Thursday, December 24, 2009

And now a Canadian interval

For more information, contact the Department of the Interior, Ottawa.

Crabcakes and oven-roasted leeks

Tuesday 15 December

Before the long drive to St. Catharines, something to keep Barbara warm until her return in a few days. Creamed leeks, though yummy, were not quite the right thing with crispy crab cakes. So oven braised them. 5 minutes in a simmering broth, then cut side up in the oven for 30 minutes, basted occasionally with butter and the leek juice. Go with the grain (lengthwise) and just wrap them around your fork like American spaghetti.

Sorta Saffi

Monday 14 December
Zucchini, ham, cream, garlic, capers. Instead of salami, the ham. Or instead of asparagus, the zucchini.

Crab, corn, and poblano casserole

Sunday 13 December
The original plan was to stuff two huge poblanos with some kind of crab filling. But one of the poblanos sorta lost its structural integrity in the roasting process, so we changed plans and made New Joy's corn and poblano casserole with the addition of a lot of crab meat. It was trayf-a-lishous!

Mussels with chorizo and tomatoes

Saturday 12 December
All right, so for the second night of Chanukah, not so kosher. Somewhat Spanish in inspiration; a base of sautéed onions, then throw in the mussels, four or five chopped roma tomatoes (it's winter, but sometimes you need them), and a big glug of white wine; herbed with chervil and parsley from the almost-frozen garden.

Latkes with sour cream and lox

Friday 11 December
For the first night of Chanukah.

Note for future. Used Yukon golds for the tatties, and even though the latkes were thin, thin, thin, they could have benefited from some high oven time after the frying.

Napas, onions, and mash

Thursday 10 December
You know the drill by now.

The Dreadful Interval

Welcome Home Steak

Wednesday 9 December
After a long semester and a drive that seemed just as long, Barbara returns to Cincinnati—for a week.
To allow for the vagaries of travel, one needs either a long-simmered stew-like object or a quickie. Holt went for a vast Porterhouse steak which had been mocking his solitary state for too long now.
Served with roast asparagus and a lovely tarragon sauce over all: made with the oil-frozen tarragon cubes and homemade tarragon vinegar.

Zucchini, Salami, and Cream

Sunday 1 November, Ognisanti
Voted the People's Choice Pasta Award

Forbidden Rice with Ally & Dave

Saturday 31 October (Boo!)
Ally and Dave treated us to a pre-opera* feast. The stars—of the dinner—were salmon with a balsamic vinegar-butter sauce (rich and yet perfect for cutting the richness of the salmon). Then mushrooms and leeks served with "Forbidden Rice," perfectly al dente: nutty, resilient, and a deep purple color (as which of us is not). To which we added a salad of oranges, beets, and goat cheese.
Washed down with lashings of Rief's Chardonnay.
Thanks, Ally! Thanks, Dave! Thanks, Forbidden Chinese Emperors!

* Iphigénie en Tauride. The third appearance of this opera in the blog.
A great evening from Opera Atelier, in a new all-singing, all visible production. (Unlike the invisible Chicago production, or the CCM Gluck meets Cormac McCarthy production.

Veal Chops & Neeps

Friday 30 October
Ah, the glories of Antipasto's veal chops, frenched (or as oui say "françaised"), patted with lots of fresh thyme and rosemary from the window box, sautéed with a side of mashed, creamed (if that's not a redundancy) turnips. Continuing our Mediterranean voyage, we left Spain for Donini Trebbiano Chardonnay 2008.

Chickpea and Sausage Soup

Thursday 29 October
The blog has been in arrears for some time now, so the notes may be a tad lacunose.
Barbara brought Holt back to St. Catharines to the smell of a fine mess of pottage, slowly cooked in the slow cooker, which is a remarkably handy gadget for cooking things, especially beans and friends, slowly that is. The sausage was a spicy sundried tomato type, from Antipastos; we now know that they generally make their sausage too spicy, so it's best cooked with something bland, like chickpeas. All it needs is the usual dose of ground coriander and cumin to be just perfect.
All went well with a Candidato Temperanillo 2006, our new Iberian red of choice since the LCBO stopped carrying Vinho do Poeta.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Terroir la Cachette, Strewn Winery

Sunday October 18

Our colleague Kathleen came into St. Catharines to give an AIA talk, so we decided to take her out for an early dinner (i.e. lunch) at one of our favorite wineries. Luckily it was a warm, blue and gold day, with suitable touches of Canadian-maple red. La Cachette was glowing in the sun, and even still had pink roses around its terrace, though it was too cool to eat outdoors.

Just a light meal before the talk, so we began with the country-style bison paté, with little cornichons, caperberries, and a phyllo cup full of apple chutney. Our mains were seared rainbow trout fillets with buttery lemon and chive aioli, and a big bowl of steamed blue mussels in a light tomatoey broth. Of course, we had to order a bottle of the 2008 Strewn Rogue's Lot red, as you can't eat at a winery without wine. And we had to have a traditional butter whiskey tart (with vanilla ice cream and raspberry coulis) for dessert, so that Kathleen could try it. Oh, we have so many excuses for doing the things we like.

Smoked Duck Cassoulet

Saturday October 17

Holt actually smuggled the legs and thighs from last week's smoked duck into his carry-on luggage, so we could share them in Canada. What to do with them, though? He decided to make a seat-of-the-pants cassoulet, using our new slow-cooker from Canadian Tire. A couple of cups of white Northern and red kidney beans went into the cooker, with some celery tops, two cloves of garlic, fresh sage leaves, a chopped onion, some chopped green tops of leeks, and a bay leaf, covered with salted water (that thing about not salting beans is - snigger - a canard). They cooked on high for a couple of hours, then got reduced to low all day, while Holt added, at various times, some rashers of chopped double-smoked bacon from the Farmers' Market, chopped carrot, more chopped onion, the said duck legs and thighs, and some fresh thyme as it simmered. And oh my, was it delicious.

Veal Shoulder Roast with Vedge

Friday October 16

Together again - Holt flew into Buffalo via Detroit, another fun thing he'll avoid in the future. Still, we got home to a cozy apartment and a boneless veal shoulder roast from Antipastos.

We chose to do "Arrosto" from the website
With onions, potatoes, turnips, carrots

2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoon olive oil 45ml
¼ teaspoon pepper 1ml
1 teaspoon dried sage leaves 5ml
1 tablespoon dried rosemary (15ml)
(if you have fresh, tuck branches and leaves under the string ties)
1 Boneless Veal Shoulder Roast, 2½-3 pounds, trimmed of fat, rolled and tied (1-1½Kg)
3 cups Chicken stock or broth 750ml

Preheat oven to 350°F. (176°C)
In small bowl mix sage, rosemary, garlic, oil, and pepper.
Rub surface of veal with this seasoned oil.
Place roast in a large roaster pan with a lid.
Pour 2 cups (500ml) stock around veal.
Roast partially covered for 1 hour, turning 2-3 times, until barely tender.
Uncover and roast until lightly browned, about 15 minutes longer.
Remove meat from pan, and tent with foil to keep warm.
Put pan juices in a pan over medium heat, and bring juices to a boil, scraping up brown bits from bottom of pan.
Add remaining stock to pan.
Season with additional pepper to taste.
Slice veal roast thin and serve with pan juices.

The meat was tender but resilient, and the vegetables were luscious.

Chicken Chiles with Purple Pico de Gallo

Monday October 12

Today was the REAL Canadian Thanksgiving, which Barbara, ironically, had to spend driving back to Canada. So we had a big, satisfying dinner at lunchtime: beautiful roasted poblano peppers (bought from the Nice People at Findlay Market) stuffed with chicken and cheese, on an amazing salsa of PURPLE tomatillos and red bell pepper. Delicious to the palate, and crazy to the eyes.

Seared Scallops on Creamed Leeks

Sunday October 11

Yesterday when we were picking up our duck at Luken's, we were waited on by The Careful Guy, a fishy intellectual who is good about picking through the display case and avoiding the scraggly fillet or the broken mussel. So we splurged and got a pound of their large dry scallops, which he (carefully) put in a bag of ice. It is worth waiting to get this guy, especially when you're dealing with fish. It is also worth spending extra to get dry scallops, because they haven't been treated with STP (not the racer's edge, but sodium tripolyphosphate), which makes them last longer but gives them a tinny taste. You so don't want either.

Only dry scallops will really sear without leaking juice, so that's what you do, especially with big ones like this. First we got them a nice soft bed: whites of leeks, trimmed, washed, and sliced small crosswise, cooked low and slow (with a bit of minced tarragon) until they were melting, then doused with cream, boiled thick, and set aside. Then the scallops, adorned with fresh thyme and a sprinkle of kosher salt, went into a hot oiled pan, where they seared brown on both sides. Finally they were set on their creamy beds, and their pan was deglazed with wine, for a slightly browner sauce.

As they're so sweet and gentle, scallops need a vegetable that's savory, but won't drown their flavor out. These creamed leeks are ideal, though we've also seen good results with roasted brussels sprouts.

Smoked Duck with Asparagus

Saturday October 10

Since it was Canadian Thanksgiving, or at least that weekend, we had to have a festive bird. And as two people and a turkey is just as close to eternity as two people and a ham, we chose a lesser fowl, to wit (and to-whoo, though not an owl), a duck.
(Hold on, I have to catch my breath after that outbreak of mock-Shakespearean whimsy. There, that's better.)
The weather had cleared up into a beautiful blue and gold day, typical of autumn in Cincinnati. So we hauled out the old smoker and fired it up, and Holt smoked the duck on a nest of fresh thyme that Barbara had just trimmed out of the herb garden, while the charcoal fire was feed with all the old, dried, herb clippings.
We had the breasts elegantly sliced, with roast asparagus, and the smoky flavor was perfect for the rich, unctuous duck. Add a crisp, appley Chardonnay and a couple more adjectives, and it's a sophisticated Toronto take on Thanksgiving.

All-day chicken soup with tortellini

Friday October 9

The bag of frozen chicken bits (bones, necks, pope's noses) was getting too big for the freezer door, so it was time to take - and make - stock.
This is a lovely thing to do at home in your grubbies, while preparing powerpoints on Etruscan habitation evidence or the Saite period in Egypt (for example). It's also nice to be able to go outdoors and grab a handful of parsley and thyme to throw in the pot. So for dinner there was soooothing soooup, with some of the picked chicken and the soup onions thrown back into it, and tortellini boiled therein. Okay, so they were Trader Joe's dried, not the fresh ones we used to get at the Pasta e uova place on Via dei Quattro Venti, so they clouded the soup a bit. Still pretty damn soothing.

Gnocchi with Venison Ragu

Thursday October 8

Barbara only began the eight-hour trek back to Cincinnati at one PM, so despite a very hard day at the office, Holt had time to go home and simmer something savory for the big homecoming dinner.
So an long-simmered V-burger ragu, with lots of little dice of the trinity of Celery, Carrot, Onion.
Trader Joe's has recently changed their gnocchi supplier, and these were far inferior: just doughy lumps, with no little shaped dent to catch the sauce. But it's the sauce that makes this dish, and after a long, rainy drive, and with a glass of red wine, it was just the thing.

Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend in Cincinnati

It's been an age since we posted last. We're only together on various weekends, and when we've been together, we're too busy to blog. So a bit of ketchup, uh, catch up.