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This picture isn’t pretty, I know. It’s leftovers. This food may have looked nice the night before, but cold and unarranged and in plastic containers it loses something. But! At the top are patates savoyard made with potatoes we pulled out of the earth ourselves that were cooked until crisp and bubbling on top with Dubliner cheese. To the left is a top sirloin roast purchased at Sunterra Market, which was braised in that orangey-red mess you see is at the bottom, cherry tomatoes from our own garden that, after three hours cooking in beef juices then reduced, had the rich, full flavour of fat and a spine of tomato tang that popped with garlic and just a hint of (home-grown!) rosemary. And that white mass you see on the left was once a light cloud of horseradish whipped cream that we made with fresh horseradish purchased at a farm outside the city. It ain’t pretty, but it was almost as lovely the day after as it was the night before.

It seems like there’s been a bit of blogging ennui going around these days. I can identify. I don’t know what’s come over Carlo and me lately, but it’s not just that we can’t muster the enthusiasm to write about our food. Lately we haven’t even been cooking. I’m not exaggerating about this, sadly. Our larder has emptied out bit by bit, and on nights when Carlo is working late, I’ve filled my belly with marshmallow melted onto saltines under the broiler, Nibs candy, or frozen burritos. We’re in a funk.

That’s why this meal, ugly as it is, was a celebration. Things weren’t perfect. The beef braised too long and got a little dry. My feet ached from standing in one place while I sliced and whipped and grated. We set off the smoke alarm. I made Carlo come talk to me when he strayed out of chattering range. We don’t have four matching fancy plates, so we served our guests on mismatched china. I suddenly realized that I didn’t have almond meal as I was making dessert (grape cake!). There was a hockey game on while we ate (first game of the season), and the Oilers lost. But the house was warm after a cold, grey day. We had company. I mixed cocktails, and we had wine. We talked about work and TV shows and our family and the food. I’m starting to remember why I cook.

Speaking of food, please try the horseradish whipped cream. We were all a bit unsure, but my Gourmet cookbook (speaking of which, RIP Gourmet mag) promised an “ethereal” accompaniment to beef or lamb, which sounded lovely, so we tried it. And it was lovely, and I will be making it again.. Made with fresh horseradish, it had a bit of a kick, but I imagine it would be more in-your-face with bottled stuff. It was especially good as a cool, smooth counterpoint to the gutsy, beefy tomatoes we served as the other condiment.

The braised beef was especially simple, though maybe I used too lean of a cut. My favourite part is its simplicity. It was about three pounds, and three hours in the oven at 300 degrees, four cups of fresh tomatoes, half a head of garlic (the cloves peeled and left whole), and a sprig of rosemary was all it took. After it was done cooking, I took the meat out to rest and brought the tomatoes, now swimming in juices from the roast to a very fast boil for about 10 minutes until the sauce reduced to something thick and hearty.

The potatoes were similarly easy. I followed, though not very closely, Julia Child’s recipes for patates savoyard, slicing about four potatoes thin, then layering them with dollops of butter and generous handfuls of Dubliner (I didn’t have Gruyere, which was a lucky accident). To finish I poured about 1 1/2 cups of boiling beef stock over them and popped them in the oven for an hour and a half (at 300 degrees, obviously, to go with the beef). They came out crispy on top with soft layers underneath, rich and cheesy.

Whipped Horseradish Cream

As I said, this is a recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook. The book says that vinegar helps stabilize the volatile oil that gives horseradish its kick. I guess the cider vinegar here does two things, then: it keeps the horseradish pungent and it balances the honey’s sweetness. If I were to change anything, it would be to pull back a bit on the honey, which was almost over-sweet.

3-4 tablespoons grated and peeled fresh horseradish or bottled horseradish
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey (go light here)
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Stir together 3 tablespoons of horseradish with vinegar and honey in a small bowl

In a larger bowl whip the cream. When it holds soft peaks, gently mix in the horseradish mixture.

Taste cream mixture, then add more horseradish to taste. Put the prepared cream into the fridge for at least an hour so that the flavours can mellow and spread.

There’s been a theme to my last few posts. I’ll give you a second to go back and check, if you want. Booze, dessert, syrup, pasta. Yeah… we’ve been putting lemon in everything.

Well, if you’re looking for a change of pace, I’ve got none to offer. And I’m not apologizing, because I think this next recipe is another great use of lemon. Try it, you’ll like it.

First, an intro: this month I signed up for a great event called Taste & Create, at For the Love of Food. Participants get matched up with another blog, and you both go through each other’s archives and find a recipe to recreate. I love this idea and I can’t wait to do it again. You should do it too!

We were lucky to be paired with Andreea and Mark of Glorious Food and Wine. I loved paging through their posts (ahem.. and felt a little guilty about the blog’s wealth of recipes. Unfortunately for Andreea, she had a much smaller pool of recipes at SiS to choose from). I love the casual “toss some of this in, throw together some of that” feel of the blog, and the photos are great! There was so much to choose from, but I settled on some plain old potatoes. Well. Not so plain.

Rustic Anchovies Potatoes caught my eye. It’s got something I’ve never tried before (how have I gone this many years without anchovies?), and it’s got lemon. Two of my hangups in one recipe equals something I must try.

I wanted to make sure that I could taste the lemon, so I fiddled a bit. While Andreea and Mark’s guidelines call for a lemon roasted with the potatoes, I went one step further. After roasting the potatoes with a quartered lemon, I tossed the finished product in a little sauce made from a bit of lemon juice (maybe half a tablespoon) mixed with diced anchovies. It worked out great! The sour of the lemons and umami of the anchovies were a nice mix, and made ordinary roasted potatoes into something that tasted entirely new. Hooray!

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Hey, Carlo here. And look! A new feature. Don’t go holding me to it just because I made a banner.

So Hanne keeps signing SiS up to blogging groups, which is great, but my non-participation makes me feel (and likely look) like the sort of curmudgeonly husband who sends his wife off to dinner parties alone because there’s a very important hockey game on and beer in the fridge. No, pointing out that the Oilers have no more important games left in them this season is not helpful.

Anyway. Here is our supper in stereo:

I pan fried “don’t call me deer if I’m dead” venison steaks smothered in half a log of Anthony Bourdain’s red wine compound butter (see Ruhlman). We always have a store of the butter in the freezer for last minute steaks. It’s like insta-marinade. I’ll post the recipe sometime.

The wine butter’s palate smack was nearly too much for the gamey/muddy taste of the deer steak (I guess that does sound weird). If it wasn’t for the roasted potato and anchovies turning the steak’s aftertaste on its head with its fishy citrus bite, I might not have enjoyed this meal as much as I did. Frankly, at first bite I didn’t like the potatoes much either, but they grew on me quick. I guess I wasn’t expecting such complex flavours out of meat and potatoes. We rounded out the plate with glazed carrots. Their sweetness helped level off the major umami busting off the other two thirds of the dish. Despite my initial skepticism, it turned out to be a great meal.

Oh yeah. The carrots were glazed with Meyer lemon honey. They were great, but I swear I now know there can be too much of a good thing. Okay Hanne? Next time life gives you more lemons than you know what to do with, use the freezer.

Anyway, thanks to the other blog for supplying us with the recipe. Oh and hey other blog, tell the other other blogs I’m not actually a big unsociable jerk, okay?

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