

Maple Glazed Salmon and Zucchini

Friday 12 December
A Canadian recipe for one of our last nights here. Zehrs had a whole nice salmon, which we cut up for steaks and filleted. Two of the bigger fillets got this maple sauce. Since we didn't have a cedar plank or an oven big enough for one, we basted the fish on the flesh side, pan-seared it, flipped it skinside downside, basted it some more till just au point (as we say in Canada). One the side, a lone surviving zucchino and a half, sautéed with a little chopped onion.

Deer Hash

Thursday 11 December
A loose cubed hash: itty-bitty cubes of onion and potato, dusted with thyme and pepper, sweated in oil, then a cup of the venison stock and a shot of Worcestershire. Cooked covered till the potatoes were done. Then added further itty-bitty cubes of venison, and ran it under the broiler for a bit of browning.
Served with both HP sauce and ketchup, so truly Canadian.

Leg of Lamb and Sprouts

Wednesday 10 December
Winter and more roasty things. A simple leg of lamb covered with a mustard coating: 1/2 cup grainy mustard, 2 TBSP Dijon, zest of one lemon, 1/2 lemonsworth of lemon juice, 3 cloves garlic, rosemary, salt. This just gets smeared on the top, none of your fancy-schmancy cutting little slots and inserting slivers, etc. It's the lemon that makes this so good and permeates the meat. Roast at 375 for 1 3/4 hours, till instant read thermometer hits 120º at the core and 135º half way out (the highest). We let this rest, while braising some sprouts, cut side down in butter, then the other 1/2 lemonsworth of lemon juice and a glug of wine, covered and cooked till tender but not too soggy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Venison Stew

Tuesday 9 December

As Chekov may have said, you can't put a stew to marinate in the refrigerator in Act I without cooking it in Act III. So remember Saturday's venison bits? Today Holt got them out, browned them properly in flour, and set them to simmer in the crockpot for three hours or so, along with some turnips, parsnips, carrots, onions, and of course the red wine marinade with thyme and white pepper they'd been sitting in for three days. Three days marination, 6 hours cooking. Luscious eating on a cold, wet winter day.

Spag Bol

Monday 8 December

All day ragù
for me and you.
The classic Bolognese, milk and all, with the chop meat from the nice fermer at the merket (that's how Rick Mercer says it!). Amazingly even after about 3 hours of subsimmer, the little cubes of carrot were still a tad crunchy, and it wasn't until nearly Hour 5 that they surrendered to force majeure.
On top of big rigatoni (so sue us for improper pasta and redundancy) with lots of cheese. Yum.

Venison II / Potluck

Sunday 7 December 2008

There was an AIA lecture, but Holt didn't feel up to the cruel chairs of the hall, so stayed home and had more of the king's good deer. A number of plums whose days were numbered too (two?) got chopped up, cooked in butter, then brown sugar, a shot of brandy, cinnamon, ginger, cloves ('tis the season) and then a handful of dried cranberries (season, 'tis). This made for nice warm sauce to take the chill off the sliced deer. Plus the half of a fennel that needed to be used up, sliced and braised in the venison. Non c'è male.

Barbara, in the meantime, was having a jolly old reunion with Pam, a grad school friend who gave the lecture. Some nice AIA members had offered their lovely house for a potluck, which was varied and sumptuous. Barbara brought another of Holt's home-baked Christmas focaccie,
which was so appreciated that no one minded her smuggling home some dessert for him.

Venison Shoulder Roast

Saturday 6 December

Or WTF do you do with a huge and sullen hunk of protein that we had bought on spec at Lakeland Meats? This was a case where the intertubes rather fell down on its job of omniscience, since every single recipe offered utterly different timings and methods. Here's what we wound up doing (after a certain trepidation), and it turned out fine.

The essential fact seems to be that a venison shoulder is rather like top round beef: it's never going to the tenderest cut so it can't be done rare, but it can be easily reduced to shoe leather by overcooking. The goal is medium (not even medium rare) at about 135º F inside. And left to rest.
This was a boneless, 5 lb. roast. So we cut off about 2 lbs of the scrappier bits, demembraned them, and set them marinating for a later stew.
The remaining integral 3 lb. roast went into a dutch oven, resting on a bed o' sliced onions, *covered* at 390º (sort of 200º C). Now one recipe said 10 minutes the lb., another 20, another 25. We found it took about 1h 45 m (but keep checking). Cooking it covered provided the moisture it needed to be sort of in umido, and in fact it threw off rather a lot of venison stock, as it were.
As mentioned, it then had to rest a while before we cut into it and found that it was good.
Sliced very thin, it was mighty fine eating, accompanied by a Flat Rock Merlot.

Since we had no idea if we were going to have anything edible at the end of this experiment, Barbara in the meanwhile had made up a possible pasta/side dish emergency backup main course. We had actually gotten some fresh sugar-snap peas from the Farmers' Market - I guess the peas couldn't tell a chilly late fall from a chilly spring. We just cubed up some pancetta, set it to frying, added some cubed red onions to look just like it, and then sautéed the sugar snaps in among them. Those peapods are never as tender as you think they're going to be, so we then added some white wine and broth from the venison and covered them up to steam. If the venison roast hadn't worked out, we would have had the result more or less like this; but as it was, we didn't need to do that. The Italians use them either on pasta or as a side dish as well.

Chicken Soup with tortellini

Friday 5 December

On a cold day, nothing better. The last of the chicken scraps, the stock Barbara had simmered on Tuesday, lots of new onions, a little celery, and the nice dried tortles from Antipastos.

Seppie calabresi

Thursday 4 December

Zehr's had cuttlefish: not squid, but their little cousins (the nice lady filling in at the fish counter had to ask me what they were; she seemed a tad squeamish). We haven't seen fresh squid or cuttlefish for ages. It would be so nice to get them with guts and ink sacks intact. The last time I did have real squid ink, I made the Venetian classic of seppie al nero, and I've only gotten to make squid ink pasta once!

A very nice simple prep, with the cuttles cut up, fried with onion and garlic, and then stewed in a little tomato and wine, with a pinch of cayenne and the absolute last of the indoor basil. We served this with shells (ma certo!) for the seafood lover in you.

And a bottle of champagne to celebrate good news and nice colleagues.

Post-Bond Leftovers

Wednesday 3 December

Off to see the new Bond film (with not enough Gemma Arterton, in Holt's opinion), back for rewarmed leftovers, which is not all that inappropriate. So the sliced roast pork from day before yesterday, decorated with Thanksgiving cranberries, and a last spoonful of tasty squash.

Chicken with Mushrooms and Cream

Tuesday 2 December

After eating the breast of Sunday's roast chicken, we broke the rest down as usual into edible-as-they-are-bits (drumsticks, thighs, a wing and a prayer, some nuggets of meat), and a carcass. Today Barbara took the carcass and made a lovely all-day broth out of it in the slow cooker, then had the brilliant idea of rehotting up the legs, thighs, and wings by dunking them in the soup for bit. They then went into a mess of sliced sautéed mushrooms with a little thyme and a 1/2 cup of cream, just enough to bind it all.

Roast Pork with chioggia beets

Monday 1 December

It's winter, friends, so the oven's on for roasting. (Also, while the stovetop is crazy and inconsistent, the oven is comparatively dependable.) We got a nice piece of pig (loin roast) from Antipastos and tried this recipe.*

The difference is that the mustard cum fennel cum salt is on the inside. Rather than slicing the beautiful loin in half, I just cut a pocket into it on the side and stuffed the marinade in. High roast, then low, then standing made a very moist bit of pork.
Meanwhile we also covered and roasted some chioggia beets, and let them stand long enough for to be handled. Though the pretty target patterns largely disappear when you cook them, a little of the circles comes through.

*We did not make the Cumberland sauce, fine though I'm sure it is.

Roast Chicken with Parsnips

Sunday 30 Nov.

Or Fowl is Fair.
We decided that Sunday was long enough after Thanksgiving (US) to have another bird, so a tasty fat chicken. And since parsnips were the only root vegetable we hadn't had at Tuberfest, we threw those into the schmaltz.
The usual prep: rosemary, thyme, and salt under the skin, lemon up the butt, and the thighs cut and spread for the last 40 minutes. So tasty it was obscene.