Saturday, September 3, 2016


Howdy folks!

Every so often, health food trends and utterly amazing dishes line up perfectly, leading to triumphant seraphic choruses and a sense of inner contentment and peace. Or a happy mouth, either/or...

The latest trend that seems to be pervading our internets and grocers is fermented food and drink. The health benefits of fermented foodstuffs (and no, that unfortunately doesn't include booze) are mainly focused on the probiotic whatchamahoozits that help your gut bacteria or somesuch. I dunno, it's supposed to be good for you... Which I guess is why people are suddenly drinking kombucha like it's going out of style, which is pretty crazy when you consider that it's fermented tea and is basically like drinking vinegar...

In this fermented craze, you'll find two different (usually) cabbage-based items that are turning into all the rage. One is good old-fashioned sauerkraut, just begging to be slathered all over a hot bratwurst... and now this post sounds slightly naughty... Um, anyhoo, the other is Korea's national dish: Kimchi.

Kimchi represents a rather interesting dovetailing of two food trends, fermented and Korean. Korean food has not had much prominence in Canada's food scene until the past few years or so. It's existed, there have been Korean restaurants and grocers for many years, but certainly none had any sort of prominence. I had almost zero experience with Korean cuisine until 3 years ago when Raon Kitchen opened a food cart around the corner from my office, serving Bibimbap to the masses (with a healthy side of Kimchi to boot). Now, it's blowing up worldwide (just google "Korean food trends" and you'll see what I mean) with Bulgogi, Kalbi, Bibimbap and Kimchi all becoming fairly common on diverse high end menus and new Korean restaurants popping up here and there (although not with the baffling frequency of pho, sushi or burger joints, thankfully). Having enjoyed Kimchi like a fiend numerous times, I found myself face-to-face with a hunk of aging green cabbage one day and wondered if one could make green cabbage Kimchi. Turns out you can.... Now, if you look through these recipes, you'll notice a common thread of ingredients, specifically gochugaru, which is a coarse chili flake that I've only seen used in Korean cooking. It's an essential part of making authentic Kimchi. But I didn't have any... I made due with Sambal Oelek instead in the hopes I didn't piss the Korean culinary gods off too much...

It's always a bit of a pickle playing with culinary projects from a cuisine and culture that isn't familiar. With little experience with Korean food or culture, I would be remiss going all crazy with a blog post on Kimchi without doing a bit of research beforehand. I did some reading but didn't really get a sense of exactly *what* makes Kimchi worthy of the name. Is it the spices used? Is it primarily a cabbage dish that has been adapted countless ways while still keeping the name? In a turn of good luck, I ran into one of the kind folks from Raon Kitchen recently and asked her what makes Kimchi Kimchi from a Korean perspective and she informed me it simply means "fermented vegetables". So there you go! Not quite the great debate over champagne and so forth...

So, in this post I'm going to present two variations of Kimchi that I've made in recent months, both with delicious results: the first is the totally inauthentic, use-what-you-have version, while the second is a much more traditional version using Korean ingredients and methods.

Kimchi #1 - Half-Assed Green Cabbage Kimchi



- 1 small head or 1/2 large head green cabbage (you can use any kind of cabbage, really, but be warned that red cabbage gets soft quickly)
- 2-3 tbsp. coarse salt (sea salt or kosher salt)


- 1 small piece of ginger (about 1 square inch), minced or julienned
- 4-8 cloves garlic, minced (how much is up to you)
- 4-6 green onions, sliced
- 1-2 carrots, julienned


- 1 tsp sugar (white or brown)
- 2 tbsp Sambal Oelek (adjust to taste and heat)
- 4 tsp fish sauce


- Cut cabbages in half and remove cores. Wash thoroughly.

- Dice into 1/2 inch/1 cm pieces and salt liberally in a flat receptacle (I usually do this in a lasagna pan). You essentially want to make sure there's a good layer of salt on all pieces of cabbage. This helps the fermenting process and absorbs excess moisture. Let sit for 1-2 hours, mixing occasionally to keep distributing salt. There will be water that leaks out, keep this, the salty water helps make the Kimchi brine.

- While cabbage is "salt-bathing", cut vegetables and prepare seasonings. To prepare seasoning, simply stir together sugar, fish sauce and Sambal Oelek into a thin paste. If it's a bit too thick, thin it out with water (a little at a time).

- Mix seasoning paste with vegetables and cabbage and pack into an airtight container (big-ass mason jars are a Kimchi-maker's best friend). You may have to use a small wooden spoon or other implement to pack down the Kimchi, but you want it packed tight in the container.

- Place lid loosely on top of container and let sit out for a day or two at room temperature. This is the beginning of the fermentation process and you can seal the lid if you like, but I've heard too many horror stories of air pressure building in the jar and causing the container to explode. Is it true? Dunno, but this means you don't have to find out!

- The next day or two days later, use spoon to press down on cabbage mixture. There should be bubbles coming up through the jar. These bubbles are a sign that the vegetables have begun to ferment. At this point, seal you lid and put in the fridge. You've got Kimchi!

NOTE: At this point you'll be able to taste the sour flavour of fermentation, but it won't be very strong. If you like your Kimchi more fermented (but generally less fresh and crunchy), keep it out another day or two. Otherwise, have at 'er! I like to have it on toast or mixed into any rice or noodle dish or stir fry. I also top my burgers with Kimchi.

A jar of goodness!

Kimchi #2 - Authentic Napa Cabbage Kimchi (adapted from Maangchi)


- 1-2 large heads napa cabbage (2-3 pounds)
- 1/4 cup coarse salt

 Rice porridge

- 3-4 tbsp sweet rice flour (available at Korean markets or Asian grocers)
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp brown sugar


- 8-10 green onions, sliced thin
- 1 medium red onion, sliced thin or minced
- 1-2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
- 1/2 to 1 daikon or lo bok radish, peeled and julienned
- 1 cucumber, julienned (optional)
- 2 tbsp cilantro stems, chopped (optional)


- 2 inch piece of ginger, minced or julienned
- 1 head of garlic, sliced or minced
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1 cup hot pepper flakes (Gochugaru)
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar (optional)
- handful of dried lime leaves (optional)
- juice of half a lime (optional)


- Cut cabbages in quarters and cut out cores, loosely separating all the leaves. Rinse thoroughly to clear any dirt from leaves and drain. Leave a little bit of moisture on leaves to hold salt.

- Salt the cabbage leaves liberally with the coarse salt in a lasagna-style pan. Leave for 2 hours, turning every 30 minutes to mix the salt around. There'll be salty water in the pan, keep that for the brine. Rinse cabbage under cold water to remove any remaining salt or dirt.

- While cabbage is "salt-bathing", cut vegetables and prepare porridge. To make the porridge, bring water to a boil, then stir in rice flour and sugar and allow to boil for a minute or so until it thickens. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

- Pour cooled porridge into a large mixing bowl. Add garlic, ginger, fish sauce, hot pepper flakes, rice vinegar, lime leaves and lime juice . Mix well with the wooden spoon until the mixture turns into a paste.

- Mix the paste with the veggies (not including the cabbage) until everything is well coated. Now, here's the great possibility of divergence that your authentic Kimchi making path can take.

- Option 1: Take the seasoned veggie/paste and spread it on a cabbage leaf, wrap the leaf tightly and put in a large mason jar. Do this until you've wrapped all the cabbage and packed tightly them in the jar. Cover loosely with a lid and allow to ferment. This is how Maangchi says to do it, but I'm not a fan since I like my cabbage pieces bite-sized. Bringing us to...

- Option 2: Dice the cabbage into 1-2 inch pieces and toss with the veggie-paste mix until everything is well coated. Using a wide-mouth funnel or your ninja hand-eye coordination, and a spoon, pack everything into the jar tightly. Cover loosely with a lid and allow to ferment.

- Leave your Kimchi out to ferment for a day if you want it more crunchy and fresh, two to four if you want it a little more sour tasting. Serve with sesame seeds over rice for a pretty typical Kimchi-centric Korean dish.

And there it is folks! Just remember that you can use this methodology with just about any veggies you can think of. There are even fruit-based Kimchis! So, get out there and get freaky with your Kimchi! (or go out to your local Korean shop and buy a metric butt-ton of it)

Enjoy! CHEERS!

Saturday, September 5, 2015


Buenos dias!

Once again, I'm behind the times in food trends. But, as time goes on, some of them seem to stay in place so I don't feel completely uncool blogging about them. In this case, I'm talking about Tapas. I'm not sure when they came into vogue in the U.S. or Canada, but they've come onto my radar in the last 10-15 years or so (as usual, the Internet is woefully inadequate in the realm of culinary history), Tapas are Spanish small plates, made for sharing, usually served as bar food or appetizers. Some can be very outlandish and luxurious, others quite simple. Of course, nothing says you can't make a mess of Tapas for dinner or lunch, they're certainly satisfying enough.

I can't say exactly what inspired me to throw together a Tapas feast for the family, I'll pin it on getting a box of fancy Spanish meats from the Carnivore Club that included Serrano and Iberico ham (more on Iberico Ham here), as well as chorizo. I can't remember if it was in a book or on the Internet, but the first thing that jumped out at me was asparagus wrapped in serrano ham.

That sounded delicious!!!!! As I salivated over that idea, I contemplated what I could do with chorizo, and on the ideas went. Luckily, I also had a Tapas cookbook I got as a gift many moons ago and looked through it for inspiration.

A trip to the local shops later and we were ready to move ahead with Tapasian wonderment. Admittedly, I didn't know much about what might constitute an 'authentic' Tapas plate, so I relied on my cookbook to give me some ideas. Some of them were mostly direct adaptations, others were creative riffs. In the interest of concision (and actually getting this post out less than six months after I made the food), I'll be presenting two dishes in this post and three more in a subsequent post.

Serrano-Wrapped Asparagus

Serrano ham is basically Spanish prosciutto: salty and rich and a little crispy when cooked. The combination with asparagus might not seem super-evident, but it's a tapas standard, especially when served with an aioli-style dipping sauce (basically, a fancy term for mayo, sort of).


- 12-24 asparagus stalks, washed and trimmed of woody ends
- 12-24 slices serrano ham (or prosciutto), about 1-2 inches (3-6 cm) wide by 4-5 inches long (12-15 cm)
- 1-2 tbsp cheaper olive oil, divided in two
- fresh ground pepper (optional)


- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tsp cheaper olive oil
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp high quality olive oil
- juice from 1/4 lemon


- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Coat bottom of cookie sheet or roasting pan with olive oil.
- Wrap ham around asparagus stalks tightly, fasten with soaked toothpicks if necessary (it shouldn't be).
- Place asparagus in pan and drizzle rest of olive oil over top and top with pepper if desired.
- Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes until asparagus in slightly tender and ham is crispy.
- While baking, quickly pan fry garlic in cheaper olive oil until golden, and whisk together with mayo, high quality oil and lemon juice until smooth.
- Serve piping hot with aioli on side for dipping.

It's pretty obvious that this is a really tasty, salty, fatty, sensuous dish, just bursting with umami from the ham and mayo, but nicely cut with the herbal bitterness of the asparagus. Very decadent and very easy, which probably sums up the existential state of Tapas nicely.

I had bought a simple bottle of cheap but highly rated blended Spanish red wine to pair with the whole shebang and it worked well, but I think if you're going to eat this dish on its own, go with a buttery Chardonnay or a crisp Sauvignon blanc, depending on your taste in wine. Bonus, this pairing would also go really well with the next Tapas dish.

Chorizo, Edamame and Artichoke Salad w. Clementine-Saffron Dressing

This one was purely my brainchild, basically an extension of the "Frazzed Mama Salad" concept I'd introduced in my 'spin-off' (and idle) "Dad, Cook!" blog, but with more Spanish-themed ingredients like marinated artichokes, smoked paprika, red pepper and chorizo. Oh, and I wanted to feature one of the most cherished of ingredients in Spanish cuisine: saffron. Saffron is interesting stuff in that it is super-rare and correspondingly expensive, but one little package can last a long time since it only takes a tiny amount to impart a lot of flavour to a dish. I figured it would add a great touch to the dressing, especially mixed with the sweetness of the juice of a clementine.  


- 1 clove garlic, minced
- pinch smoked paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 threads saffron, crumbled
- juice of 1 clementine orange
- 2 tsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil (high quality)


- 2 marinated artichoke hearts, sliced thin
- 2 inch piece dried/cured chorizo, minced
- 1 red pepper, finely diced
- 5-6 cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced (get your knife good and sharp for this!)
- 1/2 cup frozen edamame, shelled and thawed (make sure they're cool before using in salad) 
- 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

End result: Salad amazing-super-deliciousness. You might notice a distinct lack of leafy greens in this salad and that was totally on purpose. I recently read an article ripping into the health value (mis)placed on salad, specifically on lettuce. I kind of agree and am not a big lettuce user and much prefer to make salads without it (not counting Caesar Salad, of course). Want some green in your salad? Use peas or edamame and fresh herbs!

There was a lot of brightness and acidity from the clementine in the dressing, red pepper, tomatoes and artichokes which blended well with the smokiness from the paprika and chorizo, and was rounded out with the herbal bitterness from the saffron. One of my best salad offerings to date.

So, that's Tapas, round 1. We'll get to round 2 at some point, but really, just these two dishes would make a great summer meal on their own.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Beef Carpaccio or How I let my New Year's Eve blog post sit for way too long...

Howdy folks!

OK, after more than 6 months of procrastinating on the second part of a New Year's Eve post, I'm taking a simpler route and only presenting the best thing on the menu, which was the Beef Carpaccio.

Basically, beef carpaccio is a hunk of beef tenderloin, the cut of meat that filet mignon is cut from, quickly seared and pounded flat to an almost paper-like thickness (or thinness, I guess?).

Now, as tasty as a simple piece of high quality beef, it needs a bit of a tangy and vegetable counterpoint. Almost every version of the recipe that I've seen includes a salad of some kind or another, but the most prominent pairing I could find was arugula, so I used that and tried to put together a good dressing that would elevate the beefy goodness.

Truth is, you can't really beat the flavours of lemon and garlic in a dressing, especially when you're knee-deep in the cuisines of the Mediterranean that so prominently feature them.

Beef Carpaccio w. Arugula and Lemon-Garlic Dressing

For beef

- 1 lb. beef tenderloin
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed  
- 2 tbsp olive oil

For dressing

- 2 tbsp. olive oil (as high quality as possible)
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- juice of half a lemon
- pinch dried basil
- pinch dried oregano (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste

- 2 cups arugula, washed and dried


- Remove meat from the fridge at least an hour before cooking. Rub meat with 1 tbsp olive oil and salt, pepper and fennel seeds and let sit.
- Mix dressing ingredients with a whisk and refrigerate.  
- Once your meat is ready to be cooked, heat a frying pan on medium-high/high heat and heat the other 1 tbsp of oil until very hot.
- Sear meat on high heat until you get a good crust on all sides of the meat, reduce heat as needed to prevent oil from smoking. Expect the meat to be very rare, nearly raw in the middle; don't worry, it's supposed to be like that.
- Remove from heat and set to rest for at least 10 minutes.

Searing away!

- Now that your meat is seared, that's when the knife skills come into play. Using a sharp knife, cut meat against the grain as thinly as possible. 
- Place slices of meat on cutting board and pound with a meat hammer until paper thin. Don't go crazy or you'll tear the beef to shreds.
- Arrange slices of beef in a circle on a nice plate or serving tray (as opposed to the boring plate I used).
- Remove dressing from fridge. Take garlic out, whisk again and toss with the arugula. Using your hands or tongs, arrange the arugula in the middle of the serving plate.

Yes, the meat is close to raw, but it's awesome.

The best way to eat the carpaccio is with your fingers. Using a fork or something (like clean fingers or the Force), place a small bit of the arugula on the meat, maybe wrap it, and eat the heck out of it.

The flavour is, well, super-beefy, with the zing of the dressing and the peppery flavour of the arugula rounding out the bite perfectly. It was a fantastic dish and easy to prepare, make it if you get the chance. Trust me.


Saturday, June 13, 2015


Howdy folks!

As I've stated a few times before, I'm still pretty new and clumsy at this whole "dessert" deal. I can make a pretty good brownie, but that's about it...

But one of the cornerstones of life is learning, right?

So, in my quest to broaden my sugary horizons, I thought I should try my hand at making fudge. Because fudge.

Now, being a good Canadian boy, I decided that my first attempt should be Maple Fudge. 

I took to the Internet and had little trouble finding multiple recipes, but I found myself a little intimidated by the complexity of the recipes. Yeah, there were only a few ingredients, but there were ice baths involved and electric implements of all kinds... Yikes! You mean you can't make fudge with just a fork and elbow grease?!?!? Apparently not quite...

Fortunately, after a bit of tooling about on google, I was able to find a straightforward version that was easy enough for my rookie arse at, logically enough, But, being not so flush with syrup or nuts and basically being a cheap sonofagun, I tooled around with the ingredients a bit by replacing half the syrup with brown sugar and using bacon in place of nuts... I had a lot of bacon in the fridge... Also, bacon. And guess what? I was able to make it with just elbow grease (and a candy thermometer). It might not have been as smooth as a baby's butt and I doubt I'd sell it, but GODDAMN IT WAS TASTY; especially with bacon, even if the bacon-on-things food fad is super-passé.

Maple-Bacon Fudge

Makes about 24 small pieces


- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 2-3 strips bacon, cooked and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)


- In a small pot or saucepan, melt sugar, butter and syrup together on medium heat and bring to a gentle boil for about 5 minutes.
- Add cream and let cook until candy thermometer shows a temperature of 118°C (245°F).
- Stir in nuts (if using) and remove from heat.
- Beat mixture with an electric beater, or a whisk and elbow grease (the Brennan Method), for about 10 minutes until mixture stiffens up.
- Grease a square baking dish or similar receptacle, pour fudge in.
- Top fudge with cooked bacon and push in to make sure bacon stays on.
- Cool completely in fridge (about 1 hour), remove and cut into pieces and snarf the bejongus out of it!

Snarfy snarfy snarf snarf!!!!

Friday, February 6, 2015

New Year's Eve Nibbles for the Parented - Part 1

Hello 2015!

It's no secret that the holidays involve some pretty epic food making. Cookies abound, turkey dinners multiply and gourmet deliciousness abounds, especially on New Year's Eve. Now, I'm no fan of the "amateur hour" NYE party at some random venue surrounded by strangers and overpriced drinks; I'm more of a "gathering with drunken friends at someone's house" kinda guy, especially since it usually involves an epic spread of food, but I've also enjoyed the "multi-course dinner at your favourite restaurant" route in some recent years. Since the kid was born, however, New Year's necessarily mellows itself out.

But mellow doesn't mean boring, at least not when it comes to food.

Knowing that it was very unlikely that I'd be leaving the house that evening, Kari and I started brainstorming our plan for what we were going to stuff in our gobs. I thought it might be fun to go with a small plate/hors d'oeuvre/buffet style-meal. She agreed and the ideas started flowing.
By the time December 31 rolled around, we'd settled on the following menu:

- Charcuterie Board w. Iberico Jamon, Pingue Proscuitto, Iberico Salchichon, Milkhouse Tomme Cheese and Pickled Onions
- Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms
- Caramelized Onion, Cranberry and Brie "Toastettes"
- Deviled Eggs à la Sriracha
- Veggie Plate -Cauliflower and Broccoli w. Basil-Goat Cheese-Balsamic Dip
- Beef Carpaccio w. Arugula and Lemon-Garlic Dressing

Not sure there's enough food for two people... Clockwise from top: Charcuterie plate w. baguette slices, Veggie Plate, Caramelized Onion Toastettes, Beef Carpaccio, Stuffed Mushrooms

So, what *is* all this stuff? Well, let's break it on down.

Charcuterie Board

I am a very lucky, or clever, fellow because I came across a fun little service back in the Summer called the Carnivore Club and signed up without a second thought. I regret it not at all; I've had the joy of tasting tasty cured meats from all across the country even the world, from Canadian salmon jerky to South African biltong to French Rosette de Lyon sausage. But the latest box might have been the best yet, with Spanish meats galore. It came with two huge cured sausages, one a Chorizo, the other a "Salchichon" (Spanish for sausage, I'm guessing), some Prosciutto from Pingue Prosciutto out of Niagara and a sampling of Iberico Jamon, one of rarest hams in the world. We'd already eaten most of the Chorizo so I saved it for another day, but the rest of the box had barely been touched. So, on the board you go! We also had a bit of a "Tomme" French-style sheep's milk cheese from Milkhouse Farm and Dairy left over in the fridge, nearly begging to be thrown into the NYE festivities so that was added, but we also needed a little bit of pickly vegetation on there. I almost picked up some gherkins, but decided instead to pickle some onions. I chose wisely.

So how did it all taste? I'll start with the Proscuitto, which I've had before at various restaurants but is somehow better at home. It was delicate and buttery, with a melt-in-your-mouth quality and a beautiful restrained saltiness. 

The Salchichon was reminiscent of summer sausage, but of a quality beyond anything I'd had before. Part of this was because of the Iberican pigs it came from, called "pata negra" or black hoof pigs. These are among the most prized pigs in the world and their diet consists mainly of acorns, lending their meat a wonderful nutty quality. This came across in the salchichon, as well as its fat having a soft, silky almost creamy texture and flavour. I don't usually rave about pig fat, but holy crap, PIG FAT!!!

Which brings me to the Iberico Jamon. Jamon is Spanish for ham, but there's no way I'm calling this 'ham'. Maybe us North Americans have degraded the true goodness of what ham is supposed to be by using this bland, processed stuff that is only truly delicious when smothered in dijon mustard or maybe the Spaniards just love to pimp their cured pork leg. Either way, to call this 'ham' doesn't come even close to evoking the delicacy and flavour of this meat. It was like a kiss from a salty, nutty, black-hoofed faerie queen. The meat pretty much melts in your mouth leaving a lingering flavour but not heavy on the tongue. I have no idea how they make this stuff, but it's a must-try for any discerning meatatarian. It's important to note however that the Iberico Jamon should be eaten by itself (with some good red wine, naturally) - no cheese or condiments or pickles should be paired to interfere with the nigh-ephemeral flavour. Yeah, that was some good-ass ham...

Hello delicious piggie!

It's a bit hard to describe the Tomme cheese because it had so many flavours at play. It had the dry saltiness of a parmesan, but much more restrained. Yet on top of that, there was a cramy, velvety quality that counterplayed against with the distinct "barnyard" aroma and flavour from the sheeps'milk. All in all, a really interesting bite.

To top the whole thing off, I pickled some onions, garlic and lemon, as described here:

Pickled Onions


- 1 small red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
- 2 bulbs garlic, very thinly sliced
- 1/4 lemon, scrubbed clean and very thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- pinch ground nutmeg
- pinch ground allspice
- 1 tsp coriander seed
- 1 tsp cumin seed
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp thyme leaves, fresh or dried


- Place onions, garlic and lemon in a large clean mason jar.
- Combine all other ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Place a funnel over the jar's opening and pour boiling liquid into jar. 
- Using a knife or spoon or stick or something, make sure all veggies are covered by liqiuid. - Allow to cool to at least room temperature before serving or refrigerating.

These onions are *very* tasty (I frankly surprised myself with how good they are) and add a nice acidity to counter all the salt from the meat. That being said, the delicacy of the delicacy that is Jamon Iberico was not a good pairing with the onions. I've since found the onions also make a good side for meatloaf and pierogies. 

Moving on, our next appetizer was the Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

I'd had king crab legs sitting in my freezer for a while and I really wanted to use them up sooner than later. Now, way back in the way back, I used to work for a middling seafood restaurant and one of their offerings was a crab-stuffed and cheese-topped mushroom appetizer. It was by no means a particularly creative or revolutionary recipe, but it works and it's a tasty way to use up a not-so-huge portion of crab meat. So, being a fan of mushrooms, cheese and seafood (and don't anyone tell you that seafood and cheese don't go together!), I put them together the old-school way, with some personal touches; specifically I added the light crunch of panko instead of regular bread crumbs and threw in some garlic and lemon juice to boot. Also, Olivia loves crabmeat. So proud! *wipes tear* 

Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms


- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2-3 legs worth of king crab meat
- 1/2 cup panko or bread crumbs
- 1-2 tbsp butter, melted
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 12-15 mushrooms, stems removed (save the stems for whatever you might need mushrooms for)
- 1/2 cup cheese, grated (Swiss or extra-old cheddar)

Nummy filling!


- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Fry garlic in oil or butter until golden
- In a bowl, mix together crab meat, garlic, panko, melted butter, lemon juice, parsley (if using; I didn't have any in the house, but I would have used it if I had) and salt and pepper.
- Stuff mushrooms with mixture and top with cheese.
- Cook in oven for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden brown. Serve hot!

Caramelized Onion "Toastettes" on the left, Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms on the right

The flavours of the mushrooms were very straight forward and complimentary: garlic, butter, crab, lemon and mushroom all play well together. 
Next up were the Caramelized Onion, Cranberry and Brie "Toastettes"  (I have no better name for them), which were basically a variation on bruschetta, consisting of a kind of compote with caramelized onion and dried cranberries, topped with melted brie. It's just about the simplest way to whip together a quick appetizer. Here's the recipe!

Caramelized Onion, Cranberry and Brie "Toastettes"


- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 onion, minced
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 2 tbsp port
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- pinch dried thyme
- pinch cinnamon
- 12-14 or so pieces of baguette, about 1/2 cm thick
- 12-14 thin slices of brie


- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Melt butter and sauté onions and garlic for about 2-3 minutes, reduce heat to low-medium.
- Stir in cranberries, port, brown sugar and seasonings and simmer for 15 minutes
- Spoon onion mixture onto baguette pieces, top with brie and bake in oven for 10 minutes until cheese is melted and golden. Serve hot!

A fantastic mix of rich and sweet, this appetizer is a stalwart in my recipe book, especially since it's so damn easy to make.

So that does it for part 1 of our NYE snarf-o-rama! I'll be back next time to show off my carpaccio-making and more!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Travels in taste - Charlottetown and Moncton - part 2

Hey howdy!

Back atcha with part 2 of our grand tour of Charlottetown and Moncton!

For Friday night's dinner, we partook of delicious sushi from a place called, in all its originality, Mr. Sushi. It was very good, better than anything I've had in Ottawa (but not quite as good as Banff), especially this one buttery bite of sashimi deliciousness that I think was white tuna. Not sure, but holy moley was it good!

Saturday was carb loading time in preparation for Kari's big race on Sunday! We started with pierogies for lunch at the local farmer's market, but that was insufficient. So, how do you carb load effectively? With a metric buttload of pizza, of course! To preamble, we'd taken to using Food Network's 'You Gotta Eat Here!' as inspiration to finding places to snarf some scran (on top of Tripadvisor) and we came across an episode (go to about 8:18) describing the wacky pizza-making skills of one Famous Peppers pizzeria. Their use of a maple-cream sauce as a base for a pizza had Kari practically licking the screen. So, when it was time to load the carbs, we took to tracking down the pizzeria (which turned out to be about a block from our apartment/hotel). Now, the menu is quite daunting and it took a couple of minutes to decide what we wanted. Kari's first choice was The Spud Islander, loaded with "thinly sliced potato, bacon and caramelized onions" on the aforementioned maple-cream sauce. Me, I went for the Donair Pizza, considering that I was in the Maritimes where donair originated in Canada (granted, in Halifax, close enough...); it seemed appropriate, especially when it consists of a "garlic butter base (who needs tomato sauce?), donair meat, red onion & mozzarella, topped with fresh iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and donair sauce". We also figured a third pizza would be in order; y'know, just to be safe. After a bit of hemming and hawing we decided on The Caribbean with "jalapeño, mozzarella, mango, seasoned chicken strips, jerk seasoning, red onion and a dusting of toasted coconut". Now, funny thing happened: they forgot the red onion while making it so they decided to give it to us for free and make another Caribbean for us! So, four pizzas for the price of three! Heck ya!

So how was the pizza? Simply put: amazing! The Spud Islander had rich, classic flavours reminiscent of a potato-bacon chowder, with a sweet twist coming from the maple-cream sauce. The Donair Pizza tasted like, well, a donair! A really, really tasty donair! Special kudos for the addition of the lettuce, tomato and donair sauce on top; they totally made the pizza unique with a crunch and juiciness that I've never had before. The Caribbean was another truly unique flavour combo; who has mango on pizza!?!? The whole combined for a kind of Thai-Jamaican fusion, which was pretty cool. All in all, a very impressive pizza feast.

Carb loading on Famous Pepper's pizza

So Race Day Sunday came and my girl KICKED BUTT!!!! She improved her previous half-marathon time by 30 minutes! (which, according to runners, is no mean feat!). To celebrate, we returned to the Big Orange Lunchbox, as mentioned before, for lunch and I can't for the life of me remember what we had for dinner, but I suspect it was leftovers from all the earlier feasts in the week, and possibly because Kari was done moving for the day.

Monday was travel day, we had to drive back to Moncton but decided to take the long way which was a lot of fun and it allowed us to track down what may have been the best peanut butter cookies ever at a gas station/convenience store, possibly in or near Crapaud.

And then there was the Confederation Bridge, Part 2 - The Windening. You know what's scarier than driving over a bridge suspended 100+ feet over the goddamn ocean? Doing it with a stiff wind pushing the car towards the side wall of the bridge!!! ACK!!!! But, we got over alive. Amen. Moving on...

So we drove in to Moncton to stay at the New Brunswick Casino and Hotel (mama deserved to play some slots as a reward for her half-marathon performance) and got there in time for an early dinner. We were a little disappointed to discover that the casino's buffet was located within the casino and was thus off-limits to our little Nutster. But Plan B! We'd assembled a list of restos to visit when we got back to Moncton and topping the list was a seafood joint called Skipper Jack's. It was a very 'mom and pop' kind of place, the decor reminded me of the old Ponderosa steakhouses that used to abound (they still exist in the States though). I partook of a giant "fisherman's platter" type deal, basically a mess of fried seafood (shrimp, scallops, clams and haddock) with coleslaw and fries. Healthy! I got about halfway through before calling it quits.

Finally Tuesday came along and it was time to partake of our final super-duper fancy meal of epicness (at 5 pm, because that's Olivia's dinner time) and not knowing where else to go, we made our triumphant return to the Tide and Boar. Whereas the week before we'd dedicated ourselves to partaking of a simple lunch, now it was time to get a little crazy.

I'd been mentally prepping myself for a plate that had been featured on their online menu: Bone Marrow!!!! Alas, it was not to be...

But, there was MORE than enough deliciousness to go around. So, first of all, we wanted to go full out with the house specialities, particularly their "boards". There was the Tide Board (seafood) and the Boar Board (charcuterie), or we could get them together as the Tide and Boar Board!!! DINGDINGDING!!!! I'll admit that after so many months, I can't remember exactly what was on the plate. I remember on the "boar" side of things, there was a serving of rilettes (duck, I believe), a dry sausage dealie made from boar (obviously) and all kinds of delicious...

The "Tide" side was, personally, far more impressive. Yes, I love my smoked and cured land beasties and charcuterie, but we were in the freakin' Maritimes and seafood is what I was there to eat! The Tide plate had so many tasty items: raw oysters on the half shell, scallops, smoked salmon, mussels and more. Also, one absolutely crazypants condiment: dulse. What is dulse? Well, basically, it's seaweed. But in the capable hands of the Tide and Boar's cooks, it becomes unbelievably good, treated with soy sauce and other delicousnesses. Apparently it's a totally common snack in the Maritimes, but over here it's 10 bucks for a tiny potato chip-sized bag. All in all, YAY TIDE!!!

We also needed to feed our little petunia, so we went with a cup of their Atlantic Tide Chowder, consisting of smoked haddock, mussels, shrimp, fennel and dill in a super-tasty creamy broth. Needless to say, she *loved* it. She also loves ice cubes (possibly because she was teething?) so she naturally did this:

A mouthful of Chowder and ice

We also had to partake of the in-house Boar Bologna. Yeah, you read that right, Boar freakin' Bologna!!! It was rich and super-tasty with a homemade mustard, but maybe a little grainy from the grinder. But so what? NOMZ!!!!

Well, there it is, a grand tour of the Maritimes filled with deliciousness. I wish I was rich enough to do this about 3 or 4 times a year.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Travels in Taste - Moncton and Charlottetown - Part 1

Hey there!

It's no secret that I wish I travelled more, but it's one of those things I simply can't manage very easily, both economically and logistically (considering the single income and toddler). We tried once to put together a cheap resort trip to the Dominican Republic, but there were too many variables to be comfortable with leaving the country for a week. So instead we wound up doing a combined Quebec City/Montreal trip and managed to eat like hell-damn-ass-kings, as evidenced here and here. Well, once again in the Spring of this year, we planned a little too loftily and thought we'd go to Seattle in September so Kari could run the "Beat the Blerch" half-marathon (basing a trip on my wife running 21 km... why not?). But once the planning got underway, it quickly occurred to us that a) we couldn't really afford to go that far, b) 7-hour flight + toddler = frak that noise, and c) newish driver (me) on a totally mysterious Seattle freeway system might not be the safest idea.

So, Kari decided to keep looking through the internets for half-marathons in a more affordable and nearby locale and lo and behold, we discovered the Charlottetown Marathon (in Prince Edward Island) taking place on October 19th! Now, it seemed a bit late in the season for a Maritime expedition and I had a "back-of-my-mind" fear of hurricane season, but it would be really low on tourists and we'd have the benefit of off-season prices on hotels.

We decided after looking at flight prices to fly into Moncton. New Brunswick and then drive to Charlottetown by way of the Confederation Bridge, a huge pants-crapping span that connects the island to the mainland and is over 100 feet high. Scariest. Drive. EVER!!! Backing up a minute, we started out staying at the Rodd Hotel in Moncton on October 13 (Thanksgiving Monday) and it being fairly late when we got to the hotel, we were stuck getting Subway. Ugh.

Next day, we had a lovely walking tour of the walkways along the Petitcodiac River, which has this really neat phenomenon known as the "tidal bore", which we managed to catch before heading for lunch at the Tide and Boar (clever, eh?). It was a really nice little gastropub and we were blessed with great weather that allowed us to eat outside. I had a fantastic burger, which was the hook, and it was a certainty that we would be back (foreshadowing). With a happy belly, I was able to manage the 2.5 hour drive from Moncton to Charlottetown, including the terrifying Bridge of Doom.

Over the course of our stay in Charlottetown, we were fortunate enough to have beautiful weather for almost the whole time we were there; it was sunny most days and-  the temperature stayed right around the mid-to-high teens. We were also fortunate that Charlottetown has a lot of really good places to eat. For the whole time we were there, we ate like kings and queens and princesses.

We started out with some lighter fare from the grocery store on Tuesday night, but by the next day we were heading into restaurants all over the downtown core. The first was the Big Orange Lunchbox (which, sadly, has recently gone out of business) where I had a delicious pulled duck burger on Wednesday, and I'd be back later on Sunday for a bacon-wrapped scallop burger (yes, you read that correctly) with onion rings.

Thursday was our day to explore the Island and we drove around for a few hours, starting our outing with some of the best French Fries EVER from The Chip Shack, then checking out PEI National Park and Cavendish, as well as enjoying a meal of fried clams and fried oysters at Carr's Oyster Bar. We ended up back in town in the evening hoping to have a nice sit-down meal at Terre Rouge, but an overtired toddler wasn't having it. So instead we partook of their "Boss Hog" pulled pork special to go. We just so happened to be in town during PEI Porktoberfest and many of the local restos were serving pork dishes designed for the occasion (including a plethora of varieties of pulled pork). The sandwiches we got were a-mazing, as described here: The Boss Hog is a take-charge kind of gourmet sandwich presented with Molasses Braised Pulled Pork, Walnut Pesto, Apple Sage Chutney, Crisp Apple Salad, and House Smoked Back Bacon on a Toasted Italian Roll with Thyme Lard Butter. Is it any wonder they won?

Friday lunch was pretty much the culinary highlight of Charlottetown: LOBSTER ROLLS!!!!!!! Now, I'm an admitted fan of using Tripadvisor when I travel, mainly because it's really hard to get good advice from friends on another town's food (except for 'go to Schwartz's.' *Always*go to Schwartz's), but when you get the consensus of strangers, chances are it's pretty good. So, topping the list for Charlottetown restaurants on Tripadvisor was Dave's Lobster, a very simply lunch counter specializing in that maritime delicacy which is the lobster roll. Traditionally a lobster roll consists of a mess of cold lobster meat mixed with mayo, celery, lemon juice and herbs. However, Dave's takes it a step further and offers both the traditional version (called "The Local") and a hot version (called "Some Fancy") done up with garlic, lemon and melted butter. They also offered lobster tacos and grilled cheese! But what was best was that they also have a "featured lobster roll" on occasion, which in this case was a half-"Local" and half-"Fancy". SOLD! Now, it isn't a cheap meal at 15 bucks for a roll, pickle and bag of chips, but keep in mind that it was nearly all lobster meat. And trust me, totally worth it! Easily one (two?) of the best lobster-based meals I've ever had. The meat was as fresh as I've ever had (and I've eaten more than my share of live-cooked lobster), the seasoning for both the cold and hot sides was spot on, I discovered that sweet potato chips and lobster are best of friends and, finally, PEI Brewing Company's Blueberry Ale to wash it down, making for an absolutely fantastic drink pairing). Totally worth the cost; this simple but decadent munch goes down as a meal for the ages.

Oh, and the pickle was delicious as well!

Just ask Olivia:

PICKLEFACE! Oh, it's deliciously pickleh!

Back soon with Part 2!