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!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Not Your Average Sandwich! - Back from Obscurity with Pork Belly Banh Mi

Howdy all!

After 5 years of really slapdash blogging, it's easy to forget that you came up with some pretty neat blog post concepts. I was all kinds of crazy-excited about blogging about Char Siu pork and turning leftovers into Banh Mi (a delicious, decadent Vietnamese variation on the submarine sandwich) and totally forgot about the fact that I've already done a series of posts on epic sammichery! So hey, let's bring it back from the dead!

So where to begin? Well, let's give a little backgrounder on the Banh Mi. Essentially, Banh Mi is the Vietnamese word for bread, but since bread in Vietnam was a colonial "gift" from the French, but the name is usually linked to these sandwiches that are a fusion of Vietnamese and French flavours and ingredients. The archetypal Banh Mi is a baguette sliced in half, slathered with paté and mayo, topped with carrots, daikon (usually pickled), cilantro and a bit of fish sauce (and hot peppers for good measure if you're brave enough) and filled with some sort of meat or eggs or even tofu. It isn't exactly diet food, but if you're lucky enough to have a local Banh Mi shop, it's an awesome meal to try, AND usually cheap.

Bow down to epic sammichery!

Now, this particular Banh Mi experiment came about as a result of leftovers from the night before. I had decided I wanted to try making the famous Chinese Char Siu-style pork using pork belly. If you've ever had a BBQ pork bun from a Chinese bakery, you'll know the deliciousness of which I speak. Now I don't really know if it's commonly smoked (I think it's usually baked or, possibly, "red cooked"), but I knew that's how I wanted to cook it (I mean, come on, I'd smoke ice cream if I could...). But the key isn't the way it's cooked, it's the way it's marinated/coated.

From what I've read and what I've eaten, Char Siu should pop with sweetness and saltiness and have strong accents of hoisin, anise and Shaoxing cooking wine, all of this achieved by marinating the meat for a good while (and then coating it in a very similar glaze/sauce). Now, slow-smoking it imparts the additional layer of smokey BBQ goodness (especially if you add a rub), so why would I not? I did some searching through Internetland and basically found a recipe here that was very similar to what I was going to do anyway, but I added some tweaks.

So, let's start with cooking the meat portion of the Banh Mi!

Smoked Char Siu Pork Belly

- 1 lb pork belly, skin removed


- 1 tbsp five-spice powder
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp dried ginger

- Stir all ingredients together and apply liberally over meat, massage rub into meat.
- If omitting marinade, place meat in the fridge for 4-24 hours.


NOTE: In this case, the marinade portion is somewhat optional. First off, it's pork belly, so marinating isn't required to impart moisture, there's more than enough fat to do that. Second, you will be brushing delicious sauce on the meat no matter what, both during the smoking process and right before serving, so the signature Char Siu flavours will still be there. In my case, I'm pretty sure I did not marinate the meat since I'd used a rub (if my spotty memory serves me right), but in the future I think I'll go whole hog and use both (pun absolutely intended). But either way, the marinade is also the basis of the sauce that is later used to coat the meat before serving.

- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup soy sauce (depends on how salty you want it)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/3 cup Shaoxing wine (substitute with dry sherry if necessary)
- 2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder

- Mix all ingredients together with a whisk or fork.
- Place pork belly in large zipper bag and pour in half of marinade. Reserve rest of marinade and refrigerate.
- Shake bag to coat meat and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours (24 is better).

Preparing the Char Siu

- To prepare the meat, remove from fridge and zipper bag.
- Start a fire in your smoker. As always, I use lump maple charcoal. Soak two big handfuls of wood chips in water. I used cherry wood chips in this recipe as they seemed a natural pairing to the sweetness in the marinade from hoisin and honey.
- Once fire is going at 225-250, place meat in the smoker and smoke for 4 hours. Add small handfuls of wood chips every 30 minutes or so to produce additional smoke. Baste the meat every hour or so with some of the reserved marinade.
- About an hour before serving meat, place rest of marinade/sauce in a pot and heat at medium heat and reduce until thick. You might need to add extra wine to prevent it from getting too thick. Keep warm on low heat.
- Remove meat and let rest for 15-20 minutes.
- Cut pork into 1/2 cm thick slices and brush all pieces with sauce until well-coated.

Originally, this meat was part of a noodle dish, but we were too full to eat all the Char Siu, so it became part of awesome leftover sandwich goodness.

To assemble the Banh Mi, Slather paté and mayo on the bread. Traditional Banh Mi use paté and mayo, but I just used mayo in mine (mixed with a squeeze of sriracha and lime juice). Arrange slices of pork on half a sliced baguette. Top with julienned cucumber, pickled carrots, ginger and radishes (here's how to quickly pickle stuff) and chopped cilantro.

The flavours are so good! Sweet and licorice-y and salty and fresh from the veggies.

And there you go! Sandwich goodness of good!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Toast To My Hometown's Better Eateries - el Camino


It's been a very long while since I've written about Ottawa's restaurants, and it isn't because I haven't been to any, I just didn't feel like having to keep track of the experience. But recently I've been so damn impressed by a certain place lately that I have to sing a few of its praises. It's no secret that the world of food is trend-based, which has its pros and cons, but as trends go, the hot new sh** for the past couple of years or so is/are/has been tacos. I, for one, could not be more pleased. What's easier and more fun to eat than a taco? They're tasty, messy goodness and allow for all kinds of creativity.

The taco craze came around our fair city a few years ago with a little shack called Tacolot. I was excited and tried their fare, but it didn't wow me the way I expected (and hoped) it would. But luckily they didn't remain the only game in town. Soon after, Sidedoor opened in the Market to great fanfare. Again, though, while quite good, it didn't quite wow me (although from the reviews I've read, I'm in the minority).

Cue Spring of 2013. Located at the corner of Elgin St. and Gladstone Ave. is a complex of storefronts that have gone through more incarnations of hair salons, nightclubs and restaurants than I've had new socks. But one staple for over 20 years was a little shop called Marroush who pretty much were the kings of shawarma in Ottawa. Sadly, for reasons I don't know, it shut its doors last year. Happily, in stepped Chef Matthew Carmichael with a walk-up/take-out window selling tacos starting at 4 bucks a piece. I first gave it a shot back in October of last year. I chose the Ox Tongue and the Pork. I enjoyed both, but the ox-tongue had a bit too strong of a charred and bitter flavour to make it AMAZING, but definitely interesting. The pork, however, was dead on; good and spicy and rich!

Next to the window is the sit-down/eat-in restaurant which I got to check out this past June and it was that visit that inspired to bring back the "Toast To My Hometown" segment. I originally figured I was just going to grab a couple of tacos and eat them in the nearby park. But then I figured "why not?" and waited a few minutes for a seat at the bar. I knew I wanted a taco to get the show on the road, but there was more on the menu than just tacos and one item that drew my attention was the Chilaquiles, which I will describe later.

Quick rundown on the atmosphere: it was really cool and easygoing, with a shared bar so I wound up sitting next to a couple; luckily I'm good at minding my business, and the food was my main focus anyway. So let's get to the meal! 

I started with the Lamb Taco, mainly because I hadn't yet tried it and it was something new and different. All I can say is WOW! FREAKIN' WOW! SOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOD!!!!!! It was a beautiful marriage of salty and spicy and rich, with a light gaminess (not too "lamby") with great little pockets of fat (this is a very very good thing); the whole affair was topped with avocado, radish, pickled jalapeno, cilantro and a lime wedge which just completed the whole deal. Honestly, this is pretty much the best taco I can ever remember having (except maybe my Fried Chicken Taco).

Lamb Taco - 10 out of 10

Next up was Chilaquiles, which were basically nachos on steroids with a distinctly breakfast-y slant. It was served in a stainless steel bowl, invoking a "bachelor chic" vibe that I enjoyed; it suited the dish well. So what went into the Chilaquiles? It was a bonanza of tortilla chips loaded for bear with spicy pulled pork, salsa verde, pickled jalapenos, fried eggs and delicious queso (cheese), which really tied it all together, topped with a subtle herby bitterness from curry leaves.

Chilaquiles - 8 out of 10

All in all, the Chilaquiles were super-awesome, but it was really hard to follow that Lamb Taco. Mmmmmm... Lamb Taco...
So, that's just a sampling of some of the tasty tasty goodness on tap at el Camino. Go. Now.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Fad or Discovery? feat. Cedar-Planked Arctic Char

Hey there!

The culinary world is full of trends, like jello in main courses (WTF were people thinking in the 50s?!?) or, more recently, bacon everything (more sensible than aspic, but that shizz has kinda gotten out of hand) and cupcakes (which now seem passé in favour of doughnuts). Sometimes, little trends come up that everyone tries and all the magazines feature, if only for a little while...

A few years ago, cooking salmon on a cedar plank kind of came out of nowhere to become all the rage in BBQing. Now, this is quite different than the other kind of planking. This was some time before I ever did more than grill burgers on a BBQ, so I never even bothered nor had much of a chance to try it out. I did a quick look-see on the Internet as I started writing this post and it turns out that the cedar plank technique is generally ascribed to the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest, which is cool since I'm always looking for more information on cuisines that aren't always prominent, and Aboriginal cooking is near the top of that list for me.

So, when I came across a pack of planks in the BBQ section of the local Canadian Tire, I thought I'd give the technique a try, especially since it's an excuse to cook fish, which I don't get to do as often as I'd like. And while it doesn't seem to have that "trendy" quality anymore, I might as well give it a shot! Anyhoo, the basics of cooking on a plank is to soak the heck out of the plank and place it over hot coals (but not too hot, more on this later) with the meat on top and smoke the fish through the plank.

Ready for planking

Now, I'm not sure if you've heard this from me before, but I have a soft spot for Arctic Char. It's a little bit like a midway point between trout and salmon. It's usually a farmed fish, but sustainably so, as opposed to Atlantic salmon and many species of BC salmon. It's generally cheaper than wild salmon which makes it an ideal choice in today's really freakin' expensive seafood market. So, instead of planking salmon, I planked char. Sue me...?

So, here's how to make the deal!

Cedar-Planked Arctic Char


- 1 cedar plank
- 1 lb arctic char fillet (boneless)
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- pinch smoked paprika
- pinch dried dill
- 3-4 thin slices lime or lemon

fire + wood + fish = Huzzah!


- Soak cedar plank in water for at least 2 hours.
- Using a pair of tweezers, remove any pin bones from the fish (if required).
- Rub oil over fish and season with salt, pepper, paprika and dill. Top with lime or lemon slices.
- Light fire and get temperature up to about 300-350 degrees.
- Place fish on plank and put on BBQ.
- Cook for about 10-15 minutes until fish is cooked through. The plank might start smoking a little, but that isn't be a big deal. If it goes up in flames, you got a problem...
- Remove fish from plank with a thin spatula. If your Dex is high enough, you might be able to remove the skin without damaging the meat. Me, I like the skin, so I try to keep the whole thing together. Serve with whatever you feel like, but a wedge of lemon or lime is probably a must.

Beautifully cooked!

To accompany our dinner, we went with steamed asparagus and potato salad. I imagine it would also go well with fresh green beans, a good crusty bread or even a light pasta side.

Maybe not the lightest of meals after all...

And now for the important part: Did it live up to the hype? Does it taste as good as one might imagine? Thankfully, yes. The fish was moist and juicy and beautifully smoke-flavoured without being overpowering, which was my main fear since cedar has such a strong aroma. So, I'll chalk this one up as a discovery! Now, with five or six planks remaining, the question is when do I do this next, and what sort of fish will I use?

I have a rough life...


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Saving Yourself from Culinary Idiocy feat. Haddock en papillote


There are things every cook should know and do, like how to boil an egg, julienne a carrot or peel garlic. There are others that tread on the far more intricate and obscure but are also damn useful. Being a culinary hobbyist has led me to research and attempt a variety of cooking techniques. One that I haven't attempted before is en papillote. En papillote ('in parchment') is a French technique where you steam a bunch of tasty goodness in a sealed package created out of parchment paper. I used the following recipe from Food Network as the basis for a recipe, but I had it in mind to use Thai flavours instead of classic French. So using the same basic ingredient list as the online recipe, I cobbled something together on one of my many loose bits of paper, including the side noodle salad(which I'll probably feature in another post since I make it fairly often):

My super-tidy professional recipe stylings

So far so good. I had a road map. (Wondering what the title is all about? Hang in there...)

Thai-Style Haddock en papillote

(Ingredients and Directions are per serving)


2 haddock fillets (or any firm white fish fillet)
1 small red or orange peppers, julienned
1 shallot, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
1/2 inch piece ginger, minced
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2-3 sprigs fresh mint
2-3 sprigs fresh Thai basil (didn't have any for this time, but it should be in the recipe)
1/4 lime, cut into thin disks (about 3-4 pieces)
3-4 kaffir lime leaves (fresh or dried)
2 tbsp dry white wine
1 tsp coconut butter or coconut oil (we used this stuff, and it's a-maaaazing!)

A rainbow of tasty!

Directions v.1

Because of the hilarious nature of this post, I'm going to tell the story of what I did with this recipe that led to the screw-up, and then I'll post the actual directions.

First, I mixed the vegetables, garlic and ginger with the fish sauce and oil and allowed them to marinate for a little bit.

Then, after futzing about on the Internet (again) to find the instructions on how to make the parchment pouch, I pretty much did my own thing. Basically, I took a fairly large piece of parchment paper and placed all the ingredients on one side of the about-2-foot-long piece of parchment layered it with fish, seasonings, veggies, herbs and coconut butter on top.

I then folded the paper over the food and then folded the edges super-tight going around the entire package, sealing the whole deal. It's important to make sure you fold each side about 5-6 times to make sure you're getting a tight seal. Squeeze the air out if you need to.

Now, here's where it all went wrong: "Hey, I can cook this on the BBQ!" I lit the fire, put the parchment package and thought all would be well. Turns out that while parchment paper doesn't catch on fire in the oven, it *does* when you put it on a fiery grill! I was in the kitchen making the salad to go on the side when I noticed smoke coming from the BBQ. Naturally, I'm used to seeing smoke come out of my BBQ/smoker. Then the light bulb of "oh sh**!" went off. First, this dish isn't supposed to smoke, it's supposed to steam internally, hmmmmm...  And two, HOLY CRAP THAT'S A LOT OF SMOKE!!!!!!!

Running out to the rescue the food, I flipped the BBQ lid open to find the edges of the parchment smoking and starting to blacken. EEEEEEEEEP! Luckily I have hands that are highly heat-resistant from my past as a line cook, so I was able to grab the almost flaming parchment package and remove it from the fire. Whew!

Never the twain shall meet...

Turns out that the food inside the parchment pouch was OK! (maybe slightly more smoky flavoured  than intended... oops). I could still save dinner! YAY!

Which leads me to the REAL directions for this meal:

Directions v.2

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix garlic, ginger and vegetables with sesame oil and allow to marinate for up to 20 minutes.
- Take a two-foot long piece of parchment paper and layer fish, fish sauce, vegetables, wine, lime slices and herbs on one half of paper, topping with coconut butter.
- Fold one half of paper over ingredients. Crimp and fold edges of package very tightly (about 5-6 times per side) to ensure a sealed package. Gently squeeze air out of package. Repeat per serving.
- Place package on a cookie sheet and cook in oven for 12-15 minutes, depending on thickness and desired doneness
- Remove package and cut open. Pour out contents into a high-rimmed plate or bowl and serve immediately.

Dinner is saved!

So, the food was salvaged from a fiery fate, but how did it taste? Actually, despite my boneheaded lack of understanding of physics (fire + paper = bad), it was a success! The Thai flavour profiles of fish sauce, coconut and basil came through beautifully in the broth, the fish was well-cooked (maybe a smidge overcooked) while the veggies weren't mushy, nor underdone (essentially perfect!). Above all, the whole thing popped with a light and fresh vibrancy thanks to the lime, mint, and white wine. I'm still amazed at how it turned out tasting EXACTLY how I wanted it to.

The whole experience of "setting dinner on fire but somehow saving it" struck me as a bit of a culinary miracle, but hey, I'll take it! I'm curious to see how it'll turn out next time when I know what I'm doing...

So, even the worst screw-ups can be salvaged, if you move fast enough...


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Culinary Holidays - Cinco de Mayo


One great thing about my living-in-sin-wife/babymama Kari is her exuberance in finding random holidays from various cultures to use as excuses to make a giant spread. Earlier this year, we did an over-the-top Shrove Tuesday pancake feast (cheddar pancakes with pork belly steaks and a cabbage hash) and we were toying with the idea of trying a Passover seder in April (cooler Gentile heads prevailed after seeing just how involved and ritualistic such an undertaking would be). As for Easter, we ate chocolate, naturally.

Which brings us to Cinco de Mayo. From what little I've heard of the holiday, it's an excuse to eat Mexican cuisine (really, do you need more reason to declare a holiday?). But, since I'm writing a post on the topic, it would probably behoove me to include at least a little bit of background information; here's what wikipedia has to say: 
It originated with Mexican-American communities in the American West as a way to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War, and today the date is observed in the United States as a celebration of thanks to Mexico in fending off would-be French support for the Confederate States of America in the Civil War. In the state of Puebla, the date is observed to commemorate the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín.

Totally seems like a legit reason to eat a giant feast and drink tequila! But seriously, like so many holidays that come into the public consciousness, Cinco de Mayo has grown beyond its humble beginnings and become more of a celebration of Mexican culture, at least the edible and imbibeable aspects of it...

But, one aspect of the holiday meal surrounding Cinco de Mayo that seems consistent is serving Molé. Molé is a dish that can be found throughout Mexico and everyone has their own version of it. That being said, the Molé we see most in Canada and the US is Molé Poblano, which hails from the same Puebla region from which the holiday likely originates. So, it seems appropriate that I based my Molé recipe on this version, which is the most commonly known outside Mexico. From a few online sources, I got the following unofficial info that Molé a) was put together by a nun who cobbled the whole lot together at the last minute for unexpected guests with whatever she could find (reminds me of the story behind Caesar Salad) and b) it 'traditionally' requires at least 20 ingredients. My version *just* made it to 20 (the cilantro doesn't count), so I guess it was a decent attempt.

One of the cooooooooooolest thing about Molé is that it traditionally is all mixed in a mortar and pestle. I looooooooove my mortar and pestle, having acquired it from a local Thai grocer for a mere 25 dollars. It's a huge stone vessel and is a lot of fun to work with, albeit heavy as all git-out. But grinding all kinds of ingredients together with a big heavy stone club brings out my primal cook side, so the whole process of making Molé is a whole lot of fun.

Alright, let's get to it!

Grinding spices old-school


- 1 dried guajillo chili
- 2-3 dried arbol chilies
- 1 dried pasilla chili
- 1 dried chipotle pepper
- 1/2 tsp anatto seeds
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp cumin seeds (toasted)
- 1 tsp coriander seeds (toasted)
- 1/2 cup roasted peanuts (salted or unsalted, depends on how much salt you want)
- 1 tsp coarse salt (see above)
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 2-3 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh, diced
- 1-2 medium onions, diced
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 ripe, medium tomatoes, diced (make sure you keep juices)
- 1/2 cup Resposato tequila
- 1 cup chicken stock
- juice of half a lime
- chopped cilantro for garnish

Molé, molé, molé, molé


- If your Guajillo, Arbol, Pasilla chilies are still a little moist, dry them out/toast them in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes.
- In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, grind together the chilies, anatto seeds, oregano, cumin, coriander, peanuts, salt, pepper, cocoa, star anise and cinnamon stick together. It should come together into a kind of semi-moist powder from the oil in the peanuts.
NOTE: You can also grind all the other ingredients other than the chicken to make the Molé sauce in the most traditional way possible, but it's a bit messy with all that liquid.
- Heat oil over medium-high heat and sauté onions, garlic, chicken and tomatoes for about 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add seasoning from mortar, stirring to make sure everything gets coated with seasoning.
- Stir in tequila and chicken stock and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer Molé for about 20 minutes.
- Serve over Mexican Rice (recipe to come) and garnish with cilantro.

Tasty, tasty Mexican goodness

In the end, I forgot the cilantro (whoops), but the meal was delicious: a good balance of heat, nuttiness, savory and sweet. The cinnamon, peanuts and cocoa blended well to create a fairly decent approximation of the flavour profile of Mexican chocolate and this totally made the chicken excellent, which isn't always easy to pull off .

Here's hoping you enjoy this foray into cooking for a holiday! My intention is to make this the first of many!

Cheers y Salud!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On Ketchup feat. Banana Sambal Ketchup

Hey there!

I think it's safe to say that there's no condiment that gets as bad a rap as ketchup, and probably deservedly so. Scourge of foodies everywhere, this ubiquitous saucepaste was pretty much the main condiment the most of us grew up with. We considered fries useless without it, we drowned our KD in it, and it completed our burgers (well, maybe your burgers, I switched to topping my burgs with BBQ sauce when I was around 8). But as palettes grew up, ketchup became a bit, well, gross. I stopped using it years ago except maybe for fries (when I didn't feel like using Sriracha Mayo) and homemade BBQ sauce, and then only when it's really high quality stuff, like this. As for "57 Flavours", blech.

So, you'd think the last place I bring up ketchup would be here on my super-epic foodie blog, right? So what am I doing here talking about it? Well, a legend/rumour I heard once has it that ketchup was originally made from bananas instead of tomatoes and I found that idea totally intriguing. Turns out that "origin story"is a load of rich creamery butter. BUT! I found this neat tidbit in internetland (yay wikipedia!):

Banana ketchup or banana sauce is a popular Philippine condiment made from mashed banana, sugar, vinegar, and spices. Its natural color is brownish, so it is often dyed red to resemble tomato ketchup. Banana ketchup was made when there was a shortage of tomato ketchup during World War II, due to lack of tomatoes and a comparatively high production of bananas.

So, the idea of Banana Ketchup isn't too crazy. I'll admit I don't know what possessed me to whip together, probably something to do with nigh overripe tomatoes and bananas. Either way, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I also thought it would be a good idea to make it a little spicy, hence the use of sambal oelek, which is a chili paste of Indonesian origin.

Banana Sambal Ketchup

Makes about a cup

- 2 tbsp vegetable, olive or avocado oil
- 2-3 ripe tomatoes, finely diced
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp sambal oelek (MAX!)
- 2 tbsp cane sugar
- 2 tbsp molasses
- 1/2 cup beer
- 2 cloves, ground
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 star anise pod, ground
- 4-5 cardamom seeds, ground
- 2-3 allspice berries, ground
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp dry ginger (or 1 tbsp fresh, minced)
- 2 ripe bananas, mashed
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp honey

- Heat oil in a saucepan on medium-high and sauté the tomato, onion and garlic. Cook for about 7-8 minutes, until onions are translucent and tomatoes are mushy.
- Stir in vinegars, tomato paste, sambal oelek, sugar, molasses, beer and seasonings, mix well and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low (1-2) and allow to simmer and thicken for about 20 minutes.
- Stir in bananas, Worcestershire sauce and honey and cook for another 5-10 minutes. NOTE: the banana will dissolve quickly if ripe which is why I left it till the end, but if you're stuck with an under-ripe banana, you'll want to start cooking it earlier.  
- Remove from heat and serve when ketchup has cooled. Refrigerate unused portion in a glass jar. If you want a smooth ketchup, puree in a blender. I prefer a "rustic" style ketchup.

Topping for a burger and, mixed with garlic sauce, a great dip for sweet potato fries!  

So, the recipe I've provided is the "after" version, after discovering that 2 tablespoons of sambal and 2 tablespoons of honey was too much of both, hence why I've adjusted the amounts of each ingredient. But, even a little screwed up, it was delicious! I'm convinced when I make it again to spec, it'll be possibly my new condiment of choice.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Decadence! feat. Smoked Mushrooms of Doom!

Hi there,

There are many different ways in which one can indulge in all manner of decadent cookery, but certainly one of the most fun is to wrap stuff in bacon.

Yes, I know we're all getting sick of the ubiquity of bacon (u-bacon-ty?) in blogs and elsewhere, but that doesn't change the fact that it's one of the foods that makes life worth living, full stop. So, I'm still going to use it and use it ridiculously.

Now, for today's post, I can't actually take credit for the idea, that goes to my muse of ridiculous, Kari. In a moment of inspiration, after failing to use mushrooms with a steak dinner the night before and me not being sure what to do with them since I was making ribs and I don't think those two ever go together. Well, unless you stuff 'em with blue cheese and wrap 'em in bacon and throw 'em on the smoker!

This was a pretty simple recipe to put together, and it also gave me a chance to test out my new smoker! I've been using the side barrel smoker for years and I've been meaning to expand my arsenal so I can do a whole bunch of stuff at once.

The Bacon Dalek

The recipe is pretty damn simple as I will demonstrate:

Smoked Mushrooms of Doom


- 10-12 large white or cremini mushrooms, stems removed.
- 10-12x 1 cm pieces of mild blue cheese (Danish blue is what we used)
- 10-12 pieces of bacon
- 10-12 toothpicks, soaked for at least 30 minutes


- Soak a couple of handfuls of wood chips. I used chips that came from whiskey barrels (extra decadence!) but hickory or apple would work.
- Stuff mushroom with blue cheese.
- Wrap mushrooms in bacon and affix with toothpick.
- Get the fire going in the smoker. In the vertical smoker, there is a pan at the bottom where you light the fire, and then you stack the other two levels of the smoker on top once it's lit. There's a grill on the next level where you put the food. If you get a vertical smoker like this, the instructions should tell you how to do it.
- Smoke the mushrooms for at 2.5-3 hours at about 250 degrees. I did them for 2 hours and they were a bit undercooked, so give it some extra time to get the perfect texture.

Who needs unclogged arteries? Not me!

So, it turned out to be a pretty tasty bite of salty saltiness. The depth of the mushrooms accompanied with the sharpness and creaminess of the cheese was a great pairing, and, well, bacon. The bonus flavour from the whiskey smoke truly set the bar sky-high in the realm of decadence. I think I've found this summer's party treat.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Saluting the Sausage - Part 2: Merguez

Bonjour et as-salamu alaykum!

For our next look at the wide world of the sausage, we go from the bayou to the Maghreb.

Merguez is a lamb sausage originating from Northern Africa (Tunisia/Algeria area) that is usually fairly spicy without being overbearingly so, although I've had some that was a bit hard to take. But even when it's blisteringly hot, it's delicious. I've never tasted Merguez where the "lambiness" came through in a gamey, woolen-flavoured mess the way many lamb dishes can, which is usually why people avoid lamb (even though it's freakin' delicious).

Luckily, the nice folks at Sasloves make a really good version of it; with good heat and immensly flavourful and it makes for a great example of Merguez-dom...?

Happiness in a pan

Now, there are a million ways to eat a good piece of sausage, but you'd probably think a salad is the last place to showcase this amazing ingredient! But, Kari and I have been trying to eat more veggies and salads and whatnot, so it just came together in our minds, after buying the sausage, to put together flavours with a Middle Eastern/North African vibe and top it with the Merguez.

Tunisian Sunshine Salad

- 1/2 English Cucumber, thickly diced
- 1 cup Grape tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 orange pepper, diced or julienned
- 1-2 carrots, peeled and grated
- 1 tsp fresh mint, chopped
- 1/2 cup Green beans, trimmed
- 1 tsp fennel seed, toasted
- 3-4 Merguez sausages, cut into 1 inch pieces

Ready to come together


- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp sumac
- 1 tsp paprika
- pinch chili flakes
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp fennel seeds, roughly ground
- Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup Red wine
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste

- Whisk all ingredients together.
- Toss salad with dressing.

Bowl full o' brightness!

So, once we put it all together and gave it a taste, I asked Kari what we should call it and she responded "sunshine salad!" So, adding in its North African origins, I came up with the name Tunisian Sunshine Salad.

How did it taste? Freakin' amazing! The name fit, it was full of bright citrus and subtle bitter notes from the lemon, yogurt, vinegar and sumac, crunch from the veggies and lots of spicy flavour from the sausage. It's also just a whole lot of nutrition; I could feel my blood and bones re-knitting after this excellent meal. I imagine there will be a lot of repeat performances from this bonanza of veggies (not to mention the tasty tasty sausage)!

That's all for today! Cheers!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Let's Go Crazy! - Part 3: Tacos


Alright, I'll admit it, tacos are already an excuse to go crazy. I've seen lamb, pulled pork, sashimi grade fish, steak, even ox tongue in tacos, but I've never really done them myself. But I've always wanted to have fun making some sort of over-the-top taco creation. I just didn't realize I was going to give myself the opportunity so randomly.

What began as an on-the-spot pick-up of frozen haddock at the grocery store somehow ended up as a foray into the decadent world of fried chicken. I'll explain: Kari and I have been on "fresh and light" kick for dinners lately and I bought the fish with the goal of making a light fish taco loaded with veggies. But then Thursday, April 3 happened. As mentioned in a recent post, I made some tasties for the "Capital SuccessFest" to help Ottawa's own Lefty McRighty with his legal woes against Voldemort. Well, attendance led to imbibance which led to hungoverness. And from said hungoverness came a powerful, POWERFUL craving for fried chicken, so fish tacos suddenly got conceptually usurped by Fried Chicken Tacos. Now, it took an extra day to implement, but I'd planted the seed and there was no way Kari was going to let me off the hook without deep fried goodness. So, Fried Chicken Tacos it was! I will declare that we showed a modicum of restraint in that we stuck with the "lots of veggies" idea by making a slaw, a variation of a pico de gallo, and refried beans.

Now, I've never made fried chicken before, generally avoiding deep frying as a "go-to" form of cooking, but it really isn't that hard (messy, yes, but not difficult); and there are few things in this world as delicious as fried chicken. I've watched enough food pr0n TV and read enough cookbooks to have learned a few tips on how to pull it off and there's always the Internet for tips.

Additionally, the sides/toppings (slaw, pico and beans) were all fairly straightforward and uncomplicated. So while this might look like a recipe concocted by a madman, and maybe it is, since I've never heard of putting fried chicken on a taco (although it's probably totally a thing in Mexico), it wasn't actually that hard to do.

So let's do this thang!

Fried Chicken Taco

There's all kinds of fun things going on here, with lots of crunchy elements from both the veggies and the chicken. Let's start with the main building block of the dish, the chicken:

Fried Chicken



- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch, 3-inch long strips
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1/4 cup taco sauce (such as Valentina Salsa Picante)


- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp chili powder

- Canola oil for frying


- In a large non-reactive bowl, mix buttermilk and taco sauce together.
- Place pieces of chicken in milk mixture and let sit for an hour or so.
- Fill a large, deep pan with about an inch-deep layer of oil. Heat on medium-high heat until ready to fry chicken (to test if oil is hot enough, let a drop of water fall into the oil; if it sizzles, it's ready to use)
- While oil is heating, mix flour and chili powder in a bowl or high-edged plate or some other container that won't make a mess as you hand-coat your chicken!
- To coat chicken, do the following for each piece: let excess liquid drip off, coat in flour mixture, shake off excess flour, soak in milk mixture again, let excess liquid drip off, coat in flour a second time and shake off excess. You *could* just coat the chicken once, but I find it way crunchier with two coats.
- Fry the chicken in batches. Don't crowd the pan, and cook until coating is golden and crispy, and chicken floats.
- Remove chicken from oil using a slotted spoon and dry on paper towels to remove all excess oil. You want your chicken crispy, not oily. Set aside in oven at 200 degrees to keep warm.

Isn't it a gorgeous sight?

Now we build up our supporting cast with a pair of tasty veggie toppings. First, the Pico de Gallo:

Pico de Gallo

This is your standard Pico de Gallo with a little bit of cucumber added in for extra flavour and freshness.


- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
- 1 small cucumber, finely diced
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
- juice of 1/4 lime
- salt and pepper to taste


- Mix ingredients well and chill for an hour.

Healthy component #1

Moving along, now we have the Southwestern Slaw. Originally intended to be a side

Southwestern Slaw (recipe taken from (I omitted the onion since there was already onion in the pico de gallo and beans)



- 3 cups cabbage, shredded (we used napa cabbage, but any will do)
- 1 carrots, peeled and grated
- 1 red pepper, seeded and julienned
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 2 tsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped


- 1/2 cup canola
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp lime juice
- salt and pepper to taste


- Mix all veggies in a large bowl.
- Whisk together dressing ingredients until sugar is dissolved
- Mix dressing with vegetables and set aside for at least an hour to let flavours blend.

Healthy component #2

Refried Beans


- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely minced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 796 ml/28 oz. can black beans
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup beer (optional)
- juice of 1/4 lime


- Heat olive oil on medium-high heat and sauté garlic and onion for 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in black beans and stock and reduce heat to medium. Keep stirring and mash the beans with the flat of the spoon. You don't want to turn this into a smooth purée, but rather a more "rustic" texture.
- As the beans cook and absorb the stock, they can sometimes dry out a little. The beer is there in case that happens; stir it in to re-moisten your beans. It also makes it tastier!
- Once beans have cooked to your taste, stir in lime juice and remove from heat.

Healthy component #3 (well, maybe not with the beer)

To put it together, spread a schmear of refried beans on a flour tortilla (preferably heated for 5 minutes at a low temperature - 200-225 degrees Fahrenheit - but I went with cold because I always forget my tortillas and they become Mexican crackers), then add your fried chicken (1 or 2 pieces depending on tortilla size and appetite), then top with pico, slaw and, if you want, some kind of hot sauce or salsa. I like the Valentina Salsa Picante mentioned above, which is pretty much a straight-up taco sauce. If you're a big cilantro fan, you can always add a couple of sprigs to the taco, but there's already some in the slaw and the pico, so keep that in mind.
Grab taco with hands and snarf!

So much good!

So, after all that, how'd it turn out? Well, as one might expect, the star of the taco was indeed the fried chicken; I could have eaten the taco with just the chicken and taco sauce and been a happy camper. As I suspected, double-coating it made it super crunchy while keeping the chicken nice and moist, with the buttermilk/taco sauce combo providing a nice tangy quality.

That being said, having all those veggies did help the experience as I could feel my arteries NOT hardening after every bite... Nothing amongst the three of them really stood up and said WOW! to me, but they played their roles well: the pico giving a fresh pop, the slaw adding some acidity and crunch and the refried beans rounding out the taco with a rich earthiness.

So really, I think I've discovered an important lesson: fried chicken, whether it be served at home or in a local eatery, is pretty much as crazily delicious a food as there can be. But also likely to cut short your lifespan, so be responsible! Only YOU can prevent a life filled with fried chicken! (now, the quality of said fried-chicken-free life might be up for debate...)


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Authentic Greek (by way of my Mom)

Well hello there!

I wrote a post nearly 3 years ago about how amazing a cook my mother is, intending to create an entire series of posts based on me attempting to recreate her culinary touchstones. Turns out I didn't get past the appetizers... Truth be told, I don't cook many of the things I grew up eating, mainly because I prefer trying new things. Heck, I don't even make my "standards" much anymore (like my Chili and my Beef-Sweet Potato Curry or my Chicken Burritos), again because I always want to try new things.

But sometimes my taste buds cry out "Go back! Baaaaaaaaack to times long agooooooooooo..." For the longest time, they've been wanting to go back to a stew my mother made when I was younger, the recipe for which, I just recently discovered, she acquired on a trip to Greece in the late 80s. It was so tasty; full of bright tomato and onion flavours boosted by salty feta and juicy shrimp. I hadn't had it in years and I was getting antsy! Well, luckily enough, opportunity presented itself recently and unintentionally, as it usually does with cooking in our house.

It started with Kari going on a casserole kick, which included a Greek-themed casserole with orzo and feta. But for some reason, upon re-reading the recipe, she decided it might not be good, so I stepped in with the idea that, if we got some shrimp, we could make my Mom's old recipe!

So, I called my mom, she sent the recipe along, and we were off. Turns out that this meal of succulence is also really freaking easy to make!

A taste of teenagehood

Shrimp-Feta Stew


- 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes or 3-4 fresh tomatoes, diced 
- 1 lb. shrimp, peeled, de-veined and tails removed
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 3 oz. feta, cut into 1/4 inch cubes

So much goodness in one pot


- In saucepan, heat oil, sauté onion and garlic for 5 mins.
- Add all but shrimp, bring to boil, reduce, simmer for an hour
- Add shrimp and cook through
- Reduce heat to low and stir in cheese
- Serve with over pasta on its own with a really good loaf of bread (or nothing) and a nice light white wine, preferably Greek (although we went a Sauvignon Blanc, maybe Australian...?)

Now, this is probably a very heart-healthy and light meal, but not once you throw in half a loaf of bread, which can easily happen as you try to sop up every last drop of sauce, because it's THAT FREAKIN' GOOD! So, I caution a little carbohydral restraint.

But yeah, make this, trust me. So good.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Free Lefty! - Bacon and Bourbon Shortbread


The world is full of jerks, it's an unfortunate truth.

Case in point, one of Ottawa's cornerstones of interesting music, Lefty McRighty, is being sued by a certain music promoter for some stuff he wrote that may or may not be absolutely bang-on. I'll let the media handle the details. Point is that sometimes good people get caught in the flotsam of not-so-good events and they need a little help from their friends. So, in order to help Lefty out with possible legal fees, there's a fundraising event taking place April 3 at the Rainbow Bistro in Ottawa. Part of the fun will be a bake sale, and yours truly decided to try his hand at creating something delicious to help out.

So, I decided to make Bacon n' Bourbon Shortbread, which is essentially a compilation of some of favourite foods in cookie form. First off, I made this shortbread recipe from


- makes about 2 dozen cookies


- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar (icing sugar)


- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (the original recipe says 375, but it lies).
- Using an electric mixer, whip butter till fluffy. I let it run on medium speed until the butter took a whipped cream texture. This takes about 10 minutes, but you may have to stop to take a spatula to scrape the butter back into the centre of the mixing bowl.
- Add the dry ingredients and beat into butter with mixer for 1 minute at low speed, then on high speed for 3-4 minutes.
- Drop about 1 tbsp of cookie dough per cookie onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and say cookie one more time, for fun.
- Bake for 10-11 minutes (again, the original recipe lies), until edges are golden.
- Remove from oven and gently(!!) move each cookie onto a wire rack to cool.

Step 1 - COOKIES!!

The next step in this trip down bake sale lane is to put something amazing on top. And when I think amazing, I think BACON! So, using this time-tested method, I developed a tasty cure for a whack of pork belly:

Free Lefty Bacon Cure


- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp ground chipotle pepper
- 1 tsp ground guajillo pepper


- Smear the sure all over the pork belly and cure it for a week.
- Rinse cure and smoke over maple charcoal and apple wood chips for 4 hours at 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Fry up finished bacon and slice up into bits that can top a cookie.

Step 2 - BAYKUNNN!!!!

Next up, we needed to find something to affix the bacon to the cookie, and I got the eureka moment to use my recent crazy invention of Bourbon Caramel to do the job!

Step 3 - Currrrrrrmelllll

Once the caramel was cool, I drizzled it on each cookie and then topped each one with a pinch of bacon and drizzled a little bit more caramel on top. After the whole thing settled into place, I sent it off with my friend. But that's ok! If you show up at the Rainbow tomorrow, you'll be able to sample some of this goodness:

Tasty treats! 

Also, on top of that, kickass bands and hot burlesque ladies! What's not to enjoy!

So with that in mind, here's hoping I get at least one ass through the door with this post.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Let's Go Crazy! - Part 2 - Pizza

Hey there!

Ok, we all love pizza, don't we? I mean it's pretty much on everyone's top 10 list of favourite foods. What's not to love? There's cheese, there's delicious tomato sauce, there's the crust (which, when done right, can be the best part of the pie) and there are all those wonderful toppings (especially when bacon's involved). One of the things that makes pizza pizza is its reliability. As a very lousy actor said in a very bad film (albeit with a memorable line): "Sex is like pizza: even when it's bad, it's still pretty good."

But what about when you want to break away from reliability? What about when you decide you need to top your pizza with MADNESS?!?!? For me, it started with my darling wife buying a smoked duck breast. We bandied about ideas for how to serve this dish for a while, but nothing seemed to come together. We then remembered that we'd used smoked duck breast once before for an appetizer we'd served at Christmas, which was basically crackers topped with a fig compote, slices of smoked duck and baby arugula. So, DING! it came together from there: We'd make the compote instead of using tomato sauce, then add the duck, mushrooms, tomatoes and cheese. See? It's a meal fit for this guy:


One of the best parts of this descent into Arkhamian levels of culinary depravity is that the pizza dough is actually quite easy to make and only takes about 30 minutes to put together. And yet, it's quite tasty and turns out with a light and crispy texture at the bottom, but still a nice chewy texture throughout the "body" of the crust.

Quick Pizza Crust


- 1 package dry yeast (.25 oz package)
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 1/2 flour (unbleached or whole wheat)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt


- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
- In medium bowl, dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water. Let stand for 10 minutes until creamy/foamy.
- Stir in flour, salt and oil; mix well, forming a solid, but somewhat fluffy ball of dough. Try not to overwork dough or it will be tough.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, roll in flour then pat into a round or square pizza shape, or use a rolling pin, but try not to make the crust too thin, unless you want a thin-crust pizza!
- Spread Pizza Sauce (see later) on crust, smoked duck breast, mushroom slices, tomato slices and blue cheese. We also topped it with rind pieces of Parmesan cheese, but that didn't turn out super-well. If you really need to have Parmesan on there, I suggest grating some once the pizza is cooked.
- Cook pizza for 15-20 minutes until crust is golden.

Ready for oven lovin' 

Fig, Plum and Port "Pizza Sauce"


- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced or 1/2 tsp dried ginger
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 small or 1 large plum, pitted and chopped
- 3 dried figs, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup port (use the cheap stuff for cooking)
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- salt and pepper to taste


- Heat oil on medium-high and saute garlic, ginger and shallot for 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in plum and figs and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in port and seasonings, bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low and reduce sauce for 20 minutes, until it's the same consistency as pizza sauce. Allow to cool slightly and use like you would pizza sauce!

Pizza Sauce's fruity sister

All in all, using a fruit compote of sorts as the base for this dish was something of a stroke of genius. It gave a nice sweet undertone to compliment the smoky saltiness of the duck and the pungency of the blue cheese, while the mushrooms and tomatoes rounded out the pie with more traditional pizza flavours. To be honest, it was one of the most awesome pizzas I've ever had, but smoked duck is pretty hard to beat as far as toppings go, so there's a bit of single-ingredient bias going on...  

Not your mama's pizza pie!

So there you are, pizza madness like nobody's business! 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

On the move! - Part 2


Back again with the second part of recapping the first week in our new house and demonstrating how to make great meals while having half your stuff in boxes. As I look at Part 1, I realize I might have been a bit wordy. Well, it's been two months since we *actually* moved, so maybe I need to get off my arse and finish writing about this! Here goes!

- Saturday: Stuffed Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

On Saturday, there was a craving for Italian goodness borne of a craving for meatballs. But being us, mere meatballs would not suffice; they had to be STUFFED meatballs. That idea led a visit to Parma Ravioli where we acquired a loaf of foccacia and bocconcini balls. Now, having never made meatballs before and still scrambling to unbox the kitchen in full, this might have been a daunting task. Luckily, after a few searches around the Internet, I happily discovered that this stuffed meatball idea isn't too difficult to set in motion, as long as you keep it stripped down (a lot of the recipes I saw were a bit overdone, and coming from me, that's saying something)



- 1 lb. ground beef (medium or lean)
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 12 bocconcini balls, patted dry


- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
- Mix all ingredients but the bocconcini balls together in large bowl.
- Take a portion of the meatball mix, about 4 cm diameter, and form around a bocconcini ball. Make sure you seal the meatball well, otherwise, the cheese will leak all over the place when you cook them.
- Place meatballs in a large ovenproof dish, such as a lasagna pan and bake in oven for 20-30 minutes until cooked through and cheese is melted.


... and balling!

While the Meatballs are cooking, whip together the Tomato Sauce!

Tomato Sauce


- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large tomatoes, finely diced
- 1 small onion, minced
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 medium-large carrot, peeled and chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried basil or 1 tbsp minced fresh basil
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- liquid as needed: either chicken stock, veggie stock, red wine or white wine. Try to avoid using water since it usually drains flavour.

- Heat olive oil on medium-high and sauté tomato, onion, celery, carrot and garlic for about 4-5 minutes.
- Add seasoning and liquid, stir thoroughly and reduce heat to medium-low.
- Simmer sauce for about 20 minutes, till it thickens.

To Serve

- Arrange 4-5 meatballs on plate. Top with tomato sauce.
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel Parmesan cheese shavings onto meatballs (or use grated Parmesan). Garnish with fresh basil or Italian parsley.
- Serve with green salad and bread. For this instance, we used a lovely foccacia, sliced into long, dipping-sized pieces and served alongside a mix of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.

Not a bad way to spend the first Saturday in your new home

Verdict? I make pretty kickass meatballs! The key to this one is in its simplicity; the flavours were clean and basic - it tasted like meat, cheese, tomatoes, herbs and garlic. What else can you ask for? Seriously, I think I'm a convert to the mono-meat meatball. All too often, meatballs ask for a mix of pork, beef and veal, but I found that using just beef made for one tasty ball. Having melty cheese inside didn't hurt either...

- Sunday: Pizza

Alright, alright, after this many days of cobbling meals together, it was time to seek out the bountiful goodness of the neighbourhood pizza joint. Luckily for us, there's one right on the corner! Anthony's Pizza at Hinton and Wellington is a spiffy place serving up some very rustic and delicious pizzas and calzones. 

- Monday: Pot Roast

By Monday, we had the kitchen fairly organized, but we still managed to find a recipe for pot roast that uses one dish (a dutch oven) and that's all. Our good Greg (aka Lefty McRighty) put this up on facebook and raved about it. As a result, I had to give it a try, especially after finding a lovely Angus roast on sale at Saslove's. Look it up here, drool and love it! It was AMAZING!

MEAT BUTTER (topped with veggies)!
Well, that's another look back at "Moving n' Cooking". Hopefully, I don't have to do this again for a while.